GWJ Conference Call Episode 199

Conference Call

StarCraft II, WoW: Cataclysm, Hydro Thunder Hurricane, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, Dragon Quest IX, Limbo, A Few of Our Favorite (Gaming) Things, Your Emails and more!

This week the crew talks about some of their favorite things about gaming and says "The Bomb" more than anyone ever should. If you want to submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563. This podcast brought to you by TweetMTG!

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

Lo-Fi Attitude - Chroma - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 0:46:32

Composer - Chroma - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 1:01:11

Comments

If you guys do an SC2 spoiler section, I want in on it. Haven't felt this jacked up about a video game's end since...Mass Effect 2.

My interest in Limbo has been renewed.

I like the idea of seeing the end boss as you progress through the instance a la the new Castlevania game. You could peep in on him as you enter the dungeon and see him dressed in a tatty dressing gown, eating cereal and watching Saturday morning cartoons. Half way through you could watch him carrying out an elaborate training montage similar to Dolph Lundgren's training sequence in Rocky V. As you cleared the last rooms you could see him checking his watch and flexing his shoulders as several minion's ran around in small circles shouting, "They're nearly here! Form a defensive line!!"

I'm with Rabbit on one of the aspects to love about gaming. The fact that you can run an instance or play a multiplayer match where everyone involved is from a different European country, or from anywhere else around the world, often makes me happy. (These days I tend to take it for granted. I remember being amazed, in one multiplayer 2v2 match many years ago, when I realised that it was me and a guy from Germany playing against two friends in Brazil.)

Loved hearing more about your experiences with DQ9. Keep it comin'. Most of the game podcasts I listen to spent five minutes on it and never mentioned it again (the better to yak on about Starcraft 2 for forty-five minutes), which is a shame, because much like SC2, it's a game that the people who get really into it will keep on going back to for months if not longer.

Not that I begrudge SC2 the time, because obviously this is a pretty PC-centric board and it's an important release that a lot of your listeners are interested in, but since it's not something I'm currently playing myself (I figure it'll still be there when I can afford a computer that will run it decently), hearing about it incessantly on every podcast out there does get a little wearing.

On a different note, nuts to y'all who scoffed, Hydro Thunder Hurricane is awesome. It scratches an itch that hasn't been properly attended to since the late 90's.

hbi2k wrote:

Not that I begrudge SC2 the time, because obviously this is a pretty PC-centric board and it's an important release that a lot of your listeners are interested in, but since it's not something I'm currently playing myself (I figure it'll still be there when I can afford a computer that will run it decently), hearing about it incessantly on every podcast out there does get a little wearing

Then fast forwards past that bit, that's the advantage of a podcast over streaming radio.

Scratched wrote:
hbi2k wrote:

Not that I begrudge SC2 the time, because obviously this is a pretty PC-centric board and it's an important release that a lot of your listeners are interested in, but since it's not something I'm currently playing myself (I figure it'll still be there when I can afford a computer that will run it decently), hearing about it incessantly on every podcast out there does get a little wearing

Then fast forwards past that bit, that's the advantage of a podcast over streaming radio.

Agreed. I haven't played Starcraft in years, or WoW for that matter, and I enjoyed both conversations.

Hey gang - what about Dawn of War 2? Isn't that an RTS? Seems like everyone forgot about that when they were saying that Sins was the only RTS in the last 5 years or so. I am not even a PC gamer but I can think of quite a few:)

Blizzard Fanboys, all of you!

Except you, Mrs. Lara.

Don't think I'm complaining, quite the opposite. Every podcast has lots of Starcraft talk. Not every podcast gives DQ9 its due as well. Props to GWJ for that.

On a different note, nuts to y'all who scoffed, Hydro Thunder Hurricane is awesome. It scratches an itch that hasn't been properly attended to since the late 90's.

Thank you! I have continued to have a blast with it.

I thought Rabbit's comments about Limbo were interesting, even if I didn't necessarily agree with them. I still feel like the game is very front-loaded, but I would agree that things start to turn around near the very end of the game. Of course, by the time that you get there and you start to really feel a sense of momentum...the game is over.

Here are my problems with Limbo's second half:

Spoiler:

From a narrative standpoint, the shift in conflict from direct antagonism to a struggle against a more hostile environment just saps so much of the tension from the game. The Spider and the Other Kids are incredibly riveting as enemies and, while their demise is incredibly satisfying, it also leaves a player in anticipation of the next challenge...which never really comes. For me, specifically, I still felt a sense of wonder as I entered the more industrial areas -- e.g. the HOTEL sign, the initial factory segment where you created the rainstorm -- but, eventually, that anticipation started to fade as I made my way deeper into the factory.

