GWJ Conference Call Episode 203

Conference Call


Mafia II, Elemental: War of Magic, Lara Croft: Guardian of Light, Worms: Reloaded, The Nature of Expectations, Your Emails and more!

This week Shawn, Elysium, Cory and Lara talk about expectations and how they impact our play experience.

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!

Sponsor

CastMedium
Good Old Games

GWJ Store!

  • Subscribe with iTunes
  • Subscribe with RSS
  • Subscribe with Yahoo!
Download the official apps
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android

Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Los Pistoleros - Ian Dorsch - http://www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:33:23

Samarra - Ian Dorsch - http://www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:56:59

Comments

Liked the discussion on Elemental.

Your guys feelings are similar to mine, even though I'd consider myself a huge Stardock fanboy. The comparison to Demigod's launch is apt, up to a point, I think. Demigod, as we see now after over a year after release is dead in the water as far as continued development is concerned (no new Demigods, no new maps...maybe no more bug fixes). Elemental, however, I am sure will be worked on for a long time after its release (a couple of you mentioned this).

Elemental, I think, is very deserving of that old gaming excuse "it has potential." I am having a bunch of fun playing the game right now (despite the crashes and confusion about some of the UI stuff and mechanics), and I can see a bunch of ways that Stardock can go as far as continued development and fixes and I'm excited about playing those.

Enjoyed the rest of the podcast as well.

Brad Wardell didn't want to make anyone his bitch, did he?

mwdowns wrote:
Liked the discussion on Elemental.

Your guys feelings are similar to mine, even though I'd consider myself a huge Stardock fanboy. The comparison to Demigod's launch is apt, up to a point, I think. Demigod, as we see now after over a year after release is dead in the water as far as continued development is concerned (no new Demigods, no new maps...maybe no more bug fixes). Elemental, however, I am sure will be worked on for a long time after its release (a couple of you mentioned this).

Elemental, I think, is very deserving of that old gaming excuse "it has potential." I am having a bunch of fun playing the game right now (despite the crashes and confusion about some of the UI stuff and mechanics), and I can see a bunch of ways that Stardock can go as far as continued development and fixes and I'm excited about playing those.

Enjoyed the rest of the podcast as well.

Still, the bit about the Gamer's Bill of Rights is pretty poignant. This doesn't sound like a quality release.

Which makes me so sad, since I was expecting a great game.

Perhaps "no thinking, stress reliever" games should be a marketed genre! My own faves (and time vacuums) in this vein are Bejeweled 2 Deluxe, Galaxian, Just Cause 2 and Beat Hazard.

Thanks for another great podcast!

Enjoyed the podcast as always, though the discussion about expectations left me wondering:

What happens when you encounter a game that relies upon player expectation? Metal Gear Solid 2, for example, is infamous for the "switch" that happens in the opening hours of the game and, while that "switch" may have came across as a bizarre non sequitur for players with little or no previous experience in the Metal Gear Solid series, it had a completely different -- and very deliberate -- impact for players who completed the first game in the series.

If you were a critic that was tasked with a review of MGS2, you would have to at least acknowledge that expectation, right? What are the odds that consumers that played and enjoyed MGS1 would come into MGS2 without context and expectations for characters from the first game?

Was Cory knocking em out of the park today or what? Someone really was ready to go for this episode.

As far as expectations go I find myself mostly disagreeing with Certis, which is strange because normally my views match up perfectly with his. But Elysium and Demi made a number of points that struck home.

I had more to say on the topic, but it started getting kinda long. I think I'll think on it some more and condense what I was going to say and then put it in an email.

OzymandiasAV wrote:
If you were a critic that was tasked with a review of MGS2, you would have to at least acknowledge that expectation, right? What are the odds that consumers that played and enjoyed MGS1 would come into MGS2 without context and expectations for characters from the first game?

I'd say they very few games really go to that level of weaving what the player expects into the plot. I suppose if you were doing a review you're also under a little pressure to avoid spoilers so you could acknowledge that it does something a bit clever, but only really talk about the plot on a basic level.

