Diecast #346: Mailbag Monday

By Shamus Posted Monday Jun 7, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 82 comments

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 Prey

05:15 Procgen in Blender 2.93

08:40 Microsoft Edge – Smart Enough to know when you’re trying to replace it!
…but not smart enough to understand why I want to.

15:19 Mailbag: The Perfect Bethesda

Dear Diecast,

In the last episode you guys talked about Todd Howard and his public persona. That made me think of Bethesda as a whole – they’re really unusual for an AAA studio. They can be incredibly ambitious in some areas and hopelessly outdated in others – at the same time. There is also something unmistakably unique about their games; Bethesda’s „essence” if you will.

So – in the end of the day, what are they trying to accomplish? What would a perfect modern Bethesda game be? The one that’d catch up with their ambitons? I’m not talking about the days of Morrowind or Daggerfall, but today – what seems to be their ultimate goal?


24:54 Mailbag: Deus Ex Invisible War

Dear Paul,

From previous diecasts Shamus has slipped that deus ex invisible war traumatized him. Could you perhaps ask him what the experience was like, without opening old wounds too much?

with kind regards,

27:08 Mailbag: DumbBots is smart fun

Dear Diecast,

I’ve been having fun with an indie programming game called DumbBots. It’s a little bit like a Zachtronics game or one of those games where you control robots on a grid and have them fight each other. Except in this case, all of the scenarios are like something you’d see in a movie or action game. Your bots start out so dumb they sit there and do nothing, and you need to tell them how to steal all the loot, survive the zombie apocalypse, kill everyone else in a deathmatch, and so on. I wouldn’t normally expect a programming game to be so “cool” but the music and atmosphere is great, and every time you run your program you get an action scene that you choreographed yourself!

There’s a free demo, which is really just the main tutorial levels, if you want to try out the programming interface and general atmosphere before you buy it.

30:19 Mailbag: Programming for Dead Consoles

Dear Diecast,

I happen to work in film, and in a role that occasionally requires me to interface with old televisions and consoles and things like that. I won’t get into the intricacies of syncing televisions to camera, but my job is simply to “make it work.”

I was given the task of putting an image on an old TV that only had an RF input. It wasn’t a complex image; simply a green screen that would be composited over in post by the editors. One could bring a complex assortment of VCRs, scan converters, and a laptop to do that, but a different idea came to mind; I had a 3DO collecting dust, and the 3DO is one of the few consoles that actually had a direct RF output. Not only that, but the 3DO is CD-based, not cartridge based, meaning that there was a very good chance that I could actually homebrew an interactive program to do what I needed.

As it turns out, 3DO development is exceedingly easy. While documentation is sparse, there is nonetheless a downloadable build environment for modern Windows installs (and originally, Mac OS 7) that, with a little environment variable setup, can build you a hello-world disk image in less than fifteen minutes. Plus, with the a 3DO emulator core (and BIOS images) easily acquired through retroarch, you don’t need to waste CD’s to test your builds.

Have you ever gotten involved in writing software for dead consoles? Are there any consoles you’d like to see revived? Any games you’d want to see ported to an older console?



36:26 Mailbag: AI Dungeon

Dear Diecast

Have you ever tried out A.I. Dungeon? It’s a procedurally generated text adventure game, which come up with some pretty wild and unexpected stuff.

From Donkey

40:28 Mailbag: Survive the Hunt

Dear DiceCasters,

In the beginning of 2020, you put up an analysis of Failrace’s Survive the Hunt, with a link to Episode #12. Since then, they’ve reached 35 episodes with a few one-off spinoffs or specials.

I’ve been watching ever since your analysis. The Failrace guys have updated their rules over time, to acknowledge some imbalances and make their game “better”. In particular, they’ve changed the number of air vehicles allowed, made a rule that high-end supercars were off-limits to hunters unless the prey is caught driving in one (making taking a fast car an important choice with risk-vs.-reward elements), and had a few one-off special rules or scenarios, with the last episode involving an “Escape the country via plane” escape sequence involving a partner in a plane, as part of their 10 year anniversary of the site.

