GWJ Conference Call Episode 209

Conference Call

Enslaved, F1 2010, Comic Jumper, Osmos, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows, StarCraft II Tournament, PC Loses Minerva's Den, HD Remakes, Your Emails and more!

This week Shawn, Elysium, Cory and Rob Zacny tackle a bunch of smaller topics and talk about Cory's exeperience at a StarCraft II viewing party. Kinky.

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

Epilogue II - (Zoo) - workbench-music.com - 0:37:45
Serpents - (Zoo) - workbench-music.com - 1:05:36

Comments

Really enjoyed the HD remake discussion. Thought I'd throw this little nugget out there:

http://kotaku.com/5661562/super-mari...

Rob makes a good point regarding technicolor, as some blu-ray versions of films have had film grain scrubbed to "clean up" the image, but I don't think it applies well to games. The advent of HDTV has already changed how we experience the games of yore--where once the blur of the cathode ray tube could smudge pixels together and photoshop flaws into oblivion, the modern 720p/1080p television set brings out not just the mistakes, but the big blocky pixels you didn't really notice before. Therefore it makes a lot of sense to me to update popular old games with HD graphics and higher-res textures.

Like Cory, I haven't played the old ICO games yet, and look forward very much to playing the HD'ified versions, just like I enjoyed the HD versions of GOW I/II.

What I'd be more concerned about is the addition of 3D to games that were not designed to use the tech from the ground up. I'm sure it's not as hard to do as it is with films, but there's still a risk of ruining what was originally a great game play experience.

I sort of like it when ports/remakes go the other direction, like Final Fight Double Impact which has optional filters that you can enable to simulate the look of a burned-out old arcade cabinet CRT.

The SC2 party sounds amazing. Stupid gigantic country between coasts

So jealous you got to go to 7InchSplit's party. GSL2 starts this weekend!

Chairman_Mao wrote:

I haven't played the old ICO games yet, and look forward very much to playing the HD'ified versions

I, too, am all for HD remakes, especially of games like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Beyond Good and Evil. I played through most of Ico on the PS2 and the other two have been on my pile for a long time, but when we moved to an HDTV, the old tube tv went out the door. Playing a PS2 on a large HD screen really enhances that these are low-rez games and they look aged. I say bring on the shiny.

+1 for rawdog

I watched the majority of the Super Street Fighter 4 EVO coverage via the stream on G4's website. I knew a little bit about the game, and the coverage combined with the commentary and energy of the crowd really got me fired up (right up until Adam Sessler arrived and really killed the high). Months later I still play the game on a weekly basis after seeing what the best of the best can do.

I have played zero SC2 and I'm sure I could enjoy a similar televised experience.

As far as HD remakes go- I don't have a huge problem with them as long as major resources aren't being devoted to them. As long as talented artists are working on new games, and the company interns are doing the HD-ification, fine.

Good episode, barring a couple rough edits (Jonathan apparently just doesn't like Cory).

The whole Minerva's Den situation is pretty stupid if you ask me, but then again 2K did put DLC on the Bioshock 2 disc and then charged people to unlock it, so ...

For the first time, I have to take objection with something said on the podcast. There doesn't seem to be much point to me in taking umbrage at the idea of 2K releasing DLC on one platform and not another. This isn't a personal affront, it's not some grand commentary by the developer as to whether PC gaming is inferior or superior to console gaming, and it isn't some conspiracy. Shawn said it best: if they could make money releasing to PC, they would release to PC. Someone at 2K sat down, did the math, and came to the conclusion that the money they would have to invest to release Minerva's Den for the PC would probably not be recouped by the sales on PC.

As for the idea that if they only release for profit's sake, it's not preserving the artistic perspective, this is a dangerous argument. If 2K starts knowingly making decisions that result in financial losses, they won't be around very long to make games at all. I believe that games are art, yes. I also believe that games are an insanely expensive form of art. The amount of time, training, and money that go into making these games is tremendous, and if these companies wish to survive, they have to run a successful business in order to support the art. Not the other way around.

Do I wish Minerva's Den was released on PC? Absolutely. Do I think it would EVER be worthwhile to make a foolish business decision to satisfy everyone? Absolutely not.

