GWJ Conference Call Episode 216

Conference Call

Poker Night at The Inventory, Gran Turismo 5, Pre-Launch Cataclysm, Red Dead Redemption Counterpoint, How Sales Impact Our Game Habits, Your Emails and more!

This week Shawn, Julian, Elysium and Rob Zacny talk a whole lot of games and the effect of Steam sales on their delicate minds.

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

Triggernometry (Bill Elm & Woody Jackson) - Red Dead Redemption - http://www.rockstargames.com/reddead... - 41:37

Current of the Times (Yudai Satou) - Gran Turismo 5 - http://us.gran-turismo.com/us/ - 1:07:25

Comments

Anyone else see this show up in the Striving RSS feed?

BF BC2 new maps (2 from BC1, 2 from the SP campaign) free and ready to play today (Dec 1).
Vietnam pack on Steam on Dec 18, Xbox PS3 on Dec 21. $15

edit: loved where the voicemail question led to!

memories of conventional memory, XMS, EMS, config.sys and autoexec.bat editing, came flooding back.

The absolute worst offender of ridiculous DOS memory requirements had to be Falcon 3.0, the first PC game I ever played. Sure, it ran with anything over 600k of conventional memory or so, but for some reason with simplified plane models UNLESS you figured out a way to free 638k of conventional memory. Needless to say this involved tricking DOS into thinking some upper memory was conventional or something like that, and I think I had to use QEMM to get it to work right. Those were the golden days of PC gaming, really.

On the downward pressure on game prices with steam/digital, I can't see a reason why this isn't a good thing, so long as they're getting the best potential revenue out of each price level. One important thing to remember is that Valve, or whoever runs a particular digital store, doesn't set the price on anything but their own games, the publishers do, and if there's a sale they have to agree to it. There's plenty of old games still hanging around at high and uncompetitive prices. Having a more variable price means more people are going to play your game. The only real downside is that steam sales have given the patient a way to make savings and potentially there's less revenue there, but there's still plenty of people who aren't patient.

On Divinity 2:DKS, I'd say it's worth full price. From what I've read, it's not just a 'gold' bundle and patched up, they've gone back to the original game and overhauled it. I'm having great fun with it (just finished the main campaign last night) and there's a ton of content to it. My steam timer is currently showing 44h on it, although I leave it running while alt-tabbed out quite often, but even if I've only played two thirds of that time it's been good to me. I wouldn't say I was 100% sold on the game at the point that I bought it, but there's plenty of other big games that I wasn't fully sold on either.

What's probably a better talking point is publishers (big and small) being able to put across what their game is about. Larian/Focus are smaller, but I had to go looking around youtube and reading forum postings to work out if my curiosity of the game was worth my money.

Lower base prices for games equals lower piracy. A lot of people pirate their games because $60 is not an acceptable price point. Steam has got a lot of people buying games that they'd otherwise steal, and I can't see how that could ever be considered a bad thing.

No NFS Hot Pursuit talk? I know Certis tried the game, at least. No one found it .... compelling?

Kurrelgyre wrote:

Anyone else see this show up in the Striving RSS feed?

My bad. I have both shows under one Libsyn account and I totally uploaded to the wrong one. All fixed now!

Certis wrote:
Kurrelgyre wrote:

Anyone else see this show up in the Striving RSS feed?

My bad. I have both shows under one Libsyn account and I totally uploaded to the wrong one. All fixed now!

Man, I would have totally listened to that Striving episode!

I love the voice mail question. Mine was Ultima IX when it was first released. I had played all of the other Ultimas and loved every one of them (we do not speak of VIII >>). I joyously went to EB Games and proudly spent the extra money to purchase the Dragon Edition. I gushed every second on the ride home. I felt pure joy as I put the disc into my computer.

I dreamed of a full 3D Britannia, finally killing the Guardian, setting the world right.

What do you mean the install is LARGER THAN MY HARDDRIVE!?!??!?!?!

I will not lie, I cried. A lot.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

BF BC2 new maps (2 from BC1, 2 from the SP campaign) free and ready to play today (Dec 1).
Vietnam pack on Steam on Dec 18, Xbox PS3 on Dec 21. $15

It took 3.5 hrs for the internet to correct that trivial fact. We're slipping.

*insert plug for Mount&Blade's 1866 mod*

Edit: And Saturn doesn't have a surface.

I agree with just about every criticism of Red Dead Redemption mentioned in this episode. I played a couple of hours and had a ton of fun oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous landscapes, helping out random passersby, getting into duels, playing poker, and even playing the occasional story mission. Eventually I got to the point that all open-world games reach, where I was done messing around in the world and ready to hunker down and start making real progress in the story, and I found that nothing about the plot or characters or core game mechanics gripped me enough to make me stick with the game. Riding my horse from place to place was boring once the novelty of the (again: GORGEOUS) landscapes wore off, but fast-traveling everywhere was boring too because it accentuated all the weakest parts of the game.

