This Scene Breaks a Character

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Feb 18, 2020

Filed under: Column 160 comments

Remember that Spider-Man game from 2018? Of course you do. It was really popular. Then again, it was a Playstation 4 exclusive which means a lot of you couldn’t play it. And this wasn’t one of those pretend exclusives that comes out on one platform and then a few months later it gets released for realsies. This is an old-school style exclusive where you have to buy one specific machine, or you can’t play the game. That sucks, but I guess that’s how things work in This Dumb Industry.


Link (YouTube)

It’s a shame, because I think this game was amazing. It told an original story. Well, as original as stories get when you have the same hero fighting the same bad guys for over half a century. The point is that the writers were free to create their own version of the character and his world, and that version wasn’t chained to the convoluted lore of any of the comics, movies, cartoons, or breakfast cereals that came before it. It was its own thing, but it was also true to the spirit of the original works. Unlike some games I could mention.

I say the game is fantastic, but it’s fantastic with a couple of inexplicably bad scenes.

Uh, Spoiler Warning I guess?
Uh, Spoiler Warning I guess?

It’s not like I’ve never seen a bad cutscene before. I even covered a stupendously terrible cutscene a few months ago. I’m used to games where the story is good and so the scenes are mostly good. And I’m used to games where the story is terrible and incoherent and so the scenes are also terrible and incoherent. It’s just that I get confused when otherwise good stories have bad scenes that make clumsy, amateur-level mistakes. So let’s go over this scene.

The setup is that Mary Jane needs to…

Oh hang on. I want to make it clear that this isn’t remotely the worst cutscene in the game. That honor belongs to all the scenes with Silver Sable in them. Silver Sable is a disaster of a character in this game. She’s basically a big bundle of terrible ideas in a boring costume. But it would take another entire article to explain everything that’s wrong with her. So for the moment let’s just shove her off to the side and focus on this scene with Mary Jane, because unlike Silver Sable, MJ is actually important to the plot.

How can a character be boring and infuriating at the same time?
How can a character be boring and infuriating at the same time?

Anyway, the setup is that Mary Jane needs to talk to this…

Oh, before we get into this I need to explain something about MJ for people who are more familiar with the classic supermodel / actress version of the character. In this story, she’s actually a reporter for the Daily Bugle. So she’s basically Lois Lane with red hair. Some people like this change, some people don’t. You know how it goes on the internet.

The original MJ was compassionate, fun-loving, glamorous, and obviously a 30-something hippie baby boomer. Sony's Marvel's Spider-Man is not the first time she's gotten a personality transplant over the years.
The original MJ was compassionate, fun-loving, glamorous, and obviously a 30-something hippie baby boomer. Sony's Marvel's Spider-Man is not the first time she's gotten a personality transplant over the years.

On one hand, it diverts really hard from the design of the original MJ that audiences have grown to love. I don’t just mean that she’s no longer a swingin’ 60s party girl with a splash of mod culture. I mean, her entire personality is different. Instead of being a gregarious free spirit in the body of a Hollywood bombshell, she’s now a serious, driven, career-minded woman who majored in journalism with a minor in breaking and entering. The only things left from the original character are the name and the hair color.

On the other hand, this redesign moves her closer to the action. When she was an actress, there wasn’t a lot she could do in the plot aside from getting kidnapped and menaced once in a while. But now that she’s a reporter, she can be involved, meet villains, discover new information, deliver exposition, and generally be a proactive character within the story.

This new MJ is grounded, responsible, mature, hard-working, a bit cynical, and (in some scenes) kinda mean. That's a fine character design, but it REALLY diverges from the original.
This new MJ is grounded, responsible, mature, hard-working, a bit cynical, and (in some scenes) kinda mean. That's a fine character design, but it REALLY diverges from the original.

The change makes a lot of sense and I understand why the writers did it, but I’m also an old guy who grew up with the Steve Ditko and John Romita versions of the characters. The new MJ design is probably a good idea, but it still bugs me because I’m a neurotic and possessive fan that freaks out when things change.

So where were we?

Oh right. The setup is that Mary Jane needs to talk to this scientist guy…

Oh, hang on. I thought of one more thing you should know. In the old stories, Spider-Man’s original girlfriend was boring milquetoast Gwen Stacy. The Green Goblin killed her because he wanted to hurt Spider-Man and also because covers like these are a great way to sell comic booksNo, that’s not a spoiler. It happened in 1973. If you’re that far behind on your comics reading then it’s not my fault.. After that, Spidey settled into a stable relationship with the aforementioned glamorous party girl version of Mary Jane. (No relation.) They got married in 1987, resulting in yet another attention-grabbing cover. They were happily married (by the standards of comic books, anyway) for 20 years and then the Devil made it so that their marriage never existed. Then some other stuff happened and some other stuff and who cares anymore?

I know this is a story where a guy gets super-powers from radioactive spider, but it totally breaks my immersion that a New York eatery would offer such a tiny serving of french fries or that Peter wouldn't order 10 of them after swinging all over the city.
I know this is a story where a guy gets super-powers from radioactive spider, but it totally breaks my immersion that a New York eatery would offer such a tiny serving of french fries or that Peter wouldn't order 10 of them after swinging all over the city.

The important thing here is that the plot of this game is taking a very different path through their relationship. They were apparently dating at sometime in the past, but then they broke up because he was overprotective and that interfered with her career plans to break big stories by sneaking into dangerous bad guy lairs to spy on them. So at the time of this story, they’re no longer a couple.

Ok, now if you’re done interrupting me, let’s look at this cutscene.

Look out behind you Standish! It's an unarmed civilian that wants to ask you reasonable questions! Quick, pull a gun on her!
Look out behind you Standish! It's an unarmed civilian that wants to ask you reasonable questions! Quick, pull a gun on her!

The setup is that Mary Jane needs to talk to this scientist guy named Charles Standish. The problem is that Standish is currently in protective custody with the paramilitary fascist thugs enforcing martial law in New York for reasons that are too complicated to get into. The Sable agents are a bunch of trigger-happy idiots and will casually shoot you on sight if they catch you sneaking around their base. So MJ has to sneak into the Sable base in one of the game’s many insta-death stealth mazes.

The bad news is that Standish is basically at the center of this goon commune. The good news is that these guys have the hearing and visual acuity of your typical Skyrim bandit.

So you guide MJ through the maze and reach Standish. He assumes she’s working for the villainous Demons and that she’s here to assassinate him. That’s a really strange leap of logic. He was attacked by the Demon gang just a few hours ago, and he knows what they look like. They’re an army of Chinese guys in scary masks that attack with swords and assault rifles. Thinking that MJ is a member of the Demon gang is like assuming that Kirsten Dunst is a member of the Blue Man Group.

Also, she’s obviously not an assassin because she’s unarmed and openly greeted you when she entered the tent, Standish. You dummy.

But whatever. Standish probably has a case of the jitters, so he grabs a nearby pistol and points it at MJ.

Spider-Man's Batman vision highlights Standish in red, which I think canonically proves that Standish is actually a villain.
Spider-Man's Batman vision highlights Standish in red, which I think canonically proves that Standish is actually a villain.

The problem is that Spider-Man is just outside. He apparently borrowed Batman’s detective vision from the Arkham games. That’s fine. Batman doesn’t seem to be using it these days. Spidey sees that MJ is in the middle of the Sable base and that someone is threatening her with a gun. So he leaps into action. He enters the tent and lands in front of Standish. Now, Standish should be glad to see Spider-Man. Spidey saved his life a few hours ago and he should be glad to see a friendly superhero. But for whatever reason Standish acts like Spider-Man is the Baba Yaga and awkwardly backs away while neither MJ or Spider-Man make any effort to de-escalate the situation. He then trips over his own feet, falls over, and manages to knock himself out.

Then Spider-Man says, “That’s not a Sable guy. Definitely not a Sable Guy. Sorry Charlie.”

Standish’s self-knockout attracts the guards, which means Spidey and MJ need to leave right now before the goon squad starts shooting. But MJ is still trying to continue the interview for some reason. She gets angry when Spider-Man grabs her and leaps out of the tent. They escape safely, but MJ’s investigation is thwarted because her interview ended before she got the information they needed.

Then we cut to MJ’s place where Spider-Man drops her off. Once he swings away, she calls him to berate him, and the dialog makes it sound like a continuation of an ongoing tirade, as if she was shouting at him as he carried her across the city.

This cutscene is a disaster. People often talk about how much they hated MJ in this game, and when you ask them to explain it usually comes down to this scene in particular. MJ is unreasonable in attempting to continue to interview someone who is out cold while paramilitary goons converge on her position. She’s furious with Spider-Man and accuses him of knocking Standish out, but the cutscene very clearly showed that he didn’t do that. As presented, Spidey didn’t really do anything wrong. Standish is the idiot in this scene. First he thinks the unarmed woman who greeted him is an assassin. Even after she proves she’s not a threat he continues to irresponsibly point his gun at her. Then he’s afraid of a friendly superhero and knocks himself out. His antics are so ridiculous it almost feels like slapstick.

You've determined that MJ is not a threat, so STOP POIINTING YOUR GUN AT HER, you MASSIVE DUMBASS. Arg. I want to knock you out myself.
You've determined that MJ is not a threat, so STOP POIINTING YOUR GUN AT HER, you MASSIVE DUMBASS. Arg. I want to knock you out myself.

But even though this is obviously Standish’s fault, MJ lays into Spider-Man. I mean, she really goes off on him. You can hear the full audio of her dialog at 6m29s in the YouTube version of this article. The short version is: Spidey keeps apologizing for a mishap he didn’t cause. His presence at the scene was the result of his concern for her well-being. Despite this, MJ keeps yelling at him anyway. She ends with “This is exactly why we broke up!” which takes this professional disagreement and makes it very, very personal. Considering that Peter is still pining for her, this is one of the most hurtful things she could say.

This makes her feel like an unreasonable bully. Also, she’s yelling at Spider-Man for telling jokes, which is one of his most endearing qualities. And she continues berating him despite his profuse apology. Wrongfully accusing someone of something they obviously didn’t do and refusing to accept heartfelt apologies are behaviors we associate with antagonists and abusers. It’s no wonder people don’t like this version of the character.

The thing is, this is an important scene. This is supposed to be the low point of their relationship in the game. This conflict is central to their shared arc. The problem isn’t that she’s angry at Spider-Man, the problem is that this scene isn’t doing its job of advancing their conflict. Let’s take a step back and look at what’s going on between Peter and MJ.

We don''t learn what MJ's beef is with Spider-Man until much later in the story, which makes her post-Standish-cutscene anger seem even more inexplicable at the time. Again, this puts the audience against her, when we really need to be able to empathize with her position.
We don''t learn what MJ's beef is with Spider-Man until much later in the story, which makes her post-Standish-cutscene anger seem even more inexplicable at the time. Again, this puts the audience against her, when we really need to be able to empathize with her position.

