Diecast #367: Merry Christmas Farewell 2021

By Shamus Posted Monday Dec 20, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 83 comments

And here is the last Diecast of 2021. We even managed to clear the mailbag, so we can start next year fresh. Other content will continue as normal, but the Diecast is on hiatus until January 10th. Merry Christmas everyone!



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast367


Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 Wreckfest

This was kind of amusing. I liked the damage modelling. I did find the loading screens to be sort of mystifying, though. These tracks aren’t that large. Fifteen seconds might not sound like much, but I know how much data you can move in fifteen seconds on a modern machine.

This problem isn’t unique to Wreckfest. Lots of modern-ish games have loading screens for things that ought to be close to instant. Unity game engine has an asset management system that adds tons of wait time to simple asset loads. Wikipedia doesn’t say what engine Wreckfest uses, so I don’t know if the engine is to blame.

Still, it’s one of those curiosities of modern gaming.

00:38 Deep Rock Galactic


Link (YouTube)

02:46 Linux updates

05:24 Mailbag: Christmas Games

Dear Diecast,

I hope you are both well.

The idea of “Christmas movies” has been around for a while. Titles like Home Alone, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, and Die Hard are standard fare around Yuletide.

I was wondering, are there any games that you would consider to be “Christmas games”? Either games that have a direct link with Christmas, like Merry Gear Solid, or games with a looser connection, like Icewind Dale… or perhaps even games that aren’t linked to Christmas at all, but you associate with Christmas because of some other reason.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year.

Vale,

-Tim

11:38 Mailbag: Be Evil

dear diecast,

do you have any single player games you really like where you play as an evil character?

games like hitman and mafia have you playing an anti-villian

you are doing bad things just trying to survive and make a buck fighting against people who are worse than you

in tie fighter, you’re just a grunt following reasonable orders to keep the peace and enforce the law

the motivations of your character and the people you kill aren’t even addressed

and then there are games with morality systems such as knights of the old republic

the justifications for the evil path and choices is shallow; the motivations are just selfishness, power, or cruelty

this makes the pc tough to relate to, and is why i never play evil paths even on replays

can we make a relatable evil character, or are people too conditioned to be good boys and girls?

thanks,

will

17:34 Mailbag: WoW Classic Transfer Shenanigans

Greetings, Shamus and Paul!

Recently, WoW Classic had a bit of a snafu in which people were able to transfer their geared vanilla characters from the Classic servers to the new, separate progression Season of Mastery servers.

To put a long story short, someone transferred in a character with raid gear that wouldn’t be accessible on one of these servers for the better part of a whole year. Needless to say, they went around causing havoc in battlegrounds just destroying everyone effortlessly.

Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/classicwow/comments/r7yqbq/som_naxx_geared_characters_being_transferred_to/

While I’m no longer into WoW, this got me thinking about all the other times in history that silly exploits broke MMOs. Someone assassinating Lord British in Ultima Online, the in-game Corrupted Blood pandemic in WoW- all sorts of things like that.

My question to you two is what’s your favorite example of these game breaking exploits, if any?

~ Starks

21:24 Mailbag: Artillery Games

Dear Diecast,

What are your favorite artillery games? Were you a ‘Worms’ or ‘Scorched Earth’ household.

Sincerely,
Bobbert

23:43 Mailbag: Full Game to Mechanic

Dear Diecast,

So, I have to say, I find golf to be extremely boring. I’m not a sports guy in the first place, but there’s something about this particular one that I find relentlessly sleep-inducing. But I’ve realized that when golf is turned into a game mechanic for a different kind of game, I find it extremely satisfying.

Two games come to mind as an example: “What the Golf?” (https://store.steampowered.com/app/785790/WHAT_THE_GOLF/) and the upcoming “Cursed to Golf” (https://store.steampowered.com/app/1726120/Cursed_to_Golf/), both of which use the mechanics of this game to solve physics-based puzzles.

My question is, does this kind of thing happen to you? Is there some sort of game that you don’t enjoy when it’s the full experience but you do when it becomes a mechanic in a different style of game?

Best wishes,
Pablo

29:09 Mailbag: GMTK

Dear DieCastles,

Mark Brown of Game Makers ToolKit has an ongoing series where he discusses the challenges & learning opportunities inherent in making a video game (link to playlist: Developing). As an indie game developer who has shipped a game, does Shamus have any thoughts on his observations thus far? Have you watched his series? Do you agree with his process so far?

Does Paul have any response to Mark’s approach to making a game? Would you recommend making a game in the way that Mark is pursuing thus far? Have you thought about making your own game, & how would you deal with your own admitted challenges (IE: the dreaded Feature Creep)?

Best Regards,

Zeta Kai

33:39 Mailbag: Unnecessary Mechanics

Dear DieCastles,

My son was replaying Super Metroid recently, & we were discussing the Reserve Tank system, & how unnecessary it is. For a brief recap on how Reserve Tanks work, for those who are not familiar with the game, they are related to Energy Tanks (IE health upgrades), but they start off empty, need to be manually activated (or toggled to Auto-Replenish), & are generally just more cumbersome in every way possible. We concluded that Reserve Tanks could have been entirely scrapped & replaced with additional Energy Tanks, with no loss to the game or its world, & was generally a solution in search of a problem.

Have either of you encountered a video game mechanic that was just there for its own sake, contributing little or nothing to the game as a whole? Have you ever played a game & thought “this just doesn’t need to be here”? And do you find that this is common, even in games that are otherwise considered masterpieces, as Super Metroid is often regarded within its genre?

