Diecast #284: The Last Mailbag of 2019

By Shamus Posted Monday Dec 23, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 86 comments

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever is appropriate in your culture. If you’re not celebrating anything right now, then have a great Monday!

Also, say goodbye to the familiar header image. We’re getting a new one for the new year. In fact, I planned on having a new image every year, but I forgot in 2019 and so the 2018 header lingered for an extra year.



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast284

Show notes:

01:14 The Witcher Netflix Series

On the podcast I mentioned that the show had several distracting anachronisms. I mentioned the “Off the grid” line. The other major one is Jaskier’s music, which are incredibly, inescapably modern in their construction. They’re essentially pop songs played on old instruments.

Now, this is a fictional world and there’s no reason their music theory couldn’t be a little more complex than the music theory we had in medieval times. This isn’t a plot hole. It’s just distracting. It’s having someone say “Chill out, dude.” There’s no reason that couldn’t be a phrase in their world, but it still sounds off to a modern viewer.

Still, there’s no escaping the fact that this anachronism makes the songs more fun to listen to, and sticking to period-appropriate music would make the songs tedious to most people.

It’s a perfectly understandable creative decision, but it still launches me out of the experience whenever Jaskier starts singing.

Also: I guess this is the Dandelion character from the game? I like him better here.

18:31 Mailbag: Website Peeves

Dear Diecast,

If I had to list them, my number three worst peeves of modern(?) websites are:
1. Websites that continually resize/resort/whatever so the links can jump around causing you to misclick.
2. Websites that allow you to start an action (such as replying to a post or placing an order), but then require you to login to complete that action, but then don’t return you to where you were after you login.
3. Websites that autoplay video with sound.

As people who have their own websites, what are your peeves?

Joshua

In this segment I said, “If you’re too stupid to realize that leaving a comment requires cookies…”.

This makes it sound like I’m looking down at people who aren’t tech savvy. That’s a terrible way of stating things because that’s not what I was trying to say! I was trying to aim contempt at people who don’t understand how technology works, but who get offended anyway. Like, this website uses cookies so you can edit your comments. Without cookies, you’re a new person every time you reload the page and the website has no way of confirming that you’re the person who left a comment ten seconds ago. My problem is with people who get angry at a site using cookies who also don’t understand what cookies are for and how they work. Yes, cookies have been used to do all sorts of sketchy privacy-invading crap, but they also have perfectly legitimate uses. I just get annoyed at busybodies who don’t know the difference and think that sites shouldn’t ever be allowed to use cookies.

I’m not totally sure how cookies work on my site because I’m using WordPress with a handful of third-party plugins, and those systems were made by other people. I do know that it doesn’t create any long-term data on anyone. (You can’t create an account.) And I don’t ever share anything with anyone. (Not like anyone would offer me money for a list of IP addresses and unconfirmed emails, but even if they did I’d refuse, because ick.) But then we have YouTube embeds on this site, and who knows what those things collect on behalf of Google.

23:08 Mailbag: Paying for Basic Features

Dear Diecast,

News from this last week came to my eyes indicating that the latest Call of Duty game (published by Activision) doesn’t include a kill/death ratio in the in-game (match) interface. However, they have now released a $20 cosmetic accessories pack that includes a watch which shows kills and deaths.

Yeah, this is Activision and we know they’re scummy and this is a particularly scummy move but I wondered: If Activision paid you retirement money for the Good Robot franchise and you sold it to them, What feature would they put behind a paywall? (The obvious one would be the hats but I was thinking about something more obscure… like seeing which level you’re on.)

https://kotaku.com/modern-warfare-will-show-you-your-kill-death-ratio-for-1840416982

All the best,
Duoae

25:57 Mailbag: Pseudoku Update?

Dear Shamus,

I remember you working on your game Pseudoku quite a while ago, but it was stalled due to bureaucratic reasons. I think there was maybe one or two small mentions since then, but it’s been pretty quiet.

Anyways a lot has happened since, with different projects and learning unity and such. What is the current state of the game? It looked really interesting. I remember enjoying the demo a whole bunch, especially the music. Is it still on the back-burner, or has it gone the way of the HL3?

– Zach

If you’re curious, Paul has a mirror of the original Pseudoku demo.

27:41 Mailbag: Good Mechanics in Unpopular Games?

Dear Diecast,

Do you ever look back at a game you liked/loved and which everyone else hated and then see many of the same mechanics ported to games which have gone on to be liked/loved by everyone else?

I remember when Prince of Persia (2008) was released – many people derided it for its simplistic platforming (for which they felt they provided no input), the ease of the game (since you never “died” you just respawned at the last safe solid ground/platform) and terrible combat.

Now, I can’t fault them for hating the combat, it really was a chore and a very weird system. However, the platforming had as much control as that provided by Jedi: Fallen Order and the “fall off of platform and immediate save” mechanic was used in multiple games since then (Bioshock: Infinite and Fallen Order come to mind mostly).

IMO, 2008 came closest to repeating the magical interation between the story/characters and the player of The Sands of Time. I really wish a sequel had been made. I fear that the series is basically dead at this point since it can’t be turned into a collectathon open world like Assassin’s Creed or Watch Dogs by Ubisoft…. (dear god, please don’t let Ubisoft do that!)

Do you have any games that you really enjoyed whose mechanics were disliked at the time but then had games which were popular reuse them without issue?

All the best (and Merry Christmas – if this is on that show :) ),
Duoae

35:04 Mailbag: Halo

Dear Diecast,

Given your love of Sci-Fi, are you aware of Halo’s story, and if so what do you think of it?

It’s deeper than you’d expect from Halo’s shooter reputation.

