Diecast #312: Chip Fab, Good Robot Source

By Shamus Posted Monday Aug 10, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 64 comments

If you’re here because you like to hear me whine about games that disappointed me, then you’re in luck! You get a double helping this week. If you get annoyed by “You never gave the game a chance!” and “You quit just before it got good!”, then this is not going to be your favorite episode.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

00:00 Visiting a chip Fab

Can anyone explain what those mirror balls are for? It’s really bugging me.

07:38 Good Robot is now open source.

Like I said on the show, the source is open but you’ll still need to art assets to run the gameOr I suppose you can make your own, if dozens of hours of your life are worth less than $9.. I’ve got a few Steam keys left over. If you’re a programmer and you want to play around with the code and you’d rather not buy the game, then email the Diecast (address is in the header image) and I’ll send you a key. I don’t know when I’ll run out, so it’s first-come-first serve.

18:32 Werner Herzog, Shodan, and characters that demand a medium.

Here’s the Errant Signal episode I mentioned.

Link (YouTube)

32:25 Advert Impressions: Littlewood

Link (YouTube)

34:14 Advert Impressions: Grounded

Link (YouTube)

35:31 Phantasy Star Online 2

I don’t know who decided to put a click-through visual novel inside of this MMO, but it didn’t work for me.

52:37 Empyrion Galactic Survival

If this game was still in Early Access, I might have been more forgiving of the jank. But that was a really rough start for something that’s supposedly been “released”.

1:02:56 Mailbag: Twitter

Deeeear diecast,

Shamus, I know you’ve voiced your disdain for Twitter a few times, and have since deleted your account. But have you considered using it exclusively for announcing new posts on your blog? Who knows, it might generate some additional traffic.

Kind regards

Here is the podcast I mentioned on the show.

Short answer: Maybe it would yield extra traffic, but the platform is nasty and distracting and I’m afraid I’ll make an ass of myself as so many professionals do when using the platform.

I’m also eager to ditch Facebook, but I keep that for family connections and I’m not sure what will happen when I leave. So for the last year I’ve just settled for logging in once every 4 months to make sure nobody died and then logging out again.



[1] Or I suppose you can make your own, if dozens of hours of your life are worth less than $9.

From The Archives:

64 thoughts on “Diecast #312: Chip Fab, Good Robot Source

  1. Chris says:

    Haven’t heard the podcast yet, but from the shownotes:
    “Can anyone explain what those mirror balls are for? It’s really bugging me.”
    Seems to me they are opposite of the doors on the left side. Thus if anyone opens the door they can use the mirror ball to see if anyone is in the hallway before coming out. (I assume they have big carts in those rooms, so you want to know if the coast is clear before you push it out and accidentally hit someone)

    “I don’t know who decided to put a click-through visual novel inside of this MMO, but it didn’t work for me.”
    Well WOW put in flappy bird, pokemon and bejeweled.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Where I went to university there were tunnels connecting all the buildings — a selling point for Canadian winters — and they had those mirrors up at the corners, but it was mostly for the motorized carts that the maintenance workers used to get around in the tunnels to make sure that they didn’t run into students walking to class.

    2. Kathryn says:

      Yeah, we have them at work in our T intersections. I walk fast enough that I do actually check them before rounding a corner at top speed. (Mostly self-preservation – if I smack into someone else, I’m likely the one going down as I am quite short and fairly slim.)

      Of course, that was back when we went to work…

  2. Joe says:

    The insidious thing about politics on Twitter is that it sometimes shows people you don’t follow, but people you follow follow. IE I don’t follow Mark Hamill, but 10 of my follows do. Sometimes he gets RTed. Sometimes he just randomly pops up. Often it’s a SW thing, but sometimes it’s something controversial, like pineapple on pizza. Worse than that, one of my follows* almost exclusively posts about pizza toppings. Now, I agree with both of their pizza stances. I just don’t always want to see it.

    What’s weird, last year I picked up two followers that stick in the mind. One followed people on both sides of the pizza debate, the other had completely the wrong stance. I don’t know why either started following me, and I muted both of them. While I don’t post much, and less about pizza, why would either want to see my opinions on the matter?

