Diecast #371: Multi-factor Filibuster

By Shamus Posted Monday Feb 14, 2022

Filed under: Diecast 101 comments

This week, Paul is the one that showed up with a fistfull of topics, and I’m the one who… doesn’t. I could get used to this.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes:
00:00 Shamus Making Content on the DL

This Thursday, I’m launching my Final Fantasy XII webcomic!

I kid, I kid. We’re going to do something totally unrelated to JRPGs.

01:56 Unity Whitepapers

I’m such a serious programmer that I even read whitepapers in Dark Mode.

13:18 Endless Space 2 on Linux

Gaming on Lunix is here! Partially. Mostly.

You’re comfortable downloading and compiling code, right?

17:24 Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition

18:42 The Tale of the Invalid Verification Codes

I’ve used several banks over the last couple of decades, and it seems like they’re all terrible at electronic banking. It’s like they just want to go back to the days of talking to tellers face-to-face.

Also, here is the skit Paul mentioned.

37:06 Wireless Headphones and the wrong way to do battery mounting.

Q: How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Can’t do anything about it. That’s a hardware problem.

42:53 Patreon Census

That’s it. You’re done. You built the service, and now you just need to keep it running and avoid bloat.

This is something that’s obvious when your business is small and local. A restaurant owner isn’t going to stand there in the kitchen thinking, “What’s my next move? Do I sell furniture, or branch out into contract landscaping?” But tech companies often suffer from this weird need to expand in odd ways that don’t build on their core business.

I can understand why some get-rich-quick techbro might do this. If you don’t care about the business and you’re just looking to cash out with an IPO, then you’re probably just going to throw random ideas and buzzwords into your mission statement until you attract investors.

But Patreon founder Jack Conte isn’t a slimy tech bro. My take on him is that he’s an adorably idealistic hippie artist who created Patreon because he needed it to exist, not because he wanted to be the next Elon Bezos.

But Patreon still flails around quite a bit. My guess is that Jack – a 37 year old keyboardist / guitarist / bassist / drummer / songwriter / YouTuber – has perhaps filled his years studying something besides business management. Thus he isn’t totally sure what he should be doing, and he’s probably taking a lot of advice from guys who did study the techbro playbook.

If he were to ask me, my advice to Conte would be this:

Relax and let Patreon keep doing what it’s doing. It doesn’t need to expand or transform. Ignore the techbros. The line doesn’t need to go up forever. Pretend you’re running a restaurant and not a global corporation. Keep your overhead low so you can’t be sniped by an eager upstart, and keep an eye on the books to keep everyone honest.

One hand on the wheel. Steady as she goes.

49:12 Mailbag: Favourite RPG Choices

Dear Diecast,

What’s one / some of your favourite choices that you’ve made in a
role-playing game? And what do you think are the best games of the genre in
this sense?

All the best,

56:49 Mailbag: Games you have Slept on

Hey Shamus and Paul, I recently got around to playing through Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. I have owned it for a couple of years, but there was no real reason for me not playing it any sooner, other than a gigantic backlog of games. I really enjoyed it and can easily understand all of the accolades the game received when it came out. Are there any games, either critically or socially well received, that you found your way to after all of the hype had died down, that actually lived up to said hype?

Thank you,


From The Archives:

101 thoughts on “Diecast #371: Multi-factor Filibuster

  1. tmtvl says:

    You’re comfortable downloading and compiling code, right?

    If you’re not comfortable running your graphical stack through a debugger and live-patching the drivers to get games to work, why are you even running *nix? (I kid… mostly)

    1. pseudonym says:

      At some point you can play the game by looking at the debug output. No need for fancy graphics: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7-GTcHZkfCs .

  2. Lino says:

    My favourite choice in an RPG… I’d say pretty much every choice in the Witcher 3. I was so invested in the characters that I didn’t really mind the fact that my choices didn’t impact the overall narrative all that much. I also really liked the choice in the Witcher 2 about which faction you wanted to support, which lead to you playing a completely different Act, each of which was filled with unique quests.

    I also really liked the Geth one Shamus mentioned. But other than those, I can’t really remember any other choices that stuck with me. E.g. I remember all the Bethesda games having choices, but I don’t really recall any of them.

    1. Zekiel says:

      In all honesty my choice to play a ball game in Disco Elysium without stopping to enquire about the rules is probably my most memorable choice.

      But the faction choice in Witcher 2 really takes some some beating in terms of follow through.

  3. Ryan says:

    It sounds like your banking problems are a bit more broad than just MFA issues, but MFA happens to be an area that I have a decent amount of experience with, so I thought I’d give some insight.

    Bottom line, if you have a code and it randomly doesn’t work, it’s almost always a clock synchronization issue. Most codes are generated by a hashed combination of your account name, a randomized salt generated when you initialize MFA, and the clock (typically rounded to either 30 seconds for app-based and 1 minute for texted/emailed codes). If your MFA App says the time is 9:13:10 but the website thinks it’s only 9:12:48, they’ll be off by one code in the sequence. For texted/emailed, the timing issue is typically between the web server and the database (this is because the time of request is stored to allow the code to remain active for several minutes, but most configurations use the web server’s clock to get the code to send out to the user, but have the db entry use a defaulted “getDate()” field rather than the web server’s when storing the request itself). None of this is an excuse, but at least it might help explain what’s typically going wrong.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Thanks! I forgot to mention in the show, but the expiration time turned out to be for the next day, so they were supposed to be valid for 24 hours. My guess is there was something in my OS and browser combination not knowing the “correct” crypto handshake, but it’s anyone’s guess what is really going on.

  4. DeadlyDark says:

    I remember a choice in Dragon Age Inquisition that made me pause for several minutes. When you do Iron Bull mission, the leader of Qunari makes you choose – sacrifice Bull’s crew or sacrifice future relations with Qunari state. I took my time weighing benefits and risks of either options. In the end, I decided to save Bull’s crew.

    I think there were other choices in DAI that also took some pondering for me, but I can’t recall them.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Probably my favourite DA choice is in the first game. The dwarven succession choice. Harrowmont is generally a decent person* but his conservative policies not only perpetuate the awful caste system they actively threathen the survival of the dwarves (such as refusing human reinforcements in the war for the deep roads (in the epilogue)). Bhelen instead has good ideas that he wants to execute for all the wrong reaons and is just such a disgusting weasel (especially if you play the dwarven noble origin).

      My favourite Inquisition choice: spirit Cole vs human Cole.

      *Unless you give him the anvil

      1. Also Tom says:

        Yes. Contrast this to the Port Kadara quest in ME: Andromeda, where it seems Bioware was trying for that kind of dynamic between Reyes Vidal and Sloane Kelly, but it doesn’t really work because the latter is…actually kind of a terrible person. Yes, Vidal might cheat during the final confrontation between the two and pretty clearly wants to overthrow Kelly mostly for his own gain, but Kelly’s just as selfish and a lot more brutal.. I didn’t even hesitate when it came time to make that call.

