GWJ Conference Call Episode 112

Conference Call

Strong Bad Episode 4, Penny Arcade Episode 2, Left 4 Dead, Valkyria Chronicles, All Things Coop Games, Your Emails and more!

This week we have an intimate threesome (ewww) as Elysium battles Mephistopheles in the very heart of his recording computer. Coop games, why they're awesome and what can ruin the fun. Plus, rabbit tries to beat the MMORPG horse some more. Stop, stop, it's already dead! I love the fact that I get to write this part.

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/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"Los Pistoleros" Ian Dorsch - 0:35:58
"PodunkStump" Ian Dorsch - 1:02:04

Comments

Rabbit: I don't want my ten year old running around in WOW with people like me.
Shawn: I guess it depends on if she's farming for gold for you.

Rabbit: Zelda is just not my boat, now Loom. . .
Shawn: Loom?
Rabbit: Loom, Lucasarts !?!

Shawn humming the Zelda tune.

Classic Win.

Thanks guys, for making me laugh!

osmosisch: Would you agree that as our lives are moving into the computer domain more and more, it is very valuable to try and get as much reality in our children's lives as possible before they disappear into their teens and myspace?

Hell, my kid is fourteen and talks to his Mother on myspace, facebook, they both have them all . . . uploading files and pictures, my wife now wants to get into uploading video too! It's not something to run away from, or worry about. Just have fun and DO SOMETHING with your kid. Weather it's 'virtual' or not misses the point. They don't 'disappear' into cyberspace if you're with them, monitoring and watching and engaging the medium together.

jaleister wrote:

Since listening to the podcast yesterday and playing L4D for the first time last weekend when a friend brought over a 360 (I'm pretty sure I'll be picking up a copy for my pc this weekend) I've been thinking about the future of co-op gaming. I have some basic ideas I'll post here in hopes that it might bring up other interesting ideas (or if it wouldn't work at all for some reason).

I'm thinking an FPS type game where you're trying to infiltrate a military complex run by a L4D style 'director'. One player is the character actually on the ground trying to complete whatever objective in the base while the other player is back at some command post watching a screen with the building plans guiding the infiltrator through the base, playing the part of the type person that talks you through missions in a Metal Gear game.

Some things to make this more interesting for the remote player:
*The infiltrator may not have any radar/map type interface, while the command post player sees troop/personnel movements on his map, allowing him to warn the infiltrator when he needs to hide and when the coast is clear.
*The infiltrator's voice actually has a radius in-game based on volume that can alert bots to his presence, forcing him to keep his voice down at times when trying to communicate with the remote player
*The infiltrator could use various gadgets on site that allow the remote player to get more intel from the environment (hidden cameras, motion detectors, etc.)
*The infiltrator could set a bomb to be later triggered by the other player as a diversion, letting the infiltrator get in somewhere otherwise heavily guarded.
*The infiltrator could hook up a device allowing the remote player to hack computers for intel, take direct control of robots or defense turrets, etc...

Essentially I think it would be interesting to have 2 or more fundamentally different sorts of gameplay going on contributing to the same overall goal. That's just one example, but the basic idea I think could be developed for other gameplay types or more than just 2 players.

Not quite the game you are describing here but Allegiance is very close to what you are describing as far as two different game play types. It was an RTS type game with space stations, resource collectors (mostly automated) and It had a commander (who could step away and jump into a ship and fight if need be) who could see all the areas that were part of the battle, however scouting, fighters and bombers were all controlled by people who actually had to fly the ships like a space shooter. It was awesome, and unfortunately unbalanced. Still it was way ahead of its time. I loved that game and was sad to see it die. Although there was and possibly still is a group who kept it going running there own servers and even added new races and such.

I would love to see another game with this kind of feature. I think it would really work in a head to head type setting.

Larry wrote:

Just have fun and DO SOMETHING with your kid. Weather it's 'virtual' or not misses the point. They don't 'disappear' into cyberspace if you're with them, monitoring and watching and engaging the medium together.

That's very true, Larry. Just wrap your lives together - that's what makes all (connected and unconnected) families work.

