TSM Episode 357: Steaming into the New Year

'And what would you like, little boy?' -- 'Santa, I want Half Life 3 for Christmas.' -- 'Ho, ho, ho! Ho, ho, ho! Ho, ho, ho ho ha hahaha ahaha HA ha ha ha ha ha HA, HA, HA!'

The resemblance to Santa Claus is no coincidence!

Download: Released 2016.01.04

Steam fumbles the Christmas rush, the opposition crumbles in both(!) Boxing Day tests, SiliconNooB humbles his brother’s bumbled gift, and Lusipurr grumbles about irrational gamer consumerism in the first Lusipurr.com podcast of the year A.D. 2016.

17 comments on “TSM Episode 357: Steaming into the New Year”

  1. INFO PREVIEW:

    This week, I’ll cover some basic game design don’ts in relation to a board game that you may be familiar with.

    *(how does one properly pluralize don’t?)

  2. ‘Don’ts’ is correct.

    Also this may be the most useful Info Blast (to me at least) ever. Game design theory is something which I actually study!

  3. I’ll give you a hint: It’s based on a cult TV show and I’ve discussed it on the Info Blast before, though it would probably be fair to say that my opinion on it has changed somewhat.

  4. Star Trek The Next Generation VCR Board Game!? Yes!!!

    ‘You! The one who is moving now–don’t answer. Seeing you is enough. Experience bijj!’

  5. Info Blast Experiences Bij

    This week’s panel
    Silicon Noob
    Lusipurr

    NEWS
    Playstation VR frame rate thingamajig
    It’s weird, but at least they’ve recognized the problem before releasing something that would be genuinely disorienting.

    Steam Shenanigans
    As someone who wasn’t affected by this, I appreciated the technical aspect of it. I learned some things about session caching. Sucks for most users though.

    Nintendo does well in Japan
    Good for them. There is some quality Nintendo software out there right now. It’s such a shame that it’s on really spotty hardware.

    Xenoblade censorship
    This is why you were saying that I should buy this used? I guess I understand, but this stuff happens all the time. I remember a few years ago there was something about Persona games pulling out some content like this.

    FF9 PC
    This is probably the FF game that I know the least about.

    Bup Talk
    Discontinued

    Imitanis Literature Corner
    The Once and Future King by T.H. White
    Ch 15?
    Still not listened, sorry.

    Imitanis Entertainment Moment
    You can’t take the boring from me! OR How I learned to Stop Engaging and Dread the Game
    This week I played Firefly the Board Game. It was a dreadful experience. The game takes 2-3 hours on a good day with no expansions. On this particular day we played with something like 6 expansions. Two of these expansions in combination make the board twice as big as normal.

    Normal Setup
    Setup With Expansions

    I have no problem with large games, per se (I love Twilight Imperium 3, which is truly expansive), but a game has to earn its length and be honest about it. If a game should take 15 minutes and it take an hour, it’s substantially overstayed it’s welcome. This game took 4 hours, which can be typical for Firefly, but the game didn’t end itself. After flying around and sort of accomplishing things for almost an entire evening, we decided to call the game with no winner as it didn’t appear to be wrapping itself up.

    I’ve been studying game design (mostly the tabletop variety) as a personal interest and Firefly has crossed over from enjoyable evening to case study in don’ts:

    Don’t have an end game condition that is nebulous or easily reversed. This can lead to excruciatingly long games. If the end is player controlled then this can be even worse where a player in second place might drag a game out to try and pull a win while all of the other players have checked out. It makes for an awful gaming experience if only one player is engaged.

    Don’t depend too heavily on luck. In short games lots of luck keeps the pacing tight and exciting. In long games, luck is best used sparingly to provide moments of contrast and interest. Alternatively it can be used with less magnitude on the progress of the game. If a single die roll or card draw can put players back by a lot, then it can’t happen very often. Less swingy luck elements can be used frequently to add variety to games. Good: Draw 3 item cards, those are what’s in the store this round. Bad: Roll a die. 1-3: Player Dies, 4-6 Nothing Happens.