Are you still keeping up with the series? Are there any other games you Diecasters can think of where a healthy dose of setting changes and honor system rules can create a new fun “game mode” that isn’t being captured by the gaming community at large? One of the best parts of the Survive the Hunt format is that it is “video gamer agnostic” – you don’t need to be a gamer or even know GTA5 to understand what the prey’s goal is or what might be a good or bad strategy. Are there any games out there with a similar ease of understanding that might make them particularly suited for recording and viewing or the YouTube environment?

— Nick

43:23 Mailbag: Stack Overflow

Dear Diecast,

Today I learned that Stack Overflow is apparently worth $1.8 billion. I can’t quite decide whether that’s too little or too much. I’ve had mixed experiences with the site. What kind of experiences have you had there?



From The Archives:

82 thoughts on “Diecast #346: Mailbag Monday

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    Dear Diecast

    Have you ever tried out A.I. Dungeon? It’s a procedurally generated text adventure game, which come up with some pretty wild and unexpected stuff.

    From Donkey

    I would compare A.I. Dungeon to the first episode of Invincible, everything is relatively lighthearted and normal at the start but then it suddenly pulls a 180° and becomes sexual or violent almost out of nowhere and it’s all depicted in a very detailed and graphic manner.

    It’s really fascinating and I can’t wait for the technology to develop further so it can fulfill my “fantasies”.

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      I would compare AI Dungeon to a dancing bear: the marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        You know you’re in double-informal fallacy territory when the most relevant online reference is TV Tropes.
        But yes, totally agreed. A significant fraction of AI “success” is due to the ability of unlooked-for mediocrity to impress.

        1. Mr. Wolf says:

          In my defense, it’s a legitimate proverb… that I probably learned on TV Tropes.

    2. Asdasd says:

      I gave it a go, because after a spoiler like that frankly how could you not. Within five moves in the completely innocuous Christmas-themed Winterbloom adventure, I got this:


      It got worse from there. I’m beginning to wonder if the whole site is an elaborate troll.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        It’s not a deliberate troll, but it is known among people who’ve used the site that things turn violent or sexual pretty easily. This is likely because GPT-3, the AI behind it, has a lot of training data from the internet at large including some popular fanfiction websites.

        Some other fun ones: a friend of mine tried to use a custom prompt last year to have the AI predict the next president and got this (his prompt is italics, the rest is AI-generated):

        1992: Bill Clinton
        1996: Bill Clinton
        2000: George W. Bush
        2004: George W. Bush
        2008: Barack Obama
        2012: Barack Obama
        2016: Donald Trump

        2020: Donald J. Trump
        2024: Hillary Rodham Clinton
        2028: The End of the World
        2032: Bob “Dr. Sci” Eckerd
        2036: Norman “Superfly” Shepard
        2040: Tom “The Kentucky Kernel” Eckerd
        2044: Gail “Dynomite” Shannon
        2048: Ken “Luv” Lovelady
        2052: Frank “Pineapple Head” Luster
        2056: Bill “Plutonium Boy” Gaylord
        Sometime in the year 2052: Nuclear Winter sets in and all is lost to the cold, cold darkness.

        THE END

        This one was grabbed from reddit: https://i.redd.it/r17c405z36461.png

        Not AI dungeon proper, but Gwern’s GPT-3 generated fiction website is also amazing: https://www.gwern.net/GPT-3#navy-seal-copypasta

        1. Asdasd says:

          Trained on fan fiction! It all makes sense now.

    3. RFS-81 says:

      It didn’t even wait for me to type anything before turning dark.

      You are Owyn, a human male mage in the town of Decsos. Decsos was a planned town by the gnomes as a show of the superiority of gnomes over humans. You grew up in Decsos and were taught by many of the gnomes that live in the town. You are furious that the gnomes treat humans as lesser beings and you hope to bring down the whole society, starting with the town of Decsos.
      You have been using magic to cause random gnome deaths. So far you have managed to kill six gnomes. You put their bodies in a secret passage that leads to a community of hostile gremlin gnomes.

      > You say “Viva la revolucion!”
      You shout the famous revolutionary battle cry of Decsos. The other human residents of Decsos stop working and begin cheering for you too.
      “Long live the revolution!” they yell.

  2. Joe says:

    Bethesda is part of the overarching Zenimax corporation. Another arm of Zenimax is responsible for ESO. However, I don’t know which arm is responsible for Fallout 76 and I don’t really care. A massively multiplayer looting game? No thanks.

