GWJ Conference Call Episode 156

Conference Call

Risen, New L4D Map, Scribblenauts, Chris Remo From Idle Thumbs Talks Mass Effect ... BITCH!, Tons of Your Emails and more!

This week we play catch up on all of your awesome emails and voicemails! We also announce the next live show coming this Saturday at 8PM EST. Keep an eye on the GWJ front page for Ustream details as we get closer to the show. 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

Pheonix Strike Audio E-mail - 0:36:56
"Washaway" (Ian Dorsch) - www.willowtreeaudio.com - 1:00:33

Comments

I haven't seen any of the Dragon Age trailers, and the Subject Zero trailer still completely put me off.

Re: BioWare

Part of me is disappointed in hearing people say that advertisements have "put them off" a game. Particularly on this website.

Seriously guys, these are ads to hype up Mass Effect 2 / Dragon Age: Origins to those who haven't already bought in. Sure they are derivative dribble and that in itself is disappointing from BioWare.

The cynic in me believes this is BioWare allowing its new found status as EA's golden child to go to their heads and are disrespecting the intelligent and thoughtful fan based they have generated from Baldur's Gate through to Mass Effect (1).

The Optimist hopes that this is all coming from the "Evil Marketing team" at EA.

In the end though, I have faith in BioWare's development and creative team to provide an engrossing, fully realised story with both Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2. The advertisements have just made me go elsewhere for the entrée.

On the flip side, the advertising campaign for Borderlands has had me in stitches. Whilst it can be argued as being equally as vulgar (refer: The send up of Christian Bale's on set dummy spit, *bleeping* included) there has been this undercurrent of taking the piss out of themselves the whole time to offset the banal nature of the humour.

These ads got me interested enough in the game to start looking for info on the gameplay, setting, mechanics etc that I have recently preordered this game. This in my meagre opinion is an example of a clever and effective advertising strategy. Please note; personal tastes vary greatly and opinions will be as diverse as the people holding said opinions.

****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******

Re: Rob's Brainwave

After an evenings musings (yes, I am Australian so its now morning here), I really like the sound of a game where you start off as "Überman" and slowly become a weaker.

This would make balancing a game so much easier.

In the end the developers are balancing an increasingly powerful character that needs to have increasingly difficult challenges. With a falling power-curve of the protagonist, the enemies could virtually stay static and the decrease in power could be adjusted to serve as the difficulty requires.

Also, some games just have weird tropes that make no sense. Example; a Necromancer Villain sets his weenie skeletons against the hero, then as the hero increases in power (ironically, from killing/defeating said weak monsters) ups the ante by sending Zombies, followed by Vampires and finally Lich's. Why not just send the Lich from the start? Because mechanically, the designers need an increasing power-level from the threats to offset the power increase of the player.

/end rant

in regard to story in games the word story seems to be a very general term that has a lot of contributing factors. Narrative is something that I think is rarely done well in games. I think that is partly because it is not a stength of interactive media. In a film you can present a tight 2 hour story in a book you can spend a bit more time and give a bit more depth but both have complete authorial control.

The part of "story" that games do can do great is setting. That is what I think the citadel in mass effect did so incredibly. In a movie extras can be only extras, there is no way for the audience to say "hey that guy is messing with that keeper lets see whats going on there". Half Life 2 is similar. Especially in the original game there is very little in the way of narrative it pretty much amounts to

Spoiler:

Gordan arrives, Gordon links up with the resistance, Gordon takes down the combine

but you really get to inhabit the setting and get a great feeling for city 17 and the countryside aound it.

I'm always a little disappointed when other people don't gush about the Gothic games (and now Risen). But I guess I'm a bit of a fanboy. I hold the Gothic games above just about any other RPG I've played. Maybe The Witcher and Morrowind are higher. I guess I just I want more people to love these games so as to encourage developers to make more games like them.

And now that Risen has been released I'm enamored all over again. I can't put this game down and it's been killing my sleep schedule. All the poor reviews I've read annoy me because so many of the reviewers fail to grasp even the basics of the game.

For example several reviews criticized the game's fighting system as being nothing but button mashing. Maybe it's that way on the Xbox (where most of the bad reviews took place I gather) but on the PC Risen's combat is probably the most dynamic and rewarding combat system I've ever played. It's even better than The Witcher's which when you boil it down takes no more skill than knowing which sword to draw, which stance to choose, and then clicking the mouse whenever the cursor glows. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to watch and you do get that bad-ass feeling when he starts swinging that sword around like a madman but there's very little player skill involved.