Sincerely,
Thomas

42:38 Mailbag: Ruins as a setting

Dear spatial translators of semi-regular hand-held polyhedral solids with numerically-encoded facets:

A few months back, I ran across a post discussing the often-overlooked fact that the very structure of Dungeons & Dragons implies a fallen world, one in which civilization has collapsed and the survivors are attempting to re-build among the wreckage. It’s even explicit, in that successive rule-sets advance the narrative of the world you’re dropped into, along a societal curve one might expect given the remnants of the populous slowly reclaiming the world around them — an endless wilderness with monsters in one edition gives way to villages and outposts in the next, and cities after that.

http://www.brainleakage.com/home/the-implied-apocalypse-of-dungeons-dragons

But this tendency is everywhere in storytelling, not merely D&D (think of Rey, in The Force Awakens, scavenging in what remains of the Empire’s ships), and I’ve seen it suggested that perhaps this is a remnant of medieval thinking, with the dominant storytelling tropes originating from societies that had developed among the ruins of ancient Rome.

I was wondering what your thoughts were on how this same tendency has guided the ideas we expect from games, too, and what the implications of that are for story and worldbuilding. I can’t imagine Skyrim, for example, without the Dwemer ruins, while Half-Life 2 has us playing through the events of the collapse itself. This sort of deep history seems almost critical to establishing a detailed setting that feels old and lived-in, and yet the emphasis on collapse and rebuild feels constraining as well.

Yours in nerdiness,
Ryan

56:33 Mailbag: Youtube 60fps

Dear Diecast,

Shamus Youtube vids are 1080p but not 60fps. Explain?

Thank you,

KuneDog

 


From The Archives:
 

86 thoughts on “Diecast #284: The Last Mailbag of 2019

  1. Thomas says:

    I love the Netflix Witcher series. It took me a while to clock that it’s non-linear (and even longer to realised Ciri and her mother are different people), but I enjoyed it even more when that clicked.

    It made me want to play the games again, it would even help put the world in context for me

    1. Steve C says:

      I watched the first two episodes of the Witcher. I so far I’m finding it… boring. A lot of the big scenes vary between melodrama on one hand or exposition dumps (full of proper nouns) on the other. The story feels disjointed. As a result it isn’t invoking emotional investment in the characters nor story for me. Two hours in and I can neither describe the plot, nor is there a character I care about. I like it… kinda. And I don’t like it… kinda. Insert meme here.

  2. Lino says:

    I loved the Witcher books and games, and I highly recommend reading the books (especially the first two). While I do plan on watching the series over the holidays, I hate the actresses they’ve chosen for Triss and Yennefer.

    Initially, I wasn’t all that happy with choosing Cavill to play Geralt, either – in the books Geralt’s always described as an ugly freak, while Henry Cavill looks like a classical fairy tale prince. However, I’ve heard some very good things about his performance.
    With regards to Yennefer’s “getting off the grid” line, as far as I remember, the sorceresses in the Witcher world have a sort of telepathic link with each other, and whenever one of them casts a particularly powerful spell, the rest of them can feel it. It’s a major plot point in some of the later books.

    Also – it’s no wonder Triss doesn’t appear all that much in this series – she was barely in the books to begin with.

    1. Grimwear says:

      Having read the Witcher books I agree with you on the first two. The later books of a single giant plot are…fine. Nothing special I’d rate them maybe a 6 or 7 depending on the book but those first two compilations of short stories are where the world of the Witcher really shines in my opinion. I haven’t watched the show yet but I think I’ll get around to it. From what I’ve seen online everyone hates Triss. I feel they may have hated Yennefer too but this is a situation of Triss being so bad it overshadows everything else.

      There’s also the case of Fringilla but I’ll be honest I can barely remember her in the books or games and I doubt many other do either so they don’t care.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Watching the Witcher show has kind of solidified the views I had when playing the games: I really don’t like Yennefer, grumpy deadpan Geralt is my favorite Geralt*…and I just don’t care about Ciri and her Mystical Destiny plot.
        Why did someone splice a cliched ‘Chosen One’ storyline into this dark, metaphor-filled fantasy world again?

        I always liked the games most when it was just Geralt doing his thing: hunting monsters, getting paid and trying to navigate very ugly, very human situations. It also helps that the monsters almost always have symbolic meanings that link back to other characters in the story.

        Personally, I didn’t see enough of Triss in the show to really like or dislike. She’s just…there (kinda).
        Question for book readers, though: Is Nilfgaard as…extreme in the books as it is on the show? The games (well, Witcher 3, the only one I’ve played) portrayed them as a power-hungry nation; by no means good, but fairly normal; they’re conquering other countries because they can, like Napoleonic France or Ancient Rome.
        Yet in the show they come across like religious extremists?

        You know, if both Shamus AND Mr BTongue did a write up on the show, I’d read both…

        *A couple of times his line is a very simple ‘Fuck.’ And it’s great.

        1. Lino says:

          Is Nilfgaard as…extreme in the books as it is on the show? The games (well, Witcher 3, the only one I’ve played) portrayed them as a power-hungry nation; by no means good, but fairly normal; they’re conquering other countries because they can, like Napoleonic France or Ancient Rome.
          Yet in the show they come across like religious extremists?

          As far as I remember, yes, definitely. They worship their Emperor like a descendant of the Sun. They also did some pretty heinous things to the populace that didn’t see things their way, although that was shown in the games as well.

        2. Michael says:

          “Why did someone splice a cliched ‘Chosen One’ storyline into this dark, metaphor-filled fantasy world again?”

          Because, like everything else in the Witcher, it’s a deliberate subversion of standard fantasy tropes. Unlike in most Chosen One stories, where the person involved is extra special and is going to be the hero and world-savior, it makes Ciri’s life an absolute hell. For one, she wasn’t “chosen” so much as “bred”, a deliberate product of an ancient Elven genetic experiment. For two, as the Chosen One, everyone wants to either kill her, rape her, or rape her *then* kill her. It’s made explicit that makes her important isn’t her skill or personality, but her DNA. All she wants is to be like her father-figure and travel the world slaying monsters, but she keeps getting pulled into the schemes and machinations of people and nations she wants nothing to do with.

          Also, Geralt specifically rebuffs Destiny several times, but the universe keeps conspiring to put him in Ciri’s path. It’s essentially forced character growth, making Geralt accept that he can no longer act aloof & neutral and accept outside attachments into his life. Again, a subversion of the lone wolf/man with no name archetype.

