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Everything posted by chanman

  1. Three Moves Ahead 500: Origins

    On the other-other hand, the 3MA episodes have been much fewer and farther between for a while now. I blame Rob's responsibilities at Vice
  2. I don't know if it's saturated so much as it's become fragmented, especially since older games may now see additional development (Age of Empires II being the obvious example) on top of a straight re-master. Even games that weren't originally meant to be living products can evolve to be that way through the efforts of a sufficiently-obsessed modding community (see the JA2 mods that eventually culminated in things like the v1.13 patch, or the stand-alone Wildfire mod and older mods like Deidranna Lives)
  3. Yes, exactly. Ubisoft, for instance, has Far Cry, Tom Clancy (Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon/The Division), and Assassin's Creed as their cornerstones with a handful of smaller titles (Trials, etc.) In a given year, you might see releases from 2-3 of their main franchises. If they all flop, then Ubisoft's financial situation for that year is going to be in very poor shape. As for what happens to mid-sized developers, well... I think publishers do keep some mid-sized teams in-house to provide content - Microsoft has been on an acquisition spree of late. I think other ones may specialize in a particular niche - look at the specialist wargame products published by Slitherine or Matrix Games. I think what we'll see less of are independent mid-sized studios. They usually have enough payroll and support staff that they can't run as lean (or essentially go into hibernation) the way a solo developer or small team can (where they have little overhead costs, and can relegate game development to a hobby project if really necessary), but they don't have the ability to share resources or call in outside help the way a larger studio or or one that's part of a publisher can. One other example that comes to mind are 2D platformer Mario games. Any new one is competing with all-time classics like Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. I think we're also going to continue to see games that are living products/games as a service. It's the way the rest of the software industry has functioned for a long time, especially with enterprise software. Continued development or even just bugfixes/maintenance costs money. On the upside, a lot of games fall far short of their potential at release, but manage to really hit their stride after DLC or patches. The podcast calls out Crusader King 2 and Total Warhammer 1/2, but I'd argue this is also the case for Battletech. Even after the release of the Flashpoint DLC, the randomly generated missions were extremely cookie cutter, and the difficulty scaled directly with your mercenary group's rating - an endgame mercenary company was only ever going to be offered the hardest missions (grinding out 2:1 odds against the heaviest opposition) and the main challenge was the limited number of missions available in each location before needing to burn weeks of travel time to try your luck in a new system (which could also be barren of any opportunities). This could be customized yourself by changing the game's configuration files, but HBS finally patched those much-needed changes in to the main game around the time the Urban Warfare DLC was released.
  4. Good episode! I was a bit surprised at the lack of a shout-out to games like Armored Brigade or Twilight Struggle and the focus on a number of main franchises/areas (Paradox, Firaxis, Total War, Roguelikes). You and video games during the decade 2008 marked the first time I had a semi-modern gaming PC, and I upgraded to a GTX460 video card in 2010. Although I moved up to a new machine in 2015, I kept either the GTX460 or used onboard video until mid-2018, so my gaming was necessarily graphically un-intensive. This decade, I spent a lot of time playing indie games, and I maintained a games consumption pattern similar to the 90's, where I would play select games intensely, but skip over large segments of the zeitgeist, even if the game was in my library. I also spent lots of time playing older games that have held up. Some of my most-played: Battletech FTL Civ 5 (Mostly Brave New World, largely as Venice) Kerbal Space Program XCOM: Enemy Unknown X-Com UFO Defense Endless Sky Door Kickers Into the Breach Atlantic Fleet Flotilla Atom Zombie Smasher Gunpoint Heat Signature Twilight Struggle Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Sid Meier's Colonization Roller Coaster Tycoon Jagged Alliance 2 MissionForce Cyberstorm Majesty Sid Meier's Pirates Star Wars Rebellion Final Liberation: Warhammer Epic 40,000 Triple Town Total Annihilation Satellite Reign Dawn of War: Dark Crusade Dawn of War 2 / Chaos Rising Company of Heroes Close Combat - Gateway to Caen Ironcast Crypt of the NecroDancer Mini Metro Mutant Year Zero Frozen Synapse Chroma Squad Massive Chalice Qvadriga Bionic Dues Ace Patrol / Ace Patrol 2 Favourite solo strategy gaming moment of the decade Defeating the 'impossible' boss of the FTL preview build on OnLive for Kickstarter backers. Playing Iran-Iraq war as a Twilight Struggle headline card and finding out that the AI had played Iranian Hostage Crisis as its headline card Favourite multiplayer strategy gaming moment of the decade Nothing of note Favourite strategy game made in this decade Toss-up between FTL and Into The Breach. As a software developer, I'm in awe of not just their system design skills, but also their discipline in scope control and masterful UI/UX work on top of their marketing/business acumen. Biggest disappointment of the decade The trend for online retailers to pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap in general. Steam sales in particular. Your thoughts on the evolution of the strategy games during the decade The economics of game development continues to evolve. Games are pretty unique in terms of content that is produced, distributed, and consumed and I think it's an issue the industry is still grappling with. 1) The relationship between publishers and developers. In traditional game publisher model is similar to that of a book publisher - speculate on lots of prospects, with the expectation that most will fail, some will break even or succeed modestly, and the sheer weight of probability will mean that the one or two that become blockbusters will effectively subsidize the payments to the 99% that fade away. It's basically the insurance model in reverse. Many publishers though, seem to have moved towards backing a smaller number of very large projects with generally better odds of at least not failing terribly. That leaves the publishers and any internal studios vulnerable to a string of bad releases. On the other hand, indies that self-publish are almost like independent bands without a record label - a handful will succeed and profit enormously, and the majority will personify the starving artist stereotype without any profit-sharing mechanism. 2) As games in general mature as a medium, the back catalogues become increasingly important and adds to the market saturation. Consider that when Hitman 2 releases, it needs to compete with Hitman(2016) for my attention. Wargame: Red Dragon has to compete with Wargame: AirLand Battle. The long tail of a game that ages gracefully is actively diverting attention and potentially money from newer games that have yet to recoup their costs. Crying Suns is a perfectly fine game, but I would recommend FTL to someone before Crying Suns, even though it is 7-8 years older. In some ways, this is analogous to classic novels or films, but games often demand a larger time investment than either of those. 3) Rise in cross-platform games. I'm not sure how much of this is thanks to the ubiquity of Unity and Unreal or the fact that this generation's console hardware converged heavily with the PC, but between that and increasingly powerful mobile hardware, we're seeing games being published across PC, PS4, XBox, and increasingly, Switch, iOS, and Android devices as well. 4) Change in the shape of the market - What games are popular in Chin? Korea? Japan? India? South America? Some of them are still the same blockbusters from North American/European studios, but I expect plenty of differences in taste and creations from teams specializing in those markets. We've seen lots of specialist grognard games (the kind with the 90's WinForm UIs and purchased via mail-order cheque) start showing up on general digital distribution platforms. The floor for a game's success (single developer breaking even) hasn't changed in decades, but the peak - both the cost and rewards of the most successful games like a GTA V or Witcher 3, or a League of Legends are almost unfathomable. Much like the ballooning size of tech giants relative to traditional industrial/resource/financial/telecom companies compared to just a decade ago.
  5. I was going to say the same thing. Darkness also comes much faster near the equator too. You also wouldn't get the long sunset/twilight that you do up north. That said, on the subject of design choices, it would have been handy if there were designer notes to give a more detailed explanation for design intent and choices/if they were available for the panel to read. There was an RPS interview with the designer on some of the design choices, which were interesting.
  6. Three Moves Ahead Episode 480: 1999

