Diecast #349: Steam Summer Siege

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 5, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 149 comments

I think I did okay with the Steam Summer Sale this year. I picked up a reasonable handful of games, but I didn’t add a bunch of crap to the Backlog of Shamefully Un-played Impulse Buys like I used to in the old days. I actually took this time to cull some stuff from my wishlist. I figure if it’s 75% off and I’m still not buying it, then I’m probably never gonna buy it.



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast349


Link (YouTube)

00:00 InnerSpace

Not the movie, we’re talking about the game.

03:08 This Badly Translated Game of Portal


Link (YouTube)

09:56 Kingdom Come: Deliverance

THE GAME COLON THE SUBTITLE

18:25 Picked up Final Fantasy XII

I originally played this thing on the PS2, way back in 2007. You can actually read my original thoughts here, back when I was just a wee baby critic. Since then, I’ve spent about a decade and a half reviewing games, analyzing stories, and exploring games from many new (to me) genres. My horizons are broader, and I’ve got a better understanding for the cultural context of the JRPG genre. And with the benefit of that added perspective and the chance to revisit this game all these years later, I have to say: Eh. Yeah. This is basically how I remembered it.

This is an obtuse mope of a game and I don’t care about a single one of these characters. The plot of FFX was absolutely surreal and the characters were full-on lunatics, but by the end I really cared about those oddly-dressed idiots and their goofy struggle against Kaiju Satan.

But what’s the consensus these days? The game did okay back in 2006, but I’d really like to know how history has judged it. Is this a series favorite? A weird experiment that didn’t hold up? A mistake? An underappreciated gem?

27:59 Deep Rock Galactic

You’ll have to toss me!

28:13 Sunless Sea

28:24 Venineth

28:35 The Outer Worlds

28:50 Dyson Sphere Program

30:03 Mailbag: Meeting Your Other Characters

Dear Diecast,

I don’t know if that’s necessary, but: spoiler alert for Dragon Age series.

In Dragon Age: Inquisition our character met Hawke, the main protagonist of the previous game. He could also receive a letter from the hero of the first game, the Warden. It seems that BioWare really likes the idea of meeting your own characters as independent NPCs – something of that sort can happen in Star Wars: The Old Republic; there are also similar ideas in Mass Effect 3: Citadel. Last but not least, developers were actually trying to bring the Warden to Inquisition in person, but determined it was too difficult to do.

So, speaking of RPGs in general: do you think it’s possible to create such situations in which we would be able to interact with our characters from previous games, without ruining the players’ agency? I’m specifically thinking about the ones that are mostly created by said players: e.g. more like the Warden, less like Hawke or Shepard.

Do you think it’s possible? Is there some kind of AI magic that could make it happen? Should we even try, or are we going mad from too much power?

Cheers,

Darek

34:55 Mailbag: Dead by Daylight

I happened to be watching some random Twitch streams and stumbled across people playing “Dead by Daylight” which self-describes as “a multiplayer (4vs1) horror game where one player takes on the role of the savage Killer, and the other four players play as Survivors, trying to escape the Killer and avoid being caught and killed.” In Shamus’s recent E3 announcements for various”Left4Dead” style games he mentions not being very excited about what was on offer in comparison to the originals. While Dead by Daylight isn’t a shooter, it seems like the closest thing to L4D that people are playing these days and the format has allowed them to adopt a number of famous horror properties into playable Killer characters, which I personally think is really interesting.

tl;dr Are you guys familiar with this game or have you given it a try? I’m interested on your thoughts on the various Killers they’ve adapted (Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy Kreuger, Ghost Face, the Demogorgon, Pyramid Head, Nemisis, etc)

44:28 Mailbag: Terrabyte Games

G’day Diecast,

so I was rummaging around in my attic recently and found a box containing no less than 11 floppies for a single game (Monkey Island 2). Of course nowadays we have CDs, which can hold hundreds of floppies of data, so I was wondering…

How long d’ya think it’ll take for games to reach a terrabyte in size?

Vale,

-Tim

Not to be confused with Trilobyte games.

49:36 Mailbag: Games that Made You Cry

Dear Diecast

Has there ever been a game that made you outright cry? In the emotional sense I mean, not because you were laughing your asses off or something.

From Dunkey

I knew it. I knew I’d think of a bunch of examples after the show. While I can’t claim any of these wrung genuine tears out of my stony heart, I did find them very emotionally powerful:

  • Last of Us (Powerful)
  • Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Lee’s last chapter. (Strong)
  • Final Fantasy X (Mild)
  • The very end of Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (not so much sadness as shock.)

55:54 Mailbag: Thrill of Stealth

G’day Diecast,

so a few weeks ago Shamus mentioned he doesn’t like Alex (AKA FailRace, AKA that guy who does Survive the Hunt) being so very careful and sneaky and cautious. This made me wonder: how do you feel about general stealth gameplay? Do you not care for watching people play things like Thief and Alien Isolation, or do you go into those with different expectations?

Thank you and Paul for the wonderful content,

Vale,

-Tim

1:04:26 After Credits

I am not responsible. This is all Tim’s fault.

 


From The Archives:
 

149 thoughts on “Diecast #349: Steam Summer Siege

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    49:36 Mailbag: Games that Made You Cry

    Mother 3 actually made me tear up a little, probably because it caught me off guard as I knew very little about it other than it was a sequel to Earthbound when I first played it. It was… quite the emotional rollercoaster to say the least.

    There’s a very good reason why the Mother series’ tagline is literally “No Crying Until The End”

    1. Steve C says:

      For me it was Ico. The constant haptic feedback of tugging on the girl’s hand gave it much more emotional resonance than I otherwise thought possible. The ending overwhelmed me. I was a bawling mess.

      1. Mischa says:

        For me it was ‘To the Moon’.
        At the end, when I finally understood the relationship between two of the characters.

        1. Mattias42 says:

          Honestly, To The Moon was too blatantly tugging on the heart-strings for me. I felt manipulated, not touched, by it. To this day I haven’t managed to force myself to finish it.

          My own, though? Cryostasis: The Sleep of Reason, of all games. I know it sounds weird to say about a horror game, and an obscure FPS one at that, but the ending/s always get to me. I’ve replayed that game like… three, four times, and I always cry a bit at it. Dang underrated game.

          Massive spoiler: The game basically grinds you down. Says again and again: There is no hope, the cold will win… but the main character never gives up, and in the end, saves the entire ship you’re trapped on by basically unmaking the entire tragedy… by a single act of kindness, at the right time, by the right person. All it took, after so much tragedy and suffering… one freaking act of kindness. Fucking beautiful reversal of expectations of to that point, seemed a completely unavoidable tragedy you’re just striving against for as long as possible.

          I honestly consider it my personal favorite story in all of gaming, but man, it’s so dang hard to recommend to people without spoiling the dang thing. Even harder nowadays when it’s basically vanished off all digital store-fronts.

          1. Rho says:

            I also thought TtM was manipulative, but also it’s really hard to cry Mournful Tears when you’re gobsmacked by the *ridiculous* suicidal brain-crushing stupidity on display. Non-spoilers for those who haven’t played : apparently human intelligence decreases rapidly in the future.

            Also, I wasn’t that interested in the non-relationship on display. Interesting idea, but not well-told.

            1. Henson says:

              Okay, I’m intrigued. Please elaborate. Go ahead, use those strike tags!

              1. Rho says:

                The central mystery behind the game is: why caused the Lunar energy facility to suddenly shut down? What happened to the base’s personnel?

                Apparently the crew decided to found a non-religious “cult” of sorts, take emergency rockets, and blast themselves off into space. Note that while humanity now has major facilities on the Moon, we do not, in the game, remotely have the ability to project deep into the Solar System. Also these loons apparently decided that the smart play was the disable the power facility rather than just pooling their resources and leaving, abduct numerous people who didn’t agree to this (because it’s *insane*), and lack the basic infrastructure needed to survive but all of which they had on the Moon station. Even the station wasn’t self-sufficient, so I’m not sure what their plan was, either, and it’s already confirmed that things have gone badly wrong for them and they didn’t even arrive at their non-destination.

                That part is only the BEGINNING of the Epic Stupid; somehow humanity has wrecked the Earth’s ecosystem so badly that it probably violates the laws of physics, and there’s about a thousand other incredibly dumb things going on in small ways. And it was apparently too much work for the combined governments of the world to send a single rocket and crew back to re-start the facility which is *supplying the entire Earth with energy*, so it ends up being done by a small team of techs and scientists who manage to put One Dude in place. There are a number of other issues that crop up; much of it is Fridge Logic. But this is emphatically not a Drama First story and the nature of the world demands careful consideration. it’s a puzzle-solving game about exploring a mystery and basically NONE of this makes sense.

                It’s still a very good game and the first half in particular has solid environmental puzzles and an interesting simulation of 0-G environments.

                1. Henson says:

                  Okay, now I’m just confused. What game are you talking about? Surely not an RPG maker game about creating memories for a dying old man…

                  1. The Rocketeer says:

                    He’s thinking of “Deliver Us the Moon.” I agree with his take, though.

                    1. Rho says:

                      Although for some reason I abbreviated it wrong. I apologize for the confusion I caused. It was not intentionsl.

