Diecast #315: Mailbag Clearinghouse

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 7, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 142 comments

People emailed us a bunch of questions, so we talked for a long time until they were all answered.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 “Kingdom Come: Deliverance” “unavailable” on Epic

The problem seems to be sorted out now, but that was strange. Also, after we finished the recording I opened up EGS and realized I also own (and have also never played) KC:D.

04:41 Cleanroom Cabletracks

13:30 “Login from New Location” and 2FA

I get that Two Factor Authentication makes a system more secure, but for me it’s never worth the risk. Just use a long, varied, and unique password. That protects against the vast majority of attacks. Once you’re using a password manager, additional password complexity is free. You can copy & paste a 25 character password as easily as a 6 character one. A password that long is basically hack-proof. Not only would it require insane amounts of computer power to brute force, but your garden-variety account thief isn’t going to invest that much time and computing power into a single password. An account thief is a shoplifter looking for easy targets, not a cat burglar looking to tackle enormous security systems.

Now, there’s still the risk that a hacker might get some sort of malware onto your machine that could steal your password when you enter it on the login page. But that risk is very, very small. 2FA protects against this rare and exotic form of attack, and in exchange you run the risk that the company itself will either sell or accidentally expose your phone number. At that point you’ll be buried in infuriating spam calls forever.

Worse, a compromised phone number is a worse problem than a hacked account. Yeah, it would be annoying to lose access to my Blizzard account, but you can usually recover the account by proving you’re the person who’s been paying the bill. It might take some time, but you can regain control and change the password.

But what do you do when your phone number is hounded by spam calls day and night? There’s no fixing that, short of changing your number.

18:39 Mailbag: Bloodlines 2 delays and problems.

Link (YouTube)

Hello Shamus, Hello Paul

Yesterday I’ve seen Yong Yeas video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xd-nvCKbuKo) on the rescent events in the development of Bloodlines 2. Long story short:
Publisher and Developer pushed the release of the 5 year in development game to 2021 for QA reasons (me: Yes!) and fired the the two main writers and driving forces behind Bloodlines 2 (me: WTFF?F!) – and Bloodlines 1 – to replace them with one 20 years of Ubisoft dude (me: §$#+&Ø%!!!). The very, very commited main writer came out of the blue with the firing and the delay while most of the work was already finished and the rest will finish in the promised 2020 timeline.

The end of the year blog post showed that many of your readers anticipate this game, but YouTube isn’t a good place for disussions. So what are your (and your readers) thoughts on this topic? What harm can this one ubi-dude do to the mostly finished product within 6 to 12 months?

All the best


24:24 Mailbag: Steam Controller

Dear Diecast,

The YouTube algorithm did something good and recommended me a retrospective on the Steam Controller[1]. The thing I found most interesting is that apparently, gyro aiming is nearly as precise as mouse aiming[2]. As of now, only the Steam, Switch and Playstation controllers contain gyroscopes and there are no plans to add them for Xbox, so many developers don’t bother.

Since the Steam Controller flopped pretty badly, how do you think controllers might evolve in the future? Do you think that there will ever be a huge push to bring more accuracy to game controllers?


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dsL1wgu2e8
[2] I’m hiding the tl;dr portion of my mail in a footnote to make it easier to truncate for the show. I actually have a Steam Controller but turned off the gyros because I thought accidentally jostling the camera would be annoying. In Zelda on the Switch, it’s only turned on while you’re using a bow, so I gave it a chance and found that it worked pretty well for me. Use the stick to face in the right direction and tilt the controller to line up a shot.

30:40 Mailbag: Streets of Rage 4

Dear Diecast,

This one is for Shamus. I don’t know if 2D beat-em-ups are your thing, so I was wondering whether Streets of Rage 4 is on your radar, because I think it might be up your alley.

It is perfectible, it does the Arkham Asylum thing where it tracks how much damage you deal without getting hit, it has tons of difficulty options, it has electronic music and a strong art style. Most importantly, judo-throwing enemies into one another is extremely satisfying.

So yeah, basically I just wanted to shill for a game I like.


35:57 Mailbag: Brown Shooters


We all know that there’s a tendency to make fun of grey/brown shooters (often of military nature). But in more serious note, is there a some artistic merit in going with this aesthetic? May be any of you have an example of a game of this aesthetic, that you like?

Best regards, DeadlyDark

39:57 Mailbag: Games that Changed for the Better

Dear Casters of Die!

With the recent release of Project Cars 3, once again a to me beloved franchise got changed in big way to attract a larger audience, but lost what made it special in the process.
Now there are numerous examples where that happens (Mass Effect 1 to 2, Fallout 2 to 3, Rainbow Six 3 to Lockdown, Ghost Recon to Advanced Warfighter, Need for Speed Porsche to Underground, to name a few).

Now it seems like I always fall under the category of “fan until the franchise us spoiled”, and I never encountered a franchise that did not interest me until a sequel came along that fundamentally changed it, that make me suddenly like it.

So, did it ever happen to you guys that a game franchise that was initially not for you changed to suddenly cater to your tastes and sensibilities?

And I know some of those changes we’re rewarded with bigger success, but I assume that a new franchise without both the baggage and alienation of old fans would have been even more successful. Am I undervaluing name recognition or is that another example of executives and marketing not really understanding the medium?

Regards from Austria,
Norbert “ColeusRattus” Lickl

46:35 Mailbag: Mass Effect Remaster

Dear Paul Shepard and Shamus Vakarian,

The Internet (TM) is brimming with rumors about a Mass Effect Trilogy Remaster. What are your thoughts? Are you also looking forward to BioWare’s inevitable attempts to patch up their clumsy retcons by putting Javik’s face on all the Prothean statues on Ilos?

Stay safe,

It’s supposedly just a graphics remaster so I can’t imagine how EA / BioWare is going to disappoint me this time, but I shouldn’t underestimate them.

50:08 Mailbag: Rubberband AI

Dear diecast,

What do you think of rubberbanding (AI growing stronger/weaker depending on your performance)? Some people say it’s good because it means the game is always challenging you while at the same time not throwing up any insurmountable challenges. I however don’t like it since it feels that whatever i do, i will always barely win. So why try to play at 100% when 80% will do?

With kind regards,

58:29 Mailbag: Procgen Map Editing

Dear Shamus and Paul,

I don’t know if you saw the project Athia’s engine procedural generation video. (Sorry i couldn’t find a direct link. )

Project Athia’s Luminous Engine Receives New Tech Video Showcasing Procedural Generation

I can imagine that the upfront work must be amazing but once it’s ready, i could see this really speeding up the level design process by an order of magnitude – it’s basically a professional version of that procedural town building… game(?) that you were talking about several shows ago.

This is the kind of tech that always strikes me as being done as a proprietary tool and never reaching its full potential because no other studios get access to the tech. Same with No Man’s Sky… I know at styles aren’t always appropriate for every game but do you think there’s a space for an engine marketplace?

I’m not talking about an individual engine’s marketplace like we already have for Unreal and Unity but a place where publishers and developers can promote and license their work.

Last question: given seemingly every company and individual in the industry being highly covetous of their own IP, could this ever happen?

All the best,

Link (YouTube)


From The Archives:

142 thoughts on “Diecast #315: Mailbag Clearinghouse

  1. Yerushalmi says:

    I live overseas but have an American phone number connected to my cell. Somehow spammers got a hold of the number, even though I literally use it for nothing except a convenient way for American family members to reach me.

    So I say, if they’re going to waste my time, I’m going to waste theirs. When the recording asks me if I want to extend my vehicle warranty, I agree and get handed over to a human representative. At that point I answer every question they ask truthfully. The make and model of my car (not one that was ever sold in America, so they don’t have it on their list), my zip code (seven digits, they don’t know what to do with that), what state I live in (Israel)…

    That’s usually the part where they hang up. :)

    1. Joshua says:

      “This is a final courtesy call”

      If only.

    2. Lino says:

      I sincerely hope they get charged some insane amount to phone to Israel. And if so, I hope you keep them on the line for at least a couple of minutes :D

    3. Douglas Sundseth says:

      They’re calling numbers in numerical order and calling from (usually) India. Block or don’t block, report or don’t report, look at the Caller ID, give your number to whoever … none of that has any effect, either positive or negative.

      After they call 907-555-1212, they will call 907-555-1213.

      There have been telephone service wholesalers successfully prosecuted in the US (because they’re in the US, and therefore within reach of the Federal Trade Commission and the US courts), but the source companies are only susceptible to the (notoriously corrupt) local Indian authorities.

      If you want to do something real, add a $0.01 (or $0.001, or whatever) charge to every phone call attempt. Otherwise, shouting at your phone is as effective as anything. (And I often talk to the scammers, too, just to waste their phone and operator time.)

  2. DeadlyDark says:

    Didn’t want to clutter the simple question, but I must say, that the “brown shooters” question was inspired by this video. The Brit talked about how this aesthetic worked to enhance the atmosphere of first two Killzones, but because this kind of presentation was quite ridiculed at the time, so the series made the visual and, as a result, tonal shift with KZ3, and the series lost its charm with this transition. Tbh, it was, probably, the first time someone ever attempted to defend this aesthetics in my memory, so I thought, why not ask Shamus?