    *Nazanin Boniadi, from the forthcoming LOTR TV series. I’m following everyone from the show, though they can’t actually say anything yet.

    In other news, games, huh? Yeah, the long intro really is a drag. I know that games should have intros, for beginners to games. But why drag it out? And furthermore, why drown the important stuff in a sea of nonsense? Surely, games should be gameplay first, then bring in the bits of story here and there. I mean, books usually try to keep exposition to a minimum. Just strange behaviour.

  3. Ninety-Three says:

    Short answer: Maybe it would yield extra traffic, but the platform is nasty and distracting and I’m afraid I’ll make an ass of myself as so many professionals do when using the platform.

    If your worry is distraction then there are third party “publish to Twitter” utilities that will let you announce blogposts and otherwise push content without surfacing the “hey, look at this attention-grabbing bullshit” parts of Twitter, if you’re okay with running it as a broadcast-only account that doesn’t respond to being @ed.

    1. Lino says:

      Yeah, but if you want those tweets to lead to traffic, you need to have followers who see qnd retweet your content. And, as far as I’m aware, if you want to have followers, you need to start following people and getting into the conversation – posting about popular topics that lead to people following you.

      At least that’s what I’ve observed. I’ve never had a Twitter account, and thankfully, no one uses Twitter in my country. My main exposure to it is following a couple of people there, and occasionally watching some poor sod getting blasted for having the wrong opinion…

    2. Philadelphus says:

      I think you’ve basically described an RSS feed (which is what I use to keep up with posts here, coincidentally).

    3. Erik Baars says:

      Yeah this was mostly what I was talking about in my question, but I worded it poorly. I should’ve used the word “Bot” in there somewhere.

      I follow a lot of accounts on twitter, just to know when they have new content up. Like order of the stick.

  4. Thomas says:

    If Werner Herzog films show you characters who are you can only understand through seeing their actions, games can show you characters you can only understand by walking in their shoes.

    Papers, Please is the first example that springs to my mind. It wouldn’t be enough to show that guards actions, because so much of their experience is about the decision making process going on in the head, why they let one person through and not another, why the act of making that decision is stressful. You can’t understand what it’s like to make those decisions without going through the process of weighing the options that you never took.

    Real spies, or other people who have to lie through their lives are another one. Someone who has to not only hide their emotion, but hide their outward actions to make someone believe they are different than they are. I’m disappointed how few games have ever explored this space. Think of a TellTale style game where you have to lie in not just the dialogue, but the decisions you make to through off the suspicions of the people around you.

    I played The Council like this, I lied to everyone and hid my actions because I was on an island full of conspirators and I thought the only way to defeat the conspiracy was to seem like I was going along with it every step of the way. Unfortunately the game seems to stop you from taking some choices if you didn’t verbalise your desire to to another character, which spoiled it. But it was so close to great!

    I also think the feeling of living in or exploring a place, of doing mundane daily tasks, of solving problems and improving yourself are things which visual mediums can’t fully convey. In that sense, perhaps Red Dead Redemption 2 was onto something, even if it wasn’t a very fun thing!

    EDIT: The player character in Hellblade: Sensua’s Sacrifice is another character that can only be done in a game.

    1. Thomas says:

      Also, I’ll throw in divvying up rations in The Walking Dead, and realising you have no powers and you have to remember how facts about Kate’s life to talk her off the roof in Life is Strange as moments which are game only. And perhaps the whole of This War of Mine

      1. Syal says:

        Yeah, games about handling hard choices and juggling priorities, so Banner Saga, Papers Please, We The Revolution and such.

        Also probably puzzle-based journey-as-metaphor games. JJ Macfield and the Island of Memories involves solving puzzles through horrible self-mutilation which I really don’t see translating. Or Earthbound and Earthbound-like worlds that run on dream logic.

    2. Daimbert says:

      I’m not sure that games are the best media for getting deep inside a specific character. Books, since they allow for their inner thoughts, tend to work better for that. But games are the best for allowing people to understand what it’s like to be A PERSON in that specific situation and at that time and not a specific person in that situation and at that time, because you end up doing it yourself and it works best if you try to collapse the player-character distinction. Taking Papers, Please, I think more of its impact is that it comes across as YOU in that situation, and not you playing Character X who is in that situation. The less defined the character is, the better it would work for ideas like that.

