GWJ Conference Call Episode 166

Conference Call

Dante's Inferno, The Saboteur, PixelJunk Shooter, WoW 3.3 Patch, Dicks And Opinions, Your Emails and more!

This week what begins as a perfectly fine conversation about strong opinions turns into a vile ambush on Shawn Andrich by one Sean Sands. What a dick. 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

"PodunkStump" (Ian Dorsch) - www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:32:18
"Los Pistoleros" (Ian Dorsch) - www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:50:57

Comments

Minarchist wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:

The only difference I can see between The Longest Journey and Emerald City Confidential that would make the former "truly great" is the fact that there was a big publisher behind it who paid to have it put on a shelf. I'm not sure what difference you're seeing between them.

Well, firstly, it's one game, and one game does not a genre make (Wadjet Eye has a couple other good games, but for the sake of argument). Secondly, it could have been done on King's Quest VII's engine, except Emerald City has even less graphical flair in cut-scenes and the like. The plot got a little loose at times, although the characters were strong and easy to empathize with. Again, as I said in the previous post, it's not to say that there aren't flashes of brilliance from small indie studios still in the genre, but it's missing the general level of steady competence that larger teams can bring. Not to mention the overall boost that bigger budgets can give in writing, graphics, etc.

But now you're just making me repeat myself. I'm going to start sounding like a dick. :)

Well those are fair complaints. I'd say I run across at least half a dozen promising looking adventure games a month when I'm surveying content for Fringe Busters, however. So I don't think it's a singular flash of brilliance. There's Zombie Cow Studios, for starters. Ben Chandler's Adventure Games are generally short but also brilliant. There's a ton of freeware adventure games released all the time.

I'm not really seeing a lack of polish with alot of these. I am seeing a lack of length, sure, and better voice acting, but I'm not seeing bad games. I guess that's the difference then, the length and voice acting you get with bigger budgets?

Back when my son was playing hockey, a full-on parental war almost broke out at an outdoor rink because the opposing team's parents thought our team was "taught" to play dirty. I calmly told the other team's parents that "our players are not dirty, they just aren't very good."

Sometimes I feel forum discussions/arguments/opinions fit this scenario.

Baaspei wrote:

Sometimes I feel forum discussions/arguments/opinions fit this scenario.

Once I was late to a lunch with coworkers because I was participating in an ongoing forum debate on some silly subject or another. When asked why I was late, I happily gave them the honest answer, that I was debating with people on the internet. When asked who was winning the debate, I also gave the honest answer - that in internet arguments, there are no winners, only losers.

Bullion Cube wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

I don't have a problem with religious imagery in any medium. In fact, some of my favorite pieces of visual art are explicitly religious. There's an exploitation factor in Dante's Inferno that I'm having a problem with, though... as if throwing crosses at demons makes religion into a Mt. Dew commercial. Is it hypocritical of me to feel like this about Dante's and not about God of War?

The first thing that comes to mind here is that Cristianity is YOUR religion, whether you follow it or not, and God of War followed a mythology more thoroughly recognized as fiction.

Kratos beating up Ares has a different feel to our society than Dante beating up Lucifer. One's a lot closer to home. In a way that's exciting, if not a bit more uncomfortable.

I wouldn't call it "exciting." Though I do wonder how I'd view God of War if I worshipped Zeus, and who's to say I shouldn't?

PyromanFO wrote:

I'm not really seeing a lack of polish with alot of these. I am seeing a lack of length, sure, and better voice acting, but I'm not seeing bad games. I guess that's the difference then, the length and voice acting you get with bigger budgets?

I think that's part of it, yes. I would certainly agree with you that there are good games coming out; just check the thread. Maybe it's not length and VA so much as depth. I'm jumping firmly into the realm of opinion, here, so feel free to disagree with everything I say, but most modern adventure games don't innovate at all, and don't feel like there's any real depth to them. Part of that blame I'd lay squarely at the feet of adventure gamers, since they continue to buy the same Point-and-click titles with the same puzzles wrapped in a slightly different storyline with a slightly different environment that we've had since the SCUMM days; but part also belongs to the developers, who don't want to really stretch the bounds for fear of alienating their already small buyer base.

