E3 2021 Part 2: Xbox (But really Bethesda)

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jun 16, 2021

Filed under: Industry Events 86 comments

In years past, Bethesda and Microsoft had separate shows. But this year Microsoft acquired Bethesda for 7.5 billion. So the two presentations were merged. Great. I already get Pete Hines and Phil Spencer mixed up all the time, and now they’re in the same presentation. Like, I think it took me one or two years of E3 before I realized these were two different guys.

(It’s not that they look all that much alike. They’re just two nondescript dudes of medium build in corporate casual dress that come out and recite boilerplate corporate copy before a series of trailers. They don’t literally look like each other, but they’re sort of generic and forgettable. So when I see the second one, I can’t remember if he matches the face I saw earlier.)

It’s really interesting that they lead off the show with Todd Howard from Bethesda instead of having an Xbox personality show us the latest Halo. Microsoft is evidently very proud of their acquisition. 

Anyway, I’m just going to go through the entire show and comment on everything in order…


I should be excited for this. I’ve been waiting since 2007 for someone to give me another dose of Trek-like space adventure.No, outer worlds wasn’t really what I’m looking for. OW is charming as hell, but I’m more interested in big idea space-mysteries than corporate shenanigans. Maybe this is it and maybe it isn’t, but we get so few space RPGsCompared to (say) medieval fantasy and modern-day shootmans. these days. I ought to be crazy with excitement.

Then again, I know Bethesda. I know their strengths and I know their weaknesses, and their strengths are not in building worlds and narratives, which is what I’m looking for in my space games. I can’t escape the notion that this will be another trash-picker game like Skyrim or Fallout 4, with a senseless story and a world that can’t withstand the slightest inspection. 

I’m sure I’ll play 100 hours of Starfield. And I’m sure that – just like the other two games I mentioned – I’ll spend the whole time wishing they’d made something smarter. The trash-picker gameplay loop is nice and all, but that’s not why I want to go to space.

Date: Sometime in 2022

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2

I had a lousy time with the original STALKER. I loved the atmosphere, but the game had a lot of jank and general weirdness. My computer was egregiously underpowered at the time. At low framerates, the fancy-pants bullet simulation mechanics would break down and allow bullets to pass through walls. The AI could also see through walls. So I’d duck into a metal shed to hide from attackers and get shot through the walls from ten different angles by clairvoyant AI. Then I complained about how hard the game was and people told me I was bad at videogames. Also, people kept claiming it was “like a roleplaying game” because it had an inventory screen and it reminded people of Fallout 3. Those claims created this expectation that I was going to be leveling up, min-maxing, and making dialog choices. Then the game turned out to be an open-world shooter rather than an RPG, and I felt disappointed.

I’d sort of meant to go back to the game after I upgraded, but then the rise of the Steam Summer Sale and indie revolution happened and I found I had a lot less time for janky old games. 

In the end, I was left with the impression that I could have enjoyed STALKER a lot more if I’d had a better machine and more appropriate expectations going in. 

So I wasn’t crazy about the original. And the new game looks very similar. But I’m excited for it anyway? I dunno. I like the spooky bits where you play peek-a-boo with mutant horrors in abandoned science labs, and I’m not really here to gun down waves for dudes in an open world. I’m not sure which way the designers are going to go. I guess we’ll see.

Date: April 2022

Back 4 Blood

This looks really polished. This looks like a slick, well-balanced, well-designed game with solid execution. The different infected look interesting, and I like that the different survivors have different strengths.

And yet…

I’m just not excited about it. Mechanically everything is fine, but I didn’t get a sense of personality. I’m looking for someone lovable like world-weary Bill, dorky Louis, sarcastic Francis, or earnest Zoey. 

This is in contrast to Anacrusis, which is the inverse of everything I just said. It looks like it has lots of personality, and everything else is jank and weirdness.

If I had to choose, I’d pick Back 4 Blood. But I’m going to miss the heyday of Left 4 Dead, when we had both gameplay and personality.

Date: This October


Oh, you’re too cool to tell us what your game is, what it’s about, or who is in it? You just have an “All style, no substance” cinematic with licensed music?

Piss off. If you don’t have anything to show me, then don’t waste my time. Come back when you want to announce a videogame. These things are long enough already and there’s already too much to sort through. I don’t have time to speculate on your coy nonsense.

Date: Who cares?

Sea of Thieves

Wow. A proper licensed appearance of Captain Jack Sparrow, complete with a bang-on impression of Johnny Depp’s performance? That would have been fantastic back in 2003 when we loved the character. But the last four PotC movies have flanderized him into oblivion. He’s just a mumbling plot device these days, and the “Pirates Cinematic Universe” has become a soup of lazy tropes and gags. 

Not that I cared about this game to begin with. Not my thing, really.

Date: Out now.

Yakuza Series

This is just an ad announcing, “Hey, are you subscribed to the Game Pass? If so, you can play all of the Yakuza games for free”. 

I’ve never played them, but this trailer has a really strong slapstick comedy vibe, and I never got the impression the games were all that focused on comedy. Have the games been misrepresented in the past, or are they being misrepresented now?

Date: Out now.


Not my thing, obviously. But still, that’s an impressive showcase of technology, production values, and massive scope. What an absolute monster of a game. 

I don’t care for it, but I can understand why something massive like this serves as a tentpole title, and why people lavish such attention on it.

Date: This October.

Twelve Minutes

This is pretty high-concept. The game is a time loop of the same twelve minutes, over and over again, and you try to solve… whatever the game is about. Also, it has Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy, and Willem Dafoe? That’s a ton of star power in those twelve minutes!

Date: This August.

PsychoNauts 2

I know this is a beloved classic, but the first one didn’t really click for me. I loved the world and characters, but to me it was a jank-ass platformer, and I’m not even a fan of platformers when they’re polished.

Still, fans have been waiting for this one for a long time. Here’s hoping they get what they want.

Date: This August

IP Management

In this next segment, Phil HinesOr is it Pete Spencer? comes out and does a little brand management for Doom Eternal, Skyrim, Fallout 76, and Elder Scrolls Online. The old stuff is getting ported to new hardware and the new stuff is getting a fresh round of content patches. 

Also, Skyrim is 10 this year? They grow up so fast, don’t they?

Party Animals

This is what happens when a big publisher looks over the indie darlings on Steam, shopping for ideas. This is basically Gang Beasts with a dash of Fall Guys and some AAA polish. 

Hey, what if we copied these successful indie games and stole their audience with our superior marketing muscle and production values?” 

At least the big publishers are trying new things. It would be better if they came up with ideas on their own, but at least they’re doing something new.

Date: 2022


Wow. This looks so much like INSIDE. INSIDE was made by developer Playdead, which was founded by Dino Patti. Somerville is being produced by developer Jumpship, which was founded by Dino Patti.

I don’t know why Patti founded two different studios to produce two different games with incredibly similar gameplay, tone, and art style. I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere, but I haven’t heard it.

I hate the gameplay. INSIDE felt very DIAS to me. On the other hand, it was a joy to watch other people play it. This trial-and-error gameplay isn’t for me, but I’m a huge fan of this tone and art style. 

