Diecast #342: Blender, Portal 2, Mailbag

By Shamus Posted Monday May 3, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 44 comments

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

00:00 Just return it!

06:29 Blender Rescues Davinci Resolve

12:45 Portal 2 Reloaded

21:35 Mailbag: DOS Game Installer Nostalgia

Dear Diecast

Reminiscing about gaming when I grew up in the 90ies, there are obvious things one could be nostalgic for, like big boxes, hefty manuals and generous feelies. But then I suddenly remembered that on the tail end of DOS PC Games, there were really elaborate installers. Especially the one of Command & Conquer came to mind, as seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77k-eNscp2k, but there were others too. I know that the C&C remaster did try to bring it back in a way, but for the most part, installation has become an invisible process. We just hit “download” and after a while, we can play.
While it sure is much more convenient that installing isn’t hogging the computer as a whole, and there is no more need to juggle disks or even diskettes around, I still feel I kinda miss getting drawn into the experience via a well designed installation interface. What’s your take on that? And are there other nowadays obscure gaming related relics that you are nostalgic for?

kind regards
Norbert “ColeusRattus” Lickl

34:36 Pluto / New Horizons

This wasn’t a planned topic. I’d just watched this video and it was fresh in my mind.

Link (YouTube)

38:11 Mailbag: Broken RPG Economies

I think the issue of “broken” in game economies is fascinating. I’ve read Shamus’s columns on the matter where he succinctly lays out the way the economy “breaks” due to a series of perfectly reasonable player desires.

Shamus gave EVE Online and Borderlands 3 as two examples where in-game economies avoided complete collapse. EVE due to real world fidelity and Borderlands by offering a unique type of money sink.

Do you think that a single player RPG can both successfully avoid a broken economy and remain enjoyable? I tend to consider Mount and Blade (especially when modded) to be a good example of a game that avoids breaking the economy. I think this is in part because it blurs the line between RPG and strategy; if aren’t a one-man wrecking ball and need an actual army, the game has more ways to “realistically” take your money. Do the Diecast members have any examples of RPGs they think handled it well? Ways things can or ought to have been handled better?

I hope you’re doing well and I always enjoy the Diecast!


46:33 Mailbag: Non-Gaming needs

Dear Diecast,

in the past Blender has come up as a program you quite like and Shamus has spoken loftily about Visual Studio, so I was wondering: are there any other non-gaming programs you consider must-haves?




From The Archives:

44 thoughts on “Diecast #342: Blender, Portal 2, Mailbag

  1. Joe says:

    When it comes to money sinks, Cyberpunk 2077 has cars. Some are cheap, but when you’re trying to buy them all, they really start costing. I just have one more to do for the achievement, but I’m also taking a break from the game. One day I’ll have the urge to play it again.

    I think the different stages of installation is a Blizzard thing. Diablo 3 has playable, optimal, and actually complete. I’ve never tried to play it when it wasn’t complete, and I’m not going to uninstall and reinstall just to test.

    As for programs not mentioned, I use Winamp for music and do some image editing in paint.net.

    1. Mattias42 says:

      King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity & Runaway: A Road Adventure had an interesting take on partial installation I’ve only really seen in those two games.

      You can install those games a chapter/episode at a time as their ‘minimum install’ version, and as the game plays, the game will save in that new area, quit the game, uninstall the old assets, install the new assets, load itself up again, and you just… continue playing. Heck, in Mask you could even revisit areas or have save games, meaning the entire game just did that entire song & dance automatically for whatever area you’re trying to play. (!)

      Did have a downside though: ‘loading times’ in the 20-30 minute mark. (!!!)

      I was very impressed by that tech at the time, but I get why so few games use that system. It’s basically a very complex & slow loading screen with a LOT of stuff that can go wrong behind the scenes. Heck, Runaway I genuinely wouldn’t have gotten to play until years later if not for that tech wizardry, due to how ailing the family PC was at the time.

      Oh, and of course: Nowadays most people just hit ‘Maximum install size’ in those games, and even a lot of retro fiends might genuinely have missed those entire features even exists in those games. So… yeah, bit sad that tech vent away, but I get why it did. People that benefit from THAT level of optimization is just such a tiny part of the market nowadays.