                2. Sleeping Dragon says:

                  I… I do not think we’re talking about the same game? I believe To the Moon that was originally meant? Either that or I have shifted into an alternate reality and not noticed.

                  On that note To the Moon worked for me as a story but it didn’t make me cry. The sequel, Finding Paradise, utterly destroyed me though. Now this is going to be complete anecdata but from talking to some people on the internet most introverts and/or people on the spectrum seem to fall for the second game more than the first (not a hard rule obviously).

                  1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                    well the game confusion got cleared up in the meantime

      2. Chris says:

        Shadow of the colossus for me. Specifically the part when Argo reappears near the end, loyal and limping. It brought up every beloved pet I’ve ever had to say goodbye to in one brutal rush of feels. I can’t even revisit that game anymore because it makes me unaccountably sad.

    2. Syal says:

      A couple of Mother 3 inspired RPG Maker games have teared me up.

      Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass (my favorite RPG, everyone buy it seriously) is something of an emotional rollercoaster, and has Empathy segments for new forms where Jimmy imagines what it’s like to be that form. All of them are fairly sad, and a couple of them got me teary-eyed, most recently the Ghost form in my current playthrough.

      Omori (which I’ve still only watched) is the darkest story I’ve seen in a game, and the last… two hours or so, are just hearbreaking.

      (Both involve children in dreamworlds.)

    3. Zekiel says:

      Life is Strange. I was in floods at the very end (my wife happened to come into the room and was very bemused). I know it’s a bit of a divisive game, but it worked for me.

      I definitely had a lump in my throat for the endings of Gone Home and The Last of Us, and That One Bit in Planescape Torment with the sensory stone.

  2. Thomas says:

    I think FFXII has a bit of a hipster reputation today as underrated. It’s not strong though, my guess is most people don’t care strongly about FFXII and don’t talk about it, but there are people who appreciate the multi-factional conflict and Balthier and those are the people giving it that reputation.

    It’s a ‘meh’ for me. I appreciate that they tried a more sophisticated conflict and have ‘villains’ and ‘allies’ who end up fading in and out of alignment with your party – but they didn’t land it.

    I didn’t feel connected to the world. I was barely aware of the conflicts and inner struggles the game was trying to sell. I couldn’t even track the names of some of the villains, as they all looked very generic, a lot of them were in armour and their names were all very ‘first D&D game’.

    Like I’m aware there was supposed to be a lot of politics between the judges, but I can’t name a single one but Gabranth. Having a boss fight where you’re trying to work out which one the boss is, is not a sign of success.

    Some characters had decent outlines. But they never tapped the depths of their conflict, and they never really sold them as a cohesive unit of people. In FFX you get why everyone is together, and the party dynamics. In FFXII they’re a random group of people whose exist, all jumbled together and barely interacting or developing.

    1. bobbert says:

      I feel like the story would have been better without all of the space-magic.

      I really wish there was a new-game+ mode where you could start with all of your AI-verbs. I think FFX did something similar.

  3. Zeta Kai says:

    FF12 is quantity over quality incarnate. The initial protagonist (Vaan) has no motivation to participate in the story, the airships were lovingly crafted only to be utterly irrelevant, the bestiary is obviously a copypasta ran through a thesaurus, the XP system is hidden behind unlockables so you need the guide to even plan your progression, and the Gambit system can be so easily programmed to make the combat automatic that you can set it up by accident.

    With all of that being said, I could have had a good time with the game, had the story been well-written and well-paced. Alas, this was not the case: the plot was obfuscated by vaguely-worded vignettes for so long, and the context was further encrypted by crucial lore being conveyed solely through codices and wikis, that the climactic moments fell completely flat. This confusion exacerbated the abysmal pacing, to the point that I didn’t understand that I was in the final dungeon, or in the final boss fight, until it was all over and the denouement was playing.

    The game has several other flaws: the combat is based on very dated MMO cooldown systems and overly reliant on the same 3 overdrive attacks, most of the characters are generally unlikable, summoning is literally never an decent strategy, and so on. But the extreme focus on MORE over BETTER left the entire experience feeling pointless and hollow.

    1. bobbert says:

      I sort of want to watch Shamus cuss out that stupid Zodiac Spear.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        This was also fixed in the HD remaster. No more “forbidden chests” nonsense!

    2. Chad+Miller says:

      the XP system is hidden behind unlockables so you need the guide to even plan your progression

      The rereleases actually fix this problem (you can view all license boards for all jobs in the most recent version before you even unlock your first job). This was clearly a common complaint given the first Japanese rerelease actually put “Job System” in the game, just to make sure everyone knew they overhauled it.

    3. Drathnoxis says:

      If anybody is interested in some long-form critique on FF12 I’m going to take this opportunity to recommend TheRocketeer’s monstrously long play by play analysis of the game.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Oh good! I’m glad there’s a copy on the internet still.

      2. Gautsu says:

        this is awesome, thank you

  4. tmtvl says:

    Sorry for giving you guys much to talk about, I swear I’ll never do it again.

  5. Joe says:

    No, Shamus, it *is* your fault. You don’t have to do a stupid accent if you don’t want. That accent was painful to listen to. Furthermore, fewer Aussies sound like you think they sound. More sound like, for example, Chris Hemsworth or Margot Robbie than Steve Irwin or Julia GIllard. And that’s not even getting into all the ‘ethnic’ accents.

    As for games with an emotional reaction, Witcher 3. Several moments involving Ciri really got to me. Many games make me feel frustrated, but that’s more from gameplay elements than story.

    1. Shamus says:

      1) By that same token, it’s also YOUR fault. Nobody forced you to listen to it. You even had to jump to the end of the credits.

      2) If I didn’t do it, then at least one person would have left a comment to the effect of “Aw, I wanted to hear Shamus’ godawful accent.”

      3) My accent in no way reflects the NUMBER of people with a given accent. I mean, literally NOBODY sounds like that because the accent is tuned for comedy, not accuracy.

      4) If you’re curious: It’s a copy of a copy. Paul Hogan made quite a splash back in the USA back in the 80s. His accent was already a bit over-the-top, and then Americans did an exaggerated version of THAT, and then I did an exaggerated version of THEM.

      5) Snipin’s a good job, mate!

      1. BlueHorus says:

        See, I’M going to listen to the show just to hear Shamus’ accent, now.

        EDIT: Dear gods, that was awful! You should be a Shamus’d of yourself, Mr Young!
        ;)

      2. Steve C says:

        I liked it.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Worse yet, I ain’t Australian, I just spent too much time last couple of weeks listening/watching programming presentations by Damian Conway.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Your penance is to purchase a toy kangaroo, post-haste!

        1. tmtvl says:

          Another one? Well okay, if you say so.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            You are allowed to substitute a toy koala or wombat, if you like.

            1. pseudonym says:

              Not from Australia, but I presume a toy platypus also qualifies.

  6. bobbert says:

    RE: crying

    Lufia II always gets me.

    You go on this grand adventure with your wife to help make the world a safer place for your baby boy.
    You win, but neither of you makes it out alive.

    1. Rho says:

      I know your pain. It also retroactively makes Lufia 1 better.

      1. bobbert says:

        I wouldn’t call it painful. Many (most?) beautiful things are also sad.

  7. MerryWeathers says:

    34:55 Mailbag: Dead by Daylight

    Out of Dead by Daylight and the Friday the 13th game, I admit I prefer the latter.
    Dead by Daylight is a more polished, tightly designed, and arcadey game so the experience there much more consistent but Friday the 13th was more fun for me because of the more open-ended design and social interactions, even with random players like RLM subchannel Previously Recorded cited an example where one of the players held on to the keys to the car that could let most of them escape so as to incentivize the others to not leave without him.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I haven’t played either, but when I read that question my first thought was the Friday the 13th game. The sad thing about these is that as far as I know neither of them would make for a good single player experience (Friday the 13th in theory allowed for it, but as Jason) but the concept is an interesting one even if you aren’t playing with other players.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        A lot of single-player horror games already do or center around the “chased by a monster killer” concept, Alien Isolation, Amnesia: Dark Descent, Outlast, and Resident Evil.

        Although I think player-controlled killers do the concept justice because they have the unpredictibility and awareness that A.I. controlled ones lack, which is what you want out of the experience.

        1. Daimbert says:

          It was more the “general melee” type of thing, where there are a number of independent entities that act on their own initiative, and as a player you need to at least outlive them and hopefully survive and as the killer you’d need to wipe them all out. For a single-player experience, you could replace everyone except the player with bots, but I don’t think either game did that. So in order to experience it I’d have to play with other people, which is the LAST thing I want.

          The Clocktower games on PS2 as well as Haunting Ground did the chased around by a monster killer thing, but not as a simple “Jump in and try not to get killed” idea.

  8. Geebs says:

    Re: crying at games

    I can’t think of a single game that’s made me cry, but I can certainly think of a few that are reputed to be real tearjerkers but which just caused mild irritation at the hamfisted emotional manipulation, like To the Moon and Firewatch. A Short Hike was pretty annoying when it tried to pull the “hey this lighthearted game is really about something heavy” card.

