Diecast #314: Decaffeinated Die Cast

By Shamus Posted Monday Aug 31, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 55 comments

My plan was to do as many mailbag questions as possible, but then Paul asked about my programmingAnd he only did so because I put it in the topic list. and I spent half of this episode talking about coding, gamedev, and Blender. 

Also, I should warn you that I was running on half-brainpower because I am once again giving up caffeine. I was a bit of a stumble-brain during the show. Please pretend you noticed so I don’t have to worry that I’m actually this stupid all the time.



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast314


Link (YouTube)


00:29 Paul’s 3D commission woes


Link (YouTube)

08:45 Yes, Shamus is programming.

I’ve been dropping hints in the comments, but most people don’t read the comments so I should probably make this more official: I am programming. It’s a procgen shooter level, although there’s no shooting and nothing to shoot. So I guess it’s a walking simulator with no story?

Okay, it’s a tech demo.

This project requires quite a bit of Blender modeling, and I’m really enjoying my time with Blender. For contrast, check out this old post from the early days of this site. The program has come a long, long way.

I’m going to go back and write about this project pretty soon, and you’ll get to see what I’ve been up to and why it was 10x harder than I predictedWhich is actually really great! Most of my projects end up being 20x harder than estimated..

23:45 Mailbag: Eastshade Postmortem

Dear Diecast,

Eastshade did an update without any details, so in the course of trying to find the release notes I stumbled on this postmortem that the principal developer wrote, it’s quite fascinating and I was delighted to see that they made their investment back and then some. Also they’re working on a new game: http://www.eastshade.com/postmortem-eastshade/

Also interesting is how super-tiny their team is for such a gorgeous game. I think like, 8-10 people were listed there?

Jennifer Snow

28:53 Mailbag: Laptop Repair

Dear Diecast,

I’m currently thinking about disassembling my otherwise functional notebook computer in order to find out why the shift keys have stopped working. Have you ever attempted physical repairs on a PC or other piece of consumer electronics? If so, what made you decide to make the attempt rather than buy a replacement or do without?

–John

40:15 Different approaches to tech support

44:15 Mailbag: Mental Illness in games

DeeeEEeeeaAaAaAAaarrrr, Diecast!

On a recent episode, you were discussing the inherent uniqueness of video games, namely interactivity, and what story might benefit most from it.
This was in relation to Paul bringing up how Werner Herzog is only interested in projects that can only be told through the medium of film.

I think one of the best ways to utilize the interactive nature of games is through the portrayal of mental illnesses that often take away a persons agency.

Things such as Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Multiple Personality Disorder all can make doing simple everyday tasks incredibly difficult.

Imagine if at a certain point in a game, the player character became Clinically Depressed and you could no longer have him/her do things reliably such as eating, interacting with other NPC’s
or even repairing their equipement.
A character that became Suicidal would no longer let you use healing items and might attract monsters/enemies willingly, since they no longer care for their own well-being.

Some games played around with similiar concepts
Darkest Dungeon can make your party members become Paranoid/Selfish/Masochistic which inhibit some of their abilities, while Silent Hill 2 actually notices if you’re often low on health, despite having healing items

Have you ever played a game that uses mentall illness in a similar fasion, and if so what were they?

Thanks for reading and
may you always roll with advantage!

Jolt

57:02 Mailbag: Time and Space in Games

Servus, Würfelwerfer (pronounciation guide: servoos wir-fell ware-fer)

Something I wondered about for a long time, but it resurfaced recently due to Microsoft Flight Simulation 2020: the perception of time is greatly altered in video games, at least for me personally. To elaborate: Playing the Cessna Flight school, you have to navigate two waypoints, the shortest taking about 5 minutes. Now, in real life, five minutes are over very quickly. My commute is 6 minutes by bike and that’s so short I don’t even bother with taking my headpphones out of my pocket, because I have to turn off any aural distraction in such short a time. In game though, those 5 Minutes felt eternal, despite me actually having fun.

Is that the reason many open world games are actually quite condensed in their size, yet still feel big? I had a similar occurance when Playing Skyrim in VR: while playing “pancake” (as in, on an ordinary screen), Skyrim feels like a huge place with impressive mountain ranges throned over by the throat of the world that looms over the land in the distance from Whiterun. In VR however, seeing everything “in scale”, it turns out the TotW is a couple of hundred meters high, strangely steep hill that starts right outside of the town walls of Whiterun.

