Lostcast 192: Politicast


  • LDG


  • Tiger Hat

    @richtaur You should try a hot whiskey to get rid of the “Irish Plague” - some whiskey, hot water, some brown sugar and a slice of lemon in a glass. A few of those and you’ll be right as rain ;-) There is a plague going around at the moment though, a few people I know are battling colds and chest infections. Our weather has been bonkers lately - freezing cold, blistering sunshine, rain, more sunshine, more rain etc etc - prime for bacteria to grow.

    Quite a topical Lostcast! It’s a difficult tightrope to navigate when you are a public figure like Palmer Luckey with potentially unpopular preferences. I guess at least he’s standing by his convictions and not trying to back track now that he has come under the scorching glare of online opinion.

    I think @geoffb was right when he talked about what side of popular opinion or history you end up being on. Outside of politics there does appear to be a problem with some online communities where the honourable intention of inclusiveness is misused a tool to hound people who have an opinion that differs or might be deemed as “challenging”.

    “Papers, Please” - is one of the few games that really got into my head. I remember trying to stick to all of the increasing number of regulations as the game proceeds only to get ratted out by a neighbor to the cops over “suspected” additional income. I genuinely became annoyed and thought “well what’s the f*cking point of doing my job then?!”.


  • Patron

    @richtaur and @geoffb thanks for answering my questions!

    I’d have a very hard time abandoning a development project after it has accepted any kind of money on the promise it’d get finished. Maybe the project could be scaled back? Though I guess it would not be the same game then.

    That’s a rough thought: Just pulling the plug on it? You already pulled the plug on several months of Unity for it! The “sunk cost fallacy” is really staring at you on this one.

    I think @geoffb’s tactics prototype looks neat. I’ll accept it as a potential Lava Blade 2 replacement.



  • Yeah, weather sucks in So Cal right now. Thankfully I have A/C, but it’s been kind of miserable.

    Anyway, onto the podcast. Political discussion was okay with me (I do listen to some political podcasts), but I get that this is a game dev podcast and that this is occasional content rather than some pivot toward becoming a politics podcast. :)

    As for game-related stuff, I’d play a tactics game. More recently I’ve played The Banner Saga (fun game, depressing, though) and some older Fire Emblem games.

    I like the idea of a tactics game that focuses on weapons rather than levels. One thing that adds a lot of replayability to games I’ve seen that use that kind of system is the ability to modify weapons in some way to create different kinds of builds that are effective against different enemy types. Think Materia from Final Fantasy 7.

    To bring up another example from that game I mentioned before, Warframe, they use a system called “Mods” where each weapon has some base damage, critical, and speed stats (it’s more complex than that but you get the gist) but all stats, and the ability to handle higher-level enemies, depend on the mods you put on the weapon. Every weapon has room for a certain number of mods (they use a point-based system called “Capacity”). As you use weapons in the game they level up and have more Capacity points and therefore more room for Mods. In Warframe the Warframe (character) you have also can have various types of Mods that provide armor, health, speed the character up, provide resistance to certain kinds of damage, so basically a place for armor/defensive mods.

    You could also do something similar for armor/shields/defensive items, i.e. enable players to customize and/or upgrade them in addition to weapons, or you could have defense be dependent on the character type/level you have.

    Regarding character level/strength vs. weapons, you could have character experience levels enable the use of higher-level weapons but not provide other intrinsic benefits or some mix, for example increasing character level gives that character more hit points but not higher stats that would enable the character to dish out more damage.

    If you do go with weapon customization as a core gameplay element, you may want to link the game thematically to that. For example, the world/story/game could revolve around powerful magical weapons and people trying to get them. Anyway, just an idea.

    Anyway, just posting thoughts on this because I’m a huge RPG/systems nerd. When I was in high school I spent (some of) my spare time making up game systems for RPGs.

    Overall, good podcast. Looking forward to see what each of you decide to do with any tactics games you decide to work on (or other games).

    Oh, I also supported the Thunderclap campaign. Good luck with it!


  • Tiger Hat

    Great podcast this week. Really enjoyed the political discussion and you went over a lot of great points.

    One comment I felt like adding is just that while I think @geoffb is right so suggest that developers use caution when making political statements, as content creators we are making statements even when we don’t intend to. To me we have an ethical imperative to ask ourselves what concepts, intended or not, that we will be imparting to users and whether those are things we want to reinforce. I had a friend ask me why we have guns in our game after one of the recent mass shootings and that made me think twice about it (we still are using them though). Some of the tropes that Anita Serkeesian calls out I think stem from this type of carelessness from content creators.

