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

LarryC wrote:

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!

I guess you could also say that gamers' games like Bioshock (with vitachambers) or even the iOS version of Dondonpachi (which gives infinite continues) have no fail states, as you could theoretically just keep hammering away and always 'win', given enough time. For me it spoils the game to know that, so I guess I'd put myself in the Ulairi camp.

Dwango:

They've always had that problem, though, even in Baldur's Gate 2. RPGs, Bioware style, have always been a mashup of various games. Arguably, both the ME and DA series, thus far, are each just two mediocre games mashed into one.

The new mode options, as described, simply allow you to simplify certain parts of the game in favor of other parts. I'm not getting the impression that this means their approach or focus is any different.

For instance, replays of the game using alternate classes, played for the sake of the action combat mechanics, would be greatly improved by actually skipping the longer convos. Alternatively, replaying the game for narrative content would be greatly improved by excising the combat elements altogether, for gamers who are starting to find the combat grindy.

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.

the thread wrote:

Do you think demos help games? Are they a necessary evil? Have you personally bought a game recently specifically because of the demo? If so, why? Have you avoided games because of the demo that you later really enjoyed?

It's a fair question. Some of my favorite games ever have terrible demos unrepresentative of the actual gameplay experience. But I don't know what else I, as a curious player, should be expected to go on. $60 is an awful lot of money to plunk down based on trust.

It doesn't follow that just because some demos are bad, all demos are, or that the concept of trying out a game before you buy it should be scrapped. I think the solution to "bad demo disease" is to just make better demos.

Unfortunately the best demo for FF XIII-2 might be 20 hours of FF XIII as the reviews seem to say that XIII-2 fixed a lot of the issues in XIII (namely how slow it was to get to the f-ing point).

Metroid II/Super Metroid Connection

Spoiler:

The baby metroid in Super Metroid is the one that imprints on you at the end of Metroid II (which is Gameboy-only, I think).

LarryC wrote:

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!

Zen Mode in Fruit Ninja is a game, because it still keeps a score. The fail mode is whether you beat the score or not.

The fact that people house-rule sim city to basically build up cities and then blow them up with natural disasters doesn't mean it's not a game, because you can still run out of money and fail.

A fail condition isn't the only criteria. I've got a rather lengthy blog post on the topic here which everyone is sure to disagree with.

The bottom line is that games are basically sports for people with no muscles. The less like a sport you make it, the less of a game it is.

And if something doesn't require you to do anything more mentally taxing than turning a page or deciding whether to eat at Wendy's or Burger King, it's not a game. It's interactive fiction at that point, which is a subset of movies or books, not of games.

Not that any of my protestations matter. The industry has been trending away from the kinds of games I like for a decade now. This has the benefit of saving me a lot of money, since I don't feel compelled to play every dang thing that comes out, but eventually the trend will lead me to a place where nobody is making stuff I want to play. I could either try to change myself to become like everyone else who likes the new stuff; surrendering my identity to the hive; or accept the fact that there is no country for old gamers, and take up macrame.

I'm not super eager to do either of those things, so for now I'll shout my ineffective protests into the void of the internet, taking comfort in the bleak hope that maybe it will affect someone else positively, even though I know that's never, ever happened on the internet.

doubtingthomas396:

Look, dude, I understand. I'm an old gamer, too. Us old gamers gotta stick together, you know.

When the last Prince of Persia came out with its no-death mechanics, I'd be the first to tell you that I didn't like that. I love score chases. I like challenging games, too. Reviewers came out and basically lambasted Muramasa as a body for being way, way too hard at the recommended setting. Some even called that setting insane. I thought it was just right.

Spoiler:

To be completely honest, I thought it was a little on the easy side.

I get it.

But I don't share your worry that soon, the industry will get taken over by little kids with no real knowledge of what it means to play "a real game." I was only being half-facetious in my response, you see. Back in the day, I'd have said that gaming was ruined back when it first transitioned into 3D at the turn of the decade, so there's nothing left to ruin. The real games will never get made anymore, and I will have nothing to play.

And yet we have Dark Souls, Muramasa, and Super Meat Boy.

Super Mario Galaxy can be as easy as Super Mario was at World 1-1, but you turn the crank hard enough and it gets as insane as I want, and probably as insane as you want, a platformer to be.