The problem with these two is that while they’re both good people that want to do the right thing, their individual goals push them apart. MJ’s drive as a reporter compels her to go after the big story. Poking around villain hideouts is dangerous, but it’s a danger she willingly accepts for herself. She’s also got a dash of pridefulness and she’s a little sore that Spider-Man has saved her so many times. She’s tired of always being the one to get rescued.

On the flipside, Peter Parker is pathologically driven to protect the people he cares about. Uncle Ben died because Peter failed to do his job as a superhero. (Don’t worry, this game doesn’t re-hash the origin story yet again. The game assumes you’re already aware that Uncle Ben died because Spider-Man wasn’t responsible with his powers.) He’s spent all the years since then trying to atone for that mistake and making sure it never happens again. He CAN’T look the other way and let MJ put herself in danger.

He’s compelled to rescue her from doing her job, and this behavior is what drove a wedge between them in the first place. It’s a wonderful conflict that comes from their virtues and their personal histories. They’re not fighting because they’re ignorant or selfish, they’re at odds because of their different approaches and motivations for doing good. This is good drama.

They killed Uncle Ben off-screen in the original, but the writers have more than made up for it. Since then, ol' Benny has bit the dust more times than South Park's Kenny McCormick.
They killed Uncle Ben off-screen in the original, but the writers have more than made up for it. Since then, ol' Benny has bit the dust more times than South Park's Kenny McCormick.

Or it was, until the scene where Standish was a clown and MJ turned into a dumb bully.  Suddenly the supposedly brilliant Standish is a cartoon goof, MJ is way out of character, and Spider-Man is almost completely passive. This is a very frustrating scene for the audience, and the blame for that frustration usually ends up landing on MJ. That’s not really fair to MJ, but before we talk about what went wrong with this scene, let’s jump ahead and see how this plot is resolved.

Near the end of the game, MJ and Spidey try again. She has to sneak into the penthouse of Mayor Norman Osborn. It’s probably the most dangerous and heavily guarded location in the city. She has to sneak in and steal some plot exposition from Osborn’s computer system.

But this time, they figure out how to cooperate. Spider-Man is able to hang back and let her do her job. At the end when things go sideways, she calls for his help and then jumps off the building, trusting that he’ll catch her. Which he does, because superhero. He lets her do her job, she learns to ask for help when she needs it, and their cooperation both repairs their relationship and gets them the info they need to stop the bad guys. This reconciliation is perfectly symbolized by the two of them embracing as they swing away together. It’s a brilliant scene that advances these two two character arcs, moves the overall plot forward, and gives us a really fun visual. This is gold.

So if the premise of this arc is so strong, and if the conclusion of this arc is so good, then what happened in the middle? How did the Standish stand-off end up being such a disaster? Well, I have a theory. Imagine how this scene would play out if the whole situation really was Spider-Man’s fault. Imagine if he had jumped into the tent and POW…

The 70s cartoons are probably what made me a Spider-fan. Ironic, since I think they're pretty much unwatchable now.
The 70s cartoons are probably what made me a Spider-fan. Ironic, since I think they're pretty much unwatchable now.

…knocked Standish out with a quick punch.

Now, I haven’t seen the script, I don’t know any of the developers at InsomniacFor some reason I had Rocksteady, not Insomniac in the script. I don’t how I never caught that in editing. Maybe it’s because my next script talks about the Batman games. Oh well. Now that mistake is part of the video and people can correct me on it. FOREVER., and none of the Spider-Man writers have replied to the love letters I’ve been sending, but I’m willing to bet you a deluxe No-Prize that the original script called for Spider-Man to actually knock Standish out himself.

Think about it: Spider-Man, driven by his fear that he’ll lose yet another loved one, dives into the tent and blasts Standish in the face without thinking. It’s not until Standish hits the floor that the Web-head realizes what he’s done. Suddenly his “Sorry Charlie.” line would make sense.

It doesn’t make any sense that Spider-Man would apologize to someone who just tripped over their own feet, but it makes sense as something he’d say after realizing he just decked their most important lead. Suddenly MJ’s anger would make sense. She risked her life to get in here, and Spider-Man ruined everything at the last second by thinking with his fists. Her anger at him making a joke suddenly makes sense. To her it would seem like Spider-Man wasn’t taking his mistake seriously. This would also clear up the problem where a supposedly functional adult could somehow knock himself out.

There’s even this awkward pause right after Spider-Man lands. It’s accompanied by the kind of musical cue that would lead up to a punch.  It FEELS like there should be a punch there, but instead the two guys just look at each other and then Standish falls over.

My theory is that someone removed the punch from this scene, and they did so very late in development. The script had been written, the dialog had been recorded, and the scene had been mo-capped so that Spider-Man decked Standish, and then the punch was removed.

So if the original version of the scene works so well and the one we got in the game is such a disaster, then you have to ask – Who changed it? More importantly, why?

So let’s talk about the…

Stealth Sections

This is the only way through. The room ahead is impassible unless we push the button on the generator. The game is nice enough to highlight it for you so you don't need to think for yourself. Just walk forward and click on the interactive bits when it tells you to.
This is the only way through. The room ahead is impassible unless we push the button on the generator. The game is nice enough to highlight it for you so you don't need to think for yourself. Just walk forward and click on the interactive bits when it tells you to.

At several points in Marvel’s Spider-Man, you play as non-superhero characters Miles Morales or Mary Jane Watson. You have to sneak through some sort of obstacle course filled with guards. Judging by the discussions I’ve read, these sequences are not popular. Public reactions fall somewhere in the range of indifference, boredom, or outright hostility and irritation. And it’s not hard to understand why. The gameplay is just not very interesting.

The areas are entirely linear. No branching paths to explore. No alternate routes that offer a faster approach for higher risk. The whole thing is very binary. If you make a mistake and get spotted, it’s an instant game over. The obstacles in your path are simple and obvious. Something blocks your progress, so you press the button or activate the object to remove the obstacle to continue on your way. Your progression is literally one-dimensional. You move forward on a linear path and press buttons when you’re told to. In terms of interactivity, it falls somewhere between a cutscene you can’t skip and the world’s slowest quick time event.

I’m not against the idea of these sections. I think brief interludes of playing as normal people can make us appreciate the exhilaration and mobility of the superhero stuff even more. And seeing the world from the perspective of a different character is a really useful narrative device. My problem isn’t the lack of superpowers. My problem is the lack of gameplay. These sections aren’t interesting enough to justify the time we spend with them.

Your foes are all brain-dead and half-blind. These sequences are time-consuming yet easy, and for the most part the only way you’ll get caught is if you get impatient and move when you’re obviously not supposed to. Which means this is basically a contest of patience where the player is pitted against their own boredom and desire to get back to the fun parts of the game.

So imagine you’re a playtester and you slog through this boring stealth section, and your reward at the end is a cutscene where Spider-Man – the hero, the main character, and the character you’d rather be controlling – leaps in and negates all of that effort with a quick uppercut.

The Idiot Ball

Star-Lord isn't just holding the idiot ball, he's decided to go for the world record for 'Highest Number of Idiot Balls Juggled at Once'. (He tries, but Standish's record is untouchable.)
Star-Lord isn't just holding the idiot ball, he's decided to go for the world record for 'Highest Number of Idiot Balls Juggled at Once'. (He tries, but Standish's record is untouchable.)

I’m sure you’ve heard of the idiot ball. It’s the trope where a character is suddenly and unaccountably stupid for the purposes of advancing the writer’s intended plot. People talk about it in terms of the writer “giving the idiot ball” to a particular character for a scene, or passing the idiot ball around a group of characters. The most common examples are sitcoms where an entire episode hinges on a continuing misunderstanding that could be cleared up at any time if the writer wasn’t forcing everyone to take turns with the idiot ball.

You can see an example of this in Avengers Infinity War. (Oh and by the way, I’m about to spoil a pivotal scene in Infinity War. If you’re still waiting to see this 2018 movie, then you might want to skip to the next section.) Near the end, the good guys are just seconds from defeating Thanos. He’s partly sedated and they’ve nearly managed to pull the Infinity Gauntlet off of his hand. If the glove comes off, they win and the universe is saved. But then Star Lord ruins everything when he finds out Thanos killed his girlfriend Gamora, and in a fit of adolescent rage he begins punching the villain. This wakes Thanos back up, and as a result the good guys lose and billions of people die.

Now, you can argue that this moment was justified by Star Lord’s character. He’s immature. He’s not the smartest guy in the galaxy. He’s not even the smartest guy in the Guardians of the Galaxy, and that’s a low bar to clear. Gamora was his first attempt at an adult relationship. So you can say that it’s totally understandable that he would lose control like this. And fine. You can argue about that all day. The problem is that – justified or not – the audience generally has a very limited patience for plots that rely on idiocy. It’s not always wrong to have otherwise reasonable characters behave stupidly to advance the plot, but it’s usually not ideal and it’s really not ideal in stories like Marvel’s Spider-Man where the foolishness is coming from our main character.

Adversity is More Interesting than Idiocy

Norman Osborn: You're creating your OWN setbacks? Am I a joke to you?
Norman Osborn: You're creating your OWN setbacks? Am I a joke to you?

Movies like The Big Lebowski get around this by making dim-wittedness central to the character, but in a broad superhero action story there’s a lot less room for anti-heroics driven by stupidity.  We don’t want the hero creating their own setbacks. That’s the villain’s job.

And so we come to the Standish scene, where Spider-Man’s idiot ball creates multiple setbacks at onceThat is, assuming we’re talking about a version of the scene where Spidey punches Standish.. Not only is Spider-Man punching out an innocent civilian, not only is he further sabotaging his relationship with MJ, not only is he scoring an own goal by thwarting MJ’s investigation in a situation where the clock is ticking and millions of lives are at stake, but he’s also committing the unpardonable sin of antagonizing the player by negating the tedious stealth section they just got through.

My guess is that this was just too much. It probably pissed off the playtesters. Perhaps feedback on this scene was so harsh that the designer felt compelled to change it. However, if the scene was already scripted and the dialog was already recorded, then their options would have been incredibly limited. The best they could do is remove the punch and have Standish trip himself unconscious.

You can see how this change would appeal to someone focused on the gameplay. If the punch upsets people, just take it out! Mechanically, the result is the same. The team doesn’t get the information they need. Just remove the punching animation and Spider-Man is instantly absolved of all wrongdoing.

Except…

Standish, aren't you a scientist? Aren't you guys supposed to be smart?
Standish, aren't you a scientist? Aren't you guys supposed to be smart?

Except, this doesn’t actually fix the scene. The player’s effort is still negated in a cutscene. (Which incidentally, is a thing this game does way too much, but that’s another article.) Sure, we took the idiot ball away from Spider-Man, but as a side-effect MJ and Standish are now each holding idiot balls of their own.

Spider-Man has an in-character reason to punch out Charles Standish in a reckless panic, but there’s no in-character reason for MJ to senselessly blame and berate him if he didn’t. We’re trading an unfortunate but understandable mistake for a jarring and inexplicable one. Worse, this change doesn’t just break this scene. Having Spidey NOT punch Standish creates problems that reverberate throughout the rest of the story. Like I said, a lot of people really dislike this new version of MJ, and a lot of that dislike comes from scenes like this one where our supposedly intelligent, perceptive, morally grounded and nobly intentioned heroine comes off as irrational, dim-witted, and mean.

