GWJ Conference Call Episode 276

Conference Call


Hero Academy, Dustforce, Kingdoms of Amalur Demo, Zelda, Professor Layton: The Final Spector, Non "Game" Game Stuff, Your Emails and more!

This week Lara, Karla and Shawn talk loads of games and the non-gameplay stuff pushing further into games.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

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Good Old Games

Final Fantasy XIII-2
Hero Academy
Dustforce
Kingdoms of Amalur
Zelda: Skyward Sword
Professor Layton: The Final Spector

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Span (BigBot Audio Drop) - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 30:52

And All That Between (BigBot Audio Drop) - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 48:25

Comments

The Episode is misnamed as 275 Jan 18th, not 276 Jan 25th. Threw me for a loop for a second there.

I am the king of Dustforce! Now if only I could beat Hyetal and Kyrieee's times.

Great show.

I did the giant hand fight in Final Fantasy XIII 2 and reached the same conclusion. I'm over JRPGs in their current form.

The new modes for Mass Effect 2 had me worried. In the past I've played the Mass Effect games through on normal difficulty, then on hard and yet again on insane (or whatever it's called) and I can imagine those higher difficulty settings being lost in favour of 'story mode' and 'combat mode' but we do seem to be getting a 'horde mode' for the game which could turn out to be an acceptable replacement in terms of letting me play the game beyond the end of the campaign.

To be honest I'd probably play through a few times with different characters but I d like to kick up the difficulty after my first run to keep the game feeling like a challenge.

Higgledy wrote:
I did the giant hand fight in Final Fantasy XIII 2 and reached the same conclusion. I'm over JRPGs in their current form.

I'll ask: when was the last time you played a JRPG that wasn't made by Square-Enix?

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Higgledy wrote:
I did the giant hand fight in Final Fantasy XIII 2 and reached the same conclusion. I'm over JRPGs in their current form.

I'll ask: when was the last time you played a JRPG that wasn't made by Square-Enix?

My last none Square-Enix game was Lost Odyssey.

I am tired of aspects of JRPGs that seem to persist in many games such as cute/silly enemy races that seems to be there for 'laughs,' over elaborate and nonsensical stories and heavy emotional scenes that lack authenticity. My impression is that those things are present in many JRPGs but it's possible my impression has been heavily coloured by FFXIII.

I wouldn't say those things are present in the Persona series or in Resonance of Fate, to name two that immediately come to mind. If you liked JRPGs once upon a time but got tired of the Final Fantasy schtick, I'd give Resonance of Fate a shot.

(As a bit of a side note: Lost Odyssey was produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the producer of the Final Fantasy series through Final Fantasy IX. If that game feels a lot like a Final Fantasy game, there's a reason for it.)

ClockworkHouse wrote:
I wouldn't say those things are present in the Persona series or in Resonance of Fate, to name two that immediately come to mind. If you liked JRPGs once upon a time but got tired of the Final Fantasy schtick, I'd give Resonance of Fate a shot.

I've nearly taken the plunge on Resonance of Fate a few times. No doubt I'll end up trying it. Good to know it's lacking many of those elements that I've come to dislike.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
(As a bit of a side note: Lost Odyssey was produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the producer of the Final Fantasy series through Final Fantasy IX. If that game feels a lot like a Final Fantasy game, there's a reason for it.)

Interesting. I have a tendency to think that there is a general desire to keep some of the elements I mentioned in JRPGs but probably the true reason that they persist is that they are coming from the same minds that incorporated them into previous games.

This may be completely crazy and unmanageable, but as far as ME3 and perhaps even DA3 combat: what about an option for turn-based, tactical combat instead of the usual action focus? Or even something like a sped-up, fewer-turns Frozen Synapse-type of planned-out, turn-based, overhead attack mode that then might even be rendered in a sort of procedurally-generated cut-scene/sequence?

I'm not saying get rid of the action combat options (which I happen to like for the most part, but they do get old in the course of a lengthy campaign), but if you're going to offer a choice to basically bypass combat, why not offer this kind of option as well?

RE: ME3 game modes

Did no one play Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis!
This old Lucas Arts point and click adventure game allowed you to choose how to play, either fight, talk, or reason your way through.

There are already games that are purely the story-mode of games like ME and DA. I know I bang this drum a lot, but Japanese AVNs are exactly that sort of game, minus the animation. All the branching, interesting storylines, various relationships and relationship developments, sans any puzzle, action, or really, anything that could be called game mechanics, outside story exploration.

A decently recent example of just such a game is Fate/Stay Night on the PC. It was adapted later on as anime, and into other formats, but the original material was an AVN on PC, and most material I've read suggests that it's very, very good - or at least it was better than the first anime, at any rate.