      2. Laserhawk says:

        Harrowmont is a moderate whose primary shtick is compromise. Bhelen’s methods consist of putting mobsters, mercenaries, and other murderous liars in positions of power, while killing off pretty much anyone who actually cares about the people. Harrowmont is so blatantly the correct choice it’s honestly weird to even consider Bhelen as an option.

        1. Daimbert says:

          The big issue for me is that Harrowmont may be hidebound, but he’s at least honest, while Bhelen is a proven liar. Remembering that your primary mission is to get help against the world-threatening darkspawn, if you help Harrrowmont you know that if he says he’ll send aid in exchange for your help he will, while it would be perfectly reasonable to expect that when you put out the call to the dwarves after helping Bhelen he’ll say “Sorry, can’t do that right now. Have fun against the darkspawn!”. And if you really think his ideas are better for the dwarves and are willing to take that chance, what reason do you have for thinking that he’s not lying about THAT and will drop the idea as soon as he can figure out how to milk the existing situation for his own benefit?

          That’s why the ending making Harrowmont’s leadership really bad for the dwarves and Bhelen’s much better can be really annoying to some people. There’s no reason things should work out that way and no one making the choice should have expected it to, so it comes across more as a “Gotcha! You thought giving the good, trustworthy guy the crown would be better but it isn’t!” than as a tough choice between someone honest but outdated and someone perhaps less trustworthy but with the better ideas.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            You’re making an excellent point. In my opinion Bhelen has by now burned his bridges with the conservatives and his only real option to remain in power is to rely on the progressives plus get support from the empowered lower castes, which kind of requires him to, you know, empower them at least somewhat. Particularly in light of the epilogue where he has dissolved the assembly, meaning that if he gets on the wrong side of both the nobles and the commoners there is literally no one to protect him though that’s obviously hindsight.

            Anyway, my point is we can argue our positions, I actually don’t think Harrowmont is the “obvious right choice”, it may be for you due to your interpretation of the situation but the great thing is that it allows for those interpretations. It’s not a lightside “give away your money to build the orphanage” vs darkside “eat the orphans” decision, which is what most games would do and then I’d absolutely agree with you.

            I’ll further add that the choice is somewhat undermined by the later games in the series, when DA:O was made and could be treated as a done deal you could believe that your choices shaped the world, in later instalments Bioware has been bending over backwards in attempts to carry over the various choices without having to go full Witcher 2 so when if the dwarven social structure becomes majorly relevant at some point they’ll probably do something to reconcile those two drastically different courses.

            1. Daimbert says:

              Where I’d say choosing Harrowmont is the obvious choice is entirely based on the fact that he’s trustworthy and Bhelen isn’t. No matter what your goals are, Bhelen is so obviously treacherous in ways that all Wardens can discover beforehand that you cannot at all trust that he means ANYTHING he says. So if your primary goal is to get aid against the darkspawn, you choose Harrowmont, because he will absolutely give it. If your primary goal is to “modernize” the dwarves and end what you consider to be a terrible social system, then since you can’t trust Bhelen to actually really care about that you might go with Harrowmont anyway and try to encourage him and the dwarves towards change, since Harrowmont is again trustworthy and somewhat reasonable. So to choose Bhelen you have to care more about the dwarves than the darkspawn and ignore how untrustworthy Bhelen is, which is a problem.

              To fix this, all they needed to do was keep and highlight the link Bhelen had to the commoners, and imply that he might have really believed that the dwarvish noble Warden was trying to seize the throne on his own. At this point, you could set up a choice between the stability of Harrowmont in that he wants to preserve the existing social order vs the instability of Bhelen who explicitly wants to overturn it. This would then fit better into the endings where Harrowmont’s stability turns to stagnation and Bhelen’s chaos leads to renewal, and could challenge the player to think about why they chose what they did.

              1. Kirill says:

                Hmm, I disagree. Dwarven people are bound by ancient treaties and are obliged to help the wardens during the time of blights. You of course can argue that despite that Bhelen might still do whatever he wants but such a course of action from his side will be detrimental to the dwarven kingdom in every way possible.

                1. Daimbert says:

                  It’s not so much that it wouldn’t be a bad decision in the long run, but that there are indeed reasons why the dwarves might be willing to do it, which were given in the sequence: during Blights, the pressure from the Deep Roads on the dwarves is less, so it would be easy for Bhelen to spin it as them needing to rebuild during this time of respite, and many of the dwarves will go along with it based on the argument that in general the surface dwellers never help the dwarves when the Blights are over and the demand that they sacrifice for surface dwellers when the Blights come on. The trump card you have against any argument of specific — even short term — dwarven interests is that you’ve helped the ruler come to power and they owe you. Harrowmont will absolutely keep that bargain. There is no reason to think that Bhelen necessarily would. If you want guaranteed help against the darkspawn, you pretty much have to go with Harrowmont.

                  1. Kirill says:

                    Fair point, but the relationship between wardens and dwarfs is a very warm one, as you said surface dwellers don’t care much but the wardens are the only ones who share with dwarven people the fight against the darkspawn on a permanent basis. Plus they are highly dependent on the trade with the surface, actually, it is the only thing keeping Orzammar afloat.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I mean, hindsight but just for the record, the epilogue specifically states that if you ask a boon to send reinforcements to help the dwarves retake the deep roads Harrowmont outright refuses to even let them in, if you give him the anvil it’s honestly “WTF” to the point where I consider that to be out of character for him but it is canonically there. Furthermore, while I like considering DA:O in isolation if we go down the line while Bhelen does send assassins after Harrowmont’s kin in DA2 by Inquisition it’s stated that Harrowmont ignores the food riots among the lower caste populace during the disruption of trade due to the Orlesian civil war (at this point multiple sources throughout the series both suggest and state outright that Orzammar is unable to sustain itself foodwise without trading with the surface). I… have certain opinions on why the devs took Harrowmont’s rule in this direction but I’d rather not discuss them here because of risk of threading into RL politics. Having said that I think the most I can agree to is that neither o the candidates is actually great. Which, again, gives the choice some nuance.

      3. Thomas says:

        Spirit Cole Vs Human Cole is a choice I still haven’t decided which I’m comfortable with.

        I also love the Iron Bull choice DeadlyDark mentioned. As far as I’m concerned that choice comes with the best consequence in a game ever if you don’t save the crew. Not for it’s scope, but for its audacity and how much sense it makes.

  5. Moridin says:

    Re: Endless Space 2 on Linux
    In all fairness, all I did was point you to Proton’s appdb. I don’t actually use Proton, but with Wine, most of the time the solution is along the lines of “If you’re having problems with Red Alert 2 main menu, use winetricks to install cnc.dll for your wineprefix and that should fix it” (this is an actual problem and a solution I’ve encountered).

    1. John says:

      There’s also ProtonTricks, which I had to use recently in order to get Batman: Arkham Asylum working.

