Diecast #351: Before We Mailbag

By Shamus Posted Monday Aug 2, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 123 comments

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

00:00 Google Olympics Game

You can find the game here.

03:57 What happened to Bob Case?
Sadly, I am not able to cause Bab Case to appear. He stepped away from his writing project here and that was the last I heard from him. It’s a little awkward to approach him because I don’t want to come off like, “Hey, when are you going to get back to making content for my blog for free?”

06:12 Before We Leave

Link (YouTube)

15:16 Mailbag: Story Coalescence


So I was rereading you blog entries about story collapse and trust in the storyteller, because it’s something that I was thinking about (and compare it to the intro to Mess Effect).

You described the logical process of losing this trust until it would lead to inevitable Story Collapse. And I remembered, that I actually had an opposite experience. After ten years of not watching anime I decided to watch one series, for whatever reason. I was prepared to just watch and forget it, as a dumb action schlock, that it probably is. And yeah, initial episodes didn’t really wow me. But during the season, I started to notice quite a masterful world building and that characters have more depth than they are showing (and some other things). And now I have so much trust to the storyteller I can feel that the ending (whenever it will came) must be good (a feeling I never had before). I’m not sure how to call it. Story Ascension?

My question is. Did either of you ever experienced anything similar to this in any media?

Best regards, DeadlyDark

20:07 Mailbag: Eu on Piracy

So, I found this rather old study done in the EU on piracy and I’m curious if you saw it at any point: https://www.engadget.com/2017-09-22-eu-suppressed-study-piracy-no-sales-impact.html

Even the article is fairly old. It’s pretty interesting to me that apparently there’s no real value in defending against pirates unless you’re making blockbuster movies or certain AAA games, maybe.

Jennifer Snow

Don’t forget about second breakfast:

Dear Diecast,

I came across this article today, and thought it could be interesting, esepcially when it comes to discussing DRM and such:


The TL;DR is: The EU did a study on the effect of piracy on sales of games, music, and movies, and found “‘no robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online piracy.’ In the case of games, it concluded that unauthorized playing might actually make it more likely users will buy them.”. And then they tried to hide those results :D

Just wanted to share this as I thought it could be interesting for you and Paul to discuss on the show.


I realize this seems sort of paranoid and cynical, but I just don’t trust “studies” the way I used to. Not even when they agree with my preconceived notions. I find them less persuasive than I used to, and (more importantly) I find them less useful as a tool for persuading others.

When I hear the term “study” now I think, “Ah, someone paid some money to collect data that supports their worldview or advances their agenda.” This report was from the EU and was supposedly “buried”, but I don’t know who originally conducted it, who buried it, or why. If I was younger and angrier I might spend a bunch of time going over the report and asking questions, but I just don’t see the point.

And to be clear, I’m talking about studies relating to videogames. Stuff like the effect of violence on children, the impact of pricing on sales, the suitability of videogames as an educational tool, and so on. I’m not saying ALL scientific studies in all domains are agenda-driven hogwash. I’m just saying that in the world of videogaming, we’ve seen more than our share of hogwash.

From my point of view, the uselessness of DRM was proven years ago. The publishers have long since been checkmated, but they refuse to concede or to even look at the goddamn board. If none of the previous arguments persuaded them, then what’s one more study going to do? This is just more data that they’re going to ignore and call us all thieves before sweeping the pieces off the board and storming off to write a press release about how they totally won.

Moreover, both Blizzard and Ubisoft have been rocked by scandals showing that their companies are toxic, miserable, and profoundly dysfunctional. Worrying about their lame-ass DRM policies is like criticizing Harvey Weinstein for being a bad tipper.

Like, who cares what these idiots think about DRM at this point? Burn the whole thing down.

24:35 Mailbag: Studios that died before their time.

Greetings, dear Diecast,

I was thinking about which games I am really fond of, and noticed that between Tomba (made by WhoopeeCamp), Revenant (made by Cinematix), and Arcanum (made by Troika), I have quite a few there made by studios that died before their time.

Are there particular game studios that you like that went too soon? I know 13 Window likes Looking Glass, but what about Ober Detlef?



35:05 Mailbag: Forgotten Game Mechanics

Dear Diecast,

So you were talking about the crazy ideas and experimenting going on in the late 90’s/early 00’s last week.

Molyneux did something in Black & White that I haven’t personally encountered anywhere else. To cut down on UI clutter, he used mouse “gesture recognition” to trigger spellcasting. I remember it as basically tracing a pattern on the ground (e.g. a spiral for a fireball) a few times for practice, then it was up to you to make it work going forward. Has this idea cropped up anywhere else? Most commentary on the game barely acknowledges it. So I’m left wondering, was it received positively, negatively, or just swept away in the passage of time?

Another game from slightly earlier was the Wheel of Time PC game, a first person shooter (of all things) using an Unreal build from somewhere between the original Unreal and UT. In an attempt to bring the flavor of the fantasy setting’s magic system to an FPS, you ended up with 40 different offensive and defensive widgets to use spread across the number keys (I’ve attached a picture of the poster that came in the box, back when we weren’t just buying bits). A substantial number of these widgets fired player-seeking projectiles that used the same pathfinding as the AI bots. The bandwidth of the day meant in a deathmatch with players firing off dozens of such weapons at each other, pings in the 400-700 range were the norm. It was bedlam, bonkers, and fun, but it didn’t sell very well. The sheer number of abilities and the rapid-fire stabbing on the number keys gave it a steep learning curve.

I bring these two games up because the crazy idea I’ve had rattling around in my head for years is how a blend of the two would work. Weaving elemental threads via mouse gestures to achieve a wide variety of spell effects (possibly even procedurally) based on the elements used, the gestures for each element, and the type of target. I bounced the idea around some boards almost 20-years ago, but we quickly came to the conclusion the infrastructure/hardware wasn’t ready and the mouse gesturing was just too unwieldy for anything fast-paced.

But now we have relatively stable twin-stick VR, allowing for accurate two-handed gesture tracking. Care to poke holes in my idea?

Are there any other strange mechanics you’ve encountered over the years that you wish had stuck around (or alternatively, overstayed their welcome)?



46:51 Mailbag: Memorable Settings

Dear Diecast,

recently I was looking through my console game collection and reminiscing about the stories and worlds I experienced.

In particular, I love the setting of Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu*, which takes place in a far eastern land where people can travel to magical forests covered in ancient ruins.

So I was wondering, what are some unique and memorable settings you have enjoyed?



51:09 Mailbag: How You Would Do It

Dear Diecast,

have you ever encountered a mechanic in a game that made you think:
“If I made a game, that’s how I’d do it.”?

For example, when I first played Grandia 2 I was impressed by the battle system.
It has a global ATB where you see how far along all characters and enemies are, where attacks can delay their target, or even knock them out of their charge-up to an attack.
On top of that, positioning is worth keeping in mind as different attacks can have different attack radii.
If I were to make a game, that’s how I’d implement the battle system.

Looking forward to hear your thoughts.




From The Archives:

123 thoughts on “Diecast #351: Before We Mailbag

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    Sadly, I am not able to cause Bab Case to appear. He stepped away from his writing project here and that was the last I heard from him. It’s a little awkward to approach him because I don’t want to come off like, “Hey, when are you going to get back to making content for my blog for free?”

    Awww, it was Bob who introduced me to this site in the first place almost four years ago now, my first impressions of which was “Damn, this website’s interface sucks ass because the link redirects me to the Mr.BTongue channel instead of all the articles he’s made on the site!” but I got used to it and now I’m here for Shamus.

