Diecast #299: The Dross Cast

By Shamus Posted Monday Apr 27, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 46 comments

It’s the dross cast! We didn’t have a lot of topics and none of them were about Current Events or Hot New Releases. We only managed to answer one mailbag question.

But! Next week is the big 300. We’re going to do an all-mailbag episode, so please send us questions. Email is in the header image.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 Let’s Talk About The Weather for Some Reason.

It was a nice day.

02:13 Receiver 2

Hear me get angry on Paul’s behalf. This is the most offensive save system I’ve run into in years.

29:04 Worldbuilding in Cities Skylines?

This is the 81 tile city I talked about on the show. I'm actually nowhere near filling it. I'd keep going, but I ran into the vehicle limit and now the simulation is a bit off-kilter.
This is the 81 tile city I talked about on the show. I'm actually nowhere near filling it. I'd keep going, but I ran into the vehicle limit and now the simulation is a bit off-kilter.

43:34 Combat and Construction: Compare and Contrast

We talk about games where you destroy stuff vs. games where you create stuff vs. games where you do a little of both.

54:29 Mailbag: Anno 1800

have you guys ever played the latest anno game? that is some fun plate spinning/town building.
It is Anno 1800. It isn’t on steam anymore, but on the ubistore or epic. There is some light (boring) combat and a “story.” But the star is town building and plate spinning. :)


From The Archives:

46 thoughts on “Diecast #299: The Dross Cast

  1. Joe says:

    Australia mostly holds to the New World grid-based school of city design, though it absolutely breaks down here and there. No matter how long I stare at a map of Fremantle, it doesn’t match up the layout my feet know. I trust my feet over the map any day.

    Sounds like there’s a couple of good ideas in Receiver 2, though they’re drowned out by all the bloody terrible ones. Anyone know if Receiver 1 has those terrible ideas as well?

    If I object to a games platform or company, I just don’t buy games from that platform/company. Plenty of other fish in the sea. I can often extract more value from what I already own. I don’t see the need to reward businesses for being so objectional.

  2. Steve C says:

    I’d be just as angry as Shamus. That game would be deleted so quick after learning that savegame nonsense. I don’t trust autosaves either. Ever. I’m always a little perplexed by everyone else who does.

  3. Lino says:

    42:20 – even though I don’t play city builders, I’d love to see someone do a challenge like that! They could start off with one of those ancient city builders (like Caesar, or something), import that city into a Medieval city building game, and then finally import that city into Cities Skylines.

    Would make for an interesting video, although it would be a pain in the ass to set up, and I imagine it would be very difficult to import your city between all these different games.

  4. Dreadjaws says:

    Waitwaitwaitwaitwait. I thought the attractive of the Receiver games was precisely that it was a realistic way of handling guns. Even if the setting happens to justify stuff like higher chances of jamming, ricocheting or shooting yourself in the foot this is no longer realistic. When you bring supernatural elements (or even pseudoscientific ones) things are stacked against you in a way they just wouldn’t in real life.

    Also, seriously, that save system would be an instant refund if I had purchased the game. That is outright insulting. I hate it when developers just forget that the majority of gamers have jobs and don’t have all the time in the world to dedicate to their games, so they decide to waste their customers’ time.

    And yeah, even in these times where lots of people have to stay at home, this is still obnoxious to no end. In fact, I’m putting this game in my ignore list right now.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I think some games are made by people who played a lot of games, before lucking their way straight into a game-dev position[1]. Enter The Gungeon originally didn’t have a save-game at all, and only added it in a patch. It only lets you save between levels[2], and the save-game button calls you a “quitter” for needing to take a break. It’s not a recent phenomena either.

      [1] Without having to balance a normal job with their hobby, and thus needing to take care of “real life” instead of just games all day.
      [2] Levels might only take 10 minutes if you’re fairly skilled, but they take me about 30 – 60, depending on how far in the game I am. (Early levels are easier.)

