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

If you could count Orange Box as one game, it'd be GotY, hands down.

Yahtzee just put out the Orange Box Zero Punctuation.

God damned that AussieBrit MoFo. He's like the only guy who gets me completely jealous. His stuff is SO good, SO funny, and SO on point it makes me feel ashamed to even have my own ideas. Grrrr.....

Demosthenes wrote:
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.

Sure, but it's been 3 years since HL2 was released. The changes have all been incremental, not major. A few new enemies, but no new weapons really. I realize Valve is Valve and I'm not saying Eps. 2 is not a good game, it's just that it doesn't feel like it's really advancing the genre.

I'm sure part of my lack of enthusiasm is due to Eps. 2 inevitably being judged in the glare of Portal, which I played first. Portal takes the same game engine and shows that new and different gameplay is very possible. Eps. 2 doesn't do that; it's merely a polished version of HL2. That's fine for an expansion released a year after the main game, but not for something three years later.

I dunno... Ep2 was the last thing from the package that I played as well... and while yes, there is a lot of the same elements as before, it's basically a goram sequel. I don't get it, was everyone expecting Gordon Freeman to suddenly not have the gravity gun and crowbar? I was surprised that the damn rocket launcher is almost a bit part only good for killing hunters IF you don't go easy mode with a certain gun's secondary fire (provided you can even find the god damn ammo for that, seeing as how there seems to be all of three in the entire campaign this time around).

Something tells me my perspective is being changed by the fact that I listened almost all of the commentaries, thus knowing pretty much WHY it took so much longer to come out than it probably should have. And, listening to them, if HALF of it was even true... you gotta realize that Valve is a company that is...

A. Concerned about getting things right. I mean, for God's sake, they fine-tuned how many boards cover a certain door so your escape is dramatic and makes you sh*te your damn pants because you're thinking you're never gonna make it and you're gonna get punted and die and sh*t-lotta good a mute dead scientist is gonna be to the world. (unless you play like me and you used the MP5's grenade launcher to clear all the boards RIGHT away and then laughed as the Guardian got his head stuck in the door)

B. Takes pride and focuses energy on more than shiny graphics. That's not to say that shiny graphics aren't also important... this latest installment and its two companions are all slick as hell, dressed to a T. But, hearing about the fine-tuning of combat, the insertion of little details, and all the work to make the important characters in a game come off as human (something my frat boy neighbors with what I hear by dub Halo-3-Hard-ons can't even realistically claim)... yes, the combat is the exact same combat that made Half-Life, Half-Life 2, and Half-Life 2: Episode 1 so much fun... but... why is that a bad thing? Is it a little repetitive after all these years? Yes... but at least they're sticking with a system that works instead of rehashing a button mashing extravaganza of crap.

I dunno... I loved Ep2, it did what I expected and more for a middle story in a trilogy and it was damn fun to boot. Now if only I could figure how the hell I'm supposed to... A. Carry that stupid gnome with me everywhere. B. Kill a hunter with its own shots that I can't pick up. and C. Save that town without losing a single building without a map in my car and a detailed list of every single incoming enemy so I can act like I'm a psychic when I'm basically gonna have to be a cheating whore to get that far.

Seriously... why do all my posts in this thread keep getting bigger and bigger?

it's just that it doesn't feel like it's really advancing the genre.

You think throwing in a couple new weapons advances the genre? How can you advance the genre from episode to episode anyway? I mean, should they? What's the big deal with advancing a genre anyway if we get a great story, art, and presentation pulling everything together? VALVe is doing this better than almost all other developer studios at the moment. It's amazing to me that they CAN create unique experiences without switching up the weapons.

