GWJ Conference Call Episode 279

Conference Call

Kindom of Amalur: Reckoning, The Pinball Arcade, League of Legends, Artemis, The Characters We Inhabit, Your Emails and more!

This week Shawn, Julian, Elysium and Rob Borges talk about the characters we inhabit in games. We also announce our live rabbitcon recording which happens on Sunday, February 19th at 8PM EST!

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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Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning
The Pinball Arcade
Artemis Bridge Simulator

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - Main Theme - http://reckoning.amalur.com/ - 37:04

League of Legends - Champion Select Theme - http://na.leagueoflegends.com/ - 56:48

Comments

Hmmm. Seems to be ok on my phone.

Pinball and LOL again? Must be a slow month.

/kidding

Worked fine on my phone as well.

As for the kinds of franchises that would work well on Kickstarter, I think the Black Isle-style RGP would have a good chance at making a comeback. I think there is enough rabid hunger out there for one to get some real money raised.

Chris Avellone has expressed interest, and if that happened it would pretty much be best case scenario.

Games I'd love to see, via Kickstarter or otherwise:

1) Spiritual successor to Planescape
2) Actual or spiritual successor to X-Wing/Tie Fighter
3) Modern re-skin of System Shock 2

During the listener-questions segment many games are discussed. Since these aren’t included in the show summary on the web site, here’s a list of the games mentioned in this episode.

Question on Used Games
Ghost Trick

Question on Homework, Games, iPad, Vita
Wipeout
Rayman Origins

Question on Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Question on Double Fine Adventure

Question on Candidate Franchise Reboots
Crusader: No Remorse
Wing Commander
X Wing Versus Tie Fighter
Gabriel Knight
XCom
Xenonauts
Allegiance

And here's your weekly rundown, brought to you this week by Shining Phoenix Heavy Machinery Co. Ltd. Inc.:

00.01.42 Pinball Arcade (iOS/buggy Android)
00.10.38 League of Legends
00.19.44 Skyrim, Steam community section
00.21.29 Kingdoms of Amalur
00.32.00 Star Trek Bridge Simulator
00.37.32 The characters we inhabit
00.57.16 Your emails

Kingdom of Amalur sounds like it might be interesting to me, at about a third of it's current price.

You guys make me want to try League of Legends in the same way you made me buy Sins of a Solar Empire. The only difference is I'm using the same PC I had when you convinced me to buy SOASE and it barely runs it, so I can't run League of Legends.

Sad face.

The itunes store seems to be broken-- neither this episode nor any other episode are showing up on my iphone.

UPDATE:

The problem fixed itself within an hour of my original post, but I was away from my PC when that happened so I couldn't update.

I love how Rob said "Wing Commander" just before Julian started talking about Guillermo Del Toro, and then when it comes up again from the chat room later, he just says "oh yeah, for sure." Rob! Be assertive! Cast Julian aside in favor of games, not movies!!

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Kingdom of Amalur sounds like it might be interesting to me, at about a third of it's current price.

You guys make me want to try League of Legends in the same way you made me buy Sins of a Solar Empire. The only difference is I'm using the same PC I had when you convinced me to buy SOASE and it barely runs it, so I can't run League of Legends.

Sad face. :(

League of Legends is not a technically demanding PC title, and it's free to play. Unless you're hurting for bandwidth, there's no risk in trying it.

Your segment on Artemis totally sold me on the game. Sadly, the download link they sent me failed, so I'm hoping I can get some resolution by lunchtime so we can play at work today.

Speaking of Kickstarter (and via Rock, Paper, Shotgun), Brian Fargo is talking about using it to raise funds for a Wasteland sequel/reboot.

Which I'm having a little trouble wrapping my head around, actually. Though a hypothetical Wasteland 2 could do any number of things to distinguish itself from what Fallout has grown into.

I'd like to throw out Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveler as a great example of literature in the 2nd person, and in many ways its plot—the constant pursuit of an arbitrary and constantly shifting macguffin—resembles video games' stories (particularly the obstacles-heavy arcs of old graphic adventures).

