GWJ Conference Call Episode 210

Conference Call

Medal of Honor, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, WoW With The Wife, Otherworld, The Tao of Role Playing, A Wizard101 Interview, Your Emails and more!

This week Shawn, Julian and Lara talk about Otherworld, what roleplaying tells us about ourselves and more. We also have an interview with Fred Howard about Wizard101 after the credits!

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

Soulsight - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 20:19
A Meal for a Whale - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 35:57

Comments

Mousetrap wrote:

I'm the same way, and am never comfortable with the "dark path" choices, but decided to try it once with KOTOR. I made it through the initial tutorial, since the dark side options were merely mouthing off and didn't mean anything. But the first time I actually shook down the homeless and money actually went in my inventory - the first time I actually benefitted from doing "wrong"; I simply couldn't play anymore. I quit that game, deleted the character and still have never started the game up anymore. It's just "corrupted" now in my mind.

I feel very similarly. I simply can't bring myself to behave "evilly"; I even pay attention to traffic signs in GTA.

At one point in Fable II, you have the option to break a man's heart, so you can steal his undead girlfriend. I accidentally triggered the "evil" option -- which is doing just that -- and the game autosaved immediately afterward. I felt far more upset than I should have about the whole affair.

But did it teach me anything new about myself? Not really. I already knew I wasn't the kind of person who would steal someone's girlfriend.

So I wonder if video games really can take it that extra step, and help us realize new things about our character, or if they're too limited (both in story and immersion) at the moment to make that possible.

Certis's Heavy Rain Priest Murder™ reminds me of a similar experience I had in Splinter Cell. One of the earlier ones, maybe the second? Anyway...

The mission had Sam following a contact through the streets as she escorted him to a location, with him sneaking around after her to give her cover. Once they finally got to the destination she gave Sam some information and put him in an old-style elevator, the sort with a mesh door. As it was going down, Lambert came over the comms and said, "kill her." I only had a few seconds to react and much to my own surprise I managed to put a bullet in her head without even taking the time to think about it. Mind you I was pretty awful at aiming in that game in general and usually couldn't get headshots even when I KNEW why I was shooting at people. Then as I was wondering what had happened, Sam helpfully asked, "What did I just do?" To which Lambert replied, simply, "The right thing."

I don't know what would have happened had I missed, whether the game would have made me try it again till I got it or if it just would have been a different way things had unfolded. The fact that I nailed it on my first try made the story flow very naturally so I can always tell myself I had a choice, then ponder what the choice I made really means about Sam and about me.

LobsterMobster wrote:

Certis's Heavy Rain Priest Murder™ reminds me of a similar experience I had in Splinter Cell. One of the earlier ones, maybe the second? Anyway...

It was Pandora Tomorrow. If you don't kill her, you have to face snipers instead of cops during a tricky section later in the mission.

Sadly, I don't remember whether I shot her or not, but I do remember that it bothered me to get that order without any explanation for it. Part of me wishes that there'd be no gameplay consequence for killing her or not; part of me is glad a game actually backed up a decision with consequences.

wordsmythe wrote:
Mousetrap wrote:

I guess one of the advantages of religion is I would be able to exorcise (sp?) the game.

Wow. I ... no. That's not how it works.

I didn't mean Catholicism in specific. I suppose exorcise is the wrong word, and I should have used a more generic term, but I couldn't think of one. You're an editor - what word would mean "chase the bad out of" without addresssing the practice of a specific religion?

KaterinLHC wrote:

But did it teach me anything new about myself? Not really. I already knew I wasn't the kind of person who would steal someone's girlfriend.

I actually was more surprized at my response of no longer seeming to enjoy playing the game at all. Even to me that didn't seem a rational response, but I had it none the same. Having "messed it up" once, it didn't seem fun anymore.

KaterinLHC wrote:

So I wonder if video games really can take it that extra step, and help us realize new things about our character, or if they're too limited (both in story and immersion) at the moment to make that possible.

I think the problem isn't that the games aren't capable of it; it's that the people making or more accurately paying for the games either don't believe it is, or don't think it will sell enough if it does. Indie games will have to do it first and succeed noticeably.

Mousetrap wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:

So I wonder if video games really can take it that extra step, and help us realize new things about our character, or if they're too limited (both in story and immersion) at the moment to make that possible.