    Episode 134! I think Reynolds was looking for inspiration for insults and didn't find much from Dune except for "Destroying you would be a service to humanity!" and he instead listened to the full and unabridged Les Miserables. That was also the point where Troy immediately declared his love for Brian
  7. Three Moves Ahead Episode 480: 1999

    There was just something about the flight dynamics of the ships in XWA that made them feel a bit more lightweight; a bit less tight than in TIE Fighter or X-Wing. I don't recall playing X-wing vs. TIE Fighter, so maybe the change happened around then. Yes and no. If you hire all cheap mercs and play on easy, your experience will definitely be similar. 1) In JA2, high-level mercs no longer require you to have a proven history before working with you, so you can start off with some high level mercs 2) The optimal strategy is to hire at least a couple high-level mercs at the beginning for 1 day (possible even on the highest difficulty level) so that you can get their gear (Gus Tarballs with his G41 or anyone with a Mini-14 will give you a huge range and firepower advantage over pistols and SMGs) 3) If you play on higher difficulty levels, the enemy weapons will get better faster, letting you salvage better weapons and ammo sooner and in greater quantities 4) Using melee to disable enemies and steal their weapons is not only viable but often important in the early game. Ambushing a lone enemy or two behind a blind corner or inside a building works best.
  8. Three Moves Ahead Episode 480: 1999