  6. Steve C says:

    Ah, programming. That’s a much better reason to cancel the Diecast than the reason I assumed. Which was being sick with difficulty breathing and pumping blood. Glad to hear that wasn’t it.

  7. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Aside from the fact that I have multiple great games languishing in my backlog the one game that comes to mind that I’ve slept on, pun accidental but appreciated, is Sleeping Dogs. Got it in a bundle but I usually don’t enjoy “realistic” games, still I wanted to play something openworldy that wasn’t Ubisoft and it came highly recommended. Aside from the game kinda cheating its way out of the central loyalty conflict it was great, the characters were vibrant and I immediately felt sympathy towards them, the events were dramatic, the scale of the game was just right to give me stuff to play but not get tedious…

    1. Rho says:

      I don’t think it was a “trick” so much as something of a slight mistake. The overall point was that for the main character, the twin identities weren’t directly in conflict internally even though externally they appeared to be.

      1. Rho says:

        Sorry, to clarify: it was a “mistake” in that the game does original try to frame this as a conflict setup, but that clearly wasn’t the overall intention nor the primary focus of the story.

  8. Gautsu says:

    Shamus, just a quick check but did you get the other 2 questions I sent back to back with this week’s?

    For choices in an RPG, I have to go with Greedfall or Wrath of the Righteous. I’m usually one of the meta players you guys talked about, picking in context of the game without necessarily “role” playing. In Greedfall in order to get all the achievements you have to bring every possible ally to the last battle. Basically, you have to finish all of the companion and faction quests without pissing anyone off. During the course of the game your cousin gets infected with Malichor, the disease from the mainland, that ostensibly, all of the three mainland nations are searching for cures whilst subjugating the natives. This drives the second half of the game.
    During the quests for the Bridge Alliance (Middle Eastern flavored alchemists and Scientists), you discover that one of their Doctor’s used spies to infect your cousin and tried to infect you. His intention was to force their allies (you) to make even more unethical decisions than he already was, because your life would be on the line. When you find this out and go to go after him, the Governor of his people asks you to take him alive, claiming he is an insane zealot. Because of things going on with your cousin due to the attempts to cure him, thousands of innocents are dying at this time. So when it came time to face the Doctor, I chose to execute him. Not doing this allows you to recruit the Bridge Alliance for the end. Killing him locks you out of being able to do that, no matter your reputation with them before hand. However, upon reporting to the Governor that you killed the Doctor instead, the Governor then tells you to go fuck yourself (paraphrasing), he ordered the Doctor to infect tje two of you. Without killing the Doctor there is no way to find this out. This one time I felt completely justified in screwing myself out of an achievement for role-playing decisions

    Wrath of the Righteous’s companions run the entire alignment spectrum. In a world where I have never lost a ME companion outside of those who you absolutely have to lose, I have never finished a Wrath run (3 full completions Angel, Aeon, and Azata) with all of my companions alive, and the evil playthroughs promise the same.

    I wanted to laugh a little because the week after I sent in the question about missing out on a game the lives up to the hype, I played through and beat A Plague Tale: Innocence, which could have substituted itself for Hellblade within the question. Maybe because games are my addiction I have rarely.been in the situation where I have missed out on games that are good, while I have played many that don’t live up to the hype.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yep, “Death and Relationships within games” is next on the list.

  9. John says:

    I slept on XCOM 2 until this weekend.

    I loved XCOM, so much so that I played it for hundreds of hours. I should have been thrilled for XCOM 2, but one of the first things that I learned about it was that it was full of timed missions. If you’ve played XCOM, you know that the secret to avoiding gruesome, horrible death is to move forward very slowly, to always use cover, and to overwatch, overwatch, overwatch. The random number generator is not your friend, so never take a risk you don’t have to. I think that this style of play is fundamentally incompatible with timed missions unless either the mission is scripted and predictable or the timer is very generous. If it’s the former, I’m not interested. If I wanted scripted, predictable missions, I’d still be playing Fire Emblem rather than XCOM. If it’s the latter, then what’s the point of the timer?

    Then XCOM 2 went free to play for the weekend and also on sale, complete with all its DLC, for $7, and, well, I’m not made of stone. People have been telling me for years that the timed missions are not that big a deal. I’ve only played the game for about five hours now, but I think that those people were probably right. So far, it seems that while the timer does require me to take some risks it does not force me to play completely recklessly. In other words, I have not been forced all the way out of my comfort zone. It’s not so different, really, from the way I had to play in order to get meld canisters in Enemy Within.

    So, on the one hand, I’ve been missing out for the last six years. But, on the other hand, I saved I don’t even know how much money. I think I can live with that.

    1. Henson says:

      Timed missions make a huge difference. It’s why I found the game so damned difficult, even on Normal; my squadmates kept getting killed because I was forced to order them into unstable situations, due to time constraints. There is some balancing from starting missions in stealth, but it doesn’t come close to making up the difference.

      After losing my only melee squadmate on a long Ironman run and consequently putting down the game for almost a year, I’m currently on a new campaign myself, and have had the good fortune to have only lost one person. It sure does help to know what to expect…

      X-COM 2 also holds the crown for Quickest Time to Mute. It was probably only a hour before I had to silence voices due to their constant interruptions. “Hey! We should do this research project!” “Hey! This mission is getting critical!” “Hey! The aliens are getting sophisticated!” *Cue Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop*

      1. John says:

        I guess I should note that I’m not playing Ironman. I’ve only just started my very first run, and I’m not about to play Ironman until I have a better handle on the game. Until then, I’m perfectly happy to reload from a save if I screw something up. XCOM 2 even auto-saves frequently for my convenience. To be completely honest, I don’t even like Ironman all that much to begin with. I did a couple of Ironman runs in Enemy Within, just to prove to myself that I could, but I didn’t enjoy it any more than I did playing the normal way.

        1. Henson says:

          I tend to prefer Ironman, but if you choose it, X-COM 2 doesn’t let you play the tutorial, which is actually really important for learning how this game differs from the previous one!

      2. BlueHorus says:

        Oh goddammit, you reminded me of the reminders in XCOM 2.

        …ahem, sorry.

        What I meant to say was that XCOM 2 has a really annoying habit of telling you things that you’ve already worked out – because the game has already shown you – but there are mods to solve this by shutting NPCs up.
        In fact, it’s one of the most popular mods on the Steam Workshop, as I recall.
        Hint hint Firaxis.

        …ahem, sorry.

        As others have also related, there are mods to help with timed missions. My personal favourite is probaby the stealth overhaul that only starts the timer once your team is spotted or opens fire on an enemy.

    2. GoStu says:

      I think the timers in XCOM 2 were pretty well calibrated; you do feel a sense of urgency to keep moving forward, but as long as you keep advancing to contact with the enemy you’ll get the job done in time. I almost think it’s more of a friendly kick in the ass; motivating you to avoid the traditional “creep forward with Overwatch” method that’s efficient but makes the game pace drag.

      All-in-all I think it’s a solid step forward from XCOM Enemy Unknown/Within.

