GWJ Conference Call Episode 44

Conference Call

Super Mario Strikers, Guitar Hero 80's, id's (and Cory's) Rage, The Jack Bauer Effect In Games, Sucking At Sneaking, A Quick New Contest!, Your Emails and more!

All hands on deck this week as the whole crew makes an appearance on the show! We talk about Jack Bauer, launch a quick new contest, listen to rabbit go loopy and much more. Big thanks to magnus for offering up a game to give away!

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

Thread Of The Week:
1) Stealth Shooters: A Confession - H.P. Lovesauce

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"PodunkStump" Ian Dorsch - 0:25:45
"Los Pistoleros" Ian Dorsch - 0:59:08 35.8 megs

Comments

Hey, I like Tenchu Z!

Personally, I don't have a lot of faith in Bioshock OR Mass Effect delivering those kinds of ambiguous decisions, because developers have been saying it for years and still never really delivered. I guess if you're going to make good/evil a game mechanic then you need to make it easy to gain points in one way or the other, and easy points means quick quests, which by their nature don't have long term, over-arching effects. At least, that's ONE way to do it.

The problem I see isn't that the choices themselves are too clear cut, but that the situation is fully explained to the player and they're given time to decide. As you guys mentioned about Jack Bauer, it's not a matter of "if I kill this one person, 1,000 might live," it's a very clear cause and effect. If you make the player make this kind of decision before they get a full feel for the situation, and better yet don't give them time to think, then you can evoke an emotional response.

I'll give an example, of the one time I was forced to make an ambiguous choice in a game. I still don't know if it was the right one.

In Splinter Cell 2, there's a mission where you follow an agent as she leads you to this hideout thing. She blends in with the locals but obviously Sam doesn't, so you've got to follow her from the shadows. Finally she gets you to where you need to be, all nice and friendly, and puts you in the elevator. As the elevator starts to go down, Lambert tells you to kill her. There is no time for hesitation, and you are given absolutely no reason why, but you are an NSA agent and you've been given a direct order by someone you trust.

I don't know what happens if you don't kill her. Maybe you fail the mission? Anyway, I popped her in the head. Sam asks Lambert, "What did I just do?" and the only answer he gets is, "The right thing."

Great podcast guys... last time i send in a voice message... can't stand to hear my voice from a different perspective. Had to take out my earphones while it was on.

*shudders*

I don't know what happens if you don't kill her. Maybe you fail the mission? Anyway, I popped her in the head. Sam asks Lambert, "What did I just do?" and the only answer he gets is, "The right thing."

That moment resonated with me too. I didn't kill her, which means later on you're forced to deal with snipers, her being one of them.

it's NCAA Football 2008, not 2007 - although I'd be happy to mail out the crap that was 2007 as well

Certis wrote:
I don't know what happens if you don't kill her. Maybe you fail the mission? Anyway, I popped her in the head. Sam asks Lambert, "What did I just do?" and the only answer he gets is, "The right thing."

That moment resonated with me too. I didn't kill her, which means later on you're forced to deal with snipers, her being one of them.

Wow, it's crazy, but that is also one of the few such moments in gaming that have stuck with me afterwards. Like Lobster, I killed her, rationalizing that I was trying to roleplay a covert operative and that this is what he would have done. However, I had a very hard time getting over the fact that unlike in other situations, Lambert never provided a satisfactory explanation for the action I had taken.

Wan ton violence is delicious.

Lobs wrote:
Anyway, I popped her in the head.

I can really feel your inner conflict on this one.

Elysium is judging us? You can go ahead, pal, but I'm more than willing to be snarkier about your sloppy writing.

Yeah, I'm declaring editing nerds to be evil and cool now. I just did that -- with an emoticon.

Indiana's state motto should really be changed to "We're asking for it!"

We're critiquing someone else's rage now? Also, didn't I already buy something with this name that was only slightly more fitting for the title?

Games as allegories: Well, you talked about both the moral choice issues and the political issues, so I'll try and keep them separate.

Politics: I once had to cover a protest march against police brutality and racial profiling on my college campus. I tried to stay fairly objective, though I was certainly on the side of the protestors. They congregated in front of the admin building and when a large crowd had turned up, starting marching towards the police station. About half a block later, the chants about equal rights and fair treatment were quickly drowned out by a couple kids with megaphones. The megaphones proclaimed that the racism and police violence were just symptoms of the inherently flawed capitalist system, and that the only solution is proletariat revolution. It was like the guy on the corner in the touristy parts of town, screaming at people about Jesus. More than anything else, they're really just pissing everyone off.

If a game designer wants to show me the problems in our society as I travel through his/her game, that's fine by me, but I don't want a megaphone in my ear. I certainly don't want the protest to be walked in clown shoes, either.

