GWJ Conference Call Episode 257

Conference Call

Driver: San Francisco, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Crimson Alliance, King of Dragon Pass, A Topic Buffet, Your Emails and more!

This week Sean Sands and Julian are joined by Rob Zacny and J.P. Grant to talk about their deep love for consoles, JRPGs and deep, story-based games. I think it was love ...

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.

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Warhammer 40K: Space Marine
Crimson Alliance
Driver: San Francisco
King of Dragon Pass

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

A Hero's Legacy - Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine - http://www.spacemarine.com/ - 41:28

Driver: San Francisco selection - http://driver-thegame.ubi.com/driver... - 1:14:25

Comments

I'd just like to go ahead and say: I'm sorry.

Yeah. And I should point out that Kincher kept pouring us glasses of scotch while we were recording, so I really can't be held responsible for the letters section.

Nothing grinds my gears more than blind hate of JRPGs and generalizations. ARGH!

Keep up the good work.

Oh, well, while we're assigning blame: let's talk about how at dinner prior to recording, someone insisted we get two girly-ass pink margarita specials just because they were called "Imperial." For the Emperor, indeed.

IMAGE(http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_wSoONVcq6tg/SqPFwZGhPII/AAAAAAAAAzw/dgF1ORxZ9KQ/s320/simpsons_nelson_haha2.jpg)

I probably qualify as one of those "perennial malcontents" when it comes to discussions of JRPGs on GWJ so, rather than spew out a gigantic treatise that three people will read, I'll simply ask the following:

Rob Zacny wrote:

Yeah. And I should point out that Kincher kept pouring us glasses of scotch while we were recording, so I really can't be held responsible for the letters section.

So, now that you're sober, do you still think that JRPGs are just bad games?

I have yet to listen but at least I know what to expect now!

I'd say that blatant criticism was rather thought provoking and refreshing (I come from jrpg-worshiping background).

I do think there are plenty of assumptions behind people who love JRPGs. They play them and like them and there's always a tone of incredulity when someone doesn't like them. I've never had someone articulate fully why they like JRPGs, it's a hard perspective for me to understand.

That said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It just puts JRPGs into "love it or hate it" territory. You either already want to play them or you don't. I don't think there's a ton of mobility there.

No, if this was NPR, I'd be passed out within 15 seconds. Which is really not cool when I am driving.

Let's be fair. If you are a real man, when it comes to TVs, 27" is small, 40" is medium, and 55" is big. And now for some reason I feel a little turned on.

A 27" monitor sounds sexy. If all goes well, I will have this big boy sitting on my desk in a few months: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...

"It's not about making a change, it's about the argument." Holy crap, I think I was just enlightened. Brilliant.

I love that the trolls of online forums have been reduced to the image of the Swedish Chef. It makes unreasonable people seem almost charming.

Whenever people talk about the desire for reasonable discourse, I always wait for someone in the room to say, "Yeah well, you're a jerkface."

"Blah blah blah, Lara Crigger, blah blah blah." Yes, growing up with her was pretty much that. (Love you Lara!)

When it comes to refinement, just look at Apple. There is very little that is actually innovative about that company, but they are masters of refinement. If we are talking about making a lot of money and having happy, repeat customers, clearly that concept works for them.

PyromanFO wrote:

I do think there are plenty of assumptions behind people who love JRPGs. They play them and like them and there's always a tone of incredulity when someone doesn't like them. I've never had someone articulate fully why they like JRPGs, it's a hard perspective for me to understand.

Did you catch any of the "Myth of Labor" presentation (and subsequent discussion) from GDC 2011? Here's Darius Kazemi's notes.

wordsmythe wrote:

Did you catch any of the "Myth of Labor" presentation (and subsequent discussion) from GDC 2011? Here's Darius Kazemi's notes.

Yet, as a fan of the genre, I find grinding to be awful and a sign of an poorly balanced game. (Yes, that means I think there are a lot of bad RPGs out there, J- or otherwise.) The "fantasy of labor" in some games might appeal on a ritualistic level to some players, but not to me.

OzymandiasAV wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Did you catch any of the "Myth of Labor" presentation (and subsequent discussion) from GDC 2011? Here's Darius Kazemi's notes.