    As for what the perfect Bethesda Elder Scrolls would be, it depends on what they’re trying to accomplish. A great fantasy story, a fun fantasy crafting and looting game? A mix between the two that would prove unsatisfactory to both worlds? I know what I want it to be, which is a cross between Skyrim and Witcher 3. Taking the best from both worlds. But I also know that we’ll never ever get it. It’s far too ambitious. It would end up as a buggy and/or confused mess.

    And on the bad writer part, I have no idea who you mean. I don’t pay attention to who the Bethesda writers are. Hell, I mostly ignore the story these days.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      I consider New Vegas to be the perfect Bethesda game (or at least what I want out of a open world RPG) which is ironic because it wasn’t made by them, I even consider it to be a spritual successor to Morrowind.

      A unique interesting setting that is also grounded to make a believable and immersive open world, a variety of choices in quests, the story being designed to allow and even react to every NPC getting killed, no level scaling, pacing that takes its time to introduce you to the world rather than rushing you through it, a main questline that actually incentivizes you to do the other sidequests instead of being a railroaded campaign, actual good use of celebrity voice actors, interesting characters, compelling factions, and good writing.
      All of this is what I want from a Bethesda game and New Vegas has all of it.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        That kind of highlights the problem – Bethesda isn’t putting in the effort required, to actually have interesting stories. The world, characters, and interactions are all shallow, but they want them to be as amazing as the visual models they create. (Like, all the skyscrapers and massive industrial plants that you find throughout Fallout 4.)

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          I think I know the higher-up Shamus mentioned in the podcast, and I’ll also not mention them by name, but I will share the following: That person once gave a talk on storytelling in Fallout 4, openly available on YouTube. This person discusses one quest at length, doting on it and its designer, talking about the hard work that obviously went into it.

          Even before seeing the talk, I agreed that I thought someone had clearly worked hard on it. I also thought it was so bad that I literally uninstalled the game over it.

          For those who don’t like FO3/4’s writing, I don’t think the problem is a lack of effort. I just think that the explanation is either “they have different goals” on the charitable end and “they have no taste” on the uncharitable end. Like it or not, there’s no indication that their priorities are different or that they’ve decided it’s okay that the writing is bad; all appearances are that they don’t even agree that the writing is bad.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            Got a link to the talk? I can’t seem to find anything, searching with variations of ‘”fallout 4″ developer talk quest site:youtube.com’

            1. tmtvl says:

              I think it’s this one: Talks from STORY.

              Shamus, if you prefer not to have this link (the video title contains the name of the individual in question) here, feel free to delete this post.

              1. Chad Miller says:

                Yes, that’s what I was referring to and you can see me ranting about that quest here (scroll down to the block quote) https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=46012#comment-1303342

                1. tmtvl says:

                  I suppose I made the right choice by refunding F4 after kind of getting through the opening.

                2. BlueHorus says:

                  Oh man, that quest summary. Blaming the player for the consequences of NPCs making idiotic moon-logic decisions, while explicitly not letting the player do what makes sense. Ugh.
                  It gives me a very strong vibe of “there was only a limited amount of patience / effort we were putting into this ‘role-play’ stuff, and we just ran out of it”.

                  Though it does have one of my favorite Bethesda things: the disparate systems interacting in ways that imply everyone worked on their own thing in a bubble, with no-one to think about how the final product would interact.
                  It’s integral to some of my favorite Skyrim moments…

                  So. I’ve stolen a magic sword blessed by the Daedric Lord of Betrayal. I find out that I can empower it by using it to murder people who trust me.

                  But who trusts me that I’m willing to murder? I know, that random hobo there! I give him one gold, and now he’s my best friend. So, as he watches, I crouch, and walk around behind him, sword drawn…
                  Unfortunately the Daedric Lord of Betrayal’s signature weapon isn’t a dagger, for some reason; it’s a two-handed sword. So all my backstab perks are worthless, and the hobo survives the first attack. I end up chasing him down the street, swinging wildy with my sword – I finally cut him down, in front of a terrified child, but then an angry guard stops me.

