GWJ Conference Call Episode 236

Conference Call


NHL 11 Pro Mode, FEAR Re-Visited, Portal, DJ Hero 2, The Portal 2 ARG & What It Means, Your Emails and more!

This week Cory, Elysium, Allen Cook and Rob Zacny dissect the Portal 2 ARG and what it all means.

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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DJ Hero 2
NHL 11
F.E.A.R
Portal 2 ARG Wiki

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Portal 2 trailer - http://www.thinkwithportals.com/ - 0:33:29

Portal 2 - Investment Opportunity - http://www.thinkwithportals.com/ - 0:57:25

Comments

Like in NHL I play NBA2K11 with only one player/position. It is fun to try to find your spot in the team, improve your character (rpg style).. in the end it makes you much more involved in the game in a personal level.

In the future I hope to see sports game played as multiplayer games in fp.

I am only an hour or two into Portal 2. For me, the magic is definitely still there. I don't think Elysium has to be worried.

I played many years of amateur youth hockey. I wasn't good, but had lots of fun playing. NHL Pro mode lets me have the feel of playing a defense position again.

In most hockey games, the focus is on shooting the puck. But in 8 years of playing defense, I probably made 5 shots on goal (again, I wasn't very good). A lot of play as a defender is about positioning. Pro mode lets me get back in the head space of being in the right place at the right time to keep the puck in the offensive zone, or make the hit right as the puck gets to a guy on the other team, or put a pass on the stick of our guy making a breakaway.

Holy crap. Was that Yanni : Live At The Acropolis before the emails?

Two things:

1. You guys consistently put out a great show. Thanks for that.

2. I have been playing with "player lock" on in NHL games since way back in the early 2K years. It's really fun, especially if you know a lot about the sport. I haven't done much with Be a Pro because I don't like sitting on the bench. I think these modes are fantastic and the developers should focus on enhancing the A.I. so you can count on your teammates doing what they are supposed to do.

Portal 2 bad? Not a chance. I think I have another two chapters left and...it's really good. But I suppose you already know this by now.

Flying_Norseman wrote:
I think these modes are fantastic and the developers should focus on enhancing the A.I. so you can count on your teammates doing what they are supposed to do.

This is the most frustrating thing. It actually starts with the coaching, I would say. Looking at my team, the lines don't really make sense. Playmakers with no-one to pass to, a pair of power-forwards with nobody to actually generate offensive threat? Come on.

And there are definitely some decisions the AI will make every single time in a given situation, and they're almost always wrong. Defensemen will always fire the puck from from the blue line back behind the net if they're the first ones across. It's infuriating to see them just throw a rush away like that.

Or they will just pass from the goal line and back up to the point, over and over again. I could read a book in the time it takes them to get some shots off. Very little stretch-passing, even when it is desperately needed to get an opening for a shot.

Without a doubt, the A.I. is no where near what it should be. That's actually a pet peeve of mine in a lot of games not limited to the sports genre. I had thought that by now we would have made bigger strides towards realistic A.I., but I guess it's easier for the developers to pawn that off on multiplayer.

Rob Zacny wrote:
Flying_Norseman wrote:
I think these modes are fantastic and the developers should focus on enhancing the A.I. so you can count on your teammates doing what they are supposed to do.

This is the most frustrating thing. It actually starts with the coaching, I would say. Looking at my team, the lines don't really make sense. Playmakers with no-one to pass to, a pair of power-forwards with nobody to actually generate offensive threat? Come on.

And there are definitely some decisions the AI will make every single time in a given situation, and they're almost always wrong. Defensemen will always fire the puck from from the blue line back behind the net if they're the first ones across. It's infuriating to see them just throw a rush away like that.

Or they will just pass from the goal line and back up to the point, over and over again. I could read a book in the time it takes them to get some shots off. Very little stretch-passing, even when it is desperately needed to get an opening for a shot.

Be A Pro mode definitely exposes the AI weaknesses in NHL 11. After playing a few seasons, I have a laundry list of tweaks that need to be made.

My own pet peeve: the AI has no clue how to cross the blue line to the attacking zone. In reality the key is all about crossing the blue line with speed and if the defender is there, get the puck in deep. The AI will consistently pull back at the last second and if I'm trying to join the attack I'll always be put offside. Very frustrating, and its led me to start playing the game to fit the AI rather than play the game the way it should be played.

Having played Be A Pro as both a defender and a forward, I'd say the AI works better as a forward. You have more opportunities as a forward to skate out of position and go somewhere so your teammates do something a bit more intelligent with the puck. I love the challenge of playing defence though. Mostly, I do it online in pick up games.

Interesting discussion, especially since everyone assumed Portal 2 would launch on Monday.