I think especially the latter might have to do with being watched through a fish eyed field of view through a monitor, but why does time feel so different? Are those phenomena linked, or different?

Kind Regards from Austria (the mountany place in Europe, NOT the upside down place)
ColeusRattus

 

Footnotes:

[1] And he only did so because I put it in the topic list.

[2] Which is actually really great! Most of my projects end up being 20x harder than estimated.



From The Archives:
 

55 thoughts on “Diecast #314: Decaffeinated Die Cast

  1. Joe says:

    Shamus, did you forget your own birthday, or was that a joke? I really can’t tell. And good to know you have grip strength from all those years clutching the mouse.

    Another game that touches on mental illness is Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines, Malkavian playthrough. I gather the PC can get into an argument with a stop sign, and lose. And possibly they’re somewhat aware of being a character in a game. Very much the old style of crazy people are funny. It’ll have to be different in Bloodlines 2. We can all imagine the outrage otherwise.

    And I could never quit coffee. I cut down a couple of years ago, and that was a rough experience. Giving up entirely is beyond my power. If you can manage it, damn, you’re good.

    1. Redrock says:

      I guess Bloodlines kinda gets off the hook because Malkavians have a kind of magical madness, a constant seer-like state, with all the voices and apparitions being not so much hallucinations as another layer of reality thet’re able to see into. However, it’s not like that sort of rationale is protecting anyone in 2020.

      1. Joe says:

        Yeah, I know about Malkavians. You could retcon them as having a connection to another state of reality, or different perceptions or something. But now the trend is to present them as having a mental illness, and it isn’t supposed to be funny. Still though, I bet some people miss the days of fishmalk.

        1. Joshua says:

          Wasn’t there a broad overlap between the people playing “Fishmalks” and the people who would play Kender (Dragonlance or not)? I never actually played tabletop VtM, so I don’t legitimately know if these portrayals were overall enjoyable or annoying to the rest of the players at the table not playing Malkavians.

          1. Joe says:

            I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

            I haven’t played tabletop VTM either. But from the APs I’ve listened to, both VTM and Deadlands are generally played more comedic than they’re written.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            That’s the stereotype, though it starts with the player, not the character. Some people love the idea of being the centre of attention, often by playing a character that’s LOLS SO WACKY. Malkavians and Kender draw such players because it’s a sort of licence for their antics.
            (Also, Tieflings.)

            Again, it’s the player over the character. It can work, but often it’s really annoying and kind of lame. A player who does Malkavian well will be outnumbered roughly 5-1* by tiresome Chaotic Stupid types.

            *Don’t quote me on that, 20sided. I know there’s a lot of statisticians etc here, so yes, that’s just my personal experience.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              This. I’m a long time Malk player and I’ve seen dread (or, admittedly, irritation) in some GM’s eyes when you mention the clan name. It’s very much a case of “90% of lawyers giving the rest a bad name”.

            2. Joshua says:

              I could agree with that in the case of Malkavians, from what I’ve read about them. It seems like there would be one million and one different ways to play a Malk that would be true to the write-up and still enjoyable to the Storyteller and rest of the players.

              Kender, though, are just a really bad race as written. Their race is written very narrowly to be near clone copies of Tasslehoff Burrfoot, and are not just disruptive to the rest of the players by default (typically requiring buy-in to make sure everyone is having a good time), but are reality-warpers in world-building to such an extent that it doesn’t make sense that they would have survived past one year, much less one generation. The function that Tasslehoff fulfills in the books works very well from a narrative perspective, but having an entire race of things just like him stretch credulity. *

              In short, I think it should be very easy to play a Malkavian who is interesting and not disruptive, whereas players would have to work very hard not to do so with a Kender. They’d basically be playing their Kender as a non-Kender at that point.

              * To be fair, I also tend to feel this way about the Drow.

              1. BlueHorus says:

                Heh. A long running joke people in my local D&D community have is that the evil Drow you find in sourcebooks are actually 10% of the race’s total population, and that the other 90% are the Good/Neutral ‘Not Like The Other Drow’ Drow outcasts.

