GWJ Conference Call Episode 113

Conference Call

Prince of Persia, Resident Evil 5, Fallout 3: For The Masses, Word Flow, Bread Crumbs And Game Difficulty, Your Emails and more!

This week's Conference Call has been produced specifically for the masses. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm given to understand we'll be rich soon. Rich!

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

"Anxious Tedium" - Ouranos OST (Tom Quinn) - www.citadel-studios.com - 0:45:43
"MMM Cowbell" (Greg Decker) - 1:09:07

Comments

This whole discussion about Fallout 3 has left me schizophrenic because I've gotta agree with both the ecstasy and disappointment sides of the argument. On the one hand, everything that Slumberland described mirrors my own experience with the game. I loved all these layers of irony throughout the game: fighting super-mutants while Billy Holiday sings "Crazy He Calls Me" in the background, the tail-finned cars that are now basically hair-trigger nuclear bombs, ghouls who make drugs out of pre-war kids cereal, pretty much any thing that President John Henry Eden says. And just like Slumberland, I found all of this sardonic retro-futurism extremely poignant. The juxtaposition of all that pathological 1950s optimism against a backdrop of broad hopelessness and destruction is pretty much my favorite thing ever (too much Brazil in high school, i guess). And I also loved exploring the wasteland, especially the mazey downtown area. I spent a lot of time going in big loops from Dupont Circle to Metro Central to Chevy Chase Station to GnR to the Mall, just trying to master all the different routes. I really felt like F3 gave me a world that I could master through thoughtful, deliberate exploration.

But on the other hand, I felt that the game squandered a huge amount of narrative potential, all because Bethesda can't engineer a relatable NPC. In the last year I've played too many games that seared their stories into my brain: BioShock, Portal, Episode 2. Fallout 3--with its goofy character models and animations--just couldn't compete. It's as though Bethesda doesn't realize that they don't want to be in the uncanny valley and that a wastelander probably wouldn't have the same expression on his face when he yells at me for tripping over his tin cup collection as he does when tells me about being half-mad with hunger and driven to cannibalism. That's less of a liability when dealing with the guy who sells stimpacks off the back of his brahmin, but when your vaultmates, closest allies, fiercest enemies, and even your dad seem cold and artificial, it kills the drama. I found the whole first hour in the vault really underwhelming, and finally meeting 3 Dog was a huge disappointment. And it's scenes like these that should be bullet proof. I loved the world, why couldn't I love the people in it?

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Games shouldn't always be easy, but they must always be fun.

Of course what's "fun" varies from person to person. Some people need to feel challenged to have a sense of accomplishment and fun.

There are crash levels in Burnout: Takedown where I've gotten a gold medal on my first attempt and feel disappointed because I didn't have work for it. Then there are the levels that are designed in a way that I have to retry 10 times or more to get all the necessary pickups and multipliers and then it starts getting frustrating.

It's really about which demographic you want to appeal to.

nsmike wrote:

You guys need to hike the audio levels a bit across the board. I go from the podcast back to my music and nearly make myself go deaf.

Yeah, when I'm listening to the podcast my system sounds are deafening because I have to turn the volume up so high.

Yeah, when I'm listening to the podcast my system sounds are deafening because I have to turn the volume up so high.

Dam one of my pet peeves when listening to other shows is volume levels I have been trying to get the volume on the podcast as high as I can so that people don't have to jack up the volume when they listen. I thought I was doing ok, but it seems that's not case. If anyone has any tips on getting everything to sound louder, without clipping out, PM please.

Having said that I know running all the vocals through a compressor while we record would work but we don't have one and that wouldn't help anyone who wasn't in the same recording space as Shawn and me.

Certis wrote:
I cannot download it directly to my Iphone through Itunes. I think there is something wrong with your feed to itunes. Or at least the one they have on the app on the iphone.

I'm pretty sure that direct-to-iPhone thing only works for podcasts 10 megs or less. Ours is way bigger than that, you need to download it from a computer and sync it.

Yeah that is true if you are on Edge or 3G but I have downloaded podcasts onto my Iphone larger than 10 megs on wifi.

You know what... I did more testing on other podcasts on my phone.. Your latest one is there... There is something wrong with the podcast dates on my Iphone Itunes app. It says November 9. or is it universal?

I don't think we have any time stamp issues.

I think that what Sean was trying to say about Fallout 3 is something that I feel as well: games are becoming like the movie industry.

Most movies that come out to theaters have quality writing, quality direction, quality scores, quality cinematography, etc, etc. They are all polished products. Polished to the point where critics don't really give praise for these things unless its outstanding in some way.

