GWJ Conference Call Episode 36

Conference Call

The Second Lap of Forza 2, Red Star, Tenchu Z, An Interview With Bioshock Lead Designer Ken Levine, The State of PC Gaming, Thread of The Week and more!

Today we have a very special interview with Irrational's Ken Levine, the Lead Designer on Bioshock and special friend of the site. Why? Because I say so. We also talk about the PC gaming scene, hot game characters and a little bit about Alan Wake.

Want to support the show? Hit the Digg link just above (it's fast and easy to register) or review us on iTunes! Read on for show notes.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

Sponsor
Liongames.com

The Links
Forza 2
The Red Star
Bioshock
Del.icio.us Grab Bag o' Fun

Thread of the Week:
1) Game Characters: Which is Worse - Duoae

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"George" (Benoit Casey) - 0:33:13
"Los Pistoleros" Ian Dorsch - 0:56:40
"Impeller" Ian Dorsch - 1:20:37

Comments

momgamer wrote:

State of PC Gaming - The disconnect between what it takes to play games and what else people use PC's for is far stronger than I think you see.

Yeah maybe this offsets the fact that pcs are so much cheaper now than they were 10 years ago. I really only need to upgrade my computer for gaming now. The need to upgrade it for anything else is close to zero. Plus even though pcs are much cheaper I think videocards are more expensive. I don't remember top of the line vidcards hitting the $600 range 10 years ago.

momgamer wrote:

And I don't know who lost their temper, but I'm SOOOO with you on it and ditto with whoever looked up the 2000 list. We've had a couple real RTS's, but where are the real sims? I don't want Halo. I want Mechwarrior 5, go ram it. Where the hell is a real sequel to Red Baron? A REAL Wingcommander game?

Yeah I too smiled at that mini-rant. I think publishers should bring down the future proofing to the $100-$150 video card level not the $600 level. The rate of progress would actually be the same (wouldn't it?) once you take that initial hit from previously designing for $600 vid cards to now designing for the newest $150 ones. It's just a big out of control arms race.

Is the reason we don't see these widely varying types of games anymore because of increasing development costs? Or something else?

OK, I'm more of a lurker here, but I'm a big fan of the podcast. When I heard that you were going to focus a bit on PC gaming, I was excited, as I'm among those that thinks the PC tends to get comparatively short shrift. Then I listen, and the best you can do is "The PC as a gaming platform is not dying, but has been better". Wow, what accolades.

PC gaming is in great shape. I can list a ton of PC games I enjoyed from 2006:


Age of Empires III
Battlefield 2142
Company of Heroes
Dark Messiah of Might & Magic
DEFCON: Everybody Dies
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Gothic 3
Guild Wars: Nightfall
Half-Life 2: Episode One
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
Neverwinter Nights 2
Prey
Quake 4
Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends
Sam & Max Episodes 1 & 2
SiN Episodes: Emergence
Star Wars: Empire at War
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade

Hmm, the platform certainly is struggling. And I played nearly all of those games at 1920x1200. A console can't realistically push any next-gen title beyond 720p and expect decent performance.

Everyone has different tastes, and just because I'm a klutz with a gamepad, prefer free multiplayer with Teamspeak, and sport a dual display for multi-tasking while gaming, doesn't mean that I can't see the easy to pickup appeal of console games. Nonetheless, I'll take Company of Heroes, Oblivion (with plentiful PC only mods, of course), HL2: Ep 1, Warhammer40K Dark Crusade, and NWN2 by themselves and call it a great year for PC gaming.

Then I listen, and the best you can do is "The PC as a gaming platform is not dying, but has been better". Wow, what accolades.

Reading your list, I fail to see how that's an inaccurate statement. I had plenty of fun on my PC, but it really has been better in the past and nothing significant has happened to change the outlook moving forward. You may ask for more jubilant coverage of the PC, but I'm not going to fake it so you can feel good about your gaming platform of choice

I'm also very much on record in saying that Games For Windows and Vista will ultimately be a boon for PC gaming. It's looking like it's going to be a slower process than I hoped, but I AM still hopeful.

