GWJ Conference Call Episode 248

Conference Call

Alice: Madness Returns, Morningstar, Gun Mute, Steel Battalion, The Romantic Side of Video Game With Special Guest Roger Travis, Your Emails and more!

This week special guest Roger Travis is joined by Allen, Lara and Julian to talk about romantic relationships in games.

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
Game Thing Daily
Good Old Games

Morningstar
Gun Mute
Alice: Madness Returns
Steel Battalion

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

cosmos - (b-sides) - workbench-music.com - 0:21:37

metro - (b-sides) - workbench-music.com - 0:56:30

Comments

Wait, there was a Cloud/Aeris romance? I thought that it was just Cloud being a stupid boy and Aeris politely ignoring him.

I disagree that DA2 is about loss. It's a recurring theme, certainly, but I think that depending on your choices Hawke stands to gain more than he loses. In my playthrough:

Spoiler:

Hawke certainly did lose a lot of things: Bethany, Mother, Anders, Isabela. But at the same time, he rose from a penniless refugee to the Viscount of Kirkwall. He helped Aveline court Donnic, and forged a lasting friendship with both in the process. He found new a best friend in Varric, and also became good friends with Bodahn and Sandal. He discovered that he had a cousin, improved his relationship with Gamlen, regained his brother's respect, and restored his family's birthright.

Did everyone leave him in the end? Yes, but that doesn't mean they abandoned him. Bodahn had to take Sandal to Orlais, Aveline had her husband and responsibilities as Captain of the Guard, and Merrill had her quest to restore the eluvian. Carver was a templar, so he was probably pretty busy after the Circles rebelled. Varric had a family business to run, and an insane brother to take care of. Just because everyone left to do other things doesn't mean that Hawke lost those friendships.

Also, was it Pyroman who liked the romances in Planescape? Hell yeah! Annah, Grace, and even Deionarra - it wasn't a mini-game to get in their pants - it was a chance to explore relationships with varying degrees of power, maturity and responsibility.

Every time I read anything or hear anything Lara has to say about Dragon Age 2, I have to fight to not go buy a copy right away. A game with heavy themes of loss and a sexy, well-written gay romance at its core? Sign me up!

What stops me each time are two things: one, I played the demo, and I found it to be unsatisfying as both an action game and as an ARPG; two, it was made by Bioware, and while I only played one game from that developer (Mass Effect), I absolutely hated it.

KaterinLHC wrote:

On the other hand, you might like, say, FFVII's Cloud/Aeris romance, which left me alternately rolling my eyes and shrugging my shoulders. It doesn't mean either romance was objectively written poorly, per se, it's just a matter of taste and perspective.

I'm afraid to open this can of worms, but was there even a romance between Cloud and Aeris? He bought a flower from her, she went on a date with him at the Gold Saucer, he nearly ended up killing her as a result of Sephiroth's mind control, and then she got skewered by Sephiroth anyway, which further solidified Cloud's role as Mayor of Frowntown for the rest of the game.

Sure, Aeris's death is still emotionally significant -- even though FFVII was hardly the first RPG to do it, it's still pretty rare on the whole to see any game permanently kill off a major character mid-way through a long-running storyline -- but I think the lion's share of any connection between the two characters comes from extrapolation, rather than expression through the game.

LarryC wrote:

You say that DA2's story and romances are flat. That's probably a bit of an exaggeration, but without invoking true literary greats, could you name a story in any medium that would put it to shame. I'm fairly sure that DA2's storyline compares favorably to, say, Transformers 2.

I can't tell if you're trying to defend or bury Dragon Age 2 here.

Besides.. everyone knows that Lara Crigger's Final Fantasy VII would revolve around a torrid relationship between Cloud and Vincent #naughtyvincentthoughts

A few things I note about games:
-Many are too short or simple for any kind of side plots.
-Many are focused on the main story of the game.
-Many have characters with no more personality than a furniture prop, and are copy and pasted almost as much.
-When there are characters written by someone with enough talent they can earn a wage from it they often fawn over the player

It just seems when any game has something more than the usual 'standard' characters, and respond to the player with more than "Would you like to see my wares?" gamers pounce on it like cargo cultists and put it on an altar.

