GWJ Conference Call Episode 123

Conference Call

F.E.A.R 2, Flower, HAWX, Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, An Auditorium Interview With Cipher Prime's Will and Dain, Game Music, A New Feature, Your Emails and more!

Boy, do we have a show for you this week! Lots of new games, an interview with the creators of Auditorium and an ornery Cory Banks keeping us all in line. We're also trying a new once-in-a-while feature out this week, let us know what you think! 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

"Nocturne for Rapture" (Ian Dorsch) - 01:22:41

Game Music from: Auditorium, Megaman 2, F.E.A.R 2, Zelda, MYST, Contra, Super Mario Brothers, Flower, Diablo 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Oblivian, Left 4 Dead, GTA 3

Comments

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Oh hell yes. 2 hours of perfect for my 8 hour drive to NYC. How did you guys know!
Hugs for all.

On the Hawx demo, what was wrong with the flight controls? The first thing i tried after starting the game up was to pull off an Immelman turn and a few barrell rolls. I agree with the slightly odd 'assistance off' mode being a pain to control but i thought the normal flight controls were totally servicable (in a positive way)

Two hours long? It's a dream come true!

I really want to say that Flower derailed the podcast for 15 minutes, but then you had an extra 20 or so at the end also dedicated to Flower. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. =/

I'm surprised no one mentioned WoW's login screen music when the idea of epic "LOOK AT ME!" scores was brought up. The first two minutes of that intro always causes tears to well up in my eyes. It's beyond hyperbole.

As for Diablo 2... I think I'll go stand in Act 1 for a few minutes and absorb the subtle guitar usage one last time. Truly a great soundtrack, if that's the right word for it. Maybe we can generalize and just say all Blizzard games have good music?

I really want to say that Flower derailed the podcast for 15 minutes, but then you had an extra 20 or so at the end also dedicated to Flower. I'm not quite sure what to make of it. =/

Let me make it easy for you. Of the 4 of us who played it, 3 of us thought that it was a fantastic game, well worth 10 bucks. Don't take my word for it though, check it out yourself.

Hey guys. I submitted the email about listening to old podcasts. I wasn't asking if you listen them to hear when you are wrong (that is just a fun bonus), but more just to get a view into tastes, opinions, and perspectives at different times in your life. Now that I think about it, I would imagine that listening to old episodes could help you as game journalists (not to imply you need any help in that department). Reflecting on how you processed info about games before they are released could be compared to your actual experience and inform how you deal with info in the future.

Anyway, thanks for reading my email. I love the show and appreciate the time and care you guys put into it. It really shows.

Dominion is not a German game at all, it was designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, of United States fame. Rio Grande games were the ones who first picked it up from him, after a demonstration at some conference (I forget which). It's just that only the Germans have such a great board/card gaming website as brettspielwelt.

osmosisch wrote:

Dominion is not a German game at all, it was designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, of United States fame. Rio Grande games were the ones who first picked it up from him, after a demonstration at some conference (I forget which). It's just that only the Germans have such a great board/card gaming website as brettspielwelt.

I think "Euro Game" or "German" is a widely accepted adjective for describing a certain kind of intense, non-war strategy game. Dominion at Brettspielwelt is definately a German experience. If you don't speak german, you're in for a wall of pain going in.

(Also, the "other" gametype for strategic games is "Ameritrash", which generally have harder theme, more screw your neighbor, and more catchup and luck).

why is Corey such a party pooper? Flower is awesome and oh so good. it's a wonderful experience and i think he should finish it and discuss this game again. i got the game without knowing much about it and i was incredibly surprised at how great it was. it's only $10 and gave me 2 hours of joy and immersion. the game has trophies for people who want a challenge from it. but for others, it's something to simply absorb and enjoy. there's nothing wrong with that.

for the music in games discussion, i'm disappointed that you guys didn't even touch on music in JRPGs like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI where the music is one of the most memorable aspects to them. while the gameplay or graphics might age, the music is still awesome and incredibly important. maybe next time.

btw Rabbit, i'm glad you're safe dude! LotRO tried to kill you!

Two hours? Poor Rob... I was wondering what that sobbing sound coming from that general direction was.

Omg, facepalm here. I used the x button in Flower the whole time and my only complaint with the game is that I was unable to control the strength of the wind. Duh. Trigger or analog stick. *goes and plays the game again with huge grin plastered on face*

Great job with the audio Rob, I really liked the themes being played as you guys talked about them.