Also, I played Natural Selection for the first time yesterday. It's an old Half-Life mod that I'd never played around with. I was amazed at how strong the co-op mode is. You get to level up your FPS guy in a match, evolve your creature, and there's one person on either side of the 2-sided conflict that's guiding things in FPS-fashion. That's another one that I'd say addresses Jaleister's ideas.

I had never played Allegiance before, but am going to have to try that now. I wonder if Gametap has it in its lineup...

Gaald wrote:

I would love to see another game with this kind of feature. I think it would really work in a head to head type setting.

Oh, so like Natural Selection, Savage, and Battlefield 2?

- Alan

Itsatrap wrote:
Gaald wrote:

I would love to see another game with this kind of feature. I think it would really work in a head to head type setting.

Oh, so like Natural Selection, Savage, and Battlefield 2?

- Alan

I haven't played savage, but for the other two I played the crap out if them. I think were splitting hairs about definitions, but I'm kind of with shawn in saying coop = pve. Bots don't really count usually in this capricious definition. L4d is an edge case.

After hearing Rob talk about Valkyria Chronicles...

I think this is appropriate:
IMAGE(http://www.penny-arcade.com/images/2008/20081121.jpg)

Regarding the "Wii vs DS for kids" email, I have a four year old and a six year old, and they both have DSes. It's true that they miss out some games because they can't read (the six year old is getting better), however there are plenty of games that fit that particular bill. Any of the Lego games, Mario Kart/Party, and all the Dora/Diego games give strictly verbal instructions. Plus they are absolute *lifesavers* on long car rides.

PS The funniest thing is when they start playing multiplayer, no matter if they're on the opposite side of the room, they end up standing side by side, intently staring at the DS screen but throwing elbows and boxing each other out

Itsatrap wrote:
Gaald wrote:

I would love to see another game with this kind of feature. I think it would really work in a head to head type setting.

Oh, so like Natural Selection, Savage, and Battlefield 2?

- Alan

I played Battlefield 2, and it wasn't as in depth as Allegiance was. At least not as far as I could tell.

I never played the other two, but in Allegiance playing as the commander was very much like playing an RTS, except all your units were controlled by people. It was pretty awesome when you had a good Commander with a solid strategy who knew when and how to spend the resources for upgrades, and a team that was ready and willing to listen.

I guess I should rephrase my wish. I would love to play a new version of Allegiance. It would be awesome!

rabbit wrote:

I haven't played savage, but for the other two I played the crap out if them. I think were splitting hairs about definitions, but I'm kind of with shawn in saying coop = pve. Bots don't really count usually in this capricious definition. L4d is an edge case.

So yes, I normally use "co-op" to mean pve, else it's team-based play. For me, Left 4 Dead is only an edge case because the survivor experience is similar in both pve and pvp, and because the infected experience is really closer to mimicking the "e" in pve. There's also another Half-Life mod floating around (er, Zombie Master?) where it's co-op, except for one person who "controls" all of the zombie forces in an RTS fashion, spawning waves based on a timer.

Contrast this with the Battlefield 1942 experience, which can be played "co-op" vs. bots, but playing vs. bots is mimicking pvp and so I don't really consider it true co-op. The line gets a little fuzzier when you start talking about things like RTS co-op vs. comp-stomp. If it's story/mission-based, I consider it co-op, else it's just comp-stomp. Of course, it's fun for the same reasons as co-op, which is to say that it minimizes differences in player skill level by allowing people to support each other. I think this is really the key to the success of co-op play: the ability to play with your friends regardless of differences in skill level.

Then there's asymmetric "versus" mode, like in the later Splinter Cell games or Aliens vs. Predator 2 with its asymmetric sides. Sadly, I don't remember it having any sort of true pve co-op mode, because teaming up against AI aliens would be second only to teaming up against the undead. (Aliens and undead: two of the three universal enemy types, the third being Nazis, because who going to complain about unfair representation?) The other nice thing about aliens and undead is that the AI can generally get away with being simplistic and simply trying to overrun the player(s).