There will always be people like us, and we will always want to throw money at the people who make the games we want to play. Heck, XCOM's being remade as a true-blue strategic tactical game by nothing less than one of the top strategy names in the biz. I never thought I'd live long enough to see it.

There are story games with actual fail states. Back when the format was still new, it took on the mantle of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books; which themselves were based on tabletop gaming. There used to be a line of such books that only had one correct ending - everything else was death.

As the format matured, though, it became obvious that writing fail states into the code was just a waste of the gamer's time, and was thus also just a waste of the coder's time.

The game in story games is narrative, and the most common format is narrative exploration - similar to a game structured around the same conceit in video games. This would be "open-world" games like Skyrim or GTA or Saints Row the Third. The game in these games isn't to win a challenge, but to explore a virtual world. In that sort of entertainment, having a fail state just doesn't make sense.

Where you explore a virtual space in "open-world" games, you explore a narrative space in story-games. You explore one character at the expense of another, or one plot at the expense of another. There's also a bit of simulationist or consequentist play - "I wonder what would happen if I did this!"

I know that there are games of this nature where there's a score, or where there are ways to "fail," or ways to "die." That said, I think it's just stretching to say that those things matter all of the time, or even a lot of time. There was a score rating in Megaman, too. Most people didn't give a damn. Megaman's all about the action and completing the story. The score was generally regarded as superfluous.

Now, if you're going to say that most games could be played without reference to the in-game fail state, then I would support you there, and then we can both come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, no games, but only situational games, and that all games are toys as a more generic term.

Likewise, keeping your city afloat in Sim City is so easy on the easiest setting that it's really just formality, and there are really no set goals. Sim City is precisely what it says on the box - it's all about building cities. The enjoyment many gamers get out of it is similar to the feeling they might get playing LEGOs; and last I checked, LEGOs didn't have fail states or victory conditions.

We could try to call these entertainment modes something else entirely, but I prefer not to Other people more than I already subconsciously do. If they want to call these things games in a gesture of solidarity with us, then I say more power.

TLDR:

Muramasa gives you infinite lives. So does Borderlands. And Bioshock. And actually, Super Meat Boy! So if all these games are toys and not games, what useful purpose does the delineation serve?

KaterinLHC wrote:

It's a fair question. Some of my favorite games ever have terrible demos unrepresentative of the actual gameplay experience. But I don't know what else I, as a curious player, should be expected to go on. $60 is an awful lot of money to plunk down based on trust.

What I try to go on are reviews and comments from people that I trust because we tend to have similar tastes in games. It also helps that I buy relatively few games new at full price; I generally deal in Goozex and waiting for sales, so it doesn't seem as big of a blow. The games that I do buy at full prize are generally from those who have proven to me more that once that they can make a game which appeals strongly to me. For instance, Catherine had a pretty bad demo, but I pre-ordered it because it was from the Persona team and I think they hung the moon. It wound up being my GOTY.

It doesn't follow that just because some demos are bad, all demos are, or that the concept of trying out a game before you buy it should be scrapped. I think the solution to "bad demo disease" is to just make better demos.

...but how? It's easy enough to make a good demo for something like Civilization or Forza, but so many games now have very carefully-planned progression curves, and trying to take a snapshot, or several snapshots, of that can be very difficult. Games like Final Fantasy XIII, Batman: AA, Catherine, and El Shaddai have what I consider to be pitch-perfect difficulty curves, where you're introduced to all the mechanics over a period of hours so that you have a chance to get used to and eventually master each one. But how do you represent that in a demo? El Shaddai just threw the players in without any instruction, and that just turned out poorly; FFXIII did the same, to where everyone just said "What is this?" It's a difficult proposition to try and give a representative sample of a well-curved game in a demo, and I don't know many (any?) who have pulled it off. Hence my reliance on trusted reviews, comments from friends, etc. for my purchases.

LarryC wrote:

Now, if you're going to say that most games could be played without reference to the in-game fail state, then I would support you there, and then we can both come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, no games, but only situational games, and that all games are toys as a more generic term.

Games are toys, they're just a particular subset of toys. Kind of like how squares are a particular subset of rectangles. What makes them games are a set of very specific and objectively measurable criteria.

