Tag Archives: kotaku splitscreen

Disco Elysium Lets You Choose Your Character’s Dialogue And Also Their Thoughts

In real life, if you think over an argument you had with someone, you’ll probably come up with more ideas on what to say to them when you see them again. Video games don’t usually work this way; you get what you get when it comes to dialogue options. But in Disco Elysium, you can devote your character’s brain space to thinking about certain topics, thereby opening up more dialogue options when a certain topic arises again. On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, Kirk told me how “wild” that is. (That’s his word. He used it a lot.)


First, we talk about the games we’ve been playing, which in my case is Destiny 2 and Borderlands 3. Kirk beat Sayonara Wild Hearts before plunging into Disco Elysium. We then break for discussion of the news (32:23), touching on Kotaku’s coverage of Pokémon Go and privacy, Blizzard’s approach to China and Hong Kong, and the Fortnite black hole. We close with off-topic talk (56:53) about books we’re reading, plus Kirk’s music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Kirk: This game is wild. The wildest RPG I’ve played since I can remember, in terms of how it works. Let me try to explain.

Maddy: Is it bad wild or good wild?

Kirk: Very good wild. Very ambitious and creative and just… wild. I’m very early in this game; I played a couple of hours, these are initial impressions. It could be that it turns out it’s terrible at some point or another.


Maddy: It’s all gonna change. It’s gonna get even more wild after the first two hours.

Kirk: I think that maybe it is! This game is made by a studio called ZA/UM. The lead writer and lead designer is a guy named Robert Kurvitz, who I’ve seen some interviews with and read a little bit. He’s been working on this game for 15 years.


Maddy: Whoa.

Kirk: That’s what they say, 15 years. And that should give you some sense of where we’re going here. This game is legit wild. The closest comparison I can make is Planescape Torment. That’s where this game draws its DNA from. It’s very, very text-heavy. It’s a role-playing game in the truest sense of the word. It’s all about playing a role, as a person. It takes that using the power of text, because it can go inside, do an inner monologue, and have all of these very complicated stat-check interactions. It’s just not like any other RPG you’ve played that looks like this.


Premise first. It’s kind of like a steampunk detective game. You’re playing a specific character. He’s this guy who wakes up, completely hungover, with no memory of where he is, in this hotel room —

Maddy: Classic noir setup.

Kirk: Classic noir setup! There’s been a murder. He’s a deadbeat cop. At that point, you basically just decide who he is. You can pick any of a ton of different personality traits and play him a bunch of different ways. You walk around in a kind of isometric point of view. It’s very painterly looking. It’s actually gorgeous; the art looks really cool.


I don’t know much about the world, because like I said, I’ve only played a little bit. But it’s very local. I get the feeling the whole game maybe takes place in this one district of this city, and you’re trying to solve crimes and talk to people. There’s probably a whole big story as you’re investigating things.

It’s very, very text-heavy. It’s kind of like interactive fiction meets an isometric game. It all takes place during text, though there is voice acting, which so far I’d say is pretty mixed. Some of the acting is good, some isn’t. It has all the hallmarks of a game that was made by a small studio over a long period of time. Characters will talk a bit at first, then transition to just text.


Now let me see if I can explain the wildness of this game. Your character’s mind is its own whole collection of systems in the game, and each system is governed by statistics and roles, and you interact with it in different ways. So, as a basic example, you’re really hungover and kinda messed up… Your partner comes to get you, you have a bunch of conversations with him. You go out to his car, and you get on the radio to HQ. You have to call in and tell them that you lost your badge, which is apparently a very, very big deal. This is not going to be good. A lot of this is, you’re learning this world as you go, and what things mean, because you don’t know—it’s a different world. There are different rules. Apparently, losing your badge is really bad. It’s worse than you would think. It’s not just, “Oh, I lost this thing, I need to get another one.”

Maddy: It’s like losing your gun?

Kirk: Well, you lost your gun, too. That actually comes up in conversation.

Maddy: [laughs] That’s bad.

Kirk: It’s a thing that will cause disgrace on your precinct for a generation, or something. So you call in, and the writing is all very funny and very good. It has this distinct vibe, off-kilter and odd, but good. You call in, you start talking to people, and in the middle of the conversation, you make a memory check, and you pass it. This all happens passively; it’ll just be, you’ll remember what the guy’s name is, and then you can greet him by name. There are all these different checks that you’ll make. You’ll make an interfacing check to see if you can remember how to use the button to call in, or if you can’t remember. When you’re on the radio, you’ll do a composure check, and it’ll say: “Composure check: Trivial. Passed.” And it’ll give you some kind of narration, like, “You now are able to keep your composure as you talk to these people.” They begin making fun of you. You have an encyclopedia skill that’ll pop up and tell you as your brain remembers something. I’m playing a high-intellect character, so I’m able to remember things. Increasingly the whole game is governed by these myriad, just unbelievable amount of stat checks that are happening under the hood, in your character’s mind. It’s all about role-playing every aspect of this person and their personality, as their own mind is almost like a foil that you’re working against and changing the flow of the conversation based on how you’re doing.


Maddy: So do you change those stats according to which dialogue options you select? Or are you changing them manually? Or it’s a dice roll? How do you know you’re a high-intellect character, for example?

Kirk: I picked that at the beginning. You can be a brawler, a more direct character, or a high-intellect character. I should say, there is no normal combat in this game. This isn’t a combat RPG. There are fights, but they all play out via the same stat checks, and just through text. It isn’t like you’re taking a critical shot and landing a hit. You do occasionally get in fights, but it’s much more like a detective RPG. You’re trying to solve mysteries and not going out and fighting random enemies.


It’s all happening under the hood. I’ve picked a character who’s smart, so he knows things and remembers things, and I don’t think is very strong or charismatic, maybe? But you can be a smooth operator. I have a feeling that this game totally branches and everybody changes, like everything changes in relation to you, so I think that who you play as and what you do, from what I’ve gathered from the reviews that I’ve skimmed, makes a huge difference.