          I quite liked it, personally, speaking as someone who usually rolls his eyes at destiny schlock. Mostly becuase in this case it actually shows destiny in action, as more than just a vague prophecy: numerous coincidences that mean the the main characters always end up meeting at exactly the right moment to reconcile, as if the universe (or author) is conspiring against them.

          1. DeadlyDark says:

            You know, I never considered it, but the “bred” part makes Ciri somewhat similar to Paul Atreides.
            Interesting

        3. Leviathan902 says:

          I don’t know how to do the spoiler blocking thingy so just for people reading this, be aware that there may be some spoilers (for the books) below.

          Generally speaking, Nilfgaard is as much a mixed bag in the books as they are in the games.

          On the one hand, they are brutal invaders and are often seen murdering, raping, and pillaging their way through the Northern Kingdoms. To be fair, the Northern Kingdom soldiers tend to do the same in reverse. Nilfgaard is also very imperialistic, under-handed, and repeatedly screws over the people they make deals with. The emperor is a true dictator with harsh punishments for enemies of the state, internal or external . From the POV of the characters of the book, they are undoubtedly villains.

          On the other hand, the southern “kingdoms” under Nilfgaard seem to be more prosperous and stable than those in the north who they look on as barbarians. Also, Nilfgaard seems to extend quite a bit of autonomy to those they’ve conquered and most consider the trials and tribulations of Nilfgaard as a distant affair, with Toussaint being the most notable example.

          Nilfgaard also has less problems with racism regarding the Elves and Dwarves/etc.., often work with them, and even created a protectorate for the elder races in Dol Blathanna. Racism seems to be a non-issue in Nilfgaard, except regarding magic users who are expected to live an almost monk-like exsistence, are under constant watch, and treated with no more respect than a blacksmith or other tradesman (something the Sorceresses of the North chafe against given their elevated position)

          On the whole it makes them a very interesting villain in the books, more so than the one-note “evil invaders” as we’ve seen in the 2 episodes of the show I’ve watched.

      2. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

        From what I’ve seen online everyone hates Triss. I feel they may have hated Yennefer too but this is a situation of Triss being so bad it overshadows everything else.

        I’ve seen only four episodes and can’t bear to see more. So I can’t say for the whole season, but so far Triss isn’t a character, she delivered some exposition and she’s completely forgettable after this.
        About Yennefer, showrunners decided to stretch her backstory from the single fact, that she was a hunchback into hour and a half convoluted plot. And there’s not a single point that makes her character likeable.

        There’s also the case of Fringilla but I’ll be honest I can barely remember her in the books or games and I doubt many other do either so they don’t care.

        In the books Geralt had relationships with her, because she looked like Yennefer. To say it safely in the TV series she don’t look like Yennefer.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          About Yennefer, showrunners decided to stretch her backstory from the single fact, that she was a hunchback into hour and a half convoluted plot. And there’s not a single point that makes her character likeable.

          I don’t know. At the beginning of the story when she’s sold to the Brotherhood and tries to kill herself I cared about her. But it didn’t last long.
          Though I will say that – based on my limited experience of the game (TW3) – the show’s expanded backstory entirely fits the character. She’s impulsive, reckless, thoughtless, willful, selfish – and it all makes a great deal of sense. It even makes sense why Geralt (aloof, detacted, cynical) would have feelings for her.

          And it’s a credit to Sapkowski that he made a character that is understandable yet (YMMV) unlikable.

          1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

            In the books she presented a bit different, at first, she’s not our main character, just an arrogant and grumpy sorceress. Also only in the end of the Last Wish we discover that she was a hunchback girl with no power. That should provoke a thought like: “Oh, so she still may be vulnerable deep inside and her behavior is like a mask of some kind”.
            Later in the “The Bounds of Reason” she acts selfish and reckless, but that bites her back, and in the end she’s somewhat reasonable. In “A Shard of Ice” we have a grasp on relationships between Yennefer and Geralt, but they’re both kinda selfish and their relationships is a mess. And so on. She has an awful personality, but not that bad.
            And here in TV show I ask myself why I should care about that awful sorceress for extensive periods of screentime.

          2. Distec says:

            I totally understand why people may not like Yennefer. I’m not sure I do myself (I’m leaning towards not). But I totally get her. Yes, she’s obnoxious and self-sure to a fault; petulantly and callously going about as if she will break rules of this world. But can you blame her? This world IS pretty crapsack and unfair, and many of the people managing it seem just as arrogant and sure of themselves. What makes their expectations, customs, and rituals and ideologies any more correct than hers? Frankly, she makes a pretty good case for this existence being total bullshit by the end of Episode 4 when she is charged with – and fails – protecting the queen and her infant daughter from assassins; guilty of the crime of simply not being male.

            Yen does a lot to make herself unlikable. But it never feels unjustified for her character. She feels real and has a proper place in the story, and I would never ask for LESS than her allotted screentime, even if she can drive me up the wall. That’s fine. That’s who she is. And I can see why Geralt digs it.

            It’s like how there’s a fine line between making a character I hate versus a character I love to hate. Yen may be unpleasant, but it’s not like I’d ever root for her death by the end of Season 2 or whatever.

      3. Joe Informatico says:

        It’s a thing that seems to happen with sword-and-sorcery protagonists that start out in short fiction. Conan, Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser, and Geralt are all S&S protagonists who shine in their original short stories, but then at some point get put into novel-length epic fantasy and lose something in the transfer.

    2. corsair says:

      Geralt is a freak and a mutant, but given how appealing women tend to find him in both books and games I think it’s safe to say he’s pretty attractive.

    3. Geebs says:

      The actress playing Triss isn’t much cop, but Anya Chalotra as Yennefer is fantastic. Her performance is way more natural than Cavill’s, and she absolutely nails Yennefer’s general grumpiness. They kind of went overboard on the gratuitous nudity though.

      1. Thomas says:

        I agree that Yennifers performance is great. I think Cavill was hurt by a) Focusing in getting the voice right b) having his pupils digitally altered.