Anyone else find the criticism and discussion surrounding Kingdom of Amalur similar to the issues brought up about Final Fantasy XIII-2? The only difference is cultural fantasy tropes?

I had just finished The Witcher 2 when I got Amalur and I am definitely having trouble getting into it. The combat is fun, and the world is cool, but there is something missing. Something is keeping me from wanting to play it. /shrug

I disagree with the statements about Half-Life being a "chosen hero" trope at all.

You being the "Free"-man etc. was all from Half-Life 2, and you held that title from your exploits in the first game. That wasn't a contrived hero plot, that was just fallout from what *I* did in the first game. No mystical force chose me as its champion, I was just some random dude who became a hero from an unorthodox chain of events. Rather, I was famous for something I as a player did, which gives weight to both my past and future actions.

To me personally, the alien guys revering me as a hero actually drew me further into the game, because it showed that what I did was impacting the world and its mythos. Too often in games, NPCs have no concept of who you are other than "heroic stranger", or worse: "stranger". Like in Skyrim, I'm not only some mythical dragonborn dude, but I run around killing dragons. People should know this. I'm kind of a big deal. And yet the shop keeper I'm selling my spare swords to has no clue. Maybe he doesn't follow the news or whatever, but when no one except the relevant quest-givers react to my deeds, it breaks the illusion in a big way for me.

This isn't so much a dig on Skyrim, because I understand the implications that would arise from that in an open world setting, but in a single-player linear game, there's no reason people shouldn't react to your exploits.

That's why I don't have a problem with the "empty shell" idea of Gordon Freeman, because I inhabit that shell. The game does a good job of having people react to things you did, not *the* Gordon Freeman, pulling you in further. Yes, there are times where it's weird that you don't talk, but the game even makes fun of itself in that regard. During the scripting story stuff with Alyx and the other characters, they do a good job of moving the spotlight to be more about her than you. You feel what you did about the end of Ep2 because of her well-acted reaction to it, not because it had anything really to do with you at all. You've grown to care about this person through the game, and seeing them in pain evokes (at least in me) real empathy and sorrow.

As cool as Nathan Drake is, Uncharted never affected me the way Half Life has because I will never be Nathan Drake, but when I play Half-Life, I am Gordon Freeman.

Tanglebones wrote:

Games I'd love to see, via Kickstarter or otherwise:

1) Spiritual successor to Planescape
2) Actual or spiritual successor to X-Wing/Tie Fighter
3) Modern re-skin of System Shock 2

Personally, I'd love to see a new Nox. That game was great!

UltimateBrent wrote:

I disagree with the statements about Half-Life being a "chosen hero" trope at all.

You being the "Free"-man etc. was all from Half-Life 2, and you held that title from your exploits in the first game. That wasn't a contrived hero plot, that was just fallout from what *I* did in the first game. No mystical force chose me as its champion...

The G-Man did. According to Eli Vance he delivered the sample that caused the resonance cascade, as well as uttering a cryptic warning: "prepare for unforeseen consequences". From that point on he has been covertly observing Freeman and intervening when necessary. Gordon Freeman's accomplishments are still mostly his own, but he has definitely benefited from being in the right place at the right time, and the G-Man is at least partly responsible for that.

"Rise and shine, Mr. Freeman. Rise and shine. Not that I wish to imply you have been sleeping on the job. No-one is more deserving of a rest. And all the effort in the world would have gone to waste until... well, let's just say your hour has come again. The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So, wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes. "

You are correct sir, I bow to your superior Half-Life knowledge. That said, they really don't beat you over the head with it, and the example I was expounding on really was about my actions saving the alien race, not my being chosen by the G-Man. You could make a case about me only doing that because I was put there by the G-Man, but the fact of the matter is that I played those events and lived it, rather than my "specialness" just being told to me.

UltimateBrent wrote:

You could make a case about me only doing that because I was put there by the G-Man, but the fact of the matter is that I played those events and lived it, rather than my "specialness" just being told to me.

