GWJ Conference Call Episode 54

Conference Call

Orange Box, Ratchet And Clank Future, Unreal Tournament 3, Call of Duty 4, Mask of The Betrayer, EA: Gobble Everything, Your Emails and more!

You probably won't find it too surprising that we talk about Electronic Arts purchasing the Bioware/Pandemic duo this week. We also plow through a huge game list and a pile of your emails! Special thanks this week to Workbench for the awesome piano tune!

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.

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Comments

Only ten minutes in sofar and I had to bring up two issues I have with the Episode 2 discussion.

1 - There wasn't just one new enemy. There were two. The hunters and the new antlions.

2 - People complaining about the length. Why are people complaining about Episode 2's length when it is a 6 hour expansion and no one complains about Halo 3 being a 6 hour SEQUEL. *shrug* Seems like double standards when considering games.

I agree with the stale gameplay comments about Eps. 2. The big issue is that we are still playing essentially the exact same game and engine as a couple years ago. As gamers we expect to see some noticeable changes in that time.

Most games have one expansion and move on. Half Life was at least smart enough to have the expansions where you played different characters.

Sarkus wrote:

I agree with the stale gameplay comments about Eps. 2. The big issue is that we are still playing essentially the exact same game and engine as a couple years ago. As gamers we expect to see some noticeable changes in that time.

Most games have one expansion and move on. Half Life was at least smart enough to have the expansions where you played different characters.

Really? I mean, yes... there's still the basic combat of the Half-Life games... but things HAVE changed.

A. There are two new enemies. Both of which require new adaptations of tactics. Suddenly you have new types of antlions which act totally differently from almost every other enemy in the game. The workers try hit and run/sniping tactics, almost never coming directly to you. Having to deal with this new type of enemy changes how you respond to certain tactical situations in the first two chapters where they are prominently featured. Secondly, you have the hunters, which are such a strong aggressive force that it's very nearly overwhelming to fight them, especially in packs.

B. New fighting tactics are required to fight old enemies. Technically, you could say it's a SINGLE new tactic, using the gravity gun to hurl things at the old enemies of helicopters and striders... but these new tactics vastly change the way you fight these guys. The removal of the rocket launcher as an effective way to fight both of these enemies vastly changes the dynamics of these fights.

Yes, the rest of the combat is pretty much the same as it was before... but... personally, it was good before... why screw with it?

Now, the length COULD be a genuine concern. People cite the two year development period as some kind of measure of expected length. That, to my mind, is a horrible mistake. Listening to the commentary, it's obvious that rather than just make a bunch of levels and connect them, Valve took their time with almost every aspect of all three new products included in the Orange Box. New technologies were developed... mostly for the rendering of environments. If you listen, there was a lot of trial and error in the old systems till they realized that new systems were required.

There was also, from the sounds of things, a lot of revisions on existing content due to the responses and playing of testers. So, sections of the game went through NUMEROUS changes. Something as simple as the number of boards blocking your final escape from the glowy antlion soldier was changed several times to get JUST the right tension and emotion out of players. Small puzzles went through a lot of revisions. And lots of little environmental details and story enhancers were added as they went along to really make the world feel alive. From what I've played of Halo 3, it doesn't come close to the amount of detail added to an expansion pack for Half-Life 2.

I mean, in Episode 2, there's a point where you can experience the life of a common soldier who's obvious job was to sit in one place and launch machine gun grenades into a toxic pit to stop zombies from penetrating the civies' site. Such a pointless little detail, but so much fun to goof around with for a few minutes.

And this is all about Episode 2. We could talk a lot more about Portal and TF2. Not to mention the porting of all this and previous HL2 content to a new system. Seriously, the amount of content created, tested, and so wonderfully executed is still, as far as I'm concerned, the best deal in gaming out there right now.

And this is all about Episode 2. We could talk a lot more about Portal and TF2. Not to mention the porting of all this and previous HL2 content to a new system. Seriously, the amount of content created, tested, and so wonderfully executed is still, as far as I'm concerned, the best deal in gaming out there right now.

Like I said in the show, as a whole the Orange Box is fantastic. However compared to TF2 and Portal, Episode 2 was the weakest link of the bunch. It was good, gorgeous, and the story was excellent, but to me the game play was starting to get a little stale while the rest of the package excelled. I am thinking maybe Valve realized this and decided to bundle Episode 2 for that very reason.

2 - People complaining about the length. Why are people complaining about Episode 2's length when it is a 6 hour expansion and no one complains about Halo 3 being a 6 hour SEQUEL. *shrug* Seems like double standards when considering games.

You can't compare Halo 3 to just Episode 2. Halo 3 has a huge multi player component to it that Episode 2 alone doesn't have, and I imagine that is where people get their moneys worth. I certainly hope that's the case for me because if it's not I am going to trade it back in.

Gaald wrote:

You can't compare Halo 3 to just Episode 2. Halo 3 has a huge multi player component to it that Episode 2 alone doesn't have, and I imagine that is where people get their moneys worth. I certainly hope that's the case for me because if it's not I am going to trade it back in.