        If they’d toned down the eye effects it would have really helped the emotion in some scenes

        1. Geebs says:

          They could have definitely helped my immersion in the show by somehow establishing that cosmetic contact lenses are, like, super popular in the Northern Kingdoms. Maybe have Jaskier do little jingles for SpecSavers in between ballads?

      2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        I absolutely agree! As a Triss man I’m upset that they chose an actress so bland she’s pretty much see-through, but their Yennefer is amazong!

      3. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

        I’ve imagined Yennefer as a bit older, but yes, Anya Chalotra and her performance are great. However I think showrunners have gone too far with Yennefer being an underdog and turning into power-craving bitch. She is far worse than in the books or game, she’s one of our main characters, we should be rooting for her, and I find her mostly irritating in episodes 2 and 3.

  3. Yerushalmi says:

    A few of my website peeves that weren’t mentioned:

    * Websites that don’t let you use Ctrl+Click or right-click to open a link in a new tab. I also hate those that let you Ctrl+Click once to open one new tab, but each subsequent Ctrl+Click replaces the contents of that same new tab.

    * Websites that put their contact information and important links in a banner across the bottom…which you can only get brief glimpses of and can’t actually click on because it’s under the bottom of one those endless-scroll pages.

    * Also, I hate endless-scroll pages with a passion. Find in Page never works properly on them.

    * Business websites that consist of one giant page made up of individual rectangular modules, where all of the links across the top just bring you to one of those modules. So you click on one hoping to get more information, but it turns out to just bring you to the same damn place you just saw.

    Compared to those, I prefer the autoplaying MIDI files they had in the 90s. At least you could shut off your speakers for those.

    On the subject of the new year, isn’t “happy new year” expressing a wish or a desire, not describing a statement of fact? Anyway, the Ultra Deluxe Stanley Parable is supposed to come out in 2020.

    1. John says:

      Man, I don’t even know how you can make links work for one tab but not several. Like if links are actually “buttons”, you can’t ctrl-click, since that only works on real links, but…how can you selectively make it work…

      1. Yerushalmi says:

        There are several websites I know of that do this. If you Ctrl+Click, it opens a new tab – but somehow the Ctrl+Click is “targetted” to that specific new tab, so every Ctrl+Click opens in that tab.

        What’s worse, once you’re in that new tab, Ctrl+Click doesn’t work anymore to create new tabs, because they still point to the that same tab – i.e., the tab you’re currently using.

      2. Tuck says:

        If your href tags all include a ‘target’ attribute with the same non-standard value, clicking or ctrl-clicking will open those links in the same targeted tab (probably depending partly on browser). However, if you right-click and open in new tab it should get around that, but then of course some websites disable the right-click…

        Google “href target” for more details.

    2. Moridin says:

      My big one is probably Recaptcha. It’s like the designers sat down and someone asked: “How can we make this as obnoxious as possible to real people?”

  4. Grimwear says:

    In regards to Halo I’m upset. I absolutely loved Halo. I still remember walking into…Best Buy? Future Shop? And seeing their Xbox setup with Halo running (quick side note not sure why it was set to the second level but whatever). It’s the reason I ended up getting an Xbox to begin with and Halo 2 was the first midnight release I ever went to. Unfortunately my love for the lore started dying soon after.

    Eric Nylund wrote the original Halo book series trilogy and it was pretty darn good. In fact, I considered it great but that’s mostly because I’m a sucker for stories where they show the training and creation of squads (also happens to be my favourite type of Warhammer 40k Space Marine novels). Now the first book is the creation of the Spartans and ends with them fleeing the planet Reach. Them coming out of warp space is the start of Halo 1, then the second book is essentially just the game (though there is a nice part where Eric Nylund gives character to an Elite we kill in the final mission of the game. Turns out that this Elite had been chasing after us all game. Who knew.) so it’s nothing special but then the third book focuses on the events directly after the game and ends up with the Master Chief having commandeered a Covenant ship and heading to the Covenant homeland to capture a prophet. Halo 2 just ignores all of that with the game starting with Master Chief back on Earth. Really disappointing. Doubly so since as far as I’m aware the Nylund trilogy was the pure Halo canon alongside the games. It got extra stupid later on with books like Harvest where they just threw in Sergeant Johnson for no reason and where all previous lore told us everyone on Harvest died but nope jokes turns out they just put all the people on the planet on these slow moving container things and they actually lived…right.

    So the game trilogy ended and Bungie moved on. I played it but didn’t super care anymore but then 343 shows up and announces Reach. Now I’m all in. I loved The Fall of Reach and in the third book you even find out what happened to Master Chief’s squad members. I wanted to experience them facing off against a full blown covenant invasion but instead we got…a brand new group of Spartans I don’t care about who run around looking for ways to kill themselves. Such a disappointing game. And I can forgive that. But I hate the fact that in making the game they essentially just crapped on the first pieces of Extended Universe ever put out (the first book was released a month before Halo 1) all so they could tell their “much better story”, and then proceeded to crap the bed with Halo 4 and 5 which I never personally played though I did vaguely follow the outrage of people saying it sucked.

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Halo 4’s plot was half very good and half very bad. Cortana slipping into rampancy was surprisingly poignant. The Didact was a silly cartoon villain with a silly cartoon plot. Then came Halo 5, where we spend more than half the time playing Locke, a complete non-character without Bungie’s touch for making a story with a minimalist player-avatar character work. The entire plot was “go to a place because that’s where Master Chief went” and “Master Chief goes to a place because that’s where Cortana is”.

      And, yeah, the lack of regard for their own continuity was one of the things that killed the Halo EU for me.

      Gameplay-wise, Halo 4 and 5 were also weak. The new enemies just aren’t very fun to fight, the level design isn’t as interesting, and 343 studios just doesn’t have that mastery of game feel that Bungie has. Nowadays, if you want to play a new Halo game, you have to boot up Destiny 2. Hopefully Halo 6 is an improvement- it’s not like 343 is completely incompetent, they’re just a second-rate developer playing with a first-rate developer’s toys, and it shows.