I completely agree. The Vortigaunts don't worship the Free Man because he's some hero chosen by the G-Man, they do it because he liberated them in HL1 (though they're definitely aware of the G-Man's existence). Freeman is still the big hero, he just occasionally gets nudged in the right direction is all.

Dyni wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Kingdom of Amalur sounds like it might be interesting to me, at about a third of it's current price.

You guys make me want to try League of Legends in the same way you made me buy Sins of a Solar Empire. The only difference is I'm using the same PC I had when you convinced me to buy SOASE and it barely runs it, so I can't run League of Legends.

Sad face. :(

League of Legends is not a technically demanding PC title, and it's free to play. Unless you're hurting for bandwidth, there's no risk in trying it.

No, I literally don't have the horsepower to run it. The minimum system spec is more than my 8 year old laptop can handle, even if I upgrade the RAM (provided I could even find RAM that worked in this thing anymore)

Incidentally, I'd like to take issue with something Julian said. He referred to in-game actions as making your character a mass-murderer.

That may be true if you're playing Postal. But as far as I'm concerned, if I walk into a room full of fifty armed men and they all turn to me and start shooting, I don't consider it murder just because I'm a better shot than them when I shoot back. You can make the case that I didn't have to walk into that room, but they didn't have to start shooting at me either. So who's in the wrong here?

Frankly, if I thought of myself as murdering people in games, and thought of myself as having fun while doing it, I would have a hard time living with that fact.

I disapprove of this trend in writers to throw around words like murder (in Rabbit's case) or genocide (in Tycho from Penny Arcade's case) for some cheap rhetorical oomph. You'd think writers would be more sensitive to devaluing words by applying them poorly. If we use murder to describe the things that Gordon Freeman does in Half Life, then what word is left to describe what Ted Bundy did?

I sure murder dudes in Hitman and enjoy it quite a bit. They're generally bad people though.

There's definitely murdering going on in games, although certainly not all of them. Hostile enemies being shot is certainly not the same as running down hookers and blowing up cops in GTA.

I think you're making the same logical fallacy that politicians do when they think that kids that run over hookers in a video game and enjoy it will run over hookers in real life. They're very different acts because one is inherently without real consequence and no matter how immersed we are in a game, we know that. Assuming they were sane to begin with.

misplacedbravado wrote:

Speaking of Kickstarter (and via Rock, Paper, Shotgun), Brian Fargo is talking about using it to raise funds for a Wasteland sequel/reboot.

Ah, Wasteland. An awesome adventure game for its day. It came with a booklet containing the game's messages and dialog. They were placed randomly in the book and the game would prompt you to read message 27 on page 12, or some such. Funny to think that a printed book for text messages was more efficient than using extra disk space to store it.

The red herrings scattered through the book made for interesting speculation. Rumblings about rocket ships and adventures in the solar system gave special meaning to an abandoned missile silo.

misplacedbravado wrote:

Which I'm having a little trouble wrapping my head around, actually. Though a hypothetical Wasteland 2 could do any number of things to distinguish itself from what Fallout has grown into.

Fun games are hard to make. Wasteland was fun, so I'll give its creator some leeway in hopes he can bottle lightning again for his fans. Heck, I might even give him some cash up front.

Thanks for the lead. That's a story I need to follow.

UltimateBrent wrote:

I sure murder dudes in Hitman and enjoy it quite a bit. They're generally bad people though.

There's definitely murdering going on in games, although certainly not all of them. Hostile enemies being shot is certainly not the same as running down hookers and blowing up cops in GTA.

I think you're making the same logical fallacy that politicians do when they think that kids that run over hookers in a video game and enjoy it will run over hookers in real life. They're very different acts because one is inherently without real consequence and no matter how immersed we are in a game, we know that. Assuming they were sane to begin with.

It's all in how you consider fantasy, and whether you think being good versus being bad is all in the immediate repercussions. EG If you get away with it, it's ok.

It's been said that character is what you are when you think nobody's looking. I can't look into anyone's head and see what, exactly, they're enjoying when they're running over hookers in GTA, so I can't say what kind of person they really are. That's a question for them to sort out. There is of course a difference between pretending to do something and actually doing it, but so too is there a difference between pretending to do something and saying to yourself "gosh, I wish I could do this in real life."