                  “You! Halt, murderer!” He shouts.
                  “This is unnacceptable!” I say. “I’m the Jarl’s Thane! Let me go!” (NOTE: This is the self-same Jarl I literally just stole a cursed, very famous, magical sword from. I’m holding said bloodstained sword in my hand as I speak.)
                  “Oh, okay then.” He replies. “Don’t do it again.” He leaves me be.
                  As I leave, I pass the child who’d witnessed my crime. She starts to walk back the way she’d run. Suddenly…

                  “Aaah! A body!” She cries in surprise.

                  1. MerryWeathers says:

                    Imagine if Bethesda went out all out with their Radiant System like they were supposed to back when they were making Oblivion, we would have way more emergent moments like this.

                    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                      In all honesty it’s not the worst idea in the world. To be clear the radiant quests in vanilla Skyrim are… lackluster to say the least, but I think it hints at awareness that there are players who want more of a “live in this world” experience than “do an epic quest” experience, or the former one following the latter. Putting a game in some kind of shifting oblivion plane or evermoving asteroid ring (speaking in terms of Starfield) with a number of handmade “stable” locations and a map otherwise shifting around them, with procgen content sprinkled with randomly encountered handmade bits, seems very much like something they could be interested in doing.

                  2. Lino says:

                    OMG! Amazing! You just can’t make this stuff up!!!

          2. ElementalAlchemist says:

            I just think that the explanation is either “they have different goals” on the charitable end and “they have no taste” on the uncharitable end.

            Their goal is to appeal to the broadest range of humanity possible in order to maximise revenue. Think of them like the McDonalds of game development. Or perhaps a breakfast cereal, the sort your mother used to tell you had more nutrition in the cardboard box it came in.

  3. MerryWeathers says:

    So – in the end of the day, what are they trying to accomplish? What would a perfect modern Bethesda game be? The one that’d catch up with their ambitons? I’m not talking about the days of Morrowind or Daggerfall, but today – what seems to be their ultimate goal?

    Modern Bethesda game design is like an amalgamation of three different types of game designs that almost contradict each other yet somehow still works together enough to obtain mass appeal.

    The first type of game design is the main story quest which is essentially a linear epic plot campaign that’s somewhat divorced from the rest of the game, like the stakes only apply to the main quest but the rest of the world is basically unaffected for the most part.
    This is probably the least vital aspect to the overall modern Bethesda game design, lots of people admit they don’t do or finish the main story even after spending countless playing around in the world but it’s still important as they guide directions to the player around the world and mechanics.

    The second type of game design is the open world RPG sandbox, probably the most important aspect of the Bethesda game design.
    Their entire identity is based around it and yet they make major decisions that contradict the nature of being an open world RPG sandbox, like essential npcs and linear quests.
    So a lot of the time it’s really about the exploration and learning about new locations.

    The third type of game design is something akin to a looter shooter, centered around the gameplay loop Joseph Anderson described in his Fallout 4 video: Exploration > Gathering > Combat. This is the aspect that makes Bethesda games so addictive and replayable.
    Other mechanics like the settlement building and weapon/crafting systems are also tied to this type of game.
    It can be reconciled with the “open world sandbox” aspect of Bethesda games but not the “role-playing” part as Bethesda is incentivized to make most of the quests feed into this very specific kind of gameplay loop that leaves no room for variety of gameplay styles or choices. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if Bethesda abanoned the RPG aspect of their games entirely but they don’t.

    Bethesda could just focus on one of these types of games but combining all three makes for a unique and specific kind of experience you won’t get anywhere else.
    The closest thing I can think of that’s similar to Bethesda’s brand of open world sandboxes while also being close to perfect are Rockstar’s games, being superior through the presentation and polish though they still lack the third type of game design and some aspects of the second.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      I think the reception of Fallout 76 vs. Fallout 4 demonstrates that plenty of people want stuff like dialogue trees and the main quest to be there even if it’s incongruous with the rest of the game and also bad. Kind of like how plenty of people like the Fallout 4 PC being voiced even if the lines range from bland and banal to stupid and awful.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        Kind of like how plenty of people like the Fallout 4 PC being voiced even if the lines range from bland and banal to stupid and awful.

        Really? Even Todd Howard acknowledged that and the dialogue wheel was a mistake and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason why there are so few Fallout 4 quest mods compared to Skyrim.

