GWJ Conference Call Episode 159

Conference Call

Uncharted 2, Panzer General: Allied Assault, Brutal Legend, Borderlands (A Little), Bioshock Spoiler Section, Scary Games & What Works, Your Emails and more!

This week Lara Crigger joins the cast for her first full non-live show! We talk scary games, answer some pressing emails and we finally record a Bioshock Spoiler Section. You can catch that after the credits if you really want to take your drinking game straight to the emergency room. 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

"Step Into My Gardens" Bioshock Soundtrack - www.bioshockgame.com - 0:30:42
"Dancers On A String" Bioshock Soundtrack - www.bioshockgame.com - 0:50:54

Comments

Doc: I agree with you completely. L4D would lend itself to a little creative audio filtering VERY WELL.

Add Max Payne to the list. It's brimming with mood and you are anything but an invulnerable hero even with bullet time.

There's a frightening sequence where you are in a dream and you hear your baby crying. You set out through a confused maze of dirty hallways that look like the dirty buildings you've been painting red. All around you, the corridors lengthen so that it feels like it'd take days to cross, but the helpless crying of your lone, untended child draws you in.

I loved your discussion about Chaos Theory, which I haven't played. Sometimes chat should be relevant to the action.

There's no better contender than Left 4 Dead. What if all four players only heard one another at full volume when they were together? One of your buddies screaming faintly in the woods would greatly increase the tension. I know nothing of technical hurdles, but with everyone at a relative volume level, it should work. You'd only be able to easily avoid it by using TeamSpeak. Of course, you should be able to disable the feature, I'm just thinking out loud.

Lara was a fine addition. Great show as always.

Edited for bad grammar.

The definitions get to be quite important for the discussion of scary games. I'd argue that games can certainly:

1) Be tense e.g. scanning a large room for monsters while your oxygen is running out in Dead Space
2) Be creepy e.g. the noises that pretty much any of the enemies in System Shock 2 make
3) Give you a fright/shock e.g. Head crabs

I can't recall a time, though, that a game made me genuinely scared - then again, I can't think of a book or movie that did, either. I also can't think of a game that really caused skin-crawling horror like Ringu or some of Lovecraft's stories did the first time I experienced them.

OzymandiasAV wrote:

Maybe you could call them Action/RTT games?

Proof that games can be ARTT?

i think story and narrative are used interchangably and especially in regard to games should not be. The actual narrative of bioshock is not super strong however the narrative of the players travel through rapture combined with the story of raptures rise and fall combined with the grand utopia of ryans words combined with the sadness of its failure and the destruction created by human excess make an incredible story.

A film or a book provides a strong cohesive narrative a good game provides an evocative world filled with stories to be found and made, the main narrative does not have to be so important.

Demiurge wrote:

I hate to feed her ego, but it's SO AWESOME to have Lara on the show. Even if she's wearing a Snuggie.

Especially if she's wearing a Snuggie.

I must say I like her voice a lot. She adds some good commentary to the podcast. I think she should guest more often.

I believe these are the Bioshock ending musings that were mentioned towards the end.

If the original Fatal Frame was truly much more frightening than its sequel then I will say a big NO THANK YOU SIR! I tried to play one of the Silent Hill games once but couldn't get past the clunky controls to anything that might scare me, but with Rabbit's mention of Half Life and Left for Dead as his examples of scary games I wonder if he ever played Silent Hill or Fatal Frame.

Also, something wrong was said in this week's podcast but I can't remember exactly what it was and can't be bothered listening to the whole thing again to find out, so a simple "You guys are wrong" will have to suffice.

superslug wrote:

A film or a book provides a strong cohesive narrative a good game provides an evocative world filled with stories to be found and made, the main narrative does not have to be so important.

That's a great point. Most of the games that I think of as having a good story have a compelling fascinating world, but the central narrative is one cliche after another. The only games I can think of with a robust narrative are JRPGs (for a particular value of 'robust').

I admit to being quite scared by Demon's Souls--having no gameplay music and nice little ambient noises of wind and movement in lots of dark places really helps.

edit: Dungeon Master--scary as hell for the same reasons (those damn screamers/shriekers!).

edit2: and correct me if I'm wrong, but books, painting, music, games, movies are all different mediums, aren't they? Not genres?

Baaspei wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

I hate to feed her ego, but it's SO AWESOME to have Lara on the show. Even if she's wearing a Snuggie.

Especially if she's wearing a Snuggie.

I must say I like her voice a lot. She adds some good commentary to the podcast. I think she should guest more often.

Hopefully they'll keep me around. Maybe if I buy them all Snuggies...

I really liked listening to Lara and I hated to have to turn off the Bioshock section but I still want to play that game and while it's 2007 in your house, it's (checks box...) goddamnit 2002 in my house with No One Lives Forever 2. I hate being too broke, damn kids eating so much...

Re: Scary games. I agree with Chump here, the Cradle from Thief 3 was so terrifying, I was crouched in my chair, whimpering like a little child just from the noise and the voices. I probably should never try any of the other games everybody mentioned.

