GWJ Conference Call Episode 355

Conference Call

Stealth Inc, A Ride Into The Mountains, Shadowrun Returns, rymdkapsel, Are AAA Games Held to a Higher Standard?, Last of Us Spoiler Section, Your Emails and More!

It's a big one this week as Shawn, Elysium and Julian talk about whether or not AAA games are held to a different standard than indie titles. After the credits, the long awaited Last of Us Spoiler Section with Rob Zacny, Dean Tate, Cory Banks, Karla Andrich and Shawn!

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
00.01.17 The Last of Us
00.03.58 State of Decay
00.05.12 rymdkapsel
00.06.18 Stealth Inc.
00.10.30 Shadowrun Returns
00.20.05 SolForge
00.23.27 Kerbal Space Program update
00.27.27 A Ride into the Mountains
00.32.51 This week's topic: Do we hold AAA games to a higher standard?!
00.52.35 Your emails!
01.15.09 Last of Us Spoiler Section!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Peripatetic - BigBot Audio Drop - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 32:23

Span (Malcos Remix) - BigBot Audio Drop - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 52:08

Comments

Thank God I finally finished The Last of Us this weekend!

Looking forward to this greatly, folks. Thanks!!

Wow! 3 hours, can't wait!

It's not nothing. It's 43 pesos.

Great spoiler section. A little short maybe ;).

Spoiler:

I watched the game through missing out some chunks so possibly I didn't get the whole story but I had a different take on the hospital sequence.

My perspective on Joel and his partner was that they were in soldier/zombie survivor mode the whole way through the game. What he says to Marlene, before killing her, typified his attitude, "You'd only come after me." It's no quarter asked or given. Absolutely ruthless yet, if he didn't take advantage the situation, the next time he might be the one standing helpless in someone's gun sights, as he was at the beginning of the game when his daughter was killed. (It may be that I've also been desensitised by years of playing games where the hero can kill prolifically without having his 'good guy' status called into question.)

It may be that seeing the entire games story over a couple of days rather than playing it over a few weeks kept the start of the game fresh in my mind and coloured by sympathic outlook on Joel. At one point Ellie casual says, "Your watch is broken," and you realise that Joel has continued to wear the watch his daughter gave him even thought it no longer works.

In the hospital I feel that Joel just could not lose another 'daughter.' He couldn't let it happen. I didn't get the impression that Ellie knew she was going to die or was ok with dying (although I may have missed a vital scene.) Certainly the way Marlene was talking about Ellie it sounded like she was going to her death unaware. I also didn't feel that she was going to die of the infection eventually.

To me two things were completely balanced in my head, so much so it was making my head hurt, Ellie's death would save humanity but Ellie couldn't die whether humanity was at stake or not. Giving Ellie the choice is where the situation could have been saved. They could have ask her if she was ok with it but they didn't. Joel never had the chance to give her that agency. The fireflies did. When Joel was fighting his way to the operation room I was right there with him. I just wanted him to get there and save her.

The scene that really got to me was when he was running with Ellie in his arms trying to escape the sirens and pursuing soldiers just as he'd been running with his daughter in his arms at the start of the game. The situation seemed completely hopeless yet I desperately wanted them to get away.

Joel lying to Ellie at the end I saw as a small amount of selfishness, quite a bit of love and a big dollop of pragmatism. He doesn't see returning to the firefly base as an option. The doctor he shot in the operation room seemed to be as important an element in finding a cure as Ellie so, at that point, the idea of a cure was a non-starter (he might be wrong.) In that case why burden Ellie with the idea that sacrificing herself would have or will save humanity? To me he was trying to save her from that mental pain and anguish.

It's fascinating to hear everyone's takes and the real revelation of all this may be that I wouldn't be a particularly safe person to put in charge of humanities last hope if ever there is a fungal zombie outbreak.

Again, fantastic spoiler section.

re: the guy who was talking about wanting to see a left 4 dead/starcraft crossover, this may be of interest:
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013...

Loved the spoiler section. Would've liked to hear more about the gameplay and artistic direction, though. Thanks for a great podcast!

I enjoyed the spoiler section, but after listening to several spoiler casts, I have never heard anyone discuss the problems that I personally had with the story.

Spoiler:

Why would it be required to kill Ellie to study why she was immune? If they need samples of the infection, they can take tissue samples of from her, that, while risky, would most likely not result in her death. Blood tests, gene studies, mucous samples and many other medical tests could keep a scientific team busy for months.

The Fireflies' scientific team is blatantly incompetent. If you find a person that is immune to an epidemic, that last thing in the world you would do is let them die. If anything, you would encourage them to reproduce, since their offspring would be likely to inherit the immunity as well. To kill the host so you can examine the parasite that was stopped by the host's body seems like the height of stupidity.

Here is a sample of some of the things that could be happening in Ellie's body:

  • