GWJ Conference Call Episode 177

Conference Call

Heavy Rain, Heavy Rain Spoiler Section, Star Trek Online, Titan Quest, Everquest 2, Tense Gaming, Our Contest Winner, Your Emails and more!

This week Shawn, Julian and Elysium hold down the fort and talk about building tension in games, Heavy Rain and quite a lot more. Later in the show we do a 40 minute Heavy Rain spoiler section! It's the very last segment, so if you'd like to avoid spoilers it will be easy to skip. 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

"Sunflower" - Zoo (Workbench) - www.Workbench-music.com - 0:33:04
"Zoo (Dawn)" - Zoo (Workbench) - www.workbench-music.com - 0:47:14
"Zoo (Dusk)" - Zoo (Workbench) - www.workbench-music.com - 1:03:47

Comments

There are two kinds of tension: the kind that comes from story elements and the kind that comes from gameplay elements.

Story-based: the opening Scene in COD 4 with the sinking ship. This was incredible. I was blown away: you must push forward, you must follow the other soldiers or get lost and die, you must flee just at the right moment. It was intense. I hadn't been so tense in a shooter in a long time. But it was accomplished with a plot device: rescue the mcguffin from the sinking ship before you run out of time.

In XCom, the tension is built into the gameplay. Being both turn based and procedurally generated, they couldn't script tension the way COD does. You were put on the map to hunt aliens. You never knew where they were. They were powerful, you were weak, and the loss of a single character was traumatic. The creepy music and environments were added to this feeling. Each time an alien would step out of cover and disappear again, my heart would pound.

Similarly the Rainbow Six games also have great tension, since a single terrorist bullet can kill you. Rounding every corner, ascending every staircase, and opening every door was an event that could bring death. Good stuff.

On QTEs: I'm playing the first Mass Effect, and I can't imagine how they'd further the story otherwise, like when you get zapped by the Prothean beacon trying to push Ashley out of the way, or when Nihlus gets killed. I think they're used well, as they come in between set pieces, just when you could use a break. It works for me. One thing that helps is that the scenes are in-engine, not FMV, so you're never taken out of the world. And they're fairly short.

Arclite wrote:

There are two kinds of tension: the kind that comes from story elements and the kind that comes from gameplay elements.

Spot on Arclite. As someone who rarely plays story-based games, the gameplay tension is the type of tension that first comes to mind. In fact, the most tension I have ever felt in a game was while playing Football Manager 2007.

I'm serious.

(If you don't want to read about a guy getting overly emotional and unnecessarily descriptive about some obscure game he's put too much time into, move along).

I had built up the Canadian National Team by using my Newcastle club side as a de facto academy for Canadian players. Any promising Canadian in the game was signed, trained, and coached until they developed and moved on. Thus, I had an emotional attachment to the players in my national team squad.

Some success was had in my time as Canadian manager: A couple Gold Cups, getting out of the group stage in the World Cup on occasion. 2034 was a magical World Cup though. The game had it hosted in Canada, key Canadians were in their prime, and it was clear that in 4 years the squad would be considerably thinner. We ended up making a run, through the group stage, past France in semis and all the way to the finals. It was my best chance to win the World Cup in the game as Canada. Actually, it was probably my only chance. Only Argentina stood in our way. This was my chance to experience something that will probably never happen in my lifetime.

The match to this day is still the greatest experience I have ever had with a video game, but the tension was also colossal. I stood on my feet the whole match, unable to sit still. My incredible striker was coming deep and making Maradonan runs at the defense and just couldn't finish as each miss brought my hands to my face and me to my knees.

The nature of the game meant that, having made my substitutions, there was little to do but watch and hope that someone would come through and win it. I watched, right to the end, although I had to look away when it went to penalties.

I've never come close to experiencing anything like that. The match had many of the elements of tension mentioned in the podcast or in this thread: the lack of control, an attachment to the characters (i.e. the players), the knowledge that there was only one chance to succeed. Heck, I would even argue that there was somehow a story-based element because of the narrative I make up in my head when playing sports management games, but that might go too far.