    1. Christopher says:

      Brit’s super into hot video game takes, so while he’s one of my favorite youtube videogame essayists, I wasn’t surprised when an hourlong Killzone retrospective turned into “Brown and gray shooters were Secretly Good” lol. The reaction to the trend at the time wasn’t overblown. Brown and gray games, and shooters, and brown and grey shooters, were really flooding the market(Not that shooters’ popularity has gone away, it’s just shifted in different directions). Taking the piss out of everyone jumping on that trend was as natural as taking the piss out of ubisoft-style open world games and pointless RPG elements are these days.

      Having said that, I think the best response pretty evidently isn’t to try and wrangle these old shooter series into current trends. It’s just trying to do your own thing. The landscape would look a lot nicer if a majority of companies(and indies for that matter, cheers to every roguelike and crafting game ever) stopped bandwagoning around whatever is popular at the moment – and let long-running franchises lie once they’ve overstayed their welcome so their return can be a breath of fresh air again later. Killzone was another shooter in the pile in the late 2000s, but if it stopped at 2 and returned say, this fall, it would probably be a little exciting. Though I’d personally be happier with anything that’s not a shooter, so I’m glad they’ve gone with Horizon at the moment instead. It’s slightly less of one.

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        To be honest, its hard for me to judge, since I am not a console player, and missed those games. Even after I bought PS4 I still played mostly on PC

        Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d personally find Killzone games dull myself. I played recently Halo games from MCC. And must say. I wasn’t really impressed with Combat Evolved and 2. If they were released on PC back in 2001 (against NOLF, UT, Operation Flashpoint and Max Payne) and 2004 (that the year for shooters), I’d easily overlook them for other shooters. Combat Evolved has incredibly terrible level design, in most missions, overall combat wasn’t really refined (though, fighting Flood was surprisingly fun), and the story is anemic at best. Halo 2, in original graphics mode, looks quite terrible (worse than the first one), bosses aren’t good. Story is a little better, though, when it came to Arbiter. The only passably entertaining Halo was 3 (conclusion is meh, but it was the most refined of them all). Reach tried to become tacticool with its gameplay/balance, as a result its the most dull in the series gameplay-wise.

        The only thing that carries these games is the music. Plus it was educational to see games that promoted OG XBox (and I know why – new modern control scheme for the controller and multiplayer worked wonders to boost its popularity in the platform). They wouldn’t be half as successful, if they were pc-shooters, that’s for sure

        P.S. At least I learned, what games Bioware took as an inspiration for the Mass Effect games

      2. Thomas says:

        I will say that I think the Killzone aesthetic was subtly richer than a grey filter. The other clips he showed in the video were games where it looked like people had literally just turned down the contrast and slapped on some brown. Killzone always had a higher contrast industrial dark vibe that looks a bit more like a real artistic choice.

        I still don’t think Killzone: Shadowfall would have sold well if it stuck to the original look – he’s misremembering just how sick we were of brown shooters by that point. But I can see the argument that the games lost something by shifting away from it.

        And I contend that he’s completely right that it was a mistake for _every_ franchise to shift away from the grounded aesthetic. I know people who like COD and that’s absolutely something which is important to a lot of them. It will be an eternal truth that some people have a very low tolerance for fantastical elements.

        (This isn’t related, but you can see how low a tolerance a lot of people have for fantasy, in the way that Marvel films still tiptoe around their more magical elements, throwing lampshades over everything for fear of losing that section of the audience.)

  3. Geebs says:

    Re: “login from new location”.

    Microsoft is the absolute worst for this.

    Microsoft: “Somebody tried to log into Geebs’ Hotmail account from another country, after a period of time with no attempted logins roughly equal to the time taken to fly there! They used the correct, secure password the first time! Must be a hacker! LOCK EVERYTHING and don’t let him back in until he can remember his Xbox Live ID and send us an old password via a web form we’re probably not going to bother to encrypt*”

    My Actual Bank: “meh, don’t panic. It’s probably him”.

    * I’m not even joking about this. WTF, Microsoft?

    1. Moridin says:

      That sounds weird, because here in Finland banks have been forcing people to use 2FA forever. Of course, they use proper 2FA, not just a text message or email telling you to enter a code. Used to be papers with long lists of one-time passwords on them, now it’s phone apps(which still require you to enter a second password).

  4. Joe says:

    The combat in KCD looked pretty interesting, but the rest of the game didn’t move me. Also, I hear there are some lengthy boring sections in the game. Still, YMMV.

    Yeah, Bloodlines 2 is concerning. I hope we get the story sometime, but I won’t hold my breath.

    The only beat-em-up that I thought looked interesting was Alien vs Predator, but that never got an official home release. There must be a story behind that, too. Anyone know?

    Skyrim is my favourite game of all time. I’ve gone back and tried Morrowind and Oblivion, but never warmed to them. In particular, I love Rutskarn’s description of Morrowind. That’s a game I’d love to play, but sometimes you can discover things too late.

    Shamus, did you ever try the Wasteland games? They’re sometimes regarded as the Fallout games we never got.

    Paul, The Dungeon Siege levels were all hand made. You’re probably thinking of other ARPGs like Diablo or Torchlight. At one point I learned all the Torchlight 1 level patterns, but have since forgotten half of them.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Wasteland predates Fallout, I haven’t played the first or third one, but Wasteland 2 kind of gave me an Icewind Dale feeling to contrast the Baldur’s Gate feeling from Fallout. It has its good points but it’s just a different experience.

      I recently replayed Fallout No Number No Subtitle (AKA The Best Fallout), and I decided to join the Brotherhood (didn’t do that last time I played). I was playing a character specializing in unarmed (punching Deathclaws in the eyes for fun), and when I got a free Power Fist I felt that special kind of bliss that you don’t get from games any more.

      1. Joshua says:

        I’m here enjoying Wasteland 3 since it was released last week. Definitely some improvements over Wasteland 2, but some goofiness, a LOT of bugs, and horrific loading times too.

        Regarding Joe’s question, I’m not sure Shamus is into these kind of turn based tactical RPGs? We’ve talked about Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin 2 in the comments before and he’s never bitten on the topic. OTOH, I think he’s talked about playing X-COM games before, so who knows.

        1. I played half of Wasteland 2, up until the part where you leave to go to the new area, and then the story kinda stalled for me and I couldn’t muster any interest in finishing it, which is weird because the first half of the game was definitely engaging.

          I have trouble with games like that because I’m always ghastly awful at the combat. I cannot bear to leave any locked container unlocked or any speech check unpassed so I do way too much on the skills and not enough on the combat.

          I do have fond memories, though, of a point where I just couldn’t find a key to open a door so I said, screw it, the door had a health bar (even though it’s insane), wonder what happens if I apply this dynamite to it . . . AND IT WORKED.

          I love games like that, where the game lets you try stupid crap instead of locking you into HERE IS THE ONE OFFICIAL APPROVED SOLUTION YOU MUST FIND IT. Like, if there’s a lockpicking skill, I want to be able to pick ANY LOCK IN THE GAME. Not necessarily SUCCEED in picking it, but I don’t want any “you can’t pick this” locks. That Is BS. Basically, once you set up the rules in the game, the game should play by its own rules. I don’t care if one of the writers or encounter designers has some idea that just needs to break this one little . . . nope. Leave it out or change it. Whatever your idea is, it is NOT cooler than having a truly consistent, immersive experience.

          1. Decius says:

            Fallout and Fallout 2 also allowed using dynamite to open locked doors. So did Wasteland, although not for quite all doors- and you can actually open some walls in Wasteland, a feature that I have only seen done well in the early Jagged Alliance games. (The newer JA remakes let you blow up specific parts of walls, not arbitrary spots).

            The Wasteland era of gaming had lots of trouble where the designers thought of lots of things that you could do, but the interface was so complex that the player had trouble figuring out which skill to use at a specific spot; but the WL3 era solved that too well and simplified the skill system to the point that it’s no longer possible to fit environment puzzles (like figuring out you can blow up the wall into The Citadel instead of fighting to and through the door) into the game engine; even if opening the wall was a possibility the interface to do it would be too obvious to make people feel smart for figuring it out.

          2. Joshua says:

            Hard to say why, but I also much preferred Arizona to California. Speculating, it’s perhaps because it feels more like a unified set of places that your organization fits into. California, in contrast, comes across more as a set of isolated wacky locations that you keep searching through to find enough cat litter to make radiation suits, and there’s much less a sense of central narrative.

            In addition, the premise behind your base in California becomes downright bizarre almost immediately. You were one of two small teams sent into California to track down the Synths and neutralize their threat, and the first team was pretty much destroyed, leaving the Rangers with just one officer and a platoon of up to 7 squadmates. Despite that, the officer decides to “set up shop” and advertise the Rangers to help all of the nearby populace. So, your small squad is supposed to help the needs of a bunch of strangers in the entire territory of Southern California. This is a drastic case of Mission Creep. You might think that advertising your services might give away your presence to the very enemies you’re trying to track down, and it does!

            1. BlueHorus says:

              I kind of liked California over Arizona for exactly those reason, oddly. I disliked the central plot of Wasteland 2 quite a lot – far too much reliance on the story of the first game that I never played, with one of the worst endings I I’ve ever seen in a game.
              (You’re going to build up an antagonist for half the game, let us get right up to him, then abruptly a DIFFERENT enemy just swoops in out of nowhere, steals your kill and possibly a couple of teammates to boot?! Fuck you WL2.)
              For my money the game was far better when it was just dealing with wacky disconnected situations. You’re not heroes with a destiny. You don’t have all the answers. You’re just a group of heavily-armed, combat-trained strangers blundering into people’s lives and trying to make the world better; and you don’t always succeed.

