Diecast #382: Nothing, Nowhere, At No Point

By Shamus Posted Monday May 30, 2022

Filed under: Diecast 73 comments

I think things are slowly getting back to normal around here. I should probably do a little write-up for those that are following my health, but the short version is that dialysis is helping a lot and I’m doing ok.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

01:35 Blizzard Sylph

I can’t believe I haven’t heard about Sylph until now. I’ll keep my eye out for one of those glossy mailers.

04:13 Sleep Transitions

I used to wake up sluggish, but in the last couple of months the transition between sleeping and waking is much more gentle. It’s so gentle that sometimes I can’t tell if I slept without looking at the clock. Weird.

Related: This now-ancient post from 2006 where I talk about being a warm starter vs. cold starter.

08:48 V Rising
I spent so much time complaining about the lack of pause that I forgot to mention the combat, which is the strongest aspect of the game. This isn’t another Diablo-esque clickfest. You get a dodge move and your foes get interesting abilities that punish careless button-mashing. The whole thing feels pretty good.

22:10 File Extensions

Microsoft Word is the Internet Explorer of word processors.

29:41 Deus Ex: Pandora’s Gun

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything meaningful. This Friday I’ll start the new series. I hope you like it.

31:55 Mailbag: Save Systems

Dear Diecast,

How important do you think save systems are in a video game?

Obviously, this will vary depending on the length of the video game. For instance, arcade games are so short that they seem like a redundant feature there. Whereas in RPGs, they’re generally considered a basic necessity. (I’d be interested to know if you can name one where it isn’t.)

Are there any other factors and examples you can think of that would inform/justify the decision to omit a save system, or include a particular kind of save system (e.g. checkpoints, limited anytime, unlimited anytime)?

And were there any games you played and thought, “Why does this NOT have a save system!?” or “Why is the save system like this!?”

Kind regards,

43:16 Mailbag: Blogging

Dear Diecast,

Do you have any advice for those of us just starting out blogging (via WordPress)? Whether traction-wise, or to do with hosting options and precautions, and whatever else you think are important things to do and consider, I’d be interested to know what wisdom you have to share on the subject.

Kind regards,

I did think of some advice once the show was over: I have generally avoided using the built-in WordPress system for uploading images. WordPress ends up storing the images in its own file structure. I dislike this because I want to KNOW where stuff is and how to find it. When I make backups, I want to be able to confirm I’ve got everything. I’ll often upload a dozen images in a week when the site is going strong, and if you multiply that by 52 weeks a year, and you’ll quickly have way more files than the WordPress media browser was designed to handle. For the curious, this morning I just uploaded the 9998th image to the site. It would be horrendous if I had to scroll through that ocean of images every time I wanted to add a screenshot to a post.

The WordPress tool is good if you’re the sort of person who likes to pretend that files exist in the ether and can be summoned by whimsey. But if you’re the sort who knows how to use an FTP client, then I suggest managing your own images.

46:26 Mailbag: Everything, Everywhere, All At Once

Dear Diecast

Considering it just had its digital release last week, has become A24’s highest grossing film, is already a contender for movie of the year, and has become an all time favorite for a lot of people, have you guys seen “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” and if you have, what are your thoughts on it?

Love Pumpkin

47:43 Mailbag: Boycotts

Dear Diecast,

I just realized that, with Microsoft having acquired Zenimax, I can purchase Bethesda/Zenimax games again! My boycotts:
Ubisoft and EA – single player games. Always-online DRM. Proprietary launchers.
Zenimax – Backstabbed and then tried to acquire a weakened Human Head Studios during production of Prey 2.
Diablo 3 – always online DRM for single player.
Do you guys practice boycotts that you want to talk about? Have you ever given up on a boycott? I’m beginning to feel that I’d have to boycott almost the entire gaming industry with my stance against always-online requirements vs. Google Stadia and Microsoft Xcloud. Might have to bend on that one eventually.

Chris P.


From The Archives:

73 thoughts on “Diecast #382: Nothing, Nowhere, At No Point

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    46:26 Mailbag: Everything, Everywhere, All At Once

    Without getting too much into spoilers, the best way to describe it is the “best Matrix movie since the original” and a film more befitting for the title of “Multiverse of Madness” than the actual Dr. Strange sequel.

    1. Teddy says:

      Literally and without exaggeration the greatest movie I have ever seen in my life. I remember reading about Quentin Tarantino crying when he watched Chungking Express out of sheer love and appreciation for the power of cinema, and I always kinda thought that was BS, but I did when I was watching this, and even a couple days later when listening to the soundtrack.

      No accounting for taste and all, it’s such a out-there movie that I know it’s not for everyone, but I just think it was an absolutely phenomenal achievement for everyone involved.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        it’s such a out-there movie that I know it’s not for everyone

        I actually believe it’s one of the more accessible out-there movies, maybe you might need to turn on the subtitles because of the amount of exposition they blast you in the beginning but I think it will appeal to people in the same way that a lot of creative and energetic old blockbusters (from like the 80s or 90s) do.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Prompted by some friends and really good opinions from all over the internet I went to see it in a theather and it was a treat. I’m going to resist the urge to talk about it in detail.

    2. ydant says:

      It’s one of the few movies I’ve seen twice in the theater (Interstellar was the other one I can think of, Matrix I watched back-to-back in a single sitting, but at home, as my first DVD experience).