Best Regards,

Zeta Kai

41:36 Mailbag: Level Up Systems

Dear Diecast,

By the law of the Rule of Three, I suppose this is the last time I may use the same source for inspiration to throw a question your way. (Unless you say it’s okay otherwise.) Yes, another Design Doc video compels me to ask you your thoughts on something video game-related! What do you think makes a good/bad level-up system?

Kind regards,
Andrew

49:17 Mailbag: Vampire Plague

Dear Diecast,

I have a bit of an unusual question this week.

How do you think society and its systems would change if vampires (that burn up in sunlight and have an insatiable appetite for blood) succeeded in turning everyone into one? How might they adapt? Could they adapt? And how long might that new nocturnal society last?

Cheers,
Andrew

During this segment I mentioned that I recently watched a vampire show that I really enjoyed. However, I realized that one of the things I loved was that the whole “vampire” angle came out of nowhere. So if I say the name of the show, then I’ll be spoiling it for others.

At the same time, some people are going to be annoyed because they don’t care about spoilers – they just want to know what I’m talking about. For those people, this video is what got me interested in the show to begin with.

 


From The Archives:
 

83 thoughts on “Diecast #367: Merry Christmas Farewell 2021

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    Mailbag: Be Evil

    I find RPGs like New Vegas to be the kind of games where being evil is the most satisfying, since your actions can actually affect or get acknowledged by the game world.

    How do you think society and its systems would change if vampires (that burn up in sunlight and have an insatiable appetite for blood) succeeded in turning everyone into one? How might they adapt? Could they adapt? And how long might that new nocturnal society last?

    I’d imagine that blood would be the new global economy and technologies would get developed to deal with the sun.

    1. Tizzy says:

      In games that have dialogue trees, whether or not playing evil characters is attractive depends on whether the dialogue options for it offer an actual character motivation to do it.

      Too many times (many BioWare games e.g.) the options are LOL evil. And it’s something that can be extremely entertaining around the gaming table, where others can play off your outrageous actions and take a game in unexpected directions, creating lasting anecdotes. But video games don’t do unexpected directions well.

      Ultimately, my biggest issue with the evil path is that it almost always curtails the social interactions offered by the game, precipitating me into early combat. Mist single player RPGs already have too much combat that is seldom compelling (looking at you, Outer Worlds) so I’ll pass on more of that.

    2. tmtvl says:

      My first run through Pathfinder: Kingmaker (back before elementalists were in the game) I played through as a Lawful Evil Sorcerer/DD. It was amazing to just be able to say “guards, hang that person, I don’t like the cut of their jib.”

      It did cause me to kill who I later learned to be a party member (worse, a party member who was the one type of advisor I was lacking for way too long). But shooting myself in the foot makes things even better! It was the most fun I had as an Evil character since the last time I played Arcanum.

      EDIT: Oh, I almost forgot the Neverwinter Nights 2 module Path of Evil. There isn’t anything quite like it, I can really recommend anyone who likes NWN2 to check it out.

      1. Zaxares says:

        There was also a NWN1 module called “Blackguard” something or other, where you play as a character on a quest to become a blackguard. The module does a fairly good job of showcasing just how VILE you have to be to become one. There’s one scene I remember in particular where you’re asked to just go up to 3 kids playing in the woods and brutally murder them all, for no other reason than your demonic patron wishes it. These are kids, naturally, so it’s not even anywhere close to a fight. It’s just a one-sided massacre, and you go merrily on your way afterwards. There are no witnesses, so the parents of those kids will come across the bodies of their loved ones and never know why their kids died in such a random senseless act of evil.

    3. Mersadeon says:

      > I’d imagine that blood would be the new global economy and technologies would get developed to deal with the sun.

      There was a movie (“Daybreakers”, I think it was called) that did exactly that. It wasn’t… terribly good and it was very, very unsubtle about “THE BLOOD ECONOMY IS HOW WE’RE USING UP THE RESOURCES OF EARTH” and then in the middle it takes a weird twist from “unsubtle capitalism allegory” to “weirdly religious action flick” (as in people getting healed from vampirism by a pretty blatantly Christianity-inspired ritual), but it at least had some neat ideas and frankly, it’s at least very believable that society would only start looking for an actual substitute for blood once it becomes a very clear, dangerous problem for the richest vampires.

      Like, since vampires can’t see themselves in mirrors, they have screens with cameras, and since they might get caught out in the sun if they’re in their car, the car also has screens with cameras to the outside instead of just glass. That was neat.

  2. Joshua says:

    In Super Metroid, not only Reserve Tanks (which are 99% just regular Energy Tanks), but there is also a mechanic about disabling different parts of your gear that has almost no in-game utility. Most of the advantages are setting yourself up to do various hidden super-moves which are completely unnecessary for the game. There’s also one point in Brinstar where it’s harder to make a jump if you have the High Jump boots activated, but that’s pretty much it.

    The term you’re looking for is Underused Game Mechanic.

    1. King Marth says:

      Turning off gear isn’t in your face, though. And being able to turn off Ice Beam to sweep enemies from rooms without turning them into platforms is potentially convenient, to say nothing of enabling self-imposed challenges. This is a feature that might not be used often, but it’s nice to have the option and if you don’t notice it exists then there’s no negative impact (unless you trigger it by accident and don’t know what you did).

      By contrast, I’m pretty sure reserve tanks are just so they didn’t have to rescale the UI to have four more energy tank blocks, and they’re inconvenient in play, like not filling from energy recharge stations or Crystal Spark. The parallel would be a fairy in Legend of Zelda, but those had the opportunity cost of not being a more effective healing potion which made for a decision.

