GWJ Conference Call Episode 169

Conference Call

Catching Up On Holiday Games, League of Legends, An Interview With Gaming Legend Sid Meier, Social Network Gaming, Your Emails and more!

This week, Julian sits down with Sid Meier to talk about the rise of Facebook, the future of strategy gaming, and the inevitability of co-op. Afterward, the crew expand on the future of social gaming. 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

"Beautiful Women" (Secret Mountain) - www.sans-concept.com - 0:33:59
"Arpeg" (Tom Quinn) - http://thomashquinn.googlepages.com - 1:11:39

Comments

Holy carp! Sid Meier, nice catch! Haven't listened to it yet, but I can say with authority that you could pretty much make armpit-fart noises for the other 60 minutes of the podcast and it would be considered a success.

Actually, that would be awesome.

So does this appearance by Sid Meier mean he has finally jumped the shark?

I jest, I jest. I'm sure it will be 90 minutes of sweet, Philadelphia cream cheesey goodness.

hubbinsd wrote:

Holy carp! Sid Meier, nice catch! Haven't listened to it yet, but I can say with authority that you could pretty much make armpit-fart noises for the other 60 minutes of the podcast and it would be considered a success.

Actually, that would be awesome.

I hope that isn't a dare.

Man, GWCC opens the year WITH A BANG!

Hey guys, great show. I completely understand why my audio email wasn't played and want to give a big thanks to Corey for giving Gray Matter a shoutout. Which was my primary intent. I'm curious, did anyone else mention Gray Matter or was I the only one? I'm really hoping this game gets some more marketing and publicity soon. I'd hate to see it fail. It's supposed to be the first game in a trilogy after all.

Grady wrote:

Hey guys, great show. I completely understand why my audio email wasn't played and want to give a big thanks to Corey for giving Gray Matter a shoutout. Which was my primary intent. I'm curious, did anyone else mention Gray Matter or was I the only one? I'm really hoping this game gets some more marketing and publicity soon. I'd hate to see it fail. It's supposed to be the first game in a trilogy after all.

You were the only one I saw, but the game's been on and off my radar for a bit. I'm a big Jane Jenson fan.

And send in more audio emails! We didn't use this one because of show length, but we'll try to work others in.

Please do enlighten us what exactly happened there at the end of the concall--not that I doubt Demiurge's mastery, I just want to know what he's a master of.

Facebook and gaming--I can't imagine I'd ever use it to talk about games or meet other gamers myself, unless they come up with a PS3-specific app that lets you launch into games directly with a bunch of other people. Incidentally, the Farming app is huge in China, on our own version of Facebook called Kaixin Wang. My coworkers are quite addicted to it. It's a pretty clever site, actually--when you sign up, you start as a slave to whichever friend invited you to join and you have to earn money (or steal it) to buy yourself freedom. You can also own cars and steal other people's parking spaces.

Of course, even if the PS3 received such an app, I still won't use it because I (and I use "I" interchangeably with "China" "Chinese people" and "Chinese Communist Party") decided that Facebook, along with youtube and Twitter, and most major blog platforms, and all porn, must be prevented from entering Chinese cyberspace.

Sometimes I do some really senseless things.

Best. Blooper. Ever.

Nice catch getting the Sid Meier interview. I'm curious to see how they implement Civ as a Facebook game.

Am I the only one that kinda feels like Julian asked all the questions except he one I am actually interested in? Precisely, or even vaguely how are the game mechanics supposed to look? Will it be a traditional RTS format just with very simple models and textures? Or will it be more like Ikariam, Travian, and Astroid Empires? If the latter than count me out. Not only am I not interested in those types of games anymore but i am even less interested in re-signing up for Facebook to play those types of games.

Balaamsdonkey wrote:

Am I the only one that kinda feels like Julian asked all the questions except he one I am actually interested in? Precisely, or even vaguely how are the game mechanics supposed to look? Will it be a traditional RTS format just with very simple models and textures? Or will it be more like Ikariam, Travian, and Astroid Empires? If the latter than count me out. Not only am I not interested in those types of games anymore but i am even less interested in re-signing up for Facebook to play those types of games.

I kind of thought that as well, but I also remembered that GWJ's portion of the interview dealt with what Julian didn't use in his GamePro feature...so perhaps this might be some extra incentive to pick up the upcoming issue of GamePro to find out more.

To be super clear: when you do a preview-interview with someone, there are always conditions about what's on and off topic. I frankly got away with murder, because "gameplay specifics" were off limits, and I think I elicited quite a bit of info we hadn't had yet. My honest sense is: they're still figuring it out.

I feel fairly confident that it won't just be Travian with a Civ skin. I also don't think it will just be hypersimplistic Farmville gameplay and graphics. But I don't have any PROOF of that.