    If a game includes big swings of luck it will cripple anyone who trips on them. Crippled players often are aware of this and lose interest if they think they can no longer win. Most of the time these players simply disengage (see above), but sometimes they transform into trolls; seeking enjoyment at the expense of the other players.

    Don’t be a long game without interest spikes. If your game is nearly indistinguishable on turn 2 from turn 20 then you’ve failed to give your game an interesting arc. There must be some interesting changes in the state of the game in order to keep players interested over several hours. Conversely, don’t change the game constantly, making it unpredictable. Having no changes and having too many changes provide similar experiences surprisingly: players get bored, either from lack of anything interesting happening or from a lack of agency. In both cases nothing a player does has a meaningful impact on the course of the game.

    Battlestar Galactica is the perfect counter-example. For the first part(act) of the game, the players’ allegiances are unknown and tensions rise. As players uncover or are surprised by the hidden Cylons, then the game-state changes and is openly adversarial, but the players have a lot of control over when this happens. BSG earns its length, never changing the game too much between turns and still allowing for moments of glory or catastrophe. I’d say that giving players a way to mitigate their luck (by spending limited resources) makes the biggest difference here.

    Don’t leave your players with nothing productive to do. If luck (or bad play) puts a player in a spot where they can’t do what they wanted, then they need to have options that will allow them to continue to make some progress or they may feel that they’ve been cheated of their turn. If luck stalls a player out in the middle of nowhere on their way to a goal, they should be able to do something like sharpen their weapons, or repair their ship or take a long rest to help them succeed later.

    Firefly is guilty of all of these and a few more, but this is getting close to lecture length, so I’ll sum it up:
    Try and create a good interest curve in your game. Game state change is like salt: too much or too little makes a game(meal) boring (tasteless/inedible), especially if there’s a lot of it. Try to create an interest curve that has peaks and troughs without having too many of either. Giving players some agency over and their fate goes a long way towards this goal.

    DiceAdmiral Travel Moment
    I stayed at home aside from a brief day trip to visit family for the New Year.

    Final Notes
    Lusi is a Cricket Hipster.
    There is definitely a format. Say what you want, but you do the same thing every single week. That’s what a format is.
    I’m not saying anyone forgot anything. I’m just letting my readers know that there wasn’t one, so they don’t think that I forgot something.

    Final Quotes
    “Numbers in Japan are interesting”

    Donators
    Cumulative total record holder: Imitanis
    Single Donation record holder: Imitanis

    Game Winner: Billy B. Congratulations!
    I’m pretty sure he won something else, like the book drawing or something.

    Donators eligible for end of year drawing: 0! I finally know again!

    I’d love to be the first donator of this year, but you’d put me in the #1 slot, and then you’d have to roll a 1 for me to win. I think you should randomize your number assignment for next year.

  6. @A Dim Rice Lad:
    “It’s weird, but at least they’ve recognized the problem before releasing something that would be genuinely disorienting.”
    The alternative is the Oculus Rift.
    599 US DOLLARS
    599 US DOLLARS
    599 US DOLLARS

    “As someone who wasn’t affected by this, I appreciated the technical aspect of it. I learned some things about session caching.”
    Same here.

    It’s such a shame that it’s on really spotty hardware.
    The Wii U may not be ‘cutting edge’, but it is a long way from being ‘spotty’. In fact, I would say that it is Nintendo’s best hardware effort since the Gamecube. It’s a largely traditional console, with the now-standard gimmick, of course. But that gimmick is at least fairly inoffensive: much less so than the Motion Controls of the Wii or the Touchscreen controls of the NX if the prototype documents are to be believed. And don’t even get me started on VR.
    599 US DOLLARS
    599 US DOLLARS
    599 US DOLLARS

    This is why you were saying that I should buy this used? I guess I understand, but this stuff happens all the time.
    Assaults happen all the time. I suppose we should stop being upset when it happens. Or perhaps prevalance of a misconduct does not excuse that misconduct or provide a rationale by which it should be ignored.
    As an aggravating factor, the Xenoblade Chronicles censorship is arbitrary, without any apparent principles behind it (some ‘problematic’ content remains, whilst other innocuous stuff is removed). The article you link does not do a particularly good job of explaining the scope of the changes.
    Shrugging one’s shoulders because one is not particularly interested in the title is a perfectly myopic approach that works fine until the principles involved result in the censorship of something that one does actually care about, as many game weblogs are now discovering with their beloved Steven Universe cartoon.