      1. Zeta Kai says:

        The UI for Super Metroid actually has a space in the UI HUD for turning the Reserve Tank replenishment on/off, & that was juuust enough room to squeeze in four more Energy Tanks. It was realizing this fact that made it click for me that they were completely superfluous, adding complexity only for its own sake.

  3. Mattias42 says:

    Mailbag: Be Evil

    Overlord!

    That series is (mostly) so dang good. Well, at least first game plus expansion, and the second one. (We don’t talk about the ‘third’ one.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmPI6CLLUoM

    Seriously, basically ‘Suroman + evil Pikmin.’ And it has a moral choice that boils down if you want to be evil, or REALLY evil. Just great stuff.

    1. dr134 says:

      Yes, the 2 Overlord games were great! Such a shame that they never made a third one :).

      1. Mattias42 says:

        I’m honestly baffled by few and in-between news of that franchise have been, honestly.

        Overlord was a pretty big hit and name for a bit, back in the 360/PS3 days. A big, early hit for both consoles and PC.

        But nowadays? Barely gets mentioned. Sad, really.

  4. Bato says:

    The best evil is always going to be Tyranny because it’s not about moustache-twirling individual evil, but systemic Evil and good people trapped within that system. Nobody is doing evil for evil’s sake, they are trying to exist within a system where good cannot exist uncompromised.

    1. ContribuTor says:

      Papers Please gets my vote.

    2. Henson says:

      More people need to play Tyranny. Sorely overlooked.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      I recently read an amazing Let’s Play of Tyranny (not having played it myself), with a fantastic philosophical analysis of its themes (such as the inherently self-destructive nature of evil and how it ultimately corrupts every facet of a systematically evil dictatorship), which I have to recommend to anyone interested.

  5. Lino says:

    Regarding Evil games, I really liked Overlord, and its sequel. As Shamus said, Carrion was also tons of fun. I don’t know if The Legacy of Kain games count? In my case I don’t think that they do, because my favourite entries have always been the ones with Raziel, who’s definitely the more virtuous of the two protagonists.

    For artillery games, Worms: World Party will always hold a special place in my heart. So much fond memories of setting up a Hot Seat with my best friend, cranking up the damage for all items to the max, going to the middle of the map at the start of the game, throwing a Banana Bomb to the high heavens, and watching all Hell break loose. More often than not, you’d kill more of your own worms than your opponent’s. But it didn’t matter – the mayhem was the only important thing. Also, we had a hard limit on using no more than three Super Sheep, on account of how proficient we were with them…

    Regarding the GMTK series, I also find it kind of boring, because of how standard his path to learning is. Still, I really like his style of video, and it’s nice that he’s found a way to improve himself, while making a product he could potentially sell to his audience.

    In terms of unnecessary mechanics, I actually liked Diablo’s belt and inventory systems – for me it was a way to simulate being an adventurer frantically fumbling through his backpack while being attacked by monsters, and it really added to the tension of the combat.

    As for mechanics that I actually find unnecessary, I’d say crafting systems in 99% of modern games where the core mechanics have nothing to do with crafting :D

  6. John says:

    Scorched Earth, all the way. Like Shamus, I had no idea that Worms even existed until relatively recently. Unlike Shamus, I don’t have any problems playing competitive games with my friends. I want to win, sure, but it doesn’t bother me if I lose to somebody I know and like in a friendly game when there’s nothing at stake. I think “nothing at stake” is the key, because I am also perfectly content to lose to strangers on the internet in casual matches but I sometimes take it very poorly when I lose ranked matches.

    My favorite superfluous game mechanic is lightsaber stances from Knights of the Old Republic 2. The stances are introduced with a certain amount of lore fluff, but each stance is really just a collection of bonuses and maluses applied to the player’s combat rolls when using a lightsaber. There are perhaps half a dozen stances, but the only three I can recall are the default stance, the one that’s supposed to be good when fighting a lot of ranged enemies, and the one that’s supposed to be good when fighting a single enemy in melee. In theory, the player can change his lightsaber stance to best match his circumstances. In practice, switching stances not only requires pausing the game to fiddle with a menu but also has no discernible effect on combat. The bonuses and maluses just aren’t large enough to really matter. The result is that there is simply no good reason not to play the whole game in the default stance.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I have to agree on Scorched Earth, although I actually played an Amiga port/ripoff called Scorched Tanks more, and liked it better, because the graphics were better and the game was a bit simpler and more direct. I had heard about games called “Worms” but wasn’t aware that that was the type of game it was.

      I also agree with the lightsaber stances. I never changed mine or sought any out and really wondered why they bothered to take the time to put them into the game.

      1. John says:

        Lightsaber stances are never mentioned in any of the movies, but they are apparently a big deal in some of the spinoffs, possibly including some of the role playing games. If so, I’m not too surprised that Obsidian decided to throw them in. It was probably wasn’t very much work, all things considered. Why they chose to make the lightsaber stances functionally irrelevant, I couldn’t say. They might not have wanted people like me, who aren’t familiar with those spinoffs and aren’t likely to care about lightsaber stances, to have to worry too much about them.

        1. Mattias42 says:

          Been ages since I played KOTOR 2, but I remember some of the stances being silly good if you build your character around them.

          Like, the blaster reflection feat line, the deflection power, and the Maximum Defense stance, for instance. You just stand there, and entire rooms clear themselves, as long as you’re facing ranged attackers. Recall that I figured out a few other tricks like that, but that’s the big one I recall.