Here's the Wiki entry on Fate/Stay Night's "gameplay mechanics," which is sufficiently generic to apply to many AVNs:


Fate/stay night's gameplay requires little interaction from the player as most of the game's duration is spent on reading the text that appears, representing either dialogue between the characters or the inner thoughts of the protagonist. Often, players will come to a "decision point" where they are given the chance to choose from options displayed on the screen, typically two to three at a time. The time between these decision points is variable and during these times, gameplay pauses until a choice is made that furthers the plot in a specific direction. There are three main plot lines that the player will have the chance to experience, one for each of the heroines in the story. To view all three plot lines, the player will have to replay the game multiple times and choose different choices during the decision points to progress the plot in an alternate direction.

As far as I can recall, a spate of excellent Japanese AVNs released on the PSP provided a significant boost to the system's end-of-life activity in Japan.

The key difference, of course, is that Japanese AVNs are not animated, and they are generally produced on-the-cheap, though exceptions exist.

I imagine that a similarly structured sort of game would appeal to certain members of the podcast, if they were made with Western cultural and aesthetic sensibilities. I'm not sure whether or not they would be profitable as high-budget animated games. Certainly, DA2 was a strong move in that direction, borrowing many structures and tropes from modern JAVNs (it's practically a JRPG in many ways), and significantly reducing the complexity and difficulty of the combat on "Normal" game setting.

ME3 looks to be a definitive step in that direction, though. They can gather data on user activity to determine if a story-only game can have a sustainable market sans the "game" portion.

The FF talk in the early part of the episode gave me a headache...

QTE's in FF games aren't even remotely new. FF6 had it for special moves. FF7 had it for some of the limit break moves. FF8 didn't just have it in the summons either. FF11 had a thing for the timing of magic and skills used by the party to do extra damage (no button presses, but you did have to time your skills cooperatively.) I can't recall it for FF9, 10, or 12 though. It isn't required for you to win or survive either, it just gives you bonus items after the battle if you do the QTE correctly.

FF4 through FF9, and FF10-2, FF12, and FF13 weren't even turn based, so they likely won't go "back" to turn based. Only FF1 through 3 and FF10 were turn based.

To play the Demo for FF13-2, you definitely need to have played FF13, it relies on you having the first few hours of 13 to orient you with the battle system so they didn't need to teach it to you in the 30 minute demo. The game itself may reteach you this system, but it's not out yet to let us know.

kazriko wrote:
To play the Demo for FF13-2, you definitely need to have played FF13, it relies on you having the first few hours of 13 to orient you with the battle system so they didn't need to teach it to you in the 30 minute demo. The game itself may reteach you this system, but it's not out yet to let us know.

I was just coming here to say this. The game itself will more than likely ease you in, but the demo for XIII-2 felt like it was about 10 hours into XIII, so players like Lara were a bit in over their head.

Oh man, how can you guys talk about racism and elves and humans without mentioning Skyrim? Do you not play video games or something? I demand more expansive shows, CVs, and photos.

As it stands, here's how I picture the regular podcast crew:

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/PBaZk.jpg)

(L-R: Demiurge, rabbit, Elysium, Certis, Demiurge)

Gravey wrote:
Do you not play video games or something?

Yes. That's exactly it. At last my dark secret has been revealed.

disobedientlib wrote:
This may be completely crazy and unmanageable, but as far as ME3 and perhaps even DA3 combat: what about an option for turn-based, tactical combat instead of the usual action focus? Or even something like a sped-up, fewer-turns Frozen Synapse-type of planned-out, turn-based, overhead attack mode that then might even be rendered in a sort of procedurally-generated cut-scene/sequence?

I love this idea -- instead of watering down the combat, reduce the importance of twitch. I imagine it'd be a lot easier to do with a DA interface (switch to Fallout 1/2 style tactics) than a quasi-FPS interface like ME.

This combat-skipping mechanic exists in strategy games that alternate between global maps and battles, e.g. Total War or Heroes of Might & Magic. The only thing that keeps me from turning on "quick combat" more often is the worry that I'm not maxing out the results of each combat. Thought with less and less time to play games, I'm eventually going to hit the point where I stop doing that, or just stop playing games.

Oh - and I love the mix of podcasters this week! Is this a GWJ first (ladies outnumber the bro's)?

Padmewan wrote:

Oh - and I love the mix of podcasters this week! Is this a GWJ first (ladies outnumber the bro's)?

Pretty sure it is. I think waaaaaaaaay back in the day we did a show that was Rabbit and his wife and Shawn and I, but that was the closest.

So what's the difference between a story only mode rpg and a game that lets you watch all the cutscenes after you've played through them, effectively getting every bit of the story? I know Eternal Darkness (and some others I can't think of right now) allowed you to watch every bit of the story cutscenes once you have passed them.

