Diecast #307: FIREWORKS DAY!

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 6, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 95 comments

Somehow, Paul had fireworks going off in the background, pretty much through the entire show. The reason you don’t hear any fireworks on my side is that I’m 3 hours ahead of Paul and the people here had already run out by the time the show started.



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast307


Link (YouTube)

00:00 Happy Fireworks day!

Okay, it was 4th of July when we recorded this. I’m pretty sure it’s over now.

06:32 Paul got a job!

Congrats!

10:26 Loot Box Ban

Well Bobby, Drew… I don’t know what you clowns thought was going to happen, but the thing *I* thought was going to happen, happened: UK Parliament: Ban all loot boxes until evidence proves they’re safe for kids.

You could have kept your little gambling parlors running quietly off to one side as optional game modes where nobody noticed or cared. You could have continued to exploit people with a weakness for gambling as much as you wanted. But instead you designed entire games around this reprehensible business model, pissed off your customers, and then rubbed it in everyone’s faces. So now we get this.

Congratulations, idiots. Have fun explaining this one to shareholders.

21:17 Worms Armageddon

For those of you too young to remember, this is the game we’re talking about.

24:55 Microsoft got bored with MIXER and left it outside in the rain.

It’s only been a few months since Microsoft paid Ninja a (rumored) $30 million to join their streaming platform, and now they’re shutting down the platform. Man, I’d hate to be a Microsoft engineer that just spent 4 years of my life building the infrastructure for this streaming platform, only to have it closed like that. I’d feel sorry for Ninja too, but that dude got seven eight figures so I figure he’ll pull through somehow.

36:09 Black Desert Online Remastered

You may remember what I said about this game back in 2018. During this segment, I claimed that “nothing has changed”. That’s not exactly true. There are some changes beyond the addition of shinier pixels:

The early game has been truncated. The entire starting town is now abandoned and players begin the game in the second quest hub, with the leveling scaled so that you breeze through the first 7 levels in the space of a couple of minutes. Not sure why that was done, but I guess it doesn’t harm anything. The story is incomprehensible dross anyway, so throwing a tiny bit of it away isn’t a bad thing. I suspect this was done to speed things up because they’re in a hurry to get players to the level cap where they can be milked for pay-to-win PvP bullshit.

The inventory space restrictions have been greatly relaxed. You start the game with 40 inventory slots instead of (IIRC) 15 or 20. Again, they’re taking the focus off the early game and pushing players towards the more lucrative endgame.

The game is even more absurd with in-game money than before. My character was a multimillionaire before they hit level 10. Peasants casually hand out gold bars for performing mundane tasks. Of course, nothing you really want can be purchased with the in-game money, because the developers want you to buy those things with your actual money.

The game now installs XIGNCODE3 anti-cheat on your PC without asking or even telling you, and the program remains running even when BDO isn’t runningI un-installed the game as soon as I discovered this. It LOOKS like XIGNCODE is also uninstalled, but I’ve read reports from people who claim it sticks around..

That’s it. The interface and dialog are still horribly translated, you still level too fast to enjoy the combat, which is the only system in the game that works. The game is still focused on creating inconveniences for the player and then renting them the outrageously overpriced solution at the needlessly convoluted cash shop. And even if you muddle through all of that, the game just dumps you into PvP – willing or not – at the end of your journey. I would love it if I could just pay $15 a month and play a version of this game with the ugliness and artificial hassles removed. But it would probably cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 a month to buy all of the features we take for granted in most online gamesLike the ability to summon your mount at will. They actually rent that to you on a per-month, per-character basis! That’s like renting me auto-run! COME ON.. And even then, it’s still a game where you buy things (or get them for “free”) instead of earning them through gameplay.

When people complain about a game being ruined by MTX, this is exactly what they’re talking about. This is a gorgeous game with solid gameplay. This could be an MMO for the ages. But instead it’s a sad and frustrating little also-ran, because the in-game progression was broken by the desire to drive people to the cash shop.

What a horrible waste.

42:48 Mailbag: Eastshade

Dear Diecast,

I’ve been working on my Steam backlog recently and just downloaded Eastshade to give it a try, and when I was installing it I noticed that Shamus also has it. I don’t know about Paul, he’s not on my Steam friends list. Anyway, I was wondering if Shamus has had any time to play it. I’ve only played a few hours so far, but I’m finding it really beautiful and relaxing, with cute little RPG elements that make it pretty fun for a game with no combat that is about wandering around and painting things. In my mind it doesn’t really qualify as a “walking simulator” because there are actual gameplay elements and things for you to do. It’s nice to see something that might reasonably qualify as an RPG that doesn’t rely on murdering tons of dudes.

Jennifer Snow

53:04 Mailbag: Non-Paradox 4X

Hey Shamus and Paul,

Chris,(Gautsu here) I hope you are both doing okay! Anyways, I didn’t want to hijack or divert your Civ threads comments. What are yours and everyone else thoughts on non-Civ, non Paradox 4x games? I know that some people consider Alpha Centauri a Civ game due to its pedigree and some don’t because of the lack of Civilization in the title, but it is my absolute favorite. How are other games viewed though? Endless Legend seems cool as hell but I have never been able to commit enough time to complete a whole play through. Does anyone have an opinion on Gladius, the 40k 4x, or Sorceror Kings, Age of Wonders (Fantasy or Planetfall), or Fallen Enchantress? Honestly curious,
Thanks,
Chris

1:00:22 Mailbag: Virtual Tabletop

Deeeeear Diecast,

You have long been an enthusiast of tabletop role-playing games, to the point of naming your blog after the hobby. You have been a DM for D&D in the past, but I’ve never heard of you using any digital platforms for playing RPGs. What do you think about virtual tabletop systems, such as Fantasy Grounds or Roll20?

Part of the reason for asking is the fact that I am working on a Kickstarter for a similar platform (Critical Zero). I wanted to know if you use such systems & why. What do you like about virtual tabletops? What features do you find lacking, as a GM &/or as a player? If you don’t use any, what might change your mind & convince you to try one?

Regards,

Zeta Kai

1:13:10 Mailbag: GPU Scheduling

Hi, team DieCast!

Apparently, in recent weeks, Microsoft released new feature of hardware accelerated GPU scheduling for Win10 (https://www.minitool.com/news/win10-v2004-hardware-accelerated-gpu-scheduling.html). So what’s your opinion on this change, and how’d you estimate the amount of performance gains achieved by this change?

Best regards, DeadlyDark

P.S. Erm. Correction. It’s not released yet, I’ve misread the date

 

Footnotes:

[1] I un-installed the game as soon as I discovered this. It LOOKS like XIGNCODE is also uninstalled, but I’ve read reports from people who claim it sticks around.

