Diecast #274: Borderlands 3, Mailbag, Raytracing

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 30, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 51 comments

No, the show wasn’t canceled. We just took a couple of weeks off. Now we’re back and feeling better than ever feeling exactly the same as before except now we’ve forgotten how to run the show. Enjoy!

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

01:32 Paul can’t watch JB Play Satisfactory

Also, I ragequit the game over the lack of a bugfix.

07:50 Done with Borderlands 3

My opinion on the game started out as “mostly positive”, but the longer I go the more things bug me. If the moment-to-moment gameplay feels bullet-spongy and the long-term loot grind feels empty, then what does the game have left? The story? Because the story isn’t really top-shelf either.

15:05 Oculus Connect 6 Keynote

It’s dry, technical, incredibly long, barely anyone knows what he’s talking about, and it’s completely enthralling anyway. It feels like the Quakecon keynotes that Carmack used to do.

Link (YouTube)

28:23 Mailbag: Game Bundles

Dear die that has been cast,
… sorry Paul, you’ll probably have to sit this one out.

I was wondering about cheap videogame bundles recently, and having seen Good Robot show up on a couple of them (indeed, I think that’s how I ended up owning it), I thought I may ask Shamus if he has insider knowledge about how these things work and if he is allowed to talk about it.
If not… I mean, come on, we’re all friends here, it’s ok, right?
Are you approached by these companies putting out bundles, or do you approach them?
How can 10 indie games for 2.50 euro be profitable for anybody? What kind of volume do these generate?
I’ve been taking advantage of these for some years now, but the business model still seems puzzling to me.
I wouldn’t mind if the whole process was documented in a detailed article either *hint hint*

Sorry if this topic is contractually disallowed or if such things are considered social taboos to openly discuss, I am just curious about the industry I love.
Regards from the depths of Steam backlogs.

32:21 Mailbag: Games that require a guide.

Dear Diecast.

The modern Persona games are lauded for their fusion of turn-based combat and social sim gameplay, but I’ve always been bothered by the social sim aspect. It’s less about roleplaying and more about puzzling out the spreadsheet nightmare the designers have conceived so you don’t miss out on story content and have to replay it in new game plus to see it. As such, I always play them with my head in a guide to negate the issue so I can instead focus on enjoying the combat and story.

What’s your thoughts on games that are hard to play properly without using a guide and have you ever found them enjoyable in spite of needing to look things up constantly?


42:34 Mailbag: Too Much Power?

Dear Diecast

The last decade has seen huge leaps in the performance of gaming hardware. As a result of this increase in power developers have had few limitations placed on their ambitions.

In the past developers often had to make choices, compromises or find unique solutions to hardware limitation such as Silent Hill’s fog to hide the terrible draw distance or Final Fantasy using turn-based combat to increase the visual quality.

Now most games can have as many elements and ideas as the developer can squeeze in regardless of whether it needs to be there or not.

My question is; Do you think that having access to so much processing power has hurt or hindered game development?



48:50 Mailbag: Raytracing and Game Size

Dear Diecast,

Back in the early 2000s I remember baking the lights as being one of the most expensive parts of making a map for a shooter, both in terms of CPU time and filesize. I assume that baked lighting is still a major contributor to modern day game install size, especially as environments have become more detailed and have greater surface area. In your opinions, does this mean that a game that fully commits to raytracing could actually see install size drop? Are there other side effects of a studio embracing raytracing you’re anticipating?


59:56 Mailbag: Shadows and Raytracing

Dear Diecast,

In the comments to Shamus’s article about Raytracing, Paul expressed frustration about something Shamus got wrong in his description of shadows. Could Paul please describe in excruciating detail what exactly it was? Enquiring minds want to know.



From The Archives:

51 thoughts on “Diecast #274: Borderlands 3, Mailbag, Raytracing

  1. Daimbert says:

    The thing about the Persona games that I love is that the S-links aren’t really a story thing, but are instead mostly a mechanical thing, and so there isn’t really much of a reason to force yourself to go through them. All of the story-related changes to your party members happen in-story itself. Their S-links are just additional things that either explore the consequences of that or give another issue that needs to be resolved. As such, you do the links that interest you and can, in general, ignore all the others. Thus, I’ve played the three games for thousands of hours combined and have NEVER finished all the S-links.

