GWJ Conference Call Episode 122

Conference Call

Killzone 2, Halo Wars, Afro Samurai, Lugaru, Mortal Kombat Vs. DC, Auditorium, Michael Zenke Has a Big Announcement!, Developer Track Records, Your Emails and more!

This week Michael "Zonk" Zenke joins us to announces his big career change! We also talk about developer track records, melting panties, alternate reality games and more. 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

"The Way Your Journey Ends" Tom Quinn - www.citadel-studios.com - 0:33:26 "Anxious Tedium" - Ouranos OST (Tom Quinn) - www.citadel-studios.com - 1:00:44

Comments

Congrats Michael on your new gig! As I tweeted, "we're all mad here..."

Yeah good luck with that

In true MMO style.

Gratz on the ding Zonk

Hope it goes really well for you.

@Zonk Firstly congratulations on the new job! (also sent a tweet:))

Secondly, I could not agree more on the free trial for new MMO's angle. I have a copy of Age of Conan that cost me €40 sitting on my shelf doing nothing. I can't even play it for 10 minutes without throwing another €10 at Funcom for the joy of experiencing the game. Essentially your initial purchase is useless without the ongoing subscription fee.

I would almost say, to a certain extent, that paying for a boxed copy of an MMO is pretty mad and is a legacy from the more traditional games market. The money I invested in the boxed copy is wasted unless I carry on playing. I would prefer to see the MMO market move to a 'risk free' trial system. How about you sign up to an account and pay the money as if you bought the game. Then you get 7-10 days of play. If, at the end of that time, you choose to subscribe, you keep your bought copy and go on from there. If you don't pay your first months subscription, you get your money back.

Or, alternatively just go free trial from day one (something I have no idea why publishers are so averse to!)

Is Elysium's absence from this show and his recent post about being burned out indicative of a hiatus from the podcast? If so, that makes me sad, and I hope that he returns soon.

Demos, rentals, trial-play - any form of try-before-you-buy is still largely lost on MMOs until a good time into their running date. Instead of question this as a problem with the genre and the way it is marketed, maybe we need to consider the costs (both upfront and in terms of maintenance and running costs) of developing and supporting these products. Once contributions make a dent in the original capital investment the companies have made, then it becomes a more obvious business choice to start attempting to expand their playerbase and improve their market share with these types of offers.

If we compare this to other traditional products such as foods/snacks, drinks or items around the home, MMOs are more on the scale of whitegoods (washing machines, refridgerators and other large domestic appliances) as opposed to the new novelty flavour pack of chips:

- No introductory offers
- No attempt to break into the market using undercutting as a strategy
- No free additionals with the first purchase
- etc.

We see Limited Edition boxes with a mousemat and the soundtrack, if we're lucky we get a book of original/concept artwork (but we pay a premium for this). MMOs and games in general work off a media-market such as Music or Film. Initial costs are high for manufacture and distribution, costs are reduced from contributions (subscriptions) and so the ability to offer greater deals to the consumer are made available. Over time the product loses value, depreciation kicks in and the original value of the product must be realigned appropriately. No longer top of the charts, no longer just released, no longer offering the latest and greatest [insert selling point here] - now is the time for deals.

Is Elysium's absence from this show and his recent post about being burned out indicative of a hiatus from the podcast? If so, that makes me sad, and I hope that he returns soon.

It was all scheduling stuff. I'll be back with bells on this week.

Destrin wrote:

I have a copy of Age of Conan that cost me €40 sitting on my shelf doing nothing. I can't even play it for 10 minutes without throwing another €10 at Funcom for the joy of experiencing the game.

I'm confused, did you not recieve a free month with the boxed Age of Conan?

Also I thought free trials where available for MMOs ... I know that WoW have one and LoTRO has a 14 day trial (US)

Elysium wrote:
Is Elysium's absence from this show and his recent post about being burned out indicative of a hiatus from the podcast? If so, that makes me sad, and I hope that he returns soon.

It was all scheduling stuff. I'll be back with bells on this week.

I would prefer train whistles, but bells of the church tolling hunchback variety may well do.

So I am trying to listen to this in the computer lab while I am on campus. The problem is, I am getting the Certis and the Chipmunks version of the show. Is there a reason that listening through IE6 could cause something like that? Anyone else having a similar issue?

I was happy the way this one turned out. Two "guests" and few enough people on the 'cast to hear from everyone. The episode was over way sooner than I was expecting, and not because it clocked in under an hour and a half, the discussion was great and engaging.

This mean we can't bitch about SOE anymore?

Edit: So anytime Certis farts, the Internet goes down?

OMG! Cory is back! woot woot!!!

Squishy.Turtle wrote:

OMG! Cory is back! woot woot!!!

Hi, Cory.

Nah, I'm excited that he's back, too.

My ears perked up in a big way during the ARG question. I participated in The Beast when I was about 16, and that was a real high point in my gaming experience.

For me, the quality of the alternate reality experience boiled down to (surprise, surprise) immersion. It requires a suspension of disbelief, and the more of a strain it is to maintain that, the less enjoyable the experience will probably be. Do I know which company is acting as puppetmaster? This will break the immersion. Is an ulterior motive such as marketing very conspicuous? This will break the immersion. Do I have to acknowledge the game as a game by buying game-like products or signing up for the game (as opposed to buying an existing product which has been co-opted into the game world or signing up for a site/service within the game world)? This will break the immersion.

I'm hoping to find the time to try something like World Without Oil before long, because I would love to recapture the rush that came with ARG involvement.

Don't feel bad, Cory. After all...

IMAGE(http://img512.imageshack.us/img512/9272/normalcocainerickjameshs1.jpg)

Elysium wrote:
Is Elysium's absence from this show and his recent post about being burned out indicative of a hiatus from the podcast? If so, that makes me sad, and I hope that he returns soon.

It was all scheduling stuff. I'll be back with bells on this week.

Glad to hear it. I know that you guys aren't always available for every podcast—Rob wasn't in this one, either—but I wasn't sure if your feeling burnt out on games extended to feeling burnt out on the podcast. I look forward to hearing your bells.

Edit: Okay, so now I've made it to the end of the podcast, and Certis let us know where everyone was. I'll jot this down in my reminder book as another example of how I should have listened to the whole podcast before responding.

Squishy.Turtle wrote:

OMG! Cory is back! woot woot!!!

Not only is he back but he is sporting a sexy new mic. We have to get him a pop filter, but the joy I get from having him record on a decent mic is beyond words. If only I could get everyone we ever have on to do the same!

Jonea wrote:

I'm confused, did you not recieve a free month with the boxed Age of Conan?

Yep, you do.

As for MMOs starting with 7 or 14 day trials, I understand where that is beneficial for the developer not to do it. That way they can benefit from selling hundreds of thousands of copies to those damn MMO tourists who ruin the game.

WAR used to be populated-- so much so that new servers were created. Once the tourists left to play Lich King, it changed the dynamics. The servers are far from Barren, they're just not as full as they used to be.

So I'm glad they were taxed 50$. Mwahahaha!

I'm really glad you guys found Lugaru - that's an old indie favorite of mine, and definitely feels like the type of quality and value Mount & Blade provides, which is a great thing. In fact, the actual combat mechanic is arguably superior to Mount & Blade's, though more limited (no archery, no mounts, etc).

The satisfaction of perfectly countering an enemy attack and slamming him into another enemy, sending them both flying off a cliff in slow motion is really hard to top. In fact, in terms of melee combat, I think only Assassin's Creed has felt more satisfying to me in a long time than Lugaru, and only then because AC is so damned cinematic.

They're working on a sequel, though they've been doing so for a LONG time and I have no idea when or if it'll ever see release. I hope it does, though, because with some graphical polish and some more complex level design I think the Lugaru formula could do very, very well.

First, big congrats to Michael. Good luck with the new job.

Elysium wrote:
Is Elysium's absence from this show and his recent post about being burned out indicative of a hiatus from the podcast? If so, that makes me sad, and I hope that he returns soon.

It was all scheduling stuff. I'll be back with bells on this week.

Glad to hear it. You were indeed missed.

Rat Boy wrote:

So anytime Certis farts, the Internet goes down?

LAWL... signaturized.

Congrats to Zonk on the new job!

As a person who's also played the "moving across the country for your job" game, I can say that there are some pretty great character perks at level 2. I took map-reading. It was awesome.

Gaald wrote:
Squishy.Turtle wrote:

OMG! Cory is back! woot woot!!!

Not only is he back but he is sporting a sexy new mic. We have to get him a pop filter, but the joy I get from having him record on a decent mic is beyond words. If only I could get everyone we ever have on to do the same! :)

What mic do you recommend, Rob? I'm assuming something good for the podcast would be good for voice chat in games too.

consultant wrote:

Demos, rentals, trial-play - any form of try-before-you-buy is still largely lost on MMOs until a good time into their running date. Instead of question this as a problem with the genre and the way it is marketed, maybe we need to consider the costs (both upfront and in terms of maintenance and running costs) of developing and supporting these products. Once contributions make a dent in the original capital investment the companies have made, then it becomes a more obvious business choice to start attempting to expand their playerbase and improve their market share with these types of offers.