              Trying to win over the hearts and minds of a group of strangers in California was far more interesting to me than chasing down radio signals because some NPC back at HQ had copy of the script and new they were important to the story.

              1. I didn’t pick up any “destiny” implications in Arizona. You were new recruits sent out to investigate an interesting issue (an unknown radio signal). It was interesting because as far as you knew the rest of the world was just kaput and there *wasn’t anyone else out there to even be sending radio signals*. It even makes sense because radiation really DOES interfere with radio communications. As you explore you gradually discover that there is More Stuff Going On. It had a very nice plot development from “ya’ll are laughable new recruits that can only be trusted to go on what we think is a safe mission to hook up some machinery in what we thought were safe areas” to “ya’ll are now rather badass and proficient and believable replacements for the Old Guard back at the fort”. It’s got a good conventional plot arc. The only problem is that it ends on a false climax and doesn’t drive you back into the action properly.

      2. Joe says:

        I know, but I meant WL 2 & 3. But here’s something odd about the original Fallout. Wikipedia says that Brian Fargo was the executive producer, the driving force, and played a big hand in development. But I once heard an interview with Cain and Boyarsky, who never mentioned him at all. They allegedly came up with the idea themselves, and talked other people into helping create the game. From what I’ve seen, Fargo doesn’t mention them either. I wonder if there was a falling out at some point.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          But here’s something odd about the original Fallout….I wonder if there was a falling out at some point.

          MUST – RESIST – URGE – TO – MAKE – PUN

          Ah, it’s too easy anyway.

          1. Joshua says:

            I made my saving throw. Apparently you just barely failed yours.

        2. John says:

          According to the Digital Antiquarian blog, Brian Fargo is the kind of guy who tried to goose retail orders for his first video game by buying a single advertisement in a software magazine and then calling stores while pretending to be a potential customer who had seen the advertisement. You can admire his, uh, entrepreneurial spirit if you like, but you can’t call him a 100% honest fellow.

      3. Joshua says:

        Oh, interesting comparison by the way. I could definitely see Wasteland 2 being to Icewind Dale what Divinity: Original Sin 2 is to Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2.

        On a side note, when Wasteland 3 starts you off with only 2 characters instead of 4, and you are given several different themed “couples”, I was expecting a more D:OS2 vibe so chose one of the pairs as opposed to creating two custom characters because I was expecting a lot of role-playing options to come up from it. So far, I’ve seen no real benefit or extra dialogue from it, and starting with only two characters is a red herring because you can soon create two more custom rangers or pick ones from a list, and these aren’t even your voice-acted companions which can join you. In retrospect, it would have been much better to have created my own custom characters to have more finely-tuned skill sets. Conversely, it’s considered much more interesting in Divinity to choose one of the original characters because you’ll get a lot more dialogue and story options.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          I’m not very far in to WL3 but I picked the father/daughter pair and they’ve had some ambient dialogue so far (not much, but it’s there)

          1. Joshua says:

            I thought about them. I picked the Nerd duo? Chris and Kris. I don’t recall them saying anything to each other. I’ve also discovered the hard way through picking them that someone who specializes in Small Arms shouldn’t have the minimum of 1 in Strength, lol.

            1. Syal says:

              I picked the Nerd duo? Chris and Kris. I don’t recall them saying anything to each other.

              Sounds like two nerds to me!

            2. Decius says:

              Nobody should have the minimum of 1 point in strength.

              Fortunately the CON per level gains are retroactive and there are lots of attribute points to go around.

              1. Joshua says:

                Kris (Ranger) and Lucia Wesson (recruitable companion) both have a default of 1 point in Strength, and their weapon specialties are Small Arms. I also started putting points into Mechanic for Kris. It only took me a short amount of time to discover that barely having any hit points and not being able to wear anything but minimum armor is not ideal for someone who not only needs to go up to the front line, but sometimes beyond it.

                I think a Sniper-type can get away with a 1 in Strength for awhile, but I read somewhere the devs recommend a minimum of 4 Strength for all characters by the end of the game.

                1. Decius says:

                  I’m pretty sure that all of my current squad has at least 4 in every attribute by near the end of the game, but if I was min-maxing then five of them would have one charisma.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          Divinity OS 2 did a great thing in letting you pick your companion’s classes and abilities while keeping their personalities. Need a healer for your party but also want to try a playthrough with Ifan to see his storyline? Easy, just make him one. Sure, the game treats him like his default class – it’s a bit odd that a mage arranged to have a *crossbow* smuggled in for his job – but it works really well.
          (Also, giving you the option to respec during playthroughs)

          One of the best things I did with Wasteland 2 was use a text editor to edit my save files, respending all the vioced companions so they worked as a full party.

          1. Joshua says:

            Plus gave you the mirror to respec if needed. Unlike WL 2 & 3, where you get the constant irritant of orphaned skill points making you wish you could unlearn them to get the last point or two you need to max out a different skill.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Well, the Dungeon Siege levels were hand-made and hand-assembled, they were assembled from modular components. There’s no technical reason the modules couldn’t have been assembled programatically instead.

  5. Steve C says:

    I find Two Factor Authentication (2FA) to be better for the company, but it provides no benefit to me. I’ve had more hassle and problems due to 2FA than I ever had with just logins and passwords.

    For example I had a 2FA for my (abandoned for years) WoW account. Then Classic came out and I wanted to log in again. Except I couldn’t due to the 2FA stuff changing Blizzard side since I last logged in. So I had to call up, spend half an hour on the phone and 5 days waiting for it to be cleared. Then I could log in with my old password which I knew and was still valid. Except in the intervening time I had decided I didn’t want to play it anymore. This is just one example of many. I imagine it would have been a very similar user experience had I been hacked based on the stories told by people who had been hacked.

    I’ve never had a problem with any account *except* due to 2FA. And I’ve had tons of those problems. To me it’s a bit like being worried about lightning so much that you attach a wire to both yourself and a peg in the ground. All for the benefit of the electrical company’s grid that is constantly being hit by lightning. I’m sure it will help me in some way if I ever get hit myself. There’s no way it still won’t be a giant pain for me.

    1. baud says:

      Well, I like the 2FA in SWTOR (a Star Wars MMO that’s gone F2P years ago, for those who don’t know), but only because when it’s enabled, my account receives each month some coins for the item shop, which makes it worth the hassle of finding my phone when I want to play. Though it’s not based on a SMS, it’s an app on my phone (where I entered a code from my account), so EA don’t even have my phone number, at least.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      The benefit to the individual, is protection against fishing attacks. If someone puts up a website that looks like Blizzard’s to get the person’s password, they still don’t have the app on a phone, dongle, or whatever.

      1. Decius says:

        The phishing website will just perform a MITM attack, telling the user to log in, skimming the user’s credentials, and then sending the 2fa request to Blizzard, then get the victim to tell them the response.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          That doesn’t work with hardware keys that verify the origin of the request, such as Yubikeys. (Which is why that was invented.)

          1. Decius says:

            How do they verify that the request has not been intercepted?

            Attacker gets you to their login page; they ask you for your signed 2fa request, they pass that on to the actual authentication server, they get the signed 2fa challenge, which they pass to you, and then they pass your signed 2fa response to the authentication server.

        2. dootdoot says:

          Pretty much no standard phishing attack is sophisticated enough to MITM, snipe a rolling code, and send it to login (before the code expires) to gain complete control of a victim’s account.

          That’s far more the territory of spear-phishing than regular phishing, which as its name implies, is a far more targeted attack,

          1. Decius says:

            How do high-ping users log in, if a few ms of latency renders the code invalid?

  6. Ryan says:

    You both seem to have some misunderstandings on 2FA.

    First, for most people, your IP *does* change. Most ISPs lease an IP from their available range on an expiring/rotating basis. Unless you pay for a static IP, you don’t have that guarantee. Plus, some users (usually only some Cable subscribers in dense areas) may have their connection pooled. For that matter, not everyone can universally trust everyone in their same household. The cookies become the only way to tell you apart from someone else, but that comes with the obvious downside of browser switching being a pain.

    Second, doing so via SMS is considered the least-preferable method of 2FA. This is specifically because mobile phones have shown themselves to be so susceptible to attack. Generally, SMS-based OTP 2FA is a “last resort” option if other, better 2FA methods aren’t made available – instead, software or hardware tokens are the desired method. That allows you to generate the OTP code when necessary (or, for some hardware U2F tokens, like YubiKey or Google Titan, just plugging it in or putting it within NFC range of your phone) without implicating your phone number for spam calls.

    Third, for software-based tokens, almost all major password managers (1Password, LastPass, and KeePass, among many others) allow you to store the code generation seed too, allowing you the same one-click access you’ve come to expect (typically the default behavior is to copy the code to your clipboard, so it’s just one extra Ctrl-V).