    The one caveat is that many of the S-links are attribute locked — you need to get an attribute to a certain level before you can start or proceed along it — which can be difficult to do in one playthrough. I, personally, have simply played the games again — those attributes carry over to a New Game+ — but a guide to, at least, get the attributes to the right levels at the right times to be able to do the S-links that interest you might be useful. Still, it’s not the worst game for that (Mass Effect 3 is worse if you want to get a sufficient level of War Assets, for example).

    1. Retsam says:

      Yeah, I’d mostly consider Persona a bad example of a game that “needs a guide to play”. (Though, there’s a little bit of “guide dang it” around the endings in 4 – especially the bad ending that some players may not realize is a bad ending)

      But using a guide to max out all the social links seems like excessive completionism to me. There’s a big difference between “you basically can’t play this game with looking stuff up” and “you can’t 100% this game without looking stuff up”. The former is an issue to me, the latter much less so.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        But using a guide to max out all the social links seems like excessive completionism to me. There’s a big difference between “you basically can’t play this game with looking stuff up” and “you can’t 100% this game without looking stuff up”. The former is an issue to me, the latter much less so.

        Yeah, I think there’s a gradient. Something similar to the IF cruelty scale.

        It’s actually not even a linear scale, because in addition to seeing the ending vs. completionism there’s a difference between “Will I be tempted to reach for a guide because I’m stuck?” or “Will I lock myself out of things because I didn’t preemptively reach for a guide?” It’s one thing to find yourself falling back to a guide to find the last unlockable after doing everything else in the game; it’s another to find out that to get what you want you have to start the game over because you didn’t avoid opening some arbitrary treasure chests.

  2. Geebs says:

    The last decade has seen huge leaps in the performance of gaming hardware. As a result of this increase in power developers have had few limitations placed on their ambitions.

    I would dispute this, honestly. The Xbox one and PS4 have pretty terrible compute, and base models can’t even do a reliable 1080p30.

    Real time 3D still involves a huge amount of corner-cutting and outright fakery. What’ll be really interesting is what developers can do once they don’t have to limit themselves as much any more. That’s not going to happen for a good couple of decades.

    1. Moridin says:

      Granted, hardware advancements have really been slowing down, but there have still been pretty big increases in performance. If we’re using consoles as the yardstick(not necessarily the best way of measuring it, mind), according to wikipedia, PS3 had theoretical GPU performance of around 400GFLOPS while PS4 has theoretical performance of around 1800GFLOPS. The CPU side is another story, but that’s largely because both Microsoft and Sony went with AMD for the entire system(apparently because Nvidia wasn’t too keen to work with them and AMD could provide both GPU and CPU) and well, the Bulldozer core was a flop and so they use Jaguar-cores meant for netbooks and other low-power applications. Meanwhile, PS5 will(supposedly) have 8 Zen 2-cores and a powerful Navi-based GPU

      1080p30 sound pretty low, but I’m pretty sure PS3 didn’t even have real(that is, without upscaling) 720p for many games and the graphics were naturally more primitive. Also, the fact that people think 1080p30 is poor should tell you quite a bit about how far we’ve come in the past 5 years. When PS4 came out, resolutions higher than 1080p were a rarity, while now even mainstream GPUs can in most cases get passable 1440p performance if you turn down some settings.

      1. Geebs says:

        I don’t disagree with you (although 1080p was achievable on the PC even in the early days of the Xbox 360 – I had a Power Mac with a 1920 * 1200 display back then which I distinctly remember playing Quake 4 on, and Macs suck for 3D games).

        I’m not talking about specific hardware, though, so much as the requirement for rendering tricks like e.g. screen space reflections, billboards, and designing maps with occluders to cut down on how much geometry needs to be rendered. The next console generation is going to be a step up, certainly, but it’s nowhere near powerful enough to free games designers from the obligation to use those same old tricks.

        Stadia is basically just a midrange processor and a Vega 56, so I don’t see cloud services making much difference, either.

  3. Ivan says:

    4:40 Also Oil Refining Shamu, how did you forget the big one?

