GWJ Conference Call Episode 283

Conference Call

Mass Effect 3, Journey, Motorstorm RC, How Games Get Under Our Skin, Your Emails and more!

This week Shawn, Elysium, Julian and Cory talk about Mass Effect 3 in non-spoiler ways and why some games manage to get under their skin.

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.

Sponsor

Tech Thing Daily
Game Thing Daily
Good Old Games

Mass Effect 3 Catch-All
Mass Effect 3 Spoiler Thread
Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer Thread
Journey
Mass Effect 2
Motorstorm RC

  • Subscribe with iTunes
  • Subscribe with RSS
  • Subscribe with Yahoo!
Download the official apps
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android

Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Galaxy Theme - Mass Effect - http://masseffect.com/ - 0:33:12

Microsoft Flight selection - http://www.microsoft.com/games/flight/ - 0:50:08

Comments

If I ever say "for sure" again someone please kill me.

For sure.

Word.

Rabbit, we're just proud of you for not being the first one to mention BioShock during this call.

I feel the same way about the From Ashes DLC. Not only is it hugely fascinating and integral to the lore, that character has one of the driest, funniest, perfectly timed lines in the series. I laughed out loud, as they say, which games make me do maybe once every three years. But it also feels like a shady way to bump up the game's price to $70.

I'm only about ten hours in, but it's crazy (perhaps embarassing?) how much my brain has been gnawing on the romantic decisions I made two years ago in ME2. To finally get to dive back in and play those strings out is... how shall I put it... a relief? Movement, and closure, and all sorts of things that I feel funny ascribing to a video game, but I have to accept that I care about these characters.

Not sure how Julian's achievements of the past week-and-a-half are temporally possible. This is like when Hermione was time-travelling her way through a double course load in book three.

Really can't say enough about this series, even with its wrinkles here and there. A successful mix of the Stars both Trek and Wars, David Brin's Uplift saga, Frederick Pohl's Heechee books, offering you some measure of story agency, all set to a John Carpenter/Blade Runner-esque soundtrack? I'm powerless in the face of it.

Alright, I'm convinced that I need to go drop the money on the From Ashes DLC. I wasn't sure at first, but at about 14 hours in, and hearing about how integral it is and how much it enhances the lore, I'm sold.

I also find myself in similar shoes to anonymous from the last reader mail in that I don't really buy many games new anymore. Part of it is that I have to be a responsible adult these days, but another part is that I just don't get swept up in the new game hype as much as I used to. In the past year, I've bought exactly 2 brand new games, Mass Effect 3 and Portal 2. The rest of the time I've been going back and playing games that I've missed over time, or stocking up during the Steam sales. Don't get me wrong, I still love a good bit of hype, but fewer and fewer games seem to get me that excited anymore. Also, why spend upwards of $60 on a brand new game that I'm only half interested in when I can spend $20 on a game that came out a year and a half ago, and still get a full and satisfying experience?

(stealth Uncle Scrooge joke at 1:12:56)

I like to think that story and the world is what gets me interested in games, but the more I think about it, the more I have to acknowledge that I'm heavily gamist compared to most gamers here. I'm less gamist that one-game nerds, but significantly more gamist than gamers who sample a lot of games.

If the gameplay doesn't suck me in, I can't get it together to finish the game. Happened with Red Dead, Crysis 2, AC2, UC2, and BlazBlue Continuum Shift in recent memory.

On the other hand, I just put more than 200 hours into Reckoning just this past month, and after that was finished, I jumped in and finished an ME3 Soldier run within the week of release. And I'm now on my Infitrator run, fully intending to make one run-through with each class (may have to bump to Insanity with Adept, from what I'm hearing), just as I did with ME2 (sans Engineer).

This will give me just enough time before checking out whether or not Amalur's DLC adds more chest space for Armor Chasing.

The people in Journey are real people. Clearly you didn't have the patience to sit through the credits, Julian.

Obligatory response to the Anonymous person who hadn't bought a game in 4 years:

IMAGE(http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/cutting_edge.png)

EDIT: Huh, I seem to have missed the Journey discussion. Anyone know where that starts?

So, this was the games I'll be playing this week episode, apparently, as I'm finished up my ME2 game to get into ME3, and picked up Journey as well. Also, poor Cory

Edit: Last few games to absolutely eat my life up:

Mass Effect 1 + 2
Bioshock
Europa Universalis 3

I wanted to weigh in on Mass Effect 3 multiplayer: I'm deep into it, and I've been putting a lot of time in. It's very much what I've wanted from a game: class-based coop with interesting powers, and frequent interesting decisions to be made in combat. I'm constantly evaluating if I should be in cover, if I should move, if I should use a power, how long cooldown will be, if I should break for more ammo, etc.

