GWJ Conference Call Episode 69

Conference Call

Devil May Cry 4, Burnout Paradise, The Club, Pixeljunk Monsters, Welcome To The Sandbox, Your Emails and more!

This week we catch up on some of the new (finally!) games available and our thoughts on playing in sandbox worlds. Aimless wandering or glorious, emergent gameplay? Design genius or design crutch?

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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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree

"Small Comfort" - Apoplexia (Benoit Casey) - 0:22:20
"All That She Remembers" - Apoplexia (Benoit Casey) - 0:44:03


Crap, I forget what else I was supposed to link to!

Warcraft III tower defense was awesome.

YES. Thank you!

Comfort Games eh?
'Diablo 2'

and someone needs to admonish me with a TF2 flamethrower for this one .... 'Entropia Universe' sigh, there i said it

It's WoW and TF2 for me.

SWG and WoW here as well.

Also dudes Rush rocks! Canadian or not

The world needs more 2112 and YYZ and Neil Peart is insane

I think YYZ is their only good song.

Elysium's comfort game is Civ 4?

We have multiple ongoing threads. Jump in a sunday game sometime!

Great discussion on Sandbox games, btw. I'm at the same place with Burnout Paradise, unfortunately. I just recently gave up on Assassin's Creed and I'm getting close on Burnout. I thought it was just me. There was something wrong with me that I didn't love Assassin's Creed and Burnout Paradise and felt like going back and finishing Psychonauts or playing more Burnout 3 or Burnout Revenge.

It's strange too, because I loved Vice City. And I REALLY loved Crackdown. To this day Crackdown is one of my favorite games ever. So much so that I still want to play it. I will say a few things on the topic.

#1 - I think there is something to the idea that the world should open up to you. Part of what made Crackdown so cool (and I will use this as my example, because I had so much fun with this game) was that the verticality of the game was "unlocked" as you gained more agility. So there would indeed be towers, orbs, buildings that you wanted to get to, but knew you couldn't and there was a game conceit (jumping to get the orbs) that was both addictive and drove you forward. You could literally make a game without the gangs where the whole goal was to collect orbs, jump higher and blow up stuff random stuff and I'm fairly convinced that it would be just as fun as Crackdown. The "bosses" and gang members almost got in the way for me. They were in many ways pointless compared to the fun of exploring the world with the weapons at your disposal and the orbs driving you forward. The other thing this design accomplishes is to help to familiarize you with certain parts of the city and give you a sense of place...

#2 - A sense of place. What I loved about Vice City and Crackdown is that I felt like I really knew the world. If I wanted to create certain kinds of jumps I knew exactly where to go in each game. If I wanted to enjoy some "emergent gameplay" in each world I knew where to go because the world had gained a sense of place. In Crackdown especially the world was distinct and memorable to me. If I was in the Volk territory I knew roughly how to get to the transport shipyard. If there was a building I couldn't get to the top of I'd remember it. I think the reason why this didn't happen for me in Assassin's Creed is because the entire conceit of the game is that you couldn't even walk down the street without guards noticing you and then you having to scramble away from them. In Burnout Paradise the game moves so quickly and you can't get out of your car, as in Crackdown or Vice City, so you never really stop and linger on a piece of the world and get to know it. Plus there's no specific mission, orb, whatever to keep you at a certain spot. In the process what's lost is that you don't really feel like you truly know the world. In Crackdown, when I fire it up, I know where everything is still, why I might want to go there, good memories I had playing in a certain area of the world, etc.

#3 - Where Crackdown fell down. This pains me to this day. People seem to be having fun with Burnout Paradise. That's fine. I had fun the first day and ever since then haven't been able to get joined up with a game to see if it's still fun or if it is pretty much "race to this point and do some jumps". But at least in Paradise you can get 2 or more people into the world and watch the mayhem ensue. Imagine if Crackdown had more than 2 players in the game at one time? I think about all the excitement over Little Big Planet. I feel this excitement is entirely justified. But I sincerely believe that if you had a world like Crackdown where 8 people could run around stacking cars, setting up wrecks, creating games to play like football with a car or something, the game would have had massive legs. The sandbox in Crackdown offers more tools at your disposal. I just wish I could have shared those experiences with more people.

#4 - On that topic, I think all of these games could benefit from saved games and Forge-like capabilities. Part of what Halo 3 did REALLY right, even though I personally burned out on the multi-player fairly quickly, were the saved films and Forge. My little brother and I, on more than one occasion, spent a good 3 to 4 hours in Forge just creating funny scenarios, making them happen and then going back to watch the saved films, take screenshots, etc. Witness our recreation of the motorcycle scene in MI2 with Mongeese and the Narrows.