          Still, yeah, I get why a lot of folks simply didn’t bother with them. They’re quite fiddly to actually use in the heat of combat as mentioned above, and that Generalist stance you start with is more then good enough to last you the entire game.

          1. John says:

            Interesting. Perhaps my problem is that KotOR 1 traumatized me and taught me to fear hyper-specialized builds. Did you put all of your points and feats towards your Force powers? Whoops. Good luck against the final boss and his absurd saving throws! Ever since that first playthrough, every time I’ve played either KotOR I’ve gone for at least a certain minimal competence in everything. Improved deflection is the kind of feat I only take after I’ve already taken all the feats that give me stat, to-hit, and armor bonuses.

            1. jurgenaut says:

              Hmm.. am I misremembering things? I have a clear mental image of throwing Malak around like a ping pong ball with the Force … throw? Wave? One of the “neutral” offensive force skills, I can’t remember the name.

              1. John says:

                Force Wave does knock-back and a certain amount of damage even if an enemy makes his saving throw, so it’s definitely possible to hurt Malak that way. It would just take a really long time to kill him with that method.

                It’s also with noting that you fight Malak twice, and that he is significantly weaker as a mid-boss than he is as the final boss.

            2. Ektenia says:

              I got lucky enough with being specialized in KotOR 1, maybe because I didn’t try Light-Side Councellor. Here’s what I remember of my two characters fighting him, though it’s been a while:

              * Light Side Guardian. Going to the dead end at one of the sides and letting him come to me. Finally using the scores of shields I had accumulated. Meleeing until he ran away to do stuff and then spending all my force on Cure (?) to get hit points back. I think Cure was the only force power I was using in that fight.

              * Dark Side Councellor. Going to the dead end at one of the sides and letting him come to me. Planting all the traps I had recovered throughout the game (this ended up being useless). Using Force Breach (?) and Plague (can’t be saved against, lowers saves) which allowed use of abilities like Force Lightning. Can’t remember whether stuns like Force Whirlwind also worked.

              1. John says:

                Shields plus lightsaber competency are the key to beating Malak, so Guardian is a good choice.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          Regarding lightsaber stances (there were 7, though in practice each of the 3 starting classes got an exclusive one so you’d only end up with 5 if I remember correctly) I feel like they should’ve gone a lot harder with them if they wanted to make them work. I love KotOR II and have made efforts to role-play and actually switch stances, and…yeah, they just don’t make a meaningful difference to combat. (Especially because pretty much any build can clear a room in two or three casts of Force Lightning[+Mass Stasis/Force Wave] by the end of the game, so any other form of combat is basically engaged in for the fun of it.)

          Like, you can imagine a version of the game where they make a huge difference—if you’re using the “fighting other lightsaber users” stance, you should get mown down by blaster bolts and vice versa, maybe there’s a bit of a cooldown between switches to make it a more tactical decision—but they’d have to put a bit more work into making the player aware of the mechanic and integrating it into battles, otherwise you’d just get players unaware of why they’re suddenly dying in combat when they forgot to switch stances. Part of the problem is that there’s only so much differentiation that 7 stances can be given (even if you ignore the EU lore associated with them) within the KotOR combat system, so I’m willing to entertain the notion that they just couldn’t be made interesting within the system in which they were devised.

  7. Daimbert says:

    For Christmas games, I have a tendency to play Persona games around that time — the first time I played and finished Persona 3 (twice) was over my Christmas break six months after I bought it — but I do think that in terms of being an actual Christmas game without being a Christmas themed game Persona 5, if I recall correctly, explicitly ties itself to that holiday and some of its themes (although subverting them a bit).

    As I’ve been playing some MMOs and Persona 5 Royal for the past month, I’d say that a good leveling system is one where you level quickly enough that you notice that you’ve gone up in levels, levels change the world or your abilities enough that you notice, and you don’t have to do too many things outside of the main activities to gain decent levels. I find that up to about 20 Dark Age of Camelot is doing that pretty well for me right now, as I’m gaining enough levels through quests and once that happens you start to see mobs that would slaughter you turn into things that you can take without too much trouble. The Old Republic, in its latest incarnation, doesn’t hit that as much because it’s really easy to get overleveled enough that a new level doesn’t give you any real noticeable benefit in the world, but you do still manage to gain levels at an appropriate pace. Star Trek Online, for me, isn’t working because I don’t seem to notice when I level up that much and it doesn’t seem to matter much in the world. Persona 5 Royal’s levels matter less than your Persona levels, and so you only notice it for your companions when they get a new skill or when it lets you create a new Persona that you couldn’t before, but most of that happens from getting new ones so levels seem less important than what dungeon/Metaverse level you’re running around in, but level ups do happen fairly frequently.

    I like The Old Republic for my evil characters because Dark Side and Light Side don’t matter that much, which lets me play as the sort of evil I want to play as without worrying that if I decide not to be a complete brute I’m hurting myself in gameplay. For the most part, if I want to play as evil or good I can use the light/dark side notes as a reference but if that wouldn’t be something my character would do I can go for the neutral or even good option without screwing anything up. So I can take actions more for reasons than for strict Light or Dark Side and end up where I end up, which is nice.