Btw, when Allen mentioned the Potato Sack was $80, he was probably referring to the Potato Sack & Portal 2 bundle, which is still up for sale at $83 ... and is the 2nd best seller right now behind Portal 2.

Being a lowly console player (360), in reference to the discussions surrounding FEAR, I have a question.

In FEAR 1, when it was ported to the consoles, did they 'break it' then, or is the first game good on the consoles, then they switched the audience focus around for the second, and broke it on both formats (or does FEAR 2 work on the consoles, where FEAR 1 failed)? I'm specifically talking controls, not perceived markets/players/pubtard to player ratios.

Sounds a bit awkward, but I think you get the drift of it.

I only ask because FEAR 1 has been sitting in my pile for almost 3 years, and my interest for is was piqued through the podcast.

garion333 wrote:
Interesting discussion, especially since everyone assumed Portal 2 would launch on Monday. ;)

Yeah, now that it's clear most people didn't get an early release how are people's feelings about the promo?

Personally, I thought the vague hint of a possibility of a potential vaguely early release at an unknown time was a silly basis to spend money, but then I don't buy lottery tickets either. I have 3 or 4 potato sack games so I spent last weekend playing Defense Grid and Audiosurf, even though I wasn't intending to buy Portal 2 yet, and I still haven't. I thought it would be a fun encouragement to play games that have been languishing for years. The backlash against the game that was based on 'you have to spend money to play the game before release date' was totally mystifying.

In retrospect, as Corey touched on, the idea of a company breaking street date on its own product and freezing out retail is seriously dumb.

Re Rob's 'Team Valve' comments. I think it was largely a reaction to the above mentioned unreasonable backlash and entitlement attitude that it suggests. Was the promo an encouragement to buy some games? Sure. Did it obligate or force you in any way as a way to get something to which one has a reasonable expectation? Nope.

Having fallen foul of 'Team Bioware' when I suggested that I wasn't comfortable with paying money early for the Signature Edition of DA2 when there were conflicting reports around game play changes, I'm a little sympathetic to people who fell foul of 'Team Valve.' It can be unpleasant to have an unpopular opinion.

To Portal 2 itself. I was concerned about the impact of expanding the experience. Portal was very pure in that it was a focused game with a very tight set of gameplay mechanics. People talk about the writing and the humour, but that's all peripheral to the reasons that a game exists. It seems tough that Portal 2 is mostly, but not entirely, successful in maintaining that. I should be picking it up this weekend so I will find out first hand.

I agree with Burntham77's email too. I don't live or die for achievements, but I do still like seeing my number go up occasionally so I'm not one of those people who gets upset when I see a game has GFWL. I'm actually a tiny bit bummed that DoWII:Retribution doesn't have Live Achievements, unlike the previous two DoWII games. And no, Steam ones don't count.

And Sean: Another cool TD game on Steam is System Protocol One. It doesn't have the charm of Defense Grid, it's far more stripped down because it was a one man project, but it's good fun. The creator came to this forum for beta testers so a bunch of us helped out. Mostly by complaining it was too difficult IIRC.

Cory should host the show more often!

m0nk3yboy wrote:

In FEAR 1, when it was ported to the consoles, did they 'break it' then, or is the first game good on the consoles, then they switched the audience focus around for the second, and broke it on both formats (or does FEAR 2 work on the consoles, where FEAR 1 failed)? I'm specifically talking controls, not perceived markets/players/pubtard to player ratios.

I never played FEAR on the 360, but I have trouble imagining it being very good. It's a very mouse-and-keyboard shooter. It's really designed for you to be able to make quick, precise movements and make liberal use of the lean command. I could easily see that getting fiddly on console.

FEAR 2 was more targeted at the console, but it made some really awkward compromises. No lean, but you could use cover from the first person perspective. It really didn't make a ton of sense even as you were playing it. It was basically an extraneous feature. For me, the focus kind of shifted to strafing and crouching. But the controls felt totally different, and the level design became much more of a typical shooting gallery.

So the gameplay suffered a great deal, and that was really the only thing that lifted FEAR above its inept storytelling and awful world building.

I seem to recall Alan saying he loves warehouse levels. FEAR seems like a game made for him.

From what I heard the 360 port was pretty poor.

Man, I used to play a ton of NHL Hockey back in the Sega Genesis/SNES days. And all the talk this week on the podcast has got me wanting to jump back into it. I don't own a console, but I assume that the latest version is available for PC too?

MrDeVil909 wrote:
I seem to recall Alan saying he loves warehouse levels. FEAR seems like a game made for him.
I think the problem was that the warehouses were basically extensions of "generic office complex". So they weren't very maze-like or give you alot of interesting combat options. They were just rooms with boxes.

mwdowns wrote:
Man, I used to play a ton of NHL Hockey back in the Sega Genesis/SNES days. And all the talk this week on the podcast has got me wanting to jump back into it. I don't own a console, but I assume that the latest version is available for PC too?