I'm so insanely jealous of that SC2 party story. I sat on my ass in my room by myself and watched it for hours (and loved it), but watching it with other people and beer sounds way more fun.

Glad to supply a topic for this week! The party went well, and while a lot of people were lost and it was somewhat difficult to follow the games over conversation (not a bad thing, really), it did feel like we were a bunch of people watching some sports.

We did notice a bunch of ways the whole experience could be improved, and to bring it up to a level where someone who knows very little about the game can enjoy it isn't a simple problem to solve. Here's my thinking:

1) The commentators need more training/experience doing commentary. While there are a lot of decent commentators out there, I think Day9 (who Elysium mentioned) is the only one working on a professional level. Blizzard needs to hire that man and pay him good money to do what he is doing. He's the Bob Ross of StarCraft!

2) Interface! The interface is too much like playing the game right now, and it should be more like Monday Night Football. There needs to be more information on the screen that's easily readable, and the important information needs to float to the top. The fact that there is no clock on the screen at all times is just nuts. This is a problem not to be solved by Blizzard, but by the tournament community, I think.

3) Some potentially intractable problems: georob, who was also at the event, pointed out that you can turn on a game of basketball, football, etc. and immediately know what's happening in the game. I was discussing this with my co-worker and he pointed out that knowing the narrative of a soccer game is difficult without having watched it through, so maybe there's hope yet. Still, even there, there's a score. Second, the game is happening in real-time, without breaks, and it's difficult to pull away from the action to show a replay or further explain the complexities of the action.

I think Rob Zacny's question did bring to light why pro StarCraft is so great: the narrative. Since there's so much happening at once in a game, each game has a lot of potential for texture, and there's a lot of ways for a player to showcase his play style and to shine. There's the narrative of the players and the tournament scene, Korea versus the rest of the world and the balance of the game over time and the ever evolving tactics.

In season 2 of the GSL, for example, only two foreigners have qualified. The first is The Little One, who came out of nowhere and plays with such a dynamic, inventive style that I've heard him referred to as a folk hero. He's friendly and polite, and seems eminently likable. Then there's IdrA, who I call like to call the "villain." He's got rage issues, has been known to throw around the term "baggins," and, while I was watching The Social Network, Zuckerberg's mannerisms really reminded my of IdrA. And they're both up against the juggernaut of Korean play style. In season 1 they got knocked out early in the tournament, and watching them progress in this and future seasons is going to be a lot of fun.

I can't wait until October 18, when the next season kicks off!

For the record, I have no idea where something like this would actually be watched, but I'd love to see TLO and IdrA taking on the Koreans.

trichy wrote:

Shawn said it best: if they could make money releasing to PC, they would release to PC. Someone at 2K sat down, did the math, and came to the conclusion that the money they would have to invest to release Minerva's Den for the PC would probably not be recouped by the sales on PC.

I'm not sure this is true. It's very easy to see a situation where it would have been profitable, just not as profitable as having that work go elsewhere. Since I'm not actually that concerned about 2K's profit margins, I am unmoved by this argument. If it would have been a straight money-loser, fine, but that's not the reason they gave. And of course it's going to be hard to make money from expansion content if you treat the PC market as an afterthought.

As for the idea that if they only release for profit's sake, it's not preserving the artistic perspective, this is a dangerous argument. If 2K starts knowingly making decisions that result in financial losses, they won't be around very long to make games at all. I believe that games are art, yes. I also believe that games are an insanely expensive form of art. The amount of time, training, and money that go into making these games is tremendous, and if these companies wish to survive, they have to run a successful business in order to support the art. Not the other way around.

I wasn't making an "art for art's sake" argument. At least, I don't think I was. My thoughts were less fleshed out when we recorded than they are now.

Anyway, I can only speak from my perspective, since I'm not 2K. Post-release, the people who bought the game on PC received no priority. High-quality narrative content was withheld for unclear reasons, from a series whose major selling point is high-quality narrative. The people who made "Minerva's Den" are not reaching a major audience. I don't think any of the interests I have are well-served by this decision. I'm not even sure it's sound business in the long run.