    1. Nick-B says:

      Yeah, I was thinking of which products in vanilla Factorio were multi-output. If you are talking about one process for multiple outputs, I’d have to say oil processing (now only adv oil processing and liquefaction), and Kovarex enrichment. Technically, uranium processing only gives one output, but it’s random.

      But what really sent me here to the comments is Both of their comments on how you cannot ever delete things, which is false. They were even 90% (note: percentage pulled out of nowhere) of the way there describing how you do it in Satisfactory, by putting it in a chest and deleting the floor. Well, you can put your trash into a chest and…. SHOOT the chest to delete it.

      1. Ivan says:

        I’d say Kovarex doesn’t really count. It’s a bit more complex than most processes, but it’s essentialy single input, single output. But really only the fluid based processes are remotely complex now, what with splitters being able to filter.

        Deleting for me really isn’t an issue, i have modded it such that everything useless lategame has some form of recycling recipe associated with it. Besides small electric poles that is, *sigh,* iunno whose brilliant idea it was to no longer let you burn them.

  4. Lino says:

    Another cool show. With regards to the question about games that require guides and wikis, I’m the type of person who hates those types of games. Whenever a game has overly complex systems that I need external resources to understand, I always feel like the game just wasn’t designed well enough, and it doesn’t respect my time.
    Of course, there are a lot of people that like more systemic games like Minecraft, Crusader Kings and the like where figuring out how the game works and seeing how its different systems interact is part of the the fun, but I have personally never been all that into them – they just feel like work to me.

    1. Daimbert says:

      The only genre I don’t mind them for is adventure games. If I’m going to play an adventure game, I’ll need there to be and use a walkthrough, but in theory I can use it only when I get stuck on a puzzle or don’t know what to do next, and even then I’m likely to be more interested in something else about the game — likely the story — than the puzzles anyway.

    2. Joshua says:

      Something like Minecraft allows you to play the game normally, and you can go back and read the guides for additional tips and tricks. I think there’s an issue though with games where you have to play with the guide in hand to avoid a lot of frustration because you essentially make no progress at all because it’s a story-based game and the next step isn’t clear. I’d rather find out that the King betrays me on screen than having to consult a guide to figure out what obscure task to perform to get the King to move the story along and find out he’s going to betray me on the strategy guide. At that point, completing the game just becomes a checklist rather than an enjoyable activity.

      1. Higher_Peanut says:

        Unless Minecraft added an internal recipe search system (They might have, I haven’t played vanilla in quite a while) it’s certainly not a game played without a guide. A wiki on a second screen is basically required reading for crafting recipes and ingredients (especially for a new player), not to mention multi-block structures.

        I thought guides necessary for progression became less common after the adventure game 90’s (Curse you King’s Quest), but I might not be playing the right genre for it. From what I can tell it’s more common in RPG’s and narrative choice games?

        1. Daimbert says:

          I don’t see it as being necessarily necessary for RPGs, but think that one of the issues with RPGs is the length of games now, along with the addition of a lot of cool sidequests and other things that a player might want to try. To return to the Persona example, Persona 3 and Persona 4 generally took about 40 hours to play. Any serious JRPG fan would probably be willing to replay that to get all the S-links or at least the S-links they wanted. But Persona 5 takes about 80 hours to play (or, at least, that’s what it took me). Are players going to be as willing to replay it just to get additional S-links or the right romance option? I mean, _I_ was — twice more, and I’m going to play it at least once more at some point — but some players are, at least, going to be unwilling to do so.

          The Elder Scrolls games seem to me to be the epitome of moving in this direction. Recall Shamus’ comment about the Thief’s Guild in Skyrim (I think) opening with every character getting triggered for it with “You look like someone who’s never made an honest coin in their life” despite the fact that many characters aren’t built for theft either mechanically or in personality and that you CAN’T actually make a profit stealing things before that point because you can’t sell stolen items. The Elder Scroll games are LONG, and players aren’t that likely to want to replay it with a new character just to join different guilds. So you have to be able to do everything in one play. Skyrim opens everything up because it’s so open anyway — which increases its playtime which makes players more likely to insist on doing everything in one go — but games with choices won’t really be able to do that. Thus, players want to use guides to make sure that they get everything they want in one go.

