GWJ Conference Call Episode 82

Conference Call

Okami Wii, Metal Gear Solid Online, Mario Kart Wii, Lost Cities, Fitting In Games, Stories, Your Emails and more!

The gang is all here as we discuss our gaming lifestyles and some of the latest games to hit the scene. We also revive the Thread of the Week, tackle your emails and listen to Rob's impotent rage.

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 Audioworks

"George" (Benoit Casey) - 0:30:16
"Anxious Tedium" - Ouranos OST (Tom Quinn) - www.citadel-studios.com - 0:54:03

Comments

That competitor to Ikarium I mention is Travian, if anyone was wondering, but I'm enjoying Ikariam much more than I ever did Travian.

Lists are cool I have lists of games I want to buy, a list of games I'm going to buy when they fall below a certain price and even a list of the money I've saved through bargain hunting. They bring me joy.

My advice for saving money on games is to wait until the hype has passed on a game. The initial hype is like a wave. It peaks close to launch but if you can get past that then you find yourself in calm waters on the far side and suddenly it doesn't matter if you get the game this week or three months from now. Of course that doesn't help with multiplayer games when you need to be in at the start but no system is perfect.

I really hope Bungie are working on a new Myth style game. I think they are (in the past they have refer to something called the Project Pheonix.) My impression is that the people at Bungie loved to play Myth multiplayer as much as the fans and that they wanted to do a new Myth type game after Halo 1 but Halo took off and skuppered their plans.

To Rob:
If you were to play the game in FPS mode the entire game. You would have such a small field of view that you would be shot all the time and never see any of it coming. Then you would complain to everyone around that people keep sneaking up on you.

Love,
-MGO

As far as MGO goes, any console game that requires you to press and hold a combination of buttons in this day and age is automatically clunky. That's why GTA4's combat is still terrible. As for Certis, I finally realized after hearing his description of Okami's audio whom he resembles:

IMAGE(http://img147.imageshack.us/img147/8201/1279289665d1f1e551e6ba7.jpg)

Nice show guys and i appreciate the length!

I have to disagree with Rob though. I think that you are the person you are. Whether he had one or both gaming and TV watching he would probably spend a similar amount of time focussing on that or something else rather than being however much further down his career path he thinks he could be. I've found this with myself - i tend to procrastinate in other ways even when i deny myself the pleasures i normally peruse in my leisure time. However, saying all that i could be completely wrong.

Nice show guys and i appreciate the length!

Highlighting this comment for a certain someone who will remained un-named.

Carry on.

Rat Boy wrote:
As for Certis, I finally realized after hearing his description of Okami's audio whom he resembles:

IMAGE(http://img147.imageshack.us/img147/8201/1279289665d1f1e551e6ba7.jpg)

FINALLY someone gets it!

http://blog.us.playstation.com/2008/...

Q: What’s in the Metal Gear Online Starter Pack?
A: The Metal Gear Online Starter Pack, included with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, is a squad-based, online multiplayer tactical shooter that supports up to 16 players and takes place in the Metal Gear Solid universe.

Great show today, fellas!

Aside from Rob always being wrong, of course. Pfffft. I kid, I kid. <3

Andor wrote:

Aside from Rob always being wrong, of course. Pfffft. I kid, I kid. <3

Yeah, i love his raging... as it so closely mirrors my own impotent rage over certain topics

One of the thoughts that occurs to me, as far as gaming in our lives, is also being able to justify it as a 'legit' hobby to yourself, friends and extended family. Which can also factor in to how you fit it in to your life. Especially as you get older, there is a certain dirty guilt involved in spending more time gaming, because of what the industry is still seen as in some eyes, which as is nothing but a time waste. Eyes generally belonging to people my age (late 30s) and older. It can be tough to wear the badge of a 'gamer' as your hobby of choice, without getting looks of bewildered pity. So one must plant their flag and say this is what I like to do with my free time, and i am setting aside x amount of hours to level my 'Herald of Xotli'.

On a different note to this,maybe declaring to friends and family gaming is your hobby can backfire when you get a handmade crochett 360 cozy, or a needlepoint portrait of the pyro from TF2 for xmas.