      1. bobbert says:

        I still have the sniffles, so I read that as ‘King’s Quest: A Road Adventure’.

        Huh? I don’t remember that one, but it can’t be that much weirder than a normal Sierra game.

        1. Mattias42 says:

          I personally really enjoyed Mask of Eternity, but it’s one of those games the fan-dom LOATHES~ and have basically collectively declared: ‘that did not happen. EVAR.’

          Basically, they tried to shift genera from a point-&-click, to more of this 3D action-adventure thing.


          Kinda a classic example of on of those games like, say, Thief 4 or Dues Ex: Invisible War that would probably be a fondly recalled cult-classic if it wasn’t proclaimed the next best step in a beloved series. Again, personally enjoyed it, though. For its time, it was genuinely impressive in the tech department, and I’m a sucker for classic fantasy.

  2. Mr. Wolf says:

    The only installer I feel nostalgia about is Warcraft 2, because well…

    1. RFS-81 says:

      …because it doesn’t get any better than this!

      Now I have to nostalgize to the WarCraft 2 soundtrack!

  3. Philadelphus says:

    Charon is Pluto’s largest moon, although given how close they are in size it’s not exactly wrong to refer to the two as double dwarf planets. Most of the English-speaking world pronounces “Charon” with a hard “k” sound after the mythological figure, but some American astronomers (including those at NASA and on the New Horizons team) pronounce it like “Sharon” as a shibboleth. This is because its discoverer, James Young, initially proposed Charon as a scientific-sounding version of his wife Charlene’s nickname “Char” (and only discovered later that Charon was coincidentally also the ferryman of the dead in Greek mythology). So as long as you don’t pronounce it like the ‘ch’ in ‘church’ you’ll be fine.

    On a tangential note related to astronomical data, volume of data is rapidly becoming a big problem even in Earth-based astronomy. In the next few years, multiple automated surveys are going to be coming online which will involve taking pictures of the entire night sky every few nights at the rate of terabytes per night, or petabytes per year. There’s a ton of buzz right now about machine learning techniques to help poor overwhelmed astronomer comb through this tsunami of data that’s about to break over us to find the interesting and novel stuff.

    Edit: And when Audacity came up I was going to point out Tantacrul being in charge of it, but you beat me to it. (Link for anyone interested.)

    1. Echo Tango says:

      No matter which way I hear this pronounced, it seems wrong to me. English needs a proper alphabet. ^^;

    2. Geebs says:

      “Charon” starts with a chi rather than a kappa, so it’s an aspirated “kh” not a straightforward hard “k” sound. Anyway, nobody knows how to pronounce ancient Greek, so everybody is free to pronounce it however they like!

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Thanks for pointing that out! I’ve actually studied ancient (well, Koine) Greek and do know how to pronounce it, but wasn’t sure how to describe the sound of chi and so figured I’d leave it out for simplicity.

  4. Daimbert says:

    I’ve always been a bit bemused by the discussions of the broken game economies because in pretty much every game I play I’m always hugely cash-strapped unless I’m on a New Game+. So adding money sinks — especially mandatory ones — to a game risks making it so that I won’t be able to actually play the game.

    My theory on that is that the big problem is that you need to spend money to buy new and better equipment. Because that equipment is so much better, it has to cost more to stop people from buying it from the start and dominating the game. But then that means that as the game goes on and that equipment becomes necessary you need to be able to generate more money in order to be able to purchase it. But then players can learn to be efficient with their purchases and with their money-generation, and so generate loads and loads of money that they have no use for by the end of the game. The problem with this is that people who don’t learn to be that efficient hit closer to the intended path where they have just enough money to get what they need. And then the game is tweaked to add money sinks and those players, well, turn into me: scrambling to get enough money to get what they need and cursing the game for that.

    I think a model like The Old Republic’s can work, though, where if you complete the major quests you should be able to get good equipment for your specific class but if you want better equipment or extra things you’ll need to generate more money to get them. Make the money sinks optional but cool and have the game provide the absolutely necessary equipment and the economy problem might be solved.

