Diecast #332: Mailbag Speedrun

By Shamus Posted Monday Feb 8, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 86 comments

We tried to see how many mailbag questions we could do this week. As it turns out, the answer was “all of them”. There’s technically one question left, but it was a “What do you think of this video” type question, and I hadn’t watched the video.

Paul will be away for a few weeks. Maybe I’ll have guest hosts. Maybe I’ll do something else. I dunno. We’ll see.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:
00:00 Paul is Moving

03:49 Mailbag: KoToR

Valuable Diecast

Help, I’m running out of synonyms for „dear”

After Disney finally took away from EA their exclusivity to develop Star Wars games, the media began to gossip about the new SW: KotOR game.

For this reason I was wondering:

Do you think there is a place for new KotOR? Assuming it would take place in the Old Republic period, would that franchise still carry its weight?

Shamus once mentioned (well, checking it now, it was Josh, but Shamus agreed) that the first KotOR was pretty much THE RPG for many players. That wasn’t the case in my country – for us it was Gothic – so I don’t know how strong the sentiment towards this game is. Was it really that popular? Is it still?


16:06 Mailbag: Reverse-ARPG-ification

Dear Diecast,

WaveofKittens’ question about ARPGs in Episode 330 made me think about Ghost Recon. It’s a series of tactical shooters that became co-op open-world Ubisoft collect-a-thons where the player feels like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando. Breakpoint, the most recent title (2019), tried to be more like Destiny or Borderlands, with randomized loot, gear levels, and raids.

This new direction didn’t interest me or my friends, so we didn’t pick it up. Sales figures aren’t public, but Ubisoft’s CEO said it was very disappointing. I’m not sure how many sales were lost because of gameplay changes versus its’ horribly buggy launch.

Six months later, they released the “Ghost Experience” update, allowing players to turn off most RPG elements. You can disable gear leveling and change simulation settings for more realism. The crazy part is that both game systems run concurrently, so one person in a co-op session can be playing a milsim, while the rest are searching chests for a +2 Legendary Assault Rifle.

I bought Breakpoint after the update and I’m having fun with it. Are there any games you wish would get a patch to become a different sub-genre?

Stay safe,

P.S. Breakpoint takes place on TIM Island; you should demand royalties from Ubisoft.

21:33 Mailbag: Disco Elysium

Dear Diecast,
With the imminent release of the Director’s Cut next month, I was curious if either of you had played Disco Elysium, and if so, what are your thoughts? After playing it a few weeks after its release, I was enthralled in the game in a way I haven’t been for many years, and I personally think it’s in the running being one of the best RPG’s ever, or at the very least, the best of the past 10 years.
Many thanks,

25:56 Mailbag: Ring Fit Adventure


I recall when you were playing with Wii Fit you talked about creating actual games that included exercising as part of the mechanics. I’ve been playing Ring Fit Adventure and it seems to be trying to do that, as to even move through the game you have to at least lightly jog, the attacks are specific exercises, and even opening chests in the world requires squats. Do you have any thoughts on it?


31:05 Mailbag: Changing Perspective

Hello Diecast.

Recently I watched a video on how replaying Dishonored in 2020 was a very different experience from when it first came out due to the pandemic.
Have you ever replayed a game and found that your perception of it was vastly different to your initial reaction because of something you had experienced in the intervening time?

~Ben Hilton

39:14 Mailbag: Evolving Sequels

Dear DieCast,

I’d like to hear your thoughts about how far sequels can change the direction, style or feel of a game series. Your dialogue concerning Thief: Deadly Shadows brought this issue to mind. Although, I personally enjoyed the game, I also understand that players who loved the sprawling levels might have found the smaller Thief 3 stages less disappointing. What do you think the limit is for sequels, or should there even be one?

46:46 Mailbag: Minecraft mods

Dear Diecast,

in last week’s episode Shamus mentioned he has been playing Minecraft again, which made me wonder: what mods do you guys like?

I myself have been playing some GregBlock, although I like switching it up with Enigmatica 6 for the QOL improvements we got since the Update Aquatic.




From The Archives:

86 thoughts on “Diecast #332: Mailbag Speedrun

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    Latest rumors are that a new KOTOR game is indeed being made and the developer is Aspyr Media Inc, who so far have only ported games.

    On one hand, it’s not being handled by some AAA publisher who’ll inevitably try to meddle or insert bullshit like microtransactions, surprise mechanics, or “live services”. On the other, it’s quite a bold move to just delegate the task of developing a new entry of a beloved ip on a bunch of unproven developers. I’ll try to keep open expectations for this one, no excitement or disdain, just a passive interest.

    1. Joe says:

      CDPR got their start through porting games, and they did pretty well. But they licenced an IP for the purpose of games, rather than continuing an existing game series. So there’s obviously no way to tell at this point, but I remain cautiously interested.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      What’s extra surprising about this particular game is that the original KOTOR was made by BioWare…which is owned by EA. Taking away the EA deal just to farm KOTOR out to someone else is quite the vote of no confidence.

      1. MerryWeathees says:

        I highly doubt Disney cut the exclusivity deal off just so they could get someone else to make KOTOR, it’s more likely that they finally realized that opening up to other developers and publishers would be more lucrative for their brands.

        Aspyr may have been chosen because they already have a working relationship with Lucasfilm Games, since they worked on the re-releases of Jedi Outcast and Academy.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          Oh, slightly sloppy wording on my part; I didn’t mean to imply that’s why they ended the exclusivity deal. It’s more like in the idomatic sense. “Disney ended EA’s exclusivity deal on Star Wars, only to immediately announce a different company would be making the next game in a series started by an EA subsidiary!” It just feels like some tremendous ball-dropping had to take place to let that happen.

          1. RamblePak64 says:

            Considering that this rumor has occurred after an official announcement that Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment are going to make a new Star Wars game, I have a feeling Disney/Lucasfilm canceled the exclusivity with EA months ago and opened their doors up to new pitches. Whether Aspyr themselves had a pitch or not, I don’t know, but it seems they’ve ported both Knights of the Old Republic games to other platforms in recent years and therefore have some connection to the franchise. It’s possible they themselves assembled a pitch of sorts once Disney/Lucasfilm started taking new ideas.