I don't regret the couple hours of fun I did get out of the game, but I also felt no compunctions about cutting it loose into the ether of Goozex long before the credits rolled.

Ultima VII was brutal to get working under DOS. Exult was a great program that came out around 5 years too late to spare me from tweaking my autoexec.bat file for hours

I just went through some hoop jumping a week ago when I got a racing game itch and don't have my xbox (racing console w/ Forza, PGR2 and Colin McRae 04) to get Need For Speed: High Stakes to run. Ever since I transitioned off of Win9x I could never get it to run. I decided to take a look into it and lo and behold, there's a fan patch with network play, imported tracks and cars from previous games and more. There were videos and pages of discussion about it and steps to try. I got lucky and on Win7 64-bit I did little more than install the game, apply the patch, and set a couple settings in game (no rear view mirror) and was off.

Of course, I've jumped through all kinds of hoops for X-Com games and a few others, too.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

BF BC2 new maps (2 from BC1, 2 from the SP campaign) free and ready to play today (Dec 1).
Vietnam pack on Steam on Dec 18, Xbox PS3 on Dec 21. $15

edit: loved where the voicemail question led to!

memories of conventional memory, XMS, EMS, config.sys and autoexec.bat editing, came flooding back.

The absolute worst offender of ridiculous DOS memory requirements had to be Falcon 3.0, the first PC game I ever played. Sure, it ran with anything over 600k of conventional memory or so, but for some reason with simplified plane models UNLESS you figured out a way to free 638k of conventional memory. Needless to say this involved tricking DOS into thinking some upper memory was conventional or something like that, and I think I had to use QEMM to get it to work right. Those were the golden days of PC gaming, really.

Thanks for triggering a rage flashback, jerk. I was so excited when I brought this home, especially after the guy at Babbages told me it's what "real F16 pilots use to train." Total BS, but it didn't matter to me. It took me a long time to get a boot disk set up that would work with this game. I do have fond memories of reading the huge manual though.

Evo wrote:
Chairman_Mao wrote:

BF BC2 new maps (2 from BC1, 2 from the SP campaign) free and ready to play today (Dec 1).
Vietnam pack on Steam on Dec 18, Xbox PS3 on Dec 21. $15

edit: loved where the voicemail question led to!

memories of conventional memory, XMS, EMS, config.sys and autoexec.bat editing, came flooding back.

The absolute worst offender of ridiculous DOS memory requirements had to be Falcon 3.0, the first PC game I ever played. Sure, it ran with anything over 600k of conventional memory or so, but for some reason with simplified plane models UNLESS you figured out a way to free 638k of conventional memory. Needless to say this involved tricking DOS into thinking some upper memory was conventional or something like that, and I think I had to use QEMM to get it to work right. Those were the golden days of PC gaming, really.

Thanks for triggering a rage flashback, jerk. I was so excited when I brought this home, especially after the guy at Babbages told me it's what "real F16 pilots use to train." Total BS, but it didn't matter to me. It took me a long time to get a boot disk set up that would work with this game. I do have fond memories of reading the huge manual though.

That game made me want to join the Air Force.

Regarding games sales.

Personally, I still buy as many games new as I ever used to. Although I don't buy AAA games from Steam or other download services because I can't afford the downloads, retailers here often have major sales on boxed games.

These are the times I buy games I would otherwise not get. I've bought Burnout Paradise, Crysis Warhead, Mirror's Edge and plenty of others at crazy low prices. We also get ranges like the 'EA Classics' Zacny mentioned. Mass Effect is available boxed for the evivalent of $10, less than a third of the new price.

Thanks to sales I do buy more indie games. I feel bad not buying games at full price, but the fact it, I wouldn't buy if they didn't hit a price point that made them appealing.

Julian. Did you have Baldur's Gate on floppy discs? Back in the day it came on 5 CDs.

You RDR haters are no longer on my Christmas card list. Good day!

I said good day!

/leaves thread

I absolutely loathe Steam and cannot understand why there is such seemingly unequivocal love for it by GWJ.

In the UK, Steam prices for new games are almost always 50%-100% higher than the cheapest you can find at retail/online retail. Even their sales are rarely cheaper than retail (seriously, check a good price comparison engine before you buy your next steam "sale" item). I also hate the fact that you have to load up a completely unneccassary program (steam client) when you play a Steamworks game and then get spammed with steam marketing after you exit the game and also have to close the steam app as it does not close with the game for some reason.