    Between Jagged Alliance 2, Alpha Centauri, Close Combat 3 (released New Year's Eve 1998, so...) and with shoutouts to X-wing Alliance and Homeworld, I've not only spent more hours playing games from this year than any other, but I could probably give up new games and just continue playing these games for many more years (assuming they continue working on newer OS'. JA2 has been finicky and hates alt-tabbing)
  9. Yeah, I have the same complaint as _bloomy_. This is also an issue with the previous episode, where everyone other than Rob sounded a little muffled, but Rowan's volume is especially uneven in this episode. He ranges from being almost as clear as Rob to being almost completely inaudible
  10. I'd still love a remake or a new Crimson Skies, but looking it up, the games were kinda flops which probably explains why that IP has been dormant since the original X-Box
  11. Having replayed X-Com and TIE Fighter just last year, I'd say they both hold up very well. TIE Fighter (and X-Wing) just has a responsiveness that I feel greatly helped immersion to a degree that other games (including the later X-Wing Alliance) never really matched. The original campaign in TIE Fighter (especially the early ones) were the real stand outs though. On top of creative mission design, they went a long way towards making you feel like a part of a larger operation that most other flight sims/space games didn't manage to do. (In fact, the TIE Fighter expansion campaigns also fall into the same trap, often pitting player and a handful of wingmen against seemingly endless waves of enemies). My own 1994 shout-outs would have to include Raptor: Call of the Shadows for reasons of pure nostalgia. Playing it now, the small size of the studio (6 individuals in the credits) is apparent in details like how few frames of animation there are (only the player's craft and a small number of enemies actually have any animation at all), but at the time, the detailed SVGA sprites on our 486 blew my 10-year old mind. Shout out as well to EA's US Navy Fighters, one of the then-popular accessible 'survey' flight sims (the engine would be re-used under the Jane's branding for ATF and the Fighters Anthology collection) and the only one in its family to make use of FMV. Also an interestingly topical setting because the campaign depicts... a Russian invasion of the Ukraine, including seizing the Crimea and Ukrainian vessels of the Black Sea fleet. Another minor omission is Bullfrog's Theme Park. And yes, I'm well aware that the definitive RollerCoaster Tycoon combines the uh, Theme of Theme Park with the developer (and seemingly a good chunk of the engine) of Transport Tycoon.
  12. Speaking of possible mods/alternative game modes for an expansion, one pet peeve of mine is that all the work put into certain scenarios is never reused or available for use in non-scenario games. For example, the setting for the Empire of the Smoky Skies steampunk scenario from the Civ V Gods & Kings expansion. That said, I'd love an Xcom scenario played out as a diplomatic/proxy fight between Xcom and the aliens trying to sway existing factions the way you would try to line up city-states in a normal game.
  13. People's General is stuck in my mind mainly because the PLA Engineer units were so intensely overpowered, plus supply units could be deployed from supply units, leading to first turns that could sprint across the map provided you had enough units to steamroll any obstacles (see first comment about engineers)
  14. I think Uprising had a similar schtick to Battlezone a year earlier, but it isn't as well known.
  15. Episode 426: Into the Breach

    I find that the writing and the setting of the game reminds me of a line from Rob when describing Brian Reynold's writing for the setting of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri - about being evocative without excess exposition. It's something I also appreciate in William Gibson's writing (the short story Hinterlands still gives me chills). In ITB, one thing that becomes increasingly obvious in the later islands is how much of humanity's predicament is self-inflected. Archive's worship of the past hampers their research into new technology - the generic pilots will make comments about how archaic Archive's weapons are or how advanced the player's mechs are in comparison. R.S.T.'s drive to deny the Vek any refuge has turned their island into a desert wasteland, and seems to be ultimately futile - new Vek burrow up from freshly terraformed sand dunes. In an ironic twist, Vek never burrow up from mountains, but some R.S.T. and Detritus objectives involve destroying mountains. Pinnacle's AI weapons and weather control tech goes haywire and endangers their creators Detritus Recycling's island is a toxic dump
  16. Episode 342: Satellite Reign

