GWJ Conference Call Episode 230

Conference Call

Men of War: Assault Squad, Dark Spore Beta, Bulletstorm, Friction Between Social & Traditional Games, Gameification, Your Emails and more!

This week MeYou Health game designer (and good pal) Bill Sabram joins the show to stand up for social games and gameification. Julian, Elysium, Rob Zacny and Shawn are kicking around in there too.

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
Game Thing Daily
Good Old Games

MeYou Health
Men of War: Assault Squad
Bulletstorm
Dragon Age 2
Dark Spore
Helsing's Fire (iPhone)

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Span - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 22:01

And All That Between - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 51:59

Comments

The email about hints, combined with my having watched Get Lamp a couple of weekends ago, makes me want InvisiClues to come back.

I do worry about the mid-tier developer, and subsequently the mid-tier game-- however, with Xbox live arcade, Playstation Network, Steam/PC, they are all still quite viable (for example, Double Fine is making multiple, quality mid-tier titles simultaneously).

The death of the mid-tier game is similar to the death of pc games, where relatively a market appears to shrink, when in fact the gaming market as a whole has just grown exponentially.

Edit:
If anyone follows the giant bombcast, their 03-03-2011 episode mentions a different angle on Iwata's GDC speech.

kashwashwa wrote:

Rob Zacny is the smartest man.

I got enough beard love last time that I'm willing to let Zacny have this one.

A thought occurred while listening to the segment on social gaming. Specifically why it might be easier to rely on smaller teams & lower budgets when working in the social/mobile arena.

When we play games on modern PCs or consoles, we tend to expect a high fidelity game: HD graphics, lots of action and eye candy, awesome 5.1 surround sound, etc. Why spend $60 unless we're getting the equivalent of a summer blockbuster? We tend to want the "epic" when we're paying that cost.

But in the social/mobile arena, we tolerate much lower-fi games: simple graphics, sound is often too low/off to be focused on, etc. When we're only paying pennies or a handful of dollar, we don't worry so much about the dressing so long as the gameplay is solid. Also, since they're not focusing on building or using bleeding edge tech, they can skip that whole time/cost in development and invest in the actual game.

This dichotomy (by no means perfectly delineated between the two arenas) allows for more nimble, smaller, less costly teams to develop games where the mechanics are more central to the design than the dressing.

An interesting social games / gamification discussion, even if personally I rail against most of what's said. But then I've hated achievement systems right from the start and moving those systems into non gaming activities are the last thing I have any interest in. Being a non competitive personality adds to my disinterest.

As for Iwatas comments re: Mobile Games... its pretty obvious it comes from a place of fear. And no wonder, its rough to justify high mobile game prices, especially in the more casual types of games. And it will only get worse as the phone/tablet tech cycle races ahead and we see more mobile devices with even proper controls. And whilst it was hypocritical of Nintendo given the amount of sh*t they allow on their platforms, I do believe they care more about game quality (Sony too) than Apple or Google. Nintendo/Sony at least have dev teams working hard on quality games, unlike the phone/tablet platform holders (well aside from Microsoft).

HedgeWizard wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:
garion333 wrote:

Sooooooooooooo glad you managed to get people to play Men of War finally, Certis. Finally. Such a great series.

Now, shall we get them to play Demon's Souls?

(Clockwork, please insert beating a dead horse gif. Thanks.)

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/lWqAz.gif)

That is an apt gif because that's exactly what it's like playing against the damn, dirty cheat of an AI in Men of War: Assault Squad: you get spanked. Repeatedly. And then it flogs your lifeless corpse.

Also, I am Demon Souls proof.

New patch seems to make things a little bit easier for the player. And there's nothing wrong with playing on easy, which is still hard.

garion333 wrote:

New patch seems to make things a little bit easier for the player. And there's nothing wrong with playing on easy, which is still hard.

I saw that, though haven't installed it yet.

I can play through any of the campaign scenarios on easy, and have so far pushed through to victory on the 1st try. Not so playing the same scenarios in co-op easy, where the AI seems to significantly increase its resources per player. (Mind you we typically start out on Normal and bump back on the 3rd/4th try).

Rob and I have made some great tactical advances and secured 3/4 of the map, but the final push is insane when we're met with arty fire, 3-4 stugs or panzer IIIs, a couple of other light armor and seemingly endless amounts of troops.

Chalk me up as another one whose guilty pleasure is skulking in the shadows, delivering death (or unconsciousness) unseen, or better yet ghosting. You could make a game featuring the most amazing characters with the most versatile and awesome skill sets ever conceived—but if there's a rogue or thief available, I will invariably and perpetually ignore all other options.

My other, related, guilty pleasure is going to TTLG and snickering every time someone writes "BJ".

"And Julian, you are making wanking motions." Occasionally those visual gags do work.

Marry Poppins reference at 36:30 and it was delightful.

"You go to a movie to be manipulated." So wait, the diddling comes with the price of the ticket? Oh wait, you meant emotional manipulation. Wrong theater.

"f*ck you, I'm going to do yoga better than you!" "I'm going to yoga the sh*t out of you!" I love the foreplay on this show.

To dismiss those who were moved by the Dead Island trailer as people who "need to get away from the computer" seems rather pompous. Maybe I am taking that comment a little too seriously?

Instead of in-game hints, how about better designed games?