    The first time I finished Metal Gear Solid when I was a kid, though, I had to go for a walk to process everything. I got so wrapped up in that game, and especially in the sheer escalation of the ending, it took me a good long while to figure out what to do with myself IRL afterwards.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      To me, A Short Hike felt less like they were trying to manipulate the player, and more like the dev(s) were just using the game as a way to express themselves, that used an element from their own lives. So my reaction was basically, “Oh, that’s nice – the dev must feel a lot better after using this game to work through their personal situation.” :)

  9. Lino says:

    OMG! From now on, I want Shamus to do EVERYTHING in an Australian accent!!!! Make it happen!!!!!!!!

    Regarding why there are so few new entries in Final Fantasy, although I’m very much not into the series (or genre), I think Squeenix are currently focused on FFXIV, which is an MMO. According to recent data taken from APIs, Reddit, and various other methods, it’s now got more players than WoW. Even if that data isn’t entirely true, giving the top dog in the genre a run for its money is definitely an amazing achievement, especially so late in the MMO genre’s lifecycle…

    Also – a bit unrelated, but I’ve always wanted to ask the native commenters on here – what is it with Shamus and the word “aughts” when reffering to the early 2000’s? It’s obviously American English, yet I’ve personally never heard any other Americans use it? Is it a Northern states thing? Or does everybody use it, but I just haven’t run into it?

    1. Shamus says:

      Actually, I’m the only person I know of that uses “aughts”. But damn it, it fits, and I keep hoping it’ll catch on. And it’s way shorter than all the alternatives.

      1. Lino says:

        AH-HA! I knew it was too good to be a figure of speech that’s come about naturally! Well, here’s to hoping it catches on, because it’s a really neat word :)

      2. Henson says:

        I think one of the only times I’ve heard it used was from Brooks Hatlen in The Shawshank Redemption; I thought it sounded neat.

        In other words, you’re an old man, Shamus. But a neat old man.

        (and ‘aughts’ is a heck of a lot better than ‘the noughties’)

        1. houser2112 says:

          It’s been in use a lot longer than Shawshank. The rifle ammunition .30-06, called so because it was adopted in 1906, is spoken “thirty aught six”.

          1. Shamus says:

            This is exactly where I learned “aught”.

            When I was young, I thought people were saying, “Thirty-odd six”, which I assumed meant “somewhere around 36, give or take, I can’t remember or it doesn’t matter.”

            Kids say the darnest things.

      3. RamblePak64 says:

        I, too, use the term “aughts”, even if it probably should be “naughts”. Still trying to figure out what to call the tens/teens though.

        1. Syal says:

          The Tots.

      4. Exasperation says:

        My favorite attempt at creating a nickname for that decade is “the Naughties”.

      5. Taellosse says:

        That nickname was in common usage to refer to the equivalent decade at the beginning of the 20th century until we started approaching the 21st. Most of those from generations preceding the Boomers used the term, and I’ve heard it from a fair share of Boomers, too, though not as widely. For whatever reason it fell out of fashion with those born in the latter half of the century and beyond. I’m not sure whether the decade from 1910-1919 was ever shorthanded to “the teens” but I never seem to hear that decade discussed as an era in those terms anyway. Maybe because so much of it was filled with WWI, and that supplants everything else.

        We don’t seem to have settled on good nicknames for the first 2 decades of the 21st century, either, though. I usually hear “the two-thousands” to refer to 2000-2009 (though I do sorta like”oughts”, it’s definitely not common), which is both boring and poorly-considered, since that could equally well refer to the entire century. I’m personally rather fond of “the twen-teens” for 2010-2019, but that’s probably not going to catch on.

        Beyond that, decade-shorthand is about to get really messy for a while – there’s a very strong association with “the 20s” through “the 90s” to refer to 20th century decades by default, at least for those of us who were born in that century, and for the moment we’re very much the majority of people still. But in a few more years we’re going to start having much more proximate decades to use those terms on. There’s gonna be a lot of “well, in the 20s…no, I mean the TWENTY-20s…” until more of us older folks die off.

        1. Syal says:

          That can be solved with some descriptive adjectives. Like, instead of calling them “the 20’s”, we can call them “the Roaring 20’s”, in reference to the extremely noisy politics that are bound to take place this decade.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          I’d figure “Proximity Rules” would take effect—so if someone mentions “the 20s” in ten years time, without further context everyone will assume it means the decade just past, not the one over a century ago.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I feel like it won’t catch on, just because it’s from a mis-understanding of what “aught” actually means. (“Everything” or “anything” rather than “nothing” which would be “naught”.) As the world continues its inter-connected, international progress, phrases like this that don’t just use the words the way they’re meant to be used or worse, use them in opposite meanings, aren’t easily spread. See also, “the whole cloth”, “chintsy”, “snake oil”…dang that’s all I can think of right now. :)

      1. RFS-81 says:

        Wait, how is “snake oil” reversed? Sure, the original snake oil salesmen didn’t intend for it to mean fake remedy, but that’s still what it is.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          That’s the reversal, same as the others. Just like textiles made from “whole cloth” or from the district of Chintz at some point, in their original locations meant high quality, by the time people were using them to describe things in North America, they referred to low quality knock-offs, sold by dishonest people. Somone learning of these phrases as a non-native English speaker essentially need a history lesson to 1) learn what they originally meant and 2) what they mean today. If you only do 1 you have the wrong meaning, and if you only do 2 you’ll have a harder time remembering them because you don’t have any narrative to keep them in your brain. :)

          1. RFS-81 says:

            The difference is that snake oil never was effective medicine in the first place. (Wikipedia says that the original Chinese snake oil had more omega-3 fatty acids or whatever, but come on.)

      2. Taellosse says:

        Aren’t those examples you cite proof of the opposite point, though? They’re all a VERY common part of colloquial American English, even though most who use them know nothing about where they come from. Sure, they’re opaque to anyone learning the language as a non-native speaker, but that’s pretty often true of colloquialisms in any language.

        I tend to agree that “aughts” probably won’t catch on, but not because of any meaning-inversion of the original term – that happens to words all the time (see ‘inflammable’ and “awful” for instances where this has fully occurred, and witness the mutation of ‘literally’ currently underway) without destroying their popularity. I think it has more to do with the fact that the word has simply become generally archaic – it’s only used at all in very specific and narrow cases, and often on a highly localized basis. It doesn’t fit naturally into common popular culture.

        Though currently much more popular in the UK, I think the 1st decade of the 21st century is likely to eventually get called “the naughties” here as well, just because people have such a love/hate relationship with wordplay, despite the fact that “naught” is very much restricted to British-style English and not American.

        1. Syal says:

          I think “The Nothings” would be a good American alternative.

  10. Joshua says:

    And with the benefit of that added perspective and the chance to revisit this game all these years later, I have to say: Eh. Yeah. This is basically how I remembered it.

    This was my experience recently with a popular film, Inception. I remember watching it when it was released and think it was clever enough, but only a so-so movie, seeming like half of the movie was spent just setting up the rules of this wacky universe.

    Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when my parents were visiting, and in some downtime decided to see what was available to watch through our Amazon Prime subscription, and they hadn’t seen it yet. They both individually got up and wandered off to bed within the first 45 to 60 minutes of the movie because they were bored. Watching it a second time, I was more familiar with the “rules” and what was being foreshadowed, but there’s still the issue of more attention being paid to the complicated mechanics than making you care about the characters (almost all of them are cardboard cutouts anyway) or what’s happening in their story.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I had a similar experience with Donnie Darko. I first half-watched it while at a friend’s house, where it was playing in the background of a D&D game. Then a few years later, I thought ‘huh, my memories of that film are really vague and incoherent. Did I miss something because I was only half paying attention?”

      So I watched it again a few years later – and nope, it was exactly as vague and incoherent the second time around. But then again, when a central plot element is deliberately-poorly-defined time travel, what can you expect…

      Good cover of the song ‘Mad World’, though.

      1. Joshua says:

        I thought the film was all right, had what I thought was a decent idea of what was going on, and then read the film’s webpage and realized, “Nope, I completely didn’t understand what was happening in the film after all”.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      The best movies can explain complex worlds while giving you interesting character moments. For example, Elysium has robot probation officers, power-armor, rich people living in orbital habitats – all explained while you’re learning about Matt Damon’s dead-end job, the destitute situation he’s living through, and how he and fellow citizens are used as cheap labor! :)

      1. Syal says:

        I thought you meant Disco Elysium, and the only part that confused me was calling the protagonist Matt Damon.

        1. Zekiel says:

          Eh, I’m sure you can be Matt Damon Supercop if you want :-)

  11. Chad+Miller says:

    Re: Final Fantasy XII and fan consensus, some scattered thoughts:

    The story suffers from the fact that the primary person behind it left in the middle of production, and this is after Sakaguchi left. This is probably why it feels like there’s this brewing political intrigue that never really goes anywhere. Character-wise, the common wisdom is that Vaan and Penelo were just kinda thrown in because someone demanded that the main characters be teenagers to appeal to the targeted teenage demographic. Whether that’s true or not, they’re generally regarded as the least interesting characters and fifth wheels in their own game. I suspect most fans who like these characters at all are people who played the Game Boy spinoffs.

    I liked the gambit system but I get the distinct feeling I’m in the minority. I recently picked X back up when it showed up on Game Pass and had to stop because of all the random encounters. I liked that trivial combats were now…trivial. But the general consensus is that it feels like the game “playing itself”.