        It’s a feature I expect to get dropped in Starfield.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          Are we talking about the four-choice dialogue system or the voiced PC? Because those are two separate mechanics (though I do think losing either, let alone both, is an improvement)

    2. RFS-81 says:

      It’s more of an MMO term, but I think Bethesda is going for a “theme park” rather than a “sandbox”. You have a bunch of different rides (e.g., Thieves’ Guild, Companions, looting random dungeons) but they’re all very linear.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Those rides are, however, built over the top of a sort of simple, or larval, form of a sandbox experience. This is a big reason why survival mods, alternate start mods or “disable main quest” mods are fairly popular for basically all of these games.

  4. Lino says:

    Regarding Stack Overflow and the path to becoming better at using a tool/programming language, you missed one stage between the newbie YouTube tutorials and Stack Overflow. And that’s the “Advanced YouTube tutorials done by a nice Indian dude with bad audio”. I swear, these people have saved me on more than one occasion!

    Even the tutorials that are entirely in Hindi – which the Almighty Algorithm somehow always knows to serve me in my dire hour of need! Praise be the Almighty Algorithm! And praise be to the Nice Indian Dudes!

    1. Nick Pitino says:



  5. tmtvl says:

    Just to add a little nuance to Shamus’ description of Survive The Hunt: the hunted (Alex, AKA Failrace, AKA the guy whose POV we watch) generally has the objective to survive 24 in-game hours, usually while having a secondary objective of blowing up some pink cars that are placed around the city. This is done by placing plastic explosives on the car in question and detonating them while the car is still within line of sight.

    Because the hunters will try to kill him when they find him he will try to pretend he’s an AI, so as to avoid suspicion, and if that fails he’ll do his best to flee. He could also try to fight them all, but because there is only one of him and many of them it is not his best option.

    That said, to make the possibility of a stand-off a little more tenable the hunters are only allowed to use pistols, shotguns, or flares; while Alex is weapons-free (and he has on occasion made good use of rockets, the machine gun, and the combat shotgun).

    1. John says:

      Survive the Hunts sounds an awful lot like Spy Party in some ways. The big differences are that Spy Party is a two-player game and that the target, a spy at a party, has to operate in a fairly confined space and is always visible to the other player, a sniper observing the party from another building. The spy can’t run, can’t hide, and can’t fight. He can only ever succeed by blending in. The other relevant difference is that Spy Party is a deliberately designed commercial game where the computer enforces the rules on both players.

    2. Steve C says:

      My favorite part of those Survive The Hunt videos are the random reversals. Like he’s sitting at a traffic light and another player tries to carjack him, thinking it’s a AI. Or suddenly a blimp crashes into a helicopter for no real reason. The other players simply crashed. Do you stay still and be cool or bolt?

      1. ivan says:

        In the situation of the carjacking, in that situation doesn’t he as a PC actually by default kinda give himself away? Cos the NPC range of reactions (voice lines, animated gestures, etc) is something that PC’s basically lack, right? I may be wrong with this assumption I’ve actually never played gta5 but i remember previous GTA games having NPC’s react, in various ways you couldn’t, to having their car hijacked.

        1. tmtvl says:

          Yeah, the problem is (apparently) that if you press the action key (or whatever) on an NPC car you hijack it, but if you do it on a player car you get in on the side. Making it plain obvious what’s going on.

  6. John says:

    Huh. Maybe it’s that I tend to use Stack Overflow for Java rather than Blender or Unity, but I very rarely see “stupid question, marked as duplicate”. (And when I do the question is usually of the form “hey, will you guys do my CS50 assignment for me?” in which case it doesn’t bother me too much.) When I said that I’ve had mixed experiences, what I meant was that the questions I’ve posted only rarely get answered or, more importantly, that the questions I’ve posted only occasionally get answers that actually solve my problem. Nevertheless, I’ve had some really positive interactions with people who have tried to answer my questions, even in cases where the question never gets answered satisfactorily.

    One of the ways in which Stack Overflow earns money is Stack Overflow for Teams, which I had never heard of until I watched a video about the sale. I don’t know what it is, except that it’s some sort of service for businesses. It was mentioned often enough in the press release regarding the sale that I suspect it may be the thing that the acquirer, whose name escapes me at the moment, really wanted out of the deal.

    1. Geebs says:

      The sections of Stack Overflow devoted to R are generally pretty decent.

