Diecast #350: Mailbag Melee

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 12, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 90 comments

We’re reached another big round number of Diecasts, so I feel like I should… do… something. Or say something. So here’s a fun fact…

There are 79 episodes of the original Star Trek, 178 episodes of TNG, 176 of DS9, 172 of Voyager, and 98 episodes of Enterprise. An hour-long TV program in the USA is typically ~41 minutes. Which means there are, roughly, 480 hours of Star Trek television to watch. And no, we’re not counting the appalling new stuff like Discovery and Picard, which are action dramas with science words in them and not science fiction. Yes, there’s a difference, even if the dunderheads at CBS don’t know about it.

Anyway. 480 hours of trek. Diecast episodes these days are just a smidge over an hour. But back in the day when the cast was bigger, episodes regularly ran for an hour and a half. For the sake of laziness, let’s just assume the average is around an hour twenty. That means there is somewhere in the neighborhood of 460 hours of Diecast. So there’s almost as much Diecast as there is Star Trek.

None of that means anything. I just thought it was interesting.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

00:00 Rocketeer’s Final Fantasy XII Series

So hey, The Rocketeer… I’m looking to get in touch with you. Please email the Diecast (email in the header image) so I can bug you.

For those of you who want to read his FFXII series, here it is.

05:24 Shamus is still playing Final Fantasy XII for some reason?

Currently wandering the desert. Trying to explore the entire SandSea this time instead of making a beeline for Raithwall’s Tomb. Gettin’ SUPER bored of killing Jawas, though.

Also, I don’t know what to make of the floating orange spheresApparently called Salamand Entite? The wiki says it’s docile, but that’s not my experience at all. The thing always seems to be looking for a fight. that can one-shot my overleveled (~30) characters, but they can piss right off.

10:40 Paul is still playing Dyson Sphere Program for Some Reason

Link (YouTube)

12:38 Mailbag: Carmack’s Coding Retreat

Dear diecast,

If John Carmack invited you to join him on his coding retreat, and offered you to teach you any of his black magic coding skills he knew, what area/subject would you chose?

With kind regards,

This is the 3Blue1Brown series on Neural Networks I mentioned.

21:37 Mailbag: Erosion of Taste

Dear Diecast!

Don’t worry, this isn’t about them young’uns not liking the proper things the proper way anymore, but something I experienced personally: my taste in games kind of eroded.

To elaborate: back in my youth I was really into immersive sims like Thief, System Shock 2, stealth games like Hitman or Splinter Cell, tough round based tactics/RPG games like X-Com or Jagged Alliance 2 or the original Fallout 1+2
But nowadays, despite having very fond memories of those titles and having completed them multiple times over in my younger years, I cannot seem to enjoy them anymore. Not the originals themselves, or streamlined and modernized sequels, or spiritual successors, or even masterpieces like Prey keep me glued to the screen, or motivate me to boot them up ever again after spending a single evening with them.

How come? And do you two share similar experiences?

Greetings from Austria,
Norbert “ColkeusRattus” Lickl

P.S.: You’re saying my name well enough to be tolerable!

31:08 Mailbag: The Emotional Impact of Music

Hey Shamus, Paul, and the comments section,
I’ve been meaning to comment on last week’s post (week of July 5th) but I got sucked into the Rocketeer’s Final Fantasy XXII dialogue and have been enjoying that rabbit hole on my phone so the tab is occupied by twenty-sided is currently occupied on my phone. I guess both my question and answer tie in together: all of the games that have caused me to tear up or cry have done so through the use of music rather than just through the use of plot or character. This list includes things such as the original Final Fantasy VII (Aeris(th’s) death accompanied by the music, Mordin’s death in Mass Effect 3, and Shepherd’s revenge of Thane in Mass Effect 3 (no matter how corny the cutscene is I still tear up), Dom’s death in Gears of War 3 (to an instrumental version of Mad World), the middle ending of Hades.

Most of the most emotional scenes whether it is sadness or excitement within games are accompanied by outstanding music. And yet, gamers, reviewers, and journalists rarely bring up music within the genre. Why is there such a blind spot for this portion of our hobby? I hold The Maw from Halo: CE as one of the best examples of level design within a linear shooter, but that is largely because of the music that goes along with the gameplay. How many people would feel the emotional attachment to “their” Shepherd in ME without the theme accompanying the decisions you make?


Link (YouTube)

41:30 Mailbag: Accents

Dear Diecast.

As an australian I was very much amused by Shamus’s take on an australian accent, even if it did sound more like a distorted working class british accent(which seems to be fairly normal for Americans trying to sound australian). I would be very interested to hear your take on other countries’ accents as well.

Best wishes, Henry Chadban.

Link (YouTube)

52:56 Mailbag: Where do you start writing a story?

Dear Shamus!

I hope this mail finds you in good health.

It’s a question about how you start writing your fiction books. What kickstarts the whole process and what do you write first?

Best regards, DeadlyDark



[1] Apparently called Salamand Entite? The wiki says it’s docile, but that’s not my experience at all. The thing always seems to be looking for a fight.

From The Archives:

90 thoughts on “Diecast #350: Mailbag Melee

  1. Michael G says:

    I’ve played through Mass Effect 1 and 2 a few times but it was during my phase of muting all in game music, so I played both without ever hearing the soundtrack. To this day I’ve never actually listened to music from the game. I wonder if, listening to it now, I would have any emotional connection to it

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      The music is the best part of the series (especially ME2/ME3). You really missed out.

      1. tmtvl says:

        You mean the music was the only good part about ME2/3.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          Odd, I thought ME1 had far and away the best soundtrack. I actually can’t remember so much as a single track from the sequels.

