Diecast #266: Psychological Manipulation in Mobile Games, Picard, Cloud Storage

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 22, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 86 comments

Here is an hour of two people talking about various things. I’m led to believe these sorts of recordings are popular and useful.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 Good Robot DRM test.

This test is also open to those of you who don’t listen to the show. All you need is two computers: One with Steam installed, and one without. Just email the show (address is in the header image) and put “Good Robot DRM Test” in the subject line. I’ll send you a key for Good Robot. Install the game using Steam, then copy the files to the Steam-free PC and try to run it.

Email me the results. Did it work? If not, what was the error message? Also, please include the country where you’ll be doing the test.


06:18 Let’s go Whaling!

This is a completely fascinating video:

Link (YouTube)

26:40 Star Trek Picard

Link (YouTube)

Like I said in the show, I haven’t watched Discovery. My understanding of the show is based entirely on what folks have said in the comments, and on this RLM video.

38:04 Cloud storage platforms don’t understand storage.

I can understand why a company would make it expensive. That’s business. But why does it have to be so dumb and counter-intuitive?

48:22 The worst cooking channel is the most popular.

Link (YouTube)

1:01:21 Proc-gen Boundaries


From The Archives:

86 thoughts on “Diecast #266: Psychological Manipulation in Mobile Games, Picard, Cloud Storage

  1. tmtvl says:

    I wonder if someone could use some psychologic tricks in a mobile game to help people get rid of their whale tendencies. That could be worth doing.

    1. Decius says:

      It’s possible, but the money goes the wrong way for someone to do that.

      1. Matthew Downie says:


        There’s money in selling food, but there’s also money in helping people go on a diet.

        1. Thomas says:

          There’s even more money getting people on a treadmill of constantly changing diets that are less effective and less healthy than a standard ‘less junk food and smaller meals’ diet.

          I guess there is some money in helping people. But the people need to want help (which a lot might not want), and in this case, there’s a lot of money to be gained by continuing to exploit people.

        2. Decius says:

          There’s money in selling diet food as well.

          There’s more money in promising people that your diet is finally the one that works forever than in delivering.

      2. tmtvl says:

        Universities tend to pay research students for research that benefits humanity, so I think there’s some money in it.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      Worth what? Because by definition it’s not worth money.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Worth the time (which is money) and effort… and the actual money to put the app on the Apple app store, as Apple somehow gets away with asking developers for money to publish apps on the app store.

    3. Chad Miller says:

      Many times over the years, someone has created a joke game that is essentially nothing but addictive mechanisms and flagrant parodies of those mechanisms. It’s hard to imagine a game that more clearly says “this is stupid and you’re stupid for playing it.” Invariably, the ones with any popularity end up with people liking them at face value and making them more “successful” than their original authors probably expected or even wanted.

      For an example, the wikipedia page for Cow Clicker is worth reading in its entirety https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cow_Clicker

      Unexpectedly to Bogost, Cow Clicker became a viral phenomenon, amassing over 50,000 players by September 2010. In response to its sudden popularity, he committed to improving the game with new features. Updates to the game added awards for reaching certain milestones (such as the Golden Cowbell for 100,000 clicks), the ability to earn Mooney by clicking on other users’ Cow Clicker news feed posts, and the chance to randomly gain or lose Mooney on every click. New cow designs were also introduced, such as an oil-coated cow to commemorate the BP oil spill, and the “Stargrazer Cow”, which was only a mirror image of the original cow that cost around $20’s worth of Mooney.

      After $700 worth of extensions, the countdown clock expired on the evening of September 7, 2011. At this point, the game remained playable, but all the cows were replaced by blank spaces and said to have been raptured. Bogost intended the Cowpocalypse event to signal the “end” of the game to players; when addressing a complaint by a fan who felt the game was no longer fun after the cow rapture, Bogost responded that “it wasn’t very fun before.”

        1. Mistwraithe says:

          There are a lot of other GDC talks which cover various techniques for conditioning people and getting them to pay money. It’s fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Cookie Clicker is another of these parody games. And yet I got addicted to it at one point. Thank goodness there’s no monetization in that game.

        The game actually begs you to quit eventually.

  2. Yerushalmi says:

    Star Trek: Picard is being run by Alex Kurtzman. The same person who gave us Discovery. The same person who gave us the Transformers movies. The same person who gave us Tom Cruise’s The Mummy.

    I am *not* optimistic.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      No, they handed the reins to Michael Chabon. a highly-regarded author of literary fiction with deep appreciation for genre. So I’m a bit more hopeful there.

  3. Moss says:

    I think Dropbox works the way it does to prevent users from cheating their way to larger space using the free space for new users. If shared storage doesn’t count towards the total, what is preventing you from creating 10 free users, share their storage with your ‘main’ account, and get 10 times the amount of free space?

    Dropbox could solve this by not letting free users share their storage, but that has its own downsides.

  4. Joe says:

    It wasn’t the politics that enraged me, it was your discussion of messing about with guns in CP2077. I would not play a game that did that. Or maybe I’d go melee only. But it sounds like the opposite of a fun mechanic. If a small indie game did that, it would get heaps of praise from reviewers, but I can’t see it working in an AAA game.