Now imagine Crackdown where you can create some absurd scenario, live it out, then upload it instantly to a You-Tube like service. That would have increased the fun of the game exponentially. Even better if you could have brought new items into the world later on.

That's all I'll say on that. I think there's a place for emergent gameplay in my life. Someone just needs to nail it. Crackdown was close to me. Burnout Paradise is frustrating. I keep wanting to get out of my car and throw it and the game won't let me.

Another great podcast, guys!
Every week, I keep refreshing my Zune and the front page cursing to myself "What is *taking* them so long?!? Upload it already!!!"
And then, every week, the "credits" roll and once again, I am cursing "Noooooooooooooooooo!!!!! I need more! Gimme more! Just a *little*! Just to tide me over! Waaaah!"

Hehe, great stuff guys. Best. Podcast. On the tubes.

Sorry my Canadian brothers but I've always read it as "good" jers, because everyone here is so nice and good to each other. I know it's totally cheesy, but it's the truth.

I also don't get the appeal of Grand Theft Auto. I think I've tried each entry into the series and they've never grabbed me. I don't like games (or music or movies for that matter) that glorify violence and crime, and that's all the GTA series was to me.

ducki ,what is this 'zune' , you speak of? I think you may be the only one who owns one,besides Bill Gates. Sorry,just messing with ya..:)

0Johnny0 wrote:

ducki ,what is this 'zune' , you speak of? I think you may be the only one who owns one,besides Bill Gates. Sorry,just messing with ya..:)

There might actually be three of them.

Great show. Good topic. I believe you bumped Burnout down to a rental for me.

In regards to comfort games, the farthest back I can think of are MUDs, which I first played 13 years ago. I used to jump back on a telnet program and hop on a couple favorites during gaming lulls. Others throughout the years include Final Fantasy IV, Counter-Strike, and Team Fortress 2 more recently.

You guys really put Burnout in its place, and I agree with everything you said. Still, as a personal preference, I'm glad I bought it outright instead of renting it. Maybe because I only own one other racing game (Forza 2) but at the end of the day, it's something I can keep in my limited library as a kind of showcase to what Rabbit referred to as the "golden age" of 360 gaming and return to whenever I have the need for speed. Probably because it's the first Burnout iteration I've played.

Great podcast, by the way. You guys are really hitting your stride. Keep up the good work!

I'm not sure how long it's going to last in my library, unfortunately.... The urge to play Crackdown grew with the Conference Call, while the urge to just go ahead and give up on Paradise grew as well. I have Burnout 3 and Burnout Revenge to keep me happy?

Love the show, but I am pushing back a little on Burnout and its gameplay progression. Although there really is no incentive to achieve some of the mini-goals, if you notice some of the billboards are impossible to get to unless you have a better car. So if you have the desire to get all the billboard signs, you do need to win races to unlock cars, that you then have to take down, in order to get the cars that allow you to achiever this feat. Also, the races/stunts/marked man challenges become more difficult over time so that you have to use a better car to win the challenge. So far, I haven't burned out on Burnout, but to each his/her own. Thanks for the show!

What does getting the billboards get you, though? Other than another car to get another billboard? I don't know, for me that's not the same tangible benefit as even the agility orbs in Crackdown and ranks only slightly higher than capturing flags in Assassin's Creed.

Sorry my Canadian brothers but I've always read it as "good" jers, because everyone here is so nice and good to each other. I know it's totally cheesy, but it's the truth.

I don't care what the rest of you bozos call it, I STILL call it gweejers. There's a f-ing double-yew in there, dammit. G. W. J. Not GUJ, not GooJ, not G schwa J, G. W. J.

If you don't pronounce the W, you're clearly not reading the same site I am.

So there.

For my part, I think that the single player on the latest Burnout isn't very good. It doesn't take long for the races, etc. to feel like a chore. Fortunately there's a lot of other things you can do when the frustration gets too high, such as exploring, or setting better showtime scores. Eventually, though, the bloom will come off that rose. I can understand why people wouldn't be enamored with the single player experience.

I get 90% of my joy in the game from the multiplayer. The co-op skill challenges are a lot of fun, and I think there are 350 of them. There's also the option to set up custom races, or just mess around. The multiplayer interface is a bit clunky, but I'm having a ball playing online with other Goodjers.

I understand where you guys are coming from re: Burnout Paradise, but my own perspective is completely different.