      If you’d like to put a little of that saved money into More XCOM, I’d suggest picking up Chimera Squad once you’re done with XCOM 2. It’s set after the end of XCOM 2, focuses on a single city, and uses named characters with personalities and all different abilities rather than randomly-generated people with a few fixed classes.

      Chimera Squad mixes up the XCOM formula enough to be fun and different. Instead of one side making all the moves & then the other side making all theirs, it’s an initiative queue; pretty much all the units have unique abilities to play with; you “breach” to enter combats, removing the slow advance to wherever the next set of enemies is; and there’s not much in the way of punitive downtime. It’s heavily discounted relative to XCOM EU or XCOM 2 – only about $20 as a spinoff, and I think it’s easily worth that much.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        I really enjoyed Chimera Squad, and was quite sad to see how little attention it got at launch. (To be fair, pandemic stole a LOT of spotlights that year.)

        It’s no XCOM 3 by any means, but it’s a cool and unique spin-off with a lot of style. Anybody that loved the main series should at least give it a whirl, IMHO.

        1. GoStu says:

          I love its style and the way it digs at the post-war lore. How do all these aliens left behind get along, and what’s been going on since the ‘Elders’ left? Chimera gets a porthole view into that world. It’s great.

          I think the biggest favour they did themselves was keeping it cheap and short. While that might sound like I’m damning it with faint praise, I really do like Chimera Squad – I just want to praise a studio for having an idea that’s cool but doesn’t QUITE rate its own full game, but finding a way to make it anyway.

          Selling something for 1/3 the cost of a usual game, putting it firmly in that ‘indie game’ price range lets one forgive a LOT of things.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      So far, it seems that while the timer does require me to take some risks it does not force me to play completely recklessly.

      That was basically Jake Solomon’s rationale for them, so it sounds like it worked. They tried to do the same thing with MELD in Enemy Within, which is why it feels similar. The problem as he described it is that the optimal way to play with time pressure is really, really, boring, so by adding some time pressure it forces players to weigh risks and make the game more interesting.

      That said, there are probably at least 15 different mods on the Workshop that affect the timers, so if you having no time pressure and the style of play that results, feel free to try one; I think I’m running one that makes timers 50% longer for a little less time pressure. (I play plenty recklessly on my own naturally without needing a timer to enforce it, so this just cuts down the stress I’d be feeling from watching it tick down. In XCOM I’m very much in the camp of wanting the feeling of mortal peril without actually losing any of my soldiers…)

      1. John says:

        Enemy Within is a little different because meld canisters are optional objectives. You can still play the slow, ultra-safe way and you don’t actually lose much by doing so. In fact, once you’ve got the meld canisters or once they’ve timed-out, you should go back to playing the slow, ultra-safe way.

        I’ve heard about the various timer mods for XCOM 2. I’m going to try to finish the game without one at least once before I look at them more seriously.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          Yeah, MELD is similar, but they felt it didn’t quite get what they were going for, hence the timers in 2.

          I do like that in some mission they give you optional ways to increase the timer length, too. Feels like a pretty good way to go about it.

      2. GoStu says:

        Disincentivizing ‘boring’ play is absolutely a good reason to change up gameplay, and I kind of like it.

        Worst-case, one has to place a soldier or two in a very dangerous position to grab an objective; this in turn means some of the options like the GREMLIN or smoke grenades have a bit more purpose.

        What it did away with was the determined crawl up the map of “1/2 move, cover, Overwatch x6” for several turns, or even worse the “move 1-2 scouts up, Overwatch, rest of team Overwatch, etc”.

  10. Chad Miller says:

    I’m particularly fond of one of the choices in Shadowrun: Dragonfall.

    One mission has your team being tasked with stealing a prototype weapon. When you get to the lab in question, you find out that the “weapon” is a cyborg, or more specifically a cyberzombie. Cyborgs are common in this universe, but the experimental part is that he has way more robotic parts than someone is supposed to be able to live with (for those who know Shadowrun mechanics but not this particular game, he’s not dead despite having a negative Essence rating). The narrative makes it clear that he’s in agony but can’t do anything about it as all his movements are controlled by his targeting computer, which you can actually take over to make him march his way to the extraction point.

    Another possible twist is that the player may or may not have interacted with “The Lodge”, an organization so secretive they won’t tell you what they’re about but you already have a lot of hints that they’re bad news…but they’ve paid you at least once already and consider you one of “their” operatives. Early in the mission their representative calls you up to suggest that he’s willing to outbid your original customer as long as you deliver the Prototype to him intact, instead. He also cheerfully offers to shield you from “reprisals”, making it clear that he thinks his organization can cow the other into submission.

    Then once you get the Prototype back to the parking lot, your team collectively figures out that, if they wanted to, they could rig his computer to give him full control of his own body. So now you have 2-3 possible decisions:

    Release the Prototype. The obvious “Paragon” option that needs little justification for most players; the narrative makes it clear this guy is in agony. The primary arguments against come from the overarching plot and the setting: On one hand, you’re a mercenary. Getting paid to do and uphold awful stuff is literally your job. Also, you’re under duress; you know you’re being hunted and have to run up a large sum of money quickly to pay off an information broker so you can find out where the villains are in the hope that said villains don’t find you and kill you first. Your income is a big deal right now.

    Hand him over to the Lodge. If you’re a mercenary and you’ve decided you’re morally flexible, why not go for the biggest paycheck? Besides, the Lodge is scary. And do the people who hired you really have a right to be mad? They hired you to steal the Prototype. They didn’t build or invent any of this technology. They’d just be complaining that someone else got to it first.

    Complete the original job. There’s betrayal, and then there’s betrayal. It’s one thing to be morally flexible in the jobs you take. It’s one thing to allow yourself to be bought out from under someone else. It’s quite another when someone hires you to do one job and then you don’t even do that job. Even in a world of ruthless mercenaries, the point of a mercenary is that you pay them to do a thing and they do that thing. You don’t want a reputation for backstabbing people the instant they turn away. If the Lodge wanted you to steal this thing for them they should have told you before you already promised that job to someone else.

    It’s easy to point out countless examples where choices are binary “both options suck”, or “obvious good vs. stupid evil”, but here we have a three-way decision in which you can argue for all three choices including two distinct “evil” options. The only stereotypical kinda-bad thing it does do is reward “Paragon” to keep from angering players who want to be able to do that: the original job description was cagey about what the “Prototype” actually was and as a result didn’t specify that it needed to be alive. When you unshackle him, the first thing he does is thank you, and the second thing he does is kill yourself. Your team then tosses the corpse in the hirer’s van, having technically delivered the letter of the contract if not the spirit. They grudgingly pay you but with a terse note that you won’t be getting their repeat business.

    1. John says:

      Oh, that’s a good one. I think the Lodge “audition” is also full of interesting choices. How long do you persist with the mission once you realize that the team of angry randos that the Lodge has forced you to work with aren’t runners but blackmail victims? Do you side with the furious elf that you can’t understand or the obnoxious mage who thinks he’s better than everyone else? Assuming you survive, do you continue to work for the Lodge or do you blow them off? Good times.

