Diecast #336: Creepers, Butts, and Sonic Games

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 15, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 147 comments

You’re late. You were supposed to be reading this an hour ago. Did you sleep in? No? Is this actually MY fault because I turned my clocks ahead on Sunday? Well, what was I supposed to do? Leave my clocks alone and use them to tell time like a sane person?

Anyway, if this episode is a little short it’s probably because of time dilation due to changing the clocks, or something.

Honestly, I think people aren’t taking this daylight savings business far enough.  If moving the clocks is a good idea, then let’s really make the most of it. I say we abolish March and replace it with an extra August later in the year. That will give us one less month of winter, and instead we’ll get an extra month of summer! Sure, that will really screw with everyone’s existing calendars, and things might get a little messy for people with birthdays in March / August, but think of the possibilities, Shepard!

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:
00:00 Satisfactory Update 4

Link (YouTube)

05:06 Creeper World 4

Link (YouTube)

09:38 The Animation of Sonic Games
Daniel Floyd really outdid himself this time. I’ve never played a Sonic game, and I still found this thing fascinating.

Link (YouTube)

17:25 100% Mindustry

Link (YouTube)

22:04 Mailbag: Miranda’s ASS

How do you feel about Miranda’s ass getting downgraded in the upcoming remastered Mass Effect trilogy collection? It was such an important aspect of the games and it’s lore, the camera shots of her ass being an example of the series’ superb cinematic presentation. I remember your analysis of the series had a long detailed post about how Miranda’s ass was one of the few things you liked about Mass Effect 2 and how her ass should have been it’s own game because it being in ME2 felt like wasted potential.
Best regards,
A fellow gamer.

Sorry to butt in Shepard, but I'm really falling behind the rear admiral and it's bumming me out. I need to ass you for help before I get canned. Butts.
Sorry to butt in Shepard, but I'm really falling behind the rear admiral and it's bumming me out. I need to ass you for help before I get canned. Butts.

32:36 Mailbag: Procgen Dungeon

Esteemed* talis est iacula**:

Currently on Kickstarter there’s a project for a dungeon (and building) generator that places room decorations randomly but in what seem to be believable places. I don’t know that I’ve heard this mentioned on The Diecast, but it would seem to be in Shamus’s wheelhouse, so I thought I would send this message. (The project doesn’t end until Thursday, Mar. 11, so this might actually still be timely when you get to it.)

Dungeon Alchemist:

I have no idea how (or whether) this thing might actually work when/if it’s released, but the pitch video sure looks interesting. Of course, one of the corollaries of Clarke’s Third Law is, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo” so evaluation of risk/reward is left as an exercise for the potential backer.

Doug Sundseth

* Sorry, but while I value your work, I can’t plump for “Dear”.

** That’s what Google Translate says is the Latin translation of “Throwers of dice”. Which means it’s probably about as correct as the assembly instructions for cheap Chinese-made furniture. But there you go.

37:10 Mailbag: Narrative and Replayability

Dear Diecast,
Do you think it’s possible for a game to be narrative-driven and at the same time offer enough mechanical complexity or depth to be highly replayable? (And, if so, can you suggest a few possibilities?) When I’m playing, for example, an RPG I tend to run out of patience with the game’s story long before I run out of new character or party builds that I want to try. Even if I liked the story a lot on my first playthrough–or my first few playthroughs, for that matter–I end up resenting it in the end as unwelcome obstacle between myself and the parts of the game that still interest me. What’s a designer supposed to do for or about a player like me?


From The Archives:

147 thoughts on “Diecast #336: Creepers, Butts, and Sonic Games

  1. Geebs says:

    The juxtaposition of the conversation dial with Miranda’s ass in that shot really draws attention to how you spend the entirety of the series talking by means of a kinda brownish, sorta-ring-shaped interface. And now I’m wondering if that was intentional.

    1. Syal says:

      Miranda’s Ass


    2. Moonbeamblue says:


      Edit: Syal beat me to it.

  2. Thomas says:

    I object to the idea that March is winter. Winter is December, January and February. The 1st of March is the first day of spring.

    Now, I know there’s a definition which says the equinoxes mark the seasons. I say: this is stupid. Do you know what another word for the summer equinox is? Midsummers day! Equinoxes mark the mid point of things, and have no business to be marking the start of things. Are you telling me that Winter is a process of days getting ever longer and lighter? No! The days have to get dark first.

    Weather is a little slow to catch-up and so the equinoxes would be poor midpoints for the seasons as well, we’ll forgive Shakespeare for getting that bit wrong. But that’s why we use the 1st of the month as the start of a season, putting the equinox a little under of a third of the way through. As an added bonus, you can have clearly delineated Spring and Winter pictures in your calendar without having to experience the guilt of knowing that you’ll cruelly ignoring a whole week that has been shunted into another season by the vagaries of people who should now better.

    By December gardens and trees are barren – a sure sign that winter has come. What flowers in December in non-equatorial northern hemisphere countires? Practically nothing. Sure you could add December into Winter and squeeze out Autumn and Spring, but what did they do to deserve that? And doing so obliges you to celebrate Summer in September, which means we send kids back to school too early.

    And if it just so happens that the saints day of the Patron Saint of Wales just so happens to be 1st March, and we celebrate it with flowers and daffodils and lambs and other indicators of spring, that doesn’t have to be the reason why I’m so passionate about the 1st of March being spring. I don’t have to explain my reasons.

    1. Henson says:

      As far as I’m concerned, winter is November through March. April is Post-Winter. We get one or two weeks of Spring in May, and then it’s Summer.

      1. Thomas says:

        There is an alternate theory in the UK, that the seasons start: Winter, Fool’s Spring, Second Winter

        1. Kyle Haight says:

          I’m told that in Minnesota the seasons are Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Construction. The last one is about two weeks long.

    2. Moridin says:

      Seasons are determined by the weather, not the calendar. Winter starts when snow first sticks around for more than a day after falling, and ends when most of the snow has melted and more isn’t coming.

      1. Syal says:

        Which means winter started last Saturday.

        1. Andrew says:

          Aside from the entirely sensible “Spring begins when it feels like Spring”, there are three fairly common definitions for the start of Spring (in the northern hemisphere):
          a) The Astrological one, which says Spring begins on the Spring Equinox (around 21st March, but can be as early as the 19th). I share the OP’s distate for defining this as the start of Spring- it ought to be the middle.
          b) The Meteorological one, which says Spring begins on the 1st March (Winter is defined as the coldest three calendar months).
          c) The Solar one, which has Spring beginning as early as the 1st February. (Winter is defined as the three darkest calendar months) I believe this is somewhat commonly used in Ireland, and almost nowhere else.

    3. Shamus says:

      Okay, you can keep March. Now that I’m thinking about it, January is a better month to get rid of. Screw January.

      1. Daimbert says:

        But then … when would we have New Year’s Day? We’d never get a new year again!

        1. Thomas says:

          Let me sell you on why New Year’s Day should be on the 1st March…

          I mean winter traditionally represents death, and spring represents birth. So in our year as it is, you die, get born, and then you live your life.

          If March was the first month we’d even have September, October, November and December as the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th months.

          Now we just have to stop naming two months after Caesars and introduce Gormanuary…

          1. Henson says:

            I’m just imagining the utter confusion of this system when the old numbering for dates is no longer valid, and someone writing that they were born on 12/31 makes half the people wonder when February had 31 days.

            1. Thomas says:

              Oh I just happened to learn today that Sweden had a 30th February in 1712. So there might be a gravestone somewhere with 30th February on it, if not the 31st.

              They were trying to switch between the Julian and Gregorian calendars by removing the leap day from every leap year for 40 years. They successfully did this for exactly one year, it got interrupted by a war, and after the war the King decided to abandon the scheme. As their calendar was now 1 day ahead of the Julian calendar, they did this by adding an extra leap day to 1712.

              Then in 1753 they finally switched to the Gregorian calendar by going straight from the 17th February to the 1st March – how all normal countries decided to make the transition.

          2. tmtvl says:

            Yeah, it was silly to prepend January and February to the beginning of the year rather than appending them at the end.