I just started listening to the last 10 minutes of the podcast here...

For indian style religions, I think the Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga seems to have some of that sort of imagery in it. The Anime series Noein did too.

Glad to hear Hero Academy get a quick mention. Got a few people at work hooked on it that usually only go for things like Words With Friends. Lots of fun and surprising depth for a game like this. People consistently throw me off with creative use of the individual character pieces and their unique abilities. Looks like the next downloadable army will be dwarves of some sort.

If anyone is looking for a game I'm Aphesian on there as well.

I never got around to playing it, but The Shivah apparently has Jewish talmudic philosophy woven into the game.

I'd also attempted the Left Behind game from many years ago. I don't think you can call it spiritual or even religious. It was more like a bad movie tie-in.

I was twitching during the portion when people were talking about video games you know...not being video games. What essentially Lara should be arguing for is that movie companies should be trying to make their stories more interactive because if you remove the whole "video game" thing from a "video game" you're not playing anything, let alone a video game. Play is the most important thing to a video game. The narrative and story are on a completely different strata of importance. I'm fine with people who love "interactive cinematic experiences" but those are not video games. Even Uncharted eschews video game to be the "interactive cinematic experience" and I feel it's like people who didn't make it in Hollywood are trying to make it in Video Game Wood as a setback.

I loved Dragon Age: Origins, I have read all the novels and have played a campaign using the first pen and paper boxset. But, Dragon Age 2 wants to be an interactive cinematic experience and I'm afraid that DA3 will say "video games? Who needs that! We're artists" and relegate the gameplay to even a lesser importance.

Lara talks about how this brings in new blood which is fine but unless these people start to enjoy actual video games, what good does it do? Games are already getting smaller. Yes. Smaller. The production is getting bigger, the budgets are getting bigger but the scope of games is a lot smaller. I was playing Final Fantasy XIII and it is a small game. For giggles, I downloaded Final Fantasy VI and I'm playing that and the scope of that game compared to Final Fantasy XIII is just a night and day difference. I don't like games getting smaller, I thought games would get bigger with more choice, more options, more to do but as the art budgets have ballooned they have gotten smaller or "more focused" for people who want to go that route. I know that I'm different because I don't think video games are a very good narrative medium when they try to be "interactive cinematic experiences" like DA2 or Uncharted. A video game with a brilliant story is the first Metroid Prime game but it never gets talked about when people talk about "great video game stories" because it's subtle and well written but it's up for the player to decide how much story they want to take in. I think video games are much better when they set the rules and the world and the player decides the story we are going to have. It's why Farcry 2 has such a great story because listening to how other people played that game and completed it and the stuff that happend is far more enjoyable than the dating sim that DA2 turned into or the terrible mess that is FFXIII.

I think the demo talk for FF XIII-2 is interesting. The first one got a lot of heat for taking so long to teach you the entire battle system, but those who sat down and watched someone else playing the game 40 hours in (at least that I've talked to) all were confused as all get-out. I haven't played the 13-2 demo because I know I'll buy the game, but does the reason it seemed so off to you have anything to do with the demo wrecking the progression curve?

Lara, I'd be interested to see what you think about this.

I played 10 hours or so of FFXIII and the demo of XIII-2 was a bit bewildering to me.

Torq wrote:
RE: ME3 game modes

Did no one play Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis!
This old Lucas Arts point and click adventure game allowed you to choose how to play, either fight, talk, or reason your way through.

I came here to post this very point! There were 3 modes: action, adventure and cooperation (where you solved puzzles with a companion Sophia). Which mode you were initially put into was based on how you solved one of the first puzzles. I ended up playing through all 3 modes. Ah, college.

Torq wrote:
RE: ME3 game modes

Did no one play Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis!
This old Lucas Arts point and click adventure game allowed you to choose how to play, either fight, talk, or reason your way through.


I remember the bouncer. It was installed on a computer at school so we never finished, but one time we fought the bouncer and won and the next time we fought and lost.

Minarchist wrote:
I think the demo talk for FF XIII-2 is interesting. The first one got a lot of heat for taking so long to teach you the entire battle system, but those who sat down and watched someone else playing the game 40 hours in (at least that I've talked to) all were confused as all get-out. I haven't played the 13-2 demo because I know I'll buy the game, but does the reason it seemed so off to you have anything to do with the demo wrecking the progression curve?

Lara, I'd be interested to see what you think about this.

For me it was the gigantic hand attached to an invisible giant in itself. It seemed to perfectly encapsulate everything that I disliked/loathed about FF XIII.

Wow.

I don't think I've ever disagreed with just about everything in one of the conference calls before. That's trippy.