                Which would make sense, given how self-defeatingly Stupid Evil their culture is in most depictions…though of course, in a magical fantasy world with an evil god deliberately imposing her will on the society, comparisons to Real Life might not be that useful…

                1. Joshua says:

                  Heh, your community’s version makes more sense.

                  Unless Lloth’s spontaneously creating new Drow, I’m not sure how much difference it would make. Their race should still easily fail to survive past a few years, much less be a dominant force in the Underdark.
                  1. Stupid Evil, not only willing to harm, deceive, kill, etc. their own community members and potentially even their own family, but to actively pursue this path as a moral virtue
                  2. IIRC, elves in D&D like most fiction tend to have low birth rates to counter their immensely long lives. Oops, not a good combination with their ultra-violent, backstabbing ways.
                  3. Along with 2, they have a very, very long maturity period of ~100 years before they’re considered adults. At least 4E/5E changed physical maturity to be the same as humans, even if social maturity is kept at 100.

                  I’m reminded of Thomas Hobbes’ State of Nature, where he said that living such a life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”, and he wasn’t even factoring in a deity who’s telling them to be this way (except for where they are following her guidance too well, and she suddenly tells them to back off. Whatever). At least other CE races like Orcs and Goblins are more “Survival of the fittest” as opposed to “try to screw over your neighbors at all times”, and are also usually found in small tribes as opposed to large societies (to me, a CE society is somewhat of an oxymoron).

                  1. Moridin says:

                    1. Drow don’t just murder each other randomly, they do it out of self-interest(or spite): If you want to be the captain of your mercenary company, you might want to kill the current captain, but you’re not going to try to kill a random sergeant. And you might conclude that it’s in your best interest for the captain to survive if he actually is doing a good job(and thus making you wealthier than you would be if YOU were the captain – not to mention being a prime target for anyone else who might want to advance, instead of you). No-one’s likely to murder you if you’re a random peasant. As well, there are rules about that sort of thing. Killing someone to further your goals is virtuous, but only if you don’t get caught: If you do get caught, it’s a death sentence(or worse, depending on who you tried to kill). And of course, the drow who make it to the top have to be good at foiling assassination attempts.
                    2&3. Drow aren’t like other elves. Among other things, they have much higher birthrates to combat the higher attrition(In the novels, I think the Baenre matron had something like 15 children, most of whom made it to adulthood).

                    Still nonsensical? Probably. But not as bad as you’re making it seem.

                    1. Joshua says:

                      In one of the modules with the Drow, the main Matron character publicly kills off her primary lieutenant because he *successfully* completed a quest for her…. because she wanted to send a message to all of her followers not to get too big for their britches.

                2. Asdasd says:

                  The sense of vicious paranoia exuded by Drow culture is a good hook that makes for a memorable, devious villain faction, a la the Romulans. Unfortunately when you think about how such a society would work for more than a minute, it sort of falls apart.. but lots of things in fantasy world building are like that.

              2. Daimbert says:

                I could agree with that in the case of Malkavians, from what I’ve read about them. It seems like there would be one million and one different ways to play a Malk that would be true to the write-up and still enjoyable to the Storyteller and rest of the players.

                And the game Bloodlines includes at least three different ones: the protagonist (if Malkavian), Therese/Jeanette and Grout. That’s a good way to show that the Malkavian madness isn’t just stereotypical nutbar.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        Malkavians have a kind of magical madness, a constant seer-like state, with all the voices and apparitions being not so much hallucinations as another layer of reality thet’re able to see into. However, it’s not like that sort of rationale is protecting anyone in 2020.

        Yeah, that was one of my favorite things about Bloodlines. As a player you’re bombarded by nonsense from your character, with occasional magical insights sprinkled in. Blink and you’ll miss that your character actually knew that twist was coming; they just thought it was the voices messing with them again.

        As someone with depression, I’d hate to lose the Fishmalk. The game’s alredy about being a vampire, a power fantasy. Throwing out that playstyle because it’s not like real mental ilness would be like throwing away a baby that’s slightly damp with someone else’s bathwater.

        Can the game also feature boring, repetitive tasks that I hate, but have to do as a job?* Gotta be realistic, here!

        *So, an MMO then? Hohoho!

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Yeah, Malkavian is great for a 2nd playthrough when you know what the seeming word salad actually refers to, the use of Dementation (Malkavian power to inflict delusions upon others) also tends to be hilarious.