    I played golf a bit in the real world, and found it a mildly relaxing game, though not overly thrilling. When I stopped having people to play it with, I dropped it in favour of just going for walks myself. However, I find golf GAMES a lot of fun, unless they are too realistic. A recent golf game that I really like is “Everybody’s Golf”, which has a story, a progression to harder courses and opponents, and single/multiplayer courses that are at set levels if you don’t want to learn the new tricks that might be needed to advance. And the early levels are pretty forgiving, so you can do pretty well pretty quickly if you want to.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    When I was a kid, the Christmas game I always played was Incredible Machine. If you booted the game on December 25th it would add a special Santa item to the game, a real extra tool you could add to your sandbox one day only. By about age 8 I had figured out that I could get the item whenever I wanted by changing the system clock, but it still felt appropriate somehow to boot the game on Christmas and spend a little while messing with the item that normally didn’t show up.

    1. bobbert says:

      Incredible Machine was so much fun. I feel bad for all the trouble I put little Mel through though.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Mel had it coming.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        Nowadays there’s Contraption Maker (by [some of?] the same developers apparently), but it just doesn’t quite replicate the feel, unfortunately.

  9. tmtvl says:

    The killer feature of a level-up system is good sound design. Levelling up in Fallout 1 is amazing because of that iconic effect.

  10. Chad Miller says:

    Re: intentionally losing one’s virginity to foil a vampire plot – There’s at least one vampire movie that actually did that. Once Bitten, released in 1985

    1. Syal says:

      “That’s impossible; you were in there for less than a minute!”

  11. Chad Miller says:

    On evil soup kitchens: this is actually one of the things that convinced me that Fallout wasn’t very good at using its Karma system particularly starting with Fallout 2. In Fallout 2 you can get random encounters with good merchants who won’t do business with you if your Karma is too low, which, okay, maybe they think it’s too risky or you screwed over a community they like or whatever. I can see that. But then if you’re a good character you can encounter evil merchants who won’t do business with you if you’re not evil enough, which is a lot harder to justify especially without any further elaboration.

  12. Syal says:

    do you have any single player games you really like where you play as an evil character?

    Tales of Berseria. The villain sacrifices Velvet’s brother to save the world, and Velvet swears to kill him even if the world dies with him. It’s a JRPG where you can keep a counter for how many towns survive contact with the protagonists. The first thing you do is start a prison riot as a distraction. (It ends with eating a friend and setting a prettyboy on fire.)

    1. Syal says:

      Thinking about it, there are a fair few Earthbound-Like RPGs that feature evil protagonists, though most of them don’t let you know that at the start. (I haven’t played any of these, just watched LPs of them.)

      Lisa the Painful is about a post-apocalyptic father looking for his daughter, except when he finds her it becomes clear he never had any plan past that and he ends up getting really violent with, like, the whole world. Highly relatable, but not villainous until mid-late game.

      Lisa the Joyful is evil out the gate, but the character is much less likable.

      Off is a hero fighting ghosts in a surreal series of worlds, but he also fights the Guardians of the worlds, even after it becomes obvious what happens when a world doesn’t have a Guardian anymore. (This one’s a free game.)

      Omori is about an emotionless psychopath boy named Omori, going on an adventure in a dream world, to rescue a friend that vanished when he remembered something about the real world. I’d say it’s one of the darkest games I’ve seen. It was quite the watch, and I’ll never play it because Omori is a deeply disturbing protagonist.

  13. Syal says:

    I don’t have any Christmas games in particular, but Skyrim strikes me as a very Non-Denominational Winter Season game. A game where it snows all the time feels weird to play outside of snow weather.

    1. tmtvl says:

      ’tis the season to Fus Ro Dah!

  14. Syal says:

    Oh right.

    How do you think society and its systems would change if vampires (that burn up in sunlight and have an insatiable appetite for blood) succeeded in turning everyone into one? How might they adapt? Could they adapt? And how long might that new nocturnal society last?

    That’s the plot of the movie Daybreakers; vampires run the world now, and are on the brink of collapse due to worldwide famine. It’s all about trying to find a blood alternative*.

    *(Well, it’s actually mostly about Class Warfare, because it’s not a very good movie.)

  15. Syal says:

    Hmm, good level up systems. Agree with Shamus, I’d say it’s mostly about creating a character build. Part of why Job systems are so popular is you’re choosing to specialize your character in something. I also like powers that grow with use, especially when there’s a cost to using it; you’re not wasting magic casting fire, you’re investing in the fire skill. But stuff like Nier Automata, where you just gain generic stats, isn’t very engaging. You want the levels to come with choices*.

    It’s also about showing clear progression, and rewarding– I guess I’ll call it “system mastery”, though it’s not. You fight a hundred tiny baby mooks, and you clear them without dying, so you’ve proved you know how to survive this, and so you level up and the mooks die faster because that challenge has already been completed. Now have this new mook, with this new gimmick, and prove you can handle this.

    For my part, I prefer logarithmic requirements rather than diminishing returns; soft limits, not hard limits. If someone wants to grind to level 99 in the first Mako Reactor, that’s their terrible life choice, and the system should allow them to.

    …It should also last the entire damn game. You don’t do Skyrim stuff where you’ve got all your relevant skills maxed out before the halfway mark and the rest goes into stuff you’ll never bother using because you’ve got nothing else to do with it. Classic stuff like Final Fantasy usually ends the game halfway to max level, to make sure it’s still increasing even in endgame.

    *(And those character build choices should be clear. I’m playing Final Fantasy 12, and the License board hides information from you; you have to unlock panels to see the specifics of the panels behind them, and if you guess a weapon unlock’s to the right when it’s actually to the left, all those rightside levels are wasted on weapons you don’t want that character to use. Don’t hide information. Don’t encourage savescumming on level up.)

