GWJ Conference Call Episode 263

Conference Call

Batman: Arkham City, Dark Souls, Orcs Must Die, Sticky Game Mechanics, Your Emails, Twitters and more!

This week Cory, Julian, Allen and Shawn talk sticky game mechanics and hit a whole bunch of your Twitters and Emails.

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.

Sponsor

Tech Thing Daily
Game Thing Daily
Good Old Games

Dark Souls Guide
Batman: Arkham City
Orcs Must Die

  • Subscribe with iTunes
  • Subscribe with RSS
  • Subscribe with Yahoo!
Download the official apps
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android

Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Main Theme - Batman: Arkham City - http://community.batmanarkhamcity.com/ - 35:33

Comments

I disagree totally about Dark Souls, if anything the combat is methodical. It rewards paying attention to the enemies and the environment and usually allows you one mistake in a combat before it sends you back to the bonfire.

The problem is that every game up until now has been lying to you. You never saved the world or rescued the princess, the game pulled its punches and laughed at you behind your back once you walked away.

Dark Souls loves you and would never lie to you about your abilities, that's why it feels the need to stomp you into the ground when it senses weakness.

In the last year Dark Souls have provided the only moments where I jumped up off the couch, fist in the air, because I finally beat a boss.

I seem to remember a big discussion 2 years ago when Arkham Asylum came out about how much some of you (i don't remember who...maybe gaald?) just wished Assassin's Creed would steal this A.A's combat system in favor of their own because it was so much better... and now we're talking about how after only its second outing Batman's system is no longer interesting, meanwhile Assassin's is about to release its 4th game with (relatively) the same system. I haven't played anything past Assassin's Creed 2 yet so maybe things have changed but I just couldn't help but mention it.

Also all that Dark Souls talk was really entertaining. Demiurge I hope you keep trying.

In re the philosophy and gaming question: Is he reading Brainy Gamer? Is he reading other gaming blogs? There's a whole world of intelligent gaming discussion out there and while it may not be the best way to make your way in the journalistic portion of the industry (paying-wise), there is a definitely a subset of individuals who are held above as more "philosophical" than others.

Besides, it's not always about your faculties, it's about how much you're willing to work for it.

Edit: Two CC threads in a row have now mentioned Michael Abbott and Brainy Gamer.

I am feeling the same way about the Arkham City combat, Shawn. I loved it the first time when I played Arkham Asylum, but I can't seem to get that rewarding feeling this time around. I think it is because, and it may be the same case with you, that I am coming off 80 hours of playing Dark Souls. Since the combat is so tactical, strategic, and methodical it was strange for me to switch to Batman's two-button rhythm system. I probably just need a few more hours with the game. The combat is pretty similar to Assassin's Creed and I have become burnt out on that series, so that may be a factor.

In regards to the Catwoman DLC and the future direction of games business, retail practices, I'll just say this: "I can't wait to pay for Xbox Live, pay for the online pass, pay for the multiplayer Elite subscription, and pay for the DLC season pass. And then pay for it again so my kids or siblings can play that content on their own profiles for multiplayer and achievements. Damn it." I know that is definitely an exaggeration, but I can definitely see these kinds of micro-costs being a common, pervasive standard for future games.

And done. Good show, guys. I like that you're doing a livecast of the show now as it seems to keep energy slightly higher. Or so it seems.

I think I'm gonna have to get Dark Souls next paycheck. There's no doubt that my ego could stand a little deflation.

On Allen's point where Arkham City hand-holds you more: there are a few instances where you have to figure things out for yourself outside of the Riddler puzzles, of course. When they introduced the infrared goggles to the Predator section, I had the crazy idea of using the shock gun on the henchman with the goggles. Sure enough, it disabled the goggles and I was patting myself on the back for my ingenuity.

Oh, and I definitely want to hear everyone's reactions to the ending.

Edit: And it's not Nolan's Batman you're thinking of, it's Frank Miller's Goddamn Batman.

Links:
Go Make Me A Sandwich
Other great sites that look at gender and minorities in games:
Not You Mama's Gamer
The Border House

Yesterday's Fringe Buster column, mentioned on the show.