      I’m still completely bemused by these expensive acquisitions of sites where all of the best content is generated by a bunch of highly talented and highly motivated volunteers who are only there because they feel like doing somebody else a favour, and can easily go somewhere else.

      It’s a bit like one of those scandals that always happens when somebody tries to monetise videogame mods, crossed with the AOL acquisition.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I often find not-actually-duplicate questions while trying to search for an existing answer. Maybe stuff like Javascript, HTML, and CSS get a lot more annoying people who are too eager to mark things as dupes? Worse than that, is that the “accepted” answer is usually pretty poor, and there’s a better answer that didn’t get accepted because it was a few days after the person had already accepted the poor answer, and moved on. I’d thought StackOverflow had mechanisms where highly-ranked people could override the original asker and mark a better answer as accepted, but it’s been a while since I read their policies and docs.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Dangit, I had a typo in my info, and got a rando gravatar. ^^;

        1. Lino says:

          You know, I think it would have been better if you hadn’t said that. I never noticed the comment was written by you – I just saw the avatar, didn’t recognise it, and assumed it was someone new.

          But now that you’ve said that it was you, I tried rereading your original comment in the voice I normally imagine whenever I read your comments, but it just doesn’t work. And now it feels like I’m trying to impose your voice onto an imposter! Are you sure that comment wasn’t written by your evil twin brother?

        2. John says:

          I’ve grown attached to my random Gravatar over the years. Sure, I don’t actually look at it or think about it all that often, but when I do there’s something about the perpetual frown that really speaks to me.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            Same, very

            1. Syal says:

              This email address has been dead for almost a decade, but I’m not giving up this “intellectual jackass” look.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                I’m glad to hear I’m not the only person here posting under a dead e-mail address out of attachment to my gravatar.

                That People’s Eyebrow is too good to pass up.

          2. tmtvl says:

            My picture is from 2014, I have less hair on my head now and I haven’t been to Japan in years, but… it’s a reminder of happier times.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    Re: Google messing with search results, in addition to shilling Google products, their standard search algorithm has a bunch of “artificial” behaviour forced on it like how Wikipedia articles tend to get pinned to the top or how it’s impossible to look up anything related to suicide or conspiracy theories without Google blasting you with help hotlines or Official Debunkings that have very little relation to your specific search question. Surprisingly, Bing is much better about not doing this.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      I’ve uninstalled the updates for Chrome on my phone because for whatever reason, Google is really adamant about making grid tabs the only tab layout option in the app by getting rid of all the options to revert back to the old scrolling tab layout in the latest update.
      It sucks ass because I find the scrolling tab layout more convenient and I know going to Google tech support to complain is like yelling at a brick wall.

      1. Lino says:

        Wait, Google has tech support? Since when?

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          Ah, it has a “Google Support” though I have my doubts about it being useful.

          1. Lino says:

            From my experience, it’s basically a Knowledge Base where you can search for an FAQ that answers your question. If you problem isn’t there… well, tough luck!

        2. Syal says:

          They just spraypainted “Tech Support” on a brick wall.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Maybe this stuff is based on what region you’re in? I just searched “suicide Canada” and got pretty normal results about statistics and other things, and the one crisis-prevention place was only second in the results.

    3. bobbert says:

      Google also memory holes newspaper articles it disagrees with. You search ” ” and you will never find it, even if you go to page 10+. Yahoo gives it to you top of page 1.

      1. bobbert says:

        Well, I garbled the format there. It should be search “[title] [author] [paper]”

  8. Grimwear says:

    Just popping in to say I received my hardcopy of Mess Effect and dang it’s nice. Nice work!

    1. Bobzusso says:

      I received my copy of Mess Effect also. It’s a nice book. Very heavy.

  9. RFS-81 says:

    What a coincidence, I’ve just recently installed Skyrim SE. I played old Skyrim mostly vanilla, but this time I’m using some survival mods (iNeed + Campfire + Frostfall). They mostly feel like busywork at the moment, I hope they’ll provide an actual challenge when I travel longer distances.

    This time, I decided to follow Hadvar (the Imperial) through the keep, just to see what it’s like. That leads to some pretty interesting dialogue, actually. Of course, he tries to convince you to join the legion, despite the oopsie concerning your execution, because he has to be the mirror image of Rolof.

