Diecast #321: Happy Halloween

By Shamus Posted Monday Nov 2, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 96 comments

Okay, this isn’t Halloween. But we recorded the show on Halloween so… whatever? Anyway, I hope your treat/ trick ratio was favorable.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

00:00 Maybe Ross Next Week

We’ll see.

01:08 Homestar and the Death of Flash

The characters themselves remarked on the death of Flash five years ago. I think Chrome is the only browser that will allow you to see the originals in all of their vector-animated glory.

An entire art form vanishing into the bit bucket. Alas.

Then again, there’s something satisfying about seeing atrocious broken software meet its well-deserved end. Bethesda has spent the last decade+ crowdsourcing their QA testing and bugfixes to their customers, and so it’s nice to see a little corner of the industry where quality still matters.

09:32 Amnesia Rebirth is annoying and I Quit.

It is very dark, and also your character is an idiot that will grief you.

17:24 Introducing People to VR

The true joy of VR isn’t experiencing it yourself, but in seeing someone else experience it for the first time.

34:23 Half-Life Alyx

It feels like Receiver meets Half-Life 2. I dig it.

44:07 VR: Unity Development

This is more fun than the flood of games I’ve got in front of me. We’ll talk more about this later.

45:51 TribeXR DJ School VR

I find playing this game / simulation to be both fun and mildly embarrassing. Like, there’s something childish about walking up to a DJ rack in a public place and just pressing buttons until you figure it out. Of course, the VR setting obviously isn’t really a public place with real people, but it looks like a small nightclub or whatever. It feels like someone is going to come storming in any minute and throw me out for messing with the equipment when I obviously have no idea what I’m doing.

50:16 Watch Dogs Legion

I don’t see people talking about this very much lately, and I’m not sure why. This is the first good Watch Dogs game. That’s gotta be worth talking about, right?

54:35 Mailbag: Doom Maps

Hi Shamus!

Have you per chance made any Doom levels back in the 90s? I was casually browsing through Doomworld’s Top 100 Most Memorable Doom Maps. In 70th place there is the map called “Doom City”, made in 1995 by Shamus Young. Is there a story to tell?

Link: https://www.doomworld.com/25years/top-100-memorable-maps/page04/



From The Archives:

96 thoughts on “Diecast #321: Happy Halloween

  1. Lino says:

    01:08 – In addition to the security risks, wasn’t Apple a big reason why Flash died? I remember reading that a big stumbling block for them was the fact that you can’t have your own marketplace within the App Store (and also the fact that Steve Jobs made the conscious decision not to support Flash on the iPhone). This effectively lokced them out of the very lucrative (and soon to be all-encompassing) mobile market. And as everyone started to embrace mobile, they gradually started dropping support for flash, and the widespread adoption of HTML5 was the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Yeah, iPhones not supporting Flash definitely contributed. It should have been de-commissioned a lot sooner, but Adobe didn’t want people converting away from their format…even if it was dying, and full of scandalous security holes. :)

  2. LBW995 says:

    Regarding Amnesia Rebirth:

    I finished it on Halloween and yeah the level design is often terrible (at communicating where you need to go).
    If I remember right, there is a cannon you can push so that it breaks the floor at spots where it’s obviously weak. (Tasi will comment on it when you stand on some weak floorboards). The cannon needs 2 wheels tho, luckily one is right next to it I believe, the other is in a storage.) When you got the wheels, just push the cannon and it’ll break the floorboards, allowing you to jump down and get to the radio.

    There is a lot more annoyances than in the first game. The fear flashes in the darkness are annoying, The puzzles often feel more like those adventure game puzzles of yore than problems you’d fix by, you know thinking logically, at least in my opinion. The journal also isn’t all that helpfull.

    That said, the story really gets going after the fort. (You’re this close to the first proper monster encounter). So I hope you’ll give it another chance.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The puzzle you spoiler-tagged seems pretty adventure-game-y to me. Like…if the floor is already half broken, you could just smash it open with a hammer, a loose brick, or any of the other things readily available in that location. (Even the pieces needed to solve the puzzle as it exists the the game – those are heavy objects by themselves! :)

  3. ivan says:

    This is the first good Watch Dogs game. That’s

    54:35 Mailbag: Doom Maps

    seems like there’s a rest of a sentence after “That’s” that is missing

    1. RFS-81 says:

      Or Shamus had a run-in with the evil conspiracy that’s stopping people from talking about Watch Dogs.

      1. ivan says:

        I’ve seen a few people streaming it. It hasn’t been helped by the fact that Twitch picked right now to aggressively clamp down on everything simultaneously, apparently.

        But yea, I hate the lazy writing in it, from what I have seen (not much). A whole lot of seemingly procedurally strung together conversations, between procedurally generated bland NPC’s, where they just throw platitudes and slogans at each other, whilst constantly acknowledging how much they agree with each other about everything.