[2] Like the ability to summon your mount at will. They actually rent that to you on a per-month, per-character basis! That’s like renting me auto-run! COME ON.



From The Archives:
 

95 thoughts on “Diecast #307: FIREWORKS DAY!

  1. Yerushalmi says:

    Did GOG not offer a scan of the Worms Armageddon manual? They usually have that available as a separate download when you purchase a game.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I have two Worms games in GOG (neither is Armaggeddon, sadly). One comes with a manual, and the other doesn’t, so who knows.

  2. Steve C says:

    correction: eight figures

    1. tmtvl says:

      Well, most of those figures are only zeroes, so we could probably group those together and just call it two figures.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        Certainly less than eight figures in hexadecimal. (Edit: I just checked and it is exactly seven figures in hexadecimal. So Shamus was right.)

      2. Canthros says:

        Two significant digits.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Given that it’s reported as “$30 million”, you are technically correct.

          1. Canthros says:

            As we all know, that’s the best kind of correct.

  3. Joe says:

    I write about anthro animals in a space opera universe. While I can hear the voices in my head, I can now see the problem with the lips. How do cartoons get around the issue? If anyone is curious, I imagine a deeper Ian McKellan voicing a grizzly bear, a high-pitched Kiefer Sutherland as a tiger, and the guy who plays D’argo on Farscape as a minotaur. I also have voices for as many cool-looking beings as I can imagine, though not played by anyone I can name.

    The problem of 40K games. There’s 40K of them. Groan, I know. Actually, GW has generally been happy to licence their stuff out to all and sundry. Sometimes they’re good, I gather. One of the Space Hulks, Total Warhammer, Dawn of War, Blood Bowl. Blood Bowl is a rare example of actually using the rules from the tabletop, rather than just adapting the universe. Usually the games seem to be quick and dirty, and sink without a trace. Is Gladius the one with the Necrons?

    I believe there’s an RPG tool like you guys describe, with video confrerencing built in. Someone else will tell you exactly which one, or I’ll ask on one of the RPG FB groups if no one else volunteers.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Is Gladius the one with the Necrons?

      That’s probably Mechanicus – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfqF81VPoM0 – basically baby’s first turn-based tactics.

      1. Joe says:

        Ah yes, of course it is. Those crazy tech-priests, at it again.

    2. Kathryn says:

      >>While I can hear the voices in my head, I can now see the problem with the lips. How do cartoons get around the issue?

      I am deaf and read lips (ask me how I like 100% telework with 20+ hours of meetings every week). They don’t. Their mouths are just opening roughly in time with the words. Newer cartoons/animated movies are a little more realistic, like making the animal’s mouth round when it’s saying an O sound, but it certainly wouldn’t be possible to read the lips of even a human character in most animation.

      1. Joe says:

        Ah, I suspected something like that!

        Bloody hell, 20 hours a week of having to handle meetings would drive me mad. All that mental energy applied towards discussing issues, not actually being hands on and doing things. Seems like way too much.

        1. tmtvl says:

          And to think how much heartache could be saved by adopting something like Mattermost or RocketChat. It is truly galling how incompetent corporate bureaucracy is.

        2. Kathryn says:

          Sure, but keep in mind that when you’re hands-on with the hardware, you’re ultimately following the directions of people above you. Even when their directions are very, very stupid. This is why I am trying to move into program management – I want more autonomy, and I want to be the one making (hopefully smart) decisions.

          Also, everything we are doing is heavily integrated. There really isn’t much that’s stand-alone. Most of our meetings are about reviewing changes and understanding the impacts to other systems.

          (Not corporate, incidentally.)

  4. Freddo says:

    On one hand an IT engineer is always building stuff where parts may be obsolete before the work is even finished, on the other hand a well-engineered solution may persist way beyond the original design lifespan. In either case he doesn’t get the 8 figure reward, but having a solid project on your CV can get him started on the next job.

  5. BlueHorus says:

    So, while I was super excited to see the link to a story about the UK Parliament addressing Loot Boxes, it’s only an Inquiry; basically a preliminary report. Such Inquiries happen fairly commonly here, but follow-up legislation based on their findings is…not guaranteed.

    While I’d love to see them banned (mostly due to a selfish ‘If it’s not stamped out – thoroughly – this annoying bullshit will spread to MORE games!’ attitude), EA et al aren’t running for cover just yet.
    It’s a step in the right direction, but don’t break out the marching band.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Also worth noting the phrase “in any games targeted to minors”. In the event such legislation did pass, I imagine FIFA 2021 and Star Wars Battlefront 3 would simply pretend their audiences were entirely adults and shift around the marketing campaigns somewhat to make that pretense hold up legally.

      But more broadly, I really hate the moral panic rhetoric this non-binding resolution is using. Even though they acknowledge no link has been found, ban it just in case, because we haven’t yet proved a negative? That was Jack Thompson’s approach to videogames being more violent than he liked, and seeing the internet cheer this sort of thing on makes me realize they didn’t actually object to Thompson’s tactics, just his targets.

      1. Lino says:

        This is probably straying a bit too close to politics, but in general this is the difference between the European and American way of going about legislation. Like most things, it’s not a concrete system, and there are exceptions, but generally, the American approach is “You want to do something? Ok. But the moment we see that what you’re doing is harming somebody, then we’ll either make you stop doing it, or doing it in a way that isn’t harming anybody.”

        Whereas the European approach is more along the lines of “You want to do something? Ok. But first you need to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that what you want to do won’t be harmful to anybody”.

        Both approaches have their drawbacks and advantages, and again, this is a very gross oversimplification. Even my professors at uni used a lot of caveats when contrasting the two different approaches, but it’s a useful perspective to have when looking at these things.

        1. Blue Painted says:

          I’m not going to reply in detail, because that would be politics, and instead just restrict myself to “I disagree.”

          1. Shamus says:

            I know it’s hard to hold back when someone puts up something you really disagree with. If it helps, I really appreciate it.

      2. Liessa says:

        They don’t need to prove a link to other kinds of problem gambling, because their point is that lootboxes are in themselves a form of gambling. This is explicitly stated in paragraph 98 of the report:

        We consider loot boxes that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance to be games of chance played for money’s worth. The Government should bring forward regulations under section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 in the next parliamentary session to specify that loot boxes are a game of chance. If it determines not to regulate loot boxes under the Act at this time, the Government should produce a paper clearly stating the reasons why it does not consider loot boxes paid for with real-world currency to be a game of chance played for money’s worth.