    Fourth, you mention two benefits of using a password manager, but leave out a third that’s worth covering. Yes, it allows easy, one-click access in many cases. Yes, it drastically increases the complexity – and thus security – of a password. But we shouldn’t forget the other big way it helps: pushing us away from password re-use across multiple sites. A 25-character gibberish code is meaningless if it’s the same one on every site you use, then one of those sites both uses bad password storage policies (which is still depressingly common) and gets compromised (which is shockingly common). Having a different 25-character gibberish for each site, however, ensures that one breach of your accounts does not as easily lead to another.

    Lastly, please consider the threat model more completely. If you’re, say, a high-up government official, you’re obviously a target, likely from a foreign government. But the majority of account takeovers are financial in nature, from criminal groups rather than countries, which means everyone’s equally likely to be targeted, and installing malware on a user’s home system is not necessarily the main method of compromise. And because of the interconnected nature of our accounts, even a secure password for each site is worthless if they compromise your email first and just send password reset requests to it from all the others.

    In all, this is not to say that 2FA is appropriate (or at least necessary) for every account held by every person. But as the attacks only grow in scope and complexity, and accounts are linked in ever more fragile ways, it is a powerful tool at your disposal for your own protection, not just helping out the company on the other end.

    1. Steve C says:

      A foxhole is a powerful tool at your disposal for your own protection. It doesn’t mean most people need or want one handy. Of course someone who wants a foxhole to jump into absolutely benefits from having one. The rest of us, not so much. I don’t think Shamus nor Paul are targets.

      For regular user like me, it would be annoying if an account got compromised. Not life destroying. Importantly it is just as annoying to lose a 2FA dongle or forget it at home or whatever. It is far more likely to lose your dongle or have your phone stolen than it is to be targeted (directly or indirectly) by a cyber attack.

      The problem is that companies push the 2FA stuff really hard. Disproportionately hard. Because most want phone numbers more than anything to do with security.

    2. King Marth says:

      There’s one hilarious case of a company which decided to enforce “2FA” on all its accounts… using email as the second factor. The same email used for password reset.

    3. krellen says:

      Look, my account for your entertainment product simply does not warrant the level of protection we use for nuclear secrets.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Unfortunately, many companies act as if they are the most important service in your life, and force the maximum security model onto their customers. However, their accounts are secondary to the accounts that people actually use for auth: Email lets you do password-reset on all other accounts, so should probably have two-factor auth enabled. Password managers should also have it, because they hold the passwords to everything else. Banking, PayPal, or other money-touching accounts, should probably also have two-factor auth because of the increased risk. Everything else, really doesn’t need it.

        1. Xeorm says:

          On the other hand, I’ve seen what happens when they do implement policies like this. World of Warcraft is a good example here. Especially back in the day, account “hacks” were rife in the game. You had a lot of people that weren’t very good with their password security, and inevitably multiple people would lose access. Their stuff in game would get taken, sold, and then used to fund gold sellers. Obviously, this was the fault of the gamers and their lack of security, but guess who most blamed? Blizzard. Who would also be responsible for handling the reports, getting stuff back, and so on. They got pretty good at it too, but really, why would you want to spend so much time and effort on this stuff if you can help it?

          So they enabled 2FA protection, tied it to some bonuses (including access to guild chests) and you saw an astonishingly less number of “hacked” accounts. They had less to do, and it showed. Note that this was all before smart phones were widespread. They gave out dongles I think for free for this. (Or just shipping, I can’t recall. It’s been awhile)

          So I’d in general make the argument that all this 2FA isn’t aimed at people that know what they’re doing. It’s there for all the dumb people out there upset that they got hacked, and blame the developer. I also wouldn’t be surprised too if this is the sort of thing that becomes company policy regardless of whether it’s needed or not. Blizzard had a real reason to worry about hacked accounts, but other games in the activision blizzard space probably don’t need to worry, but still would, just because it worked in these other circumstances.

    4. Paul Spooner says:

      Personally I parametrically generate my passwords, so I don’t need a password manager, and all my passwords are unique. For sites that require special password construction that doesn’t fit the parametric model, I e-mail myself a gibberish password. If my e-mail is compromised, only the sites that have arbitrary password limitations get compromised, and serves them right.

  7. Olivier FAURE says:

    The trend for brown shooters is definitely over.

    The new fashion is colorful, cartoony shooters with cisually minimalistic environments.

  8. tmtvl says:

    I have a Steam controller. I’d say it’s so good it’s awesome, but it manages to be even better. The only nit I have to pick with it is that Valve got rid of the Daisy Wheel input method, which I really loved.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      I like it too! The main reason is that, while mice are nice, keyboards are not so great. I played Skyrim with an Xbox controller at first because an analog stick just feels more natural. After getting the Steam controller, I didn’t want to go back. It’s also great for playing turn-based strategy games while sitting back, but I don’t know if there are people other than me who do that.

      The most annoying part is that many games don’t simultaneously take inputs from mice and controllers, so you either nail the stick down to 8 directions and have useless button prompts, or you switch to the mode where Steam tries to approximate your mouse movements by giving the game analog stick inputs.

      1. John says:

        It’s also great for playing turn-based strategy games while sitting back, but I don’t know if there are people other than me who do that.

        I play strategy games while sitting back, but I use a lap tray with a wireless keyboard and mouse to do it.

        1. Geebs says:

          Yup. I have the most recent Razer Turret which, despite being made by Razer, is built like a tank, isn’t particularly over-priced, and has better battery life than the competition. One of those together with an XBox One controller is far less hassle than messing around with the Steam Controller.

  9. Dreadjaws says:

    I related this already in this comments section, but I hated Into the Breach as much as FTL, and for the same reasons as you. I found it so random that skill made no difference for better or for worse, and I was accused of playing the game wrong or whatever. The defense usually comes in the way of “I’ve seen this professional player win several consecutive rounds without losing once, so it means you’re wrong!”. I’ve grown tired of explaining the obvious. I mean, there are professional poker players, and that doesn’t mean that Poker isn’t a game of chance.

    I also get accused of wanting the game to be easy, from people who gleefully ignore the fact that I said my problem wasn’t that the game is too hard, but too random. I win half of the time, the problem is that I never feel my skill has anything to do with it.

    So trust me, if you happen to try the game and feel the same way you did with FTL, better not say anything. FTL/ITB fanboys are just as bad as Dark Souls ones.

    So, did it ever happen to you guys that a game franchise that was initially not for you changed to suddenly cater to your tastes and sensibilities?

    I gotta go with GTA V. I’ve tried to play all the previous ones, but the DIAS gameplay and lack of freedom in a game that sells itself on freedom is something I could never stand. I played through the entirety of IV (ah, I had more free time back then, living in the same city as I work and all that), but I did it mostly out of spite, since I hated most of it. It wasn’t until GTA V where I could genuinely say I was having fun with the game, enough that I purposely played through it twice. The DIAS was severely dialed down, missions had checkpoints and I was granted a level of freedom in missions (nothing on the level of Saints Row, but still).

    Yeah, the story is still absolutely preposterous and the gameplay seems to still work against it, but I finally managed to have fun with one of these games.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      I mean, there are professional poker players, and that doesn’t mean that Poker isn’t a game of chance.

      However, if people could win fifty rounds in a row, that might mean something.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Yes, that they’re professional and are more willing to play using certain patterns, because their objective is to win. My objective is to have fun.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Oh there’s your problem. Of course skill isn’t going to have anything to do with victory if you’re not trying to win.

        2. Decius says:

          Do you want to consistently lose until you have enough skill to win, and then consistently win? Would that be more fun than sometimes winning despite being well below the skill cap?

          1. Dreadjaws says:

            All I want is my skill to show any kind of growth. If I’m randomly losing or winning, I don’t feel like I’m doing any progress.

            1. Philadelphus says:

              OK, I think I get where you’re coming from here, and I want to say this in encouragement: yes, when you’re first starting out the magnitude of the random swings can swamp your beginner’s skills and make your win rate fairly random, making it seem like skill doesn’t matter. I think the thing is that there’s a certain minimum skill floor required to be able to see that yes, it actually does, and it takes some time to get to that point and see that win rate start diverging from pure randomness (really, this is true of most activities in life, for creative definition of “win rate”). I realize this is coming dangerously close to “Just keep playing, you’ll start liking it!” territory, but I found that I did grow out of that phase after a while, to where my skill growth that had been slowly happening in the background finally become enough that I could see that I was doing measurably better than I would have by pure chance. Basically, hang in there, skill growth is happening in the background, it just takes some time to really start seeing it. (If you’re interested in speeding up the process, you might consider checking out some really skilled players on YouTube or guides to get some tips.)

              1. Syal says:

                I’ll say it’s like Pool; victory comes from knowing how to get the cueball to stop so it lines up next turn’s shot. Ending this turn on the correct square to make next turn easy is a whole lot of Into The Breach.

                …and some teams are worse than others. Starting team is quite good, Rusting Hulks is trouble.

            2. RFS-81 says:

              I don’t know a lot about FTL, so this is armchair theorizing, but: If a game throws a situation at you that you know how to take advantage of, that can feel a lot like winning by dumb luck. But if you didn’t have the skills, you wouldn’t even recognize it.

              FWIW, if you win half of your runs in FTL, you must be much more skilled than I am. I only played it a few times and even getting to the boss felt like an accomplishment.

            3. Decius says:

              Frankly, that’s on you. If you can’t observe any skill improvement it might be because you aren’t getting better or it might be because you can’t notice that you’re getting more perfect islands.