          Essentially, as games get harder to replay but also have things that you can miss, players will resort to guides to ensure they don’t miss anything. Modern RPGs are starting to get to that point in myriad ways.

          1. Syal says:

            Persona 3 and Persona 4 generally took about 40 hours to play.

            I’m pretty sure both my Persona 3 and Persona 4 initial playthroughs took 70+ hours. Persona 5 didn’t seem particularly longer.

            1. Daimbert says:

              Looking it up, that does seem to be what most other people experienced, but definitely wasn’t the case for me. Could difficulty levels matter here? I always play on the easiest setting since I care more for story/S-links than the combat.

          2. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Interesting in that Skyrim has choices. There is obviously the big choice regarding the civil war, which iirc you can dodge if you go through some hoops but the implication is that the player is expected to take a side. but there is also an achievement for collecting all the daedric artifacts, many of which are locked behind a choice during a specific daedric quest, at least one case requires you to NOT do what that prince asks you to and one item is a consumable that you can use up before you get the whole set.

            Also, TES games actually have a reputation for high replay value particularly once you start applying mods.

        2. tmtvl says:

          Unless Minecraft added an internal recipe search system (They might have, I haven’t played vanilla in quite a while)

          It’s been around for a fair few updates. Of course, you need to have gotten some of the materials first and you need to be at a crafting table, but still.

    3. Chris says:

      For me it really depends. Persona for example you dont need to do all the s.links at all, you can just do the ones you want. And with NG+ doing them all is a lot simpler since you carry over money and statistics required to unlock some stuff. This makes it all a lot easier. I dont think the game was designed for someone to get everything the first time through, although i can imagine someone that wants all the content without replaying feels compelled to.

      Some other games that require guides because they make their game obtuse on purpose i dont like though. SIREN is very bad at this, but it was designed to be this cooperative thing over internet to solve it together.

  5. krellen says:

    You deleted your Twitter account, Shamus. How is the internet supposed to tell you about things now?

  6. TouToTheHouYo says:

    RE: Paul can’t watch JB Play Satisfactory

    I first got into Terraria by watching Total Biscuit and Jessie Cox’s let’s play of the game years ago. After diving in myself and loving it I quickly found I could no longer stand watching the two of them stumble about like morons. It went from endearingly humorous to intolerably frustrating.

    1. galacticplumber says:

      Interesting. Even knowing the game pretty well I was willing to accept that the objective was less winning the game, and more watching two friends find new and interesting ways of annoying each other. It was great. Maybe because I knew going in what I’d signed up for?

  7. Steve C says:

    Youtube keeps recommending Rimworld videos to me. I like Rimworld. I play Rimworld. Watching people playis also fun. (Like the infamous Camibar the Cannibal.) It is also entertaining watching people who don’t know what they are doing muddling through.

    But man… the people who *think* they know what they are doing and are inexplicably bad… I want to lean through my monitor and smack them. It is completely unwatchable. Youtube keeps trying to get me to watch this desert playthrough that has 500k views. It is infuriating watching all the obvious and nonsensical mistakes he keeps making. Worse is the fiddly bits that don’t matter and he would know don’t matter if he was competent. It is exactly like what Paul said.

    It bothers me that half a million people are getting terrible ideas from him.

  8. TMC_Sherpa says:

    I can watch Scott Manley play KSP (and cry myself to sleep) but I can’t watch anyone else.

    1. PeteTimesSix says:

      I went looking for a KSP Lets Play a week back, since I got the itch for it but didn’t want to do the three hour mod mating dance again. The only decently recent one that came up was Northernlion’s. I watched about three episodes, then fast-forwarded through about ten more, all of them being endless iterations of half-remembered guides with outdated info and rocket engineering mistakes that anyone that has ever seen a dart (or for that matter, a rocket) should never make. Then I got to episode, I think it was 14?, where at the start he casually mentions losing his save and replicating all the progress so far in thirty minutes, at which point I gave up.

      Point is, I’m now designing a Munar lander, so that was a bust.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        I’ve been playing through KSP again as well, ever since Shamus mentioned that KSP 2 is in development.
        First munar lander this time was an over-designed flyby, and my 3yo sat down and said “I want you to land on the moon!” so, I did, fell over (no landing gear of course), and still managed to make a skid-launch return trip.