The economist in me just thinks that were prominence and budgets restored to the genre, you'd start to see more depth and innovation in the field. Or at the very least, it could be updated to modern standards. Nowadays we expect variation even within the same genre; Bioshock, Half-life 2 and Halo 3 aren't the same game, I don't think. You could even lump in Fallout 3 or Mass Effect depending on how generous you want to be. We expect meaningful decisions that (hopefully) impact the game world. To my knowledge no one's even attempted this in the adventure world, although I have no idea why; I'd pay a lot of money to play a P&C game like that. But to write huge branching dialogue trees like that would take a ton of time (money); planning out thoughtful, deep puzzles takes a lot of time (money); changing gameplay and/or art assets from what is traditional takes a lot of manpower (money); even creating a tutorial for new and/or unusual gameplay features can be a not insignificant drain on the coffers.

In other words, I think there's more to it than "We'd get the same games, only better!" I probably wasn't explaining myself very well earlier. It's like, you can see the potential in other games, it just isn't being applied where you want it. So arguing that there are good, comparable adventure games out now feels condescending. I don't think anyone means it that way, really, but when you look at the surfeit of amazing games that are coming out right now, even such disparate titles as Dragon Age, Forza 3, Uncharted 2, etc., to say that a game that would rank probably 50th on the Über Gamez of 2009 list is a shining example of genre feels like trying to convince a little kid that his matchbox car is as fun as the hotrod Daddy's working on in the garage. If the talent, time, and money applied to those games could be applied to these...that's what I want.

All I can think of with the talk about Bayonetta is it's just another Bloodrayne sex seller.

Minarchist, Heavy Rain seems to fit exactly your definition of a modern, big-budget adventure game. It's not point-and-click, no, but otherwise it seems to fall squarely in line with your desires.

adam.greenbrier wrote:

Minarchist, Heavy Rain seems to fit exactly your definition of a modern, big-budget adventure game. It's not point-and-click, no, but otherwise it seems to fall squarely in line with your desires.

I know, and it's on my wishlist, but right now my lack of PS3 is a major hurdle. Hopefully the budget will be able to support it by the time The Last Guardian comes out, I dunno.

Latrine wrote:

Dick overload.

It’s amazing how I often I hear that phrase.

Anyway,

Certis wrote:
adam wrote:

Personally, I got the impression that Bayonetta was so over-the-top in its sexuality because it was meant to be simultaneously titillating and a parody of video game titillation. As others have said: how do you not laugh?

Hey, I'm with you on that point and said as much in the show. It's those other clowns on the you gotta convince.

For me this is a potential difference between Bayonetta and Dante’s. I get the impression, and the marketing aids in this feeling, that so many of the choices in Dante’s are made out of cynicism. Boobs to appeal to the basest level—not to develop character, progress the story, or to serve to fill the atmosphere (it seems The Saboteur may be using them effectively for atmosphere, but haven’t played it).

I don't think a lot of gamers are prudes (although I'm sure there is an element) but I sense, especially this year, a craving from the Game Fan / "Hardcore" Gamer community a real desire to be taken seriously. And some times its getting kind of obnoxious.

When the "No Russian" sequence in MW2 got leaked on nearly every message board there were gamers freakin' out about how it would be perceived by the larger media. The worst was predicted: Glenn Beck would descend from the Heavens to Smote NeoGaf, we'd be branded as sadists, Dogs and Cats Living together. None of that happened and MW2 will probably be one of the top selling games this year.

But I do think some Gamers have gotten overly image conscious now and they seem concerned that the legitimacy gaming has earned over the years will somehow get yanked away by too much violence or an untoward set of tits in a popular game.

adam wrote:

Personally, I got the impression that Bayonetta was so over-the-top in its sexuality because it was meant to be simultaneously titillating and a parody of video game titillation. As others have said: how do you not laugh?

The problem here is the same problem that Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazzard. Yeah, you're making fun of the fact that your game has another bland tutorial, but guess what? Your game has another bland tutorial.

I've become skeptical of the word "satire" of late. It seems to have morphed from a good word describing commentary of the human condition through ridiculousness into a word people use when they want to justify having made something shocking, prurient or base.