      The first time I watched Everything, I unintentionally saw the time at around 1h30m into the movie – and I had been thinking it was about 20 minutes into the movie – and being surprised so much time had passed.

      The second time I watched Everything, it was equally enthralling, and had another level that was really a lot of fun to experience.

      I’m eagerly looking forward to it coming out on streaming so I can watch it again at home.

      For the Taiwanese-born first-generation American I watched it with both times, there was a whole other level to the movie that resonated really well for them.

      It’s just a really great movie experience.

  2. Vertette says:

    I’m definitely interested in reading more about Deus Ex. I’ve been discussing the franchise a lot recently, mostly how the Montreal sequels could’ve been improved. Plenty to talk about there so I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

    That said I do hope they at least finish the story at this point.

  3. Tomas says:

    A .docx file (or .xlsx, .pptx, etc.) is just a zipped folder. (Change the extension to .zip to view the content.) The individual files in the zip are XML-files though.

    1. Randy says:

      I did this as part of a test back in the early .docx days. I took a story I’d written, for some sparse formatting (some italics, one indented letter, underlined chapter headings, etc.), and I copy/pasted enough to make it 300-ish pages, then I saved it as .doc, .docx, .odt, and html. I don’t remember the exact results, but while .odt was the biggest compressed, .docx was about three times bigger uncompressed than uncompressed .odt. It’s seriously the stupidest XML implementation ever; every single word has its own <span id=”x”> tag, where x corresponds with the formatting information. So, instead of, “this paragraph uses the default format” or “all the words up to here are default, then italics for three words, then default for the rest of the paragraph,” it’s “this word is default, this word is default, this word is default…” ad nauseam for the entire damn document.

      As for comparison with html, I think that was something like 150KB, versus the smallest word processor format was maybe 3MB compressed.

      1. pseudonym says:

        docx was made under *very* dubious circumstances. See wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standardization_of_Office_Open_XML.

        It is a standard that solely exists so that Microsoft can say its office suite supports open standards. Which it obviously does not.

    2. Rick says:

      Yup, this. Easy way to pull the images from a .docx file too.

  4. Abnaxis says:

    I feel like there’s a difference between a “boycott” and “not buying something because you don’t like the features,” and it’s frustrating that people seem to equate the two.

    Not buying Diablo 3–regardless of whether you would enjoy playing Diablo 3–because Blizzard has a toxic work environment and Bobby Kotick is a piece of human garbage is a boycott. Not buying Diablo 3 because you don’t like always-online single-player is you deciding as a consumer to not buy a thing because you don’t like it’s features.

    1. Shamus says:

      You’re right that these are two different things. I think they get equated because they’re often mixed together.

      Like, I hate always-online DRM nonsense, but maybe I’d put up with it from a developer I otherwise loved, but the association with Bobby Kotick’s house of abuse and corruption is enough to make me say “no thanks”.

    2. Chris P says:

      I think my stance against Diablo 3 goes beyond just not liking features. This was one of the first cases of always-online DRM in a single player game and I found Blizzard’s behavior reprehensible and vowed to never own it. I would have liked the game. In fact I denied a friend’s offer to gift it to me that we might play together. So, in avoiding playing it for free (despite wanting to) it went beyond simply not liking it. Playing would have compromised my principles. I believed that D3 would do harm and believe it has done harm; an ethical stance. That’s what distinguishes a boycott.

      That said, I see and agree with the distinction that you drew. I didn’t provide these details in the original question. It wouldn’t be appropriate to claim to boycott FIFA because I don’t like the control scheme that they use. Totally agree with that.

    3. Shufflecat says:

      I’ve always had the impression that “boycott” referred to an organized group action, similar to a strike.

      Like, if I personally by myself decide I’m not going to buy anything ActiBlizz because I don’t like how they treat their employees, that’s not a boycott. That’s just me making a personal purchasing decision for my own reasons, regardless of what they may be. A boycott is when a bunch of people get together and agree to coordinate in not buying a thing in order to make a public statement and/or leverage a company into changing something.

      I feel like over the past ten years, I gradually saw people start referring to the former as a “personal boycott”, then eventually drop the “personal” part, ’till now everybody treats personal, non-coordinated, refusal to buy as if it was part of the definition of “boycott” all along. Sort of similar to how people dropping the “self” from “self-entitled” for brevity gradually morphed into “entitled” becoming always a pejorative.

      I wanna say this paralleled the rise of social media, or followed it as a knock-on effect. Basically, as social media incentivized people to publicly share more and more of their lives, the distinction between personal stances and public movements got increasingly blurred, and that got reflected in people’s word use.

      But I’m not a linguitition or a semantoligist or whatever, so I could be all kinds of wrong about that.

    4. Supah Ewok says:

      I had some dissatisfied coworkers grumble once about boycotting work.

      Yes, they didn’t know the difference between a strike and a boycott.

      C’est la vie.

  5. Frozengrowl says:

    but the short version is that dialysis is helping a lot and I’m doing ok.

    That’s all I wanted to read :) Great to hear!

  6. Henson says:

    I’ve had great fun naming my save files in past RPGs, creating a little story to look back on as I go. My Planescape: Torment files had a poetic theme going on, which was appropriate. It’s also great looking back at my save files for Divine Divinity, and wondering what possessed me to create save names like “no beard jokes”, “me and my pet zombie”, “i wish to stay a boar”, “stop talking i just want to finish this quest”, or my favorite, “elves are whiners”.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I used to do that sort of thing then I resorted to hastily name the save files with gibberish since I couldn’t figure out what the names meant anyway.