    The game was also often derisively called a “single-player MMO”, even near release, an impression that wasn’t helped by the fact that it came on the heels of an actual MMO.

    I think we can all agree the original license system sucked, which is why it’s one of the few things that’s completely overhauled in all rereleases including the recent HD rerelease.

    Some of the worst parts of the license system were also symptoms of a general “buy the strategy guide” approach to game design. This game came out after GameFAQs hit its stride but still during the period where video game companies could sell printed strategy guides and expect people to buy them, and it’s hard to come up with a more charitable explanation for the original method for unlocking the Zodiac Spear (also fixed in the HD remaster). The Zodiac Spear in particular was and is infamous but less well-known is that this was just the tip of the iceberg. The Bazaar system is if anything worse because optimizing it basically requires maintaining a spreadsheet while you play the game, and the HD remaster doesn’t fix this but does change some of the recipes so if you want to screw with this you’ll need a decade-old gameFAQs page and then diff it against a changelist.

    One thing this game started that I don’t really see talked about is that it represents the start of monster hunts being a major thing in mainline single-player FF titles. The monster hunter clan subplot actually feels somewhat like Vaan belongs in it, and it’s the biggest sidequest in the game. In XIII it’s practically the only sidequest in the game. It plays a big part in XV also.

    1. Henson says:

      I had always assumed Vaan and Penelo were the R2-D2 and C-3PO of the FF12 story: viewpoint characters who gave us a sense of the setting and the political players, before meeting the actual main characters and slipping off to the side. And it is kind of nice to see the conflict from the perspective of a seemingly powerless child, before getting caught up in events. But I don’t much like their sudden irrelevance less than halfway through the story, and I don’t know what Penelo is doing in the story in the first place.

      As to the Gambit system…well, I like this kind of programming, but it would be nice if the game gave me the gambits I actually wanted before twenty hours in. And I can’t say it makes most battles particularly interesting – whereas, in the difficult battles, I usually have no idea what I’m doing wrong! If I ever get back to it, I’ll probably put it on mute and play it while listening to something else.

      It’s a shame, because I really like the visual design of Ivalice, and there is so much potential for interesting worldbuilding going on, what with all the different nations and factions. But in the end, much of it feels like brown mush.

      (You know, Shamus’s remark about people not reading comments on archived posts makes me wonder – have I written this comment before?)

    2. John says:

      I suspect most fans who like these characters at all are people who played the Game Boy spinoffs.

      Speaking as someone who’s only exposure to the universe of Final Fantasy XII comes from Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings for the DS, I have my doubts. Revenant Wings clearly expected me to care about Vaan and Penelo–not to mention all the other returning characters–coming in and didn’t make any real effort to sell them to me. Vaan and Penelo may be the main characters of Revenant Wings but they have almost no character to speak of. Here’s what I learned about Vaan over the course of the game:

      (1) He wants to be Balthier. Or like Balthier. Or to get recgonition from Balthier. Or whatever.
      (2) He may or may not have some sort of poorly defined romantic attraction to Penelo.

      And here’s what I learned about Penelo:

      (1) Penelo is a girl character in a JRPG.

      If there are people who really like Vaan and Penelo, I don’t think it’s because Vaan and Penelo shine in the spinoffs. Instead, I think it is because there is no accounting for other people’s tastes.

      1. Geebs says:

        I think the people who complained about Blaand and Banalo being unappealing characters just got a big ‘ol dose of perspective once FF13 released.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          Drowning does not become less bad just because it’s also somehow possible to drown while being on fire.

  12. Dreadjaws says:

    I played Final Fantasy XII back in the PS2 era as well and I certainly didn’t care enough to finish it. It was very rare back then for me not to completely engage with an RPG, especially if it was a Square title (I didn’t finish FFX either, but that’s only because they forced a Blitzball game on the story, and popular as it is, I despise Blitzball) so it was a dire sign that things weren’t going right with Square. That being said, I do enjoy the universe. This was the time where Square was experimenting with setting several games in the same universe, and I enjoyed FT Tactics Advance, set in the same world but using a whole different cast (and different gameplay as well).

    Things took a different turn with the next game in the series. FFXIII wasn’t a game in which I didn’t care about the characters, because I actively wanted them all to lose, as they’re all a bunch of irritating, idiotic jackasses. On the one hand, I’d hate to “recommend” it to anyone and that someone ended up paying money for this trash, but on the other hand I’d love for you to play that game and then write an article (or series) on it. I assure you, I hate it but you will loathe it. Maybe now that you’re playing FFVII remake you could do some sort of series retrospective. Then again, that’s hard to do without playing all the games in the series, and that’s a massive undertaking.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Actually, having just gone on a tangent to re-read Shamus’ Final fantasy X series, I’d LOVE to see him do another game from the franchise.

      Whether it’s the FFVII remake, or FFXIII, or whatever, Shamus Young vs a Final Fantasy game would be great.

      (FFVIII had a pretty nonsensical story, as I remember. I’d love his take on the hovering school of teenage mercenary magic users who get power by putting magic creatures in their heads…)

      1. Syal says:

        Full Series Retrospective! Start with 1, end with… 7R.5, I guess it would be.

        (More seriously, 8, 9, and either of the 7’s would make great reads. 9 for being complex but still lighthearted, 7 for being the most popular, and 8 for being the Rocky Horror Picture Show of the series.)

        1. bobbert says:

          2 would be great for figuring out the mechanics and also his reaction to doors.

          1. Syal says:

            Yeah, 2 is actively spiteful. There’s the doors, and then there’s treasure chests at the edge of the map that contain… 1 gold, or 1 potion. Just there to make you walk farther.

            1. bobbert says:

              Despite all of its flaws, I really love the row system

              1. Syal says:

                I like 2’s rows more than the later games. If you could have shifted rows during a battle like the later games, it could have made for some cool strategies. If enemies could do it, even cooler.

                So much could have come from 2. Instead we got the SaGa games, which added level-scaling.

                1. bobbert says:

                  I remember the first saga games for the gameboy not being too bad. The ones where you climbed a giant sky-tower to kill pagan gods with a chainsaw. You could eat defeated robots and monsters to turn into monsters and robots. It was a little weird I guess.

    2. Chad+Miller says:

      I assure you, I hate it but you will loathe it.

      Indeed, the tone problems alone would probably make for some excellent ranting. One of my “favorite” moments from the game goes like this:

      Near the end of Chapter 8, Sazh comes to the decision that he’s going to turn himself into the government that’s hunting the main characters down. He realizes this means he’s probably doomed twice over (not only because said government will probably execute him, but he’ll succumb to the l’Cie curse even if they don’t) but it’s all worth it if he gets to see his six-year-old son for the last time.

      Vanille, the only other party member present, is trying to work up the nerve to make a confession: that she’s indirectly responsible for basically every bad thing that’s happened in the game up to this point, including both Sazh and his son becoming l’Cie and Sazh being a fugitive. But then, enemy soldiers attack, having successfully tracked them to this theme park. Numerous random encounters later, they stumble upon some government operatives…with Sazh’s son in tow.

      It turns out that the son’s mission as a l’Cie was to find enemy l’Cie, and having fulfilled his purpose, he receives his “reward” of becoming a crystal statue, right in front of Sazh. One of the government officials decides to rub salt in the wound by showing off security footage showing the secret Vanille was hiding this entire time. Vanille panics and runs away. The government operatives allow Sazh to follow, hoping they’ll kill each other.

      Sazh confronts Vanille, grieving over having just lost the last member of his immediate family. Sazh blames Vanille. Vanille blames herself. She imagines Sazh shooting her, and thinks she would deserve it. She tells him to kill her. He tells her that won’t make things right. She asks what would make things right. He tells her that nothing could possibly make anything right.

      It’s been previously established in the story that when a l’Cie despairs and is about to give up, they’re attacked by a kind of monster called an Eidolon. The idea here is that either they will find the resolve to fight back, renewed and ready to complete their mission, or they’ll die then and there. It’s at this point that Brynhildr appears for Sazh’s moment. Sazh doesn’t even want to fight back at first, but Vanille throws herself between them. What follows is one of the hardest boss fights in the game, as Vanille and Sazh pull themselves together and start their path toward recognizing what’s happened in the past but choosing to look to the future.

      Then Brynhildr transforms into a racecar

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Chapter 8? You got further than me, kudos! My friend and I managed about 2 hours before giving up. And everything Vanille said or did was a big part of that…

        But also:

        Near the end of Chapter 8, Sazh comes to the decision that he’s going to turn himself into the government that’s hunting the main characters down.

        From context, I think you meant ‘turn himself in to‘ the government. Though it is a JRPG, so someone turning themselves into a government does sound like a thing that would happen…
        Presumably using a supercomputer and/or magical mutation. And a lot of cackling, followed by a multi-stage boss fight.

        *Clicks on link of racecar* Wait, that sounds like nonsensical word salad. That can’t possibly be WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCKING SHI-

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          Yes, the government thing is the typo you think it is.