Andy Kelly, who wrote it up for PC Gamer, said that you don’t want to exhaust every dialogue option, for example, because sometimes you’ll just say some shit you shouldn’t have said and make someone mad at you. Then they’ll remember, and then later, they won’t want to help you with something.


Maddy: That rules, though, because so many games don’t do anything even close to that, and you’re supposed to exhaust every dialogue option. If you don’t, you’re missing out on video game.

Kirk: Exactly. I think there are a lot of RPG tropes that this game completely throws out and replaces with this completely wild system of all of these interlocking inner systems… There’s also a whole system of thoughts, and it’s what your character is currently thinking about, and you can dedicate head space to a certain subject. If you think about an argument that someone will make to you, you can chew over it for the next little while, and you’ll make progress on that thought and you’ll have new options when you go back to talk to them. It’s so wild. I keep using that word, I guess. But it really feels transgressive, almost experimental, in a way that I haven’t felt playing a game like this in a really long time. It’s a trip.


For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

Apple Arcade Seems Like The Future Of Gaming, For Better Or Worse

Apple Arcade offers up a ton of cool mobile games for only 5 bucks a month. The price seems more than fair from the player side, and it helps that these games aren’t packed with microtransactions, since they’re already funded by the subscription fee. But is that subscription model actually sustainable? And do we want to see other game stores heading in this direction? On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, Kirk and I discuss.


First up, we talk about games we’re playing. Kirk and I are both living our best (horrible) goose lives in Untitled Goose Game, and Kirk’s also stuck on a hard boss in Gears 5. He then runs down his favorite offerings in Apple Arcade before we break for news (31:04) about the Oculus Quest, discuss the sustainability of Apple Arcade, and read a bunch of listener emails about weird gaming traditions. We close with off-topic discussion (59:54) about Dark Crystal, Hustlers, and Kirk’s music pick.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Kirk: Apple Arcade. The first thing that’s cool about this, I think, is that for the first time since I can’t remember when, it feels like mobile games are something that I have any interest in talking about. There’s a lot of people talking about this and writing about it. That, to me, feels remarkable. When was the last time anything related to mobile gaming felt vital or important?

Maddy: Or encroached upon the games journalism world of what we talk about. For better or worse, I feel like usually the mobile game conversation is people trying to convince the greater gamer audience: “No, this one’s really good!” Every now and then, one will rise above. Monument Valley is a good example. There have been a few other mobile games that encroach into that area.

This is such a huge amount of games that it’s undeniable in some way. I see people who I’ve never seen talk or write about mobile games, and their Twitters and articles are now full of, “But seriously though, this Apple Arcade stuff is really cool!” That is wild to see.


Kirk: There was this period of time, I think before your time, when we did Kotaku Mobile.

Maddy: [Laughs.] Definitely before my time.

Kirk: It was quite a ways back, I guess. Kotaku Mobile was always this interesting challenge. I think Kotaku Social also existed, and Mike Fahey was sort of shepherding both. He did a ton of work; he played all of these games and wrote about them. But it was really tricky to get people to care, because even then, there was always this feeling that mobile games are all kind of trash. They all have these built-in microtransactions.


There were so many headlines that were, “This one’s different!” Which, like you said, often that would be the case. There’d be really cool games that would be on mobile. Like Reigns, I remember when I first played Reigns. This game is so cool, works perfectly on a phone. It’s a really brilliant game. You want to say to people, “Ah, this one’s different,” but then they hear that so many times. The whole thing is a cesspool. As the years went on, I just stopped thinking about it or caring really. I have all these games on my phone; some of them are really good, and I can’t play them anywhere else. But I just don’t care.

It’s remarkable that Apple put all of this stuff together and dropped this meteor on everyone in order to make everybody pay attention again. And it really worked, because the games are all really good, and it gives you this alternate reality where mobile gaming didn’t just become this bummer cesspool of knockoffs and IP stealing and free-to-play psychology games. Instead it’s just a bunch of the best kinds of mobile games. I think that’s the remarkable thing about this. I don’t know who at Apple was in charge of this; Apple is super opaque.


Maddy: Yeah, we’ll probably never know.

Kirk: Maybe not. At least if they talk a little more about the process of this—because no one else is really positioned to do something like this. And it feels different. It feels like something I’ve never quite seen in video games before.


Maddy: The big “but” there is the fact that you still haven’t paid for any of the games that you’ve gotten on the service yet. And that is the question that everyone has about this, which is, how is this a sustainable model? And is it a sustainable model? It’s not why I haven’t gotten it, but it’s definitely a question that’s lurking in the back of my mind. We touched on it a little bit last week. I have guilt about these kinds of services and our new subscription-flavored future. I don’t think I can do anything about it, but I don’t love it.

Kirk: Your guilt is related to what exactly?

Maddy: I feel like I actually have started to devalue a lot of pieces of media in ways that I didn’t do when I was growing up in the ’90s. I used to go to Blockbuster and spend a couple of bucks on renting a movie. But nowadays, I don’t want to spend 5 dollars on “renting” a movie from iTunes. I just don’t. I’d rather watch a different movie on a subscription service that I pay for than pay not that much more money to rent a movie. Why is that? That’s interesting. That’s clearly a mental change in me that I’ve observed.


I feel similarly about games. Like Jason was saying before, mobile games in particular have just been framed as ephemeral and valueless for so long that it’s taking a lot for me to get over that mental hurdle and be like, they actually are a thing I should be paying for! And I actually probably always should have been paying five dollars for each of these games, if that were ever possible. But that wasn’t. It was not something that those games could do, because they knew I wouldn’t pay for them, so they structured themselves in such a way that I didn’t have to.

