GWJ Conference Call Episode 289

Conference Call

Trials Evolution, FEZ, The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition, Diablo III Beta, An Interview With Kim Swift, Levelling Up in Games, Your Emails and more!

This week Jeff Cannata joins the crew to talk about levelling and RPG systems invading games. The free to play angle, Diablo III and much more. We also have an interview with Portal creator Kim Swift about Quantum Conundrum!

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

Totally Rad Show
Quantum Conundrum
FEZ
Trials Evolution
The Witcher 2 Catch-All
Diablo III
Ora et Labora
Asteroyds
Discworld: Ankh Morpork

  • 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

New Tristam Theme - Diablo 3 - http://www.diablo3.com - 37:39

Vergen by Night - The Witcher 2 - http://en.thewitcher.com/ - 52:14

Comments

Yay, more Jeff Cannata!

Dyni wrote:

Yay, more Jeff Cannata!

+1

Throwing my native skills into the round...

"Ora et labora" is in fact not German, but Latin and refers to the old saying "pray and work".
Of course, it is still the title of the German version which makes all statements on the podcasts still hold true

But enough wise-cracking, now I am back to Nightfall and the Kerbal Space Program.
Thanks GWJ for being a horrible influence by diminishing my personal workforce.

EVE can actually teach you more than just that everyone is out to get you. There are real lessons about leadership, propaganda and morale in there, because even though it's just a game the social structures in groups consisting of thousands of people are very much real. There's actually a lot of lessons you can take from the game and apply to the real world. I even know of one person in the US Navy who actually used a recording of an EVE fleet commander as an example of how to command troops to people he was instructing. It's interesting, because the game lets you interact with other people in ways that you normally don't.

This is relevant to Certis' man-crush interest in Adam Sessler, which was revealed in this week's podcast.

http://www.shacknews.com/article/735...

Sean, I had that exact same experience and revelation with the Diablo 3 rune system when I was playing the beta this weekend. I got the shock pulse skill for my wizard, tried it out, found it completely underwhelming and immediately went back to magic missle.

I read the description for my newly unlocked shock pulse rune at level 9 and figured it was at least worth trying. That lone rune changed shock pulse from a pea shooter into an AoE wrecking machine. Useless to incredible just like that.

I'm so excited for this game.

MeatMan wrote:

This is relevant to Certis' man-crush interest in Adam Sessler, which was revealed in this week's podcast.

Let me guess, he's heading to Polygon/Vox Games?

EDIT:

Dyni wrote:

I read the description for my newly unlocked shock pulse rune at level 9 and figured it was at least worth trying. That lone rune changed shock pulse from a pea shooter into an AoE wrecking machine. Useless to incredible just like that.

Conversely, I got the rune that makes the Monk teleport when I use the skill and I turned it off because it was way too disorienting for me to play with. However, the one that added a vortex of flames to my roundhouse kick was awesome.

Blizzard: Feel free to fill my glass of Kool-Aid, I do believe I'm ready for another round.

MeatMan wrote:

This is relevant to Certis' man-crush interest in Adam Sessler, which was revealed in this week's podcast.

http://www.shacknews.com/article/735...

My man crush is Geoff Keighley, thank you. Sessler was Cannata.

8!
It's 8!
*Discworld fanatic out*

Slacker1913 wrote:

8!
It's 8!
*Discworld fanatic out*

Right, as in, Octarine, right?

Did I get it wrong? (bows head in shame)

Certis wrote:

My man crush is Geoff Keighley, thank you. Sessler was Cannata.

Whoops. Guess I should've relistened before posting that. I was going only on memory from listening to the podcast about 5 hours prior.

rabbit wrote:
Slacker1913 wrote:

8!
It's 8!
*Discworld fanatic out*

Right, as in, Octarine, right?

Did I get it wrong? (bows head in shame)

Nope, you got it right.

Worth pointing out that there are potions in D3, but they seem more like an "in case of emergency break glass" sort of thing. We got into a couple of tight spots with the Skeleton King fight where I was running around looking for the health globes to heal my Monk who got a little overwhelmed. The frentic "oh god I'm going to die" tension while running around looking for health because my potion button was on cooldown was quite fun.

!pr0n. Haven't heard that in a while. Funny it outlived the UT2003 mod that was created by the same team

Normally I'm not the sort to listen to podcasts. However, I've discovered that the Conference Call is a great way to pass the time joyfully during my morning and evening commute. I've tried a few Podcasts, and I have never really enjoyed most of them, but the Conference Call is delightful. Like Cory brought up at the PAX panel, I'm surrounded by folks that don't really play games at my job and few of my friends are as invested in the medium as I am. So just being able to listen to the Podcast is...it's just another great thing to love about this website.

