GWJ Conference Call Episode 264

Conference Call

Battlefield 3, Rocksmith, Spoiler Section For Batman: Arkham City, Spoiler Section Dragon Age 2: Mark of The Assassin, Your Emails, Twitters and more!

This week we talk Battlefield 3 and Rocksmith for games. There's two spoiler sections this week!

Batman: Arkham City 56:00 to 1:15

Dragon Age 2: Mark of The Assassin (and other DA2 stuff) 1:15:00 to 1:42:00

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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Battlefield 3
Batman: Arkham City
Rocksmith
Dragon Age 2

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Beyond Good and Evil - Frame of Mind - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 38:08

Main Theme - Batman: Arkham City - http://community.batmanarkhamcity.com/ - 55:43

Main Theme - Dragon Age 2 - http://dragonage.bioware.com/ - 1:15:36

Comments

Great show. I'm tucking the spoiler sections away for a time when I've played said games.

Battlefield 3 multiplayer is also fantastic on the 360. The single player had me feeling pretty irate by the end of it so I did what any self respecting internet user would do. I wrote a screed of text about it:

***Spoilers (carefully generalised) for the single player of Battlefield 3***

A stage play is a fragile thing. Everyone, audience and cast, knows that it is basically a bizarre fabrication made of wood, painted scenery and people wearing too much make-up but, get it right, and a boxed off area of stage can become a drawing room in a Russian mansion that has seen better times or a bedsit in Catford where a young couple struggle to raise a baby.

The scenery, lighting and costumes all play their part in the successful illusion and a failure in any one of those departments can undo the spell for the audience but there are other things that can kill a play just as easily and they aren't always easy to pin down. At some point the play's director needs to step away from the stage and look at the play from the audiences point of view. They can then pick up on all the small problems that hamper the production and deliver them to the cast and crew in the form of 'notes.'

Battlefield 3 sorely needed someone to look at it from the players point of view and to take and deliver copious, ruthless notes. Here, for what they are worth, are my notes:

1. Friendly fire
Friendly fire is a problem in first person shooters when you have allies fighting along side you but there are numerous tried and tested solutions. A sign saying 'Friendly fire won't be tolerated' followed by a fail screen, if it occurs again in a short space of time, is probably the worst of these solutions by a wide margin, especially if your friendly A.I. characters seem to have a suicidal disregard for your line of fire.

2. Return to the playing area
During a small tank battle I was trying to manoeuvre to the side of two tanks when I found myself out of bounds with a 'ten second to game over' count down. I had to use all my mediocre tank driving skills to get back into the clear.

Out of bounds areas are the price we pay for levels that look like they are set in an endless landscape and I have no real objection to them but this wasn't the very edge of a vast map it was the section of road beyond the enemy tanks that I would be driving down in a few seconds time. I was being forbidden to progress into the area until I destroyed the second of the two tanks. If you really feel that it was unacceptable for me to drive on and leave the enemy tank to live to fight another day then let the enemy tank follow me or give it an open area through which it can keep shelling me. Both would be preferable to a jarring 'Return to the playing area' notice.

3. Bullet proof people
Twice I encountered enemies who could not be shot. On the second occasion, to add insult to injury, I was looking down the sights of a 50 calibre machine gun. It was clearly necessary, for story reasons, for me to lose the fight at that point but making the enemies impervious to 50 calibre rounds at close range wasn't the answer. You could have kept throwing enemies at me until the gun overheated or had the gun jam on me, both would have maintained the integrity of the scene.

4. Random death
Early on in very damp Night Shift level I encountered a man in a narrow hallway with his back to me. I was directed to perform a stealth kill. I crouched, to reduce my foot noise, and moved slowly towards my target. Half way down the corridor, with the enemy still out of reach, but oblivious to my presence, I received a button prompt. I ignored it, intending to use the same knife controls I use in multiplayer. A moment later my character suddenly and inexplicably dropped dead. After I picked my jaw up off the floor I tried again and again died of unknown causes. I managed the kill on the fourth try by being a lot less careful.

Killing the player character outright because they didn't do what you wanted them to seems a little extreme. If I were playing a table top RPG and the games master repeatedly killed our entire party because we missed some carefully contrived area of his troll fortress then I would worry that said GM was developing megalomanic tendencies. I'm not saying you can't build consequences into the game. A noisy death could alert a team of snipers outside or the man could throw a grenade. You can guide me to do a stealth kill and reward me for carrying it out successfully but if I want to shoot the guy with an RPG you should respect my bad tactical descision.