      1. Thomas says:

        But in a broader sense, it’s not you, because you’ve never been a border guard in a fictional eastern european country. It’s a fictional character the game helps you create. And whilst I agree the lack of definition helps, it’s not the less the better. There’s a balance where the game defines enough to create the specifics it needs – for example the Player Character in Papers, Please has a wife, son, uncle and mother-in-law which is a crucial part of how the Player Character makes definitions.

        The Player Character is a very unusual sort of character, but it’s unsualness makes it very powerful at conveying some aspects that can’t be conveyed in other mediums. The fact the PC has no analogue in films or books is exactly what makes the PC special, and allows games to show things which can’t be shown in another medium.

        I did try and think about non-player characters, and I think there is space to do something unique with them too, but I think that’s harder whilst maintaining something that could be plausibly programmed.

        1. Daimbert says:

          But in a broader sense, it’s not you, because you’ve never been a border guard in a fictional eastern european country. It’s a fictional character the game helps you create.

          Maybe it would be better to call it a “role” rather than a character. I agree that the work needs to define the role enough so that it can be played, but in a game which is interactive the more freedom the player has in playing that role the better. Taking your example of Papers, Please, the family is there as plot elements, things the player has to react to or that drive the events they react to in the role. So the definition is more “You are a clerk in a totalitarian government with a family that has to deal with the precarious nature of the job and seemingly inconsequential decisions that are really consequential and so on”. But you aren’t, say, Vladmir Gorkov and don’t have to adopt his personality.

          I did try and think about non-player characters, and I think there is space to do something unique with them too, but I think that’s harder whilst maintaining something that could be plausibly programmed.

          I think the biggest thing that games can do uniquely with NPCs is the let the player character determine things with them more than can be done with supporting characters in a movie. You can let the player decide which NPCs they associate with, which they romance, and how their lives turn out. The Persona games do a fairly good job of allowing you to decide which NPCs you hang out with, but Dragon Age: Origins might be the best for this, as you can decide which you recruit and which you don’t, to kill some of them, to tick some of them off, and even a lot of things about their lives, and can even harden a couple of them (Alistair and Leliana).

          Ultimately, that’s what games have over movies: the ability to let the player determine things about the plot and the characters. That’s why they work best to really let someone know what it’s like to be in a specific situation, but because the player tends to want to do the things they think makes sense it’s worse at getting you into the head of a specific character.

    3. silver Harloe says:

      at 23 minutes in right after they mentioned all the things Werner Herzog does, and then how in film making he’s only interested in characters that can only be expressed in film, and then started talking about “what are characters that can only be expressed in games?”

      My immediate thought was “so Werner Herzog is going into games development now, too?”

    4. Echo Tango says:

      The Ship is a pretty good game, for at least part of what makes a spy. Namely, hiding in plain sight, so you can accomplish your goal. (Everyone else is either an NPC, or also trying to be spies…I guess assassins really. I don’t think there were any non-murder goals, but I could be mis-remembering.) There’s also SpyParty, where one player is a sniper trying to take out the other player, who’s a spy doing shifty things at a cocktail party. :)

  5. Thomas says:

    On Shamus’ point about being specific to a medium, there’s a very fun example. Heart of Darkness is a book. Aguirre the Warth of God is a film by Werner Herzog based on the Heart of Darkness. And Spec Ops: The Line is a game based on The Heart of Darkness.

    Someone could write a good lit thesis on what is different about what each adaptation does that only works in the medium it was created in.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Not as classic, but you can also look at the animation that was based on Persona 4. They made changes — some of which I didn’t care much for, like collapsing the S-links and dungeon runs — but you can see why they made the changes they did, and the extra ability to focus on the characters and points make some — particularly Yukiko — far more sympathetic than she was in the game. I see that anime as one that’s a prime example of a great adaptation, reacting to what the new media couldn’t allow for while building in the things that it could allow for that the original work couldn’t.

    2. Lino says:

      Oh, if anyone wants to actually do this, please include Apocalypse Now – another great movie inspired by Heart of Darkness. The book itself holds a very special place in my heart. In addition to being utterly amazing, it made me feel completely inadequate about my English skills at a time I really, really needed it :D

  6. John says:

    Hey Shamus, thanks for making the Good Robot source available. I haven’t used C++ in over twenty years (and I was never all that good with it anyway) but I’m reading main.cpp in another tab right now and enjoying myself tremendously.