  5. Stalevar says:

    Receiver is a roguelike light. Normal roguelike game makes you start from the beginning when you die, receiver bumps you one level back. So instead of losing all of your progress you only lose 10-30 minutes of it.
    The reason why it demotes you on game quit is because it would be easy to cheat your way out of dying. Fell off a building and plummeting to your death? Quit and reload to fix your mistake. Run out of ammo and can’t progress? Quit and reload to fix your mistake. Run into a dead end while being chased by a killer drone? Quit and reload to fix your mistake.
    It does create an unfortunate side effect of losing up to half an hour of your progress every time you need to quit. But you will lose way more progress on dying and resetting many many times before you learn to play it well. That’s how all rouglikes work. Progress lost on game quit will be unnoticeable compared to progress lost on death.
    The real solution would be to properly save the game on quit, so if you save, while falling to your death, you reload, while falling to your death. I don’t know why they didn’t make it that way. Maybe saving on development costs. Maybe it’s too difficult or impossible. As far as i know the game level is randomly generated on the fly, doesn’t have any real boundaries and can go on forever(or until your pc runs out of memory). This might make saving a little bit difficult.
    One way or another this solution isn’t happening, so developers said they are instead removing demotion on game quit. It does allow you to cheat death, but who the hell cares? It’s a single player game and it already has cheat system built in.
    Just wait for the patch before playing again and you won’t have to deal with losing your progress.

    1. Steve C says:

      The reason why it demotes you on game quit is because it would be easy to cheat your way out of dying.

      Which is using similar logic to “the reason men are forced to shave their head is because many men go bald when they are older.” It is flawed thinking at a fundamental level.

      It is 1)punishing everyone unduly,
      for 2)something that doesn’t need a punishment at all,
      for 3)a subset of people that will use obvious workarounds regardless.

      It is nonsense that uses further illogical nonsense to justify itself. Like you said, “It does allow you to cheat death, but who the hell cares?” I can’t stand developers that have this root mindset that their game is sooooo important. That mechanics must punish players for {insert any reason at all here}. There’s never a good reason to punish players in any way. It is a toxic mindset.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        For single-player games, I agree with you. However, if a game has a multiplayer component, I would argue that griefing other players can fill in the braces.

    2. Syal says:

      So instead of losing all of your progress you only lose 10-30 minutes of it.

      Most roguelites can be completed in 30 minutes, so I wouldn’t say that’s an improvement.

      No Saves plus Crashes is a nasty combo, and it’s one of the few things I dislike about Hades; the game only saves in the starting location, and crashes after eight hours or so, so if it crashes twenty minutes into a run you lose the run.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Who the hell cares if someone cheats in a single-player game? Don’t flip to the end of the book, you have to get the real experience!

      1. Retsam says:

        I think the reason devs do this is because sometimes when people “play a game wrong”, the game isn’t actually fun, and the player doesn’t realize that it’s because of how they played the game, and so they decide it’s just a bad game.

        Like, nobody would go and review a book like “the book isn’t interesting when you turn to the last page and read the ending first, 3/10”. But absolutely people “save scum” through games and then complain that the game was easy or boring.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          This is exactly why you do an actual roguelike save (save on quit, delete the save on reload) and don’t bother worrying about what happens if, say, someone dives into the directory while the game is closed and manually copies the save. Someone going that far out of their way to “cheat” should know they aren’t playing the game as intended at that point.

          1. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

            (save on quit, delete the save on reload)

            Then a single crash can wipe out all of your progress. Better to either overwrite the old save (but then a single error during saving can corrupt your save) or delete/rename/move the old save after saving.

        2. Geebs says:

          I agree, there are plenty of games that need just the right amount of friction to be compelling. “Save anywhere” has itself also been responsible for allowing some pretty terrible game design/balancing; just go play any Raven shooter from the 2000s and you’ll be heartily sick of quicksave / quickload before the end of the first level.

          OTOH I really don’t like the obsession roguelite game designers seem to have with wasting half an hour of my time. They’re supposed to be endlessly replayable, but I get so tired of repeating the first few levels over and over that whenever I finish one, I never want to touch it again.