I may have been watching little circles run around the pitch chasing a little checkered ball, but damned if I did not live and breathe every little movement from those tiny, numbered circles. I don't feel the tension when thinking about it right now, more of an emotional high, but the emotional investment I had for that one part of the video game was exactly like what one has when they're highly invested in an outcome of a sporting event. Now excuse me while I add a disclaimer to discourage you from reading this.

Arclite wrote:

On QTEs: I'm playing the first Mass Effect, and I can't imagine how they'd further the story otherwise, like when you get zapped by the Prothean beacon trying to push Ashley out of the way, or when Nihlus gets killed. I think they're used well, as they come in between set pieces, just when you could use a break. It works for me. One thing that helps is that the scenes are in-engine, not FMV, so you're never taken out of the world. And they're fairly short.

Those things happen without quick time events on the console version of ME1..... or at least as far as I remember....

Higgledy wrote:
Arclite wrote:

On QTEs: I'm playing the first Mass Effect, and I can't imagine how they'd further the story otherwise, like when you get zapped by the Prothean beacon trying to push Ashley out of the way, or when Nihlus gets killed. I think they're used well, as they come in between set pieces, just when you could use a break. It works for me. One thing that helps is that the scenes are in-engine, not FMV, so you're never taken out of the world. And they're fairly short.

Those things happen without quick time events on the console version of ME1..... or at least as far as I remember....

I've played on PC and console and there has never been a QTE when I've played. It's just a cinematic.

I listened to the podcast while playing [my free copy of, obtained from the recent giveaway] Peggle Nights and switched over to Torchlight at some point. This was pretty much my first time listening to the CC while playing a game. I'd say I missed a lot. I also tend to just go with the in-game sound track whenever possible. The exception being games like Project Gotham Racing 2 and Forza where it allowed a custom soundtrack in game and it just acts like a radio / cd while you're driving. Of course, PC games I could just mute the in game music and have a media player in the background playing, but I typically don't do that.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
Higgledy wrote:
Arclite wrote:

On QTEs: I'm playing the first Mass Effect, and I can't imagine how they'd further the story otherwise, like when you get zapped by the Prothean beacon trying to push Ashley out of the way, or when Nihlus gets killed. I think they're used well, as they come in between set pieces, just when you could use a break. It works for me. One thing that helps is that the scenes are in-engine, not FMV, so you're never taken out of the world. And they're fairly short.

Those things happen without quick time events on the console version of ME1..... or at least as far as I remember....

I've played on PC and console and there has never been a QTE when I've played. It's just a cinematic.

Actually, I interpreted a "Quicktime Event" to mean any time that control was taken from the player to convey some exposition in the story. Although I agree that switching from the game engine to full motion video is more jarring, doing it in-engine is also an interruption, since in both cases the player is reduced from active participant to passive receiver of static information. I.E. in both cases you are relegated to the role of TV-watcher.

Arclite wrote:

Actually, I interpreted a "Quicktime Event" to mean any time that control was taken from the player to convey some exposition in the story. Although I agree that switching from the game engine to full motion video is more jarring, doing it in-engine is also an interruption, since in both cases the player is reduced from active participant to passive receiver of static information. I.E. in both cases you are relegated to the role of TV-watcher.

To me a Quick Time event is a very specific thing. You are shown an action or a sequence of actions on the screen that you aren't directly in control of. At some point a button prompt appears on the screen and you have to press the button/buttons specified within a set time limit in order for the action sequence to be successful.

In the olden days (when I was a boy) if you failed a Quick Time event then the action sequence would start over. With Heavy Rain it sounds like you can fail a Quick Time event or two in an action sequence and it will still carry on but you will take a few bumps and bruises for your failure. Presumably if you fail too may to your character will die.

While I'm all for people having their own way to define things, the reason behind a common language is to share meaning in a way that everyone understands.

Best Quick Time Event I've played so far is pressing "Play" on the video player. Very unintrusive, and the plot and graphics were often super-top-notch.

I recommend playing the "Star Wars" game. Great story. Nice plot.