  9. Chad Miller says:

    Re: Sales. I’ve been thinking about this a lot after seeing some comments on other sites about games that rarely or even never go on sale. Some stuff that came out in these conversations:

    * Most games are naturally worth less over time. If you’re not updating a game, and it was $25 last year, then this year it’s still the same game, and it’s still $25…so who wants to buy it? Not only is it older, but it now has added competition from every other game that came out since it’s release! Not many people are likely to buy the game at full price simply because if it was worth the full price to them, they probably bought it already. This is one reason why game sales are so front-loaded near the release date. This means that putting them on sale is basically “free”; even if the amounts you get per sale are pathetic, it’s mostly coming from people who weren’t going to buy your game at all.

    * As mentioned in the podcast, many games feed into other revenue sources including other games from the same designers or publisher. It can also be paid DLC or microtransactions (the extreme case of this is games going completely Free To Play, basically going “on sale” permanently in the hopes of generating more of these add-on purchases)

    * So which games don’t go on sale? Invariably, they’re single-player games that can be bought entirely for the up-front purchase price and are updated regularly. Generally some kind of strategy game like the kind often discussed around here (e.g. Factorio). Always the only game that person or company is involved with. Because they’re updated regularly, they don’t suffer from the “this game is devalued over time” problem (maybe you didn’t want version .8 for $25 last year, but what about version 1.1 for $25 this year?) They don’t need the publicity of sales because they can just push updates and post blog posts or videos about those updates (which generates word of mouth from the fans who already bought and play the game). They don’t benefit from their other revenue streams because there aren’t any.

    So the conclusion seems to be that devs with backlogs or add-on purchases should have sales because it’s an easy source of extra revenue and publicity, old games that aren’t updated anymore don’t get as much from sales but should still do it because the creators can’t expect many full price purchases anyway, but if you have one game for purchase that’s under active development you should probably just hold out and try to entice people by making the game better rather than cheaper.

    Oh, and I found this video by a mostly-solo game dev on the subject to be interesting (he has a deep backlog since he’s been going since the shareware era so he can really speak to how his sales have looked over time): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvtFx4LBA5I

    1. tmtvl says:

      Ah, good old Jef Vogel from Spidweb. How many hours did I waste in the Exile trilogy (plus Blades)? And in the subsequent Avernum trilogy, despite them being nominally the same game with an updated engine?

      Spidweb is a monument from better days, and I’ll be sad when JV calls it a career, he’s an inspiration to us all.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Interestingly enough something from Spiderweb (I think Avadon, maybe more than one game but I own them anyway so I didn’t memorize which and can’t check at work) is available in Humble Trove, which is a set of games with free to download installers for Humble Monthly subscribers. As a bit of trivia Vogel recently posted on his blog about why he doesn’t further improve the graphics for his games. Essentialy he said he’s a niche developer who has an established audience that is happy to buy his games as they are and he doesn’t believe improving the art would attract enough new customers to return the necessary investment. He also said he sees his gamedeving as an investment because he can remake some of his older games every now and then and they sell at a predictable level mostly to fans of the originals*. He was very straightforward about it and I wonder if he could be convinced to go more in-depth on his rationale for putting his game in the trove. Also, after reading his posts I bought his newest game on release because I thought heck, I have some free money, I’m sure I’m going to buy it anyway eventually and this guy deserves it, might as well treat myself. And if/when he remakes the first Geneforge I’m certainly grabbing that since it’s one of my favourite games ever.

        *The first three Avernum games have technically been released three times now.

    2. Lino says:

      I generally agree with you, but there was a really cool GDC talk that Shamus mentioned in this episode, and one of its points was that you could have a profitable business without having any sales (fair warning – it’s quite a long talk that doesn’t focus on sales specifically, and that point was something he only said in passing).
      Still, I’m a strong believer in making sales in order to get business from people who wouldn’t have considered your game at the original price point, especially when the game is several years old.