Again, this is mostly conjecture on my part. I don’t have any proof that the original script called for Spidey to KO Standish. But I think my theory explains why we have this one disaster of a scene in what is otherwise a really solid subplot.

Appropriately, the plot of this game feels like we’ve been dropped into a ten-issue series in the middle of a long-running comic. The game doesn’t have a single overarching story. Instead there are several different plots that aren’t just concurrent, but deeply intertwined. Several plots simmer in the background and then shove their way to the foreground when needed. There’s the Doc Ock origin story, the stuff with Norman Osborn, Peter and MJ’s relationship woes, the stuff going on in the Morales family, the stuff going on with Aunt May at the homeless shelter, the Martin Li story which has a subplot with the Shocker, the bioweapon, the prison break, the Sinister Six, the Kingpin stuff, and all the dumb bullshit with Silver Sable. And that’s just the main story missions! I’m not even counting all the side content.

The takeaway from all this is that plots are often big, complicated machines with lots of moving parts. That’s particularly true in the case of Spider-Man, which has two or three entire movies worth of plot. It probably seemed like a small change to remove the Standish punch, but this change interfered with the Peter and MJ plot, made Charles Standish into a clown, made people feel hostility towards one of our central hero characters, and broke the intended mood of the following scenes. Removing the punch was a small change that did a lot of damage.

I’m Just Guessing

There's a later scene in Grand Central where MJ and Spider-Man continue this debate, and it's SO MUCH better. Spider-Man wants to rescue MJ and THEN come back to save everyone else. His position is understandable, but he's clearly in the wrong. MJ opposes him rationally and without coming off like a jerk.
There's a later scene in Grand Central where MJ and Spider-Man continue this debate, and it's SO MUCH better. Spider-Man wants to rescue MJ and THEN come back to save everyone else. His position is understandable, but he's clearly in the wrong. MJ opposes him rationally and without coming off like a jerk.

Or maybe I’m totally wrong and this scene was badly written from the start. I don’t know, but Spider-Man really should have knocked out Standish or the entire scene should have been excised.

The other change I’d like to see in this scene is for Spidey to stand up for himself a little more. Assuming we’re talking about a version of the story where he punches Standish, it would be nice if he tried to stand up for himself. Then it would seem like the two of them are having a proper disagreement, rather than just having MJ continue to yell at somebody who’s already apologized. In fact, that’s what the writer does the next time they team up, and it works so much better.

Speaking of changing the script: I’d originally planned to end this article with, “Oh well, I guess we’ll never know what the script originally said”. But then literally the very next day someone sent in a question to the podcast asking if I knew that Insomniac actually published the script for this game. On one hand, I’d love to know if my guess is right. On the other hand, I’m not going to pay $45 and wait for shipping to get a hardcover of a book when I just need to check one line of the script.

Regardless of what the script said originally, if it was changed, or why it was changed, I maintain that having Spider-Man punch out Standish would make for a more dramatically straightforward and less nonsensical scene.

 

Footnotes:

[1] No, that’s not a spoiler. It happened in 1973. If you’re that far behind on your comics reading then it’s not my fault.

[2] For some reason I had Rocksteady, not Insomniac in the script. I don’t how I never caught that in editing. Maybe it’s because my next script talks about the Batman games. Oh well. Now that mistake is part of the video and people can correct me on it. FOREVER.

[3] That is, assuming we’re talking about a version of the scene where Spidey punches Standish.



From The Archives:
 

160 thoughts on “This Scene Breaks a Character

  1. Lino says:

    Good video. And I have to admit, I laughed out loud at the “Like, Cher and Subscribe” bit :D

    1. Nimrandir says:

      I agree on the call-to-action joke. We can expand this in future videos, with old Eisenhower campaign buttons, or a hoagie next to Veronica from New Vegas.

  2. Christopher says:

    I wanna say Insomniac have historically been pretty consistent about wanting their main characters portrayed as nice. Sometimes that’s not the case – Ratchet, while obviously the hero, isn’t a through and through Good Guy during his first game. He’s rude, abrasive, eager for action, easily distracted from the good of all in favor of personal gain, he argues a lot with Clank etc. But for the next games he’s perfectly nice, because some players told them they didn’t like Ratchet being mean to Clank – even though their growth as friends is what that whole first game is based around. You can’t really have a character arc where two strangers become best friends through adversity when you remove that adversity, which is why they’re so bland in the remake of that game. I think something similar was the case with Spyro and the way he was originally portrayed, but I’m not as familiar with that franchise, so take my passing impression with a grain of salt.

    I think it’s a very likely theory that this was adjusted for a similar reason. They didn’t want Spidey to be a jerk(the last thing we want is the Amazing Spider-Man movies-Spidey), so MJ just gets saddled with the brunt of it. Which is a shame. I’m not the biggest fan of the MJ changes, but they mostly built a cool little relationship arc out of it. It just hit a bump in the road here. Spidey probably should have decked Standish.

  3. Content Consumer says:

    “Sorry Charlie” is an apology? Oh man, I always thought it was just a catchphrase. I never got the connection between “Charlie” and “Charles.”
    The first time I heard it was from Stan Freberg. Google tells me it was from a tuna commercial though.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Yeah, the first thing that pops into my head when I hear the phrase is StarKist tuna, from ads when I was a child. I find this amusing, since Old Man Me has a hard time remembering which company is linked with what modern catchphrase.

  4. Joshua says:

    I’m guessing beyond the “Sorry, Charlie”, the doubly repeated “Not a Sable Guy” supports the theory that Spider-Man is realizing at the last second that the guy he just KO’d isn’t actually a threat like he thought he was.

    1. Joshua says:

      Oh, also the way he falls down on his side looks like he’s out already, and his head is (relatively) safely hitting the cushion of his arm. Him already being unconscious from a punch makes more sense then being knocked out by his own armpit.

      https://youtu.be/md96Wa2w4Nk?t=355

      1. RCN says:

        There’s also the fact that he only sensed MJ was in danger through his detective vision and then suddenly there’s a convenient huge rip in the roof of the tent for spidey to jump in while disarming Standish.

        If spidey had jumped in ripping through the fabric of the tent and punching Standish because he didn’t know WHO was threatening MJ, it all makes sense. When the hell did Spidey had the time to make that huge rip without anyone listening anyway?

        1. Liessa says:

          Another thing that supports Shamus’ theory is how Spidey seems to be taking a boxing stance when the camera cuts to him after Standish is knocked out. (See 11:20-11:22 of the video.)

    2. FluffySquirrel says:

      Yeah, the “Not a Sable guy” fits the KO theory perfectly.. I believe this 100% now, it makes a lot and works right for all the characters, somewhat anyway.. really, he coulda just webbed the gun or blah, but eh, it’s reasonable

      1. Joshua says:

        He did web the gun out of the guys hands from above, then he drops down and lands in front of him (to presumably hit him).

  5. Topher Corbett says:

    For the Star Lord thing, I would say that:
    1. Thanos would have woken up anyway
    2. Spider-Man only really almost got the gauntlet off after Star Lord started hitting Thanos
    3. Doctor Strange’s reading of the future shows that the way that things happened was the only way to do it; he could have told Star Lord “hey you’re going to hear some troubling information, don’t overreact” but he didn’t

    1. Hector says:

      This is basically what I was going to say. Iron-Man’s plan would have gotten everyone killed, Strange knew going in that they weren’t going to win this one way or another, and Quill got them closer than they ever could have otherwise.

      The point was that noone could stop Thanos. Quill’s cunning, Stark’s technology, Cap’s courage, Thor’s power, even Stange’s magic : none of them succeeded in the end. They all pushed Thanos to the edge but he fought back and won each time.

      1. Syal says:

        The movie doesn’t make that clear. It very much looks like they’re winning. It’d be one thing if Quill almost lost it but held back, and then Thanos woke up anyway with a “man, I thought you’d lose it there”, but that didn’t happen. Movie shows them winning and then Quill messes it up.

        1. RCN says:

          Dr. Strange literally sees the future. Millions of possible timelines.

          I got instantly that what happened was what Strange saw. Otherwise Strange could do literally anything to keep it from happening (telling Quill himself, transporting Quill someplace else, heck, even just telling everyone “this joker is gonna lose us the fight” and leave the others to deal with it). He didn’t because he must have saw at least thousands of timelines where Quill is out of the equation and it changed nothing.

          1. The Puzzler says:

            They tell us that nothing would have worked, but they don’t show us that nothing else would have worked.

            1. Hector says:

              Probably because that movie would have required a vast number of extra scenes, and also would have been monumentally tedious. Yes, you are supposed to feel the heroes were *just* in reach of victory. That’s the point. Star Lord was never going to defeat Thanos; he may have punched Thanos by it’s not as if the big guy wasn’t resisting anyway. Frankly his punches were nothing compared to the blows Thanos tanked.

              If Star Lord did make a mistake, it was bringing up Gamora as Thanos was clearly disturbed by it. But IMHO people misinterpreted the scene. Same thing with Thor later on. We might hope that in a perfect universe filmmakers would perfectly anticipate those objections but the question is always whether the movie would honestly have been better otherwise.

              1. Hector says:

                The flipside of this is Quill isn’t just meet Space Hitler and do something dumb. The woman Quill loved begged him to kill her rather than allow her to fall into Space Hitler’s hands. Quill fails because SH already has too much power. He then later comes face to face with SH and realizes the monster personally murdered said woman.

                Star Lord was not being stupid. Frankly, Quill was way calmer than I’d have been. If there is ever a reason for someone to be in a blind gorram rage this was it.

            2. Bloodsquirrel says:

              The problem with that statement is that they already showed us the heroes trying a bunch of things that didn’t work. Hulk fighting Thanos didn’t work. Loki being sneaky didn’t work. Blowing up the mind gem didn’t work. A bunch of Strange’s spells didn’t work. Pulling off the gauntlet didn’t work- and not just because of Starlord. Restraining Thanos was taking everything they had, and pulling the gauntlet off of his hand was still turning out to be supremely difficult. That’s why nobody could tackle Starlord when he started hitting Thanos.

              They couldn’t have possibly addressed every possible thing that the heroes could have tried to beat Thanos. They could have made a ten hour movie with the heroes trying a thousand things that all failed, and somebody would still come along and say “But why didn’t they try X?”

              I’d also like to point out that Strange didn’t see every possible future. To put this into perspective, there are something like 288 billion possible chess games by the fourth move. And real life has a lot more possibilities than chess. Strange literally did not see one trillionth of the potential possibilities. The point wasn’t that there was only one possible way for them to win- it was that the failure rate was so high that any given thing they might have tried only had a 1 in 14 million chance of stopping Thanos. In that case, trying for the one possibility that you know worked still makes sense, even if it involves a lot of sacrifice, because even if there are uncountable possibilities that you still haven’t tried you know that the odds of any single one of them working are very low.