        So, yeah, I’d like to hope that that may be another reason no one’s talking about it – cos it’s another bland Ubisoft game, at heart. Throw it on the pile and forget about it.

        1. Geebs says:

          seemingly procedurally strung together conversations….they agree with each other about everything

          From the screenshots I’ve seen, the lighting used in WD:Legion makes the city look way more like Toronto than it does London. I dunno, that might just be how people talk to each other in Canada-land.

          1. Naota says:

            Hey wait just a second, that’s an acceptably plausible thing to say. I respectfully agree with that statement and offer an apology!

        2. John says:

          From what I’ve heard, you can recruit almost anyone to your squad, including members of the sinister private security force, which you’ll often want to do because you can use them to get in to otherwise difficult to access places. The issue is that the conversations you sometimes get between squad members can feature things like one squad member talking about how much she hates those dirty, awful sinister private security guys with another squad member, who just so happens to be one of those dirty, awful sinister private security guys and even happens to be wearing their uniform at the moment. It’s nothing you can’t rationalize away if you’re willing to put in the effort, but it is kind of weird and it suggests that the game’s narrative isn’t necessarily paying all that much attention to the people that the player has recruited or what they’ve done.

        3. Redrock says:

          I really hate the drift towards non-entity protagonists in Ubisoft games and the way it leads to huge amounts of very unfocused, meaningless, empty and boring dialogue. The Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs games never had fantastic writing, but at least a lot of the time they had fun characters that had other characters interact with them in fun ways. The introduction of “choices” in Odyssey just made everything bland an non-committal. So Legion is the absolute worst version of a Ubisoft game for me personally, I ain’t touching that with a long stick. I still have a lot of Watch Dogs 2 to play through, for that matter. That, at least, has a weird guy in a weird mask and an ironic hipstahacker protagonist.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            My question is: why have the inter-character dialogue at all?

            The closest other games I can think of are XCOM/XCOM2, and they did surprisingly well with a few generic voice sets that rarely said anything more than ‘Yes sir’.

            If you CAN’T do characterful dialogue…don’t. Better than doing it badly.

            1. RFS-81 says:

              Wizardry 8 did it well I think, even though the characters are mostly just talking at each other. Or sometimes, even the player. It’s a classic party-based RPG and you select one of 18 different personalities for every character.

              1. DeadlyDark says:

                Isn’t it from the same company that made Jagged Alliance 2?

                1. RFS-81 says:

                  I think so. I’ve seen the two games bundled together, and I don’t know what else could be the connection between them. I remember JA having pretty funny characters, but I bounced off of it pretty quickly. Didn’t it also do the thing where the character portraits pop out on the left or right of the screen when they have something to say?

                  1. DeadlyDark says:

                    Yeah, top right corner

            2. Decius says:

              XCOM: Chimera Squad managed to do pretty well with banter.

              1. Philadelphus says:

                (I agree but) it also has specific characters with defined personalities.

          2. Sleeping Dragon says:

            I’ll be honest, I’ll take a non-entity protagonist over Aiden Pearce. My take on the last two WD games was that the gameplay was good, the feel of the cities was great, the story and characters were meh.

            The second game (starting with this one on purpose) was just kind of oscillating between a “plucky band of hackers at their computers” naivete and “this is all so serious” attitude with just a touch of hypocrisy but while I’ve found some bits annoying* there were also parts that were quite endearing and it occasionally stumbled into valid points.

            But Aiden in the first game was one of the very few video game characters that I’ve actively hated**. Largely because the writers were utterly blind to what kind of despicable, hypocritical moron they were writing and were convinced that they’re doing this tough vigilante on the righteous quest for revenge. It’s not just that Aiden refuses to acknowledge that his actions have endangered and continue to endanger those close to him, the game setting seems to believe that he is right in not acknowledging this and the people who point this out (most notably his sister) are wrong. To make matters worse this is sometimes surrounded by scenes that are both very well written and excellently acted, some of the “privacy invasion” sequences are chilling: parental abuse, attempted suicide (possibly two), an elderly man who’s most likely dead but could be dying lying on the floor as you listen to his son’s phonecall trying to reach out to his old man… but does Aiden the vigilante do anything about those? Call the cops or an ambulance? No, all that matters is stealing that person’s 100$ for his fight against the evilcorp.

            So yeah, I was kind of expecting WD3 to be poorly written in terms of the big themes but to be also fun to play and from the reviews I’ve seen that is what Ubi has most likely delivered. Frankly I might prefer it without the game giving me a character with whom I’m ostensibly supposed to empathise and then putting nonsense in their mouths. Guess I’ll see it in 3-4 years once all the DLC has come out and some kind of complete edition is on a sale.

            *Autism! Is! Not! A! Superpower!

            **This is an old rant that I’m fairly certain I did at least twice in the comment sections before so I’m going to try to cut it short. Yes, this is the short version.