            1. Henson says:

              Apparently, they used to be at the end of the calendar year, until about 450 B.C. The name ‘February’ has its origin in the latin for ‘purifications’, probably as an end-of-year rite.

              As opposed to the Old English name, which simply means ‘mud month.’ Which I had thought described every month in England.

      2. Steve C says:

        You joke, but basically that happened. It is the reason why February has the fewest days in the year. (Because screw Feb.) And why August has 31 days.

        Augustus Caesar didn’t want the month named after him to have fewer days and be lessor than Julius Caesar’s month. So a day was stolen from February and was added to August.

        1. Exasperation says:

          Don’t forget the period in 192 when Commodus had ALL the months (as well as the city of Rome, the Roman Legions, the Rome-North Africa trade fleet, the Senate, his palaces, and the people of Rome) renamed after himself (he kept giving himself new names, and was up to 12 names at this point). Then, on the last day of Pius he was assassinated and the Commodian Fortunate Senate voted to forget that all of that had happened.

    4. Lanthanide says:

      In New Zealand, seasons do officially start on calendar months. December 1st is the first day of summer.

      So it is now Autumn.

  3. Grimwear says:

    In regards to Miranda I feel like I don’t really care too deeply. If I were to pick I’d go the opposite and say keep it in. I’m a purist at heart, I don’t like change. I was incensed when they rewrote sections of the Halo: Fall of Reach book so that plotholes from the game that came later were fixed. But the thing that just hits me the wrong way is that I’m sure most of the team behind ME2 is gone and so we have new people coming in and casting judgement upon aspects of a finished product and saying “I don’t like this, this needs to be changed” and it just hits me the wrong way, even though the things they’re changing aren’t things I care about. But I need to think on it more. If a publishing house came along and changed or removed parts of The Lord of the Rings I’d be upset but if a studio takes a movie and recuts it I don’t really care. I’d think games are more akin to movies so I shouldn’t care but maybe that’s because I’ve never really cared about directors and their movies whereas game companies (like old Bioware or old Bungie) felt like a single entity? They don’t anymore but maybe it’s due to me getting older. Growing up I never understood the difference between a director or a movie studio. A movie was just a movie. But when I started gaming it was all done through console so I focused more on developers than games. My mom would take me to the Nintendo section because I had a Nintendo so even though Rare made Donkey Kong to me it was still “Nintendo”. I then spread that awareness as I got slightly older and hit the Xbox era to studios like Bungie and Bioware. Either way I’m still indecisive about it, I may just be extra grumpy because I recently got stung with the Age of Empires 3 changes.

    1. Geebs says:

      It’s all rather awkward. Nü-Bioware are basically right about how cringe-inducing those shots were, even at the time… but they’re also the same people who made Anthem and Andromeda.

    2. John says:

      But the thing that just hits me the wrong way is that I’m sure most of the team behind ME2 is gone and so we have new people coming in and casting judgement upon aspects of a finished product and saying “I don’t like this, this needs to be changed” . . .

      I think that this sort of thing is fine, at least in principle, if what you’re making is an adaptation or a remake, where substantial changes are to be expected. Cast all the judgement you want on the original product. Do not, however, try to pass off your adaptation or remake as the original product, only better. It isn’t the original product and better is a matter of taste. I hold remasters, which are supposed to be the original product, only better, to a different standard.

      Anyone removing gratuitous ass-shots gets a free pass though.

      1. Biggus Rickus says:

        You say that, but one of the best laughs I’ve had in video games was the first time they zoomed in on her ass.

        1. John says:

          Yes, but were you laughing with the game or at the game?

          1. Biggus Rickus says:

            I’ve always assumed I was laughing at it. If not, the art director deserves way more credit.

  4. Joe says:

    March is still summer around my way. I’m sitting here in shorts and t-shirt, windows open and fan going. I live in possibly the best city on Earth, Perth, Western Australia. Free of both covid and daylight savings. Today I visited a very good SF bookshop. One of two in my city. There’s also an RPG place and comic shop nearby. Not the most exciting place on earth, but probably a pretty geeky one.

    Shamus, since you like immersive sims so much, do you know about Weird West? It’s a real-time isometric RPG/immersive sim, set in the wild west plus supernatural stuff. The lead developer has called it both. Give it a look on Steam and YT if it sounds interesting.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Dang, over here in Rectangle-Province I still have -10C to 5C temperatures, and we’re most assuredly not free of the apocalypse-virus. At least we don’t have daylight savings time to add insult to injury! How easy is it to emigrate to the Down Under? ^^;

      1. Joe says:

        These days? Probably pretty hard. On the bright side, I reckon you’re a skilled worker. Maybe find a remote job for an Aussie company, then start making noises about how you’d be better in person.

        And learn the words to our *true* national anthem, Working Class Man. Start checking trees for drop bears. Try vegemite. I know it’s disgusting, but it’s ours. Follow the Bell Tower Times on twitter. That one I’m serious about, it’s a good account.

        1. NOBODY says:

          Speaking as an American in Melbourne, vegemite’s actually not half bad. The key is in quantity: it’s basically spreadable soy sauce, and just as a little bit of that goes a looonnng way, so too with vegemite. A pea-size amount is basically fine for a slice of bread. Do not go spreading it on like peanut butter or Nutella; that way sadness lies.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Dang, I totally spaced out on your comment on Weird West. This looks really cool – the level-up screen looks like it’s taking the perks from Fallout[1], and removing the fiddly percentage-increases that are so common in those and other games. The maps also seem to be grid-based, which I’m sure helps with the map generation. Basically, this seems to be the game I’ve been waiting for, since I played the original Fallout. :)

      [1] Which was the best part of those games.

  5. Dreadjaws says:

    There’s a whole community of people complaining about the removal of Miranda’s ass shots from ME2. Their reasoning is that this is being done because of a trend of “puritans” removing fanservice from a bunch of games. While usually I’d feel these guys are severely overreacting I think they kind of have a point. Games like FFVIII’s “remaster” or Mortal Kombat XI have made it a point to not just remove fanservice but boast about it as if it it was something proud to be of. Yeah, skimp outfits are impractical, and I wouldn’t want any lack of realism in this game where I can push a couple of spears into someone’s eyeballs all the way through their skull and they can still fight normally.

    So yeah, I understand their complaints because this kind of thing is part of a trend and there’s no denying that. That being said, in this particular case, I think the reasoning for the removal of these shots is not just sound, but entirely genuine. They’re, after all, not removing the sex scenes or changing Jack’s stupid-ass outfit. They’re just removing fanservice from scenes where it’s absolutely counterproductive.

    If anything, they’re not going far enough with the changes. If Kai Leng is still in the game then that’s a serious waste of an opportunity.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Sorry, was that a typo, or are they remaking Final Fantasy 8? If so, I might be a little excited…and intrigued, as apparently that’s the one people tend to hate.

      It’s a good point about changing that kind of thing in a JRPG (or Mortal Kombat)…isn’t is part of the point that certain aspects of those gamesare overblown / overdone?
      But at the same time…dating sims etc are easier to find now, right? Getting hold of gratuitous titties is easy if someone is so inclined, no need to cram that into mainstream games anymore…

      Mayne Nu-Bioware’ll save all the gratuitous camera angles and ass shots for Kai Leng! ;D

      1. tmtvl says:

        No, FF8 has been remastered (FINAL FANTASY VIII – REMASTERED on Steam). From what I’ve heard it’s nothing special.

      2. Syal says:

        The Remake of 7 absolutely cuts against the idea that people are removing fanservice.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          Indeed (spoilers for the best part of the remake).

      3. Fizban says:

        A quick search finds no results- but FF9 did change one characters. . . questionable choice in pants. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a dress or something in FF8 that had a polygon filled in because reasons. I was more concerned when they were apparently censoring the (obviously gratuitous) hotsprings dlc for Fire Emblem- which was funny after I looked it up and it turned out they put a towel over someone already wearing a swimsuit no worse than a clothing advertisement.