      Also, that mission is really, really hard if you’re not a decker.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        the obnoxious mage who thinks he’s better than everyone else?

        Oh, if we’re having the “Gush About Dragonfall Hour” then I’d call James the dickhead mage out as probably the best “scumbag albatross party member” of any game I’ve ever played. I mean:

        * Why are you working with this asshole? Because Luca said so. And he makes it clear at the outset that he’s choosing your team, and you can just never do the mission if that bothers you.

        * You can cut James down in dialogue throughout the mission; he doesn’t react much because it’s clear he’s needed to finish the job but your dialogue tree doesn’t force you to pretend to like it.

        * If you decide that you hate him more than you want the job to succeed, you can totally side with Language Barrier Elf and smash his stupid face in

        * Alternatively, since you direct combat, you can easily let him valiantly die in battle on the way out after he’s served his purpose

        * But if you get to the end of the mission, Luca expresses surprise that you finished the mission with James alive and James is suitably humiliated by the implications in that statement

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Oh, Dragonfall was great for this kind of thing.
      There’s the mission where you’re contracted to kill a guy who, as far as you know, was just unlucky enough to be on a failed Shadowrun and get captured.
      Turns out that’s…true, but it’s not quite so simple – and of the four things things you can do, one of them gives you the most material benefit as a player, but with the (potentially) worst roleplay consequences as an in-universe Shadowrunner. Plus (some of) your team’s contempt.

      My personal favorite, though, was Glory’s ‘backstory’ mission: She wants to hunt down and kill the cult leader who corrupted her – but then you meet an ex-friend of hers with one of the best computer-game persuasion tests I’ve seen.
      Then there’s a fairly cliche’d moral choice…
      …but there’s actually a decent arguement for doing either thing, and as you’re just the boss of her mercenary team, it’s perfectly in character to not really give a shit, ignore everything other than what she initially wans to do and get on with the game.

      Best of all, it takes a central part of Shadowrun lore and turns the magic in to a metaphor. And it’s wrapped up in terms of how Glory wants to come to terms with her past and what kind of person she wants to be, and the consequences thereof.

      *You can kill the bad guy now or save his other victims from dying in a fire! But not both!

      1. Chad Miller says:

        one of the best computer-game persuasion tests I’ve seen.

        This one is indeed great, though for me the peak is rules-lawyering Qian Ya into submission in Hong Kong.

        1. Michael says:

          That was great, and as far as “golden endings” go, pretty interesting to obtain. I got it on my first playthrough without help, basically just by taking pragmatic decisions. I’ve seen people complain that you have to go around obsessively talking to everyone to do it, but, uh, that’s what I do in every RPG anyway.

          Also, it’s impressive Hong Kong manages to actually tell a good family-centric story in the classic RPG mold. For me, the emotional climax of the story isn’t the final boss fight (although that was very good). It’s the conversation you have just before the final mission, where your father and your brother are at each other’s throats, and you can get them to calm down by choosing a certain dialogue option – a line from an earlier convo with your brother, reminiscing about a time when he and your father were also fighting, and you stopped it by reciting the line. I believe choosing that specific line is required to save your father.

  11. Henson says:

    Of course, making Zaalbar kill Mission remains one of my favorite choices, for being both extremely evil and making logical sense.

    More recently, I played through Thronebreaker, and I appreciated a lot of the choices in there; specifically because there were difficult issues at stake in those dilemmas, but all options felt appropriate as things Queen Meve might do. I imagine it can be hard to provide a wide range of options while still making them feel in-character.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      You know, the point of the spoiler tags is to help people avoid spoilers on a specific work of fiction. They’re kinda pointless if you don’t even hint to what game are you referring to. Just saying.

      1. Henson says:

        Oh yeah. That makes sense.


    2. Steve C says:

      Logical sense? Huh? That was just pure pointless mustache twirling evil.

      1. Henson says:

        No, no, it’s actually brilliant. You need to secure his loyalty on this new evil path you are taking; the best way to do so is have him kill his ties to his past and his belief that he is a good person. This choice does both.

        1. Steve C says:

          Except that he won’t go on that path with you.
          Immediately after this is the decision to trigger the end game sequence. Soon as you start that (like on the ramp) he rebels and tries to kill you due to the guilt. It is one of those game decisions that has its consequences immediately undone.

          1. Syal says:

            …no he doesn’t. The only time I’ve seen him fight the player is when you don’t make him cross that line.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              It’s been forever but this is also how I remember it.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        It’s literally in the evil overlord tips under #47: If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.

  12. RamblePak64 says:

    I wonder if Mass Effect 3’s ending actually had a ripple effect not only on the limitations of choice in games, but also the potential backlash if you screw it up. In truth, though, I think it’s a mixture of reasons that it’s not as big of a deal in marketing anymore: the first is probably that trophies, achievements, and other analytics reveal that the vast majority of players are making the same choices. The second is that a number of games have focused on “the importance of choice”, be it Telltale adventure, BioWare RPG, inFamous open-world, or binary Fable morality, that players are no longer impressed and have adjusted their expectations. It’s not a selling point because players are basically savvy to the limitations and, I think, have become more interested in mechanical choice since narrative is so limted.

    That, and there’s more of a recognition that the most likely game to give choices that matter is a smaller indie or AA darling, and therefore isn’t going to be a big sprawling 100 hour RPG (though at the same time, there’s plenty of complaint regarding how much choices matter in Cyberpunk 2077, so…)

    In regards to a choice that really had an impact on me, I actually have one from Mass Effect 3: I had to make a choice regarding Grunt and the survivability of he and his team, and I chose to sacrifice his team for the sake of the objective. It sucked, it hurt in the moment, and then… Grunt survived anyway because I completed his side quest in Mass Effect 2 so a bunch of Red Shirts (Shells?) died instead. That was a great choice in the moment whose outcome was a disappointment because Grunt survived regardless, so I suffered no consequences. Basically, by being a completionist in ME2, I unconsciously Kobayashi Maru’d the whole thing.

    But in Dragon Age: Origins, my second playthrough was a female City Elf with a bad attitude and therefore taking the “rogue” options (basically, the opposite choices of my good ol’ Dwarf boy). She bonded romantically with Alistair, but because I was making the opposite choices, I decided to… well, spoiling just to be safe: spare Loghain. I wanted that Achievement, after all. But sparing Loghain basically meant Alistair would leave the party. And lemme tell you, the dialogue options and Alistair’s writing because this now included romantic heart break was phenomenal. Selecting “Please don’t do this…” as a dialogue choice as Alistair chose to leave me is still one of the best gaming moments of my life.