Certis wrote:

Reading your list, I fail to see how that's an inaccurate statement.

I suppose I just see the platform as a bit better than merely remaining in stable condition. I think the short list I mentioned at the end of my post are all fantastic games, even compared to the crop in 2000. I don't want anyone to fake excitement for my benefit, I feel pretty good all on my own.

Great work guys, as always.

Re: Current Games List
Nothing doing. I don't care about Racing Games, and I really do not care about sneaky ninja titles. I know you guys lurvs the Splinter Cell/Metal Gear action, but it's a complete nonstarter for me.

Finding it very hard to resist the Bioshock hype tho....may have to get an Xbox 360 after all.

Re: Objectification

You mean you haven't played Gears or Unreal and though: "I need to get into the gym!" ?

I have, on more than one occasion. Maybe it is just me....I look down and see my weak "guns" and think: man, it would be cool to have Marcus' biceps. Maybe I am just succumbing to the same sort of pressure that keeps women from eating so they can stay a size 0 and wear all that Victoria Secret stuff without looking silly.

I am interested in hearing the ladies thoughts on this. Surprised that you guys didn't have that lined up to begin with.

PC is Dead?

I think the PC is increasingly irrelevant. You have your mobile audio players, your blackberrys for internet and email, and gadgets in the pipeline which mash up just about every one of the PC's functionality into some vision that companies think will appeal to the worker of the future.

The differences between a PC and the Xbox are really quite minimal, when you think about it. The controller is a limiting factor, but all you have to do to get around that is require a game to have a keyboard connected to the Xbox unit. Problem solved.

As I watch Xbox 360 games get more and more expensive, and the supply of PC games dwindle along with their shelf space, I can't help but wonder: maybe this really is the beginning of the end.

mateo wrote:
I can't help but wonder: maybe this really is the beginning of the end.

You take that back! You take that back right now!

*cries*

IMAGE(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v317/TheRealEdwin/omgonozkt6.gif)

Like someone in the CC said, my heritage is in PC gaming.

If it wasnt for the likes of Quake, TFC, Tribes 2, AO, Eve Online, Planetside, Delta Force, and more.... I probably wouldn't have my IT knowledge (gained mostly from building PC's and screwing about with drivers and operating systems trying to get these games running at a good framerate!) and thus even my current job!

Skip back to the pre-xbox years and I laughed openly in the face of anyone who tried to argue a console was superior in any way. Then Xbox and Live came along, and brought a lot of the things the PC had a monopoly on to my living room and the big comfortable sofa. Internet multiplayer, voice comms, community, and so on. Now I would say probably I spend 50% of my time playing on my Xbox 360, and the other 50% on the PC:

The huge differentiating factor between the platforms now is complexity. Forza 2 for all of its depth and simulation finesse (I love it!), is still a very simple interface that suits a controller as opposed to a keyboard. But you will never get a game (and yes I did say NEVER) with the complexity and mechanical depth of Eve Online on a console and that is where the PC's core market is now. MMORPG's and complex RTS games like Supreme Commander or even MTW2 are just a nightmare for a developer to turn into a console interface without losing key chunks of the games core and thus soul. Some games simply demand that you have the flexible input mechanics of the old mouse and keyboard, whereas I would equally say that Forza would just not be the same hunched over a monitor at my desk.

The other thing (which really surprises me) about console gaming is that they remain so restricted in terms of how many players you can have in an online game. Battlefield is a game built on the chaotic carnage that only 64-128 players on a map can create. It gives the game it's gameplay through sheer numbers, yet what is the most players ever in the consoles' versions? 24? It's just not the same game.
I'll go all out and say another NEVER. I will NEVER, on a console game, stand at the top of a valley on a map measured in 10's of kilometres and look down on several hundred players duking it out over a single bridge like I did on Planetside. Whole platoons of tanks on either side, players and bullets flying around hornets around a nest, a squad of choppers swooping through the valley on a strafing run only to be met with a load of AA fire, all within one grand landscape in an instant of time. Then checking behind me whilst summoning the courage to go down and join the melee, see an even bigger battle raging a couple of clicks away. This was what? 2001? The PC could manage that then, and no next-gen console looks close to creating such scene, and this was a persistent universe too where the battles meant something!