And it's an unfortunate coincidence that the gameplay starts to falter right around that time too. The platform/puzzle mechanics of the game aren't exactly cutting-edge to begin with, but the first half of the game masterfully stages intriguing situations around those mechanics, moments where there is always a very apparent threat and/or an element of the world in motion. These situations aren't really puzzles as much as they are "incidents", life-threatening obstacles that the player has to overcome through a particular series of actions or they die.

Once you get into the more industrial levels, though, the game retracts its fangs a bit and starts presenting the player with true-blue puzzles, problems that don't yield an immediate benefit of success or failure. A puzzle that focuses on timing/sequence of switch pulls doesn't offer a gory death to disturb/enthrall the player; if you can't figure it out, you're just stuck...and the Burnout-esque feedback loop that rewards success and failure alike is interrupted. (It doesn't help that these puzzles in the middle of the game are mundane and, at times, even a bit boring.)

It's only at the end, when the game gradually leads you into a constant cycle of gravity switches, that things start to really ramp up again. In particular, the final jump of the game, a leap of faith that bends gravity in mid-air, is as empowering and awesome as any of the moments in the first half...but, once you get that one reminder of what the game is capable of delivering, you break through the ice/glass/water and the experience is over.

For all of the controversy surrounding the small amount of time required to beat the game, I would actually argue that Limbo would have been better...if it were shorter.

Judging by some of the pre-release screenshots, the creators of the game were certainly willing to cut some of the fat. If they were to snip out some of the more mundane puzzle elements from the middle of the game, I think Limbo would be a tighter, sharper experience and most of my complaints would be nullified.

SallyNasty wrote:

Hey gang - what about Dawn of War 2? Isn't that an RTS? Seems like everyone forgot about that when they were saying that Sins was the only RTS in the last 5 years or so. I am not even a PC gamer but I can think of quite a few:)

I heard that comment as "the best RTS in the last five years" and, given that Rabbit has talked about Dawn of War II on the Three Moves Ahead strategy game podcast, I'm pretty sure he's aware of other RTS games.

Elysium wrote:
On a different note, nuts to y'all who scoffed, Hydro Thunder Hurricane is awesome. It scratches an itch that hasn't been properly attended to since the late 90's.

Thank you! I have continued to have a blast with it.

For what it's worth, Hydro Thunder is actually based on an arcade game and a damn good one at that. The 360 version seems a little bit sterile to me -- there's something about feeling the entire arcade cabinet rattle and hum with the impact of every wave -- but all of the components that make the game so great are there.

The controls are responsive and the levels hit you from multiple directions, with branching paths, wacky design, and a ton of verticality that you won't find in most racing games.

Multiplayer racing has its ups and downs -- it's cool to have the ability to bring a group of local split-screen players into an online multiplayer game a la Mario Kart, but the lobby system desperately needs a timer during race prep to keep things moving -- but, overall, I think the whole package stands up pretty well.

I just heard a particular phrase stated by Certis that instantly made me think of Wile E. Coyote.

IMAGE(http://steynian.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/wile_e_coyote_super_genius.jpg)

Rabbit, the "western in space" motif is called a "space opera." Joss Whedon did not invent it. He just added Chinese.

Also, "elaborate segue" made me think of a Segway with bling and spinners.

LobsterMobster wrote:

Rabbit, the "western in space" motif is called a "space opera." Joss Whedon did not invent it. He just added Chinese.

I don't agree with that statement. Space Opera refers to a grand sweeping tale of adventure and sassy times in space. Most space operas do not have the western influence. I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Well whatever you want to call it, Joss Whedon didn't invent it. In fact, when Firefly first came out there was a controversy because it looked like he ripped off a handful of animes. Now I don't think he actually did, but I think that's a pretty clear indication that he didn't invent a genre.

MeatMan wrote:

I just heard a particular phrase stated by Certis that instantly made me think of Wile E. Coyote.

IMAGE(http://steynian.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/wile_e_coyote_super_genius.jpg)

Pfffft. Certis just gave me a new euphemism: "She doesn't really have great melee weapons."

LobsterMobster wrote:

Well whatever you want to call it, Joss Whedon didn't invent it. In fact, when Firefly first came out there was a controversy because it looked like he ripped off a handful of animes. Now I don't think he actually did, but I think that's a pretty clear indication that he didn't invent a genre.

That's true. But for many people Firefly is their cultural touchstone for that genre and it really distills the concept of a western in space to its essence. Previous media in that genre like Starcraft or Outlaw Star, an anime, have other elements in addition to the space western motif.