        As for “you can find titties anywhere,” yeah, and? Porn doesn’t stop people from wanting sex scenes in non-porn products, nor romance movies stop people from cramming a romance sub-plot into most things. Nor does the wealth of sword and sorcery fantasy stop people from wanting more of it, indeed as the last however many years have finally had tv shows getting there. Visual novels and dating sims are very specific forms of game.

        Some people want an edge of “fanservice” in a game, even if it’s not significant to the plot or gameplay. It’s an aesthetic and tonal choice. And even if the lands the wrong way, it is still how the game originally was, which triggers a whole extra set of problems. It also says that this game was made for *you*, not just to broadly appeal to any small child or pearl-clutcher they can rope in.

        The saying goes that “men” think about sex what, every 4 seconds? And you’re always within 100′ of someone having sex? Bogus misinterpreted statistics, sure, but they get the point across: many adults, even if they don’t want to admit it, feel like sex should be present in their entertainment. Sex is part of the human experience, and sexy imagery showing up even when it’s not important is too. Not to say games with “fanservice” are making some profound statement, but trying to sanitize it out of games is just the same as trying to santize it out of malls, magazines, advertizements, and the people you walk past on the street.

        1. Shamus says:

          This is an interesting gradient.

          A) Ugh. This type of fanservice content is inherently bad / immoral / sinful and therefore should never exist.

          B) Hey, fanservice can exist, but it should be limited to fanservice-focused titles so the rest of us aren’t exposed to it. It has no place in a serious, mature, intelligent game like Mass Effect 2*.

          C) Fanservice is a valid type of art, and it’s cool to have some in Mass Effect, but it has no place in these Miranda scenes because it undercuts the character and the scene itself.

          D) Fanservice is fine. I wouldn’t even mind it in these Miranda scenes. But this particular example is just BAD fanservice. Like, why is she standing like that? That’s not even a sexy pose! It looks like she’s trying to push her desk somewhere.

          E) Everything is fine. (Sara Ryder face.)

          I didn’t really realize how complex the debate was until this thread.

          Also, the points other people have made about changing the artistic decisions made by past teams are well-taken. We’re really getting into “Han shot first” kind of territory here where the line between “Cleaning up the print and fixing up visual artifacts” strays into “fussing with elements that end up changing the end product in non-cosmetic ways”.

          * Pause for laugh track.

          1. Fizban says:

            My immediate reaction to that scene has always been-

            F)That butt doesn’t even look like a butt, does it? Pretty sure butts aren’t normally shaped like that unless you jam them into a mold, and those pants do not have the stitching required to hold that shape. It’s like an action figure. Who even designed this?

            1. bobbert says:

              those pants do not have the stitching required to hold that shape

              You, sir, are a man after my own heart. Bless you.

          2. Galad says:

            The problem, according to me, with the above shot of Investigating Miranda’s ass, is not the fanservice itself. It’s that it has all the finesse of a bull in a china shop. It’s pretty much telling me “hey you, male, you like butts right? If we put a butt for you front and center here, will you give us more money for a DLC or whatever?”, a definite corporate stink that can be smelled even if you haven’t realised on a conscious level what’s wrong with it. It’s offputting when it’s that obvious

            1. Daimbert says:

              I think I commented on this once (probably on my blog, actually, although it might have been a comment here) that the issue isn’t really with the fanservice but that how it is presented. If we take the picture shown above, it’s clear that they are trying to present her butt as something that the AUDIENCE is supposed to be looking at, not the CHARACTER. Dropping into a first-person view or shifting the perspective so that the character’s or the natural perspective shows it is one thing, especially since the player can assume that it’s the character doing it if they aren’t interested. But here it’s clear that they are filming the scene to get or make the PLAYER look at it, which is going to be annoying and bemusing if the player isn’t as interested in it as the developers seem to be.

              So the best fanservice is both subtle and under the control of the player, except in those works where it being blatant is the entire point. But ME2 here is unsubtle to a degree that would make the original Huniepop blush (as there you get to decide what the girls wear, for example, and some of them are not at all fanservicey).

          3. kunedog says:

            In my eyes, going out of your way to retroactively censor content in a supposed “remaster” lands between A and B (and a lot closer to A).

            1. John says:

              Nah. It’s very much C or D.

              1. kunedog says:

                I could see the case for C or D if the changes were optional.

                1. John says:

                  The funny thing is that no one would care about removing the ass shots if they weren’t ass shots.

                  Imagine that instead of close-ups of Miranda’s ass for no good reason all conversations involving Miranda featured intermittent interruptions by loud air horn noises. If Bioware simply didn’t include the air horn noises in the remaster, no one would be complaining about censorship or bemoaning the fact that Bioware was “removing content”. If anything, everyone would be thankful. “That was dumb, but now it’s gone! Huzzah! And such an easy fix, too.”

                  Miranda’s ass is an air horn is what I’m saying.

                  1. kunedog says:

                    Imagine that instead of close-ups of Miranda’s ass for no good reason all conversations involving Miranda featured intermittent interruptions by loud air horn noises.

                    Arguments/analogies like this suggest such an extreme attitude towards fanservice that I think it’s clear why the motivation behind the censorship is probably closer to A.

                    But hey, why not, let’s suppose a lot of people were fond of air horns, so Bioware did such a thing.

                    If Bioware simply didn’t include the air horn noises in the remaster, no one would be complaining about censorship or bemoaning the fact that Bioware was “removing content”. If anything, everyone would be thankful. “That was dumb, but now it’s gone! Huzzah! And such an easy fix, too.”

                    In such a scenario, I could easily see those who removed the air horns including a “Miranda Air Horns?” checkbox in the settings, because those opposed to the air horns simply don’t like them, and that’s the end of it. I mean, they’re certainly not out to deny air horns to any players who do like them, nor do they secretly fear (or outright know for sure) that “pro-air-horn” is the vastly more popular position. Because they’re not ideologically motivated, such that they think air horns are “inherently bad / immoral / sinful and therefore should never exist.”

                    But does anyone expect an equivalent “Miranda fanservice?” checkbox in this remaster? Don’t make me laugh.

                    1. John says:

                      I respectfully suggest that if you automatically conflate dislike of a particular instance of particularly poorly done and counterproductive fanservice with dislike of all fanservice then you might be the one with an extremist attitude.

                    2. Syal says:

                      Ideally an optional “dat ass” mode would include brand new ass shots of all the other characters as well.

                    3. kunedog says:

                      I respectfully suggest that if you automatically conflate dislike of a particular instance of particularly poorly done and counterproductive fanservice with dislike of all fanservice then you might be the one with an extremist attitude.

                      So if it’s just a personal dislike, do you support having a checkbox for it?

                      Ideally an optional “dat ass” mode would include brand new ass shots of all the other characters as well.

                      Cool, a dozen or so fanservice checkboxes, all defaulted to the original content (i.e. the stuff we’re remastering).

                      Hell, we could even track their usage, and get stats on which checkboxes get used the most, and how many players leave it stock.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          Well, as other have pointed out, Mass Effect DOES feature sex*, and romance, just in a more ‘adult’ ** way. And I’m not that bothered – Miranda’s ass made me roll my eyes, rather than clutch at any pearls – it’s just as pointed out, at odds with the rest of the game. And especially the way I think we’re supposed to be viewing that character.

          *There’s a great part in ME2 where Mordin Solus think’s you’re into Thane, and warns you not to ingest anything becaues it might be hallucinogenic. Ah, the joys of alien sex…)
          (Cue laugh track and link to classic scene of Bioware’s uncanny-valley awkward underwear humping)

          1. Fizban says:

            My opinion on Miranda swaps back and forth between the character that could have been (can’t say I’m not a sucker for what her mission’s aiming at) and the failures they spent most of the time showing- naturally, the Butt is part of the latter, but since removing it won’t fix the rest of the bad characterization, I’d be inclined to leave it. It’s just so Iconic.

        3. Syal says:

          I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a dress or something in FF8 that had a polygon filled in because reasons.

          Not just one dress, but TWO!

          Although I watched a Steam playthrough of FF9 fairly recently and didn’t notice anything. At least half the characters in 9 can be described as ‘questionable choice in pants’.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            Yeah, I always thought Vivi’s pants were an eyesore…

    2. tmtvl says:

      Actually, I think the series would be much improved if they just cut out ME2 entirely. Nothing of any real value would be lost (some people may miss the singing lizard, but they can play Gex: Deep Cover Gecko).