But in Risen player skill has a HUGE effect on how you fare in fights. Once you start learning how to dodge and time your swings and figuring out your opponents' patterns it really starts to get exciting. For example, I went through all the swamp camp arena fights with no armor and nothing more than a machete. My opponents could knock me down with two swipes and it took me 20 or so to finish them. Yet because I learned the controls and how to parry and dodge properly I was able to clean their clocks eventually. It was so much fun.

Another great thing about the Gothics and Risen is the map. The guys at Piranha Bytes are expert map makers and know how to stick content in every nook and cranny. The map is much smaller than most epic RPG's like Oblivion and Morrowind but they manage to make the map feel much bigger than it is by adding plenty of things to see and do. Half the fun of these games is just exploring.

I guess I'm rambling here. I just felt the need to say something about Risen since they barely touched on it in the podcast and no one here seems to be piping up about it.

I'll just finish by saying that for me Risen is easily the best game of 2009.

Can the word of the day for next week be "really?", that becomes quite grating.

rabbit especially uses that way too much.

Here's my view on the two hot topics brought up in the show:

BioWare: I find the marketing to be a little off-putting. It highlights a mindset that doesn't appeal to me and is making me view these games - both of which I was anticipating until all of this hubbub started - in a much harsher light. They're emphasizing exactly what I don't want in those titles. They're the wrong cliches I'm looking for in my space opera and my epic fantasy.

Chris Remo brought up a great point (either in the GWJ or Idle Thumbs. I listen to them back to back, so I don't recall where it was said), but it's a shame that studios think they need to focus on hyperviolence and extreme makeovers in order to give their games appeal. Why is there such a massive focus on blood, gore, and the actions that lead up to these? I'm not saying we should trade all our God of Wars for Wii Knittin' with Kittens, but I'm definitely turned off of games that focus far too much on the bloodletting. Fallout 3, God of War 3, Dante's Inferno, etc. are all unpleasantly over the top for me.

Rob's Game: The idea is incredibly interesting, and I would totally play that. Playing a character that starts off powerful and capable but then loses skills and strengths as time goes on is pretty fascinating. I'm thinking of Metroidvania or even Fashback style, where the real meat of the game is trying to figure out how to proceed in areas where elements of play are taken away (for example, jumping past the lava pit without double jump or trying to get down a pit now that you take falling damage). By the end, you may end up unable to fight the enemies on the screen and would have to come up with creative ways of circumventing them. It could be pretty comp- er, engaging.

Here's the thing about "compelling". It's a great word, but it gets used on its own to the point of cliché and that's useless. Okay, game x is compelling—now what about it made it compelling? One can say something is compelling, or awesome, or sucks, just be sure to say why. Arguments need evidence. "Compelling" (like "sucks") on its own is lazy.

So when Rabbit almost says "compelling" in the 78th minute, that should have been acceptable. He led up to it by explaining what about high scores makes them compelling: updated scores from your friends feed competition and keep you coming back to play. Online leaderboards, you might say, compel you to play more.

So Rabbit, you get a pass from me! Lead by example.

Why do people keep pronouncing it Forza as "Fort-sa"? Is there an invisible "t" in the English language I was hitherto unaware of?

To the people who are questioning the people who are put off by the recent BioWare ads: the games that were advertised that way are not the Bioware games I'm interested in playing. I don't want "the new sh*t"; I want a good game. A game BioWare has pretty much delivered every time, without this sort of thing.

If this was coming from Game Studio X, it may be different. There's no history, there's nothing to compare it to. I'm less shocked and dismayed by the Dante's Inferno stuff, simply because I couldn't care less about that franchise or the developers who are making that game.

As an example, think if Apple morphed the Mac commercials into the "new sh*t" type of ad, it would be jarring based on everything the company's done before. And, that jarring would sap some of the goodwill the company has accumulated over the years for a lot of people. This is what the Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 trailers have done. Does it mean that I think the games will be horrible? No. Does it mean that I will be a little more questioning about them when they come out. Absolutely.

Anyway, good podcast as always, I really appreciate it every week. The caller from Long Island had a great point: we need more Elysium! Save the kittens, dude!

JonH wrote:

rabbit especially uses that way too much.

Really?? Seriously??

OK, I use both of those way too much. But dudes, please remember, several of us spend our entire days crafting words, 5-6 days a week. By the time we get to saturday nights, I'm lucky if I can still speak english.

rabbit wrote:
JonH wrote:

rabbit especially uses that way too much.

