GWJ Conference Call Episode 243

Conference Call

The Witcher 2, Hunted: The Demon's Forge, Dead Nation (PS3 Freebies), Frozen Synapse, Bold (Wrong) E3 Predictions, Average Games and more!

This week Shawn, Julian, Cory and Elysium make their E3 predictions now so you can tell just how right or wrong they are in real time!

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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Hunted: The Demon's Forge
The Witcher 2
Frozen Synapse

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Over My Shoulder - Chroma - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 28:06

Coactive (Short Edit) - Chroma - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 50:42

Comments

DanB:

I think you need to put that statement within the context of what I'm saying overall. By itself, it's a commentary on purely semantic differences, and that's not what I'm getting at.

LarryC wrote:

DanB:

I think you need to put that statement within the context of what I'm saying overall. By itself, it's a commentary on purely semantic differences, and that's not what I'm getting at.

Sorry I'm also trying to get away from a semantic argument, internerd semantics arguments are pretty dull after all. But your argument for a perspective shift does appear based in the inadequacies of thinking of things in terms such as "average" (or "compelling"), but as far as I can tell their inadequacy appears to be semantic, that they are content free, so I'm struggling with finer points of your argument as stated.

Moving away from the semantics my point really just boils down to two things
a) if "average" or "compelling" are inadequate then "fun" seems no less content free.
b) I'm utterly unconvinced by a need for a perspective shift, long form, insightful games criticism don't appear to trade in these terms.

DanB:

The shift in perspective is fundamental. You have to adjust your view to a perspective where all the technical aspects of a game are incidental, unless they happen to affect gameplay design in a truly important fashion, and even then a more techy game isn't necessarily better. A shift from 2D to 3D platforming is an important technological step, in that it generates a new kind of game, but a 3D Mario is still not inherently superior to a 2D Mario.

In that sense, saying that a game is "average" in terms of tech specs and other related things, really does say less than a statement that a game is "fun," however little the latter might be saying.

This will be difficult for many gamers to accept, since to them, higher tech stuff is inherently, obviously, objectively, and "naturally" better. To understand the gist of what I'm saying, you have to try to adopt this POV, even if you don't believe.

LarryC wrote:

DanB:

The shift in perspective is fundamental. You have to adjust your view to a perspective where all the technical aspects of a game are incidental, unless they happen to affect gameplay design in a truly important fashion, and even then a more techy game isn't necessarily better. A shift from 2D to 3D platforming is an important technological step, in that it generates a new kind of game, but a 3D Mario is still not inherently superior to a 2D Mario.

Ok, then I don't believe that people, esp. people making serious critiques of gaming, conflate technology with superiority in that way. Peggle and PvZ are incredibly well produced and comment worthy games that are distinctly not tech focussed. Certain types of production, of course, will require certain types of hardware capabilities but good production isn't a function of the technology in that manner. PvZ is a really well designed game, the graphics have a strong and striking well executed graphic design and on and on. PvZ is well produced in exactly the same way that a good piece of music, or film or theatre can be thought of as being well produced.

This will be difficult for many gamers to accept, since to them, higher tech stuff is inherently, obviously, objectively, and "naturally" better.

I don't think many gamers, older than 14, genuinely think this way about games.

DanB:

I find that impossible to believe because I have never read any review from a gaming publication that did not extol the technical aspects of any game, in a manner that suggests that that technical aspect was, in itself, a central quality that's inherent to gaming goodness.

You yourself have mentioned the convention: when a game is "average,"

'Average', with the right audience at hand, is making a statement about a work in reference to the currently understood state-of-the-art; that no feature stands out or is worthy of comment. To a gamer I can understand that; I know what 8-bit graphics looks like, I know what bad and good design looks like, I know what the bleeding edge of graphical fidelity looks like. I have experience of a large amount of context.

Exactly. Precisely so. The thinking is that if the game isn't smashing game design concepts, burning your graphics cards, or some similar thing that's "state-of-the-art," that it's then "average" and not really all that worthy of comment.

PvZ is something of an anomaly in that gamers actually paid attention to it. I was expecting it to go the way of FarmVille, to be honest - to be universally derided as "inferior" by the "hardcore."

Most Wii games do not get the same consideration. What is inherently wrong about a standard definition, low budget game in this day and age that it does not warrant even a second glance from a professed game enthusiast?

Exhibit One: Muramasa the Demon Blade. This is an exceptional game that should be getting lauded from one end of the earth to the other, especially as the sole shining example of a good 2D brawler in a world where 2D brawlers are all but dead. Instead, reviewers bashed it for weaknesses it largely didn't have, and gamers ignored it because it was SD.

Tell me that gamers don't look at tech in the face of a mountain of Wii games that have shared the same fate.

I''m going to tell you now, I consider Wii Sports to be, hands down, the best and most defining game of this generation. Am I mad?