        I’d normally share your concern over the ‘precautionary’ approach, in the sense of “we have to ban this because it might possibly cause harm to someone” – but this isn’t actually an example of that. For a start, the Lords aren’t saying that lootboxes should be banned altogether; they’re simply saying that as a form of gambling, they should be regulated under the Gambling Act and subject to the same restrictions (e.g. not being available to under-18s). What’s more, there’s already abundant evidence – again brought up in the report itself – that they exploit the same types of psychological weaknesses as other types of gambling, and lead to the same types of addiction and problem spending. I fail to see how updating outdated legislation to recognise new types of gambling is a bad thing, and I certainly don’t think supporting this makes me equivalent to Jack Thompson.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          As I understand it they’re proposing amending the Gambling Act to include lootboxes, since they currently don’t count due to lacking real-world value (other than cases like those tradeable CS:Go skins, which I can only imagine lasted so long because no regulators noticed their existence). Setting aside the word games over what ought to be called gambling, I think everyone agrees lootboxes are less gambly than putting $50 down at a poker table in the hopes of walking away with $200. Without getting into the politics of what ought to be done, it definitely seems like an expansion of the scope of gambling laws to have them target less gambly activities, rather than simply keeping up with the times in the way online casino laws are an update to pre-internet legislation.

          The report makes a laundry list of “videogames bad” arguments, almost none of which have to do with lootboxes. Gaming addiction, cyber-bullying, M-rated games, non-gambling pay-to-win games, social media… the actual gambling talk is a pretty small section that is, in the report’s own words, “hindered by a lack of robust evidence”. Their citations are largely “Some experts said this seems concerningly similar to gambling and we should do a study”. Their only hard evidence in the gambling section is a pair of studies which found that spending on lootboxes is correlated with self-reported problem gambling behaviour and duh, financially irresponsible problem gamblers should be expected to spend more on everything including lootboxes, I bet they buy more chocolate bars at the grocery store checkout too.

          1. Thomas says:

            The Children’s Commissioner’s report commented that children describe loot boxes as gambling, unprompted (admittedly, probably driven by the discussion in the gamer community), and that the items that they’re trying to gain have significant value to the children, even if that item isn’t monetary. The fact that people who gamble are also more likely to spend more on lootboxes is unsurprising, as we all know the feeling loot boxes generate are going after the same rewards centres in the brain.

            “If it looks like gambling and feels like gambling” is what the most recent Lord’s report seemed to focus on the most, and, honestly, I find it quite persuasive. I was against the idea of legislation before, but now I might even be pro. The UK as a country has already decided that gambling is a problem for children and shouldn’t be allowed, so it does feel like a bit of an exploitative loophole.
            https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld5801/ldselect/ldgamb/79/7909.htm#_idTextAnchor163

            The major is issue is if regulation would have unintended consequences, but the Lords report suggested that a minister should have the power to specify which activities should be treated as gambling, which at least gives it more flexibility than if any changes needed new legislation.

            Either way, the wheels of democracy tend to be pinwheels belted to mill wheels. All the Lords report does is make a recommendation. The UK government has called for more evidence on the size, variation and impact before making a decision, and I doubt the UK government is going to change that course of action because of this report. And even then, they’ll speak to the government lawyers and the lawyers will raise objections about enforcement. We’ll have to wait a bit to see what actually happens.

            1. Geebs says:

              The legal loophole that Loot Boxes exploit to avoid being labelled as gambling – that the goods inside allegedly have no monetary value – always felt to me a bit like the clauses in defamation and advertising law that say you can’t be called out on any statement that is so ridiculous that nobody sensible would reasonably believe it. Loot box contents are regularly sold, and the world is absolutely chock full of people who believe all sorts of ridiculous things.

      3. Chad Miller says:

        seeing the internet cheer this sort of thing on makes me realize they didn’t actually object to Thompson’s tactics, just his targets.

        “People on the Internet” is a constantly shifting category. There is no “they”.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          There is a “gaming community”, which is the term my post probably should have used, and I think it’s reasonable to say that the gaming community was very against violence legislation fifteen-twenty years ago, and is very in favour of lootbox legislation today.

          1. The Puzzler says:

            A community in this context is a group of people with common interests, I guess?

            People who liked violent video games were against legislation banning violent games, and not because they were against legislation in general. Those same people would mostly have no problem with a ban on loot box games, because they hate loot box games. It’s not proven that they’re bad for kids, but it’s seems pretty clear they’re bad for video games.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              It’s not proven that they’re bad for kids, but it’s seems pretty clear they’re bad for video games.

              Is it? I hate Mario Party, but it’s not at all obvious that Mario Party is bad for video games, even in a world where a strong majority of people agree with me. If we banned it, would videogames as a whole be improved or would there just be less videogames in the world? Mobile games are bad videogames even when they don’t have awful pay-to-win elements, but are they bad for videogames? The only way my life would be improved if you fully banned them is that I wouldn’t be bombarded with news about Flappy Bird or whatever latest thing becomes such a big deal that you can’t help but hear about it.

              If you banned trading card games (or hell, just enforced the existing gambling laws that they’re probably in violation of), Magic: The Gathering would never get big, a generation of nerds wouldn’t grow up playing it, and the entire concept of “card games” as referring to something other than poker would be much smaller than it is today. We would probably not have some excellent modern buy-once card games like Dominion or Slay The Spire without Magic as the grandfather of the genre. If mobile game devs ever have a single good idea that’s seen and copied into a real game, my experience as a PC gamer would in fact be made worse by banning them.

              Back in the day a lot of people were against banning videogames not just because they liked violence, but because they felt (or at least said) you shouldn’t ban games in general. I don’t want to ban Mario Party even though I hate it because I understand that you should let people like things, and I have no right to stop someone else from enjoying Mario Party. This is a principle that lives on in gaming discourse today, which you’ll find in any discussion of “gatekeeping”. Unless of course we’re talking about lootboxes, then fuck it, no one should be allowed to buy the thing I don’t like.

              1. tmtvl says:

                Having fewer video games would be a loss to the industry, regardless of the circumstances. That said, I think having them go through their own version of the Hays’ Code may have interesting side effects.

              2. Geebs says:

                This argument is specious IMO. Society, i.e. the collection of adults who pay taxes in order to make sure the garbage gets collected and that their food isn’t full of rocks and arsenic, have identified that people with poor impulse control are at risk from predatory gambling tactics. Loot boxes are gambling and therefore should be regulated as gambling.

                From a utilitarian view, if the cost to the people who pay taxes, so that Activision and Take 2 don’t have to, from problem gambling exceeds the benefit they accrue from gambling elements in games, they are within their rights to regulate it.