They mentioned it in the podcast, but I would have been 100% happy with Ep2 if it came out in 6 months, not a year and a half later. The Orange Box is great, but some people have suggested that Ep2 took so long because of
1) Source Engine enhancements
2) Time to develop Portal and TF2
3) Port to XBOX360

I really wish I knew how much these items added to the development time, but #2 bothers me the most. If Valve has decided that going forward they are going to be releasing HL Episodes in Orange Box-like batches then the whole point episodic gaming is lost. If we had to wait 6 months longer for Ep2 because they needed to finish TF2 and/or Portal so they can have a stronger retail product, then what is the point of episodes? Is Orange Box a one time gem or will Valve scramble to put together Orange Box 2 for the Ep3 release?

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. I think one of the developer commentaries in Portal mentions who did the voice work. Will have to check when I get home tonight.

Head over to EvilAvatarRadio. They have an excellent, albeit spoilerific episode, featuring both Ellen McLain AND Jonathan Coulton. But wait untill you beat Portal to listen to this episode, because they dive into spoilers without any warning.

http://www.evilavatarradio.com/audio/EAR.Episode78.mp3

Only one new enemy in Episode 2? I know they're bastards, but the Acid Antlions deserve some love and attention, too.

Yeah, and the Worker/Acid Antlions are by far more interesting than the Hunters, which just seem to be uber-soldiers. The Workers are the first hit-and-run/sniper style badguys we've had that you actually engage in combat with (seeing as how the snipers in Ep1 and HL2 were stationary guys that you just lobbed grenades into).

Hey all,

First post so please be gentle

Great show - again. One question: where's the limit to Rabbit's Martini recipie!? I was looking forward to that!

Fair point re the marriage thing though: my wife didn't realise how much gaming I did till we got married. But then she spends loads of time with horses so it all evens out. As you said, there's far more to marriage than just a couple of hobbies!

Cheers

-H

3 parts Hendricks Gin
1 Part Noilly prat

Let sit on ice for 60 seconds

2 olives

Strain

How much easier can you get? Some times I go heavier on the vermouth.

And what is the limit of which you speak?

While listening to the podcast, I found the discussion of women trying to change guys who game rather interesting. Permit me, if you will, to relate a precautionary tale.

When I first met her, she didn't play games at all. I'd been playing games since they came out on cassettes and were loaded into a whopping 64k of RAM. She viewed my gaming with a sort of benevolent amusement and, while happy to accept this as a hobby of mine, expressed that she was disinclined to try it herself. She was happy creating art, reading books, and similar such pursuits. Our relationship matured over the years and eventually we decided to move in together. For the first time, a powerful PC gaming rig was in her home.

She saw me playing Neverwinter Nights and was intrigued. She enjoyed novels that had wizards, knights, and villains in them, and here it was brought to life on a screen. Naturally, I was delighted to help her create a character. True to form, she spent hours deciding on the look and name of her wizard, and seemed more interested in that process than progressing through the game. But soon she started really playing through the single-player campaign. I was very happy; she was ready to share my hobby! She began to play a great deal, and enthusiastically bought the expansions for NWN. She quickly surpassed my own character (played infrequently due to real-life commitments). We decided to get married, and did so. Strangely, our relationship began to deteriorate after we'd taken such a big step. She began to play NWN to the exclusion of other things. I built an entirely new system for her, since I actually needed my computer for work and school. Things were okay, but clouds were looming.

I purchased the then-new World of Warcraft game, and began playing. She asked about it, and was intrigued by the idea of playing a fantasy game along with many other real people. I let her roll a character on my account, and shortly thereafter had to get a new account because she'd levelled up so much that I didn't have the heart to make her get her own account. Suddenly I found myself in the position of interrupting her play time to see if she wanted to do things. Every conversation I tried to start felt like an intrusion on her WoW experience. People in her guild seemed more real to her than her real-life relationships, which deteriorated rapidly.

Consumed by her gaming, real-life problems began to rear their heads. Not only our relationship began to break, but commitments she had began to become critical. Rather than facing these things, she dived ever deeper into the gaming. She would fall asleep over her keyboard, or lie on the floor with the headphones still on her head. I began to beg her to stop gaming (who'd have believed it?!), to try to find a healthy balance of gaming and life. But a vicious circle had been created, made worse when she started drinking to dull the sound of her life falling apart around her. The appeals of myself, her family, and her friends were drowned out by the call of WoW raids and her guildies.