  7. Steve C says:

    The plausible (yet incredibly suspicious) reason I heard back in the day about why Word moved away from .doc was due to compatibility issues. IE to create them. The goal was to stop supporting the older legacy versions and formats. A different extension was to remove any expectations that a file could be natively opened by this new version of Word. Because MS wanted the brand name recognition of “Word” but with a fresh code base.

    Which ties into what Shamus said.

    As for saving, this seems relevant:

    1. pseudonym says:

      docx was made under *very* dubious circumstances. See wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standardization_of_Office_Open_XML.

      It is a standard that solely exists so that Microsoft can say its office suite supports open standards. Which it obviously does not.

  8. Sabrdance says:

    In re: sleep schedules -had a professor who had done a study of the sleep patterns of student athletes, and had found basically 3 patterns (this data was our exercise in factor analysis -identifying 3 factors from the raw data of 24 variables -each the answer to the question “am I usually awake and alert at this hour?”).

    You had morning people, who went to bed early, got up early, and were awake for most of the day.

    You had night people, who went to bed late, got up late, but were then awake for the afternoon and evening.

    And then you had Siesta people, who went to bed late, woke up early, were awake for the morning, but then took a nap in the early afternoon, and were then awake during the afternoon and evening. (The research was done at a school in Tennessee, no -this was not a bunch of Spaniards.)

    The populations were roughly equal -maybe a slight lean towards morning people, as I recall.

  9. Chad+Miller says:

    Re: the MS developer blog post, I’m guessing you mean this one by Joel Spolsky: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2008/02/19/why-are-the-microsoft-office-file-formats-so-complicated-and-some-workarounds/

    Funnily enough he mentions some weird bug/feature with Excel without linking to his own explanation of it, which I found interesting in its own right: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2006/06/16/my-first-billg-review/

  10. John says:

    I come from a mostly PC-gaming background so I am always confused when a game does not allow me to save whenever and wherever I want. I’ve even been relative lucky when it comes to console gaming. I did most of my console gaming on portable systems, where short play sessions were expected and accounted for. One game that I otherwise loved but whose save system threw me for a loop was Disgaea DS, which did not allow mid-mission saves. This was a particular problem for Item World missions, which had no fixed endpoint and, assuming things were going well, just kept going until you spent a rare, expendable resource to end them deliberately. One of the reasons I was so shocked is that every similar game I’d played up to that point had included an instant-save feature. Even Fire Emblem! I couldn’t account for it. I still can’t. I can only assume that the developers of the DS port didn’t put a lot of thought into how the game would be played on a handheld system.

    One thing that concerns me about future games is that developers will decide that modern consoles’ save-state or suspend features mean that there’s no need for them to implement proper save functionality. I don’t own a modern console so I’m mostly safe, but the rest of you may be in some trouble.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      At the end of the day, unless some technical limitation has forced it, the choice of a saving system is the same as any other design choice and whether the developer went with “save anywhere any time”, or “no saving in combat”, or “only checkpoints”, or even “limited number of saves throughout the game” it is a decision they should make consciously and keeping in mind how it works with the rest of the game systems and how it is likely to be received by their target audience.

      To be clear I may like some of those more than others (a limited number of saves is a good way to make me not play a game), and I may consider some of those choices… bad, particularly for a given game, but I can also sometimes see what a given developer was aiming for.

      1. John says:

        I guess that’s fair. But apart from a very small subset of games going for a “this is deliberately super-tense” kind of a thing, I just don’t see how allowing saves hurts anything. Even then, I think that the developers could still preserve 99.9% of the tension by limiting the player to a single save and then deleting that save after the next load, Ironman- or Rogue-style. Sometimes play gets interrupted and developers should respect that.

        1. Thomas says:

          Checkpoints and saving should be (and often are) two separate things. Any game that heavily relies on some kind of long-run of gameplay between checkpoints should still allow you to ‘save and resume’.

          Hades does this with an autosave, but weirdly it only seems to work if you explicitly quit the game. My guess is this was to stop people quitting and reloading a bad room, but I wish they’d made it more clear. I lost a few early runs to my assumption that the save symbol meant the game was safe to turn off. A rare example of a console save system suffering from the game being designed for PC perhaps!

          I mostly put poor saving features down to developers not putting enough time in to implement the perfect solution.

    2. Syal says:

      Especially bad in Disgaea 1 where getting the super items means clearing all 100 stages in a single session, which can take hours. That one got fixed in 2 and up.

      1. John says:

        I kind of hated Disgaea 2, but I have to admit that the Item World was definitely much better than Disgaea 1. There’s still no mid-mission saving, but at least you get a breather and a free chance to quit every ten levels.

  11. Lino says:

    Waking up in movies. I’ve always had the same reaction to American sitcoms where everybody is wearing shoes inside the house – even when laying in bed! It wasn’t until years later that I realized people do that because they’re on a set where they need to move around between shots, and it would be a waste of time to take their shoes before takes (alternatively, it could be that people in the US really do wear shoes indoors. I’ve seen weirder things in my time).

    Pausing games. Yup, I’m also of the opinion that every single player game should have pause. And multiplayer games need to give me a very good reason for NOT having pause. Case in point – DoTA – one of the most tryhard competitive multiplayer games. There, each player has one pause per five minutes. There’s even a handy countdown before the pause comes into effect. That way you can’t abuse it to gain an advantage.