          The racecar thing is actually kind of foreshadowed in that the first Eidolon appears in Chapter 3 and has made “a motorcycle made of women” a phrase that people actually say.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        And then there comes the part after that where he fakes his death by pretending to shoot himself, the enemies carry his body with them and no one ever seems to notice that he has no wound. Man, I better don’t get started with this nonsense or I’ll be here all day.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          Characters doing nonsense things solely to fool the audience is one of my pet peeves (don’t even get me started about The Memory Den) but honestly this one didn’t make me mad because the mood was already entirely dead.

          I ended on “transforms into a racecar” for comedic effect, but what I didn’t mention was that they have the audacity to switch back to “somber” right after, like it’s actually going to be possible to follow up “Yeehaw I’m in a racecar!” with a playable character committing suicide and expect anyone at all to take it seriously.

          (don’t take “it didn’t bother me” to be an endorsement or anything. It’s not even clear if Nabaat and her entourage were even fooled, or if they were, what was the point? It doesn’t even play a factor in Sazh and Vanille breaking out of captivity later! Or in any future scene at all!)

          1. Taellosse says:

            Absolutely every time I hear more about the plot of that game, I am relieved all over again that I stopped playing around Chapter 4 and sold the disc.

            1. Chad+Miller says:

              That’s actually a fair part of the game to quit on; it’s actually my vote for one of the worst parts of the game.

              See, a lot of people complain about FF XIII and how linear it is, but then the counter point is often brought up that FFX is about as linear but people didn’t complain nearly as much. But I think the reason for that is the difference in how soon you get access to “the real game” even within that railroad. FFX has given you a basically complete party, along with the ability to swap characters in and out, access the sphere grid, and really most of the game’s interesting base mechanics less than 2 hours in.

              FF XIII, meanwhile, doesn’t even let you level up until Chapter 3 (of 13!), doesn’t let you change party members until Chapter 9, and doesn’t let most party members access most classes until Chapter 10 (with many of them having the available classes slowly trickle in before that). Getting to the arguable equivalent of X’s 2 hour mark takes in the neighborhood of 20-30 hours. Snow gets the first Eidolon in Chapter 3, then disappears never to see the party again until Chapter 9. Then in what is such an outrageous move it feels almost like troll design, Lightning gets the next one, but then the game cuts away to Sazh and Vanille immediately after. Then when it cuts back to Lightning and Hope, Hope volunteers to be the party leader, and the game mechanically enforces this, which means you have your goddamn mage taking point while your melee DPS with a summon monster can no longer be directly controlled by the player and therefore can’t summon. ARGH!

              This also dovetails nicely with the other problem here, which is that the reasons for swapping people in and out and restricting what you can do with them is obviously arbitrary at times, and never is it more noticeable at any part of the game than in Chapter 4, where you have 4 characters but the game will only let you use 3 at most and won’t let you choose which 3. So this is where they lean hardest on things like “we want you to go without a Commando for awhile, so Sazh still doesn’t remember how to shoot his guns and Lightning storms off in a huff again”. If anyone has played the game and thinks I’m at all exaggerating, consider the alternate universe where the party just stays with Snow in Chapter 3 and gets picked up by the Cavalry, and realize that Chapters 4 through 9 were just averted entirely. (granted, that’s one time where Lightning was justified in storming off, but they probably should have found another move for Chapter 4, or at least not have her join up with and desert the party multiple times)

              And the most ridiculous part of all this? This is all fresh in my mind because I just beat the game for the third time tonight! That’s spaced apart since the release year, so I’m not entirely insane, but there is something engaging about the combat and environments when I’m in exactly the right mood. Easier to go back to than better games in the series like X and VII, even.

              But the ending…so many memories flooded back when I played the final chapters today. And there are two things in particular that I think would press Shamus’ buttons if he experienced them firsthand:

              The game goes out of its way to make the point that while the Cocoon military wants to kill the heroes on sight, almost none of them are actually bad people. But then when you return to Cocoon for the finale, there are plenty of military in the streets fighting Pulse monsters, and you just got a new Crystarium level and you really need XP. So you’re probably going to attack everything you see while your characters still shout all their triumphant battle taunts, right before regretfully telling characters like Rosch how sad it is that we can’t all just get along.

              There’s actually one part where you bust into a government building and see a line of soliders that you’d have to fight through, only for the villains to transform them into monsters against their will. “How dare they!” says Lightning, mortally offended that the villains would do something so horrible to people she was drawing her weapon against. Later, Vanille sees a group of the same creatures and talks about how sad it is that they used to be human beings, and all I can think is “You know what else used to be a human being, Vanille? That corpse of a human being that you killed, lying at the other end of the ramp you’re standing on!”

              Then you get to the final battle and I honestly think it tops the Fallout 3 water purifier in terms of “nobody can possibly know why anybody’s doing anything.” To wit: The villain’s goal is to die. He’s been trying to accomplish this by both making the heroes hate him and also telling them that he wants to be killed. They then tell him, “You can’t tell us what to do! We’re going to kill you!” and then they do.

              And it WORKS SOMEHOW. Checkmate, Fal’Cie.

              It’s a guilty pleasure. A very guilty pleasure.

              1. Syal says:

                As someone who got Lightning’s Eidolon* and never cleared the next part with Sazh and Vanille, I think part of it is X is actually less linear; it’s a straight line, but there’s optional stuff in that line. You don’t have to get the Destruction Spheres, you don’t have to pay Oaka, you don’t have to learn the Jecht Shot, you don’t have to fight the Ochu, and once you get access to Blitzball you can totally ignore Blitzball. I don’t remember XIII having optional stuff before the part I stopped on, which had a sidequest about elevators.

                *(Holy shit that Eidolon fight sucked. A not-full party against an enemy that hits hard, quickly, with an AOE, and oh by the way there’s a time limit on this fight. This is in the running for worst mandatory fight I’ve ever seen in a game an RPG a non-Ys RPG, and it’s the first** of several Eidolon fights in the game.)

                **((Snow’s doesn’t count, that’s a tutorial with free healing. That I still managed to lose once because time limits!))

                1. Chad+Miller says:

                  Ah, to clarify I’m not saying XIII isn’t more linear. It absolutely is. I just think that its stinginess with the game mechanics and character progression made said linearity far more annoying than it otherwise would have been.

      3. King Marth says:

        The only part of this that felt off to me was how the previously-established crystal statue was a beautifully rendered transparent glittering rendition of the character’s model, while Sazh’s son is just encased in a cartoony block of ice. That’s more a case of artistic whiplash, enough of the game is gorgeous that the rough corners really stand out.

        I’ve watched Revolutionary Girl Utena though, so perhaps I’m just used to people turning into cars as a dramatic high point.

    3. John says:

      I played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and while I didn’t play Final Fantasy XII I did once read a very detailed plot synopsis. As far as I can tell, the only things that they have in common are words like “Ivalice”, “Judge”, and maybe “bangaa”. The two games honestly don’t seem to have any meaningful connection to one another.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Right. There’s no connection story-wise, but they’re both set in the same world (Ivalice). The fact that there’s no connection is probably what makes FFTA palatable, since it’s not bogged down by FFXII’s story, but they’re still set in the same world, from a visual design perspective.

        1. John says:

          This risks turning into either a semantic or philosophical argument, for which I apologize, but for all their similarities I don’t think that the Ivalice in FFTA is supposed to be the same as the Ivalice in XII–or even the same as the Ivalice from the orignal FFT, for that matter. The Ivalice in FFTA isn’t real. It’s the temporary product of a magic spell and is–in story, even–explicitly inspired and informed by earlier FF games. (Note: I haven’t played FFTA 2 and have no idea how it fits in to any of this.)

          1. Supah Ewok says:

            FFTA 2, iirc, establishes that Ivalice is some kind of magic timey wimey alternate dimension real, and has 2 characters return from FFTA 1 (one in the real world and one in Ivalice, both sides of “the divide”) to establish that it applies to that game as well.

            Vaan and Penelope show up as well, so at least everything in Ivalice not including the original FFT is explicitly interconnected.

            Yeah, it doesn’t really add up, but such is videogames.

            1. Taellosse says:

              Captain-Mal-from-Firefly-being-struck-speechless.gif

  13. Christopher says:

    I’ve watched one of my local streamers play some FF12, enjoying setting up the characters and making his way through on a restrictive challenge run. I can’t say it’s for me, that whole MMO-like presentation to the combat is just such a big turnoff, but it’s at least relatively unique. I’d say it’s found its niche of enthusiastic fans, but they’re not very loud and mostly keep to themselves.

    Can’t believe dunkey is collecting sad game intel for his next video on here!! For the record, off the top of my head: To The Moon, various parts of the three original Phoenix Wrights, Super Mario Galaxy, Cave Story, Tsukihime, Astro Boy Omega Factor, Link’s Awakening, Ocarina of Time, Undertale and Persona 4 have all made me sad. I can’t remember every time I’ve teared up, but it’s happened several times. Undertale alone has done it once per Flowey boss. Galaxy maybe sounds unlikely, but Rosalina’s picture book really hit me. Persona 4, Link’s Awakening and Ocarina specifically made me tear up at the endings.

  14. Deda says:

    I think part of the problem with FF12 is that it is like a reverse ME2, as in, this is what happens when you try to go from drama-first to details-first. This game tries to tell a complex story about politics and war and tries to make it more “”mature”” and “”””realistic””””, but that keeps coming into conflict with the FF conventions that it still needs to maintain.