              If you aren’t getting better, try watching some video: record yourself playing and explaining why you’re taking each action, and then when you take a building hit go back two turns and evaluate if you could have avoided it, or if you could have predicted that your squad was a poor fit for the mission and taken a different one.

    2. John says:

      Huh. I thought that Into the Breach was supposed to be a full-information game. I mean, I’d heard that it tells you what enemies are going to do on their turns, when and where new enemies will pop up, and so forth. Is that not right?

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        You have full information on the upcoming turn, but not full information since things like “where the next wave of monsters will spawn 2 turns from now” are unknown, but you have to reach a reasonably high skill level before you start wanting to plan that far into the future anyway.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          There is also exactly one completely random element that the player can’t even predict the next turn. When a monster attacks a building there’s a completely random chance the building just completely ignores the attack like nothing happened. This doesn’t get complained about, because the random element only ever benefits the player when it happens, and the game makes clear it isn’t common enough you should plan around it.

        2. Syal says:

          It’s close to full information; you’re told where, but not which, monsters will spawn in, and they can usually move farther than you and have a lot of potential targets so keeping up with them takes good positioning.

          There are movement patterns that make it so the player can’t prevent damage (especially once bomb boys show up); if four-to-six monsters attack four fixed targets and none of them are next to each other, your three characters can’t stop them all without supermoves. But the enemies’ targets aren’t all the same value, so then the question becomes mitigation. And you can play the endgame early if you don’t think you can handle the late game, I do that most of the time.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            A good strategy is to get weapons and upgrades, which allow your mechs to damage more than one square per turn. Artillery that is an X shape, or a punch that also damages to the sides. With those, your three mechs can deal with being outnumbered, and keep the enemies from overwhelming them.

            1. Syal says:

              I’m thinking of a particular map I had once where on turn 1 four enemies took knight-move positions away from each other such that no weapon in the game could hit two of them, and all attacked buildings. To prevent damage you’d have to use the “blow everybody one square away” tool or something, which no group starts with.

              1. Decius says:

                Sometimes even that can be saved, if you can push one enemy into a position where it hits a different one.

                Not always, which is why you can take several hits before you lose.

    3. The Puzzler says:

      I get the impression that there are ways to eliminate the apparent randomness of certain parts of Into the Breach by understanding the rules by which new monsters appear and positioning yourself correctly a couple of turns in advance, or something like that. Personally, I prefer to just play it on Easy mode…

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Blocking enemy spawns by standing on their holes works fairly well. Then you’ve got less to fight in future turns.

        1. Decius says:

          The number of new enemies depends on the number of current enemies, so standing on them early on sometimes results in getting too many on the last turn.

          1. Syal says:

            Sort of; blocking a spawn doesn’t eliminate the spawn unless it’s the last turn, they’ll continue trying to spawn every round until they succeed. Better to let through as many as you can handle per round (also you only get xp for killing bugs not spawn-blocking them).

            1. Decius says:

              The number of new spawns per turn increases as there are fewer enemies in play; if you then also move off of three or four, you can get way more than you can handle in a turn.

    4. baud says:

      I didn’t play FTL, so I can’t compare it with ITB, but I never found ITB too random, I felt it’s closer to a puzzle game, in which each turn you have to find the best possible solution, depending on what’s on the board. And each turn the board get reshuffled (more or less depending on the map) and you do it again. And I’d think the player skill is important, as in knowing what your mechs can (or can’t do), whether or not make a move (do you grab a bonus or block an alien arriving on the board or sacrifice a mech for a building), whether to buy that weapon in the shop (does it work well with you current crew?), which map to do next, how many island do you do before attempting the final boss and so on, which are decision that are easier once you know the game bettter.
      I can understand not liking the game, but not really for it being too random, since there aren’t that much randomness.

      1. Fizban says:

        Indeed: a puzzle game where each turn is semi-randomly generated. I just started playing recently and swept a 3 island all objectives run on my first game on normal (with some luck).

        And the game starts before the first turn. Picking a mech squad that combines well with your primary pilot (who you may have carried over from the last run so they’re above starting level), putting that pilot in the correct mech of the squad, and remembering to assign their reactor boost before picking an island.

        Checking the types of enemies that are going to spawn on the island and comparing them to both your squad and the common hazards and mission gimmicks of that island (the first available squad really are good all-rounders, so this is less of a problem first run)- then you settle on which island to start at, and finally proceed to the point where you can start looking at available mission maps and pick (or be forced to pick) one.

        At which point you’re still not on a turn, but you’re on a turn. Because the game doesn’t give you standard starting positions: it gives you a zone eight or ten spaces wide, when your mechs have a starting speed of 3-4 and the enemy have speeds of 2-5.

        It’s the Drop Zone where the real “eff this random bullshit” happens, I’m pretty sure. Because if you don’t treat it like an actual turn of “gameplay”, you’re gonna get screwed, with your mechs all in off by one positions from where they need to be when the enemy splits up. You have to check the enemy’s possible targets and at least try to narrow down which mech should go where- having too strict of a plan will backfire in a couple turns, but no plan will backfire immediately. And this extends back through pilot and mech and island selection: the less attention you’re paying, the more oh shit factors you can pile up, and end up with the wrong pilot in the wrong mech in the wrong place against the wrong enemies on “turn one.” Because it’s actually like turn 5 before you even make an attack.

        I have certainly had moments where it looks like I got randomly dirted out. But I could tell immediately that what I’d actually done was walk into a situation I was ill-equipped to handle, bungled my initial placement, and turned a bad situation into a failure. Frustrating as it curtails options for certain squads, but playing cautiously to win always curtails options.

        The game also has a lightning fast “suicide” button- the moment you realize you’re not getting through this run you can just abandon timeline, save one of your pilots at no cost, and start a new one. I’ve had the extra turn reset pilot at max level for my last six games or so- and that extra power bar and reset makes it so much easier, both in general and in switching thought patterns for piloting one squad to another.

        (Full disclosure: I haven’t actually tried a full 4 island run yet, so if complaints about randomness are actually just about the final island having almost every enemy type and so many spawns that it comes down to whether you randomly get weak or strong enemies on each spawn, well that probably would be bogus.)

        1. Darker says:

          This is an excellent summary and no, the game doesn’t suddenly become luck based on the final island during a 4 island run.

    5. Echo Tango says:

      I feel like die-hard fans of any kind are the problem, not ones specific to one game or another. Having your legitimate complaints shot down with weak justification is annoying no matter who you are.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Well, yes, this is absolutely correct, but for these games these kind of fans seem to be particularly proliferate.

    6. Darker says:

      Ok, let’s settle this debate once and for all :) Of course Into the Breach is random, as each new run provides a different random challenge – different available weapons and pilots, enemy types, missions, maps, etc. The goal is to eventually get skilled/experienced enough so that you are able to win no matter what the game throws at you, using any advantage you can get. And it might not be obvious at first, but the game offers plenty of ways how an advantage can be gained, e.g. the choice of the starting island or initial positioning of your mechs have immense consequences down the line.

      Sure until you are skilled enough, some runs might appear easy and some impossible (since with the game being random you might get a challenge you know or don’t know how to overcome given your skillset at the time). If you think the game is “flawed” because of this, or you don’t find it fun figuring out what could make those impossible challenges possible, then maybe this game is not for you (and perhaps the whole roguelike/roguelite genre for that matter).

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Yeah, this is another of the random responses I usually get. No, I have no problem with roguelikes or roguelites. FTL and ITB are literally the only two games in the genre I have problems with. Again, the problem is not that the game is too hard or too easy, but that I feel that in any of those cases my skill never makes a difference.

        1. baud says:

          I think you’re getting that kind of response you get because it’s hard to understand why you think the game is “too random”/”player skill doesn’t matter”, when it’s not the experience of the other persons who’ve played the game.

        2. Darker says:

          To provide a counter example, I find Into the Breach the easiest of all roguelike/roguelite games that I have played, due to its reasonable learning curve, low RNG variance, fairness, and generally not that high skill required for consistent wins.

          But fine, obviously not every game appeals to everyone and I am certainly not going to try to convince you that you might start liking the game if only you keep trying long enough.

          My point is it is possible to master the game as plenty of people have proved, and your negative experience doesn’t mean there is some inherent flaw in it, or that other people will end up with the same experience as you even if initially they might feel skill does not matter and success/failure is purely controlled by RNG (which often is initial reaction to every roguelike/roguelite).

          1. Shamus says:

            I think there’s an important distinction between some of these different games.

            If I’m playing (say) Noita and miss a jump, fall into acid, and die, it’s very obvious what I did wrong. I know right away how to account for that later.

            “Oh. Heh. Okay, don’t use explosive weapons at point-blank range. Got it. I’ll watch out for that next time.”

            I haven’t played ITB, but from the descriptions here it sounds like this game provides a very different sort of failure. You get into a terrible situation and lose, but it’s not immediately apparent what your mistake was. Yes, that final turn seems like you got “unlucky” and those guys spawned in a bad spot or you wound up in a no-win position. (Or whatever. Like I said, I haven’t played and I’m kinda basing this on my memories of FTL.)

            But you weren’t “unlucky”. Your mistake was getting into that position in the first place, which happened because you did X three turns ago, which you were forced to do because you made a bad choice the turn before that.

