Diecast #369: Risk of Dyson Sphere

By Shamus Posted Monday Jan 24, 2022

Filed under: Diecast 73 comments

Congrats to Paul, who is now a father. Again. I’m at the age where I’m nostalgic about those hectic early years of child-rearing. Heather and I are unquestionably done having kids, but once in a while we stop and smile at someone else’s toddler and say to each other, “Man, it would be great to be able to do that one more time.”

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:

00:00 Uh oh

The good news: It’s not COVID.

The bad news: I’ve caught something.

Yuck. Hopefully this passes soon. I have videogames I need to complain about, and I can’t complain about those if I’m busy complaining about my health.

03:30 Risk of Rain 2

In some games, you find yourself groping around for the one proscribed and predetermined way to win. In RoR2, it feels like you’re trying to see how many different ways you can beat the game.

“Wow. I played as an engineer and stacked bonuses to boost my turrets and it worked really well. Now let me see what happens if I use the all-melee class and go for things to boost my mobility to insane speeds.”

A lot of people praise the soundtrack from Chris Christodoulou, and for good reason. It really is amazing. However, after an hour of play it can be… bit much? Imagine listening to an entire album of guitar solos. That’s what it’s like. After a while I feel like the dim-witted Emperor Joseph II in the movie Amadeus, complaining that the genius composer is playing “too many notes”.

Reflecting on this a little more, I’ll bet this has to do with how I’m playing the game. Instead of spending 6-8 minutes on each stage, I’m playing with modifiers where it makes sense to hang around for 25 minutes or so. The end of a stage is when the music resets, calms down, and switches to a fresh track. So the real problem is that I’m spending too much time on a stage and the music is trying to maintain “maximum epic” for long periods of time.

Like I said: Great soundtrack. It’s just a bit much when you play like this.

06:58 Dyson Sphere Project Update

Okay, so Paul’s base puts out a Terrawatt of power. I wanted to know the scale of a terrawatt in the real world. Is that a single city? A country? A continent?

We tried to work it out, but after half a minute I realized we’d just nerd sniped ourselves. So we got back to doing the show instead of doing the math.

15:53 Mailbag: Genre Tensions

Dear Diecast,

In Shamus’s Mass Effect retrospective, he mentions how the series always had a tension between its elements of Trek-y sci-fi (quest for knowledge) and elements of Lovecraftian horror (quest toward doom), and would inevitably have to commit to one over the other.

So, I was wondering if there are any other examples you might know of where there is any similar stark blend of genres/story types or tension between big genre conventions, in video games or other mediums? And what are your thoughts on how to handle such complex storytelling? Do you think this kind of setup unavoidably makes promises that cannot be kept, or does it just require really sophisticated writing to account for such a risk/issue?

Kind regards,

26:59 Mailbag: Steam Workshop Integration

Dear Diecast,
I’ve been playing a game called Escape Simulator. The base game is a great virtual escape room simulator. The amazing part comes from the steam workshop integration. There are tons of AMAZING user-created maps that are just as good, and often better, then the base game. As a player, this is amazing, I get tons of content for a low price point. How do you think this will play out for the developer? When they release new content, will people buy it when it has to compete against free maps?

Rob Lundeen

29:17:04 Mailbag: Archiving and Preserving Gaming

Deeeeeaaaaar DIEcast,

Previously on the podcast, Shamus has mentioned his wish that videogame publishers would release their source code for commercial games once they were done selling. However, he also acknowledged that – even if this were attainable – the result would be “the release of an enormous code base that nobody can compile”.

What are your thoughts on archiving and preserving gaming?

Do you worry about the extent to which many games are tied to an arcane infrastructure of hardware and software that impede the likelihood that such games will still be playable in the distant future?

If so, do you believe that the videogame industry ought to have more of a moral imperative in simplifying or archiving this infrastructure in the interests of preservation?

Where do you think most of this responsibility would sit?

  • The videogame developers and publishers?
  • The extraneous software: makers of the drivers, operating systems, or online stores/services?
  • Or the extraneous hardware: Graphics cards and consoles?

Yours historically,


40:55 Mailbag: Spiderman Movies

Deeeeeeeaaaaaar DIEcast,

In an earlier podcast Shamus mentioned that he felt like Avengers Endgame was an appropriate jumping-off point from the MCU. However, since then I have heard him mention snippets about the recent MCU television shows (Wandavision, etc). Does that mean that you have fallen off the wagon, and are back on the… bandwagon?

Over several weeks in the leadup to watching “Spiderman: No Way Home”, my friend and I re-watched every Spiderman movie since the very first Sam Raimi one. This came to 8 movies in total (including Venom 1 and 2) with an apparent total runtime of 21 hours and 1 minute.

So was it worth it? I would have to say… yes!

No Way Home had many little nods and winks, even just the reprisal of simple musical cues from the earlier movies, that wouldn’t have landed anywhere near as well for me otherwise. It was rewarding, if not least of which because it finally gave me the push to see some of the movies I had previously missed (into the Spiderverse being a personal standout). I was a teenager when the very first movie hit cinemas, and it was nice to see some genuine love for the previous continuities and their narrative conclusions.

From one long-time Spiderman fan to another, has Shamus seen Far From Home or No Way Home yet? If so, what did you think of them? Any thoughts on the various Spidermovies?

Spider-sensing your reply,


45:38 Mailbag: The Anacrusis (2x)

Hey Diecasters!

In case you haven’t noticed, “The Anacrusis” dropped recently in early access (in short: L4D but in 70ies Sci Fi). My first session left me sweating: a few random players and I barely, and I mean barely, managed to beat the first episode, almost, but not quite wiping at the finale (and a handfull of times during other crescendo moments). It left me so exhausted that I had to take a break after the one and a quarter hour it took to finish.

Later, I stumbled upon this blog entry: https://store.steampowered.com/news/app/1120480/view/5679596996296063978 by Chet Faliszek. Looks like that intensity is by design, and boy oh boy does it seem to hit the mark.