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      I kinda glossed over the level build question but I think it’s incomplete without the qualifier “for X type of game”

      At a bare minimum, single-player single-character games have different requirements for any game that violates one or both of those:

      * In something like a TTRPG, everyone wants to feel like their character is “theirs” and many people like having lots of options to start their character. Even if two people want to play the same class they can often build very different takes on that class.

      * Party-based video games share a lot of characteristics with TTRPGs except one person is building all the characters and so you may want to avoid some early complexity to minimize dicking around before playing the actual game. This is probably why such games often start the build for you (by choosing things like race/class for you) and save the complexity for later levels

      * Roguelikes and similar still want early-build variety because the whole point of a game style like that is that you can play it over and over without feeling like you’re doing the same thing every time. They also want to avoid overcomplicating the start process and in fact may not offer any starting choices beyond class at all because who wants to go to so much trouble for a character that may get killed early?

      * Very long video games that you’re expected to play only once? Best not to have many irrevocable decisions earlier; who wants to get 20 hours in only to realize they don’t like this playstyle and might enjoy a different class but have to start the entire game over? Skyrim may not have enough variety in builds for many players’ tastes but in this sense I think they erred in the right direction.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      I think the level-up system in CrossCode (like basically everything in that game) is quite good. For explanation, you’ve actually got 5 different skill tress systems to go with your five “stances” (neutral, then four elemental stances which play a huge role in both combat and puzzle-solving). When you first start out, you only get points towards the neutral system as you gain levels, but a big part of the plot of the game(-within-the-game) is unlocking the additional stances. Once you do, you also unlock points for each system equal to your current level, so you immediately get to boost that system up to par with any others you unlock. Plus, for active combat skills, most of them come in two mutually-exclusive versions (usually a single-target vs. multi-target thing, though there can be other differences) which you can swap between any time out of battle. You also get skill-resetting items each time you unlock a system (and can grind to buy more of them if you want), and there’s a special training area in the game where you can unlock your skills and change them around as much as you want as long as you’re in the same room, where you can also trigger a number of easy enemies to fight against to test out your different builds. (I only discovered this after unlocking all fives stances and being probably in the 50s level-wise, and spent well over an hour trying all different combinations of skill tree settings to come up with my favorite combat build. It doesn’t hurt that the high-level combat arts are just so satisfying to pull off…)

  16. baud says:

    For vampires, at least them needing the blood of a virgin wasn’t in the Bram Stoker novel, as the second target of Dracula in that book was married. And I think even if none of the male character in the book got sucked, it seems they serves as food source for the vampires, considering one of the scenes in Dracula’s castle.

    Vampires taking blood from a blood bank was used by on of the Blade movies, though.

    For evil characters, I played recently Queen Wish the Conqueror, a old-school-looking RPG, where I could choose rather evil options and the game treated that just like the less morally objectionable options: on one side of the island I could side with slavers and tell them to continue (or to reform, but that’s less evil) (of course they’re telling you it’s not slavery, but rather multi-generational debt bondage… At least it’s not chattel slavery. I think.), on the other side I could side with a ruling class that’s batshit insane, mostly disconnected from reality and actively hurt its people and then those options are valid to progress in the game. Of course it’s not framed as evil, there’s no morality meters to make it easier on the player, but those are rather obviously evil to us, but not necessarily in the moral frameworks used by the in-games characters.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yes, I remembered incorrectly. On further research, I think if the entire human population was converted to Bram Stoker vampires, they would continue to live forever, but continue aging and go insane from hunger. So you’d end up with a population of withered vampire zombies.

  17. ydant says:

    Deep Rock Galactic: I heard it described as “Left for dead meets Minecraft” – it’s not entirely accurate, but the game is a ton of fun. Feels like it was made by a great indie development team (whom you can apparently find playing multiplayer online). Lots of soul, lots of “doesn’t take itself seriously” humor, and a difficulty curve that can really be set to whatever you’re looking for. As long as you don’t have arachnophobia, and you can abide the cursing (which Paul alluded to in a previous Diecast), I highly suggest checking it out if you like multiplayer games. It just lets you pick your own pace, do your own thing, be obsessive or speed-run the levels.

    Oh, and no pay to win DLC. Just cosmetics.

    My family (my wife, daughter, and I) have been playing a massive amount of DRG since we bought it on sale. It’s just too much fun.

    (I haven’t listened to this episode yet, so have no idea what they said on the show).

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Turns out there are separate volume sliders, including one for “characters volume” and while it doesn’t go up to eleven, it does go down to the big Zero.

      1. ydant says:

        Good call – I might try that – even though I don’t mind the content of the barks, they do get a bit repetitive after 40 hours of playtime.

  18. The Rocketeer says:

    SHERRY CHRISTMAS, everybody!

    *crashes into bookshelf*

    1. Laserhawk says:

      Are you the same Rocketeer who wrote that awesome FF 12 let’s play?

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        *beneath bookshelf*
        I’m whoever you want me to be, officer!

        (but yes)

        1. Veylon says:

          That was the greatest Let’s Play I have ever read and I say that having read both Boatmurdered and In the Shadow of Certain, Painful Doom.

        2. Laserhawk says:

          Do you I have any other Let’s Play’s I could read?

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            Not yet.

  19. droid says:

    I was thinking about Christmas games. Hyper Princess Pitch vs Mecha-Santa is self explanatory. I think one of the Secret of Mana games has Santa as a boss fight.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Noita has a special gift-flinging Santa Hiisi on Christmas!