            This is, of course, all speculation, but I feel like that’s the most likely scenario. There are rumors of other Star Wars games in early stages of production as well, both inside and outside of EA. So basically, the fiasco of Battlefront II likely led to a 2020 of altering the deal with EA and setting the ground work for new deals to be struck.

            1. Philadelphus says:

              Yeah, I know Aspyr surprise-ported (at least it was a surprise to me) KotOR II to Mac and Linux some years ago, I wanna say around 2015-ish or so. (I’m not sure about KotOR I, it’s been ported to Mac but not Linux but I’m not sure when or by whom.)

              Edit: whoops, didn’t see Gautsu’s comment below!

          2. MerryWeathers says:

            “Disney ended EA’s exclusivity deal on Star Wars, only to immediately announce a different company would be making the next game in a series started by an EA subsidiary!” It just feels like some tremendous ball-dropping had to take place to let that happen.

            I remember there were as an article a few years ago by Jason Schrier that reported that Bioware was begging EA to allow them to make a new KOTOR game but they woudn’t budge (probably due to Lucasfilm interference or because they wanted to continue working on SWTOR).

            Probably for the better, considering Bioware’s recent track record.

        2. Gautsu says:

          Aspyr did all the ports of Kotor 1 and 2. They should be pretty familiar with the franchise by this point. And I see the exclusivity drop more in favor of the Ubisoft open world Star Wars game that was initially announced

    3. John says:

      I have absolutely no idea whether or not Asypr are competent to make a good Knights of the Old Republic, but I am confident that the game they do make will at least run well on Linux. So there’s that.

      Actually, this is the first I’ve heard of a new KotOR. I’m not sure I want another one. I love the first one, warts and all, and I even sort of like the second one. (It’s not a bad game, exactly. It’s mostly just bad Star Wars.) I think that Shamus is right and that everyone seems to have learned the wrong lessons from the success of the first game. The right lesson is “make a game set in the Star Wars universe that’s far enough removed from the movies that it isn’t constrained by them” whereas the lesson that LucasArts (and possibly Bioware) seem to have learned is “people really like this Old Republic period”. I know I’d rather have a new Star Wars game with new characters and a new story than another game like Knights of the Old Republic II that tries and fails to continue the story of Old Republic so far.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        Whereas the lesson that LucasArts (and possibly Bioware) seem to have learned is “people really like this Old Republic period”.

        If there’s one thing I hope they change, it’s the visuals and aesthethic of the Old Republic era. Maybe make it similar to Tales of the Jedi, I always thought it was a glaring issue that everything in the comics looked primitive and ancient then 40 years later in-universe, the galaxy is already running on PT era level technology.

        I really disliked that, would have been more fitting if KOTOR was set just a few centuries before the PT but they couldn’t because then it would have contradicted a line in TPM about how the Sith were gone and the Republic had experienced peace for a millenia.

        1. John says:

          I agree that Knights of the Old Republic need not have been set thousands of years prior to the movies. There needs to be enough time for the Republic to recover after the game’s Dark Side ending, but thousands of years is probably overkill for that. I think something like five hundred years, give or take a hundred, would easily have sufficed.

          That said, the technology on display in Knights of the Old Republic did not bother me at all. Star Wars isn’t about technology. It doesn’t matter how many gigajoules of energy are in a turbolaser blast or if a lightsaber is a plasma thing or something else entirely. There are few things more futile than a Star Wars technical manual. Star Wars–by which I mean the films–doesn’t care about that sort of thing and so neither do I. If Star Wars technology is much more stagnant than real technology over the last couple of hundred years of real history then fine, sure, whatever.

          It probably helps that I have zero familiarity with any other spinoffs set in the Old Republic. In fact, I had absolutely no idea any such spinoffs existed until years after I first played KotOR. Even if I were familiar with the Old Republic comics–they’re comics, right?–however, I’m not sure it would matter. I don’t expect consistency between spinoffs in the first place because I have never regarded any of the spinoffs as, pardon the term, real Star Wars. It’s important to me that spinoffs are consistent with the movies but not important to me that they are consistent with each other. But, to be fair, if I had read the Old Republic comics, liked them, learned about an upcoming game set in the same period, gotten excited about the game, and then it turned out that the game was not like the comics, then, yeah, I might have been a little bummed out.

          1. The Puzzler says:

            Star Wars is about a Galactic Republic / Empire with thousands or hundreds of thousands of planets, and countless millions of scientists and engineers. After a few centuries, there would be very little new left to invent, except for the occasional pointless discovery that if you get some really big kyber crystals, you can destroy an entire planet in one go, instead of just destroying the surface like you could with regular space lasers.

            I think the main advantage of the Old Republic era is that it allows for stories where there are hundreds of evil Sith apprentices to fight.

          2. MerryWeathers says:

            It’s less about consistency for me and more of going for a visually uninteresting choice, it’s a completely new era not beholden to the movies yet it’s still aping the same aesthetic.

            I do understand why they Bioware did it though, this is part of what makes KOTOR “feel” like Star Wars, it essentially being a video game adaptation of the OT.

  2. Zgred77 says:

    Hi, Darek here.

    I’m from Poland. You can tell how popular Gothic was by noticing how much the first Witcher was influenced by it.

    1. Thomas says:

      Yes! I guessed Central Europe. You guys have a strong history of interesting CRPGs.

      1. Rho says:

        BtW Shamus, Gothic is a little (ok, very) rough around the edges, but I’d be genuinely interested in your take on it. Even just the first, say, 10 hours. It’s so different in style, tone, and intent that it seems like you’d have plenty to say.

        1. Zgred77 says:

          Given its relentless cynicism, world made of jerks and really high level of difficulty, I can’t imagine Shamus having a good time with it. I love Gothic, but, eh, it’s not for everyone.

