GWJ Conference Call Episode 184

Conference Call

Splinter Cell: Conviction, Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, Strategry, Collaborative Storytelling, Your Emails and more!

This week the crew bands together to discuss collaborative storytelling in games and they totally get along! 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

"Twilight Bay" (James 106) - 0:25:41
"Chloe" (James 106) - 0:53:45

Comments

Zelos wrote:
opsirus wrote:

Oh! Oh! My thoughts on iPhone vs. Android? WebOS for the win!

I doubt anyone's going to bother with webOS now Palm is up for sale again. I doubt WebOS will survive much longer, really.

The big news on that front is that HTC, marked as the most compatible potential buyer for Palm, has said they're not interested in bidding.

I just bought the damn phone, don't tell me that! *grumble, grumble* It would help if the iPhone was available to more than just AT&T here in the US, but I'm used to not getting the good stuff in the 'flyover states'.

opsirus wrote:

I just bought the damn phone, don't tell me that! *grumble, grumble* It would help if the iPhone was available to more than just AT&T here in the US, but I'm used to not getting the good stuff in the 'flyover states'.

I actually love WebOS, but yeah. It didn't pan out well for Palm. One way you might end up on the winning side of things is if HTML5 web apps start picking up like a lot of people expect it too. I've seen some great mobile games come out of HTML5 devs and I wouldn't think it'd be tough to port those to WebOS.

Is AT&T coverage really that bad in your area? I know the CDMA coverage in the midwest is amazing, but GSM providers have made great strides lately.

Another aspect of this whole iPhone/Android thing we didn't discuss on the show is the iPhone OS as a gaming platform through the iPod Touch. It's easier said than done, but if Google really wants to jump into the gaming end, they'll work with manufacturers on non-phone Android devices. In fact, I'm sure we'll see those devices soon.

I'd love to get my hands on an Android tablet, something that competes head-on with the iPad.

The problem with AT&T is that officially it has NO coverage here. Looking at their coverage maps it is all "partner services" or EDGE, which triggers the cancellation clause for using too much outside minutes/MB. This is from the many times I have logged into Apple and AT&T and entered my zip to see if I can buy one, had no choices, then looked at the fine print.

In my town we have both GSM and CDMA towers, but the GSM provider is not AT&T but Viaero. So unless some arcane deal is worked out, or Verizon(my current provider, and whom I just bought a Palm Pre Plus from) gets an iPhone model, I and my friends are s-o-l.

I have an iPod Touch so I can play and use most of the cool apps, like The GWJ App (now with bonus content, plug, plug). Hell I can Wi-Fi hotspot my phone to make some horrible frankenstein monster of a workaround so it is not all terrible. I actually like the phone, and having multi-tasking out of the box is something I never knew I missed in a phone.

HTML 5 does look interesting, and I hope that some of that spills over into the WebOS. Though WebOS is definitely the Ralph Nader of the phone world. That would make Windows Mobile 7 Ross Perot, right?

edited to add and correct things

opsirus wrote:

I just bought the damn phone, don't tell me that! *grumble, grumble* It would help if the iPhone was available to more than just AT&T here in the US, but I'm used to not getting the good stuff in the 'flyover states'.

Sorry, didn't mean to sound so down on Palm, WebOS looks like it has a lot of potential. It's just it was a Palm device that got me started in software, I've worked on Palm platforms for years, and it's been really depressing watching them gradually kill themselves.

I think Lara's question of "why" Sleep Is Death "needs to be a video game" is a valid one, sure. What's invalid is that she clearly starts from the assumption that it does NOT need to be a video game. She's not really asking a question, she's making an assertion. If she'd actually been ASKING the question of the people who had first-hand experience with the product while keeping an open mind that they might be able to provide a satisfactory answer, it might have been an interesting discussion. Instead it turned into a tedious argument.

I usually enjoy Lara's appearances on the show-- if nothing else, games podcasts are usually such a sausage-fest that it's always good to get some XX perspective-- but this episode was largely an exception.

I just want to know where I can find those two James 106 tracks for download. I dig, I dig!

eurotransient wrote:

I just want to know where I can find those two James 106 tracks for download. I dig, I dig!

Unfortunately that would be something the James106 would have to provide. He never gave me any website info to add to his links. Who knows though. Now that you have asked we may get something.

I thoroughly enjoyed the podcast! Anything discussing the story-telling aspect of video games is cool in my book!

Story is key for my enjoyment of a game (video or board). I really would like seeing more attention paid to the story up front and let game mechanics fall out of the story requirements.