I’m sure I’ll watch someone play through Somerville when the time comes, just to see the art. 

Date: 2022

Halo Infinite 

Hm. Master Chief gets stuck in the middle of the show instead of appearing at a place of honor at the beginning (to kick off the show with a bang) or the end (to keep people watching all the way through) of the show. Microsoft is evidently REALLY excited about their Bethesda acquisition. (Insert distracted boyfriend meme here.)

Wait, this is Halo INFINITE? I guess this is another example of how Microsoft can’t count. On Windows their counting goes 3, 95, 98, 2000, XP, 7, 8, 10. They actually did much better with Halo numbering: Halo, 2, 3, 4, 5, Infinity. I guess the sequel is going to be either Halo Infinite+1, or Halo XP. Or maybe Halo Vista? That’s a terrifying thought.

Obviously this isn’t my series, although it is interesting that this will launch on the PC at the same time as the Xbox version. 

It looks like part of the game will feature a search for Cortana, who is supposedly dead/erased. That’s probably a big deal for Halo fans who know her as Master chief’s AI buddy, but I’m a Windows user so I know Cortana as part of the useless garbage screen clutter that needs to be cleaned off of Windows 10 before you can begin using it.

Having said that: That music is still absolutely amazing.

Date: Holiday 2021

Diablo II Remastered

It’s kind of funny to see this at an Xbox presentation. Blizzard has their own convention and so they don’t show up for E3. They normally save stuff like this for their own show. 

How is Blizzcon doing these days? I notice that the last few years have been rough in the press as the developer has pivoted to mobiles and remakes. I wonder if this has impacted attendance? Then again, last year the only show people attended was COVIDCON, so I guess it’s a bad time to measure attendance numbers.

Anyway, I’ll get this. Of course I’ll get it. After the massive disappointment of Diablo III, I’ve been itching for another trip through the second one.

Date: September 23

C’mon guys. Release it one day sooner and your game comes out on Bilbo’s birthday. How can you pass up an opportunity like that?

This Xbox show is huge. I guess that makes sense, since it’s the union of two mega-publishers. I’ll cover the other half of this show tomorrow.



[1] No, outer worlds wasn’t really what I’m looking for. OW is charming as hell, but I’m more interested in big idea space-mysteries than corporate shenanigans.

[2] Compared to (say) medieval fantasy and modern-day shootmans.

[3] Or is it Pete Spencer?

From The Archives:

86 thoughts on “E3 2021 Part 2: Xbox (But really Bethesda)

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    That would have been fantastic back in 2003 when we loved the character. But the last four PotC movies have flandarized him into oblivion.

    I always feel like I’m one of the few guys in the world who loved Dead Man’s Chest whenever I see the general reception towards that movie.

    1. Lino says:

      Me too! The only Pirates of the Caribbean movie I didn’t like all that much was the third one. But all the rest I really like. Which reminds me – they’re overdue for a rewatch!

      1. Tuck says:

        And here’s me with the third one as my favourite. Best music (with some wonderful homages to classic films), best cinematics, it’s missing the wonderful swordfights of the first two but gets in some amazing ship action sequences to replace them.

        1. Lino says:

          I agree with you on the cinematography front – that scene at the end with the annoying, manipulative British dude walking through his ship while it was getting torn to pieces was pure poetry. At the time I remember disliking it for the lack of memorable fight scenes (last ship battle notwithstanding). And also, for the fact that none of the other pirate captains participate in the final battle! All that effort to get them to cooperate, and all they do is stand there and watch the show without so much as firing a shot!!! I saw it as a huge missed opportunity.

          1. Tuck says:

            Oh yes, I think the writers had by that point tangled too many different strings together and couldn’t find a good way to properly untangle them…so just cut a bunch off. There are quite a few plot points that feel like they end prematurely throughout the film, too.

            But the music! It’s my all time favourite film score, I can listen to it over and over. That probably plays a big part in my enjoyment of the film itself.

            1. Lino says:

              My God, THAT SCORE! I listen to it whenever I need to get pumped up about something! Big important test, job interview, doing chores – bring it on!!!

              Definitely one of the best film scores ever made. To me, it’s right up there with Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

    2. Fluffy boy says:

      There’s at least two of us!

      1. Fizban says:

        Make it three, no four, no wait-

    3. baud says:

      I loved 2 and 3 (though maybe I watched them at the right age to love it?), enjoyed parts of 4 (and hated some others) and didn’t dislike 5.

  2. MerryWeathers says:

    I’ve never played them, but this trailer has a really strong slapstick comedy vibe, and I never got the impression the games were all that focused on comedy. Have the games been misrepresented in the past, or are they being misrepresented now?

    The series has always been famous for juggling very comedic and dramatic tones that should clash with each other but somehow don’t, actually works quite well most of the time.

    1. Fulbert says:

      Hear, hear. They usually keep the main story dead serious and intense and reserve all the silliness for side quests. But I guess the hammy manly-tears fist-in-the-sky drama isn’t as immediately marketable as crazy-eyed yakuza goons roller-skating in camp get-up and singing about Cinderella.

    2. Retlor says:

      It should be noted though, that the over the top hammy nature of the drama in the main story can be pretty funny as well.

      Like, seriously where are they buying those suit jackets and shirts that can be one-handedly ripped off at a moments notice before a fight? Are we missing the scenes of them afterwards, stopping to sew all their buttons back on?

      None of this is criticism; the Yakuza series is very much my jam.

      1. Fulbert says:

        They must be wearing those stripper clothes that you can rip off with a single yank. That’d make sense, everyone mistakes Kiryu for a lady club host anyway.
        Majima apparently has an extra advanced model that also removes his leather gloves whenever he rips his jacket off.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        That’s kind of it for me. The comedy is over the top, the drama is over the top, somehow the overthetopness prevents whiplash.

      3. Amstrad says:

        Also, throughout the series you often shoot, stab or otherwise inflict what in real life would be lethal injuries (throw someone off a building anyone?) on hundreds of dudes, but despite this the games insist that series main Kazuma Kiryu “never killed anyone”.

    3. DeadlyDark says:

      I think the reason tones don’t clash is that characters behave consistently in both comedic and dramatic situations. Stone-faced but kind Kiriyu still be a stone-faced but kind Kiriyu both in a high-stakes criminal conspiracy and in a comedic side-quest helping kids.

      Compare it to Metal Gear Solid 3. Snake acts a total goof in codec chats, asking all these “how do they taste?” questions, only to act completely straight in the main story. As a result, I just could not care about what would happen to him, and all the drama just crumbles. I’m sure this character inconsistency is not the only reason I couldn’t enjoy MGS3 story (and I know that people love it), but I’m not sure if it’s the only reason I didn’t like it (the thing is, I don’t want to analyze it further, because I don’t want to antagonize friends that love it). To be fair, outside of MGS1, I don’t think I ever enjoyed Kojima writing, and even MGS1 suffers from lacking punch in replays, since you already know all the twists, so it has little to offer besides them (though, emotional Sniper Wolf scene is good on it’s own).

      Anyway. I played Yakuza 0, Kiwami, Kiwami 2 and 3, and it’s the series that I rather enjoy despite it having tonal shifts. It’s not a perfect series, but it’s an unique one. And it has tonal shifts, but no tonal whiplashes, if it makes sense.