  5. Echo Tango says:

    Re: in-universe installers
    In-universe things can add to the immersion of a game, but they only really age well for things that must exist for the game. As you noted in the show, installation happens faster and faster each year (for older games), and we also have multi-tasking computers now – so the player may very well just bypass your installer totally. The things that are part of the game instead of part of your current hardware and software – those make much more sense to have fancy graphics, animations[1], etc. The UI of Fallout and Fallout 2 still look great today, because you need UI widgets, and making them colored like the Pip-Boy in the universe makes sense, and helps immerse the player. :)

    [1] Don’t put animations that make the thing noticably longer than it needs to be. For example, the horrible menu-animations that swoop in and swoop out, every. Single. Time. You need to visit your engineering room in XCOM.

    1. Lino says:

      Please don’t tell this to Peter Molyneux! It’ll make him feel better about the “no menu” thing he did to Fable 3…

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I’m already annoyed enough with the completely in-universe “menus” that Fallout 3 and onwards added. Like, where the menus exist only on tiny game-world Pip-Boys that are a quarter of your computer screen, so you can barely see anything at all, and need to scroll through big lists of loot very slowly… ^^;

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          To be fair (unmodded) Skyrim didn’t need an “in universe” menu to have this problem…

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Yes, let’s talk about Mass Effect 2 loading screens which go on for as long as the animation took as opposed to how long the loading took because someone wanted to be fancy. Wonder if they’ll fix it in the remaster…

    3. Chris says:

      Dungeon siege was really annoying with this. The menus take quite a while to move since they have all the menus be powered by chains.

  6. John says:

    I think the era of custom installers ended with Windows 95 and the Windows install wizard becoming something close to a de facto standard. I’m not sure if earlier versions of Windows had anything similar, but it honestly doesn’t matter because almost no one made games for earlier versions of Windows anyway. Earlier versions of Windows ran on top of MS-DOS, so it made more sense for developers to target DOS than Windows. There were some Windows 95 games with custom installers but they tended to be games like Red Alert, which were part of a series where custom installers were part of the brand. That’s how I remember it, anyway. The reason that we don’t have custom installers now is that we tend to get our games digitally from online sources like Steam or GOG which encourage (and for all I know require) a standardized install process. And, y’know, that whole “download and install in the background” thing that Shamus was talking about.

    Back in the DOS era, all installers were by necessity custom installers. You installed a game by putting some media, a floppy disk or later a CD, into a drive and typing install.exe. The developer had to make that executable file themselves. There wasn’t any third party to do it for them or to dictate the form it should take. Until CD-ROMs became commonplace, however, few developers made fancy custom installers. No developer or publisher wanted a big installer taking up valuable space on a floppy that could have gone to, say, game assets instead. The rewards for having a custom installer must also have seemed very small. CD-ROMs shook things up by offering developers what seemed at the time to be massive amounts of storage space. Things like unique art assets for the installer suddenly stopped seeming completely wasteful and ridiculous. Even so, I note that custom installers like Command & Conquer’s are in many ways merely extensions of their games’ opening cinematics and were probably justified on those grounds.

  7. Lino says:


    This post should be titled “Diecast #342….”

    I am so nostalgic for those old game installers! I loved seeing the cool concept art, and listening to the cool music. Thanks for sharing that Red Alert video – I never got into the game as a kid, so I really liked watching that video!

    I’m also very nostalgic for the cool custom mouse cursor those games had (especially RTS games) – the different hands in WarCraft III, depending on the race you were playing, or the lightsaber in the main menu of the Jedi Knight games…. I understand why we can’t have cool installers anymore, but I really think we should bring back cool mouse cursors!

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      One of the funny lines you got if you clicked on WC3 units repeatedly was “I was chosen… by the great metal hand in the sky” or something to that effect

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I wore out my mouse in high-school by clicking on sheep until they exploded. Good thing mice back then were relatively cheap.

    2. AdamS says:

      Especially since an increasingly-large number of console games are (stupidly) turning to a cursor-based interface, and all they ever give you is a boring white circle!