          1. Geebs says:

            ME1 was the best by far
            ME2 had a pretty epic orchestral soundtrack which did a lot to paper over the cracks in the plot – for example, at least the first time through the game, the Normandy 2 reveal seems epic rather than stupid because the music is doing the daaaah….daaaaah…. Da da dummm dummm bit.
            ME3 goes BWARRRRRRM a lot because it came out after Inception

    2. Grimwear says:

      I played ME1 with music but I’m currently in a period where I mute music so I can play youtube videos in the background (I have too much stuff to listen to as it stands). I do like the ME and Halo soundtracks but honestly I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by muting it. I actually never played Undertale because I couldn’t mute the music. Also I tried getting into Mandalore Gaming’s game reviews but I couldn’t because he puts music and sound design at the front of every video and I do not care about that stuff.

    3. Shufflecat says:

      The music in the Mass Effect series is really good. I haven’t played 3, but 1 & 2 are probably in the top 5 best game soundtracks of their era IMO.

      It’s not just that the music is good, it also perfectly mirrors and deepens the games’ visual style and atmosphere in a away that’s rare even among good soundtracks. The ambient stuff somehow manages to capture the feel of that Syd Mead-ish art style in music form. The more epic-y tracks bring the series’ latent Babylon 5 DNA to the fore, but IMO executed much, much better than in B5’s actual music.

      I can’t imagine the Mass Effect games without their music. To put it in movie terms, it’s like trying to imagine The Terminator or Tim Burton’s Batman without their music.

      I recommend looking some of it up on youtube, at least, but if you liked the games back in the day, it’s legit worth revisiting them with the music on to see how it changes things.

  2. Chris says:

    After Shamus declared he had no questions for Carmack, I hoped Paul would’ve come up with something cool. Shame he didn’t give an answer.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      I do notice that Paul doesn’t tend to say anything during the Mailbag segments in the Diecast episodes that I listen to, usually Shamus is the only one stating his opinion.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        It is Shamus’ show. I’m mostly here so he’s not talking to himself.
        If you’d like to hear me talking to myself, there’s lots of that on the internet. Here’s one convenient packaging: PSAWH: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLszaR-m_1Qlr1byu3bUE0KSwfscEWrJGe

        As far as Carmack goes, I would rather learn at my own pace and direction, rather than from a celebrity. If I ended up on the retreat anyway, I’d ask him to work on fledgling:

  3. Liam says:

    I have consumed orders of magnitude more diecast than trek stuff.

    Which doesn’t mean anything. I’m not even sure if it is interesting.

  4. MerryWeathers says:

    And yet, gamers, reviewers, and journalists rarely bring up music within the genre.

    What? Memorable soundtracks in games can and do get attention from gamers, reviewers, and journalists.
    Composers like Koji Kondo, Martin O’Donnel, Jeremy Soule, and Grant Kirkhope get praised for their work.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      “Nobuo Uematsu’s score” used to be one of the defining features of Final Fantasy.

      1. Syal says:

        Especially for turn-based RPGs, especially especially where they only have a static image, the music becomes 90% of the fight. There’s barely anything to see, so what you hear determines the mood for the fight. Even though I play most games with the sound off now, I’ve still got those themes playing in my head.

        If critics don’t talk about it, it’s probably because they don’t know how. Music is an ocean of complexity all by itself. All the toe-dabblers are stuck with “I like it”, “It’s serviceable”, or “it’s bad”.

        1. Daimbert says:

          And to be honest, that’s kinda what you want from music in a game (or movie). If you actually notice it what it’s doing while playing or watching, then it’s dominating things too much and distracting from the “meat” of the media.

          Soundtracks, though, do tend to get noticed when people analyze them later. I’m watching the Star Wars trilogy for noise while working, and John Williams is famous for his scores. Chuck Sonnenberg goes on and on about how much better Ron Jones’ scores were on TNG than the guys who replaced him. Danny Elfman was noted for his superhero movie and TV show themes. Really good soundtracks/scores get noticed, but it is mostly for how they support the rest of the work, not for themselves.

  5. Joshua says:

    Random tangent after starting to read that FF 12 summary: I never understood why there was a huge fascination in the series for the Thief Class. You can try to repeatedly attempt to steal something with a 5-10% Drop Rate that will make one character fight 5-10% better. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an edge with difficult fights, maybe you shouldn’t be having 1/3 of your party doing nothing but Steal attempts in them.

    Of course, Final Fantasy games are the king of non-XP grinding systems, so I guess it’s par for the course.

    1. Rho says:

      This is a good question, and the answer is that’s it’s a unique mechanic with gambling-like qualities. By and large, no other mechanic works similarly in the games: normally you just go to a vender or chest, push the button, and get your reward.

      By contrast, the Steal option has a risk v. reward angle ; that is, you might fail the Steal odds but if or when you succeed you’ll get a future advantage. The best stuff is usually taken from big, flashy boss fights so the player is primed for excitement. Then, on top of that, it’s random, so the player has the build-up and energy of a slot machine.

      1. Rho says:

        Atop the mechanical style, there’s a LOT you can do with a Thief character, thematically. Thieves are, or can be, roguish characters who inherently operate outside the law, but their exploits are not intrinsically violent. This gives them a lot of dramatic flexibility to become folk heroes. Additionally, they can easily justify having friends or allies almost anywhere, the experience needed to guide the party, or any special knowledge to make the plot go forward. (Like, “I know aback way into that enemy town,” & etc.)

        In addition, they’re middle-of-the-road enough to justify a lot of mechanical flexibility. The Thief is something of a generic adventurer, and this means a designer can take any individual Thief character in a specific direction without spoiling the distinctiveness.

    2. Chris says:

      I feel like its there for the superfans and completionists. People who rob everyone because who knows what they might carry. level 999 superboss that kills you in 2 hits? Maybe he has a superweapon, its hard to steal from him after all. 5 hp blob monster? Maybe he has a 1% chance to have a superweapon because its hard not to kill him instantly. Also a great way to sell game guides. FFX had the zodiac spear and random chests that would remove it, FFX-2 you had to listen to some longass story without skipping any text or you wouldnt be able to get 100% completion anymore.