N+ is amazing.
Its so much fun. Essentially you have to figure out the puzzles, but the difficulty makes it great when you beat every level during you survey class.

0Johnny0 wrote:

On a different note to this,maybe declaring to friends and family gaming is your hobby can backfire when you get a handmade crochett 360 cozy, or a needlepoint portrait of the pyro from TF2 for xmas.

I don't see how that's backfiring, I think that would be freekin' sweet.

Elysium wrote:
Nice show guys and i appreciate the length!

Highlighting this comment for a certain someone who will remained un-named.

Carry on.

Around an hour is still in a range I can handle. It's when you creep back towards two hours that I... I'm sorry, baby, but I think you're just too big for me.

Anyone interested in the AoC Open/Fileplanet Beta it seems like anyone that jumps in now to grab a key will get one. At least as of 1pm yesterday that was the case.

So some of the scrambling with Comrade to get those first ones is amusing.

0Johnny0 wrote:
or a needlepoint portrait of the pyro from TF2 for xmas.

That would SO rock!

Andor wrote:
http://blog.us.playstation.com/2008/...

Q: What’s in the Metal Gear Online Starter Pack?
A: The Metal Gear Online Starter Pack, included with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, is a squad-based, online multiplayer tactical shooter that supports up to 16 players and takes place in the Metal Gear Solid universe.

Great show today, fellas!

Aside from Rob always being wrong, of course. Pfffft. I kid, I kid. <3

I will admit that before I made the comment about it being sold separate I was going on information I heard before Christmas. During the show I pulled up info saying that the starter pack was essentially going to be like a demo of the game but that article was written back in January apparently. Obviously there is much newer info. I still wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being a really crippled version of the game regardless how many maps it comes with. In the interview I remember listening to at the end of last year they were pretty adamant MGO was going to be separate from MGS4 and people would have to pay extra to play it.

Hell if that's not the case than MGS4 might be worth picking up.

boogle wrote:
N+ is amazing.

I concur. The great thing about N+ is not necessarily the immediate joy in dying x number of times before successfully completing a level, but when you actually complete it and the sense of accomplishments that come with it. Some of the levels, Master Control comes to mind, took a long time for me to complete. The puzzles are not always simple at first glance, but are typically reasonable. The execution is the difficult part and where I find all of the satisfaction that I derive from the game.

That being said, it obviously isn’t for everyone, but is still a great game none the less.

I was happy about the main topic of the show, which was fitting gaming around your lifestyle and it's difficult at times, recently once again real life comes kicking and screaming in and buggers up all the plans you may have for doing various things. So when you get some time with nothing else to do, I would use it for gaming and not feel guilty at all.

Escapism is a big issue, who doesn't want to be be the uber cool guy who kills everything and gets the girl / guy of their choice at the end? If you work in accounting, that's got to seem like a better option? But the better point perhaps to make is if that you are unhappy about things and are using games to escape as what was suggested, then perhaps you need to look at deeper issues as to why you are doing such things.

That's my two pence for now as it's late! And btw, for random people back on the show, let me know and I can dazzle you all again with my lack of knowledge and terrible accent without sounding like I'm stuck down a hole again!! (not this weekend as I'm down in London for various bits of naughty!)

boogle wrote:
N+ is amazing.
Its so much fun. Essentially you have to figure out the puzzles, but the difficulty makes it great when you beat every level during you survey class.

I can see why people wouldn't like N+ but I love it. The thing for me is the co-op. The game isn't nearly as fun for me by myself as compared to when I'm playing with Stylez. Having to work together to figure out the co-op levels is a lot of fun and we had so many laughs when we died and bits of our ninjas were flying all over the levels. If you have someone to play it with (locally or online, you can do both), I highly recommend buying it for that because it becomes a whole other experience.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:
boogle wrote:
N+ is amazing.
Its so much fun. Essentially you have to figure out the puzzles, but the difficulty makes it great when you beat every level during you survey class.

I can see why people wouldn't like N+ but I love it. The thing for me is the co-op. The game isn't nearly as fun for me by myself as compared to when I'm playing with Stylez. Having to work together to figure out the co-op levels is a lot of fun and we had so many laughs when we died and bits of our ninjas were flying all over the levels. If you have someone to play it with (locally or online, you can do both), I highly recommend buying it for that because it becomes a whole other experience.