                I don’t see what the problem is here?

  6. Joshua says:

    Congrats to Paul!

    1. Liessa says:

      Yes, congrats on the new job, Paul! Hope it goes well.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Thanks all! First day is over, and it’s looking good so far.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    I think Endless Legend is the best 4X out there. Endless Space (from the same devs, of course) which Paul mentioned is much less good in my opinion, though apparently Metacritic thinks EL is only a little better. I think the game’s biggest strength is how it lets you play as highly customizable factions (think RPG character creation distributing points and perks), it feels really good to design every aspect of your faction with some particular game plan in mind rather than just grabbing a premade faction in Civ and saying “Well these guys get a bonus to libraries so I guess I’ll build lots of libraries and go for a science victory”. Overall the game feels like an alternate dimension’s Civilization 7, where they iterated towards more RPG elements with quests giving you distinct goals on the map beyond conquering cities, plus hero units and troop equipment for increased customization.

    1. Steve C says:

      Ditto what Ninety-Three wrote.

    2. Chris says:

      I agree, Im not super into 4X (well i guess i put some decent hours in EU4) but endless legends is my game of choice. I really like the population system (and it not being required to exploit tiles around your cities), i like how there are biomes which allow you to easily appraise a region and what kind of city you can build there. I like the province system that prevents building a bunch of tiny cities. I like how bandits work. I like how tech has a techwheel rather than some techtree that adds a lot of complexity for little depth. And a hundred other little things.
      The factions are far fewer but have a lot more differences between them, like buying tech with money instead of research points, or being able to force peace on people. I think it solves a lot of the complaints that shamus has about CIV. Although i must say that the factions do feel like they are built for their own victory condition. Like the vaulters being really technical.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Yeah, the game notes each faction as having a main victory type, though it’s off in a few places, like the Drakken who are supposedly suited for diplomatic victory despite having the absolute best starting army in the game, even above the “literally can’t declare peace” Necrophages. The big source of game-to-game diversity isn’t so much in how science-heavy you play the Vaulters, but whether you play as science victory pacifists or science-powered industrialists trying to climb the tech tree for high-tier production and military abilities. Every race has a viable combat-focused playstyle, and they all feel very different in interesting ways.

      2. Steve C says:

        Oh the factions are definitely built for their own victory conditions. It is explicit. The various factions have toggles for their conditions at the start of a game. It is one of things I liked about Endless Legend.
        Did you mean “vaulters being really technical” = “science victory”? If so yes, but I could never pull that off because I found it too easy to win via conquest. Vaulters were just ridiculously OP due to their teleport ability. It was just too good to ever play them any other way. It was broken. (Good times…. good times.)

        Still preferred the combat in Sorcerer Kings though.

        1. Chris says:

          Yes i did mean science victory. And yes, for every faction conquest seems the path of least resistance. With the elves i had to avoid crushing everyone so i could build the wonder and win the game that way. Even though at that point my production capability was so high i could just drown enemies in bodies. On youtube theres a very good player called ARealFloodAdvisory. Shes really good and actually manages to get the popup for being 90% done with multiple victory conditions (like for money) while also taking over the world. So i guess if youre really good the other paths become more viable.

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I dig Endless Space 2 particularly for its varied racial mechanics and the quests have actually entertaining writing to the point where I usually go for various “space mystical shit” but I was actually quite engaged by the Empire’s succession story. Endless Legend is good but I honestly wish they did an EL2 where they pushed it to the extent they did in ES2.

      1. Steve C says:

        I’m of the opposite opinion. I tried to get into Endless Space 2 and just couldn’t. I found it extremely fussy. Lots of added complexity compared to ES1 that did not seem to translate into a deeper game. Like the minor races. Or the political parties aspect. (I found politics especially fussy and lame.) Where as the minor races in EL were interesting and straightforward. I personally do not want a version of EL2 that looks anything like ES2.

  8. tmtvl says:

    Speaking of manuals, I love the Arcanum manual. It even has a recipe for banana bread!

    Speaking of, there’s more than a few games that still come with a manual, it’s just digitized, so you may have to look in the game directory to find it (X3: Terran Conflict/Albion Prelude, for example, has the manual in PDF form in the game directory under steamapps/common).

    1. John says:

      I’m not sure that “still” is the right word to use with a game like X3, which was released in 2008.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Well 2008 was last year, right? …right?

        …dear Gods I’m growing old.

        That said, I imagine more modern games will also have manuals included. Like… Tides of Numenera? That’s more recent, right?

  9. GoStu says:

    @Zeta Kai, re: Virtual Tabletops

    If you’re looking for other opinions on digital tabletops, here’s one from someone currently DMing two different games with two different sets of online tools:

    They make the easy stuff trivial, and then nail your DM’s feet to the floor.

    Fundamentally, D&D 5E is just not that complex. Roll a 20-sided die, add a number. Whether I have a total newbie at the table who I have to point out where to find their Constitution Modifier is on their sheet (and check if they calculated it properly) or whether we’re using some ultra-slick system that auto-rolls it the moment I type in a command… it’s really not that complex. This is NOT the part of the game I need any help running and aside from dealing with utter newbies it’s not the part my players need any help with either.

    Like Paul said; it’s helping a bit with the mechanics. They do nothing for most of the actual game.

    Shamus mentioned looking up various monster saving throws and such but that is an endless well of frustration. Really it’s a digital lookup of a monster manual or other book… and the IP owners hate letting those exist in the wild. Also, from a mechanical point of view, it’s annoyingly inflexible. THE BOOK will say that monster A has N hitpoints and X armor class and that works right up until I feel like giving those monsters better armor than most or make them tougher.

    Really the only thing I need is a way to share a battle-map and a means of communicating. For one game, I use Discord for in- and out-of-character discussion by text (play-by-post) and use the Avrae bot for dice-rolling. For the other game, I use Google Meet for conferencing and just roll dice by hand on the honour system. For both, a shared google sheet is our “map”.

    I realize that most of this isn’t actionable for you, so here’s my best advice: whatever you do, make on-the-fly changes to monsters easy, and let them be easily discarded. If I have to do anything beyond double-clicking a token, typing a new AC/HP number, and hit “apply”, it’s too much. (and have a toggle for whether I’m just changing THAT monster or if I’m creating a new type of monster I want to use all the time.)

    1. Zeta Kai says:

      As a long-time GM for multiple systems, I agree with you wholeheartedly; modding monsters/encounters is something almost everybody does at the table, & something that you need to be able to do on the fly. It should be fairly seamless using Critical Zero, although I don’t know the specifics on how that will be implemented.