Rat Boy wrote:

Oh, and I definitely want to hear everyone's reactions to the ending.

Me too. The various complaints about the story and writing made me sad because overall, I think Arkham City has a MUCH better story than Asylum. It can be hard to see how it all fits together before the ending, however.

muttonchop wrote:
Rat Boy wrote:

Oh, and I definitely want to hear everyone's reactions to the ending.

Me too. The various complaints about the story and writing made me sad because overall, I think Arkham City has a MUCH better story than Asylum. It can be hard to see how it all fits together before the ending, however.

I've finished the story at this point, and I'm still not swayed. Clearly we need to have a conversation about all of this.

Demiurge wrote:

I've finished the story at this point, and I'm still not swayed. Clearly we need to have a conversation about all of this.

Well for starters, I'm not convinced that Arkham Asylum had a particularly good story. It was very well-executed, but at its core:

Spoiler:

Joker had another wacky scheme, and Batman needed to stop him. In order to do so, he needed to fight his way through an assortment of villains and retrieve various macguffins. Batman stops Joker's plan, Joker goes to plan B (injecting himself), and Batman beats him down.

Arkham City, on the other hand:

Spoiler:

We see Joker struggling to deal with the consequences of one of his reckless antics, and scrambling to stay one step ahead of Batman in order to obtain the cure. We see Batman faced again and again with the consequences of his nonlethal approach to crime-fighting. I mean, Ra's actually begs Batman to kill him, and he is later revealed to be the true mastermind behind Arkham City and Protocol 10. Through sidequests he is constantly distracted by villains he has stopped countless times before, who are once again running rampant and murdering people.

And yet, he keeps trying. Batman's willingness to help Freeze mere seconds after fighting him may seem a little odd, but I think it accurately represents his character. No matter what they've done, Batman will always offer them an opportunity to redeem themselves. Even knowing that Ra's will just come back to life again, he would rather reason with him than kill him.

Despite his optimism, however, the game illustrates just how little progress he is able to make. He stops Ra's and Strange, but not before they kill a ton of people. He locates Talia, but Joker still murders her. And when he actually tries to help most of his enemies, they spit in his face. Bane and Freeze betray him. When he tries to save Strange, Ra's, and Joker, all of them lash out at him and end up killing themselves in the process.

Arkham Asylum was a fun comic book romp, but in my opinion Arkham City was a much more interesting exploration into just how lonely and frustrating it is to be the Batman.

To be fair, I agree with your stance on Asylum, as the magic was definitely in the execution and not the plot. But I think you're reading a *lot* into City's ending.

In fact, maybe that's why I felt City fell short - I don't feel like the execution was there. Which is probably why I don't see the details that I think you're reading into City's storyline.

I'll take your post under advisement, though. We're planning a spoiler section for the game and I'm curious what the others will think regarding your take. Have a hunch I'll be the only one unsatisfied.

Demiurge wrote:

To be fair, I agree with your stance on Asylum, as the magic was definitely in the execution and not the plot. But I think you're reading a *lot* into City's ending.

Probably, mostly I'm just trying to translate my emotional response into words and that doesn't always come across very well. All I know is that City's ending felt a lot more powerful to me than Asylum's. I can agree that the execution of Asylum's story was more consistent, but it was also a lot less ambitious than City both in terms of scope and complexity.

Corey, as a fan of Street Fighter you should understand the way melee combat works in Dark Souls. If you commit to an uppercut and it misses, you will be exposed. Its all about identifying animations quickly and seeing your opportunities : )

I also thought Harley Quinn was kinda hot in AA. Here's an... interesting video on the motion capture in the first Batman game.

Demiurge wrote:

But I think you're reading a *lot* into City's ending.

I will concede that City's ending affected me since I was a fan of The Animated Series from day one back in the 90s, but...they still did it in a way that even a fan of the franchise from the 1940s would still feel somewhat emotional (what emotion I'm still trying to figure out) about what happened. There was a sense of finality to it unlike anything I've felt even reading a mainstream comic. As I mentioned in the Arkham City thread...