See, I played it in the flash version, and its a great timewaster.

When MGO was being apologized for with, "The controls are like that to make the playstyle more deliberate". I was reminded of how capcom defended their awful silent hill controls by saying it just added to effect of being frightened.

While I listened, I jotted down notes in another window. After a while, a string of phrases made me think there was a not-so-hidden subtext within the conversation. It goes like this: "Is it possible to be a successful, well-rounded person and also a gamer?" I am proud to say that, based on your conversation, I can answer: "Definitely maybe."

The usual answer is "All things in moderation" and, while this is certainly true for just about everything in life, it's basically a yawn. A better answer is "not damned likely if you're a 40 hour a week WoW addict". I know.. I know.. let the flaming begin.

More than a Gamer
The term "gamer" still has a lot of well deserved negative connotations attached to it (think pub-server smacktards). Part of being a well-rounded person means having a number of conceptual handles that you can use to describe yourself - of which gamer is only one. Those of us who have kids are acutely aware of this. While my son is destined to be a gamer, my wife and I have strong feelings about that being his only source of expression and identification.

Learning from Gaming
I am definitely one of those people who finds that there is much to be learned from many aspects of gaming. The usual stuff comes to mind: learning about interfaces, multiplayer socialization, resource management - all good stuff. I do suspect that there comes a point of diminishing returns, however. That's when the massive weekly gorging of any game becomes a hindrance to accomplishing the other things that life has to offer. Every die-hard gamer knows in his or her heart about this slipperly slope.

Rationalizations
That's when the rationalizations come into play. We all do it. I do it, for damned sure. For example: "At least it's not television" is a good one. I would hands-down agree that 40 hours of WoW is far better for a soul than 40 hours of standard television (see Clay Shirky's great talk entitled Gin, Television and Social Surplus). But what about 30 hours of your game of choice and 10 hours of a variety of games that increase interface knowledge? How about 20 hours of a fave and 10 of standing in the sunshine for more than a millisecond.

The point is that we all rationalize against viewing any of this time as "wasted" because we could always be a heroin-addled tweaker - it's an appeal to the lowest common denominator. While it makes me feel better about myself, I'm not sure that it's focusing on the most important stuff.

Integrating Gaming
By lifestyle necessity, I have had to cut down drastically on my gaming. I am on the way to having one of those well-rounded livesTM that I talked about earlier. What that means is that I have to shoehorn gaming motifs into my life. Sometimes, it's using reward-systems to keep my son focused on a task (see the "regime of competence" concept). Others are using what I've learned from sim/civ games to create workbench-environments for my boss. It's all there if someone's looking close enough. It's not quite gaming, but its an attempt to derive some productive benefit from the activity of gaming.

There have been a few good thoughts about having to justify your gaming passion - and they are quite on target. I promise that if all you are doing is gaming on your spare time, be prepared for loserdom in the eyes of others. I know - it doesn't matter what people think. "Just be yourself!" is really cute after-school special crap, but it has little connection to reality. If you have a career that you care about, it does matter. Professional acceptance and promotions are matters of perception more than matters of competence. Those of us outside the gaming industry have to walk about delicately.

Family Life
This will be particularly important for more and more of us as we gamers grow older. Are you finding that you have to budget your gaming time? Take a page from that and learn to budget your couple/family time, too. I promise you, if you do not, your relationship will fail.

When the podcast was focused on the guilt that a person can feel about enjoying games, good god do I relate. I have found that being productive before gaming is a great way to soothe the guilt. It's like working out at the gym and then treating myself to chocolate. Getting a bunch of chores done before gaming is very much in line with that thinking and makes the fragging all the sweeter.

Final Note
This was a really compelling podcast subject. Even after distilling so many of my (often contradictory) thoughts, I am not sure I have a great handle on it, though I feel it's something I'm learning to manage and integrate better and better. I still don't get as much time to game and there's a tinge of resentment on that score. However, then I look at the variety of fulfillment I have as a result.

For the record: I have come home and needed to blow sh*t up in TF2 because my work seems intolerable. It's a fantastic pressure release - and fills the void that would otherwise be filled up by watching sports.

