GWJ Conference Call Episode 162

Conference Call

Modern Warfare 2, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Dragon Age, Sequels Rock!, EA's Rumblings, Your Emails and more!

This week we absolutely do not talk about "No Russian" in Modern Warfare 2. Seriously, we might be the only podcast that doesn't, but we will if you REALLY want us to. We do talk about sequels and look at where EA stands now two years since the last time we stuck them under the microscope. 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

"Atlantis" - Sketchbook (Pneuman) - http://blag.linuxgamers.net - 0:36:18
"Twilight Bay" (James 106) - 1:04:32

Comments

It seems to me that EA are trying to follow the tentpole model used by film studios, but are doing it without the right tentpoles. It seems that Brutal Legend and Dragon Age are meant to be the EA tentpole releases for this Christmas, backed up by the annual EA sports releases. But - RTSes and RPGs make bad tentpoles, and the core audience of the EA sports games, whist significant probably don't grow very much.

On the other hand, MW2 makes a good tentpole because FPS is one of the most universally popular genres, it's a sequel to a very popular game, it's easy to relate to (no elves or quirkiness) for the non-hardcore market.

EA obviously agree since:

gamasutra wrote:

Under the new model, EALA will become a "showcase for the 'fewer things better'" initiative, the memo continues, describing a "a re-invention of the Medal of Honor franchise with a new design that is simply stunning."

I think they need more things that are safer than Brutal Legend or Mirror's Edge, but less production-liney than FIFA 10. I love new IPs are great but the problem comes if they have too many unfamiliar gameplay elements, then they're always going to be risks.

I'm into 10th minute of the podcast, and they still haven't gotten to MW2. What's WRONG with them!?

If you keep up with the private surveys Gamasutra does of week to week software sales Dragon Age is supposedly selling well so that could very well be a tent pole for EA.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

I'm into 10th minute of the podcast, and they still haven't gotten to MW2. What's WRONG with them!?

I know this is like you're favorite game Evar, but I think you and I have talked (in person even!) about how the whole "modern realistic shooter" thing really doesn't do it for me. It just gets to me in a bad way, so I skip the releases, period. Not saying it doesn't mean everyone ELSE isn't gonna play, but when 2 of the 4 podcasters just aren't going to grab a game, it means it'll be a little different than you're average commentary.

I think it is disingenous to call Modern Warfare "realistic". Certainly the setting is more based in reality, and they seem to strive to duplicate some of the atmosphere of "real" combat with the frenetic pacing and overall sense of confusion. But I don't think there is any more realism here than (say) Counterstrike.

I also think you guys were too easy on the single player. I played about an hour or two of it and turned it off in disgust. I see almost no redeaming qualities whatsoever. If I want to get shot over and over again my small people who I can't see in the environments, I can get that experience in the multiplayer very easily and not have to deal with the plot/narrative written by retarded monkies. It's not even clear to me why they bothered to spend the money on it.

I'm with Julian regarding Dragon Age and after 40 hours I'm still playing the game 'straight up'. Granted I haven't gotten to the very end of the game, but since I'm planning on doing a second (or third) playthrough I'm not overly concerned about having everything go the way I want. Unless people I use as my main party suddenly decide to leave, I don't see myself reloading anything. If that happens, well, screw you Bioware. I love my peeps and you better not take them away from me.

Elysium will (maybe) be glad to know that I just bought some DLC ... and it wasn't day 1 DLC either. It was released 3 weeks after the initial release, as it should be.

After hearing you guys say that Brütal Legend's sales aren't that good (I think you said 200k), I bought the multiplayer map pack DLC for 400 MS points, even though I have not and will not play the multiplayer mode. I would've liked to buy the Eddie Riggs t-shirt at the Double Fine website, but they're sold out of the XL size. The Poster of the Beast looks awesome, but they make you pay almost twice the list price to actually get it. They charge a $1 handling fee (no big deal) plus $9 (!) to ship a 18x24 piece of paper. So this $15 item actually costs $26. No thanks. Those two were the only things I was interested in buying, so I basically just gave them a $5 donation for the DLC map pack that I'll never download.