I know I'll be dismissed as a reactionary for this, but change isn't always good. If it was, WotC wouldn't be spending a lot of money to create a fifth edition apology for 4th edition, and Hollywood movies wouldn't suck.

I don't object to having the option to turn any game into a multimillion dollar choose-your-own-adventure novel, but I'm afraid the industry will learn the wrong lessons and we'll end up with a trend instead of an option. Imagine every AAA game was MGS4, only more so.

Some of us don't have fancy PCs that can run all that indie stuff designed by people who realize that a game without a fail condition isn't a game.

This is exactly where nerd rage comes from: A bunch of people who had nothing to do with the original reason why something is great come on board, and everyone coos over the infusion of new blood, and then they ruin everything. It's like what Disney did to The Muppets after Jim Henson died. You're just impersonating Kermits gestures, you don't understand why Kermit was awesome.

Everything else I want to say was already said by this guy:

Ulairi wrote:
I was twitching during the portion when people were talking about video games you know...not being video games. What essentially Lara should be arguing for is that movie companies should be trying to make their stories more interactive because if you remove the whole "video game" thing from a "video game" you're not playing anything, let alone a video game. Play is the most important thing to a video game. The narrative and story are on a completely different strata of importance. I'm fine with people who love "interactive cinematic experiences" but those are not video games. Even Uncharted eschews video game to be the "interactive cinematic experience" and I feel it's like people who didn't make it in Hollywood are trying to make it in Video Game Wood as a setback.

I loved Dragon Age: Origins, I have read all the novels and have played a campaign using the first pen and paper boxset. But, Dragon Age 2 wants to be an interactive cinematic experience and I'm afraid that DA3 will say "video games? Who needs that! We're artists" and relegate the gameplay to even a lesser importance.

Lara talks about how this brings in new blood which is fine but unless these people start to enjoy actual video games, what good does it do? Games are already getting smaller. Yes. Smaller. The production is getting bigger, the budgets are getting bigger but the scope of games is a lot smaller. I was playing Final Fantasy XIII and it is a small game. For giggles, I downloaded Final Fantasy VI and I'm playing that and the scope of that game compared to Final Fantasy XIII is just a night and day difference. I don't like games getting smaller, I thought games would get bigger with more choice, more options, more to do but as the art budgets have ballooned they have gotten smaller or "more focused" for people who want to go that route. I know that I'm different because I don't think video games are a very good narrative medium when they try to be "interactive cinematic experiences" like DA2 or Uncharted. A video game with a brilliant story is the first Metroid Prime game but it never gets talked about when people talk about "great video game stories" because it's subtle and well written but it's up for the player to decide how much story they want to take in. I think video games are much better when they set the rules and the world and the player decides the story we are going to have. It's why Farcry 2 has such a great story because listening to how other people played that game and completed it and the stuff that happend is far more enjoyable than the dating sim that DA2 turned into or the terrible mess that is FFXIII.

Zen Mode Fruit Ninja doesn't have a fail condition. Is that a game?
Sim City technically doesn't have relevant fail conditions, either, especially the way many people played it. The Sims for the Wii, definitely, and what I know of normal PC Sims, likewise. Are those games?

I object to the notion that turning the majority of Western gaming into dating sims could be called ruining the industry. It was already ruined the moment consoles hit the scene. I should know, I belong to the glorious Master PC Gamer Race.

The only real gamers left are playing Dwarf Fortress!

Higgledy wrote:
The new modes for Mass Effect 2 had me worried. In the past I've played the Mass Effect games through on normal difficulty, then on hard and yet again on insane (or whatever it's called) and I can imagine those higher difficulty settings being lost in favour of 'story mode' and 'combat mode' but we do seem to be getting a 'horde mode' for the game which could turn out to be an acceptable replacement in terms of letting me play the game beyond the end of the campaign.

I'm also concerned on the development plan for Mass Effect 2. They are practically making almost three games (or game paradigms). They have to create the game well enough to work in all three modes, yet do so in the same amount of time they have for previous editions. They will have to diverge their efforts on each mode to make sure they are balanced and make sense for the game they are in. I know that I will hear, they just cut out the story so they don't have extra work. But creating a finished and finely tuned game and story is more than just slapping cut scenes and dialogue together. I fear we will end up with three mediocre games which had to be short cut to save on schedule and budget.

RE: the what game have BIG redesign patches Q

The Witcher seems almost the perfect example of a game which relived huge post release support the Enhanced edition of the original witched was essentially a redo of the game they originally released with huge mechanical & content changes.
They have also just announced a enhanced edition for Witcher 2 which makes me wonder if their xbox release for the game was delayed to put in all the changes they have made to the base game.