Previous to this I was playing Uncharted 3's coop multiplayer, and Mass Effect 3 has pulled out ahead in a few ways:
- The powers really are fun, and make building a character interesting. When I specialize in being a bullet hose, I'm really a bullet hose; if I specialize in throwing enemies across the room, it works, and I feel distinct from the other people on my team.
- Throwing people across the room. In Uncharted 3, some enemies can really be bullet sponges, standing indifferent under a hail of assault rifle fire. ME3 has strong enemies, but even they react, stumble under heavy fire, and try to overcome my defenses. And then there's the powers that toss foes around, float them in the air, or knock them away - all of which give a great physical feeling to combat.
- It's pure coop, and the unlock structure is based around that. I don't feel like I need to try to play the competitive game modes to advance further in coop.
The only thing I want is more content; more stages, more gameplay modes (mission-based with dialog choices?) more classes, more enemies.

The 'booster pack' system got some criticism on the podcast, but I think that one of reasons I find the multiplayer so compelling is that it layers multiple reward structures on top of each other.
- As long as I keep playing, I'll level up, which unlocks new powers at a good frequency. (Grind-based reward)
- Every now and then, I get to open a crate, which could contain something really useful. I always anticipate opening a good crate. (Luck-based reward)
- If I do well in the game, I'll earn more XP and credits, which give me my other rewards faster. (Skill-based reward)
- My N7 rank is always increasing, never backslides. If I do really well, I can enhance my single-player game and gain a permanent advantage there. (Permanence)

Altogether, I always feel like I've gotten something after a match, and that leads to a lot of 'one more game' - I just want to try this new upgrade, or this new thing I found in a crate, or get this character to 20, or try to beat Silver, or such.

Neither of my Shepards imported :(. Good news that they are working on a fix. Maybe I'll hold off on my female Shepard play through (what I'd consider to be my proper play through) for a while. I started playing a game save in which I used the default male Shepard but, in ME3, he looks like a guy so desperately in need of the 3 S's (the first two S's being shower and shave) that it put me off and I had to start the game again and create a new custom Shepard.

Whoever wrote the Microsoft Flight music Jonathan put in clearly likes the Grateful Dead (or jam bands in general).

I liked that track a lot and was surprised to discover the source.

It sounds like something they'd put into a city sim, so it makes sense in Microsoft Flight.

I guess Bioware managed to strike a good balance with the From Ashes dlc, because having completed Mass Effect 3 without it, I didn't feel like I was missing anything.

garion333 wrote:

The people in Journey are real people. Clearly you didn't have the patience to sit through the credits, Julian. ;)

I actually saw this after my wife's playthrough (that you get to see who went with you in the credits). The honest truth is as soon as I finished Journey I literally went back to my office and kept playing Mass Effect. I played Journey as a "break"!

Journey is great. It does actually tell you who you meet in game though, but you have to finish the game first. It gives you their "prayer" symbol along with their gamer name.

I'm probably going to play it again at some point.

If you break away from the person you're with, the one you meet up with later is a different person.

If you get very close to another player, they'll restore your magic bar on your scarf... When you make noises it will also restore their scarf/bar, and theirs will restore your scarf/bar.

I'm actually going back to Mass Effect 2 again trying to finish it with a soldier character instead of a biotic...

kazriko wrote:

Journey is great. It does actually tell you who you meet in game though, but you have to finish the game first. It gives you their "prayer" symbol along with their gamer name.

That was something I noticed when I was playing: each player seems to have a unique symbol, which was really cool.

I'm probably going to play it again at some point.

One of the things I like about Journey is that all (or at least the majority of them) the trophies are tied to playing the game again. It's refreshing to see a game where the achievement chase is cordoned off from the main experience. That's a deliberate design decision to not have toasts informing you that you've upped your trophy count for some feat.

Rabbit, I honestly expected you to praise Journey so hard that it would make Cory roll his eyes hard enough to hear it over the microphone I know you still liked it, but I'm really surprised it didn't make more of an impact. Perhaps it's because Flower made such a strong impression first, and Journey does loosely follow some of the same motifs.

Unlike Flower, I think Journey is something gamers like Cory and Sean Sands should play. It's an experience, no doubt, but it's also a legitimate game with platforming mechanics that are a joy to operate. Over this past week when I haven't been playing Mass Effect, the game that has been occupying my thoughts has been Journey. It might be my favorite downloadable title yet, which is pretty surprising to me considering how much I loved Bastion.

Ill be totally honest, the amount of horse crap I took for my Flower love backed me way off. I've played it through 3 times now, my wife once, my son once, my daughter is waiting her turn, and I think its one of the most important gaming milestones of the last 10 years. But if I say that on air, I'll just get "there goes Julian again." so I just said "if you even liked flower buy it, if you didn't, ignore it."