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I’m 50% with you. There’s a lot of Mass Effect 2 I like – the simple structure of the story, the side characters, some of the visual designs, a few set pieces…

        …and a lot of shit, too. As well as almost the entire story being a side diversion it’s the beginning of Cerberus being more than idiot mooks…
        Sadly, fixing it so the good remained and the bad was removed would be part of a massive remake / overhaul, not a remaster.

      2. sheer_falacy says:

        Remove the whole main plot, leave in the part where you do sidequests for all of your friends and also Miranda.

        1. RFS-81 says:

          The main plot is Shepherd assembling a space harem!

    3. Echo Tango says:

      I’m pretty sure the whole joke of the way the question was phrased, was to highlight this nonsense from the ME community.

    4. Grimwear says:

      It reminds me of Dead Or Alive Xtreme 3 not being sold in the West. The devs said because they didn’t want to deal with negative press and people being upset about the sexuality. Now other arguments have been put forward that it didn’t sell in the West when you look per capita and honestly I’m going to lean to support the developers on this one. Though I do acknowledge that if they had decided previously to not sell in the West that making those comments costs nothing. But I also don’t see how those comments would increase sales so…who knows.

      Point being there are a lot of sexual games, especially on Steam. Visual novels saw great success there where they’re pretty much nonexistent on console (I believe, haven’t played a console in years). I have no interest in them but I would never try to get them removed o taken down. Or make people who enjoy them feel bad or accuse them of objectifying women or some such. It just gets tricky when we end up in a situation where something two different groups enjoy for different reasons starts being changed to favour 1 group. Or a push is made by 1 group to cater to them. I mean Bioware became known for their “romance” options. Heck ME1 got mainstream attention because you could have sex with aliens. Not sure if it helped sales but it sure gave it some free publicity. I’m sure some people play only for the romance while others ignore it entirely. It just gets tough when one side can’t really come out in favour of something they enjoy (fanservice/sexuality) because it’s so easy to accuse them of being horrible people. Just…let people enjoy things, it doesn’t hurt you. If we can kill people in almost every game known to man with no negative repercussions I’m sure we can handle a little T&A.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        But I also don’t see how those comments would increase sales so…who knows.

        I can see how “This game is available only as an import because the evil SJWs don’t want you to have it.” could work as marketing. I mean, I bought Detention because Devotion, a game by the same studio, was taken down from GOG and Steam. (Because of making fun of Xi Jinping, not because of fanservice.)

        1. Grimwear says:

          True, the whole situation is really weird. Like on one hand they decide it’s too expensive to make and ship it in the West and the series doesn’t sell so they use SJWs as a scapegoat. Then those who get all up in arms can import it and stick it to them. But at the same time it’s really odd because they’d already done the work of putting in English subtitles and they made it region free (no clue if all console games are now region free by default). They clearly put in the work to have it come to the West. If they had no intention of selling it here why do that? It all comes down to he said/she said but when I see groups that are trying to have games removed from those who aren’t hurting anyone and just trying to play it, I will generally not view them favourably. I recall years ago Jim Sterling did a video about the ridiculous breast physics. And yes it’s ridiculous and I’ll pass but if people like it? Go wild.

        2. bobbert says:

          On a completely unrelated note, I would like to point out how much I like Whinnie the Pooh.

  6. MerryWeathers says:

    I remember your analysis of the series had a long detailed post about how Miranda’s ass was one of the few things you liked about Mass Effect 2 and how her ass should have been it’s own game because it being in ME2 felt like wasted potential.

    I don’t remember that, was it exclusive to the physical edition? Am I missing out on new hornier content if I don’t buy Shamus’ books?

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Yeah, It’ll be right at the back of the physical edition; the tail end. Shamus’ll slap it in because he knows it’ll be good for posterity.
      I know I’d certainly tush for that section to be included. An added extra for people who buy the physical version…fanny service, if you will*.

      *Okay, this pun is weird to write, because in the UK ‘fanny’ means – another – part of a woman’s body. Plus it’s technically a name, though one no-one uses anymore because…yeah…

      1. tmtvl says:

        I think the name Fanny is still popular in Scunthorpe.

  7. Thomas says:

    I’m still shocked how far Bioware missed on the execution of Miranda’s design. They’d described her as this adventurous femme fatale, perfect in every way. And they put in all that awkward fan service.

    But I would never even have considered that that’s what they were going for if I hadn’t seen the interviews and if dialogue didn’t literally state it in game.

    Normally I’d expect bad Bioware characters post-ME1 to be bad mostly because of the concept (which Miranda still was). But here they didn’t even deliver on the concept, but they clearly thought they had.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Yep. They also didn’t make her as intelligent or quick-witted she apprently was, either. Just having her say ‘I’m always right’ doesn’t make her clever, game.

      But that’s always a hazard of writing intelligent characters: they can only be as smart as the writer is capable of portraying.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        A better writer would have at least not drawn attention to her alleged intelligence. It’d be one thing to have the game say she was genetically engineered to be better than the average soldier, and have a few lines of dialog where she offers a solution to a problem the other characters couldn’t solve. Maybe she could even point to a space-whiteboard and say, “I think you made a mistake here”…but her actual characterization isn’t even as good as that. :|

        1. Syal says:

          …actually that makes me think of an old Patrick McManus story.

          “People said the Dean had a mind like a steel trap. In truth, he had a mind like flypaper, and not particularly good flypaper either. What he did have was really good ‘thoughtful’ and ‘bemused’ expressions. Whenever someone brought him a difficult problem, he would alternate between looking thoughtful and bemused until they became embarrassed at wasting his time, and went and solved the problem themselves.”

    2. Mr. Wolf says:

      Femme fatales are supposed to be fanservice-ey. It’s not a coincidence detectives get cases from gorgeous young women whose husbands have gone missing. But they’re also meant to be intelligent, mysterious and seductive. Qualities which Miranda notably lacks.

      1. Thomas says:

        I just think Miranda looks more like she works in an office, fights with her coworkers for promotion, and drinks hard at the Christmas party

    3. Sabrdance+(MatthewH) says:

      Gratuitous butt shots aside, I didn’t think Miranda’s character was that bad. She is intelligent, but suffers the common smart person malady of not being as smart or as good as she thinks she it. Part of the reason she works for the Illusive Man is that he fluffs her ego and lets her think she’s a genius -and uses his resources to keep her from getting entirely in over her head (or more likely, to pull her out of the fire).

      She also has major imposter syndrome issues, because everything good she does is the result of the gene mods, and everything bad she does is her fault.

      Part of why working with Shepard affects her so much is that she sees someone who is better than her, lacks the associated gene mods (though is likely modded in other ways) and also doesn’t feel the need to pander to her. With Shepard, she actually does some things on her own (including rescuing her sister), which goes a long way to building her individually as a person, and not the tool her father or the Illusive Man made her.

      Which is why I hate the butt shots -because the best way to undercut the character arc of “learning to be humble but also not rely on external validation of abusive men” is to plant the camera right under the butt cheek and stare right up into space.

      On the overall controversy -I’m not paying attention and have no view. I am interested in a remaster that potentially fixes the narrative problems of the trilogy -or at least has easy mod support for fixing them -but do not actually have faith in Bioware to do so. This particular change strikes me as providing no evidence in either direction.

      1. Thomas says:

        I do like that aspect of Miranda. But when I listened to the developer’s talk about her in interviews, that really wasn’t what they seemed to be saying – the part about her gene insecurities definitely – but not the way that Miranda doesn’t really embody the ideals that she imagines her genes set for her.

      2. Chris says:

        I think a big problem with Miranda is that she is supposed to be what you describe. Someone whom is very cold and constantly talks down on people because she’s way ahead of them. But once you get to know her you can see the insecurities that make her not as tough as she might seem at first glance.
        The problem is the execution. When she seems cold because she tells them they are being dumb, she doesn’t actually blow them away by being more intelligent than them. Instead they guy is either made to be very dumb (which means she is just poking holes in a very obvious bad idea), or she is actually coming up with a bad idea. The story then warps to make it the correct move.