Games are becoming the same way. Most games have a decent story, good graphics, decent score, good gameplay. Fallout 3 fits that mold. I think Sean is on the cusp of being something like a film critic. It takes more than being competent on the basic things that any professionally developed game should be competent at to please him.

The major difference between alot of "hardcore" (I hate this phrase) gamers and "hardcore" film watchers is that the film guys won't say, "Armageddon has decent writing, the acting is pretty good, the cinematography is good, special effects are good and the director pulled all the pieces together, THEREFORE Armageddon is 10/10, 5 stars, contender for Movie of the Year". Quite the opposite. You don't get credit for nailing the basic requirements of a competent movie. It takes alot more to get them excited.

At the same time, your typical moviegoer will look and say something like, "Well it had some good jokes, a hot chick and stuff blew up really nice" and they'll be totally satisfied with that. In that sense, its a movie made for the masses. Theres nothing wrong with that. I myself enjoyed watching Armageddon. However, theres a difference between enjoying a movie the first time I see it and considering it to be something great and amazing. I think that even casual film watchers can say that theres a difference between a competently made movie and a great movie.

To finish the metaphor, it seemed like Shawn & Julian were basically tearing Sean's head off because he didn't think Armageddon was a critical masterpiece and easily one of the best films released that year.

About Fallout 3, I believe the term you're really looking for is "dumbed down for consoles," which is really just another way of explaining that we don't find games "for the masses" challenging or entertaining enough to keep up with our ever-increasing expectations.

From a player skill perspective, the new Prince of Persia game is as "hard" as some other games, except that the fail-reload cycle has been streamlined so that you don't have to wade through the load-game menu or a lengthy, unskippable cutscene. They've essentially taken out some of the frustration factor, and I don't see why people are complaning about that so much. I mean, does navigating the load-game menu make the game better? On a related note, here's the Quarter to Three discussion about Prince of Persia and what the fail-state means for the player: http://www.quartertothree.com/game-t...

Also, I miss games having "iron man" modes.

unlockables = gamer tax

- Alan

I'm going to have to jump in and pimp for Fallout 3 a bit. I did not find the game to be, "for the masses." The IP alone is pretty esoteric. I have played games all my life and I never heard of Fallout until Fallout 3 was announced. I have issues with the game (horrible game engine and unimaginative RPG mechanics), but I still find the game to be a lot of fun, but definitely not something I would recommend to a more casual gamer. Fallout 3 is a hardcore gamer RPG. It is not a Halo or a GTA that appeals to the gaming masses. The game was successful because most hardcore gamers bought it, not the masses. Obviously, this is a matter of perspective. For other people who are far more intense RPG fans than me, Fallout 3 may seem dumbed-down. But once we start talking about the masses (the entire game market) that relativism becomes, well...irrelevant. If you bought this game you are probably a hardcore gamer, on your way to becoming one, or you promptly sold it back to Gamestop cause it was unlike any shooter you ever played and damn hard to understand what the hell you were supposed to do.

Fallout 3 is a hardcore game, not for the masses. It may no be as geektastic as some wanted, but it is pretty geeky in my opinion.

Certis wrote:

I'm pretty sure that direct-to-iPhone thing only works for podcasts 10 megs or less. Ours is way bigger than that, you need to download it from a computer and sync it.

Larger downloads work fine as long as you are on WiFi. You can't do more than 10MB over the cell network.

Itsatrap wrote:

About Fallout 3, I believe the term you're really looking for is "dumbed down for consoles"

Itsatrap wrote:

From a player skill perspective, the new Prince of Persia game is as "hard" as some other games, except that the fail-reload cycle has been streamlined so that you don't have to wade through the load-game menu or a lengthy, unskippable cutscene. They've essentially taken out some of the frustration factor, and I don't see why people are complaning about that so much.

I don't know, I haven't played it, but it sounded like the escort character actually moved Certis across a jump he hadn't been able to make on his own. Loading save games and checkpoints don't work like that.

Regarding Co-op

Personally, I find Rabbits’s definition of co-op gaming to be pretty much spot on. So close in fact that I cant be bothered to quibble over small semantic differences.

One of the emails (Phoenix Strike) claimed that key components of Co-op is for games to be “Unscripted, intense and fast paced”. How these are definitive qualities for co-op baffles me.

Surely, it is the Cooperative nature of the games that make them Co-op not their genre, mechanics, settings, pacing or story.

It seems to me that some gamers don’t want their favourite game/genre associated with another game/genre (seemingly with MMO’s, specifically WoW).

For the record I do play WoW, I don’t play Left for Dead, I do play Gears of War (co-op), I don’t play Sins of a Solar Empire. All of these games have Co-op modes or elements.