      I didn’t play 7, but it seems that it might weight more into comedic side, though.

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        I never thought about it, but your point on the characters remaining in character is spot on. A lot of the comedy comes from Kiryu being caught up in zany antics, such as when he gets snatched off the street to do surprise voice acting for a Boy’s Love video game. On that note, a lot of the zany antics are side content, or just the exaggeration of combat to match the super machismo tone of physical altercations.

        Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a bit different, though. While Judgment has a similarly serious character in Yagami, though on the opposite side of the law (and therefore does not stab people, and many of the high-profile combat animations involve him saving his opponents from death while still knocking them out), Ichiban is a… well, a dumber character, for one, and a character whose world view is grounded in having been raised in a soapland admiring the heroes of the Dragon Quest series (I’m not joking). This decision for its protagonist was in part used to connect it to the sudden shift to JRPG style mechanics, but it is also that world view which allows them to interpret so much of the combat in a ludicrous fashion. Instead of summoning monsters into the battle, you dial up a deadly lobster on your phone to rain havoc upon your enemies. The trick is that only Ichiban perceives the world this way, or at least that’s how they explain it. When Ichiban comments on the crazy JRPG appearance of events going on, everyone looks at him in utter confusion. It’s not a logical explanation, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s more like an excuse for the indulgence.

        With all that said, I know some of us in the comments have been curious if Shamus would enjoy these games, and it’s something that I’m continually unsure of. The combat mechanics are somewhat janky, and if he’s looking for something perfectable then I’m not sure he’d be on board with what Yakuza is offering. Simultaneously, while the Final Fantasy 10 retrospective indicates Shamus is fine with something being Drama First and the Spider-Man and Arkham City retrospectives being given some freedom since “comic book gotta comic book”, I’m not sure he’s willing to buy getting struck by a pipe by a man on a high-speed motorcycle, struggling to stand as if your arms are broken while the guy that just crashed on his bike walks at you like he’s suffered no harm, and then block his next strike with your broken-looking arms just to break out into a round of fisticuffs. Especially with the graphical fidelity involved.

        It’s not just a manner of tonal shift, it’s a manner of what you’re willing to let slide for what they’re selling. Yakuza is, at its core, a manly game about manly men doing manly things, and in my mind can best be summarized as Honorable Masculinity versus Dishonorable Masculinity. As such, when paired with some pretty sweet and pumped up tunes, it’s easy to get washed up in the energy of it all, to get psyched up, and get ready to throw down while ignoring the leaps of logic taken… so long as you’re into that kind of thing.

        It’s kind of like wrasslin’, right? If you can sit back and buy into the melodrama of the performance and the acrobatics and stunts of the live choreography, then there’s something to enjoy. If you can’t see past the repetetiveness or inconsistency of the melodrama, if you get bored by all the obvious time-saving moves in-between the good stunts, or if you can’t get past how “obviously fake” it is since it’s all done live (versus the quick-cuts and edits of Hollywood that would look just as fake), then you’ll never understand what people love about it so much. That’s kind of what Yakuza is. On one hand, it’s the closest thing we have to Warren Spector’s desire to play “one city block”. It’s not what his idea is, but that idea of a smaller world that you become increasingly familiar with every time you return… it’s really impressive. But it’s also a janky brawler game that allows its villains to cheat in order to create some sense of dramatic “challenge” (which, I learned, is best countered with whatever weapons you have in your inventory… at least, in Kiwami 2). It’s also a story about manly men doing manly things while pulled into a world that’s constantly prodding and poking at that masculinity and even shoving it into places of discomfort.

        It’s a series I’ve fallen in love with, and the specific announcement here wasn’t just the whole series, but the latest entry, Like a Dragon, being put on Game Pass. Yakuza is quickly becoming one of SEGA’s most popular properties (after almost losing any chance of being further localized in America, oddly enough), and it makes sense for Microsoft to promote it as being available on Game Pass. But it’s also kind of a hard sell unless you know someone’s already interested in goofy Japanese comedy and drama (and I do mean drama. Even “J-Dramas” have tonal whiplash compared to America and Europe. Blue Blazes, a live-action drama about the founders of Gainax in College, is a perfect example. It’s considered a “Drama” in Japan despite massive comedic influence. It’s hard to find good clips (and not whole episodes), but I’ve largely found this to be true, even in terms of less-geeky and more “normie” shows like Dekichatta Kekkon (Shotgun Wedding). Personally, I like having some levity in my drama, but if you were to take the Marvel films and amp the dramatic parts up to 11 while also amping the comedic parts to 11, that’s not just Yakuza, that’s a lot of J-Drama, and some people just aren’t down with that.

        1. Lars says:

          The getting struck by a pipe scene is harmless to how bullets work in the Yakuza series. Kiryu eats them for lunch, but Daigo seems to always fall into a coma when he’s near one. Entry number 5 is really, really, really bad with the narative constistency of molten lead flying at supersonic speed.

      2. MerryWeathers says:

        Compare it to Metal Gear Solid 3. Snake acts a total goof in codec chats, asking all these “how do they taste?” questions, only to act completely straight in the main story.

        What? There are a couple of moments in the game where Snake acts like a goof in the main story: him acting like a mentor for Ocelot despite him being an enemy throughout the game, that scene with EVA where he gushes over a gun, and that shit eating grin he has when he sees the guard and the beehive.

        1. DeadlyDark says:

          Ngl, I’m forgot these scenes existed, until you mentioned them, so they likely didn’t really impacted my opinion on what’s happening in the game (or my spiteful mind decided to omit them from memories, which is possible, I suppose).

          Tbh, I just think, that I’m probably the wrong person to enjoy MGS, as a whole, for whatever reason. Which is a shame, really. I love stealth genre (Thief games and early Splinter Cells are GOATs) and I enjoy some of the japanese cultural output (aforementioned Yakuza games, some anime and manga), so there’s no reason for me to be a contrarian with the majority of players, but here I am. I can enjoy some parts of them (say, sneaking in the supply base with a helicopter in MGS3 was quite a fun thing to do), but they just don’t grab me. I try to deconstruct why, but I also understand that these attempts would be looked with contempt, so I avoid the topic all together, most of the times

    4. Chad+Miller says:

      I’ve only played Yakuza 0, and only to what was probably the first real boss fight, and the only things I really remember are:

      -I really hated the combat
      -This wasn’t helped by the combat being so frequent
      -The quest that started with the guy talking you into watching a not-quite-porn video with him and how hard I was laughing at that the whole time

      1. Retlor says:

        The combat definitely isn’t for everyone. If you liked the atmosphere but didn’t like the combat then maybe give Yakuza 7 a try. It’s a soft reboot with new characters and it changed to a Dragon Quest style turn based combat system.

    5. Whisky Tango Foxtrot says:

      Personally, I consider the Yakuza games to be an overly-complicated menu system for when I want to play Space Harrier or Fantasy Zone.

  3. Mattias42 says:

    Whole article on front again, Mr. Shamus. Just FYI.