I've made a decision with DA:O to never reload based on conversation points. I'd like the story to unfold organically, and that includes having relationships get screwed up. Presumably the designers accounted for this, ensuring that the game can still be finished even with maximum negative conversational outcomes, so no worries there. I believe that striving for an 'optimal' outcome, while a classic gamer technique, would detract from the DA:O experience.

I can't totally defend MW2 story. Parts are like, "Huh, What!?" in quality but I think to dismiss the entire thing as stupid garbage is also going too far. Without getting into spoiler tag country the themes of military deceit, of our (be which I mean the U.S.) military manipulating a terrorist incident to create a wider war while being slathered in ironic Dick Cheney quotes is interesting territory for a game. Especially a series that has up until this point looked upon war and the Military-Industrial Complex with unquestioning adulation.

And, no, I'm not saying MW2 is deep or some ground-breaking narrative. I refuse to go into Metal Gear fanboy territory on that question; MW2 is a popcorn movie on par with a 80s Tony Scott epic. But I think there are some interesting things going on in MW2 that get dismissed too easily by the Executive Gaming Set and the Enthusiast Media. And, to be honest, I think 90 percent of the people that buy this game won't even "Get It" either.

It is kind of odd how in Dragon Age the starting characters are so interesting I really only have one open slot in my party. I'm not getting rid of Morrigan or Alistair, so I can only rotate out one person.

Also, now I'm completely uninterested in MW2 after hearing it described as a "Micheal Bay film", "music video" and "emo military poetry".

larrymadill wrote:

I can't totally defend MW2 story. Parts are like, "Huh, What!?" in quality but I think to dismiss the entire thing as stupid garbage is also going too far. Without getting into spoiler tag country the themes of military deceit, of our (be which I mean the U.S.) military manipulating a terrorist incident to create a wider war while being slathered in ironic Dick Cheney quotes is interesting territory for a game. Especially a series that has up until this point looked upon war and the Military-Industrial Complex with unquestioning adulation.

And, no, I'm not saying MW2 is deep or some ground-breaking narrative. I refuse to go into Metal Gear fanboy territory on that question; MW2 is a popcorn movie on par with a 80s Tony Scott epic. But I think there are some interesting things going on in MW2 that get dismissed too easily by the Executive Gaming Set and the Enthusiast Media. And, to be honest, I think 90 percent of the people that buy this game won't even "Get It" either.

Larry, every time I read something like this, or Chris Sullentrop's article in Slate, I get excited to play Modern Warfare 2 to see these grand themes in action. However, I heard most of these same things (anti-war war game, subversive views of the military industrial complex tucked into a seemingly hoo-ra! military shooter, etc.) about the first Modern Warfare. I didn't see it in that one, so I don't know that I'll see it in this one, either.

I didn't see it in that one, so I don't know that I'll see it in this one, either.

You don't think the nuke-aftermath mission is a little anti-war?

adam.greenbrier wrote:

I didn't see it in that one, so I don't know that I'll see it in this one, either.

And to be honest I don't think Infinity Ward is really expressing a point of view or advocating an opinion with the MW games. In one of the last Out of the Game podcasts (what happened to them btw?) Robert Ashley talk about movies like "The Dark Knight" using current events and issues as window dressing to make themselves look deep. And I think that's largely what is going on in the Modern Warfare games.

Infinity Ward is a smart bunch of guys and I assume they realize that a "EFF YEAH!" Ra-Ra themed war game not set in World War II is way out of step with the current pop culture gestalt that's still trying to process the Bush / Cheney years. So where else do you go?

But I still think that IW at least goes there (whether earnestly or cynically) is interesting.