Raiding in WoW (which I no longer do) is an amazing co-op experience for those lucky enough to do it with 10+ people all on the same side trying to learn an encounter together. How this fails to be co-op is beyond me…..

To finish the metaphor, it seemed like Shawn & Julian were basically tearing Sean's head off because he didn't think Armageddon was a critical masterpiece and easily one of the best films released that year.

This is the part where you drive your metaphor off a cliff and then it gets blown up by a giant asteroid.

I don't know, I haven't played it, but it sounded like the escort character actually moved Certis across a jump he hadn't been able to make on his own. Loading save games and checkpoints don't work like that.

Yes she can also help with making longer jumps and there are in fact jumps that require you use that feature.

The whole streamlined death mechanic is not what makes this game easy.

Let me explain what I found easy about this game. In Sands of Time you used to have to time everything. For example, wall running. You used to have to aim your jump for the wall, time your jump, hold down the button to wall run and time your jump off. If you made a mistake anywhere in there you would probably die or at least be forced to use the time feature in order to rewind and try again. The time feature was limited though so that wasn't always a guaranteed fix.

In the new Prince of Persia to wall run, you jump near a wall, you automatically wall run and than time your jump off, and your done. If you somehow screw up no problem, as long as you haven't let your character drop too far, you hit the magic button and the girl magically throws you further. How do you know if you aren't going to make it? The game tells you by fading to black and white. Now having the girl throw you further doesn't always get you to safety, but it almost always does. I found I had to almost let myself far too fall in order to get reset.

Now using this magic button feature to get the extra distance on the jump is necessary in parts of the game, but because of that feature there is almost no jump you can't make even if you fail horribly. If you listened to the show you heard my story about how I initially failed horribly at a jump and still managed to end up where I needed to be by randomly pressing jump and the magic button until I was safe. I had no idea where I was or where I was headed I just kept hitting the buttons and my character bounced around the screen until I landed on something solid.

I should also note that your character also has a claw on his hand which you can use to slow your fall down considerably if your near a wall and don't know where you need to go, which is cool but also helps make the game easier, as it gives you more time to react.

The developers also designed the world so that it was blatantly obvious how to get from point A to point B, and not because of the magic light that you could summon that showed you the way, I actually found that useful to figure out what direction I needed to head in. What I am talking about is how every ledge or crack in the wall was lined with timber joists, so that you knew you could climb. Sometimes the wall would just be covered in vines which were also scalable. Every wall you could run on was scuffed as if to say 100 other people did just that before you.

The fighting was a joke because I never felt like I was in any danger of dying. The worst that could happen was the enemy got more health and the fight lasted longer. Oh and of all the fights I had, I never fought more than one thing at a time.

Now keep in mind I only played for a couple of hours, although I started several missions in, because I picked up where Certis left off. so I never beat the game and there was a lot I didn't see, but what I experienced was very easy.

I am not saying I think all games should be super hard and that I need to die several times in order to feel challenged, but this version of Prince of Persia just went too far. I felt like there were nothing at stake in anything I did and so I didn't see the point.

I do want to reiterate though that I thought some of the dialogue was excellent and very funny.

Here's the non-inflammatory version of Elysium's Fallout 3 review in case you guys need a show clip you can send to Bethesda so that they will continue to invite you guys to their parties.

Nijhazer wrote:

Here's the non-inflammatory version of Elysium's Fallout 3 review in case you guys need a show clip you can send to Bethesda so that they will continue to invite you guys to their parties.

That is freaking amazing editing. It sounds really fluid.

(and, by the by, a testament to Rob's miraculous production skills - especially since we now know we can splice words together and have it sound pretty natural).

Gaald wrote:
Yeah, when I'm listening to the podcast my system sounds are deafening because I have to turn the volume up so high.

Dam one of my pet peeves when listening to other shows is volume levels I have been trying to get the volume on the podcast as high as I can so that people don't have to jack up the volume when they listen. I thought I was doing ok, but it seems that's not case. If anyone has any tips on getting everything to sound louder, without clipping out, PM please.

IMO the show has good sound levels - better than most other shows out there and equivalent to the best produced podcasts such as those on 1UP and the cagcast (though he really needs to sort out his bass).

If you somehow screw up no problem, as long as you haven't let your character drop too far, you hit the magic button and the girl magically throws you further.
Now having the girl throw you further doesn't always get you to safety, but it almost always does.

It really depends where you mess up. If you're in a narrow canyon then you can rely on trying to hit the opposite wall... if not then you generally do no get to safety regardless of the 'double jump' mechanic - which is available in many other games.... this is just a more realistic implementation rather than having your character magically suddenly be able to jump again in mid air.