          1. Syal says:

            I wonder if people would put up with a cooldown mechanic on saving. So you can save anywhere, but then you can’t save again for five minutes, or however long it normally takes to encounter multiple dangers.

            1. Lino says:

              I like the way Ori and the Blind Forest does it (great game; haven’t played the sequel yet, though) where you can save wherever you want, but you need to use a finite resource to do it. It ‘s made so you have enough to save comfortably, but you can’t save-scum.

              1. Syal says:

                Finite saving stresses me out. Makes me think of my brief time with Resident Evil.

                1. Duoae says:

                  Yeah, finite resource save systems are on my no-no list. Mostly because of the experiences i had in the 90s/00s in RPGs and the later Tomb Raider games…. “Save crystals” drove me mad.

                  Either let me save ad nauseam or restrict me to a concrete system, don’t punish me for not knowing where to save in advance and let me get stuck.

                  1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                    Ori is not really what you’re thinking about, it has designated savepoints and checkpoints and additonal ability to create an extra savepoint in virtually any safe spot by expending energy, which is plentiful, easily reobtainable and used to fuel many other abilities as well. It’s not a case of Resident Evil typewriter tapes.

                2. Sleeping Dragon says:

                  For clarification, the resource is not finite and is replenishable in almost all areas of the game, it is also used to create a localised savepoint in additon to static save and checkpoints.

              2. Socks says:

                In my opinion, saving/loading should not be a restriction in any single-player game.

                Auto saving/loading can be helpful. I think it was half-life 2 that would reload just previous to dying. Great! I’m invested in the story, and don’t want to replay a whole section to get back to where I was.

                If I need to get away from the PC, I should not have to replay parts of a game to get back to where I was. I consider it a bit rude.

                Is there some technical limitation to ordinary save/load anytime?

        3. Echo Tango says:

          If the audience is expected to behave this way, the solution is to indicate that you’re supposed to play without being able to reload saves. One check-box called “ironman” (or whatever), that explains that it 1) doesn’t allow reloading to get better outcomes, and 2) is the intended way to play the game. Don’t punish honest players; Explain to the cheaters that yes, they’re actually cheating themselves of the intended experience.

          1. Retsam says:

            Sure, on paper I agree with you; (and I agree that the other people saying that lack of a “Save & Exit” is a major oversight).

            But at the end of the day it’s a fairly small indy game – and building two completely different modes for saving the game is probably somewhat “out of scope”.

            I haven’t played Receiver 2, but I played quite a bit of the original, and it’s a weird, indy, game built around deliberately awkward controls. I feel like people might be asking for too much AAA polish here.

            1. Shamus says:

              “I haven’t played Receiver 2, but I played quite a bit of the original, and it’s a weird, indy, game built around deliberately awkward controls. I feel like people might be asking for too much AAA polish here.”

              You could turn that around: This is a game with a fairly limited set of systems and not a lot of content. I think that throwing away hours of the player’s time might be asking too much of them.

              If I crash in Spelunky, I can totally accept if I lose my run. But if I lost all the tombs and characters I’ve unlocked in the last 6 hours? That’s so much more painful, and far less reasonable.

              * Meta progress ONLY saves on exit.
              * The game crashes every N hours, and lose all unsaved meta-progress. Therefore, you’ll want to exit often to protect your progress.
              * The game punishes you for exiting.

              Those three together create a perfect storm of frustration. It traps you into this horrible immersion-breaking decision: I’ve been playing for a while now. Should I exit now to protect my overall progress, or do I keep going and risk losing the ENTIRE SESSION of progress.

              The threat isn’t your main adversary here. Your main source of stress and frustration is going to be the save system.

              I think the real sin is the lack of saving for meta-progress. Like, fine – ending a play session demotes me. I understand that fixing that would be complex and would go against what the designer is trying to do. But not saving progress on collectibles in a game all about collecting collectibles is unforgivable, particularly in light the of stability problems.