I think the problem isn't that the games aren't capable of it; it's that the people making or more accurately paying for the games either don't believe it is, or don't think it will sell enough if it does. Indie games will have to do it first and succeed noticeably.

I think that in order to create more compelling roleplaying choices in video games, it is important create more complex options. They have to stop being about binary options, and more about driving and changing the story. Additionally, they need to interrelate. Your choice about "a" should change the choices you have available when you reach "b".

If we want to mimic (or come anywhere near it, I should say) the immersion in tabletop rpgs, designers will need to generate the same sort of tactical complexity in conversations and player action as one typically sees in the mechanics of a strategy game.

Hollowheel wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

A problem I face in role-playing video games is that I can have thought up a deep and interesting character, but the choices won't always allow for my motivations, instead hewing to the simplistic "good v. evil" spectrum. RP with a living game master tends to avoid that problem.

Agreed, the kind of decisions offered up in crpgs are limited far too much to don the hat of a character in the same way as you would at a tabletop. They end up feeling more like Choose Your Own Adventure novel choices, rather than extensions of your character.

Programming the kind of choice to bridge the gap seems impossible-- at least until someone clever devises an emergent story algorithm that doesn't play out like a William S. Burroughs novel.

The problem is that they keep insisting on moralizing through the results, which often assumes a specific sort of intent in your decision. Few designers want to let your decisions stand as they are, and the consequences not need a deus ex machina to make the "good" action also be the strategically superior (even if tactically inferior) option.

At about 22 minutes into the podcast, Lara's super-sincere spiritual description of the "LARP"-thing really began to weird me out. I'm used to Rabbit's game evangelism, but with Lara I wonder if she is just going through a rough patch and needed some intense escapism.

Mousetrap wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
Mousetrap wrote:

I guess one of the advantages of religion is I would be able to exorcise (sp?) the game.

Wow. I ... no. That's not how it works.

I didn't mean Catholicism in specific. I suppose exorcise is the wrong word, and I should have used a more generic term, but I couldn't think of one. You're an editor - what word would mean "chase the bad out of" without addresssing the practice of a specific religion?

Maybe I reacted so strongly because exorcism presupposes an actual demonic possession, whereas you're talking more about something being spiritually tainted and unclean. You're probably thinking more in terms of ablutions or some other form of ritual sanctification/cleansing.

bottleknife wrote:

At about 22 minutes into the podcast, Lara's super-sincere spiritual description of the "LARP"-thing really began to weird me out. I'm used to Rabbit's game evangelism, but with Lara I wonder if she is just going through a rough patch and needed some intense escapism.

That's the thing, rabbit and Lara didn't make it sound like escapism at all. I can bag on LARPers with the best of them, but what they described sounded like a game where you don't assume another persona with incredible abilities (escapism), you're just yourself, solving a fictional puzzle (and I guess hitting each other, which, all things being equal, is fun). I play Werewolves of Millers Hollow, and even playing it in the woods wouldn't make it a LARP. Sure I'm supposed to be a villager or psychic or werewolf, or little girl (I'm a worthless little girl), but I'm really just me, following rules.

bottleknife wrote:

At about 22 minutes into the podcast, Lara's super-sincere spiritual description of the "LARP"-thing really began to weird me out. I'm used to Rabbit's game evangelism, but with Lara I wonder if she is just going through a rough patch and needed some intense escapism.

I listened to that section back and realized I said the wrong word. (Made perfect sense in my head, I swear!) What I meant to say -- and what got garbled in the translation from brain to mouth -- was that my Otherworld experience felt very enlightening (not "in-depth"), in the same way that a spiritual awakening might feel. Ever climb a mountain, or run a marathon? Same feeling, just cranked up to 11.

Hollowheel wrote:
Mousetrap wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:

So I wonder if video games really can take it that extra step, and help us realize new things about our character, or if they're too limited (both in story and immersion) at the moment to make that possible.

I think the problem isn't that the games aren't capable of it; it's that the people making or more accurately paying for the games either don't believe it is, or don't think it will sell enough if it does. Indie games will have to do it first and succeed noticeably.

I think that in order to create more compelling roleplaying choices in video games, it is important create more complex options. They have to stop being about binary options, and more about driving and changing the story. Additionally, they need to interrelate. Your choice about "a" should change the choices you have available when you reach "b".

