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

Certis:

I'm more than 80 hours into Amalur. If you want to get your money's worth out of it, I suggest ignoring every sidequest you see and head directly for the House of Ballads quest line. Finish that and consider the thing done. It's a perfectly valid and good way to enjoy the game as a story-game.

FWIW, I have seen one Warsworn out assigned to clear monsters. Of course, he hires you to do his job for him as a "Kill X monsters"-type sidequest so I'm not sure if that counts. It's not much of a events game - much of the world's activities are left unportrayed. Very Diablo-esque.

For reference, the quests you're looking for are these:

Building Bridges (taken from the Warden right as you enter Gorhart)
Song of Sir Sagrell
Ballad of the Bloody Bones
Two Knights and a Troll
What Lies Beneath
The Champions
The Hero and The Maid

The sidequest "The Flame of Ryderk" is a thematically consistent and relevant SQ to the questline above.

Should give you about 6-10 hours of playtime.

I agree that the Reckoning dialogue would have been better without the shots to the mute protagonist. After recently playing Dragon Age 2, it is very odd. However, I don't know what a better solution would be. In Skyrim, you are mute, but you never move out of 1st person (or behind the shoulder), so you don't see your blank face. In Reckoning, you are playing a 3rd person game, so any dialogue should also be in third person. Alternatively, you could do audio for your choices, but that would make dialogue go even slower, and I think allowing gamers to get through the dialogue at their pace (often a quick pace) was a goal of the team.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:
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."

...

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

That all said, I believe it's perfectly valid to refer to a character like that in Hitman as a serial murderer. Stepping outside the game itself, the player isn't wholly divorced from that, and "virtual homicide" may be a decent enough term for that.

I'm not done synthesizing a mess of ideas about this, but there are a couple of points I think are interesting about character in games.

1. I'm sure it's understood to some degree, but I didn't hear it (thus far), so let me say that the way in which a player is permitted or expected to be a character almost certainly varies by the needs and design of a game. I think it's useful, perhaps important, to acknowledge that while the discordant narrator of Bastion works in that game, this doesn't imply it would've worked in a Bethesda RPG.

2. The really messy part, for me, is how the inert vessel many games provide as a character kind of echoes how I deal with the real world. In Fallout 3 I search a few locations for Moira Brown's Wasteland Survival Guide. Tomorrow morning I'll be calling vendors to develop a sense of their research capabilities on behalf of my client-service teams. Each is something others could do, and I'm left with the fetch quests by rule rather than reason. Moreover, in Fallout New Vegas I manage relationships with various towns and factions principally as a means to an end, and I approach my coworkers and most of the people I interact with the same way. An aggressive reductionist might suggest our notion of humanity is little more than revisionist fiction, a convenient retelling of the emergent calculus of our baser needs. In other words, that the Courier is no more vacuous than we are, and that the ludonarrative dissonance so pervades our gaming experiences because its a close analog to the biographical dissonance of our lives.

It's messy, and a little wine on my empty stomach might be hazing the edges, but I know in the Mojave or Southwest Ohio I'm more comfortable the further I am from people. That most of my interactions with people are calculated to manage against their expectations rather than primarily emerging from some sublime human spirit. The inevitable nods in the hallways, the small talk at the coffee machine, the pleasantries before and after discussing business, all the social lubrication leaves me reeling a bit, as I calculate what the appropriate response is and loop through a system of checks against what *I* feel, and further determine how relevant my feelings are. It's as granular as choosing not to close every email with "Thanks." If only I had a nicely illustrated guide to tell me which narrative branches and quests open up if I ingratiate myself to the Finance folks rather than the Helpdesk, that provided a heuristic to determine whether the Douche Speak perk would let me hire more staff or if I need to choose the Entitled Asshole perk, I might be more enthused to catch the bus in the mornings.

wordsmythe wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:
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."

...

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

That all said, I believe it's perfectly valid to refer to a character like that in Hitman as a serial murderer. Stepping outside the game itself, the player isn't wholly divorced from that, and "virtual homicide" may be a decent enough term for that.

No dispute here. Where I get aggravated is when people talk about your character in, say, a Halo game as a serial murderer. Context matters. Circumstances matter. And if defending your home from genocidal invaders is equivalent to using piano wire on old men in their homes, then we may as well hang up society and go back to living in trees.

muraii wrote:

I'm not done synthesizing a mess of ideas about this, but there are a couple of points I think are interesting about character in games.

1. I'm sure it's understood to some degree, but I didn't hear it (thus far), so let me say that the way in which a player is permitted or expected to be a character almost certainly varies by the needs and design of a game. I think it's useful, perhaps important, to acknowledge that while the discordant narrator of Bastion works in that game, this doesn't imply it would've worked in a Bethesda RPG.

2. The really messy part, for me, is how the inert vessel many games provide as a character kind of echoes how I deal with the real world. In Fallout 3 I search a few locations for Moira Brown's Wasteland Survival Guide. Tomorrow morning I'll be calling vendors to develop a sense of their research capabilities on behalf of my client-service teams. Each is something others could do, and I'm left with the fetch quests by rule rather than reason. Moreover, in Fallout New Vegas I manage relationships with various towns and factions principally as a means to an end, and I approach my coworkers and most of the people I interact with the same way. An aggressive reductionist might suggest our notion of humanity is little more than revisionist fiction, a convenient retelling of the emergent calculus of our baser needs. In other words, that the Courier is no more vacuous than we are, and that the ludonarrative dissonance so pervades our gaming experiences because its a close analog to the biographical dissonance of our lives.

It's messy, and a little wine on my empty stomach might be hazing the edges, but I know in the Mojave or Southwest Ohio I'm more comfortable the further I am from people. That most of my interactions with people are calculated to manage against their expectations rather than primarily emerging from some sublime human spirit. The inevitable nods in the hallways, the small talk at the coffee machine, the pleasantries before and after discussing business, all the social lubrication leaves me reeling a bit, as I calculate what the appropriate response is and loop through a system of checks against what *I* feel, and further determine how relevant my feelings are. It's as granular as choosing not to close every email with "Thanks." If only I had a nicely illustrated guide to tell me which narrative branches and quests open up if I ingratiate myself to the Finance folks rather than the Helpdesk, that provided a heuristic to determine whether the Douche Speak perk would let me hire more staff or if I need to choose the Entitled Asshole perk, I might be more enthused to catch the bus in the mornings.

My response got long. I'm going to have to write an article about this.

Watch this space!

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

No dispute here. Where I get aggravated is when people talk about your character in, say, a Halo game as a serial murderer. Context matters. Circumstances matter. And if defending your home from genocidal invaders is equivalent to using piano wire on old men in their homes, then we may as well hang up society and go back to living in trees.

Certainly there's reason that we don't simplify language by collapsing all related terms into one unified word, thus ending the tyranny of the thesauri once and for all. Words do have nuanced meaning, though sometimes words are used in less appropriate situations for rhetorical effect, such as to draw attention to a matter of concern via hyperbole. Indeed terms like "serial killer" imply that the killings are not justified or excusable, which may or not be the case in terms of virtual defense of one's virtual nation or virtual life.

That said, I'm not firmly convinced that you wouldn't prefer hanging up society and living in trees.

wordsmythe wrote:

That said, I'm not firmly convinced that you wouldn't prefer hanging up society and living in trees.

...and somehow bring along those artifacts we like which are derived from society.

Always a catch. +)