    1. pseudonym says:

      I saw it too and took this great opportunity to read the entire article on the front page. It works quite well, the only thing missing is the comments and footnotes below. (In-text comments still work). So the front page is probably an ordinary page with a few modifications. That makes a lot of sense from a coding perspective.

  4. Zgred77 says:

    Starting with Starfield was a weird choice. It’s so aggressively bland, it’s guaranteed to piss people off. Especially when the expectations are so high.

    That S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 trailer though… oh boy. As a long-time fan of the series, for me this looks pretty much perfect. Judging by what they showed, it seems that they nailed that atmopshere; this whole thing looks like one giant love card to the series. Fingers crossed.

    Didn’t really care about anything else, although Somerville looks good. I love both Limbo and Inside, so some hopes for that one too.

    1. Fulbert says:

      Yeah, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 devs even faithfully recreated the Get Out of Here Stalker quality of voice acting. A true successor to the classic.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I’m hard sussing this Stalker trailer. Best-case scenario, they just hid all the UI for the shooting scenes and captured it from someone running through those areas. But everything was giving off some serious this-is-all-faked-trailer vibes, which is especially egregious since it was labelled as a “gameplay” trailer. (How did the dude attach that scope to his rifle? There’s a dedicated button? How do you swap between different scopes?)

  5. Dreadjaws says:

    Nothing for me here, but Nintendo announced a new Metroid game, and it’s one that had been supposedly canceled years ago. I’m bursting with glee. Already preordered. I know I shouldn’t do this, but I don’t care. It’s Metroid. How could I not? Surely you’ve noticed my avatar, and Nintendo has yet to let me down. I even enjoyed that one Metroid game that supposedly no one likes (though I admit the story is stupid, the gameplay is still fun). Also a new WarioWare. That’s coming with me too. And I already mentioned the Mario vs Rabbids sequel. Man, my Switch is going to get a lot of love in the last quarter of the year.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      When I was scanning the comments of the prior E3 write-up Shamus did, I saw you and thought “Ah, he must be psyched”. I’ll admit, I had heard rumors of a 2D Metroid by MercurySteam, and I knew MercurySteam originally pitched a Fusion remake to Nintendo instead of a Metroid 2 remake. Given the “teaser” at the end of Samus Returns, I was absolutely certain we’d be seeing a Fusion remake for Switch.

      I am so glad to have been wrong, because Dread is looking so good. I usually watch Nintendo Treehouse streams as part of E3 (I enjoy how they’re actually playing the game as it is coded rather than a heavily scripted vertical slice), but I had to just stop watching partway through their first demonstration. It looked good, and I know I’m buying it, and I want it to be a surprise.

      What’s interesting is that they had two presentations of the game yesterday, evidently. Normally they only do that for the game of the holiday (and usually stretched across the three days of E3), which… is interesting, because that means Nintendo is, shockingly, leaning on a Metroid game as their big non-Pokemon holiday release of the year.

      (Probably because everything else is being held for next year’s new Switch-successor console but they’re still clearly being hush-hush about that)

      1. Ander says:

        Also excited for the new Metroid!

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        For sure. A Fusion remake would have been acceptable. good even, assuming they took a “Samus Returns” approach and inspired on the original while actually introducing new elements (I still have the original, but an upgrade is welcome). But an actual new game in the series, and one that we thought was canceled? That’s certainly some of the best gaming news I’ve had in years.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      I was hoping they’d make another FPS Metroid. I only had handheld consoles in forever, so I missed out on most of them. Except the one on the DS with the horrible controls where you’re supposed to aim with the touch screen. Oh well, maybe the fabled Metroid Prime Trilogy will materialize one day.

  6. MerryWeathers says:

    I already get Pete Hines and Phil Spencer mixed up all the time

    Now that I think about it, I do seem to visualize the same figure whenever I thought of them…

  7. ivan says:

    Have the games been misrepresented in the past, or are they being misrepresented now?

    My sparse understanding is that they are a narrative mashup of trying to be extremely serious Japanese crime syndicate schemes and backstabbings that the recurring protagonists are very honourable through, and wacky side missions where those same protagonists willingly put themselves through almost any crazy task at the behest of total or near total strangers. And extremely brutal mostly melee combat, which you’ll probably not find as deep or interesting as Arkham, but does involve microwaving peoples faces in 7-11’s, so that’s always a plus.

    I’d recommend Kiwami 2, or 0, as good jumping off points to see if the games are something you’ll like, or rage at, but I personally would be very interested in your opinions on that series.

    1. DeadlyDark says:

      Same, I would be curious to see, what Shamus will think about it. I’d say, start with Zero (it has an advantage of being a prequel with no prior knowledge needed and more varied combat with several styles to choose).

      1. Retlor says:

        Zero is a good place to start, but it might give false expectations for what the rest of the series is. It kind of suffers from the typical prequel thing where nothing it establishes has been mentioned in any previous (subsequent?) games.

        I might also recommend starting at 4. It’s not as clunky as the ones that come before and it’s the first one to have a new protagonist (3 new and 1 returning actually). Because of this it doesn’t rely too heavily on knowledge of the story to that point.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I’ve started with 0 and it made the first game (I’ve played the Kiwami edition) sooo much better. I usually dislike prequels but this was the one case where once I’ve started the original story I was already bonded with many of the characters and their connections and backgrounds were much better established than what the first game does on its own.

          1. Retlor says:

            Fair enough! I’m glad to hear that actually! 0 was one of the last ones I played, so I worried that it might be an odd shift from
            the very very very over the top 0, to the (relatively, very very relatively!) grounded Yakuza 1. I’m happy to hear that’s not the case!

            Edit: Thinking on it, this might be less jarring if you’re playing the Kiwami edition. The tone of that game is much closer to 0 than the original Yakuza 1 is, especially relating to how the deal with Majima.

  8. DeadlyDark says:

    As I said before, I would be interested in seeing Shamus giving a try to Yakuza games. But for me, the main reason is that I, myself, when I play any Yakuza game (so far), can’t help but ponder game-design questions. Like “Would the removal of question marks on the map for indicating substories improve the game or not?”, “does the player need to know the exact number of side-quests or not? Does this knowledge enhances the game or hampers it?”, “Would the game be better with a different frequency of random combat encounters?”, etc.

    And I wonder if Shamus would have it’s own thoughts about it all

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      The game series I would love to see Shamus analayze would be Kingdom Hearts as I feel the games to him would be what Bane was was to Batman’s back.

  9. Steve C says:

    So Bethesda has chosen death by Microsoft huh? The slow wasting death.
    I called that a couple years ago in the forums back around Fallout 76. Including that it would take a couple of years to shake out. Bethesda is a really screwed up company with major structural cultural flaws. Microsoft will fix all that with their special brand of corporate death.

  10. Steve C says:

    LOL, I just watched the Anacrusis trailer…

    “This, I do not like.”
    “This is not good. This is not good!”

    Those are seriously the barks they put into their multi-million dollar marketing campaign? It is marketing 101. You don’t do that. I’m calling it now- Anacrusis is going to be a train wreck of comical proportions. The new ‘must-watch’ industry dumpster fire. This is because there’s no way that happened by accident. It would have been a deliberate choice by the developers pulling the footage. AKA a mutiny of honesty by programmers.