Excellent stuff - thanks to you hosts and all you GWJers out there who also agonize about these things.

Parallax Abstraction wrote:
boogle wrote:
N+ is amazing.
Its so much fun. Essentially you have to figure out the puzzles, but the difficulty makes it great when you beat every level during you survey class.

I can see why people wouldn't like N+ but I love it. The thing for me is the co-op. The game isn't nearly as fun for me by myself as compared to when I'm playing with Stylez. Having to work together to figure out the co-op levels is a lot of fun and we had so many laughs when we died and bits of our ninjas were flying all over the levels. If you have someone to play it with (locally or online, you can do both), I highly recommend buying it for that because it becomes a whole other experience.

I'm all about the Race mode. My friend and I will often run "the 45"* as we call it - playing all race episodes consecutively, and playing for a small amount of money per point. For a while we even put a $5 price on the head of a few of the more difficult levels for the first to crack them. The parkour style controls have an amazing amount of depth, but the simplicity of it all will keep bringing us back for a while.

The single player is pretty fun, too, albeit "Snood-like" as I like to call it - that is, it's so addictive trying to hit the leaderboards that after a while I'm no longer having fun, just compulsively playing. Now I just stick to the races.

* We at first thought there were only 45 levels, but there are actually 50 and you run them twice each, so it should be called "the 100" but the 45 has such a nice ring to it that we've suck with the anachronism.

Excellent post, doc! I really enjoyed reading that.

Learning from Gaming
I am definitely one of those people who finds that there is much to be learned from many aspects of gaming. The usual stuff comes to mind: learning about interfaces, multiplayer socialization, resource management - all good stuff. I do suspect that there comes a point of diminishing returns, however. That's when the massive weekly gorging of any game becomes a hindrance to accomplishing the other things that life has to offer. Every die-hard gamer knows in his or her heart about this slipperly slope.

I think diminishing returns is really key and it's something we danced around but didn't quite nail. Once a game has become so familiar that you can play it in your sleep, it's transformed from an activity into a lifestyle of sorts. My mind throws up a lot of resistance to entering that kind of relationship with my games these days.

Hiya Certis - I'm glad you found my thoughts interesting.

I have the same feelings about high-investment games. There was a time when I could blow wadfuls of time at a game like that. Once family life emerged, everything shifted on a pivot, changing the investment levels of my time. It's been a very good change.

A bonus is that I get to now play the role of successful gamer, which gains me accolades from people that would otherwise think I'm a slacker. Most male gamers in their 20's have spent ludicrous amounts of time gaming - I'm no exception - and am more likely of the worst offenders. The 30's are the age range wherein bigger changes happen to our lives; round-numbers tend to start that process.

In the sports world, we know that yesterday's athletes become tomorrow's coaches and commentators and yesterday's fan becomes tomorrow's more wizened fan, who gives some added perspective to the game. Gaming, as a pursuit, really hasn't had lots of bandwidth allocated to this kind of conversation. The "In my day, we had a yellow pizza that ate dots and we liked it" is a cliche.

We approaching-middle-age gamers could stand to develop something other than naked jealousy of those younger folks with tons of disposable time. They, in turn, can learn that - contrary to popular stories - die-hard gamers aren't born losers. The changing faces and ages of gamers is pretty damned fascinating to me - but then I think about it a little too much, I think.

I'm sorry if you thought this response was supposed to tidy the issue some more - it hasn't.

So first, I'm going to throw out some props to those successful gamers out there. So much for "you'll never amount to anything if you keep popping quarters in that machine/spend all day on the Nintendo", eh?

docbadwrench wrote:

A bonus is that I get to now play the role of successful gamer, which gains me accolades from people that would otherwise think I'm a slacker. Most male gamers in their 20's have spent ludicrous amounts of time gaming - I'm no exception - and am more likely of the worst offenders. The 30's are the age range wherein bigger changes happen to our lives; round-numbers tend to start that process.

In the sports world, we know that yesterday's athletes become tomorrow's coaches and commentators and yesterday's fan becomes tomorrow's more wizened fan, who gives some added perspective to the game. Gaming, as a pursuit, really hasn't had lots of bandwidth allocated to this kind of conversation. The "In my day, we had a yellow pizza that ate dots and we liked it" is a cliche.