Now for my question, in case that blog entry isn’t enough for a discussion: Why has noone done something like that for a single player RPG? Imagine Oblivion tailoring it’s difficulty and gameplay to the way you actually specced yopur character and how you played rather than with the broken enemy levelling it has.

Kind regards,
Norbert “ColeusRattus” Lickl

Sorry to disturb a second time, dear Casters of Die!

Not having had time to play for a week or two, I noticed that the Anacrusis is pretty much dead in the water, despite being oretty good. Marketing has been next to nonexistant. With the success of Deep Rock Galactic, another 4player coop horde shooter, one would assume that there’d be a market for games like The Anacrusis. Any Idea how and why it is invisible to the gaming community?

Kind regards,
Norbert “ColeusRattus” Lickl

And here is the video I talked about on the show. The difference really is stark when you compare the two games (Back 4 Blood and Left 4 Dead) side-by-side.

Link (YouTube)

Some of the shortcomings – like the lack of mo-capped death animations, lack of facial animation, and lack of musical score – can be attributed to lack of budget. But other things are inexplicable. Survivors don’t cast shadows in flashlight beams? Furniture and clutter are static and can’t be moved by explosions? As I understand it, these things should be completely turnkey in Unreal Engine 4.

As for the Anacrusis, the footage I’ve seen makes it look like a more serious version of the same problem: A game that compares poorly with its predecessor, because the original was made by Valve in their heyday.


From The Archives:

73 thoughts on “Diecast #369: Risk of Dyson Sphere

  1. Daimbert says:

    The good news: It’s not COVID.

    The bad news: I’ve caught something.

    When you put them in this order, the second statement is actually redundant [grin].

    In an earlier podcast Shamus mentioned that he felt like Avengers Endgame was an appropriate jumping-off point from the MCU. However, since then I have heard him mention snippets about the recent MCU television shows (Wandavision, etc). Does that mean that you have fallen off the wagon, and are back on the… bandwagon?

    I didn’t make it an official or considered action, but I haven’t watched any of the new things. I didn’t like the rebooted Spider-man and so didn’t follow through with it, and don’t have Disney+ to watch the TV shows even if I wanted to, and none of the new movies really interests me either. So another now-Disney franchise is pretty much dead to me not out of hate, but out of apathy.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      When you put them in this order, the second statement is actually redundant [grin].

      Anyone who still says COVID is just a flu should be sued to the ground for false advertising, I did catch Omicron (the more infectious but supposedly weaker variant) and the first few days with it were still hell for me.

      I didn’t make it an official or considered action, but I haven’t watched any of the new things. I didn’t like the rebooted Spider-man and so didn’t follow through with it, and don’t have Disney to watch the TV shows even if I wanted to, and none of the new movies really interests me either. So another now-Disney franchise is pretty much dead to me not out of hate, but out of apathy.

      I feel like I’m on the opposite end of the general consenseus where I actually like the Disney Marvel shows but most of the MCU movies released this year have been average with the exception of No Way Home.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Anyone who still says COVID is just a flu should be sued to the ground for false advertising, I did catch Omicron (the more infectious but supposedly weaker variant) and the first few days with it were still hell for me.

        It might have changed with the later variants, but I know that one of the issues early on with COVID was that a lot of people got a little sick, so it spread a lot faster. The majority of people didn’t get all that sick, but there were so many of them that the small percentage of people who got really, really sick caused all sorts of problems. So for some people their experiences with the flu might be worse …

      2. Joshua says:

        I feel like I’m on the opposite end of the general consenseus where I actually like the Disney Marvel shows but most of the MCU movies released this year have been average with the exception of No Way Home.

        I’m definitely not unique in saying that Eternals would have been much better if it had been a short Disney Plus series instead of a film. People ragged on DC for years about not paying attention to how Marvel gradually built its cinematic universe one or two heroes at a time, and then Marvel goes and releases a film with ten (TEN, and one more in the wings!) new superheroes who had nearly zero name recognition and wonders why the film didn’t resonate with audiences. Add on the fact that most of the characters are detached from the world and each other already, and there’s no surprise why it’s such a “meh” film (I didn’t think it was bad, just not good).

        It also seemed to me like the plot was a rehashed mix of Watchmen and Guardians of the Galaxy 2

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          Eternals was definitely a shame because I feel like there was an actual good sci-fi or mythic movie underneath it but it’s bogged down by the limited runtime. The original proposed “Twilight Zone” ending also would have been great but it would have contradicted the Marvel mandate of setting up infinite sequels.


          Well the movie did deal with Ego’s race so of course the mechanics of how they worked would be similar.

    2. Steve C says:

      You mentioned covid lungs. Note that the Omicron variant attacks the head, and sinus and does not hit the lungs nearly as hard as other variants.

  2. MerryWeathers says:

    40:55 Mailbag: Spiderman Movies

    I hadn’t watched the Raimi trilogy in a decade and I remember loving the first two but disliking the third one so I rewatched them in preparation of No Way Home. I was shocked to find out that my opinion of the first two went from “superhero masterpieces to eh, it was fine like an average MCU movie” while I enjoyed Spider-Man 3 significantly more and found it to be the most entertaining out of the three films.

    About No Way Home, I was pleasantly, surprised, especially since I constantly posted my worries about the film and it being a potential mess throughout the year on this site but the plot was much tighter than I expected. One of the best things about the film is that there are genuine stakes this time around and the ending is way more poignant than what you’d expect from Marvel.
    A review of the movie put it best that the reason why No Way Home works compared to other nostalgia-bait or fanservice pandering blockbuster films is that the fanservice actually services the narrative and themes (most of the time, some scenes really grate though) and it all ties back to Spider-Man. For example, I liked all the villains here than I did in their original movies, they felt more fully-formed and I really liked that the plot of the movie centered on Peter trying to rehabilitate them and we see them all interacting with each other. Dafoe’s Green Goblin ends up coming out of this movie as way more menacing than he ever was in Spider Man 1 and a bigger nemesis for Tom Holland’s Peter than he ever did for Tobey’s Peter.

