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

Regarding games maximizing the PS2's hardware at the end of it's lifecycle, that's undeniable. What I take issue with is the idea that maximizing the PS2's hardware meant different gameplay. God of War 2 was much prettier than the first God of War was but, in the end, they had the same basic gameplay. Shadow of the Colossus was quite pretty and had extremely large creatures thanks to some very strange ways it used the PS2 hardware but the unique gameplay wasn't dependent upon that prettiness, it was an innovative idea that changed the gameplay. If we're talking how hardware revolutionizes gameplay I think we'll have to go with much larger leaps; dedicated sound and video cards in the PC, once adopted by a large group of people, made new kinds of gameplay possible. Colored monitors, again once adopted by a large group of the consumers, changed how one could create games. The advent of CD-ROM drives allowed for larger games to exist and include things like full motion video and I'm sure games will change when HDTVs become adopted by a significant portion of the gaming public. But I really don't see how the slight difference between the processing power of the PS3 and the processing power of the 360 is going to change or create new gameplay, no matter how focused a developer is.

Baaspei wrote:

But I believe the uptick in games maximizing the PS2 near the end of its lifecycle was a real event. (Hopefully not a singular event.) Developers started figure it out. PS2 did not have a new input (controller) method. The titles got better. I remember hearing discussion about whether or not Sony should release the PS3 because the PS2 developer community was just starting using the unit's capabilities (not sure if they were hardware/firmware related).

I think you may have struck upon the key point. Developers were able to spend the time and effort really maximizing the performance of the PS2 near the end of its lifecycle becasue at that point, it was the dominant console with an insanely large install base. The PS3 lacks that for a variety of reasons. You are far more likey to see the limits of the Wii pushed, as developers try to create a mega selling game for that platform.

Evidence of this can be found this month's Game Informer, as they have a pretty nice preview of Epic Mickey. That game is a Wii exclusive, and is going to push all of the limits possible. They can afford to do this because the are nearly 55 million Wii's out there looking for games. Sure, it could look even better if it was designed for the PS3, and its 25 million consoles. But if you were a CEO, where would you want to invest your corporation's resources?

In the end, that's why Rabbit said he didn't really care. Understanding the politics will inform you as to why this is happening. But in the end, we will play Epic Mickey on whatever platform it is shipped on, if it ends up being the game we hope it will be. The fact that it could look better on the PS3 isn't worth worrying about.

Is there a GWJ dictionary page? I am starting to feel it would be nice to have a reference for what "gameplay" means on this forum. I took a quick buzz around the net looking for a definition but found a lot of "...it depends on the context..." instead.

Wikipedia says this:
Gameplay includes all player experiences during the interaction with game systems, especially formal games. Proper use is coupled with reference to "what the player does". Arising alongside game development in the 1980s, gameplay was used solely within the context of video or computer games, though now its popularity has begun to see use in the description of other, more traditional, game forms. Generally, the term gameplay in video game terminology is used to describe the overall experience of playing the game excluding factors like challenges and movement. The term game mechanics refers to sets of rules in a game that are intended to produce an enjoyable gaming experience. Current academic discussions tend to favor terms like game mechanics[citation needed] specifically to avoid 'gameplay'.

(So gameplay is a rather gelatinous term. And I don't know the definition of the terms challenges and movement.)

In reference to bnpederson:

bnpederson wrote:

...God of War 2 was much prettier than the first God of War was but, in the end, they had the same basic gameplay. Shadow of the Colossus was quite pretty and had extremely large creatures thanks to some very strange ways it used the PS2 hardware but the unique gameplay wasn't dependent upon that prettiness, it was an innovative idea that changed the gameplay.... But I really don't see how the slight difference between the processing power of the PS3 and the processing power of the 360 is going to change or create new gameplay, no matter how focused a developer is.

Using the Wikipedia definition as our reference, I would say that the more disc blades you can shoot while having 6 automated turrets and 3 armored robot soldiers at you side without experiencing a slow down in performance can be categorized under better gameplay (Ratchet & Clank reference). It is not just graphics... and it is not necessarily how much crap can get done in a clock cycle. It's how the graphics and the crap in the clock cycle affect the player.

I think what you are describing is a subset of gameplay:game mechanics. I think game mechanics are free. It depends on the rule maker. Game mechanics make board games like Talisman and Monopoly fun. God of War 2 did not have a change in game mechanics from its predecessor. Shadow of Colossus did have unique game mechanics which (for most players) translated to good gameplay. If you have crappy game mechanics, I am sure it doesn't matter how great your graphics are, what your processor speed is... you are not going to have fun, hence, gameplay suffers.

I am just talking out of the side of my neck here... Trying to figure out these terms and get up the hill.

Baaspei

Higher power and HD resolution doesn't change gameplay experiences. They don't create new game designs in and of themselves, and they do not force it. I fully expect God of War 3 to be pretty much the same game as all the previous games before it, only rendered in higher resolution.

Certainly, the R&C series has not evolved all that much since Up Your Arsenal. It's basically the same game with added levels and weapons.

