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Posts posted by Upthrust


    I just burned through Supergiant's latest, and I'm still really impressed by whatever they're putting out. It has all the aesthetics merits of Bastion or Transistor, plus some excellent, surprisingly-deep quasi-basketball gameplay. I was particularly impressed by how it seemed like the AI actually knew how to exploit the rules the way a player might. For example: players have auras that, if you run into an opposing player, that player gets taken out of the game for a few seconds. The character holding the ball, however, doesn't have an aura, which encourages you to sometimes toss the ball at an opposing player and immediately bum-rush them, banishing them. It's a simple but somewhat-unintuitive consequence of the rules (the game introduces tossing the ball as a way to score goals, passing to your teammates is another button), and I was floored when the AI pulled it on me before I figured the strategy out for myself.


    Beyond that, the story has some really great hooks, mostly playing out in Banner Saga-style interactions as your team travels from match to match. The second-act turn when you discover


    that you can only have your teammates return from exile one at a time (meaning your roster would slowly leak its most experienced players), weighed heavy on my mind for the rest of the game in the best way.

    The story even accounts for you losing matches, to the point that I'm pretty sure you could lose literally every match in the game and still finish.


    So, uh, anybody else playing it?


  2. 4 hours ago, dium said:


    I think you meant to link to something different here, and I'm interested in what it was supposed to be.


    Oops, you're right! I fixed it to link to this tweet: 

    I'm really not sure how it would have fit in to the apparently-abandoned piece he was working on, but there's something about that video that works really well.


    As for the Run Button podcast, I'm glad you linked it because I missed it, and I do like the critique Austin outlines there. Even if I still overall like the themes that The Witness is presenting, it's hard to argue that it isn't trying to apply them as a worldview when a bunch of the audios and videos are explicitly about solving the problems of the world, and that worldview does have definite flaws (even if I'm partial to it).


  3. I'm quoting this so people can minimize it if they want. I really didn't mean for this to get this long, but the Danielle/Waypoint view on the Witness has been rolling around in my head for a while.



    I think the thing that makes me wince whenever The Witness gets brought up on Waypoint Radio is nobody is making a strong case for the game on thematic grounds, so it’s hard to see where in the conversation we are. There’s a version of the criticism of the Witness that goes: It’s a game filled with logic puzzles with a video of a British guy dunking on art in favor of science. If you can’t figure the puzzles out, it’s because you haven’t thought hard enough. The valuable thing in this game and life are people who are good at approaching things logically, and that’s not just an awfully limited view of the world, it’s a harmful one.


    Then there’s a response that goes: If you look at the theater in the game, there are five more videos! Aren’t you curious what those videos have too? And when you find those videos, it turns out they’re about seeking in all of its facets including, but not limited to, the scientific method. The seeking theme isn’t just limited to the videos and audio-logs. It’s right there in the puzzles. The bullshit broken-branch puzzle in the temple is bullshit if you think pure logic is the only way to approach the puzzle. But the Witness doesn’t want you to modus tollens your way through, it wants you to notice the strangeness of how the puzzle seems incomplete, to wonder at how you might complete a broken puzzle, maybe to remember that those apple-tree puzzles which also hid important information with broken branches. While pure logical reasoning will get you far in the Witness, here, it’s practically screaming at you to break beyond the boundaries of the puzzles. It wants you to have epiphanies.


    But that isn’t where the conversation ends. If I had to anticipate what an extended criticism of the Witness’s worldview from Danielle (or Austin, who has mostly hinted at his opinion) would look like, it’d probably hinge at some point on the death of the author, and I think that would be entirely fair. The James Burke video is probably the first one you're going to run into, and I bet there's a significant number of people for whom it is the only video they’ll see in the Witness. There’s a considerable prioritization there, in that first, most accessible video. The Witness gives it to the dude who dunks on art in favor of science. Putting aside the videos, a lot of the puzzles in The Witness are solved purely logically, to the point that I could probably express them in symbolic logic if I were cleverer and had a lot of time. (There might be a temptation to say that even the solution I described to the aforementioned broken-branch puzzle is about logically deriving a conclusion through a set of priors scattered throughout the game, but I think at this point you’d be well on the way to stretching what counts as “logical reasoning” to mean “thinking about anything.”) J-Blow might have intended to make a game about seeking in all its facets, the argument goes, but it says a lot that he filled it with logic puzzles and put scientism front and center.