    3. Henson says:

      Actually, I feel like FF12 is one of the best iterations of the Steal command. In most FF games, Steal does feel like a wasted action, because most of the time it results in nothing, and when it does, it’s usually a very cheap and/or common item. With the slowed-down nature of turn-based combat, a turn wasted feels pretty significant, and more so if you keep doing so turn after turn.

      But in the real-time FF12, everyone generally gets more turns, faster, so a fruitless Steal doesn’t feel as costly. In addition, you can easily make a Gambit for Steal so that it happens automatically, so that you don’t take any extra button presses or even have to think about it (I often make one of my front-line fighters Steal at enemy HP=100%). The result is a gradual acquisition of items you can sell in town at significant benefit, for very little cost in time.

      1. John says:

        The various Thief abilities in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance are pretty good. A properly specced Thief usually has good odds of success and the fact that the player can always see enemy inventories means that the player never has to guess whether stealing is a waste of time or not.

        1. Syal says:

          Final Fantasy Tactics also allows you to steal an enemy’s equipment, directly affecting their stats in the current battle.

          I think the best version of it is in Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass*. You can see an enemy’s inventory, and you can see the steal percentage chance, and all the item are never consumables; it’s either money, or items that give permanent bonuses to the whole party, or in-battle effects like stealing the bones from a skeleton or stealing the brambles from someone hiding in brambles (or stealing someone’s Dignity, leaving them depressed and greatly weakened). If you don’t like what you can steal, just cancel and do something else.

          *(I will plug JatPM until I die.)

  6. Chad+Miller says:

    re: Salamand Entites in Final Fantasy XII: elementals generally aggro if you cast magic around them, whether it’s directed against them or not. You’ll want to turn off your casters’ gambits, switch to gambits with no spells (easier in the HD remaster that lets you have multiple gambit sets) or hold the flee button while they’re nearby.

    (oddly enough, the “rando super-overleveled enemies wandering around in areas full of normal stuff” is one of the things I like about the game)

    1. Bookwyrm says:

      This fellow basically already said it.

      Leave the Elementals alone until later, and leave the Entites (sort of super-elementals) the heck alone unless/until you’re ready for end-game hunting of materials.

      To save on making a second comment: Thank you for introducing me to Rocketeer’s FF12 review. That already promises a great deal of reading enjoyment!

  7. bobbert says:

    “So much more interesting than the sphere-grid…”

    That’s not too hard.

    1. Retsam says:

      They’re talking about the remaster version right? I think my biggest complaint about the original version of FFXII was that the board system was so much less interesting than the sphere grid – there was a boring “First-Order-Optimal-Stategy” of just rushing the Quickening spots, as those made so many of the early bosses trivial, and everyone having the exact same grid just kinda made the characters boring and interchangeable. (Which I guess is a bit of ludonarrative consistency, as they were also mostly boring and interchangeable in the narrative as well) It’s like a version of FFX where everyone is Kimahri.

      Sure, the Sphere Grid was somewhat tedious (I think they should have doubled the stat boosts into half the squares, and slowed leveling to compensate, for the sake of less busywork) – but I thought it was an interesting compromise where each character is unique and specialized (except Kimahri) but still gives some choices, particularly in the later game, about how to develop them.

  8. ColeusRattus says:

    Dang. Misspelled my name in the e-mail signature…

    1. ColeusRattus says:

      And since I now got to listen to it: interesting point! It’s true that I feel less engaged by them. Other factors are that I have less time to devote to gaming, since I have a family and a job.
      And I have more games to play.
      So if a game bores or frustrates, I simply do not put up with it anymore, but go do something else.

      But still, I am looking for that stimulation, and I feel I found it, at least for a while, in VR games. Back when the first “big” consumer level headsets came out in 2016, it was like the wild west: there were no established rules or concepts for movement and gameplay, and traditional 2D mechanics only translate suboptimally. But that too seems to “crystallize” into conventions nowadays, especially since Facebook is conquering the market so aggressively.

  9. tmtvl says:

    When you say “American accent” I immediately think “yeehaw, pardner, where’s the hootenanny? Saddle up, pilgrim!”

    Although I recognise the fact that what most of us Europeans think of as normal “American English” is in fact the Californian accent/dialect we get inundated with through films and other media.

    1. John says:

      As a California native, I of course believe that there is no such thing as a California accent. People in California speak perfectly normally. It’s everybody else who has accents.

      More seriously, actors in American film and television are, as a general rule, not consciously or deliberately adopting California accents. While many movies and and television programs are filmed in California, actors come from all over the country and very few of them need to modify their accents in order to get work. I’ve lived on both coasts and now live in the Midwest and I’ve found that regional accents, at least among college-educated urbanites, are fairly muted. I can tell the difference between the way I talk and the way a native Midwesterner talks (it’s in the vowels) but I’d be surprised if a foreigner could. I don’t think that there’s any appreciable difference between what I presume is Shamus’ Pennsylvania accent and my own.

      1. Lino says:

        I’ve noticed that with British English, as well. Take this video, for example. When isolated like that, I can definitely tell the differences between different accents. But if you were to show me these clips without context, the only accents I’d be able to guess would probably be RP, MLE and Cockney. And of course, Scottish, Irish and Welsh. But those last three don’t really count, because they’re very easy to tell apart.

        With American English, it’s even harder. I can tell when someone is from New York, or from a Southern state, but other than that, you all sound quite similar to me…

        1. John says:

          There are some distinctive regional American accents, to be sure. I’ve heard the Boston “pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd” accent in real life. My father in law had a New York accent. But I’ve also worked with people from Boston who I thought had no discernible accent. And my father in law’s accent was pretty easy to overlook most of the time. It was only ever really obvious when he said words like “because”–at which point, to be fair, it became unmistakable. When I was a teenager, I visited some family in Maine, thousands of miles from California, and I was devastated to find that almost everyone I met there sounded almost exactly like me, with the exception of a single fisherman who kept pronouncing “Washington” as “Warshington”. The point, I suppose, is that while American regional accents exist, anyone doing one in film or television is probably exaggerating it for effect.

