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

complexmath wrote:

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.

Mmmm, salted cryptographic hash. Right out of the frying pan with some ketchup.

The way I see it, all this hoopla about walled-off content and what-not is just basic cut-throat charge-whatever-you-can business. It's not about IP or "protecting content" or whatever euphemism business people choose to use. It's about getting as much money out of the consumer as possible along the supply-demand curve, while returning as little as possible, preferably nothing.

While I don't really have a problem with that philosophy per se, as a consumer, I'm interested in protecting my own interests, and in getting as much as I can for as little money as possible. Single-use product that demands additional requirements for use is less of a product compared to something I can use over and over, and that I can resell for its full content, that doesn't have onerous requirements. I'm willing to buy the former, assuming I can use it, but only for a greatly reduced price.

Ergo, I'm willing to purchase a disk game for $50 or $60, but the same product downloaded from Steam would only be worth half as much to me, at best. For me, a fair price point for the latter product would something like 20% of the list price of the disk game at a similar time frame (at launch), given its greatly reduced value.

LarryC wrote:

Ergo, I'm willing to purchase a disk game for $50 or $60, but the same product downloaded from Steam would only be worth half as much to me, at best. For me, a fair price point for the latter product would something like 20% of the list price of the disk game at a similar time frame (at launch), given its greatly reduced value.

See, I feel just the opposite way. A game I never have to find the disc for, can install anytime I want, on any pc I ever own, or even at a friends house across the country so I can get through a crappy weekend playing portal in 5 years? I'll pay extra for that. After almost 35 years as a amer, the last thing I need is more physical stuff. The last two PCs I build don't even have permanent DVD drives! I just used a spare to install an os an then removed it!!!

Ah. Well, I have BitTorrent for that. I figure, if I purchase a game, and it's really how it's laid out in IP laws, then I have the right to backup or re-DL it for personal use, regardless of what's actually in the EULA, since most of that is BS anyway.

Compared to a DRM-free, launcher-free game code, Steam stuff is just inferior. I can take my game to a friend's house, or DL from there. I can't do that with a Steam game. I have to DL it there, and he may not have a decent internet connection.

The dream is one day for everything to follow either the GoG model, or the F2P model, but it's not there yet.

Fair enough. My basic perspective is that I don't want to pay for content I can't use, but I can appreciate the problems associated with having two different boxes on the shelf: one for a discount without an activation key and one for full price with an activation key. It seems like the tech is available to let users without an internet connection activate the extra content without making it possible for them to re-sell the disc and let other people have it too. Not that I actually want publishers to do this to people to begin with, but that seems like a foregone conclusion.

(FWIW, it shouldn't be hard to prevent even the generated key from working if used by someone else, too).

I prefer Steam, to be honest. All my games are in one place, I'm sure they will always be up to date without any intervention on my part, and installing them amounts to clicking a button. Even GoG can't match this level of convenience. And having spent countless hours messing with setup of one sort or another over the years, that's absolute gold to me. I guess that's partially a side effect of transitioning from having time to not as I've aged.

The thing with steam which confuses the issue is that it's digital download plus DRM. DRM does nothing to help you, and as LarryC hints, there's more than one way to get digital downloads of games, including those on steam. Steam never has been a perfect utopia, it's just good enough that people pay what they're asking.

I wouldnt claim that Steam is utopia or nirvana or heaven whatever,

but as a service it has definitely improved my game purchasing, installing, playing, updating and 'storing' experience. That doesnt even include the social networking and matchmaking aspects (but I'm such a loner I dont take advantage of that enough.)

We get into opinions and perspectives when it comes to STEAM, but I would counter that from my perspective it does way more than serve as 'good enough' It adds value. It improves the experience. And it lets me focus on doing what I want to do, just getting into the game and gaming.

I know that a common enough counter to folks who seem loyal to STEAM is often the "Why would you trust STEAM more than any other company out there?" line. Well, there is something to be said for reputation and actions. Not all companies are equal. For me, in my little gaming world, STEAM has earned enough good reputation that if their invisible level of DRM is needed for their business model, then they've implemented it so transparently and brought so much value to my gaming experience that... I'm good with that. Go for it. If someone is still judging STEAM DRM based loosely off some Halflife 2 purchase experience however many years ago, then.. their perspective is just dated and wrong.

It's so ironic to me that a company like EA, who's tagline at one point was "It's in the game' has long spent so much effort on building walls and obstacles for me, the user, the consumer, actually getting into 'the game.' To turn around and think I will embrace yet another EA id, for yet more games whose servers may get turned off, is laughable. To me their reputation is negative. I can't help but compare that to STEAM whose whole service model seems to have been focused on letting me game seamlessly.