  7. Ciennas says:

    The mirror balls in the picture are just…. mirrors. They’re in one of my nearby hospitals. They let people see around corners without stepping out into the hall, as a safety measure.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    We complain about “well these games are trying to be movies” and yeah but maybe the idea that they’re trying to express would be better expressed by a movie so you can’t really complain that they’re kinda like a movie

    Sure I can. The best way at expressing those ideas is not a videogame that feels kinda like a movie, it is a movie so of course I’m going to complain that they picked the wrong story for their medium. I think this mostly comes down to videogame storytelling still being in its infancy (compare: film in the 1920s) so the go-to approach for writers is to borrow movie-style storytelling and then stitch cutscenes together with fights where Nathan Drake shoots a hundred dudes because that’s what videogames are right?

    1. Daimbert says:

      Yeah, that’s a good point. If the idea you’re trying to express would work best as a movie, then just make a movie and save the ideas that work better as games for games. That being said, if you want to make a game with a story and make one that’s movie-like — since movie stories are closest to what you can do in games — then that’s not really an issue. There’s a difference between starting from an idea and trying to find a media to express it in and starting with a work in a certain sort of media and putting together parts of an idea to make it more interesting or different.

      1. SupahEwok says:

        I mean, I feel like that’s ignoring the reality of where people work. If you’re a videogame dev and you have this story idea you love that would really work better as a movie, are you going to go out and make a movie? By and large, no. Most people can’t just pivot like that, for all sorts of logistical and personal reasons. If you have a story idea and you work on video games, you almost certainly only have video games to express your story, and are therefore going to express it in a videogame.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I think that might work for indie gaming — I can’t make a movie but can make a game and want to play with this — but not so much for AAA gaming or anything outside of very small groups. After all, in the bigger groups you have others that depend on you, so picking a story that doesn’t really work that well for games because you like it and won’t get to do a movie with it is pretty selfish. It would be better to abandon that idea and either come up with another idea or massage that idea into one that works for a game.

          1. tmtvl says:

            Maybe, but don’t forget: AAA means shareholders shudder.

          2. Thomas says:

            But also, this is all ignoring the reality that a lot of these games that are “like movies” are massively popular with a lot of people and many people find them meaningful. Sure we could bunker down and insist only the ‘purest’ games should be made, but the reality is the hybrid interactive-cinematic medium exists, is consumed and enjoyed.

            1. Syal says:

              That’s a thing to keep in mind; the audience is not a passive entity, and various media have various advantages for the audience unrelated to the story being told. That’s the reason books get turned into movies; the audience wants to get the story that way, and will accept story compromises to do so. (Less true for games, but there’s still the advantage that you get to punch the boss yourself.)

            2. Chad Miller says:

              But also, this is all ignoring the reality that a lot of these games that are “like movies” are massively popular with a lot of people and many people find them meaningful

              Quality by popular vote is always suspect, but especially so when we’re comparing to things that don’t really exist because hardly anyone’s even trying to create them.

              this is all ignoring the reality that a lot of these games that are “like movies” are massively popular with a lot of people and many people find them meaningful

              Conversely, we shouldn’t pretend these games are the best the medium has to offer just because they’re what complacent developers offer to players who by and large don’t know what they’re missing.

              1. Retsam says:

                Ah yes, if a company makes a game I really like, it’s because it’s the best that the medium has to offer, but if they make a game in a style I happen to not care for, it’s because they’re just catering to fickle popularity.

                There’s no objective basis to the idea that “games shouldn’t be like movies”, it’s just personal taste. Arguing that an entire class of games basically shouldn’t exist just because they don’t fit your personal definition of what a proper game looks like is just senseless.

                Yes, it’s frustrating when the gaming industry doesn’t happen to be pumping out the exact sort of game you like, but sometimes that’s just the hazard of having an unpopular opinion.

                1. Chad Miller says:

                  Ah yes, if a company makes a game I really like, it’s because it’s the best that the medium has to offer, but if they make a game in a style I happen to not care for, it’s because they’re just catering to fickle popularity.