    Lastly, game I slept on… admittedly there’s a lot of them. Chrono Cross will be one as soon as the Remaster lands, for example. Symphony of the Night was sort of one, though it’s more third time was the charm for it all to click. Quake 2 is probably the most prominent game, as I played it in 2005 in my second year of College on a whim. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and played it just in time to be as disappointed as everyone else with Quake 4. I guess you could say I slept on inFamous as well, but that’s more that I didn’t have a PS3 until PS+ was a thing, and it was one of the first games on the service so I got it free. It took me a while to get into Phoenix Wright, I suppose. Didn’t play those games until the 3DS was a thing and the franchise quickly became a favorite. Most of the games I arrive late to these days tend to be smaller in marketing scale, so Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed and all its silliness, followed by Akiba’s Beat. I love these games, but they’re hardly recommendable and aren’t about to gain some major accolades any time soon.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      trophies, achievements, and other analytics reveal that the vast majority of players are making the same choices

      I hate statements like this so much because it’s both true and self-fulfilling. The tendency is for games with moral choices to gravitate to terrible binary decisions where at least one choice is blatantly obviously wrong. So then very few people pick that choice. It’s kind of like people who play Bethesda games and think “Wouldn’t it be better if this game didn’t have a main quest?” and not “Wouldn’t it be better if the main quest didn’t completely suck?”

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        This. If choices were more interesting and had some actual consequences I guarantee you not everyone would be making the same ones.

        In any case, I don’t think tropies and achievements are an accurate measurement of that, considering that people will go out of their way to do something they don’t enjoy or care about just to unlock an achievement. Now the Telltale games used to have a end-of-chapter list with all the important choices and the percentage of people who had chose each. I think they abandoned that, though, probably because it made it all feel too mechanical (when you get a list of exactly what choices the game believes matter it all feels much less organic) and because people got wise to their tricks and realized choices didn’t really matter that much.

        1. RamblePak64 says:

          You guys both bring up good points, and you’re right in that most players are likely making similar choices due to most divides being lame (and then other players going back just for the achievement). Then again, I’m basically repeating what I’ve read, and it wouldn’t shock me if more companies decided to implement fewer choices rather than better choices.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            Oh, absolutely, I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying it frustrates me because that’s the most boring, unambitious way to fix the problem. It’s like the story equivalent of saying “we couldn’t figure out how to balance our game’s factions for PvP, so we deleted all but one faction and made all matches mirror matches.”

        2. Chad Miller says:

          I don’t think tropies and achievements are an accurate measurement of that, considering that people will go out of their way to do something they don’t enjoy or care about just to unlock an achievement

          Since I haven’t gushed about this game enough today, a funny story: Shadowrun: Dragonfall has some really difficult achievements. Difficult on the level of “I once rolled a character specifically to get one of them and managed to mess it up.” Stuff like dialogue tree paths that effectively require you to multiclass your character.

          Anyway, early in the game one of your friends dies and leaves behind a dog. This dog hangs out in your headquarters and kinda becomes the team’s dog since there’s no one else to take him in. You can talk to him and your dialogue tree gives you options to do things like pet the dog or even invite him to follow you around town.

          It’s also possible to ignore it. There’s one forced dialogue popup so that you have to pointedly ignore it, in much the same way you can pointedly refuse to recruit Garrus in Mass Effect.

          Near the end of the game, there’s an attack on the town and it turns out that this dog is part hellhound! He tears into some nearby soldiers before joining your team as a party member. Unless you never pet him or did anything nice for him ever throughout the entire game, in which case he goes fully feral and you have to kill him. Killing him in this fight gives you an achievement. This achievement is the least common one earned in the game, because who doesn’t pet the dog?

      2. Mye says:

        I think choices are useful even if no one pick one of them. While its functionally the same, picking the good option and being rail-roaded into it feel different. Also every once in awhile they can work if the dev put in the little bit of extra effort. I played dragon age 2 on the hardest difficulty setting and its pretty hard for most of the game, I regularly had to restart battle. About mid way trough the game some kid get possessed by a demon and the demon tries to make a deal with you where they’ll give you power in exchange for letting them keep the kid, and the reward they give is really good (free skill point which are really tight in the game). I’m sure less than 10% of player side with the demon but always do because of how good the reward is.

        On the flip side, I’m playing lost ark at the moment and multiple time in the story the game let you chose what to do between an obviously good and evil choice. Because its an mmo I know full well that your choice won’t matter so I’m constantly picking the evil choice just to see how the game will react, and it mostly ignore the choice, so the system just end up pissing me off for wasting my time. For example, at some point some evil, demon posses tyrant ask you to join him in the dark side, if you agree you’re character kneel to him just to attack him as soon as he get close.

    2. Christopher says:

      Phoenix Wright got slept on over here too, although not for that long. “A lawyer game” just didn’t sound very interesting, so it took me a while to get into it and discover I loved it.

      Maybe it sounds silly now considering how major its influence has become, but I slept on Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls back in the day – Demon’s ’cause it was only on PS3 and Dark Souls because it seemed intimidatingly difficult and punishing. I distinctly remember watching at least two let’s plays of Dark Souls 1 and guiding my friend through it with the “book smarts” I’d accumulated before actually playing through it myself. Fast forward to this year and I can’t wait to jump blind into Elden Ring, I just needed to get over the hump of misgivings I had.

      1. Gautsu says:

        I remember picking up the original Dark Souls right around release and bouncing off hard. Flash forward 11 years, and I think I have beaten almost every Soulsbourne, and like you, can’t wait for Elden Ring. My wife and son are going to be out of town that weekend, so a solid two days of play before back to work

  13. Fulbert says:

    What is this “Ori” game you are discussing in the Unity White Papers section? You make it sound like a very tiny indie game (hence the surprise that it was made by the team of 70 people) but if you mean Ori and the Blind Forest or any of its sequels, that doesn’t feel like a tiny game at all. In fact, it looks like a very substantial and polished game that very well could require a large team to make.
    Or am I thinking of a wrong game?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      No, that’s the one. I’duno, maybe I’m jaded, but pulling together a team of 60 people to make an artsy 2D sidescrolling platformer metroidvania seems like a big ask. I mean, all of the genre classification and armchair analysis is finished! There’s really no work left!

      1. tmtvl says:

        I haven’t played Ori, I haven’t even seen gameplay of it, but if it’s a Metroidvania, it may be interesting to compare it to Mystik Belle (which was made by one guy).

      2. Rho says:


        You may decide for yourself who “really” counts as a developer, but there’s a pretty sizable list of credits. Maybe not as much as a full-scale AAA release, sure, but this was nothing like a small indie project.

      3. Philadelphus says:

        Listening to this part of the Diecast made this faux-satirical ad pop into my head:
        “Look how easy it is to use Unity, it only took 70 people to make this game!”

  14. bobbert says:

    I would like to reiterate that, Buisness school with Shamus Young is just the best.

  15. bobbert says:

    Sounds like ‘mail Paul a check’ would have worked better. :)

    1. Lino says:

      By the sound of it, “Messenger pigeon Paul a check” would have worked better…

      1. bobbert says:

        Wasn’t there a big story a while back, in South Africa, where a pigeon with a flash drive beat the local ISP?