    Since his last post was about a hypothetical direct sequel to the Mass Effect trilogy which was confirmed to be currently happening, I’m gonna assume with no basis that he got hired by Bioware as a consultant for the game.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Lol, I’m pretty sure that he is antithetical to everything that modern Bioware stands for and represents. Probably even old/original Bioware.

  2. Kestrellius says:

    After ten years of not watching anime I decided to watch one series, for whatever reason. I was prepared to just watch and forget it, as a dumb action schlock, that it probably is. And yeah, initial episodes didn’t really wow me. But during the season, I started to notice quite a masterful world building and that characters have more depth than they are showing (and some other things). And now I have so much trust to the storyteller I can feel that the ending (whenever it will came) must be good (a feeling I never had before).

    I’m now very curious which anime this is.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      Let me guess, was it Attack on Titan?

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        Re:Zero. I just saw that blue-haired maid everywhere, it got to me so I decided “fine, I’ll see what’s she’s all about”. I was fairly ignorant of anime community, so I guess that helped. Still, it was kinda nice that out of all shows I stumbled into one that reignited interest in the medium.

        Of course, there’s a chance that the author will go full AoT on me.

        I wanted to see AoT, but decided to wait until it finishes. The art style didn’t appeal to me at all, so I wanted to consume it all in one go. Now I don’t have to.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          I was fairly ignorant of anime community, so I guess that helped. Still, it was kinda nice that out of all shows I stumbled into one that reignited interest in the medium.

          Same thing happened to me with Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood and then again with Mob Psycho 100. I feel even more attachment towards the latter as I literally just stumbled into watching the show without knowing anything about it, not even the premise and reception.

        2. King Marth says:

          Makes sense. I bounced off Re: Zero originally as I heard people praising the protagonist for constantly breaking the fourth wall in expecting the new fantasy world to revolve around him, but there’s more to it than that. Second season had me a little disappointed as I didn’t understand the end goal they were going for, so the obstacles I thought were an issue were hand waved shortly after the real obstacles had resolved.

          I got a similar feeling from Evangelion 3.0, where it’s almost infuriating that people keep making terrible decisions, but the author did well enough that you understand precisely what psychological hangups are causing them to act the way they do, making those decisions less Idiot Ball and more of a legitimate tragedy.

          1. DeadlyDark says:

            “Second season had me a little disappointed as I didn’t understand the end goal they were going for, so the obstacles I thought were an issue were hand waved shortly after the real obstacles had resolved.”

            If you don’t mind, can you explain which obstacles you’re referring to (in a spoiler tag)?

          2. Fizban says:

            I might say I’ve had the opposite reaction over time- while the world and backstories of some of the characters are interesting as they’ve been revealed, the author lost my trust back somewhere before the two dozen mark. They can’t seem to decide whether we should hate or like their own protagonist, and not in some antihero you love to hate way, but rather a deliberately insulting their own presumed audience and contradicting values that were previously lauded as good but then they’re good again no wait they’re not etc.

            It has its good parts, but the main character is kindof a cardbord cutout to me at this point. They do what the author says and it is treated as good or bad at the author’s whim. The further away you get from them, the more coherent the characters get.

            1. Steve C says:

              That is an insightful take Fizban.
              I also dropped re:Zero for similar reasons. At least so I thought. Now I’m not so sure. It might have been more for the reasons you stated. I found the characters themselves to be coherent, but their interactions with each other to be completely incoherent. Especially for the protagonist. Like if someone brutally murders me in an alt-timeline, I don’t care how cute they are. I’m not going to like them and certainly not going to trust them.

              How you phrased it is more apt and more broadly accurate though. As I have dropped other anime for the same reasons you stated. Even if I could not succinctly state why.

              1. Khazidhea says:

                I can theoretically see why many have bounced off of Re:Zero, but I’ve found the highs of the show have rewarded me enough that will see me through any of the low-points.

                Season 2 was a slog in the middle, and I’ve been through Season 1 enough times (original, recut, and novels) that I’m unlikely to watch through the first half of the third arc again for quite a while (until the Rem scene/gearing up to take on the whale). Yet it ticks so many boxes for me, that unless the series spectacularly implodes in on itself I’ll be with it for the duration.

      2. Retsam says:

        Yeah, AoT was my thought as “Story Ascension” pretty much perfectly describes my experience with the show. I thought the first season was just okay, mostly because I didn’t trust the storyteller – it’s a very “J.J. Abrahams-esque mystery-box” sort of setup, and thought they were being lazy with the protagonist. But the show is actually even better once it opens the mystery boxes, and the protagonist is much more interesting than they initially seem.

        Re:Zero… is more of a story-collapse scenario. I was hyped for it after the first few episodes, and basically hate watching it by the end of the season.

  3. Chris says:

    I remember spore being changed a lot because of internal issues on what they should make. Initially it was meant to be SimEverything. But then it got changed to spore and everything got changed to be cute and fun instead of being built around simulation.

    From what i read about Blizzard they had a real rockstar attitude after making WoW as they made infinite money. They even told icefrog (from dota) to get lost, when he asked blizzard if he could join blizzard and make dota as an independent game rather than a custom map. Then they tried to make titan as a sequel to WoW, which failed, and then remade it into overwatch. Then they kind of fell apart because they dont make a lot of money with wow anymore, while also not churning out megahits every few years like they did in the past.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      And now Blizzard has given themselves ownership of every single mod you ever make with the Warcraft 3 remake. Great way to make money, by snatching up the rights to things made by other people. I see no downsides to this at all! XD

      1. Teddy says:

        It’s especially ridiculous because they could have easily accomplished the same thing from a different angle that would’ve given them positive press instead: if they’d included some sort of guaranteed option (“We have the first right to buy your maps and turn them into new game modes”), they’d probably have gotten flooded with people trying to make the next big map and who would’ve been thrilled to get paid off once for $10k, which basically isn’t even money to Activision-Blizzard. Plus even then they’re not super likely to ever need to pay out; Warcraft 3’s day has come and gone, I doubt anyone’s gonna be making the next DOTA there.

        But instead they went with the creativity-chilling “We own everything you do here” which pushed all the best modders away, guaranteeing there won’t be any new maps Blizzard would ever care about owning.

        1. Steve C says:

          It’s no surprise though. Blizzard did the same thing with the whole eSports industry. They saw other people making money using Blizzard products and thought mine! Strangling it into irrelevance. Which IMO is the same as someone claiming they own your house because you used their hammer to build it. Regardless of merit, the only sane response to that is to not use their hammer in future projects.

      2. Lino says:

        Yeah, after all, the Warcraft 3 Map Editor is the only way people have of expressing their gaming-related creative tendencies. I mean, let’s face it – of you want to make a hobby-project game these days, there’s just no easy, free way to do it!

        1. tmtvl says:

          Well, if we just want to snark, sure, but for people who get a sudden flash of inspiration it’s useful if they don’t have to reimplement the mechanics, the AI,… from scratch. Game mods can be a useful jumping off point before splitting the premise off into its own game.

          Team Fortress, anyone?

      3. Chris says:

        That was already the case with SC2. They also changed the system to push popular custom maps to the foreground, hoping that channelling people into popular modes would make them explode and be the next dota. The advantage of the WC3 system however was that everyone got equal space in the browser, meaning that new games could appear on top for some people.