    Is No Way Home the best Spider-Man movie? Fuck no, that’s Into the Spider Verse but I think it’s tied with Homecoming as the best live-action Spider Man film.

    1. Nick says:

      I agree, in that I also enjoyed re-watching Spiderman 3 more than I thought I was going to. At the time that was the only iteration of Spiderman movies that existed (potentially ever, from our perspective), and was also one of only a small number of superhero movie franchises of that era. Nowadays there are arguably too many superhero movies – rather than not enough – and there is less of a need to feel protective over their survivability? Either way, Spiderman 3 was goofy fun.

      I had never seen the Amazing Spiderman series, and heard that it was sub-par. However – perhaps in a similar way to Spiderman 3 – I was able to enjoy those movies for what they were. Andrew Garfield’s acting chops as Peter Parker was a standout, despite any other criticisms of those films, to the extent that (spoilers for No Way Home and Amazing Spiderman 2): his redemption of his own self-worth by saving MJ in the same way that he was unable to save Gwen Stacy was a moment that had a nice emotional payoff for me.

      I agree that Into the Spiderverse is a high point (and for better or worse, two sequels have now been announced…)

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        I was surprised to find that Andrew Garfield was the more interesting Spider-Man than Tobey in the film, he also had more memorable moments.

        I agree that Into the Spiderverse is a high point (and for better or worse, two sequels have now been announced…)

        They seem to be doing a Pirates of the Carribean/Matrix thing where the sequels are done back to back and they share an over-arching plot. I suppose we can expect Across the Spider-Verse Part 1 to end on a cliffhanger.

    2. Steve C says:

      I did not like Into the Spider Verse. At all. I walked out of the theater. Twice. Once to get 3D glasses for my 2D showing. And a second time to get my money back when they didn’t work.

      There’s a small subgroup of the population who cannot watch it. It looks really *really* wrong. To our eyes, it’s a blurred, jerky, pixelated mess that keep dropping frames. Like watching a 3D movie without the glasses kind of wrong. It literally hurts the eyes and is headache inducing. Watching this movie is the visual equivalent of Delayed Auditory Feedback. IE hearing your own voice back at yourself on a slight delay. I want to stress the wrongness of the visuals here.

      So no, I don’t think ‘Into the Spider Verse’ is the best spiderman movie. I can’t. Instead it is literally the worst movie of any kind I’ve ever seen. Even the 1977 Spiderman movie is better. ‘No Way Home’ is the best Spider-Man movie.

      However fully accept it is due to something neurological going on. Like ‘you don’t perceive colors and motion the same way as others’ kind of thing. The difference in perception is so extreme I think it is worthy of a scientific study.

  3. Andrew says:

    Paul’s base puts out a Terrawatt of power. I wanted to know the scale of a terrawatt in the real world. Is that a single city? A country? A continent?

    I’ve often looked at this site which gives relatively real time power figures for the Great Britain National Grid.
    Typical demand is ~50GW, so a Terawatt would be ~20 Great Britains. Continent size feels about right.

    1. ContribuTor says:

      But how many libraries of Congress is that?

  4. The+Puzzler says:

    Having Googled “us total power generation capacity” I find:
    “At the end of 2020, the United States had 1,117,475 MW—or about 1.12 billion kilowatts (kW)—of total utility-scale electricity generating capacity”
    So a terawatt is roughly the power of all US power plants combined.

    Also, I find it amusingly confusing that Shamus said, “400,000 whats?” in the context of talking about watts.

    1. Xeorm says:

      Of course, we don’t actually use all that capacity. Napkin math puts world actual consumption at ~3TW per second. Or fairly close to one China’s worth of power.

  5. Olivier FAURE says:

    I’d like to be the smug about the fact that I totally called Back 4 Blood being awful months before its release.

    1. Fred Starks says:

      Can I join you in being smug?

      Turtle Rock can make real good games, but they have to have the very strong backing of a publisher to get there. They haven’t had that since Valve. The whole way Evolve went down shows this cleanly.

      -Now my following old man rant about LAN-

      I still remain immensely disappointed that B4B went for the terrible approach of always online co-op. Seriously, what happened to the offline LAN days? Turtle Rock made some of the best LAN games out there to exist under Valve.

      Looking at Anacrusis, I think the art direction is neat but it seems like the game on a whole struggles to hold itself together. Also, no mention of LAN co-op, which is still a giant disappointment.

      1. bobbert says:

        In the LAN days you bought 1 copy of FOOcraft, now you buy six for the same party.

        Also, how will the game attempt to sell you extras, if you don’t have to go through the mothership’s servers.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      I’ve played neither B4B nor Left 4 Dead and the video left me wondering what the B4B devs were trying to achieve. If you’re not innovating on the gameplay and you’re not improving the visuals, what are you doing?

  6. beleester says:

    Speaking of games with an identity crisis: I’ve noticed that the Hitman games often seem to be pulled in two directions at once. On the one hand, they want you to be a super-stealthy silent assassin – never be spotted, leave no trace, kill nobody but your target. This generally encourages simple, safe assassination plans along the lines of “wait for the guards to be looking away, then cap the target in the head with a silenced pistol.” But the game also wants to give you the feeling of “mastering the puzzle box” – going all over the map, discovering all the weird interactions you can do, and setting up a hilarious Rube Goldberg setup to kill the bad guy with his own model train set or something. But this conflicts with your goal of being as stealthy as possible – the more time you spend exploring and doing side objectives, the more chances you have to screw up and get spotted by a guard while you’re rigging the trains to explode.

    A lot of stealth games have a similar problem, where the optimal playstyle is to be 100% stealthy (it gives you special rewards, it makes it easy to explore and get all the loot, etc), but it’s actually more fun when you screw up and get into fights, because you have lots of tools that only come into play when the alarm is raised and you’re trying to salvage the situation. Metal Gear, for instance, where they give you dozens of different guns and rocket launchers but you only ever want the tranquilizer pistol. Or Phantom Doctrine – the optimal playstyle is to have two disguised agents go around and collect all the loot without anyone noticing, leaving your other four agents standing around and wondering when they’ll get a chance to use the machine guns they’re lugging around. Or Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Dishonored, which both have a lot of really cool powers that you can’t actually use unless you’re planning to murder everyone.