        4. Liessa says:

          I’ve seen a few streams of it and I like their recreation of London, my home city, but it’s hard to get enthusiastic about a ‘save the city from evil oppressors’ storyline when we’re currently LIVING in a dystopia at least as bad as anything portrayed in the game (and about to get a lot worse). I only WISH that a bunch of cliched jackbooted thugs were all Londoners had to worry about right now. (Yes, I’m aware that this post probably breaks Shamus’ rules on politics, but I’m well beyond caring by this point.)

          As for the bland conversations, I’m not surprised in the slightest – what else can you expect when every one them can occur between literally any two characters in the game? This is the problem I’ve always had with procedural generation; it allows you to create a lot of content, but at the expense of anything genuinely unique and interesting.

          I do find the amount of swearing hilarious though. Don’t get me wrong, (some) English people do swear a lot – it’s generally less of a taboo here than in the US – but it depends on a whole lot of factors like age, class, regional background etc. Hearing a genteel, well-spoken old lady f’ing and blinding like some drunken yobbo at pub closing time just makes me snort with laughter,

          1. Thomas says:

            This put me off too. Normally I love games set in the UK. But it hits too close to home right now.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            Hearing a genteel, well-spoken old lady f’ing and blinding like some drunken yobbo at pub closing time just makes me snort with laughter,

            Yup, the foul-mouthed granny is practically a comedy trope of its own. Can’t find a TVtropes page for it, though…

            1. Ciennas says:

              Betty White’s Creator page might list it. I remember her performance in Lake Placid with interest.

  4. Joe says:

    Yeah, I was wondering about the hands. If it’s a pair of white gloves or whatever, it’s fine. I just feel that games should be inclusive for all sorts. It’ll be interesting once you work out what trick is used for the scale thing. And what about multiple hands in the pickup area? Can you somehow wind up with more than two hands?

    Of course Valve of all people would include hats.

    Maybe you should have the Amnesia devs on after Ross, and grill them on their dopey decisions.

    I remember way back when, game mappers would get their starts by modelling familiar areas as deathmatch maps. Schools and homes and such. But Columbine and Zero Tolerance changed all that. I haven’t kept up with the fan map scene. What do people do these days? I suppose they could use the same layout, just with a different tile set. “No, this is totally a military academy. It looks nothing like my school!”

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Kids could still make maps of their home towns, schools, etc for games, but it’d have to be for non-violent stuff like capture-the-flag games, or Minecraft or something. Plus, normal real-world settings are pretty boring – sci-fi and fantasy can have many cooler things, like spooky multi-level rickety towers, like the type of stuff Tim Burton did with his animated films! :)

    2. Waveof Kittens says:

      [quote]Maybe you should have the Amnesia devs on after Ross, and grill them on their dopey decisions.[/quote]

      Not unless he actually plays through the whole game, because at the moment he is only maybe two hours in or so.

  5. Mephane says:

    I don’t see people talking about this very much lately, and I’m not sure why.

    I even got the game for free bundled with a GPU and couldn’t even be arsed to install, let alone play it. Between the monetization, the always-online DRM, the horrible performance – all of which I expected by Ubisoft at this point – I’ll sit this one out as I do with all recent major Ubisoft releases.

  6. Echo Tango says:

    Re: Flash / Homestar Runner Re-Uploads
    There’s quite a few technologies that could do vector animations nowadays. (See this article for a list.) Adobe even has a help article that shows what menu will convert it in their software. There’s even this sketchy script on GitHub that’s half-way to doing batches of flash animations, like what would be needed to convert Homestar. :)

  7. John says:

    As Shamus said, much of Homestarrunner.com has been transplanted to Youtube. It’s true that Easter Eggs are handled differently, but that doesn’t bother me because, frankly, I never managed to find the Easter Eggs in the Flash videos anyway. The things that I’ll miss the most are the Flash games on the site. I don’t have the patience for Stinkoman 20X6, Thy Dungeonman, or Peasan’ts Quest, but I loved, uh, that one Dangeresque one-room point-and-click adventure game whose name escapes me and which I have just now tried and failed to look up because the old Flash site is apparently either defunct or will not work with Firefox. Darn.

    1. The Coach says:

      Population: Tire was so much fun!

    2. tmtvl says:

      Maybe Gnash can handle them? Old outdated hard-/software that nobody cares about is kind of the thing that FLOSS can keep alive forever.

    3. RFS-81 says:

      Newgrounds now has an app to play SWF files. I think it’s based on Ruffle.

      Don’t know about security holes (though Ruffle being written in Rust seems an advantage) but I doubt it’s a target for mass-market malware.

      Now the only thing I miss are those old LoTR parodies I watched on Newgrounds. Searching for it gives way too many results…

      EDIT: Found it! I have to say, “Ah yes, pizza, the one pizza, TO RULE THEM ALL!” was a lot funnier back in the day.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Ahh, the Legendary Lillypad at http://www.legendaryfrog.com/ was the place back in the day. And still posting content! Though mostly on Patreon now.