  4. bobbert says:

    Jade cocoon is weird.

    I do like that it starts you off getting married to a stranger from the next village.

  5. Philadelphus says:

    Sim Ant, Sim Farm, and Sim Tower were among the computer games we had when my family first got a computer around ’99 or so, and I think are still the only Maxis games I’ve played to date. I’d dearly love for someone to give Sim Farm the modern re-make treatment; I won’t pretend it was a great game, but it gave an interesting perspective for running a farm that no other game has given me since. If you want a first- or third-person farming simulator where you have to run around and do everything yourself, there are any number of options today; if you want to run a farm as an immaterial, immortal delegating manager from a bird’s-eye-view like Sim City, you’re out of luck (actually, if anyone knows of a game like this, let me know!).

    have you ever encountered a mechanic in a game that made you think:
    “If I made a game, that’s how I’d do it.”?

    Mine would be the combat from XCOM: Chimera Squad, which is basically the combat from XCOM and XCOM 2, but with interleaved turns (i.e., one of your 4 guys goes, then one or two of the enemies, etc.). I actually bounced it off (didn’t even finish my first campaign) when it released last year because I was so used to XCOM (1|2)’s style of using your turn to alpha strike all the enemies you’ve just cautiously uncovered before they even get a chance to fire back, and XCOM: CS is carefully designed not to allow not. But a few months later I went back to it, and discovered that if I got over that way of thinking it was a really fun game: I didn’t have to wipe out all the enemies with each agent, I just had to stop the ones coming next (before my next agent got to go). And that turned it into an interesting puzzle, because each agent gets a bunch of different and unique abilities (on top of all the gear you can develop) that you can chain together in all kinds of ways to creatively disrupt the enemies’ flow of combat. Killing enemies (or capturing them, since it allows you to do that) doesn’t have to be the only solution each turn when there are bunch of ways you can mess with turn order, stun them, or otherwise just keep them from dealing damage to you.

    Actually, what I really want is a Pokemon-like game with XCOM: CS combat. Something where you’re positioning on a 2.5D (or maybe full 3D) map and can go hog-wild with cool and interesting moves with a bunch of different creatures, with groups of multiple combatants on each side and interleaved turns.

    1. Andrzej Sugier says:

      My problem with that system is that it doesn’t allow for a lot of freedom, and it makes Chimera Squad a bit of a solved game. Each turn you have priority targets, and very limited options on what your operator can do. Having predetermined entry points doesn’t help. It’s still fun, but much, much less freeform than XCOM proper, and I had my fill towards the pretty short campaign (while XCOM can hold my interest for hundreds of hours). I did enjoy that operators had personality and banter a lot, though.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        I can see that perspective (and I’ve put hundreds of hours into XCOM 1&2 myself), though XCOM itself is also sort of a “solved game”, with the ideal way to play being to cautiously creep forward, reveal a single pod, and alpha strike it before they can get any damage off. In that sense CS is an attempt to force players out of that habit, though what they did with CS is certainly not the only way to attempt to solve that problem (XCOM: Enemy Within tried to incentivize you to move faster with MELD, XCOM 2 used timed missions, etc.).

        I get what you mean about the predetermined entry points, though; in my hypothetical dream game each fight would start more like Into The Breach where you get to position your forces at the beginning. And there wouldn’t be the “pod” system, so you’d be better able to control when you got into fights…I guess I’m more “inspired” by CS’s combat than interested in replicating it.

  6. Ektenia says:

    Here’s a game that is based around gestures in VR for spells:


    1. Fizban says:

      Tales of Maj’Eyal has mouse gesture inputs, though as a turn-based roguelike it has little need for them. You can see the grid it’s highlighting when you’re gesturing, which might help, or might just reveal that it’s too limited for hardly anything.

      I would expect most of the VR games with magic use gestures.

  7. Thomas says:

    I hope gesture navigation stays dead, mostly for the same reasons mentioned. It’s hard to remember, unreliable (even if it’s fixed now) and slow to use. It’s also really inaccessible and would prevent a whole range of people from playing your game.

    Suppose instead of gesture navigation involved typing out the spell name. There’s no reliability issues there, but I don’t think anyone wants to play that game. It removes all the speed from casting, and it’s a nightmare for kids and people with dyslexia or dyspraxia.

    Where gesture navigation did work was the Skate series. Tony Hawk games involved pressing a button to do a skateboard trick, and to press combinations of buttons that you memorise to do advanced tricks. That’s practical, but un-immersive, and is running into the same memory issues that a gesture system has. Instead Skate has you input gestures with the thumbsticks of a control that imitate the way a skater shifts their wait before doing a trick.

    It’s a lot more immersive than button presses, and -to a skater- is fairly easy to remember, because there’s a real-world mapping between the gestures and the effects. Flipping a thumbstick is much quicker and more responsive than drawing a symbol with a mouse, and has a kinetic feel that draws you into the motion.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Suppose instead of gesture navigation involved typing out the spell name. There’s no reliability issues there, but I don’t think anyone wants to play that game.

      As a fan of Typing of the Dead, I’d play the shit out of that game.

      1. Mr. Wolf says:

        Fantastic game, I can’t believe nowhere sells it any more. I know some seven-year-olds who could use typing exercises and would love to blast zombies.

      2. Thomas says:

        Is Typing of the Dead still fun if the words aren’t on screen, and instead there’s some long list stuck in a pause menu all with vaguely similar sounding fantasy names that you have to memorise?

      3. Syal says:

        I think Epistory: Typing Chronicles made switching elementals just be a “Shift+F=Fire” thing, but I loved the fact that a typing game had elemental attacks you could switch between as the situation called for*.

        *(Except the situation never called for it because Lightning was absurd.)

    2. Rho says:

      Well, almost all games use gestures somehow, excepting maybe point-and-click games and a minority of obscure gimmick titles. Fighting games, platformers and even strategy titles are in part about mastering the physical response.

      However, B&W really hyped this up. They were trying to mimic 3-dimensional actions with a 2-dimensional interface. This is, basically, a bizarre addition to most games, and the physical control scheme in place doesn’t really match the concept. It’s a clever idea, but they could never quite communicate how to use it properly.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        That’s not a ‘gesture’, that’s just movement, kinematics, or physicality. They had some interactions that had you make motions like you’re bowling in Black and White, but that’s separate from the draw-a-figure-eight mechanic discussed.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      Even as a guy who plays a lot of games, gestures are fiddly and annoying for me to input. Hell, it’s probably more annoying, because I’m used to interfaces which just use normal buttons, or keyboard shortcuts (outside of games – productivity software) and other stuff like that. Those are all fast, relatively easy to learn, and reliable – qualities that drawing and even more basic gesture systems like “wave your hand left then right” do not have. Gesture systems can be good for people who only need to do basic things, but are inadequate for complex tasks. (See also, god-damn voice controls.)

    4. Abnaxis says:

      I really liked the gesture system in B&W in theory. It was immersive and felt like it would be fun to play around with at the time.

      My big beef with the gesture system for B&W in particular, was that B&W was an ABSOLUTE RESOURCE HOG back in the day. Seriously, you could maybe get full FPS at medium settings on a top-end machine (so of course reviewers never dinged the game for performance problems), but on my average, mid-range gaming PC I was getting 20FPS on a good day, with HUGE stutters anytime the physics engine needed to work hard.