MeatMan wrote:

Elysium will (maybe) be glad to know that I just bought some DLC ... and it wasn't day 1 DLC either. It was released 3 weeks after the initial release, as it should be.

After hearing you guys say that Brütal Legend's sales aren't that good (I think you said 200k), I bought the multiplayer map pack DLC for 400 MS points, even though I have not and will not play the multiplayer mode. I would've liked to buy the Eddie Riggs t-shirt at the Double Fine website, but they're sold out of the XL size. The Poster of the Beast looks awesome, but they make you pay almost twice the list price to actually get it. They charge a $1 handling fee (no big deal) plus $9 (!) to ship a 18x24 piece of paper. So this $15 item actually costs $26. No thanks. Those two were the only things I was interested in buying, so I basically just gave them a $5 donation for the DLC map pack that I'll never download.

I had no idea they had Brutal Legend merch, I bought a signed Psychonauts poster and now I'm going to buy some more swag. Sweet!

PyromanFO wrote:
I didn't see it in that one, so I don't know that I'll see it in this one, either.

You don't think the nuke-aftermath mission is a little anti-war?

Honestly? It was an American solider dying slowly from a weapon used by foreign terrorists; it struck me more as something meant to drum up sentiment against the terrorists than to create an impression that war should be avoided. I thought it was a framing device for the ticking-time-bomb/revenge scenario of the game's latter half.

adam.greenbrier wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:
I didn't see it in that one, so I don't know that I'll see it in this one, either.

You don't think the nuke-aftermath mission is a little anti-war?

Honestly? It was an American solider dying slowly from a weapon used by foreign terrorists; it struck me more as something meant to drum up sentiment against the terrorists than to create an impression that war should be avoided. I thought it was a framing device for the ticking-time-bomb/revenge scenario of the game's latter half.

The view of the soldier though is very helpless though. I felt like they took the usual story of "military wins! the world is awesome!" and showed that even through all the expensive hardware and bravado, it can still fail.

I can see it as a motivation for later revenge scenarios, I didn't really think about it like that when I played it.

There has to be a balance between sequels and new IPs. Would you prefer that every SF film be either Star Wars or Star Trek? On the other hand, after the original Star Wars would you prefer NOT to have the Empire Strikes Back?

I was very disappointed that EA decided to abandon new IP in favor of shoring up existing franchises. I thought they were on the right path the past few years balancing their existing IPs while creating new ones like Mirror’s Edge, Spore, Mass Effect, Brutal Legend, and Dead Space. These games not only introduced new characters and settings, but also new game-play paradigms. I admired this direction and bought these games.

Recently, I have been finding myself drawn toward indie games due to their new game play, settings, and exploratory themes. The newness is complete in games like in Plants vs. Zombies, Osmos, Eufloria, Crayon Physics, World of Goo, Braid, Incredibots, and others. The downside of these games is that they lack the production values of the more established franchises. However, tools today are more powerful and easier to use than ever and make it easier for indie devs to produce high quality stuff. I'm going to keep investigating and buying indie games as they grow in both quality and quantity.

PyromanFO wrote:

Also, now I'm completely uninterested in MW2 after hearing it described as a "Micheal Bay film", "music video" and "emo military poetry".

Did you play the original COD4 single player? That was a Michael Bay film, too. But if, while watching Pearl Harbor, you got the urge to jump in a plane and shoot down some Zeros, then it's not necessarily a bad thing. It just isn't Saving Private Ryan story-wise(none of the COD games are), but the action is great, just like it is in most MB movies (although Armageddon ranks among the worst movies I've ever seen).

Arclite wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:

Also, now I'm completely uninterested in MW2 after hearing it described as a "Micheal Bay film", "music video" and "emo military poetry".

Did you play the original COD4 single player? That was a Michael Bay film, too. But if, while watching Pearl Harbor, you got the urge to jump in a plane and shoot down some Zeros, then it's not necessarily a bad thing. It just isn't Saving Private Ryan story-wise(none of the COD games are), but the action is great, just like it is in most MB movies (although Armageddon ranks among the worst movies I've ever seen).