If my STEAM collection disappeared tomorrow, I'd still will have spent less than a fishing season or two of my dad/brother. I'd hate for it to happen, and I doubt it would even play out that way. Valve has focused on so consistently on refining their services and user experience in my eyes. The greatest threat to what Valve has built would be an acquisition because at that point... all bets are off. Still, I think they add enough value and focus to the gaming experience that it is worth that possibility.

Uggh, not sure why I got on my own rant here. Beats doing work I guess. (and I have a lot to do... aiyiiiiiiiii)

I'm basing my issues with Steam on recent experiences with these titles:

RAGE
Plants vs. Zombies
Dawn of War 2

Steam gave me multiple issues on each of these purchases, over a long span of time, repeatedly.

That's interesting.

I own all of those titles and have not had a STEAM related issue with any of them. If you dont mind what was the STEAM specific issue with them.

Is it possible it was more of a publisher content issue, a service provider issue, a local hardware issue or PIBCAK (Problem Is Between Chair And Keyboard)? My point being that were your problems specific to what Valve was doing or one of the other inherent factors that go hand in hand with being a pcgamer.

Sure there are hiccups. Recently, Rage and Dead Island launches were rough. But that was not a Steam issue, those were content problems. I lay blame for that at iD and Deep Silver's feet. The great thing about STEAM in these cases is that the fixes were deployed quickly and automatically.

When Valve introduced Cloud Saves and the PvZ developers implemented it for the first time, I did lose a PvZ save but I would count that as my own fault for having saves on multiple pcs. Definitely PIBCAK. I use the cloud for other games nowadays, but never had the same issue. Maybe it's just different because the cloud exists from day one so I'd have to work at it to cause a similar data loss.

Irongut:

The default setting for Steam updates each game as soon as the update files for it are available at the local server. Unfortunately, the speed of those servers are questionable locally, so a game with an update could be as much as a week on update time and unavailable for play. If I turn off auto-update globally, I don't get notifications when important performance updates are available, so I don't know if they are.

I could fiddle with Steam a good deal to make it work better, but I consider that a cost I'm unwilling to put up with.

RAGE had so many updates at launch it took 5 days to download and install them all, and now it crashes at launch, and neither Steam nor RAGE will even tell me why.

Sometimes, it takes a day just to authenticate a game on a disk I bought that's associated with Steam (that would be Dawn of War 2).

To add insult to injury, a game would sometimes ask to authenticate when it supposedly already has, get its content changed on an update when I don't want it to, or a file would just freeze mid-download or hang the PC during installation.

I'm using the Singapore server and I live in the Philippines. I have not, to date, been able to authenticate any game successfully on the Philippine server, let alone download one. In one of my purchases, everything went smoothly - that would be Armored Princess. It only took a week from purchase to playing.

I am not confident that Steam will guarantee any of their products if I report it nonfunctional. Few companies here do (and that includes the local arms of Apple, Asus, and Lenovo). If you bought a lemon, you're SOL.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the issues Steam has caused me with those games. I bought PvZ from them, but I play my pirated copy. Less headaches that way.

I appreciate the explanation and I see what you are saying.

At the sametime, my perspective is different. I know STEAM is the window into the library, but there are things in their control and things outside of it.

Data thoroughput problems I would lay at the feet of the service provider. This affects the update experience. Unless you are saying you have great internet speeds normally and it is specific to that STEAM server. There doesnt seem much fiddling here: settings -> downloads/updates -> Choose Download region. Override the Phillipines to another server. (It may get reset at some point, but it should troubleshoot the Phillipines steam server being the issue.)

Constant Rage crashes, sounds like a local technical/software issue. I dont remember reading too many user stories about stability issues. People didnt agree with some of the design decisions or experienced some initial technical issues.

# of sizeable Rage updates. Developers fault.

Dawn of War 2 authentication of CD. I dont get this one. I thought Dawn of War 2 was GWFL. After linking it to a Steam account, Iand installing it and the GFWL middleware/client, I dont remember needing to authenticate the DVD. Chaos Rising I had bought on disk too, but once associated with the Steam account, I dont remember needing the original dvd.

I dont mean to pick apart each line if thats what it comes across as. I just don't see things the same regarding the scope of what is 'Steam' and what isnt.

Irongut:

My bad. I DoW2 is GFWL. Steam locally is so bad that I just mentally confuse the two. I am already using the Singapore server, since the Philippine one is functionally unusable.

As for data throughput, I don't really care what solution they can or cannot use. At the point of sale, they're offering me a game that needs a week at the usual local speeds to download. A disk game, I can play immediately. Regardless of who's fault that is, it's a poor product in comparison.

I am a customer. I don't care whether or not it's Steam's "fault." If they can't offer me a product that's competitive within the scope of my specifications, I'm shopping elsewhere.