          1. Rho says:

            Making no assumptions about whether or not he would enjoy it: *I* would enjoy greatly seeing him respond to it. It just has so very different a design concept than most American-made RPG’s (and is basically incomprehensible if your frame of reference is JRPG’s) that I am curious how Shamus would respond. Even the control system is completely functional, but built on different bases than what is considered “normal” in other games.

            I do pull out Gothic 1 or 2 every few years, so I admit bias here.

          2. RFS-81 says:

            I don’t know. It’s grumpy and cynical (like a certain blogger) but it’s not bleak and hopeless. It’s full of jerks, but I really like the characters that become friends with the hero; Diego, Milten, Lester, Gorn. Getting them all back together for the final quest in Gothic 2 was so great!

            I don’t remember much about the difficulty. It’s open world with no level scaling, so you can just bump into monsters that are way out of your league. On the other hand, you can save-scum to your heart’s content.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      Interesting! I don’t know if it was the RPG for many people in Germany, but I liked it a lot. I got it from the bargain bin, and when I was done, I bought Gothic 2 at full price the next day. What made it so popular in Poland? Eurojank solidarity? US games didn’t get translated?

      1. Zgred77 says:

        To make long story short IMHO:

        1) It worked on our computers;
        2) It had one of the most memorable dubbing ever. Very “memeable”; if you waned to know what people were talking about, you had to play it;
        3) Its atmosphere was very fitting for post-communism generation. Comparing to more “colorful” fantasy games like Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, KotOR and alike, Gothic was much more relatable, more dirty, more cynical. There was no place for anything “lofty”.

    3. Simplex says:

      Being from Poland myself (although never having played Gothic), when I heard Gothic I thought “Germany or Poland”. Then Shamus read your name as “Derek” and I got confused :)

      1. Zgred77 says:

        O, hi, I remember you from Polygamia. Small world!

  3. MerryWeathers says:

    I find it ironic that Torment: Tides of Numenera received a lot of fanfare and attention for being the second coming of Planescape Torment, complete with it’s own Kickstarter and then when it finally came out, no one gave much of a shit about it and the ones who did derided it for just being a shallow copy/paste of Planescape Torment.

    Then this little karelian game developer comes out of nowhere and blows Torment (made by established game develoeprs) out of the water with Disco Elysium, capturing the essence that made Planescape unique and even improving on it, like completely removing combat and instead an in-depth, stylish, and well written dialogue system. It’s always the european games that have a lot of soul.

    1. Geebs says:

      Honestly, I just don’t think Planescape Torment has aged very well*. It turns out that in my case, What Can Change the Nature of A
      Man** is Chris Avellone’s exhausting nihilism and too many damn words.

      *I came to it very late, but I’ve played plenty of other old-fashioned western RPGs.
      ** from A Man who really wanted to like this game, to A Man who was heartily sick of it before getting out of the first dungeon

      1. GoStu says:

        I think I agree, I picked up Planescape: Torment and ended up putting it down pretty early. I even happen to like the setting, but I found it was a slog to end all slogs to play.

        1. Liessa says:

          I finally tried it a couple of years ago and never finished it either. There was certainly some good dialogue and description, and I appreciate the emphasis on non-violent playstyles, but I found a lot of it to be heavily overwritten. Combined with certain other things, such as all the women in the game looking like strippers, there were times when I found myself rolling my eyes at how adolescent it all seemed rather than being wowed by the brilliant writing. (Absolute word on Chris Avellone, by the way – I know I’m in a distinct minority here, but I’ve ended up utterly loathing every single character written by him in every RPG I’ve ever played. It gets to the point where having a Kickstarter project announce his involvement makes me LESS likely to support it.)

          1. Gwydden says:

            Oh, thank God, I thought I was the only one. I really can do without Avellone’s umpteenth take on the “know-it-all asshole” archetype. And I always found it ironic how a game that’s supposed to be SO DEEP MAN has a male cast of bizarre monsters while the major female characters are mostly sexy monster girls and wanna call the Nameless One “daddy.”

          2. Daniil Adamov says:

            I will say this for Avellone, his writing is very distinctive. I can’t think of any other game writer whose work is so immediately recognisable. (I’m not as familiar with Japanese games; I guess Hideo Kojima may have this too?) I knew which characters in Pillars of Eternity were his without reading up on that first. That’s probably worth something, though it may also be a point against him since he keeps tapping into the same archetypes. He also seems like he genuinely tries to ask interesting, subversive questions about settings, which I appreciate in theory. Despite all that I can definitely see where you’re coming from; much of his writing just ends up coming across as pretentious and way less clever than it was probably meant to sound.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              Very late to the party but I wanted to say that I’ve replayed P:T like three years ago and I actually found it better than I remembered (and I don’t mean that as some kind of backhanded compliment). I think to me it holds because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to tell some universal truth, yes Ravel is searching for an answer but she is ultimately circumstancial to TNO’s personal story. Having said that I may be a sucker for certain types of writing and I will totally agree on the female party members, doesn’t help that cutscenes seem to like Annah in particular so someone was very happy with that character model…

    2. tmtvl says:

      Yeah, Numenera was a complete dud. That said, I don’t regret funding it, it’s got some neat ideas, even if it stumbles at the carry.

      1. Addie says:

        Certainly a misfire; I got as far as Miel Avest sanctuary and then realised I just couldn’t be bothered, even though it’s very much my style of game.

        I think two things killed it for me:

        – I could just never get on with the combat at all; absolutely any encounter, I would get trounced. Pacifist playthroughs are all well and good, but mandatory pacifist playthroughs are limiting.

        – it hadn’t got to the bottom of ‘why should I care?’ by about half way through. Who am I, what are my goals, why am I doing these things, on what basis am I making all of these momentous decisions? I don’t mind a bit of mystery, but there’s so much presented without any context at all that it’s overwhelming. Or possibly, underwhelming.