No, EA stopped releasing NHL for the PC a few years back. Before that, the version they released for the PC was a different, inferior version than the one they put out for the console, so you're out of luck if you want to play the game on the PC.

PyromanFO wrote:
MrDeVil909 wrote:
I seem to recall Alan saying he loves warehouse levels. FEAR seems like a game made for him.
I think the problem was that the warehouses were basically extensions of "generic office complex". So they weren't very maze-like or give you alot of interesting combat options. They were just rooms with boxes.

Yeah, I thought so. I just had a good laugh to myself there though.

Yeah, now that it's clear most people didn't get an early release how are people's feelings about the promo?

I feel exactly the same. I thought it was a lot of fun, and still remains far better than getting a bunch of hand-fed, press-release driven, focus-grouped pabulum. Awesome support for high-end indie games. Free content. A playful approach to marketing that engages rather than preaches at customers. I still loved it.

Elysium wrote:
Yeah, now that it's clear most people didn't get an early release how are people's feelings about the promo?

I feel exactly the same. I thought it was a lot of fun, and still remains far better than getting a bunch of hand-fed, press-release driven, focus-grouped pabulum. Awesome support for high-end indie games. Free content. A playful approach to marketing that engages rather than preaches at customers. I still loved it.

Part of the problem with the discussion here I think is people are just taking the ARG in a vaccum. The question isn't "Should Valve do this?" but "Should Valve have done this instead of traditional marketing?" That marketing budget was going to be spent, would you rather see this or "Your Mom Hates Portal 2"?

I think Rob's criticism of the gaming journalists were valid but not really Valve's fault. Whatever Valve does (or any high profile gaming company), there are some who will leap to defend them and others who will demonize them. Many of these people work in the press and see no problem with using their outlet to voice their personal opinion. That's not a situation Valve created, nor is it something they can fix by withdrawing from their customers and refusing to engage them in any way other than press releases.

I think FEAR was one of the first games that really creeped me out. Not like a gotcha scare as in most other games, but one where you persistently felt uneasy as you progressed.

m0nk3yboy wrote:
Being a lowly console player (360), in reference to the discussions surrounding FEAR, I have a question.

In FEAR 1, when it was ported to the consoles, did they 'break it' then, or is the first game good on the consoles, then they switched the audience focus around for the second, and broke it on both formats (or does FEAR 2 work on the consoles, where FEAR 1 failed)? I'm specifically talking controls, not perceived markets/players/pubtard to player ratios.


Having played both recently for the Pile I can give my opinions. I don't have any idea what was changed for consoles and what was changed for the sake of changing things, but here's what I noticed.

First, FEAR 1 is one of the few games where I have actually been surprised by what the AI will do. I remember hearing the AI react to seeing my flashlight then seeing one of them pop out from behind cover, knock a filing cabinet over and duck behind it while his buddy circled around through two other rooms and attacked me from a side door. They ran from grenades, used cover and seemed to give covering fire to each other in that one of them would shoot at me while the other ran from cover to cover.

In FEAR 2 while they did still seem to have some concept that cover existed it seemed that much more often everyone sorta charged my location and let me gun them down as they came.

It also seemed that they went more from fighting other soldiers to fighting things like ghosts and monsters but I don't know what conclusion to draw from that.

The most annoying change to me was the change in the HUD. FEAR 1's HUD was fairly minimal. FEAR 2's is huge. The things that stay on screen are much larger. There is a constant "frame" that stays on the screen all the time. Objects you can pick up are surrounded by huge, glowing boxes that are visible even through walls. Thrown grenades are marked by glowing trails as they fly. Basically it felt like LOOK! LOOK! OVER HERE! THERE'S AN OBJECT! LOOK! LOOK! OVER THERE! HE JUST THREW A GRENADE!.

Another difference that bothered me was health. In 1 you could pick up and carry up to 10 first-aid kits and use one when you needed. 2 only allows you to carry 3, but replaces them with injectors that are scattered all over the place. If your health was less than full simply running over them increased your health (and enemies always tended to drop them after battle).

Maybe because of the way health was handled I found 2 to be much easier than 1. FEAR 1 had quicksave and I got very used to hitting F5 or F9. FEAR 2 doesn't and I never missed it. I may have died once in the whole game. (And remember, I'm probably the worst FPS player in the world.)

I also found it annoying that while FEAR 1 gave me the story though audio messages like voicemails or voiceovers from my handler, FEAR 2 stuck everything in a PDA and I had to go into the menus and read them.

Just my 3 cents (adjusted for inflation).