I bet they are copying Evony and just reskinning it. They could call it Civony. Then the internet is complete.

rabbit wrote:

To be super clear: when you do a preview-interview with someone, there are always conditions about what's on and off topic. I frankly got away with murder, because "gameplay specifics" were off limits, and I think I elicited quite a bit of info we hadn't had yet. My honest sense is: they're still figuring it out.

I feel fairly confident that it won't just be Travian with a Civ skin. I also don't think it will just be hypersimplistic Farmville gameplay and graphics. But I don't have any PROOF of that.

I don't want to sound like a whiney bitch, or ungrateful for the interview because I did enjoy it, but I think a good amount of the listeners were pretty curious what exactly a Civ facebook game would play like and if that was to be a topic that was hands-off why wasn't that at least mentioned before or after the interview? I know it might not sound like it matters but I wouldn't have been waiting for it the whole time nor would I have felt disappointment.

As I said earlier I don't have Facebook any longer so what exactly is Farmville like? I'll provide a scale for what I am thinking: Is it as slow and limited movements like Travian or is it more action based and in need of attention like an AoE game? I'm not talking about content per se, but the general interaction executed by the player.

I don't mean to harp on the subject so that will be my last mention of it because the interview was quite well done, and it does give me more reason to pick up GamePro this month (aside from J. Davison being the VP! I'm a sucker for an accent).

Where's the poll on the site for who has played a version of Civ? Even I, who have never learned to play it have tried every version of Civ.

By the way, I think I'm the guy with the 35 games list including Kane and Lynch 2. The reason I'm looking for it is because it could be a good game, not that the first one was great. It has potential and I'd like to see if they make good use of it this time.
Also, am I the only person in the world who doesn't really like anything Nintendo has put out, ever?

Balaamsdonkey wrote:

I don't want to sound like a whiney bitch, or ungrateful for the interview because I did enjoy it, but I think a good amount of the listeners were pretty curious what exactly a Civ facebook game would play like and if that was to be a topic that was hands-off why wasn't that at least mentioned before or after the interview? I know it might not sound like it matters but I wouldn't have been waiting for it the whole time nor would I have felt disappointment.

I dunno, I think the beauty of an interview is seeing where the conversation goes, and I certainly don't mind leaving a little something to be desired if it's going to pique people's interest about the product.

As listeners, I don't think we're entitled to know why our media isn't the way we want it to be if we're not 100% satisfied with it. If they'd prefaced the interview with the things you were asking for, I think it would have left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Mentioning the reality of the terms regarding why IP can't presently be discussed would have struck a dissonant chord to an otherwise interesting view into the mind of Sid Meyer.

Balaamsdonkey wrote:

I don't want to sound like a whiney bitch, or ungrateful for the interview because I did enjoy it, but I think a good amount of the listeners were pretty curious what exactly a Civ facebook game would play like and if that was to be a topic that was hands-off why wasn't that at least mentioned before or after the interview?

Do you really want to read a litany of the entire pre-interview process before you listen to every podcast? "This week, Julian sits down with Sid Meier, and tries to dance around the following pre-negotiated land-mines while sticking to the 15-minute window available."

Frankly, I got more out of them on the gameplay front than I expected!

Took me a while to listen to the same thing but I remember it going a bit like this..

"There is no demo for Pixel Junk Shooter, that bothers me, no demo, no buy."

To an hour later..

"Do demos even matter to people any more?"

And about the Facebook thing, it sucks that the internet is being locked down like this. Civ coming out for Facebook is like it coming out as an exclusive for a console. I don't have a Facebook account and don't plan on getting one anytime soon. Now that Facebook is getting exclusive content that us outsiders wont have access to, it's sad and is doing a big part is destroying what the internet is today. Seems like that in the future if I want to play games or participate in communities l will need to sign a contract with a corporation and allow them full access to all of my data. Don't like the company or what they do? Sucks for you, the internet is walled off now, outsiders who don't accept their stamp need not apply.

Sign up for Facebook, don't friend anyone, don't put your information up there. It's Free!!!

LordJezo wrote:

Now that Facebook is getting exclusive content that us outsiders wont have access to, it's sad and is doing a big part is destroying what the internet is today.

Um. By this logic any place you need to establish an identity to play a game is "locked down" and sad. Steam, Twitter, GameSpy, Posting at GWJ. There's no "lockdown" here. It's simply an installed base. Would you rather develop all the infrastructure to do friendlist management, group discovery, scorekeeping, matchmaking, etc. from scratch, and then go try and find a way to market your game without storefronts, or would you like to use these free tools and tap into the largest registered user base on the planet.

Seems like a rather obvious sell to me. If *I* was a developer, I wouldn't want to spend all that money reinventing the wheel. It's like saying "I'll develop an Xbox game, but I'll start my own friendslist system and make everyone register an account with me." Ridiculous on the face of it.