    Coming from a state that seems to be going up in flames I’ve had a lot of guilt recently over not making the most out of our medium. Just making fun games while I could be taking a stand does feel a bit like being a bystander to injustice.

    You guys are dead right about games being especially effective at humanizing others and if I were a better game creator I’d be really interested in that route. I admire that Paper’s Please and Prison Architect are able to do it without compromising the gameplay.

    Thanks for making me think this week.


  • Tiger Hat

    @lucasblucas said in Lostcast 192: Politicast:

    Great podcast this week. Really enjoyed the political discussion and you went over a lot of great points.

    One comment I felt like adding is just that while I think @geoffb is right so suggest that developers use caution when making political statements, as content creators we are making statements even when we don’t intend to. To me we have an ethical imperative to ask ourselves what concepts, intended or not, that we will be imparting to users and whether those are things we want to reinforce. I had a friend ask me why we have guns in our game after one of the recent mass shootings and that made me think twice about it (we still are using them though). Some of the tropes that Anita Serkeesian calls out I think stem from this type of carelessness from content creators.

    Coming from a state that seems to be going up in flames I’ve had a lot of guilt recently over not making the most out of our medium. Just making fun games while I could be taking a stand does feel a bit like being a bystander to injustice.

    I think this also brings up the concept of “finding your voice” as a game designer / developer or in fact anyone who tries to create something.

    “What do I want to say?”, “how do I say it best?”, “how much of ME is going to be in this?” and then to have the fortitude to openly say “this is what I’m putting out into the World”.

    Then, when you think you have that figured out…start wrestling with the business decisions you need to make so you can keep doing it.


  • Tiger Hat

    @anthony said in Lostcast 192: Politicast:

    “What do I want to say?”, “how do I say it best?”, “how much of ME is going to be in this?” and then to have the fortitude to openly say “this is what I’m putting out into the World”.

    Then, when you think you have that figured out…start wrestling with the business decisions you need to make so you can keep doing it.

    Totally agree. It reminds me a bit of the concept of “starting with why”. Simon Sinek says, figure out what your “why” is and a lot of things fall into place. The concept appeals to me because it kind of provides a foundation to go from with all these ideas.


  • Tiger Hat

    I found it interesting that talking politics seemed to cause @geoffb to cuss more than usual (lots of mario coins :) ).

    Brad Wardell from Stardock also has caught a lot of bad press in the past, and he’s not really shy about tweeting his thoughts unpopular or not. There are those who won’t buy anything from Stardock because of that, but I guess I don’t really see the point. Unless his agenda is written directly into the games, then I won’t buy the game because I don’t like the what the game is saying, not him, he’s free to think what he wants IMO.

    If the presidential candidate is a crazy racist who murders homeless people, but his company produces a super fun game. I won’t vote for him for president, but I’ll still buy his game.

    Back on the topic of LDG and your games… I have been wondering how you guys are doing things currently. Geoff’s doing a contract and Matt’s building IGS. Seems like you’re doing it in isolation as opposed to part of LDG the company. I presume that you’ll still fly the LDG banner with IGS, but will Matt be keeping all of the money? The money that Geoff is getting paid for the contract work, is that going into LDG coffers and paying salary to both of you? Just curious :)

    Speaking of AWL1 & 2. I understand where you’re at with updating / working on those. As one of your secret internet friends, I really want to help. Of course I’m doing the Thunderclap and Retweeting things, and Patreon, etc. I was thinking however that I could also help you out by being a contractor. I realize money is tight, but I don’t want any. I’d be happy to sign a contract, NDA, whatever and I’ll work for my name in the credits. Or heck, if you don’t even want to do that, I’d still get to learn a little and I’d know in my heart that I worked on a published title. I’m still stuck on the other side, working on web tech for the business sector. In the past I have hunted around finding some open source game projects to contribute to, but currently I don’t have anything. You could point me at some bug fix tickets for AWL and I’ll give them a shot. I’m at least familiar with all of the things you talk about, and am an “expert” JS dev. Anyway, cool if you don’t want to, cooler if you do :)


  • LDG

    @Ceric said in Lostcast 192: Politicast:

    Yeah, weather sucks in So Cal right now. Thankfully I have A/C, but it’s been kind of miserable.

