Diecast #366: Albion Quarantine Matrix

By Shamus Posted Monday Dec 13, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 55 comments

It looks like we’re going to be taking a couple of weeks off from the Diecast. This year our recording days fall directly on Christmas and New Year. So the podcast next week will be the last of 2021.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 Quarantine!
Like I said on the show, my wife is stuck in quarantine 300 miles away. Although she ought to be home in time for Christmas.

Also, she’s visiting our kids in Indiana, not Illinois. This blunder wouldn’t be so bad, except this is like the 10th time I’ve made it. I knew all my states back in 1981, but 40 years later I find that Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois all blur together in my mind as a single mass labeled “middle-ish states that start with I.”

06:39 Albion Online and the mystery of the FPS Limit
I’ve thought about it some more, and I’m still baffled.

17:10 Matrix Awakens

Link (YouTube)

Yes Games Industry, that is all very impressive. Well done, etc etc. But please don’t assume that the resulting adulation indicates we’re hungry for graphically intense rail shooters built around shooting car tires.

21:17 Xbox Game Pass … on Linux?
Once again the megacorps seems to be ravenous when it comes to gathering user data, and incompetent when it comes to using the data.

24:24 Guardians of the Galaxy – QTEs and Linear design

After the show I did find an option to turn off the obnoxious QTEs. It was filed under “accessibility” and not under “difficulty” as I originally expected.

This game is… a lot. I can tell I’m in the home stretch now. I think the game will weigh in at around 20 hours when all is said and done. That’s not particularly long by modern standards, but most 20 hour games are content to leave you alone with the gameplay for a few hours at a time between story beats. But in GotG, the story beats are non-stop. This is a very talkative game.

I’m not saying the dialog is bad. In fact, if we rate it against its AAA contemporaries it’s farking genius. It’s just that I find it sort of exhausting to go on an adventure with these four manic motor-mouth murderers.

36:22 Mailbag: Hub Worlds

Dear Diecast,

Once again, as inspired by Design Doc’s coverage of the topic, I ask you, what do you think makes a great hub world in video games? And what makes a bad one?

All the best,

40:40 Mailbag: The Metaverse

Dear Diecast,

I remember reading on older blog post of yours where you wrote about your experiences in the dot-com era, where companies were trying to create things like virtual reality shopping malls and such, and how that was kind of a dumb idea for a whole bunch of reasons.

I’m curious now what you think of Facebook’s Meta stuff and whether or not you feel like history is just kind of repeating itself? I actually work as a 3D developer for a company that’s trying to take advantage of the “virtual reality brick and mortar store,” type idea and that old blog post just plays on endless loop in my head whenever I work on it lol

– Zach

For those of you curious about my history with this topic, check out Crash Dot Com Part 1: A World Gone Mad.


From The Archives:

55 thoughts on “Diecast #366: Albion Quarantine Matrix

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    Matrix Awakens

    It was incredibly impressive at first but then the magic started wearing off from me after an hour, something about it just broke the illusion of the world looking realistic and I started seeing it as just another open world game on max graphics settings.

    1. Geebs says:

      Yeah, and it’s worth remembering that two of the most graphically impressive open world cities, GTA V and AssCreed: Unity, came out in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

      I think we’re supposed to be more impressed by the relatively small number of man-hours that went into making the Matrix demo, than by the demo itself. Cutting down on the amount of lighting that needs to be baked is probably better for the quality of games in general, and the quality of life of the people who make them, though; IIRC part of the reason for the horrible crunch at e.g. Bungie is that they had to spend 18 hours re-rendering the lighting on a map every time somebody changed a single vertex.

      1. Provisional Username says:

        So, Nanite is a way of geometry virtualization – meaning, they take a very high-poly mesh, and cut it up into small meshlets that are culled, LOD’d, and streamed individually. Guess what kind of static mesh has that many polygons to begin with? Answer: “Realistic” meshes – meshes made (probably through photogrammetry) for games/movies trying to look as realistic as possible.