    I’m not satisfied with that account of what the Witness is about, but I think it’s a fair and complete one. I think it discounts the other videos and audios too heavily, ignores the environmental puzzles (which are hidden, true, but don’t work otherwise) and the environment-based elements of the regular puzzles. I think it contains a (quite understandable) allergy toward scientism that leads to missing (or discounting) that the nonanthropocentrism in Burke’s worldview might fit neatly next to Gangaji and Tarkovsky. My problem, however, is that I’ve never heard anyone make the stronger case for the Witness having a troubling worldview (and having just gone back and read Danielle’s earlier piece, I’m not sure she’s heard a good case for what The Witness is supposed to be about, if she thinks the secret ending satirizes rather than adds to what came before).


    Throw all that together with the fact that the internet just completely messes with perspective in arguments. Whenever I hear Danielle criticize the Witness, it is usually the only thing I’ve heard anyone say about The Witness in months, and I’m wondering why she had to pull out a game I love just to poo on it again. What I don’t hear is that Danielle probably has hundreds of people who are all responding “Actually, The Witness is good” at, let’s say, varying degrees of politeness. That’s all leaving aside what I half-remember to be Danielle’s original problem with The Witness, which I think was that you had to be willing to trust that somewhere there exists a tutorial to whatever puzzle you’re stuck on, which isn’t necessarily obvious (and some of the puzzles are dumb/unfair/un-fun anyway).

  4. 23 hours ago, Kyir said:

    It's interesting that Nick came away from all the streams thinking that people's "favorite boss" picks are based on mechanics. It might just be who I talk to about this stuff, but I've generally found the lore, music, character design, etc. to be much more important factors in people's picks. 


    I wonder if this is chat's fault.

    I definitely do primarily judge bosses on mechanics. Obviously aesthetic plays some role, but I enjoyed my fight with the Dragonslayer Armour than against Yhorm, even though I think putting an Ornstein clone in every sequel has been kind of lame while the story of the giant-king who accidentally incinerates his people in the very act of trying to save them is cool as hell. My favorites generally end up being whatever bosses I had the hardest time fighting, along the same lines of Nick's explanation of the value of Dark Souls being in falling into the pit and climbing your way out.

  5. DS1

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/AlertSquidSmoocherZ - Nick mocks Dusk, to Janel's horror

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/AmusedHerdBlargNaut - Social Eating

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/PowerfulSardineSmoocherZ - Nick ruminates on his experiences, gets meta

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/BreakableOpossumPicoMause - Nick walking off the branch on the Bed of Chaos

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/LuckyElephantMikeHogu - Janel leaves, Nick is free

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/HelplessDuckCoolCat - Nick likes the ending



    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/EnthusiasticPoultryOSsloth - Nick narrowly avoids defeat against the Dragonrider, immediately dies

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/ExcitedOpossumAsianGlow - Nick getting killed by a mob at the primal bonfire after Freja

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/DifferentOryxSoonerLater - Nick likes the Covetous Demon

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/AlertGooseNoNoSpot - Nick falls off the cool bridge

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/MuddyFoxFunRun - Nick kills the Smelter Demon

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/HilariousBadgerRaccAttack - Nick's great escape from an invader in the Gutter

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/GleamingSalamanderOhMyDog - Nick meets Aldia

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/PerfectJaguarPazPazowitz - Nick's future girlfriend

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/ProudSnailAsianGlow - "Are you a spooky bad man?"

