GWJ Conference Call Episode 339

Conference Call

Monster Hunter 3, Age of Empires 2 HD, Torchlight 2 Mods, Bioshock Infinite, Marvel Heroes, Hearts of Iron 3, Mice and Mystics, Bringing The Grind to Other Games, Your Emails and More!

This week Shawn, Elysium and Allen are joined by community member Jason Edmunds! Apologies for Allen's track this week, it's a bit rough.

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.

Chairman_Mao's Timestamps
00.01.09 Bioshock Infinite and the increasingly apparent shortcomings of the shooter mechanic
00.09.35 Torchlight 2 mods and Steam Workshop
00.12.57 Marvel Heroes
00.16.17 Hears of Iron 3
00.18.50 Monster Hunter 3
00.24.54 Age of Empires II HD
00.29.03 Mice and Mystics
00.33.08 This week's topic: Taking the Grind from MMO Games and Applying it to Other Genres!
00.52.54 Your emails!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Title Theme - Torchlight 2 - http://www.torchlight2game.com/ - 32:39

Port Tanzia Theme - Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate - http://www.capcom-unity.com/monster_... - 52:27

Comments

I loved what Jason said about "retail therapy"!! I may not be heavily pregnant, but I do have a tendency to go out and buy games when I'm down (who needs shoes and handbags anyway?). Like Shawn, I have a fair sum tied up in Kickstarter right now (about 150$, for four games: Project Eternity, At the Gates, Dreamfall Chapters, and Torment: Tides of Numenera). Like Jason, I've sworn all of this off, after my husband came up to me in March and said "you spent 100$ on games" and I had nothing tangible to show for it (yet!).

Loved the discussion on Torchlight 2 mods. I saw it the Steam workshop opened it up, but hadn't gotten around to actually trying out some mods. Will definitely have to give a couple a try. Tiny side note, because it bugs me, Torchlight 2's theme song is very similar to the first movement of Bedřich Smetana's first String Quartet, so people should go listen to that instead.

Completely agree on the "being judged/rated" thing. I hate being rated in a game (and I was an A student). I'm not playing to get a rating, or a score, I'm playing for fun, and there's a certain point when it's just too much: getting a score after every fight, the huge "FAIL" bubble on your screen... well, I'm just not having fun anymore at that point.

I went through the same process as you guys regarding asynchronous games (Song Pop, Draw Something, mostly). And like Allen says, the key moment was turning off notifications, but I now turn my attention to single player games, or playing against the AI. The best example is Catan. I recently got into the game and can't imagine playing it asynchronously. You're always trying to plan ahead, watching which roads are being placed, which resources are being collected, and I just can't imagine there being a few hours between each of my turns!!

Regarding the interaction with Elizabeth in Bioshock: Infinite, I have to agree on that count. While I haven't played the game, Allen has the right of it, single player doesn't have to mean feeling lonely. And this has been done nicely in the past with the use of interesting sidekicks: the first that comes to mind is Crow in The Longest Journey. Without spoiling too much, you're in the middle of nowhere at the end of the game, you don't know if you're going to make it back, but your faithful bird sidekick Crow is there, as he has been for most of the game. And I believe that's a mark of good writing, because there's a fine line between a good, solid, helpful character and a nagging, incompetent ball and chain (okay, so the mechanics also come into play, but mostly the writing!).

Interesting talk about anonymity. I don't have much to add to what Sean said, basically, I was nodding the whole way through. I don't want to use my real name, out of habit, and mostly because my mother keeps saying "the internet is full of psychos!" every chance she gets (which it is, of course, but being paranoid doesn't help, being careful does). But I like keeping and using my handle. I've been using this one for about 6 or 7 years now, like you guys said, it becomes part of your identity.
However, I don't think ignoring other users is a good idea, at all, and I'm glad Shawn has the stance he stated. Most of the examples (hate speech, threats, etc) warrant a ban anyhow, in my opinion.

Awesome podcast, with a great special guest!!! Well done, Jason, your sound was flawless.
Hear you guys next week!

Australia represent! Well done Jason, and great to hear an Aussie accent on the show, and a Tassie email to boot.
Great episode, thanks guys.

8 player Age of Empires 2HD FFA sounds fantastic.