    2. SupahEwok says:

      Bungie developed ODST and Reach. 343 didn’t get started until Halo 4.

      1. Grimwear says:

        I stand corrected. I probably should have checked on that before writing it. That makes it doubly worse. Bungie ruined their own lore for Reach and clearly didn’t care about what they previously established…ugh. I feel like over time as I heard people turn against 4 and 5 I just started associating Reach with 343 as well. Nope, turns out all my gripes lie solely with Bungie. Also I never got around to playing ODST since I refused to pay full price for their half a campaign but then waited too long and could no longer find a copy. I did buy the Master Chief collection on Steam since having them all on PC would be great but returned it since the audio is garbage (and apparently still not fixed). I couldn’t hear anything the characters were saying in game and only the cutscenes had subtitles. Why? If I need subtitles for cutscenes then would it not make sense to ALSO give me subtitles for in game conversations?

        1. Geebs says:

          They’re mostly just talking about blowing $shit up. Say what you like about Halo, but those games have incredible ludonarrative consonance.

    3. John says:

      A lifetime of experience has taught me not to expect the makers of the original thing (movie, game, etc.) to ever respect the thing’s spin-offs (novels, comics, etc.) no matter how allegedly canonical they are. It’s nice when it occasionally happens, but it almost never happens. Paramount didn’t care–and possibly didn’t know–about Diane Duane’s Romulan novels. George Lucas didn’t feel bound by the Star Wars EU novels. In most cases, I’m pretty sure that the people making the original thing are barely aware of the spin-offs in the first place.

      1. SupahEwok says:

        True. The whole expansive interconnected canon thing is an expectation of recent times (and even then, often given only lipservice). Those days of 90’s and 00’s media tie-ins were always “canon until contradicted by the main product”.

        As I recall, the Star Wars EU even had tiers for the various products to determine which had “more valid” canon, with the movies naturally at the top.

        1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

          As I recall, the Star Wars EU even had tiers for the various products to determine which had “more valid” canon, with the movies naturally at the top.

          It had them, but they were essentially: Movies>Everything else>Things that contradict movies and humorous stuff.
          For more than 30 years nobody really tried to sort it out. As result all of it was labeled garbage and that opinion is widely popular now, because a lot of bottom-of-the-barrel stuff were used as example to support it.

        2. John says:

          As it should be. Even though we’ve been drowning in Star Wars spin-offs since approximately five minutes after the theatrical premier of A New Hope, most people are really only familiar with the films. Making your Star Wars movie dependent on novels that most of your audience doesn’t know about and will never read seems like a bad idea to me.

    4. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Some notes on this.
      Nylund wrote “The Fall of Reach”, “First Strike”, and “Ghosts of Onyx.” The book that sums up the events of the Halo 1 campaign (“The Flood”) was by a different author. First Strike you’ve remembered incorrectly, the heroes end up back in Earthspace by the end, in time for Halo 2. You’ve also made a mistake assuming that the books would EVER drive the games. That would never happen. The books are the cart, but the games are the horse. The cart does not pull the horse. A good example, in First Strike, we are introduced to the Brute enemies for the first time as Halo fans and Cortana does a whole thing about how they’re new and unknown (because they are to the audience). Later, Bungie decided this was a key faction to the Covenant and various plot twists, so they aren’t new to the UNSC by the time of First Strike at all. So that part of the book was altered on republishing, because the books are not in charge, they’re supplementary ideas.

      Contact Harvest was designed as the first contact and Sgt. Johnson origin story, all in one. Saying Johnson was in there “for no reason” is nonsensical… they wrote the book to be ABOUT him. That’s why the book exists. That’s like asking why the ODSTs happen to be in… the ODST comic book, about that squad.

      You’ve already been corrected, re: Reach. And I feel like it should go without saying that “I heard these games were bad” is a statement so lacking in substance that you just should not have bothered. If you played a game and hated it, fair enough. But why bother to even say “somebody told me this was bad so…”

  5. Thomas says:

    The cookies thing was such a disaster. They had a much better plan potentially forcing companies to respect a ‘Do Not Track’ marker, and then compromised at the last minute in a way which helps no-one. A real black mark there.

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    Website Peeves

    Besides those added by Joshua, I’ll add:

    “Infinite scrolling” websites. We used to have page-based scrolling, where you reached a certain point and you had to advance to a new page, but now more and more websites decide to have an infinite scroll. This is incredibly annoying because it seems to consume more resources, making browsing slower and if you happen to click on a link and opens in the same window, coming back leaves you at the start. There’s really just no benefit to infinite scrolling, and I despise it.
    – Websites that have a ridiculous number of ads. PCGamer, for instance. Yes, in my PC I can use adblock, but on mobile traversing their website is just painful. They actually had to add a “Show Comments” button so you can find the comments section between all the ads. Madness. Of course, they want to incentivize you to pay for their subscription service, but this ends up making sure I don’t want to give them any money.
    – Websites that start asking you to subscribe, join a mailing list or turn off adblock before you even get to see their content for the first time. Like, if you give me a few minutes to peruse your content, I’ll consider it. But if the very first thing I see from you is a giant banner asking for such things I’m likely to just never visit again, let alone subscribe.
    – Websites that instantly change the language to suit my region. I feel this is condescendingly insulting. If I wanted to see the spanish version of a website, I’d go directly to it. There’s a reason I write the address of the US version of the website. If you ask me which version I’d prefer upfront, good. Or, if you have to do it once to see if I prefer it, fine. But if you force the damn thing on me every single time you’re asking for me to never come back to any version of it.
    – Websites that load everything before the text when all I want to do is read the darn text. This is sort of what you guys mention, and I’m sure it’s done to load the ads first (even if an adblocker is installed), but come on!

    I’ll leave it here. I have too many of these, and if I start listing them all I’ll be here all day.

    1. tmtvl says:

      If you’re on Android then I’d recommend Firefox. It can use a fair few add-ons that the regular application can, though not all.