      Unfortunately, that meant every time I wanted to throw something the engine would kick in, the game would stutter, and who the hell knew where the object I was throwing would wind up? Same thing for spellcasting, I could never actually cast spells because moving the cursor to fast caused stutters which ruined the gesture. Couple that with a morality system that punishes you when you accidentally come to close to villagers while trying to move stuff around with beer-goggles precision, and you have a game that I had to give up on even though I really enjoyed its design.

      Seriously, B&W would have been much more of a massive success if they’d been halfway reasonable with the required hardware specs. Everyone in my social circle was like “whoa, that game looks cool! But I can’t run it…”

  8. Lino says:

    Really loved this episode – you can never go wrong with a big Mailbag clearing!

    Anyway, for studios that were gone before their time, the most striking example in my mind is definitely Rebel Act, who made my favourite game of all time – Severance: Blade of Darkness. It’s a hack ‘n slash with some of the meatiest and most visceral combat I’ve ever played, with some of the most intense atmospheres I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the industry’s moved away from titles like that, and the modern version of the hack ‘n slash genre involves open-world sandboxes, which go against what I liked most in that game (and I’ve yet to encounter a combat system I like better than Blade’s).

    Regarding cool settings, there really are a lot. So I’ll only limit myself to a couple of fairly recent ones. I recently started playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, and while there are aspects of the game I’m definitely not crazy about, I really, really like the setting – a tribal post-apocalyptic culture living in the ruins of a technologically advanced version of humanity! So cool!

    As an Eastern European, I really need to mention the Witcher series. Up until then, our folklore was mainly reserved to kids’ fairy tales and the boring parts of Literature class. But the Witcher games showed that our folklore could be just as cool as Western European-inspired fantasy (or even cooler!).

    Regarding game mechanics, I think Frozen Synapse doesn’t get enough love. As someone who despises turn-based combat, this game is the only implementation of turn-based combat that I’ve ever liked. Apart from board and card games, the only other turn-based games I’ve ever liked are Worms and Heroes of Might and Magic, but the reason I love those games is because of the fond memories I have playing Hot Seat with my friends.

    And while not liking turn-based combat might sound very prejudiced, it actually makes browsing for games extremely easy – within a second of seeing the “Tactical” or “Turn-based combat” tag, I know the game isn’t for me :)

    Also, I guess I’ll have to use my Gmail account for future questions. Because either my last question wasn’t appropriate or Shamus’ spam filter really doesn’t like my email provider. Although with the way spammers are nowadays, I really can’t blame them for being careful :D

  9. tmtvl says:

    Black Isle folded after Troika was started, they made Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader before folding. It has some neat ideas, but in the end it just kinda falls apart. Although I do think it has some early traces of the elements that Obsidian would insert into Pillars of Eternity.

    1. Lino says:

      Hey, I remember that game! I first saw it in a magazine, and it sounded awesome. I still remember a screenshot the article had where your character was standing in a field, and was completely covered by the massive shadow of a dragon! Although, I never actually got to that part. I played the game for a bit, but at some point I just bounced off of it, and I don’t remember why…

    2. kincajou says:

      I remember lionheart!
      I started it two or three times, never got past barcelona (unsure as to exactly why) but i really loved the atmosphere and world.

    3. John says:

      Black Isle was an Interplay brand name. It was applied to some games developed by Interplay (Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale) and also to games that were only published by Interplay (Baldur’s Gate, Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader). Interplay dissolved the internal Black Isle development team in 2003, some of whom then went on to work at places like Troika and Obsidian.

  10. beleester says:

    Magicka pretty thoroughly covered the “mixing elements together to create a wide variety of effects” field. Unfortunately, once the comedy of experimenting with random spells wears off, you end up just memorizing the really good spells and typing them out as fast as you can – SAFE or QFSAFE for protection from the most common damage types, QFQFASA for a high-damage beam, DQRQRQRQR for a high-damage projectile. As the saying goes, “death” is the most powerful debuff, and if you can kill someone in two seconds with a massive bolt of lightning then there’s no point in messing around with your elaborate ice-knockback-minefield spell.

    If you want players to change things up and make up spells on the fly, and you don’t want the game to be biased towards the fastest keyboard fingers, you probably need to slow things way down – lower damage output or add cooldowns to limit how fast a spell can be cast. Magicka has very lethal combat because it’s funny when a wizard messes up a spell and instantly explodes, but that means that “blowing stuff up” is the dominant strategy.

    Or maybe do something like Spellcast where reading your opponent’s gestures and interrupting their big spells is the central game mechanic.

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      Magicka is definitely one of those games you have more fun with if you haven’t mastered it. Although, being a non-competitive sort, I say that about most games.

  11. Lars says:

    The RTS you thought of might be Warhammer 40k Dawn of War made by Relic Entertainment. They also did Company of Heroes and are still in business today. Now on Payroll for Nordic Entertainment instead of THQ.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      That’s about 5 years after StarCraft, so might not be contemporary enough. There was one I remember, where at least one of the sides was a bunch of demons, and your main harvester was a caged…something, generating evil souls or something for you. I seem to recall there were two other factions in the game – one ‘good’ and…maybe there were only two? I can’t remember the name, but the gameplay was pretty trash, becasue they focused on the visuals. (And trying to google for this thing is damn near impossible. :| )

      1. evilmrhenry says:

        I was thinking Myth: The Fallen Lords or the sequel.

  12. Dreadjaws says:

    I, for one, miss Clover Studio. Granted, members of it ended up creating Platinum Games, so they continued their legacy of creating entertaining titles, but obviously they could no longer work in sequels to their established properties, like Viewtiful Joe or Okami.

    Hey, speaking of “creating spells by using gestures”, Okami was a master of that idea. It worked incredibly well with a twin stick system. I have no idea how it’d work with a mouse, though. I know the game was ported to the PC, but I haven’t played the PC version. There’s a Wii version as well, also no idea how well it works.

    1. Geebs says:

      The Wii version works much better than the twin sticks.

      It’s a shame they couldn’t come up with some sort of gesture-based system for skipping cutscenes and shutting up annoying comedy sidekicks, though.

  13. Lino says:

    I don’t really know where to say this, but I really want to mention it – I finally got myself a new gaming PC, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Moridin, Lanthanide, and Geebs! Without your help, I’d still be paralyzed with indecision! You guys rock!

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      Prebuilt or custom?

      1. Lino says:

        Prebuilt. Dell because my last PC was a Dell, and I’m very pleased with how long it lasted (8 years). They helped me educate myself on the market and how to compare video cards, processors, etc.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          An ironic coincidence for me as I just came from a video about a guy who documented his experiences with a newly bought PC from Dell who he assumed was reliable as they were also the same company who built his previous computer which worked pretty well for a long time: https://youtu.be/MR25BVBsuS0

          Best of luck to you and hopefully unlike SuperEyePatchWolf!

          1. Lino says:

            Well, let’s hope I’ll be disliking it years from now, while still using my new PC! Honestly, with these things you never know.

            For a long time, before I got my last PC, I bought gaming laptops with great reviews from well known brands (MSI, Toshiba, and some other big ones I can’t remember right now). Every single one of them displayed some big issue about two years after I got it (the most common one being overheating).

            So whatever I get from this one, I’ll consider a boon :D

    2. Geebs says:

      That’s great, I hope you’re having fun with it!