Really?? Seriously??

OK, I use both of those way too much. But dudes, please remember, several of us spend our entire days crafting words, 5-6 days a week. By the time we get to saturday nights, I'm lucky if I can still speak english.

I suggest a buzzword sheet for each podcaster. Challenge word for the week is axiomatic. And go!

AmazingZoidberg wrote:

Why do people keep pronouncing it Forza as "Fort-sa"? Is there an invisible "t" in the English language I was hitherto unaware of?

I believe it's the same t sound found in mozzarella. I have no idea how it is supposed to be pronounced but that "t" does have precedence. Though that is with a double z.

boogle wrote:
rabbit wrote:
JonH wrote:

rabbit especially uses that way too much.

Really?? Seriously??

OK, I use both of those way too much. But dudes, please remember, several of us spend our entire days crafting words, 5-6 days a week. By the time we get to saturday nights, I'm lucky if I can still speak english.

I suggest a buzzword sheet for each podcaster. Challenge word for the week is axiomatic. And go!

I'd suggest a drinking game for the audience, but I'm afraid of all the alcohol-related deaths.

While I'm not crazy fond of Subject Zero's trailer she's a damned sight better than the human characters in the first Mass Effect. Kaidan was a complete and utter bore, I only ever talked to him on my third play through when I'd seen everyone else. By the gods he was dull as dishwater. Ashley was a little bit better due to her extreme xenophobia and some vaguely religious talk but even then compared to the aliens she was among the least nuanced of the characters.

So love or hate Subject Zero, at least you won't be bored to tears by her.

Rat Boy wrote:
boogle wrote:
rabbit wrote:
JonH wrote:

rabbit especially uses that way too much.

Really?? Seriously??

OK, I use both of those way too much. But dudes, please remember, several of us spend our entire days crafting words, 5-6 days a week. By the time we get to saturday nights, I'm lucky if I can still speak english.

I suggest a buzzword sheet for each podcaster. Challenge word for the week is axiomatic. And go!

I'd suggest a drinking game for the audience, but I'm afraid of all the alcohol-related deaths.

Yep. Since the sharp decline of Bioshock adoration on the show the current drinking game model has become much less potent. Now that the donation drive is over, perhaps it's time to amp it up. I'd suggest that we include: "compelling", "really", and "at the end of the day"

JonH wrote:

Can the word of the day for next week be "really?", that becomes quite grating.

Saying "Really?!?" in a slightly incredulous tone as a response to something stupid/incongruous is a social meme that's infecting a lot of podcasts right now, as well as quite a few people that I deal with in day-to-day life. I hear it EVERYWHERE.

Cunk wrote:

But in Risen player skill has a HUGE effect on how you fare in fights. Once you start learning how to dodge and time your swings and figuring out your opponents' patterns it really starts to get exciting. For example, I went through all the swamp camp arena fights with no armor and nothing more than a machete. My opponents could knock me down with two swipes and it took me 20 or so to finish them. Yet because I learned the controls and how to parry and dodge properly I was able to clean their clocks eventually. It was so much fun.

I have a feeling you probably don't have a ps3, but if you do, you should totally look into Demon's Souls. What you just described is the entire essence of that game.

Thanks for the writeup about Risen, you made some interesting points. It'll probably get more love/discussion on the podcast once its actually been played. Certis, I believe, is working through it right now.

Rob,

Your game idea kind of exists in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. In the Undead campaign, Arthas starts off as lvl 10 with all his powers, but something happens and he begins losing his powers. In each subsequent level, Arthas delevels and grows weaker while his enemies grow stronger. However, early on in the game Anub Barak joins him, who is a powerful character.

AmazingZoidberg wrote:

Why do people keep pronouncing it Forza as "Fort-sa"? Is there an invisible "t" in the English language I was hitherto unaware of?

The game was actually named after Caterina Sforza, whose name is pronounced that way.

I'm actually rather intrigued by Subject Zero. In Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, they play that kind of fanservice straight up - tons of blood and over the top violence coupled with Sixaxis-controlled boobs. Subject Zero seems to be just as misguided, egocentric, and shallow as her appearance makes her out to be. I'd get her on my teams just to see her get gunned down.

Repeatedly.

It might be worth noting that we didn't really get a sense of how the panel felt about the Subject Zero trailer. I, for one, found it totally innocuous and relatively interesting. I honestly don't see what the fuss is about, in fact I'm surprised to discover there is any fuss at all.