LarryC wrote:

Likewise, keeping your city afloat in Sim City is so easy on the easiest setting that it's really just formality, and there are really no set goals. Sim City is precisely what it says on the box - it's all about building cities. The enjoyment many gamers get out of it is similar to the feeling they might get playing LEGOs; and last I checked, LEGOs didn't have fail states or victory conditions.

And this kind of gets to my point: Nobody is pretending LEGOs are a game. They are toys, but as I said above: while games are toys, not all toys are games.

The games Lara, Karla and Certis are talking about this week are narrative toys. The digital equivalent of playing with a dollhouse, or (as would be in my case) a Castle Greyskull with He-Man and Skeletor bashing each other over the head with those little swords they use to hold appetizers.

There's nothing wrong with that, but calling that a game is like calling an Ox a Bull: He's thankful for the honor, but would much rather have restored what's rightfully his.

And for the record, I don't need my games to be hard per se. Allowing me to set the difficulty is fine by me. What I have a problem with is removing the parts that the difficulty actually affects altogether. There's a difference between using a dimmer switch and pulling all the wiring out of the house.

LarryC wrote:

Muramasa gives you infinite lives. So does Borderlands. And Bioshock. And actually, Super Meat Boy! So if all these games are toys and not games, what useful purpose does the delineation serve?

Infinite lives doesn't change the fact that there is a fail condition, it just doesn't penalize you as much for failing. Technically speaking, you can have as many lives as you can afford to buy in Pac-Man, that doesn't change the fact that it is a skill-based activity with an objective score-system and conditions that must be satisfied for victory or failure, also known as a game.

I never said there had to be a harsh penalty for failure, only that there be a penalty at all. The fact that Bioshock has VitaChambers merely means the penalty for failure is small, not that there is no way to fail. Mass Effect without the action sequences doesn't just make the penalty for losing small, it doesn't allow the user to fail at all. At that point, you may as well just look up all the cutscenes on Youtube, which you could argue is more of a game than Mass Effect without action sequences because you have to expend some effort to find them all and you might not actually manage it.

LarryC wrote:

We could try to call these entertainment modes something else entirely, but I prefer not to Other people more than I already subconsciously do. If they want to call these things games in a gesture of solidarity with us, then I say more power.

That's very noble of you, except that words mean things, and you can't change that because you want to be nice. I can't redefine what Sumo Wrestling is to make myself a Sumo Wrestler (Well, I eat rice and Sumo Wrestlers eat rice, so there you have it!) and I don't see why other people should get to redefine games just because it's currently the in thing to be a gamer.

I don't want to sound snarky or anything, so let me preface this post by saying that I don't mean anything with that attendant connotation. It's all serious.

Firstly, it seems to me that you took great pains in your blog to disclaim that the specific meaning of game you say there is just your take on it. Ergo, this is your personal definition. If you can do that, then why can't anyone else?

Secondly, I don't think you really understand how Borderlands and Muramasa work. Haven't played any of the Bioshock games personally, so I can't speak there. The way death works in both those games is that you respawn immediately at the nearest respawn point. The penalty in Borderlands is a bit of money that rapidly becomes inconsequential, particularly because money in BL only serves as a way to get the cool guns (which you can get in other ways). In Muramasa it is nonexistent - there is no penalty whatsoever.

And what do you mean by "fail," anyway? In a narrative game, your protagonist could go down a narrative path you didn't mean to tread. That would be a "fail," right?

LarryC wrote:

Firstly, it seems to me that you took great pains in your blog to disclaim that the specific meaning of game you say there is just your take on it. Ergo, this is your personal definition. If you can do that, then why can't anyone else?

I wrote that blog post in a time in my life when, as you said, I didn't want to make people into Other, and I was trying to make it so the people who would disagree with my interpretation of the actual, official definition of the word "game" wouldn't get their feelings hurt.

Anyway, my previous position on postmodernism and deconstructionism and whether there is a concrete definition for anything is irrelevant to this discussion. Ignoratio Elenchi.

LarryC wrote:

Secondly, I don't think you really understand how Borderlands and Muramasa work. Haven't played any of the Bioshock games personally, so I can't speak there. The way death works in both those games is that you respawn immediately at the nearest respawn point. The penalty in Borderlands is a bit of money that rapidly becomes inconsequential, particularly because money in BL only serves as a way to get the cool guns (which you can get in other ways). In Muramasa it is nonexistent - there is no penalty whatsoever.