    2. John says:

      Modern browsers pass along the language setting from the operating system, which browsers could use, instead of the location. You know, use the user’s actual preferences instead of making a guess. :D

      1. Asdasd says:

        My browser doesn’t respect my browser’s language preferences. No matter what I add, change, delete or pray to, Firefox is determined to use US English.

        1. emptyother says:

          Firefox language is based on which installation file you use.

      2. emptyother says:

        Edge and IE does that. Chrome and Firefox both have their own language list. This language list gets added to every http request as headers, and promptly ignored by a lot of websites who decide to ip-trace you instead and serve you a site in a language you don’t speak.

  7. Lino says:

    I think the main reason for having stories in take place in ruined societies is convenience. Having a story take place in such a world perfectly explains why a scrappy group of adventurers needs to go off to fight some evil. If the world isn’t ruined, the most sensible solution to a problem is to leave it to the authorities – it’s why civilization built these institutions in the first place.

    Only in a ruined, post-apocalyptic world, the sensible solution is to gather up some guys and do the dirty work yourselves, because there’s no one else out there you could turn to…

    1. Henson says:

      I’d also argue convenience, but from a different angle. A world with ruins is one with instant worldbuilding, but without having to figure out how all the pieces fit together. You get a sense that the setting has history, but you don’t have to go through the effort of making the details work. And if you WANT to expand on the ruined setting, you can always do so later on; it’s not a pressing issue.

      1. Joshua says:

        Exactly it. I’m always leery of joining a new game where the DM has binders and binders of his own world-building lore. I guess some people do it for fun, but I was always hesitant to go through that kind of effort when you don’t even know if the game will last more than a few sessions. With a world of ruins (at least where the PCs start), you can write just the amount that you need right now, and work on the rest later as needed.

        1. Moridin says:

          I would imagine that if you’re the sort of GM to have binders and binders of world building, you’re not going to use that setting for just ONE game(unless that game ends up lasting years).

      2. Hal says:

        I think the convenience (ar least for video games) comes from easy storytelling vehicles. After an apocalypse, you can fill in lots of narrative by leaving notes and books and audio logs, etc. It violates the rule of “show, don’t tell,” but it is a lot easier, and goes further, than the things that happen “on-screen,” so to speak.

        In other media, it’s an easy trope when the writers have to answer the question, “Why is the world the way it is?” Some scenarios aren’t really plausible without an apocalypse. Most of your dystopias, for example, usually have some sort of emergency or catastrophe that prompts the dystopian system to start.

        In D&D specifically, this is also an attempt to limit the proliferation of magical items. It’s an answer to two questions: “Why isn’t everyone walking around with +3 swords?” and “Why can’t the players just make all the +3 swords they want?” Making the answer, “lost secrets of dead civilizations” is a decent lampshade for what otherwise becomes an arbitrary mechanical hurdle.

        1. Henson says:

          “Mithril for sale! Getcha mithril here! Buy one, get one half price!”

          1. tmtvl says:

            Groucho: “That’s a mithril, huh, has he been neutered?”
            Chico: “Eh, that is no mithril, that is my partner.”
            Groucho: “Ah, I thought he were ugly for a monkey.”

    2. The Puzzler says:

      You could achieve most of that just by being part of the first ever iron age (or whatever) civilization. There’s still unsettled wilderness, barbarians are everywhere, and nobody has invented police yet.

      But finding the remnants of an ancient and highly advanced civilization is likely to be pretty awe-inspiring.

    3. Ninety-Three says:

      There’s also a verisimilitude problem that these settings solve. Combat-focused games naturally end up filled with unreasonable amounts of ridiculously deadly monsters, and these might prompt players to ask “How can civilization possibly survive against a world so dense with hostile creatures that we keep running into owlbears just as random encounters?” The simplest way to answer this question is “It hasn’t survived.”

  8. Joe says:

    Hey, Paul, do you have a link to the story about the ancient museum? It sounds really interesting. Thanks!

    I saw Star Wars. The first time, I wasn’t sure what I thought. Kind of a mess, but fun. But the second time, I really liked it! Still messy, but I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride. Other comments agree that it improves with rewatching. If you’re on the fence after one go, try another round. And tomorrow will be my third watch. I’ll report back on my opinion, if anyone cares. :)

    Site peeve: redirects to my country. Why would I want substandard Aussie sites? I wish our local spinoffs were as good as America’s, but they aren’t.
    YouTube. The current trend to play silly buggers with the comments, specifically the size. Some comments *are* worth reading, though I find I have to squint a little these days. And the front page got messier this year, just showing the videos all in a random order and not the previous organised layout for recommend videos.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Turns out the ancient museum of ancient artifacts has its own wikipedia page now:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ennigaldi-Nanna%27s_museum
      I apparently exaggerated the age, only 530 BC, but it’s still the oldest discovered museum.
      Curated by the final princess of the Neo-Babylonian Empire! Hard to get more poignant than that.

    2. John says:

      See also the Library of Ashurbanipal. When the ruler of the Neo-Assyrian Empire says “Send me all your ancient texts!”, you send him all your ancient texts because Neo-Assyrians do not kid around.

    3. Gareth Wilson says:

      “Site peeve: redirects to my country. Why would I want substandard Aussie sites?”
      Even more annoying when you’re actually in New Zealand, and it redirects you to the Australian site.

  9. baud says:

    I fear that the [Prince of Persia] series is basically dead at this point since it can’t be turned into a collectathon open world like Assassin’s Creed or Watch Dogs by Ubisoft….

    I think it can be transformed in an open world, the 2008 Prince of Persia had already some this in the way the world was built (mostly open map, no loading time, most levels can be tackled in any order), with even a mechanism where the player had to collect light orbs to “clear” an area.

    1. John says:

      I like to think that if Prince of Persia were re-made today, it would be a one-man indie-platformer passion project, if only because that’s more or less what the original Prince of Persia was. We need more well-animated silent movie-like games in the world and fewer open-world collectathons.

    2. Geebs says:

      IMO, PoP 2008 is way too open and too big. They put in all of those different pathways across each area, but they’re very similar to each other and all involve holding down one face button for a bit, then another, then the first again. The player never has to figure out how to get from A to B.