    So you saw Star Trek Beyond. But you weren’t into it, then. I liked it, I intend to watch it again sometime. Yes, it was pretty much what you’d expect giving a Trek script to the Fast & Furious director, but at least it had a good script. Could be so much worse.

    1. Shamus says:

      I know I poked fun at nu-Trek in the show, but I really liked Beyond. It’s not the “space mystery” sci-fi I keep hoping for, but it succeeded as an action movie. It was coherent and charming.

      1. Joe says:

        Wow. I remember way back, your old cohosts said they thought you wouldn’t like it. I suppose it’s a matter of what state of mind you’re in when you watch these things.

      2. Kylroy says:

        Both the nu-Trek movies and Discovery are good (or at least decent) sci-fi that just doesn’t feel like Star Trek to me.

        1. John says:

          Them’s fightin’ words!

          Actually, no. I don’t want to fight. I just think that the first nu-Trek film was a bad, bad movie. I thought I’d hate it because it got Star Trek wrong, which it did, but it turns out that I really hate it because of everything else. I didn’t like the characters. I didn’t like the world building. I didn’t like the way that every time anyone made a decision it was a terrible decision or the way that the main characters’ terrible decisions more often than not worked out anyway. That sort of thing drives me crazy. I started rooting for the Romulan about 30 minutes in.

          1. Decius says:

            Wasn’t it one of the odd-numbered Star Trek movies?

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Yeah but some of the things I’ve heard about it.

          Spock saying “I like science” Discovery has lost its Spock writing privileges. Spock might like science but he would never utter a sentence like that.

          Or the revelation that the multiverse is made of fungus? That’s something you put in Star Wars, not Star Trek. Hell it doesn’t really belong in either because its too technical for Star Wars and too made up for Star Trek.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      So you saw Star Trek Beyond….yes, it was pretty much what you’d expect giving a Trek script to the Fast & Furious director, but at least it had a good script. Could be so much worse.

      For instance, it could have been Star Trek: Into Darkness.
      (Ba-Dum TISH!)
      I’m sad that Beyond did as badly as it did. For my money it’s the best of the three Nu-Trek films.

      1. Thomas says:

        JJ Abrams may be a pretty flawed director, but he’s good at making money for his bosses.

      2. Distec says:

        Indeed, and I say that as somebody who was primed to hate it after its initial trailer. While the main plot still hews to a generic villain and Federation-saving storyline, it was the first of the Nu-Trek films that I felt had a good grasp of its ensemble characters, and treated them in a way that felt far more respectful of their roots than either of JJ’s films did.

        The womanizing, hot-headed flanderizations of Kirk get toned down a lot, and he’s now the “Kirkiest” he’s ever been in the new films.
        Spock does not get bizarrely emotional and start punching the ever-livin’ shit out of somebody. He stays cool, calm, and analytical all throughout the film with no unnecessary detours into exploring his “human side”.
        Bones is still a total grump. But he’s given more interactions with other cast members outside of Kirk, and his enduring gruffness rises above the one-notedness it was in previous films. His dialogue with everybody is genuinely fun and humanizing, whereas he previously felt like his only purpose was to fulfill the “I’m a doctor, damn it!” stereotype he’s been historicized as being.

        So while the main plot is still unfortunately staid, and Idris Elba is wasted (although I appreciated the nod to Enterprise with his MACO unit), the moment-to-moment entertainment still feels properly earned with no bad aftertaste. Y’know, as opposed to the JJ films.

        All that said, I think the best Star Trek film was the first one, which was a proper slow-paced sci-fi mystery that had more than a little 2001 in its DNA. For some reason this film has been canonized as a colossal mistake, and I think it’s long overdue for a serious critical reappraisal. The rest of the TOS Trek films are decidedly not like the first, and seemed to be better received (with the overrated Wrath of Khan always topping the lists). So I’ve just accepted that MY ideal Star Trek film is never going to be made. And that’s fine. I didn’t expect to like The Voyage Home because “Isn’t that the movie with the stupid space whales or something?”, but it was delightful.

        1. djw says:

          The first one was soooo booorrrinnggg!!!!

          At least that was my opinion as a tween, when it first came out. I could barely watch it.

          No idea if I would feel differently about it now, since I haven’t tried watching it as an adult. I did definitely form my “its a crap movie” opinion about it without any input from critics though. I didn’t pay them any attention at that age, and the internet didn’t exist yet (at least not in a form that was accessible to laypeople).

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          None of the films come close to the best episodes of the various series. They’re either episode-scale stories padded out to feature length, or they go all in on high-octane action, which you can do with Trek, but it’s not playing to its strengths. E.g. Deep Space 9 is great because of how it explores the impact and costs of war, not because it has awesome space battles. You can probably pin the latter on THE WRATH OF KHAN, but that’s a case of learning the wrong lessons from it: TWOK is mostly a character study with a couple of tense space battles.