I am sympathetic to Cory's party pooping on Flower. IMHO one always has to take completely effusive enthusiast praise with a grain of salt. I have this experience all the time with video games and in other areas of media like movies and television. Often some new product (to use recent examples, THE DARK KNIGHT, or MAD MEN) is put up as the most excellent or original or gritty or mature content to be consumed this year and the truth of it is that it's never that good. This is partly a problem with my personal expectations and my personal perhaps too high standards, but I think that it's also the case that the *enthusiast* will tend to describe the object in question with too much enthusiasm.

So I'm happy that everyone enjoys Flower. My experience with earlier games along the same lines on PSN indicates to me that I'll probably skip it. I tried Flow and Eden earlier based on similar levels of effusive praise and I have to say that I put each down after about half an hour and have felt no need to go back.

I guess I'm a party pooper too.

Edit: BUT, I forgot to say that I don't believe my party pooping means that people who wish to praise the game should adjust their statements in the name of some kind of retarded "objectivity." I know you guys tend to like things more than I do, I can adjust. I think it's worth keeping your in-built biases in mind when evaluating a video game or whatever, but objectivity is a lousy and false goal.

Anyone looking for a concise, even-handed review of Flower should listen to Drunken Gamers this week, about 30 minutes in. They did a great job hitting it and in about half the time it took us

psu_13 wrote:

I tried Flow and Eden earlier based on similar levels of effusive praise and I have to say that I put each down after about half an hour and have felt no need to go back.

It's interesting because I don't think Eden or Flow are good examples of what you're getting with Flower. I never purchased Flow simply because I've played the beginning stage of Spore . . . and I hated that. I was hyped for Eden and really bought into the "relaxing" game I was told it would be. I found the game stressful (get rid of the timer, for real), but I do like the game. I just don't love it.

But I do really like Flower. A lot. And I have no desire to gush over it like some/many people. I didn't find it to be akin to a poem, it was still much, much too gamey for me to break away from reality into some higher plane of artistic inspiration. So, what do I like then? The control of flying and the audio portion. Simple as that. That's what interested me in the first place, not the "games is art" (nudge) or "relaxation" portion.

And so, while Flow or Eden definitely have an artsier vibe to them and their presentation, in the end they're still games, but they're games that offer two vastly different experiences and the same is true of Flower. I'm not trying to convince you or anyone who feels like you, however, for those who did like the artsier aspects to Flow or Eden, then I would recommend trying out Flower because I think those people will enjoy those aspects of the game regardless of how they feel about the game's mechanics.

I don't have a PS3, but the guys over at In Game Chat absolutely rave about RealTriggers, a $5 add-on for the PS3 controller that transforms the rounded "triggers" into actual, concave triggers that your fingers can actually grip like the 360 has. Apparently they stay on solidly, look and feel like they belong on the controller, and bring the control experience much closer to what 360 players are used to.

Since at least a couple people said they couldn't stand the PS3 triggers when controlling Flower, and Elysium (I think?) seemed to hate the PS3 controls for Saints Row 2 - don't know if it was because of the triggers, but they might have contributed - I thought I'd pass along the recommendation, though again I can't speak for them myself, I just know Scott, James & Jeremy love 'em. And hey, $5.

The things I would have said about Flower if I had played it before the podcast (*spoiler free? edition*) -

I totally get where Cory is coming from on the comment about the unnecessary effusiveness. Flower _is_ a lovely little experience, and it gave me a really pleasant feeling, but I think a lot of people are so busy looking for meaning in games that they will latch on to transitory experiences as earth shattering. I realize that everyone else in the community thinks this is a narrative(?) that needs to be protected, but after finishing I don't even know exactly what I'm not supposed to spoil.

Now, unlike Cory I really liked the gameplay and flight model. If I had gotten a demo of Flower I would have definitely bought it based on that first level. While I was playing, I was having a great time, and while the metaphor of Flower is essentially as subtle as a Mike Tyson punch to the face it still worked enough for me because of the way they play on the theme. I can sense that someone now thinks I've spoiled something, so let me get back to the point.