Yet, as a fan of the genre, I find grinding to be awful and a sign of an poorly balanced game. (Yes, that means I think there are a lot of bad RPGs out there, J- or otherwise.) The "fantasy of labor" in some games might appeal on a ritualistic level to some players, but not to me.

Do you prefer Japanese action titles, then?

wordsmythe wrote:
OzymandiasAV wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Did you catch any of the "Myth of Labor" presentation (and subsequent discussion) from GDC 2011? Here's Darius Kazemi's notes.

Yet, as a fan of the genre, I find grinding to be awful and a sign of an poorly balanced game. (Yes, that means I think there are a lot of bad RPGs out there, J- or otherwise.) The "fantasy of labor" in some games might appeal on a ritualistic level to some players, but not to me.

Do you prefer Japanese action titles, then?

I don't really have any sort of regional preference when it comes to games of any genre, but I'm struggling to understand why you're asking. Are you arguing that the fantasy of labor is the primary (or only) appeal for RPGs?

OzymandiasAV wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
OzymandiasAV wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Did you catch any of the "Myth of Labor" presentation (and subsequent discussion) from GDC 2011? Here's Darius Kazemi's notes.

Yet, as a fan of the genre, I find grinding to be awful and a sign of an poorly balanced game. (Yes, that means I think there are a lot of bad RPGs out there, J- or otherwise.) The "fantasy of labor" in some games might appeal on a ritualistic level to some players, but not to me.

Do you prefer Japanese action titles, then?

I don't really have any sort of regional preference when it comes to games of any genre, but I'm struggling to understand why you're asking. Are you arguing that the fantasy of labor is the primary (or only) appeal for RPGs?

I'm trying to pin down the appeal if you strip away the grinding parts. Looking at Japanese action titles was just a way to keep it culturally similar for a more accurate comparison.

On King of Dragon Pass:

I've unloaded a fair amount of time into it, and from what I understand, the game has many hand crafted scenarios-- triggered by certain conditions, and a scenario's outcome actually relies on a number of different conditions, as well as your decision on what to do. Sometimes, the 'right' answer in one playthrough is different in another.

From what I've skimmed, the game is set in an already established fantasy universe of dnd-like proportions, so that's where the game draws much of its lore.

Chump wrote:

From what I've skimmed, the game is set in an already established fantasy universe of dnd-like proportions, so that's where the game draws much of its lore.

Yes, KoDP is set in Glorantha, which debuted as the setting of a board game, then spawned several RPG's, and has been acquiring depth for decades. I'd put it up with Tekumel as a groundbreaking, amazingly-deep RPG setting that I'd love to do more with but am kind of intimidated by.

The Wikipedia page has a decent overview of how Glorantha started and developed; Glorantha.com has intimidating amounts of information about the setting; and given that David Dunham brought us King of Dragon Pass, his Glorantha site is also worth mentioning. But KoDP stands by itself perfectly well; don't feel like you even need to be aware of any of that to enjoy it.

[/info-dump]

It's 2011 and yet human beings still need to be in tribes. You can see this ridiculousness in the whole Modern Warfare 3 Vs. Battlefield 3 garbage going on right now. Those games are quite different and yet people feel the need to join a side, represent a team and post garbage like "lol Call of Duty is for kids" and "Battlefield is for lozerz roflz". It's embarrassing.

This whole WRPG Vs JRPG debate that has sprung up this generation is sad. Since when do gamers care where a game is made? If anything I love how global video games are. I play games made in the US, Sweden, Poland, Japan, Korea etc. How many average movie goers watch anything made outside of the US? And why do so many gamers all of a sudden want to limit the amount of experience they can have? Since when is not enjoying a video game, an entire genre something to be proud of and boast?

I'll tell you why. It's because of that emotional tribal instinct and the desire to protect one's ego. I don't see how this is so hard to get by. I don't play racing sims because I find them to be dull and grindy. But when people tell me that Gran Tourismo 5, Forza 4 and iRacing are phenomenal games how do I react? Do I regress into an emotional state and try to rationalize that the entire genre of racing sims are garbage? Do I then throw myself into the "Anti-Racing Game Sims" camp? Do I find the need to label people that enjoy them "people who like boring games lol"? No, because that's a ridiculous way to react.