I’ve gotten hours of enjoyment out of the Harry Potter game [for mobile] and I’ve not spent a dime on it, so my enjoyment is basically something that I’m having at expense of the whales out there who are funding this game. That’s not a great feeling for me to have about the creation of that game, putting aside any other concerns I might have about that game and its location services. I have other ethical concerns about that game and how it’s funded. So then I’m like, OK, cool, in theory Apple Arcade is the answer to my problems. It’s a subscription service. Mentally, I’ve already accepted that subscription services are a thing I’m willing to pay for. But am I paying enough for them? That’s not a problem I can solve individually. It’s just something I’m thinking about.


For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

What’s Your Weirdest Video Game Ritual?

Do you have any bizarre rituals that you always perform in a video game, no matter what? This week on Kotaku Splitscreen, we discuss that question and much more.

First, Kirk, Maddy, and I talk about the great new visual novel AI: The Somnium Files, the wonderfully addictive Fire Emblem, and Remnant: From the Ashes, aka Gears of Dark Souls. Then we get into news (34:07) on Nicalis and Apple Arcade, followed by off-topic talk (57:16) and the continued legend of Gardner Minshew II.


We also talk about this question from listener Annie (and remember, you can send questions to [email protected]):

Hello Jason, Maddy and Kirk!

I’ve been a longtime fan of the podcast, and I wanted to ask you guys something kind of silly!

I’ll keep this brief, but for context, I’ve been playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey since I bought it last week (I know, I’m very late to the party). One of my favorite parts of the game is the mercenary/bounty hunter tier system. Since my first mercenary kill, I’ve made it a tradition for myself and my friends that play the game with me to throw the body of every defeated mercenary into the nearest body of natural water as if it were a sign of respect. We also salute the screen and fire a single arrow into the sky. We will do this even if we are in a pretty landlocked territory of the game. There is absolutely no real purpose to doing this, it’s just hilarious to us and we do it solely out of tradition.

So my question is this: do you guys have any weird unscripted video game traditions? (i.e., things that you’ll always do that aren’t required in the game at all?)

Best Regards,


The three of us didn’t have many good answers, other than my habit of singing the Indiana Jones theme song every time I kill someone with a shotgun in Destiny PvP, so we’ve asked our audience to tell us their own stories. We’ve heard some good ones already—a listener who plays Breath of the Wild solely as a pescatarian, one who does push-ups after every Call of Duty loss, and one who sticks their hand out and makes the peace symbol, à la Mario in Super Mario World, every time they finish a video game level.


Surely you also have your own strange habits. What’s your weirdest video game ritual? Share below or hit us up with your best ones.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

Divinity: Original Sin 2’s Cross-Save Between PC And Switch Is Magic

Divinity: Original Sin 2
Screenshot: Nintendo (YouTube)

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a big, chewy role-playing game that benefits from a mouse and keyboard, but sometimes, you just want to lie down on the couch and play a game on the Switch. The game’s new Switch port allows players to go from one to the other, like magic. On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we talked about how great that feels.

First up, I talk about all of the Gears 5 multiplayer modes, and Jason describes his time with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, which is great except for its lackluster Chamber Dungeons mode. Kirk is playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 and he also beat Telling Lies. Next, we get into the news of the week (33:53), including new discoveries in P.T., Destiny’s five-year anniversary, and esports’ quest to get into the Olympic Games. We close with off-topic talk (48:58) about Derren Brown’s “Secret,” Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Succession, an NFL story from Jason, and Kirk’s music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Kirk: So, Divinity Original Sin 2. It’s a CRPG, really complicated and amazing role-playing game, isometric view, point and click. I guess it’s on consoles now. You and I love it, Jason; it’s one of my favorite games ever. I had to restart it because they released a Definitive Edition and they fixed all the stuff in the back half. I was into the final act; I was 80 hours into the game, but I would rather see the better version of the ending. That means I had to start over, and that just stopped me, because that’s a lot of time to replay into a game that’s really big and thick.

So this game coming out on Switch, which they announced at the Direct… it was a really unexpected thing, and the game was out that day. So I got a code for it. I don’t know if I would have bought this having already played the game so much and played it on PC, but man, I am in a perfect position to take advantage of this game on Switch because it has cross-save with Steam.

Jason: And it works really well. It’s just immediate.

Kirk: Holy shit, it’s incredible. I’ll talk about how the game plays a little bit, but the fact that you can just pick it up and it’s like, boom. Load your save! And then you play, and then you quick-save and it saves it, then close the game and then load it on PC and I’m right where I left off. That is amazing. That is the dream. This is the first time I’ve had that for this kind of game on the Switch.

It doesn’t play or look as good on the Switch; it’s not even close. Obviously, I think this game really benefits from having a mouse and a keyboard, so the controller stuff is just really finicky, but also it just doesn’t look that great. Still, it looks pretty good. It looks fine. Especially because I already know the game, because I already played it.

I’m almost an ideal person for this kind of a Switch port, because I know the game. I know where I’m going. It’s easier for me to find my way around, and I know who to talk to and what to do. Figuring all of that out on a smaller screen with a controller might be a pain, if someone’s never played this game and just played it on Switch. Then again, it might be fine, because it’s a really good game.

Anyway, I think that that’s just amazing. The cross-save thing feels like magic, and that’s exciting. I don’t know if I’m really going to play the game all the way through, because I don’t have that much time, but it’s cool to have the option.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

Some Tips For Avoiding Internet Distractions

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

If you’re reading this, you probably know the feeling: You’re trying to get into a flow state on something productive, but somehow, your mouse gravitates to your bookmarks, and suddenly you’re browsing Twitter, or Tumblr, or another internet addiction of your choice. Today on Kotaku Splitscreen, we discuss.

I spent the past four weeks locking myself in my apartment and writing all day, which is why internet distractions have been on my mind. First, we all talk about the games we’ve been playing, like Outer Wilds and Eliza, before getting into Fire Emblem (29:22) and some productivity tips. We close things out with off-topic talk on Saga, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, and Veronica Mars (1:04: 26).