    (Dishonored, at least, gives you a really good “reset stealth” power in the form of Blink, meaning it feels less like a binary choice between going full stealth and going on a murder spree.)

    1. Chad+Miller says:

      The neat thing about the new Hitman games is that they so strongly encourage replaying levels. So I can reconcile the conflict with “only the last playthrough is canon, not the other dozen times I was figuring out the level”

  7. John says:

    I am trying and mostly failing to come up with real, genuine genre mashups that I enjoyed and that Shamus hasn’t already mentioned. The best I can manage are a pair of crime movies featuring children in what would normally be adult roles.

    On the one hand, we have Brick, a hard-boiled detective story where the detective, the murder victim, the femme fatale, the gang bosses, etc., are all teenagers. Brick is brilliant, by the way. I never knew I wanted “Red Harvest, but in high school” until I saw the trailer at which point I suddenly wanted it immediately. I’m not sure it’s a real genre mashup though. It’s not much interested in teen-movie tropes. In fact, it really only explicitly comments on the age of its characters a couple of times. I’d say that Brick resolves the tension, such as it is, between its genre and its setting by focusing mostly on the genre.

    On the other hand, we have Bugsy Malone. Bugsy Malone is a movie in the style of 1930s gangster movies except that all of the parts are played by children and all the tommy guns shoot whipped cream. (It is also a musical for some reason.) I haven’t seen Bugsy Malone since I was a child myself. I don’t remember it well enough to tell you whether it’s brilliant or not. The most I can say is that after I saw it I really wanted a tommy gun that shoots whipped cream. Bugsy Malone resolves the tension between its plot and the age of its actors–note that while they are played by children the characters are not supposed to actually be children–by sanitizing genre elements that would be inappropriate for children. It’s the kind of movie where what should have been a gangland massacre gets replaced by a giant pie-fight.

    1. Richard says:

      Good News!

      There are a lot of designs online for tommyguns that shoot whipped cream*, such as the ones that came with the script. You can also hire them.

      Stick “splurge gun” into your favourite search engine.

      I’ve done this production several times…

      * It’s actually theatrical custard pie foam, also known as theatrical cream foam.
      It’s similar to shaving foam but a bit more dense, less likely to trigger allergies and cleans up more easily.

      1. John says:

        Oh, that’s fascinating. I do not think that I, as a responsible, middle-aged man, can bring myself to purchase something as frivolous–and messy!–as a splurge gun, but I am delighted that they exist. I was surprised at first, since Wikipedia told me that they couldn’t get splurge guns to work for the movie and faked it with editing. I suppose I shouldn’t have been, however, because Wikipedia also told me that there was a stage version of Bugsy Malone and it’s hard to imagine that succeeding without functioning splurge guns. Actually, if it weren’t for Wikipedia, I would still be half-convinced that Bugsy Malone must have been a figment of my imagination. I saw it once as a small child on television, and in all the time since I have never encountered any additional evidence of its existence. Because, honestly, who would make a gangster musical starring that one guy from Happy Days and copious amounts of fake whipped cream? It’s absurd. My memory must be playing tricks on me. I gather it had significantly greater cultural impact in the UK.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          What’s a responsible, middle-aged man to do if not splurge on frivolities every once in a while?

          1. John says:

            Buy video games. Video games are, of course, frivolities, but they’re frivolities that live on my computer, don’t take up much space, and don’t make a mess.

          2. DaveMc says:

            I agree! It would be a double-splurge gun.

            Perhaps you could fill it with fire-retardant foam instead, and justify it as a somewhat eccentric fire extinguisher?

  8. Chris says:

    54:50 I hate rubberbanding so much, but they keep putting it into games.
    In max payne I would quickload if I get killed or took a significant amount of damage. This made the difficulty go crazy, which made me think the game was hard as balls, so I started savescumming even harder, which made the game just become stupid. In the later stages I would get bursted by a colt commando across the room, and the medicine cabinets would only give 1 painkiller (they scale the amount from 1 to 4 depending on how many you have).
    In mario kart youre better off using a light vehicle. The heavier ones have better top speed, but the AI just cheats and speeds up to match you. So you might as well go slower and have better handling and acceleration.
    Half-life 2 has boxes that spawn ammo you lack. So if you use the SMG to save the good ammo, the game only gives that back, and you think “wow I guess i should be really thrifty with the cool, fun to shoot weapons”.
    In need for speed you have a race variant where you need to have a high speed through gates (which makes your score). So at the start of the race you just dont move, the AI will think youre doing poorly and perform worse, then after 5 minutes you just race through the track at top speed and rip through the AI’s score.

    I remember there is a speedrun where they abuse rubberbanding as well. in wii golf resort every green has a small hill. If youre doing well, they put the hole on the hill, while if youre doing poorly they put the hole on the flat area. Once this was found people would just start the run by shooting 6 shots in the water (if you do that 6 times it will move you to the next map out of mercy), the system thinks youre eating rocks, and you get the enjoy easy puts.

    The system might work well if people are unaware of it. But once I figure it out, I feel cheated and dont really feel like playing anymore. If I play well the system punishes me, if I do poorly the system just hands me the win. Why would I save a health pickup and go back for it later, if being at 50% health makes the AI shoot like stormtroopers?

    1. bobbert says:

      You over look the big advantage of rubber banding: it is easy to program. Figuring out how many resources is the right amount for a level could take hundreds of man hours. It is a lot simpler to just kill the player every 10 minutes. This was also the big driver behind regenerating health / ammo.

      Also, the technical term for playing poorly on purpose to game the system is Sandbagging.

    2. Steve C says:

      Rubberbanding kills games for me too. I was enjoying the South Park game. Then I figured out I was on a rubberband-treadmill and auto-leveling enemies. Deleted.