    I don’t think there’s any avoiding it Shamus. You are going to have to get this game. Precisely because you don’t want to. This is THE game to watch for industry drama.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      I doubt that. It’s clearly closer to Indie than AAA, and thus will just be a clunky, janky, smaller-budget take on Left 4 Dead. Therefore most of the industry will ignore it, but it will probably have a small but dedicated fanbase.

      1. Steve C says:

        Oh that’s all true. It is still going to be a drama filled dumpster fire. I think you may have misunderstood what I was saying. You don’t need to be AAA to be ‘No Man’s Sky’ level of drama.

        1. RamblePak64 says:

          I still think that’s way different. No Man’s Sky was presented like a Triple-AAA on stage, even with its gameplay.

          Any glimpse at that trailer is enough to know Anacrusis is jank as junk. No Man’s Sky’s misleading marketing, this ain’t.

  11. Abnaxis says:

    What I miss, is Left4Dead Versus mode. Nobody who ever does a similar title to L4D (Vermintide, whatever the heist games are) ever makes a Versus mode. I’m sure whenever Blizzard gets around to OW2, there’s not going to be a hybrid PVP/PVE mode there either. Makes me sad :(

    As much as I love it, the Versus mode has some serious jank that needs some iteration.

    1. MelTorefas says:

      I second this. Playing as a special infected is such a unique experience. I liked L4D vs. mode so much that, when I couldn’t get my friends into it, I spent a few days messing with mods that let the AI play all 4 survivors so I could play as the infected. It didn’t stay fun for long, sadly. While the AI *could* play, it couldn’t play particularly interestingly.

      My love for L4D vs. is similar to how I loved playing as the forces of Mordor in Lord of the Rings Online’s PvP/PvE mode (much more so than the actual main game itself). I would really love to see this sort of concept as a complete, fleshed out experience.

      …This probably all extends from the fact that I’ve been DMing for decades. I guess I just really want to play in DM mode for my friends in a realtime game.

      1. Galad_t says:

        Meh, playing as a special infected was mostly an exercise in frustration for me, where the time waiting to respawn is considerably more than the time actually playing. I’m glad it worked for you though

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Dang, I’d assumed Payday had some versus mode. The googles tell me I’m wrong. Good thing I don’t care for a bank-heist game! :)

    3. Olivier FAURE says:

      Back 4 Blood announced they’d have a versus mode in their last trailer.

  12. Ninety-Three says:

    Typo patrol: flanderized.

  13. Smosh says:

    Blizzcon keeps disappointing so hard it’s a wonder they are still doing it. They didn’t announce anything of value in the last two or three, with the culmination of trying to sell people a mobile game at an in-person conference where all their biggest fans are. Fans which all played Blizzard games on PC, because most of those games are PC-exclusives.

    It’s like Nintendo announcing PC exclusives at their conference, in front of a crowd of people who each own dozens of Nintendo devices.

    COVID was convenient for Blizzard as an excuse to move it all online, and stop wasting money on a convention that was pure disappointment.

    1. baud says:

      I’d say the Diablo 4 was an important announcement

  14. Ninety-Three says:

    I’d sort of meant to go back to the game after I upgraded, but then the rise of the Steam Summer Sale and indie revolution happened and I found I had a lot less time for janky old games.

    In the end, I was left with the impression that I could have enjoyed STALKER a lot more if I’d had a better machine and more appropriate expectations going in.

    The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are pretty janky, if you ever do go back I recommend Call of Pripyat as the best entry in the series, and one that holds up today if you don’t mind 2008-era graphics. What made it special to me was the weird mix of FPS, open world and horror: it was a game where you could go fifteen minutes without shooting at anything and have it feel like a normal part of the gameplay loop rather than a dry spell or a forced puzzle section.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Did it still have the inventory weights and tetris? That was pretty crucial to action-RPGs like Stalker and System Shock. (Steam says I only played the first and second games, not the third. :)

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Yep, and by the end I was carrying four or five different guns for different situations (I forget if I had room for all five, I definitely had a rotation that wanted to include five different ones).

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Carry-weight anomalies FTW. :)

  15. Rho says:

    I would love to see Shamus play Yakuza 0. Like, make this a regular streaming thing. Depending on your style it can get grindy in spots bit there’s enough crazy nonsense that I would love to see you react to this. Go in blind. Also, 80’s nostalgia.

  16. Ander says:

    Read the title as “But really, Bethesda,” in a huffy voice.

  17. Dennis says:

    I played the Back 4 Blood beta/alpha/time-limited-hype-whatever last year, and it was really rough.

    A few things that bugged me:

    1. Perk cards. The idea is that you build a deck with different powerups for your character. I can be stuff like “spawn with a shotgun/smg/whatever”, “regain health from melee attacks”, “take less damage when crouching”, “find more ammo”, etc. You pick one card to always start with, and between stages you get a choice between a random selection of other cards in the deck.

    This isn’t a bad idea, but I feel takes away the pick-up-and-play feeling of Left 4 Dead. I go back to L4D about once a year, and I don’t need to worry if my cards are in meta or whatever. Plus, Warner Brothers is a monetization nightmare, and I know they’re going to make me grind for hours or pay for cards that are needed for builds.

    2. Characters. The alpha/beta/whatever was early, so maybe they hadn’t written a ton. However, none of the characters had any personality, except for one guy whose only joke was “I want to shoot my pre-outbreak coworkers”. Voice lines repeated constantly in a single campaign playthrough.

    When I realize I’ve already heard what Ellis is saying, I’m thinking “Keith’s Turkey, that’s a good one”. Maybe it will get better but the characters all seem pretty one-note. And since there’s going to be at least 8 (plus more coming as DLC), I don’t think they can do as much fun interaction between them. The game was still early so I’m sure they’ll record more dialogue, but I can’t see them matching L4D.

    Also, characters spawn with a unique secondary weapon (pistol or melee) and perk, so there’s more arguing over who gets to play who.

    3. DLC. They’re already selling a dozen different editions of the game that come with different DLC. They recently announced that the whole party can play on DLC maps if they’re owned by the host. Still, being published by Warner Bros., I’m sure that essential gameplay and quality-of-life stuff will be locked behind DLC and microtransactions.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      except for one guy whose only joke was “I want to shoot my pre-outbreak coworkers”. Voice lines repeated constantly in a single campaign playthrough.

      Yeah, I just watched a single playthrough of the beta, and I must have heard that guy’s voiceline about going to the range and not hanging out with his coworkers who are now dead, about four or five times.

  18. RamblePak64 says:

    I was less interested in what Microsoft would be releasing than I was in what Microsoft’s strategy with Game Pass would be. I had a feeling they’d be trying to score more third parties to release on their service on Day One like Outriders did, but even I didn’t expect nearly every game at the presentation to be such a title. They had a lot of third parties hitting Game Pass, not just exclusives, and while many of them were not big AAA blockbusters (note Far Cry 6 and Battlefield 2042 are not hitting Game Pass at launch, because Ubisoft and EA are counting on those titles making cash on launch), it’s still enough variety to appeal to a wide range of players.