    Deus Ex Series. I am SO EXCITED about this!!! It’s exactly the kind of Shamus content I love most – talking about stories, worldbuilding, and all that good stuff. Can’t wait!

    Blogging tips on getting traction. Yeah, as Paul and Shamus said – the old model of blogging has been replaced by social media shit. These days, if you want to gain traction in blogging, you basically need to go the SEO route. Your other option is the influencer route (depending on the niche, this means YouTube, Twitch, Instagram, etc.), but I don’t really consider that blogging.

    For the SEO route, there are quite a lot of resources out there. For free ones, Shaun Mars is a good start, especially his Keyword Research videos; another one I’d recommend is Authority Hacker. Those two are examples of the two main approaches to doing SEO as a smaller site. One of them is focusing on dozens (hundreds, actually) of ultra-low competition keywords you then monetize with ads. The other is strategically focusing on buyer-intent keywords you can rank for, and doing link building.

    But before you go off trying out either of these approaches, you need to seriously ask yourself:

    Why do you even want to do blogging in the first place?

    If you just want a place to share your thoughts and talk about whatever’s on your mind today, or the cool video you just stumbled upon, then that’s very, very different than blogging in order to get traction. Don’t get me wrong – sharing your thoughts on your own blog is extremely fun and cathartic. But looking for views is a different beast, entirely.

    Because once you start looking for traction, then you’re building a product. And building a product isn’t about you and what you care about – it’s about the people you’re trying to attract and what THEY care about. If you’re smart about it and really stick to it, down the line, you’re very likely to make money – no great effort goes unpunished, after all. But at that point, you’re creating something for somebody else.

    Now, can you have it both ways? Sure, you can totally start off writing reviews or whatever, then build a community around the topics you’re truly passionate about. But before you can get to that point, expect to spend a couple of years working on something you may not be all that passionate about.

    Because the opportunities of getting traction as a small blog are often very different to the things you’re actually passionate about.

    In any case – good luck, and have fun with it!

    1. Daimbert says:

      (alternatively, it could be that people in the US really do wear shoes indoors. I’ve seen weirder things in my time).

      I had a professor in Cognitive Science who once went on a digression about that at one point, noting that he was in the States for a while and noticed that they indeed really did wear shoes most of the time in at least some areas while up in Canada that was unthinkable, positing that the reason was that down there you could wear the same sorts of shoes inside and outside and up here with the snow and mud you’d dirty up the entire house doing it.

      Pausing games. Yup, I’m also of the opinion that every single player game should have pause. And multiplayer games need to give me a very good reason for NOT having pause.

      Single player games, yes, just because people can never know when the phone might ring or something and they need to go deal with that. For multiplayer games, I’m less certain, because that stops things for everyone else as well which could be annoying and problematic. For MMOs, just having a way to go safely AFK for a while quickly would suffice.

      Because the opportunities of getting traction as a small blog are often very different to the things you’re actually passionate about.

      In any case – good luck, and have fun with it!

      Yeah, with blog numbers and hits going down pretty much all over, a blog is not any kind of ticket to fame and recognition anymore, so you have better be having fun with it or else there are probably better ways to spend your time. For me, the main goal is to get down the things that I think about constantly so that I can stop thinking about them, and so while the fact that my hit count, already small, is shrinking is disappointing but not devastating. If I really cared about my hits, though, that wouldn’t be the case.

      1. Aceus says:

        What if it’s not fame they’re after, but more so a community to share their ideas and discuss their passions with?

        When you feel like you’ve been talking to the air for a long time, even a single committed commenter can go a long way, and likely has a more positive effect than having hundreds of views but no comments. (Of course, if the comments are just trolling insults and the like, they may find themselves preferring none to that.)

        1. Fizban says:

          I’d think the go-to for that would be a forum (which are themselves going extinct?), or the “new hotness” of Discord. Find an existing community that shares you interest, post there regularly, get regular comments.

          1. Lino says:

            What I don’t like about Discord is how ephemeral it is. Same as Reddit. This is an especially big problem when it comes to technical topics and asking questions. With a forum, it’s extremely easy to search for past threads and see if anyone has asked whatever question you have. And while both Discord and Reddit have Search functionality, they’re a massive pain in the ass compared to forums.

            Also, unlike Discord, Reddit or even forums, a blog gives you a lot of control over how you can express yourself. With Reddit, you can either post a video, a couple of images, or a wall of text. With Discord, it’s only good manners to post relatively short messages (otherwise the server becomes a hassle to navigate). With forums, you can’t really control what other threads there are going to be around yours, distracting people from the topic you’re interested in (in more extreme cases, your thread can get buried under all the people talking about whatever the new hotness is).

            With blogs, you control everything. How much text you post, how many images and videos. Even if the entire Internet is talking about something, you aren’t obligated to even mention it. You can even control how the blog looks, and what kind of functionality it has. Infinitely more so than you can within the walled gardens if Discord and Reddit.

            Of course, the trade-off is that Discord, Reddit, and the couple of forums that are still kicking have a ready-made community which can easily search for and discover you. But I think there’s something to be said about having ownership over the platform and being able to steer the conversation on it however you like.