        This is what reduces the amount of man-hours, because a pipeline based on virtualized geometry allows developers to skip the modelling-texturing phase, since all they need to do is choose some pre-scanned meshes from asset libraries, and then perhaps make some tweaks to them. In fact, that is exactly what Epic is promoting: they acquired 3Lateral to develop Metahuman, Quixel and Capturing Reality for photogrammetry asset library, Cubic Motion and Hypersense for animation assets, and Artstation and Sketchfab for their existing asset marketplaces. Unreal Engine 5 is going to launch alongside a library of high-res assets appropriate for both games and CGI movies. And they have announced that the assets used in the Matrix Awakens will be part of the free offering. Artists will be able to just drag and drop these assets into their projects, and go on with their lives.

        But this presents a problem: the cost of creating realistic graphics will become so less compared to more stylized games, that not only the small drip-feed of stylized AAA games will dry up, but even indie devs might choose to go for the low-cost option of realistic prefabbed assets rather than hand-crafting stylized one. If Shamus wants to worry about something, this is it.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Ooooh, there’s a type of game dev that’s going to jump on this bandwagon sooo hard. You know, all those people who do asset flips, or those super cheap COD or Dark Souls knock offs that are ridiculously janky but they think it’s going to bring them millions because it’s basically the same.

          But that’s the price we pay for gamedev tools being more accessible, just like self-publishing gave us a lot of trash books. I think part of being a good dev* is knowing whether realistic artstyle is good for your game. If there are some devs who’d like to do a game that works better with or even requires realism making such resources more accessible to them is a good thing.

          *AAA is a very particular case where this type of decision is made by marketing research and people who do not actually participate in the development process so I’m not actually holding the devs of those games entirely responsible for the push for realism.

    2. Steve C says:

      These games can never ever be a movie. They can only ever be a bad movie. I wish they would stop trying.

      That clip is 14 mins. Imagine 14 mins of that stuff in an actual movie. With cringe dialogue like “Haven’t you ever seen a movie, before? Shoot their tires.” Then repetitive roof-climbing mooks pop up to be targets. While blown tires unrealistically cause cars to launch into the air. These are the elements of a bad bad movie. That’s the high bar. The best they can hope for.

      What are they giving up for this expensive fool’s errand? Actual game play that might be good. I know the Maxtrix clip is tech demo but I hate it for all the reasons Shamus does. I would hate Guardians of the Galaxy: The Game just as much for the same reasons.

  2. Moridin says:

    Re: CPU power
    That’s not really true. While clockspeeds have stagnated, single-core performance has kept improving, albeit at a slower rate. The improvements have been in the form of a CPU core doing more per cycle, as well as improvements in cache and memory. You have things like an operation that would have taken multiple cycles (let’s say 128-bit vector operation which back in the day would have needed to be broken down into multiple 64-bit operations) now done in a single cycle, and larger L1 and L2 caches meaning that the CPU spends less time waiting for things to be fetched from L3 cache or RAM.

    My bet for Albion Online would be that there’s some kind of driver issue going on.

  3. Lino says:

    Sincerely wishing Heather all the best! Earlier in the year I was also quarantined due to COVID, and it really sucked. I wasn’t vaccinated, so maybe that’s why I had such a tough time with it, but still – let’s hope everything turns out OK!

  4. Provisional Username says:

    Paul, were you running Albion Online on Windows or through Proton? Frame limiters are notorious to get right, because calling sleep() in real-time applications is not a very good idea, and is very hard to get right. If it was in Proton, it’s possible that some Win32 API has slightly different behaviour in Proton/Wine than in Windows.

    Regardless, see if their is a way to completely disable the frame limiter (and use vsync for limiting frame rate, if needed). Also, if you are on Windows, check the task manager to see if the program is CPU limited, GPU limited, neither or both. In case of neither, it is probably incorrect API usage causing this issue.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I was running it with whatever default launcher is on flatpack, so I would hope it’s linux native. Yes, I turned off the frame limiter and it didn’t make any difference. Yes, my suspicion is that there’s some sort of nonsense going on in the shader API.