If we want to mimic (or come anywhere near it, I should say) the immersion in tabletop rpgs, designers will need to generate the same sort of tactical complexity in conversations and player action as one typically sees in the mechanics of a strategy game.

It's hard to realistically advocate choices not so distinct (with maybe 1 or 2 distinct repercussions later), because that means a lot more work for heavily scripted games. Dragon Age is one of the best recent attempts, though, and it also did a decent job of avoiding moralizing through game dynamics ("good" options don't give extra XP, and aren't always the best results). Choices have consequences, but there seems to be a desire (and even an expectation from ratings boards) to punish evil and reward good in an unrealistically blunt and immediate fashion.

wordsmythe wrote:

It's hard to realistically advocate choices not so distinct (with maybe 1 or 2 distinct repercussions later), because that means a lot more work for heavily scripted games. Dragon Age is one of the best recent attempts, though, and it also did a decent job of avoiding moralizing through game dynamics ("good" options don't give extra XP, and aren't always the best results). Choices have consequences, but there seems to be a desire (and even an expectation from ratings boards) to punish evil and reward good in an unrealistically blunt and immediate fashion.

I haven't played it, but it's my understanding that Alpha Protocol does a very good job of offering divergent experiences based on the players' choices that don't fall into easy dichotomies of good vs. evil.

I dug listening to the interview on Wizards 101. I'll have to see if my son might be interested in giving a go.

Nevin73 wrote:

I dug listening to the interview on Wizards 101. I'll have to see if my son might be interested in giving a go.

Cool, glad you liked it. I don't get to talk about it much around here, but that game has been a great staple for my kids, and pretty much a universally positive experience.

rabbit wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

I dug listening to the interview on Wizards 101. I'll have to see if my son might be interested in giving a go.

Cool, glad you liked it. I don't get to talk about it much around here, but that game has been a great staple for my kids, and pretty much a universally positive experience.

And if we play our cards right, maybe I get the wife to graduate from Vampire Wars to something, uh, real.

wordsmythe wrote:

It's hard to realistically advocate choices not so distinct (with maybe 1 or 2 distinct repercussions later), because that means a lot more work for heavily scripted games. Dragon Age is one of the best recent attempts, though, and it also did a decent job of avoiding moralizing through game dynamics ("good" options don't give extra XP, and aren't always the best results). Choices have consequences, but there seems to be a desire (and even an expectation from ratings boards) to punish evil and reward good in an unrealistically blunt and immediate fashion.

Yes, the complex decision/repercussion tree around the young noble boy in Dragon Age is kind of a nascent version of what I'm talking about. If that sort of structure could be cast over the entire metastory then we'd be cooking with gas.

Not that I think that'd be possible.

What time is the sat podcast?

In Red Dead Redemption there was an interesting moment where, untypical, the developers made assumptions about how the player would approach a scene from a moral point of view.

You were sent out, by a morally dubious quest giver, to put down an uprising. To complete the quest (and progress the game) you had to kill the people in a village and the burn their homes. It was a horrendous scene and I didn't enjoy it. Killing villagers, who were just trying to defend themselves, felt bad and burning their homes seemed to compound the crime. After it was over the game basically turned around and said, "What you just did was WRONG!!" The possibility that the player might have already realised that for themselves wasn't considered.

I tend to play the good guy most of the time and my rules of combat tend to be: If you are trying to kill me and you started the fight then I can kill you.

In Fallout 3 I found myself straying over that line, or at least taking the rule to an extreme conclusion. I would sometimes hunt down raiders and kill them even after they'd thrown down their weapons and run away. Possibly because they exhibited some much glee when things were going their way.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

It was Pandora Tomorrow. If you don't kill her, you have to face snipers instead of cops during a tricky section later in the mission.

Sadly, I don't remember whether I shot her or not, but I do remember that it bothered me to get that order without any explanation for it. Part of me wishes that there'd be no gameplay consequence for killing her or not; part of me is glad a game actually backed up a decision with consequences.

Oh, I remember that and my gut reaction was "nobody tells me to kill someone without reason!". I paid for that later in the game when the snipers nailed me down and she actually talks on the intercom, belittling me for being such a pussy!