I like MGS games, but a bomb-crazy fat man on roller blades who lives for explosions isn't the kind of commentary I appreciate in any way. If it was supposed to be funny, then it failed. It was a lame throw-away mini-boss ripped from the pages of a lame pulp comic, and I expect better from a series that can be much more thoughtful and subtle at other times. As a much esteemed professor once wrote on a paper I'd slapped together at the last minute, "I know you're smarter than this."

And before we praise FF7 and materia for it's allegory of oil dependency, we could look at Gears of War and emulsion. I guess the point is that any game with a science fiction element is going to look at the world we know and the technology we use and make predictions about how things are going to play out or how things would play out if the situation were different. Given that, you can't avoid making some statements about humanity, technology, industry, etc. You can, however, do it in an intelligent way.

Game ethics and consequences:
Ethical conundrums are certainly more appealing to me than biodiesel for my moral outrage engine.

Part of the problem with adding this to games is the limits of attention that the players and the designers seem willing to pay. Not all designers want to spend time writing separate story lines for players who make wildly divergent choices early on. It's expensive and doesn't pitch well to publishers. Relatively few gamers are willing to stop, think, and pay attention to the things that are going on. Cut scenes and dialogue are skipped and game "guides" are used to know where to go and the quickest way to get there.

And the two degrade each other. Designers are discouraged from over-designing plot trees not only by publishers who think that they could market two UPCs for full price each, but also by gamers who complain about boring games with whiney characters who keep complaining about being hunted, forced to kill people they love, choosing between competing virtues, etc. Gamers get used to flash-bang games because that's what gets published. The tendency is for games to spiral downward and outward, and I hope that ideas that promise to counteract that tendency deliver. Please, Bioshock and Mass Effect.

Failing that, maybe adventure games are a solution. They certainly did favor a slower pace, and they definitely fostered more thinking about actions.

Duoae's fiscal concerns: Thanks for the help on the business angle, guys! I'm sure that'll work well for all us plebs. I've recently told myself that it was all cool because I didn't have a girlfriend to spend my money on. Now I've got a girlfriend just in time for the fall games blitz. Hopefully E Hunnie will keep me relatively reigned in.

...A market to be tapped in the hooker field? Agreed!

In all seriousness, a lot of my gaming is social in nature. Like Wandy + wife know, Gears & Beers is the Saturday night bowling of our generation.

Lion Sleeps Tonight:
A new theme for Lion Games?

Listening now, but just dropping in to say I wish I was still going to GenCon, and the jealousy only grows greater as the event approaches

Pod - wow, that brings back memories. I really like the game... ran like crap on my P1 200Mhz MMX Gateway system. Thanks god for 3dfx Voodoo3 card.

LobsterMobster wrote:
Hey, I like Tenchu Z! :(

Is that a bad thing?

Guitar Hero 80's is SO not worth 50 bucks.

Another thing that no one seems to notice: Yeah, your characters get their 80's outfit, but EVERYONE else is still in trendy 2000's fashion.

Nei wrote:

LobsterMobster wrote:
Hey, I like Tenchu Z! :(

Is that a bad thing?

Apparently. Wanna ninja with me, Nei?

I think every listener suddenly became a "game journalist".

This podcast is heading to Cleveland.

Rat Boy wrote:
This podcast is heading to Cleveland.

My dislike of Ohio is almost as bad as my dislike of Indiana. At least neither of them are Michigan or Minnesota, though.

I'm pretty sure Wordsmythe is intentionally prodding me.

... sloppy writing. *sniff*

That's just mean.

LobsterMobster wrote:
Nei wrote:

LobsterMobster wrote:
Hey, I like Tenchu Z! :(

Is that a bad thing?

Apparently. Wanna ninja with me, Nei?

Well, I don't think so... I liked Tenchu Z, enough to actually finish the story on all 3 difficulties. The only issue I would of had with the game is that fact that it's $60. However, I manage to get it for $40... and I've been happy with it.

Elysium wrote:
I'm pretty sure Wordsmythe is intentionally prodding me.

... sloppy writing. *sniff*

That's just mean.

When I prod you, you'll both know it and like it, sugar.

Drive-by cornings?

LobsterMobster wrote:
Hey, I like Tenchu Z!

Personally, I don't have a lot of faith in Bioshock OR Mass Effect delivering those kinds of ambiguous decisions, because developers have been saying it for years and still never really delivered. I guess if you're going to make good/evil a game mechanic then you need to make it easy to gain points in one way or the other, and easy points means quick quests, which by their nature don't have long term, over-arching effects. At least, that's ONE way to do it.