The development term for sophisticated expectations as you called them is implicit requirements. They are a bit subjective and will often cause a lot of fights between qa and the dev team, but they encompass everything that is expected behaviour. From mnemonics like ctrl-s and esc handling, to offline functionality.

I feel the conversation began recursively splitting hairs. Rather than focus on hypothetical pure states, I think it's more practical to think about what are reasonable expectations to have and more importantly hold onto when you find them unmatched.

Personally I don't trust anything coming from the marketing team, and focus on what the actual developers are saying. If a developer doesn't deliver on a promise I'm disappointed.

Ok, guys. Love the podcast, but one minor pet peeve that has been bugging me more and more lately:

I realize many of your listeners keep their fingers on the pulse of gaming enough to know about all games, but I am not one of them (I'm a gamer with a job, after all). How about a brief game overview before launching into the discussions -- i.e., game type (FPS, RTS, etc.) and platform(s)? The discussion of Elemental was one of many recent examples where I was kept wondering what the heck the game was while you were discussing it ...

Thanks!

Teeldarb wrote:
Ok, guys. Love the podcast, but one minor pet peeve that has been bugging me more and more lately:

I realize many of your listeners keep their fingers on the pulse of gaming enough to know about all games, but I am not one of them (I'm a gamer with a job, after all). How about a brief game overview before launching into the discussions -- i.e., game type (FPS, RTS, etc.) and platform(s)? The discussion of Elemental was one of many recent examples where I was kept wondering what the heck the game was while you were discussing it ...

Thanks!

Well, it's a game, that's a game.

Shawn's relationships with expectations reminds me of two of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.


2 Suffering is caused by craving. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness. Craving also has its negative aspect, i.e. one craves that a certain state of affairs not exist.

3 Suffering ends when craving ends. This is achieved by eliminating delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi);

By attempting to prevent expectations he wants to mitigate his own suffering. :p

It is important to temper one's expectations.

While I still loved the game (take a drink) Bioshock was over hyped for myself, lesson learned. Starcraft 2 was one of my most anticipated games ever, I saw enough media to know that it was a modernised version of the original, I went in expecting that and was pleasantly surprised (mostly) especially by the single player.

Dragon Age is another interesting one. While we had been told it was a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate, the marketing was awful. Anyone buying the game based on trailers would potentially have been very disappointed. And the trailers made a lot of people circumspect based on their expectations, and what the gory, Marilyn Manson soaked trailers depicted.

Teeldarb wrote:
The discussion of Elemental was one of many recent examples where I was kept wondering what the heck the game was while you were discussing it ...

Similarly, it always bugs me when gaming podcasts only mention the name of the game when they start discussing it. If I've never heard of the game before, I might only become interested in it after you've praised it for a while.

Then I say to myself, "Zounds! I think I'd like to try this game... now what was that title again?" Thank you for being one of the few podcasts to (generally) repeat the name of the game when you're finished talking about it.

Well, it's a game, that's a game.

You're on my list now, pal!

Regarding Valve not respecting the "original" artistic intent of Portal by adding to it's ending, I have to disagree again. If you weren't aware that a sequel was planned long before the game shipped, and missed the implications of the ending, I hope you could at least parse the lyrics or even title of "Still Alive".

And to the dude that asked about World of Warcraft, don't listen to their answer. They're trying to play it safe, and it sounds like the person doing the majority of the talking doesn't really have enough experience with WoW to give an honest answer. The fact is MMOs are habit forming, but not addictive. A lot of people would like to say that there are psychological addictions, but those still don't fit the technical definition. Either way, the main difference is that if you stop playing an MMO, your body will not suffer from withdrawl, and unless you're an usual person you won't really have a desire to play if you decide to quit. And for you personally, I'd say there's not much risk of over obsession as you've already taken a break from the game.

The first cut is the deepest, and when it comes to MMOs you'll find that it's easier to avoid time sinks the second time around. And while the game has always been something that was possible to play casually, that's something easier to recognize with experience. And specifically with WoW, there have been so many developments to improving that experience I think it's a shame none of them were mentioned. So if you can get beyond the fear that your life will fall apart by installing the game, here's what you should know:

1. The dungeon finder makes it incredibly easy to find a random party, with players from any realm in your battle group. If you're looking for something that will reduce the grind of leveling, or just get some starter loot from heroics, you can be in and out of a dungeon in less than 20 minutes.