    2. Syal says:

      My Malk playthrough softlocked very early, but the best part of it was the mind control powers, and being able to spread the madness to the NPCs.

  2. Lino says:

    I see there’s no “Say “Goodbye”, Paul!” in this episode. Well, serves him right for talking so much!

    Edit: Nevermind. I just heard the post-episode bit where you do prompt him to sign off, and he admits to the error of his ways :D

    1. Rick says:

      I came here to say the same thing… but the end was perfect.

  3. Kathryn says:

    I’m going to pretend for this comment that I don’t know Depression Quest exists… Personally, I’d find it sort of insulting to have the various challenges of depression, OCD, anxiety, etc. reduced to “Now you don’t want to use a healing item!” or “You must sort all these items by color and size before you can proceed!” or “These M&Ms must be eaten in pairs by color according to the hierarchy of M&M colors in which blue is at the bottom LIGHT BROWN WAS BETTER WHY DID THEY CHANGE IT THESE ARE BASICALLY SMURF TURDS.”

    I don’t have a lot of confidence in games as a medium for handling complex and sensitive topics.

    1. Daimbert says:

      My immediate reaction to the comment was that you end up annoying the player with those mechanisms by making the gameplay semi-randomly more difficult, which would likely make them miss the entire point of it. You either need to build the whole thing around it, or else express it through interactions with NPCs (and in that case it would probably be better to have the NPCs have the issues and have it only come up out of gameplay).

      1. Lino says:

        Senua’s Sacrifice did it very well, I think. But as you suggest, that’s a game entirely designed around representing a specific kind of mental illness (and in the design process, the team had consulted both people who suffer from it, and specialists who work with such people).

        If the game is not designed around it, then it just shouldn’t draw any attention to the fact that it has characters suffering from the illness in quesiton. Or even have such characters in the first place. An issue as complicated as this should either be central to the game, or not be there at all.

        The only exception I can think of is horror games that take place in or take inspiration from asylums at the turn of the last century. The things they did to patients back then were so horrendously horrible and inhumane, that the game doesn’t even have to try to embelish them…

        1. Geebs says:

          I feel like Senua’s Sacrifice did aspects of its subject material well. The pattern-spotting business is a good idea, if a bit on the nose, the business with Senua having delusions about parts of her body are well done, and the positional audio is absolutely stunning (especially in VR, which gets very unsettling).

          The overall plot, the bits where Senua just generally wigs out, and above all the combat, work far less well for me. I’m also a bit concerned about how they’re going to handle the inevitably open world sequel.

          With regards to mental health stuff in games in general; I don’t mind well-depicted characters with issues, but I don’t ever enjoy it as part of game mechanics. I already have enough debuffs IRL, thanks.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            On the one hand I did not feel like the game has somehow intimated upon me what the experience of that particular mental issue was like. I think it was a very functional narrative device but at the end of I didn’t think “huh, now I kinda get what it feels like” and if Senua did actually experience all the supernatural phenomena I’m not sure the game would be paricularly worse for it.

            On the other hand I’ve watched “the making of” for the game and while they might have been cherrypicked who am I to argue with people who experienced actual psychotic breaks and say that the game reflects their experiences (on an emotional if not literal level).

            As a side note, I find it interesting how everyone remembers the game under the “Senua’s Sacrifice” title rather than the much more videogame’y Hellblade. Something a friend of mine noted when I told her about the game and she searched for being like “wtf is ‘Hellblade'”.

            1. galacticplumber says:

              One is a unique name with a modifier. The other is two very common pieces of title word-salad.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        I don’t think the entire game would need to revolve around mental illness, but it would definitely have to be a major part of the game. Like, I could totally imagine a Lara Croft / Indiana Jones type of protagonist, where the player spends a third of their time dodging ancient traps, a third taking photos and making notes to send back to the museum, and a third of their time is spent fighting crippling depression. Like, when you get back home, you hear your own voice telling you that you’re worthless and you’ll die alone amoungst your dusty relics. Maybe when you walk past mirrors or windows, you see your reflection saying these negative things to you, as a visually separate character. It could even bleed into your other game modes, like you have a worse maximum stamina and recovery some days.

        [1] So in this case, super-new-ray-path-whatever-tracing won’t help, since the models aren’t actually mirrored.