I played the living daylights out of Borderlands. Whenever I died, I respawned at a checkpoint and had to replay between ten and twenty minutes of a mission. Then penalty was of in game currency (which, as you point out, was eventually inconsequential) and my own time, which was not.

I haven't played Muramasa, but I presume there weren't checkpoints every thirty seconds. And even if there were, the penalty would only be a small one, but it would still be a penalty. Take note that in my previous post I specifically said I didn't require that there be a harsh penalty, only that there be one.

There's an old saying that if at first you don't succeed; try, try again. If you're trying again, that suggest (though it doesn't prove) you didn't succeed.

Well played, by the way, opening by telling me not to be offended and then following up by suggesting I don't know what I'm talking about. I could belabor the point but, again, but then I would be guilty of ignoratio elenchi.

LarryC wrote:

And what do you mean by "fail," anyway? In a narrative game, your protagonist could go down a narrative path you didn't mean to tread. That would be a "fail," right?

For the purposes of the examples we've been using, "fail" means "die" or "to prematurely end the game." Basically, anything that requires you to restart or feed another coin into the slot.

In Borderlands, that means dying. In Myst, it means being unable to finish the game because the puzzle was too hard and you couldn't find/refused to use a walkthrough.

A narrative branch change isn't a fail unless that game considers it a fail. Picking the wrong dialog option to get Hawke in the sack with Anders may be a fail to the user, but the game considers it just one other path to the finale. Failure means not being able to reach the finale without being forced to restart, or pay some other penalty. Not getting the ending you want is different from not getting an ending.

SuperGuides like the white gorilla in Donkey Kong Country Returns also count as failures, because you don't get the points or extra items that you would have collected in those games. In DKCR, for example, you won't be able to progress to the Golden Temple without collecting everything, so using the superguide on particularly hard levels means that while you'll get to the "final" boss, you won't actually be able to finish the game.

But look, even if we drop the whole failure issue, there's still the point that if you're not playing anything it's not a game. Choosing which cutscene you want to watch isn't playing anything. It's basically just picking what youtube clip to click on.

doubtingthomas396:

I wrote that blog post in a time in my life when, as you said, I didn't want to make people into Other, and I was trying to make it so the people who would disagree with my interpretation of the actual, official definition of the word "game" wouldn't get their feelings hurt.

Othering is a process by which people segregate other people into, well, others. It is not about stepping carefully or nor hurting feelings. By defining yourself as a gamer, and other people as something else, that is the basic function of an Othering process. I don't want to continue this particular tangent so this will be my last reply on this subtopic in our discussion, if you don't mind.

I played the living daylights out of Borderlands. Whenever I died, I respawned at a checkpoint and had to replay between ten and twenty minutes of a mission. Then penalty was of in game currency (which, as you point out, was eventually inconsequential) and my own time, which was not.

I haven't played Muramasa, but I presume there weren't checkpoints every thirty seconds. And even if there were, the penalty would only be a small one, but it would still be a penalty. Take note that in my previous post I specifically said I didn't require that there be a harsh penalty, only that there be one.

In Muramasa, you respawn the same screen or one screen away in a side-scrolling game. Essentially, it is a checkpoint every thirty seconds, since it takes that much or less to clear a screen. I don't know whether I could call that a penalty, since it clears the screen you're in of enemies, so that's either a benefit or a penalty depending on how you choose to look at it.

As for Borderlands - I'm still playing that game. In fact, it's on right now. I play it when I'm relaxing. I'm not sure which missions you're referring to that require 10 to 20 minutes of a mission, particularly since enemies you kill stay dead even after you respawn, and checkpoints are often ridiculously convenient. I have the mission list right now, and going down them - most missions have checkpoints within 5 minutes of anywhere you could spawn, with the plausible exception of the farther mission points of General Knoxx.

Even then, I don't consider more playtime of a game you like much of a penalty! The story structure of Borderlands is exceptionally weak. There isn't really much incentive to finish a mission outside of loot, and you can get those everywhere, really. The draw in the game is the gunplay, and you get right to that almost as soon as you respawn.