    Filthy shameless self-promotion in-coming, but when I wrote my speculation on Microsoft at this year’s E3, one of the things I observed was Microsoft imitating the most crucial aspect of Netflix’s business strategy: variety of content. So many people get caught up in the streaming angle, but Microsoft is more interested in making sure everyone has something on their platform. This, I believe, is the primary reason for their sudden acquisitions. It’s less about system/platform exclusives – though there’s certainly that – and more about making sure everyone has a game to play.

    Contrast this with Sony, who seems more and more interested in the “Oscar-bait” approach while leaning more and more heavily on Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog (who, at this stage, aren’t even very good with game mechanics), all but shuttering Sony Japan, and you find yourself with far less variety to count on. Anything they don’t make, they’ll just purchase exclusivity for, even if temporary. Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XVI are perfect examples (and I’ve a theory that VII Remake’s planned end of exclusivity from this April was extended due to the whole Integrade expansion content, which itself is exclusive to PlayStation 5 and therefore screws over PS4 players that haven’t migrated yet). When you compare to Game Pass, which offers incentive to play these games there due to the affordability of the service but does not prevent you from buying them on another platform, well, that’s just better.

    Save for those first-parties. You still need either an Xbox for those if you’re limited to console. If you have an XCloud capable device or a gaming-capable PC, then you’re still able to play those games, even if you don’t subscribe to Game Pass.

    And that’s what made the Microsoft show work so well for me. I was already planning to wait on Back 4 Blood because it’s a Warner Bros. game, and for all I know they’re hiding some sneaky microtransaction garbage for the game’s release. I don’t want to pay $60 only to find out they’re using scummy business practices. But with Game Pass? I can just download it on my Xbox to play with friends there, or download on my PC to play with other friends there, and see how I like it without a deep pocket price commitment. Same goes for STALKER 2, a game whose trailer looks like it can finally make all of its ambitions from almost twenty years ago work. But will it? Or will it still be janky? Game Pass makes it easy to find out. I never played Psychonauts, and heard that it hasn’t aged well due to Xbox/PS2/GameCube era platform jank. But what of Psychonauts 2? Thanks to Game Pass, I can find out without a big investment!

    And that’s really where Game Pass’ value is, oddly enough. People will put down $60 hard cash for Battlefield 2042, or Far Cry 6, or the next Call of Duty, or for Elden Ring, so on and so forth. But far fewer players will be just as willing to risk $60 on Psychonatus 2 or STALKER 2, or Party Animals, or the Plague Tale sequel, so on and so forth.

    The one thing I’m curious about, however, is how Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 run off of Game Pass. Evidently Game Pass has some specific code or registry key or something that impacts how certain games play or perform off their service. Most seem to run fine, especially if they’re built for PC and Xbox One and all that stuff in mind, but it’s been a problem in some older games like The Evil Within, or select 2D games like Touhou Luna Nights (which I can confirm, the game ran at a really bad framerate off of Game Pass but runs silky smooth off the Steam version I purchased). As Fallou 1, 2, and Tactics are PC only for Game Pass, I’m curious if they run well or run horrifically, and if the latter, are players able to modify and patch it with the ease possible off of GoG or something.

    Now, all that said, let’s get to the other things mentioned…

    There are still people that love Capt. Jack Sparrow and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. Perhaps not the fourth one, I dunno, but I still know plenty of people that watch every one of the movies and never, ever thought that the first was the best because Jack Sparrow wasn’t the protagonist (granted, when your protagonist is as milquetoast as Orlando Bloom was…). So Sea of Thieves: Pirates of the Caribbean is probably appealing, especially as the impersonator is evidently better than the one from Kingdom Hearts and they seem to offer quite a bit of story content to dive into. Which, if you’re a Sea of Thieves fan, it’s possible that you’re just down for more content anyway.

    A few friends of mine said Contraband gave Mercenaries vibes, which was enough to get them hopeful. The problem with “hopeful” is, well, Square Enix’s conference is enough of a blaring warning sign as to what sort of disappointment “hopeful” can lead to. I don’t mind the idea of a teaser, but if it’s a new IP, your teaser better make it clear precisely what kind of game you’re making, or you’ll have a ton of consumers whose minds will be made up before you showed a second of gameplay.

    Party Animals is going to do well on the Twitch circuit.

    Halo: Infinite is… an interesting beast. After its autumn reveal, word is 343 has gone back to the drawing board, a director was lost, and Joe Staten was brought in (a former Bungie dev that worked on the whole Halo series, as well as titles before that). My theory is that they aren’t “rebuilding” the game whole (wart)hog, but there’s a lot of stuff being reworked for the campaign that they aren’t ready to show yet (to me, it’s extremely telling that Starfield has a solid date of Nov. 11th, 2022, while Halo Infinite is a vague “Holiday 2021”). What is ready to show off (and is usually what they showcase before the game launches anyway) is the multiplayer, and from what I can tell you, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer looks a lot closer to classic Halo multiplayer than whatever Halo 5 was trying to push. This itself is a good sign that the campaign, at least, ought to feel more like Halo ought to, since 5 was way off.

    The real announcement was that multiplayer was free to play for anyone. That, I think, was a smart move on their part. I expect more of the campaign and the release date will be revealed at Gamescom in August.

    As for why it’s in the middle of the show? Honestly, because I think even Microsoft knows that Halo isn’t enough to sell systems – or Game Pass – these days. Or perhaps Phil Spencer knows. He’s not the best presence on stage, but after reading enough of his interviews, I think he’s probably one of the better business heads we have in the games industry right now (in the West, at least). The guy seems to get business while also understanding games, and while I’m not about to praise him or swear allegiance to him, I think he’s just what Microsoft needs right now to help course correct with video games (it also helps, I think, that Microsoft is getting in his way less, though as can be seen with how certain games run on PC game pass, Microsoft still gonna Microsoft). Halo is still a significant IP, but if Halo 4 didn’t burn up a significant amount of good will, Halo 5 most definitely did. There’s evidently been a surprise update to the Halo: Combat Evolved game on Master Chief Collection PC that updates and fixes a lot of the classic visuals to match the original Xbox. That may seem insignificant, but I think, and maybe it’s because of Phil Spencer’s leadership maybe not, it’s a sign that Microsoft “cares” about the integrity of their property… for now.

    That said, if you’re not a Halo fan, then Halo: Infinite isn’t going to make you one, nor is it going to convince you to buy an Xbox or Game Pass. However, the next big IP from Bethesda? That most certainly will. So why put it first when usually a game like that is the last big thing? I think because otherwise most viewers would be itching in their seats saying “come on, come on, where’s Starfield?” the whole show. Instead they gave a trailer, gave a release date, and boom, there ya go. Kind of like how everyone expected Elden Ring to show up at the Microsoft press conference and instead was the final trailer on the first day of E3 with Geoff Keighly (and, admittedly, would have made a far, far better end to the Microsoft briefing than Vamps 4 Blood’s cinematic no-gameplay was, but also is doubtful to be a Game Pass game so probably why Microsoft passed on it). I think, on the whole, getting Starfield out of the way was the best move so people could be more open and welcoming to whatever announcements came after.