        1. Geebs says:

          a third of their time is spent fighting crippling depression….hear your own voice telling you you’re worthless

          Ideally you’d set the game during the time the protagonist is writing up their PhD thesis, when this would be completely true to life without even really needing to invoke a psychiatric diagnosis.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Oof. Too real. Although a third sounds pretty low…

            (Currently scrambling to write my first two papers and the introduction to my thesis while also madly doing the analysis of my results so I know what I have to write about for my final annual review in three weeks.)

            1. Geebs says:

              To be fair, you are spending somewhere between 1/6 and ¼ of your life asleep ;-)

              Best of luck. If it helps, your viva is probably going to be a whole lot less awful than you think.

              1. Echo Tango says:

                When I made up those fractions, I was assuming “portion of time awake, and doing interesting things”. We don’t see protagonists go to the toilet either. (Usually. :)

              2. Philadelphus says:

                Yeah, I’m working on that whole “sleeping” thing. ;)
                Thanks.

            2. Baron Tanks says:

              Hear hear, best of luck. Trust me, as hard as it may be to believe at times, there IS light at the end of that tunnel :)

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Gotta agree with this. Saying ‘your character feels X’ is vastly different from evoking X in the player. And you will just annoy them if you put in extra task or punishments based on some algorithm beyond their control.

      (See also: Shamus’ article about how killing players in horror games is annoying as much as it’s scary. Nothing terrifying about that same damn loading screen AGAIN.)

      Incidentally, I’m (re)playing a game that actually depicts mental illness well: Shadowrun Hong Kong. It’s in a side story about one of the NPCs*; the perfect place for it, because it’s completely optional, and doesn’t ultimately affect the gameplay at all.
      (Beyond a measly 1 XP/Karma for putting the time in.)

      Crucially, it’s also got two of the main features of mental illness that are very relevant to putting them in games: it’s pretty damn misreable, and (like a lot of cases) you can’t help or change it.

      *The Used Drone salesman.

  4. Philadelphus says:

    That was an interesting post mortem on Eastshade which I hadn’t seen before. I think 8–10 might even be a bit high of an estimate for people (other than the voice actors), it sounds like the vast bulk of the work over several years was by one couple.

    At first we toyed with the idea of making the painting system more robust. Perhaps adding XP, upgrades, different kinds of paints and brushes—but I truly feel we served our game best by keeping it simple.

    That’s very interesting. I do think they made the right decision for the game, though (my desire to see a game built around that sort of stuff notwithstanding).

    Things That I Am Still Unsure Whether They Went Right Or Wrong
    Animal Folk
    I suspect we just shouldn’t have done it. I was taking a page out of Elder Scrolls. I thought it would make the game feel more unique to have animal folk. And it did to a certain extent. We started to realize the mistake after feedback from Leaving Lyndow, prompting us to make massive improvements to the designs for Eastshade, but I don’t think it was enough. It was a huge turn off for so many people. It’s hard to quantify how many potential players we lost for this, but it really wasn’t an important aspect of the game, so no amount was worth it. I’ve always cared a lot more about what the Npcs say then how they look, and the game would have been much the same with normal humans.

    Also very interesting! I was mostly ambivalent about the therianthropic animal people (barring the creepy deer-people), but yeah, they didn’t exactly have any sort of effect on the world. They didn’t have specific niches or trades for the different types of animal people, and were all pretty interchangeable with each other. I think they sort of hit an uncanny valley (and the post mortem goes on to discuss it), where they should’ve either gone with regular humans or much more heavily into the animal aspect and have them be more stylized and differentiated. Oh well. I’m interested to see what their next game (which they mentioned being in the works) turns out to be.

  5. Lino says:

    Wait a minute, didn’t Shamus give up coffee, and start drinking white tea? I even remember an article called something along the lines of “The Tea Guy” where he detailed why he switched. As an avid tea drinker, surrounded by coffee-addicts, I remember really approving of that decision.

    But now, apparently that was all my head-canon? Am I going crazy, or was there an actual, official change in Shamus-lore?

    1. Daimbert says:

      Since he himself noted that he is “once again” giving up caffeine, it looks like he started up again.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Yeah, I also remember him talking about drinking white tea, but like you I don’t remember the specifics.