      This being Noita, the gifts probably explode, or contain radioactive sludge, or a firebomb or something. I haven’t had a chance to play on Christmas.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Oh right, HPP with the exploding piledrivers (suplexes? I forget), what a game!

  20. Zeta Kai says:

    “That vampire Netflix series” was spoiled for me by Chris Stuckmann, but I don’t have Netflix anyway, & I got just as much enjoyment from his review as I probably would have gotten from the series, but in a fraction of the runtime.

  21. Grimwear says:

    In regards to being evil there’s still very much a stigma attached to it in the real world. For instance I was perusing the Steam Discussions yesterday (do not advise as 95% are people saying they got hacked when they really gave their info away) and I saw a discussion by someone asking for “Tormentor” to be removed from Steam. Now I had never heard of this game and it hasn’t been released yet but I checked it out and it’s interesting while also being uncomfortable. Essentially you plan out intricate tortures then follow through on them. I guess you can decide to kill them or give them a chance for revenge later, very much à la Saw movies or Hostel. Essentially exemplifying all the worst traits of humanity. And even though it’s fake you still have people calling for it to be removed because it evokes a very visceral reaction. Honestly I’m not sure I can handle all the actual hunting/murdering and yet the idea of planning out these traps appeals to me so I’ve decided to follow it for now.

    The only other real “evil” game I can think of is “Overlord” where you’re very much not evil and it was honestly just a let down.

    1. Syal says:

      I very, very briefly mentioned it a while ago, but the problem with evil protagonists is in the definition of “evil”:

      To be a player character, you have to be likable. Otherwise the player won’t want to play.
      The definition of “Good Guys” is, for the most part, “the guys I like.” Thus the definition of Evil Guys is, for the most part, “the guys I don’t like.”

      You can’t be both likable and unlikable, so you can’t really be an evil protagonist*. The best you can do is present a moral quandary and put the protagonist on the less popular side of it. Or do Spec Ops stuff where you start out ordinary and become a monster as the game goes on**. But that comes off as the environment corrupting you; it’s the world that’s evil, the protagonist just lives in it.

      *You can pull it off in short bursts; something like Party Hard is a silly game about being a slasher at various parties, which works because it’s short and the partygoers are comedically stupid about never calling off the party.

      **Or the Omori route, where it’s clear something is wrong with the protagonist from square one, but the true depths are only revealed over time. But Omori is also a comedy, because the player still has to want to play the game.

      1. Daimbert says:

        To be a player character, you have to be likable. Otherwise the player won’t want to play.

        I’m not sure I agree with that. After all, tabletop RPGs allow for evil player characters a lot and don’t seem to have that much of a problem. What you need is the game to have a context where being evil fits and is the point of the game. A lot of games where you get the choice run into the problem where the plot is aimed at heroically good people and the evil characters come along, and can only express their evil with brutal, pointlessly evil actions. But games aimed at evil characters like the aforementioned Overlord and Dungeon Keeper and Evil Genius work pretty well, and games that let evil characters be evil characters following the plot work as well.

        For games that feature a more directly created evil character, making them affably evil would work as well. Lots of popular evil characters are that way because they are so evil and yet so much fun as evil characters that if the player is more observing than controlling them they will enjoy the show anyway.

  22. Gautsu says:

    Batman: Arkham Origins takes place on Christmas Eve.

  23. Gautsu says:

    Re: Evil games
    As people have stated above, Overlord(s), Tyranny, Spec Ops, The Legacy of Pain games among others.

    If we are talking Evil, Evil, killing babies for kicks not so many. If we are talking anti-heroes than a whole bunch more open up.

    Off the top of my head and that hasn’t been brought up yet, The Darkness I and II, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on the Dark Athena. Braid. Shadow of the Colussus. Dante’s Inferno. Prototype. Bound by Flame goes dark really quick, but Edwen is best girl.

    I have a feeling a lot of the best rpg’s with good evil play throughs might exist in the indie space, but I wouldn’t have played a lot of them. Kingmaker I thought did a pretty decent job with an evil playthrough, Wrath feels much more like LoL, Evil, if you want to stick to evil choices.

  24. ColeusRattus says:

    I think you guys left out the most obvious games one can be evil in. In fact, it’s so easy to be evil in them, most don’t even notice they’re evil:

    Yes, I am talking about 4x games. It’s easy to commit genocide to quell a possible later uprising in Solaris. Which makes being evil a banal choice rather than a moustache-twirling dramatic choice.

    And I think that’s why being evil doesn’t work, with character driven games. Because you are the protagonist (at least ideally), whereas the villain is always a plot device. You cannot switch those two at will. And evil in it’s nature is banal, and not theatrical.

    1. Shamus says:

      Oh man, good answer.

      In fact, I think this is one of the few games where you can do “evil and loving it”. Evil in MOO is so much more fun than kicking puppies in KOTOR et al.

      1. baud says:

        then there’s also Rimworld (maybe Dwarf Fortress, but I’m way less familiar with this), where the number of atrocities you can commit is pretty staggering, from chattel slavery to organ trafficking. And I haven’t played it, but I think the latest DLC add human sacrifice. And then you can add mods for even more…

        1. ColeusRattus says:

          Yes, there’s that. Bit IMHO, that still veers into the moustache-twirling variety of in game evil. Not as edgy as Hatred, but still a bit like “Hey, look at the fucked up shit you can do” for a marketing blurb.

          The beauty of being evil in 4x games is that it’s more handled as weighing pros and cons of different solutions to a problem, and the evil choice is most likely done due to the underlying mechanics rather than due to the player wanting to be a villain.