Since I'm already kind of babbling, I'll also put in a mention of team-based play, like in Team Fortress 2. I guess it goes back as far as games like Gauntlet, with players having significantly different abilities and play styles. In particular, Return to Castle Wolfenstein (and ET:RtCW) did something really interesting by requiring certain classes for success, making cooperative play an essential part of the victory. (In TF2, you can still win without fielding any engineers; in RtCW, it's impossible.)

Oh, since Natural Selection came up, I'll note that RockPaperShotgun is running a piece on Natural Selection 2.

- Alan

Jayhawker wrote:

Stuff.

A Jayhawker in St. Louis?

*waves from Lawrence!*

jaleister wrote:
Jayhawker wrote:

Stuff.

A Jayhawker in St. Louis?

*waves from Lawrence!*

My wife and I really miss Lawrence. We were married there, and our daughter was born at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

I don't get back there as often as I'd like, but the Red Lyon Tavern is still my destination spot.

Rabbit, I too am having a terrible time getting through that damn wheel in LBP. In fact, that level cost me 54.99 [the cost of rage throwing a ps3 controller at my floor]. It hadn't really occurred to me to try random coop, so thanks for potentially saving me and my nervous and confused dog another night of flying controllers.

MavisBeatdown wrote:

Rabbit, I too am having a terrible time getting through that damn wheel in LBP. In fact, that level cost me 54.99 [the cost of rage throwing a ps3 controller at my floor]. It hadn't really occurred to me to try random coop, so thanks for potentially saving me and my nervous and confused dog another night of flying controllers.

I was in the same boat... I hate that wheel... definitely the hardest part in the story levels. I got my brother to play co-op locally because he'd beaten the story and we got to the outer ring and he popped on one of the first electrified cylinders, I started out alright but then started falling behind the pace of the wheel and almost fell. I yelled "NOOO!" and made a random leap and ended up jumping past the last group of platforms and fell out the hole to the next area. Finally!

Through a masochistic desire to get the Play trophy (making it through all story levels and challenges that don't end when you die without dying) I've been endlessly replaying levels over the last couple weeks and just last night got to where I could fairly reliably make it through the wheel. Just mentioning this in case anyone would like some help on completing this or any other levels. My PSN name is jaleister. I'm still working to get all the prize bubbles (mainly have the x3 and x4 areas left) if anyone wants to work on those also...

(I got the Play trophy last night finally :D)

Bullet points!
* I'm glad someone else mentioned Diablo 2 in the comments. It was a hallmark co-op game for me. I'm VERY timid about asking people to join me in games because I'm pretty terrible at them. Diablo 2 had me actively seeking teammates because you needed all those skills that your teammates brought to the table. But this does bring up another issue about co-op games. There's a difference between a co-op experience where you are truly on the same team working toward a similar goal, and the co-op experience where every person is basically looking out for themselves but needs other players to achieve that goal. I think Diablo 2 on most occasions fell into that second category. I think a lot of MMO instances and raids also probably fall into that category. I think the Mass Effect co-op game that Certis spoke about would fit more into that former category, a true shared experience. I'd like to see more of that, too. I want to feel like I need to hug my teammate at the end and add them to my Christmas card list.

* Loom! Though I disagree that Ocarina made me want to replay Loom, I really enjoyed Loom when it was out. I played it on the Turbo Duo (I have a history of picking the "wrong" console). CD quality music repeating endlessly. I bet that one doesn't hold up today. I'll leave that one alone so the memories remain fond ones.

* I was disappointed that GWJ couldn't drum up a better tribute to Ocarina of Time. Thank goodness Certis was able to praise it appropriately. It was a remarkable title for that poor N64 (see "wrong" console comment above). The gold cart even felt heavier than most N64 games. From the title screen the game really delivered. And the moment you were able to hop on the horse was great. I spent several minutes just galloping around. It was really a magical game that oozed atmosphere. You really had a sense of place while playing that game. It's something we probably take for granted in today's games. I had never played a game like Ocarina before and it took a while before I felt as satisfied with another game. And no, I haven't made it all the way through any subsequent Zelda games because it just felt like more of the same. And I was one of the ones who LOVED the art direction in Wind Waker.

