Ep. 141 - Park My Bricks

Wario may be the Bonk of Nintendo, but unfortunately for him–Sega is back. Music ‘Stage 11-2 Theme’ from Vice Project Doom-Guitar Cover performed by YouTube user zer0_hunter 6066 and ‘Grabbag’ from Duke Nukem 3D.

**Questions this week:**

  • 1. Nintendo Switch Online (03:38)
  • 2. Video Game Reality Shows (09:50)
  • 3. The Sega Aesthetic (15:49)
  • 4. Games for Broken Thumbs (22:01)
  • 5. Improv Zone: Wily vs. Robotnik (27:35)
  • 6. Have you ever been sitting in your car, at a traffic light or in a parking spot, and the car next to you starts moving slowly... and you freak out and think you're the one moving? What a weird feeling! How can this feeling be translated into a video game? Question by Patreon Supporter Adam (35:56)
  • 7. Cowardly Video Games (40:39)
  • 8. Your Walk-Up Song (46:41)
  • 9. Modern Day LCD Adaptations (52:38)
  • 10. Is Wario a Libertarian? (58:59)
  • LIGHTNING ROUND: Duke Nukem One Liners (1:04:58)

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    Oh god, Final Fantasy XV might be the ultimate Cowardly Video Game for me. It just felt so sickeningly eager to please. You had some pretty good exploration and combat for most of the game, but in any remotely dramatic moment it all gets completely hamstrung because it has to be “cinematic.” We can‘t let it feel like a video game because video games are silly. Half the boss battles get either complicated by these showy QTEs or turn into a completely different game because the plot activates Noctis’ Super Saiyan Prince Powers, and suddenly I don‘t even feel like I’m doing anything. In dungeons everyone had to creep around on tiptoes at an infuriatingly slow pace and go through these scripted conversations about how spooky the dungeon is, and it just made me hate exploring and want the dungeon to end as soon as possible. Later I replayed it for a few hours and saw they actually FIXED that so you can just walk and run normally, but it constantly interrupts all the dialogue because you can run into the next dialogue triggers or scripted battles way too early. So now I'm not even sure if I like it fixed!

    In fact, a lot about what rubs me the wrong way are the patches. On day one they hastily patched in clips from the tie-in movie to supplement the scene where the party hears about Lucis being invaded, muddying what I thought was otherwise a pretty relatable scene of these dudes feeling powerless in the face of a disaster happening miles away, glued to the news for more information. I guess they thought we'd be confused or something if we didn't "see" it happen? But the clips included characters that don't show up in the game, so it felt like foreshadowing for stuff that would never pay off. Plus it looked noticeably different from any of the actual game cutscenes, so it stuck out like a sore thumb.

    I played the infamous Chapter 13 pre-patch, and it was frustrating, but I don't know, maybe that was fine? I didn't bother to play the revised version so I can't say if the improvements are worth ditching the tone they were originally going for. It's weird. I thought the story was dumb and overly complicated so I wasn't really all that invested in it, but I also kind of respected it less for trying so hard to meet my expectations? I just kept hearing about all these patches and was like "is this where games are at now? If you try to do something that challenges people and they don't like it, you just patch that version out of existence and replace it with something more agreeable?" Something about that just rubbed me the wrong way. I guess the DLC stuff got canceled before they could follow up on this, but I remember a couple years ago Hajime Tabata was asking fans at an event whether they wanted to see an alternate happy ending or sad ending. I don't know, man! What do YOU want? Are you the director or not???

    I think about this game a lot. It feels dumb to write this much about it, because I'm not sure I even would have liked it substantially better without all this stuff. It's like the anti-Citizen Kane of Video Games to me, because it makes me question whether or not video games can actually be art. Like, I hated the new Star Wars movie because it felt like a gutless retcon of all the stuff I liked in The Last Jedi that made people mad, but at least I can just ignore it and still enjoy The Last Jedi. What if they could patch _movies_???