            It’s not luck-based, but the player has NO idea what they did wrong and no idea how to avoid this failure in the future.

            These lessons are obtuse, frustrating, and require many attempts before you can learn what you’re doing wrong. This creates a sort of frustration that Spelunky / Noita / Crypt of the Necrodancer don’t.

            1. Chad Miller says:

              As someone who has played ITB without ever getting good at it yet, this sounds about right. I never thought “how unlucky” but I did think “man, I’m not sure what I could have done there.”

            2. Retsam says:

              This is, in a way true, there’s definitely a “I lost, but I don’t exactly what I could have done differently”. But in ITB, that’s true in the same way it’s true of chess, more so than in the same way that it’s true of, say, FTL. From a recent video on Go, a prominent board game reviewer said:

              One of the things that never gripped me about chess is that when I finished a game and got my ass kicked, I never felt like I learned anything.

              And, yeah, that’s true. You can lose a game of chess, look back on it, and have no idea what you did wrong, and I think that’s also true of ITB – there’s no way to identify the places you had better options, because if you had seen the better options you would have taken them.

              That can be frustrating and it’s tempting to blame the randomness, but it’s obviously not randomness that causes you to lose a game of chess, and I don’t think it’s actually the randomnesses fault in ITB either – it’s just that there were better moves on the board than the ones you played.

              And I really think FTL is a bad point of reference for this game, in this regard.

              FTL’s events are a game of blind probability, random dice rolls where you don’t have any idea what the possible rewards are or what the probabilities are. ITB has no such mechanic. (AFAIK, the only percentage dice roll in the entire game is a random mercy mechanic that sometimes spares you from damage with a low percentage)

              Errors in an FTL campaign tend to snowball – I can take a bunch of damage early on, have to spend all my scrap repairing, which means I don’t upgrade enough, which means I do worse in later fights, which means I make less money, etc. Or a bad build might cripple a campaign without realizing it.

              For the most part, in ITB, the mistakes in a single strategic battle are largely limited to the strategic battle: I mess up and take a point of damage on my power grid? That puts me a point closer to losing the campaign, but that mistake doesn’t have long-term ramifications, in the way that all FTL errors do.

              And, IMO, the biggest is that being better at FTL is almost about FTL-specific knowledge: learning the random events and their rough probabilities, learning about the ships and their loadouts, getting an idea of how to move through the galaxy.

              But ITB, it’s basically just generic strategy – apologies for going into humblebrag territory, but as someone who plays a lot of strategy board games, and particularly chess, I was pretty good at ITB from the outset. The open-information nature of the game means you really don’t have to “study” the game to get good at it.

              And I don’t think it’s overly grandiose to compare ITB to chess. I legitimately rank Into the Breach as one of the purest, most chess-like, strategy video games I’ve played – much more so than most similar strategy games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, XCOM, Advanced Wars, etc. So, yeah, it’s baffling to me when it’s dismissed as being “too random”.

              1. Duoae says:

                Maybe it’s my familiarity with the game but you absolutely do understand when and where you went wrong in a game of chess. Sure, when you’re new to a game you don’t but you learn to know when you made one or several mistakes. In fact it’s pretty easy with chess because you know when you messed up because you usually begin losing pieces.

                I’ve played both FTL and ITB and I felt that I could see where I went wrong in FTL but couldn’t necessarily “fix” the issue during that game because of the RNG – which is part of the game and it’s something I was okay with because I understood that was part of the genre.

                ITB was more opaque to me and my way of thinking. Perhaps that’s a presentation thing or maybe it’s that I’m not sufficiently familiar with the genre. I felt the move-to-move feedback was fine but the overall gameplay feedback felt like I had no control over it because I had no discernable way to predict what was going to happen when I did something.

            3. Darker says:

              Re ItB: I’d say some of the comments here make it seem much scarier than it actually is :) If you like turn based strategy games (like the new XCOMs for example) at least a bit, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out. And each mission only lasts 4 turns, so that should make identifying that earlier mistake easier.

              Re FTL: My success rate in FTL improved drastically after I learned to manage the ship better in combat (e.g. timing the salvos, controlling the crew when boarding/repelling boarders, power management). At least on easy difficulty a player could probably botch every important strategic decision and still steamroll through the game as long as they are fairly competent in combat. So it’s not like those hard to learn lessons (while certainly present) are the only ones to learn to make progress. And knowing probabilities of all event choices is useful, but it’s only really necessary for those crazy random-no-pause-hard win streaks.

              That said, I agree that even if theoretically you could master these games given enough time, as long as you don’t have fun during the learning phase it doesn’t make sense to play.

            4. Decius says:

              I often notice that I’m in a bad spot and that I could have done the last turn better without enough memory of what I did last turn to figure out what I could have done better.

              And often it’s because last turn I figured out a way to not take any damage that turn and did that, without considering if I could have taken mech damage to get a better position or if there was a better position with no damage.

      2. Decius says:

        The maps aren’t even procedurally generated, other than the enemy types and spawn locations.

    7. Retsam says:

      I don’t really know why you’re framing this so much in terms of surprise at the response. When you criticize a game with a complaint that’s drastically different from many other people’s experience of the game, is it really surprising that you get a lot of people contradicting you?

      Saying that fans are “really bad” just because they keep contradicting your controversial hot take on a blog that’s pretty much all about debating games seems a bit unfair.

      I’m not trying to convince you to like the game, obviously Into the Breach isn’t your game, and I don’t think anyone here is really trying to change that… but I think it’s just inaccurate to call the game “highly random”. Your opinion on the game isn’t wrong: opinions are never wrong, but your justification for it sure seems factually inaccurate to me. (And I say this as someone who feels FTL is “overly random”)

      If you want to complain about ITB, great. But maybe a little less being surprised about the fact that fans defend the game when you attack it would be nice?

  10. Ninety-Three says:

    I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore fan of Witcher 1 (it kind of wore out its welcome by the time I beat it), but I quit out of W3 partway through the supposed best quest in the game so maybe there’s something to the theory of it being too mainstream. My overall critique, which applies equally well to the combat, RPG elements, open world collectathon, and the narative, is that if you’re going to have so goddamn much of it you ought to make it more worth engaging with. Rescuing the Pellar’s goat or hunting random wild dogs to complete the sub-sub-sub-subquest to resume progressing the sub-sub-subquest is somewhere between boring and and an insultingly deliberate waste of my time, I had to engage in a lot of filler combat, it unnoticeably increased some numbers on my character sheet, and resulted in me wandering off to kill Monster Nest #23 along with Bandit Camp #37 to get vendor trash that was sold for gold I had nothing to spend on.

    If I have to fit my experience to the proposed “too mainstream” narrative, Witcher 1 had weird interesting rhythm game combat that kept me playing and W3 had nothing that hadn’t been done equally blandly by a dozen other Generic Ubisoft Games (I’m sure the narrative gets good by the thirty hour mark but I didn’t play that far). I agree with Shamus’s assessment that it was polished to a perfectly serviceable shine, but that is not enough to make me care about a video game.

    1. Geebs says:

      Doing a bunch of mundane side quests for idiots who Geralt finds exasperating to deal with is kind of the entire basis of the Witcher setting, though.

      I found that those quests worked much better if you actually role-played as a Witcher, and travelled from village to village sorting out their problems as you (G)went.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        “It’s exasperating on purpose” doesn’t really solve my problem. Doubly so when this is supposed to be some kind of choice-making roleplaying game and I’m railroaded into quiet compliance with their bullshit.

    2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      I’d like to point out that a TON of people (myself included) get turned off W3 by around a third of the game. I came back through and pushed through because I was super curious about the extensions. It was SO worth it! The game really picks up after Velen and the best moments are absolutely to come, crowned by Blood&Wine which is so good it’s not even funny.
      If you get bored of the map markers just ignore them, but if you ever feel like it I strongly recommend you give W3 another go.

    3. djw says:

      Witcher 3 had too much open world. I enjoyed it, for a while, but then I too became bored.

      I’m hoping that Cyberpunk strikes a better balance (for me) though I realize that my ideal game probably isn’t the same as the ideal game for most others, so I’ll probably just have to settle for what we get.

  11. Chad Miller says:

    Re: Kingdom Come – I really would like to find a way that I can “really play” it at some point. The problem is that:

    * The camera is tied to the player character’s head movement

    * The player character likes to bob his head in such a way that even something as mundane as opening a door results in the camera whipping around

    I think it’s the only video game to date that has given me motion sickness less than a minute in.

  12. Lino says:

    Hey, Shamus! Quick question: I sent two emails with questions for the Diecast on August 8th, and I was just wondering: have they been lost to the void, or were they just inappropriate for the Mailbag? If it was the latter, don’t hesitate to say so – it’ll help me send more relevant questions in the future :)

    1. Shamus says:

      Hm. I don’t know. Sometimes we cut questions because we don’t have anything to say on the topic, but I don’t remember doing that recently. In my mail archives, the last email I got from you (going by the email you used in this comment) was June 25.

      1. Lino says:

        Then I guess your spam filter must have eaten them. I just resent one of them. One of these days, I might resend the other (as soon as I reword it; as it stands, it’s just an excuse to share a video :D)

  13. ColeusRattus says:

    Oooh, a nice point about the changing focus away from a niche for sequels. Yeah, that kinda makes it impossible to have this effect in the exact reverse, or at least almost.

