GWJ Conference Call Episode 89

Conference Call

Metal Gear Solid 4, Video Game Buy In, An Interview With John Carmack, A Missive From The District 97, Your Emails and more!

We're very pleased this week to have an interview with John Carmack! Sadly, he doesn't give us much on Rage, but saves the real rage for patent trolls and the influx of lawyers into the videogame business. The rest of the time we talk about Metal Gear Solid 4, buying into games and your sweet, tender emails.

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.

Metal Gear Solid 4
Age of Conan
id Software
Fireball Island

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"Carving Away Stone" Ian Dorsch - 0:41:54
"Washaway" Ian Dorsch - 1:06:26
"Los Pistoleros" Ian Dorsch - 1:38:17

Comments

Nijhazer wrote:

Incidentally, "Ohhhhh, those were the best spikes" is now my favorite quote from this podcast.

I'm looking forward to this year's podcast quote recap... In my estimation Rob's winning, what with all the baby inseminating and all...

I LOOOOOVED Crimson Skies on the PC. It hit right when I was between jobs (for like a month) and I played multiplayer religously each and every day. I quickly became one of the more feared pilots in the sky (within the first five days post-launch or so).

People feared the name Edgar Newt and some refused to fly against me. In the lobbies, some people accused me of being a haxor and a cheat. That had never happened before -- being called a cheat and hack -- and I quite enjoyed it (being that I couldn't code/hack to save my life -- wouldn't even know where to start). In any case, within two weeks or so, others had climbed to my heights of skill and victories became more difficult, losses more common. My wings were tarnished with my own blood. I turned to the single player game, truly enjoyed the cut scenes (as mentioned on the podcast) and worked towards finishing off the campaign. The game was bugged and not tremendously supported and I ended up getting hung up on a bug that crashed my game.

The Xbox version was totally borked.

How I would love to see another PC Crimson Skies game.

Thanks for the memory and the great podcast.

P.S. Attorneys in the video game industry aren't all bad. Some of us are actually gamers.

Edgar,

Yeah, I spent some quality time with an Attorney named Steve Chang from an IP law firm for the article I've been working. He's very balanced on all this. John has definitely staked out one and of the spectrum. But after all of the research that I've done, I'm not convinced there is an easy answer here. I admire his conviction, and his willingness to stand behind it even though it might not make the best business sense. At the same time, have a hard time getting behind the idea that all patents writ large are bad.

Clearly there has to be a way to curb the abuses in the system, but maintain those things about it that encourage innovation, protect innovation, and reward innovation.

I don't know much about patent laws, but couldn't they just set a time limit on patents that would require a company to at least work toward implementing the patent into some product in order to keep it valid? Those patents that haven't had the requirement met should than become public domain. Adding a time limit would stop companies from trying to patent anything under the sun at the risk of losing the patent for good. Allowing companies to purchase unused patents seems to be a big part of the problem here so why not get rid of that possibility?

theoretically patents expire 20 years after they are first filed. The reality seems more complex.

The problem with the "use it or lose it" idea is that it would actually benefit big companies with a lot of resources more than the apocryphal "little guy" the system is, in Carmack's view, morally designed for (and failing).

rabbit wrote:

But after all of the research that I've done, I'm not convinced there is an easy answer here. I admire his conviction, and his willingness to stand behind it even though it might not make the best business sense. At the same time, have a hard time getting behind the idea that all patents writ large are bad.

I didn't get that impression from the interview (which was excellent, btw; thanks very much). Mr. Carmack comes from a software background, where patents on paths to a solution do a lot not only to stifle innovation but also to force developers into adopting inferior solutions. Imagine if you had to drive to work everyday, and you found a shortcut that would have saved you twenty minutes; but then you found out that a local business owned that road and wouldn't allow you to drive on it. So on the one hand, if your only perspective on the patent system was that of a software developer, you could probably be forgiven for wondering why the patent system even exists.

But Mr. Carmack also said during the interview that his work with Armadillo has given him some exposure to how the patent system works for other lines of business. Granted, he didn't say that it has opened his eyes or anything; but he did say that he's not ready to completely condemn the patent system at this point.

rabbit wrote:

theoretically patents expire 20 years after they are first filed. The reality seems more complex.

The problem with the "use it or lose it" idea is that it would actually benefit big companies with a lot of resources more than the apocryphal "little guy" the system is, in Carmack's view, morally designed for (and failing).

Well it would if the use it or lose it idea meant you had to have an end product by those 20 years. I am just talking about having proof that you are actively trying to use it, although I could see how that could get abused as well. The key thing is other companies couldn't come in and buy the patent if it wasn't being used. The owner of a patent could sell it before the time expired to another company but companies couldn't just cherry pick unused ones, those become public domain.

Rob for president.

Oh damn. He's Canadian.