    3. Shamus says:

      Your memory serves you well. The post is The Tea Drinker:
      https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=32987

      But coffee… man. That caffeine high feels SO good. Just one cup of coffee “to keep warm” in late december. Then a little more the next day, and the next day.

      I actually kept a lid on my portions this time and never let it get above 2 mugs. But now I’ve kicked the habit again. Probably for the last time.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Probably for the last time.

        Twenty Sided will remember that.

  6. Syal says:

    One other thing about travel time in videogames is how long you’re going to be spending on the other end. Travelling 5 minutes is not a long time when you’re going to be there for eight hours, but when you’re going to be there for three minutes it’s a different story.

  7. coleusrattus says:

    One game that does pretty well with mental illness, especially addiction and depression, is Disco Elysium. You really got to play that, I’d be really interested what you guys have to say about it.

    And it’s comparatively short for an RPG.

  8. Steve C says:

    Is there a reason why the brute force shotgun approach isn’t used when exporting and converting animations?
    Not a programmer, but I would convert it every way possible. It would end up with lots of abominations against nature, and one right answer. All of which can easily be determined at a glance by a human. After you’d know that method #7 was correct and you’d just use that from then on.

  9. Eastshade was indeed created in Unity.

  10. John says:

    Thanks for the suggestions, Paul and Shamus. After I sent my question to the Diecast, I realized that I didn’t have to disassemble the laptop in order to get at the shift keys; I could just pop off the keycaps instead. So I did. I’m still not sure exactly what the problem is. The dome switches underneath the key caps appear to be functioning properly. It’s more likely a problem with the way the keycaps are attached to the board, some kind of issue with the little plastic scissor mechanisms or with the metal hooks that connect the scissor mechanisms to the board. I’m a little tempted to just do without the keycaps except that it’s really hard to hit a little dome switch with my pinky finger while I’m touch typing. At the moment I’m torn between buying either a replacement keyboard or a compact, tenkeyless USB keyboard. The replacement keyboard would be a little cheaper–and I’m reasonably confident that I could install it, as I’ve done things like that before–but the USB keyboard might be more practical in the long run. I guess I’ll have to think about it some more.

    I’ve disassembled various consumer electronics, including gamepads, Tivos, and laptops, but only when I’ve reached the point where there’s not a lot left to lose by disassembling them. I actually used the hard drive from my Tivo as a backup drive in my computer for a few years. When it failed, I replaced it with a another drive that I got by disassembling my old, defunct laptop. I am reasonably confident in my disassembly (and reassembly) skills, but much less confident in my repair skills. My one triumph is that I once managed to fix a gamepad by popping a loose contact switch back into place. I am reluctant to get a soldering gun mostly because I wouldn’t know what to do with one and I’m not sure I have it in me to learn at this point.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m pretty lucky – the only keyboard problems I’ve had to fix, are with dust or junk getting under the keycaps, interfering with the mechanism. A quick clean, and we’re good to go! :)

    2. RFS-81 says:

      I’ve disassembled my laptop last year. Twice, actually. Previously, the most I had done was to slot in new graphic cards or RAM in a desktop computer. I’ve even had my current gaming PC assembled for me because I’m a fake gamer. Well, then my laptop was constantly shutting down last summer because it was overheating. I took the thing apart, cleaned the fan, reapplied thermal paste and it worked. Then, when I used it outside of the docking station, I found that I failed to connect the touch pad, so I had to open it up again. That reminds me, I also still want to upgrade the RAM!

      The laptop is an older Thinkpad. As far as I know, that’s easy mode when it comes to taking apart laptops. The only thing that felt really unreasonable was the connector for the touch pad.

      1. John says:

        I’m not sure how my various laptops have ranked in the “easy to work in” category. My last few have had diagonals between 10 and 11 inches, which is great for portability and battery life but does not leave a lot of room to work with. On the other hand, because they are small and cheap–both have or had regular 2.5 inch hard drives rather than SSDs or MMC storage–they haven’t been as ridiculously thin as some modern laptops seem to be. So I don’t know.

        I do know that having a set of smartphone repair tools–tweezers and spudgers, mostly–has made disassembly much, much easier. The spudgers are great for popping off the palm rest and the tweezers for dealing with teeny, tiny ribbon connectors.