      1. Lino says:

        Yup, I sure am :D

  14. Ninety-Three says:

    Paul’s speculation about Blizzard matches what I’ve heard talking to an old dev there: WoW was such an insane money-printing machine that they were able to get super perfectionist and cancel a bunch of in-progress games, leading to a relative drought of titles. Their wakeup call was when they cancelled the crazy expensive Project Titan (whose assets would be turned into Overwatch) which was a big enough botch for the Activision corporate masters to no longer view the studio as a golden goose best left to its own devices. To be fair to the corporate masters, they were probably right, 2005-2015 Blizzard wasn’t amazing.

  15. Paul Spooner says:

    Sad we didn’t get to do a deep dive on Will’s idea for a proc-gen multi-component gesture-based magic system. Though, I think pre-building spells and then using normal button inputs would be the way to approach it. Basically what you do in Noita.

    1. Will says:

      Maybe for another time. It’s been a wild hair idea that comes back to mind every once in a while.

  16. Mr. Wolf says:

    Isn’t VR using gesture-based controls by it’s very nature? If there isn’t a game where you cast spells by waving your wand around there’s something very wrong with VR developers.

    1. Fizban says:

      This is one of the reasons I’m annoyed I can’t actually try any VR stuff: I kinda want to just dig through games and see if anyone has actually managed what seem to me the most basic, obvious UI methods (I could watch things on youtube, but it’s a small niche and I’d rather not spoil myself on the good games for if/when I am able to). From what little I’ve seen, there seems to be a lot of “use this tiny thumbstick with precision to navigate our terrible menu (thanks Bethesda),” but the Wii had it down already. Hold a button and gesture in a direction, that’s anywhere from 3-8 inputs, quick as a gesture, and should be easy enough to code. Do two in a row and exponentially multiply them.

      Granted, for gun games it makes some sense to make a big deal about grabbing ammo from “somewhere,” if you’re trying to go simulationist, but that’s where the magic comes in. And I do keep seeing steam recommend new VR games, so there’s got to be some iteration going on in there, right?

      1. Mr. Wolf says:

        Thumbsticks? You’ve got to be kidding me. Pointing is the most intuitive way to choose anything. As you said, the Wii knew it. Lightgun games knew it. Touchscreens know it. Hell, even lightswitches know it. Why would you ever use an indirect control when a direct one is available?

        I think that if you want to get into game development, then UI design is the place to be. There are a million talented system designers, programmers, artists and whatnot, but people who can build a really good man-machine interface? Nowhere to be found.

  17. Echo Tango says:

    I feel like the Myst games might actually have been envisioned as books first. The first and second books came our before the second game. I have no real recollection of what was going on in the first book[1], but I remember liking it! :)

    [1] I think I read it when I was 12. I probably didn’t have enough world experience yet, to easily fit the concepts from the book into my head, so my mind just slid right off of them.

  18. Echo Tango says:

    So…you say you wanted to have an upgrade system in Descent. Was the crafting / upgrade system in Sublevel Zero added in a later patch? I only bought the game after it had been out for a while, but that seems like exactly what you want! Or did you want it a decade sooner? :)

  19. John says:

    I’m afraid that you gentlemen have somewhat mis-remembered the history of Maxis. Maxis was acquired by EA in 1997. Over the next 11 years, they released Sim City 3000, The Sims, various Sims sequels and expansions, Sim City 4, and finally, after a troubled development history and many delays, Spore. Maxis founder Will Wright left the company in 2009, about a year after the release of Spore. It’s true that the failure of Spore tarnished the Maxis brand and killed any chances of Maxis remaining an independent division within EA, but the studio had been acquired over a decade earlier and many of its most popular games were produced after the acquisition.

    1. bobbert says:

      Maybe it is an age thing. I don’t recognize any of the games you listed.

      I mostly remember them for sim-Earth and SimCity2(thousand).

      1. John says:

        You’ve never heard of The Sims? How’d you manage that? It’s huge, and arguably the most successful game that Maxis or Will Wright ever made.

        1. bobbert says:

          Well, that’s a long story. So, I found a girl and one thing…

  20. CrushU says:

    Lost Magic for the DS was a gesture-based magic system. Sort of. You drew symbols for the spells, and gained more powerful versions of spells with more complex runes. Less powerful was still sometimes useful as they cost less magic to cast. (The ‘increase movespeed’ spell became ‘limited blink’ became ‘global teleport’, and sometimes you just needed to blink over a wall instead of teleport, and Teleport I recall draining most of your mana bar.) I vaguely recall that doing the symbol accurately was a benefit of some kind. And I know it was real-time drawing; so part of More Complex = More Powerful was also that it took longer to draw the more complex runes.

    I liked that game.

    1. Fizban says:

      Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (sequel to Aria) had its seal drawing gimmick- if you don’t draw the seal fast enough, the boss recovers health instead of dying. Makes a hell of a sideways “anti-piracy” gimmick when you have to precision draw with a mouse to beat the boss, and probably wasn’t any better on the actual handheld needing to suddenly whip out the stylus or drag your meat fingers all over the screen. Don’t know if the other DS Castlevania did it the same way.

      1. bobbert says:

        Nintendo loved their hardware gimmicks.
        I will bet there was a clause in contracts to make software for them saying,

        “Thou shalt use the hardware gimmicks.”

  21. Ninety-Three says:

    For studios I miss, Shamus named Bioware but I have to add Obsidian to the list. KOTOR 2 to New Vegas was a really good run where they felt like they had a cohesive identity, then they ran out of money and never got back to what everyone really wanted, which was for them to make more like New Vegas (The Outer Wilds, sadly, was so much less ambitious that before its release they were putting out “it’s not gonna be New Vegas 2 you guys” messaging).

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Didn’t The Outer Wilds lay a good foundation for spin-offs and sequels, that are as ambitious as New Vegas? I never played it, but from let’s-plays it seems like the game’s got a good foundation for skill-trees, (non-combat) skill-checks, quests, and dialog trees. Plus, the world they’ve set up is filled with many different planets, ready for new games! :)

      1. Thomas says:

        I hope The Outer Worlds 2 will be good, even if I can’t play it due to PC/Xbox exclusivity. But I think Obsidian have lost their edge, and they still need to prove they can bring it back.

        Chris Avellone did a massive chunk of their good writing, and he’s not there. And John Gonzalez was the lead writer on Fallout: New Vegas and then went onto Horizon Zero Dawn which captured a lot of the detail-based worldbuilding of F:NV. which says to me that he was a big part of F:NV’s success too.

        They’ve still got a lot of good people obviously, Joshua Sawyer etc., but I need to see that they can go from ‘good’ to ‘great’ again.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Yeah, The Outer Worlds felt like it had flaws beyond simply limited scope (which is probably the product of their new publisher not trusting them with enough money to go full New Vegas 2), and that makes me skeptical about Obsidian’s future.

          The cleanest example I can bring up was the religion of Scientism, whose priests would breathlessly tell you about the “every nerd over 15 has already considered this” premise that deterministic laws of physics imply the universe will unfold in along a fixed path, and the whole thing was presented as if it were some mindblowing revelation. If this were New Vegas, that would be the joke, that these postapocalyptic doofuses found one pop-philosophy book and took it seriously enough to build a cult. In The Outer Worlds, it feels like the writer found one pop-philosophy book and took it seriously as the dialogue system is full of entirely earnest conversations about it. I have to disclaim that I got bored of the premise quickly and stopped following those dialogue trees so maybe I just didn’t stick around long enough for the punchline, but any way you slice it, something went wrong there.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            I’m guessing from what I know of the Outer Worlds writing leads that they either didn’t know that scientism refers to something completely different or they had heard of scientism and just tortured it into something completely different.