        1. Thomas says:

          I found the writing to be unnecessarily flowery. Planescape has a lot of description, but there was always a clear purpose to it

    3. jurgenaut says:

      I am one of those who unapologetically simp for Planescape: Torment, though in all honesty it’s been 7-8 years since I last played it.

      I tossed some money onto the Torment: Numenera kickstarter, but I didn’t play it until a couple of years after it was released, and I didn’t really like it that much. I get that it was mostly a commercial for a new RPG setting, but… the mechanics of the game got in the way of the story. Things that may have worked fine at the tabletop do not carry over very well to CRPG. The expend-points-for-better-chance sounds good on paper, but it’s not fun gameplay. It gets better as you increase in level and get “free” expenditures, but the game needs to woo me properly before I invest myself to that level.

      Ps:T was about the human condition, the nature of good and evil, how regret eats at the soul and how, in your search for redemption you may end up doing far more regrettable things. Maybe, just maybe, it had been better to go to hell for your sin in the first place rather than incur tons of more sins for a chance to redeem yourself of the first one.

      Torment: Numenera, I honestly can’t remember what the theme was. Value your life while it exists? Don’t make yourself immortal at the cost of other people? Don’t use the tides?

      1. Chad Miller says:

        The expend-points-for-better-chance sounds good on paper, but it’s not fun gameplay. It gets better as you increase in level and get “free” expenditures, but the game needs to woo me properly before I invest myself to that level.

        Interestingly I had the opposite reaction; I thought it looked awful on paper but then I tried it and ended up liking how it played. There’s actually one point where I deliberately didn’t use Effort on a check for roleplaying reasons; I was generally playing the typical “tries to negotiate out of combat whenever possible” character but I knew the person I was talking to belonged to a cult that had killed a friendly NPC. So I picked the diplomatic option but didn’t spend the Effort, figuring I would try to talk them out of attacking but didn’t care enough to try that hard (the check ended up failing and, having made my token attempt I killed them without guilt)

        1. jurgenaut says:

          I understand your point – when I was walking around, talking and doing stuff, I’d get a skill check in a discussion, that was fine.

          My main beef was the combat. Having to pay extra for a basic auto attack – to bring hit chance up from 35% to 55% felt weak. What kind of a choice is that? Do you want to end combat quickly or slowly? The quicker you end the combat, the more points you spend, so the fewer combats you can have before resting – but if you fight conservingly you take more damage, so you have to rest anyway.

          Missing an attack in a turn based game is a big deal. Every turn follows the basic “I attack, then you attack”. When you miss, you take more damage. In real-time-with-pause this wasn’t that big of a deal. You got X weapon swings per turn depending on your weapon skill IIRC, and missing some didn’t affect things much.

          I don’t like when I realize that I’ve unconsciously calculated how many mobs per rest I can do. That means that the drama is gone, replaced with Inn costs and frustration with how many loading screens I have go through between the current danger zone and the nearest rest location.

          As I said, this is mostly for the start of the game. Late game you have higher stats and get free spendings on skill checks so it is much less of an issue.

      2. Daniil Adamov says:

        I actually enjoyed Tides of Numenera, though when people list its many flaws I find it a little difficult to explain why. It’s definitely no Planescape overall, and I certainly enjoyed Disco Elysium a lot more (than either, probably; I’d replay Planescape to check, but it’s way more of a slog). I guess the colourful setting and the occasional cool character moment made it for me. I liked the text adventures as added apertures into the story and the Effort system worked for me as well (same reasoning as Chad Miller). The overall storyline is kind of mediocre, true, though truth be told I wasn’t floored with Planescape’s main story either – it only clicked for me when I decided I want to get it over with. Maybe I just wasn’t sympathetic to its themes to start with, although I can’t answer your question about Numenera either.

    4. Chad Miller says:

      I liked Tides and I liked PS:T but felt the worst parts of Tides were the parts trying to be PS:T. I loved the whole everything is machines, leftover universe feel and constantly throwing weird nonsense at you but then it tries its pale imitation of “What can change the nature of a man?” and things start to feel clumsy and forced.

      I still haven’t played DE, and will probably wait for the Director’s Cut now that I know it’s coming (I actually bought the game release week and still somehow haven’t gotten around to playing it, oddly enough), but from everything I’ve heard it sounds like they had to the good sense to do their own thing and to it right rather than try to poorly ape past successes.

    5. BlueHorus says:

      Torment: Tides of Numenera received a lot of fanfare and attention for being the second coming of Planescape Torment, complete with it’s own Kickstarter and then when it finally came out, no one gave much of a shit about it

      I wonder if it’s a similar thing that happened with Pillars of Eternity? It wasn’t a hit with everyone, but I really liked the game, despite the dull combat* and slow pace. There was a metaphor, the story had a mystery/hook, there was a theme running under everything…
      After that, PoE 2 came out and featured…stuff, happening in the same universe. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it wasn’t really more than that. A fairly good example of an unnecessary sequel.

      From what I’ve heard*, the Planescape games are similar? The first game told its story, asked its questions, made its point, then ended. A sequel can invoke the same setting, but without some underlying metaphor or meaning…?

      *By the way, an ‘Easy’ combat setting that doesn’t make the fights easier but instead makes them less common is the best option I’ve seen.
      **I’ll admit haven’t actually made it past the first town.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        Torment: Tides of Numenera isn’t a same-setting sequel to Planescape: Torment, or to anything else. It’s another game that features many of the same creative people but a different IP and company, much like Pillars of Eternity cribs from PS:T and other Infinity Engine games but is ultimately its own thing.

      2. tmtvl says:

        Oh man, PoE2 is so good, become totes-not-a-pirate (or, in fact, totes-a-pirate) and hunt down a god who’s gone walksies. Meet up with old friends, make new friends, kill new enemies, see how your choices from the first game affect the world.

        Plus choice between RTWP or turn-based combat! What’s not to like?

  4. Joe says:

    To nitpick, the KOTOR games were set around 3.5 thousand years before the movies. However, the Dawn of the Jedi comics opened with a brief glance 35 thousand years before, before jumping ten thousand years to 25 thousand years pre-movies.

