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
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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

Thanks for recommending Collision Effect, Certis. What a neat little game!
Edit: just realized I was listening to an older episode! Pretend I posted this two weeks ago in the appropriate thread.

SuperDave wrote:

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!

X3TC had a couple of patches that tweaked the difficulty of the game in various ways. One of them made a crazy thing that I'd enjoyed doing (boarding a TL from an M6, which is to say taking over a big ship by launching a handful of marines out the airlock of a much smaller ship at it) effectively impossible.

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!

Baldur's Gate 2 had a cloak that reflected magic back at the caster, so of course I was quite upset when the installation of a patch or expansion removed it. I was able to get it back in using the override folder and some online tips, but man, it was irritating.

There was, however, the conversation with someone that attempts to kill you, and shoots a magic missile at you. He's supposed to be surprised it doesn't hurt or something, but in my game it then reflected it back to him and killed him, halting the game from moving forward. It wasn't until I un-equipped it that I was able to proceed.

But I re-equipped it right after

That was a great discussion on Valve and the marketing ARG that represented both sides of the situation really well. I wish the thread could have remained as civil.

My main qualm with the marketing was that I felt it was a bit manipulative. Yes, yes I know all marketing is that way but there is a point where it just rubs you the wrong way. This is coming from someone who didn't pre-order it and has yet to pick it up. I was never up in arms with pitchforks or anything but what disturbed me was the backlash of GWJ posts stating that certain opinions were wrong or baseless. Anyways you guys seemed to cover all the points and great show as always.

I really need to pick up Portal 2 soon!

Also related to recent podcasts, Portal 2. Is it a full price game?

I never played it on the PC until it was recently released on the Mac, my first experience with it was as an awesome aside in the Orange Box, which I initially bought for Half life and all it's varients.

To that end, are the people who are yet to get it in the same mind set as me, wondering if 1/5 of the orange box has enough legs to stand up on it's own as a full priced game, or are there other reasons (other than the ARG boycott) that people are holding off on buying this?

Just curious, not looking for flames, etc.

m0nk3yboy wrote:

Also related to recent podcasts, Portal 2. Is it a full price game?

I never played it on the PC until it was recently released on the Mac, my first experience with it was as an awesome aside in the Orange Box, which I initially bought for Half life and all it's varients.

To that end, are the people who are yet to get it in the same mind set as me, wondering if 1/5 of the orange box has enough legs to stand up on it's own as a full priced game, or are there other reasons (other than the ARG boycott) that people are holding off on buying this?

Just curious, not looking for flames, etc.

Yes it's a full priced game and if you liked the creative puzzle solving and the writing and wanted more of it? This is the game for you. Singleplayer is about double the length of Portal 1 and the unique Co-Op campaign is equal length.

That was more than enough reason to spend $50 ($40, via buying a two-pack on steam personally) on the game.

Thanks for that info. I may still hold off as it retails for over $100 down here...

m0nk3yboy wrote:

Thanks for that info. I may still hold off as it retails for over $100 down here...

No problem! But ugh. This can never be said enough: I'm really sorry for how much Aussies get screwed for their gaming. It's really messed up.

Speedhuntr wrote:
m0nk3yboy wrote:

Thanks for that info. I may still hold off as it retails for over $100 down here...

No problem! But ugh. This can never be said enough: I'm really sorry for how much Aussies get screwed for their gaming. It's really messed up.

No kidding, that's crazy. Stuff can be a little expensive here because of exchange rates, but we are small enough that we tend to just get whatever US prices are at Steam. And local distributors manage to negotiate pretty good prices for games at retail.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
Speedhuntr wrote:
m0nk3yboy wrote:

Thanks for that info. I may still hold off as it retails for over $100 down here...

No problem! But ugh. This can never be said enough: I'm really sorry for how much Aussies get screwed for their gaming. It's really messed up.

No kidding, that's crazy. Stuff can be a little expensive here because of exchange rates, but we are small enough that we tend to just get whatever US prices are at Steam. And local distributors manage to negotiate pretty good prices for games at retail.

It's actually cheaper for me to import games from the UK than buy retail.