YOU may not like it, but more people play games on facebook every day than on every other registered user system (console or PC) combined. With a decimal point. Given that the system is entirely free, for both users and developers, I'm not sure I see the great horrible tragedy. Most good facebook games are actually just flash based stand alone programs that use facebook as a connection point. Facebook doesn't own the games, the IP, or the underlying game platform. They're just acting as the community system for it.

LordJezo qouting someone on the CC wrote:

"Do demos even matter to people any more?"

I haven't gotten to listen yet, but to me, absolutely. During the recent steam sale, the demo sold me on the Shadowgrounds double pack ($4 for 2 games!) and the demo for Defense Grid The Awakening caused me to pass on the game as I felt I got enough of the game from it, among other things. Also, I just passed on the old Prince of Persia games because I've never tried them / didn't have a demo. Demos matter a lot to me. I also never bought Braid because I tried the demo and found the basic mechanic to be just 'ok'. I probably should have never bought World of Goo as for some reason I can't get into it, but with the name your own price, and what I paid, it's not a problem.

The Wii Ware demos that are offered have convinced me I'm not missing out on anything I among the games they offered, but I would have been willing to buy one or two had they turned out appealing to me.

Also, I would have never bought an Overlord game had a former roommate of mine had it. Now I own every game with that name on it except the DS version, which doesn't count.

The demo for Too Human made me want to play the full game despite all of the naysayers.

Demos are huge for me.

liquid wrote:

By the way, I think I'm the guy with the 35 games list including Kane and Lynch 2. The reason I'm looking for it is because it could be a good game, not that the first one was great. It has potential and I'd like to see if they make good use of it this time.
Also, am I the only person in the world who doesn't really like anything Nintendo has put out, ever?

I think that, despite the marketing garbage, Kane and Lynch was trying to do some neat narrative things. I hope the sequel picks up that trail.

And I confess I struggle to enjoy or even understand the appeal of many Nintendo games. But it is ours not to reason why--ours but to jump and die.

Looks like a lot of what I wanted to say has already been covered, but I will repeat things anyway.

Sid Meier! OMG! Rabbit, you are an interview hero. Harmonix should make a game based on you, where crazy good interviews come down a track and you have to hit questions timed to come down the track to match with the interviewee. Who else can you get? I think you are really only missing Bobby Kotick, Cliff Blezinski, Warren Spector, Jade Raymond, Reggie Fils-Ami, and Shigero Miamoto for recognized names in gaming - and most of them are not developers. It was a really good interview, and Firaxis is awesome for letting you use so much of it. Is what you said 100% accurate, though? Are Sid (love that you are on a first-name basis with him), Soren (ditto) and Brian Reynolds really now exclusive Facebook developers? I really hope at least one of them comes back to really deep PC games - I want a Civ 5! It seems like Civ Network would work well as a constant Pitboss game, and the "seasons" as you were hypothesizing would be based around the longevity of your nation. When you "retire" a nation, or it gets eaten, wiped out, etc., your score would be set up globally.

Demos: I think they are hugely important. This sounds like piling on, but most of the games I bought in the last year were due to demos. A few years ago I had a LAN party where all we played was the Aliens vs Predator multiplayer demo. Every single person there bought the game. A bad demo will hurt sales, and a unrepresentative demo can certainly generate bad will, but a good demo sells games - like rabbit said, it is an art.

Nintendo fan-boy Cory: Fan Boy isn't quite right, but you are the only guy on the CC that regularly talks about Nintendo's games. No reason to be defensive about it, Nintendo makes good games. Nintendo's "innovations" are certainly in hardware, no question there. However, they do a really good job of innovating and polishing titles, then putting their starring mascot on them. The fact that Mario 64 starred a red-hat wearing plumber does not negate the fact that the game defined 3rd person cameras in its generation, just like the Kart racing genre was not an innovative approach to racing because it had Mario in it. Besides, Nintendo has made Pikmin (Miamoto's gardening fetish!) recently and I look forward to more (good) games in the RTS on a console genre.

And no Aliens vs Predator love in the email?

Bullion Cube wrote:

Sign up for Facebook, don't friend anyone, don't put your information up there. It's Free!!!

This will be my tactic. I've so far shunned Facebook for it's stated purpose, although I have a basically anonymous, zero friend account. I shall be using said account when Civ Network comes out for sure!

In the meantime, anyone have any links or suggestions for any of the other "free to play web based strategy games" that were alluded to in the podcast? I've not been able to find many interesting ones, and could use another time filler.

Took me a while to listen to the same thing but I remember it going a bit like this..

"There is no demo for Pixel Junk Shooter, that bothers me, no demo, no buy."

To an hour later..

"Do demos even matter to people any more?"