        2. Philadelphus says:

          No organ harvesting in Dwarf Fortress (yet…), but you can do things like build elaborate traps that cast your enemies into blocks of obsidian or flash freeze them in blocks of ice. Or just drop them in magma. Or drown them. Or drop them from 10 z-levels up into that arena you just released the crazed were-shrew into…

          (There’s also the fact that [at least in previous versions of the game] the only part of your dwarves that was actually flammable was fat tissue, so if you could somehow burn all that off without killing them you’d have fireproof dwarves…)

          1. tmtvl says:

            Remember when Toady devalued merfolk bones to stop people making mermaid farms? Good times.

    2. John says:

      It’s true. I commit so many war crimes in Civilization V. The interesting thing about Civilization V, as opposed to the other 4X games I regularly play, is that there aren’t a lot of downsides or alternatives to the war crimes. Nobody cares if you capture a city (as long as it’s not somebody’s last city) and burn it down. Nor is there a way to make a captured city not a drag on your empire’s happiness rating. So, if you don’t need that particular city for anything, there’s really no reason not to raze it to the ground.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      Oh yeah! In Stellaris you can play from the get-go as a empire who cannot rest until all other life in the galaxy is extinguished. With the Nemesis DLC released earlier this year, you can even become the galactic crisis to make it easier to do!

  25. beleester says:

    Third option for artillery games: Pocket Tanks. Even by the standards of artillery games it had some pretty ridiculous weapons, especially with all the expansion packs.

    1. ColeusRattus says:

      My first one was Gorillas, which IIRC, came with windows 3.1.

      1. bobbert says:

        One of the guys in my BASIC class tried to print out its source code. The instructor chewed him out for wasting hundreds of pages of paper.

  26. baud says:

    For explicitly Christmas games, there’s also Cthulhu Saves Christmas, a JRPG where Cthulhu (obviously) saves Santa Claus.

  27. Jake says:

    Shamus and Paul were talking about a power washing mechanic for hitman. I just wish they had compared that to the full-game version – Mario Sunshine.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      The award for worst power-washing mechanics goes to:
      F.L.U.D.D.!

      All they had to do was make it a hitscan gun. But no! It had to be globules of water!

  28. Redrock says:

    Talking about unnecessary mechanics, weapon degradation very rarely has any meaningful contributions. In most games that have it it’s slow enough to fail at its primary function, which is forcing you to use different weapons and experiment, and instead turns out to be a mild hassle – just spend a modest amount of cash every time you visit a vendor, and you’re fine. Games that are actually bold enough to add a harsher weapon degradation system, like Breath of the Wild, usually just annoy players, even though the system in BotW is working very much as intended.

    Another unnecessary mechanic for numerous games is, well, combat. There’s a number of titles that feel obligated to have regular combat encounters, but would have in fact benefited from having little to none. Vampyr and The Sinking City come to mind. Both had aggressively mediocre combat, The Sinking City more so than Vampyr, and in both cases the way combat was handled was to the detriment of the game’s themes and primary gameplay hook.

    1. Lino says:

      Hard agree on both points. For weapon degradation, the primary purpose (especially in MMOs) is a money sink, i.e. to keep players from having so much money that the in-game economy turns into a joke. And – surprise surprise! – it always fails to do that one goal. Shamus actually had a video on this some time ago.

      As for unnecessary combat, I can’t believe they added combat to a Lovecraftian video game AGAIN. While I haven’t played Sunken City yet, at least I hope it the combat wasn’t as bad as the old Call of Cthulhu game, where you started off tensely sneaking through Innsmouth, but pretty soon you were basically John Rambo blasting fools.

      Personally, the most recent game where I thought there was too much combat was Control. And I actually liked the combat in that game! But too often it felt like an obstacle to the plot, and at a certain point in the story I was just begging for there to be no combat whenever I entered a new room, just because of how tedious it had gotten…

  29. Amstrad says:

    On the topic of MMO exploits the one I remember fondly wasn’t really harmful, but it was very swiftly patched. Back when Star Trek Online was first launched there was an incident relevant to the fact it shared an engine with Champions Online. The relevant bit that comes up is that in CO you could customize the color of your powers via a UI option, but also via a text command. So your energy blast could be whatever color you liked. Cue STO’s release, which used essentially the same inventory and hotbar system as CO and guess what? There wasn’t a UI for custom weapon colors, but the dev’s never thought to disable the text command! Someone figured it out and soon a large number of players had settled on making all their weapons PINK. Normally this sort of thing might be considered an undocumented feature or even one to be touted by the game, but apparently there were some very strict rules about how the game depicted the Star Trek universe, and weapons not being the colors as depicted in the TV shows and movies was a no-no, so the oversight was swiftly patched.

  30. evilmrhenry says:

    (Yeah, behind on these.)

    For Christmas games, the Jazz Jackrabbit games had Christmas (demo-ish) versions, as did Jetpack and NiGHTS into Dreams. Those go with the Holiday Lemmings you noted, where there’s a new themed release of what is basically a demo of the full game. I think these fell out of favor once actual demos got easier to distribute. Looking on Mobygames, and I see a bunch of DLC, which can be thought of as the modern version of that.

    I think the actual problem is that video games are too expensive to create, and go out of favor too quickly, to be messing around with seasonal theming. (This could also be said for movies; the only modern Christmas movies seem to be made by Hallmark.) So, the only Christmas theming you get involves rebranding an existing game, or indie stuff. (Or games like Minecraft which change chests to presents near Christmas, but easter eggs are from entirely the wrong season.)

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