One of the reasons why I love the GWJCC is the hosts love video games as a medium. They unabashedly get excited and angry about a hobby I enjoy but more importantly they are open to trying things. They will talk about iOS games when other people look down on them. They talk about board games when other people would point and laugh. They talk about obscure indi strategy games that are insanely complex when other people wouldn't give them the time of day. It's great. They love video games and not just the AAA blockbusters.

It's why it's so disheartening for them to always come back to this anti-JRPG stance. Whenever it happens I feel like I'm listening to a dudebro podcast making jokes about iOS games or board games. "Son, you gotta be drunk and high when you play that sh*t because it sucks bro."

It's 2011 and yet human beings still need to be in tribes.

A few hundred thousand years of history and evolution isn't likely to change just because it's post-millennial.

One of the reasons why I love the GWJCC is the hosts love video games as a medium. They unabashedly get excited and angry about a hobby I enjoy but more importantly they are open to trying things. They will talk about iOS games when other people look down on them. They talk about board games when other people would point and laugh. They talk about obscure indi strategy games that are insanely complex when other people wouldn't give them the time of day. It's great. They love video games and not just the AAA blockbusters.

No, it probably wasn't our finest hour. But, based on a significant sample size I still feel fine saying I don't like JRPGs, and it has nothing to do with the geography. I think it's naive not to pretend like there aren't genuine and substantial cultural differences between east and west, and it proves a significant barrier for me. I don't understand the cultural norms that inform these games, and so they manifest to me in a way that is not fun.

I guess you can chalk it up to some kind of tribalism -- but I reject that.

This whole WRPG Vs JRPG debate that has sprung up this generation is sad. Since when do gamers care where a game is made?

They don't. Or at least I don't. To me, JRPG as a (sub)genre is classified by its games' playstyle, not the location of its developers. As far as I'm concerned, a developer in Europe could make that type of game, and I'd still call it a JRPG. I dislike JRPGs the same way I dislike racing simulators. They are both genres that don't appeal to me, and geography has nothing to do with it.

Elysium wrote:

A few hundred thousand years of history and evolution isn't likely to change just because it's post-millennial.

No, it probably wasn't our finest hour. But, based on a significant sample size I still feel fine saying I don't like JRPGs, and it has nothing to do with the geography. I think it's naive not to pretend like there aren't genuine and substantial cultural differences between east and west, and it proves a significant barrier for me. I don't understand the cultural norms that inform these games, and so they manifest to me in a way that is not fun.

I guess you can chalk it up to some kind of tribalism -- but I reject that.

I want to point out that it wasn't a response to this specific episode but more of a response to listening to all the JRPG "discussions" throughout the years.

It doesn't bother me if people don't like JRPGs. Heck, I don't even play them that much these days. And not liking and/or criticizing JRPGs, sure that has nothing to do with tribalism.

But labeling people and putting people into a camp is and this nonsensical WRPG Vs JRPG "debate" is evidence of it happening. There are probably a lot people on this forum and listeners of the podcast that like to identify themselves as "Pro-WRPG Anti-JRPG" and vice versa. This behavior makes no sense. It's just silly. And because of tribalism brought on by stupid broad stroke generalizations (like spikey hair/emo/anime or dudebro/elves/guns) a lot of gamers will probably actively avoid titles because they perceive themselves as falling into a certain camp. It's no longer about enjoying video games, it's about representing your team.

And when I'm discussing a game like Fallout: New Vegas my first reaction isn't to say something like "This is why I don't play WRPGs, because they are always buggy and sloppy. JRPGs for life!" or "This is why I hate JRPGs. Notice how there were no emo anime girls in New Vegas? That's why it's an actual good RPG." It's like entering the Fox News spin zone where nothing relates and it's just a bunch of random emotional nonsense.

I hear you guys say stuff all the time like "it's just not for me" except for when it comes to JRPGs because if JRGPs ever get brought up the troll train arrives and you help reinforce this lame WRPG Vs JRPG nonsense (the only sore spot in an otherwise excellent podcast). But also this tribalism is probably stopping people from playing excellent games because they become close minded and the generalizations on the podcast don't help.