While I agree that the sense of company is a comfort that disrupts fear (which is usually built around uncertainty or powerlessness), the talk about how multiplayer voice chat gets in the way of (or alleviates) fear seemed to dance around something important: Immersion is a requirement for fear. You're not emotionally or psychologically emerged in the game's environment if you're chatting about last night's episode of House, and you aren't going to be scared if you're fully aware that it's just a game. It's similar to telling a scared child at the theater that "It's OK; it's just a movie."

wordsmythe wrote:

Immersion is a requirement for fear. You're not emotionally or psychologically emerged in the game's environment if you're chatting about last night's episode of House, and you aren't going to be scared if you're fully aware that it's just a game. It's similar to telling a scared child at the theater that "It's OK; it's just a movie."

I like this. At the risk sounding like a scared puty-tat... The first 2 Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus scared the crap out of me. Talk about immersion. When you are off your horse, wounded, running away with that scared I am in a horror movie and I had sex this morning face, and 2 or 3 steps from the giant and he has caught up to you! Damn.

I think it was the 2nd (or 3rd) colossus that peered around the pillars to find you? I was not expecting his giant face to appear! It took me a while to regroup and realize that this is a game and I am supposed to beat this thing. As a matter of fact, there are several more to defeat so get a hold of yourself!

I thought of another one. How about 'Vagrant Story'. When you have to battle the little girl marionettes. I was scared. Vagrant Story did a great job with ambience. The visuals and the music helped with the "immersion".

KaterinLHC wrote:
Baaspei wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

I hate to feed her ego, but it's SO AWESOME to have Lara on the show. Even if she's wearing a Snuggie.

Especially if she's wearing a Snuggie.

I must say I like her voice a lot. She adds some good commentary to the podcast. I think she should guest more often.

Hopefully they'll keep me around. Maybe if I buy them all Snuggies...

That might be the only way you get me to wear one. I look fabu in pink...

Demiurge wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:
Baaspei wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

I hate to feed her ego, but it's SO AWESOME to have Lara on the show. Even if she's wearing a Snuggie.

Especially if she's wearing a Snuggie.

I must say I like her voice a lot. She adds some good commentary to the podcast. I think she should guest more often.

Hopefully they'll keep me around. Maybe if I buy them all Snuggies...

That might be the only way you get me to wear one. I look fabu in pink...

Oh, I can't wait for the next live show. All of you guys in pink Snuggies; we can call you the Fabulous Friars.

I think Fatal Frame 2 was the scariest game I've played. But the first few levels of Clive Barker's Undying was a 10 on the scare scale. It served up a creepy atmosphere, and then jumped out at just the right times. The game kind of settled into an abnormal shooter after a bit, though. Both of those games offered up stellar audio that set the mood perfectly.

And like a lot of other folks, I found Ravenholm in HL2 to be a pretty nice creepfest in itself.

Hi guys - popping my posting cherry here.

Got to agree with the majority on Silent Hill 2 - I would also add Silent Hill 3 into that mix. While it was shorter and not as epic as 2, it still had some great moments and levels.

I was also surprised not to hear FEAR or Condemned mentioned - those two were great horror titles and featured a lot of creepy moments.

Finally, on the Bioshock spoiler section - the one thing that I thought dumbed the game down was the rejuvenation chambers. I would constantly go in like a kamikaze to do some damage until I died and then go back to finish the job which was already half done. There was no punishment for playing like this so yeah - otherwise the game fantastic but I agree with everyone the final boss was weak.

I don't know why people keep pronouncing it "Meethos." It's like "Myth-os." At least, that's how the guys who made the game pronounce it.

LobsterMobster wrote:

I don't know why people keep pronouncing it "Meethos." It's like "Myth-os." At least, that's how the guys who made the game pronounce it.

Every time I pronounce "Meethos" I think of Highlander: The Series. /sadnerd

In regards to co-op immersion in a game. I think one simply tactic that could be used is to treat the headsets we use as, well.. headsets.
They actually lend themselves to immersion. How many movies have we seen where a team is in the woods and they hear someone on a headset scream and then it goes dead.

That tactic, if used correctly, would seem to lend a bit of immersion in co-op online games because it would be able to help simulate that sense of 'alone' that creeps people out.

For instance there is the simple approach of "if someone dies you put them in a dead box where they can only talk to other dead people" (until next safe room or whatever). Nothing new there.

Another, better, tactic I think would be in a creepy setting when the lights start to flicker/flash signalling impending trouble - have the voice comm crackle and go in/out as well.
Then later in the game, now that someone has been 'trained' to know that the voice crackle isn't a bug but an aspect of the game, it can be used in scenarios without the necessity of the flickering lights as a visual cue that it's not a bug.

This adds what I would call "frustration fear". A dark room, is "frustration fear" - it sucks not being able to see when your adversary can and has the upper hand.
You get jumpy. Same thing when you go from full voice comm with your buddies to limited use of it. You get distracted and upset as it is like losing one of your senses. I admit if not done right - it would ruin a game as it would be frustrating. It would have to be done sparingly and in short time amounts.