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below:

Jason: I’m writing in Google Drive. I have tabs open with my interviews, research, and all this stuff. Suddenly, just as a matter of habit that I’m sure you guys do all the time, I’m just clicking bookmarks, seeing what else is happening, checking email, checking whatever. I purposefully logged out of Slack and Twitter so I couldn’t actually check those, but I still found myself getting into internet holes where it’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll just check out this YouTube video. OK, I’ll just watch this.’ Suddenly an hour’s gone by, and I haven’t actually done any writing. OK, I’ll write a sentence over here. Better absentmindedly check some tabs, click some other things. And I know there’s all sorts of productivity software, which I’ve never found particularly useful, but I’m curious to hear what you guys and other folks out there use to train your brains to focus on things when you need to be focusing on them.

Maddy: I don’t use any of those apps. I’ve never used them. They don’t work for me—they just frustrate me. Because I still have the muscle memory of clicking on my bookmarks constantly. I think a lot of people have that muscle memory, and it’s almost like you aren’t even intending to click on Twitter or Tumblr or whatever you’re addicted to, you just do it, and then you’re like ‘Why did I click this?’ And that happens to me a lot.

Honestly, I talk about it far too much on this show, but meditating is the only thing that has actually helped me with my attention and having self-control in my life. That’s it. That and exercise—if I’m getting really twitchy and I just keep clicking on stuff, I’m not concentrating, I need to just run around the block a few times or like, not even go for a full run, just go for a little run and then come back.

When I was teaching kids karate and they couldn’t concentrate, I used to make them do ten jumping jacks and then they’d be able to listen to me. It’s just one of those weird things where if you’re being twitchy on the internet and you keep clicking stuff, just get up and do ten jumping jacks and see how you feel. Because it kinda resets you. It works for me. But those apps that turn off Twitter, that just messes me up. Because then I’m trying to go to the websites and they don’t load, and I’m like ‘What am I— oh right, I had this app, ugh.’ It doesn’t make me more concentrated, it just makes me mad at myself more, and then I just fall into the hole of being like ‘God I’m terrible at this, I’m totally distracted,’ and that’s just more wasted time. So yeah, meditating and jumping jacks.

Jason: I think that’s good advice. Both good pieces of advice.

Kirk: I think the logging out thing is good—do more of that. Anything that makes you more mindful, and I think, Maddy, meditation is very good for this. Mindfulness is being aware of what you’re doing. And the minute you can be aware that you’re doing these kind of trained things—and I’ve totally done that too, where you just type into the browser “Twitter” “Gmail” and all the things you check—they’re just habits, you can break them. You just need to decide to break them, and notice when you’re doing them, and be like ‘I am breaking this habit. This is something I’ve consciously decided to do, and I’m doing it.’ Which is a mindful thing to do, because you’re being aware of yourself.

Jason: It’s also tough because you’re addicted to the endorphins you get when you do those things.

Kirk: Of course, it’s hard because those things are very enticing and fun, and worth doing at times. So yeah, you have to have some discipline. I’ll get up and stretch, which is sort of similar to the jumping jacks tip, which is a great tip. I don’t do it enough, but I’ll just do some basic yoga stretches or whatever—really basic stuff—for a couple of minutes. I don’t do this enough, because every time I do, I’m like, I feel 1,000% better and it took about three minutes—why don’t I do this more? Not even anything hard, just a downward dog for two minutes—stretch your legs out a little bit. And then come back to whatever you’re doing. It really helps.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

When Your Frustration At A Game Makes You Even Worse

An unsuspecting Nathan Drake about to get crushed under a truck in Uncharted 3.
Screenshot: YouTube

Video games can be frustrating. Sometimes, that frustration can overpower your ability to play them well. There’s a term for that: In those moments, you’re “tilted.” On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we had Kotaku’s newest staff writer Joshua Rivera join us to discuss the ways that games have tilted us and how we deal with it (or, in some cases, don’t).

First, Kirk and I talk about games we’re playing, with me checking out the new Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 and Kirk still playing Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. After that, we bring Joshua into the mix (22:27) for some discussion of getting frustrated by games, as well as the fact that three is the perfect squad size. We close with off-topic talk (58:57) about Billions, Good Omens, Veronica Mars, and Kirk’s music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Maddy: The only way I know [to stop tilting] is to take a break from the game, but sometimes I’m like, this is the only few hours I have to play a game, and I’m spending it on a really difficult boss that I really want to be able to beat so that I can advance in this game, or have a good experience later, but I’m just ruining my own time by forcing myself to continue to play. Also, by being in that psychological space, I’m probably performing worse at the game. What are you guys’ tips for getting around that?

Kirk: The break thing, as far as tips go, is probably the best thing. Especially in a single-player situation. I think one reason it tends to rear its head in multiplayer situations is because it’s harder to take a break when you’re playing with a group of people, because there’s this feeling of, “we’re all doing this.”

That thing you said, Maddy, the feeling of, “I’ve only got two hours, and here I am, stuck on this thing,” even that is a form of stakes. There starts to be a feeling of, “Oh man, I only have a set amount of time,” or “I set aside this evening to play this game, and I’ve basically wasted the time. I’ve spent all my time beating my head against the game.”

It’s the same feeling as the real-world tilt you feel when you set aside an evening to play a game and you go to play it and your console needs to download an update, and then the game needs to download an update, and it’s an hour and a half later, and you still haven’t played the stupid game. And you’re like, “Well, there goes this whole weekend! What was I even doing!” It’s that same feeling of anger over wasted time.

Joshua: Also, what you guys are talking about gets at a little bit of perspective. You don’t really encounter it when you’re playing with other people, because everybody’s doing the same thing, and you owe it to the people you’re playing with to make sure that the time you chose to spend with them is as good as it can be. But when you’re playing solo, you’re only in your own head. I live with my partner, and she does not play video games at all. So, one day she’ll be walking by the living room where I’m playing, and I’ll be like, “Rrngggh!” And she’ll look at me like I’m a freaking alien. Because nobody gets that mad at a movie.