      Don’t take my word as gospel, but the way that I would envision such a system is to pull up a creature’s default stats, click a Mod button, make your changes, & the click Apply. A “save changes” button, along with “revert to defaults”, would be a good option that I would include, as well; that way, you can go with the by-the-book version, or built up a customized army of your own critters. I believe that we can design the system to be fast, versatile, & painless to use, which should greatly facilitate play.

      Improving the GM-ing experience is our top priority, as we all understand the many difficult jobs that the GM has to handle. Along with chat & doc sharing, we are building as many tools as we can to make the GM’s duties as easy as possible, with generators for NPCs, opponents, settlements, dungeons, loot, etc.

  10. Lino says:

    Congratulations on your new job, Paul!

    Regarding lootboxes, what I’m interested in is how publishers will weasel out of a possible law against them. Say the UK passes a law that bans lootboxes. As far as I know, collectible card games aren’t banned, and the packs they use are pretty much lootboxes. What’s to stop publishers from rebranding the lootbox part of their games as a CCG. We’ll have Call of Duty: Eclectic Boogaloo – which is the game people are going to play, and integrated into that we’ll have Call of Duty: Eclectic Boogaloo: The Collectible Card Game where you can buy packs that give you benefits in the main game.

    I really hope games stop using lootboxes, but I really doubt it’s going to be that easy. Publishers love them, and they have entire departments of lawyers, and they’ll do their absolute best to find even the tiniest loophole in any kind of law such as this…

    1. Chad Miller says:

      “child gambling panic” rose to the level of lawsuits in the 90’s, and I’ve long suspected that the reason Magic: The Gathering Online has no online currency is in part to maintain plausible deniability that they don’t run a casino. I think it’s far from a given that CCGs will survive any lootbox legislation.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        MTGO’s EULA features some hilariously blatant lies clearly designed to suggest that they aren’t gambling. For instance, you have to agree that event tickets (used to enter prize-yielding tournaments, and the de-facto currency for players to trade amongst each other) have no cash value, despite a thriving third-party market of retailers that will absolutely buy your cards or tickets for real world cash, and at fairly stable exchange rates too. You also have to agree that your MTGO account is one person only and you won’t get outside assistance playing Magic, despite Wizards encouraging a lively culture of livestreaming Magic games where thousands of viewers will regularly suggest plays.

        On the one hand, cardgames face an enormous risk in lootbox laws. On the other hand, I’m normally pretty doveish when it comes to “videogames are gambling” and even I think there’s a well-founded argument that Magic violates ordinary gambling laws what with the letting you wager and win money on a randomized game of skill. I think the main reason it’s not already treated like poker is just that it’s too small for regulators to notice or care about, so I wouldn’t be shocked if it survives lootbox laws too, on the same principle.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          And if it means buying magic cards must be entirely deterministic, precision crafting the thing you want probably gets cheaper.

          I say this because in a deterministic card getting world, they have two choices. They make it cheaper to obtain specific cards, or they keep the same cost as expected on average and sell to a lesser market without tantalizing trick on the human psyche.

        2. Thomas says:

          I guess this is why Wizards refuse to acknowledge that cards have a resale value, up to and including releasing a couple of prepacked products every now and then where the card value is hilariously out of sync with the reworld value (but suspiciously close for the rest of their products)

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            Yup, a whole lot of WOTC’s weird moves make sense from a legal perspective. A bunch of awkwardness around paper tournament judges in the last few years has been rooted in drama over whether they are unpaid volunteers and whether what they’re doing is in a legally significant category. The best theory I’ve seen to explain their handling of the reserved list (MaRo is not allowed to talk about it, and not allowed to talk about why he’s not allowed to talk about it) is that some states have the concept of a binding verbal contract, where if you promise something in a sufficiently official capacity, it doesn’t need to be in writing for someone to take you to court over breaking your word, and there’s a huge amount of money tied up in the collectible side of this collectible card game that would be eager to sue their assess off if they reprinted the Power Nine. They can’t acknowledge that they told MaRo to shut up for legal reasons without shoring up the case of anyone who might sue them, letting him argue “See look, even WOTC policy treats it as legally binding!”

            1. Moridin says:

              I’m fairly certain that verbal contracts are a thing everywhere. The paperwork just makes it much easier to prove not only that there is a contract, but exactly what was agreed upon.

              1. Chad Miller says:

                I suspect the sticking point isn’t whether verbal contracts exist but what it takes to make one. Specifically, the “in a sufficiently official capacity” suggests that maybe some states would take an off-the-cuff tumblr post by Mark Rosewater as such a contract where others may not.

        3. Steve C says:

          Do you remember ante cards in M:TG? I do.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      The Fire Emblem games have already come up with practices that happen to be a very effective workaround to any future lootbox laws. Maybe you can’t sell random containers of loot or straight up in-game money for cash, but you can have DLC maps where all the enemies are super easy to kill and drop tons of gold. It’d be really hard to ban that sort of workaround without entirely banning DLC and expansion packs.

      1. Thomas says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised if that kind of practice doesn’t bother people much. Unless the DLC takes 10 seconds, can only be played once and has a random reward at the end, then it doesn’t really feel like gambling. It’s not like anyone is suggesting banning microtransactions entirely.

    3. evilmrhenry says:

      There’s been a few games that drop lootboxes every, say, 100 XP or what not, but you can also get paid boosters to increase your XP gain. That might be just enough of an indirection to escape legislation.

      There’s also transparent lootboxes, where you can see what’s inside the lootbox before you buy it, (with a daily refresh) which turns it more into a daily DLC sale, but where if you buy it you get a different sale. This one is likely to catch on because a game can switch to it without needing to redo the monetization and gameplay structure.

  11. John says:

    I’ve said this before, but my favorite way to play Master of Orion 2 is with telepaths. Unlike Shamus, I hate ground combat. I hate building transports, I hate packing troops into transports, I hate having to attach escorts to my transports. Too much logistical hassle. (You can see why Shamus is the one playing all those factory games and I’m not.) Ugh. Life is so much more pleasant when you can just mind-control your enemies from orbit. No fuss, no muss. It’s the only way to play . . . right up until you run into another telephathic species and you have to start doing things the Shamus way. Except you haven’t bothered with any ground-combat techs or built any troop transports. Sigh. Well, that’s the way the RNG rolls some times. More seriously, I think that the space-combat mini-game is much more interesting than the ground-combat mini-game.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      You can also just bombard planets from orbit. The AI usually has a garbage build-order, so if you trash the place, it’s not that much of a loss. Also, bio-weapons. :)

      1. John says:

        It’s been quite a while since I last played Master of Orion 2. To the best of my recollection, however, orbital bombardment just makes ground combat easier by reducing the planetary population. You can’t completely eliminate the planetary population though; you’ll still need to build a transport and send in some troops if you want to take the planet. So in that sense it’s not really a substitute for ground combat.