I've run a couple of quick teaching/learning games of Mice and Mystics now; it stands out from similar co-op dungeon crawl games in two ways:

1) plotting - the game comes with a campaign to run through, including side quests that have persistent effects, and characterization for each of the mice.

2) environmental interaction - the boards can be flipped over to indicate travelling vertically into new areas, and multiple hazards such as water, traps, and ledges are also well integrated.

Part of what sold me on Dark Souls was the similar combat to Monster Hunter. I agree with Shawn's observations regarding the differences (timing, strategy, preparation), but I find the combat in both games to be satisfying in a similar way. It's all about knowing your enemies and your move sets and executing your strategies.

I played through almost all of MH3 using a longsword, it wasn't always the best choice but I never found it impossible to defeat a monster with my style. My longest fight in MH3 took close to an hour and my longest fight in Dark Souls was 5-7 minutes. Sometimes the prep work in MH3 felt like obstacles to having fun, but as the game progressed I found systems that automated a lot of the tedious prep work for me.

I hope Shawn is able to push past the learning phase and get into MH3U. Good luck.

The lacrosse ball comparison for the Hail Fire is apt since the sport uses a (mostly) rubber ball. Definitely a fun weapon, but not terribly revolutionary (aside from the fact it bounces a lot longer than similar weapons in other games). I bet Julian would like the Razorjack (the disc gun) in Unreal too.

Also, the garb used by Foundation soldiers is likely an intentional reference to Nazis. The basic premise for Infinite is very similar to the original BioShock pitch document that Irrational put up on their website a while back. While the document references "cultists" there was an interview that said they were using Nazis at one point as well.

Argh, Mice & Mystics is like a spy in the house of Gravey lately. I shouldn't buy it now, and should probably sell Ashardalon first. Hopefully this podcast won't shatter my will.

Anyone wanna buy a copy of Wrath of Ashardalon?

Here are my thoughts about Bringing The Grind To Other Games. First, a definition of a term:

"Free-To-Play-Grind" - I will use this here to refer to the type of "spending time instead of money" grinding that is common in free-to-play games now, but is no longer exclusive to only free-to-play games.

Now then.

The ambivalence that some of us feel about the free-to-play-grind making its way into traditional game-types come from two things:

1. a refocus of the core mechanic to the grind mechanic
2. what I'm going to call "Mystery Value"

Addressing the first point, I think we don't feel ambivalent about the grinding mechanic in MMOs because that's essentially the core mechanic of MMOs; grinding for better loot. If you buy that, and consider grinding to be mechanic, or at least a meta-mechanic, then it's easy to see why it's troubling when it shows up in shooters, or mech-warrior. These are games that, previously, were first and foremost about their core mechanics (head-shots, torso-twisting, heat-management, etc...).

Now the free-to-play-grind is muscling in as the new core mechanic, and all other mechanics exist in the context of the new one. Even if the old mechanics are present and unchanged, they're still no longer ends in and of themselves. So even if you fundamentally enjoy blowing up other mechs in MechWarrior online, your human brains still understands that whatever choices you make in the game are no longer choices you make solely for your own enjoyment, but they effect your rate of reward, which probably effects the choices you make, and likely narrows them down to one or a few optimal paths.

Now let's say that instead of free-to-play mech-warrior online, they released a traditional mech-warrior game with a multi-player focus for $40. From the player's perspective, it's an easy decision. You know what the game costs, and if you trust the developer you know whether or not you're getting a complete, balanced, and satisfying experience for the money. In free-to-play world (in which I include any not free-to-play games that have pay-to-win, or pay-for-loot mechanics built in), the amount you need to spend in order to have a complete, balanced, and satisfying experience is a mystery (hence "mystery value").

Because of the free-to-play-grind it's unlikely (especially for a gamer with a job) that you will be able to simply grind your way to the gaming experience you want, which means you need to spend. Games should make money, so spending isn't so bad, but how much do you need to spend? What if I only want to play a few hours a week? Is it possible to play that little in one of these games, have a play experience that includes some variety, and spend the same or less than I would if it had been a normally priced retail product? Probably, but how am I supposed to tell, from game to game, if the economy is balanced in my favor or not?

The free-to-play-grind is the irritation, and the "mystery-value" payment system is the treatment that the game offers to alleviate it. In this weird way these games are in conflict with themselves. And because the grind is also the core-mechanic, the cure is also a kind of poison.