          I still like a lot of the Trek films, because the better ones are still decent Trek, and if the films hadn’t kept the franchise prominent in the mass culture TNG and later Trek might never have happened. But Trek is always going to work best as a TV property.

  5. Lino says:

    I haven’t listened to the whole podcast yet, but I watched the F2P video, and it was in equal measures fascinating and horrifying. Just a heads up, this is the classification of players the dude was using – it’s a very interesting topic in its own right (oh, and according to it, killers are only in it for the PvP).

    1. Decius says:

      Insofar as that classification describes archetypes, killers ARE in it for the PVP.

      Most actual players aren’t pure archetypes, but blend styles, so they don’t have sole motives.

  6. Narkis says:


    English should have thought about how to pronounce words before it started stealing from Greek, the same language used to describe something incomprehensible.

    1. tmtvl says:

      And to think “predominance” exists and is perfectly usable. Languages are amazing.

  7. Chris says:

    As someone who had the misfortune of having to engage with a couple of korean games, most of the stuff described is what I noticed in these kinds of games. What worries me more is that as time progressed the systems seemed to slowly equilibriate across all games. So first there was one game that did the “player X got a super duper golden lootbox” while another game had the frustration elements. But now every freemium money milking game has the same stuff. Every game you boot up has the constant barrage of messages of people opening lootboxes, the energy system, the luring people in with some free stuff, the giving people premium stuff and then taking it away to make them want it more. And its seeping into non-freemium milking games as well.

    What surprised me most about your black desert review/article a while back is that you didnt mention the constant messages. A few levels in the game zones you in with other players and it starts spamming these messages right at the upper middle of the screen. Telling you people got a gear upgrade or got some other stuff I dont care about. And you have to turn off like 8 different message tick boxes for this. One for the gear, one for the weapons, etc. Whenever I start up a game and thats the first thing that greets me, the stupid messages of what other people get. Im out.

    Another thing that bothers me is that western games are slowly warming up to this garbage. COD WW2 having an achievement for watching someone else open a lootbox, games you pay to access having lootboxes, frustrating players and then giving them an out with real money (odyssey exp). We went from double dipping with DLC to triple dipping with the base game, DLC and freemium garbage. And for some reason people accepted that as long as its not something you cannot get normally, or isnt too grindy, its fine to sell for money. I think cosmetics are part of a game, heck, a game like timesplitters sold itself on having a bunch of different player models to unlock. Same with stuff you have to grind for. If the exp is made so low you have to spend twice as much time doing boring sidequests to get enough power to continue the game something is wrong. In AC odyssey you cannot even instantkill someone anymore with the assassinate ability, it just does a bunch of damage. Its ludicrous.
    And for the apologists that say that studios need to do this to break even as games become more expensive to produce. Well first of all there are more people into gaming than ever, so you have a bigger sales potential, second maybe they shouldnt blow half the game costs on ads, third they should maybe just make it a bit less pretty. Im fine with a bit less graphically intense game if that means I can play the game without being tortured to make me spend money.

    Mobile games are worse than casinos, they make more money, have a lower barrier of entry, and people dont know about the danger they represent. People know gambling can get you into a lot of trouble, we have had gambling for as long as we have civilization, but gambling in this form is new. Yet it pushes the addiction centers of the brain harder than any dicegame can.

    1. Lino says:

      And for the apologists that say that studios need to do this to break even as games become more expensive to produce.

      I’ve never seen anyone presenting any data for this. Looking at the data public game companies put out, there isn’t really anything of the sort. There is no spike in costs on their financial statements that would indicate dramatically rising costs. They never mention it in their 10-K or 10-Q filings. However, one of the things you CAN find in said filings is how much higher their profit margin is for in-game purchases as opposed to game sales.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        People buy into the arguments the studios make to make themselves feel better for buying microtransactions. I honestly feel like that’s it. Instead of being honest and being like “I want to have this, and I am going to spend money it” there’s all these lies that people tell to themselves “games are expensive to make” or “I play this a lot, so this spend will support the game developers!” or “the cost of this is favorable compare to a dinner and movie date” or etc.

        Just put the micros you spend as a line item on your monthly bills that you’re adding up. Do you think currency in your phone game should be a similar cost to your rent? A similar cost to your internet or cable TV? If that sounds awful… stop spending on them. Pull the plug.

      2. Chris says:

        I was mostly referring to the extra credits video on microtransactions. In which they bring this up.

        1. Lino says:

          I think what you meant to say was “I was mostly referring to the extra credits video on microtransactions. In which they bring this up without providing any evidence of it
          Game companes do this too – during interviews they say “Our costs have gone up!”, yet when they’re talking to investors (where there are legal consequences for lying), they never mention this. Again, when you say that something has a financial impact on you, you need to give me concrete evidence of this. Otherwise, I just assume you’re talking out of your ass.
          That video is actually one of the reasons I stopped watching Extra Credits – I just couldn’t take them seriously anymore.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            Consider: Sales numbers are generally vague, but not hopelessly so. Sales have been going up significantly in the last fifteen years. Prices have been fairly steady (although we’ve stopped matching inflation now that box prices have peaked at $60). If costs had remained fixed, then revenue doubling would manifest as pure profit and return on investment would be something like ten times higher. This is noticeably not the case, so either every games company is running a really good money-laundering business, or costs have indeed gone up.