          2. Syal says:

            He didn’t because he must have saw at least thousands of timelines where Quill is out of the equation and it changed nothing.

            Or because he sees any attempt to subdue Quill now will meet with too much resistance and end with Thanos kicking everybody in the teeth. There would have been a hundred routes to success if only Starlord wasn’t in the way for ninety nine.

            Far more importantly, he doesn’t tell the audience that this is expected until long after Quill ruins the plan. If you want it to mean nothing, you have to tell the audience it means nothing. Not just imply, tell. Pan to Dr. Strange mouthing Quill’s words in the moment or something. They didn’t do that because they wanted the audience to buy into the fight being winnable, and if the fight’s winnable it means Quill costs them the fight.

            Like Shamus’ comment in the Diecast about putting a ‘push’ sign on a door with a handle designed for pulling.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      The writer showed us the plan making good progress until Quill showed up, deviated from the plan, and caused it to fail. Even if it would have failed anyway, this still sets us up to hate Quill because he’s throwing a temper tantrum that ruins what looks like everyone’s best chance at saving quintillions of lives. The writer is showing that he’s emotionally wounded which was probably their intent, but also that he’s the kind of uncontrollable narcissist who prioritizes his juvenile rage over a trillion Hitlers worth of dead people. The writer set up a scene where the audience wants something to happen, and then Quill bumbles in and gives them the opposite.

      The problem is not that he ruined the plan, it’s that his interference in the plan makes him deserving of contempt, and the writer doesn’t want us to hate him.

      1. Kylroy says:

        Yeah, Shamus isn’t arguing that the outcome doesn’t make narrative sense, he’s arguing that it’s a plot advanced by idiocy. It’s not like Strange used his omniscience about outcomes to set Quill off.

        1. Hector says:

          Strange did exactly that, though.

      2. Joshua says:

        That “Strange saw all of the outcomes and only one in which we succeeded” was such a writer cop-out though. I suspected that there wasn’t going to be sufficient explanation in Endgame, and there wasn’t. Based upon the information that we were shown, there had to be an infinite (heh) amount of ways they could have still won had events gone slightly differently, as long as Thanos ends up dead and the gauntlet used or destroyed.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Yeah, all they needed was for Ant-Man, Hulk and Iron Man to survive Thanos, at which point they build the time machine and stopping the snap becomes a simple matter of not completely messing up your time travel shenanigans. You’re telling me that in fourteen million possible worlds, that only happened once? The movie does nothing to make us think that should be a one in fourteen million chance.

          Then again, their time travel might as well have quoted Doctor Who’s “timey-wimey, wibbley-wobbley ball” for all the sense it made. The movie was clearly not concerned with that sort of thing holding together tightly.

          1. RCN says:

            Basically the setup was “let’s lose in such a way to give Tony Stark the motivation to invent a one-off time travel 5 years in the future and then sacrifice himself to defeat Thanos for good”.

            What they don’t make clear is what exactly they did to motivate Tony Stark, but they established pretty well that Thanos is pretty much invincible without the Infinity Gauntlet and LITERALLY invincible with it. The only way to win was to not let him get the infinity gauntlet in the first place.

          2. Joshua says:

            I didn’t mind the loose logic of the film. My description after seeing it was that it made sense from an emotional logic point, not a rational logic. Put another way, it wrapped things up from a storytelling perspective*, and wasn’t concerned with all of the plot being air-tight. In my opinion, the movie (and Infinity War) really couldn’t accomplish everything it needed to from a character, story, cinematic event, etc. perspective with that many characters and still be plot-hole free, there’s just too many moving parts.

            I just really didn’t like the “Sees all outcomes” plot point, because it seems it’s only purpose is Meta: to deflect criticisms of possible plot-holes or “Why didn’t X do Y?” by saying “Whelp, there’s only one way this could have gone down, so shut up”. I think the Doctor Strange film actually set up a nice scenario where there’s only one way that Dormammu gets to not be stuck in an infinitely repeating loop, by yielding to Doctor Strange. In contrast, there was nothing in Infinity War or Endgame that really sets up the idea that they are doomed unless events proceed in this 1-in-14 million way. Plus, what are the odds that Strange is going to still have this omniscience ability in his next film?

            *YMMV. For example, Steve Rogers’s gets a wish fulfillment while regressing in his arc.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              In my opinion, the movie (and Infinity War) really couldn’t accomplish everything it needed to from a character, story, cinematic event, etc. perspective with that many characters and still be plot-hole free, there’s just too many moving parts.

              I’m willing to go with a show like Doctor Who, where the wibbley-wobbley ball speech was pretty much the character looking into the camera and saying “Dear audience: Our time travel doesn’t make sense and is powered by vigorous handwaving, just go with it” but I still can’t stand Infinity War. Doctor Who recognizes that its time travel is space magic nonsense and usually avoids making the episode’s ending depend on it. Questions about how exactly time travel works in Doctor Who can be answered by “Eh, it’s not important, don’t think about it” the same way it doesn’t really matter how Iron Man’s nanobot suit works.

              Basically, it comes down to Sanderson’s Law of Magic: “An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.” Any insufficiently understood magic is indisinguishable from a deus ex machina.

              1. Retsam says:

                It’s completely tangential, but I really don’t think Doctor Who does a good job of this, from the few seasons I watched.

                They do avoid using time travel, specifically, to resolve plots, (which does avoid a lot of fridge logic), but it still pretty consistently defies Sanderson’s Law and solved the plot of the week with ideas or technobabble pulled out of nowhere. It’s kinda the Doctor’s schtick, that he comes and solves problems in ways that nobody (including the audience) understands.

            2. Kyle Haight says:

              Strange’s omniscience depended on the time stone, which he no longer has after the events of Endgame.

            3. shoeboxjeddy says:

              Strange doesn’t have the ability to see forwards in time after Endgame because Thanos destroyed the Time Gem at the start of the movie, remember?

      3. shoeboxjeddy says:

        “but also that he’s the kind of uncontrollable narcissist who prioritizes his juvenile rage over a trillion Hitlers worth of dead people.”
        That’s not how emotions work. That’s not how PEOPLE work. If someone walked up to you and said “I just murdered your loved one,” and they said it in such a way that you had VERY good reason to believe it was true, the vast majority of people would not then react in a rational, well thought out manner. Attacking that person would be an EXTREMELY common response (perhaps not a universal one, people are all different).

        What’s annoying about this to me is that very few people claimed that Tony “grabbed an idiot ball” in Civil War when he tried to murder Bucky at the end of the movie. Most people understood that the usually calm and flippant Tony was reacting with pure animal RAGE. Not some poorly thought out plan or whatever. People are not checklists of the next best strategic chess move to make and characters who are written that way are often pretty shit terrible.

    3. Retsam says:

      I don’t think Star Lord is a great example of an “idiot ball” because the important bit of the “idiot ball” trope is that it’s a normally competent character. Star Lord is not a normally competent character catching the idiot ball. He’s just an idiot who happens to play an important role at a critical moment.

      Shamus’s argument of “villain competence is a more interesting source of conflict than protagonist incompetence” is valid – (I just don’t think “Idiot Ball” is the right trope here) – and maybe it’s true that more people prefer that.

      But personally, I like it when characters screw up, when it fits with their existing characterization. Even disregarding Star Lord’s well-established “WIS dump stat”, a character acting “illogically” due to emotions is not something I’d criticize a story for. I’m a bit bored of protagonists always making the “rational” choice, and tired of the internet yelling “plot hole!” when they’ve analyzed the situation from the comfort of their arm-chairs, and decided that the character made the wrong choice.

  6. BlueHorus says:

    You don’t know Bob Chipman, do you? That digression into the background of Spider-Man and his girlfriends was crying out for a clip of him shouting: ‘COMICS! ARE! WEEEEEEIIIIIRRRRRRDDDDDD!’

    1. RCN says:

      Unlikely since they were both worked making content for the same site at the same time… twice.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I’d have thought that made it more likely, since they were working together and didn’t necessarily seem to disagree on anything really fundamental…

        But also, the US is a big place and they may well never have met.

        1. RCN says:

          I meant unlikely that he doesn’t know Bob.

          I think he even mentioned Bob at an article at some point.

  7. Darren says:

    Honest question: what should console manufacturers do to promote their consoles over competitors’ if exclusives are dumb and bad? I know it’s bad from a customer perspective, but from a business perspective it seems better to be in Sony or Nintendo’s position, with exclusives that give customers a reason to buy the console, than in Microsoft’s position, where there’s no reason to buy anything in the Xbox ecosystem if I have access to a decent gaming PC.

    1. Shamus says:

      In an IDEAL world (evidence leans towards this being a not-ideal world) all games would go to all platforms, and console platforms would compete on things like performance, price, features, controller comfort, and whatever else makes people favor box A over box B.

      As for what they “should” do: I don’t really care. They’re doing what’s best for them, but it makes things less ideal for consumers. Just because it’s optimal for them doesn’t mean I have to like it.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        I appreciate this pragmatism so much, but I think there is an at least plausible out to the problem that still admits exclusives improve a company’s bottom line.

        Exclusives help a company because in addition to competing on price, performance, etc, they let your console compete on library: “Buy our console because it has more games than their console” is a compelling argument. If we were in your ideal world where every game came out on every platform, some executive would reinvent exclusives, pay a developer a bunch of money to not release on the other consoles, some executive at another console company would say they cannot allow a mineshaft library gap, and we’d slide right back into the non-ideal world we currently occupy. Here’s the thing: that can’t possibly be good for all the console companies. There’s no way that each company is making more money in the “we pay developers for exclusives and our console can’t play their exclusives” world than in the ideal “everything plays on everything” world. At most, maybe one company is winning the exclusive wars to take a larger share of the pie and everyone else is losing sales to the winners. Plus you’re probably hurting the medium of videogames as a whole, since consoles that play less games are objectively worse than consoles that play all the games, and that makes new people less likely to enter the hobby.

        The ideal world solution is that all the console manufacturers get together and agree to some kind of truce in the exclusive wars. They all acknowledge that buying exclusives is a negative sum game so as long as none of the other guys buy exclusives, we promise we won’t start the arms race by doing so either. This requires a remarkable level of coordination and trust between giant companies with regularly-changing CEOs so it will probably never happen, but as ideal worlds go, at least it’s theoretically compatible with the laws of economics.

        1. Darren says:

          And there’s also the peculiar case of Nintendo, who always insist that their games take advantage of the unique features of their consoles and can’t be ported without losing what makes them special. Sometimes this is obvious bunk–this applies to exactly one Zelda title, and it’s the worst one–and sometimes they have a point–basically everything that used both screens on the DS/3DS.

          Does Nintendo get a pass? What about VR setups, which are often wildly different in various ways?

          1. Duoae says:

            Are you speaking about spirit tracks or skyward sword? :)

            1. Nimrandir says:

              I figured it was a reference to Star Fox Adventures. I wasn’t sure what unique features it claimed, though.