        I usually played on small maps, so my games were pretty short. I’m not sure that I ever saw or was able to research bioweapons.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          You can definitely nuke planets to empty craters; It’s just usually not worth it, since you want to keep some building around, like factories, farms, etc.

          1. John says:

            I never managed it. There was always one last enemy worker who just absolutely would not die, no matter how long I spent bombarding.

            1. The Puzzler says:

              The AI bombs my planets into rubble all the time…

        2. Steve C says:

          You aren’t thinking big enough. (Or long game enough?)
          Destroy the planet entirely from space. Turn the asteroid field of rubble into a brand new planet of your preferred kind. No pesky population to deal with.

    2. Hector says:

      There isn’t really a ground combat mini-game. Just weight of numbers and firepower.

      Anyway, I had an interesting reaction to this because I *can’t* play Telepaths. They’re basically the most OP Combo in a game that allows for quite a few of them, mostly because the moment you can wander over to neighbor planets with a single Large ship you start hoovering up all their colonies like a starving anteater, and many of those won’t have sufficient defences (or enough of them). Everyone talks about Creative but Telepathic play is virtually unstoppable.

      1. John says:

        There isn’t really a ground combat mini-game. Just weight of numbers and firepower.

        That’s why space combat was so much more interesting.

      2. Steve C says:

        Completely agree about Telepaths. It sounded like a pretty powerful ability just from the description. Oh boy was it. I remember they were the second race I played. That became my “Eloi and Morlocks” game that I still remember well. The first race I encountered had ALL the bonuses that mattered. Lithovore, Undergrounders, No pollution, 2x pop growth, 2x Industry etc. It was literally impossible to build that race as a player as the computer had tons of bonus points from the highest difficulty. That race also had all the penalties that did not matter once I took them over like No Diplomacy. The perfect slave race. My own race was terrible due to all the penalties I took. So I only used my race for Gaia planets, and deliberately killed off the surplus. The dystopia of it all makes me smile even now.

        Sigh. Someone needs to make a modern skin of Master of Orion 2. No changes. No improvements. Just a modern graphics pass. Plus allow modding from that. I would play the hell out of that game.

        1. John, says:

          You may be in luck. There was a Master of Orion reboot-ish thing in 2016. According to one critic quoted in the Wikipedia article, the game’s graphics “may be the visual high point for 4X space titles.” According to a second critic, also quoted in the Wikipedia article, the game is “an unimaginative remake of the 4X classic” and, more to the point,

          There’s not much that’s outright wrong with Master of Orion, but there’s not much memorable or endearing about it either. It’s built on a moderately successful but bland execution of the inside-the-box space 4X formula.

          So there you go. Sounds like a prettier version of Master of Orion 2 to me. Couldn’t tell you about the modding potential though.

          1. Hector says:

            Meh. It’s ok, but not even really as good as MoO2.

  12. Moss says:

    Riot has done the same thing as BDO. They install Vanguard and have it running in the background even when Valorant isn’t running.

  13. Chad Miller says:

    My favorite Microsoft politics story was reading about the creation of PowerShell. Basically, PowerShell is a command line you can download for Windows that was meant to overcome a number of shortcomings with the “Command Prompt” tool that ships with Windows itself.

    It’s available directly from Microsoft because it was created by people who couldn’t be bothered to deal with all the political nonsense it would take to push their improvements to Command Prompt itself.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Testing web apps for Internet Explorer, and more recently, Edge, seem to have something similar going on. For a while, there were full-install virtual-machines of Windows available, from Microsoft[1], for testing those browsers. The way they were set up however, I think you could run any programs normally, but the whole desktop had a “warning, this is only for testing browsers” text on it, and I think the thing would boot you out after half an hour? My guess at the time, was that they didn’t have a budget for a “proper” way to test only those browsers, and this solution was what they came up with.

      [1] In some obscure corner of their many websites and documentation, but it was real actual Microsoft.

  14. Hal says:

    I’ll say the same thing I said last week:

    I never thought I’d be playing on Roll20 (or any other VTT), but I started out of necessity, and it’s turned out to be really solid.

    It takes getting used to, for sure. You have webcams for seeing each other (Roll20 has integrated video conferencing), though that’s never going to replace face-to-face interaction. But the same player that’s going to get distracted surfing the web during the online game is the same person that’s going to be browsing Twitter on their phone during the face-to-face.

    I’d really suggest trying it at some point.

    1. Joshua says:

      We’ll be having our fourth session this week, and I’m mostly enjoying it. My main complaints would be that it is kind of clunky to do certain things, sometimes by design to get you to actually spend money, and sometimes just by weird design choices. The first I don’t mind so much, because as with my defense of LOTRO’s F2P, a free version should be feasible, but there should be something to benefit people who actually pay money instead of just hoping they feel generous enough to pay for cosmetics. The latter is more annoying, as you’d think some of it should be fixed by now. The lack of organization for the Journal (if you’re the DM) and for the Pages is egregious.

      It sounds like Shamus needs to actually try being a PC in a virtual game, due to his concerns about his time. I’m sure there are plenty of fans here who would be happy to have him try out their games.

      As far as DMing and his concern about facial expressions, at least Roll20 allows video conferencing. You see your players’ faces on top of the game screen by default. I don’t know about the other virtual systems.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Once the COVID-19 lockdown started up, the D&D games I was in were moved to Roll20, and while I’d be interested to go back to playing face-to-face sometime soon, there’s some things that I’ll miss:

      Easy dice rolling with far less maths and no dice falling off the table; the ability to setup automated custom abilities and spells*; a database of abilities and spell descriptions that you can search much faster than leafing through a rulebook; quick-and-easy character portraits and tokens that you can fit to random art you find online.

      It’s by no means perfect, but it does have some upsides.

      *Or rather, recreate a spell from a sourcebook beyond the basic PHB as a ‘custom’ ability because dammit, I already own a physical copy of Xanathar’s Guide To Everything and I don’t want to have to buy it twice!

      1. Joshua says:

        I got lucky. After I announced that I purchased the Monster’s Manual, one of my players gifted me the PHB/XGE bundle. After spending the first session making custom tokens with TokenTool and printing off sheets from my PDF copy of the Monster’s Manual, I quickly did the math and realized how much less time I would spend having the digital Monster’s Manual actually in the game. I wish I had bought the MM/Volo’s Guide Bundle while I was at it.