  10. coleusrattus says:

    Guys! When you two are talking about VR, it always irks me a bit, because I am a VR enthusiast ever since the first wave of consumer level headsets dropped three years ago:

    Yeah, inside out tracking without external sensors/lighthouses sounds nice, but in reality, it causes some problems with how VR experiences evloved: Two staples of VR gaming are nigh impossible or very awkward, because the headset will lose tracking of your controllers when you try to aim a rifle in front – as the back controller occludes the front one from the sensor in the headset, or when you want to stow or get items from your back, as your headset cannot track behind.
    Also, it’s usually less precise than sensor or lighthouse tracking, causing more jitter and drifting.

    By the way, the Vive, Index and Pimax use inside out tracking aswell, but instead of image recognition, they orient themselves via the IR lasers emitted from the lighthouses. And their respective controllers have senors that pick up the lasers aswell, making a much better tracking experience independent of the position and orientation of the headset.

    The lighthouse-less tracking controllers, like in the WMR headsets, the Oculus Quest and Rift S or the upcoming Vive Cosmos use only passively tracked controllers which cause the issues mentioned in the first paragraph.

    So shamus, if you want a VR headset with roomscale, I’d either go for a used Vive, as they became cheap recently, due to the release of the Index and the end of the production run; or buy a Valve Index, which is right now the best VR headset that isn’t aimed at industrial or business applications.

    Still love you guys though!

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I’ve been re-reading Rainbows End by Vinge, and the whole laser guided wearables is deliciously reminiscent.
      Certainly are trade-offs though. If I want to be able to carry my headset into the other room, it would be pretty annoying to have to move all the lighthouses. Never tried dedicated inside out tracking though, so maybe it’s too janky to be comfortable?

      1. coleusrattus says:

        Well, I think if you want roomscale and have a dedicated room for it, then the lighthouse tracking is the best way to go.

        Inside out tracking (as in cameras tracking your head and controller movements without help) cannot be as precise, and I certainly is more prone to the controllers getting into blind spots. Now, TBH, I have only tried a cheap WMR headset personally, but with the Rift s and the quest, discussions on reddit also point to occlusion being an issue in popular manshoot games. And tracking seemingly cannot keep up with quick movements like in beat saber.

        The Oculus Quest could be interesting because it’s independent of your computer, meaning you can use it wherever, and with the upcoming link cable you can also use it for PC VR.

        And concerning bringing VR in another room: you’d also still have to bring your computer with all the PC VR headsets…

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Some of the cheaper newer headsets are self-contained (they do their own rendering and wifi-ing), as Carmack indicated in his talk. So, if everyone had one of those, you only need to bring the headsets + controllers, not also a laptop or desktop.

    2. Ivan says:

      Two staples of VR gaming

      So, later on that sentence you imply that one of those staples is FPS’ing. What’s the other one? Also, is FPS’ing really a staple of VR? I tried it (VR) a few years back, and there were some tech demos for FPS’ing, for sure, but nothing I thought would actually pan out into a decent game.

      Like, it just seemed to be a kind of dead end, with the awkward teleporting requiring you to look at the ground where you want to move, as opposed to looking at what you want to shoot. And how even if you don’t get VR motion sickness generally, the constant spinning in an FPS would cause you to get dizzy anyway after a while. Are these things not issues anymore, are they fixed?

      1. PeteTimesSix says:

        A few years back everyone was convinced that teleporting was the way to go because smooth motion causes nausea. Turns out that for most people the nausea goes away after a small adjustment period – assuming youre using one of the modern headsets that have the resolution and framerate to keep up and eliminate the screendoor effect.

        Out of FPS’s I only really play H3VR so that’s what I can speak of, but armswinger is my favorite mode, followed by thumbstick. Before when I had a Vive I couldnt use the thumbstick mode (but this was probably because the Vive’s touch-thumbpad thingies were *awful*). When I briefly had access to a Oculus DK2 back in uni I couldnt stand smooth motion at all.

        Its still not perfect, mind. Its not going to be until someone figures out how to pack a omnidirectional threadmill that can match your running speed into a living-room sized space at an affordable price.

        EDIT: Oh, yes, and now that every headset comes with some kind of controller that maps to a 3d object in VR, look controls arent really a thing anymore. Good riddance.

      2. coleusrattus says:

        One staple is fpsing, the other is grabbing over your shoulder for item storage.