                  Actually, what I’m saying is pretty much the opposite of that. It’s fine, natural even, to like a game that exists over a game that doesn’t. That doesn’t say anything about the quality of the games that don’t exist or how popular they would be if people could actually buy and play them.

                2. Daimbert says:

                  There’s no objective basis to the idea that “games shouldn’t be like movies”, it’s just personal taste. Arguing that an entire class of games basically shouldn’t exist just because they don’t fit your personal definition of what a proper game looks like is just senseless.

                  The big advantage that games have over other media is that they are interactive, and so the player gets to influence what’s happened. If the plot of a game drops that out of the picture, then what reason did they have for making it a game? Think of a visual novel where all you do is click on the one available option every few minutes that takes you to the next cutscene. Don’t you think that it’s more than personal taste to say that that probably should have been a movie and not a game, since it doesn’t take advantage of anything games bring and the game elements actually make it worse as a movie (since you can’t sit back and just enjoy it but have to do something every so often to get it to continue)? The game elements detract from the movie experience but there’s nothing there that requires those game elements or that the game elements enhance. I think that objectively we could criticize it for being too much of a movie to be a game.

                  1. Syal says:

                    Don’t you think that it’s more than personal taste to say that that probably should have been a movie

                    Depends how much animation it has. If it’s just a few canned animations then it actually wants to be a book, but a book with pictures. A… sight-based… story, let’s call it. The advantage of a book is that it moves at the reader’s pace, and it can take eight hours to tell a story without needing its dramatic moments to be exactly forty-two minutes apart from each other like TV shows do.

                    1. Daimbert says:

                      Yeah, it is a perfectly reasonable criticism of a visual novel to say that it didn’t take advantage of the visual medium and so it probably should have just been a novel instead.

                    2. Syal says:

                      it didn’t take advantage of the visual medium

                      It does take advantage of the visual medium. It adds reaction shots to a book. It can emphasize line delivery in a way a book can’t control, because the reader’s eyes can skip lines or repeat lines and ruin the effect. If you flip a page in a comic book and see out of the corner of your eye that panel 5 is the hero forcing the villain eat a sardine, your interest in panels 1 through 4 is probably gone; visual novels can avoid that, books can’t without tiny pages or heavy padding.

                      There’s a place for intermediate steps between books and movies, and the more RPGs I play the more I realize that’s what I want out of entertainment. Give enough visualization to set the scene, and then fill the story in with text and leave the smaller details to the audience’s imagination. Neither a book nor a movie will capture the charm of the staircase in Trails in the Sky 3 (*plot spoilers for TITS 1 and 2 btw*) Visual novels are a version of that, and are where they should be.

                  2. Thomas says:

                    I disagree with you, but I’m also happy to leave it here, because I’m sure people are going to make the same complaints for decades to come without anything changing. In the meantime the people who buy and like “movie-like games” will probably continue to buy and enjoy them.

                    EDIT: Obviously I’d be happy if there were also more non-movie like games for the other people to enjoy, but I actually think there’s already plenty of games going down this route now, as far as programming and technology will let them. And as both programming and technology, there will probably be even more to come

            3. Daimbert says:

              The problem here is that movies are very non-interactive while games are very interactive. Most of the games that can survive a plot that is a movie and so where there’s little player interaction tend to be games like FPSes where the gameplay is dominant and the cutscenes just move you on to the next phase of the gameplay (ie where story isn’t as important). If we look at games where story is more dominant, outside of Visual Novels — and even inside of them — there is often a complaint that the story is too much like a movie, which means that it isn’t interactive enough. And it seems to me that the complaints that the idea works better for a movie are indeed generally complaints that we have to spend too much time watching it and not enough time interacting with it.

        2. Chad Miller says:

          If you want to be a vegan gourmet chef and you work at a McDonald’s, then regardless of how hard you may find it not to work at a McDonald’s that is absolutely where the problem is.

          Of course, if you really do want to work at a video game company, then that’s all the more reason to want to create a video game story and not a story for some other medium.

          It’s not the player’s job to like something that’s bad.

  9. ccesarano says:

    I, too, like robot suits, but I also really like anime and have a high tolerance for some of its tropes.