LarryC wrote:

DanB:

I find that impossible to believe because I have never read any review from a gaming publication that did not extol the technical aspects of any game, in a manner that suggests that that technical aspect was, in itself, a central quality that's inherent to gaming goodness.

Well when you get away from the reviews that are just rehashed press release and into the gamer community I don't see that technical prowess is central; it doesn't seem that way on this site, on joystiq or penny arcade. I'm not really sure that the glorified press releases masquerading as reviews on GameTrailers even count as criticism.

Take this Alice review http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/20.... It's almost complete about weak game and aesthetic design without any talk of the tech. But games are a confluence of a vast array of different things that all bare consideration and the technical aspects do bare a mention, I just dispute that they are central to it. You'd be hard pressed to argue that Donkey Kong Country Returns was poorly received because it was in standard definition.

LarryC wrote:

You yourself have mentioned the convention: when a game is "average,"

'Average', with the right audience at hand, is making a statement about a work in reference to the currently understood state-of-the-art; that no feature stands out or is worthy of comment. To a gamer I can understand that; I know what 8-bit graphics looks like, I know what bad and good design looks like, I know what the bleeding edge of graphical fidelity looks like. I have experience of a large amount of context.

Exactly. Precisely so. The thinking is that if the game isn't smashing game design concepts, burning your graphics cards, or some similar thing that's "state-of-the-art," that it's then "average" and not really all that worthy of comment.

Well I was using state-of-the-art in the broadest sense possible. Game design, graphic design, sound design all have a "state of the art" that is independent of the tech level of the computer. I appreciate that wasn't clear.

LarryC wrote:

PvZ is something of an anomaly in that gamers actually paid attention to it.

You see, I don't think it is. I wouldn't take me long on Steam, PSN, XBLA or the app store to dig up countless solidly successful, very well received games that aren't trading on cutting edge tech.

LarryC wrote:

Most Wii games do not get the same consideration. What is inherently wrong about a standard definition, low budget game in this day and age that it does not warrant even a second glance from a professed game enthusiast?

Well a problem here is that the Wii is that is erroneously held up as a direct competitor for the the PS3 and Xbox and that colours everything that is said about it.

LarryC wrote:

I'm going to tell you now, I consider Wii Sports to be, hands down, the best and most defining game of this generation. Am I mad?

You are a little It's a collection of adequately implemented and not fully developed tech demos. Why are there so few holes on the golf game? Why is there only that course? Why are the controls for the tennis and boxing so woolly? And on and on? As an object lesson in games design not a lot of it stand out. But I have had a lot of fun playing it and no doubt you have too but it ain't making it onto anyone's top 100 list and in 40 years time no one will even remember that it existed.

But 'fun' isn't and can't be the sole arbiter of quality either. It would be like saying a romantic comedy is a good example of film making just so long as it makes you laugh. But I'll laugh at a lot of crap that doesn't mean that the film is a good example of film making.

That's the kind of POV shift that I'm talking about. I'm talking about going strictly results-oriented. If a film is meant to be a romantic comedy and you were greatly amused, then the film is a fantastic example of its genre regardless of whatever theoretical weaknesses it might have had.

A game is meant to entertain. If it entertains well, then it is a good game. "Fun," is the short form of this, but it doesn't have to be fun to entertain. I have to ask you to adopt this POV before rereading what I posted before, in order to make sense of what I'm getting at.

PS: the controls for Tennis and Boxing are actually fairly good. You just have to read the manual which suggests that you forget the idea that you're going to be using actual tennis or boxing actions. Wii Sports is often maligned as a tech demo. It's a full game, just not a particularly feature-rich one. I note that PvZ isn't particularly feature-rich, either.

LarryC wrote:

That's the kind of POV shift that I'm talking about. I'm talking about going strictly results-oriented. If a film is meant to be a romantic comedy and you were greatly amused, then the film is a fantastic example of its genre regardless of whatever theoretical weaknesses it might have had.

A game is meant to entertain. If it entertains well, then it is a good game. "Fun," is the short form of this, but it doesn't have to be fun to entertain. I have to ask you to adopt this POV before rereading what I posted before, in order to make sense of what I'm getting at.

No, I get it, I just fundamentally disagree

I don't think that the critical theory of anything is helped by going strictly results-oriented.

e2a: Although I do take your point that when all is said and done whether you'll enjoy something is usually the bottom line. And it can seem that direct statements about that are often overlooked in games reviewing. But fun is absolutely subjective so becomes a difficult thing to discuss in criticism beyond a personal and quite binary appreciation: I had fun with it/I did not have fun with it.

I'd like to suggest the Pirsigian idea that Quality is neither objective nor subjective, but a relationship between the subject and the object.

Tech specs, art and game design matter, but so do your expectations and desires. We don't all want or anticipate the same things out of games.