              1. Stalevar says:

                For what it’s worth I didn’t have a single crash in 30ish hours and no problems with progress reset. The game runs perfectly fine on my old cheap potato that i proudly call PC. I don’t know if most people’s experience will be closer to mine “runs fine” or Paul’s “crashes every playthrough”. You can’t really judge accurately based on 2 edge cases.

                The game does look like it was rushed out without proper polish. It has error messages in console pooping up over main menu sometimes, debug menu appearing out of nowhere. Problem with lights clipping through walls, making it hard to track enemies. The unfortunate design decision with demotion on game quit(that they are fixing next patch), lost progress on crashes. It doesn’t really have an ending, you just listen to the last tape that congratulates you on becoming a receiver and game goes back to level one for a new playthrough. Maybe because of this entire virus thing they wanted to get it out while people are still stuck at home, maybe something else, i don’t know. But it’s still more stable than your average bethesda game.

                The point is, wait for couple of patches and give it another look, it’s not a bad game.

    4. Chad Miller says:

      Allowing save + quit and deleting the save when you reload the game has been a standard feature of roguelikes since forever.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Yeah, I figure if Nethack allows it, you should be able to implement it in your game.

        Funnily enough, though, it wasn’t until now that I realized I didn’t see the feature in Spelunky.

        1. Lino says:

          Probably because Speunky has extremely short play sessions – 5-10 minutes at most. The only reason you might get a longer session is if you’re going for a City of Gold run, and even then that’s no more than 20 minutes.

          Also, only the high-skill-level players are going to be doing that. And if you’re that dedicated, then you’ve probably set aside at least 20 minutes of your free time.

          I don’t remember if the HD version had a save on quit, since a Hell run takes even longer. But again, only the most dedicated players will be going for that…

  6. UntypedVariable says:

    Tower Defense games haven’t really disappeared. They’re on mobile now, largely as Gatcha games with Waifus to collect.

    Example: Arknights

    1. Naota says:

      Right, mobile now has tower defense games like Ark-

      Oh. Yeah, that one!

      (And it’s surprisingly tactical for being both of those things!)

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      A bit unfotunate since I don’t play on mobile but I like me my TDs. Now obviously there are still a few coming out on PC every now and then though the pickings are slim if you’re into some quality. Just to throw some titles out there Gemcraft Frostborn Wrath came out last year (and just got a major update with an easy mode and a promise of Iron Wizard mode later), and I think Kindgom Rush gets an instalment every now and then.

  7. tmtvl says:

    As a European, the way I would build a city is to
    1. find a point of interest (a river crossing, a defensible hill, a good middle point on the road between to existing cities)
    2. put a church down with a small square to hold a farmer’s market
    3. put some larger houses around it
    4. fill in the gaps with smaller houses
    5. put some larger houses a bit further around
    6. fill in the gaps with smaller houses
    7. let the vikings/Germans/French/Swiss/Spanish/… raze it
    8. rebuild about half of it and try to put some new stuff down around the new gaps
    9. go back to 5
    10. go back to 7
    11. pick a few places to tear down buildings for new roads
    13. it gets razed to the ground
    14. try and build a modern city across the old street plan

    So the city center is an incomprehensible mess of alleys surrounding squares looking like neurons in a brain, with a few larger roads cutting through the mess and 2 or 3 circular roads on the spots where once stood city walls until the were razed down and optionally rebuilt a bit further out for extra room.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Shouldn’t the first houses get built before the first church / square? Or were preachers historically sent into the wilderness to establish towns in Europe?

      1. GoStu says:

        Having traveled through parts of Greece it really did seem like priorities 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10 and 14 were all “build a church”. Some parts of Santorini in particular made me think they were elaborate religious architectural trolling.

      2. tmtvl says:

        Step 1 is important here. It’s not some random spot in the middle of a forest (although abbeys have been founded at completely random places because someone had a revelation), it’s somewhere where you have a POI. And the church can easily be replaced with an inn or watchtower or something, but when the town around the thing grew a bit it usually got replaced for Gloria in excelsis Deo.

        Interesting tidbit: in more modern times you often find the highest concentration of pubs in a town in the block surrounding the church.