Spoiler:

...what first got to me was the final exchange between Batman and Joker. I've said the crux of the story is examining Batman's golden rule, that he will not kill anyone or allow anyone to be killed through his inaction. He invoked that rule twice, first by refusing to kill Ra's al Ghul and later by sparing Mr. Freeze in Cory's WTF moment. That rule was challenged when Joker ran off with Talia al Ghul and Batman wanted to drop everything to go after her even as Strange's mercs were blasting the heck out of Arkham City to execute Protocol 10. However, Alfred and Oracle talk him out of it, saying that he had to stop Protocol 10 and to do otherwise was to go against Batman stood for. Soon after there he is standing over his worst enemy who just gunned down his girlfriend* as he dies and he says that after prefacing if the Joker wants to hear something funny that if could, he would have tried to save him, to which the Joker in the most serious delivery I've ever heard from Mark Hamil outside of Star Wars says that it is pretty funny. Weak chuckle, final gasp, dead. To me it not only put an end to Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil's duet in all the Batman media they've done in the past decade and a half, but it felt like the perfect end to the whole Batman-Joker rivalry. As he carried Joker's corpse out of the theater**, he did so with a bit of reverence and a bit of "How in the heck should I react to all this?" Admittedly, this may all be due to Mark Hamil retiring from the role of the Joker, but the devs wrapped his bowing out around an excellent end for the character other than Luke Skywalker that he'll most be identified with.

*:

Spoiler:

I must say Rocksteady did a good job faking out who Batman's love interest in this game was. Marketing totally hinted at Catwoman, and the prologue implied Vicki Vale. Course, they got Nikki Heat to play Talia, so that should have been a clue.

**:

Spoiler:

I only realized after Batman carried the Joker's corpse out that the theater was the Monarch Theater, better known in the lore as the place where the Wayne family saw "The Mark of Zorro" before taking a shortcut through an alley behind the theater that resulted in Bruce's parents getting gunned down before his eyes.

I'll concede Shawn's receptiveness and write it off to the gameplay not being enough to draw him in, but if you're like me and a fan of the Batman franchise since near birth, this is one of the best Bat experiences you'll ever have. Same Bat time, same Bat console.

Oh, one last thing, Cory; not to spoil anything, but the Catwoman bits aren't really that integral to the main plot. The bat and the cat's paths only cross about three times, which is about the same number of times you take control of her during the course of the main storyline.

I never fail to find it alarming how quickly the folks on the podcast-- especially Corey-- are willing to throw away consumer choice just because you don't want to have to put on pants.

I've never understood how you can reconcile your mistrust of Gamestop as a corporation with your willingness to basically concede all control of your purchases to Valve, which is at its core just another corporation. It's like saying you think Exxon is raping the environment, so you want to give regulatory control to BP.

The Plants Versus Zombies steam patch and the Portal ending retrofit are just two examples of warning shots that people have completely ignored. Valve buries complete control over your purchases into an EULA that nobody reads, but we're supposed to trust them because so far they've only made changes for legal or marketing reasons. And when your copy of Left 4 Dead 2 becomes a CCG because they want to do a promotion for Left 4 Dead 3, I'm sure that will be completely fine with everyone.

Oh but Valve would NEVER do THAT. Just because they reserve the right to do it, have no legal obstacle and effectively have a monopoly on the digital market (Do Impulse and GOG really count as major competitors?)... well they're just run by generally nice people.

I like Gamestop. I like being able to buy used games. Am I thrilled that in-game content is being locked out, or must be purchased seperately if I buy used? No. But I'd rather have the option to decide for myself whether that content is worth the difference between the cost of a new game and a used game than to be stuck with a system where I'm buying something ephemeral that disappears at the whim of someone I've never met in some office building somewhere.

And if I don't want to wear pants, Amazon sells used games too. Can I play them instantly? No. Am I so impatient that I must have an entertainment product instantly? No again.

I realize I'm nowhere near a majority, though, and I have to resolve myself to the fact that Digital Only Distribution is coming and I can't do a damn thing about it.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I never fail to find it alarming how quickly the folks on the podcast-- especially Corey-- are willing to throw away consumer choice just because you don't want to have to put on pants.