          2. Echo Tango says:

            Valve is (last I heard) trying to create a standard for VR headsets and controls, so that no matter what lumps of plastic people happen to own, your game will run with any of them. The only real “hard” requirements would be if you need certain resolution, tracking accuracy, or only work with waggle-sticks instead of a normal controller, etc. It’s like joysticks in the 80s/90s – no customers wanted to be forced into a specific brand of them, and once the communication and button-mapping was standardized, we could get whatever we want for price, quality, number of axes, stick vs steering-wheel, etc.

          3. The Puzzler says:

            You get a bit of a pass for first-party content.
            But when you bribe a third-party developer not to release their game on other systems, that feels like abusive anti-competitive tactics.

            1. Retsam says:

              Why is it different if it’s first-party instead of third-party? The result for the consumer is identical (you can’t buy this game without buying X console), and the incentives for the company are the same.

              Why is spending money to develop an exclusive game yourself okay, but paying another company to develop an exclusive game for you is “abusive”?

              1. Syal says:

                Ease of development is part of it. Consoles run differently and games have to be designed differently for them. So if the company that designed the console wants to focus on making that system work, it’s an efficiency thing. But if they’re paying other people to only develop for their system, it implies those people would have been comfortable moving the game to a different system too.

                Kind of like taxi drivers only driving their company’s car, versus customers only being allowed to ride in a certain campany’s taxis.

              2. Asdasd says:

                The distinction to most minds is that if you put up the money up-front, such that the project wouldn’t otherwise exist without it, it’s your right to decide what to release it on (or even whether to release it at all). But if you’re jumping in late in production with a wedge of cash, in order to divert a game away from announced or intended platform(s) to become an exclusive, you’ve pulled a fast one on the audience that was anticipating it.

                This of course ignores that the people from whom you bought the exclusivity would have had the same right to sell it to you. So it’s a wobbly argument based on feeling. But for what it’s worth I go along with it. Microsoft stepping in to sneak Halo away from eager PC players certainly rankled way back in 2000. But I wasn’t sore about all the subsequent sequels being Xbox exclusives*, because they were Microsoft-gestated through and through. (And also because the series was one big slide downhill, but that’s another story.)

                * Most have eventually made their way to PC since.

                1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                  (And also because the series was one big slide downhill, but that’s another story.)

                  That would be a work of fiction, yes.

                2. DerJungerLudendorff says:

                  It’s also partially because making first-party games requires you to actually make games, and thus be a creative force that makes a meaningful contribution to the industry and society. While buying out third-party games just requires you to have a load of money you’re willing to throw around to take over the existing industry.

                  One means there are more games developers, the other just changes the management of existing developers.

                  And just because it’s legally allowed, doesn’t mean it’s not predatory.

                  1. Asdasd says:

                    True, true.

            2. Cubic says:

              Insomniac was acquired by Sony in 2019 as it happens. (After the game was released but it seems significant anyway.)

        2. Ninety-Three says:

          There’s no way that each company is making more money in the “we pay developers for exclusives and our console can’t play their exclusives” world than in the ideal “everything plays on everything” world.

          I have belatedly realized that there is a way this is true. It makes my above proposal look a little more utopian, but hey, I made sure to only say it was plausible, not that it was definitely correct.

          In Ideal World where everything plays on everything, 25 million people buy the Nintendo console, 35 million people buy the Microsoft console, and 40 million buy the Sony console. What I had been thinking was that in Exclusives World, 20 million people buy the Nintendo console, 30 million people buy the Microsoft console, 45 million people buy the Sony console (they won the exlcusive wars), and 5 million people who did buy a console in Ideal World just don’t bother because the exclusive-limited consoles aren’t appealing enough to them. If things worked this way, Ideal World really would be better if the companies could agree to stay there. The problem is that the Exlcusives World we live in looks more like this: 20 million people buy only the Nintendo console, 30 million people buy only the Microsoft console, 35 million people buy only the Sony console, 5 million people who would have bought in Ideal World buy nothing, but 10 million people, chasing those sweet sweet exclusives, buy two consoles, and spend $400 less on lattes or wherever the entertainment budget money comes out of. End result: Exclusives World sold more total consoles than Ideal World. Even taking into account the arms-race nature of the contest, all the console companies can still be better off because they’re not just competing against each other but against every non-videogame hobby you might spend your entertainment budget on.

          The numbers could work out either way. Maybe the number of people who would buy a console only in Ideal World outweighs the number of people who buy two consoles in Exclusive World. But it might not, and if it doesn’t then the companies have no reason to end exclusives, even if they could coordinate perfectly.

          1. Retsam says:

            No number, of course, I strongly suspect that there are more people who own multiple consoles, than people who don’t own any, but would if exclusive titles weren’t a thing – (even if we’re just talking Xbox and Playstation, and ignoring Nintendo, which always has a dramatically different library than the other platforms).

            I mean, who are these hypothetical non-buyers, who would be enticed to buy if exclusives went away? The more “casual” market – e.g. parents who are buying “a nintendo” for their kids – don’t care. I doubt hardly any of the “”PC master race”” crowd is really just objecting to console exclusives, (and to the contrary, I know a lot of people who only bought a Playstation to play Bloodbourne). And owning both a Playstation and an XBox seems fairly common in the less-casual market.

            So, yeah, as a whole, I think console sales would almost certainly drop without exclusives. And it would make the market much more zero-sum, which of course is going to prevent this sort of hypothetical agreement, anyway.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              I’m one of the people who hasn’t purchased a console because of vendor lock-in. It’s bad enough with a regular computer; Consoles are so much worse.

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                I would state based on my understanding of the world that “people who buy upwards of one console per generation (to play the unique games on each)” vastly outnumbers your category of “people who take a principled stand against not being able to play any game on any system.”

                1. Echo Tango says:

                  I know I’m in the minority; I was responding to the “who are these hypothetical people”. As for your characterization of me, it’s not a principled stand. The hassle of dealing with vendor lock-in is just higher than the benefit of playing most big-budget games. They’re generally “OK” or “pretty good”, and almost never innovative. I can get by just fine playing older, smaller-budget, or non-locked games.

                  1. Chad Miller says:

                    The full question was:

                    who are these hypothetical non-buyers, who would be enticed to buy if exclusives went away?

                    So are you saying that you would buy a console if all the games it had could also be played on your computer? If not, then you still aren’t one of these “hypothetical people”.

                2. Ninety-Three says:

                  It needn’t be a principled stand. An Xbox with a library of 200 games and 50 unplayable PS4 exclusives is an obviously worse product than an Xbox with a library of 250 fully cross-platform games. There are going to be consumers for whom that difference in quality makes or breaks the decision to buy a console.

        3. Rack says:

          Thing is you’re describing a cartel there. If they all get together to agree not to compete on exclusives they’ll also stop competing on price, power and everything else.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            Yeah, that behavior is explicitly illegal.

      2. Darren says:

        I guess my chief criticism is that it’s always presented as a de facto terrible move, but it makes a lot of business sense. It’s tiresome to read argument after argument that ignores the obvious reasons why console manufacturers fund exclusives, especially when the console-maker who has the most powerful console on the market, that isn’t wildly out of line in terms of price, and has few (no?) exclusives also has the smallest market share.

        Clearly exclusives have an impact, so why do we always start from the assumption that it’s a bad move?

        1. Geebs says:

          The oddest thing is, out of the Big Three console manufacturers it’s only really Nintendo doing it any more. These days, Microsoft seems absolutely desperate to render their own hardware pointless – why would I buy an Xbox Series X box when my 2 year old PC is going to get all of the same “exclusive” games and play them better?

          Nintendo kind of has to make their own games because of their focus on “weaker” portable hardware.

          Sony? I think at this point, they’re just trolling to be honest. As has often been pointed out, Sony are mainly an insurance company who seem to make PlayStations for fun as much as profit. They’re really the only people still in the game who are crazy enough to fund a 20-40 hour AAA single player game, and then not bother to recoup the costs despite the fact that there’s a bunch of xboxes out there which have essentially the same hardware as their own console. They’re already porting their exclusives to Microsoft’s Windows platform, and both companies are going to use Microsoft’s infrastructure for cloud and streaming stuff.

          Of course, the exclusive nonsense is going to go completely exponential when everything goes streaming and gaming gets balkanised into a bunch of different individual walled-off services each owned by a different publisher or web hosting company.

          Darn it, I was trying to write a nice positive bit congratulating Sony for putting money into single player games for basically no reason and then I accidentally depressed myself.

          1. Duoae says:

            Umm. The games and networking division is the most profitable part of sony…

            https://www.google.com/amp/s/wccftech.com/sony-2018-19-financial-year-results/amp/

            Also, I’m pretty sure they’re recouping the costs of those 40 hr AAA games. As far as I’m aware, they’ve all sold multiple millions of copies *and* consoles too.

            1. Geebs says:

              They only make about 20 bucks per console sold, though…. that’s about 2 billion for the life of the PS4, or less than a quarter’s profit for the last year.

              1. Erik says:

                Doesn’t matter if they make another 10 bucks on each copy of each game. Who only has one game for their console? Their main console, at least, if they have multiple.

                1. Duoae says:

                  Exactly, getting someone into your ecosystem is the big hurdle. Once that’s done, upselling is relatively easy.

                2. Geebs says:

                  FIFA / Madden fans, that’s who. FIFA drives a lot of PS4 sales despite not being an exclusive, and I imagine those guys aren’t massively interested in a single-player spider-man game.

                  1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                    The crossover between sports and Spider-Man is gonna be a LOT higher than between sports and… Persona 5. Spider-Man is extremely, extremely mainstream.

              2. jpuroila says:

                I mean, at launch consoles are typically sold at a loss: The profit doesn’t come from consoles, it comes from games, PSN, extra controllers, et cetera.

                1. Asdasd says:

                  I read somewhere that the loss they made selling PS3s was so great that it wiped out the profits from the entirety of the PS1 and PS2 generations, which is pretty mind-blowing.

      3. Ninety-Three says:

        They’re doing what’s best for them, but it makes things less ideal for consumers. Just because it’s optimal for them doesn’t mean I have to like it.

        This draws attention to an interesting distinction. The console manufacturers could give consoles away for free, but that would be a very unprofitable thing to do, so they don’t, and everyone understands this, so they don’t expect otherwise or resent this state of affairs. No one would ever complain that consoles aren’t free, it’d be silly. But people, even people who acknowledge the economics of it, still complain about exclusives. What is the difference that makes one worth complaining about and the other just a fact of the world we all accept?

        This isn’t a rhetorical question by the way, I’m not trying to go “Shamus is inconsistent therefore he’s not allowed to complain about exclusives, checkmate!”. There has to be some underlying difference that makes people treat these things differently and I’m genuinely wondering what it is.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          What is the difference that makes one worth complaining about and the other just a fact of the world we all accept?

          I’d say it’s because nowadays, the different consoles are really just less powerful PCs with very similar specs, so porting mightn’t be expensive enough to equate the game ports not making money, so it’s a difference between making no money versus being willing to sell only to some while others would be willing to buy but are ignored.

          1. Hector says:

            And specifically, Shamus isn’t asking for anything free. He just wants to run the code on one Box o’ Tech instead of another.