    Like Rolof, he gets you access to the house of his relatives in Riverwood, and they have an interesting attitude about the ban of Talos worship: They’re pragmatic about the need for the peace treaty with the Elves, but they also say that every house used to have a hidden shrine to Talos. The Empire was happy to turn a blind eye — it’s not as if they liked the terms of the treaty — until Ulfric forced them to take notice.

    (Also, fun fact: Hadvar doesn’t even comment on it if you murder the Imperial torturer in the keep… Really, did they not expect that players would do that?)

    1. tmtvl says:

      First time I played I had no idea what was going on and just happened to follow Ralof. Second time I paid attention and followed Hadvar. From then on I always went with Hadvar, because I prefer his VA.

      Murdering the torturer… it’s Bethesda, they probably just forgot to make him immortal.

      1. beleester says:

        Same. On my first playthrough, I followed Hadvar and didn’t even notice that it was supposed to be a choice. There was a dragon attacking, I was running away, so I picked the closest door and ran inside without stopping to watch Hadvar and Rolof have their little dialog outside the keep.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I think I did this as well. I was unaware of the existence of a choice until I watched the Spoiler Warning series on Skyrim.

          There’s also the wrinkle that your only functional buttons at this point are running and jumping. Has someone made a mod allowing the player to Goomba-stomp the unchosen NPC?

      2. Chad+Miller says:

        Even if someone thought to make the Torturer immortal, they probably didn’t want to because having the player get attacked by an invulnerable NPC in the tutorial is bad form. Even New Vegas pulls something similar in marking nothing in Doc Mitchell’s house as “owned” (confirmed by Josh Sawyer to be for this reason)

        I didn’t notice the Hadavar/Ralof choice either. In fact, my first “playthrough” of Skyrim went:

        * Finish the tutorial
        * Notice my questlog is “Do what Hadavar says” and “Join the Imperial Legion”
        * Realize that I have no in-character reason to do either of these things, go do the dishes, then fail to think about Skyrim even once for at least 2 years afterward

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Even New Vegas pulls something similar in marking nothing in Doc Mitchell’s house as “owned” (confirmed by Josh Sawyer to be for this reason)

          I remember Shamus joking about this in his Stolen Pixels comic. He literally sold Doc Mitchell all his possessions back at the beginning of the game.

          “Oh wow, a toaster! I used to own one just like it a minute ago…”

  10. Retsam says:

    Regarding programming for old consoles, the next best thing is probably writing a PICO-8 game: PICO-8 is a pretty popular “fantasy console” that’s something like a GBA/SNES in its graphics and limitations.

    It seems pretty popular for prototyping – I know Celeste started as a PICO-8 game (and actually the release game includes a PICO-8 emulator and the prototype).

    And coincidentally, another PICO-8 game, Slipways, just released on Steam a few days ago.

    And I’m enjoying it a lot – it looks like a 4X game, but the actual mechanics are more of an abstract/economic puzzle: when you colonize a planet you pick a role for it (based on its type) and it has imports and exports and you need to build a network of trade-routes that wires the imports to the exports.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      That’s cool, I played the PICO-8 version of Slipways quite a bit, but the small resolution was annoying. Nice to see that it got a proper release!

  11. droid says:

    What the heck is up with turning off cell phones in hospitals

    Medical electronics is difficult to design and sell because of the high reliability requirements (and that’s a good thing). Each company has to prove that the circuits always work as designed. The work to prove them correct is much more difficult if there are uncontrolled powerful radio transmitters nearby, so it’s easier to prohibit nearby active cell phones. It’s not that cell phones would make the devices malfunction, just that it was hard to prove that they never would.

    I’m guessing that it’s hard to get people to turn off their phones, and so the designers added shielding. Or that they now days do the extra work related to EM interference.

    1. Geebs says:

      Most of the “No Mobile Phones” signs you see on hospital walls look old enough to have been put up in the 80s, when analogue cell phones were still a thing. I wonder if the interference profile for those phones was different?

      More likely, it’s impossible to get the general public to ever switch their phones off and I guess the hospital administrators just noticed that the ventilators weren’t switching off en masse after all.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        I have always wanted to steal the “No Mobile Cellular Phones” I regularly see. I believe it states it is effective “5 Jan 1995”

    2. Philadelphus says:

      I remember airplanes used to require you to turn off your cell phone (off off, not just airplane mode*), probably for similar reasons: no one’d tested all the myriad ways a cellular signal might possibly interact with navigation equipment, and no one wanted to be the first airline to have a passenger plane crash because someone was tweeting during the landing or something. Now, of course, some planes have Wi-Fi in the cabin, so it clearly (and thankfully) turned out not to be an issue, but I can see where the caution came from.