How's that for an open ended comment?

I have no interest in FFXIII or Sleep is Death - the only comment that got me fired up was Sean's comment that Sam Fisher should look more like Michael Ironside simply because he voices him. When has that been important in any other videogame besides the movie-based games?

But I agree with you on Sam and Max - that is awesome. Just finished it yesterday and loved Max's reaction in slow motion at the end - if you've finished it you'll know what I'm talking about.

I have no interest in FFXIII or Sleep is Death - the only comment that got me fired up was Sean's comment that Sam Fisher should look more like Michael Ironside simply because he voices him. When has that been important in any other videogame besides the movie-based games?

There were no Sean/Shawn's in the making of this episode. That comment was Rob, I think.

Well, regardless of who said it, I agree with him. Characters should look like their voice actors (when reasonable—I don't expect Clank to look like David Kaye).

Naughty Dog got it right; there's a clear resemblance between Nathan Drake and Nolan North, which is why it's so jarring when characters acted by North in other games don't look like him.

It's weird though. If Assassin's Creed Desmond had looked too much like Drake, would that have been some sort of infringement?

Also, the Sleep is Death conversation was kind of frustrating. Asking why you can't just sit at a table and write a collaborative story with a friend is kind of like asking why Avatar exists when we have Ubisoft's E3 09 press conference.

I was really surprised by the strength of Lara's reaction to the idea of Sleep is Death. While I'm not interested in the game for myself it sounds really interesting and like it could be a handy tool for those who are interested.

To just dismiss the game out of hand with a 'Why?' is odd. Why do we play video games at all if there are already perfectly serviceable games that can be played with pieces of paper and cardboard?

The question to ask isn't 'why?' it's 'why not?' I think Lara should have been challenged to defend her view rather than Demi and Julian feeling forced to defend theirs.

To go on a technology based podcast and say, 'We don't need technology to help us build a collaborative story' and dismiss the idea without any openness to debate is, IMO, pretty inflammatory.

There is no reason that Sleep is Death should interfere in the creation of a great story, if the game is in skilled hands.

Lara, I think you're awesome, but in this thing I think you were way off base.

*edit*

Also just thinking of Julian and Demi defending Sleep is Death. What is it in the gamer's mindset that we feel the need to defend our hobby, rather than challenge people to back up their negative opinions?

They got so defensive it reminded me of the Ebert 'games are not art thing.' Gamers bounce to the defense of their hobby at the slightest provocation rather than force people who make pronouncements to defend their view. Of course, Ebert won't engage in any meaningful way with the community, but Lara was right there.

You also see the defensiveness in platform 'wars,' people hating on and defending Halo, and of the little debates that go on in interweb forums.

As I listened to this episode, I was really failing to understand what Lara was failing to understand about Sleep Is Death. Even if what it offers is not your preferred interface for collaborative storytelling, why keep questioning the need for it ad infinitum? It's not the same as interactive fiction, and trying to compare it as such seemed unproductive. If it's not something you're interested in, just say so and move on.

Anyone who is interested in Sleep is Death, or the discussion about it, should check out the interview with Jason Rohrer they had on the 1up Oddcast a few weeks ago, the 04/09 episode.

I went to the website for SID and looked at the example, It seems cool, I have an active imagination so I am interested.

I also don't understand exactly how this game would work but I am willing to give a shot.

As I recall from the podcast, Lara has a guaranteed SID partner to play with so I assume a revisiting of the subject. Which would be good. Maybe playing the game will clarify what is it a little more (for her then us).

Lara goes one episode without saying "Bitches" and the internetz turn on her. Tiz a fickle web we weave.

Great show guys. As always, love the maturity and perspectives of the podcast.

Bullion Cube wrote:

Lara goes one episode without saying "Bitches" and the internetz turn on her. Tiz a fickle web we weave.

Great show guys. As always, love the maturity and perspectives of the podcast.

You didn't wait long enough. And it was fulfilling.

leebenningfield wrote:

Anyone who is interested in Sleep is Death, or the discussion about it, should check out the interview with Jason Rohrer they had on the 1up Oddcast a few weeks ago, the 04/09 episode.

Thanks Leebenningfield!

This Oddcast interview is HIGHLY recommended. A lot of concerns brought up during the GWJ podcast about the game are addressed by the Game Designer himself.

Baaspei wrote:
Bullion Cube wrote:

Lara goes one episode without saying "Bitches" and the internetz turn on her. Tiz a fickle web we weave.