As for the latest Conference Call, I still got 30 minutes left of this one. However, I wanted to mention the whole "jumping" thing. It's still around in a surprising number of games, but it feels as if it is utilized less and less.

I'd hate to open up this argument as, unlike Ser Merdoch, I do not find the keyboard and mouse to be as God intended it to be. I love the controller so much. However, in terms of first-person shooters and traditional control schemes, it's often a lot easier to jump with a keyboard and mouse. Your fingers occupy WASD, but your thumb is still free for the space bar. On the controller, jump is often mapped to the A button. This means you have to remove your thumb from the aiming-stick in order to jump.

While I managed through Half-Life 2, a first-person shooter with TONS of jumping in it, just fine on the Xbox and then the Xbox 360, it does inhibit my ability to aim. Perhaps with the increased focus on console development, that has been a conscious change. Include the jump button for the sake of it always being there, but have no implementation within the game or levels itself.

Or it could just be no one is thinking about it since we're more focused on cover-based shooting than twitch-based.

There was one shooter, however, where the left-trigger was jump. Good design choice, I think, but it only works for certain types of shooters on console.

[/i]I think that is the wrong link for Asteriods?

Bleedinbob wrote:

[/i]I think that is the wrong link for Asteriods?

He must have been referring to Asteroyds (can't link to that as a mere coffee grinder)

After putting more time into Trials, I think Jeff is right, and the leaning mechanic is binary. I think there are three lean setting, normal, forwardd, and backwards.

I will say that some of what makes Trials awesome is lost as you make your way further into the game. My wife is loving it to death, but she is just likes the gameplay and is not worried about medals. She was pretty upset that she had to go back and replay tracks until she got a silver or gold in order to gain enough to move on. I like the SSX model in which they just let you move on and enjoy the whole game.

Currently I'm going back and trying to work my way up to 75 medals to open the next section. I don't mind, as it is fun try to beat folks on my friends list, and I've found some of them easier now that I've spent more time honing different skills.

But right now, Gigatrack go go eff itself. That was an insane track that just went on for way too long. It also eliminated all of those close checkpoints, which introduced those annoying parts of games where you repet the same sections over and over.

Skimmed. Still listening.

Is the fireflower leveling?

I keep bringing this up, but hey, Guild Wars. Especially in Factions, reaching the max level was really just like finishing the tutorial. Everything beyond that was progressing through the story, finding new skills and learning how to use them effectively.

And yes, I'm one of the "insane" people. Not that I'm obsessed with numbers, but I like games in which I can try something totally new, like the Kingslayer Sorceress, and be succesful with it. Recent MMOs are limiting this option more and more.

Downloading GW2 beta client... Cy'all tomorow

Holy cow.. I was laughing so hard at the Diablo 3 description: "And then the hand of God comes down and smites your enemy and you go "YEAH!! I want to do that a million more times!!" and the game says "I got you covered, buddy"".

What a great description.

Great podcast and thanks for taking the existentialism question seriously. I've researched and written quite a bit on games and learning, especially moral learning, so it was great to hear such high-level yet non-dbaggy conversation on a very meaningful topic.

We have a tendency in liberal society (which is to say, informed by the Enlightenment) to privilege moral reasoning over other forms of moral learning. Specifically, when we think about profound experiences we tend to weight more heavily the experiences that lead us to reflect on our lives and make a conscious changes, which is how I think you interpreted the question.

But there is another way to think about how games change our lives, and that's through affecting us directly through, e.g. emotions. You touched briefly on Journey, which I didn't play, but I felt like I did after listening to the totally amazing spoiler section several weeks back. That's an example of a game which, if it was the kind of thing you'd play every day a little bit (it's not, from what I understand), could create a change in your outlook on life in the long run. There's a different educational tradition that focuses not on reflection but on practice -- the idea being that changing how we behave then shapes how we think, not vice versa. In the U.S. this has generally been thought of as "character education" and associated with the Boy Scouts, etc. But it's also implied in yoga and other practices.

Anyway, affecting how we feel as a way to change our lives is a touchy subject, especially when it comes to video games. It's the root of the argument for why violent video games are bad. I think those arguments are rooted in ignorance -- in fact, the actual practice embodied in most FPSs tends to be tactics and teamwork -- but the danger is there.

Finally, if folks are really interested in this conversation it's the entire basis of the Games for Change organization, which is having its annual Festival in New York June 18-20. If parent scheduling permits I'll be on one of the panels on June 20 talking about games in schools, but as you can tell from this disquisition, games and moral learning is my passion.