    2. Jonas says:

      Is this also something that could be happening in certain modern games.
      With my rig i can run battlefiels 2042 in higest setting with 100fps. But apex legends, Dirt 2.0(only certain parts of the track) and will of the wisp I al get a max of 15 fps. With a CPU and GPU usage below 30%.

      If CPU, GPU and memory (i run the game form a SSD) aren’t limited what more could limit a game?
      I hope that the tech savy people here can point me were i should start looking.

  5. Thomas says:

    I’m hoping people will slowly learn that Guardians of the Galaxy was a genuine game. I’m afraid Square Enix are going to think “we tried to make a proper first-person game and no-one bought it, lets not try again”, instead of “The Avengers game was _that_ toxic it sabotaged this game”.

    I like that it’s linear! Most AAA games aren’t linear now, they’re all Ubisoft games now, even the ones that used to be linear. I’ll take a corridor over a heap of map markers. Although Bioware nailed the right amount of linearity years ago, and I wish most games did that instead of it having to be one extreme or another.

    1. Thomas says:

      * a proper single-player game

    2. Lino says:

      Although I haven’t played it myself, I plan on starting it soon. And the biggest draw for me is precisely the fact that the game is linear. As I’ve got more and more busy over the years, I’ve come to really appreciate more clear and focused experiences.

      If I only have half an hour or so available for gaming, the last thing I need is to pointlessly meander through a cookie-cutter open world just so I can get to a mission that’s ultimately a watered-down version of a more focused level in a linear game.

    3. Chad Miller says:

      Re: Avengers undermining GotG: That’s exactly how it turned out for me. In fact I didn’t realize that both games were Square-Enix until Avengers showed up on Game Pass plastered with advertisements for GotG, followed directly by their attempts to draw blood from the stone that is the Avenges microtransaction store. They couldn’t possibly have made me less interested if they’d tried.

  6. tmtvl says:

    Ultima is set on the world of Britannia, not Albion (the game that takes place on the world of Albion is Albion).

    Speaking of Albion (it was made in Germany, by the way), I always wonder if Blue Byte is ever gonna make a sequel to it. Would be interesting to see a higher definition Drirr.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      Fable also takes place in Albion (although I think even the creators may have forgotten this at some point since Fable III has a stray reference to people speaking English)

      1. tmtvl says:

        All of Albion speaking English? Must be something the Dji-kas messed up again.

      2. djw says:

        I think Albion is an alternate name for Great Britain, so it makes sense that at least some of the people there would indeed speak English.

        1. Soylent Dave says:

          Albion is indeed the pre-Roman name for Great Britain (whereas Britannia is the post-Roman name), so you’d reasonably expect English to be spoken on either of these.

          See also: Blighty.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            I’m somewhat surprised, now that I think about it, that the term Perfidious Albion never came up in that whole AUKUS row…

      3. Tuck says:

        The world of Albion in Albion Online has absolutely nothing to do with:

        a) Ultima
        b) Albion the single player RPG by Blue Byte
        c) Fable

        It’s an entirely separate world loosely based on Arthurian myths. The game is also not very old, it was launched in 2017. “Mid-90s video game”? Really?

  7. Thomas says:

    I’m optimistic that the meta-verse will be a massive flop that will drain money away from Facebook. Worst-case scenario, a bunch of products will have forced meta-integration for a couple of years before it collapses. Google+ but even worse, because at least Google+ was copying a product that people actually use.

    I don’t know if Facebook have built anything that was a success since the original Facebook? They’ve mostly spent their years missing all the social media trends and then buying out whoever did something successful.

    1. Taellosse says:

      I’m hopeful, but not optimistic. Barring a tectonic shift on the subject of regulating social media, Facebook doesn’t need to be successful anywhere but Facebook – that alone is a self-sustaining money engine of terrifying proportions. That means they can just keep pouring money into their “metaverse” as long as it takes to catch on, and it’s clear that owning the VR-internet is Zuckerberg’s dream, so he won’t stop until he’s forced to.