    The new subseries, the High Republic, is set roughly 200 years pre-movies.

    You ever find yourself wondering why you know some random bit of useless trivia, or why anyone else would care about it? Yeah.

    1. Lino says:

      Hear hear! For what it’s worth, out of the entire EU, my favourite period is the Great Hyperspace War. And a bit of the Exar Kun Rebellion. Although by the end of that latter storyline, I was finding it very hard to care.

  5. Lino says:

    11:09 – [paraphrasing] – “KOTOR started with a clean slate”

    A clean slate that is basically the Rebels vs Empire who have a super weapon. It even had stormtroopers :D. Jokes aside, though, I could never get into KOTOR. I was the right age to love it, but at the time Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy were all the rage, and I just absolutely couldn’t get over KOTOR’s abysmal-looking lightsaber combat.

    I mean, in all the movies the mere touch of a lightsaber is enough to cut off a someone’s hand. But in KOTOR hitting someone with a lightsaber has the same effect as hitting them with a baseball bat. It’s just never looked right to me.

    Also, I don’t know how I feel about UbiSoft making Star Wars games. All the articles I’ve read say that the team behind The Division 2 are making a “brand-new, story-driven, open world ‘Star Wars’ adventure”.

    And that right there sounds exactly like the sort of bland by-the-numbers-collect-a-thon crap that turned me off of UbiSoft games years ago. I’m guessing it’ll just be a reskin of the new Assassin’s Creed (Valhalla et all).

    On the other hand, those games are making tons of money, so it’s obvious people love them. Same goes for KOTOR. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the lightsabers in those games. So I guess in that regard I’m just part of a very non-vocal minority.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I think the lightsaber thing is a matter of how well you can understand the necessity of gameplay conventions and so ignore them. For me, I was coming from the Gold Box games and Icewind Dale, where you can get hit by a sword full on and only lose some hitpoints, so it wasn’t at all strange to me for that to happen for lightsabers and blasters as well.

      1. Liessa says:

        There was some handwavey explanation in-game, but yeah, it basically boiled down to not making lightsabers an instant “I win” button.

    2. MerryWeathers says:

      I heard The Division 2 was actually quite good for a looter shooter so it seems Ubisoft Massive knows how to do “live service” games. I suspect it’s going to be set in the High Republic era, would fit with the news of how they’re expanding the series into a full-on multimedia project with The Acolyte and the rumors of a cartoon show being made.

    3. John says:

      When people call Knights of the Old Republic a clean slate, what they mean is that it’s so far removed in time from the events of the movies that it isn’t constrained by those events. It can tell the story it wants to tell without worrying too much about how well that story fits with the films. The story it wants to tell is an enthusiastic pastiche of the original trilogy, mashed up with the structure and tropes of Bioware’s previous Dungeons & Dragons RPGs. If that’s not your thing, then that’s not your thing. It is my thing though–at least when it’s done well. As it happens, I think it was done pretty well.

    4. Philadelphus says:

      I just absolutely couldn’t get over KOTOR’s abysmal-looking lightsaber combat.

      I mean, in all the movies the mere touch of a lightsaber is enough to cut off a someone’s hand. But in KOTOR hitting someone with a lightsaber has the same effect as hitting them with a baseball bat. It’s just never looked right to me.

      I absolutely get what you mean about the (non)lethality of lightsabers vs. unarmored opponents, but I actually quite liked the look of lightsaber battles in KotOR II vs. similarly-armed opponents. It’s possible I’m remembering it through rose-colored glasses, but I think I remember the animations got “better”—more fluid, acrobatic, and just cooler in general—as your characters leveled up, so that near the end of the game lightsaber battles were these really neat-looking affairs, even if mechanically they were just “spam Master Flurry until the enemy is dead.” (Though only if you wanted to actually stop and have a battle instead of “spam Force Storm until everything is dead in three casts”. And that sounds like I’m criticizing the game, but as a power fantasy, I actually think it’s great that someone as hyped up as the The Exile is made out to be can actually have the mechanical power to back it up. Why yes, I can solo armies, thanks for asking.)

  6. Daimbert says:

    Thanks for answering my question.

    As for the specifics of the controllers, what it does is you take the left controller and strap it to your thigh with the provided strap, and then take the right controller and put it in the provided ring, and through the two of them the game determines what you’re doing. It IS possible to cheat, of course, but often it’s more difficult to do that than it is to just exercise (for example, running in place would be easier than shaking the left controller up and down through an entire 5 minute or so level). Ultimately, it’s not bad at figuring out what you’re doing but in general isn’t so picky that if you aren’t quite doing it properly you can’t get anywhere with it, depending on difficulty level (and there seem to be a number of them). I’d guess it’s about the same as Wii Fit in that regard, but has the advantage that it isn’t using some kind of light-based detection system and so I can use it no matter what the light conditions are (with Wii Fit I couldn’t use it if it was dark because in the dark it couldn’t detect my movements and if I turned the light on the shadow fell on the detector and screwed it up).

    On cheating itself, I’ve pondered that but for me doing that kinda defeats the purpose of having the game in the first place. I’m not THAT attached to the story to force myself to follow it through while not exercising. So instead I find that it provides a just interesting enough story that I’m not bored while doing it for about a half an hour before I get tired or need to go do something else, which makes it a wonderful replacement for the exercise bike. The biggest issue for me right now with exercise is being bored, because if I get tired and I’m bored it’s too easy to quit. This game gives me something at least somewhat interesting to do while exercising and has nice discrete units that can give me a good time to stop instead of stopping whenever I want to, without seeming like it’s just exercise.

    One thing to note with it is some of the elements that are aimed to exploit gaming mentalities. For example, I hardly ever do stretching before starting these things, as it’s a foreign concept to me from my childhood where exercise was working or playing a game and we just wanted to get started. The game, however, gives XP for doing the stretch before starting. So, hey, “free” XP, so I do it. You don’t get XP for doing the cooldown stretch, so I always skip it.