2. Badges have revolutionized end-game gear. No matter when you pick up the game, you can have access to gear the equivalent of 1-step down from the newest raid instance purely from badges. You'll get them from every heroic dungeon, and a bunch of easy weekly quests. Without even joining a guild, you can get yourself gear at your own pace.

3. Cataclysm raids will take up less of your time, and many WotLK dungeons have already trended that way. Blizzard has said that not only will they be breaking up a lot of the raids into smaller individual instances, but that both 10 and 25 man raids will share a single weekly reset timer. You'll be able to switch between 25 man and 10 man modes throughout the week, but once you've killed a boss it's down no matter how big the raid was. That means that guilds will not be pressuring you to run everything twice, and raid nights should be shorter as you can clear. And as the loot is the same in both 10 and 25 man instances, there shouldn't be as much peer pressure to stay, as they can always downsize and finish with less people.

4. There are realms like Mal'Ganis that pug raids successfully. They clear the hardest content, in one night, and often smoother than a guild run on other servers. All the loot is free-roll, sometimes constrained to your main spec so that everyone has a fair shot, but basically it's drama free and you don't need to know anybody. Some of the best geared people on the realm are unguilded.

I personally play about 2 nights a week, for no more than 2-3 hours, and I've got top-end gear.

TL;DR yes you can play WoW casually, and no you won't lose your life to it.

While I think it's true Team Ninja was going to face a backlash no matter how they portrayed Samus, given how gamers have had over twenty years to imagine what she's like, their execution just didn't cut it. Take that cutscene everyone's referring to...

Spoiler:
...she faces off against Ridley, someone she's beaten twice without batting an eyelash. But, this time she has a panic attack and freezes whilst literally flashing back to her childhood. To her rescue comes...some random guy who buys it because she's locked up in terror. I'm a man (I'M THIRTY!) and to have one of the most iconic women in gaming behave like that irks me.

Heaven help us if they get into the minds of Mario or Link.

Forbin wrote:
WoW

That's a hell of a lot of rationalization. Are you sure you're not addicted?

Oh, and psychological addiction is still an addiction.

TL;DR yes you can play WoW casually, and no you won't lose your life to it.

Which is exactly what we said. The problem is that if you have a history of addiction to WoW, nothing has substantially changed either way to prevent that from happening again. In fact, I'd say all the things you've pointed out are exactly the kind of brain candy that would encourage someone with a proven addictive WoW past to fall just as deep and hard.

That is my experience, however, speaking as someone who doesn't have much experience with WoW. Just two or three hundred hours or so, which is, in fact, relatively little compared to many. Just to confirm, we're not calling that addicted, though. Right?

Seasoned, yes. Addicted, no.

300 hours amounts to what? It barely gets you past level 10 doesn't it?

Great show this week, folks! I just wanted to chime in on the e-mail regarding revisions to Plants vs Zombies. Personally, I'm against it, but largely out of principle. I thought it was wrong when George Lucas "revised" Star Wars to be "like he'd always meant it." I also thought it was wrong that Spielberg removed guns from E.T. Removal of the World Trade Center from various movies in the early post-9/11 era also irked me a bit (movies filmed pre-9/11, but released post-9/11).

I guess I generally want content creators, whether in books, movies, television and certainly games, to stand behind their original creations rather than "revising" them later on. Especially in the case of games, I don't like the idea that a developer/publisher can just patch in and out things that I may have purchased (think the removal of Linux from PS3s) without my approval. While a Linux-capable PS3 isn't the reason I purchased one, and a Michael Jackson zombie isn't the reason I purchased PvZ, it certainly represents the beginning of a slippery slope. I think I'd be less annoyed about Popcap removing MJ from PvZ if I thought they at least fought the Jackson Estate to some extent.

Just my opinion.