Great show guys. As always, love the maturity and perspectives of the podcast.

You didn't wait long enough. And it was fulfilling.

It's true, she did. And it was awesome!

IMO, Lara's last word in the episode makes up for whatever else she might have said during the episode that could be construed as off-kilter.

gore wrote:

You don't have an untapped market this time around - you have the dregs, those late adopters who have been limping along with their crap smartphones, those iPhone users who are tired of their devices.

I would like to note that I don't consider my BlackBerry to be a sh*tty smartphone. It won't ever play games like Android phones or Apple's iPhones but then I didn't actually buy it for that.

This has gone on just long enough!

Up front: I'm a huge Rohrer fan and an unabashed "smelly hippie" when it comes to games. I also love my dear friends Lara, Cory and Julian. So there are some of my (many) biases.

I think format questions are entirely valid. Stepping aside from marketing-related snark, I think it's a useful question to ask why Avatar was filmed in 3D or was filmed instead of written and illustrated as a graphic novel, and what (if anything) those decisions added to or changed in the completed work. Similarly, it's fruitful to think about what the digital format adds to and subtracts from collaborative storytelling. The geography-spanning abilities of the internet have been mentioned, the magic circle is pre-defined in a way that makes us less hesitant to engage in play, but the graphics can slow down the narrator and make for a distinctly artificial--yet homespun--feel.

Lara's skepticism in the podcast was, in my mind, necessary to make it a conversation rather than a plug from fellow-hippie Rabbit. And frankly, Rabbit's enthusiasm isn't really much of a valid counter-argument. I understand it's difficult to justify an art game like SiD, since it wasn't built or marketed with an eye toward selling millions of copies. It is certainly not a game that's "for the masses," and that makes it hard to discuss in terms of why it is more broadly relevant or appealing.

[If I may, I think the answer I'd give has been touched on--that it's an engine for collaborative storytelling with a wide-open set of mechanics that surpasses even the free-form abilities of open-world engines while allowing for unexpected, organic story progression that the best pre-scripted games could never match.]

wordsmythe wrote:

This has gone on just long enough!

Well-said, wordsmythe. I was hoping you would weigh in.

wordsmythe wrote:

If I may, I think the answer I'd give has been touched on--that it's an engine for collaborative storytelling with a wide-open set of mechanics that surpasses even the free-form abilities of open-world engines while allowing for unexpected, organic story progression that the best pre-scripted games could never match.

Well put. I think that sums up my interest in it as well.

wordsmythe wrote:

If I may, I think the answer I'd give has been touched on--that it's an engine for collaborative storytelling with a wide-open set of mechanics that surpasses even the free-form abilities of open-world engines while allowing for unexpected, organic story progression that the best pre-scripted games could never match.

The problem is that this doesn't really address the concerns about the medium, does it? You can attribute those same strengths of unexpected, organic story progression to any improvisational/collaborative storytelling game, whether it's a video game or a board game or a face-to-face roleplaying ruleset.

Full disclosure: I initially shared Lara's skepticism about the game and its place within the medium. And, in fact, I do still think the game's capability for storytelling is drastically oversold, somewhat, if only because the sparse (re: crap) presentation effectively takes out the possibility of stories that require more expressive fidelity.

However, I turned around on the game a little bit once I stopped questioning why a collaborative storytelling game was so ingenious within the realm of video games and, instead, considered how such a video game could be a cool way to do collaborative storytelling.

- Sleep Is Death isn't just a framework for collaborative storytelling, but a framework for collaborative storycrafting as well. Being able to search and access user-driven content in real-time opens up all sorts of improvisational opportunities that simply aren't available in a face-to-face roleplaying exercise.

- The abstraction in Sleep Is Death allows for the possibility of a much more accessible experience. The limited vocabulary of expression provided by the game does place limits on the delivery of some types of stories, but it also makes the tools of expression much more approachable to players, especially those that may not be as interested in getting up in front of people, face-to-face. A game with too many options can be intimidating, especially to those uninitiated in the genre.

Sleep Is Death is not a revolution in storytelling and, in fact, I think such a statement really doesn't do the game any favors, since it only fuels the reflexive skepticism from those folks out there who aren't as enamored with the art game scene. (The title of the game and the involvement of Jason Rohrer, who's already a bit of a polarizing figure, doesn't really help here either.) I do, however, think it can turn out to be a pretty interesting video game and that, in itself, is pretty cool.

wordsmythe wrote:

Lara's skepticism in the podcast was, in my mind, necessary to make it a conversation rather than a plug from fellow-hippie Rabbit. And frankly, Rabbit's enthusiasm isn't really much of a valid counter-argument. I understand it's difficult to justify an art game like SiD, since it wasn't built or marketed with an eye toward selling millions of copies. It is certainly not a game that's "for the masses," and that makes it hard to discuss in terms of why it is more broadly relevant or appealing.