I recently bought Fable 3 for $52 (inc shipping) from an overseas supplier set up specifically for Aussies and New Zealanders. It is currently running at $119RRP. I wouldn't mind if the Aussie Dollar was worthless, but it's been over 90-95c US for the longest time now.

$59 is considered a 'good' impulse price for games down here, I envy the Deals thread when you guys discuss games for under $10 at Amazon.

Steam is pretty good, they tend to have all amounts in US$, my only problem is owning a Mac ;), it's getting better, but still I get to 'pass' on a lot of those deals based purely on compatibility (maybe that's a good thing).

Portal 2 on Steam is US$49 (so about AU$54), on the 360 it's running at $108 dollars from EBGames.com.au.

If I wasn't such an achievement whore...

m0nk3yboy wrote:
MrDeVil909 wrote:
Speedhuntr wrote:
m0nk3yboy wrote:

Thanks for that info. I may still hold off as it retails for over $100 down here...

No problem! But ugh. This can never be said enough: I'm really sorry for how much Aussies get screwed for their gaming. It's really messed up.

No kidding, that's crazy. Stuff can be a little expensive here because of exchange rates, but we are small enough that we tend to just get whatever US prices are at Steam. And local distributors manage to negotiate pretty good prices for games at retail.

It's actually cheaper for me to import games from the UK than buy retail.

I recently bought Fable 3 for $52 (inc shipping) from an overseas supplier set up specifically for Aussies and New Zealanders. It is currently running at $119RRP. I wouldn't mind if the Aussie Dollar was worthless, but it's been over 90-95c US for the longest time now.

$59 is considered a 'good' impulse price for games down here, I envy the Deals thread when you guys discuss games for under $10 at Amazon.

Steam is pretty good, they tend to have all amounts in US$, my only problem is owning a Mac ;), it's getting better, but still I get to 'pass' on a lot of those deals based purely on compatibility (maybe that's a good thing).

Portal 2 on Steam is US$49 (so about AU$54), on the 360 it's running at $108 dollars from EBGames.com.au.

If I wasn't such an achievement whore...

Steam cheevos are just as good as the real thing.

Another great show!

I have to disagree with Corey when he said that only Valve could pull off this kind of marketing. This is the exact same thing Halo did for Crackdown, and Gears did for Bulletstorm with the beta invites they included with those games. It's been done before, and it always seems to work. The cool kid is capable of shifting his cool onto anyone he associates himself with.

Goood. Let the hate flow through you.

One other effect of the Portal ARG, or more accurately of the mention of it in this podcast, is that I picked up Defense Grid again.

Unfortunately, I'd stopped playing it because I was stuck on the "Waste Disposal" level, and I'm still stuck on that level.

Delerat wrote:

Another great show!

I have to disagree with Corey when he said that only Valve could pull off this kind of marketing. This is the exact same thing Halo did for Crackdown, and Gears did for Bulletstorm with the beta invites they included with those games. It's been done before, and it always seems to work. The cool kid is capable of shifting his cool onto anyone he associates himself with.

Yeah, but Valve did it with a slight twist - it made sure people actually played the games.

And you could argue that it had its heart in the right place, promoting independent PC titles instead of the next big Triple A push.

Subtle differences, but it shows the pull Valve has over even giant companies like Microsoft and Epic.

I'm not sure 'Team Valve' is a bad thing. The problem isn't that as consumers we adopt a 'Team Valve' attitude. The problem is that there are too few Valve's out there. Seriously, the reason that PC gamers in general love Valve is because everything Valve does seems to be focused on their customers. It seems to me that there are a lot of companies that could benefit from watching Valve and copying them. Unfortunately these other companies seem to listen to their investors rather than their customers. They find some formula that sells and then ram it into the ground until it's worthless.
I'm proud to be Team Valve, and the thing is, I'm Team Valve because Valve gives a sh*t about their customers. So basically it's Team Valve/Customer rather than Team Investor.

Demiurge wrote:
Delerat wrote:

Another great show!