I'd love to see some projects from a range of studios, even if it's just an experimental side-project, where there's no combat and the whole game orbits around the characters, and every single character placed in the world has to be unique in some respect and respond to the player, as well as have other things going on.

Scratched, it has (lame) combat, but you've come awfully close to describing Deadly Premonition. There are faceless NPCs to flesh out the world, but there's also a larger cast of NPCs who are well-written, interact with the main character in meaningful ways, but also have lives and characters distinct from the main character's actions and the main storyline.

MannishBoy wrote:

Dragon Age 2 end spoilers spouted out: "oh, spoilers, but it's 6 months after the game came out so it's your own fault..."

Grrrr.

So inconsiderate of listeners sometimes. I was working out upstairs with the podcast playing on the PC downstairs. I can't retroactively skip something I've already heard. And it's not like things can't be edited slightly if a mistake is made in the heat of a conversation.

This has to be my biggest podcast pet peeve. We don't all play games the week they come out. I don't mind spoiler discussions if there's a bit of true warning. And I don't even mind mild "tone" or overview spoilers. But retroactively saying "spoilers" doesn't make it less annoying to me.

I just wish there was more consideration about this from a lot of podcasts. There are so many great games released these days that those of us that might be away from the cutting edge of game releases might not have always played every game we want to a within the first month of release.

Generally GWJ is pretty good about this compared to some others I listen to.

I came here to post that as well - I stopped listening halfway through, perturbed. Can anyone advise what time I can start this back up? DA2 is my next month's pile game.

OzymandiasAV:

I ain't got no illusions about DA2's writing. Its good, but its only great when you cut out all them media that ain't video gaming, and only because the format generally suffers from a lack of talented creators when it comes to storytelling.

Its not going to go down as a classic of storytelling experiences, but its entertaining in it's own right. That's where I'm at.

By the way, I believe the “Middle Circle” was first named such by N'Gai Croal.

KaterinLHC wrote:

I bought into the DA2 characters and the interactions between them, so naturally I'm going to buy their romantic scenes a little easier than someone who thinks the romance bits are "shoved in your face" and wants to avoid "completely avoid them". On the other hand, you might like, say, FFVII's Cloud/Aeris romance, which left me alternately rolling my eyes and shrugging my shoulders. It doesn't mean either romance was objectively written poorly, per se, it's just a matter of taste and perspective.

See, that was exactly my problem. I wanted to like this game. I never finished the first DA, but I got pretty close to the end, quite liked it and thought it was a good filler between the two Mass Effects. Not so with DA2. Whatever Bioware were trying with this, I had such a hard time buying into it. Notwithstanding the fact that some of the mechanics annoyed me and that the repetitive maps gave the game a cheap and rushed feel - at the end of the day I play for story, not for mechanics. And to me the story in DA2 did not for a second live up to the expectations created by the first game. As far as the choices went, I did get som amusement out of the short-lived affair my Fem-Hawke started with Isabella, but the whole Anders romance left me cold.

I never played any of the FF games, so I don't know if that would work for me. The Witcher was, in that respect, more about sexuality than romance, but I thought The Witcher 2 handled it in an aesthetic and mature way. The Gabriel Knight games had this constant sexual tension between the main characters, which really game their interactions an interesting edge and ended the last game on a very deep note.

rainynight65:

I thought that both plot and storytelling technique were more forward and progressive in DA2 compared to how it was in DA. In DAO, you have yet another hero killing yet another nameless, characterless villain who was literally both a demon and a dragon, forwarded through a coming-of-age power fantasy about a hero who rose to power in a short span of time. It's as generic as all-get-out, even down to format and story technique.

