GWJ Conference Call Episode 235

Conference Call

WWE All Stars, The Hunter Revisited, Don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story, Pro Gaming, Would We Play Non-Action, Non-Puzzle Games?, Official International Goodjer Day Announcement, Your Emails and more!

This week Julian, Cory, Elysium and Shawn imagine games that don't require shooting, puzzle solving or any of the usual game mechanics. We also announce the date for International Goodjer Day, 2011!

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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CastMedium
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WWE All Stars
The Hunter
Don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story
Rock Band Pro Guitar

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

The Hunter (atmosphere) - http://www.thehunter.com/pub/ - 0:27:52

Starcraft 2 Terran Theme - http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/ - 0:47:37

Comments

The WWE All Stars grappling system sounds like the mechanic used in the THQ games on the N64: WCW vs NWO World Tour, WCW vs NWO Revenge, WWF Wrestlemania, WWE No Mercy. I played those games to death. I spent hours making custom characters, picking out the perfect move set and entrance. Loved those games, but never really cared for the simple and boring arcade-y ones that Demi and rabbit remember.

Please disregard anything negative I said about WWE All-Stars on this episode. I didn't really "get" the grappling until two nights ago and now I love this game.

Expect more feedback on the next episode. This is the fun wrestling game I was looking for.

People gave you crap over liking Zenbound?! Zenbound is amazing! The mechanic is like NOTHING I've ever seen before and that alone is applaudable. But it also rubs a basic relaxation sector of the mind (or at least my mind) that enjoys wrapping things in string. Then ties the whole thing together *snicker* with a solid puzzle element. Easily one of my favorite iOS games.

Ico was a very zen-like game for me. The combat was never really challenging, but added creepiness to the game and reminded you of the "plot."

DAMN I love that game and am thrilled it's coming out for the PS3.

Haven't listened to the podcast yet but I just wanted to say right away that my answer to

Would We Play Non-Action, Non-Puzzle Games?

is a resounding yes.

How was laser eye surgery?

Curious, but afraid that around age 70 I go blind.

Love the chat on e-sports. I think it makes sense that fighting games and RTSs are more suitable to spectating, mostly because the competitors are playing the game from what amounts to a bird's eye view that is the same view as the audience. Viewing an FPS match from a player's perspective gives a weird, incomplete picture, while using a 3rd person camera view feels too detached from what playing the game is ultimately about.

Also, FPSs are all about site lines, and controlling spatially interesting spaces that have a lot of varying terrain and mutually obscured spatial regions. Fighting games and RTSs are conveniently about the control of fields of visually open space, much like a sport like basketball or football. A fighting game has no terrain to speak of, and an RTS carves a 2d area in open spaces and choke points.

Chump wrote:

How was laser eye surgery?

Curious, but afraid that around age 70 I go blind.

Well, I'm only 30, but so far it's awesome.

7inchsplit wrote:

Viewing an FPS match from a player's perspective gives a weird, incomplete picture, while using a 3rd person camera view feels too detached from what playing the game is ultimately about.

Do you really feel that way about your second thought? I wonder, if you're spectating an FPS, does that miss what the game is all about?

I'm thinking in terms of hockey. I watch hockey every week, from third person cameras all around the rink; I used to play hockey video games, using the third person camera view that emulates broadcast hockey. In fact, the first time I paused NHL 07 and took the camera down to ice level—to what my digital player saw—it was disorientating. I had never seen hockey that way: on TV it was presented as that overview, and in video games it aped that same view—implying that that is what hockey is all about.

It had vaguely, but never really, occurred to me that even when I was supposed to be virtually playing hockey, I was still not getting "what playing the game is ultimately about." It was jarring to suddenly have that weird, incomplete, player's view.

So to flip that around, I would think that watching an FPS, like for another example watching a race replay from TV-style camera angles, would be a pretty simplistic mental leap to make.

Gravey wrote:

Do you really feel that way about your second thought? I wonder, if you're spectating an FPS, does that miss what the game is all about?

Really good point, of course watching a sport isn't dependent on knowing what it's like to play a sport. I do think, though, that since video games involve actions in a more limited decision space, it's crucial to have played a game a little bit to get excited about watching it. Maybe, with sports, we can watch them without having played them because we're all human beings with human bodies, so we understand when a player does something clutch that something spectacular just happened. I might not realize the same thing if I hadn't played specific a game, or FPSs in general, while watching a match.