Finally, has anyone ever had the misfortune of dealing with Steam customer service? I bought a new copy of Supreme Commander 2 from a major retailer recently and was prevented from installing it as Steam had issued the unique steam code to more than one game. I have had to jump through so many hoops just to start playing a game i had legitimately bought. Throughout the process the customer service assumed i was guilty of piracy until i had proven my innocence. They clearly have no localised support despite selling and licensing their tech globally and so getting any response takes at least a day.

As a regular new PC games buyer, Steam has not enriched my PC gaming an iota and made many aspects of it considerably worse. GWJ, please provide some perspective before you inundate us with your SteamLove.

As far as prices, isn't that just savvy buying? You choose the one that makes sense to you. As far as cd key glitches, I've never had a problem with licenses.

With around 30m active users, I'm sure there are problems every now and then. When you say to 'provide some perspective', I feel that's what's happening. I've given my perspective, the podcasters have given theirs, and you've given yours. You would be quite right to say not everyone has a perfect experience, but it's also right to say not everyone has a terrible experience.

Incredibly cheap games are hard to resist but, when I find my cursor gravitating towards the buy button, I remind myself that it's sometimes better to buy one good game for £20 rather than five cheap games I'll probably never play.

That said, I did buy GTA San Andreas off XBL when it was cheap. It's the GTA I missed out on. I was surprised to find myself instantly liking the worlds charmingly retro feel. Polygon counts are low. Non of the characters can flex their hands, because their fingers are super-glued together, and cars explode by hoping into the air and, amid a little puff of blurred orange, instantly transforming into a blockly burned out wreck.

Edit: I made the mistake of watching some old GTA Vice City missions I recorded and I think I was on a nostalgia high (temporarily forgetting how many missions in Vice City frustrated the hell out of me.) Still, I've clicked with the characters and the world which, as is obviously the case with RDR, is a vital part of enjoying games like this.

gunjin wrote:

I absolutely loathe Steam and cannot understand why there is such seemingly unequivocal love for it by GWJ.

In the UK, Steam prices for new games are almost always 50%-100% higher than the cheapest you can find at retail/online retail.

Didn't you just answer your own question?

I don't always buy on Steam - I shop around like you suggest - but at least in Canada if I wait for Steam sales then they are almost always the best price in town. They absolutely demolish brick & mortar retail here, and usually kill all of the other digital distributors.

Also, don't European users often get shafted on ALL digital distribution platforms? This is a complaint I've heard levelled agains tmore than just Steam.

gunjin wrote:

I also hate the fact that you have to load up a completely unneccassary program (steam client) when you play a Steamworks game and then get spammed with steam marketing after you exit the game and also have to close the steam app as it does not close with the game for some reason.

I make it auto-start with Windows. It's light weight and does more good things (like auto-update my titles) than bad. I understand that people who want to squeeze every ounce of performance may have a different opinion on this.

gunjin wrote:

Finally, has anyone ever had the misfortune of dealing with Steam customer service? ... Throughout the process the customer service assumed i was guilty of piracy until i had proven my innocence. They clearly have no localised support despite selling and licensing their tech globally and so getting any response takes at least a day.

This is a common complaint with a lot of online services. Ever tried to get support from Google for a Gmail problem? Yikes.

gunjin wrote:

As a regular new PC games buyer, Steam has not enriched my PC gaming an iota and made many aspects of it considerably worse. GWJ, please provide some perspective before you inundate us with your SteamLove.

They do provide perspective - their own. What else could you ask them to do?!?

AndrewA wrote:

They do provide perspective - their own. What else could you ask them to do?!?

Exactly, GWJ isn't a news site that is supposed to provide a balanced perspective (not that news sites do that either). It a site by some guys who like games. They support dissenting voices, but are under no obligation to research issues that don't affect them.

I'm sure if one person on the podcast had struggled with Steam they would have mentioned it. Rob wasn't scared to share his opinion of RDR after all.

trueheart78 wrote:

You RDR haters are no longer on my Christmas card list. Good day!

I said good day!

/leaves thread

I second this!!!!

On a serious note, for the RDR haters out there, how much do you like Westerns in general? Like GTA and Mob movies, RDR is absolutely filled with Western tropes. A few of my friends have asked about RDR, and I've found that most people's enjoyment of the game is directly proportional to how much they like Westerns.

AndrewA wrote:

I don't always buy on Steam - I shop around like you suggest - but at least in Canada if I wait for Steam sales then they are almost always the best price in town. They absolutely demolish brick & mortar retail here, and usually kill all of the other digital distributors.

Also, don't European users often get shafted on ALL digital distribution platforms? This is a complaint I've heard levelled agains tmore than just Steam.