There was some guy who called himself an artist to had a cohort shoot him in the shoulder with a rifle in public. He called it satire and art, and the establishment bought it. As far as I'm concerned, he can call it whatever he wants, it doesn't make him less of an idiot.

I've been voting with my dollars for years on the issue of excessive boobage in games. I didn't buy God of War, and I won't be buying Bayonetta or Saboteur. There was a time in my life where I might have been okay with the way women are portrayed in those games, but getting married and having a daughter has this bizarre way of making you think of women as people instead of ambulatory marital aids. I'm with Rob. I'm no feminist, but I know misogyny when I see it.

adam.greenbrier wrote:
Certis wrote:

Being OK with Bayonetta and not OK with Bioware's take would strike me as equally strange.

I'm okay with both.

So you're ok with the treatment of the ladies like that but not all of the swearing of House of the Dead: Overkill? Just checking.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I've become skeptical of the word "satire" of late. It seems to have morphed from a good word describing commentary of the human condition through ridiculousness into a word people use when they want to justify having made something shocking, prurient or base.

This. One thousand times this.

Jiggling titties is not satire.

There was some guy who called himself an artist to had a cohort shoot him in the shoulder with a rifle in public. He called it satire and art, and the establishment bought it. As far as I'm concerned, he can call it whatever he wants, it doesn't make him less of an idiot.

Are you talking about this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szhy-...

Certis wrote:

Oh-Ten

That's what I'm talking about!

stevenmack wrote:
Dysplastic wrote:
Bullion Cube wrote:

Do we have to assume that sexual content is necessarily juvenile?

Not necessarily, but in my experience it's certainly been so. The "relationships" you form in games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age have seemed to me to be really, really shallow pathways to a CG sex-scene. I'd be interested to hear some examples of video-game treatments of sexuality that you consider mature, in the non-juvenile sense.

I thought the relationship stuff in Baldurs Gate 2 was actually fairly mature and had satisfyingly epilogues, particularily with Jaheira (although I remember the character I was playing at the time was human - and thus dramatically less long lived - so the ending was not a particularly happy one in my case ).

But yes, I agree that in more modern Bioware games the relationships all seem to gear up to "the sex scene" and then fizzle out afterwards, when really that's the point when they should start to get interesting (again, for example in BG2 ,

Spoiler:

later in the game, your beloved gets kidnapped by Bhodi(?) the vampire as revenge for your interfering with Irenicus. I can't remember much of anything happening in Mass Effect, Jade Empire or even Dragon Age that was similar.

I can't comment on the Liara side of things, but I was pleasantly surprised with how Bioware handled the relationship between the protagonist and Ashely in Mass Effect. I mean, it's not the greatest love story of all time, but it wasn't just a quick & easy excuse to show some cgi ass.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I've become skeptical of the word "satire" of late. It seems to have morphed from a good word describing commentary of the human condition through ridiculousness into a word people use when they want to justify having made something shocking, prurient or base.

Thank you.

I had a post here, but on second thought, I don't really feel like carrying this argument onward. I've had my say. Move along, nothing to see here!

I wonder why folks have such a hard time with a few breasts but have no problem with killing dozens or hundreds of people in games like MW2, Borderlands, and Dragon Age just to name a few. Why is virtual nudity or sex bad, but killing okay?

Arclite wrote:

I wonder why folks have such a hard time with a few breasts but have no problem with killing dozens or hundreds of people in games like MW2, Borderlands, and Dragon Age just to name a few. Why is virtual nudity or sex bad, but killing okay?

It's a cultural thing.

Damn puritans.

Arclite wrote:

I wonder why folks have such a hard time with a few breasts but have no problem with killing dozens or hundreds of people in games like MW2, Borderlands, and Dragon Age just to name a few. Why is virtual nudity or sex bad, but killing okay?

This isn't a reason but rather something to spark discussion. Killing people is something that almost nobody does, wheras nudity and sex is part of almost everyone's life at some point or another.