            1. Lino says:

              I never said costs were fixed or that they never rose. The narratove companies are pushing boils down to “Costs are unsustainably high! We’re barely scraping by!” But the question is: are the high costs being offset by the higher sales? Given how the gaming market continues to expand , I think they won’t be having any problems staying profitable at $60. Also, bear in mind how EA and Activision-Blizzard have had no problems maintaining two-digit growth in both revenue and EBITDA, as well as the fact that since 2014-2015 (the latest data available on the sites I use), their efficiency ratio (i.e. COGS/revenue) has been stable at around 25-30% for EA (earliest data from 2015) and 33-36% for Acti-Bliz (earliest data for 2014).
              One of these days, I’ll dig into some of their older filings to see if it was dramatically better in previous years, but again – if costs have really gone up that much, they would have talked about it in their filings and investor calls, or – better yet – shown us some actual data.

              1. Ninety-Three says:

                they say “Our costs have gone up!”… you need to give me concrete evidence of this. Otherwise, I just assume you’re talking out of your ass.

                I never said costs were fixed or that they never rose.

                I’m gonna need you to make a specific claim and stick to it. Otherwise, I just assume you’re talking out of your ass.

                1. Lino says:

                  My general claim is: “When you make a statement about costs, back it up with facts”. Just before the passage you’ve quoted (or in-between, if I have to be specific), I say:

                  Again, when you say that something has a financial impact on you, you need to give me concrete evidence of this.

                  I should have tried to emphasize that more – I can’t make claims on if their expenses are rising or not, because I don’t have insider information (which you need in this case, because most game companies aren’t public). My main point is: if you tell me something about costs, and you don’t provide me with evidence, why should I beleive you?* This is especially true when talking about financials.
                  If I tell you that I saw Bigfoot, wouldn’t you ask me for some kind of proof?

                  *”you” in this case being game companies

                  1. Lino says:

                    Also, what I’m saying is that for the past 4-5 years – as far as we can tell from the publicly available data – costs have pretty much stayed the same (you can see why in the rest of my post).

                    And sorry for the double post – it’s too late for an edit :(

                    1. Thomas says:

                      Wait no, we established costs have risen. You just said you werent saying costs stayed the same in the posts before this one.

                      An easy way to prove rising costs is to look at the expansion in the number of staff working on games. Games routinely employ 100’s of people now, which wasn’t true 10 years ago.

                      Kotakus list of videogame budgets shows a clear steep increase in game budgets through to 2014 (unfortunately it’s an old article)

                      When adjusted for inflation, videogames base price is cheaper than its even been.

                      If we look at the actual numbers, EAs operating costs have risen over 6% in the last two years which easily beats inflation.

                      However when you look at their profit margin, it’s been steadily increasing and has done so for a decade, so whilst costs have grown, it’s not been nearly at the same rate as expenses.

                      So all in all, it looks like it’s right to suggest, when you include microtansaction revenue, companies are making higher proifts. At the same time they have been meeting rising costs.

                    2. Geebs says:


                      I believe you can explain a fair chunk of EA’s rising costs in terms of the increase in licensing fees for their sports franchises – which are ironically attributable to FIFA et al. noticing that EA are making money hand over fist from microtransactions and raising their own prices in turn.

                      Fundamentally, though, the reason why games are still $60 is because that’s what the market will support. The people who buy games are, in real terms, making way less money than they were ten years ago; ergo, static prices for entertainment.

                    3. Lino says:

                      @Thomas: +1 to what Geebs said, but also, again – you’re looking at only one side of the equation. According to Newzoo, the games market has been growing by at least 8% (sometimes by as much as 13 or 14 per cent in the case of 2016-2018) since 2012.
                      So the growing game budgets are only a response to the growth of the market, so that Kotaku article only strengthens my case. No one grows their budget in a market that’s getting smaller (or at least very few people are going to do so – the majority won’t, because it’s very risky to compete in a market that’s contracting).

      3. Decius says:

        If they’re calculating margin differently for in-game purchases than for sales, they’re making several accounting errors that will inform their future design errors.

        The entire cost of the game needs to be paid by the entire revenue stream of the game.

        1. Lino says:

          Of course they’re calculating margin differently for their sales and their in-game purchases – they’re two different products. Pretty much all companies that offer more than one product have different margins on their different products, because different products have different costs to produce, and most often target different people who are willing to pay a different amount of money for them.
          Let’s take EA for example – from the data on pages 33 and 35 of their 2019 10-K form we can calculate their gross profit margin for products and services – (Net Revenue – Costs)/Net Revenue. We can see that their margin for products was 68.21% for 2018 and 67.55% for 2019, while their service revenue (which includes microtransactions and subscriptions) stands at 82.25% in 2018 and 76.02% in 2019.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      maybe they shouldnt blow half the game costs on ads, third they should maybe just make it a bit less pretty.