For the purposes of the examples we've been using, "fail" means "die" or "to prematurely end the game." Basically, anything that requires you to restart or feed another coin into the slot.

That's a fairly specific definition. I'd say that that's just yours, and frankly, it goes back again to what I said in the first place - if you get to decide what a game is, why can't anyone else? Do you possess some special lexiconographic authority?

In BL, in particular, dying is about as inconvenient as traveling at all, or going to mission assignment points. In fact, going to Middle of Nowhere in the first place (before you activate the Fast Travel Point) is more inconvenient and more annoying than dying. That's a penalty, so is accepting badly designed missions a fail state?

But look, even if we drop the whole failure issue, there's still the point that if you're not playing anything it's not a game. Choosing which cutscene you want to watch isn't playing anything. It's basically just picking what youtube clip to click on.

Arguably, exploration games are the same way. The core gameplay in open world games is the exploration, and that's basically just watching scenery and emergent game events - "picking what youtube clip to click on," as you put it.

Moreover, I don't see how you're defining "not playing anything," in a narrative game if you're emotionally invested in achieving a particular event and you fail to acquire it in-game, because of errors in character reading and/or time management strategy. This is a far greater loss because you often cannot correct the state of the game without replaying hours of game play. This is a time penalty an order of magnitude greater than the 10 to 20 minutes of game time you lose in BL (not acknowledging it, just saying you specifically lose that much time when you die in your BL games, don't know how).

Why is it not a game, then?

How about the last Prince of Persia? You can't die there even if you tried. Not a game, either?

In regards to what relationships you would like to see explored in games, I think Karla (/pray) mentioned mother/child as one. Whilst not precisely that, Neir very much explored Father/daughter.

This game is one that will forever stay in my mind. Not for its average graphics or awkward mechanics but because of the way it dealt with said relationship.

This game, more than any other also deals heavily with the morality of indiscriminately slaughtering "monster" that you come across, the idea of body / soul being distinct and separate, the nature of gender, afterlife and the notion of how far would you go for someone you love, in this case that of a father to his daughter (crap, getting emotional).

At the time I personally played this game I WAS a new father to a 3 month old daughter, experiencing emotions I thought myself incapable of and it resonated so much more I assume.

Look into it if you want something very left of centre.

p.s. The game messes with the fourth wall to some extent too - this was just brilliant and done well all too infrequently. (Batman: Arkham Asylum also did this well).

This will be my last post on the subject, because it's clear that nobody is budging in his position and there's no point in continuing. Feel free to have the last word and assume you won.

Let's stipulate that my definition is arbitrary. Based on the definitions for Game in the dictionary, how should someone else define it? Bear in mind that it must be specific enough to actually exclude activities like playing with Lego bricks and using a toilet. (This is not to say you can't play games with Lego bricks or a toilet, but they are not games in and of themselves.) There must be a definition, otherwise to call ones' self a gamer is a meaningless puff of wind. It must be more than "I do things I like doing in a digital environment" because that means anyone with an internet connection is a gamer.

Working to get the narrative you want can be a game, but it is a game you're playing with a tool provided by someone else that is not, inherently, a game. Dungeons and Dragons players use pens and paper to play, that doesn't make pens or paper games. Creationary is a game played with Lego bricks, but Lego bricks are not games. Soccer is a game played on grass, that doesn't mean every lawn is a game.

Open world games like Saints Row the Third can call themselves games because they are vessels for games. Insurance Fraud would be a fine game on its own, but it's lumped in with games involving tanks and helicopters and luchadores. Software that is purely exploration, like Endless Ocean of Flight Sim may or may not be games, depending on how incentives are programmed in. A pure flight sim isn't a game, it's just a simulator. And there's nothing wrong with that.

I haven't played the Prince of Persia you reference, but whether it's a game depends on the implementation of the no-fail mechanic. If you fail a jump, and the escort character just throws you up over the obstacle you couldn't clear, and if every error on the part of the user results in a pat on the head and a skip beyond the area of difficulty, then no, it's not a game. If it's not how I described it, then it may be a game. I don't know, I haven't tried it.

I can't believe none of the other PC elitists said this yet.