For the record, I severely doubt most people enjoy the killing just for the sake of the killing in a game, though to hear some people talk about it (who are not on these forums, let me stress) you might get that impression.

Anyway, this is pointless, because nobody on a gaming forum in the universe is going to agree with what I just wrote. And it's besides the point anyway, because my point is that using strong words to describe weak actions devalues the words, and it's something I disapprove of.

To quote Inherit the Wind, "Language is a poor enough way of communicating. We need every d#mn word we've got."

Violence in movies often makes me very uncomfortable; I hate seeing images of people being injured or killed even if intellectually I know it's not real. Violence in video games rarely bothers me (I can't think of an example where it has, but it has).

The reason is simple. Video games, for all of the technical progress made over the years, still lack the visual fidelity to convey the emotions of pain, fear and suffering. Also, voice acting in most (not all) games is still struggling to rise to the level of the B-movie.

L.A. Noir(e) did a pretty good job of conveying emotion through Bondi's crazy facial technology, and the acting was pretty good for the most part, but the game itself was so boring that I couldn't be bothered to put in disc 2.

I am looking forward to seeing where games will be in a few years, at the end of the next console generation. I wonder when we will finally climb out of the uncanny valley. At that point, I might start to shy away from playing violent games in the same way that I avoid seeing violent movies.

Interesting you guys should have brought up John Marston of RDR, because one of the reasons I stopped playing that game was that it ran into the fatal problem of the second-person narrative: sooner or later, the narrative always dictates that "you" do something that I don't WANT to do.

Full disclosure: I didn't get very far into Red Dead Redemption, storywise. It was by no means a bad game, and I very much enjoyed my time with it, short though that time was. I also found John Marston a very cool protagonist to inhabit, with his long-suffering deadpan humor and overly formal diction and the Clint-Eastwood-in-Unforgiven failed redemption arc they seemed to be setting up. (The absolutely top-notch voice acting didn't hurt a bit.) Well, I found him cool up to a point, anyway.

The problem came when I was palling around with this con artisty, snake oil salemanish kind of guy. Also a cool character, for what it's worth. I forget what I (Marston) wanted out of this guy-- it's been a while since I played the game-- but suffice it to say that I'd been off running some errands for him for quite a while in order to secure his help with some carriage or something.

Thing is, there reached a point where this con artist was very clearly just jerking me (Marston) around, sending me hither and yon on his petty errands and using me as (unpaid) hired muscle whenever people were inclined to object violently to his unscrupulous business practices. At this point, what I wanted Marston to do in order to remain an interesting character that I would continue to enjoy inhabiting was say, "How about this. I'm a badass with a very large gun, and you're a spineless little weasel, so instead of me doing your dirty work in exchange for you maybe helping me if you ever feel like getting around to it, you're going to help me NOW, and in exchange, I allow you to keep breathing."

What Marston wound up doing instead, essentially, was to grumble a little bit and then continue being everyone's errand bitch. Boom. Done. Immersion broken. Sorry, Red Dead Redemption. I had fun, I liked fooling around in your big pretty Western landscape, but that's not the game I want to play or the character I want to play in it. Goodbye.

It would be unfair to say that this was the only thing that made me put the game down; it came at around the same time that the novelty of exploring their beautifully-realized open world started to wear off and I was starting to see a lot of the random world encounters repeat. But if I had fully identified with this character and been totally invested in what the game wanted me (him) to do next, I might have overlooked that and kept going. I wasn't, so I didn't.

I kept hoping someone would say a remake of Day of the Tentacle/Maniac Mansion. I so miss the adventure game that had a great sense of humor and had that quirky 80's-esque feel.

Blondish83 wrote:

I kept hoping someone would say a remake of Day of the Tentacle/Maniac Mansion. I so miss the adventure game that had a great sense of humor and had that quirky 80's-esque feel.

Hopefully the Double Fine adventure will have that covered

When Julian did an impersonation of himself I lol'd pretty hard