Grand Theft Auto V: Choose Your Ending

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 13, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 39 comments

Last week I outlined the plot of Grand Theft Auto V. As I hope my synopsis made clear, this game gets lost and spends the majority of its running time on elements that are completely divorced from the central conflict. It presents problems, and then throws a never-ending series of distractions at our antiheroes

For clarity, when I talk about the “central conflict” I’m talking about the personal drama between our three lead characters. The game opens with the job that causes the division between Michael and Trevor, and – assuming you choose the sensible ending – they nominally reconcile right before the closing credits. You could also make the case that one of these other plot threads is the “main” one, although that’s just moving the problem around. You could argue that the FIB is the main plot because it gets the most time, but then we have a story where the main plot isn’t introduced for several hours, and when it IS resolved it’s bundled with a bunch of other problems. You could claim that The Big Heist is the main plot because it feels like the most reasonable way to end a game with these mechanics, but then you have a “main plot” that gets almost no screen time and hits its finale over an hour before the story concludes. No matter how you map it out, nothing in this story feels like a properly developed central pillar.

I put the Michael / Trevor / Franklin at the center because it’s present at the beginning, the end, and we get lots of reminders about it as the story goes on, even if the situation isn’t making any progress.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Grand Theft Auto V: Choose Your Ending”



Experienced Points: The Achilles’ Heel of Steam

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Sep 12, 2018

Filed under: Column 85 comments

My column this week is an outline of the back-and-forth between Microsoft and Valve, as Microsoft looks for ways to lock down the Windows platform and Valve looks for ways to make their business less dependent on it. I’ve covered this material in the past on the blog, but this is the first time I’ve talked about it on the Escapist. I’m still trying to get a feel for what the Escapist audience is into. Over there the audience is a generalized “Gaming and nerd culture enthusiast” kinda deal, while most people who read this blog are here for “Whatever Shamus is into at the moment”.

It does seem like the stalemate will continue for the foreseeable future. Microsoft really does want to lock down Windows, but I think they’ve lost their mojo. Back in the day they were able to use their operating system to prop up all sorts of projects. It’s easy to make your web browser the most popular by making it the most convenient. Hey, it’s already installed on my computer, so why look for an alternative? I’m not sure if they understood that their secret weapon was convenience. Since then they’ve dabbled with GFWL and the Windows 10 Store, two platforms that seem to be designed to be inconvenient as possible.

On the other end of the field, I don’t see how Valve can hope to make any progress either. They’re working on (a derivative of) WINE, which is a project designed to get Windows games to run on Linux without needing to engage in full-blown resource-sucking emulation. Like I said on the podcast this week, building something like WINE requires someone who:

  1. Has a deep knowledge of Windows systems, and yet…
  2. …is a huge fan of Linux that also…
  3. …is a dedicated gamer that is willing to spend their off hours building compatibility systems rather than playing games and who also…
  4. …has the dedication and skill to make meaningful progress.

There just aren’t a lot of people that fall into the center of that particular Venn Diagram.

On top of this, Microsoft has the advantage in this game. Even if we got a dozen or so genius-level programmers together and turned them loose to work on WINE full-time, Microsoft can create problems for them a lot more easily than they can overcome them.

Still, I like the suggestion Paul came up with on the show, where Steam could puts its weight behind a gamedev platform. For example, if we can encourage the next generation of hopeful indies to embrace (say) Unity, then making Linux builds becomes that much easier. Also, something like Unity can lock itself to a particular group of libraries and .NET runtimes, which would make it easier for people working on WINE to focus on those particular runtimes and libraries.

I’m not sure how a partnership like that would work, but I could see how it would make Linux gaming easier to achieve on future titles. Still, the problem of getting the last 10 years of PC games running remains, and I don’t see an easy way to solve that.