The fighting was a joke because I never felt like I was in any danger of dying. The worst that could happen was the enemy got more health and the fight lasted longer.

Of course you never felt in danger of dying: You can't die in the game - it's a feature just like it is in Fable 2, Prey etc. You are punished with 'time'. Fail a jump - repeat the segment again. Get knocked down in combat - it takes longer to kill the enemy because they regenerated some health.

Nijhazer wrote:

Here's the non-inflammatory version of Elysium's Fallout 3 review in case you guys need a show clip you can send to Bethesda so that they will continue to invite you guys to their parties.

That. Is. Genius.

Seriously, about the coolest thing I have ever heard.

wordsmythe wrote:

I like words.

I hatess wordsess, they burnss us my preciousss!

iPhone game? That would have been handy info.

Just realised that Eurogamer have a chat about Fable 2 with Molyneux - a sort of post mortem.

Eurogamer: Is it hard to sell to the audience the difference between something that's accessible, and something that's just too easy?

Peter Molyneux: It's not the particular challenge that's easy or hard, it's the overall experience: how you feel about each of those combat moments. Personally, if you're defining easy as, "Well, I should have died five times here and had to repeat the same combat over," I think that's just tedious.

Eurogamer: Is it scary to throw out seasoned mechanics like dying, restarting, grinding, and getting lost?

Peter Molyneux: It was deeply scary to have the breadcrumb trail. It took an awful lot of persuasion. I think everybody predicted, "You'll follow this thing and get bored, and the sense of exploration will be gone." Sometimes, when you're a designer, you have to push against all resistance, and you have to believe it's going to work.

The experience of being lost is not what you want. The experience of exploring is what you want. The argument I use is: if you go orienteering, you take a map. Humans like to know where they're going. The people who really like to explore are the uber-uber-good people who are very good at working out where they are in a 2- and 3-D world.

Not a bad read and it's obvious that this particular debate has been raging in development circles for the last few years.

Obadiahstarbuck wrote:

But on the other hand, I felt that the game squandered a huge amount of narrative potential, all because Bethesda can't engineer a relatable NPC. In the last year I've played too many games that seared their stories into my brain: BioShock, Portal, Episode 2. Fallout 3--with its goofy character models and animations--just couldn't compete. It's as though Bethesda doesn't realize that they don't want to be in the uncanny valley and that a wastelander probably wouldn't have the same expression on his face when he yells at me for tripping over his tin cup collection as he does when tells me about being half-mad with hunger and driven to cannibalism. That's less of a liability when dealing with the guy who sells stimpacks off the back of his brahmin, but when your vaultmates, closest allies, fiercest enemies, and even your dad seem cold and artificial, it kills the drama.

I'm not supposed to give away this secret, but Bethesda's main goal in game design is to help gamers understand what it's like to have Aspergers. The rest is just "sugar coating" to distract the reviewers.

Nijhazer wrote:

Here's the non-inflammatory version of Elysium's Fallout 3 review in case you guys need a show clip you can send to Bethesda so that they will continue to invite you guys to their parties.

Man, Elysium makes Devin Hester sound eloquent.

Duoae wrote:

Just realised that Eurogamer have a chat about Fable 2 with Molyneux - a sort of post mortem.

I liked what Molyneux did with Fable 2. It is not a perfect game, but I really like they way Fable 2 makes navigating and "dying" less frustrating. The game still has a piss poor menu system you need to navigate regularly. Plus, the job minigames are tedious and boring. Baby steps I suppose. I am still waiting for a rpg or a big complex action game that never leaves the game world except to start it up and shut it down. I think the industry is moving in that direction, but these long held conventions are hard to break.

Molyneux tends to engage in hyberbole, but this part of the interview got me all worked up for the future.

Eurogamer: Can I tempt you into being old-school Peter Molyneux and telling me something about what's coming next?

Peter Molyneux: I've already got in trouble for this. But there is a sense of excitement around something we've been experimenting with for an awful long time. If we pull this off - and that's a big if, and please don't think this is hype, it's just a designer talking about his job - if we get even close, I think it's going to produce something you have never seen before: concept, play-style, genre, everything.

This is the reason Microsoft wanted us to be first-party, to give us the ability to make a big step. This industry needs big steps. You can feel it in the air right now: there's an uncertainty about these massive blockbuster formulaic games that we continue to make. I partially accuse myself of doing that.

On the other side there's this real disparity between the machines that we've got at the moment; we've got gamers' boxes and casual boxes. There needs to be this revolution.

Eurogamer: It seems you're saying there are a lot of design problems people have now solved. Can you give us a hint about some of the problems to be solved next?

