GWJ Conference Call Episode 314

Conference Call

XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Dishonored, Dealing With Failure, Your Emails and more!

This week Cory takes the big chair and guides Sean Sands, Julian and Jeff Cannata through a show about XCOM, Dishonored and playing games the right (or wrong) way.

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.

Tech Thing Daily
Game Thing Daily
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Chairman_Mao's Timestamps
00.02.21 X-Com
00.14.02 Dishonored
00.25.01 This week's topic: Dealing with Failure!
00.42.03 Your emails!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Coactive (Over My Shoulder Mix) - Chroma - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 24:33

Have no Tyrant - Chroma - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 41:34

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Comments

I think Cannata makes a good point about DA2 being a bad action game; because it's really a bad game viewed as an action title. Kingdoms of Amalur just lords over it several times over. As a real time/turn based hybrid tactical RPG, however, it is quite excellent. I think it's everything Baldur's Gate series has always aspired to be.

LarryC wrote:

I think Cannata makes a good point about DA2 being a bad action game; because it's really a bad game viewed as an action title. Kingdoms of Amalur just lords over it several times over. As a real time/turn based hybrid tactical RPG, however, it is quite excellent. I think it's everything Baldur's Gate series has always aspired to be.

I haven't listened to the podcast, so I'm without context, but I see your point. I remember some old veteran of the D&D type games saying a while ago (and my memory isn't perfect, so I'm probably butchering it's meaning) that rulesets such as D&D or similar were never meant to be the end, but a simplified model for dealing with such things within those games, and it made sense within those games, but now with more resources available to us now we can and should expand those models and make better simulations rather than dice rolls and thresholds.

A situation I remember were there's conflict between old versus new is one of the decisions on Project Eternity, where combat is real-time with pausing rather than turns.

I think there is room for evolution in the 'hitting things with sticks/magic' genre over the next few years. Hopefully someone can take up the challenge, I'm thinking of something like Laguru/Overgrowth. Simulate how much damage the big heavy sword did to the big heavy armour and the person wearing it. Did the agile rogue actually dodge to make the swing of the blade miss, or did it just cut through the light armour and land a wound that bleeds. It's not a replacement for 'the old ways' as it is a modern interpretation.

Someone may throw something at me for mentioning this; but I would love to see an open mod community much like we see with Civilization. This game play has everything I wanted from Star Trek Online on the planet mode. Red shirts quake in fear at the XCOM:Star Trek mod!

Blondish83 wrote:

Someone may throw something at me for mentioning this; but I would love to see an open mod community much like we see with Civilization. This game play has everything I wanted from Star Trek Online on the planet mode. Red shirts quake in fear at the XCOM:Star Trek mod!

There are many skins you could throw on the XCOM skeleton that would be really cool. I for one would love to see a Stargate mod.

You can't miss the power, Ghostship. You're almost there.

Oddly enough at the very mention of "playing games wrong" my first thought went to Too Human. It always goes to Too Human.

Recently I was perusing a Destructoid user blog and saw a whole comment thread concerning Resident Evil 6, and the argument that most people are playing the game wrong. They use Mercenaries videos as an example where players are pulling off all of these crazy moves and abilities that evidently make it a "better action game".

Okay, that's nice...so why doesn't the game teach people how to properly play it? I've only played the demo, but considering fan response there's a lot of people out there that didn't find these "awesome moves" or weren't able to properly learn them. If they're required to "play the game right", though, shouldn't the game teach the player?

That is one thing I'll say about Too Human. It didn't do a good job of teaching players how to properly play it, and as such most players got frustrated. It wasn't a very different control method, but different enough that you had to practice in order to get used to doing a lot of the abilities effectively.

Plus, some of the classes were worthless without 4player co-op.

When do you become supernatural in Dishonoured?

The podcast crew said blink, right out of the box. I'm just headed into

Spoiler:

the pub after the sewers

. Is it after that?

Spoiler:

I'm expecting to be jailed here at some point, because I saw a trailer about how he gets his ability. That hasn't happened yet. I assume, I'm still in the intro. It can't be possible to miss something that important, can it?