      Gosh, why didn’t they think of that? Here they are spending hundreds of millions on stuff that doesn’t matter out of sheer habit, thank god you’ve come along to propose simply not spending money. The savings will be massive, I’m sure they’ll be falling over themselves to implement it!

      Or maybe they spend that money because it produces a return on investment.

      1. Chris says:

        Yes Im sure those people in marketing know exactly what they are doing and not totally wasting money or just taking a guess because that’s what everyone’s doing. A lot of it is people in marketing asking themselves “are we gonna blow our money on google adsense or on facebook?” and then just picking one, because they have no idea what works best.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Thankfully you’ve looked at the data that these execs seem to be unaware of, so you’re much better informed and worth listening to when you say it’s all wasted.

          1. MechaCrash says:

            I don’t know how many times game execs have to say demonstrably stupid self-serving shit like “single player games are dead” or “graphics are king” that turns out to be wrong before you start wondering how much of the other demonstrably stupid self-serving shit they’re saying is wrong.

            This is the same crew that would have you believe that there’s no market for games like Skyrim or Minecraft or the Witcher or Cyberpunk. There has been more than one article on this very site that could harshly but not wrongly be summarized as “the industry is run by idiots who don’t know games.”

          2. Olivier FAURE says:

            I feel like the sarcasm is getting a little counter-productive here.

            But yes, advertising has a purpose. If companies could double their profits at no cost by just getting rid of ad campaigns and celebrity VAs, they would, if only because the ones doing so would make more money and other executives would say “Well just imitate whatever it is X did!”

            That’s not to say that AAA companies are pursuing rational, optimal or long-term-compatible strategies; just that there probably isn’t any obvious, exploitable policy change that would boil down to “Just stop doing X” that would make millions, because if there was, everybody would have stopped X, you would have big conferences at GDC saying “How we much x10 money by stopping X”, etc.

        2. Decius says:

          Just because you don’t understand how marketing works doesn’t mean marketers don’t understand how it works.

          1. Matthew Downie says:

            Marketers know marketing doesn’t work, but they want to keep their jobs so they use their marketing skills to convince the people with money that it does work!

            I think I read that somewhere, so it must be true!

            1. Mistwraithe says:

              Marketing is a bit like the prisoner’s dilemma. If no one did marketing then perhaps businesses could muddle by not doing it and relying on just word of mouth. However, once your competition is spending significantly on marketing it will start to impact you negatively unless you happen to be either lucky with your position or very good. Eg small local players might be fine with just word of mouth and clearly superior businesses might also be able to coast a bit, but the rest need to join the rat race.

              Of course, like in the prisoner’s dilemma, overall businesses might be better off without marketing, but it would require too much collaboration to the common good to ever be feasible.

              1. Matthew Downie says:

                I heard a while back that the Pepsi and Coke were easing back on the expensive marketing campaigns. They can, by spending a lot, marginally increase their market share (in a market where another 1% is worth many millions of dollars). But whenever they do this, their rival will increase their advertising spending to counter it, and they’ll end up back where they started. So they’re co-operating without any intentional collaboration.

                I suppose in a situation where there were a greater number of popular cola brands on the market, they might have to try harder.

  8. Lino says:

    One thing I forgot to mention about the mobile games talk: you know we’re living in a dystopian future when a successful game developer says “Don’t make your game too skill-based, otherwise players won’t spend any money. I made that mistake once!”

  9. Ivan says:

    Regarding what Paul was saying at 24:00ish, just based on the small sample of videos people like Jim Sterling have put up recently, the victims of this stuff are very much not limited to people with too much money.

    To summarise, people with gambling problems, or tendencies toward same, people with addiction problems to do with compulsive spending, etc etc. People with no real understanding or knowledge of money (examples include ppl with learning or cognitive disabilities, and also just actual children, usually via the means of their parents credit cards). Probably some other broad definitions, but the above are some examples I have seen in the last few weeks, of people victimised by the stuff in that video.

  10. BlueHorus says:

    I remember reading an article about Clash of Clans that highlighted a truly fascinating aspect of the game: the entire game is structured around building a town, then an army, then using the army to destroy someone else’s town. All, naturally, ‘helped along’ by microtransactions.

    You are literally paying to destroy things that other people have paid to build and vice versa.
    That’s the point of the game!

    What genius.

    So maybe I’m slow to the mark and lots of games do this. But the sheer scale and elegance of the operation is something I, personally, simply couldn’t have ever thought up –
    Kind of like a wannabe serial killer/crime writer touring a concentration camp. He though what he did was a big deal, but now he realises what a rank amateur he was.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      IIRC Evony had a similar structure, though that game’s infamous trashy banner ads overshadowed nearly all discussion of the game itself.

    2. Charnel Mouse says:

      From I can tell from briefly seeing my dad play it, players have an economy town and a defence town, and attacks only hit the defence town, maybe steal some resources as well. So it’s not as nasty as you might be imagining. If it’s anything like the similar games on Kongregate I tried in the past, it’s also much cheaper to repair a destroyed building than it is to build it in the first place. We’re not looking at a game where you’re permanently bullied to the bottom of the economy tree.