    4. RFS-81 says:

      Shamus, I think the spam filter has eaten my comment.

  8. Thomas says:

    Arstechnica wrote a history of Flash that’s a lot of fun. It’s jank all the way down.

    Animation software that accidentally became a web standard when Microsoft used it for the MSN portal without realising it was built by a couple of guys, that became a game engine when someone realised you can get really creative with a ‘Play’ button on a video.


  9. Redrock says:

    So Half-Life Alyx was the first VR game where I felt the power of VR compared to flat games. Because that was the first time ever in a videogame where I could screw up reloading a gun because I was panicking and fumbling the mag and forgetting to hit the slide release. Kinda hard to go back to regular survival horror games after that, because the player characters in those would always reload their weapons and perform other actions with machine-like precision, regardless of whatever shit may be going down. Having to actually deal with your stress and anxiety to improve your efficiency is a very, very cool trait of good VR games. That said, it’s still exceedingly rare.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      You can do fail-able reloading in games without VR; It just takes effort and thought. For example, in Enter The Gungeon, the Cog of Battle and the Rad Gun both have little reloading-time mini-games, where you have to line up the timer-bars, similarly to how hitting balls in many golf games works. The indie gun-reloading-simulator Receiver has many of the mechanics of real guns, like ejecting empty rounds, opening and closing a revolver’s cylinder, etc, which can all induce panic if you’re in a heated situation. :)

      1. ColeusRattus says:

        Yeah, but that’s all abstracted. In Alyx, and some other VR shooters, where reloading is a manual act from unloading to grabbing a new magazine, inserting it and chambering the round, there’s no system that makes you fumble. It’s all your personal stress.

        Playing multiplayer titles like Onward (a brown military manshoot) exacerbates that even further, by not only having much higher pressure, since you only survice a hit or two, having players as opponents and being able to actually drop guns and magazines. And it really is almost like emergent mini-stories telling seeing new guys fumble reloads under fire, while experienced players perform lighting quick reload drills that have them right back in the fight after a second or two, all governed by the same basic functions and systems with no rules to differentiate them but the physical and mental ability of the players themselves.

        And it’s a really great and satisfying payoff to go from the magazine dropping noob to performing precise tactical reloads.

        Talking of reloads: manual reloads in VR games actually help with the notorious “reload if not topped up” syndrome, since the process is, even when done very quickly, much more involved than press ing “r”.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          The reloads are only caused “by the system” if you haven’t practiced – that’s the same when using an abstraction or not. Humans are tool-users – they can learn buttons the same as fiddling with other physical widgets in their hands. As for reloads to top up ammo, that too isn’t something specifically solved by VR; The solution is giving a cost to reloads. Non-VR games can have penalties for reloading too – stamina drain on your dude, losing bullets from magazines, decreased accuracy for a short time after reloading (your hand needs to get back to its normal position).

          1. Decius says:

            Non-VR games can impose an artificial cost to topping off. VR games can have the natural cost, which is attention.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              Attention is not a resource exclusive to VR. Single button-presses without any extra effort are your culprit.

          2. ColeusRattus says:

            Well, perhaps I phrased it wrong, having played both VR games and games like Enter the Gungeon with more “involved” reloading mechanics… So let’s try it that way:

            Reloading in VR feels natural, as you mimic the motions you would need to do in real life. So there seems to be a level less of abstraction, even if there are buttons involved in the process. (Like holding a button for the mag release, actuating a button to actually hold the magazine etc.).

            Reloading by pressing “r” is an abstraction, because it’s physically removed from the action. But it still becomes second nature, so you don’t have to think about reloading when you want to.

            Games with more involved reloads like EtG, or SYNTHETIK or Gears of War never feel less abstracted, but more. I guess that once muscle memory has it down, it’s less of an issue, but still, despite being as “involved” as physicaly reloading in VR is, it feels one step more removed from the action. To me personally.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              Reloading by shoving fake rounds into a gun is also limited – there’s no force feedback or mass. For people who’ve never loaded a real gun, massless guns in VR might be good enough, but I can’t enjoy these games. :|

      2. Decius says:

        If you’re going to compare reloading procedures, you need to consider Receiver.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Replied to the wrong comment? I cited Receiver as an example. :)

    2. DeadlyDark says:

      I liked panic reloading in original System Shock – quickly selecting inventory, ammo, moving it to the left bottom corner, hoping that you’ll do it in time.

      Nice that VR is now able to do it in less abstract way

  10. Radkatsu says:

    While I’m happy to see Flash die, I can’t deny I have a lot of good memories of the early (read: better) days of the internet, watching insane shit like Joel Veitch’s Tales of the Blode videos.


    edit: we also can’t forget the stellar cover of Independent Woman by Elbow/RatherGood:


    What the hell, while we’re here, let’s have some XiaoXiao too!