  7. Daimbert says:

    Separately, on KotOR.

    First, THE RPG for me was probably the Gold Box games in general and Curse of the Azure Bonds in particular (even though the only Gold Box game I’ve finished is Gateway to the Savage Frontier). But that’s more a reflection of age, I guess. I had Ultima but never really got into it.

    Setting games in the Old Republic timeframe has some issues, however, notable a potential clash with The Old Republic, either alienating the fans of that game or else dovetailing into the same sort of reference issues that the other works are having. So they’d need to pick a significantly different time and, as TOR is showing, will likely end up referencing them anyway.

    One of the issues with not using Jedi/Force users in a Star Wars game is that the Force and the Jedi are the big thing that distinguishes Star Wars from more standard sci-fi, and those abilities play a large part in the world. You can do a game where the main character isn’t a Force user, but the Force is going to have to be mentioned there somewhere or else you risk it feeling more like generic science fiction than Star Wars, which is not what you want in your Star Wars game.

    Given current technology, I think I’d kinda like to see a Rogue/Wraith Squadron type of game, mixing the flight sim aspects with ground mission and more standard RPG aspects. That would be a way to tie it to the timeline you’re in without having to use very main characters while explaining what they were doing during that time (the grunt sort of missions that always need to be done).

    1. tmtvl says:

      While I like the Gold Box as much as the next guy, I love the Age of Enlightenment trilogy (Ultimas 4 through 6). While Quest of the Avatar has little storytelling and barely any dialogue, the way it carries its core concept is strong and the simplicity of the mechanics create a very pure and focused experience.

      Warriors of Destiny builds on and expands the mechanics of QotA and tries its hand at some basic storytelling. While I’m conflicted on trying to balance my personal need to uphold the virtues with the need to infiltrate Blackthorne’s palace to find needed information, overall the story isn’t very strong and some of the dialogue is awkward. That said, the Companions have actual personalities now, that’s nice.

      The False Prophet is the first RPG with an amazing story. It’s a wonderful capstone to the Age of Enlightenment and the darker tone is a good setup for the Age of Armageddon which was to follow. For me TFP is what PS:T was to other players.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I have that trilogy from GOG! I just haven’t played them yet. I think I was in a suite in residence at university with someone playing one of those, actually, but I never had any attachment to Ultima and so never picked any of that up myself.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      One of the issues with not using Jedi/Force users in a Star Wars game is that the Force and the Jedi are the big thing that distinguishes Star Wars from more standard sci-fi, and those abilities play a large part in the world. You can do a game where the main character isn’t a Force user, but the Force is going to have to be mentioned there somewhere or else you risk it feeling more like generic science fiction than Star Wars, which is not what you want in your Star Wars game.

      I dunno, Battlefront 2004 was extremely Star Wars and I don’t think it needed the little “spawn as Darth Vader for sixty seconds” gimmick to pull it off.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Yes, but it wasn’t at all original and just copped from the big battles and characters of the various trilogies. It’s easy to make something feel like Star Wars if you tie yourself that tightly to the movies. If you want to do something more original, though, and don’t include Force abilities or Jedi it’s going to be a lot more difficult.

        Of course, I don’t object to those moves either, as per my suggestion of the Rogue/Wraith Squadron idea.

  8. tmtvl says:

    The main character was the super weapon! …wait, isn’t that the plot of Trigun?

    1. bobbert says:

      Man, Trigun, that makes me smile.

      “It’s heavy, because it is full of mercy.”

    2. Retsam says:

      Are you trying to tell me Trigun isn’t a romance anime about donuts?

      1. tmtvl says:

        Doughnuts going to high school. In the second season they get an exchange student, it’s a bagel.

  9. Chris says:

    deus ex was all about every conspiracy being true. Although Warren spector had to admit he didnt put in a few conspiracies since they were too stupid (since as the denver airport conspiracy). I thought it was clever since it makes for an interesting setting. Also i thought it aged better when you replay it now. Things like the pandemic, shady billionaires and powerful government agencies are more realistic in 2020 than in 2000. Now you just have to believe its not just a terrible situation but something engineered on purpose.

    I think that world of warcraft/MMOs felt special, not just because there was something new around any corner and now you look it up. But because i think when you first play a game anything is possible. You just logged into a magical fantasy world where people running around are controlled by actual people. You could be a dwarf hunter hiking through snowcovered mountains trying to hunt down a bear, you could be an elf living in a magical forest shooting fireballs. Maybe you can join a faction or find treasures in a cave. Like when shamus played WOW and mentioned he found a cave at the edge of the world that was filled with some developer characters. Or how in the deadmines you could bug out the instance portal and walk into a beta version of the outlands.
    But now I know the switches and levers that operate the MMO behind the scenes. I know that a dungeon at level 60 is the same as the dungeon at level 20 but then with bigger numbers, and that human interactions are very much codified by the few things you can want from someone, like trading goods or killing a monster together. You wont ever have to talk to a guard that is an actual human and bribe him or do a quest for him that is not programmed but emergent. In fact that made playing classic wow a lot less fun, i knew what the future held, and that the devs would just layer now content over the old content. Stuff like class quests would be very limited since they didnt think it worth the effort.
    There is this comic of new MMOs releases. “you can do anything” but then a few panels later it shows guys slapping a monster to death and it says “you are going to have to do this for 60 levels”

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Now you just have to believe its not just a terrible situation but something engineered on purpose.

      This isn’t really difficult to imagine, because rich dudes changing the world to make themselves richer…that’s real life. They aren’t making grey goo, or trying to take over the world with AI[1], but that’s just the sci-fi dressing that makes for a fun shooty game, which invites players to start thinking about the deeper topics of power, governance, money, control, surveillance, etc.

      [1] Well, yet. Or at least not directly.

  10. bobbert says:

    Co-Host Sampson the bicycle horn would be great.