Just want to be sure I'm not just missing using a power that I have, and don't know it.
I saw someone in the game thread post that they didn't know you could non-lethal. I suppose I may have missed the supernatural stuff the same way.

Ghostship wrote:

When do you become supernatural in Dishonoured?

Spoiler:

I'm expecting to be jailed here at some point, because I saw a trailer about how he gets his ability. That hasn't happened yet. I assume, I'm still in the intro. It can't be possible to miss something that important, can it?

They apparently changed their minds somewhere along the line. The thing in your spoiler box no longer happens.

ccesarano wrote:

Oddly enough at the very mention of "playing games wrong" my first thought went to Too Human. It always goes to Too Human.

Really? Not Lair? I mean, they sent how to play it right videos out to journalists! I haven't gotten to the point it's brought up in the show.

Too Human is to this day the game I want to play the most that's exclusive to the 360. Not sure if that says a lot about how much I don't care about everything else that's exclusive to the platform, (ok, I'd like to play the Forza games, too) or how much I enjoyed the demo.

mrtomaytohead wrote:
ccesarano wrote:

Oddly enough at the very mention of "playing games wrong" my first thought went to Too Human. It always goes to Too Human.

Really? Not Lair? I mean, they sent how to play it right videos out to journalists! I haven't gotten to the point it's brought up in the show.

Too Human is to this day the game I want to play the most that's exclusive to the 360. Not sure if that says a lot about how much I don't care about everything else that's exclusive to the platform, (ok, I'd like to play the Forza games, too) or how much I enjoyed the demo.

I didn't have a PS3 at the time so I only played minimal attention to that stuff. However, it DID remind me that Tim Schaffer told everyone they were playing Brutal Legend wrong, which I sort of have to agree. Then again, I don't like the notion that everyone calls it an RTS because then everyone starts trying to play it like Starcraft.

Which is the wrong way to go about Brutal Legend, a game that's more about making a bunch of dudes, sending them all to one location, and then joining the battle with them. You, the player, is what turns the tide in those battles, but most folks I spoke with never really got down and dirty and hung in the air trying to micromanage. The game is intentionally simplified so you don't have to do that, though.

I can see some of the confusion, though, as certain units have certain purposes. Roadies being all stealthy and good at taking out buildings, for example, but sending just Roadies somewhere is usually going to fail.

I'ma stop here lest I drag things too far off topic. But, that's not really what the topic was, either. I think. Basically the entire Podcast is just them talking about Dishonored and X-Com.

aww man, kind of a short show this week. Ima have to listen to it twice to get my fill of Mr.Banks.

thinkklinck wrote:

aww man, kind of a short show this week. Ima have to listen to it twice to get my fill of Mr.Banks.

I agree, probably shorter because nobody was really championing the idea that reloading saves was actually that bad. A few off hand remarks but as was indicated at the end (rather unceremoniously).. reloading saves is fine.

Gotta admit I thought Jeff's fanboy-ism of XCom would have him playing it on Classic Ironman, but his love of saving any and everywhere won it outright it seems.

Yeah, apologies for the shorter show this week. We needed to record under a time crunch due to various other commitments. And, sometimes the conversations just naturally rhythm down to a shorter time frame, too.

Thanks for taking my question about evergreen games.

One game I used to play regularly was the original Prince of Persia. I played it from time to time on the PC, and I got the Xbox remake when it came out as well. It's a definite precursor to modern action-adventure games, which is probably my favorite genre. I haven't played it in years, but the game is (I hope) still in a box on a shelf in my garage.

An another note, I am enjoying both XCOM and Dishonored. However, I've been so mentally exhausted the last few days, that when I come home, I have not felt like playing them, since they can be so stressful. I'm just starting the second main mission of Dishonored, and my troops are waiting in the middle of an alien base on XCOM. Meanwhile, I've relaxed by shutting off my brain and killing things in Diablo 3.

Aristophan wrote:

Thanks for taking my question about evergreen games.