Since I'm not actually that concerned about 2K's profit margins, I am unmoved by this argument. If it would have been a straight money-loser, fine, but that's not the reason they gave.

I don't see any publisher actually coming out and baldly saying that releasing content on the PC just isn't going to make them money (although I would admire the hell out of them if they did). And while you may not be concerned with 2K's profit margins, I'm certain that the rather large number of employees they have are VERY concerned that their bosses are making smart, fiscally responsible decisions.

I'm not trying to dismiss your concerns, I'm just trying to point out that while I'm certain that Steve Gaynor and company would have loved to release Minerva's Den on the PC, it was not going to happen if 2K didn't believe that they were going to recoup their investment. In fact, if Minerva's Den fails to be profitable, what motivation is there for 2K to fund future expansions?

The people who made "Minerva's Den" are not reaching a major audience.

Out of honest curiosity, is there any documentation as to the percentage of sales were on the PC vs. the XBox 360?

Chairman_Mao wrote:

Really enjoyed the HD remake discussion. Thought I'd throw this little nugget out there:

http://kotaku.com/5661562/super-mari...

Rob makes a good point regarding technicolor, as some blu-ray versions of films have had film grain scrubbed to "clean up" the image, but I don't think it applies well to games. The advent of HDTV has already changed how we experience the games of yore--where once the blur of the cathode ray tube could smudge pixels together and photoshop flaws into oblivion, the modern 720p/1080p television set brings out not just the mistakes, but the big blocky pixels you didn't really notice before. Therefore it makes a lot of sense to me to update popular old games with HD graphics and higher-res textures.

Like Cory, I haven't played the old ICO games yet, and look forward very much to playing the HD'ified versions, just like I enjoyed the HD versions of GOW I/II.

What I'd be more concerned about is the addition of 3D to games that were not designed to use the tech from the ground up. I'm sure it's not as hard to do as it is with films, but there's still a risk of ruining what was originally a great game play experience.

What I'd be more concerned about is the addition of 3D to games that were not designed to use the tech from the ground up. I'm sure it's not as hard to do as it is with films, but there's still a risk of ruining what was originally a great game play experience.

2D games can look absolutely amazing on a modern hdtv set or LCD screen depending on the tech you are using to push those pixels. If you've ever seen say a SNES / Genersis generation game with SuperSAI antialiasing, at 1080i or 720p, it looks better than it ever did on a traditional tube TV.

2D seems to be more forgiving for being upscaled because you can really appreciate the art of images. There are no barriers.

I totally agree with you re: 3D. There are a lot more obstacles to enjoying an early 3d game on an HDTV set. You can sharpen the textures of a 3D game but the limitations of the texture data seem to get more obvious. The polygons may be sharper, but it just seems to highlight how blocky the original models were. PS3 bc of Shadow of the Collosus, Killzone 1 and Katamari Damashi... may have been playable with a sharper filter but the games just looked the worse for it.

Rob Zacny wrote:

And of course it's going to be hard to make money from expansion content if you treat the PC market as an afterthought.

You mean people don't like second rate work when they know they can get the same thing for the same price, done better elsewhere?

7inchsplit wrote:

He's the Bob Ross of StarCraft!

And here's a happy little Ultralisk..

Not to be a dork, but Momo is a well known (considering the context) racing equipment/parts company. Also: very fun to say.

trichy wrote:

Out of honest curiosity, is there any documentation as to the percentage of sales were on the PC vs. the XBox 360?

I seriously have no idea. PC purchases are so hard to detect now thanks to digital distribution that I couldn't hazard a guess. I do know that 2K came out earlier this year and admitted that Bioshock 2 had kind of disappointed them. That's what makes me suspect it might not have been a question of profitability, but of marginal profitability. If the game was kind of a sales letdown overall, I can see 2K just moving on even if that means leaving a little money on the table.

And this is just wild speculation (the best kind), but I suspect DLC is probably a little bit easier to move through Xbox Live. You sign in, and it's marketed directly at you. Since GFW Live is a ghost town, there's less of a direct sales line to PC customers, so actually making sure your users know that new content is available and getting them in a place to pay for it probably a bigger challenge.