Great episode as always, guys. Thanks.

Great show! You mention Elysium's viral nightmare...I just want to offer this to all.

http://forums.majorgeeks.com/showthread.php?t=35407

Follow their instructions carefully, these guys are amazing, they look through your results and are excellent at helping you fix your system. Earlier this year I had a viral/malware nightmare of my own, I came within an inch of the Format/Rebuild drudgery, when I gave this site a try.

In short order they had guided me to fixing my own problems and saved me a TON of time and money.

Best of all - it is a free service.

We picked up a Gamecube and Wind Waker while my daughter was in kindergarten. She was already starting to read, so we would have her practice reading all of the dialogue of Wind Waker. She loved the story, and is really did boost her reading skills. It was quite awhile before she was really able to play the game.

She's eleven now, and is a voracious reader, knocking out a book or two a week. She just went through the Twilight series twice within a few weeks.

Zelda is such a great story for kids that age. It just has all the elements that kids love. I think the cell shaded nature of Wind Waker really helped draw her in. She is a Zelda fanatic to this day.

Dan wrote:

First, how the heck did anyone alive in 1990 and into PC games miss Loom?! Though the Final Fantasy series launched me into story heavy games originally, all those LucasArts adventure games really pulled me into appreciating story in games.

Agreed. I was never a Zelda guy, but Loom? You call yourselves computer gamers and have not played Loom? What is wrong with you people?

Loom was one of the first games which really surpassed what I used to think of computer and video games being able to be, the way it used music to progress the plot and being all mysterious and artistic as well. Incidentally, I also seem to remember it being the first when the press complained about a game's short length. Maybe I should visit it sometime. I believe I played it on the Amiga.

Loom would totally not hold up on a replay today. While I have lots of nostalgia for lots of old games, I don't replay them, because honestly, they NEVER really hold up. For all the Xcom/HL1 love we throw around, the reality is I just don't get a real thrill out of an extended retread. I'd rather play something new, just to experience something new, even if it's not UberClassic.

I'm not sure why some people have no problem playing the older games, while other people can't go back. I very rarely replay a game, since there are so many good new games out there. That said, I do play older games that I always meant to play, even if they are ten years old and graphic abominations. I have gone back and played games like Day of the Tentacle. I think it held up great, but that's just me.

Listening to you guys talk about L4D co-op gives me tremendous performance anxiety.

Poppinfresh wrote:

I'm not sure why some people have no problem playing the older games, while other people can't go back. I very rarely replay a game, since there are so many good new games out there.

I'm not a big nostalgia fan. I think people often allow the feelings of nostalgia for games they played as children to overpower their critical faculties. Nobody in their right mind would play Jet Set Willy for fun these days.

Another example: I played the Gamecube version of Zelda:OoT and consider Twilight Princess by far the better game. Ocarina must have been incredible when it first came out, but there's been so much progress in game design since then that Twilight Princess was much more fun to play.

Zelos wrote:
Poppinfresh wrote:

I'm not sure why some people have no problem playing the older games, while other people can't go back. I very rarely replay a game, since there are so many good new games out there.

I'm not a big nostalgia fan. I think people often allow the feelings of nostalgia for games they played as children to overpower their critical faculties. Nobody in their right mind would play Jet Set Willy for fun these days.

Another example: I played the Gamecube version of Zelda:OoT and consider Twilight Princess by far the better game. Ocarina must have been incredible when it first came out, but there's been so much progress in game design since then that Twilight Princess was much more fun to play.

I regularly go back to play older games in part because I don't think that there have been great advances made in game design. There have been new ideas and new trends, but I don't know that there have really been too many giant leaps forward. Geometry Wars is pretty much a seizure-inducing Asteroids, for instance.

Some genres just haven't been done as well since they were done back in the day. I haven't played a stealth game that was as well-done as Thief: The Dark Project or an FPS/RPG as great as System Shock 2, so if I have an itch for one of those styles of gameplay then I'd rather fire them up than Splinter Cell or BioShock and be disappointed.