So ME3 story mode = console mode, right?

doubtingthomas396:

It's not about "winning." That's crazy. No one wins internet arguments. It's about sharing and disseminating ideas and concepts. In this case, I am striving to contain or modify what I think is a dangerous and alienating idea.

As for definitions, I liked the first dictionary definition you yourself quote.

1 a: Activity engaged in for diversion or amusement

It's defining, essential, and inclusive. Ergo, playing with LEGOs could be defined as a game; and again, I don't see the point in saying that it's not, other than to pointlessly alienate the people who like to say that they are.

It's not a meaningless puff of wind, as you see, since it has a specific definition.

Working to get the narrative you want can be a game, but it is a game you're playing with a tool provided by someone else that is not, inherently, a game.

I could say the same thing about Borderlands. It does not, strictly speaking, lay out a concrete victory condition, nor a well-defined fail state. Lots of people play it just to see nice guns. This long-term, popular, activity is termed "farming," and has a great deal in common with actual farming in the FarmVille game (which you may not yourself define as a game).

Narrative games of the ilk of JAVNs... ...it's implicit in the paradigm of the game culture around it that gamers either want to see all the content or they want to experience specific content. The narrative challenges are specifically designed around this understanding. You can make the wrong choice for a goal that the game allows you to set for yourself. Equivalently, we understand that a "Game Over" screen signifies a fail state and that achieving implicit goals in, say, Super Mario Brothers, signifies a victory. If you choose to ignore the paradigms, then Super Mario Brothers is not a game either - it's just a tool people use to play a game.

LarryC / doubtingthomas396 , a few weeks ago I was the guy whose email was read on the Conference Call re: whether Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom had any applicability to the video game world. I think my point was whether games' move towards "self esteem" (quick-hit / feel-good) would come at the expense of (often but not necessarily more "punishing") games that require more investment before reaping much bigger rewards -- just as learning to play piano requires a lot of tedium before it becomes fun. Anyway, the email went off the skids when I asked whether "self esteem games" would bring down civilization but the original question stands. This is a different angle than the definitional distinction between "games" and "film" but perhaps it's one that would be more fruitful for conversation?

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.

QFT! Good grief this episode almost made my head explode. At what point do you want to not play a game anymore and watch an interactive movie. Be should all pitch in and buy Lara a Sega CD. She'd be in interactive movie heaven! GAMEplay be darned! As stated by the poster I quoted, I want more options, more interaction, better AI, new gameplay elements, not a stripped down interactive cutscene.

At that point, call it an "Interactive Movie" and not a video game. Variety is the spice of life and there is space for those games to exist in the fold but let's not kid ourselves and say that this is the direction games need to move to.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:
LarryC wrote:

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!

Zen Mode in Fruit Ninja is a game, because it still keeps a score. The fail mode is whether you beat the score or not.

The fact that people house-rule sim city to basically build up cities and then blow them up with natural disasters doesn't mean it's not a game, because you can still run out of money and fail.

A fail condition isn't the only criteria. I've got a rather lengthy blog post on the topic here which everyone is sure to disagree with.

The bottom line is that games are basically sports for people with no muscles. The less like a sport you make it, the less of a game it is.

And if something doesn't require you to do anything more mentally taxing than turning a page or deciding whether to eat at Wendy's or Burger King, it's not a game. It's interactive fiction at that point, which is a subset of movies or books, not of games.

Not that any of my protestations matter. The industry has been trending away from the kinds of games I like for a decade now. This has the benefit of saving me a lot of money, since I don't feel compelled to play every dang thing that comes out, but eventually the trend will lead me to a place where nobody is making stuff I want to play. I could either try to change myself to become like everyone else who likes the new stuff; surrendering my identity to the hive; or accept the fact that there is no country for old gamers, and take up macrame.

I'm not super eager to do either of those things, so for now I'll shout my ineffective protests into the void of the internet, taking comfort in the bleak hope that maybe it will affect someone else positively, even though I know that's never, ever happened on the internet.

I don't even know you but I agree 99%. The only thing I disagree with is I don't think we'll ever lose the deep, complex, single player experience. But let's totally call a spade a spade.

I have to believe people are purposely misunderstanding me here so they can saddle up their high horses, because I did not, nor would I ever, advocate stripping games of their mechanics to turn them into "interactive movies".