I think COD4 had enough interesting scenes in it to get me past the Micheal Bay-ness of it. Maybe it's just a matter of expectations, I really didn't care about COD4's single player but played it anyway on a lark.

COD4 never got overly terrible with the writing, and in some places had some subtle bits that were actually pretty good. It sounds like MW2 goes in the opposite direction from my tastes, emphasizing the Bay-ness over the more subtle bits.

In regards to sequels and innovation, I think some good points were made. Innovation is primarily made in tiny, tiny increments that don't seem notable at the time; but when you look back years later, it's obvious. The intermittent setting on windshield wipers wasn't that much to talk about, or high beams, or a compact FM radio, but if you compare a car from the '20s with a car made today, it's hard to tell that they're even related. It was thousands of little improvements along the way, made in "sequels" from year to year, that got us to where we are today. This is true of most any industry, I think. Sure, there will be a game-changer every once in a while, but those are the exception rather than the rule. Super Mario 64 was one of those, but that's been built upon by a bunch of different people in small increments to deliver today's platformers.

As was mentioned in the podcast, though, that assumes a desire to improve each iteration of a product (here's looking at you, Guitar Hero).

Just forget about Guitar Hero 3 and up. Rock Band was the true sequel to Guitar Hero I and II.

I am not against sequels but you don't get sequels without new games. Not every game needs to be innovative but we do need the innovative games for the iterative games to iterate on. If assassins creed II is great it is only because of the risks assassins creed took with creating a game that felt pretty different to the others around it and making the mistakes it did.

I think the "sequels are better than the original games" argument is flawed . Newer games from a game studio should be better than their preivous games when measured by the standards of graphics and controls. The good developers learn lessons from every game they makes regardless of the number after it. To say a game made 2 years later than its orginal looks better and therefore sequels look better is a bad leap of logic. If in 2 years Infinity Ward was to make a new shooter IP I would expect it to look better than modern warfare 2.

Brutal legend is a game that failed because by all accounts the game play was not very good. To limit a game to people who like metal and the people who are into RTS so a cross section of niche markets you are not making a game that will sell. Putting blame for its sales on anything but the game itself I think is wanting a scapegoat for this one.

I haven't finished listening to the podcast yet, but I just wanted to point out that I enjoy that the game industry is probably the only entertainment industry to get sequels right. Movie sequels are almost universally worse than the original, particularly if they go beyond 2. (Notable exception: The Rocky Series)

Also, I'd like to thank everyone here for the discussion of Modern Warfare and MW2. I've had the first Modern Warfare on my wish list for some time because I wanted a game that let me shoot terrorists. From the discussion here, it sounds like they sound the "moral equivalence" klaxon a bit more than I'd be willing to stomach. So thanks to everyone for saving me some money.

F-ck Brutal Legend. As I think one of the Sehawns said in a recent podcast, it should have been a movie. I'm really happy that Demon's Souls is doing so well--it's an example of innovation that really enhances game play. They were wise to simply market it as "this is a fracking hard game", as difficulty is seldom mentioned in the marketing of any game.

From the discussion here, it sounds like they sound the "moral equivalence" klaxon a bit more than I'd be willing to stomach. So thanks to everyone for saving me some money

Yeah it totally is. By the way I hope MW3 is set in China, where I can kill those Uyghur terrorists trying to tear my nation asunder with impunity.

Coldstream wrote:

I've made a decision with DA:O to never reload based on conversation points. I'd like the story to unfold organically, and that includes having relationships get screwed up. Presumably the designers accounted for this, ensuring that the game can still be finished even with maximum negative conversational outcomes, so no worries there. I believe that striving for an 'optimal' outcome, while a classic gamer technique, would detract from the DA:O experience.