    But I tried Phantasy Star Online 2 on Xbox One and… I’m… not sure. A couple of my friends were interested in giving it a try when it launched on Windows Store, but the game evidently kept uninstalling itself over and over and they could never get it to run. Naturally, that is fixed now that it is on Steam, but no one seems interested in playing.

    I think it has crossplay, but if you want to keep playing or try playing with someone else, I could try grabbing it on Steam or figure out if there’s a way to friend up between an Xbox and a Steam user so I can keep my current character.

    In regards to the narrative elements and the HUD having specific names, these could be a product of being a Japanese take on the MMO, given that story and characters are a [i]huge[/i] part of the experience. Is that suitable for an MMO? Not likely, but it’s a big thing, and evidently is part of what makes Final Fantasy XIV the best story the franchise has seen in a long time (if not the best altogether). However, even having started playing FFXIV for a while, it definitely made a better first impression than PSO2.

    And the “each HUD needs its own name”, well, I dunno when that became a trend, but it’s like everything needs a unique name now. “Welcome to the F.E.V.E.R. system, also known as the Fighting Egregiously Violent Enemies Repeatedly system. Press the X button to unleash your Heat Fist (Light Attack) to fill your Temperature Gauge, and once full hold L1 R1 to unleash your VIRAL STIMULANT (a.k.a “special attack”)”. Don’t ask me why this became a thing, but it is, though it’s not as bad as it was between 2000 and 2010.

    Also: this game was originally released in 2012 in Japan. It only released in America for the first time this year. The problem is MMO’s have come a long way since then.

    But yeah, hit me up on Discord if you want to try some multiplayer, though I gave the game a try to see if my buddies and I could find an alternative to Destiny 2. After that introduction I thought “Okay… yeah… this isn’t replacing anything…” In fact, I might use a different e-mail to create a new character in the Free-To-Play portions of Final Fantasy XIV and give that another whirl (I gave up when they said I had to group up with strangers for dungeons and I got cold feet).

    1. Thomas says:

      The fact that anime take a lot of inspiration from videogames creates space for some weird recursive pollination. I could believe they decided to name all the elements of the HUD, because that’s what happens in the anime that are inspired by videogames.

      1. The Big Brzezinski says:

        A lot of both anime games and shows seem really strange after watching Log Horizon, which is an anime story from a guy who really liked Everquest. Instead of video game tropes, you get mostly tropes related gamers themselves. The characters reflect the diverse sorts of nerds who played MMOs in their heyday, how they got along, and how they dealt with problems. Heck, the hypest moment in the first season is the use of a friggin’ crafting skill. It’s really good stuff, and it’s on Hulu if anyone’s interested.

    2. DeadlyDark says:

      I wonder if HUD names were before E.V.A. – Electronic Video Agent, from Tiberian time of day series?

  10. Wiseman says:

    I gotta say that even though I tell people they should use Twitter as an RSS feed I really don’t follow a lot of accounts that only post links to their content when it comes up. Still, I would follow yours, Shamus. Because I believe in you and I can read your updates in your voice.

  11. Chad Miller says:

    Re: Grounded – I played it a bit. No strong opinions yet but I think the reason Obsidian of all people made it is that someone got the idea while they were developing Supernova difficulty in The Outer Worlds. A lot of assets appear to be reused from that game.

  12. The Big Brzezinski says:

    Lots of painful nodding over here about Empyrion. It’s not even like they’re declaring the game finished, even though that’s what most people decided to understand. Eleon (German company who makes the game) just decided to stop calling updates “Alpha ##”. It’s like people are addicted to anticipation. Anything that threatens to collapse the waveform is to be rejected, lest they be confined to a specific reality. As long the game has “early access” painted on the side, people can spend hours just imagining the myriad reasons the devs might come up with why you cannot get ye flask.