            1. Daniil Adamov says:

              I am more charitably inclined to it, and think they were trying to have fun with a Gilded Age-inspired setting. “Scientism” has strong roots in late 19th-early 20th century popular thinking about science and the perfectly knowable deterministic universe, as reflected in contemporary sci-fi as well as non-fiction. They tried to imagine a religion based on that. That’s how it seemed to me, anyway. The delivery was kind of flat and boring for the most part – they never really sold it as something someone would so fervently believe, I think, even though people did in real life – but it fit in organically with the rest of the setting. Which may be damning with faint praise, as the rest of the setting was mostly a caricature.

          2. Chad+Miller says:

            There’s also the various ways the “moral choices” were botched in TOW, such as having two endgame factions with one of them being a complete cartoon, and not being able to find out how Adelaide was fertilizing her crops until after you’ve already shut her down.

            1. Thomas says:

              They did include enough clues that the fertilising the crops bit could be worked out ahead of time. But trying to use that information to come to the best of both worlds conclusion required precise sequencing that was silly.

              And in general it felt like there were too many ‘right’ answers in TOW. They’re pretty explicit that the middle ground option is the best solution on that planet (but also that it won’t matter in the long-run).

              Fallout: New Vegas had three factions, all with pros and cons. The pros and cons weren’t evenly distributed, allowing the game to still mostly have a villain, but I know plenty of people who will argue that Caesar’s Legion is the correct option despite the cruelty of the faction. And then you had a neutral option that wasn’t necessary the ‘good’ option. Sure I can feel comfortable imagining my Courier controlling the wastes, but is that actually a better solution than House or the NCR or Caesar? It’s not obvious that it is.

              And even within those choices, you can decide to alter the structure of the different organisations, which could turn them into quite different entities.

              Some of that is money. The Outer Worlds probably didn’t have the resources to give players so many different choices. But the way the factions aren’t so compelling or surprising is an issue with writing talent, and that’s harder to fix.

              1. Ninety-Three says:

                Thematically, it had the problem that it obviously wanted to say something about how capitalism is bad, but the main sins of the game’s corporations are that they are an all-powerful government, and a cartoonishly incompetent bureaucracy. Economics doesn’t enter into it, and their style of governance is basically feudalism (collective punishment is not the capitalist solution to a problem). If you want to make the 101 critique of capitalism you have people starving because they can’t afford food, instead it had multiple plotlines about the iconically communist phenomenon of people starving because idiot bureaucrats mismanaged the farmers so badly that there actually wasn’t enough food to go around.

                The game also seemed to have trouble making up its mind about whether this was a lawless Wild West frontier or an evil authoritarian government with absolute power, and which of those is the case is a big deal for a lot of the game’s moral choices (it’s not clear if the corporation can do anything about it if the middle-of-nowhere farmers go rogue, and you have to decide whether they should without knowing that).

                1. The Rocketeer says:

                  Well I’m glad someone else noticed this, because I’ve been cry-laughing and just regular crying about it since before the game released. I’ll continue to allow for the possibility that the writers of Outer Worlds are some sort of genius esotericist Chicago School infiltrators, but I think they’re probably just dimwits?

                  1. Ninety-Three says:

                    When I played through it I actually went and checked if any of the writers came from former Soviet countries because it lined up so perfectly. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t find anything, if I had it would’ve sent me down a rabbit hole of looking for genius esotericism everywhere.

                    1. The Rocketeer says:

                      *0232, in a parking structure near the University of Chicago*

                      Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky fidget nervously, near-blinded by a spotlight.

                      Mysterious Man: “Did you bring it?”
                      Cain: “Fucker, did you bring it?”
                      Mysterious Man: “You first.”

                      Boyarsky steps forward, opening a hollowed-out copy of The Road to Serfdom and removing a slim flask packed in dry ice, holding it out with shaking hands.

                      The mystery man steps forward and yanks the flask from Boyarsky, Cato Institute cufflink glistening on his wrist. He takes a sip and lets slip an astonished sigh of refreshment.

                      Mysterious Man: “My God. Unpasteurized camel’s milk. Utah?”
                      Boyarsky: “Wyoming.”
                      Cain: “That’s enough! We’re running out of time!”

                      The mystery man reaches into his jacket and pulls out a sheaf of papers held in binder clips, handing it to Cain. Centered atop the first page in uneven typewriten letters is “The Outer Worlds.”

                    2. Ninety-Three says:

                      That was amazing, thank you Rocketeer.

                    3. Daniil Adamov says:

                      My impression of it was that it’s just like that sub-genre of old Eastern Bloc sci-fi in which writers attack something they label “capitalism”, though it clearly operates just like the state socialism under which they live. To obfuscate it a little, the characters occasionally spout capitalist catchphrases and the like. The earliest example was probably Valentin Kataev’s “Ehrendorf Island”, in which a CAPITALIST! visionary who is totally not pro-communist writer Ilya Ehrenburg pitches an idea to form a CAPITALIST! totalitarian planned society to a CAPITALIST! who is totally not (then still legitimate) Trotsky. There have been plenty of others too, though that one is especially interesting as we now know that Kataev was almost literally an infiltrator of the sort that you describe (he was a White spy during the civil war, succesfully covered up his past affiliation afterwards, and kept trolling the communists while collecting their pay as a big name Soviet author). I actually found the game’s writing downright charming in its stupidity due to my fond memories of some of those stories. I really doubt it was the intended effect, though…

                      Another characteristically Soviet element, by the way – work by assignment. Straight out of my parents’ and grandparents’ memories of socialism. Nothing of the sort now that capitalism reigns, though. Also deficits, shoddy goods, Soviet-style propaganda posters and radio briefs… all with a little capitalist flavour, of course. I do think the posters at least must have been a conscious borrowing. That makes me wonder whether there is any such hope for the rest, after all.

              2. Chad+Miller says:

                They did include enough clues that the fertilising the crops bit could be worked out ahead of time. But trying to use that information to come to the best of both worlds conclusion required precise sequencing that was silly.

                Really? I didn’t find it and…I was looking. My attitude coming in was that I was leaning toward supporting Adelaide, but I had picked up that something suspicious was going on. I’ve heard multiple people independently wonder if they were avoiding telling the player before they side against Adelaide to keep the player from regretting their decision, which neatly sums up why it felt toothless a lot of the time.

                1. Ninety-Three says:

                  I always thought it was toothless because it was so low impact. It’s icky, but it’s not actually hurting anyone and there’s no indication that it’s not a sustainable solution. Despite this, it feels like the game expects you to react as though they revealed this was a settlement of cannibals murdering passers-by for food.

                  1. Chad+Miller says:

                    I mean, yeah. Even if I’d known beforehand, I still would have been inclined to side with Adelaide rather than Reed. But at least that would have been making a decision instead of being protected from one.

                    1. Thomas says:

                      I had the opposite problem in that I had worked out her fertiliser solution, but I couldn’t work out how to use that in dialogue to do anything. In the end I had to look it up, and learned that I had to trigger the ending choice first before you can use the knowledge.

                      I’m pretty sure they do imply the fertiliser solution is unsustainable – or at least economically so in the long-run. After you convince Reed to let Adelaide take over the city (I can’t remember if it’s implied that’s better for purely humanitarian reasons of not letting the city die, or if the city does play an important part of the sustainability of the greenhouses – but I think it’s the latter), there’s still something that suggests whilst it will work for now, it’s not going to work well enough to stop the colony from dying off. Perhaps because it still doesn’t produce enough food to sustain the other colonies, and they’ll run out of other supplies with no ability to trade for them or something like that, it’s been a long time.