    Where in socal you at?

    Anyway, just posting thoughts on this because I’m a huge RPG/systems nerd. When I was in high school I spent (some of) my spare time making up game systems for RPGs.

    Wow you have a lot of tactics thoughts! Have you worked on one? Sounds like you’d really enjoy that.

    For my tactics concept I’m thinking simple itemization (no crafting) but advanced characterization (maybe some character crafting).

    Oh, I also supported the Thunderclap campaign. Good luck with it!

    Thank you!


  • LDG

    @lucasblucas said in Lostcast 192: Politicast:

    making fun games while I could be taking a stand does feel a bit like being a bystander to injustice.
    Thanks for making me think this week.

    Cool I’m glad you dug the discussion! I hear you on lamenting not doing more with your creations. The longer I work on this stuff the more I realize there’s complexity to everything. I think to bake a political message or theme into a game, it needs to be added in there from the very beginning, and it’s one more ball to juggle among design, art, code, sounds, promotion, tech, FFS, etc. …

    Taking the baking analogy further … I’m the kind of cook that can make a decent simple cake. But if you want it to have multiple layers, and fillings, and ice cream, and have complex harmonious flavors, be beautifully decorated, with a perfectly written message on top … yeah I’ll fuck that all up. I can juggle some of those balls to the finish line, but not all, I’ll drop some.

    Anyway I think making games is incredibly difficult and getting a message in there as well makes it even harder. Mad props to those who can do it.


  • LDG

    @Warspawn said in Lostcast 192: Politicast:

    I found it interesting that talking politics seemed to cause @geoffb to cuss more than usual (lots of mario coins :) ).

    Haha that’s true! Although to be fair he was saying shit posting which is a term that means to post useless garbage just to bring someone down (or whatever). It’s a tactic some people are using in this election to reduce another’s social presence.

    If the presidential candidate is a crazy racist who murders homeless people, but his company produces a super fun game. I won’t vote for him for president, but I’ll still buy his game.

    I gotcha. I kinda feel that way about whoever that homophobic author is who’s making movies now that I kind of want to see. I won’t give his work my money, but if it’s on Netflix or something, I’ll watch it. I’ll also watch Tom Cruise movies but I don’t want to know any more about his personal life ;)

    Back on the topic of LDG and your games… I have been wondering how you guys are doing things currently. Geoff’s doing a contract and Matt’s building IGS. Seems like you’re doing it in isolation as opposed to part of LDG the company. I presume that you’ll still fly the LDG banner with IGS, but will Matt be keeping all of the money? The money that Geoff is getting paid for the contract work, is that going into LDG coffers and paying salary to both of you? Just curious :)

    We tried to find some contracts for LDG, but couldn’t, and then Geoff found one for a single developer, so he took it. He’s necessarily had to treat it like a fulltime job, so he hasn’t been on LDG stuff (outside of Lostcast) for a while.

    I desperately wanted to ship two games this year, so when Soul Thief development took a breather, I allowed myself to pursue a concept I was excited about. Realistically, it won’t make much money, so what’s there will probably just pay for LDG’s stuff, like hosting costs or whatnot. Since we’re still pretty lost on how to make money with 1st party games, I’ll probably have to pick up a contract soon too (if I can find one).

    Speaking of AWL1 & 2. I understand where you’re at with updating / working on those. As one of your secret internet friends, I really want to help.

    I really appreciate this! I’ve been thinking more lately about open-sourcing Djinn, which I think is the first step towards collaboration. When I asked Geoff about it recently, his feeling was he doesn’t care, but open-sourcing might have more downsides than upsides. Tough call, but Soul Thief development is sluggish, and finishing by myself is exhausting. So help would be great, just need to work out the details.



  • @richtaur Hey Matt, I’m in Long Beach. This weekend was nice, but next weekend we’re apparently heading back into the low to mid 90s again. Fun.

    Lengthy post on tactics game design follows. :)

    Regarding tactics games, I have worked on some systems design for tactics games, plus some art, but I haven’t had the courage to tackle a full-in tactics game before. Working solo as a hobbyist (I have a full-time job totally unrelated to game development), the amount of work required seems pretty intimidating, but I have thought about giving it a shot at some point.