    The tutorial is garbage, though. In practice, once you suss out which of the three or so immediately nearby plants can be harvested and made into energy bars in the Tab screen, you’ve achieved indefinite sustainability. It’s like the first time you cook a peeper in Subnautica. This base level food source provides a foundation to explore all the rest of the games systems at your own pace. The tutorial seems to forget all of this. The tutorial is more focused on getting you to perform a few distinct action without knowing the proper context. They even have you build a base in the middle of nowhere, a base you have no way of powering, expanding, or defending, a base that will tie you down to one location when what you really need to be doing is exploring. At least some of the writing is funny. It’s like a half dozen or so German software engineers and artists slammed out some placeholder story text and ran it through Google Translate. fun to laugh at, but not entirely helpful.

    If you can somehow find the time and patience to get passed all that, you’d find a game that is like Space Engineers with context. You’re not just building stuff to see what it it does. You’re building stuff because you have a problem you need to solve. Construction and design flow directly into planning, preparation, and execution. You need ships that can defend your base, mine resources, haul resources, scout for resources, carry trade goods (usually rifles) to merchants, attack fortresses, attack ships, warp to other planets, warp to other stars, make food, grow food, store food, treat diseases. You need to consider sourcing of materials, possibly prospecting, purchasing, or pilfering the ones you’re missing. You have to consider the fuel and supply requirements. And then once your ship is built, you have to actually use it. You develop your own methods of navigation, mining, defending against drones, and attacking military POIs. All this is ON TOP of a fairly decent survival game in the Minecraft vein (as opposed to DayZ). It’s not hard to keep yourself fed an healthy, but it does take some thought and planning. It’s an opportunity for creativity rather than a constant nagging drain. You can forage for food plants, hunt animals for meat, stock up from vendors for credits, or (my personal favorite) build a large space station in the middle of a star system with a huge greenhouse overlooking the nearby star that supplies you with oodles of free solar power. Just the place to store my personal fleet.

    Here’s the bottom line. Empyrion is full of great experiences, but they’re on the other side of a moat of obtuseness, and I can’t blame anyone for not tolerating a swim through stinky moat water. If you can get through it, it’s very satisfying and addicting. Lordy that moat stinks, though.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’ve played it a couple of years ago, back when it had (at least in the mode we’ve played) like two systems with 4 or 5 planets each and that was it. Actually a friend set up a server and a few of us had some fun building things up, the constructing of ships is particularly granular. The thing is at the time it had a fairly simple progression: start on the first planet, build your first base to process resources, build your first ship and go into orbit to get orbital resources, use those to build a ship that goes to a different planet, once you get the final resource that was literally it so we were done with the thing soon after. I think the twin systems were meant to work with two groups starting in each one and possibly racing to fight each other but whatevs.

      Honestly I tend to burn out on these survival games fairly quickly unless I get into a specific creative project or the game gives me something specific to aim for so I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan of the genre but I think at the time I was playing it while it was rough as heck there was a solid foundation there. Building a first ship capable of leaving the atmosphere is exciting, building a spaceflying carrier-fortress is ambitious, it just didn’t have anything to keep me going past that.

  13. Echo Tango says:

    Re: Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
    Um excuse me, some of us are old enough to have watched this amazing film. (Sooooo good! :)

    1. tmtvl says:

      Wasn’t that a show on the telly? Regardless, irrespective of the CGI, which was impressive for its day, but would warrant a fair few fewer kudos nowadays; I don’t seem to remember the film/show being particularly good.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Not sure if you’re joking but it was both.

        1. tmtvl says:

          Ah, in that case I haven’t an inkling as to the quality of the film, but the show was poorly.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            Much like many other franchises popular with kids, they made increasingly lazy sequels, spinoffs, and adaptations until the quality dropped enough that even the kids stopped caring. I’m sure there are a lot of people my age who liked the original movie and vaguely remember the second one but may or may not even know about the TV show and the third movie, or about the impending reboot probably marketed at the same people who watched Fuller House.

  14. Joshua says:

    Story best told in a video game medium vs. a film or book? Obligatory Planescape: Torment mention.

    1. tmtvl says:

      PST may have one of the best video game stories, but I don’t think it’s a marvel of storytelling. So much of it is just reading piles of text. I also can’t really recall much story-gameplay integration besides 1) the respawn mechanic, and 2) that one encounter near the end of the game that changes depending on how often you died. I don’t know if it has Fallout-style ending slides, but those are of course something you can only do in a game.