I'm really surprised that in all the discussion about Steam and people's concern, nary a word was spoken about the similar setup Apple's AppStore puts you in, as well as the requirement for iTunes and buying into it all.

If there is one thing that is similar to Steam that scares me, it's Apple being behind the wheel and being able to sidestep issues that will hurt apps that don't want to give them 30% for in-app purchases.

I can't be the only one who thought of this potential comparison.

trueheart78 wrote:
I'm really surprised that in all the discussion about Steam and people's concern, nary a word was spoken about the similar setup Apple's AppStore puts you in, as well as the requirement for iTunes and buying into it all.

If there is one thing that is similar to Steam that scares me, it's Apple being behind the wheel and being able to sidestep issues that will hurt apps that don't want to give them 30% for in-app purchases.

I can't be the only one who thought of this potential comparison.

Absolutely. Valve doesn't bother me. I use Steam because it's well designed and convenient, but I have to use the App store because there isn't an alternative for me to use on my iPad. Apple has total control, from the software to the hardware, and all the steps in between.

In addition, I sometimes worry that we as gamers sometimes experience a sense of self-entitled anger at what we perceive as slights, but are in fact basic business practices. The bitter and loud response at things like the decisions not to port a game to one console or another is an example. Hearing some of the anger at Valve's decision to use the ARG or bitterness at a perceived hint of an early release date strikes me as similar. The marketing campaign at worst was a attempt to use the tools at their disposal to draw as much attention to Portal 2 as possible, but at best, it was a creative way to promote their new game while providing a group of indie studios with the kind of attention that they rarely get.

It seems that many gamers seem to take a irrational and personal offense at efforts by publishers and developers to come up with unique and different marketing attempts. If you don't like a marketing campaign, don't buy the game. But it's not intended to rip you off or deceive you.

nihilo wrote:
mwdowns wrote:
Man, I used to play a ton of NHL Hockey back in the Sega Genesis/SNES days. And all the talk this week on the podcast has got me wanting to jump back into it. I don't own a console, but I assume that the latest version is available for PC too?

No, EA stopped releasing NHL for the PC a few years back. Before that, the version they released for the PC was a different, inferior version than the one they put out for the console, so you're out of luck if you want to play the game on the PC.

That is a serious bummer. Thanks for the info, though.

I appreciate the effort guys.

When I wrote that email I had to think long and hard to come up with that DA:O example to support the opening question. I am still curious to know if other people came across a single-player patch that changed their experience in a negative way. If anyone has something else to add, then please speak up!

SuperDave wrote:
I appreciate the effort guys.

When I wrote that email I had to think long and hard to come up with that DA:O example to support the opening question. I am still curious to know if other people came across a single-player patch that changed their experience in a negative way. If anyone has something else to add, then please speak up!

I think some people have experienced a similar problem with the recent 90MB Bulletstorm uprade that happened with the launch of the Gears 3 Beta.

I noticed a bit of noise over at the x360a boards. For some of the people there it completely reset their Echoes scores, dropped their anarchy levels down, or reset the ingame counters for collectables related to achievements.

Didn't happen to me (luckily), but I imagine this is the kind of thing you were referencing.

SuperDave wrote:
I appreciate the effort guys.

When I wrote that email I had to think long and hard to come up with that DA:O example to support the opening question. I am still curious to know if other people came across a single-player patch that changed their experience in a negative way. If anyone has something else to add, then please speak up!

Ironically, a great example is NHL 11. They are constantly releasing tuning packages that affect how the game plays. While they have made it easier to just use whichever tuning package suts you, if you are playing online, you faced a constant stream of changes.

Folks would complain that it is too easy for people to skate through defenders, so EA made it easier to fall down. People complained that it was too hard to steal pucks, so EA made it easier. Shots were too hard, too easy, too accurate, not accurate enough. Goalies were awesome, goalies were terrible.

They got caught in the trap of trying to please everyone rather than just making the game they wanted to make. Once they made it clear that they were listening and changing the game based on user input, it was pure chaos. It was like EA never considered that maybe, just maybe, they guy complaining just kind of sucks and is doing it wrong.

If I am using and changing defensive and offensive pressure throughout the game, and reacting to game situations, I am going to have a different feel for the game than a guy that just plays the game. Everybody plays different and EA was trying to make the game work for everyone.

But as I said, if you play offline, you can set the game to use whatever tuning package you want, and then it is consistent. f course, when you go online, you might find a completely different game.

NHL 09 through NHL 11 are all masterpieces of games, though. NHL 10 and NHL 11 are more refinements and improve on the previous game. But the game feels like hockey, sounds like hockey , and is just a great game to get into the flow with.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Yeah, now that it's clear most people didn't get an early release how are people's feelings about the promo?

Getting to start it on Monday night rather than Tuesday evening definitely felt good to me.