    Speaking of which, menu/UI management is one area of game dev where I haven’t seen many good examples. I’ve seen plenty for grid-based movement, animation, camera implementation, displaying text, even basic data structures for reading/writing/storing data about characters, items, enemies, etc., but almost nothing on UI/menus, which are a pretty major part of any kind of RPG or tactics game. Do you know of any good resources that provide some decent examples for implementing menu systems?

    Regarding character creation/management, I’ve always enjoyed tactics games where characters have more defined roles, like a character class with definite strengths/weaknesses, but where there are a few different options for each class. One example is using Fire Emblem’s system, where when a character gets to a certain level, you can choose from one of a select number of “advanced” classes. I also like some degree of class customization, such as skill trees. Also, the ability to improve class skills (via XP or some other point-based system, e.g. you get 1 point per level to spend on improving skills) that you choose can help pace the game and enable different class builds.

    A few ways to keep a character from becoming locked into a certain build and therefore ineffective against certain opponents (for example, you make something like a Winter Knight, with cold-based powers/skills, and when fighting ice-themed enemies that are resistant to cold-based attacks the Winter Knight becomes totally useless) include skill “loadouts” that are hot-swappable (maybe from the menu screen when outside combat or just prior to a mission/level, as in you select a loadout during mission/level selection) or enable straight-up resetting of skill points back to 0, possibly at some point cost. I’d say the method I’d use there would depend on how flexible each class is. If each class is generally able to handle most enemies, and powers are more like themes rather than hard bonuses/penalties to certain stats, then I’d go with resetting. If, however, I’m going with a more rock-paper-scissors type of ability balancing, then I’d consider going with the loadout option. I would limit loadouts somewhat, though, so a given character isn’t great at fighting all opponents but can handle say 2 out of 3 opponent types fairly well.

    One other consideration, if I’m going with classes with defined roles, I’d give each class some kind of support abilities so they’re not totally useless in fights where their given skill set is less effective against certain opponents. For example, maybe the Winter Knight can provide some kind of position-based defense bonus (say within a 3-square radius).

    Anyway, good luck with your tactics prototype. I’ll be interested in seeing what you come up with.


  • LDG

    @Ceric said in Lostcast 192: Politicast:

    @richtaur Hey Matt, I’m in Long Beach. This weekend was nice, but next weekend we’re apparently heading back into the low to mid 90s again. Fun.

    Nice! That’s “only” like an hour away, hopefully we can meet at a game dev drinkup or something.

    Lengthy post on tactics game design follows. :)

    Wow, you have a lot of thoughts. You’ve gotta prototype something!

    Do you know of any good resources that provide some decent examples for implementing menu systems?

    I do not, which might be why our UI is always “good enough ship it”. Anyone else?


  • Tiger Hat

    @richtaur said in Lostcast 192: Politicast:

    I do not, which might be why our UI is always “good enough ship it”. Anyone else?

    The new UI in Unity is really solid once (as always) you understand the way Unity wants you to do things. It’s also opensource, so you can look at how things are done and extend them.

    There are one or two “gotchas” - if you don’t put the UI in world-space (literally making it part of the game world) there’s no trivial way to map positions between game and UI. I’ve had to write my own wrapper for this, which is only a few lines of code, but it should be part of the system.

    I’ve also not found a reliable way to deal with multiple aspect ratios.

    It does have everything you’d need for an RPG menu, including the sort of things people usually forget, like being able to set button order (so you can navigate with directions + enter, not just the mouse).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWtQnZsSdEU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgtZLc-gTEk



  • @salmonmoose Cool, I’ll have to check it out.



  • @richtaur Yeah, with LA traffic it could be 2 hours. Back when I worked in the Torrance area, I took a couple of programming classes at UCLA’s extension a few years ago and it took me an hour and a half to get from Torrance to UCLA’s campus during rush hour. That was back before UCLA had as many online classes as they do now (5-6 years ago).

    Nowadays I work remotely, so I can do things like drive somewhere, go to a Starbucks, and wait out traffic. Makes getting around a bit easier since I can avoid rush hour when needed.

    But yeah, if there’s a game dev event in the area that you’re aware of and planning to attend feel free to post it and I’ll see if I can make it.

    I probably should prototype something. I’ve run into the same problem you guys have, though, which tech/engine to choose. Of course there’s the “just make something in whatever you’re comfortable with!” perspective. If Unity’s 2D tools have improved since last time I checked that might be the way to go.


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