Any-way, that's my take on it.
I'm going to have to check out Mice & Mystics. I read so many of those Redwall novels as a kid.

benu302000 wrote:

Probably, but how am I supposed to tell, from game to game, if the economy is balanced in my favor or not?

With very few exceptions, the majority of the F2P games I've played end up being tilted way, WAY over to the "you need to spend too much time to get the next unlock" side of things.

I'm talking setting loot, skills or necessities at a level that would require dozens of repeats to farm the cash/resources to progress even a little bit. The irritation is such that I just don't spend any money. They've lost me as a player before they've gained me as a customer.

Speaking of Mice & Mystics, I just finished painting my minis last night:
IMAGE(http://d3j5vwomefv46c.cloudfront.net/photos/large/756803836.jpg)

I've never painted minis before but it was a lot of fun. Also, a pain.

I used this guide: http://www.plaidhatgames.com/images/games/mice-and-mystics/mmpaintingguide.pdf

Ooh! Going to pass on the guide to my wife. Between this, Descent, and Reaper Bones, we're going to be knee-deep in minis for painting

@Tanglebones

One question I have about Mice & Mystics is whether the replayability factor is there (think I just made up a word). I'm in the same boat as Gravey, in that I rushed out to get Wrath of Ashardalon as soon as I got hooked up with a group that plays board games but find myself regretting it in a way.

It seems that Mice & Mystics would be far more interesting but I fear that once played through interest would wain and it would lie dormant while other less expensive games get picked up and played over and over. I don't want to put it in the same category as Wrath of Ashardalon but I dropped $60 once to see this happen...

I have to admit, though, I am a sucker for any game with minis dating back to Heroquest...

Kezir wrote:

@Tanglebones

One question I have about Mice & Mystics is whether the replayability factor is there (think I just made up a word). I'm in the same boat as Gravey, in that I rushed out to get Wrath of Ashardalon as soon as I got hooked up with a group that plays board games but find myself regretting it in a way.

It seems that Mice & Mystics would be far more interesting but I fear that once played through interest would wain and it would lie dormant while other less expensive games get picked up and played over and over. I don't want to put it in the same category as Wrath of Ashardalon but I dropped $60 once to see this happen...

I have to admit, though, I am a sucker for any game with minis dating back to Heroquest...

My guess is that Plaid Hat and/or the fanbase will come up with 'dlc' campaigns. If you've got a core group that plays through the entire campaign, and you get your 20+ hours of entertainment out of it, it's still a good buy, IMO

I don't know that it'll have *great* replay value with the same group, but I haven't played long enough to really develop a feel for it yet.

I enjoy Ashardalon, and would keep both, but if I could instead replace it on the shelf, and use that money to offset the purchase of a different co-op dungeon bash, that would go over a lot better with my better half.

Ashardalon is fun enough, but it's a little generic compared even to the new look of Descent 2e, and while it's more mechanically involved than M&M (from what I've read), it can boil down to "find the random tile" (if you want to be reductive). So along comes M&M, with a unique theme, wonderful art, and an interesting story, and I think okay here's a co-op game that could interest Mrs. Gravey for a few evenings more than D&D's Standard FantasyTM delivery. So no need for me to own both.

I enjoy Ashardalon, and would keep both, but if I could instead replace it on the shelf, and use that money to offset the purchase of a different co-op dungeon bash, that would go over a lot better with my better half.

Oh, how I understand...

Gravey wrote:

but it's a little generic

I think you're being generous here. The dungeon tiles in Wrath of Ashly don't get any more generic. From what I saw of M&M (from the sidelines) at PAX East the tiles at least look interesting.

shoptroll wrote:
Gravey wrote:

but it's a little generic

I think you're being generous here. The dungeon tiles in Wrath of Ashly don't get any more generic. From what I saw of M&M (from the sidelines) at PAX East the tiles at least look interesting.

I meant to say "it's a leeeeeettle generic" while holding up my thumb and index finger a millimetre apart.

But yeah, I'm being generous. It was an expensive game, and then Drizz't came out looking better! Though even it in turn can't hold a candle to Descent 2e (so I won there at least), or Mice & Mystics.

There is a second Tasmanian who listens to this...

I'm in shock and awe.