    Seriously, Flash was a garbage format riddled with security holes, but the creations using it certainly weren’t :)

    1. BlueHorus says:

      What the hell, while we’re here, let’s have some XiaoXiao too!

      Wow, that’s a blast from the past. Still awesome…

    2. Lino says:

      Oh, I remember XiaoXiao! I remember watching it before I even had Internet! A friend of my mom’s had given it to is on a CD (the thing we had wanted was probably too small for a whole CD, so he had put some other stuff on it as well).

      But my best memories of Flash were from a bit of a later period – Fancy Pants Adventure, Johnny Rocketfingers, Cowboys and Chinamen, Drakojan Skies…

      But since we’re sharing memories, here’s one I really liked – https://youtu.be/Cp-Ys_iFwnM
      And here’s the remastered version – https://youtu.be/Ij4w7ChpuaM

      It’s also got a sequel, but it’s not nearly as good, in my opinion.

      1. Radkatsu says:

        We got Death Star! We got Death Star! We got Death Star!

        I’d heard that rap in another video (some sort of critique video, can’t remember the channel right now, might’ve been Civvie11 or someone), and never knew what it was from. Thanks for finally putting that question to rest :)

        Oh wait, I remember whose video it was now, Voxis Productions’ Rise of Skywalker review.

      2. Shamus says:

        If we’re remembering Flash gems of the past, then I have to give a nod to Weebls World.

        The two big viral classics (that I remember) are:

        Football Badgers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEb1Zh8eptg

        Magical Trevor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au3-hk-pXsM

        And I’ve always been a big fan of THE TERRIBLE SECRET OF SPACE but I don’t remember where it originally came from:

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Wait, footy badgers? That’s one I haven’t seen.

          Did it come before or after BADGER BADGER MUSHROOM?

          1. Shamus says:

            After, although footy badgers seems to be the more successful of the two.

        2. Lino says:

          I hadn’t seen Trevor and The Terrible Secret of Space. Thanks for sharing!

          But I had seen the badger one. My favourite one of these series is probably Kenyahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbYtASAakAI&ab_channel=Weebl'sStuff

          Atually no, it’s not! It has to be Narwhals, which used to be my ringtone for quite a long time in high school – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykwqXuMPsoc&ab_channel=Weebl'sStuff

          I also really liked My Horse is Amazing, but I discovered that much later.

          1. Lino says:

            Oh, and let’s not forget about the absolute classic – The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destinyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WgT9gy4zQA&ab_channel=AlbinoBlackSheep

            1. Shamus says:

              I forgot all about that one!

              I suppose now we can think of it as “What if Ready Player One had Been Good?”

        3. Chad Miller says:


          That was The Laziest Men on Mars – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Laziest_Men_on_Mars

          That particular song was based on a Something Awful prank I can no longer find. The people who made that track also made the music that shows up in that All Your Base video that was huge in 2001.

    3. Retsam says:

      Decline of Video Gaming 2 was my favorite, a lot of the humor and references are pretty dated today, though it still has some good bits.

  11. Wolf says:

    No YouTube embed? I liked to listen using the embed since then you have a more useable player with visual topic markers right next to the blog and comments.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      You can always subscribe to my YouTube channel! I do put up other things than the Diecast though.

  12. kunedog says:

    No YouTube embed?

    Yes Youtube embed. Check your adblocker if you’ve done anything to alter it recently.

    1. Shamus says:

      I just added it. I’d originally forgotten the tag.

      (Just wanted to make sure Wolf knows they’re not going crazy. :)

  13. Chris says:

    I was wondering if you could just take off your glasses if you put on a VR set. I’m nearsighted (short range vision is fine, beyond 1m everything is blurry), and you strap a screen right to your face. So i figure if youre nearsighted you can just take off your glasses and put it on.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I thought all modern VR headsets had extra lenses in them, to mess with the focal distance[1] of the images. Meaning, you actually need to be able to focus your eyes at the 3D-world’s distance, not three inches in front of your eyeballs. I’m like…92% sure they had to add this stuff, because most people got really barfy if their eyeballs were focusing on three inches, but the rest of the imagery was saying it’s many feet away.

      [1] Or something like that; I’m not a physicist or optometrist.

    2. Fizban says:

      I expect they’re supposed to have room for glasses within, or have a warning that says you’ll need contacts, but I would also think that it should be easy to put in a global Prescription setting that adjusts the thing to match what your glasses are supposed to do and thus remove the need to wear them simultaneously.

      1. Decius says:

        It would be hard to do in software, because focal problems would prevent a point of light on the screen from converging to a point of light on the retina.

    3. Geebs says:

      I’m afraid you’d be stuck wearing glasses. People who are longsighted can get away without, but you’re just as short-sighted in VR as you are in the real world. Any astigmatism doesn’t get corrected, either. Prescription lens inserts that fit inside the VR set are generally the best option.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        “If you get Lasik surgery in VR, you get it in real life!”