      By way of contrast, Forgotten Sands had some excellent level design and some wonderfully knotty platform sequences which were really satisfying to pull off.

      You could make a similar comparison between Mirror’s Edge and ME: Catalyst, I think.

      TL:DR PoP 2008 might have been transplanted into an open world, but the gameplay didn’t survive the procedure.

  10. Gresman says:

    The thing with selling a KDR display is shabby at best.
    But if I remember correctly there were some interesting statements about the fact that the fact that the KDR is not shown increases teamplay and objective focused gameplay. I think there were statements made by the devs working on Overwatch. That was some time ago. It is at least an interesting idea and might have some merit if you would want to limit the amount of satisfaction or frustration of certain player types.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      I think there’s a decent chance that they removed KDR for the same reason Overwatch doesn’t show it, and then someone in the cosmetics department thought it would be a neat gimmick to have the watch show KDR without even talking to the designers who made the decision to not show it in the first place. Everyone likes to jump to the gaming companies being evil, but isn’t it just as plausible that they make mistakes due to bad communication?

      1. Gresman says:

        You are right. That is an option.
        But I somewhat am unable to imagine that someone in the art department made and then someone in management saw it and went “We will sell this. Screw the designers.” But as always I might be wrong. In my experience the order of influence in game dev teams goes something like this from least to most:
        QA->Art/Programming->Design->Production->Management
        Meaning that either the designers were ignored or they signed of on it. Which means either they did not care or it is an unhealthy way to run a team.

        Given that I am not able to figure out which one is better.
        A) A deliberate business decision to remove something and then sell it back to the customer
        or
        B) An act of miscommunication, which led to the undermining of a deliberate design decision.

        We will never know.

        PS: I personally think that I am one of those who try not to paint companies as evil all the time. I am always on the fence in these debates because it want to have enough information before either endorsing or condemning a group or a company. That also be the reason why I am a bit cynical and no longer get excited about game announcements.

        PPS: I found a third option: They forgot to implement prior to console certification and they implemented it during the certification process. Followed by selling it as DLC.
        Yes, it would be nice if it were a toggleable option and/or free DLC.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          But I somewhat am unable to imagine that someone in the art department made and then someone in management saw it and went “We will sell this. Screw the designers.”

          You’re imagining way more project knowledge than tends to exist. The art department makes a thing, runs it by the art manager who doesn’t even know what stats the base game displays let alone why, the art manager creates an “implement this watch” ticket that gets passed to one of the coders who has never even been in the same room as the guy who decided on no KDR…

          I work in software. It’s not even that people are failing to communicate, that’s just sensible prioritization. Most people in the company don’t need to ever think about KDR and if you insisted on explaining everything at that level of importance to everyone, people would spend their entire day just reading project updates.

          1. Gresman says:

            That is a valid point.
            It possibly comes all down to team size and corporate culture.

            Given that I am working/worked in companies with “only” 50 or so employees/team members it is something a bit different.

            In my personal – which makes the following statement anecdotal – experience project knowledge was necessary. Each time someone was out of the loop it ended in endless fruitless discussions and me running between departments because I had no idea if I should pass or fail a certain test.

            Just for the sake of clearing up assumptions, that may exist. My current job is as a tester for company that develops financial management software. My former job was some mix of designer/tester/community dude for a games dev company.

            From that I would state that we both have a somewhat background knowledge but differing experiences. Thus leading to different opinions and perspectives on the topic.

            May I ask where you are from and what kind of software you work on.

  11. Lino says:

    Hey, Shamus, do you plan on porting Pseudoku for mobile? I don’t know what language you’ve written it in, but if it’s in Unity, I think you could easily call it a day, export it to Android and IOS, and call it a day.
    Even if it would require some work, I think the game’s a perfect fit for those platforms, more-so given the fact that you’ve already put a lot of work into the project…

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I believe it’s written with his own home-brew system, before he got into doing stuff in Unity.

  12. Hal says:

    Re: Website peeves

    Sites that prompt Chrome to ask if it can push notifications on you. Look, if I’m a regular visitor, I don’t need to know about new content, I’m showing up for that stuff on my own. If I care that much, I’ll bet you have an email that periodically shows such updates. But Windows is already spamming me with notifications enough as is; I don’t need your site adding to the mess, thank you.

    1. PowerGrout says:

      Re Win10 notifications: Turn ’em off. Turn them all off, trust me you really aren’t missing anything. The options are there, disable them and disable the whole damn ‘action panel’ too. I find it has to be completely disabled to stop it from interfering with that corner of the display and can’t be conveniently toggled at will so OFF it is, completely, 100%. The only thing that niggles is that I wouldn’t be here and happier having it completely disabled were it not for the purely spiteful engineering that put me here.
      And, yes I know it very likely isn’t actually disabled in any classic sense but still doing it’s thing and eating resources albeit quietly, offscreen, offstage and out of mind.

  13. I agree with you about Halo. The first one was pretty rough. I played the 2nd one first, and then all the others around the time Reach came out, and went back and played the first and oof, can see why it left a bitter taste in your mouth. If you ever feel the urge, the other games in the series actually get better in almost every way.

    Also shame about Pseudoku. Thanks for the download though :)

  14. Michael says:

    RE: Witcher anachronism

    I actually quite liked that. The books are very anachronistic, too: Despite a medieval level of technology, society has a 20th century understanding of genetics. Witcher powers are granted by biological mutations as well as magic, and at one point the lodge of sorceresses have an extended discussion on Ciri’s family tree and recessive genes. Plus, in the war against Nilfgaard, Redania has WW2-style propaganda murals (“This knight is friend, he fights for freedom!”).

    Also, Jaskier is the original Polish name for Dandelion. It translates to English as “Buttercup”; the translators decided it was too feminine and went with a different flower.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I think that might have been a good choice, personally.
      I can’t be the only person who hears the words ‘bard’ & ‘buttercup’ and immediately thinks of this song

      1. Syal says:

        I actually think of this one.