    “My favorite weapon in DOOM2 is ****, what do you think, Sampson?”
    “Well, you make a good point regarding the chaingun…”

  11. Syal says:

    Perhaps coincidentally, I started reading the LP Archive screenshot LP of Disco Elysium just recently. That game is a trip; I’ve barely ever played Everyone Is John but I keep thinking it’s an Everyone Is John RPG. Just don’t start with a default class, they have cripplingly low health, my only run ended because I didn’t have the health to survive my choices.

    Not many games I went back to and understood better. Final Fantasy 9 had some stuff I didn’t notice as a kid; mostly how the two Magical Girls team up to fight the Water Guardian off-camera, and then it’s revealed in the refights that the Water Guardian is a giant tentacle monster. The line of “I can’t believe we had to fight THAT” goes from generic “what a tough fight” post-battle talk to straight-up meta-joke.

    Can’t think of any particular game I would want to change genres, but generally every game is better with Pokemon elements. Surely Doom or Call Of Duty would be vastly improved by collecting the demons and using them to fight for you.

    1. bobbert says:

      That has been part of DOOM since the beginning – it’s great.

  12. Echo Tango says:

    Re: changing games to other genres
    I think the best way to do it, is spin-offs. Like, you can argue that a Shoot Man spin-off that’s a cooking-mama RPG apartment-life simulator is co-opting budget that could have been spent on Shoot Man 4: Shoot Harderer, but spin-offs are usually cheap.[1] They usually heavily re-use assets, and engines if it fits the new game. Most of it is flavor-text, maybe a few new items, some voice-overs, and a couple short cut-scenes for good measure. Then players of the original game are largely unaffected, but players for the new game have something cool to play. Arguably, the second group of players have more game than could have been built from scratch, from the re-use of so many things! :)

    Re: patching in story on release
    The Long Dark added in story on release, when it was just a survival sandbox game in pre-release, and it was awful. Nonsensical characters[2], wooden voice-acting, and blatant fetch-quests that barely made sense within the world. If they’d have gone lighter on the story, and just tried to have fetch-quests that made sense[3], the game would have been a 9/10 for me. :)

    [1] See Fallout 3, turned into Fallout: New Vegas, or XCOM / XCOM2 turned into Chimera Squad. Heavy re-use of assets and engine, with responsible use of the remaining budget. :)

    [2] A blind old lady, who somehow has been surviving for months without the ability to hunt for food and gather firewood or other supplies. I uninstalled at that point. :|

    [3] I’m not even advocating for amazing missions here, that’s outside of the budget. Just make fetch-quests that make sense. Spend an afternoon making sensical flavor-text, and choosing the in-game items and placements of those items, which makes sense for the characters and setting.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      With all the Shoot Guy and Punch Man placeholder names floating around on this site, I was very pleased to learn that Final Fight Guy is an actual real game.

      It’s an improved version of the SNES port of Final Fight. The original port had only two playable characters, Cody and Haggar. Final Fight Guy swapped out Cody for the third character from the arcade, Guy. Hence the name.

  13. Chad Miller says:

    Re: Games getting changed to a completely different subgenre, I have a recent non-video game example of that.

    In one of the “This Week I Played…” comment threads I mentioned the Fallout board game and how “It’s a lot of fun, except for the win condition.” Clearly a lot of people agreed with me because late last year they released an expansion whose primary feature is replacing the original game’s win condition.

    The original game was PvP only, but nearly all the game’s features are things you typically see in co-op games. Including the game mostly centering around “quests” that even vaguely mimic the plot of the (single-player) Fallout games. The result was a fanbase that largely comes from the co-op board game/TTRPG crowd, some of whom were so unimpressed by the PvP win condition and its balance that they straight up ignored it. It’s reminiscent of how FO76 lets players attack each other and almost no one cares.

    I can’t name another board game that did something like this (though I wouldn’t be surprised if another exists). The instructions from the expansion literally say to set up the game as normal, but then remove [the deck that determined the game’s original win condition] because it’s not used. It also excises every trace of PvP from the game so if you did want to play a board game “against” each other you have to take the expansion back out.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Man, I really want a digital version of this board-game. I haven’t had a good Fallout game since New Vegas[1], and that was a decade ago. :S

      [1] Fallout Shelter and Fallout 4…so shallow, so grindy.

  14. Dreadjaws says:

    Hey, Shamus, have you read this article? It turns out Mass Effect Andromeda was supposed to have many more alien species, and they cut them out for a variety of reasons. Hilariously enough, one of them is that they might have been too difficult to cosplay.

    I mean, come on. I’ve seen people pull off Hanar and Elcor cosplays. And even if I hadn’t, this has to be one of the dumbest reasons to cut content from a game anyway.

    1. GoStu says:

      That’s such a stupid reason to cut out alien species; I have to wonder who actually made that call and if they’ve actually met cosplayers.

      Cosplayers can Get Shit Done and manage a costume for almost anything, and trying to limit towards things that are so-called “cosplay-safe territory” leads you to the worst silliness of classic Star Trek: that there’s a big universe, and yet everyone’s bipedal, about 5-6 feet tall, and has two arms and two eyes and so on.

      What a crushing thing to do to your creative team.

      1. Thomas says:

        The article makes it sound more like they only had the budget for 2 new species, and then they picked the ones that were cosplay-able from all the species they had created (and I can’t believe it didn’t also help that humanoids require less new animation).

        The impressive thing about the article is the developers pinned down the fundamental problems with the game well. They were trying to make a smaller budget game out of a concept that implied a much larger concept. A game about exploration where there is nothing new to explore is dead from the start

        They’d also intended to make first contact much more involved and less shooty, but that got cut too.

        Worryingly though, they also implied that the original Mass Effect took an unfeasibly massive amount of work and it would be hard to do something similar again. Specifically with the amount of original lore and backstory.

        That part might be proof that the race for better graphics is harming games, like people had suspected.

        1. Henson says:

          I find the claims of budget and time restraints rather funny, given how ME: Andromeda essentially threw out years of work and cobbled together a game in 18 months. And I rather suspect the developers are, to some extent, making excuses for themselves, saying that it ‘isn’t a fair comparison’ to the first three games.

