GWJ Conference Call Episode 150

Conference Call

Wolfenstein, Shadow Complex, Spider, Special Guest Ken Levine, Do Lead Designers Matter Anymore?, Your Emails and more!

This week 2K Boston's Ken Levine joins us to celebrate our 150th episode! We talk about whether or not he's necessary, game design, rabbit's horrible, horrible taste in iPhone games and more! Thanks to Ian "Podunk" Dorsch for music from his work on Love. 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

"Love Trailer Soundtrack" (Ian Dorsch) - www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:42:37
"Love Main Theme" (Ian Dorshch) - www.willowtreeaudio.com - 1:10:26

Comments

I do not endorse Rob's idea in any way, shape or form. I do this on behalf of Canada as a nation.

Elysium wrote:

I think my short answer is that I have developed an instinctively negative reaction to the word boycott.

People toss it around with such impunity and recklessness that it's about as valuable as the word awesome. It's something more and more done out of petulance to the point that I think it has generally lost most of its usefulness. It's one thing to have once boycotted a company that abused its workers or hired child labor sweat shops abroad. It's something totally different to fire off a boycott because there's no LAN support in a game or you disagree with the political views of someone associated with the title only by a matter of degrees.

I'm not talking about making a personal decision to opt out of a purchase for whatever individual reason you have, but you totally lose me at what feels essentially like penalizing a product unless everyone prominently associated with the product shares your political beliefs. You might as well start making your clothes out of tree bark and sleeping under a handwoven hemp sheet in the forest. It's just so arbitrary as to be ridiculous.

It's like not hanging out with someone because their second cousin doesn't believe gay people should get married.

For alot of people, that's pretty abrasive.

It's just that the whole demonizing of people with contrary views and personalizing the debate has become totally ineffective. It's created a stalemate and this whole mentality, shared by a helluva a lot of people, of self-righteous indignation is boring me to death.

It's not an issue of rights. Obviously you and anyone else has the right to boycott whatever you feel is appropriate. I'm just saying that this, and most supposed boycotts these days, strike me as childish and passe.

Back in the day, I was one of five African Americans you would typically see at a Metallica show (Background). Every now and then I lightened it up a little with Motley Crue. (Believe me they were not my favorite by a stretch but the I did purchase the "Girls, Girls, Girls" album.) Many years later I saw footage of Vince Neil singling out an African American Security guard as a N*!@*r and instructing everyone to "Get him!" The first thing that jumped into my mind was pretty selfish... Why did I have to see and hear that crap from Vince Neil! I don't want to know that much about people I admire. Unfortunately, I would never knowingly buy any Vince Neil material again. (But it does make you wonder if I found out that a song I liked was written by him... I'd probably buy it.)

It got me thinking a lot about the message vs. the messenger and can you separate the two. Are MLK's messages on equality any less important knowing he is an adulterer? Is Shadow Complex any less fun to play knowing that O. Card was associated with it? Does it change how frickin' awesome "Ender's Game" was? (For me no.)

I think it is an interesting question, because it also hits at another issue which is does the art produced by an artist, belong to the artist? Ken Levine said many times during the podcast he wouldn't want to talk about or represent a game that he wasn't invested in (which is good for everyone), however I would bet that most people who play and love BioShock will never know who Ken is.

More and more I am viewing the object or art (or game) as a parent-less (messenger-less) entity that must stand on its own... not aided (or diminished) by the reputation of the messenger.

Baaspei

p.s. sorry for slightly tangential branch on your post.

Certis wrote:

I do not endorse Rob's idea in any way, shape or form. I do this on behalf of Canada as a nation.

Shatner, Celine, Certis; truly among the greatest of Canadian ambassadors.

Oh yeah. Congratulations on the 150th show. Always entertaining.

Baaspei

Baaspei wrote:

It got me thinking a lot about the message vs. the messenger and can you separate the two. Are MLK's messages on equality any less important knowing he is an adulterer? Is Shadow Complex any less fun to play knowing that O. Card was associated with it? Does it change how frickin' awesome "Ender's Game" was? (For me no.)

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Baaspei. Although my knee may occasionally jerk in the other direction, I think I'm with you on this one.

I just wanted to say congrats on 150 as well. For me, it was very fitting having Ken on -- the very first episode I listened to was 50, which also had Ken on it (just before BioShock's release). Here's to many more shows!

Elysium wrote:

this whole mentality, shared by a helluva a lot of people, of self-righteous indignation is boring me to death.