    4. RichardW says:

      I’m pretty nearsighted and do just fine in VR without wearing glasses inside, I’ve tried it before and it’s massively uncomfortable to try having both on your head. The ability to manually adjust the physical distance both horizontally and vertically of the lenses on Valve’s headsets probably has a lot to do with making it not cause discomfort (providing you dial in the IPD distance just right).

  14. Dingdong says:

    Amnesia Rebirth is a huge disappointment, and a mystery. I just don’t understand how those who made The dark descent and Soma managed to make a game as stupid as Rebirth. And the first hours of the game are the best one, it only gets worse after, with a lot stupid outlast-tier chase sequences. Infuriating.

    1. RichardW says:

      It really was an “is that it?” kind of feeling as I realized I was nearing the end. I definitely think Rebirth’s aesthetic and a lot of its themes align fairly close to the original game, but the plot events and their presentation through gameplay leave a lot to be desired. If the whole game had been structured more closely to the fort section it would have at least been more interesting to return to, but it’s so linear trial and error past that point I’m amazed I managed to make it through.

      1. WaveofKittens says:

        Well, I liked the background story about the other world, but the actual plot was pretty disjointed, constantly throws convenient obstacles into the player’s path and jumps around environments way too much.

        Personally though I do not understand why people keep pointing back to The Dark Descent as an example of a better game, because honestly this one seems very much like Amnesia 2. Too much for my liking. I wouldn’t have minded dispensing with the predictable jump scares and chase sequences. They worked and were well implemented, but I just don’t like all of this overly scripted stuff anymore. They can do better.

        Just keep in mind that they always had intended to make two games after they had finished Soma. A safe project and a more experimental one. I suppose what we got now was the first not the latter. It just grew into something bigger than they had intended. I mean, they wanted to do it this way to be able to put out games more regularly. That at least has certainly not worked out.

  15. Olivier FAURE says:

    Every time I see the Diecast mentioning Ross I wish Shamus would invite Ross Scott. Maybe we should start a petition or something?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I keep suggesting he invite John Carmack on to the show, but it just results in him blushing and fanning himself.

      1. Chris says:

        Well i would be pretty bashful too if i got Carmack on. Because you talk for 15 minutes, he tells you all sorts of cool stuff, and then you realize you dont understand it all and he’s operating on another level.

  16. Olivier FAURE says:

    When the first trailers for Watch Dog Legion came out my first take was that the “you can recruit anybody in your team” concept was exactly the kind of game design decision that would look good on paper but have a huge number of downsides and practical difficulties that would basically negate most of the theoretical advantages and just make your game boring and hard to develop.

    From what the other commenters are saying, it sounds like Legion didn’t really manage to avoid these downsides. Coming from Ubisoft, I’m not really surprised.

    That makes me wonder how a game would avoid these pitfalls, though. How do you make a game where you play as an evolving team of procedurally generated characters, while still giving said characters distinct personalities, and interactions with the story so that their lines aren’t limited to barks like “taking cover!” or “enemy over there!”, but actually integrate with the ongoing plot?

    (I’m told The Division 2’s bark system is pretty good, though; is it better than Legion’s?)

    Also, how do you write the kind of cinematic story that AAA games are known for, with betrayals, setbacks, some kind of character development and some personal stakes, when there is no guarantee that your early-game team and your late-game team have any characters in common?

    1. Liessa says:

      From what I remember watching an LP of Division 2, the main storyline characters are all fixed (apart from the player-created protagonist). There are a handful of characters like that in Legion, from what I’ve seen of it, but not many. The AI character seems to have by far the most personality of any of them.

    2. Syal says:

      while still giving said characters distinct personalities,

      Actually I think Battle Brothers did alright with that; characters get random traits, and the traits lead to mini-quests as the band roams around.

      I’d say treat personalities like level-ups; new characters are all Newbies and don’t say much apart from “what’s going on” kind of stuff. Once they upgrade from their rookie status they get a personality trait, like Gregarious or Aggressive (we can totally steal all of these from Crusader Kings). We can lock some of these behind various physical traits to give the world more flavor; only Old people can be Nostalgic, or somesuch. Make several sets of dialogue for each different personality, and don’t reuse any until the list has been exhausted.

      Next level-up, they get a backstory about why they want the villain gone, which updates their dialogue. Feels like you could get away with just a couple of lines from their previous personality trait in the backstory (Aggressives say “They won’t get away with that”, Empathetics say “I still can’t understand it”). Sanity checks so your Gregarious character doesn’t end up with a dead family or your Emotionless character doesn’t end up a birthday clown.

      Next level-up… friends? Nemeses? Some kind of sidequest activity involving people from their lives. Or maybe just more specific personalities; they evolve from Aggressive to Uses Aggression As A Coping Mechanism, and they get more specific dialogue.