How many people will skip out on Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword because they are JRPGs? How many people will refuse to play Skyrim or Diablo III because they are WRPGs? If someone told me "I'm not playing Dark Souls because I heard it's a punishing game and I don't like to die a lot in video games" That makes sense to me. But if someone says "I'm not playing Dark Souls because it's a JRPG and it's going to be emo and anime" that's preposterous to me. The fact that people are making decisions based on where a game is made instead of the actual game is absurd and they should feel embarrassed.

And if you just thought to yourself, "Dark Souls isn't a JRPG", take a second and think for a minute. I hope after that minute you realize that this nonsense of JRPG Vs WRPG has affected you.

It seems to me that ascribing something like tribalism to people who don't like something you enjoy is trying to rationalize away personal taste. Even if a majority of people in a given culture feel a certain way, it's still personal.

I play JRPGs a fair bit and have represented games like Demon's Souls a great deal. I went so far as to say it was the best game of the year to me. And now here you are making generalizations about how "trolling" our show is. I'm part of the show.

It's ok not to like chocolate or vanilla. As soon as you make it chocolate vs. vanilla then you have a problem. I don't think we indulge in that particular habit much. We make comparisons at times for the sake of conversation, but I don't think we've ever been so immature as to seriously try and create some kind of us vs. them mentality. That would be asinine.

Certis wrote:

I play JRPGs a fair bit and have represented games like Demon's Souls a great deal. I went so far as to say it was the best game of the year to me. And now here you are making generalizations about how "trolling" our show is. I'm part of the show.

That's true, I apologize for that remark.

If it's not too offensive, I'd like to point out that most of the CC skipped on Muramasa because they thought it was a JRPG, even though it's actually a brawler. I would like to take this opportunity, however, to point out that Certis also was an outlier on the CC in this regard, as he did point out that it wasn't actually a JRPG.

Certis for life!

On a different note, I would like to say that I played Space Marine with a mouse and it obviously was tweaked with a console in mind. I was far and away way too deadly with my Bolter. I'd headshot greenskins at sniper distance with my bolter and I never even used Fury for aiming, since the slowmo usually just got in the way of the action. This is not to say that I never died. I died a lot, mostly on the last fight, but the rest of the way was kind of a cakewalk on Normal. My wife was watching me play and she commented that I'm far and away too good at this shooting game thing to still be playing with them.

It's not the shooting genre. It's Space Marine.

FWIW, I felt that Red Dead was the same way. Headshotting is too deadly in that game, and if I could play it with a mouse, I'd never need to use Dead Eye.

On a non-JRPG note, our in-character review of Space Marine just went up over at Paste. Enjoy, brothers!

Certis wrote:

We make comparisons at times for the sake of conversation, but I don't think we've ever been so immature as to seriously try and create some kind of us vs. them mentality. That would be asinine.

So it's us people who don't create an us-vs-them mentality against those people who do??

PyromanFO wrote:

I do think there are plenty of assumptions behind people who love JRPGs. They play them and like them and there's always a tone of incredulity when someone doesn't like them.

I'm not surprised when people don't like JRPGs. I am, however, frustrated by some of the conversations that surround JRPGs in part because they're too broad and in part because they're too specific.

They're too broad in the sense that the term JRPG gets tossed around to cover a pretty broad spectrum of games. I've seen the term applied to everything from Final Fantasy VII to Rune Factory Frontier to Valkyria Chronicles to Disgaea to Recettear to Demon's Souls to Nier to Paper Mario. There are some really profound differences in the way these games play, the way they look, and the stories they tell. In another discussion about this, Minarchist said that there's more mechanical variety in the "JRPG" genre than in any other except maybe "Puzzle," and I think he's right. It's hard to really criticize JRPGs as having such-and-such a flaw when so many games get lumped into that same category.

At the same time, the conversations about JRPGs are too specific in that they're often really just about Square-Enix games or even just the Final Fantasy series. It's like having a conversation about "shooters" that's really about Call of Duty or about "Western RPGs" that's really about games made or published by BioWare. There are very real criticisms to be made of those series/publishers/developers, but those criticisms don't necessarily apply to every entry in their respective genres. Final Fantasy and Square-Enix are the biggest kids in the room when it comes to JRPGs, but that doesn't mean they're the only kids or the best kids.