        2. RFS-81 says:

          Never mind community, I just want to feel like there’s any difference to writing stuff to a text file on my hard drive ;)

          But I can’t really churn out enough meaningful content to keep a real blog going anyway.

      2. Thomas says:

        In the UK shoes on or off are a house-by-house rule that you need to establish as soon as you come through the door. It can also be age specific. Kids are almost always required to remove their shoes. In some houses adults removing shoes may be seen as childlike, in others, a politeness or a necessity.

        1. Joshua says:

          In the US, there isn’t a cultural faux pas against wearing shoes in the house unless they’re obviously dirty (as Daimbert talked about mud and snow). The average person is only walking around on things like concrete or similar flooring. However, many people will tend to remove their shoes when they get home just because it’s more comfortable.

          1. PPX14 says:

            Doesn’t the ground get a bit sludgy with leaf debris and mud during wetter times? And on grass verges? I can see everything being pretty benign when it’s dry but when it’s damp shoes get all that vegetation and brown water on them.

            1. Bloodsquirrel says:

              Depending on where you live, not really. That happens more in the north when it snows, but down near New Orleans, if you in an urban/suburban environment, there’s not much mud on the streets/sidewalk. If you were in a major city, you’d have to go looking for grass/mud to find any to step in. And if you’re in an area where everybody drives everywhere, you’re not really walking much outside period.

              1. PPX14 says:

                That driving everywhere thing must make a big difference. And wider footpaths. If it’s damp here in the UK then walking into town or to local shops on the pavement you’ll pick up not mud as such but that brown flecked leaf debris stuff from the trees that line a lot of streets or if not that then overhanging bushes from front gardens. Even on someone’s driveway up to the front door. Not necessarily mud but still no good on someone’s carpets. My partner walked to the local retail park the other day can came back with the splashed flecks all up the sides of her white trainers.

                I’m not sure where it was but I’ve heard two separate stories of colleagues being stopped by police in the US asking what they were doing, why they were walking somewhere, and being unhappy with the response that they had decided to walk a couple miles to wherever they were going rather than drive.

                1. Chad Miller says:

                  Yes, most of the US is actively hostile to pedestrians. Where I live, everyone who regularly walks anywhere has punched a car in self-defense because the drivers are that unaware of the fact that pedestrians even exist (in my case I lived, literally, a 10-minute walk from work and walked across the street and was nearly run over while using a crosswalk, when the car in question decided to try a right turn on a red light)

    2. PPX14 says:

      even when laying in bed!

      This is so painful to watch. Settee or coffee table is bad enough, but bed?! In an ideal world the shoes don’t even enter the house at all, that’s what the porch is for. Maybe there is less dog fouling and mud in the US. I suppose that people drive more too so there is less shoe-to-ground time.

      But I went to a friend’s house recently and he insisted that shoes-on was the way in his house. I refused at first, just in case there was any hidden mud on my shoes, before realising that I’d be walking in my socks in the shoe-house so was better off with shoes on. And yes downstairs was mainly laminate flooring or tiled. But it’s when we go into carpeted rooms that argh! Had to really scrub my soles on the mat.

      1. Shamus says:

        Growing up, we lived in shoe anarchy. The kids ran barefoot a lot of the time. And it was the 70s, so the adults spent a lot of time wearing flip-flops. So there weren’t any rules about taking off shoes. Which led to wearing shoes all over the house when people DID wear shoes.

        Then my mom got remarried, and my stepdad came from a strict SHOES OFF household. There was a lot of stuff that was hard to get used to, but taking shoes off in the house was super easy and just felt so right. (It helps that there was a clear space for depositing shoes as you came in the front door. The room was called “the breezeway” a term which I’ve never heard anyone else use.)

        1. tmtvl says:

          Ah yes, a take on the venerable genkan, to take a Japanese phrase.

          I am in favour of taking shoes off when entering the house, but as a foot sweater I really need guest slippers.

          1. PPX14 says:

            The floor-crumb situation means that I wear slippers most of the time now or risk intermittent annoyance and sudden vacuuming.

        2. PPX14 says:

          I’ve never taken the flip flops from my parents’ home away with me so haven’t had them much as an adult. A back-garden childhood staple. Now that it’s getting warmer and I’ve acquired two pairs yesterday to take on holiday I think they’ll get decent use. Won’t have to steal my partner’s sandals to run down to the ice-cream van, nor wear fluffy slippers in the house during the summer or go barefoot and suffer the annoyance of runaway crumbs.

          Speaking of ice cream vans, times have changed, we can get the luxurious Biscoff ice creams now! Prices don’t seem to have changed for this guy though, they seem to be about 15 years old. Just took a serious Biscoff calorie hit to support him, should have got an orange ice lolly or push-up Callipo (Calypso?) instead. I’m not sure I had the sort of choice paralysis back in my childhood that I do now, but that might be a little rose-tinted.

          (If anyone can explain the mysterious Callipo/Calypso and Festival/Feast duplications that have puzzled me for about 2 decades, I’ll be much obliged.)

        3. benny says:

          Not to get too super into specifics, but:
          “breezeway” – canopy covering a path between two exterior doors. So like a paved path with a roof connecting the house and an exterior garage would be a breezeway. No walls, so it’s open to the breeze.
          “mudroom” – small room for removing shoes/boots and coat, usually on the side or back door of a house, usually opening to the kitchen or attached garage.
          “foyer” – room or hallway opening off the front or main door of a house. Usually more formal. Maybe has a closet right near the front door specifically for coats.