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/LovelyFoxDatSheffy - Nick picks up a Schwarzenegger soundboard

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/ProudOstrichHeyGuys - "Free to play the game the way it was intended"

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/StupidCockroachFuzzyOtterOO - "Sometimes you gotta use your words"

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/GentleSalmonGingerPower - Nick politely asks Sinh to die

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/ProudLeopardBrokeBack - Nick responds to Kyir's concerns re: a horse

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/JollyNarwhalBlargNaut - Cheatin' Hitman World Champ

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/TalentedEchidnaWinWaker - Nick beats Alonne

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/SmilingCamelOSkomodo - Nick is let down by a chair

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/LuckyScorpionSoonerLater - Vendrick kills Nick without even trying

    https://clips.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/RichSquidDendiFace - The ending, Nick is thoroughly satisfied by a chair

  6. Nick uses his words:



    Nick learns the importance of asking politely:



    Nick has a message for the haters ("the haters" = Kyir):



    Nick becomes the cheatin' hitman world champ:



    Another recommendation here for the madness. The Nick and the chat begin to go pumped-up insane around here: https://www.twitch.tv/idlethumbs/v/109006811?t=8h17m

  7. 17 minutes ago, Gormongous said:


    Only Souls boss I've never beaten, not even solo, is the latter of those two. Over the course of eight hours spent trying, I got one hit away once and went for it. Unsuccessfully, of course. Else, I never even got close. In general, all the bosses in the DS2 DLC that were supposed to be "multiplayer" bosses are actually filled with the rank bullshit that many people think characterizes every Souls boss.

    Yeah, the only reason I managed to get through both of those areas was by deliberately killing the mobs until they de-spawned, and even then the run to the latter boss fight took about 3 mintues. After I got close enough to winning solo that I felt like I "solved" it, I just summoned an NPC and beat it so I could get on with my life. Felt especially disjointed after I went on to beat the main boss for that segment in one go.


    I did make pretty decent progress through the audiobook I was listening to, though.

  8. 5 hours ago, Nick Breckon said:


    In my defense, I did not think I'd beat the boss -- that everyone was constantly pumping up as a big deal -- on the second try. 


    Which actually begs the question: what's the difficulty level of DS2 in comparison to DS1/DS3? So far, at least in my playthroughs, I'd say DS3's bosses were trickier on average than DS1's. But then again, I was new to playing the game, so maybe I'm just better at combat now and DS3 will seem like a cakewalk when I replay it? 


    I just finished my first run of DS2 this week, and finished DS1 earlier this year (haven't made it to DS3 yet). I think DS2 was harder on the whole, but it also felt smoother. The couple of times I got tripped up in Dark Souls (Taurus Demon, Ornstein and Smough, Tomb of the Giants), it meant several multi-hour sessions to figure out what I was doing wrong and how to correct. For Dark Souls 2, I only had to walk away and come back later for one boss, but it also had more bosses that took more than one hour. So from my experience, you'll probably find the early parts of Dark Souls 2 fairly easy, but it'll ramp up to a comfortable challenge. 


    I'll also add that Dark Souls 2 has a couple areas in the DLC that I think are worth skipping for being too hard in ways that aren't really fun (specifically

    the Iron Passage and the Frigid Outskirts

    ), but the DLC in general has had some of my favorite fights of the series so far.

  9. I actually got in to the Giant Bombcast through Idle Thumbs as well. The full genealogy of my gaming-related pod-listening goes as follows: The Kingdom of Loathing Podcast > Video Games Hot Dog > Idle Thumbs > the Giant Bombcast > the Giant Beastcast > "VICE Gaming's" New Podcast*, with a couple branches off Idle Thumbs for Three Moves Ahead and Idle Weekend, a branch off the Beastcast for Friends at the Table, and a totally separate tree for Cool Games Inc and The Adventure Zone, by way of MBMBAM and Judge John Hodgman.


    It actually seems pretty insane when I lay it out like that, and even more insane that gaming podcasts are less than half of my overall podcast listening.


    *For full effect, read the ">" arrow as "begat".

  10. Yeah, I'm running up against the end of the game pretty fast, so I'm sure I can actually beat the game, but I was actually getting into the wall-hugging, secret-area-finding part of the game. I was specifically lamenting


    The 800-dash challenge, the room with a bunch of crystals, and a room in the south that I'm pretty sure has the very last module I need.