But offering the option -- note: option -- to de-emphasize combat to focus on story (or, for that matter, de-emphasizing story to focus on combat) is a way to bring in new players who find the idea of Mass Effect intriguing, but would normally pass because of its "frustrating mechanics"/"overemphasis on roleplaying"/"insert_turnoff_here".

The more a game allows customization of its experience, the more it brings in new players and expands that game's reach and potential audience base. Which is a good thing, because the gaming community is no longer this collective of young teenage boys with all the free time in the world to perfect frustrating combat, or read hundreds of thousands of lines of text, or whatever. Most of us are busy. We like what we like, and we don't want to waste time on things that we don't.

So a game that offers options (can I make that any clearer?) to streamline the parts of a game that a potential player doesn't like in favor of highlighting the parts that they do like? Well, I think that's really revolutionary, and a welcome addition to the industry. Sign me up.

Yeah, I don't get what all the kerfuffle is about. Aren't branching narratives and player-driven stories and consequence-laden plot choices and multiple endings all the great and amazing things we want out of video games and specifically RPGs, those things that BioWare in particular is so lauded for?

But just make sure to occasionally interrupt the storytelling with some obligatory combat otherwise it's Not A Game.

How can fail-states, penalties, and altered win conditions not be sufficient for a solely narrative-driven game? Aren't all of Lara's playthroughs of DA2 distinctly different thanks to the dialogue choices she made, which are totally exclusive of the outcomes of all her battles? (Not entirely a rhetorical question, since I haven't played DA2.) I mean, my God, could you imagine a role-playing game where you level up your characters' stats of personality, charm, will, intimidation, politeness, wit, leadership, seduction, slyness, guile, deceit, rhetoric, theatricality, with nary a mention of sword-swinging or agility? I don't get the disconnect.

Honestly, isn't it the same sort of thing as enabling God mode to get through the story without the hassle of dying and reloading? I've done that in games before.

Knowing Bioware's data-driven nature, they will be keeping track of how many people make use of each of the modes. Best way to advocate for the playstyle you're interested in may be to play it the way you want to play it.

I'd like to sign this fake name to the petition to get Lara to play "The Witcher." Also, I don't see the combat style of the Mass Effect series as all that different from that of the Uncharted series; so I'd encourage a try with that.

Listening through this and wanted to comment on a couple things in the beginning of the episode.

First, Skwyard Sword NPCs. There was some complaint about feeling subconciously coerced into agreeing with every NPC... That's basically the "But Thou Must" trope in full force. This didn't bother me at all probably because I grew up on 8/16-bit Nintendo and Squaresoft RPGs/Adventure games, which are rife with this stuff. As the tropes page points out, this dates back to Ocarina but wasn't really used for NPC stuff.

kazriko wrote:

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.

Well I was going to say something like this but you pretty much hit everything I wanted to say. Part of the problem with FF8's "Boost" QTE thing for summons was that if you hit the button at the wrong time you lose your bonus (I think it actually penalizes the summon damage if you screw up at the last second and can't recover). That's a bit different than the way the XIII-2 Demo worked.

I also had little trouble getting my head wrapped around the XIII-2 combat and I've played maybe 30 minutes of XIII while watching my girlfriend play XIII a bit. Yes it's fast paced, but all you're doing is swapping job classes using pre-configured setups. It's a neat setup I think.

If you were to slow the combat down, you'd basically end up with something closer to Persona 3 except you can't swap the roles of your party without heading back to the start of Tartarus as all the supporting cast fall into standard RPG combat archetypes.

Options are good, variety in game-play is good, new concepts and bringing new players into the fold are all good things. What isn't good is when suffers for the sake of the other. A peanut better & jelly sandwich is different from a peanut butter sandwich is different from a jelly sandwich (if that makes any sense). I like Mass Effect for it's combination of combat mechanics, story, player choice an atmosphere. Take away any one of those things, and it simply isn't mass effect anymore. It doesn't mean it's something worse, heck someone else might like it better, but it's not mass effect as I've come to expect it.

DA2 was raked over the coals by those that loved DA because while the story elements were still there, the depth of combat and variety of environments was stripped out. That's a bummer.