Is it bad because it's self-righteous? Because if so, you and I may be in trouble.

mrtomaytohead wrote:
garion333 wrote:
Running Man wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

I read the links that Chairman_Mao provided and was interested to find:[quote=The first line of the last paragraph]I believe good acting is good acting

Ken Levine on the CC wrote:

Good voice acting is good.

If you go carryin pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.

Come on, if Ken was going to go incognito here, he'd probably use a diabolically clever anagram like E. N. Knievel.

Aaanyay...BioShock has become one of those rare games that I still fire up every few months (like Thief 2 and System Shock 2) just to soak up the atmosphere and doodle around. Its always cool to get his take on the game industry.

So, Ken is also Michael Abbott. I knew it!

I didn't take tomayto's post to be about Ken's identity so much as the fact that Michael (the Brainy Gamer) pretty much said what Ken said . . . and Michael teaches theater. Or I could be reading it all wrong and it's a giant scheme of Ken's to remain hidden behind multiple facades. Who then is the real Ken Levine? Please stand up.

You are right Garion, I was just pointing it out, and resisting to point out that for the second week in a row, there's a grammatical error in the show notes, in the same spot, no less. It's in the size and length description.[/quote]

I found it amazing that a theater student in Indiana was asking the things that Michael Abbott (theater professor in Indiana) has talked about at length. Well, maybe not "amazing." Maybe more like "depressing that there's so much wonderful thought out there and such a relative lack of successful communication."

Gaald wrote:

Ken "Luscious" Levine.

I'm quoting this because it's important.

For Rob:

Jayhawker wrote:

For Rob:

[Batman Begins clip]

That's the gadget they needed in the game.

Congrats on 150 guys. I may not have been here for all of them (just the last 40 or so at best), but better late than never! Best wishes and here's to 150 more!

That was a cool scene, and since the show I have played Batman, and finished it. I never got annoyed about the bats. It was totally fine. The game was very good. Totally worth a rental.

Gaald wrote:

That was a cool scene, and since the show I have played Batman, and finished it. I never got annoyed about the bats. It was totally fine. The game was very good. Totally worth a rental.

I didn't think the bats would end up being a problem for you. I can understand the concern, but they were really just the equivalent of the purple puff of smoke as Link extinguished the baddies in the Wind Waker.

But how about that game? Is it safe to say that it exceeded the expectations that even the demo had provided? I'm just 37% of the way through, but what has impressed me the most is the creative use of the new gadgets. I love the hacking mode, and hope Deus Ex 3 steals it. But even more, I like how they incorporate it into puzzles and challenges, and not make it a simple hack and move device.

I would say that I'm excited to find a room with gargoyles, because that mode is fun, and they space it out to make it something I look forward to, rather than something we do over and over. Probably he best paced game I have ever played, and that includes Half-Life 2, which let some of their levels just go on a little too long.

And it is just a fun story that would work as a movie as well as a comic book. I may even play this a second time on hard, and I'm usually a total wimp when it comes to difficulty. Normal feels just about right, as I feel like I am playing a badass ninja Batman that is vulnerable, but generally just kicks ass. My one attempt at hard made me feel like a 12-year-old in a Halloween costume.

Hate to beat a dead horse, but the bats are just a UI cue like the flashing over a thug's head when he's about to strike or the stars that tell you that you can do a ground takedown. They're not "really" there, they're just for the player's benefit.

Rat Boy wrote:

Hate to beat a dead horse, but the bats are just a UI cue like the flashing over a thug's head when he's about to strike or the stars that tell you that you can do a ground takedown. They're not "really" there, they're just for the player's benefit.

I'll pretend you didn't say that. I'd like to think that they're there, and they're real.

I, for one, find it hard to support an artist who endorses a belief I find offensive. Sexism and racism are just some of the things that I find objectionable. If you're an artist, please, PLEASE do not let me know that you're a sexist racist SOB. I would rather that I didn't know.

Congrats on turning 150! I've been a listener since somewhere around episode 30 and I gotta say that was one of the best. I always love listening to guests from the development community talk about how games are made and Ken Levine was the perfect guest for this episode.

What really had me gratified was the discussion on the whole Card debate. When I heard Shadow Complex brought up I started to cringe expecting just another excuse for not buying the game. However, what I heard was similar to what I've felt from the beginning. Why penalize a great game at a fantastic value for the beliefs held by someone who merely had their fiction licensed for the game.