There is hardware that changes gameplay and design. One of these is the Wii Remote. Speaking from purely the hardware and software side of the equation, Wii Tennis is basically "better Pong." All tennis games up to this point are basically this.

Yes, you can apply topspin, backspin, and sidespin in Wii Tennis, and you can lob or drop, too. All that aside, it's tossing a pixel from one part of a virtual world to another. The thing that's so different with the Wii Remote isn't on the hardware or software side of the interface - it's on the human side.

Other hardware that promotes new gameplay is Track IR, and soon, Natal which offers similar functionality. The ability to instantly control camera angle with a seamless control method is similar to the Wii Remote. On the software and hardware side, it's technically new, but the functionality has always existed. It's the human side of the interface that makes the crucial difference.

As a sports gamer, you can see this in the two baseball games that compete for our dollars. In the big picture, Sony's MLB The Show is the hands down winner. But it wins by just stickin to the basics, and really excuting them perfectly. Personally, I preferred MLB 2K8 and 2K9 even though it had a lot more issues, and failed to really nail down the game.

What drew me in was a significant change in how we control baseball games that really improved the feel of playing the game. Despite the superiority of The Show, I really don't ever want to go back to pressing a button to bat, pitch, and throw. This innovation had nothing to do with raw power, and it merely took advantage of the current controllers found on both the 360 and PS3.

This really is the age of improved interface, although it is about to jump the shark with the release of Natal and the Sony Dildo.

LarryC wrote:

Higher power and HD resolution doesn't change gameplay experiences. They don't create new game designs in and of themselves, and they do not force it. I fully expect God of War 3 to be pretty much the same game as all the previous games before it, only rendered in higher resolution.

Certainly, the R&C series has not evolved all that much since Up Your Arsenal. It's basically the same game with added levels and weapons.

That why I like trying to set some definitions. We are a little off topic but this is still a good discussion. (I can also se why Rabbit is at the top of hill and tired of this discussion.) The fact that GOW 3 is going to be pretty the same game as before to me says that the game mechanics have not changed. But if higher resolution and effectively used processing power can make the disembowelments look a little cooler and they happen in a smooth, non-jerky way, with a few more monsters than GOW 2 then I would say that gameplay was potentially improved. Because it affected the experience of the player.

I would say the same thing for R&C. There probably will not be any new game mechanics but more story, content, monsters, weapons and more crap going on at the sametime on the screen will most likely produce awesome gameplay. See the Wikipedia definitions in the above post.

By those definitions I would say that a controller change (DJ Hero Turntable and Mixer, Guitar Hero Guitar, Wii remote, Natale...) by definition changes game mechanics. You are adding new rules (of interaction) to reach an enjoyable gaming experience. Wether or not these game mechanics produce improved or a different gameplay experience depends on its affect on the player.

I am starting to think that game mechanics can viewed almost independent of the player, whereas gameplay is intrinsically linked to the player. Game mechanics are rules and equipment of the game. One part of gameplay is the interaction of the player within game mechanics.

Baaspei

Jayhawker wrote:

What drew me in was a significant change in how we control baseball games that really improved the feel of playing the game. Despite the superiority of The Show, I really don't ever want to go back to pressing a button to bat, pitch, and throw. This innovation had nothing to do with raw power, and it merely took advantage of the current controllers found on both the 360 and PS3.

This really is the age of improved interface, although it is about to jump the shark with the release of Natal and the Sony Dildo.

I agree. So what changed was the game mechanics. The change in game mechanics gave YOU (the player) an awesome gameplay experience. As I said earlier, I believe game mechanics are by in large free. They need to be implemented well of course. I agree that changing a controller or an interface is the first order change that changes game mechanics and WILL affect gameplay for better or for worse (because gameplay depends on the player). I am sure you could find someone that didn't like the changes to the very same game mechanics that you loved. Hence their gameplay experience was crappy.

But changing game mechanics is not the only way to affect gameplay. Take Grand Turismo. I am only familiar with earlier versions but one things I remember was not really liking the fact that there were cardboard people everywhere. If Grand Turismo has graduated to 3D people in the galleries, I think I would be more impressed and I would feel like my environment was more realistic. For me, 3D people in the gallery would make my gaming experience better. For me, improved gameplay. (Speaking for myself.)

Baaspei

Jayhawker wrote:

This really is the age of improved interface, although it is about to jump the shark with the release of Natal and the Sony Dildo.

Well, we are assured that Natale will change the game mechanics. Therefore we are assured that gameplay will be affected. But I am not so sure it will be as revolutionary as we might think. The jury is still out on the gameplay experience. It will be until some people actually start playing games with it...

Baaspei wrote:

But changing game mechanics is not the only way to affect gameplay. Take Grand Turismo. I am only familiar with earlier versions but one things I remember was not really liking the fact that there were cardboard people everywhere. If Grand Turismo has graduated to 3D people in the galleries, I think I would be more impressed and I would feel like my environment was more realistic. For me, 3D people in the gallery would make my gaming experience better. For me, improved gameplay. (Speaking for myself.)