This is my approach too. I even extend this to most battles, and try to muddle through as best as I can (on Normal), sucking up the injuries and treating them as best as I am able.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

From the discussion here, it sounds like they sound the "moral equivalence" klaxon a bit more than I'd be willing to stomach. So thanks to everyone for saving me some money.

Meh. One man's moral equivalence is another man's reality. The U.S. is not always right regardless of might. The world is not black and white. No reason video games should be either.

Regarding sequels:

We're all kind of hypocrite when it comes to sequels. We all want the new IP and whine when we don't get them. But we all run out and buy the sequels because we like familiarity and we all like more of the same from time to time.

Also when new IP does come out that does do something new and different, like a Mirror's Edge, it does seem like a good percentage of the Enthusiast Press and self-identified Hardcore Gamers go out of their way to sh*t on it for not doing things the exact same way as Game X. But then they cry about how originality is gone from gaming. Then they run-out and buy a JRPG that hasn't changed in any real form since OG Dragon Quest.

In short, the Gaming Community is a hot mess of contradiction and dissonance.

So when people cry about too many sequels I don't really buy it. And sequels, in theory, don't bother me. In EA's case I'd much rather see a Dead Space 2, for instance, than Dante's Inferno or The Ripper or whatever other New IP abortion Visceral Games is cooking up.

larrymadill wrote:

Regarding sequels:

We're all kind of hypocrite when it comes to sequels. We all want the new IP and whine when we don't get them. But we all run out and buy the sequels because we like familiarity and we all like more of the same from time to time.

That's a beautiful generalization.

larrymadill wrote:

Also when new IP does come out that does do something new and different, like a Mirror's Edge, it does seem like a good percentage of the Enthusiast Press and self-identified Hardcore Gamers go out of their way to sh*t on it for not doing things the exact same way as Game X. But then they cry about how originality is gone from gaming. Then they run-out and buy a JRPG that hasn't changed in any real form since OG Dragon Quest.

I dunno, all I remember reading is that the story was a bit lame, that gunplay didn't work well, and it was sometimes hard to find your way around--fair criticisms I think.

It's not terribly surprising that the first iteration of the concept would fail in some ways. I hope a sequel to Mirror's Edge comes out, as I'm sure it will be an improvement.

I think there needs to be a distinction between a sequel expanding on a fresh IP and continual, ongoing iteration. I understand the sentiment when people talk about games like Uncharted 2 and Assassin's Creed 2 (among other games over the last couple of years) "turning the tide" for sequels, but I still don't think it's enough to completely push the Tony Hawks, the Guitar Heroes, the Mega Mans, the Street Fighters, or any of a dozen different sports franchises out of the collective gaming headspace. Those are the series that spring to mind when enthusiasts express fears about creative stagnation in game development, I think, and it's only irony that all of them have entries -- usually the second or third in the series -- that took the proverbial leap to the next level.

That being said, I agree that there's a sense of romanticism surrounding "original games" and I think it has something to do with some of the greatest games of all time coming from brand new IP. "Sure", we think aloud, "why don't game companies make an original game like SimCity again?", often times overlooking or forgetting that those all-time classics refined ideas that emerged before in another (perhaps more flawed) game, like a Raid on Bungeling Bay.

What it comes down to is that we want good games. And sometimes it's hard to remember, in the face of something like Guitar Hero 5, that Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter II, and Doom were revolutionary by way of revision.

rabbit wrote:
Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

I'm into 10th minute of the podcast, and they still haven't gotten to MW2. What's WRONG with them!?

I know this is like you're favorite game Evar, but I think you

AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A WRITER.

I think what many people are overlooking is that bad games generally don't see sequels except under very strange circumstances, examples of which I can't think of right now (but I'm sure they exist).

Games that left you wanting more after finishing the original will always have it easier than games that felt complete (ie Bioshock) for the simple fact that the bar of expectations is set lower. If the original game left you wanting more the least it needs to do is exactly the same thing again, whereas the latter type of game must do something new to garner interest.