            And Shamus has they money to do this. I had to make the decision not to get a console since it just doesn’t fit in my budget, so I just don’t get to try exclusives. I would pay for them, but Sony or Nintendo won’t give me the option.

        2. Duoae says:

          I’m pretty sure the simple answer is: “hey, those exclusives look cool and I’d like to play them but i don’t want/ can’t afford/ it doesn’t make sense to spend $400 on a console for only 2-3 games.”

          In fact, having fewer exclusives (like MS did this generation) made the likelihood of someone buying an xbox as a second console even lower than they already are.

          What i find both very annoying and reassuring is the mandate from Microsoft that all early Xbox SX games will also be released on the xbox one/one X. I think that’s great as a consumer – you can hold off buying a very expensive console. I think it’s good for developers’ bottom lines as they have a larger audience… However, i think it’ll mean that those early games are going to be totally handicapped by being tied to 8 year old hardware. Even worse, it’ll affect the pc and ps5 versions of cross platform titles too just like games that were cross gen in previous generations. The avantages that faster storage and increased CPU will bring to the table won’t manifest as prevalently for another 2-3 years and may even hinder adoption of the next gen console for owners of the one X (which would likely affect the economics of producing titles that would normally be able to focus on a single level of performance).

          I’m well and truly ready for better looking and better optimised games and am looking forward to the cost of that being lower than it is in the pc space. When i look at the cost of a decent pc today, compared with what was available the last time i built a computer from scratch, I’m looking at 33% more for tech that would struggle to run the games I’m anticipating to be released over the next 5 years.

          Part of me wonders if Microsoft is worried about the sales performance of the SX due to its cost and that’s why they’ve mandated this cross compatibility. What’s really weird is their splurging on studio acquisitions if they’re not planning to produce exclusive content… I’m assuming that is in the pipeline.

          1. SupahEwok says:

            I mean, it isn’t anything new. In the couple of years of shift from PS2/Xbox/Gamecube to PS3/360/Wii, there were a bunch of games that released on both generations as well, to catch dollars from any late adopters. I was out of the console game for the next generation shift, but I can’t imagine there weren’t at least a few examples there as well. Its a normal thing for the industry.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              Really? I’m not remembering a ton of re-releases out of the gate. Moreover, the PS3, 360, and Wii all had some measure of backwards compatibility, with the Wii essentially being a GameCube. My memory may be skewed, though, as I got consoles from that generation earlier than I normally do. I remember the Metroid Prime games releasing on a trilogy disc at some point.

              For the last transition, the lack of backwards compatibility encouraged quite a few remastered editions of previous-generation games. I recall seeing at some point an image of the current highest-scoring PS4 (I think) games on Metacritic — the list flooded with older games. And also Bloodborne.

              1. SupahEwok says:

                We’re talking about different things. In generation transitions (at least since the PS2 generation), for a year or two after the new gen comes out, we’ve seen parallel development of the same game for the old gen and new gen of consoles, with a simulatneous release.

                Quick examples I googled up for games with simultaneous PS2 and PS3 releases:

                The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon
                Call of Duty 3 (also seems to have had simultaneous release for Xbox and Xbox 360)
                Sonic Unleashed
                Spider Man 3

                This is different from games with a remaster release on new consoles, which is something that to an extent had always happened but really came into vogue with the last generation, in line with other media trends of commercializing nostalgia and consolidating creative energies in existing brands.

                1. Nimrandir says:

                  Oops — my fault. I’m not sure how I misread your comment.

                  Upon further consideration, it does occur to me that the multigeneration release phenomenon kicked off with the PS3 era. Maybe that speaks to the relative ease of porting games on more recent hardware?

                  1. tmtvl says:

                    Alone in the Dark: New Nightmare was released for both PSX and PS2. I think there were more, but I’m not too knowledgeable about the PS2 library.

                    1. Nimrandir says:

                      Now I’m confused. What motivated someone to release a game for one console and another console which duplicates the functionality of the first? Did the PS2 not run PlayStation games in other regions?

                    2. Chad Miller says:

                      Re: Nimrandir – It’s true the PS2 could run the PS1 version of the game, but it’s possible they had to cut corners to get the game to run on a PS1 at all, so they release the PS1 version for people who haven’t upgraded yet and the PS2 version for people who have a PS2 and want the better version. Or coming at it from the other direction, they could have started as a PS1 game but then schedules slipped and a new console comes out so they throw in extra features to justify a next-gen release but keep the last-gen release since they did most of the work anyway. As I understand it The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess did something like this (ending up with simultaneous Wii and GameCube releases even though the Wii could run GameCube games just fine)

                    3. shoeboxjeddy says:

                      “Now I’m confused. What motivated someone to release a game for one console and another console which duplicates the functionality of the first? Did the PS2 not run PlayStation games in other regions?”

                      The Ps2 version would have better graphics and specs and so on. Often times when they do a game like this, the old gen version will miss entire modes or levels. That kind of thing. People stuck with the old console would presumably like something better than nothing and therefore accept the lesser version.

                  2. SupahEwok says:

                    I think its more about how the 00s started leveling off in graphics fidelity. The mid 90s with the adoption of 3d was only outdone in around 2000 or 2001 with the introduction of [i]good[/i] 3d. Techniques and technology was being pushed too rapidly for a comfortable pass off that allowed simultaneous release. Later, new gen versions of games could be basically the same as the old gen, just with some bling effects tacked on. But the difference between, say, the N64 and the Gamecube was such that you could not release an N64 looking game on the Gamecube and expext any respect.

                    Or that’s what I think, anyway. There’s also market forces and other aspects of tech that evolve. There’s probably lots of things that influence that trend.

            2. Duoae says:

              You’re correct. However, each of those times the decision was down to the individual publisher/ developer of the game. There were also always games that only targeted at the newer console generation. That allowed larger level sizes and features only available on the newer technology to be freely implemented without having to compromise and develop a game 1.5 times (or even twice).

              The mandate is what’s new. There’s no choice for developers targeting Microsoft’s ecosystem.

          2. Donwan says:

            Are you really a fan of Shamus? Have you read his 10^87 articles on how “better” graphics hurt the industry?

        3. Zeddy says:

          I’ll take a stab at this!

          We recognize that there’s no such thing as free lunch. Videogames need machinery to play them, companies can make and sell you that machinery, and it makes sense that they charge for it. Going from not having a videogame machine to having a videogame machine is a large change that we can understand is worth money. This also applies to buying a _better_ videogame machine, as in upgrading from a PS3 to a PS4.

          With exclusives, you have a videogame, and you have a machine that has all the power and ability to play that videogame, but the company with the exclusive deal has hindered it.

          Current gen consoles are more similar then ever when it comes to hardware and cpu architecture. In the old days, moving a game from the NES to the Genisis basically meant writing the game all over again, but these days it can be done by changing a few libraries and compiling to a different target, especially if using an engine where the cross platform work has already been done.

          With the sale of a console we reward the manufacturer for creating something, but with buying an additional console for an exclusive we’re paying a ransom.

          In addition the second console, although costing just as much as the first, provides less value, and the purchase was gained for less effort. Manufacturing a solid gaming machine is difficult, honest work, while signing a deal to put up a gate is quick and easy. This is similar to how we’ll accept a toll booth for a new road, but setting up a new toll booth for an old road sparks irritation.

        4. Olivier FAURE says:

          There’s a really, really clear answer everyone else is missing: loss aversion.

          People get really pissed when you take something away from them, in a way they don’t when you withhold something you could potentially give them.

          See also: the outrage a few years back about on-disk content being locked away behind DLC codes.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            Pedant’s note: Loss aversion is a technical term that means something in particular and everyone on the internet uses it wrong.

            Loss aversion describes the fact that losing $20 because it falls out of the hole in my pocket makes me more sad than finding $20 under the couch cushions makes me happy, even though $20 is $20 and they ought to balance out. “I’m not going to release this game on Xbox” and “I’m not going to give you a free Playstation” are both cases where you never had something* and never got it, loss aversion predicts no asymmetry.

            *At least until the very recent trend of Epic buying surprise exclusives for games that had already announced Steam releases, you could maybe say that specific thing counts as a loss. But there’s usually no “It’s coming to Xbox!” “Update: No it’s not, you have lost the opportunity to play on Xbox” dance with exclusives.

    2. Thomas says:

      I’m actually going to go so far and argue that the reason so many exclusives are good is _because_ they’re exclusive.

      If you look at multiplatform AAA games right now, the majority of them are trying to find ever more expansive ways to ring money out of the consumers. Virtual currencies and shops are every day…except on exclusive titles. Thats not a coincidence.

      Exclusives are consistently some of the best games out there (I mean Half Life 2 was basically an exclusive!) and that’s because their developers have a stable and reliable source of income beyond making games. Exclusives main purpose is to be good, not to make money, and that’s led to an incredible selection of great games.

      Open question: If you count Valve as being more like a console publisher than a normal games publisher (because their primary source of income is other people selling games on their platform), is there a publisher out there with a better history of games published than a console publisher?

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        If you count Valve as being more like a console publisher than a normal games publisher

        Valve wasn’t like a console publisher back in 2007 because most gamers hadn’t heard of Steam, and most who had thought of it Valve’s weird client/DRM rather than a real platform. Giving them 2007 as the cutoff date after which Steam became a real platform, they released L4D, L4D2, Portal 2, and then stopped developing games entirely. Valve (1996-2007) was definitely a normal games publisher and it wouldn’t be crazy to argue they were better than console publishers.

        Category arguments aside, Blizzard are the other studio that comes to mind as having that kind of history of quality.

        1. Asdasd says:

          They may not be the kind of games that appeal to you, but saying Valve stopped making games entirely after Portal 2 is a denial of reality. CSGO, Dota 2, and Artifact were all major projects, several minor ones such as Underlords and The Lab were also released, and HL: Alyx is just around the corner.

        2. Thomas says:

          And Blizzard have fallen off a cliff now, as their WoW money dried up. Even then Blizzard has never had the number of range of titles that quality console publishers have produced.

          I take your point that Valve didn’t have console income when Half-Life 2 was released, but I still think the argument is half valid. Valve had goals for HL2 that went beyond ‘make money from this game’, and that’s the key point about exclusives. They’ve got a goal beyond money and that only gets fulfilled by maintaining the highest quality.

  8. DeadlyDark says:

    Do a Sliver Saber video rant, it’d be entertaining. Though, you’d probably want to play through all three DLC, since she’s participates in the story, so, for the full picture and all that

  9. aradinfinity says:

    Honestly, I forgot that your version of events isn’t what happened. The punch is frustrating, sure, but it makes sense in character and shows off why Peter and MJ aren’t together anymore.

  10. ydant says:

    Video quality feedback: Did you speed up your talking more in this video than in the Fallout video?

    I feel like this one is too fast. The speech ends up feeling choppy and hard to concentrate on (I feel physically uncomfortable listening to this one). It might be partly down to the approach used to speeding up the audio, because I often listen to YouTube on faster speeds (sometimes even 150% and occasionally 200%), and I don’t get this same uncomfortable feeling with that.