I agree a skeptical viewpoint is helpful in a discussion, I'm casting my mind back to Demi with Flower here where he interrupted a very enthusiastic circle jerk.

I listened to the podcast well after most of the earlier posts were made, so I was expecting a skeptical viewpoint that riled up people of, let's call it a 'fanboy' persuasion. What I got was, to my surprise, something stronger than skepticism more akin to total dismissiveness and what seemed like an unwillingness to allow discussion.

As someone who is generally a fan of Lara's perspectives this was something of a shock.

Is it just me or are people forgetting that there is a 30 second time limit to act? (Not sure if the GWJ podcast mentioned this but Jason Rohrer did during his interview.)

When I listened to the interview with Rohrer, one of many things that jumped out, was that although this is a tool kit (designer's words) there is one rule: you are supposed to play in 30 second increments. To me, this smells of game mechanic. Maybe just a whiff.

As opposed to a well scripted thoroughly thought out story, there is a slight pressure to create on the fly. Even if you are lacking in imagination, I have a feeling if you force an action every 30 seconds, you will get better at it.

I also think, if you really make an effort to crank out content on a 30 second basis, you will inevitably find yourself in unique situations that are FUN.

scribble wrote:

Well, regardless of who said it, I agree with him. Characters should look like their voice actors (when reasonable—I don't expect Clank to look like David Kaye).

Naughty Dog got it right; there's a clear resemblance between Nathan Drake and Nolan North, which is why it's so jarring when characters acted by North in other games don't look like him.

It's weird though. If Assassin's Creed Desmond had looked too much like Drake, would that have been some sort of infringement?

I still don't understand the reason why video game characters should look like their voice actors. If that were so, why shouldn't characters in cartoons or 3D animation also look like their voice actors? And doesn't part of an actor's talent lie in his or her ability to convincingly transform into a new person for the sake of a story? That doesn't stop just because the actor is limited to only his or her voice.

As for everyone telling me that I have a stick up my butt regarding Sleep is Death or Final Fantasy XIII again, I've got some ex-boyfriends you might want to chat with. But regardless of whether I came off as dismissive or hypercritical or whatever, I stick to what I said on the podcast. And that's the last I'll say here on either matter.

A lot of cartoons would look like the restaurant scene from Being John Malkovich, except they'd be Mel Blanc.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

This has gone on just long enough!

Well-said, wordsmythe. I was hoping you would weigh in.

Sorry for being a bit behind the past couple weeks. Hopefully I'm back in sync and we won't have to almost lynch anyone without my thoughts being voiced first.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Lara's skepticism in the podcast was, in my mind, necessary to make it a conversation rather than a plug from fellow-hippie Rabbit. And frankly, Rabbit's enthusiasm isn't really much of a valid counter-argument. I understand it's difficult to justify an art game like SiD, since it wasn't built or marketed with an eye toward selling millions of copies. It is certainly not a game that's "for the masses," and that makes it hard to discuss in terms of why it is more broadly relevant or appealing.

I agree a skeptical viewpoint is helpful in a discussion, I'm casting my mind back to Demi with Flower here where he interrupted a very enthusiastic circle jerk.

I listened to the podcast well after most of the earlier posts were made, so I was expecting a skeptical viewpoint that riled up people of, let's call it a 'fanboy' persuasion. What I got was, to my surprise, something stronger than skepticism more akin to total dismissiveness and what seemed like an unwillingness to allow discussion.

As someone who is generally a fan of Lara's perspectives this was something of a shock.

I don't think there was much substance on either side of the discussion this time around. And to be fair, that happens when you have the sort of format of the Conference Call--casual conversation doesn't involve bringing a tub full of index cards and evidence. But at the end of the day, I think this was the whole of the debate, if I were to map it out:

Rabbit: I'm excited about this new thing!
Lara: Why should I be excited about it?
Rabbit: Why shouldn't you? It's exciting and new!

I love Rabbit to death, but I think we're all aware by now that he's a sucker for the thrill of the new.

So it seems to me that we need more actual experience with this new title (whether it's a game, a game system, an interface, or whatever else we may call it). Who wants to try it out with me sometime?