[Note: I'm not against "remastering," just "revision." Giving me updated versions of God of War I and II for PS3, for example, was just fine by me. To my knowledge, they didn't add some "deleted" scene with a CGI Jabba, though]

They're trying to play it safe, and it sounds like the person doing the majority of the talking doesn't really have enough experience with WoW to give an honest answer. The fact is MMOs are habit forming, but not addictive. A lot of people would like to say that there are psychological addictions, but those still don't fit the technical definition. Either way, the main difference is that if you stop playing an MMO, your body will not suffer from withdrawl, and unless you're an usual person you won't really have a desire to play if you decide to quit

I'm curious why you so handily dismiss MMO addiction. As someone who has watched several friends struggle with just this issue -- losing their jobs, driving away their significant others, even flunking out of school -- I can attest to the potency of an addiction to an MMO. Someone addicted to games may lack a physiological requirement to click that mouse, but then again, few addictions are purely questions of physical drive, either.

Or is game playing somehow less "legitimate" an addictive behavior as something more widely accepted, like alcohol or drugs?

KaterinLHC wrote:
Or is game playing somehow less "legitimate" an addictive behavior as something more widely accepted, like alcohol or drugs?

The Diagnostic and and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) currently only lists substance based dependence as forms of addiction. One reason this is the case is because there was not enough study or consensus at the time to include things like sex, gambling, or video game addiction. Personally I'm of the opinion that any compulsive behavior which causes a person distress in their day to day life should be classified and treated. Hopefully the next edition of the DSM, due in a few years, will change the technical definition to be broader. I can see how someone could use the current definition to dismiss these types of addictions out of hand, but that ignores additional studies and changing opinions in the years since the definition was standardized.

In general, yes it is somehow less legitimate, though it's a debated subject. I'm not saying people can't turn a habit into something destructive, but the fact of the matter is it is not chemically the same as a physical addiction. And if someone chooses to break the habit, there is almost no impact on their physical or mental state.

You know people who've played too much, I know people who have dropped out of school because they got caught up posting on forums. Just because something offers escapism, doesn't make it the most significant part of someone's breakdown. It's a weak argument with nothing but anecdotal evidence and hypothesis supporting it. Is WoW the culprit, or is it something like underlying depression? People are eager to leap to conclusions and I just don't feel there has been any solid work done to justify everyone's beliefs. I think it's easier to blame the game, than it is to take responsibility or accept that you're in a mental slump.

I don't think the correct way to treat someone who is exhibiting an addictive and self-destructive behavior to just tell them "you're not on cocaine, get over it". You're making a huge unfounded assumption that it's dramatically easier to end a non-substance based addiction. I will grant that you don't have the same type of physical symptoms, but the difference is really only marginal. Should we ignore treatment options just because of the belief that a person should have the power to help themselves?

I don't want to shrug off destructive behaviour, but I do reject it being treated the same as physical addiction. If after this long they still can't agree to classify gambling as an addiction, then I don't see how it's justified assuming that gaming is. If anything, I find it trivializes people who struggle with real addictions. Since this is a podcast faring crowd, I recommend you listen to Kevin Smith's new cast with Jason Mewse talking about his challenges over the years.

But other than just the level of seriousness, I just don't believe that the active ingredient in anybodies gaming "addiction" is the game itself. I've known people who have lost their girlfriends to TV, a couple who's marriage ended over trouble on voice chat that lead to infidelity. I think the main factor is miserable people stuck in a rut, and they'd like to blame the life raft for sinking their boat. Their means of escape may be an enabler, but I don't think it's a true instigator.

In the end I think the main reason I posted, was because the guy wasn't complaining about how he was a terrible addict and was facing temptation. He wanted to know if the game still required such a large time commitment to experience the high-end, high-quality raid content. And the majority of people who don't have mental health issues, but were burned out by the game's previous time commitment issues deserve a proper answer to that question.

Forbin wrote:
I'm not saying people can't turn a habit into something destructive, but the fact of the matter is it is not chemically the same as a physical addiction. And if someone chooses to break the habit, there is almost no impact on their physical or mental state.

