GWJ Conference Call Episode 158

Conference Call

Uncharted 2, Brutal Legend, An Insightful Interview With John Davison About Moving on From What They Play and His New role at GamePro, Real People In Video Games, Your Emails and more!

This week Julian sits down with John Davison to talk about moving on from What They Play and the future of GamePro magazine. The guys also dive into the hot(ish) new(ish) trend of real actors getting into video games. 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

"Washaway" (Ian Dorsch) - www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:29:04
"Carving Away Stone" (Ian Dorsch) - www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:46:34
"Impeller" (Ian Dorsch) - www.willowtreeaudio.com - 1:02:41

Comments

Someone on the SomethingAwful forums has a theory for why Ozzy is so good in Brutal Legend: To him, metal is natural. He sounds so terrible on TV and interviews and other commercials because it is unnatural for him. Talking about metal and the metal gods is like us talking about what we ate for dinner last night. It is just natural.

I like that graphics came up in this weeks email and I have a question for anyone playing/played uncharted 2- how would you feel about the game if it looked like, say, just cause? No fancy lighting, no detailed textures, no pre baked cinematics and no cool shaders.

You could ask the same about any game ever released. It's like intimating that someone is only liked because they're good looking.

regarding video game rentals this site seems to have some interesting info:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...

Money shot:

video game rentals generate about $800 million in revenues (Rentrak), and statistics show that about 54% of game renters use this channel to try titles before they buy. In fact, according to Bob Geistman, svp, Ingram Entertainment, the largest supplier of games to independent video stores, video rentals now make up 9% to 11% of rental revenue for most neighborhood shops. "And that probably could shoot to 15% over the next two years," he says.

The rest of the article talks about Rentrak, a company set up to help publishers recoup some of the profits rental stores make.

Second, I'm looking for a major game publisher to take up the task of publishing my latest creation, "PLA4:Tibetan Liberation"? Serious bids only please.

Mordiceius wrote:

Someone on the SomethingAwful forums has a theory for why Ozzy is so good in Brutal Legend: To him, metal is natural. He sounds so terrible on TV and interviews and other commercials because it is unnatural for him. Talking about metal and the metal gods is like us talking about what we ate for dinner last night. It is just natural.

My theory is that he's a blank slate, making him terrible in reality TV, but potentially brilliant as an actor, given the right setup and motivation. It's like hypnosis, except the watch-swingy bit's already been done for you by years of substance abuse.

I really enjoyed this week's episode, though I found the sequence of the last email and the ending of the show to be kind of funny. The Davison interview, in particular, was very insightful.

After seeing a bunch of live shows, I'm always wondering what exactly was said just prior to the show starting to make Certis sound like he's about to bust a gut laughing.

Edit: And +1 to Patrick Stewart phoning it in with his video game voice over work. Check out any Star Trek game save A Final Unity to hear what I mean.

Referring to the commentary over "all game journalists should make a game", so many sites, including the mentioned Joystiq, are ripping that quote straight out of context. It originally appeared in a Gamasutra interview with Zombie Cow (developers of Ben There, Dan That and Time Gentlemen, Please).

Gamasutra wrote:

Dan, you've come from a semi-journalism background. How have you found working on games rather than being a critic of them? Do you think your previous experience on the other side has helped you in development?

When I was writing Gibbage, I pitched the idea of some articles to PCZone magazine, and wound up doing a 10-part series about what it’s like to learn to code, and suddenly have to design gameplay elements, making sound effects, and balancing weapons and stuff... As a gamer, I always assumed that sort of thing was relatively simple, so it was a fairly harsh lesson.

Off the back of those articles, I wound up doing some reviews for PCZone. It’s really interesting, because as a developer I think you’re slightly more understanding of the process involved, but as a gamer you know whether or not you’re having a good time. I think all games journos should be forced to make a game somehow, see how they get on. It gives you a more rounded perspective.

I think all games journos should be forced to make a game somehow, see how they get on. It gives you a more rounded perspective.

I still have a pretty significant dispute with this statement.

That said, I realize it could have been a fairly throwaway comment and probably has some nuance to it that isn't evident here, even in context.

Love the discussion of the brutal legend opening sequence. The reason that it's so important is because it's telling you, in a very entertaining way, what to expect, which is a Heavy Metal fairy tale.

Just saw through Twitter that John Davison is practically just down the road from me. I'm always pleasantly surprised that NorCal is a bigger gaming hub than just LucasArts and EA.

Edit: The last time I read a GamePro I was handed a copy of it by my father who did a magazine run at the airport while waiting for a flight to Maui. Its main article was on BioWare's upcoming releases (Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic) and the one thought that went through my head was, "I already know all this."

wordsmythe wrote:
Mordiceius wrote:

Someone on the SomethingAwful forums has a theory for why Ozzy is so good in Brutal Legend: To him, metal is natural. He sounds so terrible on TV and interviews and other commercials because it is unnatural for him. Talking about metal and the metal gods is like us talking about what we ate for dinner last night. It is just natural.

My theory is that he's a blank slate, making him terrible in reality TV, but potentially brilliant as an actor, given the right setup and motivation. It's like hypnosis, except the watch-swingy bit's already been done for you by years of substance abuse.