      2. Joshua says:

        “Easy dice rolling with far less maths and no dice falling off the table”

        Falling off the table isn’t too bad a problem for our groups, but the math will soon become an obvious change. I didn’t know if people would choose to use the virtual dice or prefer to roll and type in their rolled results, but I suspected that even people who did the latter would quickly change over to using the platform virtual dice.

        It was painfully obvious that many people are not that good at rolling and doing the math quickly, as the one person who chose to roll physical dice would take forever to announce his results.

        1. Hal says:

          It depends.

          Roll20 makes life super easy by letting you set up character sheets and organize your actions. Are you attacking with your mace? One button push, and the system shows your attack and damage rolls, with your relevant bonuses included. Which does go a lot faster than rolling and adding, assuming you already know what you want to do and aren’t searching around for the button to push.

          On the other hand, I have a player in my game who just prefers to roll real dice and then announce his results over the mic. (I trust him not to cheat, he’s not that kind of player.) Does it take longer? Marginally. But he’s also good about paying attention and knowing what actions he wants to take when his turn comes around, so it tends to even out over the course of a battle.

          But that tactile sensation of throwing dice is high on the list of things people miss when playing digitally. You make do.

  15. The voice actors in Eastshade sound like they recorded their voice work themselves at home–the audio quality is variable and they have a random variety of accents, it’s kind of amusing.

    I didn’t finish it. There started being plot doors that prevent you from getting some of the mandatory objectives and they got more and more complicated and involving things like “explore the entire island that you’ve walked back and forth over several times in minute detail to find five really tiny things” and I got bored and started looking things up with the inevitable result that I found things that I missed.

    Also one of the plot doors is obtaining a watercraft that you have to gather a ton of materials for . . . and if you “pack” it, you HAVE TO GATHER THE MATERIALS AGAIN. So you either have to remember where you left it (no map markers!) or gather many multiples of the materials in order to make several copies of it.

    So I just got tired. It’s really pretty but I think it would actually have been BETTER if they’d left it more open and optional instead of locking so many things behind annoyances.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I played Eastshade about a year ago when it first started working on Proton (with Proton?); I liked it, but it’s definitely not a perfect game. It feels like a small-team game with a lot of heart which could use just a little more polish. For instance, pretty early on you meet someone who’s moping about having lost something at the beach. This is pretty clear RPG-signalling for “Go look for this guy’s lost thing so you can return it to him,” but (spoilers) you cannot actually see the item until you get a special brew from someone else later on which lets you see hidden items. (Which, in another odd choice on the game’s part, has no other use that I could tell; I expected to start using it around the island to find other hidden things but I never encountered another situation where it did anything.)

      I too found some of the anthropomorphic animals unsettling as Paul said. I can handle the monkey people, the bear people, and even the owl people, but for whatever reason the deer people are incredibly weird looking and off-putting. Ungulant mouths just should not move that way.

      That said, I do really like the game overall, to the point that I was motivated enough to explore that I got 100% of the achievements. (It may help that I took up painting as a hobby less than a year before playing it and it was cool to see that represented in a game.)

      The music is beautiful (I even bought the soundtrack). I found the voice acting to be pretty decent overall, especially with the variety of interesting accents. It looks amazing (which is what you want in a game about painting things), though there were one or two places where it seemed like the world wasn’t quite finished being textured or something. (And I saw the exact same thing in a video recorded on Windows, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just a WINE bug.) It’s an RPG without combat or stats, which is rather different from anything I’ve played before, making it more about the puzzles and the exploration and painting pretty pictures. I love exploration in games, and the lack of combat meant I could focus on the sightseeing without worrying about getting ambushed by stepping 5 meters off the beaten trail. There’s also one neat twist I really loved where, at the very end of the game, you get on the boat to leave, and then just when you expect the credits to roll, you wake up back in your (previously un-seen) home, with all the paintings you chose to keep hung up on the walls and written notes from many of the people you met and befriended scattered around. It’s a really neat epilogue and makes for a great closer.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        I ended up finishing it the day after recording (Sunday) and enjoyed the time I spent.
        When you “pack” the boat (or tent, or bicycle) it ends up in your equipment, so you can use it as many times as you like. I can see how it would be really frustrating if you didn’t know that though, and the game certainly doesn’t go out of its way to help clarify that portion of the interface.
        But yeah, everything else you both said was true. The quirky quests were about half charming and half tired tropes. The paintings look better than the already beautiful in-game graphics, but I wished there was a way to gauge what elements would be “included” in the composition before spending the inspiration on the experiment. There was no way to ask the locals for directions. I liked that the map was just a map, with no magical “You are here” marker. I used a walk-through in a few places.

        Most of all, though, I was struck with the atmosphere. Wandering around Eastshade and talking to people made me feel like I was playing in the world of Dinotopia. Everyone is an artist or craftsman, the animals talk, everything is beautiful and wreathed in flowers and colors and amazing architecture is everywhere. I want a sequel actually with dinosaurs this time. But by the same token, it was a bit unsatisfyingly one-sided like Dinotopia. I felt, after 12 hours carefree painting, mainlining hallucinogens in a coracle, and traipsing over the countryside like a yuppie, that I needed to play a bit of G.I. Joe: American Lazer Warrior just to clear my pallet.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          I hear you on the bit about knowing what elements were captured in a painting. Most of them were pretty straightforward (“I want a painting with a chicken in it”, “I want one with a stone arch”, etc.), or else so specific you knew it’d be something you’d recognize when you saw it (“I want a painting of a giant cavern-like space with stars twinkling in the ceiling”) but there were some I took a few tries figuring out what they wanted. (Oh, you want this one specific “rustic cottage”, not either of the other two I painted for you?) In practice I never ran out of inspiration (I think it’s technically unlimited once you can brew your own tea with scavenged materials, though it does take a while to get there), but it always felt like something I should hang on to and not experiment with too much. Which is a real pity in a game about making paintings. Maybe it would’ve been good to give you one point every night you get at least 8 hours sleep or something, to help you feel like it’s not going to run out. I’d love to see more games tackle the same question of artistic inspiration and creation to see some more approaches to it.

        2. Oh, really? Hmm, I might give it another go sometime now that I know you get to keep the boat–that was the most frustrating part for me by far.

          Also, yuppies are Young Urban Professionals . . . not known for traipsing over the countryside unless it’s a golf outing.

          Also Also, a pallet is one of those lumber things they use to stack goods on. The thing in your mouth is a palate. :)

          *cough* DON’T MIND ME THX

  16. Douglas Sundseth says:

    Note: I am not a lawyer. What follows is my layman’s understanding of the law. Do not use this as legal advice; for that, you need to retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction.