Rob - I'm 100% behind your idea for the diminishing hero game. As you said it, I had the image of some rip snorting action RPG morphing over time into a character desperately trying to accomplish one last, great thing before he/she dies. I'd also suggest that leveling up could be more leveling down. For instance, if you had 3 main attributes - dexterity, intelligence, strength - you'd have to subtract from them for each level gained (or lost), eventually leaving one good tool with which to accomplish the goal.

Muramasa: LM, I can do you one better. It's also NOT on the DS as stated, but on Wii.

[quote=LobsterMobster]

LarryC wrote:

Okay, you guys have already voiced your utter abhorrence to Muramasa, but just to get it through to any one who might have been listening - Muramasa: NOT a JRPG.

bnpederson wrote:

While I'm not crazy fond of Subject Zero's trailer she's a damned sight better than the human characters in the first Mass Effect. Kaidan was a complete and utter bore, I only ever talked to him on my third play through when I'd seen everyone else. By the gods he was dull as dishwater. Ashley was a little bit better due to her extreme xenophobia and some vaguely religious talk but even then compared to the aliens she was among the least nuanced of the characters.

So love or hate Subject Zero, at least you won't be bored to tears by her.

You have interesting tastes in digital women.

JohnnyYaya:

Yeah, the GWJ guys are majorly dropping the ball on the Muramasa front. I'm kind of surprised and disappointed that the panel is collectively dismissing the game based on rumor - it's a JRPG on the DS; both "facts," of course, being totally wrong, just like most negative coverage on the game. However, I'm not going to press them to try it since they seem kind of like old guys who are very set in their ways. Forcing them to try a game like this is just going to backfire, especially since it's pretty much a straight 2D brawler - not a whole lot of brawler fans left out there.

For the podcasting crew:

I'm going to suggest a permanent ban on the word "repetitive." The word is pure nonsense. All games are repetitive. Good games are good because they keep engaging us on the thing we enjoy doing - they REPEAT the enjoyable activity, often for tens of hours at a time. Bad games are bad because they keep engaging us with activities we dislike.

An attractive guy or unattractive guy is that way because of something about him, not because both of them keep trying to engage you in conversation - one is annoying, the other is attentive, even though both guys are essentially doing similar things.

A game feels dull because of things OTHER than repeating the same activity. It could be because the activity is too simple and lacks some kind of satisfying reward feedback. It could be because the activity does not engage our curiosity, morbid or otherwise, or doesn't entice or titillate us. Whatever it is, it's not because it's offering you the game activity for as much as you like.

I'm pretty sure the DS comment they made was directed at Kingdom Hearts and not Muramasa, since they were discussing them both at the same time, if I remember correctly. I don't get this mini backlash they're getting over not playing Muramasa, there must be a ton of games they haven't played over the years, due to lack of time and/or interest, not sure why this one keeps coming up. They have no obligation to play anything, there's no ball to be dropped.

I'd like you guys to ban all adjectives. And adverbs. Hell, if you could keep it to noun + verb, that'd be great. Who needs conjunctions?

How about a ban on bans?

Kosars wrote:

I don't get this mini backlash they're getting over not playing Muramasa, there must be a ton of games they haven't played over the years, due to lack of time and/or interest, not sure why this one keeps coming up. They have no obligation to play anything, there's no ball to be dropped.

Agreed, the CC crew are not under any obligation to play any title for any reason. While I would love to hear their impressions of Muramasa, I would also love for it to come out on a system I own. But in the words of the illustrious Shane Bettenhausen "It's nice to want things."

I say all of this as someone who wants to play Muramasa desperately. I think the most fair set of expectations we can develop as an audience are these:

A) They get to talk about whatever games they want.

B) They attempt to be factually accurate and honest when they discuss those games.

@Rob:

I have some bad news for you. Blizzard basically did what you suggested in the Undead campaign for the WCIII expansion. Arthas started out at the maximum hero level, then lost those levels progressively as you went through the campaign. Now, you did receive more unit types and your other heroes did level up as you continued through the story, but the main character got weaker and weaker until the very end, where he's now the lord of all that's wrong in the world(of warcraft). Or something.

As for starting a game fully powered and getting weaker, Mechwarrior missions come to mind (although you do get more powerful as the game progresses). At the start of each mission you start fully armed and armored. By the end, your armor is mostly stripped away, missile and projectile weapons are empty or destroyed, speed is reduced by damaged legs, heat sinks damaged so energy weapons don't work as effectively, and on and on. Many missions I barely limped out of with only a couple of medium pulse lasers left.