5. Bringing back invisible walls
At the end of the same atmospheric, rain mottled level I was covering a fellow soldier who was carrying a body onto a helicopter. Once he was safely on board I raced to the ramp only to hit a phenomena I thought lost in the dark ages of gaming, an invisible wall. An unseen force was preventing me from running up the ramp. Apparently, it was imperative that I go back and shoot three more enemies (despite there being a full contingent of marines covering our escape) before being allowed, finally, onto the helicopter.

A handy rule of thumb would be: If the player wants to get on the helicopter let them get on the helicopter. It is infinitely preferable to end an engaging and fun level in a realistic, satisfying way that to have them run, face first, into one of the most anachronistic and ham-fisted ways to guide a player ever invented.

6. Destructible windows and masonry.
I enjoyed the fights involving plate glass windows and fragmenting cover. Feel free to set all the levels of future games in glass factories and pottery museums.

Enjoyed the comments on games that need access to the internet.

Made me think of a recent thing I've encountered here on Sado. One of the new ALTs (Assistant Language Teacher...folks who come to Japan to teach English are usually doing this) has decided not to get internet access to his house. When I heard this, my jaw dropped, and then I thought about my reaction and realized that the Internet has become a utility (at least in my mind). Not getting the Internet to me is like saying you're not having water or electricity hooked up to your house. This is not to say that everyone should be online all the time, but, especially when you're in a situation like ALTs here (in a foreign country, separated from friends an family by oceans and many time zones), the I feel like the Internet has become a necessary connection to the world.

And so, I'm totally with Julian on this.

While it does suck for people who don't have access to the internet (I've been there, I spent all of 2007-2008 having to mooch off my work computer) sometimes you need to find interests that are practical to your location and resources.

If you live in the Yukon you probably won't be able to surf. If you live in Hawaii, snowboarding is probably out of the question. People in these areas manage to find other hobbies.

If you live in barn in Farmington, Nebraska where there are no ISPs, then modern gaming probably isn't for you.

Gah! A spoiler section for a game that hasn't even been released yet for the PC? Have a heart!

Hey Dan from HATtiesburg, I'm also from Hattiesburg! Super excited you rep'd us on GWJ. give me a tweet @bighesse or message me here. I now know of two other people here who listen to gamers with jobs. yay!

BigHesse wrote:

Hey Dan from HATtiesburg, I'm also from Hattiesburg! Super excited you rep'd us on GWJ. give me a tweet @bighesse or message me here. I now know of two other people here who listen to gamers with jobs. yay!

Three people is enough for a slap and tickle. Get to it!

One to do the slapping, one to do the tickling, and one to hold the camera.

the Internet has become a utility (at least in my mind)

Mine too. Sadly, I doubt that the ISPs will let that become a reality in my lifetime.

garion333 wrote:
BigHesse wrote:

Hey Dan from HATtiesburg, I'm also from Hattiesburg! Super excited you rep'd us on GWJ. give me a tweet @bighesse or message me here. I now know of two other people here who listen to gamers with jobs. yay!

Three people is enough for a slap and tickle. Get to it!

Where two or more are gathered in his name, Stan is there.

At least until you call the cops.

I think the only podcast I've run across that divides up their single cast with tracks so you can just hit next track to pass sections is the Drabblecast. With them you can immediately skip the intro, drabble, or main story. Any chance the CC could throw in some markers for spoiler sections? Obviously I have no clue how easy/insanely difficult it is to add in stuff like that.

Listening to Karla and Lara discuss DA made me think they were talking about a TV show rather than a video game; don't see a lot of games that create that kind of emotional investment.

Kehama wrote:

I think the only podcast I've run across that divides up their single cast with tracks so you can just hit next track to pass sections is the Drabblecast. With them you can immediately skip the intro, drabble, or main story. Any chance the CC could throw in some markers for spoiler sections? Obviously I have no clue how easy/insanely difficult it is to add in stuff like that.

The only way of doing this that I know of is if you master in Garageband, and if you listen using iTunes. But I could be wrong. I'm pretty sure I don't know how to set markers like that in Protools or Reaper or any of the other "real" DAW systems I know are more common for editing. The actual markers are, I believe, in the XML for the feed, not in the actual audio file.