    3. Asdasd says:

      I had someone in my office who had an unfortunate propensity to make terrible purchasing decisions (to the point where she was selling furniture to pay for petrol). She played one of these stupid village raiding games obsessively, even when we’d tell her (and she’d acknowledge) that it wasn’t worth her time and attention. I don’t know if she spent money on it but I wouldn’t be remotely surprised. She was the kind of person both most likely to make impulsive purchases and least able to spare money on such frivolities.

      These developers will defend their scummy practices by suggesting that oil princes and bored executives make up the bulk of the payments, but nothing they do suggests they actually care where the money comes from or whether those people can afford it. A prince may spend more money in absolute terms, but someone less fortunate who is influenced by the game to make spend even 10000% less might still need that fractional sum a great deal more.

    4. Joe Informatico says:

      Somewhere in there is a social commentary on modern industrialized nation-states and geopolitics.

  11. MechaCrash says:

    For Good Robot on GOG, you have hit the obvious downside of a curated system: sometimes things that deserve to be there don’t get on. As I recall, Opus Magnum by Zachtronics didn’t make the cut, so at least you’re in good company!

    For the “let’s go whaling” video, well, it’s basically Exhibit A in why regulation was inevitable. They don’t care if something is scummy, predatory, and exploitative, they only care of it’s profitable, and don’t see “check your ethics at the door” as maybe a sign they should reconsider what they’re doing. I agree that whatever regulation comes is going to be a mess, because there’s going to be loopholes to wriggle through and plenty of collateral damage, and that’s assuming the best case scenario of “people who are tech-savvy do most of the heavy lifting” that I am already not optimistic about, but they had plenty of chances to avert this.

    The sad thing is that the industry really should know better. During the 90s, when they were under heavy scrutiny for violence, they were in the same “we can clean this up ourselves or have it cleaned up for us and we will not like the results if they clean it up for us” situation, but the key difference is that the graphic violence wasn’t netting them enormous piles of revenue.

    When you brought up Cyberpunk, you laughed about DRM on guns, but any cyberpunk story worth the “punk” half of its name would absolutely have an opinion on DRM. One of the original things being said with cybernetics was “everything is being commodified, even your personhood.” The reason a lot of modern RPGs do the “cybernetics eat your soul” thing is because that’s more broadly palatable than “your left arm doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to William Fenceopening, and it’s up to him if and how you use it,” and the DRM just throws the “do you own this, or are you just doing a glorified rental” issue into stark and very non-hypothetical relief. Better some laser engraving software than your legs, of course, but the idea remains the same.

    For the physics stuff, you mention a /stuck command to get you out of places you shouldn’t be and can’t get out of in MMOs. That wasn’t always there. In EverQuest, there was this one gate where if you stood in the wrong spot when it opened, it pulled you up with it and you were trapped in the geometry. If this happened, which was surprisingly easy, you couldn’t leave until a GM or something fished you out. It could take hours for them to get to you. Which is, of course, why modern MMOs have the /stuck command.

  12. BlueHorus says:

    Oh, man, Star Trek: Picard.

    I’ve gotta say, I watched Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery and about 2/3 of Season 2* and your description of it (GoT with lasers) was pretty spot on. Specifically, it was like later series of GoT, when D&D ran out of books to adapt and the writing quality plummeted like a stone wearing lead shoes. Including the ‘dumb writing that thinks it’s smart’ feature.
    Mike and Rich of RLM deliberately picked out the worst dialogue to criticise – it’s not ALL idiotic lines and fistbumps – but yeah, It is not good, and there’s way too much in the way of self-congratulations and trying to convince you it’s like Old Trek when it’s nothing like as clever**.

    Meanwhile almost everything about the trailer for Picard looks – to me – desperate. Bringing back old characters. Referencing stuff from the The Next Generation and the movies of that era. Naming the entire show after one of Trek’s most famous characters.
    Jeri Ryan has one line in the whole trailer – during her surprise reveal – and it sounds absolutely nothing like Seven of Nine; it sounds like cretinously-written action movie dialogue.

    ‘Will [ST:Picard] be better than lazors and fistbumps?’ I’m going to say ‘no’. Alex Kurtzman was behind the Nu-Trek films and Discovery, and from what I gather of the trailer (beyond ‘desperate’) is that it’s going to be a badly-written action show with an overblown-yet-forgettably-generic plot that – for reference/nostalgia reasons – features a 90-something man as its lead.

    *I got sick of it and gave up.
    ** ‘But Old Trek wasn’t actually that clever!’ you might say, and you’d be right. You’re just underestimating how dumb ST:D is.

  13. Michael says:

    Shamus with the deep cut MrBtongue “hegemony” reference.

  14. Raynor says:

    Why not to use VirtualBox for testing Steamworks on clean installation?

    1. THAT GUY says:

      We’re talking about someone who supposedly worked a career in computers and then displays feats of spectacular incompetence on a regular basis for entertainment. Just assume he knows his stuff and it’s just a way to get people to try the game out.