I wonder about this... behaviour/habits can trigger the production of things like endorphins, so what superficially appears to be a behavioural habit might actually be substance addiction at a molecular level. The obvious example is exercise - if you do it intensively enough to regularly get a runner's high, then you do get addicted to it, to the point where you get withdrawal symptoms when you stop.

Not sure whether something like WoW falls into that category, but I imagine it could for some people - it's the classic "do a task, get a reward" paradigm, after all. Probably depends on a range of both external factors (e.g. the state of the person's life -> how much of a "reward kick" they get from the tasks) and biological ones (different people have different neurochemistry). My neuro knowledge isn't what it used to be though.

Forbin wrote:
Is WoW the culprit, or is it something like underlying depression? People are eager to leap to conclusions and I just don't feel there has been any solid work done to justify everyone's beliefs. I think it's easier to blame the game, than it is to take responsibility or accept that you're in a mental slump.

I'd agree with this, but I'd also argue that it's better to err on the side of caution. Even if the risk is assumed to be low, is it worth gambling the quality of life to play WoW? It's a good game, but I'm not sure that it's that good.

edit

Forbin wrote:
He wanted to know if the game still required such a large time commitment to experience the high-end, high-quality raid content. And the majority of people who don't have mental health issues, but were burned out by the game's previous time commitment issues deserve a proper answer to that question.

Speaking as someone who stopped playing in WotLK because I didn't have enough time to play it: I don't know if it's as bad as it used to be (didn't play pre-BC), but raiding still requires a substantial time commitment if you're going to do it 'properly' with a guild.

Thank you, Lara, for making my DQIX addiction sound socially acceptable. Also, I was listening to your comments on bus to work while playing DQIX

I'd put down DQIX for a bit (found myself addicted to Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes instead), but listening to this made me want to pick it up again. So many quests left undone, so many jobs unmaxed, so many bonus bosses unkilled.

Forbin wrote:

You know people who've played too much, I know people who have dropped out of school because they got caught up posting on forums. Just because something offers escapism, doesn't make it the most significant part of someone's breakdown. It's a weak argument with nothing but anecdotal evidence and hypothesis supporting it. Is WoW the culprit, or is it something like underlying depression? People are eager to leap to conclusions and I just don't feel there has been any solid work done to justify everyone's beliefs. I think it's easier to blame the game, than it is to take responsibility or accept that you're in a mental slump.

Who's blaming WoW for the addiction? It's a fairly large leap to go from "MMO addiction is a legitimate phenomenon" to "It's all WoW's fault". You're attributing things to all four of us that we never said.

Besides, you don't blame sex, food, or even liquor for an addict's behavior. You blame the addict's behavior for the addict's behavior. Hence my answer to the question, "I was addicted to WoW once. Can I play it again?" None of us can answer that question for him; after all, none of us can tell a former alcoholic that one drink is too many. For some it is. For some it isn't. It's all down to the person.

In the section about revisions with Plants vs. Zombies I think the examples used by your team didn't do the questioner justice. Changing the ending with Valve's Portal as a revision or developer push of an update which I can see and understand as moving the game forward and bringing the story in line with the next installment.
My perception of the questioner was worried about, at least in the beginning of the slippery slope would be changing the Weighted Companion Cube in an update. Fundamentally that wouldn't change the game but it would remove part of something we as a players loved and fondly remember.

In the end I think the main reason I posted, was because the guy wasn't complaining about how he was a terrible addict and was facing temptation. He wanted to know if the game still required such a large time commitment to experience the high-end, high-quality raid content.

I don't know what email you heard, but it certainly wasn't the one we answered. The writer of the email explicitly acknowledged that he'd been addicted to WoW, that he had quit his addiction and turned his life around, and now he wants to know if it might be okay to dabble back in the sauce that got him hooked before.

I know we tend to throw around the word "addicted" easily these days (indeed, I did it myself during my DQIX segment!) but knowing as many people as I have who've had MMO addiction, and having witnessed the strong stigma it carries, I took him at face value, knowing it's not something most people would admit to lightly.