So now I accept it, my PC will always be the innovative proving ground for the truly adventurous games, but at the same time there a multitude of genres that are far superior on the console such as racing and hectic small scale FPS games such as GOW and Halo.

mateo wrote:

As I watch Xbox 360 games get more and more expensive, and the supply of PC games dwindle along with their shelf space, I can't help but wonder: maybe this really is the beginning of the end.

I've been saying that for a while now. The conspiracy is that Microsoft want people to buy their console, the games and DLC because they make more money off that platform than the PC - it's the whole reason why MS moved into the console business in the first place and why they stayed in even though they were/are losing lots of money.
The second part of the plan is also simple. Make normal software as much of a system hog as possible to continue driving hardware sales to keep manufacturers happy and the game developing and buying public in the dark. THEN start up a conjoined LIVE! service for the PC that has less value than its equivalent on xbox. This is supposed to be a misguided attempt at reviving the PC as a decent platform but in reality it is to get developers familiar with XNA and other development tools that work well on the xbox platform at the same time as begining to gain royalties from every windows live! game released... like they do on the xbox.
This will push up the price of PC games and, along with the extreme hardware (and associated costs) required to run them, will force gamers to become "console only". A good proportion of them will end up on the xbox platform... providing increased revenue for MS.

*Eye twitches*

It's all part of the master plan! NneehahaeheheheaE!

I can't really add anything sensible to this conversation because I have the 'Bohemian Polka' stuck in my head and I don't know why. It won't...get...out!

Also, I tried the demo for Overlord last night. I was very impressed and had a lot of fun looting and pillaging and such. 'Being an evil Overlord means never having to do any heavy lifting.'

mateo wrote:

The differences between a PC and the Xbox are really quite minimal, when you think about it. The controller is a limiting factor, but all you have to do to get around that is require a game to have a keyboard connected to the Xbox unit. Problem solved.

The day I can plug a mouse and keyboard into any console is the day I buy that console.

Seer wrote:

The huge differentiating factor between the platforms now is complexity. Forza 2 for all of its depth and simulation finesse (I love it!), is still a very simple interface that suits a controller as opposed to a keyboard. But you will never get a game (and yes I did say NEVER) with the complexity and mechanical depth of Eve Online on a console and that is where the PC's core market is now. MMORPG's and complex RTS games like Supreme Commander or even MTW2 are just a nightmare for a developer to turn into a console interface without losing key chunks of the games core and thus soul. Some games simply demand that you have the flexible input mechanics of the old mouse and keyboard, whereas I would equally say that Forza would just not be the same hunched over a monitor at my desk.

I agree. I agreed with most of what was said in the podcast, but they neglected to mention one thing: While there are less quality PC titles than there are console titles, PC games have LEGS. I'm primarily a PC gamer but have constantly gamed on a console at the same time, from SNES to PS2 to the Wii, and all the time on Friend's Xbox's. The one constant thing I've noticed is that I finish or get bored of console games MUCH faster than I do the PC games I play. This isn't a knock against console games: they're fun, fast experience which are great, but PC gaming is different in that on average I've found them to be deeper and have provided for a longer lasting, more satisfying experience for me personally. This has been furthered with the increase in user-created content for titles such as Oblivion.

Look at the games I'm playing on my PC now: Guild Wars, HOMMV Expansion, HL2: Episode 1, CounterStrike, Battlefield 2. These games are all OLD. But I'm still enjoying them, because it took me forever to finish the games I'm was playing beforehand! (Oblivion, mostly). This is why it's not fair to compare PC's to consoles simply in terms of "what good games were released that year" I have no problem with a small amount of releases, because these releases will, on average, provide a longer-lasting gameplay experience than a console game. This is also why we needn't worry about keeping up with the bleeding edge of the performance curve: I'm perfectly happy gaming with my 6600 GT! (Until this fall).