One game I used to play regularly was the original Prince of Persia. I played it from time to time on the PC, and I got the Xbox remake when it came out as well. It's a definite precursor to modern action-adventure games, which is probably my favorite genre. I haven't played it in years, but the game is (I hope) still in a box on a shelf in my garage.

An another note, I am enjoying both XCOM and Dishonored. However, I've been so mentally exhausted the last few days, that when I come home, I have not felt like playing them, since they can be so stressful. I'm just starting the second main mission of Dishonored, and my troops are waiting in the middle of an alien base on XCOM. Meanwhile, I've relaxed by shutting off my brain and killing things in Diablo 3.

I'm there with you on the whole "coming home after a long day, thinking about the stress involved in those games, and playing something else" thing. My job and personal life are stressful enough, playing a game that gets me keyed up just is not something I can contemplate doing at the end of most days. Weekend mornings are much more conducive to those games for me.

My evergreen games are MoO1/2 and the Infinity Engine games. I replay MoO1 quite a bit, maybe 6-10 times a year, MoO2 slightly less. I shuffle through the Infinity Engine games all the time; I usually have a game of something going all the time to fall back on when I don't feel like playing anything else.

TF2 is also what I would consider an evergreen game, even though its not that old. For me, TF2 is a perfect pick up and play game. Get in, play some, get out without the guilt that you are bailing on friends or quitting on the team. It helps a lot to have a great set of Goodjers that play regularly too.

Corey talks about "playing it the way it was intended" in the context of FTL. It may be against designer intent to subvert some of the purposes of code in the game, or as in the case of mods for Civ, it may be additional ways to enjoy the game in ways the designers never imagined. If it's enjoyable, then it's all good, right? After all, entertainment is one of the main purposes of games. What if the player is neither enjoying themselves, nor using all the tools the designers give them? Can we then say that they're "playing it wrong?"

For good or for ill, this happened with both Bioware games DA2 and ME2. I am talking about feedback in terms of content here, but overwhelmingly more in terms of game review content in general and BSN (Bioware Social Network) forum content.

Many people viewed ME2's game as "bad Gears of War." If you only ever played it as a cover-based shooter, you would be right. If you also only ever played Soldier and never used tactics and powers extensively, that would be right as well. Even using Soldier's Adrenaline Rush, it's just bad Gears of War with bullet time.

The game transforms when you note terrain, firing angles, and Ally AI behavior. You can command squaddies in particular ways in order to coax certain behaviors out of them, and then it transforms into a game where you use squad level tactics to corner enemy units into kill zones, not unlike XCOM-lite. For instance, short-range weapons like shotguns make Ally AI charge the enemy. You can use this to get Grunt to move into close range and soak damage.

It transforms further when you put powers together; both in overt combos, and in indirect combos. Not many people glommed onto this; for months there were calls about how "weak" the Adept was, and how you can't really play ME2 as an Adept on Insanity without shooting. It wasn't until AverageGatsby on BSN posted video of an Adept facerolling enemies on Insanity using no shooting of his own that people began to realize how to do this.

Bioware doesn't teach you how to use power combos, AI Ally control, or terrain idiosyncracies. I was supposing that learning all this was part of the game - both games are extremely old-school that way.

In reality, ME2 is a power-based, squad level, real time tactical RPG; with an incidental cover-shooting mechanic. Of course, Bioware carefully (and probably intentionally) neglects to advertise this in any way.

If you played DA2 as an action-adventure game and didn't like it, could it be said that you didn't play it right, because you didn't take the time to suss out power combos and the Tactics game?

In the Thief games, I quicksave and quickload a lot like how Canata mentioned his method for Dishonoured. Was my plan bad to begin with and that's why I fail? Reload and make new plan. Do I just suck and can't execute my plan? Reload and try again. Sometimes when it falls apart, that's the most exciting, though. Just as long as it doesn't turn into a killing spree.

I haven't played Dishonoured yet but I am put off by the Blink ability. Elysium says it got rid of the worst part of stealth games ie the sneaking. Huh? If there's no sneaking, it's just hide and go seek. While waiting doesn't sound like an exciting thing to do, it's actually where so much excitement and tension comes from. Patiently waiting and watching for the right moment to move unseen isn't the worst. It's the best. Silly Sean.