I don't want a gradually unlockable racing world, and I don't want a half-baked storyline to tie it all together. As far as I'm concerned, Paradise's open world, and the opportunity to explore it unfettered by artificial limits, is more than enough reward. To be honest, I'm sick to death of "open world" games that force you to jump through hoop after repetitive hoop to unlock more content (I'm looking at you, Tony Hawk).

I also think you're understating (or at least underappreciating) the size, scope, and variety of the world. 16 hours in and even though I now have a good handle on each particular area, I'm still finding new features and routes. And you can't easily complete the game's challenges with any old car, either. Certain situations demand specialized, higher-level vehicles.

When Certis mentioned the purported next-gen developer perspective of, "We can give you the playground but we can't give you the reason for being there aside from having fun," I can only respond with a rabbitlike, "Whaaaaa...?" Honestly, is there a better reason than fun? Last night I spent about an hour and a half in a single location (the airstrip) just shooting the breeze with other GWJers while pulling various stunts. The opportunity to simply play--to drive around the world--while chatting with others was plenty entertaining. It was fun. Fun is the point.

Burnout doesn't compare well to Assassin's Creed. Apples and oranges. Burnout's a racing game, and as such its appeal has never been dependent upon story or linear progression. Paradise's game world may be, as Certis says, unaware of the player, etc. but I find that completely irrelevant to my enjoyment of the game. I don't need, or want, that kind of thing in my Burnout.

At some point I'll grow tired of the game. Whether that will be at 20 hours or 60, I can't say for sure. What I can say for sure is that it will have been worth the purchase price. Not to discount other opinions, because in the end this all comes down to personal preference. I'm just saying that, for me, Burnout Paradise's choice-driven, open-world racing design works perfectly. I wish more developers would make racing, snowboarding, and skateboarding games like this--where the action is, in large part, the reward.

I think I would be having more fun if I was managing to cobble together MP games, perhaps. As a SP game it completely falls down. You're correct, Fly. You don't have to be the center of the universe if you're just playing with friends.

I think that's what made Crackdown (and to a lesser extent Vice City) more fun to me. They could be enjoyed SP (obviously in the case of Vice City).

DSGamer wrote:

I think I would be having more fun if I was managing to cobble together MP games, perhaps. As a SP game it completely falls down. You're correct, Fly. You don't have to be the center of the universe if you're just playing with friends.

I think that's what made Crackdown (and to a lesser extent Vice City) more fun to me. They could be enjoyed SP (obviously in the case of Vice City).

Everything I said above applies to the SP portion of Paradise. I love the SP game. I thought Crackdown was a good single player game that really shone in multiplayer. I think Paradise works equally well in multiplayer and singleplayer.

Paradise feels to me the way SSX 3 felt after I unlocked the entire mountain: like a huge, amazingly well-constructed, free-wheeling environment where I could do something that I really enjoy. Except with Paradise, I didn't have to unlock anything, and I LOVE that.

I agree with The Fly regarding Paradise. While it is nowhere near perfect I find myself coming back over and over again like no other racer has made me do besides Burnout 3. I like how you can go anywhere from the onstart yet you can still spend hours perfecting shortcuts and the freeway system to truly master the city's layout. My only gripes are that there is no Crash mode (and Showtime is meh in my book), and you can't unlock cars online.

Besides that? This game is gold. I find myself getting online just hoping there are a few people online screwing around so I can join in on the festivities, even if they aren't actually racing or doing challenges. It's simply fun driving around with friends as you talk and ridicule each other.

I agree with Fly GWJ. I like the SP game mode. And I like challenging myself with getting all the licenses, smashes, and billboards. I don't really need a food pellet for all my effort, I just like the sense of pride I get completing the missions and driving around figuring out better ways to get around town.

It's fun.

Jaunty wrote:
0Johnny0 wrote:

ducki ,what is this 'zune' , you speak of? I think you may be the only one who owns one,besides Bill Gates. Sorry,just messing with ya..:)

There might actually be three of them.

Don't forget this hunka hunka burnin' love:

And somehow I am now contented with my ipod.

Comfort game: Civ 4 by a mile.

It's interesting to me that you guys have criticized cRPG's because their style is too player-centric, yet it sounds like that's exactly what you miss in the Sandbox genre. Obviously, the solution to both of these genre's problems lies somewhere in the middle, but it's funny to hear, "We want more freedom!" in one podcast and, "It's not about me enough," a couple of weeks later. Game developers must feel like they're trying to win an argument with their wife every time they read reviews.