Yes they do, in part because the retail marketplace here (the UK especially) is so open and competitive that nobody with any sense pays full price for a game, even for console games. New PC games are typically £34.99 RRP but £24.99 delivered and further discounting tends to begin within weeks. Steam prices are never below RRP at launch and retain that price for ages. By the time the Steam sales come, the boxed product price has dropped to a fraction of the launch price and usually a fraction of the Steam sales price. Looking at the current Steam UK sales specials, not one of them gets anywhere near boxed product prices despite their touted savings. Even their major 50%/75% off deals, when i have scrutinised them, are rarely better than retail. Whilst I acknowledge that this is a publisher issue more than a Steam issue, it is interesting to note that even Valve's own games (over which, on Steam, they have complete pricing control) are 30%-50% more expensive vs retail.

AndrewA wrote:

This is a common complaint with a lot of online services. Ever tried to get support from Google for a Gmail problem? Yikes.

No, but then I haven't spent any money on Gmail. I did spend money on SupCom2 and have only encountered Steam-created problems and their delightful guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude so far so I believe I have a right to feel pissed off at Steam's dreadful customer service.

One thing I keep in mind is that things are not always equal. As an example for ArmA2 I waited longer and paid more for a steam copy as it didn't have limited activations that the retail disc copy did. On the flip side I'm likely to buy my copy of The Witcher 2 from GOG as it will have zero DRM or dependence on an online system plus a bunch of goodies and credit at GOG, compared to just the steam system, at an equal price.

Personally, there's no hard rule on where I get games from, but steam very often is my retailer of choice because they have acceptable offers at acceptable terms (you did read the terms didn't you?). Generally for me it's more convenient that retail or mail order (a.k.a. Amazon) as I don't live in a major city and the mail service is crap. The selection is like comparing, well about 1300 games with exactly two racks of old bargain basement tat in the largest game store this afternoon. For service, I haven't had to interact with steam (or any other online store) support service in a good long time, but I don't expect much better than your experience if I tried to return a PC game at retail.

I don't think any method is currently perfect, so it's a case of 'pick your poison'. At the moment steam specifically has me as a contented customer.

cube wrote:
trueheart78 wrote:

You RDR haters are no longer on my Christmas card list. Good day!

I said good day!

/leaves thread

I second this!!!!

On a serious note, for the RDR haters out there, how much do you like Westerns in general? Like GTA and Mob movies, RDR is absolutely filled with Western tropes. A few of my friends have asked about RDR, and I've found that most people's enjoyment of the game is directly proportional to how much they like Westerns.

I wouldn't call myself a "hater" but I was definitely not in love with the game like other people. For me, I got some serious mission fatigue in the middle of Mexico. Every mission is the same and the plot, such as it is, was ridiculous. I powered through it, figuring "surely this is the last mission in Mexico" and being wrong over and over again. And I enjoyed it more when I got to the third act and appreciated what they did with the ending. But I could completely understand if someone got bored with the sameness of all the missions. It is a beautiful game and has some nice, different touches from other Rock* games, but ultimately the Western flavoring only went so far for me. (And I like Westerns just fine.)

gunjin wrote:

As a regular new PC games buyer, Steam has not enriched my PC gaming an iota and made many aspects of it considerably worse. GWJ, please provide some perspective before you inundate us with your SteamLove.

So, I'm curious what more perspective we can give. We've talked about brick and mortar tons. We've talked about Impulse. We've talked about GFW and EA Direct and Direct2Drive. We've lamented the hell that was GameSpy matchmaking.

Did we go into how bad digital distribution is in the Europe? No, but we talk about the difficulties with Canada when we have, you know, Canadians on the show. Further, the main point I was making about steam was not the prices, but the fact I never had to worry about reinstalling a game, etc. I can just go turn Bioshock back on and play it in an hour on a new computer.

All that said, I recognize we give Valve a free pass where we kick other vendors in the nuts on some things. Valve has shown themselves to be generally on the side of their customers, which gets a lot of goodwill over time.

Sean nailed it. When he spoke about headphones and a laptop on the arm of the couch being a refuge from the wife's crap TV.

With a single TV and little kids myself, I can surf and goof on Steam and get at least partial credit from the wife for hanging out and not being a complete misanthrope. It is only when the house goes to sleep do if turn on the 360 and fire virtual weapons.

With Steam on laptops and the ability to gift a $5 copy of L4D2, this is where many of my peers are between Dancing with the Stars and putting the kids to bed.

rabbit wrote:

Valve has shown themselves to be generally on the side of their customers, which gets a lot of goodwill over time.

And by this, I believe you mean by distributing free updates and "DLC packs" via Steam that on Xbox Live are required to be charged for, and giving Portal and Alien Swarm away for free, among other things.