      2. Joshua says:

        I’ve lived in Texas (Fort Worth) for the past 15 years after moving here from Ohio, and the population of Urban and/or college-educated has a lot more muted accents* as well, despite what popular culture would have you believe. You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a 20-year-old who grew up here and one who had moved here from the Midwest within the past year.

        *Shamus’s daughter may have a different experience being in a much smaller town.

        1. Thomas says:

          Sadly it seems pretty universal that there are class distinctions in accents, and at a university level everyone has some kind of boring transatlantic accent.

          Apparently Scottish is an exception. Whilst the other accents are fading Scottish accents are becoming _more_ pronounced even in urban centres.

          1. Lino says:

            Scottish? Has there been a recent wave of Scottish immigrants to the US or something?

            1. Thomas says:

              I meant universal universal (although not with the exceptions obviously, I assume theres more!). I think if you go to Germany the people at the universities will have less distinct accents than the people who don’t.

              And I believe the loss of local accents is happening across the world sadly

    2. Lino says:

      God, I love exaggerated Texas accents! I first fell in love with it when I started watching Looney Tunes in English, and heard Yosemite Sam talking (even though he’s technically from California, because that’s where Yosemite is? Anyway, as a child I always thought he was from Texas, and it’s hard to convince myself otherwise).

      The very first time I met an actual Texan was at a job interview (he was an expatriate). And as offensive as it sounds, at the back of my mind I was a little disappointed that he had a completely standard American accent. If he hadn’t told me he was from Texas, I literally would have never guessed!

      Over the years, I’ve heard other Texan people speak as well (even ones in quite remote areas), and I’m starting to think that no one actually talks like a “steretypical” Texan. I guess they’ve been lying to us our entire lives :(

      1. John says:

        Yosemite Sam could well be from Texas. I don’t think he’s supposed to be. Mel Blanc would have been using a different outrageous accent if that were the case. But he technically could be. Yosemite Sam is a Wild West outlaw-type, and the implication is that Yosemite is his nickname rather than his actual first name.

      2. Joshua says:

        People do talk like the “stereotypical Texan”, but it’s usually politicians, realtors, or salesmen. Basically, it’s an affectation to sell you something.

        See my comment above about being a Midwesterner moving to Texas. There may be people who ask if I grew up around Fort Worth, but absolutely NOBODY has listened to me speak and asks what State I’m from or assumes I’m not a Texan.

        I think we’ve had enough decades of a shared popular culture that has definitely mellowed the accents down to where there’s little variation between them and any other town USA.

  10. bobbert says:

    I have never heard of Dyson Sphere Program.

    I look at the screen-shot and I just get angrier and angrier that the mortar joints between the future-bricks don’t match at the facet boundaries.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, the stitching isn’t great. On the other hand, it’s actually built out of individual particles, so it’s not just a big texture painted over a quad. There is really all those little pieces in the geometry. Makes it a little easier to forgive the jank where they meet the struts.

  11. Daimbert says:

    Sound and music in games tends to be downplayed — the other aspects like plot and gameplay tend to be given more attention — but it can have a huge impact. I think that one of the things that made Fatal Frame so creepy was the understated sound and soundtrack used while walking through the mansion, especially since some of it was slightly off itself and so a bit creepy, and the sound being understated let that come through. Also, the Personas have general music on the “world map”, and at least Persona 3 and Persona 4 changed what played there to reflect what was going on in the game. Persona 4 is most notable for this since at one point when some very depressing events happen the music there changes to a subdued and sad tune that really fits with the overall feeling that you’re supposed to have at that point.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      There’s quite a few games I’ve played, which had good music paired with good gameplay. The oldest among them would probably be The Neverhood – lots of weird, wacky or playful music which perfectly matched the world, puzzles, and characters of that game. Fallout 1’s music really sucked me into the post-apocalyptic, burned-out retro-future pseudo-50s style. More recently, Rimworld’s cowboy-esque music was great to relax to, while ordering my space-cowboys around in adventures. Blasphemous has a similar vibe to Fallout, but instead of retro apocalypse, it’s Catholic Desecration meets Cosmic Body Horror, which has a great backup from incidental outdoors-sounding tracks, quiet guitar in the isolated halls, and more complex guitar pieces with backup instruments that highlight the not-quite-desolate and less-evil sections of the game. (For example, the town you go back to for healing, etc.)

      On the other hand, a strong musical score won’t save a bad game, or one that doesn’t match your preferred playstyle. I could (and have) listen to Nuclear Throne’s music without playing the game, because it has a great post-nuclear, guitar-heavy track makes you feel like you’re in that world, better even than Fallout ever did. On the other hand I find its levels repetitive, the combat’s way too hard, and there’s not much else in the way of mechanics. So Gungeon’s soundtrack helps out the stronger game, even if the soundtrack is a bit more generic. :)

      1. Daimbert says:

        If a pre-order or Collectors’ Edition came with a soundtrack, that was a pretty strong reason for me to pick it up, because even if the game wasn’t all that great I’d probably get use out of the soundtrack, since I often listen to them if I need noise while working (they’re meant to be background music anyway, so are usually interesting enough when you are paying attention but not overly demanding when you don’t want to be paying attention). So, yeah, a good soundtrack won’t save a bad game, but it can help to set the tone and mood which can help with the plot and characterization, and often can be enjoyable on its own.