Higgledy wrote:

To complete the quest (and progress the game) you had to kill the people in a village and the burn their homes. It was a horrendous scene and I didn't enjoy it. Killing villagers, who were just trying to defend themselves, felt bad and burning their homes seemed to compound the crime.

I wouldn't recommend Mount & Blade then. Attacking villages, slaughtering the peasants, stealing their stuff, and razing the town are my primary means of earning money in that game.

My wife & I went to Otherworld a couple years back, and it was everything Julien & Lara talked about & more. I highly recommend this experience for anyone & everyone.

Nevin73 wrote:
Higgledy wrote:

To complete the quest (and progress the game) you had to kill the people in a village and the burn their homes. It was a horrendous scene and I didn't enjoy it. Killing villagers, who were just trying to defend themselves, felt bad and burning their homes seemed to compound the crime.

I wouldn't recommend Mount & Blade then. Attacking villages, slaughtering the peasants, stealing their stuff, and razing the town are my primary means of earning money in that game.

I bet on myself in tournaments, but to each their own.

Nevin73 wrote:

I wouldn't recommend Mount & Blade then. Attacking villages, slaughtering the peasants, stealing their stuff, and razing the town are my primary means of earning money in that game.

In 130 hours of original M&B and 67 of Warband, I think I've raided one village, just to see what would happen. And I felt guilty afterward.

There are lots of other ways to make money, especially in Warband.

misplacedbravado wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

I wouldn't recommend Mount & Blade then. Attacking villages, slaughtering the peasants, stealing their stuff, and razing the town are my primary means of earning money in that game.

In 130 hours of original M&B and 67 of Warband, I think I've raided one village, just to see what would happen. And I felt guilty afterward.

There are lots of other ways to make money, especially in Warband.

This. I've only ever raided a village once and never wanted to do so again. Raiding villages is in no way a required part of the game.

rabbit wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

I dug listening to the interview on Wizards 101. I'll have to see if my son might be interested in giving a go.

Cool, glad you liked it. I don't get to talk about it much around here, but that game has been a great staple for my kids, and pretty much a universally positive experience.

I have to say, my son is addicted to Wizards 101 and I'm not far off. Even though he doesn't get a lot of "MMO" concepts, he's still having a blast. It was especially entertaining when he got his first pet. And that fact that he and Dad can play it together makes it extra special. Thanks again for the interview which put this game on my radar.

Not that I have anything against sausage, but it is nice to hear Lara's voice again.

Julian, just shave it all off and embrace the baldness.

"I've been playing with my wife, which is a totally new experience." The fact that I chuckled at that makes me question my maturity.

Hanging out in MUDs to chat with a girlfriend? Where did you find this woman? Are you sure you didn't build her in a lab with your best friend? Are you sure Bill Paxton doesn't play your big brother? And of course, the question that everyone wants to ask: Does she have a sister?

Really though, this is behavior that all couples should have. Taking an interest in the interests of your spouse. You don't even have to like it, just understand it and why your spouse likes what they like. I think it's important.

"Actually, I just want to play with your wife." Badda-bing.

"I'll report back on whether or not I wet myself." You guys are just on today.

For tough RPG choices, Dragon Age: Origins is a big one. The scene towards the end… you know the one. Yep, tears.

I am not worried about representations of violence in any medium. It's the real violence that we need to watch out for.

Good games to relax with: Final Fantasy V, EverQuest II, Rock Band, Peggle.

Thanks for reading my email. Shorter emails? That's unpossible!

You guys rock. Keep up the great work.

KaterinLHC wrote:

I feel very similarly. I simply can't bring myself to behave "evilly"; I even pay attention to traffic signs in GTA.

I do this exact thing. No need to rush when the cops are chasing me, because darn it, a yellow light means slow down.

burntham77 wrote:

Julian, just shave it all off and embrace the baldness.

Dude, he totally does already.

wordsmythe wrote:
burntham77 wrote:

Julian, just shave it all off and embrace the baldness.

Dude, he totally does already.

I would say that Julian may be the man. If I said those kind of things.

burntham77 wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
burntham77 wrote:

Julian, just shave it all off and embrace the baldness.

Dude, he totally does already.

I would say that Julian may be the man. If I said those kind of things.

Fun Fact: He's also The Bomb.