      Some examples of clever use of the video game medium to tell a story that I can think of are:

      AssCreed No Number Or Subtitle with its abstracting the more game-y stuff through the Animus.
      The Way Of The Samurai series combinesa type of VN-style pick-your-adventure choices with actual gameplay.
      In Satellite Reign skirmishes between Draco troops and other corpers can break out if the Dracos patrol into corp territory by accident, which reinforces the cyberpunk dystopia setting.
      Bunny Must Die! Chelsea and the 7 Devils is a combination of two games that are linked through integrating gameplay elements with the plot.
      I have heard it said that Undertale does something with how NPCs react if you load a game.

      Of course a full list of games that make use of the medium like these examples would be massive, though I expect there would be more indie games and fewer AAA games.

      1. Hector says:

        P:T was unusual in being a book you could play, something like choose-your-own-adventure done with much more complexity. You had many options around approaching challenges in different ways, or not at all. The text is the gameplay, but the combination of such was important.

        1. tmtvl says:

          I may be misremembering, all I remember of PST is that after leaving the Mortuary I ran into some bandits who didn’t open a dialogue or anything, it was just the game going “here’s a random encounter, kill them.”
          After all the hype I’d heard I kinda felt let down. I also died to them so I didn’t give the game another chance for a few years. Don’t really remember anything about my second playthrough, though.

          1. Hector says:

            While there is combat, it’s not really random. Even street gangs will actually respond to your actions although many players miss *why*. They don’t like strangers on their turf, so you can avoid a fight by just keeping your distance. Other enemies may be more aggressive but there are very few dropped in just to have a fight.

  15. Sleeping Dragon says:

    At the risk of retreading what was said in the podcast. I suppose the obvious answer as to what character cannot be presented through a book or a movie is “reactive” or “responsive”. You’ve mentioned AI and there are several games that are strictly focusing on interacting with one, Event[0]* is one and there was another one made in Flash about the AI waking you from cryosleep ahead of schedule and being very coy about it and having to figure out what’s going on through conversation the name of which I sadly don’t remember.

    *I have this weird memory of hearing Josh play through the game back in the day but I don’t think it was on any Spoiler Warning episode that I can find.

  16. Sleeping Dragon says:

    RE in character tutorials: On the other hand I remember playing some kind of towerdefensy fantasy game back in the day where the tutorial started literally with this:

    “Hail and well met! Ha! Relax, this isn’t that kind of game. We’re not those people saying ‘thou’ and ‘my lord’, we’re just here to have fun.”

    And I was like, “wow, bus you too game”. Because yes, there are two ways of approaching the issue and trying to shove it all in character is often clunky but damn, no need to be condescending about it.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Deus Ex and Half-Life had good tutorials. Mainly the reason those were good is that they were separate from the main game so you don’t have to sit through them whenever you replay the game.

  17. Retsam says:

    The Grounded trailer is very much in the style of Honest Trailers, to the point where I’m not 100% sure they didn’t actually hire that guy to voice it.

  18. ydant says:

    Haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but re: Grounded:

    If you have xbox game pass (at least on PC?) and friends, pick it up and play. It doesn’t have tons of depth, but it’s a lot of fun with the right people.

    The spiders are more scary/intense than they have any right to be. It can be tense braving their territories.

  19. thark says:

    Re: PSO2
    I mean it’s a f2p mmo originally released in like … 2012? I wouldn’t expect too much from it.

    Re: PSO2 trailer
    I feel like this is a common thing with japanese games, there being only a cinematic trailer and no gameplay.

  20. evilmrhenry says:

    Regarding Empyrion: Galactic Survival, it looks like it just left Early Access last week, and there’s a bunch of negative reviews that happened immediately afterwards that basically disagree with it leaving Early Access.

  21. Adam Popovitz says:

    I think that anytime that loss or personal setback from the story recipient is required then video games are the single best medium. To my knowledge no other medium enables a person to lose. Its not like a book is gonna ask a skill challenge from you, but a game will. A movie wont rewind itself because you don’t know the answer to some trivia it just made up, but a game can. I do agree that video games, for this reason, are great learning tools. Failure is required to learn effectively and a properly structured video game enables, safe, quick failure, that can be easily learned from. I would love to hear some other requirements for this, right now its the only thing that I think video games have over other mediums.

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