  11. Jason says:

    Speaking of walkthroughs that are just a list of steps, I once looked for a guide to Zork (yes, that Zork), and I found a walkthrough that was literally just a list of commands to type from start to finish. (“Go East” “Open Door” etc).
    No context whatsoever, and no way to use it if you were stuck in a particular room and just needed a hint.
    Doing a quick search, it appears that there are some better guides out there now, but I thought that one was particularly useless.
    I can’t imagine playing the game that way unless you just wanted to experience the story.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, that’s a pretty terrible walkthrough. Unfortunately, many walkthroughs I used back in high-school for Fallout or other games, similarly had just lists of actions to take, without hints, context, or generalized strategies. That’s probably part of why so many games were a blur back then – I wasn’t even engaging in the world, story, or systems, but just following a strict guide. Well, that, plus Planescape Torment was a WALL OF TEXT that was really pretty hard to keep interest in. :P

      1. Daimbert says:

        These days you tend to see those as spoiler-free walkthroughs, often with someone else writing one that might have spoilers in it. I think it works for that purpose if you can remember what step you’re on and don’t want to get spoiled.

  12. John says:

    Okay, take two. Let’s see if I can avoid the spam filter this time.

    I don’t think that improvements in processor power–or in any other aspect of computing, like memory or storage–have hurt game development. It’s true that new hardware might have allowed developers to make new design mistakes, but it’s not as though developers weren’t making design mistakes on the old hardware too. And, hey, these hypothetical new mistakes are new! I am non-hypothetically tired of the old ones. There have always been and will always be bad games and I have no compelling reason to believe that the relative proportions of good, bad, and indifferent games have changed over time due to processors getting faster. I think that if the ratio of bad to good games has increased or decreased over time, it has nothing to do with computer guts and everything to do with (1) digital distribution and (2) the easy availability of game engines and game-making tools.

    No, the way that computer guts affect games is by affecting the set of possible genres. Once upon a time, the adventure game–what we’d now call the text adventure or interactive fiction–was if not the king of video games then at least a duke of some sort. As graphics technology improved–i.e., progressed beyond a rudimentary state–other, newer and ultimately much more popular genres became possible. Interestingly, while the text adventure may be dead as a popular commercial genre, interactive fiction is still being produced. I don’t really follow the genre, but I’m told that there’s a lot of it out there and that a lot of it is quite good. It would not surprise me if there were more good interactive fiction being produced today than there was in Infocom’s heyday.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      There’s definitely more interactive fiction nowadays than back in the Infocom days – a small number of companies trying to get funding is many fewer games than, some percentage of the entire population of humans.

      1. John says:

        That’s more or less what I was thinking. The only reason that text adventures were ever a popular commercial genre in the first place is that once upon a time computers couldn’t handle anything much more demanding. On early home computer and computers, even text adventures ran into resource constraints. Processors weren’t a problem, but storage and memory very much were. And saying that text adventures were popular is in a way quite misleading. Text adventures were a relatively high proportion of commercial games sold, but the games market was quite small in those days. The absolute number of people playing text adventures was not large.

    2. Syal says:

      I’m told that there’s a lot of it out there and that a lot of it is quite good.

      Like A Tooth in Death’s Mouth or Welcome to Sand Hands.

    3. Matthew Downie says:

      As I use the terms:
      “Interactive fiction” mostly refers to games where your input is choose-your-own-adventure style multiple choice prompts.
      “Text adventures” (e.g. Zork) are ones you have to struggle to get the parser to understand you.
      >SCREW YOU
      I get the impression that Interactive Fiction on PC is more popular than in the 1980s, while Text Adventures are a pretty niche taste.

      1. tmtvl says:

        That depends on the dev. Some went out of their way to make sure you were understood by creating really powerful parsers with a lot of freedom while some… didn’t.

        Infocom was among the better ones if I remember correctly.

  13. Taellosse says:

    Presumably this is another delightful episode wherein you start out answering people’s questions before digressing into long tangent sequences on vaguely related topics, and mention at least once how much you don’t want to start talking about Mass Effect 3 again. ;-)

    However, I cannot verify this for myself! You appear to have, once again, pointed to Episode #258 (why is it so often THAT episode, BTW? I’d think you’d copy/paste from the most recent post, rather than one so far back now) rather than the current one when creating your manual hyperlink, despite correctly typing this episode’s number in the plain text portion of the link.