I think there's definite room for a hyperactive GTA player of today to become a really passionate dev/producer/programmer tomorrow. The problem is that, unlike sports, there isn't that codified idea of "working up" in the minds of gamers. You see a sports figure and it's usually quite obvious that they've worked very hard. The football player is jackked and practices taking hits. The basketballer natural, born with godlike talent, still has to perfect the weak parts of his game and work on team tactics. By contrast, a young person plays a great game and says "man, I wanna make something like that", but does he necessarily go out and learn some coding or what have you, or does he post on HLmods.com saying he wants to make a kickass mod and has preliminary art of the DEagle and MP5, but no experience aside from that. You are absolutely right about the stars of yesteryear kind of just disappearing from the spotlight, though. I would be fascinated to see a monthly article in EGM, or GameInformer, or whatever other publications remain, written from the perspective of a game programmer from the 70s era. I think it would be wonderfully enlightening, provided the person has a modicum of personality. But gamers are a bit aggressive when it comes to Big Rockstar Names. Articles from an Atari programmer, pretty cool. Article from Pete Moleyneux, uh, runs the risk of not living up to the hype. Article from John Romero...how's the teenage Russian bride?

There's also the problem of sooooooooo many voices thinking the same thing. I would kill for a chance to be paid to write about games, but so would just about any 14+ guy that enjoys the hobby.

As for the topic of the podcast, I've been trying to organize my own thoughts on the subject. For now I will say that unemployment has "gifted" me with a daily surplus of time. Surprisingly, I have done relatively little gaming, because it seems to me that applying most of that time to gaming is a waste. I thought this would be a paradise of Luigi Completion in Mario Galaxy, of wrapping up Odin Sphere, and of clearing my List of Uncompleted Games. The internet, amazingly, is quite the distraction. I've kinda realized that the reason I gamed so damned much as a little sprite was that I didn't have much else to do. That's probably also why I was a voracious reader in my youth as well.

Spaz wrote:
I think there's definite room for a hyperactive GTA player of today to become a really passionate dev/producer/programmer tomorrow. The problem is that, unlike sports, there isn't that codified idea of "working up" in the minds of gamers.

I'm hopeful that by the time my 8-year old son is in high-school, there will be more options that address that transition-space which - you are absolutely right - does not yet exist on anything but a meager level. It's funny, but this ties in with a podcast I listened to recently about the First Robotics program. I wish they'd had this when I was in school - basically problem-solving with battle-bots.

It's just one aspect of a larger problem which private organizations and schools are grappling with - how the heck do we integrate these powerful, culture-shifting technologies into the basic education sphere? In a lot of ways, traditional school seems quaint, like a little red schoolhouse. A bunch of kids in rows of seats consuming information monodirectionally. The whole experience of gaming (especially multiplayer) makes this seem weird to me. What can education learn from gaming?

Spaz wrote:
I would be fascinated to see a monthly article in EGM, or GameInformer, or whatever other publications remain, written from the perspective of a game programmer from the 70s era. I think it would be wonderfully enlightening, provided the person has a modicum of personality.

I agree. Even now, I bet someone's mining an old employee org-chart for something like this. I hope so, anyway.

I just wanted to point out...

My name is Inigo Mantoya... and I too bring the stuff

docbadwrench wrote:
We approaching-middle-age gamers could stand to develop something other than naked jealousy of those younger folks with tons of disposable time. They, in turn, can learn that - contrary to popular stories - die-hard gamers aren't born losers. The changing faces and ages of gamers is pretty damned fascinating to me - but then I think about it a little too much, I think.

I think the key to sucess for older gamers is letting go of certain games. It took me a while to realise that there were some games that I wouldn't be able to play anymore. It's not just time, it's energy. As I get older I find that playing late into the night means I'm going to be really unproductive at work the next day.

docbadwrench wrote:
It's just one aspect of a larger problem which private organizations and schools are grappling with - how the heck do we integrate these powerful, culture-shifting technologies into the basic education sphere?

I always want to show maths teachers the elaborate calculations that go into weighing up the relative advantages of the armour and weapon bonuses in WoW. I think they'd be astounded by the enthusiasm and engagement shown by players.