Yeah, that's the problem with me. I want a game to either have multiplayer or single player. Don't try to give me both. If you give me both, you're going to screw up one. Either give me a pure story or a pure singleplayer. I don't want either tacked on. It seems like Halo 3 is just a new multiplayer with a tacked on single player for the most part. *shrug* Why even try at that point?

If you give me both, you're going to screw up one.

There's your error.

The only game ever to satisfy me in multiplayer and singleplayer was Timesplitters 3.

Danjo Olivaw wrote:
If you give me both, you're going to screw up one.

There's your error.

His error? Mord's statement is practically a law of game development at this point. It's why people on both sides of the fence were disappointed by Neverwinter Nights. Some people wanted more out of the multiplayer, others thought the singleplayer campaign was lacking, and yet another group was totally disappointed in the campaign creator tools. This sort of thing happens pretty consistently in the gaming industry (NN being one of the best examples of a company overextending itself in multiple categories).

Now, as per Gaald's comments. Yes, the other two games are far more exciting. Why? New hotness. End of story. Portal is a puzzle game unlike any other for many people. Team Fortress is just so much damn fun without being complicated than almost anyone can get into it. Episode 2 is a continuation of a storyline with a lot of factors already set in stone by previous games. It's old and cold to many people. Me? I love a good story. The puzzles and play of Portal were great... but the interaction between the character and GlaDos was the most interesting thing there. I LOVE TF2 a lot. I'll be playing it almost every time I need a quick fix of some easy to jump into fun. It's deep strategically and such... but it's got no real storyline. It's got no emotional depth to me. That's where Ep2 steps in in this trilogy of games.

TF2 = Easy fun, lots of strategy and tactics, but no storyline or emotional depth.
Portal = Complicated puzzles with very few real "battles", storyline of a developing relationship and a discovery of your situation, while this storyline is well-told and very thought out... it's pretty simple too. Higher power observes lower power. Lower power breaks free of higher power. Higher power gets upset. Lower power fights for freedom.
Ep2 = Puzzles and combat are relatively simple and well understood already (except for a few key battles). Storyline is filled with character development, revealing past, etc...

Then again, I could be way off on this... but it IS 3AM and I need to get to bed for school tomorrow.

WiC? Has both.

I used to be an investor in a couple of our local gaming stores and you'd have all sorts of people turning in their M:TG collections. If it was a couple like was mentioned in the podcast more often than not it wasn't because the woman was trying to change the guy it was due to the financial burdens of staying current in the game.

Normally if it was the guy doing it because his girlfriend asked him to they normally came in by themselves. Talk grandly about why they were quitting and 2-3 months later be back to buy back their cards when they got a new girlfriend.

Demosthenes wrote:
Danjo Olivaw wrote:
If you give me both, you're going to screw up one.

There's your error.

His error? Mord's statement is practically a law of game development at this point.

Many of us were quite satisfied with both aspects of Halo 3. Likewise, I think the same could have been said of GRAW last year (and perhaps GRAW 2, but I didn't play that one), and of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory too. Oh, and while we're talking about it, The Orange Box as a package manages it as well, even if the multiplayer is set in a different world than the single player. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

In general, though, it is a quite a feat for a game to pull off both single and multiplayer modes well. However, calling it law that it is not possible is a bit extreme if you ask me.

Certis wrote:

This is from McChuck, by the way, who has some pretty impressive guns.

rabbit wrote:

Who would have thought he'd be so dang smart.

Ladies, please. Form an orderly queue.

I wanted to link to the Ranier Wolfcastle clip where his muscles respond to being spoken about but I couldn't find it. This one is better anyway.

A final note on the Source demo tool mentioned (but not linked. Whose the bastard now? ;)), you don't have to download a special tool. It comes with Source games. You can access it through the developer's console. There are text commands (eg., record file_name, playdemo filename) or a GUI (accessed with demoui). But, yeah, not the most accessible system.

Rob (?) is right about UT3's menu, from my experience: until you enter a login and move to the next menu (singleplayer or multiplayer), there is no option to exit the game.

Rabbit is the only guy here talking sense about the EA deal. Maybe it's just because we are both old coots.

Hasn't Gabe Newell said that the Half-Life 2 episodes are essentially Half-Life 3 in little chunks so we don't have to wait another 5 years and source code leak?

Yup. But who knows what will happen after Episode 3?

Regarding couples getting married and the woman believing that she can change the man, this definitely happened to me. My ex-wife (you can already see how this ended...) knew about my gaming when we got married, but she figured I would outgrow it, despite the fact that I was 27 when we got married. I actually had no idea that she despised it so much - I knew she wasn't into gaming but she never came down on it either. She put up with it for a few years and tolerated me having friends over for gaming a couple times each month, but eventually she had enough and really started letting me know what she thought of my "stupid" games. We had lots of other unrelated problems, to be sure, but the gaming was definitely one of the stages our battles were fought on.