I am guessing though that Raynor's character has mutated partly because of Captain Reynolds. He was a more straightforward good guy character in the original.

I didn't give the DQ9 talk much thought last podcast because I wrote much of it off to fangirl gushing (gotta find reasons to keep a tight pocketbook closed), but upon revisiting my resolve is crumbling. Multiplayer, you say? Fantasy dungeon crawl? Oh goodness. I might have to get this one for the PAX lines.

One question: what is the save function like? Will I be able to shut it at a moment's notice, or is there a process of hunting for save points?

Linking sci-fi to westerns is by no means a recent phenomenon. Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek as "Wagon Train to the Stars" and Han Solo was short one hat to complete the cowboy look. Firefly and StarCraft just made the connections more blatant.

One question: what is the save function like? Will I be able to shut it at a moment's notice, or is there a process of hunting for save points?

You can just snap the case shut like any DS game and resume when you open it. I think there's a quick-save too.

For "proper" saves you still have to hit a church to save the game.

Amoebic wrote:

One question: what is the save function like? Will I be able to shut it at a moment's notice, or is there a process of hunting for save points?

I haven't played it myself, but I've heard from many different places that you can just close the DS whenever you want, even mid battle.

I'd be all over DQ9 if I had a DS.

Edit: Damnit Certis!

Interesting stuff. I liked Lara's bit about how, say, word games have so much variety in how they are executed. It's relevant because my father-in-law - a guy who day-after-day does crossword puzzles - looks down on games in general. When he was younger, he played Super Mario Bros., completed it, and declared that he "played video games" and was done.

It's the oddest damned thing in the world. He sees little-to-no value in my pursuit, and yet does crossword after crossword, year after year. Now, crosswords are great and all, but word-video games have far more structural and mechanical variety than anything he's scribbling on the daily paper.

And at that moment, listening on the bus, I realized how much I channel my own Rabbit by being the guy to defend games. Hell, lately it feels like I do that more than actually playing games.

But there's certainly a strong generational component. I endure the whiff of social-disgrace every year that I take a Friday off for PAX. My boss and his colleagues can talk at length about Football, but if they overhear the young PostDocs talking with me about games, it as though I'm a comparative child.

Say what you want about the normalization of video gaming, there's a lot more of that to go. And it won't be done until we (roughly) Gen-X'ers are the old guys. All our elders will be dead so we won't have to be berated for it anymore.

Wow, what a downer. On another note: Aren't kittens cute?

docbadwrench wrote:

Wow, what a downer. On another note: Aren't kittens cute?

Nope.

LobsterMobster wrote:

Well whatever you want to call it, Joss Whedon didn't invent it. In fact, when Firefly first came out there was a controversy because it looked like he ripped off a handful of animes. Now I don't think he actually did, but I think that's a pretty clear indication that he didn't invent a genre.

Well, it is live-action Cowboy Bebop with white people.

Space Cowboys and no mention of
IMAGE(http://www.andymangels.com/HeMan_DVD_Web/BestBraveStarr_l.jpg)

Amoebic wrote:

One question: what is the save function like? Will I be able to shut it at a moment's notice, or is there a process of hunting for save points?

Besides the regular DS sleep mode already mentioned, you can quick-save from the menu, which creates a temporary save file that's deleted after you load it (so you can't use it to save-spam). Or if you want to do a "full" save, you gain Evac (the "teleport-out-of-the-dungeon" spell) and Zoom (the "teleport-back-to-town" spell) very early on, so that's no problem either. As JRPGs go, it's VERY friendly to being played in short bursts.

Certis, any chance you could link that Mario wallpaper you mentioned in the Harmony of Despair talk?

(Also, to add to what you said: Harmony of Despair has six levels. The idea is that, in single player, you'll attack the levels multiple times, Monster Hunter-style, to take the bosses down.)

Does Hydro Thunder get any faster, I've played the Demo and although the control is very good, I feel as though I'm going very slow at what appears to be top speed. Maybe I need to try it again.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Certis, any chance you could link that Mario wallpaper you mentioned in the Harmony of Despair talk?

There's a site dedicated to old game wallpapers like this, but I can't remember the name! Here is one of them though.

SO, I have read, watched and played a TON of space opera. I learned to read on Doc Smith and Boroughs. It is in fact perhaps my favorite genre of science fiction. What Whedon did was original in his interpretation -- the literally rustling of cattle on board spaceships, the primacy of the dialog and soundtrack -- those were fairly unique.

The melodrama part.

Rabbit, you mentioned posting a link to some cool vintage gaming posters?