        1. Gareth Wilson says:

          Blame The Simpsons, but I think of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoWxp4cJKLk

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Most “medieval” fantasy is already guilty of mixing technologies from over a thousand year span anyway, not to mention social structures. E.g. 15th century arms and armour (but without gunpowder weapons) mixed with 17th century shipbuilding techniques (but without cannon) along with kingdoms and military organizations that operate more like 18th century absolute monarchies/nation-states than historical medieval realms are a popular combination. A fantasy setting can try to be more “historically accurate” but the behaviour of our ancestors can be so alien it can take a lot of work to make it even remotely comprehensible to a modern audience. It’s a lot easier to just cater to the modern reader’s assumptions and just dress them up in mail armour and swords and castles and medieval titles.

      It’s already kind of anachronistic that “medieval” fantasy settings are so associated with 19th century symphonic music. When Basil Poledouris was composing for the 1982 CONAN THE BARBARIAN film he consciously tried to avoid sounding that “modern” and aimed to sound more “primitive”. So why not have Jaskier’s songs sound like modern pop tunes? Sometimes the goal of film/TV isn’t to accurately depict a (pseudo)historical society that we can’t relate to; sometimes it’s to depict how people in that society would react and feel in relatable ways.

      1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

        I’ve read some medieval literature, and it gave me impression that human mentality didn’t change that much for last 7-8 centuries. I’d risk to say, that even attitude towards religion isn’t drastically different. We developed laws and institutions, but on average, without them we haven’t changed. Problem with “comprehension of ancestors behavior” might come from the fact, that very small amount of people have solid understanding how medieval (or other period) society worked. But here the thing, it’s not the problem with art and fiction, rather it’s educational problem.

        Returning to the topic of anachronisms in fiction. I think it all highly depends on genre, tone and themes in particular work of fiction. I understand that there’s no way to depict 100% accurate medieval setting, because our knowledge isn’t absolute, but there should be some gradient of accuracy. What’s ok to Knight’s Tale can’t be applied to more serious works. I know that a lot of people hates word verisimilitude, but higher degree of accuracy helps to reach it. Still works of fantasy need to mix up technologies and ideas from different parts of our history, but it should be done seamless and organic and only if there’s reason to mix it.

        And about Witcher anachronisms. I didn’t like Jaskier song in the TV series, I think creators could stylize it to sound more “medievalish”, it feels more lazy than anachronistic even. Other than that, Andrzej Sapkowski usually adds a lot of anachronistic details to his work, some to spice up them a bit, some, I think, are his thoughts about modern problems encased in fantasy writing. Especially his mages are anachronistic, so it’s fine with them, but not with other characters.

        Oh, also, about 19th century symphonic music associated with medieval and fantasy. It’s still this way, because Wagner’s music invoked interest in medieval history 150 years ago, isn’t it?

  15. Ninety-Three says:

    The most annoying part about the “our site uses cookies” messages is that they’re because of GDPR compliance, which can’t even be enforced on companies outside the EU (The Washington Post was found to be in violation, causing the compliance authority to admit they couldn’t do anything about it). Most websites don’t even need those stupid notifications, it’s just a cargo cult!

    1. Tuck says:

      The cookie regulations predate GDPR by multiple years. And while compliance with the GDPR can’t be enforced outside the EU, non-compliance could cause issues for the non-complying company if they try to undertake business within the EU…

  16. Paul Spooner says:

    Just realized that I should have sang “It’s the final Diecast” for the stinger. I must be loosing my touch. Think I’m going to take the rest of the year off.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Slacker. Shamus oughta cut your pay.

  17. kunedog says:

    “Shamus” was an adjective. I meant “why aren’t your videos 60fps?”

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah. This is something I’m working on.

      See, about half the footage in the show comes from Issac. (My son / editor.) His computer is getting a little long in the tooth and he can’t always hit 60fps. In fact, these days just holding stable at 30 is sometimes iffy.

      This is something I hope to rectify in 2020. Given the work he does, a new machine really is in order. It doesn’t need to be a top-of-the-line gaming monster. It just needs to be a nice midrange machine.

      Fingers crossed.

      1. Duoae says:

        I’m confused – why is 60fps needed for these videos? Are people really that bothered by it in passive consumption on youtube? Do people watch youtube videos in fullscreen and do no other simultaneous tasks? Is there an option to have both 30/60? It’s just useless additional data for me to stream.

        1. Duoae says:

          Re-reading this comment it comes across as more accusatory than the thought behind it actually is.

          What i mean is – is there really a push for 60fps non-game stream/HD movie for formats that don’t (IMO) really benefit from it?

          Like, i wouldn’t expect Zero Punctuation to move to a 60fps format and most other videos i watch on YouTube – even those at 1440p don’t necessitate (or benefit from) the added frames. I’m not seeing more detail in the videos, it just bloats the video size.

          1. kunedog says:

            I’m not pushing for it. The answer I expected was an explanation of why Shamus considered it and then decided not to bother. Like, maybe it would be an unnecessary expense (mostly of time) when encoding and uploading. Or maybe some of his video sources are 30fps, especially if he ever wants to splice in an external clip, and when he tries mixing frame rates the transition is jarring. Or maybe he wants it more than I do, given his recent comments about appreciating high frame rates now that he has a monster gaming machine.

            Like, i wouldn’t expect Zero Punctuation to move to a 60fps format and most other videos i watch on YouTube – even those at 1440p don’t necessitate (or benefit from) the added frames. I’m not seeing more detail in the videos, it just bloats the video size.

            I agree, but Zero P is not a good example because Shamus uses game footage.

          2. Paul Spooner says:

            While 60 fps does have slightly higher data-rates, the actual amount of information is about the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 60 fps data rates were far less than double.
            EDIT: just looked up the Youtube guidelines, and going from 30 to 60 fps increases the recommended data rate by 1.5 times. There’s quite a bit of overlap though, so if you’re running high quality 30 fps video, increasing it to 60 fps at the same bitrate will only bring it down to average quality.

  18. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    For the cookies just use the “I don’t care about cookies” extension, it’s present on Chrome and Firefox. I just wish it was also on my Android browser.

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