Yeah, that is the trick about pc gaming these days.

I bought Rage on disk for the pc. Most of the massive install initially was handled locally. Steam authenticated and updated it initially. The updates were pretty invisible to me, but I guess its a question of ISP speeds.

Would a physical only product/scenario for Rage have fared better? Been a better product? Probably no. Rage would've released in the state it was in. Users would've done the massive install. They would've encountered Day one issues and would be stuck checking for and finding updates themselves.. for their region. They would've had to do the downloads themselves and install themselves. Maybe leading some % to more technical issues.

So for the way pc gaming is today.. I think there are no advantages to physical media. Updates are getting bigger and bigger either way. The more automatically the service can provide those, the better.. in most cases. I agree that you need the capability to halt updates on a particular title... if not because you are getting locked out of a game during the download, but also because for mod-heavy games.. you may want to be able to time a specific update better.

The worst horror stories i hear about Valve are VAC related. Where users run into being banned from their account for a VAC offense.. intended or not. Some of them deserve it, some dont. Even here, I think the publishers.. the content providers are providing profiles to Valve about what files they will permit modification of, and what they will not. To my eyes, Valve's responsibility is to make that profile design process is as lean and correct as possible for their users and to step in to correct mistaken bannings etc. I still see the publisher/developer as responsible for providing correct VAC profile specifications.

What I'm telling you is a cautionary tale. My own. I live in a far-flung Third World country as far as Steam is concerned. I'm so far off their target market that they don't really care whether or not I get anything for my money. Customer satisfaction is zero priority. If I purchase a game I can't play, it's my problem, not theirs.

As long as you're within Steam's target region and demographic and your interests line up with theirs, you will get a response, since Steam looks like a reasonably competent corporation. Once you get off the beaten path, or their interests begin to work counter to your own, that concern will evaporate faster than water on a desert dune.

At heart, Valve controls your games. They say they'll unlock them if and when they go under, but it's in their interests to say that to assuage your concerns. There's no guarantee that they'll actually do that, and you have nothing actionable to force their hand if it turns out that they don't want to.

FWIW, it's the same with the other local arms of the multinationals. Once your Iphone is outside the local 1-year warranty, Apple won't even bother to pretend caring about your product. There isn't even any lip service.

Steam obviously has no control over bandwidth to your home, but if their servers are spotty they should fix that. Have you contacted customer support? As for DRM... unless it interferes with my machine's behavior or my ability to play the games I've purchased I really don't care whether it's there. Steam DRM has never gotten in my way. Speaking more generally, I think digital distribution will continue to gain popularity. It wouldn't surprise me if download were the primary distribution method of all games in the next generation of consoles.

Demiurge wrote:
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.

That's the sort of blasphemy that we can all enjoy!

wordsmythe wrote:
Demiurge wrote:
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.

That's the sort of blasphemy that we can all enjoy!

Sacrilicious!

If additional downloadable content is offered as a way of encouraging people to buy new, and if that content is unavailable to consumers who don't have high-speed internet connections to their consoles, then there is no reason for those consumers to buy new.

Save yourself the $20 and buy used.

Regarding the Re-Usability of Game Elements

I've been mulling this over, and I've decided that the problem Certis faces in Batman AC is related to the phenomenon of "Normalization of Easy." At its heart, the combat in AA is a two button brawler. The mark of how brainlessly easy it is is that anyone could finish the game button-mashing just the one attack button. That's not even a two button brawler at that point. It's a one button brawler. It barely classifies as a combat game. This probably explains why I got disillusioned with the game really, really fast.

Certis makes an excellent point that while AC is harder, it's not that much harder. Now it's a two button brawler instead of a one button brawler. Not a whole lot of complexity increase there. The key thing is that a fair bit of the scalable difficulty in Batman AC is, IMO, tied in to scoring. The combat game in AC is a whole lot more interesting if you're playing it as a score attack. Suddenly, guys with shields aren't annoying nuisances - they're opportunities to use destructive disarm. Armored clowns are an opportunity to rapidly ramp the combo meter with Beat Up, or someone to target for Instant Takedown.

If there's a third game, I'm in full disagreement with Certis. The game can only advance by increasing its difficulty, though cleaning up the combat graphics to be more transparent would also aid the game a good deal. Requiring you to use the Batarang and the Batclaw in combat could make the game much more interesting than it currently is.

It's still not Street Fighter, but it's getting near to the point where it actually somewhat compares adequately to an actual technical brawler (Muramasa), assuming you play the game as a score attack game. Of course, I'm still partial to the latter. What can I say? I find ukiyo-e depictions of a single slash anime-style combat finish more satisfying than a slowmo of a painfully bad combat move.