      For storytelling, you need to accept that the villain is going to be the actual main character. They’re the ones getting the setbacks, and the last-minute schemes, and the betrayals. Might be difficult to give them enough screentime if you’ve actually promised the player can recruit anyone, but there it is.

      1. Ultimate_procrastinator says:

        An Emotionless birthday clown sounds incredible, actually. You make that an incredibly rare easter egg, give it some unique dialogue where they try to tell jokes in a flat monotone… a few lucky players get a hilarious surprise. If you do it right – poorly done, it would probably just be annoying

  17. evilmrhenry says:

    Regarding age limits on VR, it looks like a thing where the companies aren’t *certain* that VR doesn’t do damage to developing eyes, but are reasonably sure it’s safe for anyone above 13. It seems like the potential danger would be from long-term use, not just a one-time demo, but this is one of those things that aren’t going to be studied, because it’s difficult to get research approval for “does doing this thing cause long-term damage to kids”. (Same reason a bunch of medication has “do not use while pregnant” warnings.) I assume in a few years, someone will do a study comparing normal kids to kids with cool parents that gave them a VR headset when they were 10 and we’ll have actual science one way or the other.

    (There are also aspects of “kids may have trouble recognizing that they’re getting eyestrain and/or nausea, and should therefore take a break”, so keep an eye on any kids using this.)

    1. Moridin says:

      In case of Oculus, I suspect it’s just boilerplate data collection stuff. After all, we’re talking about Facebook here.

  18. Steve C says:

    Regarding 13 yrs old, it is due to a US law (COPPA). It is a fairly old law. (20yrs old?) About a year ago the FCC got serious about enforcing it. It would be a much better law if that kind of legislation affected everyone regardless of age, or no one. The intent is to protect kids. The result is the exact opposite. It is far easier to exclude kids from protections instead. Therefore 13 becomes minimum age. Like if a 12yr old was being cyberbullied and wanted to take action, the child’s account would be terminated instead of the harasser. Or in the case of Shamus allowing children to experience VR– That’s against the rules. You felt joy at witnessing the smiles of children..? You monster!

    It’s a bit like the OMG Cookies!!! Do you agree??? Really sure? Like for reals agree to cookies?? European law. Really badly crafted resulting in perverse incentives and nonsense.

    1. Radkatsu says:

      @Steve C: Ugh, that cookie law was the height of EU stupidity. I’m not sure if they were just dumb or intentionally malicious (probably both, to be fair), but it really was incredibly moronic either way. Much like GDPR, which sounds like a good idea on paper, but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired and really does nothing beyond cause everyone more work for no good reason.

      1. Retsam says:

        GDPR is a lot of work, but I do think it’s more benefit than harm. (And I say that as someone who’s gotten paged at night due to issues with the GDPR service my team was suddenly responsible for writing at the last minute)

        The cookies law I’m much less sympathetic on. It may have had good intentions …but the when your law gives companies the choice between “spend a lot of time and effort to overhaul how you use cookies, potentially compromising some of your avenues for profit” or “annoy the user a little bit with a popup”, it really shouldn’t have been hard to predict how this was going to go.

  19. Lanthanide says:

    1. Quest 1 has a slider for the IPD (which Paul mentioned). Quest 2 doesn’t have a slider, instead you have to physically move the lenses together or apart. There are 3 settings, equating to 58mm, 63mm and 68mm, choose the one that is closest to you (looks best). There’s a little recessed hole in the center above where your nose goes which has a number in it which corresponds to those settings (1 = 58mm, 3 = 68mm). Unlike Quest 1, you have to take the headset off your head to change this setting, which is kinda annoying. But the advantage is that I found the IPD slider on Quest 1 REALLY easy to nudge, especially when taking the headset on or off.

    2. No current consumer-level headsets do eye tracking but it’s under active development by many companies. There’s a VR headset called “DecaGear” that is suppose to be releasing in May next year which will have hand tracking, face tracking and hip tracking and cost only $450, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to meet their price point / ship date / feature set, IMO.

    3. Oculus Link is supposed to be coming out of beta very soon, probably before the end of the year. Whether that means those annoyances will be fixed up, I don’t know. But it’s going to use the native quest home environment when it’s final, rather than the oculus rift home that it currently puts you into.

    4. The room guardian can remember multiple rooms, and even multiple guardian layouts for a single room. I’m not entirely sure how it does this or picks which one to use, but it definitely can remember multiple discrete rooms. If you end up with multiple boundaries in the same room it can be kind of annoying if it picks the wrong one since there’s no obvious way to tell it which one you want, apart from drawing a new one (which may make the ‘multiple boundaries’ problem worse). There’s an option under Settings that lets you erase all saved boundaries.

    5. One thing you may not know about Alyx is it uses an AI Director (like Left 4 Dead) to reward you with ammo, and I suspect it’s used to place resin in random locations as well. So if you use the pistol a lot, it will give you pistol ammo. If you never use the shotgun, it will never give you shotgun ammo. So if you’re like me and avoid using a gun until you find ammo for it, it can put you into a vicious circle of never finding ammo for that gun. I found this out shortly after I got the machine gun and so used that as my primary weapon from then on, and never had a problem with it. There’s a chapter later in the game where the facemask comes in handy.