        1. John says:

          I find that game soundtracks are pretty good for exercising too as well. One of the nice things about some of the older games available on GOG is that they often include the game music as separate MP3-downloads for no extra charge. For newer indie games, you can often find the game’s music as OGG files somewhere in the game’s install directory. It might be nice to have official Bastion or Crypt of the Necrodancer soundtracks, but all that my extra money would really get me at this point would be properly named and tagged copies of the files I already have on my phone.

          Huh. I’ve just realized that I should have grabbed the Transistor soundtrack the last time I had that installed.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Yeah, I love that about GOG. I’ve pretty much loaded all of the soundtracks for the games I’ve bought from them onto a USB drive and listen to them when I want some noise.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      Sunless Sea is another case of a game made (or perhaps saved) by the music. The pacing is absolutely glacial with many long stretches of uneventful sailing across dark waters, but (at least in my case, I don’t blame the people who felt otherwise) the incredible music managed to transform that from tedium to something like “drinking in the atmosphere”.

  12. Chad+Miller says:

    Re: Americans cringing at accents – As someone raised in Oklahoma, I’ve definitely heard attempts at Southern accents that made me cringe. This probably has something to do with it being one of the more embarrassing accents you can have in the US these days (to the point that urban/educated Southerners know how to sound Midwestern if they really want to)

    More “neutral” accents that sound wrong or off are hard to find examples of, although I think Iwan Rheon pulled it off in that short-lived Inhumans TV show. (I seriously don’t even know which accent that’s supposed to be, but it felt to me like it landed on “trying to sound American and failing”)

    1. John says:

      A lot of people trying to do “a Southern accent” end up going for the stereotypical “Kentucky Fried Foghorn Leghorne drawl” rather than an actual, specific accent as spoken by a real person living somewhere in the South.

      1. Joshua says:

        *cough* Knives Out

      2. bobbert says:

        Foghorn Leghorn was based on a actual senator.

  13. Lino says:


    as much Diecast as the is Star Trek

    Should be “there”.

    59:56 – Diablo Swing Orchestra has entered the chat!

    On a more serious note, style mashups are some of my favourite things. Hell, some of my favourite authors are ones who mash different styles together – Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Roger Zelazny, Dan Simmons… But there are definitely bad ways of doing style mashups.

    1. bobbert says:

      Dan Simmons?

      Isn’t that the Canterbury Tails in SPACE guy?

      1. Lino says:

        Yup, the very same. Later on (books 3 and 4) it becomes Eastern Philosophy mixed with some other good stuff IN SPACE. Overall, I’d say Hyperion is one of my very favourite book series :)

        1. Shufflecat says:

          “Later on (books 3 and 4) it becomes Eastern Philosophy mixed with some other good stuff IN SPACE.”

          …With a little Heinlein-style uncomfortable sex weirdness. Can’t really elaborate further without spoilers, but it bears the warning.

          That said, I love the Hyperion Cantos as well, and totally recommend them. Incredibly densely written galaxy and generation spanning space opera, that somehow manages to feel both harder-SF* and more fantasy-prose than most space opera at the same time. Deals with Strong AI proliferation, theology, art, extensive time travel and N-dimensional shenanigans, directed human evolution, the philosophical meaning of death, the role of war in society, and the scariest versions (plural) of The Terminator you’ll probably ever encounter, all in 2 stories told in 4 books that feels like reading 10 books (in a good way).

          *Roughly on the level of the Known Space or Culture series.

          1. bobbert says:

            Dune 5 also had uncomfortable sex weirdness. Was there something in the water?

            1. Also Tom says:

              The ’70s and early ’80s had a lot of uncomfortable sex weirdness in the literary world, I suspect due to the influence of the free love movement. Just to give you an idea of how weird even the mainstream got, in 1976 the Governor-General’s Literary Award (very prestigious Canadian thing) went to a novel about a woman who gets into a…relationship…with a bear.

              1. bobbert says:

                Oh, Canada….

                As far as artistic fads go, I guess it is better than the one in architecture, “Any square can make a symmetrical pretty building, but it takes a bold visionary artist to make an ugly one.”

                After all, a terrible book can be ignored or incinerated, but a heidious building sticks around for generations.

  14. Daimbert says:

    I just remembered that at least a couple of board games — A Touch of Evil and Last Night on Earth — actually came with soundtracks to set up the mood for the board gaming session. I really liked both the soundtrack and the board game of the former, while the second is more zombie focused and so not as entertaining.

  15. Lino says:

    Regarding music, it’s definitely a vital part of any experience, because it affects us on such a visceral level – we don’t have to think about it like when reading a book or watching a movie. It directly engages us on an emotional level.

    Also, here’s lifehack for you – when you’re watching a really scary movie, and you don’t want to get scared, just mute it, or plug your ears – even the most frightening jump scares lose their punch when the sound is off!

    On the topic of accents, my perspective probably isn’t all that helpful. Whenever I hear someone attempting a Bulgarian accent, it’s usually by the very, very occasional English or American who’s decided to move here. And I get so impressed by their attempt at even LEARNING Bulgarian (which is notoriously difficult for someone coming from English), that I immediately overlook any mistakes they might be making.

    Still, I do have some accent-related gripes. As snobbish as it sounds, I often cringe at the way some of my fellow Bulgarians speak English with a heavy accent. Now, it’s understandable for me to feel upset whenever I hear some of our politicians speak their Caveman-English (in fact, I still feel embarassed by one of our Euro MPs from 5-6 years ago; such an imbecile, and he’s still working there, the idiot). But I don’t know why I feel that way whenever I hear a fellow Bulgarian speak English with a heavy accent.

    Weirdly enough, I’m much more lenient when listenting to other non-natives speak in a heavy accent. In fact, I always find them very pleasant to listen to, and I’m much more understanding of why they mispronounce certain things. I mean, of course Russians’ R’s are way too hard, and of course their E’s are way too soft! They’re just not used to the fact that in English these sounds are the opposite. And it’s obvious why the Japanese struggle with the English “L”. It’s because their language doesn’t even use that sound!