If we compare this to other traditional products such as foods/snacks, drinks or items around the home, MMOs are more on the scale of whitegoods (washing machines, refridgerators and other large domestic appliances) as opposed to the new novelty flavour pack of chips:

- No introductory offers
- No attempt to break into the market using undercutting as a strategy
- No free additionals with the first purchase
- etc.

We see Limited Edition boxes with a mousemat and the soundtrack, if we're lucky we get a book of original/concept artwork (but we pay a premium for this). MMOs and games in general work off a media-market such as Music or Film. Initial costs are high for manufacture and distribution, costs are reduced from contributions (subscriptions) and so the ability to offer greater deals to the consumer are made available. Over time the product loses value, depreciation kicks in and the original value of the product must be realigned appropriately. No longer top of the charts, no longer just released, no longer offering the latest and greatest [insert selling point here] - now is the time for deals.

Some pretty good points here, are you involved in the industry? Or just really sensible?

It's totally understandable why MMOs don't launch with a trial period, as interstate says the box price serves as a very nice 'tax' on MMO tourists. It's tempting to say that a free trial should appear 2-3 months after launch, but if the tourists are expecting one then they may hold off on their purchase. I'm sure the initial rush on boxed copies is a significant aid to paying off development costs.

Yew wrote:
Gaald wrote:
Squishy.Turtle wrote:

OMG! Cory is back! woot woot!!!

Not only is he back but he is sporting a sexy new mic. We have to get him a pop filter, but the joy I get from having him record on a decent mic is beyond words. If only I could get everyone we ever have on to do the same! :)

What mic do you recommend, Rob? I'm assuming something good for the podcast would be good for voice chat in games too.

What I would recommend for anyone interested in recording a podcast is way overkill for voice chat, and depends on the setup they have. Cory just got the H4 which is super versatile, it can be use as a portable recorder or a 2 input interface or a 4 track recorder, etc. Rabbit and I bought one for ourselves before Gencon last year. They worked great for catching interviews at the cons. Rabbit, Certis and I all record using these microphones Studio Projects B1. They sound great, but they pick up everything and you need a pop filter and interface to use with a computer. So like I said overkill.

If you want a good headset for voice chat, I believe you just can't go wrong with these Plantronics Audio 90 They are like 8.95 plus shipping on clearance at Plantronics. They sound decent and the mic's are great for a headset mic, and they ship pretty dam quick. Only in the U.S. though. I had someone order two for me and I picked them up while I was down in the states before Gencon.

I'm fascinated with the concept of alternate reality gaming, but I think I do agree with Rabbit. The future of this genre isn't on its own, it's as an feature to add some new depth to a video game. MMOs do seem to have the most potential for this, but I can see RPGs taking advantage of adding a few surprises.

Great show this week. I do think Shawn sounded disappointed at the lack of emails offering to increase the size of his... joystick.

I do have to ask how you could have a conversation about big-name developers and their position / influence in the industry without anyone bringing up Peter Molyneux or Hideo Kojima. While you can argue that, for example, Will Wright's direction on Spore was diluted by the number of people who worked on it and his influence is therefore naturally less, Molyneux's games have always been 100% Molyneux, for better or (often) worse, and the Metal Gear series has always been 100% Kojima.

Seeing as Fable II and Metal Gear Solid 4 were two of the most talked about games of 2008, I think it's hard to make the claim that big-name developer influence is receding from the industry. If anything, I think more videogame fans know those two names now than they did 5 or 10 years ago. The recognition of PC developer names (Warren Spector, John Romero, etc) may be less than it used to be, but on the console side of things I think personalities like Molyneux, Kojima, Cliffy B, David Jaffe, Suda, Itagaki, etc are maybe more than ever before at the forefront of game development and publicity.

Congratulations, Michael!

Killzone 2 had a multiplayer beta in the fall, and it's over now. It seemed like they kept it very limited though, as I don't know anyone that had a code for it. It certainly wasn't like the Little Big Planet or SOCOM betas, and we know how well those turned out.

Grats on the new job, Michael! Hope you love it as much as you'l love living in Austin, great place.

Great show, really good discussion.