I'm against patenting software. It's akin (very much so) to patenting mathematics. You can't patent maths, only discover ways of using it.

You could, however, copyright the actual implementation. We had a Professor in my undergrad who had a small course on programming and there was about six of us taking it. There was never a problem with copying because although there may have been one optimal way of using code to do the assignment (i never got close, btw) every expressed their code differently in much the same way that handwriting can be used to identify people.

IMO, this is a good intermediate.

[edit] BTW, trademarks work similarly to what Rob is describing above. Hence why 'Prey' temporarily became public domain again in between development cycles at 3DRealms and Humanhead studios. They applied for several extensions (which were meant to allow proof of product/trademark) and once these ran their course they had no choice but to re-apply for the patent again - which starts off the process whereby trademarks can be challenged and all that jazz.

Thanks guys for the interview. I'm not a big fan of id, but I like John Carmack because he's passionate about what he's doing. And the fact that he's quite competent is a huge plus.

I'm with Gaald on patents issue, I'm just not really sure how to put it in legalese. Basically, my idea is that if company has a patent for something, I can either buy that thing from them or at least get a detailed description of how to use their idea. In short, replace my lack of creativity (or just saving on R&D) with their creativity. I agree with Carmack that patent trolling is just parasitic - no value added is made for society. And again, I'm not quite sure how to turn that into law that would clearly distinguish trolls from creative people protecting their ideas.

Don't get me wrong, I thought that John made some good points. Points that have been raised in various IP related discussions for some time now. Given the fast pace of innovation these days, I think it is a reasonable query as to whether a 17/20 year patent scheme provides an unneccessarily valuable carrot to potential inventors. In some industries, something like five years might be sufficient to provide a reasonable incentive to innovate while still fostering competition, etc.

My post script comment about attorneys was really a response to Certis's text intro to the podcast, specifically: "Sadly, he doesn't give us much on Rage, but saves the real rage for ... the influx of lawyers into the videogame business." John's argument was against patent trolls and firms (often comprised of attorneys) that buy unused patents for trolling purposes. He was not raging against the involvement of attorneys in the industry. I was probably being an @sshat by including the post script at all. I didn't think my post script would generate any ink, nor do I think it is worthy of such a discourse.

Rabbit, I hope your article touches on the unfortunately long delay in getting patents reviewed by the patent office (the backlog is significant) which contributes its own set of problems to the whole enterprise.

My post script comment about attorneys was really a response to Certis's text intro to the podcast, specifically: "Sadly, he doesn't give us much on Rage, but saves the real rage for ... the influx of lawyers into the videogame business." John's argument was against patent trolls and firms (often comprised of attorneys) that buy unused patents for trolling purposes. He was not raging against the involvement of attorneys in the industry. I was probably being an @sshat by including the post script at all. I didn't think my post script would generate any ink, nor do I think it is worthy of such a discourse.

Just for the record, that was rabbit's line. He MADE me put it in there. Scouts honor.

Since when were you a scout?

rabbit wrote:

Since when were you a scout?

Since when did he have honor?

Badum
Boom
Swish.

Thanks alot folks, I'm here all week!

I can't really follow you, mateo. It's like you're listening to a completely different conversation.

Great interview with Carmack.

He did give up one nice nugget of information: the Doom 3 engine is going to be released as open source soon (maybe)!

That is huge, if it happens.

Other things about the podcast I noticed:

You actually gave a name to disliking a game and calling it trash instead of kowtowing to fanboi-ism: I believe you called it "The Rob Reaction". It could have been a "Mateo Reaction" or "Pulling a Yathzee" but at least there is a name for it.

I think the issue is that Certis is a fan of game like Metal Gear Solid, so he comes into the review with a certain viewpoint. Everyone else can't get there without investing the time playing the other chapters of the series.

So his view point is: the game has flaws but it did what fans expected of it.

I wouldn't really care, but half of the review of the game in the podcast is spent trying to convince Rob (and the listener) that there is something worth playing. At 33 minutes there is finally an admission that this is a game that only fans of the series will enjoy. Why squelch that discussion?

If I were editing the podcast, I would have said: Certis, that is where we start. Then we can have the rest of the discussion. Everyone in the mainstream gaming press (although I think GWJ is mainstream) is fawning all over the game, without saying "it's for the fans".

There is nothing wrong with that admission, but Elysium is right: noone is having the discussion about the issues with the game: long installs? Poor level design? Interminable cutscenes? You can bypass the stealth elements?

It has positive elements. Sounds like a solid rental from what Elysium said...I would rent it just for the sound.

But have the larger discussion.

I also think that Elysium going into expectations about a game is not quite right. If you are consuming the hype that is around games, including the peer pressure in these forums, you form an expectation or opinion about a game based on all the noise around it.