          Though I totally believe that the development team had far more ambition than the studio was willing to properly support.

  15. tmtvl says:

    Minecraft in CPP with modding support in a scripting language? You mean something like Minetest? Nobody’d play that, come on, let’s be serious.

    1. pseudonym says:

      It’s not like it’s available on almost all platforms for free…
      Oh wait it is!

      Okay but it is probably some freeware stuff then, with the full version costing money…
      Oh, wait…

      You can even make PR’s on GitHub!

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      I mean, you’re right, Minetest kind of sucks and the only people who play it usually play for ideological reasons because it’s open-source.

  16. John says:

    After college, I got a job on the other side of the country, thousands of miles from my parents and siblings. It was great. I didn’t regret it even slightly until years later when I had a child of my own and my parents were too far away to provide free child care. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. I just value my space. If work weren’t a factor, I think that the optimal distance between myself and my parents would be about two hours by car. That’d be close enough that I could go see them relatively easily but far enough that they wouldn’t expect me to do it all the time. I think they’d understand. That’s what they did to their parents, after all.

  17. Retsam says:

    Played quite a bit of Hexxit in the day, it was a really good pack. We moved to it from Tekkit because a lot of people preferred the more adventure-based premise than the heavier automation/crafting basis of Tekkit.

    I think my eventual main frustration with Hexxit was that the combination of “make cool weapons and travel on adventures” was that I found myself “death looping” a lot. I’d die, then rush back to try to get my stuff back, then die again immediately, repeat.

    A lot of mods solve that with a grave system, where your items are put in a safe grave container on death, rather than the vanilla where they sit on the ground and eventually despawn. I don’t think Hexxit had one.

    I’m still on the SevTech train. Just getting into the part where a lot of the Hexxit stuff starts showing up: Tinkers Construct and Twilight Forest are a big part.

    Also Betweenlands, which is both one of the most interesting mods and also one of the most frustrating. It adds another world like Twilight Forest, but it’s pretty dark and miserable and dangerous. Adds an interesting potion system, though.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Plain old SevTech or SevTech Ages of the Sky? I kinda like AotS, aside from the fact my buffalo keep falling off the edge (I should make some fences and go out looking for more cows, but the glider leaf is kinda tricky to use).

      1. Retsam says:

        Plain old SevTech right now. I saw Ages of the Sky, but I’ve never gotten into any of the “skyblock” style of minecraft before as I largely enjoy the exploration, but it might give it a shot. It’d probably be an interesting twist on the formula.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      It adds another world like Twilight Forest, but it’s pretty dark and miserable and dangerous.

      To me that describes the Twilight Forest pretty well, actually. Once, probably the better part of a decade ago now, I decided to play a game of modded Minecraft with the twist that I’d cheat myself in a Twilight Forest portal first thing, then live in the Twilight Forest from then on. And I just…couldn’t stand it after a few hours. Something about the eternal twilight, and never having full daylight meaning you could have monster spawns pretty much anywhere there was a block casting any sort of shadow, was just too much “constant vigilance” for me. At least you can sleep the night away in the Overworld. I like Twilight Forest for adventuring with buddies/breaking over my knee with other mods (I’ve completed it in multiple different worlds with a friend), I’ve just discovered I don’t want to spend any significant length of time in it by myself.

  18. RFS-81 says:

    Talking about innuendo that you didn’t get as a child, my favorite example is Landstalker for Sega Genesis, a Zelda clone. One part of that game was censored in the translation, but the translators were basically winking at the audience the whole time.

    To meet the duke at his fancy party, you need to blackmail the captain of the guard by catching him at Madame Yard’s Pink Palace Ballet Studio. But unfortunately, the protagonist is an elf and still looks like a boy to humans, despite being 80 years old, and the ballet studio won’t let in children. You have to find a witch to cast a spell to change your appearance. Back at the ballet studio, a woman leads you to a private room.

    In Landstalker, you have a faerie sidekick* who has a crush on the protagonist. She takes just this moment to poke out of your backpack and is pretty upset about the whole situation. The woman assures her that, despite what it may look like, this is in fact a ballet studio.

    Here’s a playthrough of that part. If you talk to the witch again afterwards, she asks you if it was what you expected, if I remember correctly.

    * This was before Ocarina of Time!

  19. Grimwear says:

    Kotor was arguably my first rpg. I guess Diablo 1 was the real first but honestly it’s systems were barely there for a young child. Put points into Strength, Dex, Health, or Mana. Not complex. In fact I recall renting Kotor and bouncing off hard. I didn’t even make it off the ship because I couldn’t grasp the number system behind it or the stop and queue attack mechanics. It wasn’t until years later I tried again and picked up a copy from Eb Games. It was the first used game I ever bought because that’s all they had.

  20. Daniil Adamov says:

    I feel obliged to point out that Disco Elysium is more like dieselpunk or maybe radiopunk than cyberpunk. No cyborgs (unless I missed one?). Hopefully that isn’t a dealbreaker, though, because it is genuinely superb and well worth giving a try on the strength of its writing and unique ideas.

    1. Balesirion says:

      Genre-wise, it’s pretty solidly in the New Weird, and not really cyberpunk at all.

  21. Dennis says:

    RE: Minecraft’s purchase price of $2.5 billion

    My understanding was that Microsoft had that money in Sweden. If they wanted to bring it back to the mothership in Redmond, they’d have to pay taxes to repatriate the money. Besides, while $2.5 billion isn’t pocket change, Microsoft didn’t need it to fund operations. It made sense to them to purchase Minecraft, which they could use to make money worldwide. I don’t think Minecraft will ever make enough to pay back $2.5 billion, but maybe over 20 years it will do $2.5 billion minus taxes.

    I think the purchase of Zenimax at $7.5 billion is even less likely to pay off. Operating costs for Minecraft are/were much lower than a single one of their AAA studios. How many ports of Skyrim would be needed to bring in $1 billion?

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