      The only implementation of that I’ll tolerate is if the game asks you to first. Where the game has a popup “You appear to suck. Would you like to continue on a lower difficulty?” That’s still got issues. But it doesn’t make the game pointless like with rubberbanding.

      1. bobbert says:

        Don’t forget, you can’t have a setting to turn off switch-to-easy-mode-nagging. What if the user’s brother sneaks in and turns off the setting? He will be hopelessly stuck and sad.

      2. Parkhorse says:

        The only implementation of that I’ll tolerate is if the game asks you to first. Where the game has a popup “You appear to suck. Would you like to continue on a lower difficulty?” That’s still got issues. But it doesn’t make the game pointless like with rubberbanding.

        My favorite implementation of this was Shin Megami Tensei IV. It’s a turn-based RPG, but it’s hard, and easy mode is not an option when you first start a new game. Anyway, it’s not entirely obvious at first, but the setting is post-apocalyptic. So Charon is waayyyy backed up, and if you die, you can bribe him to let you come back to life. The second time you die, that’s when you get offered easy mode. So it’s a combination of “would you like to continue at a lower difficulty” and “you really stink at this, maybe you should try a lower difficulty.”

    3. ColeusRattus says:

      Haven’t had time to listen to the podcast,.but man, it never occurred to me that the “director” was akin to rubberbanding AI in racing games. I despise that in games that need a fair playing field, like racing games or other things that are competitive. But in a coop shooter I actually think it enhaces the game, as it is more about the social aspect of cooperating than trying to win a fair competition.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        This reminds me of the apparent dichotomy that’s been discussed on this blog before (especially regarding games that rhyme with Bark Trolls) between people for whom failing at something 10 times in a row completely turns them off from that thing and makes victory on the 11th time 1/100 as sweet, and people for whom failing at something 10 times in a row makes the emotional payoff of victory the 11th time 100x sweeter. Let’s call them Type 1 and Type 2 players. (I’d definitely classify myself as a Type 1.) A director AI that keeps the action mostly in that sweet spot right at the edge of a player’s abilities without exceeding it is probably enjoyed more by Type 1 players, who like the feeling of being close to failure without actually experiencing it too often, whereas it might not be as enjoyable for Type 2 players who maybe prefer a strictly fair fight that they can either fail or master entirely depending on their own skill level (though I’m mostly just speculating on this point, though, not being a Type 2 myself. And even as a Type 1 it’s still sometimes fun to completely dominate an AI opponent, so I’m not proposing this sort of adaptive difficulty should be present in all games).

        1. ColeusRattus says:

          That’s an interesting point. I sort of agree with the types, with the caveat, that I personally pinpall between those two types depending on both the game and my mood.

          Trying to generalize it, I think it has to do with how much I focus on the mastery of the mechanics. With racing and flying simulators, realistic games, Souls-likes, etc, I enjoy learning and subsequently mastering the mechanics and systems, which root me firmly in type 2 (as long as the game doesn’t “cheat” or bullshit me as a player, and my downfalls can be solely attributed to mistakes I as a player made)

          For most other games, where the dopamine hit doesn’t come from the minute to minute gameplay, but from “progressing” (so most single player games regardless of genre), but also more arcardey multiplayer games like CoD, or The Anacrusis, I am too type 1.

        2. Steve C says:

          Ehhhhh, I kinda agree with you Philadelphus. But I don’t think so.
          I can get behind the idea of there being different types of players and two of them being called Type 1 & Type 2 players. I don’t agree that a adaptive difficulty AI director is a useful tool to make either of them happy. Because it becomes the man behind the curtain that makes all the other mechanics in the game utterly pointless. Easy for the developer to come up with the idea, while being very difficult to implement while sabotaging everything else in the game.

          It is like a jigsaw puzzle that solves itself. It doesn’t matter if it is a big/small puzzle, an easy/hard puzzle, or anything else. It is finishing itself because you are sitting next to it. The AI director is actively preventing you from finish it faster or slower. It’s only the completely different Type C or D player that will enjoy that once they realize it is happening. It’s like betting on a rigged sports game. Only enjoyable if you don’t know it.

          My goto explanation of this in the wild is this Shadow of Mordor video. When you find a broken mechanic in a game, it taints everything the broken mechanic touches. There’s no point in engaging with it once you realize it exists. And a hidden adaptive difficulty touches everything and breaks everything. It’s the mechanic that makes place-something-heavy-on-the-button-and-go-watch-TV the optimal counter-play. Thinking about it in terms of Type 1 & 2 players is orthogonal to this issue.

          1. Nick says:

            (in reply to everyone in this comment chain).

            I agree. This in an interesting thought exercise.

            If a person succeeded in passing a level in a game with adaptive difficulty, do they think to themselves…
            (A) “I accomplished something” or
            (B) “the game adjusted its difficulty to allow me to accomplish something”
            and if they think (B), then does that affect their personal ability to enjoy the game? (which would vary from person to person).

            In my case, I would say it absolutely would affect my ability to enjoy the game. If the game’s AI is pulling its punches, then I may as well experience a passive method of entertainment, like watch TV.

            In a similar sense, if you died in the game, would you think…
            (X) “I lost due to my personal limitations” or
            (Y) “the adaptive difficulty did a bad job of adjusting to my ability that time, because it ramped up the difficulty a little too high”

            Again, in may case, I would say (Y).

            1. Syal says:

              I think it might work in a situation with a requirement ceiling; if you’re required to kill exactly 100 levels worth of enemies, then I might tolerate a system that keeps raising enemy levels if you do well and lowering them if you do poorly, because you would still have the proficiency of going fast or going slow.

              But if you’re doing that, it’s better to give the difficulty controls to the player to adjust on their end. They’re a much better judge of how hard they want the fight to be than your code is.

              1. Steve C says:

                It isn’t too bad in situations that 1)are minor and 2)you can counter-play against it.