    But whenever a Bulgarian starts speaking broken English, I immediately start to feel frustrated at all of their mistakes. “Come on man, when have you ever heard a British or American person use such hard D’s, T’s, and R’s?!?! They’d get a migrane if they tried talking like that!”

    And I don’t know why that always bothers me. While I may not remember it, there was definitely a time when my English sounded like that (chances are, it still does – haven’t spoken to a native in more than a year). The worst thing is, I’ve almost always been like this – even before my brief stint working as an English teacher. At least I don’t actually tell people whenever I’m annoyed by their English accent. So while I may be a huge bigot, at least I’m not an annoying bigot :D

    1. bobbert says:

      “Come on man, when have you ever heard a British or American person use such hard D’s, T’s, and R’s?!?! They’d get a migrane if they tried talking like that!”

      You’d be surprised. There are a lot of small farm-towns where everyone’s (great-) grand parents came from the Austrian Empire. Slavic style consents are decently common in everyday speech there.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      Is it common to find your own accent annoying? Because I find German accents among the most annoying, and I can’t say I’m accent-free. Except I really like Steve Blum’s fake German accent in Prey* (spoilers). Maybe I just need to think of myself as a villain!

      I wonder how bad my accent is when I speak Dutch, though. I’m far less good at it than English, but I talk way more with actual native speakers. At least one person somehow thought I might be Belgian, so it can’t be abysmal, I guess. Still, it means my CCCCCCHHH G is not hard enough.

      * “Resorsful”, though… too real!

      1. Lino says:

        Actually yes, sometimes I do find my own accent annoying. It’s weird, because whenever I read English, in my mind I always read it in a British accent, even if the person writing it isn’t British. The only exception to that is reading something by Shamus, just because I’ve listened to him talk a lot. But when I speak, I try my best to speak in as neutral an accent as I can, as far removed from a British accent, otherwise I sound like a complete douchebag :D (even British-sounding pronunciation is what comes more naturally to me).

        Regarding your second point, my German is extremely bad, so I can’t really distinguish between accents. But I do like the way German sounds, and I’ve never minded their English accents.

        Spanish accents, however are a whole different thing for me. My level of Spanish is good enough to read and write, and theoretically good enough to speak. However, I have a big problem with Spanish and Latinos – they all talk like machine guns!

        And that’s a problem, because sometimes they use a word I don’t know. Normally, I’d use context to understand what they mean. But since they’re all machine guns, by the time I’ve done so, they’re already 5 sentences past that point, and I’ve completely lost the thread! This is compounded by the fact that every single country in Latin America has their own little specifics in how they speak. E.g. Argentinians substitute two of the most common Spanish letters with a “sh” sound (which Spanish doesn’t normally use), making most words sound very different from what I’m used to. Cubans like to eat a whole bunch of letters, etc. But that’s not all! WITHIN each country there are a bunch of dialects and regional accents, further complicating things!

        Now, this isn’t an issue when talking to a native speaker – all the ones I’ve talked to were very accommodating to talk slowly and clearly. But watching TV or a movie without subtitles?! Forget about it :D

      2. Thomas says:

        I’m a big fan of (some) German accents. I can’t handle your Swiss or Bavarian variations, but I reckon a lot of German accents are underappreciated

  16. sheer_falacy says:

    I find that music in Indie games tends to be a bigger part of the game than it does in AAA games. Think of, say, Supergiant, where Darren Korb’s music is a critical part of emotional moments in all of their games – Zulf’s Theme, Paper Boats, etc. Look at Undertale and similar games like LISA, or OMORI, or Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass.

    Music can really shape the experience. In Hypnospace Outlaw, some of the music is intentionally quite bad, and it absolutely helps sell the 90s geocity page aesthetic of the game.

  17. Grimwear says:

    Reading that Star Trek info reminds me of RLM. I’ve never watched Star Trek but I do enjoy listening to them talk about it. So if you’re ever out of things to talk about Shamus I’d be more than happy to read about your favourite episodes and what you found interesting about their conundrum of the day.

    In regards to tastes changing, it happens. I loved Advance Wars as a child and beat them but I tried replaying them and just found I was struggling and not enjoying myself so I moved on. Maybe one day I’ll feel like playing it and enjoy it but there’s no point forcing myself to play something I don’t enjoy. Tastes move all over the place. I got tired of reading Warhammer 40k books so I jumped to Artemis Fowl, books for 12 year olds and I enjoyed it. I then moved to Joe Abercrombie’s fantasy series, and have now jumped to Warhammer horror. Nothing wrong with switching it up or finding new things to enjoy if the old isn’t working.

  18. GoStu says:

    Aw, I rather liked Picard. Is it the great thought-provoking sci-fi that TNG at its finest was? No… but I’d argue from actually having watched a lot of the assorted Star Treks that it’s probably better than the average Star Trek episode. There’s Good Trek, and there’s Bad Trek… Good Trek is excellent, Bad Trek is really, really bad. I’ll agree that they’re more “Action Drama” than Sci-Fi but at least they’re competently put together and tell a decent story.

    I guess that’s my most contentious nerd opinion: Star Trek(s), taken as an average, are not very good shows. DS9 has probably got the best batting average, TNG and Voyager each have big hits and terrible misses, and the original series was bold for the time but doesn’t hold up.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      It’s about what you think Trek is. Picard isn’t about discovery, it’s not about an utopian society confronted with new problems (they even somehow reintroduced poverty on Earth…), it’s not about the power of logic and empathy over violence. It’s not good or bad Trek, it’s not Trek at all, it’s generic sci-fi. That’s what hurts about it most, much more than how stupid and mean spirited it got.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        To be fair there was a fairly strong backlash against DS9 based exactly on not being “real star trek” because it was, pardon the pun, “stationary” and not focused on exploration. For the record I have no horse in the race as I have not even seen Picard.

