GWJ Conference Call Episode 119

Conference Call

Red Alert 3, Fable 2 DLC Pack, Crayon Physics, The Recession and The Gaming Industry, Your Emails, Voicemails and more!

This week we tackle the economy and how the recession may impact the gaming industry and the games we actually play. It's more interesting than it sounds, I promise! We also announce Sean Sands' next Horizon Broadening Game and discuss the ending of Gravity Bone. If you want to submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563!

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. You can also submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

"Small Comfort" - Apoplexia (Benoit Casey) - http://www.cerebrimusic.com - 0:36:40
"Luna Machine" (Benoit Casey) - http://www.cerebrimusic.com - 1:00:25

Comments

I would never do a full pan over but I could try panning a couple of notches more.

I do have to say that Rabbit's voice quality was way up in this one and overall sound was improved.

I have been listening to some old episodes though, not sure if this is a recent change or if it occurred months/years ago.

Speaking as an "unplugged" gamer. I though I'd throw another couple links and podcast to those so interested.

Others have mentioned www.boargamegeek.com, The Dice Tower podcast and the On Board Games podcast. All good sources. 2D6 feet in a random direction is a good if infrequent podcast. The gold standard for that type of podcast is Have Games Will Travel. For Pen and Paper RPG's no site is better than www.rpg.net. Pay special attention to the forums.

Rabbit mentioned XBLA for online play of board games. I'ts a good start but if you really enjoy Eurogames you owe it to yourself to check out www.brettspielwelt.de . It's a german site that offers free, yes FREE play of games like Dominion and Stone Age among many others. The site has a bit of a learning curve and not all games play well online but at least these two games play smoothly and are well worth the time.

Last, but not least I want to plug www.wargameroom.com. Elysium might like this site best because it focuses on "serious" wargames. I highly recommend Twilight Struggle, 1960: The Making of a President, C&C Ancients, We the People and Wellington. You can play all of these for free. Again, a bit of a learning and set up curve but well worth the time.

Hi boys,
On the voicemail about the consumers calling a 1-800 #, as opposed to learning to run DOS, I agree- it's two different times. But as for the theory put forth in your latest podcast as introduced by Rabbit: yes, I concur, there are
cycles in the money side of the industry, but also in the cycle of quality game design on a platform during its lifespan.
The peak of this cycle may be as I think Sean was wistful for in an earlier podcast, (paraphrasing) "if I could just play Mass Effect co-op it would be great!". Because one of my most fond memories in gaming is as follows: (stick with me).

My good friend had access to a top of the line IBM PC that his dad had in 85/86 when Space Quest came out . . . well, we work on this damn game ALL NIGHT (you know what I'm talking about), and eventually, we fall to sleep, stuck on the puzzles (we're twelve). We're stuck at getting past the laser beam when you first go down into the planet. We sleep on it. I woke up with the answer, tried taking the glass from the crashed ship, and voila!, it worked. But the excitement, the thrill of discovery, and the damn HARD puzzle solving was doubled because my good friend and I shared in these experiences! This was twenty-four years ago. How do you re-create this thrill?

Back to the cycle. I feel Sean is right, if the industry can produce a Mass Effect caliber title complete with co-op ONLINE with some sort of hybrid voting system that can determine events (developed by Black Isle, and published by Origin of course :)) that could really push the envelope and move us toward that long coming (and long lasting) finale in this race of the 'next-gen' hardware avalible now. Especially with voice chat now avalible to discuss the plot choice, or what/where to go, very challenging games could make a comeback. What fun is Sam and Max with the hint system, as opposed to a really hard game, with no hint system, but you can go online, and team up with someone else to solve a situation- and perhaps it doesn't involve blowing someones scalp off with a shotgun in VATS. One can dream!

Anyway, there is the cycle, as I see it, peaking again, because through this model I could have a totally cool (80's retro, feathered hair, Sands (String)) moment with anybody online if the developers would attempt to implement this type of co-op fun by creating very hard gameplay, but softening and enhancing the blow of the reintroduction of this genre by implementing a competent, online co-op puzzle-solving feature. Perhaps Persona 4 meets Left 4 Dead?

Larry wrote:

What fun is Sam and Max with the hint system, as opposed to a really hard game, with no hint system, but you can go online, and team up with someone else to solve a situation- and perhaps it doesn't involve blowing someones scalp off with a shotgun in VATS. One can dream!

The problem is that supporting an online community and adding co-op support to game directed mainly at one player wouldn't make much financial sense, especially for smaller studios. I think that to secure funding developers would have to capitalize on the co-op elements to cover community costs.

You could have a 3rd party system that allows people to see what you're doing and offer help while having no influence over the game world, but I don't believe the existence of such a system would compel developers to make more difficult games.

wordsmythe wrote:
FenixStryk wrote:

2) The word "game" is a noun, not an adjective. As such, you should not use it as a descriptive term for games. =) You don't have to say "It was a game for the masses," when you can say "It was for the masses."