                For example in Battletech, the game will prevent you from hitting the enemy too many times in a row. Like a 95% chance to hit might actually be 0% because you connected with all your shots the previous rounds. It’s annoying, stupid and I don’t think it adds anything. But once I know it is there and how it works, I can counter-play around it. I can deliberately take low % shots first that don’t matter first. So that they do miss. Allowing the big strike that has a 100% chance to hit, to actually hit.

                I know the X-com games famously did something similar, but not the same. They had own opaque system which lied to players. Subtly different but an important distinction. One reason I personally never liked those games and gave up playing them rather quickly.

                1. Syal says:

                  That sounds like a constant mechanic, though: “Maximum combo 7”, or something. Auto-levelling would be something like the miss rate going up the more damage your shots do.

          2. Philadelphus says:

            Yeah, having thought about it some more, I too am finding the idea less useful as a model of reality. I think the Type 1 & 2 is less of a dichotomy and more of a spectrum, and one that individuals can slide around on based on mood or whatever. Normally when I’m gaming I like winning with a feeling that I’m right at the edge of my abilities (a “Type 1” as I defined it)…but I was just playing Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice, which is a game that tends to involve a lot of quicksaving and loading to pull off tricky stealth takedowns that might take quite a few attempts, and I loved it, more like a Type 2. (I also loved the original, hence why I got the standalone sequel.) I think I’d also agree that adaptive difficulty isn’t as fun as it sounds.

      2. Chris says:

        In coop I still want to see how well I can play with my friends. So you start on normal, then next time you try hard, then very hard, then impossible, and try to win. If you feel that hard gives you a good amount of challenge, you play on hard if you want to relax with your friends, if you want to see how well you and your friends can play, you can crank it up. That is something I rather have than a system that just secretly changes hte difficulty up and down.

  9. tmtvl says:

    From the EIA I glean that the U.S. used about 27 terawatt in 2020, of which around 3 terawatt was produced with renewable energy.

    1. Addie says:

      Man, customary units for this calculation. 93ish quadrillion (ie. 93×10^15) BTUs / year, where 1 Watt-hour = 3.41 BTU. I make that 27 petawatt-hours, so you’re off by a thousand. One terrawatt is about a third of the average power consumption of the whole US.

      I thought Dyson Sphere Program was really good fun to start with, but having got purple cubes relatively under control, I’d sketched out what was required for green, and the number of ‘the same arrangement of factories, again and again and again’ just didn’t seem worth my while. It looks great, and the first half of the game is all good times in learning and optimisation; starting to bring the whole solar system under your control has some interesting challenges. And then it seems to lose some of the imagination that makes the early game great, and it’s just about doing the same thing repeatedly. Hopefully some more updates and expansions will sort that out.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Crap, I messed up my quadrillion and my trillion. That’s the problem with coming from a language where we use both -on and -ard (million, milliard, billion, billiard,…).

        1. pseudonym says:

          Blaming your troubles on language differences. How Belgian of you! ;-)

          1. Chad Miller says:

            Fun trivia: The fact that “billion” can refer to more than one number in English often comes as a surprise even to English speakers.

          2. tmtvl says:

            I propose from now on we write all exponents of 10 in e notation. Instead of a quadrillion it’s 10e15. Much less confusing.

          3. Bubble181 says:

            Belgians represent!
            Except for the German, French or Dutch speaking parts. Or the English speaking ones. And all of Brussels and Antwerp, just to be on the safe side.

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        You have to be careful about differentiating thermal power (BTU) from distribution capacity (GW) and both from installed capacity (often HP). None of them are 100% equatable. But yes, they are generally in the same order of magnitude.

        DSP has recently added templates, but they have had drag-to-place for a while. You set up one factory, and then you can make a whole row of them. This also works for overriding settings, upgrading, etc. And of course templates go to a whole other level. So, while there is a certain amount of necessary tedium, you shouldn’t ever need to repeatedly build individual factories.
        I ended up with a set of modular single-product logistics stations, which can be copied and re-purposed as necessary. Looks something like this:

      3. Retsam says:

        Green science is definitely a bit of a wall, being the hardest of the science cubes – it helps a lot if you make use of the rare resources, though. Definitely a lot easier to use Fire Ice to make the graphene needed instead of refining it from sulfur. (… unless maybe you’ve got a planet with a sulfur ocean nearby)

  10. ivan says:

    When people talk about preservation of games, and such, there are a couple of games that stand out as huge examples of the bad.

    The first, is the new Hitman trilogy of games, which were designed from the beginning to not be preserved, and to eventually not exist anymore. Always online, blah blah blah, no end of life plan, blah blah blah, if you don’t fully understand the arguments here, look it up. IOI actively avoid and resist even acknowledging questions about the game’s end of life, so that tells us a lot about their attitude here. Case in point is their ‘state of the game’ type community outreach streams. They do them every month, or every couple of months, not really sure, and there is always someone who asks them about the end of life plan (often it is me), and those questions are always ignored, in a way that makes it very clear those questions are on the list of topics not allowed to be talked about.

    The second game, is Path of Exile, which exists in a model of destroying a version of itself every 3 months or so. Who could look at old footage of PoE, compare it to current PoE, and honestly claim it is still the same game? Probably noone. Who can currently play the myriad older versions of PoE? Currently noone, except maybe whoever has access to the possibly existing test machines that still load older versions of the game, or whatever. The current version of the game is slated to be patched over in a few weeks (I think, the exact scheduling is still unconfirmed as yet). After that, no one will be able to play the current patch version of the game anymore. A game, that you can currently play, will no longer be playable. Sure, there’ll be something that looks and plays a lot like it… but, not the same.

    You may notice I assert no real points, above, for how to fix either of these. PoE, I honestly have no hope for, because almost noone even in the PoE community seems to have issue with this system. And Hitmans, well, the community has proof of concept server emulation already, so honestly that is as close to *solved* as it will ever be without actual help and cooperation from IOI. Until the servers go down and subsequently you need to reinstall it, anyway.

  11. Steve C says:

    I find it interesting that you enjoyed WandaVision and thought Loki was a stretched concept. I was reverse to you. I enjoyed Loki and couldn’t stand Wandavision because I felt it was 30min concept stretched out way too long. Totally agree about the other two- Hawkeye and Falcon.