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          This is going to be true for relatively short distances even with modern internet. The ping on sneaker-net is just terrible though.

  16. Dreadjaws says:

    Are there any games, either critically or socially well received, that you found your way to after all of the hype had died down, that actually lived up to said hype?

    Too many too count. Ah, but if instead we’re going by your own experience, where you buy a game and it remains in your backlog for a couple of years before you get to play it… still too many to count.

    I have to be extremely enthusiastic about a game to buy it at launch, let alone play it. But I do buy games constantly on a whim, where they sit unplayed for months or even years as I reinstall Deus Ex or Arkham Asylum for the umpteenth time.

    1. tmtvl says:

      My favourite anecdote of my never playing games anywhere near launch time is what happened with Pillars of Eternity. I was a kickstarter backer (and have the T-shirt and big bulky box to prove it), and when it came out I was deep into… Dragon’s Dogma? Dark Souls? Something like that, so PoE got shunted aside… for like two years.
      By the time I got around to playing it both DLCs were out (don’t have either of them, though. PoE ain’t really my jam) and all the patches had already landed.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        That’s my main problem with Kickstarting games, and why I don’t really do it any more after a pretty successful run of picking games that actually finished and released: my tastes change over time, so a game that looked awesome two years ago (and that may very well live up to the hype of what was promised) just isn’t as interesting to me as my latest obsession in some other genre I only discovered a year ago. I still have a few games in my library (Star Traders: Frontiers, Parkitect, Reassembly, RainWorld, etc.) that I haven’t put more than a few minutes or hours into. It’s rather annoying.

  17. Syal says:

    Much as I dislike Horizon: Zero Dawn, it’s got one of the most memorable moral choices (made more so by never wanting to play again so having no idea what the other route does): there’s a guy in the game with the same earpiece as Aloy. We learn the villains have kidnapped his family, and he’s been spying on us with his tech ear for the villains the whole time.
    Then we capture him at spearpoint, but his family is still in the villains’ hands.
    I kept wondering how the game was going to resolve the situation, and then we confront them and the game says, “Okay, Player, time for you to resolve this situation.” It’s made more poignant by being the only moral choice in the game, as far as I saw.

    The Banner Saga and Unavowed have some interesting choices the first time through, though they have a “right” answer that you’ll know on a replay. Unavowed’s choices are still moral quandaries anyway; like, the first one is a flesh-eater who’s been accidentally summoned to Earth, and you can either kill it, or let it eat people so it can make it back home.

    Mechanically, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is still the best one, and is a decent moral choice as well; the leader of the Resistance orders you to massacre a group of people who won’t join up, then blame it on the enemy, to give the country an atrocity to rally against. Agreeing leads to a completely different Chapter 2 and 3 than refusing, with allies in one route becoming recurring boss fights in the other. Although it’s hampered by being a one-click option in the middle of a text wall; my first time through I agreed by accident because I was mashing. Fortunately the Agree route is the more well-written anyway (there’s a whole lot of filler fights against bounty hunters in Refuse).

    But the actual best choice in games comes from the machine-translated version of Super Mario RPG. (Miracle great, Lose everything!)

    1. bobbert says:

      The choice in Cling is one of the best. It had such a good story in general. Even more impressive is that it was all done on the SNES.

    2. Rho says:

      H:ZD note: I’m sorry to say that none of the “moral choices” make any difference. It was a mechanic that popped up just enough to be weird about it. Nothing really comes of it either way. This is fine, but it’s odd that it was included at all.

  18. Several of my favorite choices were actually in Skyrim, of all places. The first was when you do that absolutely godawful Forsworn Conspiracy quest line in Markarth where literally everyone is just the worst person ever. I slogged through that confusing nonsensical mess until I got to Cidna Mine and followed the leader-guy out and when he confronts the other dude who was also awful I just MURDERED THEM ALL. Did it fail the quest line? Yes. Was it wonderfully cathartic? Also yes.

    So I started doing this in other questionable quests. Oh, you want me to become a cannibal? Have some hot spicy murder! Oh, you want to force me to kill one of these people to join your Dark Brotherhood? MURDER RIGHT TO THE FACE!!!

    And I discovered that, in many cases, they actually expected you to do something much like that and it didn’t break the game at all!

    I started liking Skyrim a lot more after that. Yeah, the quests might be stupid, but at least sometimes you could just say “the hell with this idiocy”. Unlike other RPG’s, which may trap you for entire chapters into acting like an idiot.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      IIRC the Dark Brotherhood “recruiter” specifically tells you that you will not leave the room until someone dies and upon killing her actually utters something like “interesting choice” or something to that effect.

  19. Chris says:

    onlyfans is actually intended to be like patreon. But then a blog site where you pay for access to the blog. Onlyfans even tries to push non-porn stuff and in their promotional stuff they avoid talking about the porn on the platform. So technically it is a competitor to patreon (pay monthly to gain access to something bloglike). .
    That said, if I want to give the guy one piece of advise. Ill tell him he got ripped off on the new logo, it looks dreadful.

    1. tmtvl says:

      A while back there were talks of OF removing the adult content, but considering how the image is already attached to the name and how Patreon is already eating OF’s lunch in pretty much all other sectors the talks evaporated.
      At least, I figure that’s why the talks vent nowhere, I don’t think anyone from OF really talked about the reasons.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        Yeah, the thing about adult content is:

        * If you allow adult content, that is a competitive advantage over a similar platform that doesn’t
        * However, for the same reasons those other platforms don’t allow it, they will tend to attract more users that don’t need to be on a platform that does allow it. Therefore, selection affects mean that your platform will be full of adult content
        * Grow enough, and you’ll want to get a real business model. But once enough money gets involved you start learning all the reasons those other platforms don’t allow this type of content (rumor has it that the biggest stumbling block for a patreon-like site is payment processors; this type of business generates a lot of chargebacks and the cost of those chargebacks gets passed on by the processors taking a larger cut.
        * Having grown to the point that you want to try throwing off the porn, you may realize that too much of your platform is porn and the expensive users you’re trying to jettison are too great a percentage of your userbase. See also: Tumblr.

        1. tmtvl says:

          Yeah, chargebacks in the AE industry are bonkers. Understandably so, the wife sees a CC transaction to [email protected] United and says something like “Richard, what were you doing?”
          And poor old Rich will try to avoid the couch by saying “that can’t have been me, someone must’ve used our CC for that.”
          And then they do a chargeback despite the transaction being entirely above-board. It sucks, but there’s no really good way to fix things.

        2. GoStu says:

          I recall hearing that another headache for platforms that host adult content is with the advertisers. Many, many, MANY companies don’t want their stuff to be shown next to pornography. They don’t want to be associated with that in the slightest.

          Further, you’re supposed to be limiting your audience as a platform to adults only, cutting who you’re advertising to. In reality, if you did any real survey on who you’re advertising to, it’s a very distracted audience who only wants to stay on your platform for a few minutes* at a time and is unlikely to decide to click through to something else.**

          You immediately become a bottom-of-the-barrel advertising opportunity. The price you can charge for ad space probably plummets into the dirt.