Regarding the "b" word

From a foreigner persepctive, the root and cause of the misogyny in the "b" word has to do with how American English genderizes people by default, in colloquial usages. It's not common for English-speaking Americans to use "person" instead of some gendered noun, and there isn't even a truly gender-neutral pronoun. "Bitch" is just a negative word for "woman," and in that you think of "woman" as being an important facet of everyone's personhood, well, that's the entire problem right there.

Being a "man" or a "woman" is important when you're dating, when you want to insert slot A into tab B, but it's not in many other pursuits. Combat is one. In combat, a person is as capable as he or she proves herself to be, in that particular time and situation. Women can be generalized to have inferior pure physical strength, and of shorter height but there are ways around that - weapons - and each combat is unique as well. Catwoman may be shorter than Batman, but she's taller than a lot of men. She'd have a pure physical edge over most typical inmates, I'd imagine. A combatant like Catwoman is different from Batman, but she shouldn't be portrayed as just weaker, and especially not in relation to her being a woman.

If "bitch" were meant as a non-gendered word, it would not be misogynistic.

LarryC wrote:

If "bitch" were meant as a non-gendered word, it would not be misogynistic.

Unfortunately, what someone meant to say doesn't mean much once that person has hit "publish."

wordsmythe wrote:
LarryC wrote:

If "bitch" were meant as a non-gendered word, it would not be misogynistic.

Unfortunately, what someone meant to say doesn't mean much once that person has hit "publish."

/reads comment while glancing at avatar. "Who's this poster?—Oh my god!"

Certis makes an excellent point that while AC is harder, it's not that much harder. Now it's a two button brawler instead of a one button brawler. Not a whole lot of complexity increase there. The key thing is that a fair bit of the scalable difficulty in Batman AC is, IMO, tied in to scoring. The combat game in AC is a whole lot more interesting if you're playing it as a score attack. Suddenly, guys with shields aren't annoying nuisances - they're opportunities to use destructive disarm. Armored clowns are an opportunity to rapidly ramp the combo meter with Beat Up, or someone to target for Instant Takedown.

Arkham City's combat also becomes more interesting as you ramp up the difficulty, which ties in to what you're saying. On Hard and in New Game+, there isn't a chance that you'll make it through the game just idly pressing the attack and counter buttons. Arkham Asylum was the same way. While you're not required to use the gadgets to advance, you are required to think tactically and use Batman's abilities smartly.

But as to playing the game as a score attack game, that's actually already there in the challenge rooms. You flat won't be able to get gold medals in those rooms without really mastering not only Batman's basic moves but his combo moves and his gadgets. When you drill down into it, the Freeflow system they created is actually pretty deep and very rewarding. But of course, you won't get that in the main game, because the main game isn't designed that way. (The stealth takedown mechanics are also deeper than they appear in the main game, and this is also highlighted by the challenge rooms. This is why the challenge rooms were far and away my favorite part of Arkham Asylum.)

The normalization of easy, as you called it, really is at play in a strong way here, but I respect Rocksteady for at least including alternative difficulty levels and gameplay modes that allow players to tap into that depth.

I did not play much Batman AA, but my memory was that the combat rhythm was important. To describe it as a one button brawler doesnt really do justice to that aspect of the combat does it?

wordsmythe:

The context was American culture at large, not just the one guy. If American culture didn't genderize so much, then "bitch" could very well be a gender-neutral adjective. I confess this still trips me up on occasion, as I default to gender-neutral assumed meanings, since my other native tongue is largely gender-neutral. I have to remember that "bitch" carries a strong "female" axis.

Clockworkhouse:

I'd already be playing on Hard if the attack animations weren't so damn hard to see. I can clearly perceive a great score attack brawler in Batman, I just need to get used to the eye-killing graphic design.

Irongut:

The rhythm part is why it barely classifies. If it were a no-timing one button game, then that's really not a game so much as a "click to proceed" prompt.

LarryC wrote:

wordsmythe:

The context was American culture at large, not just the one guy. If American culture didn't genderize so much, then "bitch" could very well be a gender-neutral adjective. I confess this still trips me up on occasion, as I default to gender-neutral assumed meanings, since my other native tongue is largely gender-neutral. I have to remember that "bitch" carries a strong "female" axis.

I agree, but that's sort of tautological. You're effectively saying that a gendered word wouldn't be so sexist if it weren't gendered.

The problem still is that it's not about the culture that is doing the speaking.

A problem people have is that they presume offensive language means the speaker is morally wrong. A speaker can be completely innocent and still cause offense; the issue is more about how we respond in such situations. I believe it's wrong to tell the offended party that they're wrong to be offended.

Related Monty Python (warning: strongly suggestive language):