        If you , as Shepard, try to argue with her. The game either doesnt allow you to say something to challenge her bad arguments (like why cerberus is bad). Or shepard gets hit with the stupid bat and Miranda can score a free win. This doesnt make Miranda look smart, but Shepard look dumb, and you as a player can still poke holes in her arguments which makes Miranda look dumb.
        What doesn’t help either is that her problem (imposter syndrome) feels like a first world problem. “Oh no, Im just too good at everything”. To make someone sympathize with this is very difficult, and the writing does a poor job at it.

        If you want to fix her. I would a) change her outfit b) make her use her sexiness more like a traditional femme fatale does (so pretend to be just wearing some pretty dress in your private quarters completely oblivious that you are causing discomfort, or something like that). c) make her smart d) rewrite cerberus so her defending cerberus makes sense e) add stuff that make her seem like a natural born leader that can inspire loyalty, preferably by expressing smart plans f) make her less “woe upon me” and more “I know its stupid but these kinds of things get under your skin, ” about her complex.

        1. sheer_falacy says:

          Imposter syndrome is not “oh no, I’m just too good at everything”. Imposter syndrome is literally the opposite of that. And it’s really not hard to get people to sympathize with, but they messed it up anyway.

          1. Baron Tanks says:


  8. Chris says:

    I never really noticed the other moments of miranda’s ass (like when she bends down to pick something up at the Omega station). I only noticed the obvious one with her ass in front and center with investigate right next to it. I thought it was funny, but then again I’m easily amused by juvenile humor. While I understand it will end up on the chopping block, I still will miss it. If the remastered edition becomes the definitive way to play it, a lot of the newer players won’t understand what people are talking about if they talk about moments like “investigate”. Maybe there should be a little pop-up “in the original you would now get a gratuitous shot of Miranda’s shapely rear, but we removed that, but if you see people mention it online, while here is where it should be”.
    Or go with Shamus’s idea and make the original shot happen if you are romancing her, and a different shot if not.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Wow, I genuinely never saw the irony of having ‘Investigate’ right there. Chalk it up to getting used to editing the dialogue wheel out of the visuals all the time.

      I remember thinking ‘Ugh, they’re trying to emphasise this character’s brains but they’ve given her THAT costume and THOSE camera angles?’, but yeah, completely missed that one.

      1. Kyle Haight says:

        My initial reaction to Miranda was to wonder how many soccer balls they had to kill to make her outfit.

  9. Alec D. Generic says:

    That demo Paul was talking about (the one ending in static) is “fr-041 debris” by farbrausch, who also made kkrieger. The source for their tools is public on their github

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m really pleased they released the source for their old stuff. When I first found kkrieger back in college, it blew my friggin’ mind! (Also, Paul and Shamus weren’t off topic at all – it was the very next quesiton! :)

      P.S. I think Shamus’ site mangles your link if you make any typos or leave out the HTTPS. :)

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      That’s the one! With a name like that I’m not so embarrassed to have not remembered it. I did get it running on my computer back in the day, but nowadays it is easier to just watch pre-rendered on YouTube:
      And remember the whole thing is generated by 177KB of code.

  10. Ninety-Three says:

    If Bioware is changing Miranda’s ass, while they’re at it how about they put the space paladin in actual armour instead of a V neck dress? Or take out some of the gratuitous strippers, or rewrite the this-is-definitely-someone’s-fantasy Ardat Yakshi sex vampire? I approve of seeing less Miranda, but if they’re trying to make the game less embarrassingly fanservicey, they seem to have half-assed it.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      But element zero means that your space-armor can be shaped like a sexy dress. Duh. :P

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        That’s actually how they justified the designs: she has biotics so she doesn’t need to wear armour, right? As the game mechanics clearly establish, biotic forcefields are both indestructible and incompatible with normal armour, so there’s really no reason for a character with one to bother getting the other too.

    2. Supah Ewok says:

      Halving the ass is definitely how I’d describe their actions.

  11. Lino says:

    Replacing March with August?! You haven’t had your coffee, or do you just hate humanity?!?

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve never liked August. When I was in school, I hated it because it was the end of summer vacation, and I had to start thinking about about the looming threat of school. It was the first time in my life when I realised how frail life truly is, and how fleeting these brief moments of joy and bliss are all just a prelude to the crushing suffering of our misbegotten existence.
    Once I started working, I resented the fact that all summer resorts are full to the brim in August, and the prices are always the most unreasonably high during that time. Also, it’s the hottest part of the summer, and you always feel like you’re being cooked in the broth of your own sweat.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Yeah, August is my least favourite month because it’s actually generally HOTTER than it is in July and I dislike hot weather. I will in general trade a winter month for a summer month (although I always want more fall or spring months). As I get older that is shifting a bit because I never have to think about what the weather will be like if I want to drive somewhere in summer as opposed to winter, since I’m not crazy enough to drive in significant snow or freezing rain unless I absolutely have to. Still, I can take the cold better than the heat.

    2. The+Puzzler says:

      It always weirds me out to hear people talk about months and associated weather that is completely alien to me. Where I’m from, January is just plain cold. March is the month that switches at random between snow, hail and bright sunlight. August is the month of the blood-rain, the miasma of the green torment, and the final blissful release of the soul harvest. Then comes September, and you know what that means: roast potatoes!

      1. Lino says:

        Well, it’s not my fault you’re still playing Canadian Winter. Everyone knows that’s an imaginary country! Unplug that VR headset, and come out to smell the roses!

    3. Moridin says:

      I for one like hot weather. Then again, I live in Finland. “Hot” is when it’s over 20C.

      1. Lino says:

        “Hot” is when it’s over 20C.

        Inside or outside the sauna?

        Joking aside – you may not have hot weather, but at least you’ve got the Northern Lights and Santa Claus!

  12. John says:

    So . . . what did I mean by “narrative-driven”? I dunno. I didn’t think that hard about it. I suppose I consider any game where the story is at least half the point of playing to be narrative-driven. I don’t play a lot of AAA games, but from the way Shamus writes about them they seem pretty narrative-driven to me. This is especially true of the ones that seem to want to be movies. That might be because Shamus spends so much time talking about their stories though. For all I know the experience of playing them is very different. I’m not sure that I’d consider Shamus’ suggestion of immersive sims, where it sounds like the story is something that happens mostly in the background, to be narrative-driven at all. I’ll keep the suggestion in mind, however. Incidentally, I have occasionally considered buying Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Is that an immersive sim, or does only the original Deus Ex qualify? And what about Dishonored?

    My mailbag question was originally inspired by Shadowrun: Dragonfall, which is an RPG. Dragonfall has a couple of party members with Mass Effect-style side missions. These side missions are interesting, story-wise, but would be worth doing even if they weren’t for the loot and the mechanical rewards. The problem, if it is a problem, is that in order to unlock those side missions, you have to spend a whole lot of time talking to the party members in question. The talking is absolutely worth it the first time through. It’s still worth it, I suppose, the fifth time through, or I wouldn’t do it. But I have grown to resent it. I don’t want to click through the same old bunch of dialog to earn Glory’s trust and learn her tragic backstory for the fifth time. I already know her tragic backstory. I just want to do her side mission so that I can get the extra experience and improve her healing ability. Is that so wrong?

    The older I get, the more I appreciate games with minimal and skippable stories. I think you do want some kind of story in your game, if only to frame and provide context for the gameplay on the initial playthrough. But if the game is to hold up as a game, if the mechanics are the point of the experience rather than the narrative, then the story should strive for unobtrusiveness. The only game I can think of at the moment that is anything close to narrative-driven and yet not annoying about it on repeat playthroughs is Bastion, in which the narrator tells the story to the player via voice-over during the course of ordinary play rather than by interrupting ordinary play. I thought that was an elegant solution to the narrative problem, though it would quickly get old if every game tried to do something like that. Otherwise, the best solution I’ve seen is a simple “Skip” button that lets you escape from cutscenes and fast-forward through conversations until you get to the point where you get to make an actual gameplay-relevant choice. It may be crude but it’s a mercy.

    1. tmtvl says:

      I guess narrative-driven games don’t lend themselves quite as well to multiple replays as gameplay-driven games?

      That said, it’s like the difference between small beer and whisky, drinking a bottle a day of one is not going to do you as well as the other.

    2. Daimbert says:

      I didn’t listen to the podcast, but I was wondering about your definitions of narrative and of mechanically deep as well. I was going to suggest the modern Persona games as examples, since they are narratively driven but if you like the dungeons the combat can be deep enough to be engaging even while you’re experiencing the same story over again. Then again, they tend to have an advantage in that there are a number of things that you couldn’t experience the first time around — some S-links, some activities, etc — and so there are character and story-related things to chase as well.

      But from your last paragraph it does sound like there might be some games where you want to keep playing the game because you love the mechanics and that if you keep doing that over and over again the story seems superfluous and repetitive. It’s difficult to find any games where you wouldn’t want to skip over the story parts you’ve already seen at some point, so yeah you’d really want a game with strong mechanics and minimal story. For me, an example of a game that avoids this for me is actually The Old Republic, because it has eight class stories that are different, and then it has the planetary stories that repeat based on which side — Republic or Empire — you’re playing through, but what I found is that playing one side’s class story and then playing the other side’s class story gives me enough time in-between to avoid getting tired of the planetary stories and since the class stories only repeat after eight playthroughs I don’t get sick of them either.

      Back to the original examples, I’ve replayed each of Persona 3, 4 and 5 multiple times in a row and haven’t gotten tired of the story (Persona 5, for example, was three times in a row for over 200 hours). But if I was playing them constantly for months, I’d probably get sick of the story beats and want to skip them as well.

      1. John says:

        I fear the Persona games for a variety of reasons–these include, but are not limited to: anime teenagers, the usual JRPG nonsense, and their epic lengths–but you raise a good point. I probably would not sour on the story as quickly in a game which had some narrative variety to go along with its mechanical variety. That variety could come from a conventional branching narrative or, as you suggest, certain mutually exclusive side-activities. Hm. Food for thought.

    3. Gautsu says:

      Have you checked out Hades? The way the narrative is delivered is in bite sized chunks between runs, with the runs themselves being the gameplay that encourages variety

      1. John says:

        Not yet. I’ve got a soft spot for Supergiant Games, though, and I’ve heard good things about Hades specifically. I’ll probably get to it eventually, but not until it’s on deep sale or starts showing up in bundles.

    4. Echo Tango says:

      The key here, is “skippable”. Books, music, films – all other media lets you skip the parts you don’t like. Video-games are unique in that they often force you to grind through the slog, in the name of the artist’s vision, as good or bad as it might be. The inability to skip forward[1] in games, is limiting their adoption by non-“gamers”. Music-players could be built without the ability to fast-forward or skip tracks, but nobody would put up with that nonsense. :|

      [1] Or backwards for that matter!

      1. tmtvl says:

        But how do you skip forward when you have any number of potential states the system could wind up in? Like, if I wanted to skip the mission in ME where we first get in contact with Sovereign, we’d need to know how Shep deals with Kirrahe, which crew member dies, and potentially even which resources were gained/expended. The only thing we can say for sure is that Shep shoots Wrex (and good riddance).

        1. Daimbert says:

          For the specific story points, you could make it so that they are only skippable on a New Game+ and then if you skip it take the options that you chose the last time through. For the resources, simply leave them as is except for anything unique to that mission, which could be taken from the previous run in the same way. Then people would only have to observe or play the sections where they wanted to do something different from the last time.

          One of the games in the Nonary Games series on its revamp did something similar, where if you repeat a room that you’ve already done it lets you skip to the key conversation so you don’t have to do the whole thing over just to change the outcome.

          1. tmtvl says:

            Yeah, but if you do want the players to go through once, they can just go back and forth with their saves.

          2. John says:

            I like this idea. New Game+ is all too often about re-doing the same content but with end-game powerful characters. I think convenience features should definitely be a part of it too. “We know you’ve done this before, so there’s no harm in your skiping to the bits that interest you.”

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              This is actually not uncommon solution for visual novels. I’ve also never played it in this manner but IIRC ME3 had some kind of automated story mode that made the choices for the player, which would let you skip those cutscenes altogether with no harm done, and if we’re talking ME in particular it would honesty be as easy as “always pick paragon/renegade” at the beginning of the playthrough to make this a non-issue.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          All of the key choices which the payer hasn’t yet reached, can be given in condensed form. “Which crew member died on planet XYZ in the ABC battle?” with an optional extra paragraph summing up the pertinent information for the decision, could easily be shown to the player. I mean, this is basically the writers’ story-notes, in cleaned-up form. Just put some buttons in front of it.

      2. Daimbert says:

        Speaking as someone who remembers VCRs and cassette players, it’s really only with modern players and DVDs and CDs where you could actually easily skip sections, so much so that actually doing it just to avoid a section I didn’t like seems utterly foreign to me. I might skip or fast-forward to a section I particularly liked, but skipping sections that I didn’t like would be too annoying most of the time. With CDs and DVDs you can kinda do that — CDs for entire songs, which can be a blessing, and DVDs for sections — but when they came to prominence you couldn’t do that. And obviously you couldn’t do that for films before we even had VCRs so you were watching them on TV or in the theatre. So I don’t think making people slog through boring sections is really hurting them here because it WASN’T really an option for anything else — except books — when they were rising to prominence.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I’ll grant that the movies comparison wasn’t too great, but as you’ve still noted, modern movie-watching experiences allow skipping. Games are in a similar position to CDs, DVDs, Bluerays, and all the streaming solutions – the medium can allow for skipping things, but devs don’t put it in. Or rather, they have internal tools for skipping content while testing their own games, but don’t expose any nicer interface for the players of their games.

          1. John says:

            On the one hand, one thing that games do–or can do, at least–that books and video don’t is set challenges for the player. If a game is serious about its challenges then it makes a certain amount of sense to not provide the ability to skip some or all of those challenges, at least on the initial playthrough. If the challenge is the point then skipping the challenge is . . . missing the point? I don’t know. It would certainly work against the sense of progress and accomplishment I’d get from unlocking content gated behind challenges. On the other hand, allowing some people to skip various challenges that they don’t like or aren’t interested in doesn’t actually hurt anyone or anything, so why not do it? I think they’re both valid choices and there are enough games out there that players ought to be able find plenty of games to suit their individual tastes.

            But there is absolutely no good reason not to allow players who have already beaten the game to skip bits of it on repeat playthroughs. Those players have already demonstrated the ability to bypass the game’s challenges, and shouldn’t have to prove that they can do it all over again. More importantly, there is absolutely no good reason to force the player to consume the static bits of the game’s story all over again, as that has absolutely nothing at all to do with challenge–unless, I suppose, the story is so bad or so boring or so unnecessarily long that it’s actually a challenge in the form of a test of the player’s patience.

            1. Chad+Miller says:

              But there is absolutely no good reason not to allow players who have already beaten the game to skip bits of it on repeat playthroughs. Those players have already demonstrated the ability to bypass the game’s challenges, and shouldn’t have to prove that they can do it all over again.

              Well, I can think of one: implementation time. To use your original example: Have you ever tried the SRR level editor?

              1. John says:

                No. I’ve dabbled with module creation in Neverwinter Nights but not Shadowrun. I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at here, but if your point is that the developers can’t easily implement New Game+ convenience feature because their tools don’t support it, then my counterpoint is that the developers should probably have made themselves some better tools.

                1. Chad+Miller says:

                  then my counterpoint is that the developers should probably have made themselves some better tools.

                  And all I’m saying is, these things aren’t free. I think we’d all agree that the game with better tools would be better than the game without them, but I would hope we both agree that the games existing is better than them not existing. (or existing with better New Game+, but with those branching side missions completely removed because there wasn’t time to implement them)

                  The level editor is pretty clunky, and I think it’s a product of the series’ somewhat troubled production. The original version of the first game was so barely-done that it didn’t even release with manual saving, and Dragonfall started as DLC for that.

                  To name just one example of how clunky the whole thing was: you notice how the sequels cut way down on hired mercenaries, and gave them absolutely no dialogue in missions? I found this pretty lame, but I’m fairly certain I can guess the technical reasons for that, and in that light I can forgive the games, even if I am unhappy about it.

                  1. John says:

                    If I understand things correctly, those side missions weren’t in the original release of Dragonfall and were only added in the Director’s Cut re-release.

                    I’m sympathetic to the argument that it is hard for a relatively small and (at that time) independent studio like Harebrained Schemes to do everything it would like to do. Nevertheless, I think that New Game+ convenience features are less work than you might think, provided that they are planned for from the beginning and don’t have to be hacked in to the engine after the fact. In principle, the thing I’m asking for, the ability to skip certain chunks of dialogue, shouldn’t require much more than setting a flag or two at the beginning of the module. That’s how I’d do it in NWN, at least. If you can’t do that in the Shadowrun editor, then the Shadowrun editor is crummy indeed.

                    1. Chad+Miller says:

                      If you can’t do that in the Shadowrun editor, then the Shadowrun editor is crummy indeed.

                      Oh, no arguments there. Some highlights:

                      There’s no string interpolation, or indeed any way to vary the contents of a message outside of a few hardcoded functions. So let’s say that you want a character to have a long explanation followed by something like “until this guy showed up.” or “until this lady showed up.” depending on the player’s gender. The only way to do this is to copy and paste the entire message. The official campaigns are full of this (there are actually sort of macros for “he” vs. “she” and other common pronoun issues, but there are limits)

                      Or say you want conversation involving your party members, which has to take into account the fact that the player is allowed to choose party members. You can’t easily say things like “have the second party member say X” (or maybe I’m misremembering slightly, but if it’s possible it’s not compatible with the way most conversations are structured).

                      So say you have 3 characters and your team can only include those characters. You need one conversation. (I don’t remember how the sequels handled parties of less than 4, or even allowed that)

                      Instead let’s say you have 4 possible teammates (e.g. Eiger, Glory, Blitz, and Dietrich) and all of them need to participate in a conversation. You now need the “No Eiger” branch, the “No Glory” branch, the “No Blitz” branch, and the “No Dietrich” branch.

                      Now let’s say we add another character Sparky. You need 6 additional branches for any combination of 2 missing characters from the 4 that are already there, plus 4 more for Sparky + any of those characters missing, for a total of 10 extra branches.

                      Now, those branches don’t need to be entirely copy/pasted with slight tweaks; there are some ways to merge them back together, add pointers to the middle of a branch, etc. But not as many as you might think. I spent a lot of time a few years ago staring at these campaigns and thinking “That can’t possibly be the best way to do that!”, then digging some more and thinking, “Well, given these tools…it probably is.”

                      Anyway the guy who made multiple fan campaigns for these games is a trooper.

            2. Daimbert says:

              In line with the above comments on implementation time, I think this might turn into what Shamus talked about before with crunch and the idea of making it so that you can punch guys through windows. It seemed to come for free, but when we start thinking about all the implications we can see that it’s a bigger issue than we originally thought. Just skipping cutscenes is simple — and many games already did that — but it doesn’t work for plot elements that are integrated into the gameplay sections. We’ve already had to answer the question of what we’d do if there are critical plot or gameplay choices to be made in those sections. Then there are issues over whether it would be too annoying to ask before each section or if it should be global. And so on and so forth. It’s reasonable that a lot of game companies won’t want to put the effort into investigating it and doing it without need, and since this would only apply to games that have a lot of story or other sections that players might want to skip, care about replayability, and have reasons to think that players aren’t replaying them because they can’t skip those sections how much of an impact offering the option is itself debatable. As an example, people don’t seem to be skipping replaying the Persona games due to not being able to skip things, so why would they put the effort into doing that?

              I think it is a good idea and should be done on New Game+ for most games, but there are some hurdles to doing it that might reasonably make companies hesitant to do it unless they know that most of their players really want it.

              1. John says:

                It’s true, I am the nichest of audiences.

    5. Syal says:

      I was going to recommend Final Fantasy Tactics as a game that is exactly 50% narrative-driven, but then I got distracted by the horrible translation. I didn’t notice how bad it was as a kid. And apparently the remake is hilariously worse.

      Still, that plot gets pretty crazy. I think the endgame is five conspiracies deep.

      1. Syal says:

        …I’m linking another scene. Man I love that game.

  13. Ninety-Three says:

    I’ve been a fan of Creeper World since the first one and I agree with Paul’s thoughts that the narrative is like programmer art for writing. I learned to skip past it several entries in the series ago. 4 was kind of disappointing to me because it feels like they spent all their development budget on switching the game from 2.5D-that-approximates-as-much-3D-as-we-need to actual 3D leaving the gameplay unchanged (yeah, there’s now waves in the creeper where before it flowed more like honey, but that never seems to matter) and not making the campaign missions particularly interesting to compensate. The basic gameplay is still good, but it adds so little to the formula that it makes me wonder if I’d have more fun just going back to replay CW3. At least the programmer art looked less ugly when it wasn’t in 3D.

    1. Sleeping+Dragon says:

      I’m a little bit in the same boat. I like the first as “the original”, I like the second because it’s so different with the sideview and the way verticality factored into it, the third one is to me a great refinement of the original formula and it has enough content in the non-story levels that I can still launch it and play a level I haven’t before in colonial or tormented space. In light of all of this I was really stoked for four but I ended up not falling in love with it. Might be my failing eyesight but the new perspective made things harder to keep track of and it lacked certain “physicality” or “mass” that I was expecting would be the benefit of it.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        It’s not just your eyesight, the isometric view means that sometimes there are important parts of the map you literally can’t see without breaking from the normal gameplay loop and fiddling with the camera.

        The way the engine renders ultradense creeper tiles as looking like the Space Needle is really ugly and kind of forces your brain to treat the map as an arbitrary abstraction rather than an intuitive depiction of an ocean of bad stuff. And if the map’s going to be an arbitrary abstraction anyway, a colour-coded heightmap on a pixel grid is way more legible than what we got in CW4.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        I only started with 3, but I really fell in love with it. I tried the demo for 4 (and casually watched the information leading up to its release), and it just didn’t grab me the same way. I still go back to 3 every so often to get in a quick random level or two.

    2. Xeorm says:

      On one hand I found a lot of it kinda silly in how it graphically looked. Like the big spikes or the way the creeper dealt with the walls and the blank space didn’t feel all that great. You’d have islands of creeper stacked super high with invisible walls on the side, and then blank void space inbetween that could still have creeper on it if it spawned elsewhere. It did not feel the greatest.

      I did enjoy the new resource mechanics that it added. And some of the levels were very much *different* in ways that made it entertaining to run through. Overall though, I did enjoy. It’s a $20 game, I was not disappointed. CW3 still feels like my favorite, though I did really like the spaceship version too.

  14. tmtvl says:

    For thrower of dice, maybe you want iactator alearum? From iacto (to throw), and alea (dice). Or you could substitute tesserarum or talorum, although the talus was not the kind of die we think of, being more oblong and marked on four sides.

    Talis may be applicable to the Diecast, meaning distinguished, great, or excellent, but it doesn’t have much to do with dice.

    By the way, neat to see fellow appreciators of sermo urbanus.

    1. Douglas+Sundseth says:

      My knowledge of both the vocabulary and grammar of Latin con only with the greatest charity be described as ‘minimal’. I dumped a phrase into Google Translate and got a text string out, which was probably nonsensical.

      Thank you for the information.

      1. tmtvl says:

        You’re most welcome, I always end my emails with vale (farewell) as reference to Seneca the Younger’s Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium (Moral Letters to Lucilius).

  15. Olivier FAURE says:

    I’m not super interested in the procgen dungeon kickstarter, mostly because I’m more into the “environmental storytelling” school of level design (also known as “pedantic armchair architect nerdism”).

    There’s the basic stuff like “What do they eat?”, “How do the residents navigate this place?”, “What does the architecture say about the people who built it?”, etc. To me just having a program fill rooms at random with generic fantasy furniture is missing the point. You might as well give your players a bare-bones map with wall outlines, or better yet, no map at all and improvise room descriptions on the spot.