While I somewhat agree with wordy, I am curious to see the total number of "takes" they did with Ozzy compared to the number of dialogue parts he had. I'll admit that I was quite surprised at how many different lines of dialogue he had, and how easy it was to understand almost every word.

The only performance by a real-life metal legend that I was disappointed in was Lemmy's. I don't know if his lines were just recorded and/or mixed poorly or what, but a lot of his dialogue was hard to understand if you didn't concentrate on listening closely. Not to mention that his tone of voice hardly varied (if at all), which almost made it seem like he wasn't that into it, or wasn't directed well enough. In the end, it doesn't matter. The game and Lemmy are still awesome.

MeatMan wrote:

The only performance by a real-life metal legend that I was disappointed in was Lemmy's. I don't know if his lines were just recorded and/or mixed poorly or what, but a lot of his dialogue was hard to understand if you didn't concentrate on listening closely. Not to mention that his tone of voice hardly varied (if at all), which almost made it seem like he wasn't that into it, or wasn't directed well enough. In the end, it doesn't matter. The game and Lemmy are still awesome.

That's just Lemmy, man. He's too metal to change his tone of voice.

Elysium wrote:
I think all games journos should be forced to make a game somehow, see how they get on. It gives you a more rounded perspective.

I still have a pretty significant dispute with this statement.

That said, I realize it could have been a fairly throwaway comment and probably has some nuance to it that isn't evident here, even in context.

Yeah, I mean, it's easy to imagine that writers could learn something useful from working on a game -- but it doesn't follow that you OMG HAVE TO. We are blessed to live in a society where not everyone has to be good at everything.

Yeah, I mean, it's easy to imagine that writers could learn something useful from working on a game

I'd even argue that it can be counter productive. I'd hate to be sitting there writing a review thinking "man, this part isn't that great from a gameplay perspective, but I really appreciate the technical effort and I'm going to cut them some slack."

Every time I talk to a game developer about what we think of a given game, it invariably comes to light that he/she is peeking behind the curtain far more often than I ever am. Rather than just enjoying a set piece, they spend half the time thinking of ways it could have been better or labeling different design methods being employed. Unless you're doing a heavy critique of a game, that kind of knowledge can get in the way because it's nearly impossible to turn that part of the brain off.

When you're trying to convey an experience to consumers, it's the end result of what appears on the screen that matters, not the gears and winches grinding away in the background.

I really liked the musical choices today. I didn't recognize the first two Podunk tracks, so that was a treat.

Great interview with John Davison.

I have some sympathy with the guy who wrote in about games not taking full advantage of the PS3's graphical potential. The same problem existed for the original xbox last generation. In theory that consol could generate better graphics than the PS2 but in reality most games were developed for both platforms and therefore could only have graphics of a quality that a PS2 could cope with. As an xbox fanboy I remember finding it irksome at the time :).

Rabbit is right though, we can't really complain about graphics when they are at such a high standard in the majority of games. Especially when you remember that, not so long ago, our imaginations probably did more work than the graphics engines in creating believable gaming enviroments and 3D character looked like they'd been created by a man with a craft knife and a surplus of cardboard boxes.

Good show guys, despite only talking about 2 games. I will say, I'm more interested in Uncharted 2 now, especially since I now know I don't get forced into stealth sections.

Certis wrote:

Every time I talk to a game developer about what we think of a given game, it invariably comes to light that he/she is peeking behind the curtain far more often than I ever am. Rather than just enjoying a set piece, they spend half the time thinking of ways it could have been better or labeling different design methods being employed. Unless you're doing a heavy critique of a game, that kind of knowledge can get in the way because it's nearly impossible to turn that part of the brain off.

When you're trying to convey an experience to consumers, it's the end result of what appears on the screen that matters, not the gears and winches grinding away in the background.

I would definitely have to agree with this 100%.

Believe me, Cory, you do not want me to take my shirt off.

Dismissing the idea off graphics being important is ridiculous. You may get tired of talking about it, but for a lot of gamers it is extremely important. I think you are compartmentalizing the concept way too much. Graphics alone mean nothing, but it is the single most important component in a video game. Without graphics all you have is lines of code making your PC work overtime for no good reason.

When a gamer brings up the graphics question they are not just talking about how good the game looks. Having beautiful graphics, solid physics, and realistic animations create an opportunity for a visceral gaming session that gets the heart pumping and pupils dilated, because the feedback loop ramps-up in intensity. If you can use the technology to make a better connection with the gamer and game they are playing, you put big smiles on gamers' faces. For example, playing Tetris, one of the most popular video game ever, is not the same as playing Portal. Both are puzzle games, but I had a lot more fun playing Portal than I ever had playing Tetris. We are talking about video games here. Graphics, and all the things that term implies, are extremely important. The more visual and detailed my games get, the happier and more immersed I become.

When I play Call of Duty, I feel like a soldier. When I played F.E.A.R. and Bioshock I was scared and creeped out. When I make a goal in NHL 09, I feel like a skilled hockey player. Put all of those games into a 8-bit package and you lose that intensity.