    1. Shamus says:

      It’s true that WandaVision was stretched, plot-wise. But the filler episodes were all those crazy retro sitcoms. I just loved seeing those for their own sake, and was really impressed with how far they went. They didn’t just put everyone in period-appropriate clothes and make the old episodes “black and white”. They also replicated the way those old shows were made: The score, the scene transitions, the pacing, set design, the style of humor, and the (hilariously bad by modern standards) special effects. Even the cinematography changed, with the 50s show using lots of long wide shots, and the 70s stuff doing more cuts and closer blocking.

      Now, none of that really made it a great SUPERHERO show and it was way more than was needed to tell this story, but I appreciated it for its own sake.

      Gary Shandling did a similar gag back in the 90s. He had a late-night show at the time, and after a couple of years they did their “40th anniversary special” and had “clips” from the show in the various decades. So they had a bit that was in fuzzy black & white where everyone was smoking and telling jokes that only made sense in the 50s.

      I don’t know. I guess I’m just a sucker for this sort of gag.

      1. Steve C says:

        Yup. That’s the charm a lot people liked. I’m the opposite. I don’t have nostalgia for TV & movies (nor most other things.) When I see something bad by modern standards, it doesn’t go further than that. All I see is something bad by my current standards. Sure, I get what they are doing. But even a short bit goes on too long for me. Hours of that stuff? I just can’t. I tried fast forwarding through WV to get to the plot points. It was just too much.

        I personally was really hoping for something like ‘That 70s Show’. A period piece but with standards current to the era it was shown (90s in that case). Likewise I would not watch ‘That 70s Show’ today. It was WV’s replication of the way those old shows were made that ultimately sunk it for me.

      2. Joshua says:

        I liked the series except for the whole S.W.O.R.D. and Monica Rambeaux components (Director Hayward was especially lame) . I think it could have been better told in six episodes instead of nine, which would have probably resulted in less of a feeling that they abandoned the sitcom shtick halfway through the show.

    2. MerryWeathers says:

      I also have the opposite opinion to the lengths of the episodes, the D+ Marvel shows need 8 episodes and longer runtimes to properly flesh out the storylines.

      They’re also getting screwed over from having to setup plot threads that go nowhere other than future shows/movies and hiding certain characters until the finale that should have been introduced at the start, as was most evident in Hawkeye.

  12. Steve C says:

    Hey Paul I noticed this Diecast went up on youtube at 7pm Sunday. Thought you should know.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I usually schedule it to go live the same time as the blog, but, I can’t remember why I was doing that. So I just posted it on upload this time. It’s five less mouse clicks.
      I’ve been slowly decrementing the amount of effort I put into the video portion, and it hasn’t had any perceptible impact. Or, at least, you’re the first to comment on any of the changes, and the viewer numbers have been pretty stable.
      If you’d like anything to change on that front, just let me know though! Just because I’m not doing it doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t. Just don’t want to waste my effort on stuff no one notices.

  13. AdamS says:

    Lost in the shuffle of the rest of the video is the fact that Valve had an experimental psychologist on staff to deal with the effects of their game mechanics on players’ mindsets. How many other companies do that? I’d guess not many.

  14. Fizban says:

    The amazing part comes from the steam workshop integration. There are tons of AMAZING user-created maps that are just as good, and often better, then the base game. As a player, this is amazing, I get tons of content for a low price point. How do you think this will play out for the developer? When they release new content, will people buy it when it has to compete against free maps?

    I think the steam workshop is one of those niche features that people who care about it really notice, but the vast majority of people don’t. Most people want Official Content, and even if that isn’t sufficient the threat of having to deal with dredging through workshop stuff to find something and try it and them maybe it isn’t actually any good is just too much effort. Sure people know abut Skrim mods, but that’s your one big mainstream exception, and part of the reason they’ll know that is because the company is also trying to get you to pay for a few crappy mods.

    Meanwhile you have say, Legend of Grimrock and its sequel. Great 1st person grid dungeoncrawlers with map editors and the workshop has tons of stuff that people say is good, but I tried one of the best and found it was. . . not. I would love to pay for more content from the devs, but they no whisper of Grimrock 3 or a dlc, they seem to have been done with just 2.

    And there’s Popup Dungeon, which specifically wants to sell itself on the idea of user content, but the “steam” workshop is only accessible from inside the game, with weak UI, and when you look at game content (rather than characters where you’ll find a constant stream of memes, references, and so-called copyright violations), there’s basically none. The content creator is a high enough bar that people who are willing to climb over it have ambitions quite possibly too big for the tools which they quickly abandon, and apparently people who would make smaller stuff just aren’t interested in grappling with learning the tools. Once again, the dev’s content is great and I would gladly pay for more of it, but there’s been no whisper for more than a year now- they put out some free season-inspired maps (which may have been part of the kickstarter goals), but it seems like beyond an initial support push they just ran out and stopped.

    You can give people content creation tools, but at the end of the day it still takes a game’s worth of time and effort and skill for a certain number of people to make a quality game. And the likelyhood of multiple wandering dev teams to pounce upon tools that were made for your game rather than seeking the tools to make their game seems low.

    For games where the content is just maps, like escape rooms or platformers, there’s the least barrier of mechanics. But even then what people really want is usually. . . new mechanics, characters, etc, not just maps.

    1. tmtvl says:

      For games with really good (as in actually, I’m not kidding, I know how it sounds when I say that, but I really mean it) Steam Workshop content, check out the Hare Brained Schemes Shadowrun trilogy (Returns, Dragonfall, Hong Kong). The Antumbra Saga and the Caldecott Caper are as good as, if not better than, the official campaigns.

      1. John says:

        The Caldecott Caper is indeed good, though I wouldn’t say it’s better than any of the official campaigns other than maybe the very first one. The Antumbra Saga, however, is very much not good, unless you happen to like hunting fruitlessly through vast, dark areas, looking for the one last enemy you haven’t killed yet so that you can finally get back out of turn-based mode. Repeatedly.

