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Troy Goodfellow

Episode 250: More Than a Box

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Troy and Rob mark episode 250 by looking at a new game from Proxy Games and Matrix. Does Pandora live up to its ambitions as a spiritual successor to one of strategy gaming's most beloved titles? Listen as they look at the old wine in not very alien wineskins.

 

Plus some kind words for everyone that has gotten us this far.

 


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joasoze   

I like you talk about Pandora, BUT did you ever finish a game? There is a strong stack of doom deterrent in this game. The AI killed my stack of doom easily with late game tech. It was bombing if I remember correctly.

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hexgrid   

It's kind of too bad you couldn't have done the Banner Saga episode next week: "We'll be moving slowly over to RPGs, and to set the stage here's a spiritual descendent of Final Fantasy Tactics...".

 

I might never have known Pandora existed were it not for 3MA, and now I'm probably going to wind up getting it. I wonder if Matrix (or the developers publishing through them) realize how difficult they've made it for strategy gamers to discover their wares?  If they were available on Steam or GOG or Desura or something I might have stumbled across it. I find the Matrix website reminds me of a parts catalog for a component manufacturer (pages 34-41 ... bolts, pages 42-45 ... flanged bolts, ...) and I've yet to find a web browser that really gets along with the giant horizontal scrollbar of all their products.

 

I think the answer to the podcast question of "why hexes?" is that the developers have a previous game that appears to be hex-based as well. I'd be shocked if Pandora isn't built around the previous game's core, especially with a small developer like this.

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hexgrid   

Congrats on hitting the 250 mark!

 

Yes, that too! I think I first tuned in around episode 20 or so, and the podcast has never failed to entertain and enlighten.  I listen to several podcasts, and sometimes I build up a backlog of episodes (ie: right now I've got 3 Crate & Crowbar episodes, 2 Game Design Roundtable episodes and a few others kicking around waiting to be listened to), but I never get a backlog of 3MA; I always find myself making time to listen to it as soon as it is feasible.

 

I've actually (partly thanks to an hour long train commute) listened though the whole archive of episodes several times. Any chance of releasing the long-lost episode 1 in some form so I can complete the set? :)

 

And yes, Rob, some day when I can scrape up the time and if someone doesn't beat me to it, I'll build that star fort simulator you said you wanted in... what was it, episode 64?

 

There's a lot of condensed wisdom in 3MA.  With my gamer hat on it exposes me to games and genres I might not otherwise have noticed; Pandora, for instance, went right under my radar. With my developer hat on, there is a wealth of thoughtful analysis and observation that is immensely useful. I'm also not above enjoying it when the hosts let go a bit and rip up a game that richly deserves it.

 

Keep up the excellent work!

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I also had no idea about Pandora before this, I'll have to give it a try. 

 

And congrats on the 250 episodes! I think I could listen to you all talk about just about anything. Not that this is an endorsement of turning 3MA into a Final Fantasy podcast... 

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Congratulations on the 250 show!

 

 

It's kind of too bad you couldn't have done the Banner Saga episode next week: "We'll be moving slowly over to RPGs, and to set the stage here's a spiritual descendent of Final Fantasy Tactics...".

 

I might never have known Pandora existed were it not for 3MA, and now I'm probably going to wind up getting it. I wonder if Matrix (or the developers publishing through them) realize how difficult they've made it for strategy gamers to discover their wares?  If they were available on Steam or GOG or Desura or something I might have stumbled across it. I find the Matrix website reminds me of a parts catalog for a component manufacturer (pages 34-41 ... bolts, pages 42-45 ... flanged bolts, ...) and I've yet to find a web browser that really gets along with the giant horizontal scrollbar of all their products.

 

I think the answer to the podcast question of "why hexes?" is that the developers have a previous game that appears to be hex-based as well. I'd be shocked if Pandora isn't built around the previous game's core, especially with a small developer like this.

 

Final Fantasy Tactics actually could be a good potential show...

 

Got to agree about Matrix game begin hard to find, I mean, I heard about them (and Pandora) but I never found them (or know where to find) or their website until a couple of days. I could understand reservations about steam or the difficult to get there (due the bizarre behavior of greenlight) but Gamergate is could be a option...

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Congrats on Episode 250!

 

There were two points y'all made about Pandora that got me thinking.