          So a breezeway is more of a Southern thing, simply because they’re more pleasant when you aren’t in a climate with a bunch of snow; I idly wonder if Dave grew up somewhere farther South and was using technically the wrong term, because I would assume a mudroom would be a normal thing in Pennsylvania.

          1. PPX14 says:

            To me that looks like two specific regional words and a very general one usually reserved for municipal and commercial buildings rather than houses :D then again I call the area outside my flat that has its own door at the end of a hallway, the “vestibule”. Mudroom sounds like a speciality sauna/spa room.

          2. Fizban says:

            I’d just go with “entryway” myself, dunno if it’s official but it can describe just about any. . . entryway.

            My house has no special entryways, and it was shoe anarchy as well. I went barefoot a ton when I was a kid, but stopped when that started getting dangerous (random slivers of smashed glass are not fun to step in on a dirty floor) and started wearing slippers.

    3. Shufflecat says:

      As an American, my observation is that the shoes thing is both highly regional, and also highly subcultural. I’ve heard stories from all over the US about how people were raised one way or another depending on region and background.

      When I was growing up (in the 80s and 90s, southern California) you put your shoes on with the rest of your clothes in the morning, and didn’t take them off until you took your clothes off at night. Shoes were just part of your clothes, and it felt weird to be shoeless but otherwise dressed.

      That was the convention for my family and most other people I knew. BUT there was a small percentage of households, maybe 5%, that would require visitors to take off their shoes, and it felt weird at the time.

      As an adult though, I took to taking my shoes off at home for comfort reasons, and so did a lot of other people of my region and generation. So I feel like I’ve actually seen and been part of a cultural shift in my own region and lifetime. It not only doesn’t feel weird anymore, but rather feels actively gross to not take off one shoes. Comfort aside, I became a lot more aware of how dirty shoes are once I was in the habit of taking them off, which makes me think people who don’t take off their shoes don’t actually live/walk in meaningfully cleaner areas, they’re just used to not noticing the dirt.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        My family moved to Taiwan from the US when I was ~6 for ~5 years, where *everyone* removes their shoes immediately upon entering a house, so it got drilled into me pretty much as early as I can remember. Then we moved to a small ranch in California, where between the mud half the year and the animal…’presents? that got left around the entire year, shoes definitely came off in the house. It might just be that upbringing, but I’m struggling to imagine an external environment where your shoes never get dirty enough* that you don’t care about tracking them all around inside the house.

        *Not just visibly dirty, but coated in a mix of bacteria, fungi, and viruses picked up from outside.

        1. Shufflecat says:

          Yeah, that’s what I meant by “not meaningfully cleaner”. There are places, particularly suburban and some urban areas, where you can have the visual illusion of “clean” shoe soles, because you’d mostly have been walking on dry concrete or asphalt outside. BUT the moment you start thinking about all the human and animal stuff that regularly happens and is left to “clean itself up” on surfaces like those, the illusion becomes apparent.

          It’s also one of those things where if you’ve been trained to not think about it when you’re a kid, you can end up carrying an irrational blindness to it for a long time, even though it should be obvious.

  12. Sleeping Dragon says:

    IIRC Black & White had a somewhat annoying saving mechanic where your alignment wouldn’t save along with the rest of the worldstate. As in, you could roll the events back but your the good-evil axis was tied to your profile. A bit annoying if you wanted to let go and have some fun throwing fireballs around in a later mission and then reload for the “real” playthrough,

  13. Syal says:

    Whereas in RPGs, they’re generally considered a basic necessity. (I’d be interested to know if you can name one where it isn’t.)

    Half Minute Hero.

    The biggest “Why is it like this” system I’ve seen was Tales of Symphonia, where you have to unlock the dungeon’s save point by killing a particular enemy in the dungeon, with nothing to differentiate the enemy from others. Not only that, there’s a mechanic where if you run into an enemy on the map, you’ll sometimes just go right through it, so you have to run into the enemy multiple times to even check.

    Others include anything with a single save file, and Half Minute Hero’s decision that you can’t wipe your save clean. If you want to restart, you have to just manually replay all the earlier missions in order.

    1. Fizban says:

      Eh, like most of Tales of Symphonia I like it, or at least I did at the time. It raises tension in the early part of the dungeon when you need to be careful about not getting tpk’d, followed by a reward for being thorough (also a stick to make you be thorough and thus gain the levels the game expects you to get), and on new game you can tick a box to keep all your unlocked saves. There’s also a more outside effect of not being able to save whenever you want ensuring that you don’t do a dungeon in so many bits and pieces that you lose track of what’s going on: if you won’t have enough time to reach/return to a save point, don’t JRPG right now (the exact problem I level at the much maligned Water Temple of Ocarina of Time, which is easy to follow if you don’t stop partway through with “save and quit” which resets your position, leaving you stranded and lost).

      As for running through enemies in Symphonia, that’s a feature- a specific passive EX skill or consumable effect which serves the role of reducing “random” encounter rate, letting you run past things more easily (when stacked it can get very generous). Again, a godsend on new game and when backtracking, but something you can and in this case could/should turn off if you want to hit encounters- though because the EX skill system relies on lots of combos, you may of course have skills you don’t want to lose tied to that particular ability.

      1. Syal says:

        a specific passive EX skill or consumable effect

        Which is not labeled clearly. I assume it’s the EX skill that says “reduces enemy reaction speed”, since it started around the same time I got that character.