    -In a FF game, the party often spends a lot of time wandering in remote and isolated places all by themselves, which works well when the plot is a simple ‘go on a quest to beat the bad guys’, as it lets us know the characters better from their interactions and we get to explore the world we are trying to save. But here, it means that we spend a lot of time away from the more complicated plot, so the game does not have the time it would need to get the players to understand the story and has to tell it between some really long interruptions. And the fact that we don’t really understand the plot comes back to hurt the drama since it is harder to care about the characters when we don’t know what they’re fighting for.

    -FF villains are often made to feel unique to make the player hyped for the boss fights. Here the uniqueness of the judges comes less from their personalities and more from their position in a conflict we don’t really understand. And instead of the usual distinctive looks that FF villains tend to have, this game tries to be more “realistic” by having them all wear similar-looking armors and helmets.

    -A plot focused on war and politics would need characters that are in positions of power. But in FF games, the main characters are supposed to be mostly young and have mostly low social status, so we end with a few main characters that feel like they don’t belong in this story.

    -FF settings tend to have technology that runs on crazy magic better left unexplained, this game tries to explain it.

    And so on.

    But I might be wrong, it’s been a long time since I played it.

    1. Thomas says:

      The way they tried to make teleporting at save crystals an explicit feature of the setting and then totally failed to realise all the implications of that…

      It makes a total hash of the gameplay too. In FFX you’re walking because Spira is a world so crushed by Sin that even getting from one place to another is an arduous task. In FFXII you spend a lot of time walking around, but also flip instantly back and forth between locations sometimes

  15. Amstrad says:

    You didn’t do anything wrong when copy&pasting my email Shamus. I wrote and sent that email and it wasn’t until after I’d sent it that I actually proof-read it and noticed I’d missed not only a greeting but also a signature with my name. I popped of a second email RE:ing the first, so at the very least you saw it was me emailing, but nothing much could be done about the missing salutation.

    Anyway, I’d just like to point out that the Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger, etc Killers that “Dead by Daylight” has aren’t developer copies of those characters with the serial numbers carefully filed off (‘ripoffs’ as you worded it), but instead actual licensed tie-ins to the various franchises. I think its fairly impressive how many IPs they’ve managed to get official tie-ins with.

  16. Nereidum says:

    Any time somebody tries to tell an ongoing saga within video games, it is doomed to be a mess.

    As a counterpoint to this, I’ll offer Nihon Falcom’s Trails series, which (in my opinion, at least) has been doing this successfully for 10 games now (with the 11th game, which starts the fourth major story arc of the series, releasing in Japan at the end of September).

    I think there are a few reasons why Falcom has managed to make this work.

    One is that the Trails series clearly has some sort of plan for where the series is headed, and it’s a finite one. That is, every part of the series seems to be building towards some sort of conclusion (even if we don’t know what it’ll be yet), and there are clear indicators as to how much of the story remains. (Most notably, much of the series revolves around seven legendary treasures, four of which have been addressed by the plot so far.) I think the people in charge of the series have a clear idea of what kind of story they’re trying to tell and don’t intend to just keep it going as long as it makes money.

    Another thing that might help is that the series is broken up into a bunch of smaller story arcs, each of which tells a complete story on its own, but also contributes to the larger ongoing saga. Each major story arc introduces a new location as the setting and a new cast of main characters. This makes it easier for newcomers to the series to jump in at the start of a new arc without being completely lost. (Most fans still recommend that people start with the first game in the series, Trails in the Sky, however.)

    To address another of your points, Falcom is a relatively small company (last I heard, they have somewhere around 50-60 employees). They’re not trying to make big AAA blockbusters, and they aren’t beholden to any big publisher who can make demands about what they work on, so they have a lot more freedom to do things how they want.

    If you’re interested in learning more, I’ll link a couple of videos about the Trails series here:
    Who Is Falcom and What Is the Trails Series?
    How a Japanese Indie Studio Kicks Bethesda’s Butt at World-Building (contains use of the word “Shandification”)

    Both of these videos are a few years old, so they’re a bit out of date on the localization status of the series. NIS America has taken over from XSEED as the localizer of the series. They have released Trails of Cold Steel 3 and 4 (games 8 and 9) for PS4, Switch, and PC, and will be releasing Trails from Zero (game 4) in Fall 2022, Trails to Azure (game 5) in 2023, and Trails into Reverie (game 10) also in 2023. The English releases of Zero and Azure will actually be based on the Geofront fan translation projects mentioned in the first video.

    If anyone’s interested in giving the series a shot, the first game, Trails in the Sky, is currently on sale for USD$9.99 on Steam.

    1. Christopher says:

      Keeping it small is definitely key. I think Ace Attorney 1-3 is a great trilogy, but is that a fair comparison to big-budget attempts when they were like fifteen people making story-focused, text-heavy gamse that reused a lot of art from game to game? Compared to hundreds of people doing tons of mocap and voice acting and whatever, trying to remain on the cutting edge of presentation or doing interesting new things with their gameplay? Like probably not, right? But at least these smaller scale, recycle-enthusiastic, single-A-at-most franchises actually have a shot at finishing their epic sagas.

      1. Thomas says:

        Halo might not be in our circle of tastes, but it was a good trilogy. It established the setting in the first game, evolved and diversified the threat in the second game, and brought everything to a conclusive climax in the third.

        Whereas the attempts to bring it back have been a flailing mess.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          That’s basically my problem with the IP approach to game design in a nutshell.

  17. Mye says:

    About FF12, someone wrote a great breakdown of the game on the old escapist forum (https://forums.escapistmagazine.com/threads/final-fantasy-xii-a-travelog-of-ivalice-by-a-raving-madman.129323), I believe he used to comment on this blog once in awhile too so if you read this, thanks for writing this, you beautiful madman. Do FF13 next!

    It’s pretty close in style to Shamus writing if anyone is interested in reading it, its pretty damn good and I’m glad the escapist conserve the archive of the old forum just so it didn’t disappear.

    I mostly agree with him, the game is a mess and greatly suffered from multiple round of rewriting and change from MMO to single player game, going trough a bunch of different main character in production to end up with the most boring FF protagonist. I remember dropping the game for a long time the first I played it because the plot made no sense and I was constantly thinking “wait why are we even doing this?”.

    I think the overall consensus FF fandom is mostly mixed, to me it mark the end of an era for FF and the beginning of a worse one. I’d split FF franchise into 3 part. 1-3 is the early NES era, they were trying new stuff out without much of a plan. 4-10 is the golden era, every game was interesting in one way or another (even the bad one like 8 have enough fun idea to be worth playing). 12/13/15 is the dark phase imo, all of them went trough development hell and constant re write and massive change in story/tone/gameplay, the results is mostly a mess and while 12 is definitely in my “bottom of the FF barrel category” it’s definitely the best among that era. This era also showed a massive slowdown in release, probably due to the development hell. Square were the king of the world in the SNES/PS1 era and I think they got complacent and this started breeding incompetence at the top level and in management and they payed (and are still) paying the price for this.

    1. Shamus says:

      Ah! That’s TheRocketeer. We actually talked about him on the show this week. He’s the one that ran circles around me in the comments of my Final Fantasy X series.

      1. Mye says:

        Oh should have made the connection, I’ll probably re read the FFX and check the comment. Your post about what would happen to the website if no one was looking after it actually made me remember his FF12 writing since I had no idea if it survived the escapist forum changes, was quite happy to found out it did so I’m in the middle of re reading it.

    2. Thomas says:

      Square seem barely functional at this point. They look like they don’t even know how to build cohesive art assets any more. I don’t know how you sign off on putting all the introduction to your story, and all the character introductions in spin off material that’s not in the game itself.

      It feels like mid aughts Microsoft, where individually talented people are being wasted because they’re all working in their own silos, producing bits that get lost in a massive dysfunctional beauracracy, with no sight of the end goal.

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        I don’t know how you sign off on putting all the introduction to your story, and all the character introductions in spin off material that’s not in the game itself.

        I don’t think that’s so much a conscious decision as it is the fact that they were so beset by development hell that they were desperate to get anything at all out the door at that point.

        That’s not even the most glaring issue with Final Fantasy XV’s plot; there are several plot developments, including a major plot twist, that feel like the equivalent of watching a movie with missing reels. Some of my favorites:

        * One of the party members is genetically engineered or a clone or something. He finds this out offscreen, and when he gets back there’s like two lines of dialogue about it. “Guys btw I’m an Empire super soldier” “Oh, weird. Well, we’re still cool.” I may be exaggerating, but barely. (this is eventually fleshed out…in paid DLC)

        * One boss fight, you end up having to solo it while your party members run off to…I don’t know, defend the town or something? I actually don’t remember. Anyway, afterward, one of your party members is blind. This is never explained or even really discussed, just “Hi Noctis I’m blind now”. (this is eventually fleshed out…in paid DLC)

        * At one point Gladiolus asks if he can leave the party. You get a dialogue tree here, which is crazy because Final Fantasy has almost never had dialogue trees, even including this game specifically, but the only thing you can do here is ask Gladio why he’s leaving, and he won’t tell you, but you have to let him anyway. You leave town to do the next mission without him, and end up being flown back for reasons too tedious to get into. You look out the door of the airship over the town. Fade to black.