  15. evilmrhenry says:

    Regarding Good Robot DRM,
    lists Good Robot as a DRM-free title. It also gives some general troubleshooting suggestions:
    Run the game from within Steam at least once, which might finalize the install.
    You might need to delete steam_api.dll and SteamworksNative.dll, from the game directory, but only if the game doesn’t work with them present.

  16. RFS-81 says:

    That FTP video has four times as many dislikes as likes. Too bad YouTube doesn’t let you distinguish between I hate this person and this is not worth watching.

    1. Decius says:

      YouTube doesn’t care which button you press. YouTube cares about how much you engaged with the video/ads.

      1. Mistwraithe says:

        It is quite likely that YouTube ranks videos with lots of dislikes higher than those with similar numbers of likes.

  17. DeadlyDark says:

    Shamus should watch SFDebris reviews of the first season Discovery.

    As for standalone episodes vs overarching story, Trek done both types with great success, with TOS/TNG on the one hand, and DS9 / 3rd season of Enterprise on the other (man, I really love DS9). So Discovery having overarching story, that didn’t bother me. Now, the nonsensical season finales (both of them), that ruined any goodwill I tried to muster during the seasons itself, now this is what really my main grip is. Like, I’m trying to like your damn show. I’m trying to be positive, to find good sides of your story (few as they are). But you are letting me down so hard.

  18. Olivier FAURE says:

    I went into Star Trek Discovery with a very open mind and no prior experience of Star Trek, and I thought season 1 was okay.

    Burnham (the main character) is kind of bland and her whole character arc is kinda dumb (everything about the Vulcan in the show is, honestly), but the other characters go from okay to great.

    The captain is awesome and is really the one who sells the season. The engineer guy is great, and the show really manages to sell you on his relationship with the ship doctor.

    The episodes range between “really annoyingly dumb” to “pretty fun as long as you apply enough suspension of disbelief”. Like, if you take them as face value, they’re really dumb, but if you just accept that they’re meant to be kinda metaphorical and stuff, they’re nice, and they often have smart ideas.

    Season 2 is kind of lame. The new captain is super bland compared to Season 1’s captain, and the plots are dumber with a lot fewer clever ideas.

  19. Steve C says:

    Bartle (the 4 groups of player types) has been talked about on Shamusyoung.com a fair bit. In particular, these posts on Competitor vs Builder and BrainHex. I remember reading Bartle’s paper when it first came out. That was only a couple of… shit. That was over twenty years ago.

  20. Knul says:

    I’m surprised Good Robot didn’t use a version system like Git. Dropbox does not seem to be a good fit for a sofware project.

    1. Shamus says:

      We used source control on BitBucket (I forget which system – Mercurial I think?) but that’s not appropriate for sharing enormous binary assets like sounds and images. I don’t need to see the entire version history of a 2000×2000 art asset. I don’t need concept art to be synchronized with each other.

      So we used regular SCC for the code and Dropbox for assets. (It was actually more complicated than this, but you get the idea.)

  21. Mistwraithe says:

    I don’t listen to Diecast but am really tempted to listen to this one as it covers a subject very close to my heart. I’ve posted comments to 20 sided along these lines, namely that F2P game development has got very sophisticated, very predatory and is building a big addiction/gambling problem for the future.

    Self interest applies slightly too – I’m building a game which I’m going to sell by the unit, instead of using freemium practices, which will be available on iOS/Android. Yet the industry has been so successful at driving the freemium model that I fear people just won’t pay for it. Fortunately it’s a strategy game and standards are a bit different in that area.

    1. Ivan says:

      I really wish people would stop saying things like this, about F2P games, as though that is the only area of games where this is a problem. Like, Anthem, Fallout 76, Fifa, Overwatch, etc etc. Those are not predatory, sophisticated, and building addiction and gambling problems?

      That video came out 3 years ago, during which time the games that you buy upfront, caught up.

      1. Mistwraithe says:

        Agreed – I didn’t mean to imply that it was just a mobile F2P problem, however mobile F2P has been the breeding ground and it has grown into a behemoth.

      2. Rabbit Sage says:

        Honestly, pay-to-play with microtransactions are worse than the f2p with microtransactions. I don’t understand the reasoning behind pay-to-play with more transactions. Isn’t that getting a little bit greedy on the business end?

    2. Mistwraithe says:

      Having listened to the section now, I have to say I am surprised at Shamus saying he doesn’t much mind it on mobile (but is concerned about it appearing on PC). That seems short sighted – there are an awful lot of people who have their first and main gaming experiences on mobile. That is millions of people being sensitized to this sort of pleasure center driven addiction. That is going to have a big impact in the future, both in gaming (everywhere, not just mobile) but also in general marketing and how businesses grow and retain their customer bases.