Signed,
Graphics Whore
"You know you want it!"

I think you've missed my point. My point is not one of reversion, it's of diminishing returns. How much better could Bioshock, F.E.A.R. or NHL get? Would these games have been improved with even more detailed graphics?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a graphics whore too, but at this point that is no longer about polygon pushing but art direction to me. Bioshock's graphics are irrelevant without the art work. Since we now have the technology to achieve almost any artistic desire, technology's advancement just isn't as important as it used to be for me.

In the discussion on the difference in graphics on the two systems, nobody mentioned the PC. The graphics on a multiplatform game can be noticeably better on the PC. I know it has been said on the show about wanting to play some games more on the PC then the 360, or PS3. It probably has more to do with the keyboard and mouse control, but the higher resolutions and sharper textures, at least for me, are a draw also. I don’t remember in the past if the graphic angle was mentioned when talking about wanting to play games more on the PC. Certis did mention in this show that he wanted to play Brutal Legend on the PC for the greater draw distance.

Also, I wanted to mention that Heavenly Sword had unique cut scenes that made great use of the actors playing the characters in game. They not only used body suits but they also used facial recognition. The same tech they used in movies like Beowulf.

Regarding full motion video, my favorite from that is Wing Commander 3 and 4. I felt it really worked there since the gameplay didn't deal with in-game characters, just their faces on a screen in the cockpit.

Elysium wrote:

I think you've missed my point. My point is not one of reversion, it's of diminishing returns. How much better could Bioshock, F.E.A.R. or NHL get? Would these games have been improved with even more detailed graphics?

I could live without the photo-luminescent hobbit snot that all character models in Unreal games seem to be slathered in.

To me, this is a largely specious point to make. 20 years ago we probably would have said the same thing about Blades of Steel and Wolfenstein 3D. There are untold depths that we can plumb with greater graphical fidelity. Just because the status quo is to just make things shiny, with a lot of polygons, does not necessitate that we are anywhere near the end. Case in point. How much better would Bioshock or FEAR be if they were as wide open as Infamous or Crackdown, with that immense draw distance, without sacrificing graphical fidelity. How about if the Unreal Engine in Mass Effect could have populated the Citadell with the billions of people you might expect. You then realistically populate the area or more believably, at least. Or how about having more than 2 character models for fans in a hockey game?

About the game rentals you guys discussed on the show. You don't have to pay additional licensing fees to rent a copyrighted material. I remember reading an interview with Netflix CEO and he was saying that in the beginning of his company sometimes they would go and buy DVDs at Walmart because they couldn't obtain enough quantities wholesale.

The "First-sale doctrine" gives you the right to rent movies or games. According to Wikipedia, "The doctrine allows the purchaser to transfer (i.e., sell or give away) a particular lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work without permission once it has been obtained. This means that the copyright holder's rights to control the change of ownership of a particular copy end once that copy is sold, as long as no additional copies are made."
Here is the link to Wikipedia article if anyone is interested:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-s...

Case in point. How much better would Bioshock or FEAR be if they were as wide open as Infamous or Crackdown, with that immense draw distance, without sacrificing graphical fidelity.

But those would be different games, neither was designed to be vast and open world.

How about if the Unreal Engine in Mass Effect could have populated the Citadell with the billions of people you might expect. You then realistically populate the area or more believably, at least. Or how about having more than 2 character models for fans in a hockey game?

That's not strictly graphical, though. That's A.I, processing power and the design challenge of doing something interesting with that many characters on screen. Hitman: Blood Money did some of that.

I don't think anyone is suggesting we've reached some plateau of what games are capable of graphically or that games can't be made better with better visuals. That said, I still firmly believe that graphics become less of a factor once you're in the flow of a game. System Shock 2 looked like ass even for its time, but I'm still fully immersed and scared sh*tless when I play it today.

bnpederson wrote:

Regarding full motion video, my favorite from that is Wing Commander 3 and 4. I felt it really worked there since the gameplay didn't deal with in-game characters, just their faces on a screen in the cockpit.

I was totally going to mention these. The production values of the video in those games really wasn't terrible considering the budget they had to work with. I can't WAIT for their HD remakes (and if they got Mark Hamill to reprise his role... drool).

Second, on the topics of graphics, aren't (or shouldn't they be) graphics on the PC FAR better than what can be achieved on a console? I mean the video hardware that are in the consoles date back at least two generations now. I don't play PC games much anymore so I don't really know.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

Second, on the topics of graphics, aren't (or shouldn't they be) graphics on the PC FAR better than what can be achieved on a console? I mean the video hardware that are in the consoles date back at least two generations now. I don't play PC games much anymore so I don't really know.

Graphics on a good PC are almost always better (better draw distance, better resolution, higher resolution textures, etc) when compared to their console counterparts but it's minimal since there are very, very few companies making PC-only games these days. Crysis was prettier than any console's managed with more interactive objects and physics going on in the background than Uncharted 2 even has. But that's the rare exception and afterward the developers of Crysis immediately went to console development.

So as I see it PC games simply aren't the driving force in graphic improvement these days.