    The Fallout video felt perfect, and I understand why you want to speed up your speaking – but I think it went too far for this video.

    1. evileeyore says:

      Yeah, definitely speaking way faster. Gave it a “nervous” energy compared to the more “stay awhile and listen” style of previous videos.

  11. Nimrandir says:

    I appreciate the heads-up on the Infinity War spoiler (I’m as surprised to be in the dark on this one as I am about the new Star Wars movies). I haven’t checked the video yet, but is there a link to jump ahead? If not, could someone give me a time stamp for the jump?

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      Jump to 15:50 to avoid the spoilers.

  12. Sartharina says:

    I’m going to say Mary Jane was the idiot in that scene. Standish was understandably spooked. After all – he was in protective custody after an attempt on his life. NOBODY should have been able to see him without giving prior notice. “Sneak through military security” isn’t Newspaper Reporter behavior- that’s “ninja assassin” behavior. The most rational course of behavior would have been to outright shoot her as soon as he noticed she wasn’t part of his security detail. However, he’s a scared scientist quite humanly unwilling to voluntarily take another person’s life even though his own is in danger.

    Sure, she wasn’t obviously threatening or visibly armed – but haven’t you played the Hitman or Assassin’s Creed games? Getting someone to drop their guard then kill them with a hidden weapon or lethal unarmed strike is a VERY effective way to quietly eliminate a hit target. At least keeping her at gunpoint prevents/discourages “walk up and shank him with a hidden blade, poison pen, or Kung Fu Touch.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      And warning your prey of your presence despite having the complete drop on them and having no weapons in your hands is part of that lethal strategy?

      1. Syal says:

        Absolutely. Can’t see the look in their eyes if they aren’t looking at you.

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        I mean, the goal could have been (for this hypothetical assassin) to approach in a nonthreatening way, get useful information or secrets from him, and then kill him. That’s not an insane thing to think might happen, especially in a superhero world with DOZENS of famous assassins and disguise artist/spies.

    2. Kylroy says:

      The whole “Mary Jane sneaks into places” gameplay was misguided. If the superhero in this game were The Thing or Juggernaut, then yes, having a normal human to sneak into places would be an asset. But speed and agility are Spider-Man’s whole deal – he’s *way* more qualified to infiltrate places than Mary Jane.

      I like that they gave MJ a job that lets her contribute to the plot, but they implemented it all wrong. She’s a journalist – so she should be following leads and gathering evidence and interviewing people, all useful things that *Peter’s not good at*. I realize that any sort of sleuthing minigame would be a significant departure from the main gameplay…but so was the one-dimensional stealth.

      1. Sartharina says:

        … And they actually could have made it work if this WAS the gameplay. Have Spiderman be hostile to Silver Sable, who’s hostile to vigilantes. Have her be friendly to civilian Mary Jane. Spiderman and Mary Jane aren’t working together on this mission, though both want to get the same goal. Spiderman does the stealth action thing. Mary Jane is going through the proper channels to get the story.

        Mary Jane comes in to interview Standish, and things get off to a decent start… then Spiderman swings in and throws everything to hell. Silver Sable goons come in and cut the interview short as Spiderman makes a getaway and Mary Jane is rapidly evacuated from the premises. THEN they fight later, because Spiderman legitimately ruins the interview with his “I have to save the day myself” attitude.

    3. Hector says:

      Also, is this not after Martin Lee started to use brainwashed killers? I mean, once we have disposable mind-controlled minions in the mix paranoia is no longer crazy.

  13. 0451fan0451 says:

    I for one was really happy with how they changed MJ’s character. Yeah, its completely different, but I really enjoyed being able to participate in the plot for a change. For perspective, my history with the character is pretty much just Raimi films.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      A participatory character with their own initiatives and goals relevant to the plot, is definitely way better than the girlfriend-in-a-fridge of her older incarnation. :)

      1. The Puzzler says:

        It might be better to have someone else be the love interest. People who like the original character will be annoyed that they changed everything about her, and people who don’t like the original character wouldn’t care if she had a different name.

        1. Thomas says:

          As someone who enjoyed her, but also doesn’t have much experience of MJ outside the comics, this might have been the better thing to do. It’s a good character, they might have brought too much baggage along with the name.

          Or pick Gwen Stacey instead.

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          At the present time, making MJ the love interest is a popular choice because super hardcore Spider-Man fans are STILL angry about the devil pact-marriage erasure. So choosing MJ as the love interest says to those fans “we are on your side, we also think she was the best love interest for Spider-Man.” Even if you change the character very dramatically, you probably still receive this benefit/buy-in.

  14. Skyy High says:

    Soooo who volunteers to buy the script?

    1. tmtvl says:

      Amazon doesn’t take Paypal, so I’m out.

      EDIT: quick, someone start a kickstarter.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      I honestly thought about it after the podcast, but it sounded like it would be too late for his purposes and that the physical book was something Shamus actively didn’t want.

  15. Christopher says:

    I’m used to games where the story is good and so the scenes are also mostly good

    I like to imagine there was no example for this because it was hard to think of anything

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The Uncharted series? Left 4 Dead series? Half Life series? I usually don’t even play mainstream / big-budget games, but even I can think of some. I suspect people who’re more familiar would have better examples. :)

    2. Nimrandir says:

      I’d be scared of putting anything in that spot due to the rampant subjectivity of the word ‘good.’ Heck, here on his own site, with the closest to an echo chamber Shamus could manage, we sometimes have debates on how good Half-Life 2 was, and that’s one of his darlings. I’m struggling to think of a scene he could have used which wouldn’t have incited fiery YouTube comments. The Wrex standoff from the first Mass Effect, maybe?

    3. Shamus says:

      I wanted to put Last of Us here, but I don’t have any LoU footage. (And I don’t like the gameplay enough to play through it again.)

  16. Ninety-Three says:

    Since “Shamus trying to Make It on Youtube” is a constant topic with these videos, I have to reluctantly compliment his choice of Youtube-friendly title. Which is to say, it’s clickbait and it makes my skin crawl, but clickbait sells and it doesn’t actually make the video worse so I guess you’re right to do it.

    1. Shamus says:

      I really hate it too. Now that I’ve got a bit of an audience, I’m going to fool around and see if I can use some more normal titles (like I’d use on the blog) and see if that hurts anything.

      More interesting titles (from my perspective) would have been:

      The Standish Stand-off

      The Problem With MJ

      The Missing Punch

      1. Retsam says:

        Personally, I actually like the existing title. It’s a little “inflammatory”, but it’s attention grabbing and it clearly describes what the video is about which are both good things.

        “The Standish Stand-off” and “The Missing Punch” are clever, but I don’t think really give a clear idea what the video is about. They’d be good titles for entries in a series I’m already reading, but saying “click this video to understand the somewhat cryptic title” is a big ask.

        I think “The Problem with MJ” would be a good title: clearly labels the premise of the video, attention grabbing and maybe a little less inflammatory than “BREAKS a character”… but “The Problem with [female character]” might get be attention grabbing for the wrong sort of attention.

        I think “clickbait titles” are like tropes: they’re overused but they’re so overused because they’re effective. And sometimes they’re criticized not because they’re bad, but because they’re associated with bad things. Actual clickbait combines a click-bait title with garbage content, so some people associate “attention grabbing title” with garbage content.

        1. Ander says:

          “Breaks” being normally capitalized instead of all-caps lowers it from Youtube’s clickbait level for me.

        2. Ninety-Three says:

          I think “clickbait titles” are like tropes: they’re overused but they’re so overused because they’re effective. And sometimes they’re criticized not because they’re bad, but because they’re associated with bad things. Actual clickbait combines a click-bait title with garbage content, so some people associate “attention grabbing title” with garbage content.

          I freely admit that my visceral reaction to clickbait is based largely on its association with Buzzfeed et al., but I think “effective” needs to be expanded on here. The title for this video that would be most effective at getting me personally to click on it would probably be something like “The Problem With Mass Effect 2”. This is not a video about Mass Effect 2, but I would have no way of knowing that at the time of clicking, and saying that the video is about the topic that interests me most is a very effective way of making me click. That doesn’t mean it’s a good title.

          Broadening this concept, there are a lot of clickbait titles that are bad without engaging in false advertising (not even in a weasely, lying-by-implication way). In the old, sepia-tinted days that might exist only in our imaginations, titles tried to inform you. They weren’t just trying to get you to read, they were trying to tell you if this was something you wanted to read, and they were open to the answer being no. To me, the essence of clickbait is giving up on that idea and going adversarial: you don’t make any money having someone not click, so your title better grab as many clicks as possible, whether or not those people consider it a worthwhile click in retrospect.

          Uppercasing a RANDOM word in the title is a great example of this. Why do people do it? Well the internet hive mind seems to think it works, make the clickbait gather more clicks. Suppose it does, because of some weird property of human psychology that makes that more desirable. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that random caps are better titles, they’re just better at manipulating your monkey brain and is that a property valued by anyone other than the advertisers who profit off you clicking?

          1. Syal says:

            You’d be hard-pressed to argue that random caps are better titles,

            That sounds like a challenge!

            …wait, do over. That sounds like a CHALLENGE!

            So. The random CAPITALIZATION mimics an impassioned roar, and promises a more emotional take on the subject than boring old correct punctuation. Do I want to listen to someone give an analytical evaluation of a thing, like I used to do in school? Or do I want to listen to someone who FEELS STRONGLY about it and wants you to know?

            Most people want the passion, because on a deeper level most people are actually looking to belong somewhere, and emotional connections are stronger than logical ones. It’s got an undertone of “Come join us, be part of something heartfelt,” for practically no effort.

            And capitalization survives being quoted, unlike italics or bold. Always future-proof your clickbait.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              Do I want to listen to someone give an analytical evaluation of a thing, like I used to do in school? Or do I want to listen to someone who FEELS STRONGLY about it and wants you to know?

              And this neatly highlights my objection, because Shamus used RANDOM CAPS but for Youtube, his video is way further on the “analytical evaluation” side than the emotional, impassioned roar side. The average piece of clickbait is “21 dog breeds you NEED to know about” and the capitalization of is completely orthogonal to this emotional/analytical axis, they’re doing it because a data-cruncher somewhere noticed that random caps get more clicks than normal case. It’s got an undertone of “be part of something heartfelt” and that’s usually a lie.

              1. Lino says:

                “21 dog breeds you NEED to know about”

                Will number 5 shock me?

                1. Syal says:

                  Turns out dog breed number 5 is ‘electric eel’.

        3. Syal says:

          I think all three alternate titles would benefit from adding”[title] : Spider-Man 2018″ to the end of them. (Maaaybe for the main title too, but you’d want parentheses instead of a colon to stop it from breaking the flow.)

          1. Benden says:

            Note that if the title is at all long, it’s going to be truncated on iPhones and I suspect other phones, too. This is a big issue with gaming channels that title their “columns” with the name of the column (Weekly Thursday Superfeature Extreme: Actual Description That Doesn’t Show on My Phone).