    This is probably the FF game that I know the least about.
    You should remedy that.

    Discontinued
    No. It is not ‘discontinued’. It is just not in this podcast. Maybe it will be in the next podcast. Maybe not.

    This week I played Firefly the Board Game.
    That sounds dreadful.

    It was a dreadful experience.
    Thought so.

    I now want to make a Lusipurr.com board game which is genuinely the worst thing ever; a really long, tedious, arcane game with lots and lots of meaningless rules and victory conditions which are arbitrary, nebulous, and by-and-large unreachable.

    There is definitely a format. Say what you want, but you do the same thing every single week.
    No, we demonstrably do not, and that is why you keep putting ‘missing’ and ‘what happened to this segment’ and ‘discontinued’ in your list.

    I’m just letting my readers know that there wasn’t one
    By this logic you should let them know all of the other things that are not in the podcast as well. That will be a very extensive list, however, and will likely not fit on this website. Or the internet. So you may want to reconsider.

    Numbers in Japan are interesting
    They are. Have you seen them?

    I’m pretty sure he won something else, like the book drawing or something.
    I think so, too. But no one is exempted from the end-of-the-year drawing for anything except being a staff member.

    I’d love to be the first donator of this year, but you’d put me in the #1 slot, and then you’d have to roll a 1 for me to win.
    There is no difference whatsoever in needing me to roll a 1 for you than in needing me to roll a 13 or a 7 or a 20. The probability of each individual donator number being selected is exactly the same: [total number of individual donators]:1. The probablility of any number being rolled on a d20 is 20:1 (or 5%). A 1 is just as likely as a 20 or a 6: the chance of rolling any individual number is the same.

    I think you should randomize your number assignment for next year.
    Why? To placate an irrational and statistically false belief that some assigned numbers are more probable than others? No. That’s not the kind of thing we do here.

  7. Lusi:
    “599 US DOLLARS”
    I don’t know if that’s a PS3 reference or the actual price, but I was never going to buy one of these anyways. As far as price in general goes, I think that a system should be feature complete and more expensive than missing something key and a bit more affordable. I think of it like this: if 100 people buy something and all like it, great! If 150 people buy it and it sucks, then that’s 150 pissed off people, some of whom are going to shout about it.

    “The Wii U may not be ‘cutting edge’, but it is a long way from being ‘spotty’.”
    This was poor word choice on my part. I meant that adoption is low, so many of these games don’t get the sales and exposure that they deserve.

    “Assaults happen all the time. I suppose we should stop being upset when it happens.”
    I’m not saying that at all. People have a finite ability to care about things. I have to pick my battles and this didn’t make the cut. I understand why people think this is a bad thing, I just don’t care about this specific instance enough to go out of my way if I decide to get the game. I have no criticism of those who do want to do something about it though. More power to you.

    “You should remedy that.”
    If I do, it won’t be by playing it. My time is already quite limited.

    “No. It is not ‘discontinued’. ”
    I’m pretty sure that discontinued is the word that you used.

    “I now want to make a Lusipurr.com board game which is genuinely the worst thing ever”
    The problem is that you’ll have to make something that looks good and looks like fun so that players are actually drawn in to experience the awful and don’t pass entirely or give up early.

    “No, we demonstrably do not, and that is why you keep putting ‘missing’ and ‘what happened to this segment’ and ‘discontinued’ in your list.”
    A format does not have to be rigid. You have a floating format wherein you don’t always have every segment, but there are some cornerstones which appear on nearly every episode in roughly the same order.

    A rough outline of your format:
    -Opening music
    -Cast Introduction (usually with news reference)
    -Random chit-chat
    -Cricket News
    -Site Announcements
    -playthrough coverage
    -Games News
    -Bup Talk
    -Lit Corner
    -Entertainment Corner
    -Last minute news
    -Wrap-up/thank panel and donators
    -sign off
    -closing music

    “By this logic you should let them know all of the other things that are not in the podcast as well.”
    That’s expanding to the point of idiocy. It’s perfectly reasonable to make a note of common features which don’t appear in an episode. If something is no longer common, then I’ll drop it from my coverage, and if a new segment shows up I’ll add it. Or sometimes I won’t. I’m also arbitrary and capricious.