      *I got my first cell phone in 2007, and remember being told this by a flight attendant the next time I took a flight, sometime within a few years later.

      1. Shamus says:

        This reminds me of an Old Man Murray story by [Portal writer] Eric Wolpaw. In the story, a flight attendant asks Wolpaw to turn off his device and he replies with, “Isn’t it about time NASA got around to Gameboy-proofing these fucking jets?”

        Looks like they finally did. :)

        (Important context: Wolpaw frequently wrote these wildly fictionalized self-deprecating stories about himself. I’m sure he never ACTUALLY said this to a flight attendant.)

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          (Important context: Wolpaw frequently wrote these wildly fictionalized self-deprecating stories about himself. I’m sure he never ACTUALLY said this to a flight attendant.)

          Maybe that’s what he wants you to think.

      2. Higher Peanut says:

        It wasn’t just phones, I remember flying when they told us to turn off all electronic devices. How my wired mp3 player was going to accomplish anything I never knew. I assumed it was a blanket rule so cabin staff didn’t have to argue with passengers over what counted and what didn’t.

        It did make bringing it mostly pointless though. You had to have it turned off for take-off and landing, and that was most of the flight.

  12. ngthagg says:

    Just earlier tonight, I abandoned Chrome on my phone. Three times now they have forced grid view of tabs on my phone. I hate grid view. Tab titles are harder to read because they have half the screen width. Finding the right tab is harder because you have to scan in two dimensions. And was you close tabs, existing tabs move from one side to the other. But the worst part is that every time they’ve made the update unannounced and forced the switch on me. The previous two times, there was a flag I could change in the super secret options menu (Chrome://flags), but I never would have found it on my own. This most recent time, there a flag to disable, but it doesn’t actually restore tabs mode. So I’m done with Chrome. My desktop is out of commission at the moment, but when I get it up and running, I’m going to ditch Chrome there too, because screw them!

    On the flip side, at work I have the choice between using Internet Explorer and Edge, and Edge comes out looking pretty amazing. It’s just like how my kidnappers are just well meaning but misunderstood people trying to make a difference in the world.

    1. bobbert says:


      The sooner everyone finishes de-googling – the sooner we can hope for something better

  13. Amstrad says:

    It was sort of funny to me when you guys were in the midst of trying to figure out what the next Bethsoft title was and wondering why it was taking so long and had somehow forgotten the disaster of Fallout 76 that basically dominated the news cycle for a couple months when it came out. The assumption that the next game is a Elder Scrolls game would be correct.. if you happen to also forget that Bethesda announced they were working on the brand-new IP Starfield. Which I wouldn’t be surprised to see getting an official release date at this year’s E3. Elder Scrolls 6 on the other hand has been confirmed as in the works but not releasing until after Starfield.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      Starfield took a while to make because Bethesda were finally making big improvements to the Creation Engine and it took longer than Todd would have liked which is apparently why actual development of the game didn’t really start until 2019 (at least according to rumors).

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Oh yeah! Starfield! I remember talking about that when it was first announced. Looks like not much official has come out since then, and Microsoft bought Zenimax, so odds remain middling that it will be good.

      1. Shamus says:

        “so odds remain middling that it will be good.”

        I suggest that the odds are good that it will be middling. :)

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          As long as odds are bad that it’s going to be exclusive to the Windows store or GamePass…

          (Microsoft has been pretty consistent about availability but I dread that at some point everyone who has some kind of subscription service is going to play the exclusivity card)

          1. Philadelphus says:

            The odds are long it’ll be that bad.

      2. Scott Waguespack says:

        Bethesda is in that weird space for me where I love the style of game they’re making, and there’s really nobody else making that style of game, so even though they’re bad at it I still enjoy them. Even Obsidian doesn’t quite manage to do the open-world parts well enough to replace them, even though they’re much better at narrative and world-building.

  14. Daniel says:

    “And Oblivion, we don’t talk about that one?”

    It’s called “Oblivion” for a reason :-p

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