    6. Roundup of good free games on SideQuest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouhw3_BaDrE

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      The resin spawns are fixed. They’ve been the same on every playthrough I did and watched. Not sure about the ammo spawns.

      (if they *are* procedural, they’re probably at fixed locations where the type of ammo you get depends on your usage patterns)

      1. Lanthanide says:

        The ammo is definitely procedural. If resin is fixed, it suggests ammo probably is randomly selected at fixed spawn points, with 0 being a valid quantity to spawn.

      2. Olivier FAURE says:

        The developer commentary for the game has come out.

        Turns out the ammo drops are at fixed locations, but some drops can be removed procedurally if the game figures you don’t need them.

        So for instance, an area can have 5 shotgun drops at handpicked spots in the room (in drawers or whatever). The game can decide to only keep 2 of the drops, but it can’t replace a shotgun shell with a machine gun cell.

  20. Lars says:

    It is funny to hear Shamus rant about Aiden Pierce character. Funny, because in The Other Kind Of Life he created nearly the same character as the main protagonist. Maxwell Law and Aiden are similar minds. Both start on a revenge journey, but other people try to force them onto a different target. Both do whatever they can to take back control into their own hands, finding comrates they keep at a distance. The difference is that Jen could be resurrected, while the hacker girl of Watch Dogs 1 stayed dead.

    1. Syal says:

      Aiden has a torture victim in his base for the duration of the game, and blackmails untrained people to break into enemy strongholds. He’s worse than Max.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Other differences:
        * Max is self-aware, while Aiden is only self-serving.
        * Max did hard time, while Aiden gives everyone else a hard time.
        But most importantly:
        * Aiden has an “iconic” baseball cap

        1. Syal says:

          I’ll expand on that, since I think my first comment missed the mark:

          I think the difference rant-wise is, Max is repeatedly shown to be out of his depth on things. His introduction is a guy starting a fight with him that he doesn’t want, and needing to improvise his way out of it. He’s pulled into the main mystery because people assume he has a skill he doesn’t actually have, so he’s lost for most of the story. He gets beat up because he walked by the wrong people. He makes a reference to a kid’s name that the kid doesn’t understand, so he’s not great with people he doesn’t know. He’s describing himself as off his game. He spends a chapter just finding an old mentor and trying to get their thoughts on things (or was that a flashback, I don’t remember, but either way, whole chapter).

          Contrast with Aiden Pearce, who doesn’t do any of those that I can recall. He’s never out of his element; even when he’s left taking care of an estranged nephew who’s dealing with compounding traumatic experiences, he’s got the magic words to get the kid to open up. He trades barbs with the villains. He’s always the aggressor, tracking the next villain down. He doesn’t ask the hacker girl for help, she asks him to help. There’s never a sense of vulnerability for Aiden.

          1. Lars says:

            Point taken. Max never had the skills everyone else believed he had. Aiden is pursuied because he does, and use them to achive his own goals.
            Aiden opens up the mind of his nephew? That’s news to me. He had an aquward talking with him in the backyard of his sisters house, before he got another skolding by his sister. And after rescuing the nephew he dumps him to a women to take care of the kid. A women we never see again in the game.
            Aiden isn’t a likable character. But he is the protagonist in the story of Watch Dogs, not just Errant Boy like so many other chosen heroes in games. Max doesn’t run errants as well. He doesn’t ask Jen to help him solve this mystery. She forces herself onto him, while he tries to find a way out and still get his revenge on the crooked cops.

            Again Aiden isn’t likable, but I take him as the main character before Trevor, Michel, Franklin or the drug abusing Hipster Kids of Watch Dogs 2 any time.

            1. Syal says:

              I was thinking of this scene, but it looks like I misremembered it, I thought Aiden brought up the healer thing.

  21. Olivier FAURE says:

    Hey Shamus,

    I’m currently working on an open-source GUI framework in Rust intended to be used, among other things, in video games. The first release should come out before the end of November. Any chance I could nerd-snipe you into testing it?

    I’m asking because I’ve really liked your previous posts about GUI libs and their failings (Object-Disoriented Programming in particular). I think you’re really good at cutting to the heart of usability problems, identifying major trade-offs, and saying “Okay, this is bullshit, I don’t want to to use a tool that clearly doesn’t respect my time”, whereas a lot of people when judging frameworks kind of stop at surface-level aesthetics.

    Also it’s a good occasion to learn this shiny new “Rust” thing the youngsters are always going on about.

  22. Mr. Wolf says:

    I’m good, I’ve got this cool name.

    You’re not wrong. In the unlikely event I write a YA novel, I’m probably going to have to pay you royalties for it.

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