I have to disagree with Corey when he said that only Valve could pull off this kind of marketing. This is the exact same thing Halo did for Crackdown, and Gears did for Bulletstorm with the beta invites they included with those games. It's been done before, and it always seems to work. The cool kid is capable of shifting his cool onto anyone he associates himself with.

Yeah, but Valve did it with a slight twist - it made sure people actually played the games.

And you could argue that it had its heart in the right place, promoting independent PC titles instead of the next big Triple A push.

Subtle differences, but it shows the pull Valve has over even giant companies like Microsoft and Epic.

I think the push to play the indie games was definitely a lot stronger, but as Elysium said on the podcast, you can sit around while everyone else unlocks Portal 2 for you. Still, I love what Valve is doing.

I did not care about unlocking Portal 2 one day early. Seriously, what's one day? I can wait. However, having an excuse to play the outstanding Defense Grid: The Awakening was a blast. It was like getting together with an old flame.

"They made it for consoles and ruined it." For me, that's half right. Sure, the console roots are very visible, but I really enjoyed Fear 2, much like Crysis 2. Nothing like some naked living dead girl on top of you to warm your soul.

"I'll send you a picture of my dick." And in a matter of moments you lost then regained the same listener. Good times.

"I would rather hang out in the NAMBLA forums." So take THAT EA!

Demiurge wrote:

And you could argue that it had its heart in the right place, promoting independent PC titles instead of the next big Triple A push.

Independent PC titles that were a part of a Steam-only promotional bundle that also happened to play a part in the marketing lead-up to Valve's next big game release. If their heart was in the right place, it's because it was in their wallet.

OzymandiasAV wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

And you could argue that it had its heart in the right place, promoting independent PC titles instead of the next big Triple A push.

Independent PC titles that were a part of a Steam-only promotional bundle that also happened to play a part in the marketing lead-up to Valve's next big game release. If their heart was in the right place, it's because it was in their wallet.

You and I already talked about this on Twitter, but I wanted to give you props for nailing it here.

Do we no longer appreciate that Steam picks up so many indie titles?

Do we no longer appreciate that Steam picks up so many indie titles?

Not if anyone has the temerity to profit from it?

PyromanFO wrote:

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"?

A friendly dig at EA marketing might have been enjoyable. Or played straight with a "Your Mom Loves Portal 2" ad. Because really, what mom wouldn't? Except for the moms that love Deadspace 2, they would probably hate it.

Elysium wrote:
Do we no longer appreciate that Steam picks up so many indie titles?

Not if anyone has the temerity to profit from it?

I'd like to hope there's some middle ground for Valve between "peerless paragon of virtue which we may never assail with our ugly sneers of disappointment" and "cyber-corporate spectre that emits neurotoxic gas through your USB drive." Maybe somebody can point out on the church seating chart where the skeptics and the ambivalent are allowed to sit?

Was the Valve ARG an effective marketing campaign?
Well, obviously, yeah. They built it on a budget that consisted of a scuffed-up pork pie hat full of loose change and the final product ended up pushing discussion of Portal 2 on every social media construct and gaming forum into the reds. Out of the park.

Was the Valve ARG morally objectionable?
It may appear to be somewhat opportunistic, but I find it hard to come down on Valve when it's obvious that those plucky indie developers agreed to play along. And why wouldn't they? After all, it's not like they were competition for Portal 2, so they had nothing to lose by association. (Though that point about "competition" might illuminate the lack of involvement from the bigger players, huh?)

Was the Valve ARG fun?
I suppose it was, yeah, as long as you were willing to play along with it. The earlier moments in the ARG, where the internet parsed through SSTV images downloaded from dial-up BBS servers, were remarkably geeky, surreal, and engaging. The later steps that led from one countdown to another countdown still carried that element of surreality, along with a fleet of progress bars and quirky indie game content, but it also scrambled the message a bit.

In the final days of the ARG, we weren't discovering bizarre messages from Aperture Science or further context for Portal 2. We were participating in a limp gamification of a product launch. But, as always, you had the option of not participating at all.