  8. John says:

    My must-have program is Geany, which is a free, light-weight editor with a lot of IDE-like functionality. It uses only a fraction of the resources of a full-fledged modern IDE like Android Studio. I originally picked it up in, oh, 2009 or so when I was looking for an editor that could recognize Fortran syntax without requiring me to figure out some kind of add-on or plug-in. I’ve put it on every computer I’ve owned since then. It has some notable drawbacks. It doesn’t have any dependency-management tools, it doesn’t have any build-management tools, it doesn’t do real-time error-checking, and its code completion is very limited. But boy oh boy is it ever snappy. For projects which don’t have any dependencies to speak of–which is most of my personal projects, really–I think I actually prefer it to a full-fledged IDE. It starts up instantly and never gets laggy or weird while I’m working.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      If given a choice I’d keep the dependency-management outside of the IDE, but I do like having it read dependencies that have already been installed by some other standard program. The reason being, I don’t want to be locked into using this one IDE, or have it mess up my dependencies, but I benefit from it knowing where all the third-party libraries are, and letting me click through the function-calls to see the docstrings for what I’m dependent on. :)

      1. John says:

        I’ve been using Geany with a libGDX project lately. Fortunately, there’s a libGDX setup tool that creates libGDX projects, complete with IDE-independent Gradle scripts, for you and it’s trivial to replace Geany’s default Java compile and execute commands with references to the Gradle build, run, and distribute scripts. It’s actually gone much more smoothly than the last time I tried to use libGDX with IntelliJ and got a bunch of Gradle version mis-match errors that forced me to give up the project. That can’t happen with Geany because Geany literally does not know that Gradle or any other build management system (with the possible exception of Make) exists.

    2. tmtvl says:

      My only real must-have is Emacs, although Awesome WM and Firefox are nice to have.

      Also, funny thing about VLC, back when I used Windows (9 years ago), I swore by VLC and I was happy that it just worked on GNU/Linux. However, in the meantime I’ve ran across SMPlayer (used to be an MPlayer frontend, but now it defaults to MPV), which I like the UI of better than I like VLC’s.
      Shame about the name, though, goes right along with the GIMP.

      1. pseudonym says:

        Most people will need a photo manager too. Shotwell allows you to classify yoyr photos easily with hotkeys. It is very intuitive. My wife and I classified our 1400 or so wedding pictures in 1 to 5 star categories in under 2 hours. Now we can easily find our really good wedding photos.
        It is linux-only, so maybe some people have suggestions about a good windows photo manager?

  9. Ninety-Three says:

    Re: Programs you need for your computer to be complete: a screenshot utility. It’s insane that vanilla Windows still has no way to execute the basic task of “Push screenshot button, select area of screen to crop, screenshot automatically saves to disk”.

    I don’t use AutoHotkey but that’s because I prefer rolling my own scripts in Python, some kind of keyboard/mouse automation tool will save so much time for any gamer.

    1. sheer_falacy says:

      Windows Key + shift + S. It does exactly what you’re asking for.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        No, that saves to clipboard requiring extra steps every time if you want it dumped to a convenient picture folder (technically I think the snipping tool saves to some temp folder with an ugly name somewhere, this is not the desired functionality).

      2. RFS-81 says:

        Were you thinking of Windows Key + Print Screen button? That saves the entire screen to a file, no selection.

        Windows Key + shift + S does nothing for me. Is that Windows 10 only?

        1. sheer_falacy says:

          No idea which Windows version it was added in but I am indeed on 10.

  10. Olivier FAURE says:

    Re: Portal 2 Reloaded, the announcer voice is from the youtuber Harry101UK, a voice actor/animator/etc who does a lot of of Portal-2-related videos, and has already done voices for a few mods.

    He’s pretty good at doing those voices, though obviously once you’ve seen enough of his videos you instantly recognize him whenever he’s in one of these portal mods.