Stengah wrote:
Arclite wrote:

I wonder why folks have such a hard time with a few breasts but have no problem with killing dozens or hundreds of people in games like MW2, Borderlands, and Dragon Age just to name a few. Why is virtual nudity or sex bad, but killing okay?

It's a cultural thing.

Damn puritans.

It's a combination of cultural and other factors, though I disagree that violence is generally acceptable. Rockstar has proven that you can get a backlash for making games that are too violent.

I'm what some people might label a prude, so maybe I'll take a whack at explaining my reasoning.

Violence in games tends to have context that makes it acceptable. Most of the games out there, despite what you hear on CNN, have pretty justifiable action. Your character is usually someone in the wrong place at the wrong time who has to defend himself and/or stop some greater evil from taking over/destroying/stealing something important. Doom is the example everyone goes back to, so let's use that. You're killing a lot of things in that; zombies, monsters, larger monsters, floating pumpkins, etc. Your character is just some dude who happens to be left after a massacre, and is humanity's last hope. It would be immoral not to kill everything in sight.

The games that generate backlash over violence tend to be games where the violence is not justified within the confines of the story, or where the story makes it unacceptable. Manhunt is one example. Postal is another. These are games that reward you for murder, not killing. Just because Manhunt and Splinter Cell have similar stealth action doesn't make them equally violent, which is why Manhunt got banned in Australia but Splinter Cell didn't.

Violence is also a classic vehicle for storytelling, and has been since humanity's inception. The best stories always have some sort of conflict, some sort of battle whether that battle be literal (man versus man) or metaphorical (man versus self). Sex is different. It's not something that is used to tell a story. At best it's a motivation for the characters.

The Iliad is a prime example of what I'm talking about. The Iliad is an epic poem about the battle of Troy. What happens as the observer listens is violence. But the motivation for the violence, when it boils down to its essence, is sex: Menelaus wants his wife back, and sends Achilles and his armies out to sack Troy.

The sex in the iliad is largely implicit, while the violence is explicit. When video games start throwing magical strippers with guns in their shoes at us, or when Kratos has a threesome after hacking some of Ares' minions to bits, then both the sex and the violence are explicit. That juxtaposition makes people uncomfortable, and it's wholly uneccessary.

You can tell a story with violence, though it is by no means necessary. You can't really tell as story with sex, and when people try it just turns out as porn.

Then there's the whole issue of me believing sex being something special shared out of love between two people that shouldn't be commodotized. That's also a factor.

Anyway, that's a rough cut of my prudish motivations. It's not simple puritanism, or hypocrisy. I can't speak for anyone else who objects to such content.

Arclite wrote:

I wonder why folks have such a hard time with a few breasts but have no problem with killing dozens or hundreds of people in games like MW2, Borderlands, and Dragon Age just to name a few. Why is virtual nudity or sex bad, but killing okay?

See I knew someone would say this, and trust me, I don't have a problem with nudity or sex. It just needs to be done right. And I completely understand that what's right for me isn't necessarily the same for everyone else. That certainly isn't going to stop me from voicing my opinion though.

As far as I am concerned Bayonetta is trash. I don't care how good the game actually is (something I am still unsure of by the way) because from what I saw in the demo, the game is just an excuse to parade a caricature of a women around on screen so that the player can get off. The game literally freezes and takes pictures (I assume for later perusal) when the character is caught in compromising positions. I have also heard there is a mode which allows you to play the game with one hand. Satire this is not. More like soft core porn.

Than you have Dante's Inferno, which actually has nudity. I just played the demo today, or I guess yesterday at the time of this post. From what I saw in the demo, I think the game could have done without the nudity. I felt like it didn't add to any of the scenes I saw, but it didn't feel totally out of place either. The worst I could say was that it was more of a distraction than anything else.

I can just imagine the developers thinking, hey with all the gore in the game there is no way we get less than a Mature rating so lets throw some breasts in there too. It did however feel like they were trying to be somewhat tasteful about the whole thing, and unlike the Bayonetta demo Dante's Inferno didn't feel like it was trying to sell me sex the whole time. So I guess it has that going for it.