                      The colonies are fundamentally flawed however they’re managed because there’s no way of producing food that can sustain the whole system.

        2. MerryWeathers says:

          I think Obisidian is great when they try to be ambitious but they also start running themselves into the ground as a company.
          Also bug infestations.

          So for now they’ve settled into more “medium” and polished products like Outer Worlds or Pillars of Eternity. Also branched into other genres with Grounded.

        3. The Rocketeer says:

          Wait, what? The lead writer of Fallout: New Vegas wrote for Horizon: Zero Dawn? Then why is H:ZD such shit?

          1. Thomas says:

            Not just wrote, but was the lead writer. I’m pretty sure that all the justifications for why robots look like dinosaurs, what people eat etc. wouldn’t have been in the game if he wasn’t there.

        4. MerryWeathers says:

          Chris Avellone did a massive chunk of their good writing, and he’s not there. And John Gonzalez was the lead writer on Fallout: New Vegas and then went onto Horizon Zero Dawn which captured a lot of the detail-based worldbuilding of F:NV. which says to me that he was a big part of F:NV’s success too.

          New Vegas’ great writing can’t be owed to one person since every writer in Obsidian worked on various locations and characters of the game. It was the collaboration between all the writers that made the game as good as it was.

    2. The Rocketeer says:

      Are you making the same mistake I make every time I visit the Steam store and confusing The Outer Worlds and The Outer Wilds? Or am I making that mistake right now?

      Can’t these devs just send champions to duel one another over things like this? I might never stop confusing Rogue Galaxy and Rebel Galaxy but at least there was a decent span of time between those two.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Dammit, the Outer Worlds is the RPG. Outer Wilds is the cutesy time-loop! ^^;

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        I confuse them often but today I appear to have split the difference between Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds and Mobius Digital’s Outer Wilds. Perhaps if I make every possible variation of the mistake I will finally, for lack of other options, get it right.

      3. Mr. Wolf says:

        Confusing similar names! Like for years I got “Van Halen” and “van Helsing” mixed up. They’re not even remotely the same thing!

        Although a monster-hunting rock band does sound like a great concept for a short-run comic book.

  22. RFS-81 says:

    I thought the main waste product in Cities Skylines was dead bodies!

    Anyway, gesture controls: Arx Fatalis — Arkane’s tribute to Ultima Underworld — also used them for casting spells. I’m not a fan of that. The one saving grace was that you could store a number of spells to fire of instantly. Strangely, I’m getting an itch to play it again, despite the gesture controls and despite getting stuck due to a bug when I played it last time. Maybe it’s Prey’s fault?

    What’s cool about magic in Arx is that each spell rune you find has a meaning and the spells work according to a sort of “grammar”, so you can find new spells by extrapolating from ones you already know. For example, Magic Missile is “create missile”, lighting a torch is “create fire”, fireball is “create fire missile”.

    1. Syal says:

      Also The Wonderful 101. Haven’t played it myself, I can’t even handle their non-drawing Platinum games.

    2. Mark says:

      I thought the main waste product in Cities Skylines was dead bodies!

      Only once a generation when everyone dies at the same time.

  23. Gautsu says:

    RE: studies

    On my first day of Statistics I back in my freshmen year I remember my Professor (Prof. Grande, who looked like a gym teacher and sounded lime Kermit the frog) tell us that Statistics was learning how to use math to lie. He couldn’t have been more correct as I watch people claim their studies, polls, and numbers are the factual basis for their beliefs while their opponents/detractors/people on the other side of an argument point to their own studies as factual.

    I can’t say that I miss the studios behind them (all) but I would have loved to see where the storylines would have ended up for Advent Rising, Too Human, and how one more game could have wrapped up all of the dangling plot threads for Legacy of Kain, left over from the end of LoK: Defiance

    1. Lino says:

      Legacy of Kain is especially painful for me, because once upon a time, Crystal Dynamics were my favourite developer. But now they’ve been so successful with Tomb Raider that we’ll definitely never see another LoK game again :/

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        On the one hand I expect at some point someone will remember the IP. On the other hand this is prime monkey’s paw material in terms of the quality of that hypothetical future game…

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          “We have some idle developers now that work on The Avengers has ended, and…”

  24. Grimwear says:

    The only olympics I’ve watched was the woman’s skateboarding because I heard Alana Smith’s run was terrible. I thought it would be a fun disaster to see but in all reality it turned out just like Elizabeth Swaney’s 2018 run where she did nothing…just rode around and didn’t show up. Really boring. Aside from that I did discover Rob and Romesh vs Team GB on youtube and that was pretty fun to watch and kinda makes me want to ride down the canoe track once in my life.

    1. bobbert says:

      My favorite was always the biathalon. (cross-country skiing + target shooting)

      Sadly, for whatever reason, it always get terrible time-slots for broadcast, and I never get to see.

      Also, coming from Minnesota(very flat), down-hill skiing has always struck me as weird and unnatural. Snow-boarding also confuses me – the only way you are going to get anywhere is with the poles alone. I hope your arms are very strong.

  25. Syal says:

    have you ever encountered a mechanic in a game that made you think:
    “If I made a game, that’s how I’d do it.”?

    I’ve had the opposite happen multiple times now; I’ll see a game, think of a new idea to try to improve the game, and then find out a previous game used that idea years before. “What if instead of just their health, you could alternately target the enemy’s spot on the turn list?” Turns out Grandia 2 did it. “What if you made a game about gunning down skeletons with dual-wielded infinite ammo pistols?” Torchlight 2 allows it, and they’re heroes for it.

    Closest one was probably Phantom Brave. “What if, in a turn-based strategy game, your finite pool of soldiers could only stay on the field a couple of turns? What if your summoning point was your main character, so you have to summon just enough to keep them alive without using up all your soldiers before you get to the end? What if the enemy worked the same way, so you’re trying to chokepoint their big guys with your little guys until they both time out, then hit their summoner with your big guys?” Phantom Brave doesn’t have the last bit but it’s well into the spirit of the thing. (It’s got some other experimental ideas too, like bouncy/frictionless floors that make characters move much further than you told them to; it’s something of a spaghetti-testing game.)

    Still waiting for one where running from fights is the go-to (non-speedrun) strategy, and actually standing to finish one is the rare one-off. This one’s the sibling to the above timing-out idea; watching OgreBattle 64 made me want to see inconclusive scuffles as the backbone of a game.

    And a latest one where targeting non-health stats is a central battle tactic. Get a Fallout-style multitarget system, but where you’re targeting Attack/Defense/Luck/Speed/Intellect. Maybe they don’t even have health bars, it’s all about lowering enough stats to zero that they give up.

    1. Syal says:

      For old ideas I’d like to see return, I’ve mentioned FF2’s levelling system several times. SaGa and The Elder Scrolls both expanded on it, but Elder Scrolls is real-time and SaGa leaned into the part that wasn’t good, the obtuseness. Otherwise, probably something like the Fusion system from Phantom Brave, where you merge two good characters to make one great character. Although Persona’s still got a lot of that spirit with the Persona fusions.