Our nine-year relationship ended less than a year ago, and she still plays to the exclusion of almost all else. She's been rescued from ruin a couple of times already by family and friends, but there's no end in sight the last I heard. I'm rational enough to understand that some underlying mental state (a predilection for addictive behaviours, perhaps) undoubtedly lies at the heart of all this, but I cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for encouraging her to become a gamer. For me, gaming is a thoroughly enjoyable hobby that is part of a well-balanced life. For her, it served as the engine of her destruction.

Such is my tale, and I hope it provides a counterpoint to girls trying to get their guys to stop gaming. Thanks for reading.

Coldstream, I don't know what else to say other than that completely sucks. Some people just have addictive traits which is not helpful considering WoW is pretty darn addictive to most normal people.

Wow. I mean, you hear stories like this, but they're always third hand. You have my sympathies.

Just a small, and not particularly important on the relationship between Elevation Partners and EA. Elevation Partners is a $1.9bn investment fund that buys companies and stakes in companies. They've set themselves up as a media / entertainment specialist (having been set up my the likes of Bono, Fred Anderson and John Riccitiello). Elevation used to own Pandemic and Bioware, and have now simply sold it to EA (rather than Elevation itself being sold to EA).

As you rightly say, its no surprise that Riccitiello's involved. My guess is that he was responsible for the initial Pandemic and Bioware acquisitions at Elevation and so its no surprise he ended up as the buyer.

Thanks for the sympathetic comments. I was actually hoping to spark some thoughts on the converse of the relationship issues mentioned in the podcast. Has anyone heard of (or been involved in) relationships in which the gamer pushes his/her partner to become a gamer, to the detriment of the relationship? Are we happy, as gamers, to have a partner who isn't interested in our hobby?

Hey guys, great show!

Upon listening, I felt that wives were being segmented into either "loves video games" or "trying to change you". I wanted to speak a bit on my situation.

My wife is not a gamer at all, and she does become annoyed if I'm gaming during time that she wants to spend together. I can understand her annoyance, because I feel it too if she's studying excessively (she's in grad school). We do fight about it at times, but there is still a general respect for each other's hobbies.

Honestly, I don't know many women that are into games of any sort. I didn't find it strange to be in a relationship where I can't sit down and plow through Strogg with my significant other. However, I would never settle for someone that didn't respect my hobby, even if she becomes somewhat annoyed by it.

Coldstream wrote:

Thanks for the sympathetic comments. I was actually hoping to spark some thoughts on the converse of the relationship issues mentioned in the podcast. Has anyone heard of (or been involved in) relationships in which the gamer pushes his/her partner to become a gamer, to the detriment of the relationship? Are we happy, as gamers, to have a partner who isn't interested in our hobby?

That's a real tragic case of getting too much of what you thought you wanted. My sympathies.

To be sure, there are plenty of cases in between the extremes of gaming to the exclusion of the SO or leaving the SO because of gaming. I know I have a desire to share my fun with my SO, but at the same time I'm mostly just glad that she humors me. I sort of wonder if she expects me to "grow out of it," and I hope she'd make that clear. She's willing to hang out with GWJ guys when she's feeling pretty beat, it turns out, so at least her capacity to humor me is robust.

I've been trying to figure out exactly why I want her to enjoy games the way I do. I think part of it is because I want her to understand my passions, and I'm willing to bet the "gamer girl" is a sort of fantasy fetish that nibbles at the back of my brain. Beyond that, though, I think that I want to share the cultural context with her (like, for instance, wanting her to watch Eddie Izzard at least so that she'll catch my references), and I don't want to feel like I'm blowing her off when I'm gaming.

I think that last one is the most important. I'm happy so long as she's not feeling neglected because of my games. I like playing some games with her, but I don't really need a girl who will play video games on her own.

reefinyateef wrote:

Hey guys, great show!