So there you have it. I was more OK with the game that actually had nudity in it than the one that only alluded to it. It's not totally black and white with me. Some things just put me off, and Bayonetta is one them.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

It's a combination of cultural and other factors, though I disagree that violence is generally acceptable. Rockstar has proven that you can get a backlash for making games that are too violent.

Millions in sales and the top rating for a game ever on Metacritic? I hope you're not referring to GTA, because that's more of a counter-example than anything.

Evo wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

It's a combination of cultural and other factors, though I disagree that violence is generally acceptable. Rockstar has proven that you can get a backlash for making games that are too violent.

Millions in sales and the top rating for a game ever on Metacritic? I hope you're not referring to GTA, because that's more of a counter-example than anything.

He said backlash. We all agree that sex and violence sells.

The reason violence in video games is OK but sex is not is because fantasy violence can be well produced and fun, but the sex is never anything more than either laughable or profoundly creepy.

Combat also seems to lend itself to various gameplay mechanics. You can't really say the same thing about gratuitous nudity or humping.

Jayhawker wrote:
Evo wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

It's a combination of cultural and other factors, though I disagree that violence is generally acceptable. Rockstar has proven that you can get a backlash for making games that are too violent.

Millions in sales and the top rating for a game ever on Metacritic? I hope you're not referring to GTA, because that's more of a counter-example than anything.

He said backlash. We all agree that sex and violence sells.

In that case it's not backlash, it's a footnote.

I just remembered something; Demiurge's Twitter feed promised us old-school hip-hop references. All we got was Carly Simon. FAIL.

Rat Boy wrote:

I just remembered something; Demiurge's Twitter feed promised us old-school hip-hop references. All we got was Carly Simon. FAIL.

Besides, we already established that song was about me.

garion333 wrote:
OzymandiasAV wrote:

I'm doing better this time, right? No quote boxes. And a lower word count too!

Slight derail, but Ozy, your posts may be long and you do use the quote boxes, but I've always found you to be in the not-dick category.

That first post was more intended as self-parody than any kind of anxiety, but I still appreciate the comment.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Violence in games tends to have context that makes it acceptable. Most of the games out there, despite what you hear on CNN, have pretty justifiable action. Your character is usually someone in the wrong place at the wrong time who has to defend himself and/or stop some greater evil from taking over/destroying/stealing something important. Doom is the example everyone goes back to, so let's use that. You're killing a lot of things in that; zombies, monsters, larger monsters, floating pumpkins, etc. Your character is just some dude who happens to be left after a massacre, and is humanity's last hope. It would be immoral not to kill everything in sight.

The games that generate backlash over violence tend to be games where the violence is not justified within the confines of the story, or where the story makes it unacceptable. Manhunt is one example. Postal is another. These are games that reward you for murder, not killing. Just because Manhunt and Splinter Cell have similar stealth action doesn't make them equally violent, which is why Manhunt got banned in Australia but Splinter Cell didn't.

I agree with most of the points regarding context in this post, but I think there is an additional issue of the fidelity involved in both sex and violence in video games.

Even though the actions taken in violence and killing in video games have been gaining increased fidelity over the last few years, they're still very far removed from the actual act of killing somebody. Any of the acts performed in this case are still performed against a virtual being/monster/whatever and, as a result, are somewhat easier to dismiss as some sort of sinister implication of the player's desires.

With sex in video games, however, there's not as much of a gap because the core action "taken" here - sexual objectification - is almost exactly the same as real life. The only difference is that the T&A is virtual, and that I think that difference is much more difficult to reconcile for some, much harder to dismiss than carving up a 3D model of a zombie with a virtual chainsaw.

In other words, I would propose that we're farther along in the "realism" involved in titillation and there's consequently a bit more of a reaction to it vs. violence, where the reaction still seems more rooted in the context behind the actions taken.

mrtomaytohead wrote:
adam.greenbrier wrote:
Certis wrote:

Being OK with Bayonetta and not OK with Bioware's take would strike me as equally strange.

I'm okay with both.

So you're ok with the treatment of the ladies like that but not all of the swearing of House of the Dead: Overkill? Just checking.

I'm not okay with the swearing in House of the Dead: Overkill because I'm looking for a lightgun game to play co-operatively with my wife, and she's put off by excessive profanity.