Look, I'm not saying that the views expressed on the podcast didn't have a valid point. I want videogames that are accessible to my wife so she can play them (she almost beat super-paper mario but quit on the last boss), I want games we can play as a family with my daughters, but I don't want games where I can just hit the "WIN" button and watch a pretty movie, story or not.

As long as there are deep, single player, challenging and engrossing single player games out there, I'll be happy. I say this as a Married male in my late 20's who has 2 kids, works full time and is finishing up a masters degree: I'd rather not play videogames if I simply don't have the time for them than settle for playing "WIN BUTTON 2: PRESS B TO WATCH CUTSCENE". At that point, I'd be better off catching up on Breaking Bad with my wife.

To each his or her own though. Perhaps having the story only mode will encourage multiple playthroughs of ME3, something I would have never done otherwise. Let's just wait and see.

Sentient_d:

Small comment:

The combat is deeper in DA2 than it was in DAO, and it's more balanced. I can cite specifics in the DA2 thread if you care to talk about it. I've played both games multiple playthroughs.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

And if something doesn't require you to do anything more mentally taxing than turning a page or deciding whether to eat at Wendy's or Burger King, it's not a game. It's interactive fiction at that point, which is a subset of movies or books, not of games.

The bolded part is precisely the definition of an "ergodic" narrative, which includes interactive fiction, hypertextual literature, games with some sort of narrative, and CYOA. Ergodic narratives are stories in which more is demanded of he audience than the mere turning of a page. I think we can all agree that games for the most part fit into that classification.

And games also fit most definitions of "toy," though a toy and an ergodic narrative are often not the same thing. I think it's fair to say, then, that games exist at the intersection of toys and ergodic narratives. To me, that's a Reese's sort of intersection, and the constant cycles of "get your peanut butter out of my chocolate" between various factions miss what makes games great.

But if the point is just "Kids these days!" then I am more than willing to rage against lawn trespassers with you.

Sentient_d wrote:

Options are good, variety in game-play is good, new concepts and bringing new players into the fold are all good things. What isn't good is when suffers for the sake of the other. A peanut better & jelly sandwich is different from a peanut butter sandwich is different from a jelly sandwich (if that makes any sense). I like Mass Effect for it's combination of combat mechanics, story, player choice an atmosphere. Take away any one of those things, and it simply isn't mass effect anymore. It doesn't mean it's something worse, heck someone else might like it better, but it's not mass effect as I've come to expect it.

DA2 was raked over the coals by those that loved DA because while the story elements were still there, the depth of combat and variety of environments was stripped out. That's a bummer.

Look, I'm not saying that the views expressed on the podcast didn't have a valid point. I want videogames that are accessible to my wife so she can play them (she almost beat super-paper mario but quit on the last boss), I want games we can play as a family with my daughters, but I don't want games where I can just hit the "WIN" button and watch a pretty movie, story or not.

I think if this is done right, it has the potential to make everyone happy. For the current raft of games, the developer has been forced to choose his target audience: the hardcore RPG player who wants all the mechanics and story, the casual player who may be scared off by those mechanics, or the action gamer who just want to shoot stuff and is put off by dialog trees. I think the largest market is probably in the story-focused area, assuming marketing is capable of reaching them, so the most profitable decision would be to go that route. But with the ability to choose play style, developers could provide an experience suitable for multiple target markets.

The big questions are obviously how well this form of customization will work and whether the developer will really put the time into developing sufficiently complex mechanics for what now amounts to only a percentage of the target audience. I really couldn't estimate the cost of potentially alienating the hardcore RPG gamer market.

complexmath wrote:

The big questions are obviously how well this form of customization will work and whether the developer will really put the time into developing sufficiently complex mechanics for what now amounts to only a percentage of the target audience. I really couldn't estimate the cost of potentially alienating the hardcore RPG gamer market.

Bingo! You'd figure something has to give right? Or maybe Bioware can work a miracle?

Still, I have no doubt Mass Effect 3 will be an amazing game (despite tacked on multiplayer and needless origin baggage). Are there any accurate sales numbers for Dragon Age vs Dragon Age 2? I wonder what, if any conclusions could be drawn from those numbers?

What I'd love to see is a survey that summarizes why players that quit a game gave up on it. I imagine that DA2 sold better than DA:O, but that by itself doesn't say a lot.