(BTW, to tie back to another theme in the show, my interest in this topic spawned out of watching a college roommate play the original Diablo and seeing how random passers-by would drop him free loot to help him out. This led me to start wondering about why altruism might exist in video game worlds.)

Oh, and Rabbit, if your son likes geography games maybe he should check out my organization's civics games at www.iCivics.org. I'd love to know what he thinks, and we're also always looking for playtesters for our future titles. (We're developing one now about jury duty, and are spooling up one about federalism (!) and about the Civil Rights Movement).

Re: games as movies... I'm pretty sure a couple years back (I cannot find a link to source it though) Square-Enix was floating around the idea of releasing non-interactive versions of their games (or at least key scenes) so more people could enjoy their stories without needing to slog through the game.

The discussion on pricing was interesting. Its' really sad to see something like Bulletstorm not getting a sequel because the sales of the first one weren't good enough at $60. That's a perfect example of a game that should've sold closer to $30-40.

Older examples exist in the market too: Katamari Damacy was originally released as a budget title at $20 which was frankly unheard of for a company like Namco at the time. Nintendo had similar succeess with Brain Age at $20 a couple years later.

I think one of the biggest barriers to expanding the gaming audience is the sheer price of video games. It is an incredibly expensive hobby. Every 5-7 years you need to shell out $200+ dollars for the new hardware. Then $50-60 for every AAA title that comes out (not to mention recent "innovations" like paid online access and DLC). That's insanity. Look how long it takes other mediums to roll over to new hardware. How long did it take CDs to fully supplant casette? DVD took at least a decade to replace VHS. There is an incredibly fast churn rate on gaming hardware compared to every other medium out there.

It's no wonder that social, mobile, indie and free-to-play games are absolutely creaming the traditional AAA mode right nowl. All of these have without a doubt smashed through the barrier to entry. Social games are free and run in your browser. Mobile games just work with your device. Indie games are cheap and therefore less a risk at $5-15 than a $60 title. Free to play is even less risky.

I'm not totally sure where this train of thought is going so I'll just stop here, but hopefully as the average price trends downward, that maybe the gaming audience will expand. It'd be great if one of these days publishers were crowing more about the number of people that played their game instead of just comparing the money they raked in at $60/unit vs. a $10/unit movie ticket. I know Rovio has somewhat done this by talking about the number of Angry Birds downloads, but I have yet to see an Activision or EA compare the number of people who bought Mass Effect or Call of Duty in comparison to blockbuster movies.

Ghostship wrote:

Skimmed. Still listening.

Is the fireflower leveling?

Nope, it's a power up, which has limitations. In this case, the limitation is that it disappears when you get hit. Just like the mushroom and jumping on Yoshi's back does the same thing, and the star is time limited.

I would also say there is distinction between permanent pickups (Metroid, Half-Life guns) and leveling. Typically those permanent pickups are something the game has set before you as a gate to allow you into the next part of the world. Leveling is more a relative metric that isn't integral so much that you have to use a specific level to progress. You can be higher level and something will work, but in Half-Life, sometimes only the RPG works and nothing else. Metroid, even more so.

Of course, some games like Skyward Sword, Darksiders, and God of War have leveling of permanent pickups, where an item is necessary to do a task, but you can change its effectiveness in said task as well.

shoptroll wrote:

Things about the price of games

This was what I forgot to bring up. It's interesting that there is this fear that releasing a game at $30 new will make people believe it's crap, and I must wonder how widespread it really is. I know lately I've gone to GameStop and tried to browse games around the $30 mark, but what I see tend to be games I've already played or own. Games that are even a year old that I want to play are still $40 or more.

I know plenty of friends that didn't buy games often, and when they did they waited for it to hit $30. Friends that loved Halo, for example, didn't buy Reach until they could get it on sale. These are guys that barely play new games and just don't feel like keeping up with it all, and would rather wait to find out what's good and buy it when it's cheaper.

But what if it started out cheaper? They're a lot more willing to spend money on a new movie than a new game.

But, this is assuming you could sell enough units at $30 to match or beat profit made at $60. As long as you go with current budgets, that is. I'd be all for cutting back on graphics and other superficial features in order to have better games at lower cost, but based on a recent Game Informer writer's thoughts, this isn't universal.

ccesarano wrote:

But, this is assuming you could sell enough units at $30 to match or beat profit made at $60.

That's the argument Gabe Newell has been trying to make for a while now. Then you have detractors like Nintendo and GOG saying the race to the bottom is an issue because it devalues the product. Which is a good point, but I think there's a happy medium somewhere in there.

Chris Kohler had a great editorial on the price of games a couple weeks ago. Really worth a read.