Upon listening, I felt that wives were being segmented into either "loves video games" or "trying to change you". I wanted to speak a bit on my situation.

My wife is not a gamer at all, and she does become annoyed if I'm gaming during time that she wants to spend together. I can understand her annoyance, because I feel it too if she's studying excessively (she's in grad school). We do fight about it at times, but there is still a general respect for each other's hobbies.

Honestly, I don't know many women that are into games of any sort. I didn't find it strange to be in a relationship where I can't sit down and plow through Strogg with my significant other. However, I would never settle for someone that didn't respect my hobby, even if she becomes somewhat annoyed by it.

I am divorced (see my post earlier in the thread) and gaming was definitely one of our issues. I am now in a relationship with another woman and we are living together. This time around I have determined to be much more cautious and not allow gaming to become a problem. My girlfriend is very respectful of peoples' differences and in no way judges my hobby (this is a nice change from my ex-wife) but she is only mildly interested in games. We play the occasional board game together - there are some really good German games for this - and occasionally she will watch me play a video game, but for the most part it is my hobby, not hers. She wants to participate, though, just because it's something I do, so we have started having another couple over to play board games about once a week. We stick to fairly basic games but we have fun and it's a good social time. Of course, it's a lot easier to involve other people in board games than in video games, but my gaming interests are very much in both spaces, so I'm happy to be playing games of any kind with her.

I have also instituted a self-imposed "rule", which for me is very important. During the later years of my marriage I would often just say goodnight when my wife was ready to go upstairs and retire for the night - I'd head down to the basement and fire up the computer and start playing games. I think that disconnect at the end of the day really heightened the distance between us and eroded what little was left of our relationship. Now, in my new relationship, unless there is something absolutely critical happening, I make sure that I go upstairs with my girlfriend when she is ready for bed and we spend some time talking and reading. I will sometimes get up again after she goes to sleep (and she's fine with this), and that is when I get in most of my gaming, but I make sure to have that time to connect at the end of the day. That seems to really help - women especially seem to need that time to talk at the end of the day to re-establish contact, especially if the rest of the day was hectic. I avoided this with my ex-wife when our relationship was falling apart, because our "talks" always turned into arguments or bitching sessions, but I would say that so far it has been a very good thing.

Back in the day when I wasn't going to bed at the same time as my wife because she worked earlier than me I would do the same thing. As funny as "I gotta go tuck in my wife" may sound, it's prime time for no-distraction talks to decompress a bit. Glad to see you're doing well in your new relationship, Miserere!

I hate podcasts, but I love the conference call. You guys do a great job. Conference call has changed mowing the lawn from a "chore" to an "opportunity to drink beer and catch up on some gaming-news-goodness". At this rate I'm going to be mowing the lawn well into December.

Anyway, on the subject of Episode 2 and its length...

I got engaged about 6 months ago. This was of course predicated by the purchasing an engagement ring or "turning all of my liquid assets into a small piece of Carbon." When shopping for the ring, I had a budget, and a decision to make. I had to strike the balance on the size:quality ratio for the stone. I could have bought a large (1-1.25 carat) stone of mediocre quality that would have astounded the average person with it's shear size and heft, or I could buy a smaller (.7 carat) stone of excellent quality that would be a far better investment. I now realize that $3000 in Apple stock would have been an even better investment, but hindsight is 20/20.

I chose the smaller stone for the same reason I'm in love with Episode 2. For my money, I'd rather have a smaller part of "Amazing" than a big old bucket of "I guess it's okay". Episode 2 has been polished to a blinding sheen. I forget who said it, but in the podcast, someone said they'd pay $50 dollars for just Portal and they'd continue to pay $50 for three hour games if they were all that good. I completely agree. Episode 2 is one of the tightest gaming experiences I've ever had, and I will gladly wait 18 months for 6 hour games for the rest of my life if they're going to be this good.