    Hear, hear! I was pretty disappointed in FFXV, largely for the thing you‘re talking about. It didn’t feel like there was anything coherently intentional to its design-hjust a bunch of levels and quests and character designs amd food slapped together because players “like” that stuff. I played Ch. 13 pre-patch and thought it was actually one of the better parts of the game–finally, the designers reduced the scope of the world enough to actually make a statement with their video game design sensibilities. I also haven‘t played it post-patch and so can’t attest to whether it's better now, but from what I heard about it at the time it sounded like a whole lot more of giving players what they think they want.

    The Broken Thumbs game discussion is interesting mainly because I have friends who straight up don‘t have use of thumbs on one hand but still play and in some cases design videogames. It’s made me think about one of the games I‘m designing and I’m like “does this have to be a twin stick shooter? could I just implement autoaim instead?”. Some early Shmups like Gleylancer and Battle Mania 2 also try to do multi-directional shooting but without twin sticks, and have multiple settings you can use to get around this. It's also weird to think about how most controllers depend upon thumbs for multiple inputs in different contexts, like you use face buttons for major functions but also the right analog stick to look around.

    I sort of feel like FFXV was cowardly in the other direction - they should‘ve stuck with the goofy funtimes vibe that was 99% of the video game, and just cut out all the dumb cutscene nonsense. I never understood what was going on in the cutscenes, the emotional tone was complete whiplash between gameplay and cutscenes, and I think they could’ve leaned even further into the nonsense. I stopped playing because they forced me into some Actual Story Stuff where all my charaxters suddenly hate each other now, and it‘s like… that’s not the game I was playing for the last 40 hours or whatever, and it‘s not the game I’m interested in playing now.

    @exodus#3115 Oh no dude, I agree, that‘s what it should have been in the first place. What I’m trying to say is, it was like two kinds of cowardice tugging in opposite directions - they were afraid to make it too silly and video game-y and kept interrupting all the fun stuff to make it more cinematic, but also once it was out they kept getting wigged out by player feedback and trying to patch out the boring parts, so it was like, they didn't even have any confidence in the choices they already made. The final result is slightly more fun to actually play but it also feels less cohesive, and it just gives off a weird vibe to me. I admit my feelings about it are probably a little contradictory, lol. Maybe I just wish AAA games development was cheaper and faster and they could just immediately apply whatever lessons they learned from player feedback to a new game instead of spending years gutting the thing they just made

    The modern day lcd game question is an interesting one. Even 10 years ago they were making lcd versions of Guitar Hero.

    The work being done in Mame over the last few years on emulating these systems has been incredible to watch. As of last week at least one version of every Game & Watch title has been preserved in Mame.

    Some non-Nintendo games are even on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/handheldhistory

    As someone who actually had a thumb in a cast for a month the “broken thumbs” questions was interesting to me. Rhythm games are a way to go but surprised nobody mentioned the dance pad either for DDR or as a alternate controller.

    My favorite Duke one liner comes from Duke nukem forever, where he fights a boss with three breasts and says "Baby, You make me wish I had THREE guns." A reference to both a line from Total Recall and the "you can only carry two guns at once" FPS convention it took part in.

    That singular clever but crass joke is the most positive memory I have of Duke Nukem Forever.

    The Sega Aesthetic

    I really enjoy wandering around the area surrounding the Makuhari Messe convention center during TGS. There‘s a place literally called Techno Garden, which isn’t as exciting as it sounds, but still looks cool.

    Near the Techno Garden area is a vividly colored mall that looks exciting on the outside, but is kind of boring on the inside (there is, however, a Sega arcade in there because of course there is). Even closer to TGS is another mall like space that's cool looking, but mostly empty. Here are some photos of some favorite spots in that area that carry that Sega spirit.


    Also included in the last image was a cool flower statue around Nakano Broadway, I think, which also felt very Knuckles Chaotix/Sonic CD-like, so I had to take a photo of it.