        Fade back in, and you’re wearing completely different clothes, standing inside a factory you’ve never been in before. An NPC says something like “Noctis, it’s so great how you agreed to clear the demons out of this factory!” Noctis is the player character and this is the first I’m hearing of it.

        I run up to some guy who’s obviously Gladio; despite a face-covering helmet it’s clearly his voice, and he’s one of the tallest (human) characters in the entire game. Noctis says something like “no wonder you’re so far ahead of all the other hunters.” This is the first time other hunters have been seen or even mentioned.

        Later in the story Gladio tries to call Noctis out on a lack of resolve and not doing his duty, and I kinda wished I had that dialogue tree back so I could ask “Hey, remember that time you buggered off for no reason? What was that about?” (that part is eventually fleshed out…in paid DLC)

        * There are at least two or three points in the game where subtitles are needed to tell what’s going on even for people with no hearing impairment. Hilariously, one of these leads into one of those rare dialogue trees; when I played through that section I found myself scratching my head at being asked to choose from a set of responses without even knowing what I’d just been asked.

        But the best of these comes when someone messed up the sound balancing during the final plot reveal just before the last boss fight of the game. Your own character is gasping and struggling while the villain is monologuing, and for some reason the gasping and struggling is so much louder than the monologue that the villain just sounds like murmuring next to your own character’s nonstop “UGH…GACK…URGH…” So far as I know this one still hasn’t been fixed.

  18. Joshua says:

    Random thought, but went back to that 2007 essay and discovered Justin Alexander from https://thealexandrian.net/ was the first comment.

  19. Smejki says:

    Hi, so yeah, Kingdom Come.
    Paul has wondered what happens if you get arrested during the tutorial mission. Well, it’s a secret game ending :)

    Crime system: Guards do indeed remember you if you were identified. Our crime system is fairly complex. A crime can be spotted and reported to the nearest guard. As long as this information doesn’t reach a guard it is not considered reported which means you can kill the witness and get away with… well anything you did. A crime can be found without a perpetrator, which only raises local angriness, or the players was seen and tied to the crime, in which case you are known as a criminal in the local crime district (basically each settlement has one) and all local guards will try to apprehend you on sight. High angriness can lead to more aggressive guards, changed NPC behaviors, and most importantly higher guard count (reinforcements travel in from outside the map) and frequent frisking for stolen goods (even the items you dropped on the floor last minute are checked, you can’t fool them!). The higher you crime “bill” (each crime has a cost assigned to it) the less lenient the guards are. The more mundane you crime the more chill there is, meaning that unless you go out of your way you won’t get slashed to death for stealing a singe apple. Once you clear out your crime bill you’re clean, but the angriness stays as well as the faction and personal reputations (with the exception of serving jail time which actually fixes it (if not outright resets it?)). We also simulate information travel so the crime information and angriness propagate between the districts with respect to distance between them. If an NPC sees you committing a crime they can decide to take the matters into their hands based on their RPG stats and distance from the nearest guard (or generally when they fall outside any district, ie. they are in the wilderness) so you won’t see a buffed knight running to the police or a farmer on some secluded farm take a marathon run to report someone sneaking on his farm (thus abandoning it for you). Stolen goods are marked as stolen and this mark stays on them for time determined by the value of the item (which in most cases indicates its uniqueness). You can’t sell stolen items to almost any shopkeeper and trying to sell it to them repeatedly is also a crime (I think). We also planned to have the stolen flag be shop-specific and based on distance from the owner (which would fairly well simulate situations like a) everybody in the town know old Timmy owned that purple sword but b) nobody knows this 2 villages down the river so nobody there cares) but I don’t rememeber if that ever got implemented.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      Your game is awesome!

    2. Shamus says:

      Wow. This is really sophisticated, and makes Bethesda’s system look like someone an indie dev bashed out over the weekend. Bravo.

      1. Smejki says:

        What I forgot to say is that I agree with you anyway. There are still situations where the simulation behaves in some weird way. One good example is an exploit we identified after release where you just drop stolen items when a guard is approaching you to frisk you, and then you interact with him. So we added the inclusion of dropped items in some later patch. We newly create a link with short TTL between the player and any item they drop. The guard then queries your inventory and the linked items (within distance from the player).
        I honestly think we did a good job of approximating reality without really going overboard with it. Once you reach diminishing returns or tedium you just have to just stop simulating and accept the rare weirdness.
        We had one full-time dev dedicated to implementing this. It took him about 1.5 years but he also needed a ton of support from programmers and design department. All in all some 4 man-years of development.

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        We know Bethesda isn’t indie, but I wouldn’t be shocked if you were right about “bashed out over the weekend”.

    3. DeadlyDark says:

      Just wanted to say, thank you for the game. While it’s not perfect (but nothing really is), I enjoyed it a lot and hope to see the conclusion, one day. Keep up the good work!

      1. Smejki says:

        Will do! (hopefully)

    4. Thomas says:

      I adore this game, I wish more RPGs were built to be like it

      1. Smejki says:

        Yeah, me too. I hope you played Gothic 1 and 2 then, because that’s like all there is.

    5. Rho says:

      I loved KC:D. It has some rough edges, but the game embodies a sense of time and place like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The game also very cleverly depicts personal growth both in and out of the story. In most games, Henry would have been annoying, but I, as the player, actually take part in developing him from a hot-blooded, ill-educated fool to a capable and confident professional, and we see this change reflected in the story and how Henry interacts with other characters.

      I actually want to go visit the region now. Although I admit that’s in part because I have family history in Bohemia.

  20. Dragmire says:

    Badly Translated Paper Mario(Book of Mario) was a treat to watch. Some stuff was weirdly consistent with undertones of corporate speak. Pretty funny for the most part.

    1. Syal says:

      The Super Mario RPG one was also pretty incredible.

  21. Dragmire says:

    What would the full size of Microsoft Flight Simulator(2020) if you could have the full world on your PC without streaming any data?

    1. Utzel says:

      Came here to mention that. I own the physical edition with 10 DVDs. After spending the installation as a discjockey it still downloaded around 50GB I think. I think MS said it would be 2 petabytes. Don’t know if that’s the actual size in their cloud right now or an estimate what it would be with the whole earth in 3d photogrammetry data. As they are adding more of that I guess 7t keeps rising. And if you want, you can already download it ingame to your offline cache, so anyone can try it out :D

      The size is also depending on the developers effort to keep it down. Hitman 2 (the new one) with Hitman 1 and all expansion content included grew to over 150GB (but it offers to only install what you want on a level by level basis).
      With Hitman 3 they managed to compress basically all three games into less than 70GB
      Same with FS, there was news a few weeks back the download size (not installation) would be halved

      I heard one of the new Call of Dutys reached 250GB

  22. The Rocketeer says:

    Your part’s real simple, Shamus, just “wah doo dey, wah doo dey.”

    ‘Cuz anybody can make a record, you know.

  23. Liam says:

    Holy crap!

    I heard some South African, some New Zealander, some cockney, not much Aussie! :D

    For background, I was born in Sydney, grew up in South Australia, and moved (back) to the eastern states after uni. People here think I’m english, based on my apparent accent. :O

    Most probably due to using the broad a (/a?/) sound instead of a flat a (/æ/).

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Australian_English

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      Do you get people asking about your accent all the time too? It happens to me often enough that I’m starting to get a complex about it. Apparently I’m just too damn rhotic to be a proper Australian.

      1. Liam says:

        Yes, quite frequently.

        I work in an engineering environment, and there are only 2 of us in a team of 30 that were born in Australia. The other guy didn’t think I was born here either.

  24. Redrock says:

    Spiritfarer makes me misty-eyed every time I have to take someone to the Everdoor. Easily one of my favorite indies of the last few years. Really hope Thunder Lotus Games, the developer, get a bit more recognition after that.

  25. Ninety-Three says:

    The Longest Journey: Dreamfall (sequel to The Longest Journey) had two moments I found emotionally resonant. One was the big climax of the story and frankly a little manipulative dying children are kind of cheap pathos but the other was really special. In the first game, your character lived in an apartment building that you kept returning to over the course of the story to do slice of life stuff. In the second game, you come back to that building years later and find it run down. With no dramatic setup or cues from the writer I was incredibly stuck by the simple image of the building’s decay. I could feel my brain going “Hey, that’s my place, I liked that place!” It was a testament to something I hadn’t even noticed at the time, how well the first game did at making the place feel like a home you could get attached to, even though it was a crappy apartment your character never showed much affection for.

  26. Hal says:

    I’d actually say the closest thing to Left4Dead out there now is the Vermintide series, which I really enjoyed but I can’t recall ever hearing Shamus say anything about it.

    In any case, while I love the Vermintide series, I can understand why L4D fans might give it a pass:

    *It’s in the Warhammer universe, so it’s definitely a flavor of fantasy that might not appeal to everyone
    *It has a strong focus on melee combat over ranged weapons (or at least balanced against)
    *Each character has distinct skill sets, changing the gameplay depending on who you select
    *The incorporated RPG mechanics (i.e. XP gain, skill trees, weapon stats, crafting, etc.) make for a complicated out-of-game/metagame experience
    *It’s not a Valve game, so it never quite feels like L4D in the little ways that matter

    As I said, I really enjoyed it, but I do think it’s one of those games that is much better played with friends than with AI or internet randos.