      1. Thomas says:

        Some things money can’t buy though. Google used the full resources of the company in a way they never had before to try and make Google+ a thing, and now it’s just a broken share link at the bottom of some outdated blogs.

  8. tmtvl says:

    FAANGM (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google, Microsoft) has become the MMAAAN (Meta, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Netflix).

    1. GoStu says:

      Netflix always looks so out-of-place to me in these lists.

      Apple and Microsoft both have a million things going on. Computers, phones, operating systems, online stores, everything. Amazon has all their stores and AWS and everything else. Google has their mass data-harvesting and advertising and email and a billion ventures two slip-ups away from cancellation. Facebook has its ongoing quest to create more ways to gather personal information, and keeps buying other things just in case.

      I guess I don’t know all the things Netflix gets up to. Alternately, maybe streaming video is more involved than I thought.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Netflix is a tenth the size of Apple or Microsoft, but that still means their market cap is a quarter of a trillion dollars, they’re kind of a big deal.

        That said, I’ve always suspected they made the list because FAANG without Netflix is an unfortunate acronym.

        1. tmtvl says:

          GAF A (plot twist, Gaf was a Replicant).

    2. Philadelphus says:


      MANA MA–

      Hmm, just need another few letters there…

      1. tmtvl says:

        Lessee… Alibaba, Novell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi?

        1. Philadelphus says:

          Can we make these companies the next big thing on Reddit Bets or whatever that subreddit is called?

  9. Lino says:

    Hmmm. Are you sure you’re not mixing up Albion Online with Ultima Online? Because – according to Wikipedia – Albion Online came out in 2017. Although I definitely wouldn’t blame you – not only does the name sound similar to “Ultima”, but aesthetically it also looks very similar to Ultima, as well.

    The only reason I know there’s a difference is because a couple of years ago I used to follow an MMO channel on YouTube, and before every single one of his videos I was getting bombarded with ads for the game :D

  10. Pax says:

    Loved the Guardians game, but I still had to step away for a couple of days because it. got. so. aggravating constantly arguing with Rocket. That and Starlord’s primary leadership technique of “C’moooooon guuuuuuys…”

  11. RamblePak64 says:

    Note: It was Square Enix that got the rights for Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, not Sony, but they both start with the letter S and Sony already put out Spider-Man so makes sense to confuse in the moment. Also: Square Enix are those Final Fantasy guys! What are they doing making a super hero game? Etc.

    I’m glad you’re mostly enjoying it, and I very much understand that inability to know how much longer the game is. I hit the halfway point knowing it was the halfway point, but it felt like the end of Act Two of Three. I was concerned it would feel padded, and while I think it would have been for most other games given the bare bones beats, I think they managed to wrap up appropriate character development, what certain missions represented for those characters, tying up loose ends, and just building momentum for the final mission.

    I also think one of the reasons I’ve been so surprised by the game is that it’s this good as a AAA game. I’ve been playing some of the big AAA titles as they release, though fewer and fewer as time goes on, and for me Guardians of the Galaxy has more highs and fewer lows than Control and Jedi: Fallen Order, and possibly God of War and Ghosts of Tsushima (which is harder to compare because I like both of those games, but God of War has unnecessary colored loot systems and Ghost of Tsushima’s open world is just a bit too big than it needs to be). I also don’t mind that it’s linear, either. My favorite type of game is Metroidvania, but for a narrative-based game I think linear is fine. The side-tunnel exploration can be enjoyable since they’ll sometimes have Zelda-esque puzzles to solve, even if the reward is just “perks currency”. The only thing I disliked was the frequency at which the characters would mock Peter, and therefore the player, for exploring. Yes, game, how dare I actually take full advantage of the levels and mechanics you’ve designed. It’s funny on occasion, but it is too constant and is probably one of the complaints I do have for the game.