I agree its cool when podcasts have markers and images and such, but I also believe it's an Apple closed-loop thing.

rabbit wrote:
Kehama wrote:

I think the only podcast I've run across that divides up their single cast with tracks so you can just hit next track to pass sections is the Drabblecast. With them you can immediately skip the intro, drabble, or main story. Any chance the CC could throw in some markers for spoiler sections? Obviously I have no clue how easy/insanely difficult it is to add in stuff like that.

The only way of doing this that I know of is if you master in Garageband, and if you listen using iTunes. But I could be wrong. I'm pretty sure I don't know how to set markers like that in Protools or Reaper or any of the other "real" DAW systems I know are more common for editing. The actual markers are, I believe, in the XML for the feed, not in the actual audio file.

I agree its cool when podcasts have markers and images and such, but I also believe it's an Apple closed-loop thing.

This show is already nuts to edit together, I wouldn't wish more work on anyone. I believe Julian is right. I am pretty sure I researched this when I was the one doing the editing, and we realized it was only going to work for certain people and so not really worth the extra effort. Besides, why would you want to skip anything? The whole show is wonderful!

The main reason the spoiler stuff is placed at the end of the show is to make sure it's easy for people to stop and move on to something else.

Demiurge wrote:

Where two or more are gathered in his name, Stan is there.

Also bndpederson.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

Where two or more are gathered in his name, Stan is there.

Also bndpederson.

QFT

About Guitarsmith, the cord sounds like a proprietary Midi interface device of sorts. Much along the vein of the Midi device that Rockband 3 had as an option for 3rd party keyboards.

I also enjoy that everyone is amazed at the Quantization tools that have been in the music technology field for more than a decade... I'm amazed that they finally implemented the technology into a music game.

So, the thing is, its definitely NOT just a midi cord. Maybe its using midi-quantizing brains in software to match what your playing to whats on the screen, but it, for instance, accurately detects whether your palm muting an open string or just playing an open string. It knows the difference between playing a harmonic correctly or faking he same tone on a fret.

So while there might be something midi in the code to register notes, it's definitely more sophisticated than anything I've seen before. I don't believe, for instance, the Rolland midi boxes will trigger a *different* midi channel when you palm mute a note vs play the note. And they're way more expensive kit.

The cord itself simply cant have much in it -- the only "bump" on the cord is the size of a very small pack of gum, and its a $20 piece of hardware. The good guitar-midi systems I've seen all have dedicated pickups.

Could be wrong, I'm certainly not a professional musician.

Edit: Not wrong, if you plug the cord into a PC it just shows up as a Microphone, and you can just record right off it from guitar into your PC. Neat.

Gaald wrote:
rabbit wrote:
Kehama wrote:

I think the only podcast I've run across that divides up their single cast with tracks so you can just hit next track to pass sections is the Drabblecast. With them you can immediately skip the intro, drabble, or main story. Any chance the CC could throw in some markers for spoiler sections? Obviously I have no clue how easy/insanely difficult it is to add in stuff like that.

The only way of doing this that I know of is if you master in Garageband, and if you listen using iTunes. But I could be wrong. I'm pretty sure I don't know how to set markers like that in Protools or Reaper or any of the other "real" DAW systems I know are more common for editing. The actual markers are, I believe, in the XML for the feed, not in the actual audio file.

I agree its cool when podcasts have markers and images and such, but I also believe it's an Apple closed-loop thing.

This show is already nuts to edit together, I wouldn't wish more work on anyone. I believe Julian is right. I am pretty sure I researched this when I was the one doing the editing, and we realized it was only going to work for certain people and so not really worth the extra effort. Besides, why would you want to skip anything? The whole show is wonderful!

The main reason the spoiler stuff is placed at the end of the show is to make sure it's easy for people to stop and move on to something else.

Except there were 2 spoiler sections this week and the one I wanted to avoid was placed before the one for the game I'll never bother to even think about playing. Should have just held the Dragon Age thing for next week, and maybe advertised and talked it up this week.

Also, the Arkham City spoiler section is the first spoiler section I've ever skipped over.

Fast forwarding an mp3 file through the USB stick flash drive inserted into the head unit in my car, is really slow as it doesn't accelerate. That was a pain, traveling down the interstate. Granted, I'm aware I'm probably the only person who listens to the podcast this specific way, and only do so since my previous mp3 player stopped responding to a button press necessary to return to the menu. Since a new player's not in the budget, the USB stick works for now.