        1. Daimbert says:

          DS9 early on did a LOT of exploration. While I’d agree that Picard wasn’t about exploration, I think it worked there because that wasn’t what the show was about and it did follow on from the characters, and so its problems weren’t with that part of the premise, at least. Discovery is the show that I’d say suffered because it wasn’t at all about discovery or exploration at all, and instead leaped into a war. It was the first modern show and already differed by focusing on one main character instead of a more ensemble or triumvirate cast. Dropping exploration really made it look like the modern works just weren’t going to be Star Trek anymore.

    2. Daimbert says:

      Whenever I rewatch TOS or DS9, I’m always struck by the same thought: how overall GOOD they are as shows. So obviously I think that TOS still holds up fairly well, even with the oddities that come from it being from a radically different time. Whenever I rewatch TNG, I always think that it’s not as bad as I remembered it to be (and I did think it was entertaining). I haven’t rewatched any of the others yet.

  19. GoStu says:

    RE: Game Music

    Game music is hugely important to me. Thinking over my favorite games in recent memory AND of all time, they’ve all got memorable soundtracks; in fact, I actively listen to their soundtracks even when not playing the game.

    – BPM: Bullets Per Minute
    – DOOM (2016)
    – Hades

    All Time (not an exhaustive list):
    – Mass Effect series
    – FTL: Faster Than Light
    – Halo series
    – Half-Life 2 (Vortal Combaaaaat)
    – Crypt of the Necrodancer
    – The Binding of Isaac
    – Morrowind

    Hell, even if it’s not the music… game sound is key. Any game with firearms or combat in general needs nice meaty sound effects to lend weight to the idea that “You’re doing something right now”.

    Sight AND sound are probably two of our most important senses, and I’m not going to trust the games industry with touch, taste, or smell any time soon. Billions of dollars have been spent pursuing graphical fidelity and distinctive visual styles – audio deserves attention too!

    1. DeadlyDark says:

      I recently bought Arma3, because fans ported original OFP campaign there (I loved OFP back then), and the first thing I noticed, during first firefight, is how scary is to be under fire. Devs really nailed the sounds of bullets passing through. If it was an option, I’d just dig up my trench and hide there.

      A game (series) that I love to death, is Thief (original three), and it’s hugely because these games have such unique and evocative sound stage. Ambient, voices even sounds of steps, it’s so… Engrossing, I must say. I would love these games simply for the gameplay and levels, but sound direction seals the deal.

      And it isn’t like Michael Richard Plowman, Amon Robin or Jesper Kyd made bad soundtracks for Splinter Cell and Hitman, far from it, I love listen to them in my playlist, but Eric Broscius aimed for something very unique and he made it so strong, it’s my number one

    2. tmtvl says:

      When it comes to great games with great soundtracks I immediately reach for Chrono Trigger and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. These may be the only two games which I love which are actually great games. And it helps that they have great soundtracks as well as visual design.

  20. The Rocketeer says:

    The site has finally bottomed out.

    Gautsu: The Final Fantasy XXII series is coming. Not this week, maybe not this month. But someday, for you, it’s coming.

    1. The Røck'tïr says:

      I’d also like to congratulate Shamus for coining the word “bøh’wïmoth,” which I think must be shorthand for what he described as “a terrible reading experience.”

  21. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Accents wise us French get put through the ringer in English speaking media. I’m watching the new Leverage season (and so should you), and there are three episodes featuring people speaking French, with only one (the last) having actual French speakers.

    Now there are two main issues. The first is simple mispronunciations, like saying silent letters (“bonne appétite” instead of “bon appétit”), that’s fine. What really hurts is this bullshit “hon hon” super aggressive jerk sounding accent that the actors use that *does not exist in France*. We have some regional accents that are more aggressive than others, like Marseille’s and the fortunately soon to be extinct Parisian, but that “hon hon” crap? Never heard that in my life.

    Speaking of French, Paul when you talk about that language purity organization do you mean the accadémie française? Because I wouldn’t say they protect the “purity” of the language, they just update the grammatical rules once in a while but they don’t (and can’t) oppose the evolution of the language.

    1. Lino says:

      To be fair, French is quite a difficult language. For example, some years ago I watched a video about how wrong some actors’ accents were in some movies. As part of the explanation, the expert talked about how to pronounce the French “R” sound. And I couldn’t do it! I tried, I really did, but the closest I got was sounding like those actors with the bad accents…

      1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        Oh it’s fine, my point isn’t “everyone should speak flawless French”, it’s “please don’t use that made up incredibly insulting accent”

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Reminds me of the criticism of Dragon Age Leliana’s “horrible fake French accent”. Turns out the VA is natively French (though I can’t say if she’s hamming it up).

  22. Thomas says:

    SF Debris is getting towards the end of all those episodes of Trek and it only took him 13 years and 5 video hosting sites

  23. Philadelphus says:

    Hmm, so what do we call this fandom then? Casties? Die-ers? (Wait, ix-nay on that last one…)

    1. pseudonym says:


  24. Dreadjaws says:

    Hearing about what you like and dislike about FFXII gets me even more convinced that you would absolutely despise FFXIII. For instance, the leveling system is strictly linear. You can’t specialize and decide if you’re going to focus on XP, magic or whatever. Everything is in a straight path where you will unlock things one after another with no rhyme or reason. The only choice you might get is that you could, if you wanted, not get certain bonuses. At certain points, some paths branch out but not in a “you can choose to go this way or the other”, but in a “you can choose to go this way and take a sidestep to grab this here before you continue or you can choose to go this way and not stop to grab this”. Basically, your only choice is “I want all bonuses available” or “I only want 95% of bonuses available just for kicks”.