I think that's the acid test.

As a side note, Julian, the Rendezvous with Rama series was the first ever series of books that I ever completed.

Also, ME3 rocks. That is all.

rabbit wrote:

Ill be totally honest, the amount of horse crap I took for my Flower love backed me way off. I've played it through 3 times now, my wife once, my son once, my daughter is waiting her turn, and I think its one of the most important gaming milestones of the last 10 years. But if I say that on air, I'll just get "there goes Julian again." so I just said "if you even liked flower buy it, if you didn't, ignore it."

I think that's the acid test.

You got crap for liking Flower? I guess that was before my time, so let it be said not: that's crap unto itself, because Flower was (is) an excellent example of creating something unique and worthwhile in games, and not just another (*grumble grumble*) sequel to games we first played in 1996. It's the only game my wife has ever played through, in fact -- as a non-gamer, I had to help her with the PS3 setup, but she fell in love and beat it.

The derision of the Steam Box As Certification Standard email was in two parts: one the you're holding everything back part, two the marketplace needs and wants this certification and are using the massively successful console marketplace as the default spec.

I think Steam Box as Certification is a very good idea, but yes it will need year numbers on it to show it's ready and up to date.

Any PC game will run on anything? I really, really doubt that.

And keeping drivers up to date is difficult. I can't find any newer audio drivers for my laptop, for example, and I don't know if a glitch I have in a given game is a bug in the game or my driver.

Anyway. In terms of developers, they want things to shoot for in PC development, to control costs and try desparately to control outcomes and minimize bugs. Right?

Infinity wrote:

Any PC game will run on anything? I really, really doubt that.

The argument was that most budget hardware will run most games. That doesn't mean at High Quality, or universal access, but as the guys pointed out, this is fundamentally different from what many of us struggled with back in the 80s and 90s, when buying components that could even load a game at minimum stated specs was nearly impossible.

It's chunky, but my freakin' netbook -- a NETBOOK! -- can run Skyrim.

And keeping drivers up to date is difficult. I can't find any newer audio drivers for my laptop, for example, and I don't know if a glitch I have in a given game is a bug in the game or my driver.

Not sure that a certification from Valve would help here?

Anyway. In terms of developers, they want things to shoot for in PC development, to control costs and try desparately to control outcomes and minimize bugs. Right?

Sure, but a PC developer can also release scalable, configurable games -- when's the last time you saw Low/Medium/High/Ultra options in a console title? The counter-argument is that a PC dev can take a snapshot of the hardware market at any given time, identify rough specs, and then shoot for those without needing to accommodate ancient hardware, as a console dev has to. The tradeoff is variability in hardware, but I think we (as consumers and gamers) get a better deal on the PC side since we can control what we purchase and put into our boxen, and when.

I just realized how much I prefer a world where Julian is the unabashed cheerleader on the show and how much I don't want him to back off. If Cory starts giving you a hard time, just remind him that you can still back out of formally adopting him and I bet he gets quiet fast!

The longer I listened to Rabbit wax lyrical about the reasons he loved Mass Effect, the more convinced I am that we're dopplegangers of each other. Let's see: love of space opera, hooked by Mass Effect entirely and spent all last week playing it, balding, fascinated by flight, devilishly handsome and frighteningly witty.

Seriously though, I want to echo a lot of his points. Mass Effect works so well because it really does feel unique. For all that there's a billion bald-space-marine games, outside of Mass Effect, I can't think of one where I actually gave a sh*t about any of the characters in the game. Marcus & Dom? Please. Other sci-fi games often lay heavy on the sci, but completely fluff the fi.

Mass Effect manages both parts of those equations, and in the case of ME3 (far more so than the previous two iterations) layers that under a genuinely rewarding set of action mechanics.

As for the multiplayer, if it didn't tie into the singleplayer game, I would probably be much less invested in it. That right there is a stroke of genius. It's such a tiny thing - it doesn't change the moment-to-moment flow of the MP, but that tiny linkage changes the way I'm playing the game. Now when I boot it up, I pause and consider whether I'll go SP or MP, because both modes are contributing to me completing the game.

Good points HipGamer.

A spec might be a good thing for the developers to write to, at least, but given that there's no recourse if the game doesn't meet the spec even when they say it does, and there's no recourse if your PC doesn't meet the spec 100% correctly even if the PC maker who sold it to you says it does, (because we know the developer will point to your PC maker and the PC maker will point at the developer at some point in that world) a spec is pretty meaningless.

Jonman wrote:

The longer I listened to Rabbit wax lyrical about the reasons he loved Mass Effect, the more convinced I am that we're dopplegangers of each other.

See, and ever since you were gracious enough to host us in your kitchen where I spilled stuff all over your nice kitchen table, I often find myself thinking "what would Jonman do..."