If anyone uses this in a game - they owe me a copy or a job - one or the other.

Also I agree I found the lack of mentioning F.E.A.R. 1 odd. It didn't have creep feeling through the whole thing. But I don't know of anyone who didn't sheet themselves on the ladder. My son literally fell out of the chair - I laughed my ass off as I knew it was coming having already played it.

On a side not - One game that did use an audio cue that really worked well and gave that frustration/impending doom fear was aliens, AvP. Although not scary so much in that game - it was very tense. I don't attribute this to the game, it simply carried over an obviously brilliant and simple, (ok word-gurus -there is a word for brilliantly succinct - what is it.. dammit I forgot), use of audio and directing by ridley scott and his team.

We carried over in our heads that "ping" sound as the aliens get closer from the movie and to this day is evokes a certain feeling of dread whenever you hear it. that feeling of spinning your head around because it can becoming from almost anywhere.

KaterinLHC wrote:
Baaspei wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

I hate to feed her ego, but it's SO AWESOME to have Lara on the show. Even if she's wearing a Snuggie.

Especially if she's wearing a Snuggie.

I must say I like her voice a lot. She adds some good commentary to the podcast. I think she should guest more often.

Hopefully they'll keep me around. Maybe if I buy them all Snuggies...

Sorry for double post but all I can say to that is I got an instantly awkward picture of 4 gamer geeks sitting around on phone headsets in snuggies covered with various snack crumbs, coronita juice, and sugar substance dribbling down the front of there all-to-open man blankets.

My eyes!.... MY EYES!!!!!!

There was a mission in Vampire: Masquerade Bloodlines set in a haunted hotel that I found damn scary. I could not play Fatal Frame as it was too scary to be enjoyable (I'm a wuss).

Also, I think Certis mentioned playing Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow co-op but I think it was Chaos Theory (3rd one) that had co-op. Still the best co-op I have ever played.

BigKid66 wrote:

There was a mission in Vampire: Masquerade Bloodlines set in a haunted hotel that I found damn scary.

That level really clicked on all cylinders and probably was the best in the game. The devs certainly found the right balance of scares and danger to throw at you without it becoming too frustrating or making it feel out of place from the rest of it.

Demiurge wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

I don't know why people keep pronouncing it "Meethos." It's like "Myth-os." At least, that's how the guys who made the game pronounce it.

Every time I pronounce "Meethos" I think of Highlander: The Series. /sadnerd

Me too. I had this huge crush on the actor who played him. I always wished they'd made a spinoff series about Methos, not stupid Amanda.

/sadgirlnerd

About BioShock:

Spoiler:

Fo rme it wasn't becoming a Big Daddy that made me sympathize for them. I had long since acquired the hypnosis ability allowing me to have a Big Daddy treat me as if I were a Little Sister, so the moment when I started really feeling for them was the first time one died protecting me.

You mentioned the thought of a game where the player didn't win at the end. I would like to point to the old Infocom text adventure game Infidel. You "win" in the sense that you get to the heart of the pyramid, but doing so means you are trapped there with no way out and knowing that you will die there. Yeah, a real upbeat ending.

And while on adventure games, I'll add Amber: Journeys Beyond to the list of really scary games.

tanstaafl wrote:

You mentioned the thought of a game where the player didn't win at the end.

You jogged my memory...

This reminded me of one of the most disturbing movies I saw way back in the day. I was probably too young when I saw it. "To Live and Die in LA" did real good mind job on me. If you don't mind drugs, guns, crooked cops, girl on girl action and an unexpected twist. Give it a try...

Catching up on a few podcasts, and a memory shot back the moment the mention of "a game in which you don't win" came up. It's actually not a full game, but rather an early total conversion. Once you get to the end of the fantastic Zerstörer: Testament of the Destroyer mod for the original Quake...

Spoiler:

You die. Violently.

I doubt anybody will check it out nowadays, but Quake with the Darkplaces graphics overhaul is still fairly pretty, as well as taxing on your system.

barbex wrote:

...while it's 2007 in your house, it's ... 2002 in my house with No One Lives Forever 2.

2002 is a nice time to be in, especially with solid gold like NOLF2!

Jayhawker wrote:

But the first few levels of Clive Barker's Undying was a 10 on the scare scale. It served up a creepy atmosphere, and then jumped out at just the right times. The game kind of settled into an abnormal shooter after a bit, though.

This is something I'm finding with many "scary" games - early on I'm on the edge of my seat with heart palpitations, but once I start to understand the enemies, environment, my assets, and the game design approach in general, the fear wears off very quickly. Silent Hill being the exception to this rule - after a while the heart fluttering stopped, but it kept me uneasy until the end.

BigKid66 wrote:

There was a mission in Vampire: Masquerade Bloodlines set in a haunted hotel that I found damn scary.

Another fantastic bit of design - going in as an undead Nosferatu killing machine I was cocky and confident. A few minutes later I was slinking from corner to corner, wide eyed and pulse racing