    I apologize that my podcast app is so stupid that it doesn’t update from your RSS feed properly. I did my best to find one that functioned tolerably well and still allowed me to manually input an RSS link – many podcast apps don’t have this capacity, and The Diecast isn’t tracked by any of the big podcast directories (have you tried getting it added to Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher? I remember you had trouble with iTunes – or rather, getting into their directory without having to use iTunes itself – a while back, but can’t recall if you tried anywhere else), as far as I can tell.

    1. Sean says:

      I think it keeps selecting that particular episode because of the fact Shamus talks about the difficulty in getting WordPress to play nice for podcast aggregators.

  14. Douglas Sundseth says:

    On light sources and shadows, I’m afraid your discussion was neither easily understood nor really correct. So let me try to clear things up a bit.

    Shadows are cones, and consist of an umbra (full shadow, where the shadowed surface does not see any part of the light source) and penumbra (partial shadow, where the shadowed surface sees part but not all of the light source. For a light of a given brightness, there are three characteristics that determine the characteristics of the shadow:

    1) The angle subtended by the light. If that angle is large at the subject (say the light source is an illuminated wall), the umbral and penumbral cones will be very different in shape and thus there will be much more of the shadowed area that gets penumbral light. This kind of light is called “soft” by a photographer and is characterized by fuzzy edges to the shadow. If the angle subtended is small at the subject, the umbral and penumbral cones will be very similar and almost all of the surface will be either fully lit or fully shadowed. This kind of light is called “hard” by a photographer and is characterized by sharp edges to the shadow. The sun subtends about 1/2 degree on Earth (which is where I keep my stuff), which makes it a hard light source.

    2) The physical size of the light source. If the source is larger than the subject, the umbral and penumbral cones will converge and the umbral cone will disappear when you get far enough from the subject. You see this when looking down from an airplane at the plane’s shadow. A light bulb set where it would subtend that same 1/2 degree will be smaller than many subjects, so the shadow cones will diverge, so without anything to bounce off of, a light bulb behind a man will be mostly invisible from a distance. The sun is very large, so it will cast a converging shadow cone even on something as large as the earth, which is why an eclipse goes through long penumbral stages and short umbral stages.

    3) The physical distance of the source from the subject. The farther the source is from the subject, the more nearly parallel the light rays are. This means that near sources will have rapidly converging or diverging cones and far sources will have gradually diverging or converging cones. In indoor scenes, this means that you’ll usually see shadows (especially umbral shadows) as significantly larger than the shadow casting source, while outdoors, the shadow will tend to be similar in size to the source at most distances.

    Any serious model for shadows will consider all of these, but for many purposes in simulation, you can ignore or abstract parts of these for computational convenience.

    Note that this analysis does not address either edge diffraction (edges bend light, which is not usually noticeable as other than a kind of halo when you’re behind the subject) or lens diffraction (which can happen with any transparent or translucent fluid). I consider these beyond the basic discussion here.

    We’re also ignoring inverse-square-law light falloff with distance, again as beyond the scope of this discussion, but the result of that is basically that a light far away will have little falloff within short distances while a close light will have rapid falloff.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Well, they are only cones for round light sources being obscured by a round occultor. But yes, the simplification can be made. And, if you simplify enough, you get the “blurry dark blob on the ground” shortcut that Shamus mentioned was how things used to be done.

      Personally, I like the drop shadow solution, as it grounds the object’s presentation in 3D space, which is all I really want when I’m playing a game. I want to be able to interact with the game mechanics. I don’t want to be tricked into thinking I’m watching a movie. If I was the king of video games, they would all look like Quadrilateral Cowboy.

      But if you’re going for realism, then shadows aren’t really the end of the problem. Everything that is visible is a light source, so you’d need to cast light and shadows from every point in the scene… which leads us back to ray tracing.

  15. Marc Forrester says:

    Regarding Facebook videos, there’s a command line tool from the Linux ecosystem called youtube-dl, that can usually extract videos from terrible web players and save them to mp4 or mkv or whatever. It definitely works on the current Facebook player and has been compiled for every platform that has a command line.

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