DA2's more inventive in technique, framing, plot, and dialogue.

I was kind of surprised nobody mentioned the upcoming Catherine. I don't know how the fantasy/horror aspect figures into it, but it looks like the main storyline is primarily about the main character's fear of commitment, his girlfriend's desire for same, and his cheating on her with another willing young woman and attempts to keep it secret.

Heck, the main gameplay mechanic is a symbolic expression of his fear of the loss of freedom commitment will mean and his perception that she wants to trap him in it with marriage.

Hans

I have to agree with Julian's impressions of Dragon Age 2 and place the blame largely on the snarky dialog options. I posted about it in the Dragon Age 2 thread but I felt like snarky Hawke undermined what drama there was in the story and kind of ruined it. I almost wish the snarky dialog options you had to unlock by beating the game once, kind of like the farce mode in Jamestown. The joke option is really fun and suitable a lot of the time but in any of the big story moments it just ruined the atmosphere they were trying to develop and it doesn't make sense to me that they would let that happen.

Guess I won't need to actually play Dragon Age 2....

If Lara can actually finish every book, movie, game, TV show and whatever else within a 6 month window so as not to breach the so called acceptable window of giving it all away then she has a lot more time than I do. Maybe I am just a Jobber who plays games.

Love the podcast but I turned it off after that.

Latrine wrote:

I felt like snarky Hawke undermined what drama there was in the story and kind of ruined it.

My Hawke was consistently snarky, and I don't feel like it undermined the drama. What did undermine the drama was the fact that most of the big important events were told, not shown.

Spoiler:

Apparently we went deeper than anyone's ever gone into the Deep Roads, but the game didn't show me that. We could have been five minutes from the surface for all I know, the game just dumped me in a new location and told me that it was really, really deep underground. The game told me that several years passed, but generally all that meant is a fade to black followed by Hawke standing somewhere else in the same clothing, with all his companions hanging out in the same places doing the same things. Without the game telling me how much time passed, it could have been one year or one day.

And finally, the big thing that the Seeker wanted to know about? The reason Hawke is so important? It's something that I didn't do, and had no control over. I didn't lead the Circles into revolt, I just killed some crazy mages and a crazy templar. Then the game told me that this action had Important Consequences. On top of that, the whole meta-narrative is the Seeker trying to find out how and why Hawke did the things he did, yet all of Hawke's choices are ultimately irrelevant. Anders blows up the Chantry no matter what you do, and the Circles rebel no matter what side you take in the final battle.

You guys answered an email that was already answered in last weeks podcast at (EP 247 - 1:30:26) and (EP 248 - 1:12:44) in this weeks podcast.

That is all

BlackSabred?

BlackSabre wrote:

You guys answered an email that was already answered in last weeks podcast at (EP 247 - 1:30:26) and (EP 248 - 1:12:44) in this weeks podcast.

That is all

Good lord, did I do that AGAIN?

rabbit wrote:
BlackSabre wrote:

You guys answered an email that was already answered in last weeks podcast at (EP 247 - 1:30:26) and (EP 248 - 1:12:44) in this weeks podcast.

That is all

Good lord, did I do that AGAIN?

Are we going to have to revoke your podcasting license, Julian?

Rat Boy wrote:

BlackSabred?

I approve of this message

I just can't believe I was the only one to pick up on it.

I'm also holding off on Dragon Age 2. I'm hoping the DLC will flesh the game out a bit. I also get the impression that the combat is a bit arcady (for want of a better word) with guys spawning randomly into the fight and that has put me off a little. I think I am going to pick it up eventually.

I heard the spoilers but felt they came out of enthusiasm and an unintentional mistake so I didn't get annoyed (it I was on a podcast I'm sure I'd be spoiling stuff left right and centre.)

I thought the romance/sexy scenes at the end of the Shadow broker worked very well. They felt natural, didn't look too much like mating mannequins and you got the impression that very naughty things were happening out of camera shot.