"Here comes a new challenger!"

In the sentence "It was a game for the masses," the word "game" is used as a noun, not as an adjective.
It = subject
was = verb (noun typo, I thought verb and typed noun. )
game = object
for the masses = prepositional phrase, modifying/describing the object.

The word game was used correctly as a noun, which is obvious when the sentence is correctly diagrammed.

I just figure, if we're going to go down Pedantry Road, let's go all the way to the end of the cul-de-sac.

Dysplastic wrote:
Certis wrote:

You don't see the difference or benefit to in-game options vs. surfing the internet? There are millions of people who don't know what Gamefaqs is and wouldn't even know where to look on Youtube.

Sure - I just don't think these are the same millions of people who are playing hardcore puzzle games. I guess I've gotten to the point where surfing the internet has become integral as a tool to assist in my gaming experience.

Zelos wrote:

Indeed, there's a huge difference between reading step-by-step instructions in a walkthrough and getting a small hint in game.

I guess I don't see it that way - one way or another, I wasn't able to solve the puzzle on my own. I don't get any more satisfaction from solving it with a hint vs. a full solution - if we're talking about one specific puzzle. I guess that's just me, though.

The point of all of which to say - yes, it might be better to have hints or whatever in-game, or it might just lead to laziness and people getting help without giving the puzzles enough thought, defeating the purpose of the game. The bottom line is that there are resources available if you really need them, they're pretty accessible and can be puzzle specific, and I don't think it's a bad thing that they are removed from the game to remove the temptation to use them before you really need to.

I think the convenience issue is an argument in favor of in-game hints, just making them harder to get to than "push the win button."

I only got stuck once in Sam and Max season 1 (it had something to do with a poster that I didn't know was something I could click on). Having only one PC-- which was a laptop-- at the time, getting a hint meant either alt-tabbing to a web browser to hit UHS-hints, which made my laptop chug like crazy. Not having to stop the application (if not necessarily the game itself) to go find a hint would be a big plus for me.

I bought Sins in the box! I like boxes.

To the narratology guy, you should check out some of the old GDC lectures on storytelling, particularly emergent storytelling. In particular, I'm thinking about a talk given in, uh, 2000 (?) where the Maxis community manager talks about the elaborate narratives that the player community was generating, even though the game itself has no narrative.

Then you have the emergent narratives that come from various strategy games and open-world games (including MMOs). You have various AAR's (after action reviews) on the web for games like X-Com and Dwarf Fortress, or even just the silly write-ups that people generate, like the "Let's Play" series or Doug the Eagle's classic System Shock and Ultima "walkthroughs."

If you really want to go off the deep end, you could talk about Chris Crawford's storytelling project, or just go back to basics with the standard inverted hourglass narrative structure, which we all know and love/hate.

- Alan

I'm curious about what the group was smokin' (it must have been good.) Someone needs to check their studio for a carbon monoxide leak.

To summarize...

Sales of the top 5 games are up, all other sales are down...
Therefore, the sudios are going to invest less in the top 5 and more in everything else...

How about, the studios will kill evertything except the top 2 or 3 to try to conserve capital and to broaden their base beyond the top seller.

I think it may be a good year for the smaller houses. Publishing over the internet is becoming more profitable, and allowing some of the smaller titles exposure that they didn't have before. If the big houses are leaving huge gaps in genres, someone will move to fill them.

Ralph

Sales of the top 5 games are up, all other sales are down...
Therefore, the sudios are going to invest less in the top 5 and more in everything else...

Are you saying that was our point? That's not what we said.

How about, the studios will kill evertything except the top 2 or 3 to try to conserve capital and to broaden their base beyond the top seller.

I think it may be a good year for the smaller houses. Publishing over the internet is becoming more profitable, and allowing some of the smaller titles exposure that they didn't have before. If the big houses are leaving huge gaps in genres, someone will move to fill them.

That's what we said too.

Regarding the difficulty of games:

I don't believe that it's inevitable that as a game progresses and becomes more popular (or notorious), that it becomes easier. Ninja Gaiden NES was kind of hard, but the 3rd game in that series was just plain cheap. It was much harder and it was kind of obvious that they were artificially just increasing the difficulty.

Too, between Super Mario 1, 2, and 3, the first and the 3rd were arguably equally difficult whereas the second was not, though that's probably because it's really a re-skinned Doki Doki Panic.

The recently released Megaman 9 is just as hard as I remember Megaman to be, and that's generally considered a great thing. Heck, Contra 4 was hard, too.

Thing is, the preeminence of the PS2 during the noontide of its life was such that Sony had no further recourse for growth - it had no choice but to try to encourage games that expanded the gamer population itself. The PS2 had tons of casual and shovelware games - in many ways, it's library can be faulted for many of the shortcomings that are leveled against the Wii today.