Fast forwarding with an iPod or iPhone is just slow and awkward in general. I hate having to do this. But I do understand that this may just be too much additional work for the CC editor.

By the way... I loved the DA2 spoiler section this week. It was really interesting to hear Lara talk about DA2 in such a different context from the usual CC banter that often seem limited to jokes about Naughty Hawke Thoughts. Great segment you two.

My point is that it's pretty much impossible unless we publish from garageband as AAC files, whcih would certainly not be all that standard for a lot of our listeners. Plus, we'd need to make the editor (jonathan) use GarageBand. You can't expect people to work for free and then tell them to buy new computers and use unfamiliar tools (grin). And after all that, it would only work on players that process AAC files correctly (apple devices). '

If we went from MP3 to AAC, I imagine there'd be a palace revolt from other corners.

It'd be cool, but until someone starts actually implementing ID3v2 chapters in both software and hardware, there's not actually a good standard for this.

And here I was, just coming into this thread to thank the Conf Call for doing a great job placing spoiler sections in well defined manner and at the end!

I think the best solution, outside of some kind of digital bookmarking, would be to list the time ranges that each game is talked about. Different people have different level of spoiler tolerance, and that would be the easiest way for people to skip segments and not miss any more than they have to (or hear a line or two of semi-spoilers while they're trying to figure out if they fast forwarded far enough).

HOWEVER, this seems like a lot to ask of Mr. Downin, and he does a great (and unappreciated) job anyway.

I'm perfectly fine with skipping large segments of various podcasts to avoid spoilers (haven't listened to anything Uncharted 3 related at all), even if I miss out on other content by skipping too much. It's my choice to avoid information that strictly, and it's not like there's not hours and hours of podcast content out there for me to digest.

Why not just push out the spoiler sections as a separate download in the subscription? "Episode 264" and "Episode 264 - Special Dragon Age 2 Spoiler Section"?

For the record, I have no issue with it how it is, but this comes up every time there's a spoiler section, so I'm just tossing out an idea.

I didn't realize this only worked with AAC files. Bummer. I'm personally fine with whatever, since listening to spoilers doesn't ruin games for me. With that qualifier, I do think that creating a separate download for each spoiler section would be too much trouble from a user perspective.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Why not just push out the spoiler sections as a separate download in the subscription? "Episode 264" and "Episode 264 - Special Dragon Age 2 Spoiler Section"?

For the record, I have no issue with it how it is, but this comes up every time there's a spoiler section, so I'm just tossing out an idea.

I like this idea because it makes it easy to go back to once I beat the game.

Speaking of - I just dl'd all the dlc and am going to start DA2 in earnest. Let's just see how naughty Hawke actually is on the Jonmanlian scale of frisky.

My wife was squeeing along with Lara and Karla during the whole spoiler section. Bioware has created a monster

Day9 just started a format where he streams and records and uploads one episode in three segments. Could be worth looking into as a format for spoileriffic stuff.

I'm usually one of the first to hear the podcasts, as they get posted right around my lunch time. I won't mind posting a comment including the times of topic changes, unless the GWJ overlords deem that to be uncouth of course.

(edited for clarity)

Chairman_Mao wrote:

I'm usually one of the first to hear the podcasts, as they get posted right around my lunch time. I won't mind posting a comment including the times of topic changes, unless the GWJ overlords deem that to be uncouth of course.

(edited for clarity)

I'm cool with it.

I have problems with equating offline users missing out on single player content in a game they bought new to lowering the basketball hoops in the park for people who can't shoot baskets. What disadvantages would online players experience if the content were on the disk for all players, rather than hidden behind a boroque CD-key entry?

Also, comparing the problem to WoW purchasers being surprised to find they needed an internet connection? This is a single player game. It shouldn't need the internet period. The slow erosion of the game-purchasing experience only happens if people grin and bear it.

/rant

Consider this scenario. The content is on the disc but encrypted via a unique key that's related to a CD key printed in the instructions. If the user can't get online they call a support rep, read them the key, and are then given the unlock code (which is basically a salted cryptographic hash of the key in their box). This code unlocks the content they already have and saves it to the hard disk for use. The trick would be generating discs where each one is different and matches some printed thing in the box. Then there's no need for any internet connectivity at all, but the printed keys are still single-use.