    I walk up to the plate, strike out, and I become so consumed by rage that it triggers my artificial body and unleashes the ultimate weapon.

    @GigaSlime ah, yeah, totally agreed. We got a postmortem of Final Fantasy XIII for Game Developer magazine back in the day, and they talked about how they didn't know what game they were making for 2 years so artists just made art. You can really extra feel that the same precise thing happened in FFXV, and it never fully came together.

    @Moon ah yeah, totally blanked on the dance pad! That would've been a great answer.

    @JJSignal heckkkkk I miss going places! Makuhari is totally a Sega zone, but it needs color correction to really make it happen. It's like eternally grey around Makuhari in my mind. I think it's because all the colorful stuff is out in the sun getting bleached in the summer, then TGS is in the fall-ish, so the weather is grey, making it faded color against a grey background, which is a bit more Sony than it is Sega, heh heh. But yeah, imagining this stuff with the right amount of vibrancy... that'd be it.

    Losing my mind at the idea of rc car rocket league, how hasn't this blown up as a thing already?

    An example of a video game being cowardly came to me immediately so I made an account specifically to post it. The game in question is Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, which is extremely good for the most part, but this one decision always really annoyed me. This is a spoiler for one of the main twists in the 4th case so don‘t continue reading if you haven’t played it!

    On the second day of the 4th case, you get a chance to borrow some equipment Gumshoe in order to continue your investigation. He gives you a choice between a fishing pole, a dog, and a metal detector, and it seems like none of them will be any use, but you use the metal detector to find some evidence. The impression is that the choice is a simple puzzle; which of these three useless tools will help you? Aha, the answer is the metal detector. So that puzzle has been solved, and you can forget about the metal detector now. But you never get around to giving it back to Gumshoe.

    On the third day, Phoenix decides that his inventory is getting a little bloated so he clears out everything he doesn't think he'll need anymore. The only evidence that remains is essential to the investigation, including the metal detector. He hasn't done that up until that point in the game, and I don't think he ever does it again in the rest of the series (although I've only finished the first three.) There are times when Phoenix gets rid of a single piece of evidence immediately after using it if it's, like, a note he's delivering, but usually evidence stays in your inventory for the remainder of the case as a kind of red herring. So it's really weird that the game would clear out all the useless evidence, and extra weird that it lets you keep the metal detector, which you've already used to solve a puzzle. When I got to this part I immediately started thinking about why I got to keep the metal detector, and it nagged at me for the rest of the case.

    At the very end of the case, you need to find a bullet that should have been at the crime scene. It's the very last obstacle to proving who the real murderer is, and the solution is to use the metal detector on the murderer to find that he's been hiding the bullet in his shoulder for 15 years!!! It's a very fun way to re-use a piece of evidence that should have been finished with, and its a great twist in the mystery. But the execution flops somewhat because once the trial brings up the mystery of a "second bullet", it suddenly made sense why I was allowed to keep the metal detector. I spent the rest of the case looking for a spot to use the metal detector to find the bullet. It was a little surprising that it was still inside the person who is trying to frame my client for murder, but the kick of twist was taken out of it by clearing out the inventory earlier. If I had been trusted to be able to handle all the evidence that I'd accumulated throughout the case, I'm sure I could have solved the final puzzle by myself and the eureka moment of that final twist would have been great. But in what I consider to be a cowardly move, the game cleared out a bunch of extraneous inventory items, worried that I might get confused with all these useless bits of evidence, and inadvertantly drew too much attention to the most important piece of evidence of all.

    Anyways, this was a great episode.

    This would definitely be my pick:


    Just had this thought today as I was driving - if I had to name a boat after a video game, I would name it The Dewprism

    Phoenix Wright has a lot of those kinds of moments where it‘s like - okay, I get the solution, but what is the way the designers think I should solve this? And the puzzle becomes "what’s the specific way THEY want me to solve this thing that I've already answered in my head?"

    @MichaelDMcGrath excellent choice but you might have to change your name