  11. Boy, am I awful at that chain-dash move. I can occasionally pull one off mid-battle, and I can pull off just enough to make it a fun little way to get across the map, but if a certain section requires me to chain dash across it, it ain't happening. I managed to cheese a couple with invincibility frames and healing, but there are others designed to prevent you from doing that. I really like that the game seems to know just how difficult it wants to be, but in this case it feels like the game is disappointed that I can't pull off a weird parlor trick, even though I have the overall combat down to an art-science. I eventually had to tell myself I just won't 100% this game, even though I would really love to.

  12. Hmm, interesting. I've been eyeing Story of Seasons for a while but never pulling the trigger since my wife and I share the 3DS so I never know when I'll get the chance to play it.


    Edit: Also, holy crap, 1833 good reviews, only 23 negative on Steam. That might be the best ratio I've ever seen.

    Story of Seasons falls into the same trap as most of the recent Harvest Moon games: If take a break from it for more than a week or two, I am completely lost. I think it's a significant improvement on A New Beginning (it is less up its own butt with ANB's "you can build and move everything" mechanics), but it's still a game weighed down by twenty years of feature creep.


    Also worth noting that one of my gripes about Stardew Valley has already been fixed (the "auto-run" option is automatically turned on), and the devs are working on making diagonal movement feel better. I feel better and better about the game as I go along. It's a really good farm sim.

  13. I've played through the first season so far, and I'm fairly optimistic about it.


    A disordered list of things I like:

    • Terraria's inventory system works really well for a Harvest Moon-style game, because switching tools is not a chore unto itself.
    • You are limited to giving villagers gifts twice a week, which lends to just handing stuff out spontaneously instead of creating obsessive "gifting runs" that ended up defining the bulk of even my early Harvest Moon experiences.
    • None of the marriage candidates appear to be pre-pubescent, unlike certain Harvest Moon games.
    • After you figure out how fishing works, it's pretty entertaining. It feels like Flappy Bird, even if it doesn't look anything like it.
    • There are at least two alcoholics in town, which seems to have been the hallmark of Harvest Moon games I actually enjoyed.
    • When you cut down trees, they explode into a dozen little branches, Terraria-style.


    Stuff that I don't really like:

    • The only way to save is to sleep, which I think works out to roughly every 30 minutes.
    • The fishing tutorial was vague enough that I had to brute-force my way to understanding it. It only took 2 or 3 attempts, but it wasn't a good moment for my trust in the game.
    • Walking diagonally has been scientifically proven to be slower than waling orthogonally, and it feels kind of bad.
    • You have to go to the options to turn on auto-run when there is no reason to ever walk.
    • The otherwise pretty neat side-job system only gives you two days to fulfill requests, which feels like the bare minimum amount of time to reasonably complete them.
    • There is a Wal-Mart clone in town that is threatening to ruin the local business and do other devious corporate things. I always liked that the Harvest Moon games made the case for rural life by just being super idyllic, rather than by defining itself in direct opposition to something.


    Things I am not yet sure or ambivalent about:

    • It seems like the farming system is potentially nearly as baroque as the later Harvest Moons, but I also don't feel like I'm being actively shamed for not understanding how to make my crops 5-STAR GRADE S+++.
    • I have avoided getting animals so far because I hated livestock in every Harvest Moon game, so I can't speak on Stardew Valley's livestock one way or the other.
    • Mining is engrossing enough, but I never liked combat systems in my farming sims. You can kill a slime with a sword in this game, but I don't want to.
    • Some of the villager interactions ring with a low-intensity pathos that the earlier Harvest Moon games excelled at, with the notable exception of almost every single marriage candidate.

  14. I was always fascinated by the subtitle of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Even though I only played the Ogre Battle games that came after it, that subtitle encapsulated the moody, self-serious tone of the series much better than the actual title of the series. I'm a little disappointed it isn't some baroque translation of the Japanese title (which is just "Tactics Ogre").


    As for board game names, I really like Twilight Struggle and feel compelled to obnoxiously read aloud the Kennedy quotation it references every time I start a game of it.

  15. I find it hilarious how Jeff will let the bottom half of the list go, let people win those fights, but will fight to the death to keep his favourite games at the top. 