Cory, you're not the only one to save-scum your way to victory in FTL. At this point, I've sunk over 70 hours into the game. At the beginning of this week, I had 6 recorded victories, all of which were achieved by backing up and restoring my save file.

Then, on Tuesday, I had a golden play-through with the Mantis Cruiser B on Normal. Scrap, weapons, and crew members were flowing freely. (No, seriously -- I had 15 opportunities to add a crew member, according to the statistics at the end!) By about sector 5, I realized that I had a good chance to score a "legitimate" win. While I was tempted to back up my save "just in case," I decided to throw caution to the winds and continue.

After successfully defeating the boss, I experienced quite a diverse mix of emotions. Of course I felt pride (and relief) at finally succeeding without going outside the defined rules of the game and genre. This was tempered by the acknowledgement that my victory could be credited to both my skills and the whims of the random number generator, with the latter likely claiming the lion's share.

I also felt my victory had been tainted in some way by the previous wins. Without the knowledge I had gained through those do-overs (especially the strengths and weaknesses of the boss), it seems likely that even my golden opportunity would have ended in yet another disaster. Put another way, without save-scumming, how many hours would I have spent before achieving my first victory? 100? 200? More? Or would I have simply quit in disgust?

From that perspective, it's easy for me to rationalize the save-scumming as the equivalent of training wheels. I certainly don't feel guilty about having used training wheels when I was learning to ride a bike. Why, then, do I still feel conflicted in this case? Partly, it seems as if I've pulled an Anakin Skywalker: embracing the dark side, only to jump ship back to the light side when the stars happen to align. Or perhaps it's tied to the frivolity of the outcome in some way. Being able to ride a bike is a useful life skill; being able to beat FTL, not so much.

Well, it looks like our time is up. I think we've made good progress today. Same time next week?

gmulert wrote:

After successfully defeating the boss, I experienced quite a diverse mix of emotions.

One more thing to ponder: Do you think having a backup somehow affected how you played? (I'm not familiar with the mechanics of FTL but I'm assuming there's no conventional save so you have to live with the consequences). Were you more likely to take chances or try a manuever that was a little more risky knowing you could roll back time afterward? Did you think you would've played it a little more conservatively without that back up?

PaladinTom wrote:
gmulert wrote:

After successfully defeating the boss, I experienced quite a diverse mix of emotions.

One more thing to ponder: Do you think having a backup somehow affected how you played? (I'm not familiar with the mechanics of FTL but I'm assuming there's no conventional save so you have to live with the consequences). Were you more likely to take chances or try a manuever that was a little more risky knowing you could roll back time afterward? Did you think you would've played it a little more conservatively without that back up?

Can't speak for gmulert, but in my case, no. I was trying everything I possibly could to beat the final boss, and every action still felt like it was the last chance I'd get. That might be because I didn't view the save-scrape as a safety net, but as a tiny failure every time I had to use it.

It was fascinating to experience.

PaladinTom wrote:
gmulert wrote:

After successfully defeating the boss, I experienced quite a diverse mix of emotions.

One more thing to ponder: Do you think having a backup somehow affected how you played? (I'm not familiar with the mechanics of FTL but I'm assuming there's no conventional save so you have to live with the consequences). Were you more likely to take chances or try a manuever that was a little more risky knowing you could roll back time afterward? Did you think you would've played it a little more conservatively without that back up?

The short answer is: yes, but not as much as you might think.

The nature of FTL is such that you don't have many opportunities to make choices that are only "a little" more risky. Most choices are either blind or all-or-nothing. For example, you are occasionally given a chance to simply avoid combat with a potential enemy. Sometimes this carries a small reward in the form of a bribe, but most of the time choosing not to fight renders the jump equivalent to reaching an empty star system: you expend one fuel, the rebel fleet continues to advance, and your only gain is that you are (potentially) one jump closer to the exit.