      2. tmtvl says:

        I have an older Tuxedo laptop, I had to re-seat the RAM once after it fell off a table (be careful with power cables when there are large dogs about), no problem. About a year and a half ago the CMOS battery gave the ghost. I found a new one, got the old one out, tried to insert the new one, and broke the bracket. So then I cried and cried and put the HDD into an external HDD bay.
        I’m still keeping it around in case I ever manage to find a replacement CMOS bracket, but as time goes on it seems less and less likely.

    3. Paul Spooner says:

      Cool! Keep up the exploration.
      Yeah, those keyboard mechanisms can be very fiddly and fragile.

  11. RFS-81 says:

    About Silent Hill 2 noticing you being on low health a lot, that ties into the different endings, and I can’t decide if it’s genius or obtuse and stupid. Maybe it’s genius with a not-so-great implementation? Spoilers for an ancient game follow.

    I may not remember 100% correctly, but there are no discrete decisions that influence the ending. For example, if you’re low on health often and examine the knife in your inventory multiple times, you’re more likely to get the ending where James commits suicide. However, that’s not really a thing that most players would do naturally. I feel like the game kind of railroads you towards the ending where James leaves Silent Hill without Mary.

    If you listen to the story of James’s wife Maria until the end, that pulls you towards that ending. And of course you’re going to do that, at least on your first playthrough. All the other endings make you jump through some kind of hoops. If you’re playing completely blind, you might miss that they’re there, and reading a guide and making an effort to get the suicide ending seems not very appealing to me. Wouldn’t it make more sense to make the player work for a good ending?

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      That seems like the default, doesn’t it? And most games do it that way. However in this case I feel like the idea was that there’s the default storyline with the canon ending, to which the game kind of guides you on your first playthrough, with the other endings being “non-standard” or even easter eggs (the dog ending).

      1. RFS-81 says:

        Establishing a canon ending makes some sense. I’m mainly complaining about having the ending be determined by weird arbitrary actions that don’t impact the story at all until the very end. That’s appropriate for wacky easter egg endings, but not for regular endings. There probably are people who think that James should kill himself after they found out what he did. But does that motivate you to replay the game and examine the knife a lot?

  12. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Regarding compression in open world maps, this is what Dan Vavra refers to as “potato land” design. The general idea being that the player never goes more than a minute or so before stumbling over some sort of new content. His blog on the subject during the early development of Kingdom Come Deliverance may be of interest.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20160604142303/warhorsestudios.cz/index.php?page=blog&entry=blog_011

    If you look at the eventual design of they came up with for their game, it is still somewhat compressed compared to the real world locations it’s based on (https://i.imgur.com/F7ZGGCw.jpg), but you can see they tried to compromise between hewing as close to realism as they could without making it a true hiking simulator.

    1. Addie says:

      A problem seen throughout the Elder Scrolls, for instance.

      In terms of surface area, it goes Morrowind < Skyrim < Oblivion < Daggerfall < Arena. In terms of how large the worlds seem, it's basically the other way around. Daggerfall and Arena have enormous areas of procedurally-generated landscape filled with nothing particularly interesting. Oblivion and Skyrim let you fast travel between the major cities from the start, which makes them seem relatively smaller – Skyrim has a much more varied landscape to explore, and which generally gets traversed more slowly, which makes it seem bigger, even though it's only about 2/3 the size. And in Morrowind you have limited fast-travel available and have to walk most places, which makes it seem much bigger than it is. It does make stumbling upon eg. an ancient undiscovered tomb more exciting, more like an organically expanding story as well – you have to explore and find them, not just follow the indicators on your compass. A modern graphics pack for Morrowind breaks the illusion, by letting you climb on top of something tall and see that all the villages are 100m apart, but never mind – it seemed good at the time.

      I think the important things is not how big the game is in terms of size, but how big it is in terms of interesting things to do.

      Now, if only Bethesda had learned anything about writing and quest design to go with their peerless world-building, they might be getting somewhere. They seem to have been heading steeply downhill in that regard, too.

  13. evilmrhenry says:

    Regarding perception of scale, I think this is something Death Stranding was trying to address. (Haven’t played it, so this is secondhand.) The actual movement in that game is more complicated than just “hold W for five minutes”, requiring continuous thought and action, which might give a better experience when moving from place to place.

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