    That said, fireworks legality:

    Governments can make the possession or use of fireworks illegal. But fireworks sold into interstate commerce are covered by the commerce clause of the constitution, and the feds have not made such sales illegal. So, if you can demonstrate (or make case for the seller that won’t get him into trouble) that the fireworks are going into interstate commerce, as for instance by showing a drivers license from a different state, there’s not much the states or cities can do, at least about the sale.

    Hence the state line fireworks stands you will see everywhere.

    This does not affect any local law regarding possession or use, though. You can still get in serious trouble for either of those.

  17. Zeta Kai says:

    Thank you Shamus, both for the plug & the answers. I know that we have video chat as a flex goal, so that should address your primary need in a platform. It would be a basic feature, but setting up a P2P network is no small task, & figuring out the logistics of server configs, video compression schemes, et cetera is difficult to say the least. I’m just the design guy on the Critical Zero team, so the back-end specifics are way above my know-how; I’m not even sure if I’m describing the problems correctly.

    I do know that video chat has been discussed at length, & we have a plan for how to tackle it, assuming that we meet our goals. I also know that video chat will be a feature eventually, regardless of our Kickstarter’s performance, as the team is fully behind bringing this platform to market eventually, but that a successful campaign will greatly speed up the process. IF you have any other questions about our plans, ideas, or goals, then just let me know, & I’ll do my best to answer them.

    1. Douglas Sundseth says:

      I’ve been running and playing in remote or partly-remote games for many years now. We started this when one of our regular players moved 1000 miles away in the middle of a campaign and have continued with everybody remote during the recent unpleasantness.

      I also own Fantasy Grounds (Classic or whatever it’s called), but have never found it very useful for actual games.

      We have been using Google Hangouts for years and have recently moved to some combination of Discord and Google Meet (depending on what seems to be less problematic at the time). For us, pointing a camera at the map (run by the GM) and using voice connections seems to work best. We trust people to report their own dice rolls rather than using any sort of shared rolling app, because why would you want to play with people you don’t trust?

      I’ve considered the possibility of using a graphics program instead of a camera and just moving sprite-like objects around for people, on the theory that this would be easier for the players to understand. Heck, you could even use an obscuration layer and just erase the mask as people see more of the map.

      For me to consider using some sort of tabletop app, prep would have to be about an order of magnitude less effort than it is with any of the currently available apps. (Perhaps if I had spent the time to climb the learning curve with one of them, it would be less problematic, but that climb is part of the effort I’m complaining about.)

      1. Joshua says:

        Why did you not find Fantasy Grounds useful? As stated above, we use Roll20, but I’ve heard that Fantasy Grounds has even more deluxe options. Does it have built-in teleconferencing software like Roll20?

        For your discussion of using a Graphics program, that’s essentially what Roll20 is. You copy a map (find tons of them online, or make your own) onto a page in Roll20, and line it up with the existing grid*, which is much easier than hand-drawing maps or showing maps with a camera. The latter we tried doing with a webcam and cell phone 8 years ago for a player who left the state, and we hated it. Anyway, Roll20 has an option for a default Fog of War so you can uncover parts of the map as the players explore those areas. If you want to use the premium version, you can also do dynamic lighting so that players will be limited to the light sources/vision their individual characters have so each player will see different things on their screens.

        *Ugh, this is the part that causes me the MOST prep time using Roll20. Find an existing map that matches the concept that I have in mind (I’ve also found some programs that allow you to make your own maps, but haven’t yet spent the money or time trying them out). The problem is that most fantasy maps are going to come with gridlines already established, so you need to spend time to make sure that you meticulously size and move the map so the gridlines are near perfectly overlapped, or your players are going to be seriously annoyed. If you don’t, you’ll either have two sets of gridlines which will cause confusion and distort the picture, or you can make the Roll20 ones invisible but then the tokens won’t seem to line up properly into their squares.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I’ve always struggled with getting the grids to align in Roll20. I resorted to turning off the table grid and just using the lines on my map images.

        2. Douglas Sundseth says:

          Fantasy Grounds can take art from outside as well, but it has many of the same issues of lining up gridlines. Which is why just sharing a screen from a graphics program might be easier. Set up a background layer with the map, then obscuration layers (one for each room would match the way that we tend to draw things on the table) and “sprite” layers with tokens for each player that can easily be moved.

          Fantasy Grounds has lots of capabilities, but the overhead for them is pretty high. You can set up character sheets with all the stuff your character has access to, and have descriptions easily available for each of them. You can roll attacks that automatically determine both whether the attack hits and how much damage it does, and track the total damage on the opponent. And so on.

          But all of that has to be set up, which is a slower process than I would wish that it were. And when you include setting up the maps and NPCs, especially combat NPCs, it never becomes (in total) a better experience than just pointing a camera at a map and handling the skills (et al.) the old-fashioned way. This is abetted by playing with a regular group, where I don’t worry about player dishonesty breaking the game.

          If I were running multiple groups online through the same campaign, I might well have a different opinion. At that point, the overhead is shared between groups and the friction in each game is reduced enough to make it more reasonable to use a virtual tabletop. And if I were playing with multiple groups, I might be more worried about balance and honesty issues causing problems for player enjoyment than I am with my current group.

          Which means that even though I have FG, I don’t use it in my current situation.

          HTH

  18. Douglas Sundseth says:

    Apologies for the consecutive-ish posts, but the subject is different, so there you go.

    For 4X games, I loved Master of Magic, enjoyed Endless Legend (and Endless Space) and Fallen Enchantress, loved both MOO2 and MOO3 (it’s not a replacement for MOO2, but it’s a good game for the right audience in its own right), and spent quite a lot of time (and had a lot of fun with) Gal Civ N, Total War (almost all of the games), Sword of the Stars, …

    Europa Universalis always seemed a bit clunky to me, but I haven’t played the later games in the series. (They’re in my Steam library, of course. 8-)

    The most recent 4X game that I have really enjoyed has been Old World, which is currently an Epic exclusive (unfortunately). It’s in pre-release, but it’s already an amazing experience.

  19. Duoae says:

    Congratulations, Paul! Hope the new job goes well:)

    On a completely unrelated note – how much do we have to pay Shamus to do a whole podcast in fake cockney English?

  20. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Regarding the loot boxes and the stupid naked greed. There’s always going to be some idiot out there nakedly grabbing for too much, and if they’re already doing it then the smart companies might be seeing that the days for taking advantage of this kind of monetization are numbered so go maximum exploitation and rake in all the dough you can while you can get away with it rather than your proposed, safe, whale based strategy.

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