The problem is that combat is the most consistent and reliable way to pad your bank (er, scrap) account. So if you avoid combat whenever possible, you are likely to arrive at the final boss woefully under-equipped. Conversely, if you pick a fight with absolutely everyone you encounter, you are likely to watch your ship explode with depressing regularity. (Honestly, though, that will happen regardless of your choices. Sigh.) Skill and experience come into play as you learn to assess the enemy's capabilities vs. your own. ("How much damage will I incur if I fight? Will my earnings exceed the cost of repairs?")

In my experience, optional battles tend to veer toward the extremes: Either you can demolish the enemy while sustaining minimal damage, or you're toast. Non-optional battles, of course, span the entire spectrum, but even then you can often manage to jump away before you're destroyed.

Thus, I choose to fight nearly everyone, skipping only those optional encounters that are clearly suicidal. Otherwise, my overall power level will likely fail to keep pace with that of my enemies. Even if I manage to reach the boss, it will be a hopeless battle.

Of course, optional battles aren't the only choices in the game; others have lower stakes (i.e., the negative outcome is a setback, not outright destruction). For example: I've answered a distress call, but I don't have the necessary prerequisites to enable a (safe) blue response. Do I risk losing a crew member or incurring hull damage in the hopes of gaining additional scrap or a new weapon? And of course there are also classic high risk/high reward situations: That heavily-armed sentry is guarding a tasty, tasty weapons cache, but my hull is already riddled with holes...

I certainly gamed the system on occasion in those situations. This was limited, though, by the fact that I typically wouldn't even start saving and backing up until I was in the later sectors of the game. I had to feel that there was a reasonable chance that this play-through could go all the way before I started jumping through those hoops. At that point, rather than Cory's tiny failures, I perceived reloads as defiance in the face of the nefarious random number generator: "I've already overcome enough of your ridiculous obstacles! Not again! The line must be drawn here! This far! No further! YOU'RE GOING DOWN!"

...Huh. Maybe I have some anger issues.

McChuck wrote:

In the Thief games, I quicksave and quickload a lot like how Canata mentioned his method for Dishonoured. Was my plan bad to begin with and that's why I fail? Reload and make new plan. Do I just suck and can't execute my plan? Reload and try again. Sometimes when it falls apart, that's the most exciting, though. Just as long as it doesn't turn into a killing spree.

I haven't played Dishonoured yet but I am put off by the Blink ability. Elysium says it got rid of the worst part of stealth games ie the sneaking. Huh? If there's no sneaking, it's just hide and go seek. While waiting doesn't sound like an exciting thing to do, it's actually where so much excitement and tension comes from. Patiently waiting and watching for the right moment to move unseen isn't the worst. It's the best. Silly Sean.

Don't knock it til you've tried it.

Really though, Blink adds more ability to stealth because a) you can get to places you cannot through "ordinary" means and so continue on your stealthy way, b) you can blink from cover to cover (which seems necessary at points because there are things in the game that don't look away - trying to move at all even stealthily by them just gets grenades in the face), and c) you can use Blink to get into a position to suborn some of the automation in the world, which s really cool. Liked hacking turrets in System Shock 2 et al.? Yeah, I thought you might. Some of them kind of need Blink to be able to do this (as far as I can tell: I am in no way proclaiming to be an expert in this game by any means).

Of course you can use it to not stealth all that much also. The game gives you some great tools and lets you do with them as you will.

tboon wrote:

Of course you can use it to not stealth all that much also. The game gives you some great tools and lets you do with them as you will.

I have the tendency of making every game with a stealth element play as much like Thief as I can. See: Deus Ex, Skyrim. One "power" Garrett had was the ability to melt into the shadows. If there are powers like that or others that up the games Thief-ness, I'd explore those more than blink. I'd save for the necessary scenarios you described. Or when I'm just feelin' lazy.

Two thoughts on things in the podcast:

1) I played Doom 3 "wrong". "Wrong" in this case being a perfectionist playstyle that hurt my enjoyment of the game. Doom 3 took me approximately 3 times as long to finish as it should have simply because after every major encounter with enemies in that game, if I took any more than about 5 points of damage I quickloaded and played the encounter again.