Higgledy wrote:

I'm also holding off on Dragon Age 2. I'm hoping the DLC will flesh the game out a bit. I also get the impression that the combat is a bit arcady (for want of a better word) with guys spawning randomly into the fight and that has put me off a little. I think I am going to pick it up eventually.

I don't think the DLC is going to change the base game, it all seems self-contained, unless they've also got a patch lined up along with it that overhauls the base DA2 game.

The supposed prototyping DA3 experiments they're doing with the DLC I would guess are limited to within the DLC. During the playthrough video they seemed to be hyping enemies using their environments more and being more tactical with their abilities, so you have shielded enemies hiding behind them, and short range ambushes around a corner. Also incremental improvement to a weapon you get in the mission, so I guess recrafting and improving equipment is a new direction rather than outright replacement for DA3.

I find it hard to recommend DA2 without reservation. It's not brilliant, but it's not as bad as it's reputation would let on. My general opinion is that it was just stretched out too far.

muttonchop:

Sometimes, I think I played an entirely different version of DA2 compared to most folks. None of the stuff you mentioned as being big important events didn't seem particularly significant to me.

LarryC wrote:

muttonchop:

Sometimes, I think I played an entirely different version of DA2 compared to most folks. None of the stuff you mentioned as being big important events didn't seem particularly significant to me.

I know exactly what you mean. I like almost all of the games I play and when people totally tear them apart, I wonder what game they were playing.

Case in point - Dark Void. Most people hated that game - I loved it. I thought the flying was totally fun, the graphics were great, and the story was cute. It was destroyed by the ratings, but I liked it a lot - especially for the 10$ I spent on it!

Scratched wrote:
Higgledy wrote:

I'm also holding off on Dragon Age 2. I'm hoping the DLC will flesh the game out a bit. I also get the impression that the combat is a bit arcady (for want of a better word) with guys spawning randomly into the fight and that has put me off a little. I think I am going to pick it up eventually.

I don't think the DLC is going to change the base game, it all seems self-contained, unless they've also got a patch lined up along with it that overhauls the base DA2 game.

I didn't separate those two things out very well. I'm not expecting the combat, etc to change. I'm just hoping the DLC quests will take the edge off the repetitive missions just as 'Bringing down the sky' helped the Mass Effect 1 missions feel less cookie cutter.

Hi Lara! Missed you.

I recently learned a silly little detail about the opening of Dragon Age 2. When Varric begins his story about the champion and you play through the opening tutorial area, Bethany's breasts are rather large. When the lady interrogating Varric demands that he tell the truth, Bethany's breasts are a more reasonable size. I read that it might have something to do with Varric's tendency to exaggerate. Anyway, that has little to do with romance in video games (or maybe it does?), but there you have it.

Merrill's personality aside, I just find her to be mostly useless in combat, due to her lack of healing options. All that time with her stupid mirror and she couldn't muster up a basic heal spell? Lame.

The T&A in Mortal Kombat makes sense in context, as that series has always been about being over the top. Now, if Alyx Vance showed up in Half-Life 2 wearing a bikini, well that would just be silly.

Kudos to Lara for using the double entendre "hefting his giant broadsword."

Wembley wrote:
rabbit wrote:
BlackSabre wrote:

You guys answered an email that was already answered in last weeks podcast at (EP 247 - 1:30:26) and (EP 248 - 1:12:44) in this weeks podcast.

That is all

Good lord, did I do that AGAIN?

Are we going to have to revoke your podcasting license, Julian?

It wouldn't be a Julian show if there wasn't a repeat email.

This is not an example of a romantic relationship with a high degree of player agency, but I think it's worth mentioning the tragic romance between Daniel and Victoria in Tribes: Vengeance. It's been a long time since I played the game, but at the time I found it to be genuinely moving, and a surprisingly sensitive look at an adult relationship in the unlikely context of a sci-fi shooter. Ken Levine FTW.