This Dumb Industry: Plagiarism

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 11, 2018

Filed under: Column 194 comments

The story a couple of weeks ago was that a writer for IGN was caught plagiarizing his content. On July 24, Boomstick Gaming reviewed the game Dead Cells. Then on August 6, IGN posted their own review, which was almost a point-for-point recreation of the Boomstick review with some different phrasing. Boomstick noticed this and posted a side-by-side comparison of the two videos:

Link (YouTube)

IGN took down the review, investigated, and then fired the author after they concluded the reviews were far too similar to be the result of happenstance. The plagiarist then posted an apology to his personal YouTube channel that came off as a clumsy insincere deflection rather than as a true confession and apology. The apology got so much negative response that he’s since taken it downI didn’t see it before it vanished. I’m sure you can still find copies of it on YouTube if you’re willing to go hunting for them.. Once the story came to light, people looked at his back catalog of content and found that he seems to have plagiarized a lot of other content over the course of his short career. The Dead Cells review wasn’t his first act of plagiarism, it was just the first time he got caught.

This has gotten a lot of coverage, to the point where I’m kind of uncomfortable joining the dogpile. The plagiarist’s name and face have been broadcast all over the place for weeks now. His reputation is ruined and his career is over. Those are both appropriate responses to his actions, but after a certain threshold the whole thing starts to feel vindictive. It’s not that any one story went overboard. It’s just that the cumulative effect of so many articles has unintentionally elevated the response to extreme levels. It’s not like he killed somebody. Nobody was even really all that hurt. The main victim was IGN, who had to take down all of the plagiarists archived content and spend resources re-reviewing the affected games. That sucks and I don’t blame IGN for being upset, but I don’t feel any personal need to direct additional rage towards the guilty. He got caught. He got fired. Story over.

I want to use this story to talk about this style of “rephrasing plagiarism” in general, but I don’t want to add to the ongoing public shaming. So for this article I’m not going to use the name or face of the guilty. If you want to dig into that side of the story, other people have you covered.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “This Dumb Industry: Plagiarism”



Diecast #225: Linux Gaming, Starflight, Spider-Man

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 10, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 49 comments

We got two mailbag questions this week that didn’t make it into the show but can easily answered here. One asked if I had any thoughts on 7 Billion Humans and the other asked for opinions on Monster Hunter: World. The answer to both of these is that I haven’t played them, I am interested in them, but I don’t have time for either one. We’re getting close to the end of the year now, which means it’s time for things to get a little crazy in terms of AAA titles released per month.

As always, email is in the header image if you’ve got questions for the show.

Also, congrats to Paul and his wife. Their latest baby was born less than 24 hours after this show was recorded. I’ve lost count of how many they have at this point, but it’s a challenging number. Congratulations and best of luck!

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Diecast #225: Linux Gaming, Starflight, Spider-Man”



MORE Theme Changes? Are You KIDDING Me?

By Shamus Posted Sunday Sep 9, 2018

Filed under: Notices 112 comments

The nightmare of fussing continues. To be totally honest, this is kind of fun. I could do this forever, except I know that having a consistent experience is important and I know how disorienting it is when you show up to a previously familiar site to find everything has been moved around. So I need to stop messing around with the site because I don’t want to drive everyone crazy. At the same time, I really want to see the results of just one more round of changes. Maybe two. Possibly two. We’ll see.

What’s new?

  1. The main menu has been moved to the right. I’ll talk more about that below.
  2. Fixed some instances where a comment and its direct reply might end up being nearly the same color.
  3. Regardless of whether it eventually winds up on the right, the left, or the top, the menu is now more compact.

Some people say they dislike the left-menu because it feels wrong or alien. Apparently left-to-right reading habits have them scanning over the useless (to them) sidebar every time they visit the site. So let’s put the menu on the right and see what happens. As before, I’m adopting a “Squeaky wheel” approach to design, so if you love something and don’t want to see it changed then you need to speak up.

So let’s talk about this main menu some more… Continue reading ⟩⟩ “MORE Theme Changes? Are You KIDDING Me?”