And some genres haven't really been done recently. Doom-style shooters have really fallen out of favor since the rise of "realistic" games like Half-Life, so if I'm craving Doom-style levels and combat, I have to play Doom.

Geometry Wars is pretty much a seizure-inducing Asteroids, for instance.

But Geometry Wars is much faster paced, more varied, has better controls and integrated online scoreboards - going back to play Asteroids now would be pretty dull. I know that plenty of modern games are 'just' polished versions of old games, but that's irrelevant really.

With all the coop talk, I can't believe Resistance 2 didn't get mentioned. I think the coop mode is really inventive. There's true class dependency, something you usually don't see in a FPS. The level scaling and dynamics as you play through is really quite interesting as well. Maybe not quite as "cool" feeling as Left4Dead but I'd argue it's just as innovative. Once you play coop a lot you really start to appreciate the variety it can throw at you.

I tried out a little bit of L4D on the 360 (the demo) and it didn't do much for me... I found the constant stream of fast zombies tiring. Resistance 2, though, has me completely hooked. I like the variety of enemies you face and the pacing is pretty good (except for the occasional times where you have to run halfway across the level to get to the next checkpoint with nothing happening between). Further revisions on this coop concept could really be something special.

Zelos wrote:
Poppinfresh wrote:

I'm not sure why some people have no problem playing the older games, while other people can't go back. I very rarely replay a game, since there are so many good new games out there.

I'm not a big nostalgia fan.

I'm a huge fan of my nostalgia. That's why I don't replay old games, since that might ruin my happy memories.

IMAGE(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4b/LOOM_advert_in_Monkey_Island.png)

- Alan

I am finally finishing this episode, because it was so very long, but I wanted to comment on whether reviewers should review the multiplayer part of the game when they only (necessarily) see the multiplayer aspect before it's released to the public.

I can't keep you guys straight, but I was a little disappointed to hear some say basically this:

"Well, we have to get the reviews out, and everyone should just know we played these games under unusual circumstances, so what the hell, you just have to publish it anyway."

I think this attitude is a reason why many game reviews suck, honestly. The game reviewers job is not to get his writing out to the public before a game ships. His job is to give an honest review of the game, and if he is unable to review a game honestly, he should admit to it right up front. He shouldn't just say, "Well, people should just know that I tested this while playing on the company LAN and being spoon fed scotch and waters from the company's marketing department. They should just know that. It's not my fault they are too stupid to understand that we review these games under circumstances that have little to do with the way most people will experience the game".

Have game reviewers just given up on the idea of being journalists? I don't read game reviews because I think the reviewer is a cool person, what with the faux-hawk and all, and / or the reviewer have crayzee pictures of himself on a blog doing shots with CliffyB. I read the reviews because I want to know whether the game sucks, as I will play it, not as the reviewer played it on a junket.

Is the reviewer a journalist or a tool? I think maybe someone should start up a site that reviews the reviewer so that we can take a closer look at the "methodology" some folks use.

Sorry for being so ranty. I am usually a little nicer, but this drives me bonkers. Also, I just gobbled down some PCP.

That sounds like something Julian "rabbit" Murdoch said. I can't STAND that guy.

I just did a review of myself and gave myself 2 stars.

Pros:

* Did not discuss WOW

Cons:

* Anger management issues
* PCP

At least I don't have dialog trees.

Certis wrote:

That sounds like something Julian "rabbit" Murdoch said. I can't STAND that guy.

I think what I usually say is "this is why I don't write reviews." I'd have to go back and listen, but I don't think I launched into some defense of reviewers not providing context. It is the case that the vast majority of high-profile reviews are done in "non-retail" settings: review code, review guides, controlled locations, whatever. The alternative is to literally by the game on the day it comes out, and then start playing. There's nothing wrong with that (it's what I do!), but if consumers want to be able to read reviews BEFORE the game is actually available, to guide a day 1 purchase, than SOMEBODY is going to have to play it early. That's axiomatic. It's not fundamentally different than being sent a screening DVD for a film (which means you're seeing it in your home, not in a public theater) or being invited to a private screening (sometimes someone elses home, or a studio screening room) which is also not a public theater.

It's a crappy, crappy job.