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      13. it gets razed to the ground
      14. try and build a modern city across the old street plan


      1. tmtvl says:

        Belgian, but the same thing happened everywhere the blitz went.

    3. Bubble181 says:

      As a Belgian, looking at cities and towns around me, I can name at least 5 that were founded or started out as “holy hermit home becomes pilgrimage location becomes town”, “someone had a vision, built a chapel, became a town” or “loose cluster of houses around the river for a church to consolidate them into one town”.
      The importance of the RCC can hardly be overstated in European geography.

    4. Liessa says:

      Don’t forget letting half of it get burned down a few times. So for the most part, the only old / ‘original’ structures remaining are the ones made of stone, such as churches and some other public buildings.

  8. Alex Mulkerrin says:

    Anno 1404 is really the best of the series and is on Steam.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Anno 1404 is also on GOG with no DRM… Tempting.

  9. Chris says:

    Some tower defenses dont allow you to build instantly. Instead it takes time so there is some planning required, so you cant just plop down a few cheap towers when things go sideways. Like if you’re saving for a big upgrade and thus skimp on building

  10. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

    I have a feeling Diecast 300 is going to have far fewer oiled, shirtless, screaming men than 300 and it probably won’t be 2 hours long.

  11. Mike says:

    I did play a few Anno games over the years, and liked 2070 one the best, probably because of solarpunk futuristic aesthetic.
    Joseph Anderson has a great video on its more risky and streamlined cousin Anno 2205, which I also liked, but mostly as a chill spectacle – lavish art direction in these games is incredible.

    Don’t think series competes with Sim City or Skylines (though I haven’t played the latter) on a mechanical level, as they’re much more of a puzzle than simulation.
    I.e. you have to arrange all your buildings and production lines in an efficient pattern on a grid, where there is definitely an optimal layout.
    One where all service zones overlap as much as possible, all producer/consumer building ratios are in order, and stuff is moved efficiently through this pipeline.

    Sadly though, these games are indeed crippled by uplay and ubisoft policies.
    Living outside of anglophone zone, one specific additional issue it gives me (on top of many-many, like their site doesn’t even work in modern firefox!), is that they only sell localized versions of their games, seemingly to combat re-selling of regionally-acquired (for cheap) codes, and you can’t switch language in them.
    Such localization is very jarring and just plain bad in my experience, especially if you’re used to always playing games in english.

    For example, what I did to get proper Anno 2205 version last year, was to buy specifically-english code on a shady site (for more than it cost on uplay for UK at the time, to avoid exposing payment data from elsewhere), register dedicated uplay account over VPN to pretend I’m from UK, and then play with that VPN up (online-only DRM) from this account.
    Forgot to enable VPN once and they suspended the acc for suspected hacking.
    There’s no “let me just pay UK price and get UK version” option, so here we are.
    Kinda want to play Anno 1800, but going through all that (and likely worse) hassle again – nah, might as well just play many other great games that don’t need it.

  12. Liessa says:

    I tried out Cities: Skylines when there was a free weekend on Steam. I extended some roads off the main highway that came pre-built in the first map I tried, and within minutes the whole thing was clogged up with absurd amounts of traffic. I don’t know what I was doing wrong, but nothing I tried seemed to fix the problem, and I decided I wasn’t enjoying the game enough to mess around with it any longer. Maybe the full game has a better tutorial?

    1. Shamus says:

      Nope, that’s about it, tutorial-wise.

      The trick is that there’s always a bit of a rush at the start, particularly if you zone a huge spot for residential all at once. In Sim City, new arrivals just sort of teleport into their new homes, but in Skylines they all arrive via the highway. The demand for residential is really intense at the start of the game, so it’s possible to expand faster than your highway off-ramps allow. (It depends on the map.) It starts building the house at the same time the sim begins driving towards your town at the far edge of the map, so by the time they arrive the house is already built and behaving as though it’s being lived in. (The lights come on at night.)

      The trick is to not zone too much residential until you get more robust outside connections, or to wait until one cluster of houses fills up before you zone the next one.

      No, the game never teaches you this.

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