I kind of agreed with whoever said that it's kind of GOOD for PC gaming to stay "niche". "Niche" is what creates great communities to provide user-created content. "Niche" is what allows developers to cater to a very specific audience instead of releasing dumbed-down, catch-all games.

If MS wanted to pro-actively kill off the PC gaming scene with some cloak and dagger disincentives, wouldnt it price the 'more complex to develop and test' Games for Windows software higher than its 360 offerings? Instead we see the opposite.

The day I can plug a mouse and keyboard into any console is the day I buy that console.

Functionally speaking, in some ways you can say that about both the PS3 and the 360. Though the broader point I think you're trying to make is about games being developed with those more complex peripherals in mind.

-- MS absolutely has no interest in killing off PC gaming. They'd be far happier controlling the PC gaming market and enhancing their overall games division than trying to force the market. The primary business of Microsoft is in PCs and being able to move copies of Vista and Office by keeping the PC relevant, not to mention making a few more gaming bucks on the side, is the obvious and smart route.

I hate to say it, but were it not for MS, the current state of PC gaming may actually be worse.

Dysplastic wrote:

I agree. I agreed with most of what was said in the podcast, but they neglected to mention one thing: While there are less quality PC titles than there are console titles, PC games have LEGS.

Yeah that could be a reason for lower pcgaming sales too. I mean you're competing against the old games people still play. I know many that still play Diablo 2 or CounterStrike or STarcraft or AoE2 etc. There are pro-racing game sites where people race for money and they play the Papyrus Nascar 2k3 version since it's deemed the best.

I'm sure alot of this is because people have old hardware and these are the only games that run. On the other side of the coin another nice thing about older games is they have generally been patched a few times and they run like butta on new systems. I know I appreciate smoothness over shock and awe graphics.

Dysplastic wrote:

The day I can plug a mouse and keyboard into any console is the day I buy that console.

I guess you're buying a PS3. UNreal 2k7 on the PS3 will support m/k.

trip1eX wrote:
Dysplastic wrote:

The day I can plug a mouse and keyboard into any console is the day I buy that console.

I guess you're buying a PS3. UNreal 2k7 on the PS3 will support m/k.

Ha ha, sucker!

Yay Certis has another friend on PS3 now!

I thought they did a great job talking about the health of the PC gaming industry. It seems they spent some 20+ minutes talking about it with moments of intense emotion the likes of which never happened in past podcasts.

I think its a pertinent point that the PC game industry used to think that selling 100,000 copies was a smash hit. Now the innovation and development is so costly that a PC game has to live up to console sales expectations. This rarely happens, even with critically acclaimed games and games considered classics.

Elysium wrote:
I hate to say it, but were it not for MS, the current state of PC gaming may actually be worse.

That is actually true, I think, as much as I want to jump on the anti-Microsoft bandwagon. Something like XNA and DirectX are really intriguing for developers because it is almost a 2 for 1 deal in development. Once you have a PC game finished, it is that much easier to recompile it for an Xbox360 target, and vice versa. Since games are costing something like 10million + per title to develop, it's pretty easy to make the decision to support both platforms.

From a gamer's perspective, it is hard to make out what the title strategy is, though. If you release on all platforms at the same time, then people will buy for whichever system they prefer. If you release a PC title first, then release the Xbox360 version, then you get that lame PC port stygma. If you release the Xbox 360 title, then wait few months to release the PC version, that may streamline your revenues, but it makes PC look like a second fiddle platform.

It gives the game it's gameplay through sheer numbers, yet what is the most players ever in the consoles' versions? 24? It's just not the same game.
I'll go all out and say another NEVER. I will NEVER, on a console game, stand at the top of a valley on a map measured in 10's of kilometres and look down on several hundred players duking it out over a single bridge like I did on Planetside.