Indeed, this development has been carried through to the PS3 and the Xbox 360, it seems. These days I see people saying that Megaman 9 is hard. Well, yeah - it's normal hard. It's no Ninja Gaiden or 1942, certainly.

My point here is that the new easy iteration of Prince of Persia on the HD consoles is the result of two developments - the high cost of developing HD games with the resulting need to sell lots of copies, and the expansion of the gaming market prior to PS3 and Xbox360 markets taking over that includes a hefty amount of people who, for lack of a better word, suck at video games.

They have to sell many copies, and the easiest way to do that is to make it easy, and then hype the game so that everybody, especially dedicated gamers, feel a need to buy it.

Now, this isn't necessarily a global trend. De Blob on the Wii is a reasonably easy title to finish - but you do kind of die and many of the more esoteric missions require some modicum of platforming skill to finish. There's also head to head platformer racing and head to head straight up waypoint platforming (paint match). It's an easy title that's got something for the hardcore platformer, too.

Speaking of the Wii...

Regarding the economy's effect on gaming:

I don't believe that gaming is "recession proof," especially now that the higher end consoles and PC systems cost so much to maintain and game on.

The thing is, I think the Wii will weather the storm better than the HD consoles because it's cheaper to buy and develop for. One of the reasons developers are so willing to drop prices on Wii offerings is because it's so cheap to develop them that they don't really need to charge all that much to recoup their losses. In some cases, the development costs for the Wii is basically just two people in a coffeehouse - the outstanding World of Goo being the case in point. That's a lower floor for development cost for anything on the consoles.

In addition to that, even though we're 2/3s of the way through the cycle, the Wii is only now getting wound up. Its dark horse entry into the console scene has, IMO, greatly delayed the onset of AAA 3rd party titles for it whether by accident or by design, and just when the other consoles are dropping off, it's gaining steam with Madworld, The Conduit, and EA's projected killer Tennis offering with WM+. Already, Pro Evo Soccer for the Wii stands as a unique offering that's arguably better than any other soccer game for the other consoles, and certainly once WM+ gets well underway, you aren't going to any other system for golf games.

And we still have A-team titles like Tales of "Ten," to look forward to, as well as Rune Factory. There's also the anticipated revival of Punch Out!! and Sin and Punishment. And that's just this year.

EA has already announced that they're shifting focus to the Wii, probably because of budget issues, and SEGA has more or less thrown in its lot with Nintendo. Certainly, the big Japanese devs are shifting to Wii, too.

Thing is, aside from being cheaper, the Wii's lower requirements and unique controller scheme force the issue of exclusivity. Even if you could port up games developed for the Wii to the other consoles, the loss of the unique controller means that every game for the Wii is basically an exclusive experience, which is all the more true for light gun titles and FPSs. RE4 for the Wii stands as the best version of that game and not for graphical upgrades. Being basically a PC gamer, I would have voice preference for Call of Duty W@W on the IR pointer as well.

Apart from all those factors, from a purely home gamer perspective, there appears to be a tad more on offer on WiiWare and VC that's of interest to me as a long-time and dedicated gamer than what's on offer elsewhere. There's not much advertisement going on for that, but I think it's because Nintendo doesn't need to. If you're interested in WiiWare at all, it's no effort to just click the channel and see the latest offerings.

VC's backlog of quality games is just stellar. If you see an endorsed game there and you haven't ever played it - you owe to yourself to go play if it's in a genre you like. Not only does it offer historical perspective, some of those games hold up extremely well, even with the dated graphics and game designs. A game like Super Mario Bros to me is just essentially timeless.

On WiiWare, there's the much hyped World of Goo, of course, but there's also a lot of just very experimental fun stuff like Evasive Space, Lit, and Art Style Orbient as well as more mainstream offerings like Dr. Mario Rx.

It's too bad that the Wii's online infrastructure is otherwise just extremely awful and being basically hardwired to its current settings, there's no way to improve that until the next gen, which is where the 360 comes in and gives everyone a beating - the XBLA Gold membership is topnotch.

R-type Dimensions and SF Turbo Remix are exactly the kinds of things that I want in an online service and both are killer apps - Dimensions with the hardcore+coop options and SF with the online arcade experience. If ever the 360 finds itself in a software war on the losing end of disk sales, it can simply primp up the download service to counter and it'll get nice return fire.

Indeed, its robust online component paves the way for the next wave of game distribution - paid online content that supports freely distributed game engines. If Microsoft can make that fly, it'll be rock solid heading onto the next-gen.

Damn Larry, nice post!

Thanks. It's not often I get to post with thought-out commentary in a thread where people can talk about NPD sales and console wars without getting personal. It's much more satisfying to talk about broad market trends and probable developer strategy on the consoles without having to fight through brand loyalties.

This is a nice site going on here. Glad I found myself wandering over here.

Certis wrote:

Damn Larry, nice post!

Seconded. Well done.