    EDIT: Huh, I figured HTML worked in the comments; my bulleted list did not become such. Oh well, asterisks will do the trick.

  27. RamblePak64 says:

    Unfortunately I had to do some skimming of the comments, though it seems many things were already addressed. I’ve never been able to play far into FFXII, and as I had left my PS2 behind when I went to College I had missed out on its original release. I was kind of done with Final Fantasy for a while as it was, and lamented the shift away from turn-based combat.

    Going back now and only playing the first… hour? Two hours? Not far at all, really. I was somewhat disappointed, though intrigued because of the undeniable writing of Yasumi Matsuno. However, as was mentioned above, Matsuno left the project before completion (I believe it was more than halfway, so most of his work/vision is intact), and there’s a mixture of theories as to why, though I believe the official line was “health reasons”. Unfortunately, you can never tell if this is sincere since the Japanese have a literal word for working oneself to death, yet can frequently be used to hide actual conflict or disagreement behind the scenes. The one thing that’s known about FFXII is that, as mentioned above, Vaan in particular was demanded by the corporate suits in an effort to increase appeal to teenage girls, specifically. I think Penelo was included later, but not with the same attempt to appeal (Ashe was already fulfilling that role). Basically, they wanted a character like Zidane in FF9 or Tidus in FF10, and neither are the sorts of characters Matsuno writes.

    Which, I think, is one of those things that makes FF12 such an odd duck. Most folks that follow Matsuno know him for his tactical RPG’s, which are pretty great. They also know him for his more Western fantasy sensibilities, which end up allowing his work to feel unique since they’re still interpreted through an Eastern lens. He has political intrigue and other elements that feed into anyone that grew up reading fantasy novels of the 60’s-80’s timeframe, but a fusion of Western and Eastern tropes rather than strictly one or the other. The prologue involving the assassination is straight-up Matsuno, and is the sort of thing that made me excited about FF12 since it was going to set it apart from the rest of the franchise.

    On the other hand, Matsuno’s non-tactical-RPG game design is far more… hit or miss. I haven’t played Vagrant Story myself, and I would like to for the narrative, but the gameplay looks… less appealing. My understanding is FF12 makes more sense if you had played Vagrant Story, as it’s a sort of evolution of those ideas. I preferred his game Crimson Shroud on the 3DS, which was straight-up tabletop D&D in its design, right down to using the touch screen to roll dice. All the monsters and characters were designed to resemble miniatures, stand and all.

    But for me, I couldn’t help but compare FF12 to Xenoblade Chronicles, which I had already played before. Xenoblade is also a single-player MMO design, but far more interesting and better executed. FF12, on the other hand, seems to appeal most to players that want to program their allies to think for themselves, and therefore don’t have to deal with giving commands. This… is way too passive for me, and is largely why I swiftly got distracted.

    I aim to return to the game at some point because of the narrative, but am in no rush because of the gameplay.

  28. Baron Tanks says:

    Rock and stone Paul! Rock and stone

  29. evilmrhenry says:

    Re: InnerSpace:

    What that name reminded me of is “Operation: Inner Space”, the Windows 3.1 action game where you shot at computer icons.

  30. Simplex says:

    Kingdom Come Deliverance takes place in medieval Bohemia, not Hungary, it was also made by Bohemians :)

    1. bobbert says:

      Well, Bohemia and Hungary had the same king a number of times. :)

  31. evilmrhenry says:

    Re: Terabyte games, this will either take a really long time, or it has already happened. The new Microsoft Flight Simulator includes high-resolution data for the entire world, and that takes up a large amount of space. However, it’s also streamed. With this as an example, I think the rise in data streaming will undercut the rise in game sizes; anything that would take up a terabyte will almost certainly not reside on the actual hard drives of players, but will be streamed out instead. (If taken to the logical conclusion, though, WoW has hit petabyte size already, if all relevant databases are counted.)

    Alternately, it’s possible that a heavily-modded Skyrim could hit a terabyte. 100gb seems like a reasonable install size for a reasonably-modded install, so an unreasonably-modded install could come close. If not Skyrim, then whatever successor game gets all the mods next.

    1. Shas'Ui says:

      Several games have already cleared the 100GB line (Red Dead Online), ARMA3 with all DLCs, etc. 1000GB (1 Terabyte, unless it’s the power of 2 version rather than the memory-maker’s round numbers) might take a while longer, but MS FlightSim probably would if it kept all the data it streamed in; not sure if that’s an option or how much it’ll let you allocate to keep.

      The odd thing about memory space at the moment is that the big consumers are Professional software, which is moving towards cloud based/remote to work machines (thereby decreasing needed space); Video, which is moving to streaming services (thereby decreasing needed space); and Video Games, which are getting bigger. Video Games are likely taking up a higher percentage of the available space, which has let them grow faster than the actual memory capacity growth might otherwise allow.

  32. Thomas says:

    Update on the Switch hardware refresh Shamus: it was much smaller than people were expecting – just a screen upgrade. If you want to get one, it’s probably not worth waiting

  33. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    You should totally do youtube recommendation posts once in a while. It feeds the blog, it’s interesting to us readers and it gives visibility to creators.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      I’ve seen other bloggers write regular “link roundup” posts. That would be a way to do it without worrying that the entire blog becomes consumed by it.

  34. Glide says:

    Games I have cried at as an adult:
    The Walking Dead Season 2 – It would seem like this should be less of an emotional wringer than the first season, but I guess I was just more attached to the world and characters at this point. This mostly involved Kenny, who I had big loyalty to and tried to make everything work out for him, and in the end (as I saw it) I had to leave him to protect Clementine, even though I still loved him.

    The Witcher 3 – I’m embarrassed by this one. If everyone in this comments section made a list of the top ten moments in the Witcher 3 it’s acceptable to cry, I suspect none of them include the reason I burst into tears. Suffice it to say that I made a series of bad decisions that left me without many friends to fight the Wild Hunt with, and after a stinging rejection from one ally it somehow meant waaaaaay more to me than it should have that the unflinchingly loyal Zoltan volunteered his help before Geralt could even get the question out.

    Games that made me very emotional but not actually crying:
    Life is Strange – Before the Storm
    To the Moon, and its sequel Finding Paradise
    The Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 4

  35. Gautsu says:

    I may be remembering this incorrectly but isn’t part of the problem with FF12 the modular way it was designed; I could go to area A, B, or C at this moment, which means I could get cutscene A, B, or C in any order?

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      I can’t say for sure but I doubt it; that game was not shy about blocking off areas to railroad you when necessary. You had to fight the rogue tomato to start the (unrelated) main plot. Airship routes are sealed off until the plot wants you to have them. Imperial garrisons cut off the Mosphoran Highwaste until after the plot’s ready for you to go there. And that’s just the hard restrictions rather than the soft restrictions caused by monsters that greatly outlevel the player at various parts of the game.

      The actual pre-rendered cutscenes only tended to happen in this linear plot, which could really only proceed in a certain order. There were a few “intro to the area” type scenes (generally in-engine) but I never felt like those were artificially restricted by the need for non-linearity.

  36. ivan says:

    Sexy Brutale made me cry. Well after I had finished playing it, I was still thinking about it and what it meant, and I started crying.

  37. Felblood says:

    Wait, did the Epic Store actually stop giving away weekly free games for a while, or was this a joke? I know I didn’t remember to check every week, so that could have happened without my noticing. I definitely got a game a week ever since Christmas.

    It’s usually something that is about to launch a major DLC that they are hoping I’ll buy, or some bomb that is hoping that it can at least earn the studio some notoriety for their next release, but there are a few gem in there.

    I got Pathway, Slime Rancher, The Long Dark, Subnautica and Frostpunk, which I remember as great finds for the price of $0.00. That might say more about me than the actual selection.

  38. Felblood says:

    Somewhat unrelated, but I wasn’t sure what was the appropriate place to ask about this these days:

    I was wandering the You Tubes myself, and I came upon this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXE-ZMyHNm8) by 12tone, which finally answered a lot of the lingering questions that the “Bad and Wrong” Music Lessions, series had left me with.

    1) Shamus, are you still tinkering with music?

    2.) Did you ever figure out key changes?

    3.) Did this video answer any questions for you?

    1. Shamus says:

      1) Yes.
      2) Also yes.
      3) I really dig 12tone and find all the videos useful. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one, though.

  39. Felblood says:

    JRR Tolkien did leave behind some notes regarding a canceled Lord of The Rings sequel, titled “The New Shadow.”

    It’s incomplete, and a lot of the plot was clearly not ironed out yet, but basically, in a new age when the existence of elves and orcs has become thought of mostly as myth, the fallen Blue Wizards conspire to build a new body for Saruman’s spirit, and set him up as the Third Dark Lord.

    There are those who say that the resemblances between that incomplete outline and Terry Brook’s original Sword of Shanara volume can’t be entirely co-incidental, but nothing can be proven, and it probably wouldn’t matter if it could. Just an interesting bit of trivia.

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