This was an extraordinarily creative title, but I'm not sure that it stands as much more than a very pleasant and short diversion with a somewhat daring approach. I think this may be reindforced by nature of the fact that the less you take into the game the more you take out of it. It doesn't necessarily stand up to scrutiny unless it's a surprise. I'm as anxious to delve into textual analysis as the next guy, but I feel pretty happy just sipping at Flower for what it is and not expecting or looking for something more meaningful.

Worth $10? Absolutely. Worth being the focus through which we re-examine art, narrative, metaphor or poetry in games? Not at all.

--- Note: this is not necessarily a rebuttal of what was said in the podcast ---

Like I said on the show, I think the element of surprise is pretty key to the experience. I'm glad I had a chance to play it in full before hearing too many jerks like us going off about it. But I still stand by my effusiveness in general, I feel really good about Flower and what I took away from it. Breaking it down to its technical merits and examining it purely as a game doesn't change that for me.

Also, big ups to Rob for gathering and including some background music in the games-music discussion.

Corey's position regarding Flower represents the primary reason that I have no interest in writing for any gaming publication. "You're supposed to talk about the upside and the downside, and there is always a downside," he says. "You're supposed to be critical, so ease up on the hyperbole." No, thanks. I'd rather enjoy games without having to worry about whether or not my colleagues feel that I actually have a right to do so.

edit: After re-reading this post, I just wanted to emphasize how much I love Corey. Games may always have a downside, but with Corey, there's never a downside. The other day, I had to ask myself, "With Demiurge here, how much better could the world be?"; and the answer is, "None". A day with Corey is like being plunged headfirst into a filet at Ruth's Chris, then emerging from it to drop-kick M. Bison.

Nice save.

rabbit wrote:
osmosisch wrote:

Dominion is not a German game at all, it was designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, of United States fame. Rio Grande games were the ones who first picked it up from him, after a demonstration at some conference (I forget which). It's just that only the Germans have such a great board/card gaming website as brettspielwelt.

I think "Euro Game" or "German" is a widely accepted adjective for describing a certain kind of intense, non-war strategy game. Dominion at Brettspielwelt is definately a German experience. If you don't speak german, you're in for a wall of pain going in.

(Also, the "other" gametype for strategic games is "Ameritrash", which generally have harder theme, more screw your neighbor, and more catchup and luck).

Unless of course you have Rabbit, Staats, Cory and Mixolyde holding your hand. Then its a small fence of pain.

Two more things...

First: After listening to the excellent Music in Games discussion (adding the music in the background really made this segment, Rob; nice work), I wanted to make a comment regarding the soundtrack to Mega Man 2. I was at PAX in 2006 and 2008, and on both occasions, The Minibosses played the Wily's Castle Stage One theme from MM2 during their Saturday night concert-- and also on both occasions, I got to witness something unbelievably surreal: a room full of people, leaping up and down, yelling the song at the top of their lungs. "DAH-DAH-DAH, DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH, DAH-DAH-DAH DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH, WHOOOOOOOOAAAA!!" Standing in the middle of that madness still ranks among the most bizarre moments of my life.

Second: Last night, as I was preparing grilled salmon for dinner, I was debating whether to serve it with diced tomatoes, or reumeolade sauce, or perhaps just a dash of lemon... Suddenly, inspiration struck-- and I said to the salmon, "Corey 'Demiurge' Banks". For a moment, it seemed to visibly expand, as if I had just injected it with a massive dose of flavor. Sure enough, when I served the salmon later, I could only take one bite of it before running into the next room to weep uncontrollably.

on FEAR 2:
Good discussion. Keeping in mind Serviceable != Mediocre.

A couple things. I'm not willing to drop $10 on a game if I can't try a demo first. Doesn't matter how much hype is around it.

Second, the latest game that I've played with some awesome music is The Last Guy. That song will bore into your brain and never leave!

Nijhazer wrote:

Second: Last night, as I was preparing grilled salmon for dinner, I was debating whether to serve it with diced tomatoes, or reumeolade sauce, or perhaps just a dash of lemon... Suddenly, inspiration struck-- and I said to the salmon, "Corey 'Demiurge' Banks". For a moment, it seemed to visibly expand, as if I had just injected it with a massive dose of flavor. Sure enough, when I served the salmon later, I could only take one bite of it before running into the next room to weep uncontrollably.

Um... okay.