Even if it is just the word of mouth buzz around a title, or the developer's track record, or your prior experiences with the series, you form some sort of expectation. You cannot help it.

I don't think we should let games or game developers off the hook because we have lowered expectations.

It's not like I go into the Capital Grille or Ruth's Chris (or insert name of local Steakhouse here) after reading the reviews and set my expectations lower so I am not disappointed. No, I expect to go into the restaurant and get a great freaking steak and good service. That's what I am paying for!

In the same way, I go start playing a game and it is not meeting my expectations then I feel like I am a victim of the hype. I can't say how many games I just send back to Gamefly because it just doesn't live up to what either the reviewers, the buzz, or even the developer's description made it out to be.

It's not about buy in. A good game generates buy in. If it is a quality title, then the developer has laid out a story or game play element that draws you in: the shooting of Max Payne's wife and kids, or coming back to Hiigaara to find it a burning cinder. They lead you to the buy in.

If they don't, then you have to ask: what is the audience for the game? There is nothing wrong with putting out Ninja Gaiden Only For Bad Asses, so long as it is identified as such and reviewers take that into account.

I don't see that happening. Instead, developers put the hype machine into gear and expect that their lack of creating buy in is substituted by people reading endless glowing reviews and then asking themselves "why am I not into this" or simply capitulating by saying "I've paid $60, I guess I better play it."

In that sense, Rob is right. We are letting developers off easy by not making sure that we buy into their work. It's like creating a wedding cake and being sloppy on the frosting. It's bad design, and we should call them out for it.

And call a crap game a crap game.

(Sorry, couldn't resist. :P)

This is feeling very meta - Mateo is having a conversation about having a conversation about what I think we had a conversation about on the podcast.

Speaking as a software developer who knows nothing about law, I think in the patent debate it is critical to look at the differences between physical invention patents, software patents, and process patents. Though I'm pretty much on the side of Mr. Carmack where software patents are concerned, I think things like more stringent reviews and requirements for software patents might be a place to start fixing what is currently a broken system. (And I'm really, really not speaking for my employer here, just my irrelevant opinion.)

As an aside, when Certis invoked Scout's honor, was he referring to a TF2 scout? *bonk*

rabbit wrote:

This is feeling very meta - Mateo is having a conversation about having a conversation about what I think we had a conversation about on the podcast.

Yeah, I'm having that sort of day. Ignore me.

Great interview. When can we expect to see Will Wright, and Sid Meier on the podcast?

From the sounds of it we really should be impressed that MGS 4 has so few loads and such a short install.

Blu-ray is totally useless in terms of read speeds and random access times, which is why games need to be installed to the HD to cut load times to the point where they are basically the same as those of the 360 streaming off disc. With the volume of assets being delivered by MGS it sounds like a major achievement to keep them down.

Man, I was 4 pints down after the first 45 minutes...were Rabbit and Rob intentionally trying to kill us today?

Could you guys record the D&D session with Michael and put it up as a bonus podcast? I've been loving the podcast the PA/PVP guys have been putting out on 4E, I'd love to hear your gaming experiences as well.

Awesome interview with Carmack, and way to go actually landing it. It was one of the most interesting interviews I've heard in a while.

Destrin wrote:

Man, I was 4 pints down after the first 45 minutes...were Rabbit and Rob intentionally trying to kill us today?

I think we'll both have to split a liver donation.

A "good cinematic" game: Shadow of the Colossus.

SPOILER ALERT:

When you're riding on Agro and jump on the flying worm thing? F**CKING AWESOME.

Rat Boy wrote:
Destrin wrote:

Man, I was 4 pints down after the first 45 minutes...were Rabbit and Rob intentionally trying to kill us today?

I think we'll both have to split a liver donation.

Couldn't you just cut some of your own one off now and grow it in a petri dish? Or am i thinking of another internal organ that regenerates when it suffers minor damage?

A great podcast fellas, though perhaps there is something amiss which appears to be a growing trend:

Rob, tell us all. What's up? Have you not yet discovered the highly enjoyable yet life destroying drugs which may lift your sprits for at least a little while?

As for Buy-in I was looking forward to Mass effect after all the hype and comments from the podcast and other people about the XBox 360 version and then I come across the game in a store, and I didn't feel the need, I still cannot explain it fully except for the fact that I went for the Penny Arcade game instead despite having no real interest in that. Perhaps It truly was down to money or something else? (cue evil music signalling certain doom and a to be continued message)

Your 'kicking people on spikes' is my 'setting people on fire' in TF2. I will never get tired of running around a corner, setting 5 people on fire, and then dying. I can do this simple action for hours, and it never gets old.

@Certis
You'll pay for that 'purple monkey dishwasher' remark.

McChuck wrote:

@Certis
You'll pay for that 'purple monkey dishwasher' remark.

Whatever, Top Guns.*

*Your new nickname starting .... now.