Why, you might ask, would I do something so stupid? This was the first game I played after finally building a desktop capable of gaming in college. For about 6 years prior to that I had nothing but an ancient Pentium box or a laptop with a crazy weak video card. Having heard so many stories about how scary Doom 3 was when it came out, I thought it would creep me out less if I had full health at all times. That was probably true, but in retrospect it was still a poor choice on my part, motivated primarily by my inexperience with video games at the time. In the end Doom 3 felt like more of a repetitive slog than it already was, and my "wrong" play was largely to blame.

2) Regarding the game to job crossover, it's something I've given some thought to but haven't yet found the answer to, at least for myself. The reason I've given it a lot of thought is the game Savage. For anyone not familiar with it, Savage was one of the first real-time strategy shooter games. There was a commander playing an RTS-style game, while the rest of the team played an FPS. The commander could give orders to the other players, but there was very little he/she could do to force them to follow orders. Only a few (bad) AI peons were under the commander's direct control.

So, background out of the way, the reason I find this game relevant to the discussion is how the team is structured like a typical workplace with a boss and a bunch of employees. I put something like 400 hours into this game, and for a long time I was quite content to play the FPS game and had no interest in the RTS side of things. Then a funny thing happened: I suddenly wanted to play commander, and found out I liked it. I'm still pretty early in my professional career (out of college ~6 years now) and right now I have zero interest in management. What I'm still waiting to see is if my Savage experience will repeat itself in my job and result in a move to management. At this point I don't see it happening, but after 100 hours of Savage I probably felt the same way, so who knows?

It may be against designer intent to subvert some of the purposes of code in the game, or as in the case of mods for Civ, it may be additional ways to enjoy the game in ways the designers never imagined. If it's enjoyable, then it's all good, right? After all, entertainment is one of the main purposes of games.

McChuck wrote:
tboon wrote:

Of course you can use it to not stealth all that much also. The game gives you some great tools and lets you do with them as you will.

I have the tendency of making every game with a stealth element play as much like Thief as I can. See: Deus Ex, Skyrim. One "power" Garrett had was the ability to melt into the shadows. If there are powers like that or others that up the games Thief-ness, I'd explore those more than blink. I'd save for the necessary scenarios you described. Or when I'm just feelin' lazy. :)

I ended up using Blink a lot more for traversal than for stealth, sort of like Batman's grappling hook. It's essential to fully exploiting the verticality of each level. Plus, it's super satisfying to Blink down from a high perch right behind an unaware guard.

Blink for sure is mandatory if you're trying to get everywhere, and not kill folks.

This reminds me: I was on a very good tear of not killing, until I reached a level with a bunch of arc pylons and turrets. "What the heck" I thought, as I rewired them all. Then I ran around the whole level pied piper style and nearly cleared the entire map without firing a shot. It was glorious. There are some occasional funny bits of "What the hell?" dialog as guard after guard after guard gets fried.

I'm a sick, sick man. I reloaded when I was done and stealthed the level for real.

The best ones are where it's unplanned. I had one last night where I rewired a pylon to get past it, and was skulking around the general area later when a guard spots me. He starts rushing around thinking he's going to get me and be a hero, runs up the staircase guarded by the pylon and gets zapped. Poor bar steward.

McChuck wrote:

In the Thief games, I quicksave and quickload a lot like how Canata mentioned his method for Dishonoured. Was my plan bad to begin with and that's why I fail? Reload and make new plan. Do I just suck and can't execute my plan? Reload and try again. Sometimes when it falls apart, that's the most exciting, though. Just as long as it doesn't turn into a killing spree.

Or you can just say "screw it" when you get caught and mow everything down. That's was my style in the original Deus Ex during my first attempt at the game earlier this year. Although there were definitely times where I'd reload the save because I took too much damage / spent too much ammo, etc.

Patiently waiting and watching for the right moment to move unseen isn't the worst. It's the best.

Some of us aren't that patient!

Have I mentioned yet that I'm terrible at stealth games?

EDIT: Liking the music snippets this week