I've never had someone articulate fully why they like JRPGs, it's a hard perspective for me to understand.

I'll bite with two caveats: first, that I'm not as well-versed in JRPGs as some of the other commentators on this site, so I might have some ideas about the genre that aren't universal; second, that not everything I like will show up in every JRPG.

I generally like the combat systems in JRPGs. While there's a lot of variation in the ways they're implemented, broadly speaking they're generally turn-based or quasi-turn-based and place an emphasis on using status-altering abilities and exploiting fundamental characteristics (usually elemental alignments) of your opponents. It's a sort of light strategy game where you're either trying to match your teams' abilities to your enemies' weaknesses or else alter your enemies in such a way that they're more vulnurable to what you have at hand. (Of course, you can always grind out experience against lower-level enemies so that you can just pick "Attack" every round and win, but that's less fun than trying to really use the tools you're given.)

I like that JRPGs tend to place more of an emphasis on equipment (or what is essentially equipment, like summoned monsters or companions) than on character stats. JRPGs often have crafting systems for creating or improving items that get fairly deep. Some games, like Rune Factory Frontier even let you construct your equipment from raw materials. Whenever I see people mentioning how great it was that in Ultima IV you could combine flour and water to make bread, I think of Rune Factory Frontier and the wealth of items you could make from simply components.

Similarly, with abilities and skills often assigned to equipment rather than to people, there tends to be more flexibility in the makeup of your party and character. You can often respec on the fly, and will be expected to as you encounter new enemies in new locations. Tying back into the elemental weaknesses and strengths mentioned earlier, you might find yourself facing off against fire enemies when you're more of an ice party and will need to adjust your abilities accordingly.

Finally, I like the worlds in JRPGs. I'm not always crazy about the characters, no, but the world-building they do for these games is often really impressive. Playing Western RPGs, I often feel like I'm playing games built from people's really great D&D campaigns. There are some interesting ideas and characters, but the worlds themselves don't tend to stray far from their roots in The Lord of the Rings. Whether they're called by Tolkien's race names or not, you tend to get your dwarves, your elves, your orcs, your goblins, and your dragons. You get your archers, your knights, and your thieves.

The character designers and art directors for JRPGs go a little bit more crazy and get a little bit more out-there with their designs. Browse through the demons that have appeared in the Shin Megami Tensei games or glance at some of the enemies from a Final Fantasy game, and you'll see far weirder creatures (a T-Rex with a second mouth in the middle of its back? A horned blue demon with no arms?) than you're likely to see in even a very expansive game like Oblivion. Couple that with some really imaginative costumes, locations, and items, and each game ends up having its own distinct visual style that goes beyond what kind of graphics technology it was made for. Heck, they don't even all have to be set in "fantasy" environments; the Shin Megami Tensei games are often set in the real, modern day cities of Japan.

I don't expect that these things will appeal to everyone, but that's what appeals to me and why I keep coming back to JRPGs. I don't, however, spend much time with Final Fantasy games. I have Final Fantasy XIII in my collection, and I do intend to play it, but I'd rather fire up a Persona game or Resonance of Fate or Phantom Brave or Paper Mario and the Thousand-Year Door.

I'd rather make 19 Twilights than 1 Great American Novel...

Nooooooooo! How could a writer wish that much terrible prose on the world?

Elysium wrote:

I'd just like to go ahead and say: I'm sorry.

If anything, you guys should be taking a bow. I had a ton of fun listening to that.

I'd like to take this opportunity to point to Elysium and Rob as "exhibits 1 and 2" in the argument that Westerners often do not understand the iconography and culture behind anime and JRPGs.

Some of the things the GWJ crew lauds as fantastic and ground-breaking have been done before - in JRPGs and similar other games. Japanese AVNs, in particular, are goldmines for imaginative narrative gaming, though you do have to endure the frequently irritating protagonist and nude scenes.

It's a good thing Lara's on the crew. Keeps things a little more on a even keel.

Love you Sands!