Nijhazer wrote:

Corey's position regarding Flower represents the primary reason that I have no interest in writing for any gaming publication. "You're supposed to talk about the upside and the downside, and there is always a downside," he says. "You're supposed to be critical, so ease up on the hyperbole." No, thanks. I'd rather enjoy games without having to worry about whether or not my colleagues feel that I actually have a right to do so.

I don't think Corey was challenging anybody to deliberately seek out a reason not to enjoy the game but, rather, try to objectively discuss the appeal of the game so that somebody completely uninitiated could have enough information to decide whether they want to play it or not. In other words, there was a lot of discussion surrounding the assertion that Flower was important, but there wasn't a lot of detail about why it is so important that you, humble gaming consumer, should blindly drop $10 on it. (And, to be frank, the fact that it's "only" $10 for a two hour experience isn't proper justification for trying it out - I can spend less than $10 to rent a movie to get an artistic experience just as easily.)

For example, Julian mentioned that you would probably like Flower if you liked Pixeljunk Eden or Flow. Why? What's the unifying appeal that drives all of those games? Could you say that those aforementioned games share a reductive design approach? Consider what defines Flower as a game:

- Flower is reductive in concept because, rather than presenting a deeper narrative with dialogue and/or set pieces to express and advance the plot, it meditates upon a single premise: you're flying around as a flower petal. As Elysium said, there may be a metaphor behind the premise and/or its delivery to the player, but there are no subplots or side quests to further round out any deeper context or lore behind this game.

- Flower is reductive in control so that the player can be deeply immersed in that singular, pure experience. Rather than provide alternative gameplay modes or side quests to diversify the gameplay, the gameplay mechanics are stripped down to the bare essentials required to convey the sensations of the game's simple premise.

Having considered all that, what does such a reductive approach mean to you as a gamer? In my opinion, it means that Flower may not be the game for you if you are primarily a goal-oriented gamer that gets enjoyment out of completing an epic conquest, because the game is short and the scope of what you achieve through the game is de-prioritized in favor of the journey that takes you there. It probably means that Flower may not be the game for you if you are a gamer that primarily engages in gaming for social interplay, because there's no real cooperative or competitive component to be found.

It does mean, though, that Flower would be highly recommended for players that are looking for games to engage them sensually, emotionally, or intellectually, even if that engagement is completely bereft of a greater conflict at hand. And yes, it means that Flower would be highly recommended to players that are interested in the meta-contextual implications of its release, as it is another data point in a line that is gradually trending away from the goal-oriented roots of gaming; its contributions to that trend make it important to the conversation of where gaming is growing as a medium, as Julian alluded to Corey before the podcast.

Discussing whether anything, let alone a video game, is art will always be a dicey proposition because there is no binary definition of art. Duke Ellington once said that there is no art without intention, but that doesn't mean that somebody looking at a painting of an empty cup on a table will get any artistic value out of it. Intention and interpretation are both components of artistic value and we're fortunate enough to be gamers at a time that the tools involved in creating games have matured enough to fuel deeper discussions of those components in gaming. Whether Flower has any value to you, as an artistic statement or simply as a fun game, all lies in why you play, what you look for in your gaming experiences.

For those interested in the Majesty sequel, I found today while stumbling around Wikipedia that it is actually Paradox Interactive who has bought the Majesty license from the now defunct Cyberlore Studios and they are hoping to release a sequel in Q2 of this year that will oddly be developed (but not published) by 1C:Ino-Co. I barely touched Majesty back in the day but I may grab it from GamersGate again because it sounds like something I'd really like.

Awesome conversation everyone. Personally, I loved being called out on this topic, and I think the conversation was tremendous. I still love Flower though.

Not having played it, nor having the ability to play it, I can merely state that Flower seems like one of those pieces of code I'd be willing to pay for just to experience, even if the gameplay isn't up to par.

As for game music...I was humming the tune to NES Double Dragon before I began listening to the podcast, oddly enough. Not sure why, as I hadn't played the game in years before then, and I always preferred the sequel. Also, a haunting tune is Dragon Warrior's overworld music. I play through the game every few years, and it's a theme that even my mother (a complete non-gamer) recognizes.

Finally, regarding comfort games - that would be Dynasty Warriors or some deep strategy game in the style of Europa Universalis, Total War, or Romance of the 3 Kingdoms (especially the oldest Koei titles), where I know exactly what to do and can just casually make progress.

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