Was the Valve ARG tasteful?
And now we get to my only real objection to this whole thing. If you were only interested in Portal 2, then the introduction of those indie "advergames" served only as noise on the line. It's noise that you could have simply ignored as you patiently waited for the game to arrive, sure, but it's noise nonetheless. (I feel like Portal 2 is satisfying enough as a game that it could have easily thrived without all of this, but I can't say for sure, since I'm only a few hours in.)

What I really question, though, is the true benefit to all those indie games that Valve was championing here. For every "perfect situation" like Elysium's discovery of Defense Grid, there were a number of posts on various gaming forums where people were trying to coordinate idling sessions. People were actively trying to avoid playing the Potato Sack games so that they could do whatever they wanted, but still push Portal 2 toward some kind of early release.

The GLaDOS@Home program didn't encourage people to discover indie games. It encouraged people to either buy the Potato Sack bundle or get on Steam and fire up (but not necessarily play) the Potato Sack games that they already owned.

And, if you already owned those games...then what exactly are the indie developers getting out of this again?

Maybe I just have lower expectations for corporations than humans, but I still never felt compelled to participate in the Potato Sack gambit. The closest I came was seeing the blurb, realizing I already owned a couple of the titles, and playing one for maybe 45 minutes.

I guess I'm failing to see the harm.

I'm quite stunned by the response of the Potato Sack promotion has received both here and elsewhere. I personally took great delight in seeing die-hard AAA title only people on my friends list play games like AudioSurf and COGS. For Valve to encourage people to break free from their comfort zone of 'Shooter Blaster Kill 4: The Next Assignment' then I'm all for the Potato Sack.

Many have asked on these forums what the indie developers are getting out of this? This question can only be raised in a forum like GWJ thanks to its members being so well versed less well known games. Many however have never had cause to look into these games, so to be encouraged to play them so that they can gain early access to one of their beloved AAA titles can only be regarded as a good thing.

Fallout: New Vegas just received a new bug fix that came with a balance patch. Details here:

http://nohighscores.com/node/576

Guns:
- Automatic Guns - SMGs, the Assault Carbine, and the LMG are more accurate across the board. They're also more durable. 12.7mm SMG mag capacity increased to 21.
- Shotguns - Buckshot has received a x1.2 inherent DAM mod. This slightly incentivizes using buckshot over slugs when enemy armor is not an issue. Magnum buckshot has a x1.3 DAM mod and a small amount of DT bypass. Spread for many shotguns has been lowered.
- Hunting Rifle, Anti-Materiel Rifle - Hunting Rifle and AMR now have the lowest spread of all rifles. Hunting Rifle RoF increased, Crit Chance set to x2. Anti-Materiel Rifle's Crit DAM has been raised from 80 to 110 to make it more viable when compared to the Gobi.
- Sniper Rifle, Gobi Campaign Scout Rifle - Sniper Rifle and Gobi now have a higher RoF and lower AP cost. Both have x2 Crit Chance. Gobi has increased DAM and much higher Crit DAM over the Sniper Rifle.
- That Gun - That Gun is now a slow-firing hand cannon that does huge DAM firing 5.56mm out of a short barrel.
- Hunting Revolver – Rate of Fire increased.
- Service Rifle - DAM slightly lowered, firing animation changed to the one used by Marksman Carbine, RoF dramatically increased. Spread decreased.
- Silenced .22 Pistol, SMG - Crit DAM and Crit Chance significantly increased.
- 5mm Ammo - Base ammo has 10 points of DT bypass. AP variants have 25 points of DT bypass. This affects the Assault Carbine, Minigun, and CZ57 Avenger.
- .308 JSP - DAM mult reduced from x1.5 to x1.3. x2 CND degradation effect added.
- Lever-Action Rifles - Cowboy Repeater, Trail Carbine, Brush Gun - RoF has been slightly reduced, AP costs have been significantly increased, and spread has been slightly increased. Cowboy Repeater Custom Action RoF increase has been reduced. La Longue Carabine spread has been significantly lowered.