There's nothing keeping developers from bringing these massive battles to consoles. Black Hawk Down featured 50 player online matches, though wasn't received as a good game for other reasons. The sweet spot for player hosting seems to be around 20 players. Anything I've seen greater than that required an external server, usually hosted by the devs. For some reason the devs seem averse to going that route, with some exceptions like EA's Battlefield 2 Modern Combat.

What's stopping them? Just because you have never doesn't mean you will never.

It was a good show but when you guys started talking about boob's and guy's package's I was falling asleep. Please don't revisit that topic again. Love Braehole

You serious? I was laughing really hard when they were talking about guys packages

The day I can plug a mouse and keyboard into any console is the day I buy that console.

It's funny.. my one friend who was a long time PC gamer and now only games on a 360 said this to me..

"The day I can drop a DVD into a PC and simply have the game work is the day I go back to PC gaming"

TheGameguru wrote:

I rarely see much RTS talk here.. which leads me to believe that RTS's are played for about a week or so then either played offline or hardly at all.

I think Korea would disagree with that statement ;). There is plenty of RTS talk especially for the slim pickings in the genre right now. I know the Company of Heroes thread was huge, World in Conflict is growing interest, and just the announcement of Starcraft 2 was a pretty big deal. I play them on a regular basis but do find myself wishing that there were more releases to talk about.

The Mad Dog McCree lightgun arcade game Elysium mentioned is terrible. Really, really terrible. I strongly recommend you play it - I was laughing the entire time.

Certis: Thank you thank you thank you for pointing out that too many PC gamers are stuck in the mentality that if they can't run a game with all the graphics sliders at MAX then that their computer is antiquated. This leads to the bizarre idea that you can't run new AAA titles without a $400 video card and deludes a lot of PC gamers into believing that keeping a PC "up to date" is more expensive than it really is.

Edit: Alan Wake is a Vista exclusive? Mind-numbingly stupid.

Been listening to last weeks podcast. I'm about half way and I'm pretty sure Demi hates everything he has ever seen.

Can't help feeling a certain amount of Deja Vu with the PC Gaming discussion. You can tell when a new gen of consoles out because everyone dusts off the ol' PC Gaming is dead debate.

I really enjoyed Elysium's rant regarding future proofing games and have merely wanted to add that he needs to keep saying this frequently and often. Maybe someone will listen to him.

PC Games I'm looking forward to;
1) UT2k7
2) ET:QW
3) Hellgate: London
4) M2:TW Expansion
5) Left4Dead

Games I have an eye on;
1) Civ4 Expansion
2) Crysis - Doubt I have the system to run it
3) Overlord
4) CoH Expansion

Hello GWJ folks,

I recently started checking out gaming-related podcasts and have been very disappointed in most of the offerings. From technical problems, like unbalanced audio levels, to a simple lack of content/experience, most of these podcasts have left a bad taste in my mouth and discouraged me from continuing to look for other sources of audio gaming news.

On the other hand, when I listened to episode 36 last night, I could clearly hear all of you, most of the attempts at humor made me chuckle, you actually talked about games (and knew what you were talking about), and some of you actually disagreed with others, which is a good thing.

With that being said, I look forward to listening to episode 37 on the way home from work. I also plan to frequent the forums and see what the community is all about. Please keep up the good work. So far GWJ is my favorite podcast, with the 1up show right behind. Thank you!

Thanks modul8r! Always nice to hear from someone new

Been listening to last weeks podcast. I'm about half way and I'm pretty sure Demi hates everything he has ever seen.

Patently untrue. The man loves a good ham sandwich.

Certis wrote:
Thanks modul8r! Always nice to hear from someone new
Been listening to last weeks podcast. I'm about half way and I'm pretty sure Demi hates everything he has ever seen.

Patently untrue. The man loves a good ham sandwich.

Don't we all?

And just because:
Michaelangelo: Hey Donny, Wheel of Fortune, Dude!
[spins around on his shell, knocking down several Foot Soldiers]
Donatello: Hmm, I guess they're not game show fans.
Michaelangelo: And I thought everybody loved Vanna!