Peter Molyneux:
The big problem is the sense of wonder that you and I had when we first played computer games. I can remember that sense of wonder. I can remember going into the arcades and playing Missile Command and Defender, and my heart was full.

That sense of wonder, to a certain extent, has evaporated from the world. We need to convince people that a form of entertainment so magical it takes people's breath away is still there.

You may think this is all arty-farty rubbish. Let's talk about cinema. Until the golden few years when you had Star Wars, and the cinema turned from being a slightly two-dimensional thing to this huge, epic, queues everywhere [business]. Everyone was talking about it. When was the last time we heard about that in the world of cinema?

For years and years, the same television programs came on. Then out of the blue you had Lost and Dexter, and TV was where it was at. That's what computer games need. They need that redefining moment of the experience itself, and I think we are about to do it. I'm not saying "we" as Lionhead, I'm saying us as an industry.

We have to take the big heavy rulebook we've been writing in blood over the last 20 years, and put it into a mincer. Then say, what if we were starting from scratch? What if we were inventing this now, with all the tools we've got, Live, Controllers, the fact that screens are really big now? What if we were going to do that again and what would we end up with? That's what we're trying to do here.

I like how he referenced some recent TV shows like Lost and Dexter as an analogy for how videogames need to break from convention. it would be nice to see a similar renaissance in the videogame industry.

Nijhazer wrote:

Here's the non-inflammatory version of Elysium's Fallout 3 review in case you guys need a show clip you can send to Bethesda so that they will continue to invite you guys to their parties.

It's a game. I think we can all agree with that.

Oh my god, that is priceless, Nijhazer.

Nijhazer wrote:

Here's the non-inflammatory version of Elysium's Fallout 3 review in case you guys need a show clip you can send to Bethesda so that they will continue to invite you guys to their parties.

*golf clap*

When I stop laughing I'm going to be very very angry.

Reminds me of that Fred Armisen character on SNL's Weekend Update who can't finish sentences.

Nijhazer wrote:

Here's the non-inflammatory version of Elysium's Fallout 3 review in case you guys need a show clip you can send to Bethesda so that they will continue to invite you guys to their parties.

Oh my stars and garters. That is well played, sir. Well played indeed.

As far as the podcast, I too found Fallout a bit console-ized but I'm not bitter about it. I save the true fires of my bereft 80's gamer rage for the fact that I don't need a joystick for my PC.

Nijhazer wrote:

Here's the non-inflammatory version of Elysium's Fallout 3 review in case you guys need a show clip you can send to Bethesda so that they will continue to invite you guys to their parties.

And the floodgates open...

The number one thing I think I did wrong when playing Fallout 3? Fast-travelling everywhere. The ruins of DC created by Bethesda was by far the most fascinating and emotive character in the game (yes, it is a game;)). The problem here is that it allready took me 60 hours to beat the game: I can only imagine that actually journying on foot everywhere would increase the length of time spent in DC to oh, say, eternity! And here lies the reason why, after completing Fallout 3 I felt a little like I'd just gotten a cold handshake: it's hard to keep the passion for 50+ hours. Granted it's possible to finish the main quest in arround 10 hours, but in doing so one would miss much of the flavour (vanilla included) that fleshes out the wasteland (oxymoron?). On the other hand, the time one takes to reflect on and revel in the wasteland is directly (and I guess inversely?) proportional to the amount of punch sapped from the main quest.
In the end, what I take away from Fallout is the feeling I got from spending time in the wasteland. Beause of the level of aloneness/abandonment/hostility expressed by the wasteland I found Fallout to be almost a self-reflective game, or rather, I was a self-reflective player while in the wasteland. Or maybe self-indulgent is a better way of describing my time: more time spent in the pip-boy than in combat; more time in VATS than out, indulging in self-satisfying choices; interacting with people based on what I have to say rather than on what they have to tell me. This sounds bad - I should clarify that I found these things to be more self-reflective than self-gratifying. (Interestingly this take-away contrasts with my other recent favorite place-to-spend-time-in Liberty City; GTA4 was more of a socially engaging experience in contrast to Fallout 3's self-centered experience).

Another thought: I was over at my friends place trying out Preince of Persia the other day and figured I'd try out the "optional dialogue" that people have both loved and hated here and in other places. I swear I kept on hitting the bumper for 5+ minuits of dialogue snippets. Funny thing: I was just standing there facing Elika doing nothing and talking, hitting a button repeatedly to pump her for info. It struck me that these are little more than cleverly disguised dialogue trees, and when I say cleverly, I mean the menue is transparent, and that's about it. They SO should have been overlaid narration. Just saying!