I find it alarming how quickly they throw away a good discussion to avoid spoilers.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I've never understood how you can reconcile your mistrust of Gamestop as a corporation with your willingness to basically concede all control of your purchases to Valve, which is at its core just another corporation. It's like saying you think Exxon is raping the environment, so you want to give regulatory control to BP.

It's not the fact that they're corporations, but rather that Gamestop has a long, long history of behavior that PC gamers do not find acceptable. Conversely, Valve has a long, long history of behavior the PC gamers find awesome. If people have a problem giving money to big companies, they can always buy indie, I suppose. But if I'm giving my money to a big company I'll give it to the one that's offered the best product, the best service, and the best treatment of gamers. That's Valve, full stop.

The fact remains, however, that we all have choices as consumers. You can support Gamestop all you want, and I can keep throwing cash into Gabe's money pit. (Even Valve sometimes doesn't know why we keep giving them money.) We can all tout the virtues of our preferred platforms until the cows come home, but you'll keep buying from Gamestop and I'll keep buying from Valve. And that's okay.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

The Plants Versus Zombies steam patch and the Portal ending retrofit are just two examples of warning shots that people have completely ignored. Valve buries complete control over your purchases into an EULA that nobody reads, but we're supposed to trust them because so far they've only made changes for legal or marketing reasons. And when your copy of Left 4 Dead 2 becomes a CCG because they want to do a promotion for Left 4 Dead 3, I'm sure that will be completely fine with everyone.

I wouldn't say they've been ignored; they get brought up on a regular basis. The typical response (and mine as well) is that these same things get pushed in patches all the time. You can choose not to update games automatically if you don't want to. And while it's beside the point, I have both of these games and these changes did not bother me in the slightest.

Your L4D comment is a bit of a slippery slope argument, but I for one would play a L4D CCG.

I have some input on the Digital Distribution markets. I don't know if any of you are familiar with a company out of Australia called Green Man gaming; they are allowing you to sell the game back to them as a digital only copy. So; just because physical media may die I suspect we will not see the death of the used gaming market. Then; there is the recent Impulse converting to Gamestop PC Gaming website. They are not (yet) allowing you to sell back digital PC downloads; but you can use your in store credit for when you trade in meatspace games for PS3, 360, Wii, etc... to purchase PC games on the Gamestop PC client. How does that make everyone feel; so you're 360 gaming addiction can now go to covering your PC impulse purchasing. *ha*

Michael wrote:

I wouldn't say they've been ignored; they get brought up on a regular basis. The typical response (and mine as well) is that these same things get pushed in patches all the time. You can choose not to update games automatically if you don't want to. And while it's beside the point, I have both of these games and these changes did not bother me in the slightest.

Not quite, you can choose to not update yet. You can go offline and make steam blind to the internet (firewall it) so it doesn't know about updates (which is only of so much use for an online game), but once steam knows about an update, you can only delay when it gets it. When steam is online and an update is released, it's going to download and apply it either right at that moment or whenever you launch it next.

It's not like an 'old' game where you had to manually download and apply the patch, or could go to a specific version. For steam there is only one version, the latest version, which is how it was designed.

All that said, I had a load of people shout at me when I said that in another thread.

The good guy I was talking about in my email was everyone's favorite one-handed Arkham Asylum guard, Aaron Cash, who gets in one (maybe two?) b**** thrown toward Harley before he disappears from the plot. He's not exactly a shining force of good, but he is a good guy.

As for Arkham City vs. Arkham Asylum, I thought that the open world may have muddled the message of AC. AA may have had a less sprawling, epic story, but I thought the tightness of the experience made it play out far better than AC's story did.

I wanted to add, in Pyro's defense, that a lot of IGF games are historically submitted (and even awarded prizes) without being finished or publicly released. It's sort of tough to follow, as the awards are less "this is a good game" and more "we anticipate that this will be a good game."

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

The Plants Versus Zombies steam patch and the Portal ending retrofit are just two examples of warning shots that people have completely ignored.

They're not "just two examples", they're the ONLY two examples anyone ever brings up whenever we re-hash the "is Steam an evil monopoly?" argument.