    Going to revisit this topic since I've just finished playing Satellite Reign over 30 hours while sick during the New Year weekend. 1) I never really felt as cornered as Rob seems to have felt as the AI is not particularly inquisitive and the energy reserves of your characters is often enough to outrun the sight radius of reinforcements. 2) There are many approaches to executing a compound infiltration, but I found that the first step was always to brainjack a guard for a very leisurely casing out 3) Cyberpunk is a multilayered beast - and the elite blackops teams coexist with lots of incompetent and corrupt forces and lots of more desperate ragged bands of ne'er-do-wells. Gameplay-wise, combat had a strange sensation of familiarity that irritated me until I figured it out: It's like Dawn of War 2. There's even a support/heavy weapon/leader/sneaky dude class breakdown, character levelling, and equipment. The only things missing (and would have added to the scavenger nature of the operation) were loot and squads (which captive drones/mind-jacked guards kind of fill in for). The open-world nature and ability to initiate combat at any time reminded me of Fallout 1/2, and the sneaky infiltration/heist timing is (as was noted in many reviews) reminiscent of the Desperados/Commandos genre (or the newer Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun). And that is exactly how I would describe it: An open-world real-time tactics game with a major in infiltration and minor in small-unit combat - referring to RPGs for the open-world nature, Commandos/Desperados for the planning and suspense, and DoW2 for the way the combat feels (reinforced by the way my Soldier kept blowing himself up with heavy weapons - the friendly AI is not very good at determining minimum ranges and what cover can be shot through)
  17. So a couple things I take issue with: 1) It's fine and all that time constraints and the meandering thread of discussion prevents in-depth research before the show, but the groping around for game release years was painful in light of the Internet being available 2) In the context of the time, Dark Reign was a far from mediocre release, often being rated higher than Total Annihilation. Total Annihiliation's claim to fame was probably the 3D engine and (seemingly) 3D terrain (I remember a 3MA interview with Chris Taylor where he reveals how much of a hack that was) - games that we remember fondly are not necessarily the critical darlings of their time. Remember that SimCity 2000 and Roller Coaster Tycoon both got solid but unremarkable ratings when they released 3) I've dug up an old PC Gamer magazine of mine (February 1997) at peak-RTS that had a massive preview section of games that might actually fill out your mediocrity list. A quick "What ever happened to..." a) Rebellion - Covered in an earlier podcast this year - a critical and sales flop, but a bit of a cult favourite and oddly engaging COIN game Army Men - Released early 98 and spawned several sequels. I seem to remember it being more of an action game though. c) Uprising - hybrid RTS/action game. Released late '97 I think this was overshadowed by Battlezone which released just 4-5 months later with far more publicity d) Starcraft - The juggernaut that seems to have frozen a segment of the genre in an 18-year time warp and annexed it for Blizzard for perpetuity e) Star Command (Revolution): By new studio Metropolis Digital, published by GT Interactive. Released in 97, I've literally never heard anything from this game afterwards f) 7th Legion - Developed by Epic Megagames and Vision Software. The preview notes that it was supposed to replace resource management with kill bounties. Attractive screenshots, but a common criticism was a lack of animation. Unlike Star Command, this is on GoG and Steam where the reviews are equally mediocre g) Battlemage - published by Acclaim. The wikipedia entry notes a poor reception due to cheating AI, poor interface, and imbalanced gameplay h) Dark Reign - the subject of the podcast and introduced many of the same AI options as Total Annihilation Some games mentioned only in brief in the same issue or that I ran across in other issues between June '96 and January '98: i) Myth - Only a description of the graphical differences and weather effects were given, but it was mentioned in the podcast j) X-com Apocalypse - I remember at the time that this got a middling reception and my own attempts to play it were badly affected by bugs. I never played it in real-time mode k) KKND - Released in '97 and warranted a sequel. Has favourable reviews on GoG actually. Metacritic and Gamespot have more mediocre reviews l) Baldies - A console port that was previously released on of all places, the Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, and PS1. I could find literally nothing about the PC game m) War Diary - Published by The Game Factory as a discount title according to the magazine brief. Wikipedia has an entry that makes it sound like a Korean market game. At that price point, it may also have just been fad-based shovelware. It's hard to tell n) Dominion - mentioned only because I saw the ad in the magazine. Developed by 7th Level and published/finished by Ion Storm, released in 1998. I guess the ads just ran early. Another clone product it seems like o) Z - I actually loved this game - it presage many of the mechanics that Relic would crib for Dawn of War and Company of Heroes such as units being squads of soldiers instead of single units and accumulating resources by capturing and holding territory. The recent ports have been unmitigated disasters, but the core gameplay has a real CoH without cover mechanics or special abilities vibe to it. Evenly matched sides and arena theming made it a break from the usual story-based missions p) Mechcommander - Fasa Interactive/Microprose game using the Battletech IP (as do the various Mechwarrior games). Attractive graphics, but more puzzle-based mission design. I personally liked it a lot, but it was another one of those middleweight performers. IP acquired by Microsoft along with all the other Fasa IP, so we can only hope that one day they see fit allow commercial re-release. I think Mechcommander and Mechcommander 2 were both released as open-source by MS some years ago, but it's hard to find references to this now q) Did anyone remember that Lords of the Realm II had a RTS battle resolution mode? Or that Fallout Tactics, SWAT 2 and MAX 2 had both turn-based and real-time combat options, like X-Com Apocalypse? r) War Wind and War Wind II actually received some fairly solid reviews, but weren't enough for SSI to break into the RTS market s) More wargame than RTS, but Close Combat released in 1996, (the much nicer looking and playing) Close Combat II, and Sid Meier's Civil War games released in 1997/1998. SSI also had two RTS games of similar scale based on the Warhammer license t) Dark Colony - a sci-fi try published by SSI and developed by now-Take-Two Interactive (previously Rockstar Canada previously Alternative Reality Technologies). Graphically detailed, but another that would suit the mediocre title better than Dark Reign u) Earth 2140 - Polish developer, released '97, got two sequels in the mid 2000's - it seems pretty average to me, but it looks like it may have caught a wave in some European markets v) Syndicate Wars - One of the last of the DOS games - I get the impression that the game is more like a cyberpunk Cannon Fodder than a Command & Conquer x) Conquest Earth - Published by Eidos and generally just plain bad
  18. Episode 302: The 4X Genre