The problem I see isn't that the choices themselves are too clear cut, but that the situation is fully explained to the player and they're given time to decide. As you guys mentioned about Jack Bauer, it's not a matter of "if I kill this one person, 1,000 might live," it's a very clear cause and effect. If you make the player make this kind of decision before they get a full feel for the situation, and better yet don't give them time to think, then you can evoke an emotional response.

I'll give an example, of the one time I was forced to make an ambiguous choice in a game. I still don't know if it was the right one.

In Splinter Cell 2, there's a mission where you follow an agent as she leads you to this hideout thing. She blends in with the locals but obviously Sam doesn't, so you've got to follow her from the shadows. Finally she gets you to where you need to be, all nice and friendly, and puts you in the elevator. As the elevator starts to go down, Lambert tells you to kill her. There is no time for hesitation, and you are given absolutely no reason why, but you are an NSA agent and you've been given a direct order by someone you trust.

I don't know what happens if you don't kill her. Maybe you fail the mission? Anyway, I popped her in the head. Sam asks Lambert, "What did I just do?" and the only answer he gets is, "The right thing."

Ubisoft noticed reactions to exactly that moment in Pandora Tomorrow, and went on to build upon it in Double Agent with some success. The result was a decision to kill a few people certainly to possibly save millions, or spare the few in the moment along with the silly love interest and hope the consequences won't disallow saving the many later.

More on topic with the email: Dead Rising and the faults of excess. Halo's Covenant and fundamentalist religion. Morrowind and imperialism and racial strife. The intentional social commentary in videogames is present, at varying degrees of subtlety.

Half-Life 2? Not so much from where I'm standing.

As for the "message being lost in the explosions," a counterexample would be the end of the first Splinter Cell. The same issues are present, in a plausible context, presented in a very subtle manner without being drowned by the game mechanics or interfering with them.

Danjo Olivaw wrote:
the silly love interest

Silly? Didn't you see her Playboy picture?

I shot Lambert in the face.

Games that make you go, "Hmmmmm"
http://www.persuasivegames.com/

The singing at the end is comedy gold.

Id doesn't make games??

Id doesn't make games??

I'm really surprised it took this long to get to that quote.

Elysium wrote:
Id doesn't make games??

I'm really surprised it took this long to get to that quote.


I would have debated it, but I pretty much agree.

It's certainly not the first time it's been said.

This is far more reasonable.

"Id hasn't made a good game in a while"

to toss out a blanket statement like Id doesn't make good games is ridiculous.. since Doom, Quake, Quake 2, Quake 3 Arena were awesome games.

I personally liked Doom 3 simply because of the action.. I could forgive the monster closest.. but most people bitching about the flashlight simply looked past the action aspect.. sometimes its ok to be brain dead...as long as the action is "fun". Besides I had Half Life 2 for all the other things.

I mean.. Doom! we're talking about Doom.. I cant imagine many more genre shaping, scene changing, massive impact on PC gaming in general games than Doom.

If you guys are trying to just throw out outrageous stuff to get hits or something.. please stop... it was bad enough listening to Rabbits dismissal of Quake Wars from a 2 hour beta test.

I mean.. Doom! we're talking about Doom.. I cant imagine many more genre shaping, scene changing, massive impact on PC gaming in general games than Doom.

I think that's predominantly why people wound up being so "meh" about Doom 3. Not only did it have an insane legacy to try and uphold, but it also paid homage to an entirely different franchise (System Shock). Not exactly what you'd expect out of an industry giant. The result just wound up being largely underwhelming.

Note: I didn't mind the monster closets so much, either.

If you guys are trying to just throw out outrageous stuff to get hits or something.. please stop... it was bad enough listening to Rabbits dismissal of Quake Wars from a 2 hour beta test.

We each play games very differently, and there're a _lot_ of people out there who will turn a game off if it doesn't hit them straight in 15minutes much less 2 hours, so I encourage Rabbit to continue giving us his opinion. He's very representative of a certain gaming mindset, and we're not in the policy of playing games we don't like. Honestly, if we were trying to get hits, we'd just whore ourselves to every game in the hopes of trying to get developers to like us and come on the show. That's not how we work.

And, to Rabbit's credit, I don't think seven more hours would have changed his opinion on Quake Wars. I found it pretty bland as well, and that was after about ten or twelve hours total. It was entirely adequate, and as I said at the time I think with a good six months of polish it'll be good, but for what it was at the time no thanks.

That said, I don't think you heard us agreeing with Demi about his comment on id. I've no love for Doom 3, but I adored Quake, Quake 2, Doom and Doom 2 to name a few. Great games. Games! That said, as you can see from a few comments above Demi's not exactly unrepresentative of a certain mindset that's out there.

Finally, I'd throw someone off the call or quit myself if I felt like any of us were making a comment just for hits.