    “I think so, too. But no one is exempted from the end-of-the-year drawing for anything except being a staff member.”
    This was a comment on his luck, not ineligibility for winning.

    “There is no difference whatsoever in needing me to roll a 1 for you than in needing me to roll a 13 or a 7 or a 20.”
    I understand that, I just don’t want to be the 1.

    “Why? To placate an irrational and statistically false belief that some assigned numbers are more probable than others? No. That’s not the kind of thing we do here.”
    I never made any probabilistic claims. I just don’t want to be the 1.

    So, all of that game design talk, and you barely commented on it. Are those things you agree or disagree with? Most of them are applicable to other media as well, especially agency and interest curves.

  8. @Dr. Ida Malice:
    I don’t know if that’s a PS3 reference or the actual price
    Actual price of the Oculus Rift.

    This was poor word choice on my part.
    Understood.

    If I do, it won’t be by playing it.
    You are missing out. FFIX is exceptional.

    I’m pretty sure that discontinued is the word that you used.
    “This was poor word choice on my part.”

    The problem is that you’ll have to make something that looks good and looks like fun so that players are actually drawn in to experience the awful and don’t pass entirely or give up early.
    Nonsense. Lusipurr Media Enthusiasts will buy anything. We’ll slap my name on the front of the box and sell them at $99.99 each.

    there are some cornerstones which appear on nearly every episode in roughly the same order
    As I recall, when we last changed it, you became angry about not having been informed first! But, as you like it.
    :)

    That’s expanding to the point of idiocy.
    Yes. So?

    I understand that, I just don’t want to be the 1.
    Why? If all of the numbers have precisely the same use-value, what does it matter?

    Are those things you agree or disagree with?
    Most things I agree with; there are a few things with which I would quibble. We will discuss it more in next week’s podcast. As I said on Twitter, my time right now is extremely limited.

  9. I’m not saying that at all. People have a finite ability to care about things. I have to pick my battles and this didn’t make the cut. I understand why people think this is a bad thing, I just don’t care about this specific instance enough to go out of my way if I decide to get the game.

    Explain to me how buying a used copy is “going out of your way”. It seems to me that there is no more effort involved than buying new – and each time someone does it it costs Nintendo $60.

  10. I can’t remember the last time I went to a store to buy a game, especially a game store. I just don’t buy games that way anymore. I either download them or get them online. Neither option offers a reliable way to get something used. I’m not trusting Amazon’s used selection.

    Besides the point, I don’t even know if I dislike what they did enough to get a used copy. I’m simply not invested enough to really have all of the details.

    Also, low sales of Xenoblade X is more likely to be read as ‘They don’t like RPGs on Nintendo consoles’ than ‘they are upset about censorship’. So I’m not sure it would even make the point you want, and may deter future efforts to translate these kind of games or to even make them for Nintendo consoles. So, I’d have to read a some about the censorship, weigh that against my above point and then find a decent used copy for a reasonable price. All of that, for what will be a random splurge purchase if I even get it, which I still might not. I have a passing interest in this game.

  11. Why? If all of the numbers have precisely the same use-value, what does it matter?
    Call it gamer’s superstition.

  12. Most things I agree with; there are a few things with which I would quibble. We will discuss it more in next week’s podcast.
    Good to hear. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

  13. @DA:
    “Call it gamer’s superstition.”
    Did you not write, “I never made any probabilistic claims. I just don’t want to be the 1,” in response to my comment addressing both the irrational belief that the numbers are somehow more or less likely, and that I should randomise the number list so as to placate that irrationality?

    The numbers are all equally likely to be selected. Ergo, your supersition is nonsense. I prefer to avoid reaffirming nonsensical beliefs, and so there will be no randomisation.

    SORTED.

  14. “supersition is nonsense”
    I agree. That’s why it’s superstition and not statistics.

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