    That’s my guess, at least, and I think was all the better for it. How will it play? I dunno. The tone seems neat, but the character puts down a gun and now I’m thinking of the awful Bethesda combat and just… don’t care now. But! Free on Game Pass, so who knows? Maybe I’ll give it a spin.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Honestly the Pass looks mighty attractive for someone with an eclectic taste like mine. The main reason why I’m not on it is the big overlap with Humble Choice/Monthly and I probably would have jumped ship at the time Outer Worlds came out except… at the time I spent something like 2-3 days trying to sign up for it but nothing I did would let me (I think it was in some way related to the Windows Store but it’s been a while). Right now I keep telling myself that I own* many of these games already and switching will only expand my virtual backlog and I don’t want the hassle of figuring out if something comes with the DLC or not… but despite thinking “eh, I’m gonna get those Yakuza games like one a year and I’ll actually own* them” I look at the pass and can’t help but ask myself “yeah, but I could probably play like two of them within a monthly subscription”…

      *Digital ownership so the difference is largely in my head but still…

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        I heard it can be a mess getting Game Pass working on PC, yeah. I think Shamus even wrote about it. On my end, when I got my new computer I tried to boot and update the games or Xbox app or something that was on it by default. Turns out I needed to download a separate Xbox or Game Pass app from Microsoft in order to get all the Game Pass games. Granted, I already had an account set up through my Xbox One X, so I didn’t actually have to sign up on PC.

        I’m not sure if they ever fixed it, but they certainly don’t make it easy.

  19. Olivier FAURE says:

    I’m waiting for a gameplay trailer to make up my mind, but I’m holding out hope for Redfall as the spiritual successor to L4D.

    Like, I don’t know what it is exactly… but there’s something in the Redfall trailer where every joke made me think “Yes, this is it!” while the entire B4B trailer screamed “corporate design-by-committee humor” to me.

    On the scale of cliché apocalypses, “evil vampire army” is a bit better than “totally-not-zombies-we-swear”. The fact that most of the goons in the army are actual cult-ish people carrying machine guns and dressed like counterstrike terrorists adds a bit of novelty to the idea.

    The character themselves seem interesting; or at least they’re not just variations of “no-nonsense grizzled soldier” or “trigger-happy psychopath”. Their powers/weapons seem like they’d make for fun gameplay.

    I’m waiting for the first gameplay trailer and for details on the monetization plan before I really get attached… but this is pretty exciting so far?

    (also, between B4B, Anacrusis, Suicide Squad, and Overwatch 2, the coming years are going to be very interesting as a L4D fan)

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Redfall looks pretty cool! Bright colors on a few of the characters, everyone has personality, decent mix of near-future tech, vampires, and other magicks? Sign me up! :)

  20. baud says:

    I’ve been itching for another trip through the second one.

    for PC players, I’d say the Diablo remaster is dispensable, with the game running out of the box on W10 (at least for me) and with mods available to those who prefer higher resolution and framerate (though without the gameplay improvement Blizzard is bringing).

  21. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Diablo 2 remaster will be 40€ without discount for those who have the old games, it’s insane. And we all know how lovingly polished their last remaster was… Path of Exile is free and is a natural evolution of the formula.

    Also for anyone who had a bad time with Diablo 3 at release, you might want to give it another try. Reaper of Souls is a masterclass in how to turn crap into gold!

  22. Skyrim is one of those games where it actually feels like its been around a lot longer than ten years.

  23. Beansie says:

    Playing a game you hate for 100 hours can’t possibly be healthy.

  24. Philadelphus says:

    They actually did much better with Halo numbering: Halo, 2, 3, 4, 5, Infinity.

    True, but they missed a Halo Ellipsis between the 5 and Infinity.

  25. Lars says:

    Game Pass has all the Yakuza games? Even Judgement and Dead Souls? I didn’t know they are out on PC yet.
    “Sadly” I had to quit Game Pass recently because Microsofts broken “Gaming Services” needed for every MS Store game.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      Dead Souls, as far as I’m aware, still hasn’t released in the States, and if it did, it’s been forgotten and buried. Judgment has not yet left the PS4 platform, and when it does, it’s hitting Stadia first for temporary exclusivity.

      I have no idea how much Google paid SEGA for it, but it was either more than Microsoft or before Microsoft approached them about the idea.

  26. evileeyore says:

    I’m sure I’ll play 100 hours of Starfield. And I’m sure that – just like the other two games I mentioned – I’ll spend the whole time wishing they’d made something smarter. The trash-picker gameplay loop is nice and all, but that’s not why I want to go to space.

    Then why buy it and why play it? Vote with your dollah! If it’s not going to be what you want, why reward them for chasing the “wrong audience”?

    I don’t play games that aren’t going to be what I want to play, I really don’t understand why so many people constantly buy, play, and then complain that what they just played wasn’t what they wanted… but when the next identical thing comes out they do it all again.

    I’ve never played them, but this trailer has a really strong slapstick comedy vibe, and I never got the impression the games were all that focused on comedy. Have the games been misrepresented in the past, or are they being misrepresented now?

    Yes. Or no. Maybe?

    Or rather, more honestly, from what I understand the first had some comedy, but it wasn’t the main thrust of the game (it was only a couple of side missions), but it was really enjoyed and so the studio kinda doubled down on it for the next game and the fans really went nuts for it. So they been ramping up the comedy and weird slapstick side missions with each subsequent title until now, the original game’s advertising really isn’t representative of the series.

    This quote about the writing of Yakuza “1” might sum it up:
    “Writing the subplots did not prove challenging, as there was not a strict pattern to follow. The team wanted all subplots to keep the feeling from the main storyline. Several ideas did not make it into the game because the staff members found them silly.”

    Of course everything I’ve ever seen about the game was the weird slapstick comedy, so that’s kinda what I’ve always associated with the game (not my style, never played the Yakuza series).

    Also, Skyrim is 10 this year? They grow up so fast, don’t they?

    And they’ve not put out anything since. Nothing, not a single title… how weird…


    Cheeseless Crisp! That is a massive room. Now that’s a room you could play on a Wii in.

    Anyway, I’ll get this. Of course I’ll get it.

    Why? Has someone deactivated your copy of Diablo 2? Did you lose the disks?

    After the massive disappointment of Diablo III, I’ve been itching for another trip through the second one.

    Then why haven’t you just booted up Diablo 2 and replayed it? The only real difference I see with this version is the possibility, the remote possibility that cross-play will be added so you can included your console peasant friends in your lan party. Oh, and it will include the Lords of Destruction expansion.

    I mean, I guess if Blizzard cuts Battlenet support for Diablo 2, that might be a (bad) reason to pick this up. Otherwise this is just a nostalgia cashgrab for Blizzard, and do they deserve your nostalgia bucks when your Diablo 2 disks are still sitting on your shelf?

  27. Xander77 says:

    “Then I complained about how hard the game was and people told me I was bad at videogames. ”
    The example in question was “the game requires you to go through a military checkpoint guarded by fairly powerful soldiers, so I kept face-tanking the fight, reloading over and over and over until I got so tired that I quit”.