  11. Grimwear says:

    Completely unrelated to everything but I picked up Little Nightmares because it was on sale for 5 dollars and wow I dislike this game. 2.5D is infuriating but more importantly this game has so much “do it again stupid” I just have not enjoyed it at all. Get into a vent and start running through. Vents just connect rooms, no enemies or anything. Except this time where an arm comes through a hole. If I’d been walking ooh jumpscare but because I ran I got grabbed. Do it again. Vents have been safe ever since. Get to kitchen, sneak past chef, he’s not alerted, go through hole to next room and go slow so I can see what’s in the next room, except as soon as you cross the barrier a trigger happens and the chef moves to the new room, spots me immediately and grabs me, do it again stupid. Janitor is in the clock room and can hear/smell you. I hide behind some clocks not sure what to do, suddenly the clocks go off and he’s stunned. I’m ill prepared for this so I take an extra second before I run to get past him, he recovers, grabs me. Do it again stupid. I had no way of knowing the clocks would go off.

    Even better there are a bunch of candles/items that when you use them autosave goes off but it doesn’t actually checkpoint save so you never know where you restart if you die. I was doing a part in the kitchen and when I got caught and killed I’d respawn outside the room so I figured that’s enough for today I’ll come back later. But turns out that respawn isn’t a global respawn so when I logged back in to I’d actually been thrown 3 rooms further back and had to redo a bunch of puzzles that I’d successfully finished earlier. Screw this game.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Well, at least you only lost five bucks – you can spend what you saved on a different game that seems more up your alley! :)

      1. Grimwear says:

        It’s true! I had just finished Jenny LeClue Detectivu which I got on sale for 6 bucks and was pleasantly surprised with it, though it’s not generally the type of game I play. The ending is abrupt and literally has a choose A/B/C ending, jokes they’re all the same, which sucks but I’m excited for a potential sequel.

  12. Azzmo says:

    Regarding Paul’s encoding issue:

    There’s a wonderful free application called XMedia Recode which might help you. I’m not sure that it’ll do anything better than what Blender did for you, Paul, but it’s possible. Perhaps worth a shot to see if you can salvage video quality. I use it frequently for situations like what you described and have come to think of it as something of a Rosetta stone.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, I’ve gotten a recommendation for FFMpeg along the same lines. I basically used Blender because it was the known solution that didn’t require me to learn anything new.

  13. Gordon says:

    Paul, ctrl-shift-v is paste without formatting

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Interestingly, that’s a Chrome shortcut, so it doesn’t work for all Windows apps. At least, last time I checked.

  14. Rick says:

    Great episode, I’m very keen to look at Portal 2: Reloaded.

    I’ve always pronounced Chiron as “ky-ron”… probably because of Jonathan Coulton’s Chiron Beta Prime song.

    Not as catchy as Code Monkey, or Re: Your Brains… but it’s a fun holiday song.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      You may be confusing Pluto’s moon Charon with the centaur comet Chiron (though you’ve got the pronunciation down in either case).

  15. Chris says:

    The problem of RPG economies is that many of the things that burn you cash IRL are not needed in the game. You dont need to sleep, pay taxes, you work 24/7, walk everywhere (fasttravel), make your own stuff. All the while you’re in a static world that doesn’t respond to your input into the system.

    Diablo 2 isn’t very good with money either. Nobody used actual gold to buy stuff but stones of jordan, or runes. It works fine for single player (until you’re late in the game and grind some big boss, then money becomes useless and you gamble it all away. I wouldn’t call it a working system because you have a way to destroy millions of gold.) but not for multiplayer. Again, players have minimal expenditure while constantly working. Still it doesn’t matter all that much since most videogames are built around the fact that at some point that economy breaks and then the only good stuff you can get is from monsters.

  16. Dennis Stewart says:

    I love WinDirStat! I’ve got another must-have piece of software, EarTrumpet ( https://eartrumpet.app/ )

    The Windows 10 sound mixer is a huge step back from Windows 7; it takes many more clicks to just adjust the sound coming from one program. EarTrumpet sits in your System Tray; I hide the normal volume button and use it instead. You can see what programs are making noise, quickly adjust their levels, and also drag and drop programs between different outputs (headphones, speakers, TV). If you right click, it gives you links to different audio settings normally buried in the control panel. I can’t recommend this enough.

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