    And there are games that made that broadening of focus without alienating the original fanbase, like Witcher 3 that you mentioned, and the XCom reboot from 2012.

    1. Syal says:

      Going to be hard to think of a series where a later sequel won me over, since if I don’t like one game I’m probably never going to play another one in the series. But for games where I played a sequel first and then went back and couldn’t get into earlier games, Elder Scrolls: Morrowind had that; I tried Daggerfall and the maze opening and way attacks worked put me off. And I’ve only watched Persona 1 but it’s very much different from 3, 4 and 5, much closer to original Shin Megami Tensei. Of course Fallout 3 was hugely popular because it was an Elder Scrolls game instead of a Fallout game.

      Do spinoffs count? Mario RPG versus Super Mario, Tetris Attack versus both Tetris and Yoshi’s Cookie? … still can’t think of any examples for spinoffs but it’d be nice to know if those count.

      1. ColeusRattus says:

        Well, as for “counting”: I have yet to determine a proper ruleset for the question. I do think though, as spin-offs tend to not influence main line entries of series, they’re a bit off topic. I mean, I do enjoy pretty much all Mario games and spin-offs except Smash Bros., yet I don’t ever fear that that gameplay might bleed into other Mario games.

        And yeah, my second part of the question, which was dropped (I guess since I tend to be a bit long winded), was that I think name recognition is deemed to important, so franchises get ruined because the publishers want to attach new games to old names, and they don’t think about the problems that causes: 1) it alienates the existing fans, thus reducing possible fans, at least for the next entries after the change, and 2) people who were put off by the former games in the franchise might dismiss it aswell, again reducing possible sales.

        To go wwith Project Cars: 1 and 2 were pretty good racing simulators, 3 is a very “mobile game” feeling affair with a drastically reduced feature set to make it more accessible. Now,f ans of the series and racing sims in general are up in arms about how it turned out, and guessing by the player numbers (about 550 for the new one two weeks after relase, 1500 for part 2) , people who were more in the “simcade” market segment, did not buy it, because they did not get into the first entries of the franchise.

  14. Moridin says:

    I haven’t really been paying attention to news about Bloodlines 2, but I’ve been vaguely skeptical from the start. Supposedly the plot ties into Vampire the Masquerade 5e and while I don’t pay much attention to that either, the things I’ve heard about it are concerning.

    However, since I HAVEN’T been paying attention, I’ll withhold further judgement for the time being.

  15. Dragmire says:

    The trick to secure passwords is to use lines from Smash Mouth’s All Star so all you need to remember is which part of the song is which site:

    Skillshare: I-ain’t-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-shed
    Gas Card: I-could-use-a-little-fuel-myself
    College: Your-brain-gets-smart-while-your-head-gets-dumb
    ****hub: Well,-the-years-start-coming-and-they-don’t-stop-coming
    Twitter: My-world’s-on-fire-how-about-yours?


    Actually, I wonder if this would actually be more secure than the average passwords people make.

    1. Syal says:

      It’s definitely more secure than the stupid mandatory “you must have a capital and a lowercase and a number and a special symbol” passwords, where you just keep reusing Oh$#@!1 because it’s too hard to remember anything new.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      The Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” might also work, with the added benefit that the song goes too fast for hackers to figure out what was said.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      If it was a secret what song you were using, it would definitely be better than what most people make. Most people are still not using password managers, which reduce the mental burden from needing dozens or more passwords, to just needing a couple good passwords, so they do the absolute minimum that will work for the websites they sign up to, and/or re-use passwords. However, popular songs will eventually find their way into password-dictionaries and scripts, so…you probably don’t want to use popular songs. Also, the songs you’re likely to have memorized can be social-engineered, or harvested from your social accounts.

  16. Lino says:

    I’ve never liked controllers. But I admit, it’s problem is me. Ever since I was a kid, all I’ve ever used was a mouse a nd keyboard – same as all of my friends, and almost everyone I ever knew. Consoles were a huge luxury item. I had only seen a PlayStation once or twice, and have played on it for an hour at most. As I grew older, consoles became much more commonplace, to the point were most kids I meet today have one.

    However, I’ve always heard that controllers are much better when it comes to racing, platformers, and 3rd person. And it’s true that some of these games can feel awkward with mouse and keyboard at times. A couple of years ago, I was at the house of one of my lifelong friends, and he had a Steam Controller that he had bought recently. He’s a huge fan of the Binding of Isaac and Dark Souls – the latter of which was practically made for a controller. I asked him to try the controller out. I played some games on it, and… immediately put it away in disgust. Everything about it just felt… Wrong. He gave me a knowing look, and we went on to play some Hot Seat Worms: World Party.

    See, since we’ve always played with keyboard, we’ve become extremely comfortable with those controls, and it would take quite a while to train ourselves to use a controller. And even though he had had more time than me, he still couldn’t get used to it. And to this day, he plays both Isaac and DS with keyboard and mouse.

    If I ever buy a console, I’ll definitely have to learn to use a controller. But each generation, none of the exclusives have ever felt compelling enough for me to make the purchase. And now that I work, I don’t have as much free time. So buying one makes even less sense…

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I got used to a controller after I bought one. Now, I use controllers for the types of games you list, and mouse and keyboard for everything else. It still took me a few months of playing one game, before I felt comfortable with the controller though. The biggest thing that made me keep the controller instead of giving it away, was that most keyboards limit the number of keys you can press at the same time. If you’re trying to hold down run, jump, and shoot at the same time, you can’t do that with a normal keyboard. This is a common occurance in platformers, because you need to hold down run the whole time, you need to hold down jump to get the full height, and you often want to attack things in mid-air.

    2. John says:

      I got a controller for Street Fighter. While the game can be played on a keyboard, it was designed for an arcade stick and the types of movement inputs it expects you to make are more intuitive and much easier to do on a controller’s d-pad. On the keyboard, a simple quarter-circle motion requires a series of multiple key presses: Down, Down plus Forward, and then Forward. You’ll need to use at least two fingers and since keyboards weren’t really designed with this sort of thing in mind it’s not going to be especially ergonomic. On a d-pad, the quarter-circle is a single continuous motion of the thumb. The idea of playing Street Fighter on the keyboard I’m using right now, which has some fairly stiff keys, is honestly quite terrifying. The biggest problem I had when I first tried to play games other than Street Fighter with a controller was that I hadn’t internalized the button names. “Press A,” the game would tell me, and I’d have to stop and think about which button was A while various bad things happened to my on-screen avatar. It was off-putting, I admit, but I got used to it in the space of a couple of days. I’m sure you could too.

      1. Syal says:

        “Press A,” the game would tell me, and I’d have to stop and think about which button was A

        I still have to do that, because the Xbox uses the same button names as the SNES, but switches their positions around; A is where B is and X is where Y is.

        Big switch for me was playing way too much Disgaea, navigating up-down menus to steal at 1% success, hundreds and hundreds of times. Way too much stress on the left middle finger, had to buy a controller to move that stress to my thumb.

        1. John says:

          You know, I’ve got Disgaea 2 for PC. Can’t remember if I tried it with mouse & keyboard or not. I’m tempted to go back and give it a try except that it turns out I can’t stand Disgaea 2.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        I got a controller for Street Fighter. While the game can be played on a keyboard, it was designed for an arcade stick and the types of movement inputs it expects you to make are more intuitive and much easier to do on a controller’s d-pad.

        I agree, and I’m really missing my FightPad now that Street Fighter V was a free PlayStation Plus game. I find it interesting, though, that a number of competitive fighting-game players basically play on a keyboard. Have you ever seen the Hit Box? I got really confused the first time I saw a tournament player with the typical big box on his lap but no stick.

        1. John says:

          I have. I even thought about mentioning it. The reason I didn’t is that, for all its mechanical similarity to a keyboard, a Hitbox is nevertheless a specialized game controller. I mean, it even looks like a stick-less arcade stick. I’ve seen a variety of Hitbox-like controllers, and most of them use arcade-style buttons for directional inputs rather than keyboard-style keys arranged in a WASD-like fashion.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            That’s fair, but wouldn’t hitting D,S,SD to execute a Dragon Punch be similarly achievable for someone used to maneuvering in games which find a use for nearly all the keys around the WASD cluster? Granted, I was unaware of the cap on simultaneous key-presses allowed on the typical keyboard, but it seems custom bindings could get around the limitation.

            For the record, I am not saying it would be easy to learn. As Token Console Guy, I struggle to use a keyboard for non-typing activities. I’m just curious how big a hurdle the approach would be.

            1. John says:

              I suspect that the typical Hitbox-like controller is easier to use than the typical keyboard because the directional buttons are bigger, spaced and arranged differently, and have a different mechanism. I’ve never used one though, so I couldn’t say for sure. I have, however, tried to play Street Fighter with a keyboard. It’s awful. I managed a dragon punch easily enough in training mode because I could position my hands and fingers optimally for that purpose. The problem was that in an actual fight I found it a struggle to execute something as simple as a jumping attack. I might have gotten better if I’d stuck with it, but the controller was so obviously superior that sticking with the keyboard seemed like a ridiculous thing to do.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                Thanks for sharing. I full well know I couldn’t do it; I still activate my LotRO abilities in the wrong order about a third of the time.