    The checkpoint is question was one of the few STALKER places with the much vaunted freedom that Shamus ostensibly appreciates in videogames:

    The soldiers are not immediately hostile, and you can just walk up and bribe them in exchange for passage. Not entirely intuitive, as other soldiers in the same level will shoot you on sight, and only a few NPCs will let you know that the checkpoint commander is open to bribes. (On the other hand, you really should notice the soldiers not shooting first and waving for you to come over after reload number 3-4)

    You can run through the electric anomaly tunnel about 20 yards to the left of the checkpoint, either timing the anomalies or consuming a medkit as you run.

    You can run through the gap in the fence 10 yards to the right and above the checkpoint, though the soldiers will probably spot you and you’ll take some fire as you sprint past.

    You can run through the gap in the fence about 100 yards to the right of the checkpoint, though you may take some radioactivity damage.

    I mean, Stalker SOC had some fairly hostile and unintuitive design decisions (and weirdly enough, became less interesting in the sequels, where more things were explained and streamlined), but at the same time, Shamus’ description of the situation was a frank admission that he was terrible at the very exploration and experimentation he wanted games to indulge in. And that was the first level of the game, so it’s not as though anything that came before should have made the player expect linear and chokepoint heavy design.

    1. Shamus says:

      See, my problem with your comment is this:

      “The checkpoint is question was one of the few STALKER places with the much vaunted freedom that Shamus ostensibly appreciates in videogames:”

      In which you imply I’m a hypocrite.

      But then you go on to admit that the game is “unintuitive” and has “hostile and unintuitive design decisions”.

      So maybe I’m not a hypocrite. Maybe I just like freedom in games, but dislike when that freedom is offered in the face of an unclear challenge that requires trial-and-error deaths to work out what the designer intends. I tried several things, and all of them I felt the game was telling me “No you’re not supposed to go this way”.

      This is the very definition of “It’s easy when you know how.” Getting through is trivial when you know the right method, but learning the right method is hard because the game in unintuitive and sends mixed signals. This results in the player dying several times as they probe the possibility space.

      So no, I’m not a hypocrite. I actually DO like freedom in games, and my problem is when the game sends confusing signals and doesn’t make the player’s options clear, and when experimentation results in death.

  28. Xander77 says:

    Saving and reloading breaks stealth, as all nearby enemies will be alerted to your location – unintuitive.

    Weapons and armor degrade when used, and there’s (almost) no way to fix them in the field – an extremely hostile design decision.

    The rookie village has a hidden mid-game armor – “easy when you know how”.

    The bridge checkpoint, on the other hand, is an extremely Deus Ex-101 “multiple paths” situation (I’d actually use it to teach how multiple paths work outside a direct Deus Ex “vent, stealth, dialog, combat” ripoff), open to experimentation as none of the possible solutions will kill you on the spot.

    You will first encounter the electric tunnel, complete with an actual note explaining the premise of timing the anomalies. Many a True Nerd, not known to be an expert gamer, makes it through on the second try:
    (Helps that the anomalies take three shots to kill you).

    Next, you’ll run into the soldiers. As noted, they are confusingly marked as hostile on your mini-map, but won’t open fire unless you fire first or try to cross the checkpoint without talking to them. You won’t have a sniping weapon at this point in the game, so you should probably notice the checkpoint commander waving you over or his audio barks as you try to scout around the checkpoint.

    Just continuing to the right along the “impenetrable videogame fence” allows you to find a gap, which isn’t even experimentation, just basic exploration (it may help that you don’t have “go through checkpoint” as an objective, just a map marker destination past it):

    Finally, you can parkour across the broken bridge segments right above the checkpoint. This one requires a bit of experimentation, is dangerous (you might fall, and the soldier may open fire) and doesn’t really offer any advantages (I think there may be some items up there? Nothing of importance anyway).

  29. Lanthanide says:

    After the massive disappointment of Diablo III

    You would have enjoyed it more if you played it the way the developers intended, by raising the difficulty when you found it too easy.

    Here’s the lead designer of the expansion pack saying that is how they intended people to play it https://diablo.somepage.com/news/1818-josh-mosqueira-and-dave-adams-interview#difficulty, so the authorial intent is clear, just the game itself does a terrible job of explaining this to the player.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah, I didn’t get that memo. If the designer has something to tell the user then they need to put it in the game.

      Anyway, you read my retrospective, so you know I tried turning up the difficulty, and you know why that didn’t help.

      “Yes, you can turn up the difficulty. I tried it. It was awful. I still didn’t feel like I was in danger of dying from playing sloppily. Turning up the difficulty just gave everyone more health[1]. It was as boring as ever, except now fights took five times as long. That’s not a solution to the problem, that’s just adding another problem. I can choose between a mode where I’m durable and the foes are trivial, or the mode where I’m durable and foes are also durable. The game can be effortless, or a dull slog. I suppose if I turned it up high enough[2] I’d finally be fragile, but by that point fights would take forever. There doesn’t seem to be a way to play this game as a challenging, fast-paced action title, even though it feels like that’s what it’s supposed to be. The “kill streak” mechanic in particular seems to suggest a game of frantic brinkmanship that never actually materializes.”

      1. Lanthanide says:

        Yes, I know why it didn’t help – because you had been playing ‘casual lols’ difficulty from the very beginning, so when you got to the late game and tried turning up the difficulty, you hadn’t built up better gear (because harder difficulties drop more loot) and also hadn’t really learned proper survival mechanics because you’d never needed them till that point.

        If you had started the game at Hard difficulty, or pushed it up to there shortly after starting and realizing that Normal difficulty is really ‘casual lols’ diff, then I don’t think you’d have had any trouble at all and wouldn’t be saying it just made the monsters into meat sacks but nothing more (because on the harder difficulties, damage also scales with their health). Really I’d recommend for an experienced gamer such as yourself to start on Expert.

        If you’d played the way the devs intended, by making use of the difficulty slider to make the game into the sweet spot of difficulty that is ‘fun’ for you, then you would have had more fun through the whole game than what you ended up having.

        1. Shamus says:

          Oh, so I needed to START OVER and THEN play on hard?

          The default experience sucked and it’s not my job to read the game developer’s mind.

          1. Chad+Miller says:

            IIRC the higher difficulties also increase XP gain, so cranking up the difficulty earlier not only gets you better loot but also gets you to the level cap faster. I agree this is a much better way to play the game.

            I also agree that not making this clear is absolutely the game’s fault. At a bare minimum I think they should have either made a higher difficulty level the default. Or named the difficulty levels differently (e.g. named the current “Normal” as “Easy”) and then if the player dies too much give them a prompt asking if they want to drop down to a lower difficulty. Anything other than calling baby mode “Normal” and expecting the player to not only crank up the difficulty themselves but also realize to keep it there long enough for the increased gear/xp rewards to make their mark.

          2. Lanthanide says:

            Yes. Blizzard did a very poor job at communicating this to the player, by effectively not communicating it.

            But that’s the way they intended you to play. I think if you gave it another try but at Hard / Expert from the start, you would probably have more fun than you did the first time.

            Still doesn’t hold a candle to D1 and D2 IMO though.

  30. Mousazz says:

    I already get Pete Hines and Phil Spencer mixed up all the time, and now they’re in the same presentation.

    I love how you got the URLs mixed up, Shamus.

    1. Lino says:

      Oh, wow, I didn’t even notice that! I love these kinds of jokes :D

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