        It’s mostly moot now, I’ve stopped playing it. That’s just one of many mechanics I disliked in Symphonia.

  14. Aceus says:

    I’m excited for this Deus Ex project of yours, Shamus. Glad to hear you’re doing better, and I forward to reading your fanfic ideas / indirect pitch to the game developers.

  15. tomato says:

    “Save anywhere” systems are basically cheats. But most games with that save system are not designed with cheats in mind. Not happy with the outcome of your decision? Took too much damage in combat? A party member died? Doesn’t matter, just keep loading your saved game until you roll a 20 and everything is perfect.
    But the games are also not designed with an iron man approach in mind. It’s bad design.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Wait, what’s the bad design here? Allowing people to undo events they don’t like? So what, if a non-essential companion character dies, do I just…not play the content based around them? Start the whole game again in the hope that they won’t die next time?
      Suffer through whatever unfortunate situation random chance hits me with because ‘that’s the way the game should be played’?
      No thanks. I already have a game in which I get shit on by factors outside my control with no ability to do anything about it*. It’s called life, and one of the reasons I like to play computer games is to experience something different.

      I don’t begrudge anyone who likes hardcore ironman games; it’s just that a save-anywhere system isn’t bad design. Is it bad game design for an F1 racing game to not have sword fights?

      *Only occasionally; my life isn’t terrible or anything. Nonetheless…

      1. Shufflecat says:

        Good save systems are a really important back door for dealing with design mistakes. In my ~25 years of gaming I’ve experienced and seen many instances where having a more permissive save system was essential to recovering games that had been borked by a glitch, bad level design, or some other bit of developer oversight/incompetence.

        I’ve also seen plenty of examples of the opposite: where an overly restrictive save system causes hours of lost gameplay, if not the loss of an entire game run, due to developer oversight or incompetence in some small but critical area.

        Given this, I take a very dim view of philosophies like Tomato’s. People who claim restrictive save systems are somehow essential to the character of a game, or are a form of cheating… are very, very clearly projecting their own personal preferences and habits onto the outside world. They’re mistaking their own inability to manage their save behavior in the absence of outside limits for a gameplay design factor, and if they got their way everyone would be worse off.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          Man, remember when games used to come with cheat codes, because developers knew games were about having fun, no matter how you personally went about doing it? Whatever happened to those days?

        2. RFS-81 says:

          The flip-side is if you get stuck in a no-win situation because you save-scummed less than the developer anticipated. Though I don’t think that’s been an issue in any recent games.

  16. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    So Paul,
    I’m confused as to why you quoted Project: Zomboid for confusing progress. In Zomboid you progress by improving your skills like electronics/carpentry/etc by practice or books (or watching emergency broadcasts on TV in the early game), and by finding the necessary plans and components by scrounging in the cities in the places where the objects would be. It seems pretty realistic to me.
    Speaking of Zomboid it has a feature where when every player online sleeps, time accelerates. It’s not that hard V-Rising.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      The only way to break down walls is with a sledge hammer which can only be found in a hardware store. The only way to ferment food is with a 55gal drum, which can only be found at the military base. Need I go on?

  17. Lachlan Kingsford says:

    Docx is zip compressed XML, plus more. So, if you unzip it, you’ll find the XML (which is basically an XMLified version of the original word legacy file format rather than something sensible), and all the embedded images etc as files inside. Xlsx is basically the same deal.

    (As a side note – it’s the easiest way to extract all the images out of a word doc)

  18. parkenf says:

    I too resemble that blog. It’s “the old new thing” by Raymond Chen, and he’s still writing! https://devblogs.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/

    I’ll see if I can find that post you’re talking about. Anyway if Microsoft insist that their primary concern is legacy support, then that will of course perpetuate their walled garden, so they don’t need explicitly to say that they’re locking people into their system: by providing long support for earlier versions it happens by default. This is an example of how monopolistic practices rarely announce themselves explicitly, but are instead a “happy” consequence of other “reasonable” business decisions

  19. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I love the phrase “self-licking ice cream cone” to describe government programs that basically exist just to propagate themselves.

    Also, I think Youtube and podcasts are more to blame for the disappearance of blogs than social media. There’s still a lot of high-quality content being produced and consumed- more than ever, in fact- but consumers have largely decided that they prefer audio/visual content.

    I’d actually love it if Shamus produced a 30-minute-ish solo daily podcast where he just focused on one game/news item/whatever else was on his mind. A lot of people are doing that nowadays.

    1. Lino says:

      In gaming YouTube really did kill the blogging star, but in most other niches it’s a lot less cut-and-dry. Yes, some of readers from those other niches migrated from blogs to YouTube (and the smarter bloggers moved to doing YouTube in addition to their normal content), but a big number of them moved to Facebook and Reddit. Then to Pinterest and Instagram. And now to Tiktok.

      However, in some niches you can still get huge just by having a website, and not bothering with audio-visual content at all (if you’ve ever Googled for something and clicked on any website other than Wikipedia or Reddit, then you can see how that model works in practice).

      But if we get back to gaming, then yes – if you want to make it big, you need to be on YouTube. And if you want to make a living out of it, then you actually need to be on Twitch (or just hope that you become the next YongYeah or whatever, because it’s really hard to break into that market nowadays as a complete newcomer).