    As a side note, something jolted by a recent Idle Thumbs robot news... does the music in the Alpha Centauri opening right after the Conclave Bible quote remind anyone else of the (also apocalyptic) Terminator 2 theme?
  19. Episode 302: The 4X Genre

    Oh, that's another favourite of mine. I wonder what Reynolds is up to these days with Zynga being in rough straits.
  20. Episode 302: The 4X Genre

    Re-listening to this podcast again (one of my favourite episodes), I'm struck by Rob's description of Alpha Centauri. The way he describes it makes it sound like it has the same relationship with traditional 4x games that Watchmen has with superhero comics. I've always found the victory condition in Civ (or any other game) to feel rather artificial. I'm reminded of William Gibson's quip that the future is just... more stuff.
  21. Episode 312: Historical Accuracy

    This seems to be accounted for in the wikipedia article that the 3.7's were not as numerous, often attached directly to higher level HQs above division level, the system was much heavier than the 88, prolonged firing at low elevations were outside the design spec and strained the mounting gear. Not that they couldn't have developed the gun into an AT weapon (It actually ended up as the QF 32 pounder), but by late 1942 they had the famous 17 pounders available. In this day of multi-decade procurement programs, it's easy to forget how short the system development and deployment cycles in WW2 were.
  22. Episode 293: Close Combat

    I think it's pretty easy, but I haven't played any past the 3rd. You can control the speed and issue orders while paused, which takes a lot of the sting out of it and the tutorials were pretty good.
  23. Episode 293: Close Combat

    I think one of the big changes from A Bridge Too Far to Eastern Front was the move from having limits on force composition (a certain number of slots divided between infantry and support slots) to Eastern Front's no-limit unit slots allowing the player to replace all infantry with tanks (and on some of those steppes maps, that was probably advisable). Tank machine guns also became much more potent against infantry in the sequel. In the first two games, it would still take some time for a tank to completely destroy a squad caught in the open, while in CC3, it seemed to happen too fast to attempt dropping smoke to extract the squad in trouble. Also, I was hoping for more of a discussion on the very first game which didn't even let the player choose their forces, instead streaming seemingly random reinforcements to the player after every day of fighting.
  24. Episode 258: A Land War in Asia

    As for where next to take the series, how about a science fiction setting? I bet the engine would work well with a Hammer's Slammers or an Ogre license.
  25. Episode 250: More Than a Box

    The cuts in the opening of this episode were very confusing. It took a while to realize what was going on and longer to realize it was intentional and not Michael Hermes having a seizure.