Kirk: That’s true. Emily doesn’t like it when I’m playing a specific type of game, actually, like Divinity: Original Sin 2, a turn-based tactics game. A lot of times, I get very stressed out by those games. I really enjoy it as part of my experience, but there’s a lot of, “Oh my god. Oh, shit. Oh, you idiot! I can’t believe I did this! No, you asshole, no!” There’s a lot of that. There will be times where I’m berating myself: “Oh, of course, because I am a giant idiot, I did that.” I’ll say that out loud. And I’m wearing headphones, kind of oblivious, and she’s sitting there listening to me just beat on myself and is like, “Dude, I don’t like it when you’re hard on yourself about that kind of thing.” Which makes me realize I’m externalizing the tilt that I’m feeling toward myself, maybe, in those moments.

Maddy: But are you still having fun doing that, though?

Kirk: Absolutely.

Maddy: I feel like I also have that experience with those kinds of games, where I’m like, “Oh, idiot!” But I don’t even mean it that way. I’m still having a fun experience playing StarCraft or whatever it may be, because the stakes are high, but in a fun way that’s exciting, and maybe that isn’t translatable into what I’m saying or my body language, but it’s a more positive experience than me throwing myself at a boss I can’t defeat for an hour.

Kirk: It’s like what you were saying, Joshua. When your partner walks by and hears you, it’s this very different perspective on the experience that you’re having. That’s also just an interesting perspective to consider: the person outside.

Joshua: Yeah. Shame.

Maddy: Experiencing shame, yes!

Joshua: [Laughs.] Shame is a good coping technique.

Kirk: There’s a fine line, I guess. I’m usually having a good time. But it can tip over into actually being just frustrated. Although usually with that kind of game, turn-based games—those are the games that I save-scum and do all kinds of stuff to get through—it isn’t the same as a God of War boss fight or a Bloodborne boss fight.

I think one thing that really drives me nuts is when I feel like I’m angry at the game as much as I’m angry at myself. Sometimes I tilt at a game. I remember—I think it was Uncharted 3, a lot of cheap deaths in Uncharted 3. It was one of the frustrating things about that game. The enemies a lot of times would laugh at you after they killed you. You would die, and you’d hear your teammate, Elena or whoever, would be like “Nathan! Draaaake!” Because you died. And that instrument, whatever it was, would play and the screen would go black and white. Then you’d hear some guy, some gomer that killed you, who would be like, “Ha ha ha ha ha! Got you!” It was the worst. You’d hear it over and over and over again, as you died. I remember that made me very upset at that game. I guess that’s part of it, right? You can feel mad at the people who make the game: “F you people for making this stupid thing!”

Maddy: But you don’t contact them. You don’t say that. You don’t post that on the internet—

Kirk: [Laughs.] Yes, good point! I am in no way endorsing harassing game developers over their decisions. They make wonderful things, and sometimes games are hard, and that’s totally fine. I mean a more abstracted feeling of frustration. Which is an interesting thing for game developers to consider. They are trying to frustrate us. A game has to place things that we must then overcome, and some of that involves frustration. It’s a fine line, and sometimes even games that I’ve been really mad at, just because I’m having a hard time beating them, it’s wound up being a rewarding, cool experience. It is possible to experience tilt in a safer, positive way. Or is it?

Joshua: I think about this a little bit too: It’s OK to be bad at a game. It’s OK to be so bad at a game that you can’t finish it. Right? I think that’s fine. I will be upset if I only had $60 to spend and I couldn’t get further than an hour into a game. I also remember when I was a kid and only had so much money, I tried to know everything I could about a game before I bought it. So, I generally had a good idea what I could handle and what I couldn’t. If I can’t play a game, if I’m not good enough for it, that’s fine. Maybe in six months, or a year, I will be.

I like to interrogate the notion of, “I deserve to see everything that’s in this game.” I don’t think that’s healthy. I think one of the cool things about games is that you can have your own unique experience and it’s different from everybody else’s who played the game. My experience is one where I was able to do these things, because I was able to put the time into being good enough, or skilled enough, or just attentive enough to see that part of the game. You are someone who’s different, and someone who has different priorities, and different things that you care about seeing, so you go and see those things. I think it’s a less interesting world where we all have the same experience with a medium that is so dynamic.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Nintendo Switch Lite Has Sealed The 3DS’s Coffin

Remember the Nintendo 3DS? Enjoy that while you can, because after the Nintendo Switch Lite comes out, the 3DS will be erased from all of our collective memories. Okay, not really, but the Switch Lite does look nifty. On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we talk about playing Switch games while lying in a hammock and also the cool limited edition 3DSes we bought for no reason.

We start out by discussing games we’ve been playing, with Jason still on Dragon Quest Builders 2 (check out his impressions) and Kirk getting the bad ending in Metro Exodus. I was on vacation, so I played Switch games in the wild (Phoenix Wright and West of Loathing). Then we break for some news (33:25); there was the Switch Lite announcement, a situation with the game marketplace G2A trying to pay journalists for positive coverage (with no one biting), and the Wind Waker homage discovered in Breath of the Wild. Finally, we get into off-topic discussion (54:23) of Pose, Stranger Things 3, and Veronica Mars before Kirk’s music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Jason: [The Switch Lite] is clearly designed to fill that gap that the 3DS and 2DS, which are now basically dead, have left in their wake. So this is definitely going to appeal to parents who want to buy their kids something and don’t want to spend $300, or people who want a Switch but can’t afford $300, because it’s a $200 price point. It looks sleek, got some cool color options. Kirk, what did you think of the Switch Lite?

Kirk: I have a couple of questions. First of all, was there a video announcing this?

Maddy: Yeah, there’s the commercial where people are playing by the fireside. It’s a typical Nintendo commercial where groups of diverse, hot teens are playing a Switch together in various permutations.

Kirk: Nice. Did they use the Switch sound effect?

Maddy: They did.