      For ideas that have survived too long; probably percent-based status effects. Spells like Silence, with a 30% chance of landing. If you want it to take four turns to shut off an enemy’s spells, make the debuff reduce damage and make it stack to 100%, and then it can hit every time it’s cast. And I guess “AI-controlled party” can go on here. It’s not widespread, thankfully, but every so often someone brings it back for their game to remind us all that yep, we still hate it.

      1. Thomas says:

        In terms of mechanics that haven’t been used enough – FFX’s consistent status inflictions, evasion and accuracy is one I wish most turn-based RPGs took on. The Persona games have always been good with making buffs and evasion worthwhile, but most other RPGs still have you turn a 3% chance of evading into a 7% chance of evading

    2. Platypus says:

      Honestly I would pay to Have Romesh commentate on the olympics, his complete deadpan delivery coupled with the sorts of dramatic scenes of glory and disappointment from athletes would just be perfect.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      And a latest one where targeting non-health stats is a central battle tactic.

      You’ve just done an excellent job describing why I love FTL so much. Well, maybe that’s overstating things slightly, as unless you’re doing a boarding run* you’ll still end up pummeling the enemy ship into dust, but in general the endless ability to mess with other ship’s “stats”/abilities keeps me endlessly entertained.

      *Or something truly tricky like trying to kill off enemy crews remotely without destroying the ship—good for a challenge run!

      1. Syal says:

        Ion runs were always my favorite way to play FTL, shame there’s only one good Ion weapon and it’s prohibitively expensive. You need to shut down the shields, and the weapons, and the oxygen, and there’s not enough weapon capacity to allow for it with just ion.

    4. bobbert says:

      I really like Ogre Battle. It was very beautiful, back in the day.
      The skirmish mechanic is very smart.
      It is sad the story will never be finished.

    5. Syal says:

      Thinking about it, I have had one memorable “If I made a game that’s how I’d do it” moment; the diplomacy from Griftlands. It’s very similar to just having a regular fight; you both have Core Arguments with hp, and then you can summon Supporting Arguments that take independent actions. First person to kill the other’s core argument wins the debate. It’s a wonderful abstraction featuring core gameplay, that doesn’t end up as a say-this-next checklist like so many of the talky games do.

      1. Syal says:

        (And I guess Fell Seal’s solution to recruiting monster units in tactics games; they’re never worth the space on their own, so let’s turn them all into a single unit’s Job Classes. That’s a very good idea.)

        1. John says:

          I haven’t played it yet, but Fell Seal’s expansion actually allows you to recruit monster units, who have their own jobs. Not entirely sure how that works. I guess I’ll find out once I’m finished being distracted by Loop Hero.

  26. Mephane says:

    Moreover, both Blizzard and Ubisoft have been rocked by scandals showing that their companies are toxic, miserable, and profoundly dysfunctional. Worrying about their lame-ass DRM policies is like criticizing Harvey Weinstein for being a bad tipper.

    Like, who cares what these idiots think about DRM at this point? Burn the whole thing down.

    Did anyone else read that in their head in the voice of Jim Stephanie Sterling? One of their recent videos was just about that using very similar language, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7SoLyWjwJw

    1. Shamus says:

      Wow. I had no idea. I hadn’t even seen that video. (Although I had just watched the Bellular news outlining the “Cosby Room”, which is why I was so worked up when I wrote the above.)

    2. RFS-81 says:

      The world was better when the things I read in their voice were “Triple-Ayyy” and “LIIIIVE SERVICES”. Or at least it seemed better.

  27. I figured the main value of the study was less in trying to convince the big dinosaurs of the gaming industry and less in helping smaller studios decide whether it’s worth their time and money (both always in short supply for smaller studios) to invest in any kind of DRM, and it seems like the answer is emphatically NO.

  28. Steve C says:

    Paul, a tip for automatically clearing backups is by separating the power grid. It is a regular page out my playbook for many of these types of games.

    Let’s say in Dyson Sphere Program harvesting Fire-Ice for Graphene and getting too much Hydrogen. Put one gatherer and the first processor on their own isolated power so they always try to run. They act to prime the pump. The rest of the production line burns hydrogen to make power. Which powers other processors that split the Fire-Ice. So there’s one mini-grid that just supplies the initial producer. A second isolated power grid that feeds itself or starves itself. And then the third main grid.

    The key is how it fails in a backup. If the graphene backs up then that’s fine. The point was to make graphene. If it’s not being used then it is just storage. Unwanted hydrogen will stop being produced and will run out. Everything except the primer powers down. Once the graphene backlog starts to clear, everything will cascade. Fuel and therefore power is created in ever increasing amounts as each processor and power plant comes back online.

    If the unwanted hydrogen backs up, (stopping wanted graphene production) then the power plants will eat the hydrogen regardless. The power continues to run. Everything trying to make graphene still receives power on its grid. There are more power plants on the main grid though. Those plants always want hydrogen to burn. So hydrogen can never really back up. It’s just shunted into the main overall power grid.

    The result is the whole production line cascades up and cascades down based on use. As more is demanded, more is automatically supplied. As less is demanded, supply starves itself into turning off so nothing is wasted. Nor can it ever drag down the main power grid when it shuts itself off. It creates its own equilibrium.

    This isn’t unique to Dyson Sphere Program. This kind of strategy works very well in all sorts of games.

    1. bobbert says:

      This isn’t unique to Dyson Sphere Program. This kind of strategy works very well in all sorts of games.

      It is really great that we have enough game, now, that refinery design is a valuable transferable skill.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, that might work. The problem I was having was that the generators don’t eat enough hydrogen, so it kept backing up, and then when I added enough pointless load, and the power ran out during a backup, it never started up again. It would be really nice if there were tools for handling seperate grids and prioritizing and stuff. Even Mindustry has grid segmentation tools. In DSP you can’t even manually disconnect the grid, so you have to do it with power pole placement.

      1. Steve C says:

        Pointless load? Note that I in no way suggested to do something like that. In fact that is more the direct opposite of what I was saying.

  29. MadTinkerer says:

    Re: Eu on Piracy

    This confirms what I’ve been saying for over a decade now. Every time brought up the idea that filesharing never results in lost sales, some nitwit would reply demanding proof. Proof other than the thousands of games (no exaggeration: thousands) I’ve personally bought even though I also do a lot of filesharing. Usually I engage in filesharing because the files in question are unavailable for purchase or the game (or book) can only be obtained for ~20x original retail price.

    Sometimes I make the mistake of “trying before buying” when there’s no demo. I say mistake because I’ve never downloaded a torrent of something I “might” buy without inevitably buying it later, even when maybe I should save the money for something else. Never. This clear opposite reality to all the people claiming “pirates never buy what they can pirate” is what led me to intuitively realize the same thing that the study found.

    There are people who are too lazy or cheap to pay for software, so they’ll fileshare for that reason. There are people who want things unavailable for purchase, so they’ll fileshare for that reason. There are people who tried to buy something but the scalper-bots beat them to it, so they’ll fileshare instead. There are people who really want to try a demo but a demo isn’t available so they’ll fileshare. None of these reasons lead to lost sales and the last case leads to a certain number of gained sales.

    As for DRM… DRM usually ruins games so badly I don’t even want to fileshare them. Sometimes I’ll accidentally buy something with DRM and I’ll need to find a crack to get rid of the DRM so I can tolerate it’s presence on my system. But usually, I just pass. There’s millions of games I can play without DRM. Tens of thousands of those games are even available for me to purchase. DRM-infected games are a waste of my time.

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