  22. Grimwear says:

    I was never into Star Trek but hearing about how it used to be planet of the week makes me wish more shows did that. Unless it’s a comedy, nowadays everything with any drama whatsoever needs a huge overarching plot. I started watching Supernatural and I loved the baddie of the week where they need to research, hunt down, and kill whoever was causing problems in whatever random town. And they just did that while searching for their dad. Then they saved the dad/yellow demon stuff for the season finales and it was great. But then like most shows it started needing to one up itself. O I killed a demon now I need to kill Satan. I beat Satan now I need to beat an angel. I beat an angel now I need to beat a cosmic horror race. Now I need to take back heaven. Suddenly instead of 20 episodes of monster of the week and 2 episodes of season finale it became 22 full episodes of nothing trying to stretch out the show to reach the season finale.

    1. Lino says:

      Yeah, this is a big reason why I don’t watch a lot of shows, and I’m very careful about which ones I follow – it’s such a huge time commitment to not only have regular intervals during the week when you can watch the show, but also following all these plot threads that feed into each subsequent episode. And God forbid I have a stretch of a couple of weeks in which I can’t watch the show – I immediately forget half of the threads of the big plot, and have to re-watch the last couple of episodes which sometimes means I don’t have time for the current one!
      Don’t get me wrong – those kind of shows can still be very engaging (I followed Vikings religiously up until they lost me in the final season), but I really miss having a show like Eureka where every episode can stand on its own (apart from each season’s last couple of episodes, of course) and doesn’t hinge on you having followed closely to every preceding episode.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      There are more and more original narrative TV series than ever, but fewer and fewer of them are being made on that old network model of producing episodes a few weeks ahead of airing them (and I realize this model wasn’t always common outside of the US). This meant the creators were producing the episodes for the middle of the season around the time the first episodes of the season aired, and they could get valuable feedback: people really like this supporting character, audiences don’t care for that plotline, this actor is taking their character in a more interesting direction, etc.

      Nowadays, most of these series film all of their 8-13 episode seasons at once, almost like a film shoot, which means they can’t respond to audience feedback until the next season, if they’re lucky enough to get it. This is ostensibly to save money, but probably also to accommodate the schedules of actors. Back in the day, if you were a regular on a TV series, that was your main job, and maybe you could film a movie during the summer or do guest appearances on other shows filming nearby. Part of the reason for the cultural divide between film and television actors. These days, there’s far less stigma to being a film actor who also does television, and it might even be a benefit, since it lends a lot of prestige to a TV series to have film actors in the cast. And actor salaries per project aren’t generally as high as they were 20 years ago so most actors want to be constantly working.

  23. Duoae says:

    RE: Star Trek. People have made good points above.

    When Discovery came along I felt it was a breath of fresh air and I really liked it. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my Netflix subscription after about 10 or so episodes and didn’t bother watching the rest.

    I know Shamus came out for the “planet of the week” episodic structure but, honestly, I feel that structure was the reason Star Trek was floundering for a long time after the beginning of Voyager through to the mid/end of Enterprise. The reason? I don’t believe that one episode is enough to pull off any complicated sci-fi analogy of a dilemma applicable to us right now.

    Sure, in the 60s-late 80s the average person wasn’t that exposed to sci-fi and so the show writers could get away with condensing a complex idea into a ham-fisted allegory (e.g. Two coloured alien races inhabiting the same planet) and ram their particular ideological bent down the throat of the viewer. That was fine in that period of TV where practically every show did the same thing (e.g. moral of the week), even if not in a sci-fi environment.

    However, TV evolved, writing on other shows evolved. We got shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, etc. etc. and THEN we got shows like GoT (early seasons), Luthor etc. etc. i.e., excellent writing, long-form storytelling and more complex character development combined with excellent visuals and action.

    I thought Discovery was the Trek series finally catching up but seems from commentators here that it was hampered by the same poor writing that dogged most of the Trek seasons (including TNG). So, IMHO, the problem is not the format of the show changing to an over-arching story, the problem is as it’s been for Trek for the majority of the run since TNG started – most of the writing is not up to the standard of the best availble.

    Let me say one final thing: I think “planet of the week” storytelling needs to go in the bin. It doesn’t work anymore. After 703 episodes (not including animated series), there is very little left to explore and/or say that hasn’t already been said. Even some episodes from different series of Trek re-explored the same ideas of prior episodes. Also, given all the really bad episodes, the writers have proven time and time again that you can’t explore these ideas properly in a single episode.

    Going back and thinking of my favourite storylines and episodes over all the series I’ve seen (I think I may have skipped a season of DS9 due to uni), the most memorable were a few standout episodes in TNG and TOS but most of the rest of them were multi-episode arcs or even season arcs. The best writing was often in the two-parters that straddled seasons or mid-season. E.g. the secret invasion in TNG, the borg in TNG and voyager, the wars in Voyager, Enterprise and DS9.

    If I had my preference, we would never have another “planet of the week” style story in Trek again. I would make the minimum a 2-parter or maybe even 3-parter. I would require every season to have an overarching storyline as well, running the in background and pulling all (or most) of the threads together.

  24. CD Projekt Red put a joke about DRM in the Witcher 3: http://www.kotaku.com/the-witcher-3-takes-shots-at-drm-1707277761

    The Defensive Regulatory Magicon (DRM) could be overcome with an object you find in the game called the Gottfried’s Omni-opening Grimore (GOG).

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.