But yeah, the more significant thing, it seems, about spectating FPSs is that they're in some complex spaces. Imagine watching a sport that's played in a series of different mazes. Kinda wacky.

7inchsplit wrote:
Gravey wrote:

Do you really feel that way about your second thought? I wonder, if you're spectating an FPS, does that miss what the game is all about?

Really good point, of course watching a sport isn't dependent on knowing what it's like to play a sport. I do think, though, that since video games involve actions in a more limited decision space, it's crucial to have played a game a little bit to get excited about watching it. Maybe, with sports, we can watch them without having played them because we're all human beings with human bodies, so we understand when a player does something clutch that something spectacular just happened. I might not realize the same thing if I hadn't played specific a game, or FPSs in general, while watching a match.

Sports are about bodies, but they're also about the rules and, like you say, a limited decision space. And while I could admire what I saw on screen when I first started watching hockey, it was—of course—playing the video game that really helped me to understand what I was seeing. (Probably playing actual hockey might have helped, but there's no couch there.)

7inchsplit wrote:

But yeah, the more significant thing, it seems, about spectating FPSs is that they're in some complex spaces. Imagine watching a sport that's played in a series of different mazes. Kinda wacky.

That's an equally good point. Walls, ceilings, obscurement, etc and large, dispersed teams would at the very least make broadcast complicated practically, if not philosophically.

Call it a draw?

Sean (I think), who wanted man in The Hunter: I had that same thought for a fraction of a second before I realized that's every other FPS in existence.

WOOOOT! International GWJ DAY! October 15 - bring it people!

7inchsplit wrote:

But yeah, the more significant thing, it seems, about spectating FPSs is that they're in some complex spaces. Imagine watching a sport that's played in a series of different mazes. Kinda wacky.

I think it's possible to turn a FPS into a good spectator sport. The catch is the levels would have to be designed with camera and spectators in mind. That would add another whole layer of complexity to the level designer's job. I'm not sure if it's worth the extra effort, especially since there's a good chance designing for spectators would compromise the quality of the gameplay a bit.

We'll probably get a FPS that makes for good spectating eventually, but odds are it will happen by accident rather than by design. It'll take a top-tier-popular FPS that has a few popular maps that happen to be spectator friendly. Either that or somebody will mod up a decent set of broadcasting tools for Team Fortress 2 and Valve will take the ball and run with it.

I wonder how much the pace the game matters for how watchable it is. I think that's part of why Starcraft 2 works so well, though I'd be hard-pressed to explain my thinking.

Where an RTS game works as a sport is because of its territory based nature. Most sports are about territorial control, so it's a familiar 'narrative' hook to viewers, even if the sport itself is unfamiliar. The team with the most territory is the team that's doing well at that point.

A shooter could be made to work as a sport, but AFAIK most attempts have been in deathmatch style games which are boring. 'Oh, he shoots a dude, Oh, he shoots another dude' doesn't make for a compelling build and release of tension, and definitely not from the player's perspective.

A team based, control point, arena game, with proper external camera controls could work.

Fighting games are obviously a different bag, that's more like boxing or a martial art.

I always liked to play the GTA series in "tourist mode". Just hop into a helicopter and fly around the city.

Most Japanese AVNs, or the "hokey Dating Sims (EeeeeWWWW!)" as it's called in the show, generally fall into the interactive fiction kind of game. These are reasonably popular in the Japanese PC and PSP game markets, as far as I can tell. Most don't get translated, which is kind of a shame, IMO.

Without the interesting hold of a game mechanic or a narrative reward, I think it's hard for a game to justify its existence. After all, a game is, well, a game so we expect to be playing it. There are several game models that feature neither action nor puzzle-solving. Most gamers who don't see the appeal generally lump such games into the "shovelware" category, unfortunately. It's an unfortunate tendency that's all too similar to the same gaming elitism that says that console gamers are a lower form of life.

Examples of gameplay that's neither action nor puzzle is the doll game. We all do it and enjoy it to some extent. Most male (and some female) gamers just need to be fooled so that they don't get in the way of their own enjoyment. For instance, the "inventory" system in many RPGs and the facial customization options in Bioware games are absolutely doll play mechanics. They don't really affect the strategy or the narrative aspect. They're just there for you to make your avatar look the way you want it to with the clothing you think looks great.