The game itself had nothing to do with gay marriage so how would a boycott get the desired point across? Do people really think that when the folks in the boardrooms look back on the sales figures of SC they will understand that it didn't sell because of Orson's views? The only message a boycott of this game would send is that consumers don't want an exceptional quality XBLA game at an incredibly low price. Gamers have complained about getting value out of their purchases for years and when there finally is a chance to get what they want someone finds a way to squirm out of it.

I can't believe this discussion has gone on for so long and mired the dawn of what could be the future of downloadable gaming. Personally I feel dirty for even putting my two cents in, here's hoping the debate ends so we can get back to playing more of these satisfying games.

Poor Old Lu wrote:
Gaald wrote:

I think we found a new nickname for Levine. Ken Luscious Levine.

Just kind of rolls off the tongue, don't you think. :)

Sometimes I wonder if the homoeroticism is a Canadian thing....

They do have long winters up there...

Great episode, congrats on 150, and Ken Levine is a god.

Few nits to pick. As far as kids buying downloadable games. Parental controls yes. But for the PC you need at least a bank account tied to Paypal. And In the US, you need a guardian cosigner to open one if you are a child.

Microsoft, Sony, Blizzard etc created a loophole, mostly to get kids buying their downloads or subscriptions, with points cards. I seriuosly doubt the idea of ratings and circumventing them, did not come up. I suspect their policy became, damage control once it hits Fox News, CNN, whatever.

How come no one, even Ken, did not address the issue of kid gloves with games? To date every major publisher skirks from any controversy, makes sure their stuff is vanilla, made for everyone? Keeping us away from our chance to have an Arthur Miller, Orson Wells, caliber of creative force. I see games forever being the realm of childhood until one does lead to controversy and aids in social change, awareness.

To date every major publisher skirks from any controversy, makes sure their stuff is vanilla, made for everyone? Keeping us away from our chance to have an Arthur Miller, Orson Wells, caliber of creative force. I see games forever being the realm of childhood until one does lead to controversy and aids in social change, awareness.

Your first mistake is looking for Arthur Miller or Orson Wells in the auspices of a major corporation.

Elysium wrote:
To date every major publisher skirks from any controversy, makes sure their stuff is vanilla, made for everyone? Keeping us away from our chance to have an Arthur Miller, Orson Wells, caliber of creative force. I see games forever being the realm of childhood until one does lead to controversy and aids in social change, awareness.

Your first mistake is looking for Arthur Miller or Orson Wells in the auspices of a major corporation.

I don't know. Welles was certainly more of a Hollywood guy than Miller, but that Steinbeck character did alright, too.

Elysium wrote:
To date every major publisher skirks from any controversy, makes sure their stuff is vanilla, made for everyone? Keeping us away from our chance to have an Arthur Miller, Orson Wells, caliber of creative force. I see games forever being the realm of childhood until one does lead to controversy and aids in social change, awareness.

Your first mistake is looking for Arthur Miller or Orson Wells in the auspices of a major corporation.

Dead on right. I'm not well-versed in the history of Arthur Miller or Orson Wells, but I think the question of why "every major publisher" avoids controversy answers itself - one doesn't become a "major publisher" by producing or promoting controversial content.

Cymbrogi wrote:
Elysium wrote:
To date every major publisher skirks from any controversy, makes sure their stuff is vanilla, made for everyone? Keeping us away from our chance to have an Arthur Miller, Orson Wells, caliber of creative force. I see games forever being the realm of childhood until one does lead to controversy and aids in social change, awareness.

Your first mistake is looking for Arthur Miller or Orson Wells in the auspices of a major corporation.

Dead on right. I'm not well-versed in the history of Arthur Miller or Orson Wells, but I think the question of why "every major publisher" avoids controversy answers itself - one doesn't become a "major publisher" by producing or promoting controversial content.

That's certainly not the case in television networks, though, given the roles played by The Simpsons and South Park in the successes of Fox and Comedy Central. What's more, I think the reason those shows did well is because they exploited an under-served corner of the medium. Given the expanding ease of creating high-quality video, I can only predict that we will see a broader variety of video programming in the future.

The same may not be true for games, as games might be thought to trend towards bigger and more expensive development, but I think that the boom in casual and indie titles, coupled with the rapid expansion of both the consumer market and talent pool, will yield a diversity of games even beyond what we're seeing in music and video. I fully expect that there will be some truly magnificent works and brilliant auteurs in that diverse mix.