The Plants Versus Zombies argument is ridiculous because it was PopCap that implemented the change - Steam was just the distribution mechanism. Any other download service could have done the same, or PopCap could have built an auto-update mechanism directly into PvZ, but because they chose to use Steam that apparently makes Valve the bad guys.

And the Portal ending? They extended the original ending by what, 5 seconds? Over 3 years after the initial release? Oh, the humanity.

Can we please retire these examples? They're terrible, and they do nothing whatsoever to further your argument. Any game can be designed in a way that allows it to automatically receive updates, Steam just makes it easier. This is not a Steam-specific problem.

Shawn was very close when he guessed that Panasonic tried to establish a "standard console format" for common manufacturing -- it wasn't the GameCube that Panasonic tried to push as a standard but, rather, the 3DO. In the mid-90s, Panasonic, Sanyo, and Goldstar all manufactured their own variants of the 3DO...and the failure of those variants highlights why it would difficult to successfully launch a similar standard, even today: market confusion.

Uninitiated consumers already have enough problems trying to discern between the current selection of consoles, games, and all of their various peripherals; additional SKUs of the same console from different manufacturers will only muddy the waters even further. Also consider Sony's recent attempt at this from a software standpoint -- the Playstation Suite -- which hasn't been a wild success to this point.

The only thing that both corporations and customers agree is important is the ability to make an easy purchasing decision. A standard console specification, and all the various and sundry SKUs that would emerge from it, just makes things more complicated.

Michael wrote:

It's not the fact that they're corporations, but rather that Gamestop has a long, long history of behavior that PC gamers do not find acceptable. Conversely, Valve has a long, long history of behavior the PC gamers find awesome.

Which will only make their inevitable betrayal that much more painful.

wordsmythe wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I never fail to find it alarming how quickly the folks on the podcast-- especially Corey-- are willing to throw away consumer choice just because you don't want to have to put on pants.

I find it alarming how quickly they throw away a good discussion to avoid spoilers. :P

Quoted for truth. Seriously, the gaming community is losing out on so much for fear of spoilers.

OzymandiasAV wrote:

Which will only make their inevitable betrayal that much more painful.

What betrayal are you concerned about? That someday they're going to throw the giant knife switch in the sky, turn off the lights and take all our money? Or that they'll do something that makes Left 4 Dead fans angry about dlc? (Everything seems to make them angry anyway.) More hats?

I just can't justify not using the superior service because I'm afraid of some nebulous Bad Thing that MIGHT happen someday.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I never fail to find it alarming how quickly the folks on the podcast-- especially Corey-- are willing to throw away consumer choice just because you don't want to have to put on pants.

I find it alarming how quickly they throw away a good discussion to avoid spoilers. :P

Quoted for truth. Seriously, the gaming community is losing out on so much for fear of spoilers.

I dunno, I have even less interest in playing DA2 now that an emotional core to the story was laid out in open during the CC about 4 or 5 months after release of the game.

Of course, Bioware games are largely about story, so ...

garion333 wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I never fail to find it alarming how quickly the folks on the podcast-- especially Corey-- are willing to throw away consumer choice just because you don't want to have to put on pants.

I find it alarming how quickly they throw away a good discussion to avoid spoilers. :P

Quoted for truth. Seriously, the gaming community is losing out on so much for fear of spoilers.

I dunno, I have even less interest in playing DA2 now that an emotional core to the story was laid out in open during the CC about 4 or 5 months after release of the game.

Of course, Bioware games are largely about story, so ...

I'm probably weird for thinking that interest in experiencing a story is less appealing to me than a conversation about the story. I guess that's why I'm an editor.

wordsmythe wrote:

I'm probably weird for thinking that interest in experiencing a story is less appealing to me than a conversation about the story. I guess that's why I'm an editor.

I'm the same way. I've never found my experience with a story to be lessened by knowing what will happen next, but I've had countless conversations hamstrung prematurely by a fear of spoiling things. What's fun in a story isn't seeing what happens but how it happens and why it happens and what techniques are used to make it happen, all of which can be made richer through conversation.