 

First off, unit customization, unit specialization, and unit diversity.  I remember Troy talking about how it just got to be too much, keeping track of what units you might need and what effects they might have on which battles.  The particular unit types he mentioned, anti-air and mobile-anti-air, got me thinking of another genre which has more or less already solved this problem - the traditional war game.  Wargames assume that units above a particular size (say, a division) will be fairly general purpose.  My typical World War 2 German Infantry division is going to have some anti-tank, some anti-air, some engineers, etc.  It has quantities of all those specialists built into it.  Games like War in the East keep count of such things, while more simple games like Unity of Command have ways of designating units with unusually large concentrations of specialist units via the Specialist Steps.  If empire-building 4X games are going to have all these diverse bonuses and distinct specialist unit types available, it might behoove them to start taking some lessons from the traditional wargame about army composition and combat resoulution.  This would also help deal with the "stack of doom" problem.  Instead of having discrete units as in the traditional 4X games, build regiments or divisions, and group them together into a chain of command governed by clear and logical (and unpgradable by tech) limits and restrictions, and figure out how you want these to deploy on the map.  This is largely a solved problem in wargaming, and so it would make sense for 4X games that want a heavy focus on the military to figure out if any wargaming conventions might make sense.

 

Second, I was really interested in how y'all described the early-game feel of Pandora - it really feels like you're on a hostile world.  I'm glad to hear that a colonization game has finally captured that feel, but I think there's another aspect to the "colonizing alien planet" genre that games have yet to really address - the critical importance of your population in the early game, and the fact that it's a lot more important than a generic point of population.  If you think about any of the SF Novels that cover this terrain, maybe Legacy of Heorot by Niven and Pournelle and Barnes, the actual skills and personalities of the first (presumably small) group of settlers is a critical resource.  The loss of a single colonist might mean the loss of basically irrelacable knowledge and skills - sure, you can train a genetic biologist to operate advanced welding and machining tools, but that's hardly an efficient use of anyone's time.  Not only that, but there is the fact that human fertility and population growth cannot be assumed, and that the human population can reach a bottleneck from which it cannot recover.  Instead of a world-spanning empire building game, it would be interesting to see a much smaller scale game which takes these issues into account, and where instead of building infantry divisions, you're trying desperately to build a machine shop or an irrigation ditch.  It might end up looking a lot like King of Dragon Pass, but with bulldozers and shuttles and lasers instead of runes and heroes.

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hexgrid   

I grabbed Pandora, and I'm enjoying it.  Notable: when I installed it there was a patch, which I let it install. When I ran it, there were options for fonts, and one of them had "large" in the name. I took that, and haven't had much trouble reading the gui.

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hexgrid   

I've been playing the game for a while now, and... uh... it seems a *lot* like they may have borrowed some of their soundtrack from Azel Panzer Dragoon Saga.  Enough so that if I were them I'd be seriously worried about legal liability, and whether any of the rest of the soundtrack is similarly compromised.

 

Edit: Compare World9.ogg from the soundtrack to this:

 

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chanman   

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.

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MikeO   

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.

 

I felt the same way. Once I knew what the idea was, I loved it. As a listener from day one, I want to say that the shows under Rob have been absolutely fantastic. Even when a game is discussed which probably does not interest me, I still listen and relish each podcast. All the best to Michael Hermes, too, who has made TMA always an enjoyable listen. Michael is a great guest, too. All the best to you guys.

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Regarding Steam and Matrix Games, actually they announced on their website they're going to bring Panzer Corps to Steam, and after that some other titles, so they'll be present on Steam some time in the near future: http://www.matrixgames.com/news/1308/Panzer.Corps.gets.a.Greenlight

 

Ah, BTW, Achtung Panzer Operation Star (one of the titles by Graviteam, also in the Matrix Games catalog, but without any of the addons) is also available on Steam now (somehow it was made available via Steam over Strategy First).

Ah, and some comment regarding Pandora: They've also mentioned the Deadlock series (Deadlock:Planetary Conquest and Deadlock: Shrine Wars) as an influence besides Alpha Centauri. Not sure if you're aware about it, but since it's available on gog.com now, some classic review about Deadlock 1+2 would be nice. It's absolutely worth checking out for Civilization fans with an interest in Sci Fi. It's about colonies of several alien races and humans competing on a single planet (planet-based like Alpha Centauri), and if I'm not wrong it was actually released BEFORE Alpha Centauri (in 1996, the sequel in 1998, Alpha Centauri in 1999).

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hexgrid   

It's about colonies of several alien races and humans competing on a single planet (planet-based like Alpha Centauri), and if I'm not wrong it was actually released BEFORE Alpha Centauri (in 1996, the sequel in 1998, Alpha Centauri in 1999).

 

The 8bit and 16bit eras are treasure troves of forgotten ideas, many of which were excellent.

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siro   

You guys mentioned the IMPERIUM faction nonsensical backstory.

 

I went to read it on dev's site, and it seems like an allusion to once popular internet memes. Notice the 2nd paragraph in the backstory specifically mentions internet's 4chan.

 

Meanwhile their developing-world opponents cobbled together countertech from video game consoles, how-to guides on 4chan and sheer bile

 

The body-builders story could be an allusion to the bodybuilding forum, in one way or another.

 

Seems like the devs are internet culture nerds.

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