    For me, I just get sad that Brad hates the games I love. He really dug into Splatoon and Mario Maker, which are just such joyful experiences. But hey, different tastes and all. 

    Listening to Jeff on the GOTY cast this year kind of felt like watching a chess grandmaster. You have no idea how they "won" but you can't shake the impression that everything that came up to that point was way more deliberate than you realized.

  16. That is definitely the case. Not only does Witcher 1 allow you to bang everything that moves (you can hook up with Triss after banging half the country, then bang the other half and there's no consequences), it has its own threesome.


    Some Bioware games (DA1, ME1) have tried to handle this case. If it looks like you're trying to start a relationship with multiple characters, they'll confront you. However, they simply ask you to pick one of them, so it's not exactly a punishment, and it has also suffered from serious implementation problems that tend to cause it to trigger even when you were definitely not romancing both characters.


    I'm not sure how to feel about the game calling the player out on questionable romantic behaviour given the series' history of accepting such things. It would be like if the latest Call of Duty suddenly turned into Spec Ops: The Line and started being upset with the player for their violence. It also feels a bit hypocritical to call out the player, given some of the male-gazey camera angles and gratuitous nudity in some of W3's scenes.

    The impression I get from Bioware games is if you actually pursue different romances to the point that you trigger a confrontation, it's just an A/B choice where B apologizes for getting in the way of your relationship with A, because B is just happy to be on the team. Maybe they call out the player in one line of dialogue, but their approach toward the player doesn't actually change. There's a lot I like about those games, but the romance plots are definitely not part of it.


    I do think the Witcher 3 is at least internally consistent: Meaningless sex can feel gross and transactional (part of why I stopped playing the first Witcher game), but at least all parties are up-front about what is going on. At the start of the game Geralt seems to be on the outs with Triss and Yennefer, and all his flings are either prostitutes or totally uninterested in a romantic relationship with him. It's another thing to actively lead on two women who specifically brought up how they were hurt by Geralt's relationship with the other by conducting an explicitly romantic relationship with both. It's some 100%-pure Colombian wish fulfillment, but they're drawing the line between unrealistic fantasy and letting the player be a bastard consequence-free.


    I feel great about it, because you're playing a character, and interacting with other characters who also have relationships outside of you.

    Yeah, that's the upside of this. I think the fact that Geralt is an actual character (even if I think he's kind of a doofus) helps a lot to make Yennefer and Triss feel more specific than your bog-standard RPG romance options. I actually gave some thought to the choice rather than more-or-less arbitrarily picking a romance option to provide More Content for my player-cipher main character.


    I am a little puzzled that Yennefer wasn't angrier about being magically trapped into a relationship and then immediately dumped as soon as Geralt helped her lift the spell. She's angry, but only angry enough to playfully drop you in a lake if you're a dick about pressing the issue.


    So Shani is never really an option then I guess? I chose her in Witcher 1 and then was sort of disappointed that they're pushing Triss so hard for the first couple chapters of Witcher 2, I guess that's the way of it?

    She's in the first DLC story. I haven't played it, but I get the impression that Geralt's involvement with her is confined to that DLC.

  17. Maybe my favorite gaming-adjacent experience this year has been reading internet posts about a particular aspect of the romance subplots in this game. Specifically:


    The number of people running into the "threesome" scene. If you have Geralt tell Yennefer and Triss that he loves them both, they will trick Geralt into a threesome where they tie him to a bed and leave him overnight. You completely miss out on part of Geralt's epilogue, because his two major romantic interests in the Witcher fiction both reject him. They don't do this until a dozen or so hours after you would have made the relevant decisions. I especially like that the relevant decision point isn't having sex with either of them (having sex with anything willing seems to be Geralt's SOP), but specifically having Geralt express his love to two different women who clearly resent that Geralt once had a relationship with the other.


    I'm a little torn over the fact that the earlier Witcher games are probably partly responsible for teaching gamers that exploring a romance plot is consequence free (at least, that's the impression I got from all 6 hours of the first Witcher game I played) and you can go ahead and flirt with everyone on the Normandy without a single citation from Citadel HR. but it was nice to see a video game wiling to call the player out on some pretty questionable behavior.