    At least I think that’s how it works. I never decided to not grab any of those branching bonuses, since there’s absolutely no reason not to. It’s not like not grabbing them nets you experience that you could spend elsewhere, since the game always gives you much more experience than you need, even if you deliberately avoid grinding. The game already gatekeeps your progress every few levels, so maybe you also need to grab everything before proceeding, but since I always grab everything I wouldn’t know if that’s the case.

    So bottomline, either you have a choice between being ridiculously powerful or only “ridiculously powerful -1” or you get no choice at all.

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      I don’t think that’s really an accurate explanation of what’s going on with the Crystarium, and I suspect it’s because you (understandably) misunderstood how those branches work; it’s not like Final Fantasy X where skipping a branch means it’s “gone” unless you backtrack later. It’s more like Final Fantasy XII where once a space is adjacent you can fill it at any point as long as you have the points for it. SO for the vast majority of the game, the choice being made is more like “do I want to get these stat ups, or do I want to press on to higher tiers and learn more abilities first?” The options are also typically balanced so that the branches are more expensive than stat-ups on the main line, meaning that if you’re looking to stat up in the fastest way then the play is generally to beeline the main paths on the jobs you care about, then backtrack and start filling in the branches afterwards.

      The gatekeeping doesn’t apply to the side branches at all, and is probably actually designed as a bit of rubber-banding for players who somehow miss a bunch of XP (by skipping fights or doing badly as you get less XP for lower scores at the end of combat). A player who beelined but didn’t fill in all the side branches can still progress to higher levels, and double back much later if they get an XP glut later on.

      (and yes, this is all terribly explained, and is part of the trend starting with X to make the leveling system overcomplicated without making the character building more interesting. My “favorite” part is how you buy a skill by holding down the button and having it slowly deplete points while the animation plays. Also, you can start this process even if you don’t have enough points to actually buy the skill, which is to say this “feature” only exists to let you spend points on literally nothing)

  25. Shufflecat says:

    My favorite video game soundtrack of the past few years was “In Other Waters”. I got the game after watching a bit of it on a let’s play, so I already knew the music was good, but when I listened to it separately from the game (the version I got came with the soundtrack album), I was really surprised at just HOW good. This soundtrack is amazing, and has marked the composer as an up-and-comer to watch out for in my mind.

    The game itself is quite good: basically a novel reskinning of point-and-click adventure game mechanics, but very evocative and clever. Little to no replay value, unfortunately, but DAMN, was the soundtrack hidden gold. I actually recommend getting it even if the game looks like not your thing, just because of the soundtrack value.

    Another recent-ish (a few years old now) game with great music that comes to mind is Echo, but unfortunately that soundtrack doesn’t stand on it’s own. It’s amazing in-game, but the tracks are too short to be listenable on their own, and there’s no official album so they have to be ripped from the game files.

    A good recent-ish (likewise a couple years ago) video game music moment I had was Aer: Memories of Old. The game is short and relatively simple, but good IMO (kind of in the same style/vibe as Journey or Rime). A lot of it revolves around a flight mechanic where your character can transform at will into a bird and back into a human, and the first time you go bird, the flight mechanics (which are very good), visual setting, and music all combine brilliantly at once into a feeling of freedom and exhilaration that makes you really taste how good it would be to be able to actually fly like a bird IRL. The soundtrack unfortunately doesn’t stand on it’s own (not bad, just not engaging IMO), but that one moment in game was amazing.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I really, really, like the second track in Aer: Memories of Old, “Home”—I think that’s the one you’re referring to, as it plays while flying in the first area of the game. (It’s the one with that awesome little banjo lick.) Otherwise yeah, it’s overall decent but not really memorable. I did enjoy the game quite a bit, though, right up until literally the ending cutscene, which felt rushed and kind of a letdown (if I recall correctly—I’ve actively tried to forget it because it retroactively ruined my enjoyment of the game).

  26. Steve C says:

    I tend to disagree with Paul and Shamus’ answer to ColkeusRattus. Sure there’s fun in puzzling out a solution to the mechanics. That’s not all of it for me. I like the iteration. More than the discovery actually. I get the dopamine rush by implementing the solutions.

    The tank-healer-dps example is good. I played Wow for years. You guys found it repetitive and boring. I loved it. Even the repetitive nature helped. I liked the classes that were brain dead simple to play. It allowed me to focus on situational awareness or just as a way to relax. I also liked the hard to master classes. They both scratched different itches. I went off WoW because Blizzard decided the simple classes needed more complexity. And that the complex classes needed more simplicity. It became a mush of sameness.

    As long as there isn’t ‘one best all consuming strategy’ then I cannot agree with your take. (And I have found several ‘this is the one best way’ in several games and wrecked those games for me forever.)

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      So, if you had access to the original WoW experience, you would still enjoy it? Because that’s what ColkeusRattus was saying he can’t do, and is trying to figure out why it’s seemingly not possible for him. It sounds like it’s possible for you, which is great, but doesn’t really answer his question.

  27. Confanity says:

    I feel like the assertion that nobody pays attention to game music, that it’s never discussed despite its importance, is a false premise. First, as a quick scan of the comments here seems to suggest, and as experience in the Steam store or Youtube supports, game soundtracks are definitely a thing the public pays attention to and will even shell out money for.

    But even in the critical sphere, while the music does often take a back seat compared to aspects such as gameplay, I’ve watched reviews that make a point of discussing it. And of course you still have standouts such as Sword and Sworcery, or everything made by Supergiant Games (Bastion etc.) where the soundtrack is considered a highlight of the game, or used as a selling point in promotional material. Heck, even since the earliest days of gaming, the music has been an integral part of it: themes for many, MANY pivotal titles, from Tetris to the Super Mario series, are so famous that they’re part of the broader cultural landscape.

    In other words, while a lot of game discussion does center on aspects such as graphics or gameplay, music is hardly the unexplored forgotten country that the question seems to imply.

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