And in that vein, let me say that Fun is not the sole criterion (for me, at least) of a game's Quality. In fact, sometimes Fun doesn't enter into it at all. Silent Hill 2 was in no way fun for me. Yet I found it awesome.

Hans

DanB:

Fun isn't quite so subjective as all that. One could do a focus group study, or a population sample and then express fun as a statistic or group output. There are fields of study that concentrate on finding out how many people like a product and for what stated reasons.

This valuation of the "critical theory of anything" is precisely why a lot of medical practice was so wonked in the last century. We relied on theory instead of relying on direct and honest scientific inquiry.

Describing a game as "average" ultimately focuses on unimportant points to merely suggest that the user didn't have as much fun with it as other games, when he could have just stated that outright without losing anything essential.

Put in this context, Certis is essentially making a talking point out of not wanting to play games that he doesn't like all that much - I sympathize with his feelings and agree, but viewed in a purely functional way, wasn't all that just glaringly obvious?

I think that "hardcore" gamers in general place way too much value on the peripheral quality of games, no doubt pushed by the voices of publishers who keep telling them that something other than entertainment value is important in an entertainment product. That's like saying that there's something in the ice that I'm selling you to put in your drink that makes it better than the ice someone else is selling, despite the fact that his ice cools your drink more, and my ice doesn't really add anything noteworthy.

hidannik wrote:

I'd like to suggest the Pirsigian idea that Quality is neither objective nor subjective, but a relationship between the subject and the object.

Tech specs, art and game design matter, but so do your expectations and desires. We don't all want or anticipate the same things out of games.

And in that vein, let me say that Fun is not the sole criterion (for me, at least) of a game's Quality. In fact, sometimes Fun doesn't enter into it at all. Silent Hill 2 was in no way fun for me. Yet I found it awesome.

/thread

LarryC wrote:

DanB:
Fun isn't quite so subjective as all that. One could do a focus group study, or a population sample and then express fun as a statistic or group output. There are fields of study that concentrate on finding out how many people like a product and for what stated reasons.

Wait, what? If we can get to some objective appreciation of fun by way of this kind of sampling what is to stop us doing this for the terms "average" or "compelling"?

Nothing at all, but that would change the meaning of what you meant by those words. As I said, it's not about the words. It's NOT a semantic objection. Not at all, not even a little bit. It's a perspective thing.

I am NOT pointing to "average" and saying that Certis should have used a better word. I'm saying that there's something to his viewpoint that makes him say that in a casual conversation to mean exactly what you said he did.

It isn't even what I think hidannik understands it to be. He's saying that he reserves the right to say what he enjoys in a game. No question. He's getting hung up on the word "fun," because I think he's misinterpreting what I said to be like what so many other people have been saying that also use the word, "fun."

My feeling right now is exactly like that Evolution thing. There's a lot of crosswire talk going on, because I'm using generic words in generic ways, and it's getting confused with other messages in your gaming culture that use similar words. I don't know how to express the idea alternatively, and I've been advised not to do so.

So is the podcast now primarily about dice games then? I wasn't trying to be a douche in my comment. I would just think in a podcast about gaming you'd have some sort of info on the biggest game conference. I imagine that the E3 is pretty brutal, but I never heard of this other Rabbitcon or whatever that is. Just seems weird. all I was saying.

I'll start forcing writers to cover E3 more seriously as soon as I feel it's merited.

Scubasteve wrote:

So is the podcast now primarily about dice games then? I wasn't trying to be a douche in my comment. I would just think in a podcast about gaming you'd have some sort of info on the biggest game conference. I imagine that the E3 is pretty brutal, but I never heard of this other Rabbitcon or whatever that is. Just seems weird. all I was saying.

Rabbit hosts Rabbitcon every year. It's just a long weekend party at his house with video and board games. This year board games, rpgs and pinball happened to rule the discussion. It's a small, personal thing Julian throws together twice a year, it's not an industry event.

No one on the podcast went to E3 this year (most of them don't work in the industry anymore) and the 6/14 podcast pretty much covered their impressions of it. GWJ isn't a news site, I'm not sure what you were expecting.

Edit: I think I should point you towards the latest Gameshark podcast. They pretty much say what's become more and more apparent to people: you don't have to go to E3 to pretty much see most of the content.

The Giant Bombcast's E3 coverage was extensive. So was the Joystiq Podcast's. I'm pretty sure This Week in Tech had a few words to say about it, as did NPR. The Anime News Network's ANNCast, normally an anime podcast, took a week off from talking about anime to cover E3.

With such an absolute dearth of podcast content discussing E3, I can see why Scubasteve is frustrated.

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[/sarcasm]

Having just got around to listening to the podcast...

Elysium's "thrill of the new" sounds a lot like the thrill a gambler gets when he puts his, say, $60 in chips down on red and waits for the roulette ball to stop bouncing. His disappointment when the game turns out to be kinda meh is like the despondency the gambler feels when he loses.

Hans