Kirk: That is interesting, because it will not make that sound effect. You will not get to hear that lovely snapping sound effect if you get this handheld, because that is the sound of the Joy-Con controller snapping in. Interesting, they’re going to stick with that sound even though they have removed one of the Switch’s defining gimmicks.

Second question: can we call it the Lite Switch? Because I like that name more than the Switch Lite. And I’m kind of surprised that Nintendo didn’t come up with that.

Jason: [laughs] That wouldn’t make any sense. Can you imagine going to Target and being like, “Hey, can I have a Lite Switch?” “Oh, well, electronics are in the back, and hardware is over there—” “No no no, a Lite Switch!”

Maddy: But, up until now, people have been going to the store and asking for a Switch and getting directed to the riding crops. It’s just been a huge problem this whole time. Nobody knows what a Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite would be, and they certainly wouldn’t acclimate to that phrase if asked by a customer.

Jason: Oh, but those are BDSM shops.

Maddy: You’re right, and that’s on the customer for not understanding where the Nintendo Switch is sold. You’re so right.

I don’t know what is with the convention of putting “Lite” after the end of a product name. It’s definitely weird, because that’s not how the English language works, but it’s just something we’ve accepted.

Jason: Well, it’s a Nintendo thing. Nintendo started it with the DS Lite, which was actually their best hardware upgrade ever, because the original DS was kind of chunky and felt kinda off and had some hardware issues. Then the DS Lite came out, and it was perfect: this great clamshell, super sleek, looked kinda like an iPod, was just super Apple-inspired.

Kirk: Yeah, I got the DS Lite. That was the first gaming system I bought since an original Xbox, in a long time. I played many, many games on that thing. I think I still have it somewhere.

Maddy: I think I traded mine in. I needed that tiny amount of money for trading it in, at some point in my life.

Jason: [laughs] $25 at GameStop.

Kirk: What are the other Nintendo Lite consoles? Are there other ones, or is it just the DS Lite?

Jason: Just the DS Lite. There was a Game Boy SP, but that was before they started using Lite.

Maddy: There was the Game Boy Pocket. That would have been the equivalent of the Lite. I had one of those.

Kirk: Pocket, that’s the same idea as Switch Lite. Anyway, I don’t really know what I think of it. It’s not for me, but that’s fine. I already have a Switch. I guess my main feeling is that I’m glad that at least thus far they haven’t announced a more powerful Switch that will be able to run Breath of the Wild 2 and make it look better, because then I’ll start being tempted, and I really don’t want to spend $250 on a new console when I already have a Switch. So it’s kind of nice to just be like, “Oh, cool! This one is not one of the ones that I have to concern myself with.” Which I typically feel about these kinds of Nintendo sub-hardware revisions, and I’m fine with it.

Jason: Yeah, the Pro will be next year, I bet.

Kirk: Yeah. I’m sure it’ll happen. I’m just glad it hasn’t happened yet.

Jason: For sure. You can hold off on that hardware purchase for now. In fact, I bet it gets combined with Breath of the Wild 2, the way this one has launched right before Pokemon.

Kirk: Which is what they did with the 2DS as well.

Maddy: Are you guys sad that the 3DS is basically dead now? Because I’m kind of sad about it. I have such a pretty 3DS. When Metroid II came out—the new one—I got the 3DS that has Samus on it, and it looks so freakin’ cool. What happened was I got that one, traded in my old one, played and loved that game, and then that was it. It’s a Metroid machine. I purchased a Metroid machine, with Metroid herself! With Samus on there. And that’s it, that’s all I did with it. Now it’s just been collecting dust ever since.

Jason: Good old Captain Metroid.

Maddy: Can she crawl, though? That’s what I still can’t figure it out. I don’t know, I’m sad about it.

Kirk: I have the Majora’s Mask 3DS, which is amazing looking.

Jason: Yeah, me too. It’s incredible.

Kirk: It was super hard to get. I got it because Jason, you were so paying attention to when they were available online, and you told me immediately and I ordered it.

Maddy: I had to pre-order mine! I had to sign up to get it.

Kirk: Same, yeah. It was on Best Buy for the five minutes that it would be available. I felt really cool getting it. I think I played that Metroid remake, and I didn’t even finish that, because the Switch was already out by then. I guess it came out a little bit before the Switch, but then the Switch came out, and I was playing Zelda and I just completely left the 3DS behind. I feel that feeling of, “Oh, I have this really neat 3DS,” but also I like playing the Switch so much better than I like playing the 3DS for a variety of reasons that I don’t feel sad.

Jason: That’s the thing. Once you’re used to the big screen —

Kirk: And the buttons, for me. Having a full controller scheme is so much better.

Jason: Yeah. I agree on both counts. And once you’re used to that, it’s hard to go back to the 3DS. I know this because I tried to go back to the 3DS to play a bunch of Persona Q2, and just could not get used to it. I was like, why am I not just playing Switch games right now? So yeah, I’m not going to miss the 3DS.

Maddy: I’ll just have to buy a really pretty Metroid sticker for my Switch and put it on the back and pretend that I have a special Metroid Switch.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

Good Luck Stopping Students From Playing Stadia Games In Class

If Google Stadia games work as advertised, it’ll become all too easy for students everywhere to play video games on their school-issue laptops instead of listening to their teachers’ lectures. On this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we answer questions from listeners, including one from a high school teacher about how much of a pain Stadia will be, on top of all the other typical distractions that students already battle in the classroom.

First up, we talk about the games we’re playing; I’ve finally got the hang of flying in Outer Wilds, Jason is playing Dragon Quest Builders 2 for a future review, and Kirk has fallen in love with fixed beat mode in Cadence of Hyrule. After that, we open up the mailbag (22:32) for discussion of Stadia in schools, our personal processes for reviewing games, and how bizarre the release schedule for Final Fantasy VII Remake will be. Lastly, we get into off-topic talk (1:20:18) about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Veep, and more before Kirk’s funky music pick of the week.

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.