                I suppose I presumed that the vaunted precision advantage of a mouse implied a similar level of dexterity when it came to the keyboard half of the equation. It would typically be the player’s off hand, I guess. Maybe the Hit Box fans are all southpaws? :-)

            2. Decius says:

              USB input devices are limited to six simultaneous key presses without some deep driver magic.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                Okay, in that case, Street Fighter inputs should be possible without incident, since the maximum button necessity should be four (two directions plus two attacks, for something like an EX Shoryuken). I guess I’d also need to know how quickly the input buffer gets cleared for frame-tight stuff like plinking.

                I have no idea if it’d work for a Marvel vs. Capcom game, though, because I have no idea what finger gymnastics those folks end up doing. Custom button mapping might be required.

                Of course, I continue to stress that I don’t think keyboard fighting is easy somehow. What can I say? Theoretician gonna theorize.

    3. Nimrandir says:

      Ever since I was a kid, all I’ve ever used was a mouse a nd keyboard

      See, I’m at the opposite end. I had consoles my whole life, because Young Phil could scrape together the money for an NES or a Genesis via birthday/holiday gifts. On the other hand, I’d have been saving most of my childhood to afford a computer by my lonesome.

      As a result, I grew up with a controller in my hand, and I can’t for the life of me use a mouse to look or aim with the precision that control scheme allows. I’m okay with something slower-paced like Lord of the Rings Online, but I’m hopeless at a shooter or RTS.

  17. RFS-81 says:

    I kind of forgot the punchline in my e-mail: You can play DOOM with a Playstation controller on PC, using the gyroscopes for aiming, because Steam just translates them into mouse movements. You can’t do that on the Playstation, because the Xbox controller doesn’t have them, so why bother.

    There’s a big hurdle for any changes to controllers. If you’re Nintendo and you have loads of first-party games, you can just push your latest gimmick, for better or worse. Otherwise, your innovation has to be “free” on the development side. The PS4 also has a touchpad that’s just one big button in most games.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      New controllers used to be “free” for developers – early versions of DirectX had a generic way to map an arbitrary set of analog sticks and buttons, to whatever buttons you wanted for your own computer. So if your game supported DirectInput[1] you’d just expect analog-1, analog-2, button-1, button-2, etc, and the player could map their obscure joystick/steering wheel/whatever, so that it would work the way they wanted. Nobody supports that anymore, and just wants you to use an Xbox controller on computers, or the 1st-party controller on the consoles.

    2. Fizban says:

      I maintain that it’s a complete travesty how an apparent/supposed lack of support for 3rd party developers coupled with the hilarious aping of Sony and Microsoft killed the Wii motion controls. The Metroid Prime collection with wiimote was basically the perfect control scheme. But people remember shooters there being janky and whine about Zelda games having bad controls (when TP was a gamecube game and SS worked fine aside from a menu/calibration bug that would be patched nowdays). I find it especially hilarious how VR controllers and game ports can’t seem to figure out how to do things (how about wacky finger loops that clip on your hands? navigate your list of favorited weapons by rotating this wheel instead of an actual motion! no, no, everything is motions, nothing but motions! etc) when the Wii crushed it a jillion years ago.

      (Granted, things may be improving, but I won’t be able to test myself until who knows when)

    3. Thomas says:

      I both really want gyroscope aiming to be a thing on consoles (I even like the gyroscope keyboard after a few days getting used to it) and really resent that no-one has done anything with the PS4 touchpad.

      At an absolute minimum, you could register swiping the pad in the each of the four cardinal direction as opening up a different part of the menu. With the fifth option of just pressing the pad, that would be a simple comfort to any inventory heavy RPG. The Witcher 3 does swipe to open map (which is good), but it could have added in another swipe for the quest menu, one for the bestiary and one for the level up. That would have saved me a lot of button presses.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        For what it’s worth, I think the PS4 version of Diablo III used the two sides of the touch pad to access different menus (inventory on one end, skills on the other). I routinely fat-finger stuff on my controller, though (of late, I keep bailing to the console shell while trying to execute Street Fighter V inputs), so I would probably have had to shut off any swipe-oriented stuff on the touch pad.

  18. Gautsu says:

    Having served in three separate war zones, the brown and grey shooters represented the real world combat conditions pretty well.

    I broke several fingers back when I was in the military. Prolonged keyboard and mouse play physically hurt me. Some games I can’t even imagine playing with controllers (isometric rpgs, strategy games, mobas) but any kind of action game plays better for me with a controller. So accessibility here.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Having never been in the military I’ll take your word for it. The question is though whether “brown and grey” is what’s called for in a given title or if it was just blindly applied in the pursuit of “gritty realism” even in games where that was not the appropriate tone.

  19. Melted says:

    Anthem (the health insurance company)[1] uses 2FA, although I don’t recall ever opting in to this. Unfortunately, they seem to have screwed it up, because literally every time I log into their website–from the same computer, from the same browser, every time–it thinks it’s a new device. So I have to go through this stupid little pantomime every month to pay my bill (sadly, autopay also does not work).

    [1]Normally I’d be vague, but you know what? Name and shame.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m still annoyed that OpenID died out. Log in to one place securely, once, and then have that place vouch for your identity, securely. I think there was some other similar standard that came later, but that one I don’t even think got the limited support that even OpenID got. Now we’re stuck with every company implementing auth on their own, instead of offloading that work to specialists who can reliably get it right. :|

      1. Addie says:

        Speaking as the dev that maintains OpenID on our company product; it’s quite the faff to keep working.

        It needs ‘https both ways’ to do the OpenID control flow, both for your site and for the authenticator. So it doesn’t work when there’s firewalls, doesn’t work if your web app is running isolated from the network, doesn’t work if your website doesn’t have a fixed URL, doesn’t work in a dev environment where you can’t get an https cert, doesn’t work for mobile apps that can’t accept the callback, so if you’ve a mobile app and a website you can’t have the same login for both. Google keep subtly changing the rules on how to work with their implementation, and it frequently gets broken when the web server gets updated too. And you might not want the ‘big data’ companies that offer OpenID authentication (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, …) to be even-better placed to monitor every website you go to.

        So yeah. Nice idea, but requires you to implement a fallback for most use cases; and then, why maintain both?

  20. Xannath says:

    About rubberband AI, I’d like to mention One Finger Death Punch, a small 2D brawler/rhythm game where levels go faster if you keep getting perfect scores and slower if you loose. The difference with common rubberbanding is that the speed is actually displayed on screen (like 150% on original speed) and as you guessed, it really change the feeling: you are now motivated to get the speed as high as possible instead of wondering why you loose at a level which seemed easy before.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      And with the sequel there’s an additional manually-adjustable component so you can bump it up even faster if you want.

  21. Thomas says:

    I had no interest in the earlier Tomb Raider games, but the reboot changed to cater to my tastes (for one game). I don’t know if that fits with what Norbert was asking about.

  22. Lars says:

    Ubisoft has nothing to do with bloodlines 2. It is still a Paradox Interactive game, but they replaced the leads with someone who has 20 years ubi history.
    Paradox themself is infamous for an extensive DLC policy, but not for in-game monetisation. On the other hand: Most of those DLCs are released month and years after the initial release, expanding the games with features, factions and so on – not only cosmetics. Expanding the lifetime of their games for the fans. So Service game in the actual meaning of service.
    It is unlikely that they fired the leads for a dispute on in game monetisation. Unlikely, not impossible.

  23. Douglas Sundseth says:

    There were absolutely red phosphor monitors. They were hard on the eyes, but they were used in places where operators needed to keep their night vision.

  24. Background_Nose says:

    Hearing your talk about “fine black carbon dust” from cutting carbon fiber.

    Please please please don’t be breathing that!

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Oh, definitely not. You just hold your breath the whole time you’re in the huge factory.
      Really though, the dust capture is quite good, so there’s not much floating around in the air. But the small amount of carbon fiber dust that does escape eventually settles somewhere. Not as bad as fiberglass dust, or asbestos though. Mostly just gives you black boogers for a day or two.

  25. LoneLizard says:

    FFS at least embed Nerrel’s video properly.

    It’s disappointing enough that you two shared your opinion on gyro aiming without watching the video first. If you look in his youtube, the guy also posted some interesting counter-arguments.

  26. DeadlyDark says:

    Better late than never, but I only now listened to the podcast. Hopefully, its still relevant

    To answer your question about TW3.

    My experience was mostly that. TW1 – oh, its unpolished, but awesome and kinda unique. TW2 made me a little anger with a switch from a more traditional RPG to a Mass Effect-like. It didn’t made me angry enough to not to play it few times, and I respect some of the design choices there (like branching story). So when TW3 came out, its was mostly continuation of TW2, and the damage was already done a game ago. TW3 is the most bloated of the three, so I only played it once, with addons.

    1. Syal says:

      I really wish people would lead with the game title instead of purely using initials. Is it Total War? Two Worlds? Trails of Wisconsin? Tales of Wisconsin? Two Wisconsins? Twine world? Twine of Wisconsin? The possibilities are endless!

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        Forgot to do it, yeah (in my headspace, atm it was all about answering the question). It was The Witcher.

        TW isn’t that bad, tbh. SC is way to go, if you want to confuse people

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