          *How long a user stays on a video/platform is an important metric for advertising. Let’s say that most people don’t have the endurance to stay on a naughty site as long as an advertiser might like, and leave it at that.
          **Once they’re done with the content, they probably want to wash their hands, not explore other advertised possibilities.

    2. bobbert says:

      So, it is patreon, but for hookers?

      1. Chris says:

        Not really, these “sex workers” dont even have sex with their customers.

      2. Also Tom says:

        Not so much “hookers” as “independent porn actors.”

        1. bobbert says:

          Isn’t that the same thing but said in Greek?

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            No, and I will resist a rant.

  20. Mattias42 says:

    Honestly, I’m not sure I’d call it my all-time fav, or anything…

    But I think Pathalogic 1 & 2 are deeply underrated as far as moral and ethical choices go. You FEEL every freakin’ sacrifice you make in those games, due to how thin resources are and the survival-like mechanics. And when you find out an NPC you helped were an idiot, or worse, lying to your face, it freakin’ hurts.

    Like, you didn’t get fifteen Good Points and some XP. Your only smoked fish or dose of medicine is GONE, and at best you got warm, fuzzy feelings for it. If you’re too trusting and goody-good, it can legitimately kill you… and since you are one of only three folks with a chance to fix things, the town will die with you to the sand-plauge.

    Criminally underrated games, but I get why people bounce off of them. They’re not exactly forgiving, light and fluffy.

    HBomber Guy did an excellent video on it though for people that will never play them… and Mandalore Gaming two far saner length ones if you don’t have 2+ hours to spare on a lazy Sunday or something.




    Seriously, if I had a magical token, and got to declare that it was simply KNOWN that one game out there are makers of high art and get a magical never-ending budget… I’d probably spend it on Ice-Pick Lodge. They don’t always make fun games, but they pretty much always make some of the most compelling and unique stuff out there.

  21. Christopher says:

    Most choices in games are pretty bad, in terms of affecting the game. And even just as moral quanderies, it’s usually either a nice guy choice versus a bad guy choice, or two bad decisions up against each other. Speaking as someone who just plays as me, not getting into some character I make up or anything, I always just wanna pick the nice guy choice – or walk away if all I get is a dilemma between two jerks.

    With that in mind, Undertale probably takes it for the “choice”, if you can call it one choice, between the pacifist route and the violent routes. I did what I’d always do given the choice, and the choice felt a lot more valid when I learned you could completely flub it if you were a dumbass and didn’t pick up what the game was putting down. And obviously, that side of the game is where the actual interesting gameplay is. Metal Gear Solid titles are good at this as well. You can play them as simple shooters, and probably have a decent time, but you’re gonna get a more unique experience from playing the tactical espionage action series like a stealthy master spy in most cases. Just like you’re gonna get the best experience in the talk to the monsters game by actually talking to the monsters.

    I guess it’s a sly way to answer that question but this stuff works a lot better for me than “Kill either x or y! Whoever you don’t pick will die in the next chapter instead!”, or a debate between doing the one actually obviously right thing or getting a lot of currency right now, that you don’t need, ’cause it’s an easy video game. I think a lot of those games would do better to tell an entertaining linear story than throw in these choices. With some JRPGs like Persona, you get a lot of little dialogue choices that don’t matter, so with Persona 5 Strikers I’m playing “pick the one that fits the best” rather than choosing which I prefer. You can tell I got it right when no character says “well anyway…” afterwards.

    Moral quanderies and gamechanging choices aside, I do appreciate the option in many of these games to pick a romance option. Many of them are completely worthless, but once in a while you get along swimmingly with a character in a fun RPG party, and it’s fun to pick that one out to take out to RPG dinner.

  22. Thomas says:

    I like the choice in The Walking Dead where you only have enough rations for a few members of your group and you need to distribute them. Because there’s a lot of ways you can justify it. Do you feed the children? Do you feed the adults so they’re strong enough to scavenge? Do you feed the characters who like you or the ones who would resent you the most otherwise?

    I also remember getting really stuck on how I wanted Deus Ex: Human Revolution to end, although I can’t remember the details any more. I physically went from button to button about to choose one option and then changing my mind and running to another. The truth was important to me, but the truth also came with some terrible consequences.

    Everyone else seemed to hate that choice though.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I don’t think it’s the choice itself that people hated with DX:HR but mostly the framing of it.

  23. Canthros says:

    Public ownership and outside investment (e. g. venture capital) seems to encourage companies to expand until they either fail or take up all available space in the market, these days. The strategy is very ‘grow or die’. Doing one thing and doing it well tends to require both a clear purpose and the ability to tell your financial backers to lump it.

    Also, “Lysander Spooner” sounds like the name of a bard.

    1. GoStu says:

      Yes. Those investors whose money you’re taking want one thing: more money back.

      Once you’ve gone public, the team actually running the business needs to be accountable to the investors/shareholders and provide a clear statement of “here’s how we’re going to pay back more in the future”. If the executives can’t provide that, the Board that represents the investors will replace them (if they’re irked enough).

      So yes, “grow or die”.

      There are some companies with stable long-term plans to provide value to the owners, generally by keeping their business ticking over and paying dividends off the profits, but those companies don’t generally draw the “venture capitalists”. VC is all about finding something you can buy for $100 and turning it into $1000.

  24. Sleeping Dragon says:

    In the meantime I remembered a video game choice that affected me, though not an RPG (unless considered strictly in the roleplaying aspect). Life is Strange has several choices that it tries to frame as “big” but that kind of robs them a bit of the intimacy for me (and the less said about the final one the better), the one that actually affected me was not a chapter finale but rather one midchapter regarding David (that’s Chloe’s stepdad). In the last chapter David rescues Sam from Jefferson. Once Jefferson is incapacitated and Sam is free he asks her about Chloe, and you can tell him the truth, that Jefferson killed her, or lie that they were not together at the time and she was not caught in this. I initially told him the truth because I felt by that point he deserved to know. This makes him kill Jefferson and then break down. I was immediately like “no, nope, I am not letting you become that person because you’re going to hate yourself”, I did a rewind and lied… and the sheer relief emanating from the character made me feel awful and my thought was “you’re going to hate me for this and you will never know what I saved you from”.

    1. Thomas says:

      It’s such a shame they removed the time rewinding mechanic from future games. One of the low-key advantages is it makes choices like that make narrative sense. Max isn’t just lying to a person she should finally trust, she’s making a sacrifice with full knowledge of the results of she did otherwise.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I haven’t played the later games yet but every time I look at them I’m like “yeah, this seems cool but it doesn’t feel like it has the interesting narrative potential of time rewind”.

  25. Ilya says:

    There is a podcast called Darknet Diaries, and in episode 26 they talk about how IRS IT systems work, and how many frauds are committed because of their arcane authentication systems.

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