Writes Joe:

Dear Maddy, Jason and Kirk,

I’m a high school teacher with a question about Stadia and corporate responsibility. As a person who loves video games, the idea of being able to take games wherever I go (with an internet connection) sounds wonderful. However, as a teacher, I am terrified. It is already challenging enough to get students to read an article, write a paragraph, or complete any kind of academic task when their rapid dopamine-producing technology is always right there at their fingertips, whether through their personal phones or on iPads or Chromebooks (in an ironic twist) provided by schools—and that’s just from basic mobile gaming, watching Twitch, and social media apps.

But now, they’ll be able to instantly play actual good games, like Apex: Legends or Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on their phones? I mean, I’d actually empathize with my students at that point: even as an adult who understands responsibility, there are times I’d far rather be playing video games than working (but thank god that I can’t even make that bad choice because my PS4 with Bloodborne is safely at home). Now, for my students, that all changes.

As teachers, yes, it’s our classroom. Yes, we can try to moderate what students are doing with their time. Yes, we can attempt to ban counterproductive technology. But this is so much easier said than done: teens inevitably find ways around the barriers that teachers and school technicians put in place. What I’m asking is this: does Google have a responsibility to—at the very least—develop tools that empower educators to make sure students don’t make the bad choice of playing games when they shouldn’t be? Surely Google, one of the most powerful companies in the world, can, if it devotes the resources, do something positive and helpful here. Otherwise, I fear that many teens, who can’t see in the long-term, will choose the escapism of video games and suffer destructive personal consequences, than engage in the difficult work of being a student.

Kirk: …So, I was on faculty at a high school. I taught many classroom sessions, I subbed for classes, I ran classrooms. I’m at least familiar enough with this and was in all the faculty meetings where this was constantly talked about.

The school that I taught at, the Urban School of San Francisco, is this super ahead-of-the-curve amazing school in San Francisco. This was in the 2000s. They were one of the first schools to have a one-to-one laptop program. At the time, all the kids had Macbooks, and they could get online. There was basically no restriction…

So, yeah, I do think that it’s Google’s responsibility, and it’s all these companies’ responsibilities to give teachers and give parents tools. But at the same time, I’m sure a lot of parents will also tell you that while it’s nice to have parental restriction on content, it’s also really hard; if a kid really wants to see something or do something, they can probably find a way to do it.

One thing they would do at Urban that was really funny was, Howard — his name was Howard, he was a really brilliant guy who was in charge of technology. He was the czar of all the computers. He had the ability to get and look at anyone’s screen on the network—of the students, not the faculty. He never did this. He was a really busy guy; he was doing all kinds of stuff. But he had the ability to, and as a result, the kids were always scared that they would be playing a game or something during class when they weren’t supposed to be — because this was a thing back then, even. Kids wold play Halo on their Macbooks; they would download freeware copies of games, and then they’d all be playing against one another. And they would be like, “Oh god! Howard’s gonna know!” Which I thought was really clever psychological warfare. Because of course Howard 99.99% of the time was not looking at your screen. But it only took him doing it once to one kid, and like walking into class out of nowhere and just busting them for whatever they were doing.

Maddy: That becomes the urban legend that all the other kids tell each other. “Oh, Howard can find you at any time! He’s always watching!”

Kirk: Also, coincidentally, Urban Legend? The name of the school paper at the Urban School of San Francisco.

Maddy: Great name!

Kirk: So that was one thing that kinda worked… [but] I don’t think that Stadia’s actually going to be — like, Maddy you mentioned social media. Social media is just as much of a distraction.

Maddy: And addictive!

Kirk: There are so many things that can potentially distract a student who is supposed to be paying attention in class. And you go back to when we were students, and it was even stupider. More basic things, like calculator games, or tic-tac-toe on a notebook.

Maddy: Or passing notes, which was our equivalent to social media back then. But still distracting.

Jason: I’m sure kids today are still passing notes, too, by the way.

Maddy: Oh, sure, because they aren’t allowed to take out their phones in class, usually, from what I hear.

Jason: Or they get them taken away.

Kirk: That’s definitely one good restriction: you have to be on your computer, your computer’s on the network. I think there are even more advanced ways now, to block access to certain sites. People’s work does this too. Like, you can’t get on YouTube at work, so you just can’t do it.

Maddy: There’s also the old school thing my math teacher did, which was physically walking around the classroom every time she did a lecture — up and down every row — to make sure nobody was playing games on their calculators. Just literally looking at everyone’s screen over everyone’s shoulder. All 40 students, or however many. I went to a big a public school.

Jason: That’s actually smart. That’s a good way of teaching, also, to not stand in one place. Kirk, I’m curious to hear — do you think that Google has any responsibility? Or do you think it’s a school-by-school, teacher-by-teacher, parent-by-parent responsibility here? And the onus is on them to make sure that their classrooms are behaving?

Kirk: To zoom it out from Google, just because Stadia doesn’t even exist yet. That’s, I think, a concern but all of these companies can be lumped under one umbrella. Just ethically, I do think that they do. I think it would be nice if they did that. But, at the same time, if they’re not creating software for the Department of Education to use, or something like that, then in the end, it’s just not really their responsibility in the same way that it would be if they were actually making teaching tools. This is just software that they’re making. There are a million things that can be misused by students in the classroom, and it is hard to draw a line and say, “Well, you all have a responsibility, in addition to treating your end-user, to make it so that students can’t abuse this in a classroom.” There’s just a practical fact that it’s going to come down to the teachers and the students. That’s where the buck is going to stop.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Ranger Class Is Getting Some Changes In D&D (And Baldur’s Gate 3)

How is Baldur’s Gate 3 going to implement the modern rules of Dungeons & Dragons? Last week in Los Angeles, we sat down with creative director Swen Vincke and D&D head honcho Mike Mearls on a bonus episode of Kotaku Splitscreen to discuss. One thing you can definitely expect: the ranger is getting some changes.