This type of play is not meaningfully different from Facebook's Buddy Poke. They're both based on the enjoyment derived from customizing an avatar. In many ways, dressing up a Barbie doll isn't much different, and such an activity is neither action-oriented nor puzzle-oriented.

Somewhat similar, but subtly different is the model-making game. The archetypal example is, of course, SimCity. SimCity can be played as a puzzle game where you work out how to run the city given the parameters and variables you're given, but the game can also be played as a giant model kit. Just turn down the difficulty and lay down whichever railroad system you think complements your beautiful riverside city the best.

When we customize our cars in Forza, or build the Battleship Galactica in Galactic Civilizations 2, we are engaging in model play.

LarryC wrote:

Examples of gameplay that's neither action nor puzzle is the doll game. We all do it and enjoy it to some extent. Most male (and some female) gamers just need to be fooled so that they don't get in the way of their own enjoyment. For instance, the "inventory" system in many RPGs and the facial customization options in Bioware games are absolutely doll play mechanics. They don't really affect the strategy or the narrative aspect. They're just there for you to make your avatar look the way you want it to with the clothing you think looks great. [...]

When we customize our cars in Forza, or build the Battleship Galactica in Galactic Civilizations 2, we are engaging in model play.

And to tie Forza back to your point about doll play, my Forza 3 stats inform me that I have spent hours upon hours more in the car painting mode than actually racing. Twice as much time last time I checked. But Hoju Racing needs liveries!

I laughed hard at the bit about American McGee's video-game sweatshop in China. Then I felt bad about having laughed at it, because it is not a joke.

Gravey wrote:
LarryC wrote:

Examples of gameplay that's neither action nor puzzle is the doll game. We all do it and enjoy it to some extent. Most male (and some female) gamers just need to be fooled so that they don't get in the way of their own enjoyment. For instance, the "inventory" system in many RPGs and the facial customization options in Bioware games are absolutely doll play mechanics. They don't really affect the strategy or the narrative aspect. They're just there for you to make your avatar look the way you want it to with the clothing you think looks great. [...]

When we customize our cars in Forza, or build the Battleship Galactica in Galactic Civilizations 2, we are engaging in model play.

And to tie Forza back to your point about doll play, my Forza 3 stats inform me that I have spent hours upon hours more in the car painting mode than actually racing. Twice as much time last time I checked. But Hoju Racing needs liveries!

Oh, absolutely! I'd spend entire game days in GalCiv2 just designing my Fighter models so that they look like the Vic Viper, and then scouring the internet for the best Galactica models that no money can buy. I even made a bunch of different class ships with a motif so that they'll look like they actually came from a single species' aesthetic sensibility.

The Human Alliance needs my engineering expertise to launch those galaxy-conquering vessels!

The irony of referring to the DS and PSP as "closed systems" while simultaneously falling over yourselves to worship your iDevices was extremely thick. I know that you were talking about Internet connectivity when you said closed.... but Apple's prowess for developing locked down proprietary closed devices is almost legendary.

AndrewA wrote:

The irony of referring to the DS and PSP as "closed systems" while simultaneously falling over yourselves to worship your iDevices was extremely thick. I know that you were talking about Internet connectivity when you said closed.... but Apple's prowess for developing locked down proprietary closed devices is almost legendary.

But not what we were talking about.

Now imagine a world where, instead of spending $40 at a physical store for a 3DS title, you could buy it through the device at a much lower cost.

That's what we're talking about. That's the magic we're hoping for in the next generation of handheld gaming. I think both Sony and Nintendo see it, too, but neither can wrap their head around how to pull it off at the same profit margins they're used to. That's why the PSP Go failed and why the 3DS shipped without an online store.

And it's not like Nintendo and Sony don't create "locked down proprietary" environments, either. That's just the way the game is played. You can say we're "worshiping," but if you own any console device and actively purchase software for it, you're a pot commenting on the color of the kettle.

Gravey wrote:
7inchsplit wrote:
Gravey wrote:

Do you really feel that way about your second thought? I wonder, if you're spectating an FPS, does that miss what the game is all about?

Really good point, of course watching a sport isn't dependent on knowing what it's like to play a sport. I do think, though, that since video games involve actions in a more limited decision space, it's crucial to have played a game a little bit to get excited about watching it. Maybe, with sports, we can watch them without having played them because we're all human beings with human bodies, so we understand when a player does something clutch that something spectacular just happened. I might not realize the same thing if I hadn't played specific a game, or FPSs in general, while watching a match.