    Admittedly, I have forgotten the majority of the Quick Time Events in the game. What is, I think, most bizarre about them is that the game has so many Telltale-esque choices that play out in some fashion later, that they don’t create these quick-time events with the same approach in mind. Failing the QTE is instead a failed cut-scene, and that’s… weird. There aren’t that many of them, but yeah, that you need to wait until the specific moment the game wants you to press the button is odd and I screwed up the first time as well.

    Honestly, I think the only thing I actively disliked was the design of the downhill slope segments ripped out of Tomb Raider. It wasn’t always clear when a jump was coming, and there were times I’d jump too early, jump too late, or just jump in a way that had Peter getting wrecked on level geometry. Some of those I could have done without.

    It’s definitely not my favorite game of the year, but it’s certainly the biggest surprise, and I think that’s why it has gotten the buzz it has from those that have played it. Square Enix has already discounted it pretty heavily, dropping it to $39 for both the Autumn sales and the VGA sales, and probably will be that low for Christmas and New Years sales, too. That indicates sales are not where they want it to be, but are hoping to really get it out there.

    I’m more optimistic of Square Enix than most publishers, especially after having read some of their financial reports. I think they’ll see Guardians of the Galaxy as a title that will be more successful in the long-run whereas Avengers is struggling even on Game Pass. I think the lesson there has been learned. But, I also put more faith in Square Enix than most publishers, and that has been known to bite me in the butt (oh hello Epic Games Store exclusivity for Final Fantasy VII Remake!)

    1. Geebs says:

      I always check for “auto-win QTEs” or “hold button to mash” options in any game where I think they might rear their ugly head, so I’m happy to say I haven’t seen a single QTE in GotG.

      I think they balanced the combat funny for a AAA game, though. Either it’s a slog, or you guess the correct combo (based on, IMO, very minimal cues) and absolutely melt everything. It’s odd for a game like this to try to incorporate high skill ceiling gameplay by stealth.

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        Enemy health bars tend to have their vulnerability right on them, and if it has the vague blaster one it means they have no specific weakness. Those foes tend to get frozen easily, however, and I would just freeze ’em and shoot ’em for extra damage.

        It is surprisingly challenging in spots, in part because Peter draws an awful lot of aggro. For being a squad-based shooter with specific characters each serving a role, there are no real “draw aggro” abilities you can call upon from Drax. It’s mostly crowd control through Groot or Rocket.

  12. John says:

    I do not want the internet to be like Snowcrash. Or, rather, I should say that I do not want the internet to be any more like Snowcrash than it already is. The internet in Snowcrash is a big virtual-reality tourist trap. People go there to socialize, sight-see, and gawk at each other’s avatars. Noobs and poor people use the default avatar and are mocked accordingly. In other words, the internet in Snowcrash is basically Fortnite. The metaverse is already here, and it’s about as bad Neal Stephenson predicted. The depressing thing is that Snowcrash is a satire about a dystopia and I don’t think it was meant to be predictive.

    1. Thomas says:

      It’s funny how many large tech organisations have used dystopian science fiction as the _blueprint_ for their products.

      I don’t think anyone would have predicted that nerds liking Minority Report would one day result in those same nerds trying to recreate Minority Report as tech CEOs.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Aren’t all dystopian satires ultimately predictive, even when the author doesn’t want it to be?

      1. John says:

        No. Admittedly, I can’t think of any counter-examples at the moment, but I think that’s because nobody remembers the dystopian satires that were way off the mark.

        1. GoStu says:

          Every zombie movie ever?

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Just to be clear, my original comment was at least half tongue-in-cheek. :)

        2. Daniil Adamov says:

          1984? Oh, the word “Orwellian” gets thrown around a lot, but the world we had by actual 1984 and the one we have today are not remotely what he wrote about.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Eh, Orwell got the date by swapping the last two digits of 1948, it was never meant to be a literal prediction of 1984 specifically.

          2. Tohron says:

            Smart TVs do replicate several of the features of one of the novel’s more iconic elements…

          3. Thomas says:

            I don’t want to cross the politics line, but the modern Chinese government seems shockingly similar, with its high-tech personal surveillance and it’s high profile but _random_ disappearances, followed by unconvincing apologies by the victims.