We talked about how the recently-announced Baldur’s Gate 3 deal came together, why Divinity: Original Sin 2 developer Larian Studios wound up with the project, the challenges of converting a tabletop game with infinite possibilities into a limited video game, and some of D&D’s most confusing mechanics (like spell slots). Vincke and Mearls also teased some big changes for the ranger class.

Listen above, or read an excerpt:

Mike Mearls: One of the things that’s been nice is that [Baldur’s Gate 3 developer Larian and D&D steward Wizards of the Coast] have a very similar design culture. So there was one instance where, as we look at our character classes, we look at feedback we get in the tabletop space. There was one class we were working on at that got a lot of negative feedback, so I shot an email over to Nick [Pechenin, systems designer] about “Hey, we’re looking at making some changes, potentially playtesting some new material for this class in tabletop, just to let you guys know.” And he actually got back to me and said, “Hey for this class, actually that same exact issue has come up, and here’s what we’re looking at doing.” It was almost like we had already shared notes.

Jason: What’s the class?

Mearls: Oh, I dunno.

Jason: You can’t give that whole example and then not say what it is.

Mearls: I dunno, because [turning to Vincke] I don’t want to step on any of your announcements.

Swen Vincke: I’m fine. You can talk about the class.

Mearls: I can say purely from a tabletop space, one of the things we found was that the ranger character class, in tabletop players really felt the first couple of levels, they weren’t really making choices that they felt were having a real impact on gameplay… One of the things we learned is that we had some assumptions about how exploration would play out in the game back when we were developing 5th edition—we thought, “Oh, we’ll give the rangers some of these toys to play with because exploration is part of the game.” And we’ve just found that either a lot of DMs don’t use a lot of the sub-systems that those spoke to, or they weren’t really coming up on a level of play at the table that was actually impactful to the narrative.

The ranger, for instance: Oh, I’m gonna pick desert as my favored terrain. We can’t get lost in the desert. Which sounds great—I wouldn’t want to get lost in the desert. But when you’re playing a tabletop role-playing game, it basically means, “OK, you’ve crossed the desert, you’re done.” It’s not really giving the ranger a chance to shine. So we’re looking at maybe play-testing this summer some new options that complement what’s there without overriding it. One of the hard things about working in tabletop is you can’t patch a physical book—unless you’re willing to break into everyone’s house and paste in new things.

Jason: Which you should try to do.

Mearls: Yeah, I mean Amazon’s got drones. That won’t end poorly, right? So yeah, we’re looking at ways, how can we kind of bridge that gap—how can 2019 Mike work within the constraints of 2014 Mike’s world and take those five years and apply them to a game without disrupting everyone’s campaigns?

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

How One Large Game Studio Avoids Crunch

Iron Galaxy CEO Adam Boyes (left), C3PO Dave Lang (middle), and COO Chelsea Blasko (right)
Photo: Iron Galaxy

How does the Chicago-based studio Iron Galaxy maintain a healthy work-life balance for all of its employees? On Kotaku Splitscreen, we talk to founder and Giant Bomb jokeman Dave Lang about his leadership philosophies and how Iron Galaxy avoids crunch.

Last week in Los Angeles, I sat down with Lang to talk about founding Iron Galaxy to make video games with his friends, the sacrifices they have to make in order to ensure their 140-person team doesn’t work any overtime, and accepting that they might never be every gamer’s favorite game company.

Listen above, or read an excerpt here:

Dave Lang: When I started IG, the only goal was to work with my friends for the next 30 years. I don’t care what we do. There’s not this game in my head that needs to get out. Only thing I give a shit about is that I get to work with my best friends until I retire. And everything in the company is optimized towards that goal.

Jason: That’s cool. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is that poking around the Chicago game dev scene, you guys have a reputation for not crunching, for treating your workers like human beings. Who would’ve thought that’d be a strange thing? Is that because of your experiences at Midway?

Lang: I was trying to think of the best way to answer. I have kind of a weird relationship with crunch personally. I had this big Twitter thread where I enumerated a bunch of bad crunch experiences in my life. If you’ve done this job long enough, you’ve missed a wedding. You’ve missed a kid’s birthday. You’ve made a personal sacrifice.

Jason: Hopefully you haven’t missed your own wedding.

Lang: Not my own, thank goodness. I did cancel my first honeymoon, though.

Jason: Wow.

Lang: So that thread is a lot about: ‘Wow, this part sucked.’ But personally I don’t hate crunch. I’m not a staunch anti-crunch advocate. I’ve worked on games where you crunch crazy and I had a fun time doing it, because I’m there with my friends, and we’re doing things like that. I’m not one of these people who believes after 40 hours you start making more mistakes, and it’s ineffective.

If game team B is working 60 hours a week, and we’re working 40 hours a week, they’re going to have a better game than we will. That’s just a fact. The difference is I don’t give a shit. One of my leadership philosophies is: don’t ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. And at this point in my life, I don’t want to work. I want to work less than 40 hours a week if I can. I want to spend time with my kids. And when I’m not spending time with my kids, I want to jump into Discord with my friends, drink wine, and shoot people in the face online. That’s what I want to do. I want to travel.

And because I don’t want to do that, it feels really crappy to ask other people to do it, and I just don’t run the company that way.

Jason: So by your own logic aren’t you sacrificing the quality of the stuff you guys work on?

Lang: We’ll just get more time or whatever. There’s other ways to skin the cat. That was more to illustrate: I don’t believe working less gets better results, like some people do. That was more illustrating that point. But sometimes, I think when people work with us, they know our policy generally, but they do it anyway because they know— We’re often in a situation where, ‘Hey port game X to platform Y for us,’ and we’re getting 30 bids or whatever it is. I know we’ll be in the top three most expensive and longest, I just know we will. That means we tend to work with people who value quality over money, and people who have planned their [platforms] far enough in advance where they can let us take longer to do it. We still get there, it just costs the publisher more money, but they know it’s going to be good, it’s not going to be like a carrier landing.

For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com