    2. Shufflecat says:

      I’m not sure if it’s entirely consumers who made the choice to video/audio. I feel like the dynamic I’ve seen is that typing something out takes effort for some people, whereas audio or video only requires you to push a button on your phone. Previously text was what people had to use, so they either had to suck it up and type, or not make internet content at all. But as video and audio became more democratized (especially exploding in the smartphone era, where the entire record-to-upload pipeline can be reduced to a few taps/presses in an app), that allowed a lot of people to start contributing to the statistics in ways they wouldn’t have before.

      If you think back to middle school, and to all the people (probably the majority) who visibly or vocally disliked having to read or write anything outside of school assignments, even if they were capable of it, and it’s not hard to see how the easy availability of video would have completely overturned the statistical balance like this.

      I’ve seen a kabillion tutorials (even from professional media sources) that would have been x10 more convenient and easier to follow in text format, but which the uploader clearly did as a video because they wanted to avoid writing.

      Bonus point for ones where the “tutorial” is actually just the uploader doing the thing they’re “teaching” for the first time themselves, mistakes and all.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        I just don’t get how you can have any kind of success with unedited rambling, and if you’re going to do any editing at all, text is going to look a lot more convenient.

        1. Shufflecat says:

          You’d certainly think so, yet I see this stuff all the time.

          It actually gets really frustrating at times, when I’m trying to find a “how to” for something, and all I can find is rambling disorganized videos, when text would be sooooo much easier and faster for anyone trying to follow along.

      2. Bloodsquirrel says:

        The problem there is that there is a lot of competition for eyeballs on the internet, and if consumers preferred higher-effort text to low-effort video, text would win out. The consumer doesn’t really care how much work something is to produce; only how useful the end product is to them. Digital content also has no per-unit cost to produce, so one person can capture as much of the market as prefers his content, regardless of the fixed cost to produce it. Anyone willing to work harder to produce text would be massively rewarded, which isn’t what we see happening.

        I also don’t buy that audio/video is particularity easy. It takes a lot of additional skill, equipment, and innate talent (not everybody has a great voice for recording audio). It might be easy for someone who is practiced at it to record a half hour of audio, but it takes a lot of work to get up to the level of doing it properly. There’s definitely a higher barrier to entry.

        Case in point: Any one of us could be recording our thoughts on video and posting the link to it here. That could easily be the standard method of commenting on a post. But nobody does that- typing out a few paragraphs is easier.

        1. Shufflecat says:

          Counterpoint to the first part: amateur content creators aren’t as subject to market forces as you’re asserting. Yes, they like views, and if they host ads, they’re going to want more views then less. BUT the vast majority aren’t relying on that for their rent. Content creation is an extension of their hobby or social life, not their job. They’re gonna do what they want, regardless, as thousands and thousands of badly designed blog pages and YouTube channels can attest to.

          For that matter, professionals aren’t as choked by market forces as you’re asserting either. They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be good enough to offset costs by a profitable margin. And cheap video does exactly that. Who cares if people might prefer text, when they’ll ultimately still take video anyway, and video lowers the labor so drastically? And if the savings are good enough, then anyone trying to buck that trend is making themselves too noncompetitive to survive, even if their product is technically better or more in demand. When it comes to the market, “better” is an equilibrium, not an infinite ideal.

          And speaking of bad design… counterpoint to the second part: have you seen what most of this stuff looks like? 95% of Vlogs and tutorials is literally just people parking their phone on a stand and letting the auto settings have their way with it. They can’t even be arsed to go two steps deep into a menu to pick a white balance preset so their video isn’t constantly shifting color temp as their head moves around in frame. The number of times I’ve seen someone go “hold on…” while they move the stuff in their hand around trying to get autofocus to lock on (and giving up half the time when it doesn’t), when their setup is so static and shallow that the entire thing could be in focus if they just set that manually literally once.

          …And then when they get enough money, they buy a DSLR or something… and proceed to make videos that still look just as bad because if they can’t be arsed to learn the basics of a phone camera they certainly can’t be arsed to learn a DSLR.

          And the number of podcasts I’ve heard where the participants couldn’t be bothered with the most basic of audio setups, so half of them sound like they’re talking through a pillow or a length of aluminum pipe or something.

          BUT… you are half right, even by my own logic. The same distaste for reading and writing that can motivate a content creator towards video can also motivate audiences in exactly the same way. Witness all the people on popular sites who will deride any comment longer than a couple sentences as “a novel” that they refuse to read. Yeah… naturally those people are gonna prefer media that just simulates someone talking to them, instead of something they apparently have to spend active mental effort to consume.

          I’m not saying it’s ALL the one thing and not the other. I’m saying I don’t think you can confidently lay all or even most of the blame on the demand side. IMO it’s probably impossible to extricate the two sides enough to asses who’s to blame by what %.

          Also, I have to clarify: I’m not anti-A/V media. There’s a lot of podcast and video channels I enjoy and follow. My apparent bitterness is the result of seeing stuff that isn’t better served by video being increasingly forced into that peg-hole, combined with my frustration with content creators who will apparently spend YEARS of man hours on everything but the 10 minutes it’d take to actually learn how to use their tools on the most basic level.

  20. Brisbe says:

    The worst save system I’m aware of? The RPG ‘Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter’.

    Unlocks are based on a score system, and one of the categories is ‘number of saves’. If you save the game, even once, you lose points. Getting the ‘best’ level of unlock requires 100% of points.

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