        While I’m on the subject, please note that anyone who tells you that you have to play Antumbra before you play Caldecott is grossly misinformed. Caldecott is nominally a sequel to Antumbra, but if you played Caldecott first you would never guess that it was supposed to be the sequel to something. The two scenarios aren’t related in any meaningful or important way.

        1. Gautsu says:

          Darkest Dungeon has some great workshop content

  15. Ninety-Three says:

    I feel like game preservationists have some part of the brain that I lack, because I’ve never understood why it’s important. Echoing Paul, the really popular games are going to end up archived and recreated everywhere even if it’s a pain to do so, and if some mediocre Atari game is forever lost to time then… who cares? If an improbably precise gamma ray burst hit the Earth tomorrow and erased every copy of Crossbow, whose life is actually made worse by that? I think there are very few people who care about that game enough that they’d decide to replay it in modern times, and most of them would not be that broken up about lacking the option to do so.

    It feels like the way people talk about saving animal species transposed into the videogame sphere: we should do preservation because it is Bad when these things go extinct. But if barely anyone is playing the games, how bad is it really? It’s not like the games themselves suffer when they go extinct.

    1. Nick says:

      I understand where you are coming from. There are certainly a lot of crappy old games out there.

      For me personally though, I see it as important to preserve games for the historical context, and not necessarily for their gameplay value. i.e. to better understand how games used to be, and how they have changed into the present, and perhaps inform the future. To appreciate the limitations of each technological era and the interesting tricks they used to maximise those limitations. To analyse how the socio-political environment of a given time and place may have influenced the artistic choices made. Not necessarily to play them purely for the enjoyment.

      As an analogy, I imagine most people would agree that the Lascaux Cave Paintings are worth protecting for their historical significance, even though most people probably wouldn’t consider them to be exceptional pieces of art to enjoy in an aesthetic sense.
      I imagine most people would agree that historical buildings and vehicles are worth protecting, even though most people would probably prefer to live in a modern house and drive a modern car.
      Just my thoughts though :)

      1. Gautsu says:

        Well at least we have some sites such as myabandonware.com dedicated to preserving things, even if the legalities are murky in some situations

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        This. An important thing to note is that it’s difficult to determine what constitutes a significant work of culture (not even necessarily art, or “high art” whatever that may be) particularly while inside that culture at the time. Especially since it can be the very quantity and popularity rather than quality that is significant. Most of the so called “penny dreadfuls” were… mediocre at best, and because they were cheaply mass produced we only have a sample of the vast swath of what was published. Yet they were very significant both as a symptom of societal changes (like increased literacy) and as an influential trend. In fact they are sometimes compared to video games in that they have, for example, caused some moral panic supposedly spoiling an entire generation of youth into the life of crime by promoting roguish highwaymen as role models and life of adventure instead of honest hard work.

        While it can definitely be argued that not every single penny dreadful would have been a major contribution to the study of the 19th century (a relatively recent period of which we have many other sources I’ll add) it is pretty much impossible to say what something that cannot be studied would be worth. Couple this with the relative ease of preserving video games compared to, say, works of architecture, sculpture or painting, and the argument for mass preservation gains further credence.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      The subthread Shamus alluded to was in one of the Final Fantasy XII blog posts, specifically about how the recent commercial rerelease which is selling for $50 even now is probably worse than it could be because someone lost the source assets.

  16. Geebs says:

    Our escalating needs pose machinery to encompass a star
    Long-term survival energy obtaining megastructure
    Dyson sphere

    The energy rise to contribute to life and bring forth the power in excess
    Entropy devised mechanics derive intercepted and transferred to the realm of us

    Solar interception, a design to increase reception
    Captured inside, transmitted and refined
    Dyson sphere

    1. RFS-81 says:

      Ha! I thought this sounded like Death Metal English.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Meanwhile I was reading it like Burma-Shave.

      2. Geebs says:

        Well spotted! I get the song stuck in my head every single time Dyson Sphere Program gets mentioned on the Diecast. Which is fine since it’s an absolute banger.

  17. evilmrhenry says:

    With regards to Steam Workshop and expansions, the solution is obvious: add new features along with the new map or what not. Then any maps the community makes that use those new features now require the expansion. Unless you really screwed up and picked features that nobody wants or something, you’ll quickly run into a situation where it’s just assumed that everyone playing community content has the expansion.

    As for preserving old games, it’s a good thing, though I generally care more about having the game playable in the original format via emulator than having source code available in order to rebuild/update the game for modern systems. This is both because it’s a lot easier to convince a company to follow the money, and because I generally assume all source code is lost until proven otherwise.

    I.e., the NES is in good shape here because there’s good quality emulators, while getting something from the Win95 era running is usually A Problem. In particular, I’ll note that “grab an old DOS game, bundle it with a preconfigured DOSBOX, and sell on Steam/GOG” is a thing that keeps happening, specifically because of the high quality of DOSBOX emulation and the ability to emulate a game in a semi-invisible way, but Win 3.1 games aren’t available in the same way because the only way to get that working is to install Windows 3.1 in DOSBOX, and while that’s legal (assuming you have a legal copy of Windows 3.1), that still stops you from selling the game on Steam.

    (This is also an issue with a bunch of consoles that need a ROM file to function. While you can, of course, transfer the file in a completely legal way from the console you totally own, it’s not something you can include with your game on Steam, which is why you don’t see games from those consoles on Steam.)

    This is important because a huge problem with older games is getting a legal copy, (plus the storage mediums they’re on are nearing the 40-year mark, and they were never designed to last that long). With this in mind, what I want to see from a preservationist standpoint is a decent emulator for every system, that you can legally include with your game that you’re selling on Steam/GOG. At that point, you no longer need to convince a company to track down and release their source code, but simply slap their old games in a shell and charge $5 a pop for a job you handed off to the intern. And even if you can’t get that, you still have the ability to run your legally purchased games on a modern system without needing to port them to modern systems. (And think about the problems inherent with porting a PS2 game to Windows.)

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