      2. Kyle Haight says:

        “This Cutscene Lacks Punch”

      3. Asdasd says:

        Is it just me, or have all of your other TDI mk2 videos received a substantial bump in views since the Fallout one smashed it out of the park?

        1. Shamus says:

          Indeed. Like x10 views.

          1. Asdasd says:

            Praise the algorithm! I guess!!

      4. Cilba Greenbraid says:

        I too viscerally despite clickbait titles. But clickbait is so ubiquitous because… *SIIIIIIIIIIGH*… it works. The Algorithm likes it.

        In the interests of your success, I think this is maybe one moral stand I’d be willing to relax on, taking the view that whatever title maximizes the number of people who get to see your excellent content is the best title.

        Maybe the *real* title can be used on the blog while the video gets the clickbait title?

        1. Benden says:

          For what it’s worth, I would gladly accept the RANDOM capitalized word (which isn’t random at all, imo) in both cases, but I think it really does help on YouTube, and I would suggest that the current video should have its capitalized word added (BREAKS) and we all watch to see if it makes a difference!

  17. Thanatos Crows says:

    The opening part of the video made me realize why I’ve been so iffy with character changes. While I appreciate characters not being just plot devices in the hero’s exploits, especially if they’re the hero’s significant other, I also don’t like the change in how they are thrust into the action.
    My favorite stories in superhero comics have this balance between the super and the mundane. It’s not just about beating up bad guys, but also about balancing the social life, and how heroics can get in the way of that. Or just a seperate b-plot that has fun with the characters. Even here female characters sadly get to be little more than trophies for the hero to claim, or someone playing with their feelings. In worst cases, atleast. This is pretty normal when nerdy men write escapist stories for nerdy men, sadly.
    My problem is the fact that the writers aren’t attempting to fix the issue, but put a plaster on it and kiss it good night. Writing compelling character drama that weaves into the larger story of heroics can be really hard, and doing it without making characters one dimensional is doubly so. I’d still love to see stories where a character like the classic comics MJ can have meaningful interactions besides needing saving every other day. The change in this case seems to work fine -still haven’t played tha game- but in most cases they just turn into sidekicks whose absence would do little for the plot. Adressing the most aggressive complaints is not fixing the problem, I think is my point.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      The MJ change is based on the needs of the medium. Spider-Man needed characters that Spider-Man could interact with in gameplay (by saving/protecting/assisting them) and for the playable characters to have things that they could do that would make for good gameplay. MJ following leads, sneaking around, and avoiding security fits the needs of an action game a heck of a lot more than MJ modeling outfits or working hard to memorize lines for a TV show or movie. In the movies, Peter’s friends have trended more in the nerd/scientist roles so that they can help the character solve problems or act as tech support while he’s in the thick of action.

      1. Richard says:

        Modelling outfits would make for a great Tower of Hanoi, though.

        And memorizing lines could be an awesome minigame, complete with microtransactions to buy additional attempts!

        I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

      2. Thanatos Crows says:

        But has it really? Answered a need, I mean. No one needs tedious badly made timewasters in their action games. You can have change of pace in multiple other ways. That takes even more of the agency and integrity away from the character: “oh nice to see you pop just to do useless shit no one came to play this for done in a really bad way.” I get the feeling the stealth sections are there because Arkham games had stealth. But they had interesting, puzzle solving stealth that cold be improvised. I bet you can see the problem with your argument.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          This is not a smart counter argument. Let’s say I agree that the stealth gameplay was bad. Do you think it was made bad on purpose, or that that’s how it turned out and the INTENTION was for it to be good? In the planning and design stages of the game, MJ’s character change and choice of gameplay make sense. The result that they could have done better with specifically how those levels turned out changes nothing.

  18. ngthagg says:

    I have a couple of questions:

    1 – You’ve roughly doubled the length of your videos with the last few entries. How does that affect production time, both overall and in different areas such as writing, recording and editing.

    2 – I checked view counts today, and was pleasantly surprised by your view counts! Maybe I missed some discussion in a previous past, but when did this happen? Has it affected anything else, like subscribers or traffic to this site?

  19. Ninety-Three says:

    The new MJ design is probably a good idea, but it still bugs me because I’m a neurotic and possessive fan that freaks out when things change.

    There’s nothing wrong with this version of the character, but as you say:

    The only things left from the original character are the name and the hair color.

    Which raises the question: Why is this character MJ? If the only element of MJ you’re interested in keeping is “Spiderman dated a redhead”, then why not invent some new redhead for Spiderman to date, instead of doing what Insomniac did by inventing some new redhead for Spiderman to date but pretending she was still MJ? Narratively or meta-narratively or whatever you want to call it, it does really weird things to audience expectations if you reuse the name of a well-known character without reusing any of her characteristics. The people who’ve never heard of MJ get nothing out of it, and the people who have get briefly confused (“Wait, MJ’s a reporter now?”). Insofar as we can pretend that there are objectively good and bad practices in writing, I think this is a bad one.

    The reason it happens of course, is because consumer behaviour is dumb and you can sell more by invoking name recognition, even if there’s nothing to recognize other than the name.

    1. Rack says:

      I imagine I’m the target audience here. I’ve seen the movies so I know Parker dates MJ but I’m not super involved in what MJ might do 8 years into Spidey’s career. If Spidey is trying to get into a relationship with someone who isn’t MJ I’m going to want to know what’s going on with MJ, but if MJ is acting differently I’m just going to accept it as a different take on the character.

      1. Syal says:

        And not including a well-known love interest sort of puts a meta death counter on the new one; the audience will expect the famous character to show up in the future, so obviously this one’s going to have something tragic happen to eliminate them when the time comes; best not to get too attached.

    2. Lino says:

      I 100% agree with you, but I think the reason might have to do with the fact that it’s Spider-Man. They’ve probably payed out the nose for the license, so in their mind, they may as well try to get the biggest bang for their buck. It would be wasteful to have access to one of the most recognizable characters in the franchise and not use them in lieu of some new character they’ve invented.

  20. Liessa says:

    I’d really like to see that Silver Sable video, by the way. (Even if I’ve already read your complaints about her in the analysis you posted a while back.)

  21. Dreadjaws says:

    Here’s the problem I have with the Star-Lord scene: yes, you can justify Quill’s behavior by his personality. He’s supposed be kind of a dunce. It’s still annoying, but it’s justifiable. But what you cannot justify is everyone else’s behavior. Iron Man and Spider-Man could easily take a second to beam or web Star-Lord away before he even reaches Thanos. Hell, Gamora and Drax aren’t doing anything; they could very well try to restrain him. Doctor Strange refuses to use the “portal arm cut” trick from the beginning of the movie (you know, the one that seemed to be precisely to be setting this very thing up). The problem is not that Star-Lord is holding the “idiot ball”, it’s that everyone is doing it.

    And don’t come to me with that bullshit about Doctor Strange’s multiple alternate endings. You know for a fact that that line was put there precisely to justify being able to do whatever they want within the story without people complaining, even when it doesn’t make any sense. Well, I refuse to accept it. It’s a lazy and condescending excuse to not care about writing properly, particularly when the story itself refuses to support it.

    1. Richard says:

      Yes, I was completely expecting Doctor Strange to whip off Thanos’ arm, or even fingers with a portal.

      It’s fine for him to fail, but my suspenders of disbelief needed him to try and show us how and why he would fail.

      The “I’ve already seen many alternate endings” copout didn’t work for me because they didn’t show us any of them. Two or three failed attempts, perhaps shown as a few key frames in a fast-forward, rapid skip-ahead to the moment of the ‘snap’ (but not any of the snap consequences) would have been enough.

  22. Norman Ramsey says:

    This kind of long-form criticism is why I come to the site. Bravo!

  23. Syal says:

    …that is a beautiful cartoon Spider-Man punch. It was funny every time.

    1. Trevor says:

      Agreed. I enjoyed the recurring joke, something that you wouldn’t get from the article.

      1. Wolf says:

        Generally this time around the video format seemed to be utilized much better.

  24. Arkady English says:

    The frustrating part of this for me is that it wouldn’t have been that hard, I think, to make this section work with minimal gameplay effort. Here’s how:

    – Spiderman finds out MJ is sneaking in to the Sable base. He doesn’t know why. (I don’t think this is shown, but whatever. We can do it with a short cutscene.)

    – The player takes Spidey over there, to a waypoint. Heck, have him tour several bases to try to find her if you really want to milk this. All he has to do is use his Batman sense on a few points in the base to establish that MJ is/isn’t there.

    – Once he finds her, he sees her sneaking up on someone. If he should reasonably be aware she’s looking for Standish, now would be the time to have him say “who is that guy?” to establish that he does not know who it is yet.

    – Spiderman sees this strange man pull the gun on MJ, and not back down. “Em-Jay!” he cries, and sets off to save her. Cue a short dash (we already have racing mechanics, right?) across to wherever he needs to be, finishing with a quicktime (sorry) press of the attack button, just above the tent, causing him to attack down through the tent. But we don’t see the end result, because it fades to black. This can be done with existing assets and animations, for the most part. The animations with Standish waving the gun around and MJ’s reactions can be re-used from the cutscene.

    – Now we go to “some time earlier”, and play the MJ mission (or whatever replaces it, if you hate those missions). It plays out as before, ending with Spiderman coming in through the tent with a takedown on Standish (as the script presumably did originally.)

    Now we, as a player, have a much better reason to buy into why Spiderman would just knock-out Standish and also a better understanding of why MJ might be so upset about it. In Spiderman’s case, we literally pressed the button to do it. The game doesn’t give you any choice, but the illusion of having made that decision makes it a lot more palatable, and the game is rife with that kind of illusion of choice anyway.

    1. Richard says:

      I like that solution. Bravo!

      Shame the writers didn’t think of it :(

  25. pseudonym says:

    Hi Shamus,

    I think TIM island from the mass effect (3) retrospective would make a great video. It will also hopefully allow you to draw in more people to the mass effect retrospective. Some of them will probably stick around after that (l know I did).
    Title suggestion: why fighting cerberus in Mass Effect 3 does not make sense.

    1. Liessa says:

      Good idea! Maybe it could guest-star Paul as the “But Shamus” guy.

  26. Ciennas says:

    Couldn’t we have Spiderman just yank the gun out of his hand, and then the guy trips on his own feet in a panic?

    That accomplishes all the goals, and we don’t have to have Spiderman punch a dude.

    1. Syal says:

      That’s what happens currently. It’s not good enough. Sure, Spider-Man is responsible for ruining the interview, but he’s not responsible in a way that the audience will hold against him; he’s trying to de-escalate the situation, and has no way to know everything will fall apart because of it. It’s as reasonable as anything Mary Jane has done. So when Mary Jane holds it against him, the audience holds it against her.

      To pull the scene off, it has to be unambiguously Spider-Man’s fault. He doesn’t have to punch Standish, but he does have to escalate the conflict in a meaningful way. Say, Standish starts talking loudly, and instead of backing off, (presumably like MJ is telling him to,) Spider-Man advances on him, and Standish starts shouting, which brings the guards. The important thing is for the audience to side with MJ in the follow-up argument.

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