Clearly, we take a different view of how decisions like this are made. I will point out, however, that you and Shawn both start out assuming 2K made the correct business decision here. Fair enough, as we don't have enough data to challenge it. But I have my doubts that something like this really is the best decision. Hard-nosed business decisions are often penny-wise and pound-foolish. This might be one of them. After all, if DLC is going to be an important way to extend a game's profitability, don't you need to iron out the delivery and marketing of DLC to the relevant platforms? Don't you need to build an audience and an appetite for it? Is this the way you do that?

Ultimately, I feel a lot of things about this decision rest on imponderables. I just know my feelings. But I totally get why you and Shawn would be like, "Meh, makes sense." It probably does.

Oh, anyone know how hard it is to get content you've made for the 360 over the PC? My understanding has always been that the two are very close for developer's purposes, and something like this should be a simple port. But that's based on a total layman's understanding.

carrotpanic wrote:

Not to be a dork, but Momo is a well known (considering the context) racing equipment/parts company. Also: very fun to say.

I'm glad you played the part of that guy so I didn't have to.

Irongut wrote:
Chairman_Mao wrote:

Really enjoyed the HD remake discussion. Thought I'd throw this little nugget out there:

http://kotaku.com/5661562/super-mari...

Rob makes a good point regarding technicolor, as some blu-ray versions of films have had film grain scrubbed to "clean up" the image, but I don't think it applies well to games. The advent of HDTV has already changed how we experience the games of yore--where once the blur of the cathode ray tube could smudge pixels together and photoshop flaws into oblivion, the modern 720p/1080p television set brings out not just the mistakes, but the big blocky pixels you didn't really notice before. Therefore it makes a lot of sense to me to update popular old games with HD graphics and higher-res textures.

Like Cory, I haven't played the old ICO games yet, and look forward very much to playing the HD'ified versions, just like I enjoyed the HD versions of GOW I/II.

What I'd be more concerned about is the addition of 3D to games that were not designed to use the tech from the ground up. I'm sure it's not as hard to do as it is with films, but there's still a risk of ruining what was originally a great game play experience.

What I'd be more concerned about is the addition of 3D to games that were not designed to use the tech from the ground up. I'm sure it's not as hard to do as it is with films, but there's still a risk of ruining what was originally a great game play experience.

2D games can look absolutely amazing on a modern hdtv set or LCD screen depending on the tech you are using to push those pixels. If you've ever seen say a SNES / Genersis generation game with SuperSAI antialiasing, at 1080i or 720p, it looks better than it ever did on a traditional tube TV.

2D seems to be more forgiving for being upscaled because you can really appreciate the art of images. There are no barriers.

I totally agree with you re: 3D. There are a lot more obstacles to enjoying an early 3d game on an HDTV set. You can sharpen the textures of a 3D game but the limitations of the texture data seem to get more obvious. The polygons may be sharper, but it just seems to highlight how blocky the original models were. PS3 bc of Shadow of the Collosus, Killzone 1 and Katamari Damashi... may have been playable with a sharper filter but the games just looked the worse for it.

I agree, but most people don't have PCs connected to their HDTVs, and PC gamers tend to be a bit more tech sophisticated and know how to tweak the emulators to get those games looking really good.

Console gamers don't really want to take the time to figure that stuff out, nor are any such emulators available. The PS3 does play PS1 games and some of the old PS3s play PS2 games, and upscale them accordingly--but it never looked as good (and lacked widescreen) as the HD remakes.

mrtomaytohead wrote:
carrotpanic wrote:

Not to be a dork, but Momo is a well known (considering the context) racing equipment/parts company. Also: very fun to say.

I'm glad you played the part of that guy so I didn't have to.

Thanks?

mrtomaytohead wrote:
carrotpanic wrote:

Not to be a dork, but Momo is a well known (considering the context) racing equipment/parts company. Also: very fun to say.

I'm glad you played the part of that guy so I didn't have to.

co-signed.

The Conference Call guys are clearly not car guys, although I thought Rob should have known that and pointed it out.

Tell me if I just missed it, but was there discussion about the kindle 3? I only noticed the talk about SC commentary and then the Bioshock DLC?