I haven't bought Pixel Junk Shooter yet because there is no demo. The guys told me to buy it anyway. They didn't wait for a demo.

So later on, I asked them if they think demos matter.

The safe answer, for everyone, is to say that demos are important. Gamers want free content. I wonder, however, if that's really the case anymore. Ask yourself: Do you pick up games before a demo shows up? Do you buy XBLA or PSN games without checking out the trial? How often?

It's important to think about this. Digital distribution has made it easy enough to get a game on impulse, without spending 30 minutes in a demo making a buying decision. How many games did you buy during the Steam Holiday Sale that you'd never tried before?

Demiurge wrote:

How many games did you buy during the Steam Holiday Sale that you'd never tried before?

All of them.

I can think of more cases where playing the demo convinced me not to buy something, rather than buy it. Generally I only play a demo when I'm already interested in buying a game. I just don't have the time to play demos for games I'm not already fairly hot on.

Demo's do serve to generate buzz though. I hear about other people's impressions of a demo, especially pre-release, and it informs my impression of a game.

Speaking as someone on a limited budget with a less-than-powerful gaming PC, demos are extremely important to me. PC games that don't have a demo that are less than five years old (and sometimes even then) don't get purchased; I need to know whether or not the game is capable of running on my system. I've made a few exceptions to this in the last two years, and I got burned every time but once (with Cogs).

So far as XBLA, and even full Xbox 360, titles go, I play demos for everything that I can before making a purchase, and demos can go a long way toward turning a pass into a purchase. I'm looking to purchase both Bayonetta and Forza 3 sometime in the near future; I wouldn't have given either much attention if I hadn't been able to try them out first. I buy far fewer WiiWare titles than I am inclined to because they don't offer demos for the majority of their titles. I simply don't have enough spare cash to pick up games that I'm not reasonably sure I'll enjoy.

As a demonstration of how important demos can be, consider the success of "lite" versions of games on the iPhone/iPod Touch. Everything I've read about iPhone development has emphasized that sales increase when a demo version of your product is available, and most of the users I know will look for demo versions of a game if the full version of the game costs more than a few dollars.

Frankly, any company that doesn't carve out a little bit of time for a demo is doing itself a disservice. Even a completely bare-bones demo, like the white room demo for Fairytale Fights, can help customers find your product.

wordsmythe wrote:

And I confess I struggle to enjoy or even understand the appeal of many Nintendo games. But it is ours not to reason why--ours but to jump and die.

I think it really depends on where you started with Nintendo.

If you've tried to connect to a Nintendo product -- and especially a Mario-related product -- in the Charles Martinet era (from 1995 onwards), there are very good odds that you've encountered a product that has arguably tried a bit too hard to be kid-friendly. The core mechanics will usually remain elegant, in my opinion, but there's so much more noise that it can make it hard to enjoy.

I don't know that I've ever felt that opinion as strongly as I did when I played through New Super Mario Bros. Wii for the first time over the holiday break. If you break down and examine the gameplay on its own, I think you'll see the same strong pedigree that's been there throughout all of the core 2D Mario titles. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a very strong platformer. It also happens to be obnoxious.

When you put the disc in the console and click on the button to launch, you get an over-the-top Martinet declaration that this is NEWWWW SUPER MAAAARIO BROTHERS WHEEEEEEEEEE. As placid cartoon jazz plays in the background, you jump around in some hyper-cartoon realization of the Mario universe, shaking your wiimote to pick up objects, including a Toad that may have the most irritating vocal characterization I've ever possibly imagined. Goombas and Koopa Troopas stop mid-pace to dance and wave, all too well aware that they're just there to be flattened.

So much of what makes the 2D Mario formula work is still there, but I found myself actively tolerating the game as I played it and I'm an unabashed Mario fan.

Once upon a time, there was a sense to me that Mario was cool, not just in a "wow, this little guy can appeal to everybody" way, but in a "wow, this little guy can do everything" way. Super Mario Galaxy, with its gravity-defying superheroics and triumphant orchestral flair, captured the spirit the brand has really been lacking since Super Mario 64...or maybe even Super Mario Bros. 3, if you're a real curmudgeon (like me).

But now, even as a long-time Mario addict and a gameplay-first sort of person, I still found myself weighing New Super Mario Bros. Wii with Panzer General: Allied Assault at the bottom of my top 10 list vote for GWJ's community game of the year, considering the impact to the latter if the title screen fired up with some loud Martinet chirp in cartoon surreality. "PAAAAANZER GEN-ral ALLIED uh-SAULT, HOO HOO!"

When a dedicated fan of the series is having a hard time swallowing the way the game is presented, what does that mean for people coming into a Mario game for the first time?

Can anyone explain what the blooper was at the end? I couldn't make heads or tails of why everyone was laughing so hard.