            At first I thought Orwell was prophetic, but now my guess is that Soviet Russia was very similar and he was just writing about what was happening at the time (as he usually does).

        3. Philadelphus says:

          I suppose we haven’t yet been taken over by a caste of scientists in a flying island who can blight any area into submission by blocking out the sun, so Gulliver’s Travels hasn’t panned out, thankfully.

        4. kincajou says:

          Whilst the term “satire “in dystopian satire has me a bit confused (so up to you to decide if anything on the list qualifies as dystopian satire, certainly minority report, brave new world, and farenheit, all fir in some way.)

          Off the top of my head (whilst some elements of these have made it to reality, they are still quite off the mark):
          – brave new world
          – Jennifer government
          – Minority report
          – Farenheit 451
          – A clockwork orange

          of course there are parallels to elements in the present world, but the whole isn’t actually complete so i would call them off the mark.

          I think it is worth noting that dystopian sci fi, like a lot of sci-fi, isnt ultimately predictive but rather emphasises elements visible in the present day at the time of writing.
          to quote Ursula le guin
          “Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.
          Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge), by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee, and are therefore more honored in their day than prophets), and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.”

          (taken from the opening of the left hand of darkness which is worth a read because Le Guin writes leagues better than i ever can ( https://www.penguin.com/ajax/books/excerpt/9780441007318 )

          That said, i guess that it is precisely because sci-fi (and dystopian fiction) reflects the present that it will end up being “predictive” in the short term. i wonder if societal trends don’t tend to take long time to change and evolve and so if we really want to find dystopian fiction that was completley wrong we need to go quite far back to societies that we don’t necessarily recognise and so may not place the “genre” of the media as dystopian fiction in the first place? (i am always reminded that the further we go forward, the less 20 000 leagues under the sea feels like science fiction to me)

          1. John says:

            I described Snow Crash as a dystopian satire because it depicts a dystopia and because it is also in certain respects a satire of the cyberpunk genre. Parts of the book, including parts of the setting, are deliberately very silly.

    3. Paul Spooner says:

      It’s true; Fortnite beat them to it. Though I suspect Meta is going to try to be Fortnite for your spinster aunt rather than Second Life for street ninjas.

  13. Steve C says:

    @24mins, Paul, you understand that by trying it out, the marketing worked right? That was it’s goal. The fact that you aren’t in that ecosystem and even considering it means that you were the perfect person to send that advert to. Getting you into Windows is an even bigger win for them.

    This is neither a good nor bad thing. I’m just pointing out that your confusion of “Why are they sending this to *me* of all people?” has a solid answer– Because apparently it had a high chance of working on you.

  14. GoStu says:

    I’ve been paying as little attention as possible to Facebook and their silly universe plans, but it sounds like a plan to build a bridge to the moon, or build a ship out of sugar.

    I don’t care how much money you’re prepared to burn. It just cannot be done.

    (Jackass tech-bro here: “not with that attitude!” – and then proceed to burn enough money to fix world hunger trying to do so anyway)

  15. Stalevar says:

    Albion online is only 4 years old. It doesn’t look like anything from the 90s, or 00s. It looks like any modern game with stylized cartoonish graphics. They clearly went for the same aesthetics as torchlight.

    Considering albion runs without any problems on my 5 year old budget potato(just downloaded it out of curiosity) the problem must be anywhere but hardware or game optimization. I’m gonna make a wild guess and say it doesn’t like linux. Almost no one bothers to make their games run on linux.

    1. Tuck says:

      That was a very frustrating segment to listen to. Paul clearly had no idea about the game he was trying to play (and couldn’t be bothered doing even the most basic research about his problem, which would rapidly have clued him in…), and Shamus as a result got led completely up the garden path when it came to thinking about causes and solutions.

      1. I totally agree.

        I’m puzzled as to why Paul attempts to play MMOs, as he seems to have some disdain for the genre. His flippant dismissal of Lord of the Rings Online in a previous podcast seemed to dismay even Shamus.

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