Does anyone have any comparison between Mice and Mystics and Mouse Guard RPG (Burning Wheel system). I bought Mouse Guard about a year ago, and I meant to start it up as a beginner RPG with my kids. Well ... let's just say it got put on the back burner. Let's just say that learning a new RPG system was a bit more daunting than I thought, being so out of practice. Anyway, my geek guilt is casing me to consider M&M, so again, if there are comparisons, I would love to hear it.

Actually, thinking of my sons, I guess I only ned to ask of the mice get to use bows. That would probably be enough.

Other than theme, there's just about no connection between them. The system for M&M is a pretty straightforward combat/movement/dealing with environmental concerns. Mouse Guard (assuming it's like other Luke Crane systems) is full of several mixed interesting, but complex systems for combat, conversation, beliefs, etc..

Edit:
One mouse is an archer, and if they scrounge one up, any mouse can use a bow.

HD Remakes: Rise of Nations! Come on Microsoft!

Heck, for all I know it already works in HD, I just want a download version, because I lost my discs.

@Tangle/Kezir

I was part of a group that Tangle put through the first mission of Mice & Mystics at PAX East, and I had tons of fun.

Then I went to a local board gaming night where someone broke it out to do a run-through. If there's any replay value for the players (WRT the base campaign), it'll have to be with "trying a different character" or "finding/completing side quests". I'm with Tangle on this - there's plenty of room for "DLC" to extend this one.

Looking over and watching that group play, I could see they were having fun, but I already knew what they were going to run into on each of the next tiles, and that was with a play through just a month ago. It was fun watching them run into the exact same problem we had in the circular room right before the courtyard though.

Spoiler:

They wiped the room of the original spawns, but triggered the doom tracker and got overwhelmed by the add-on spawns. One mouse goes down, they clear most of the second spawns (enough to rez the downed mouse), and rush on to the next tile.

EXACTLY what happened to our group at PAX East :)

To me, its a little like going back and replaying Portal. I have to have a solid 9-12 months since my last playthrough, otherwise I'll remember how to do everything. But even then, after a few moments in each puzzle, it all comes back to me and I'm more or less there just for the story.

I was listening to this recent episode and there was some talk about Bioshock Infinite and how it is still a shooter, a good shooter but a shooter. At least I think that's what I heard. And it made me think about how we interact with the video game worlds. The main mode of interaction that we have in many of these games is a weapon. While everything else that can't be shot is interacted with via "Use" button. And I thought how limited that is. So much more to worlds like the one in Bioshock, and the only way to interact with it, minus shooting it, is via a single button.

That made me think about older adventure games like Monkey Island, how many different verbs there were at my disposal. So many ways to interact with the world. There must be some way to combine these things. Maybe there is a game somewhere out there where the left mouse button brings up your hand instead of shooting a weapon. And the mouse wheel scrolls through verbs like "push", "pull", "switch", or something of that sort. I'd like to play that game.

maverickz wrote:

That made me think about older adventure games like Monkey Island, how many different verbs there were at my disposal. So many ways to interact with the world. There must be some way to combine these things. Maybe there is a game somewhere out there where the left mouse button brings up your hand instead of shooting a weapon. And the mouse wheel scrolls through verbs like "push", "pull", "switch", or something of that sort. I'd like to play that game.

IMAGE(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c1/Heavy_Rain_Cover_Art.jpg)

Monster Hunter basically takes the fun part of endgame MMO's(bosses), makes the entire game out of that. After you hit about 3 or 4 star quests in single player, you really don't need to be going out and farming materials often, because you have a literal farm to make the important materials for you.

Drop rates are pretty high for the stuff you need as well, so it's pretty rare to have to kill a boss more than a handful of times.

Also, if you're playing only single player, you're missing out on a lot. Multiplayer, while it is pretty much the same as single player, can help make the experience a lot easier.

What do you mean we "used to have" a Chess club, Sean?

WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!?

…I'm watching you.

It means that I assume if I don't actively participate in a thing, then that thing has entered a sort of Heisenberg state, such that the Chess Club both does and does not exist.

Elysium wrote:

It means that I assume if I don't actively participate in a thing, then that thing has entered a sort of Heisenberg state, such that the Chess Club both does and does not exist.

Ah yes, the Schrodinger Gambit.