    Honestly, I’d be more interested in some minecraft-like editing tools that lets you build rooms with broad shapes, so you can quickly prototype different layouts, and then turn *that* into maps. I don’t want a tool that generates HD models of wooden tables, but being able to quickly add “okay, so my evil lich CEO has a secret exit that leads to a service elevator” to the space in a way that makes physical sense and can easily be translated into the maps I give my players (and visual overviews for every room) would be great.

  16. The Rocketeer says:

    Classic demonstration of levelers always leveling downwards. ME2 crew should have made everyone thicccc.

    1. John says:

      Buffs are better than nerfs, so they say.

  17. Dotec says:

    So… Miranda’s buttshots were obvious, dumb, and wanky (also splendid). Their greatest contributions were a meme. If we could wind back time to when ME2 was being developed, I would push for their removal. There’s actually a lot of changes I would have pushed for.

    But it’s there. It happened. A lot of people (if not most) didn’t seem to mind, and I’m not going to judge anybody who liked them. In my ideal world, devs would take a “lessons learned” approach to these kinds of things. Were the buttshots juvenile and ill-advised? Then you’re free to not incorporate them into your future games or potential remakes (not remaster), and let the previous work stand with all its strengths and flaws. Going back to cover it up just looks embarrassing, and pandering of a different kind.

    I have a similar reaction to people hoping for this remaster of the trilogy to fix the narrative. While I too have held an involuntary yearning for some kind of correction to the series’ story, to do this in a way that is seamless in my brain would require a magic wand and a reconfiguration of time and space. Bioware dropped the ball. They tried to fix the ending a little bit with some DLC, but the mark had been made. ME’s failure in this regard will stand forever. And I think it would be healthier for everybody to make their frowny face and then move the hell on. You can’t go backsies, and I’m not sure I want a world where you could.

    If Bioware or another dev is ever given the opportunity to reboot or re-adapt the series, then they have my permission to do whatever they want – gender swap characters, change appearances, write a new ending, provide different origin stories, et cetera. But if the purpose of a remaster is to make a “classic” title a little more accessible to a modern audience (as in I can run it on Windows 10 without fuss with some optional lens flares), then I’m not a fan of these kinds of editorial changes – even if I kinda agree with the rationale.

    I do have some personal gripes with this issue, but best left not said.

    1. Syal says:

      It occurs to me that there is a third option here.

      That’s quite a bit of blank space on that booty.

      Imagine how many sponsored ads you could fit on there throughout the course of the game.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Sir, the switchboard just lit up! I’ve got Spalding on line one and Smithfield on line two. Harry’s Shave and ExpressVPN say they’ll hold, but not for long!

        1. Gautsu says:

          Imagine seeing “Indoctrination Theory” flash up on there

      2. Philadelphus says:

        Ah, going the Leon “Did you know he’s the Champion of the Galar region??” route, I see.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I actually would prefer that they re-adapted the sequels, instead of doing any kind of re-master. The original Mass Effect was pretty good and could use a re-master for modern systems, but the sequels need a lot of story, character, and other rewrites. I mean…just look at how long Shamus’ articles complaining about all their problems were! ^^;

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        I would prefer that Shamus re-adapted the sequels instead of doing any kind of remaster, but do you really want Bioware, developers of Andromeda and Anthem to do it?

        I suppose we would get some pretty good Shamus rants out of it if they did.

  18. Contractor says:

    Both of these things are true: the gratuitous ass shot of Miranda was silly and removing it makes the game better, and there are belligerent ideological mobs successfully demanding the removal of sexually appealing imagery across many games and other forms of media. So it creates an uncomfortable situation. Like, imagine that the guy robbing the convenience store then points his gun at you and orders you to put some quarters in the Fight Childhood Leukemia donation jar.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      It’s not like this was Bioware giving in to the mob, the game is simultaneously not out yet and released a decade ago, and either way no demands have been made.

      The hating-on-fanservice is coming from inside the house.

      1. Contractor says:

        “A game producer removing ____ from the remaster isn’t giving in to the mob because the game isn’t quite out yet” doesn’t make a lot of sense. Will it suddenly become giving in to the mob on the day the game is released?

        That aside, it’s sheer gaslighting to claim that these decisions are made in a vacuum and that there is nobody at all out there who is demanding changes like this. I work in the industry for a very high-profile company and I know very well that these companies are running scared both of game journalists and their own employees who are on a tear to have these kinds of scenes removed.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          “their own employees” was the point I was making here: it’s not giving in to the mob when Bioware is the mob.

  19. Chris says:

    Also there is again an off-set of the shownote times and the times i get when i download the episode and play it in windows mediaplayer. It’s not a big deal but it happens pretty consistently with every episode. I have yet to find a pattern in the system (the variance seems to be 20-40 seconds).

    Creeper World 4 (05:06) 5:39
    The Animation of Sonic Games (09:38) 11:11
    100% Mindustry (17:25) 18:02
    Mailbag: Miranda’s ASS (22:04) 22:38
    Mailbag: Procgen Dungeon (32:36) 33:10
    Mailbag: Narrative and Replayability (37:10) 37:50

  20. Corvair says:

    Regarding the discussion about “narrative drive” in games: I have this weird visual of how many “hooks” the narrative has on the player, i.e. how much does the narrative jerk him around, hinder him, and generally interfere with him (or her, naturally) actually playing the game.

    Take, for instance, System Shock 2: The part of the narrative that has the player as an active agent is actually minuscule: Most of the story already happened without the player before the game even started. Diablo is similar in that regard: The Warrior/Sorceror/Rogue isn’t a participant in the “meat” of the story, he’s more of a witness – Diablo II even outright frames it that way by having the story being told by a narrator: Marcus. Prey also does this to a degree: You’re not in the middle of the story, you’re retracing large parts of it.

    The more directly involved a game has their player in the story without giving him actual player agency, the worse it is for me: I am not a free agent with my own will, I am a bit actor playing out a director’s orders: “Now go there, pick up this, go back to this spot, lay down the thing, and now stand aside so that the actual protagonists can move the plot along.”

    This ties into taking control away from the player to make sure the player character does what the script expects of him, and how that is a Cardinal Sin in gaming for me. But this text has already run long enough, so I’ll spare you all.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      No no, please go on, I’m fairly certain a bunch of us live for these comments. Also, I’d be very curious to go somewhat more in depth about this, particularly which games you’d name as examples of not doing this.

      I mean, it is the essential problem of video games as an interactive storytelling medium. Even if player character is given (story) agency the player is in most cases going to be either the “performer” or “witness” to pre-scripted actions. In the rare instance when the player does have story agency it is, by necessity, both limted and along pre-scripted paths. Possibly the only exceptions are games where the storytelling is emergent or, and I don’t know if someone has in earnest attempted this, some kind of interactive fiction experiment that would be constantly updated as players submit actions and options.

      1. Baron Tanks says:

        Your last paragraph reminds me vaguely of Blazeball. The browser based fantasy baseball game with crazy emergent narratives, rather than the Final Fantasy minigame. The emergent narrative resulting from player input, editorialized into a narrative aspects that you describe are definitely present. Of course mechanically there’s no framework here that can be transplanted to an individual experience. In other words I don’t see how this would be applicable to any single player game, but it’s one of the few well known examples I can think of where there is an emergent narrative that is then further explored and continued through actions of the author(s).

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Blaseball is… a thing. I’m fascinated by it and I tried looking into it but I actually bounced off the BASEball part, I just don’t know a thing about that game and between that and the blase- weirdness it’s pretty much impossible for me to parse it. But yeah, it is a good example of at least trying to go in that direction, and just how gloriously haphazard and spontaneously ridiculous it can be.

  21. As a person who has an ass and who identifies as a woman, Miranda’s ass is just another exhausting reminder of how women’s bodies are often viewed by the gaming industry as objects to be consumed by the game’s intended straight male audience.

    How would you explain the existence of Miranda’s ass to your daughter, when there is no sexually objectified male body in the game that would need explaining to your son?

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