EDIT: Here's John Walker's response to the same comments from the THQ exec, which delves more into the demonizing of used game sales but also food for thought.

Padmewan wrote:

Great podcast and thanks for taking the existentialism question seriously. I've researched and written quite a bit on games and learning, especially moral learning, so it was great to hear such high-level yet non-dbaggy conversation on a very meaningful topic.

+1. I hate how often these kinds of questions or conversations are immediately kneecapped by the asker (defensively, "I hate to sound pretentious") or the audience (dismissively, "This is pretentious"). This, to me anyway, is where all the good thought is to be found and is a part of what makes playing video games so rewarding. To wit...

Jayhawker wrote:

And when three other countries declared war on me, I could not have felt more like Saddam Hussein. But it launched all kinds of ideas in my head about how and why countries might make such poor decisions. After that, playing Civ always brought to mind real world conflicts and how they play out.

Glad to hear that story, Jayhawker.

Just finished the podcast. Just thought I would add that you guys successfully avoided crawling up your own ass on the last email. I thought it was a fantastic discussion about how games affect us.

And Kudos to Jeff Cannata for bringing up Sim City and Civilization.

Civ doesn't teach me about how international politics works, but it sure does encourage me to think about the value of allies and trade partners versus the cost of taking what I want by force.

I remember a game specifically where I needed saltpeter desperately. There was some just across my border, but the other civ refused any trade proposals. So I decided to launch a strategic attack and take just one city from my opponent, and get the saltpeter in the process. I planned and built up for this effort until I was ready to take it and hold it.

And when three other countries declared war on me, I could not have felt more like Saddam Hussein. But it launched all kinds of ideas in my head about how and why countries might make such poor decisions. After that, playing Civ always brought to mind real world conflicts and how they play out.

shoptroll wrote:
ccesarano wrote:

But, this is assuming you could sell enough units at $30 to match or beat profit made at $60.

That's the argument Gabe Newell has been trying to make for a while now. Then you have detractors like Nintendo and GOG saying the race to the bottom is an issue because it devalues the product. Which is a good point, but I think there's a happy medium somewhere in there.

Chris Kohler had a great editorial on the price of games a couple weeks ago. Really worth a read.

EDIT: Here's John Walker's response to the same comments from the THQ exec, which delves more into the demonizing of used game sales but also food for thought.

Chris Kohler's response was excellent, though truthfully, I'm not a fan of the used games industry myself. However, part of the problem there is video games are one of the only entertainment industries that will print a limited run of games and then stop. Try getting a copy of Phoenix Wright brand new, or Kameo: Elements of Power, or the first Lost Planet. A lot of those games will be difficult to find because at some point they stopped printing them.

The only reason I can imagine this is done is because retail space is limited, but that doesn't stop me from being able to purchase five to ten year old DVDs and music. Not unless it's a product that wasn't or isn't in higher demand.

Which just brings about another problem with games. Once you've released, it doesn't matter. Maybe a game will get DLC for a year or so, but very few are really supported afterward.

Though I did forget about your earlier mention about the platforms constantly changing. I feel like that's also a product of people demanding better graphics while the industry continues to support the notion that they're important, as well as a method for the manufacturer to make money off of brand new accessories and peripherals...

Gah, there's just way too much to say on this topic.

Gravey wrote:

:D Glad to hear that story, Jayhawker.

Thanks!

shoptroll wrote:
ccesarano wrote:

But, this is assuming you could sell enough units at $30 to match or beat profit made at $60.

That's the argument Gabe Newell has been trying to make for a while now. Then you have detractors like Nintendo and GOG saying the race to the bottom is an issue because it devalues the product. Which is a good point, but I think there's a happy medium somewhere in there.

I don't worry too much on the price of games. They are what they are. When they are too high, they lose sales. If they open too low, it costs them revenue, and possibly additional if a certain segment views them as budget titles.

But if you want to see publishers be more aggressive in pricing from day one, then you are also going to see publishers get aggressive on used games. As long as budget games are always beaten on price by used games, it decreases the incentive to pen with a cheaper price. Publishers will target the high end gamer that wants to buy a game week one for $60, and let Gamestop do their thing with the rest.

If they drop to $30, they just lose revenue, as the budget gamer will still use Gamestp to find it for $20-$25. But if publishers get their wt dream, and new consoles make it hard to play used games, they can afford to market their games much more aggressively.

But like I said, it doesn't really matter. I will buy or not buy games based on the price and other relevant factors. So yeah, selling my games, and buying some used, is a factor now. But if it is taken away, I will just adjust and move along. I just can't blame publishers for trying to capure a higher % of the revenue their games produce.