I remember one night, during the last months of our marriage, she came down to my PC where I was running a Neverwinter Nights game (which she thought was Satanic because it's D&D - she is also a religious zealot-type, BTW), and told me to turn it off, threatening that if I didn't I would be "walking through a one-way door." I told her that, if that was the case, then I was walking through that door, and continued my game. I consider that one of the defining moments of our (failed) marriage. We were separated a couple months later, and our 12-year marriage formally came to an end soon after that.

The gaming problem went two ways. My wife was pissed that I spent time playing games, which she didn't enjoy, and I was pissed that her dislike of them translated into insulting me and treating me as immature because I happened to be into something that was not "acceptable" in her concept of an adult male. As our relationship eroded over time in just about every conceivable area, I spent more time retreating into gaming which of course made her even more resentful and angry of both them and me. Not a pretty scene, and a difficult cycle to break out of. Did I end up spending way too much time gaming and not enough trying to mend the relationship? Almost certainly, and I accept my share of the blame on that count. But a good part of the problem also came from my ex's fundamental disregard for a hobby which is an important part of who I am and is a big part of how I like to spend my time.

Anyway, my main point in response to the questions raised in the podcast is that you don't always know it's going to be a problem when you get married, and it may not be a central issue. But if you do have other problems, and your spouse is not interested in gaming, then it is quite possible that it will become one of the battlegrounds on which the real issues are fought.

Excellent bit of perspective Miserere, I wish you hadn't had to come by it the hard way, but I appreciate the post.

HEY! Who wanted to give me crap?! Find me in Gears this Friday so I can show you what my tag means!

McChuck wrote:

Yup. But who knows what will happen after Episode 3?

Episode 4 with a new story arc, that's what.

Mystic Violet wrote:

HEY! Who wanted to give me crap?! Find me in Gears this Friday so I can show you what my tag means! :twisted:

That would be rabbit. Get em'!

IMAGE(http://img85.imageshack.us/img85/8440/largeformatfireexitsignai5.gif)

At the end of the show you guys were discussing the email re:girls/relationship/changing your habits.

Rob's comments reminded me of this song. It seems to fit perfectly.

In regards to Dreadale's e-mail, NPR had an interesting little piece about voice actors in videogames recently. It mostly focuses on how the actors are lobbying for residuals (continuing payment after a game ships) but also contains some background about voice acting in games. I haven't listened to the GDC link above, it's probably more comprehensive.

Personally, I'm pretty impressed with HL2: Ep 2 so far (I've only gotten to the first Hunters, though). When I picked up the Orange Box, I had already played through Portal and some TF2 on the PC, and I decided to try and play the Half-Life 2 suite back-to-back. I played a bit of HL2 proper, up until the dune buggy, before jumping ahead and plowing through Episode 1, and continuing on to Episode 2.

Playing chunks of each release back-to-back really highlights how the games have change. Definitely, the underlying principles of the design are the same, along with the enemies, the weapons, and the puzzles, but, they're refined the game's signature Intense Gameplay so much that it feels totally different. I definitely feel like HL2 proper never had me in the kind of panic mode Ep 2 is getting me into. The strider battles in the original seem downright tame, now.

The voice of GLaDOS, I think, was performed by Ellen McLain. She's the voice of the Combine Overwatch and collaborated with Jonathan Coulton for the song "Still Alive." I can't find anything online to confirm this however, so I'm just making an assumption. I think one of the developer commentaries in Portal mentions who did the voice work. Will have to check when I get home tonight.

Rob, you need to come on Thursday nights for Zombie Skatepocalypse which is where I am getting the most enjoyment from Halo 3. Between the GWJ variants of different maps (Zombie Nascar, Organ Trail, Endless Ages, etc.) enhance gametypes like infection.

Always a good laugh between the games played, people being medicated or inebriated, or just crazy topics.

Trachalio wrote:

The voice of GLaDOS, I think, was performed by Ellen McLain. She's the voice of the Combine Overwatch and collaborated with Jonathan Coulton for the song "Still Alive." I can't find anything online to confirm this however, so I'm just making an assumption.

Yes, it's her. She's also the announcing voice in TF2.

kuddles wrote:
Trachalio wrote:

The voice of GLaDOS, I think, was performed by Ellen McLain. She's the voice of the Combine Overwatch and collaborated with Jonathan Coulton for the song "Still Alive." I can't find anything online to confirm this however, so I'm just making an assumption.

Yes, it's her. She's also the announcing voice in TF2.

Wow, talk about a range of voices!

Trachalio wrote:
kuddles wrote:
Trachalio wrote:

The voice of GLaDOS, I think, was performed by Ellen McLain. She's the voice of the Combine Overwatch and collaborated with Jonathan Coulton for the song "Still Alive." I can't find anything online to confirm this however, so I'm just making an assumption.

Yes, it's her. She's also the announcing voice in TF2.

Wow, talk about a range of voices!

You can say that again.