Sports are about bodies, but they're also about the rules and, like you say, a limited decision space. And while I could admire what I saw on screen when I first started watching hockey, it was—of course—playing the video game that really helped me to understand what I was seeing. (Probably playing actual hockey might have helped, but there's no couch there.)

I disagree. I've come to really enjoy watching games of hockey despite never having played a game of hockey myself and also never having played a hockey video game. Similarly, I really enjoyed watching the StarCraft 2 battle reports that Blizzard released despite not having played StarCraft or StarCraft 2 in multiplayer. The reason I'm able to enjoy these things as a spectator without having experienced them is that the broadcasts are accompanied by knowledgeable commentators who are able to describe the significance of what's unfolding in layman's terms.

Sports commentators can do a wonderful job of drawing even fairly ignorant viewers into the excitement of a game. Sometimes this involves explaining where a play went right or went wrong, and sometimes it's as simple as letting viewers know when one side or the other is on the ropes. The problem a lot of video game commentators run into is that they narrate for other players rather than for spectators. I've watched a fair number of StarCraft commentaries that weren't as engaging as Blizzard's own battle reports simply because the commentary was so jargon-filled and assumed so much knowledge about the game that it became background noise.

There are ways of explaining what a "5 pool" or whatever strategy is in terms that spectators can understand, but most game commentators don't bother because they assume people are watching the games in order to learn new strategies. By comparison, watch a hockey broadcast and wait for them to disect a goal scored or a successful defense on the power play. The commentators are usually former hockey players, and they'll know all the specific terms for what they're watching, but they generally don't use them. They'll take a moment to explain what players are doing when they cycle the puck around the net, and who is screening the goal tender on shots.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

A shooter could be made to work as a sport, but AFAIK most attempts have been in deathmatch style games which are boring. 'Oh, he shoots a dude, Oh, he shoots another dude' doesn't make for a compelling build and release of tension, and definitely not from the player's perspective.

A team based, control point, arena game, with proper external camera controls could work.

I had a lot of fun watching Koz's commentaries on the GWJ TF2 tournament. I've never played a game of TF2, but Koz did a good job of explaining the stakes in each game. It made me think that an FPS could work as a spectator sport if the game was structured, as you said, around broader goals than deathmatch. One match in particular stands out in my memory. I think it was Suicide Kings vs BABIES, and the map required each team to escort a cart around a bend, up a hill, and onto an elevator. Those goals provided a narrative structure for the matches, and Koz's commentary helped me know what was at stake (like just how difficult it can be to get the cart up the ramp) and when the players were doing well and when they were doing poorly.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
MrDeVil909 wrote:

A shooter could be made to work as a sport, but AFAIK most attempts have been in deathmatch style games which are boring. 'Oh, he shoots a dude, Oh, he shoots another dude' doesn't make for a compelling build and release of tension, and definitely not from the player's perspective.

A team based, control point, arena game, with proper external camera controls could work.

I had a lot of fun watching Koz's commentaries on the GWJ TF2 tournament. I've never played a game of TF2, but Koz did a good job of explaining the stakes in each game. It made me think that an FPS could work as a spectator sport if the game was structured, as you said, around broader goals than deathmatch. One match in particular stands out in my memory. I think it was Suicide Kings vs BABIES, and the map required each team to escort a cart around a bend, up a hill, and onto an elevator. Those goals provided a narrative structure for the matches, and Koz's commentary helped me know what was at stake (like just how difficult it can be to get the cart up the ramp) and when the players were doing well and when they were doing poorly.

Yeah, TF2 is definitely one of those that can work. Team based, territory control, well designed arenas, all the ingrediants.

When FPS was being pushed as the future of eSports it was all about Fatal1ty headshotting noobs in Painkiller, which highlights one of the other problems, the shooter du jour changes every 6 months, except in a few rare cases, so a casual viewer needs to relearn what they know periodically.

Again, TF2 is a long lived game so many people recognise it, will probably live a lot longer and has an approachable art style unlike grittier games like CS.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Gravey wrote:
7inchsplit wrote:
Gravey wrote:

Do you really feel that way about your second thought? I wonder, if you're spectating an FPS, does that miss what the game is all about?