Rob Zacny wrote:

Oh, anyone know how hard it is to get content you've made for the 360 over the PC? My understanding has always been that the two are very close for developer's purposes, and something like this should be a simple port. But that's based on a total layman's understanding.

Seeing as it's unreal engine (and already cross platform), probably not too much. I think the bigger barriers were likely business and technical, but external to 2k.

Because it's a GFWL game it has to go through MS and be certified, which also means one place to sell through (which in my opinion isn't a very good place to sell through). If you want to sell through other store they would have to rework at least the singleplayer portion out of GFWL and add another infrastructure to support DLC, and if you do the entire game you've then got two incompatible versions to support. I wonder if 2k will be doing many more GFWL games if this was a barrier for them.

Being a big games company, they have to consider piracy whether the customer likes it or not, licensing that tech is another cost to them before you've even sold a copy. Chances are it will be broken anyway and there will be freeloaders.

This whole situation seems like something 2k could have mostly avoided with a bit of foresight, but I don't know what their business priorities are. Perhaps they're happy with most of the money on the table for most of the effort, rather than invoking the pareto principle.

Tanglebones wrote:

The SC2 party sounds amazing. Stupid gigantic country between coasts :P

Yeah. Stupid gigantic ocean between continents...

Scratched wrote:
Rob Zacny wrote:

Oh, anyone know how hard it is to get content you've made for the 360 over the PC? My understanding has always been that the two are very close for developer's purposes, and something like this should be a simple port. But that's based on a total layman's understanding.

Seeing as it's unreal engine (and already cross platform), probably not too much. I think the bigger barriers were likely business and technical, but external to 2k.

Because it's a GFWL game it has to go through MS and be certified, which also means one place to sell through (which in my opinion isn't a very good place to sell through). If you want to sell through other store they would have to rework at least the singleplayer portion out of GFWL and add another infrastructure to support DLC, and if you do the entire game you've then got two incompatible versions to support. I wonder if 2k will be doing many more GFWL games if this was a barrier for them.

Being a big games company, they have to consider piracy whether the customer likes it or not, licensing that tech is another cost to them before you've even sold a copy. Chances are it will be broken anyway and there will be freeloaders.

This whole situation seems like something 2k could have mostly avoided with a bit of foresight, but I don't know what their business priorities are. Perhaps they're happy with most of the money on the table for most of the effort, rather than invoking the pareto principle.

Yeah timing and technical issues sounded more like we can't release it on the PC at this time because Microsoft is being a bunch of idiots and doesn't want people to play games on their other platform, so technically, we can't release it there.

But I have my doubts that something like this really is the best decision.

One thing I completely agree on is that this was mishandled. I wasn't being facetious when I said that I would admire 2K if they came out and said, "Look, we'd love to release this on PC, but we honestly don't think we can recoup our expenses if we do.". While it would still upset people and cause controversy, it would be a hell of a lot better than vague mumbling about technical issues and timing, which comes across as shifty and evasive.

From my perspective, I think that the fervor over this is a positive thing. Hopefully, 2K will reevaluate the profitability based on the public response, and reconsider. Ultimately, though, I think it's far too easy to assume a company's motives are irresponsible or even malicious towards some group in particular.

Hopefully one of two things happens for future games:
-MS gets their ass in gear regarding pretty much all aspects of GFWL, but realistically if it hasn't happened yet I have no expectation of it ever happening. Talk is cheap.
-Companies with plans for their games more complex than e-peen points avoid GFWL in favour of a system that doesn't make it hard to publish, which may or may not be steam.

Besides it's use of gamespy, I see Borderlands (also 2k) as a good example of a game that the developer is clued up enough to use more than one platform to sell their stuff.

Oddly, even though I'm commenting on the DLC, I would never buy it. When it comes down to it, I don't even give DLC a chance regardless of what it is. I play the game I bought, and if something free comes along, great. If not, well, I've still got my game. You'd think I'd at least be willing to give a good story chunck a chance, but I'm not. Thinking about it more, I don't know why, other than my years old initial righteous indignation reaction to paid DLC.