My guilty game mechanic pleasure is the tactical party RPG, a la Baldur's Gate or Dragon Age, that allows me to tinker with each character.

My wife (who is not much of a gamer) will push me out of my chair to play sniper sequences in FPS games, like Bad Company 2.

I hope we see a character in a game with the name Von Doomenstein.

Does Aragorn collect 10 wolf pelts?

Pretty funny show this week, especially after last week's rather heavy show.

burntham77 wrote:

To dismiss those who were moved by the Dead Island trailer as people who "need to get away from the computer" seems rather pompous. Maybe I am taking that comment a little too seriously?

I am not sure he was dismissing people moved by the trailer, but people who were arguing that it was a laudable work of art because it moved people. The gist seemed to be the method the developers used is a pretty cheap (easy) way of getting an emotional response from a viewer, which doesn't make it valuable or artistic in the sense that some are defending it.

Put another way: if the sum total criteria for being high art is that it moves you, then maybe you need more experiences because it's clear that it's pretty easy to manipulate strong emotions by overtly selecting certain subject matter.

I would agree in the sense that if an emotional response is triggered from more subtle expressions, then that suggests a better command of the art.

But that was my interpretation of his comments.

HedgeWizard wrote:

I am not sure he was dismissing people moved by the trailer, but people who were arguing that it was a laudable work of art because it moved people. The gist seemed to be the method the developers used is a pretty cheap (easy) way of getting an emotional response from a viewer, which doesn't make it valuable or artistic in the sense that some are defending it.

Put another way: if the sum total criteria for being high art is that it moves you, then maybe you need more experiences because it's clear that it's pretty easy to manipulate strong emotions by overtly selecting certain subject matter.

This is way I heard it, and what I agreed with.

Gravey wrote:
HedgeWizard wrote:

I am not sure he was dismissing people moved by the trailer, but people who were arguing that it was a laudable work of art because it moved people. The gist seemed to be the method the developers used is a pretty cheap (easy) way of getting an emotional response from a viewer, which doesn't make it valuable or artistic in the sense that some are defending it.

Put another way: if the sum total criteria for being high art is that it moves you, then maybe you need more experiences because it's clear that it's pretty easy to manipulate strong emotions by overtly selecting certain subject matter.

This is way I heard it, and what I agreed with.

That's how I interpreted it as well and, even though I defended the trailer in the other thread, I do agree with Rob's concern about the over-the-top response to it.

Good trailer? Yes, I still think so.

Unassailable work of art that should simply be appreciated by everybody who is so fortunate to have the privilege of viewing it? Um, no.

As for the rest of the podcast...I think I actually want to give the gamification (really?) segment one more listen, because I disagree with what I heard on my initial pass so strongly that I'm convinced that I misheard some of the major points somehow.

One quick thing about Iwata's keynote, though. Even if he delivered the message in an incredibly self-serving way, the message -- the idea that Apple wants to take over with quantity, irrespective of quality -- isn't just a marketing tactic from Nintendo.

IMAGE(http://www.blogcdn.com/www.tuaw.com/media/2010/11/games-on-ios-v2.1.png)

Iwata may certainly be pushing his own interests with those cautionary comments, but that doesn't mean that his point isn't applicable or relevant to other companies in the gaming industry.

Sorry, Sean, but...

The Dead Island discussion reminds of this piece.

...we are, after all, living through an age in which the fabulous ingenuity of craft is being lavished upon the realisation of a pathologically adolescent imagination.

When I say "step away from the computer" this is what I mean. In addition to what I and others have said about the brazen manipulation in the trailer, I think the trailer got an undue amount of attention and praise due to the fact that we have come to accept games' low standards for sophistication and emotional complexity. We shouldn't. "Good, for a video game" is not good enough. And I suspect that sentiment is what drove reactions to the DI trailer.

Gamerdom also has a tendency to uncritically fawn over anything zombie. Personally, I find the zombie apocalypse fad at best cheesey and at worst disturbing, so the trailer didn't even start with that automatic pass.

I might have to switch to an avatar of Orson Wells from The Third Man. It automatically gives everything you write a little extra gravitas.

Higgledy wrote:

I might have to switch to an avatar of Orson Wells from The Third Man. It automatically gives everything you write a little extra gravitas.

Even offline, the fact that he's huge (and wears glasses) gives him an air somewhere between Andre the Giant and The Beast.

Gravey wrote:

Gamerdom also has a tendency to uncritically fawn over anything zombie. Personally, I find the zombie apocalypse fad at best cheesey and at worst disturbing, so the trailer didn't even start with that automatic pass.

I think the backlash has finally come around on the zombie thing. Not that zombie stuff isn't still totally popular, but at this point it almost feels like the zombies are a strike against instead of a selling point, especially when it comes to video games.

Quick question about Men of War. I have the original, but could never get past the production values (voice acting), etc. The co-op of Assault Squad has me intrigued.. and the price is sure right. Have they improved on the original, or should I just give it another chance?

El-Producto wrote:

Quick question about Men of War. I have the original, but could never get past the production values (voice acting), etc. The co-op of Assault Squad has me intrigued.. and the price is sure right. Have they improved on the original, or should I just give it another chance?

I think it looks better and has some tweaks, but Assault Squad isn't leaps and bounds. If it was just the voice acting then I'd say give it another shot. If you thought it was too cumbersome or complicated, I don't think you'll find it's changed much.