Really good point, of course watching a sport isn't dependent on knowing what it's like to play a sport. I do think, though, that since video games involve actions in a more limited decision space, it's crucial to have played a game a little bit to get excited about watching it. Maybe, with sports, we can watch them without having played them because we're all human beings with human bodies, so we understand when a player does something clutch that something spectacular just happened. I might not realize the same thing if I hadn't played specific a game, or FPSs in general, while watching a match.

Sports are about bodies, but they're also about the rules and, like you say, a limited decision space. And while I could admire what I saw on screen when I first started watching hockey, it was—of course—playing the video game that really helped me to understand what I was seeing. (Probably playing actual hockey might have helped, but there's no couch there.)

I disagree. I've come to really enjoy watching games of hockey despite never having played a game of hockey myself and also never having played a hockey video game. Similarly, I really enjoyed watching the StarCraft 2 battle reports that Blizzard released despite not having played StarCraft or StarCraft 2 in multiplayer. The reason I'm able to enjoy these things as a spectator without having experienced them is that the broadcasts are accompanied by knowledgeable commentators who are able to describe the significance of what's unfolding in layman's terms.

Well I can't say you're wrong for how you enjoy things, so maybe it's a difference in how we learn. There are some great commentators who can really elucidate what's happened, and of course that helps. On the other hand, I could watch all the hand-egg in my life with everyone explaining it to me, but it wasn't until I actually played a game of Madden once (but I never inhaled) that the workings of the game finally clicked for me, and that helped me appreciate what I would see on TV. Maybe I'm just a learn-by-doing person?

One of my favourite things to watch on Youtube is TF2 videos. Watch any good spy video from that game and it's just like a work of art..

re: "Non-Action, Non-Puzzle Games"
You briefly mentioned it as a possibility, but I can confirm that it does actually happen: I play single player Minecraft in peaceful/no monsters mode.

misplacedbravado wrote:

I laughed hard at the bit about American McGee's video-game sweatshop in China. Then I felt bad about having laughed at it, because it is not a joke.

Excuse me, we prefer to call them sauna shops.

I'm new to the smart phone platform, having only recently picked up an iPhone. I've now gotten or played Angry Birds, Tiny Wings, Game Dev Story, World of Goo, Words with Friends, RobotUnicorn Attack, ChuChu Rocket, BirdStrike, Fruit Ninja, Flight Control, and Critter Crunch (these are the ones I still have installed and at least remember playing). I mention these titles to qualify my following statements, so you can tell me if the problem is that my experience is too limited.

I hope that putting a cartridge in the back of a portable device isn't going away, because from my brief few weeks with my phone so far I love it, I love a lot of the games, but there is still a very defined difference between the depth I've seen in DS games and the depth I've encountered with iPhone games. A lot of the iPhone games I've enjoyed remind me of the period in my life in which I played nothing bit flash games. I enjoyed that period greatly, though I appreciate the depth of other game types (which is why I've moved on).

I know that there are some iphone games that have depth (Civ Rev, Monkey) but there are few. I dont know if the difference is the platform or the storage that a cartridge can afford, but at this point I think it's impossible to gloss over the fact that there is a difference in the types of games available.

Also, it is fair to say that most DS games are crap, I'm just referring to the rare good ones in this post.

Just something I've been thinking about for a while.

demonbox wrote:

I know that there are some iphone games that have depth (Civ Rev, Monkey) but there are few. I dont know if the difference is the platform or the storage that a cartridge can afford, but at this point I think it's impossible to gloss over the fact that there is a difference in the types of games available.

You raise a good point. Just because I want the physical media to go away doesn't mean I want the complexity of the game to drop. And you're right, a lot of iPhone games are not meant to be played for 20+ hours.

The issue comes down to development resources more than it does distribution means. Phone games are, by their very nature, going to be more "pick up and play" experiences, and I'd hope that DS and PSP titles have a bit more heft to them. But that doesn't mean I should have to spend $40 on a physical memory card to play them. Look at the home consoles -- Both Microsoft and Sony have made great strides in offering full, triple-A titles at lower prices through digital distribution.

The handhelds could easily work the same way, with the only real constraint being storage space on the device.

I don't think anyone was pointing to iOS as an example of how to do big, meaty gaming experiences (though it could be, given time). It's just an example of how ease of access has benefited the consumer.

Make sense? I'm a bit ramble-tastic in the morning without my coffee.