That is merely a perception. The 3D crowd in PGR 3 and 4 were distractingly annoying. In fact, once the series moved to the 360 for pgr 3, the series failed to resonate nearly as well with me as PGR 2 on the Xbox. I eventually went back to PGR 2 on the 360, since it had been converted to be backwards compatible.

PGR 3 and 4 look in insanely better, but the gameplay suffered.

Sports games took several years to finally come to grips with 3D graphics. Gameplay plummeted tremendously in all sports games as they began making them 3D.

There is no special tech that makes games fun. And often, adding newer tech has negative effects.

Baaspei, you had me thinking you were all smart and stuff, until you used 'affect' where 'effect' is supposed to go. Dang.

Just kidding, keep up the good discussion.

Hans

hidannik wrote:

Baaspei, you had me thinking you were all smart and stuff, until you used 'affect' where 'effect' is supposed to go. Dang.

Just kidding, keep up the good discussion.

Hans

...it sounded correct in my mind....

Technically, if we're talking about gaming experience and we're talking sensory input, then higher resolution only matters on a big enough TV, and only really because most big LCD TVs have lousy upscalers, and can't display anything other than their native resolutions. More importantly, it's all about how you experience your gaming.

By that measure, then one of the most important gameplay innovations Sony can introduce to gaming is climate control - bundle an air conditioner and a heater in with a PS3! The increased comfort is sure to improve most people's experiences!

For my part, I really stop noticing the high-res settings when the game is good enough to engage me. In a heated firefight, I'm far more likely to notice framerate hiccups than jaggies, really.

Baaspei wrote:
hidannik wrote:

Baaspei, you had me thinking you were all smart and stuff, until you used 'affect' where 'effect' is supposed to go. Dang.

Just kidding, keep up the good discussion.

Hans

...it sounded correct in my mind....

In reading all the uses of "affect" on this page, I see no misuse.

Baaspei wrote:

I am just talking out of the side of my neck here... Trying to figure out these terms and get up the hill.

Baaspei

And you're doing a good job. It's important to understand a lot of these basic ideas in order to have an intelligent conversation about games.

Thanks guys. (And I like that, A is for action.)

Baaspei

wordsmythe wrote:
Baaspei wrote:
hidannik wrote:

Baaspei, you had me thinking you were all smart and stuff, until you used 'affect' where 'effect' is supposed to go. Dang.

Just kidding, keep up the good discussion.

Hans

...it sounded correct in my mind....

In reading all the uses of "affect" on this page, I see no misuse.

Baaspei wrote:

Whether or not these game mechanics produce improved or a different gameplay experience depends on its affect on the player.

I would think this is the culprit. But considering that he got all of the others correct, I don't think one slip was really all that big of a deal.

My wife is an appellate attorney, which requires a pretty high level of accurate writing, has a complete mental block on effect/affect. She will call me at home and ask me about that one all the time. Then I tell her, "A is for action," which does her no good. She then reads the sentence, and I give her the usage. But other than that, I rely on her to edit my papers, becasue she is a really high level writer.

And you're doing a good job. It's important to understand a lot of these basic ideas in order to have an intelligent conversation about games.

And this is absolutely true.

you are setting yourself up for a good list of Tags once you reach 1000 posts Baaspei. "The A is for Action" =)

Jayhawker wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Baaspei wrote:
hidannik wrote:

Baaspei, you had me thinking you were all smart and stuff, until you used 'affect' where 'effect' is supposed to go. Dang.

Just kidding, keep up the good discussion.

Hans

...it sounded correct in my mind....

In reading all the uses of "affect" on this page, I see no misuse.

Baaspei wrote:

Whether or not these game mechanics produce improved or a different gameplay experience depends on its affect on the player.

I would think this is the culprit. But considering that he got all of the others correct, I don't think one slip was really all that big of a deal.

Well, to quote a famous fowl, "That's a joke, son, a flag-waver! You're built too low. The fast ones go over your head. Ya got a hole in your glove. I keep pitchin' 'em and you keep missin' 'em! Ya gotta keep your eye on the ball! Eye. Ball. Eyeball! I almost had a gag, son--a joke, that is!"

Hans

Jayhawker wrote:

My wife is an appellate attorney, which requires a pretty high level of accurate writing, has a complete mental block on effect/affect. She will call me at home and ask me about that one all the time. Then I tell her, "A is for action," which does her no good. She then reads the sentence, and I give her the usage. But other than that, I rely on her to edit my papers, becasue she is a really high level writer.

The problem is that they both can be both verb and noun. Affect as a noun is commonly used in psychology to talk about someone's emotional experience or reaction, which I took to be roughly fitting in this case.

wordsmythe wrote:
Jayhawker wrote:

My wife is an appellate attorney, which requires a pretty high level of accurate writing, has a complete mental block on effect/affect. She will call me at home and ask me about that one all the time. Then I tell her, "A is for action," which does her no good. She then reads the sentence, and I give her the usage. But other than that, I rely on her to edit my papers, becasue she is a really high level writer.

The problem is that they both can be both verb and noun. Affect as a noun is commonly used in psychology to talk about someone's emotional experience or reaction, which I took to be roughly fitting in this case.

I can see that. Same ol' English language, making an exception for every rule we try to create.