Explosives:
- Dynamite - Larger explosion radius.
- Frag and Plasma Grenades – DAM increased.
- 25mm Grenades - Slightly increased DAM on the explosion.
- 40mm Grenades - Significantly higher DAM on the explosion.
- Missile Launcher / Fat Man - Now have much better zoom FoV and good accuracy. Missile and Fat Man projectiles (not the explosion) have a large base DAM. Both are extremely effective on direct hits, but still potent even if a direct hit is not scored. N.B.: Listed DAM on weapons assumes a direct hit!

Energy Weapons:
- Gatling Laser - Base DAM is higher. Against heavily armored targets, this is still a poor weapon. Against lightly armored targets, especially with Over Charge or Max Charge ECPs + Focus Optics + Laser Commander, it has extraordinary DPS.
- Tesla Cannon, Tesla-Beaton Prototype - These now consume far less ammo per shot and can be fired several times before a reload. DAM is beefy with an additional 2 second DoT.
- Pew-Pew - Lower ammo capacity, consumes far fewer ECs per shot. Still a two-shot weapon.

Melee and Unarmed:
- Ripper, Chainsaw, Thermic Lance - DAM lowered, all ignore DR/DT.
- Bladed Gauntlet, Mantis Gauntlet - Ignore DR/DT flags removed (were not supposed to be marked as such). Mantis Gauntlet animation/sound fixed.

Perks:
- Splash Damage – Functions properly.
- The Professional - 10mm Pistol, SMG added to perk list.

I'm of the mindset that single-player balancing is going to be a growing trend, but I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Elysium wrote:
Do we no longer appreciate that Steam picks up so many indie titles?

Not if anyone has the temerity to profit from it?

Not sure where either of these points is coming from. You ask me how I reacted to the ARG, I didn't like it. I think it was much ado about a boring sales pitch for indie games that I've heard about a thousand times before.

The only reason you're setting up these straw-men is because your response all along has been, "But, but... it helps indies!" As if they were some morally superior form of gaming that are entitled to our enthusiasm and excitement.

So Valve's lame promo isn't really lame, because it's for indies, and if you didn't like it, you must be some ingrate who hates indies or thinks Valve is obligated to give him things for free.

Sorry, I just didn't like the sale. It's incredible that Valve can capture so much attention with their marketing, but they acted like they were about to introduce us to King Kong and then unveiled about the least exciting thing I could imagine. And I really don't like Valve treating indie games as if they were the overdone boiled potatoes you've got to eat before Mom lets you have Portal 2 for dessert.

That's my reaction. I didn't realize I was obliged to have a different one.

Rob, you've an admirable job of trying to stay on the side of dislike and not cross into condemnation. It's important to remember that these largely aren't issues of ethics, but of taste.

That said, indie games are a morally superior form of gaming.

Rob Zacny wrote:

The only reason you're setting up these straw-men is because your response all along has been, "But, but... it helps indies!" As if they were some morally superior form of gaming that are entitled to our enthusiasm and excitement.

So Valve's lame promo isn't really lame, because it's for indies, and if you didn't like it, you must be some ingrate who hates indies or thinks Valve is obligated to give him things for free.

It's true that indies get a lot of instant credit for being underdogs, but this marketing campaign wasn't really about them. The "exciting" part was that Valve, a company known for being late, was pushing a game out early. It was a little bonus for Steam users and it felt almost like Valve was laughing at itself. "Look! We can get them out early too!"

Rob Zacny wrote:

Sorry, I just didn't like the sale. It's incredible that Valve can capture so much attention with their marketing, but they acted like they were about to introduce us to King Kong and then unveiled about the least exciting thing I could imagine. And I really don't like Valve treating indie games as if they were the overdone boiled potatoes you've got to eat before Mom lets you have Portal 2 for dessert.

That's my reaction. I didn't realize I was obliged to have a different one.

I never got the idea that this was going to be something huge, though maybe it's just because I expect this kind of thing with a lot of AAA titles now. Countdown timers and ARGs aren't really special in this industry anymore.

Regardless of how good the potato sack games are, Portal 2 was going to be a bigger splash in the pond. I might have been annoyed if Valve did this with a bunch of great new indie games, but these guys knew they were last month's flavor. I'm sure they were happy to get the extra attention.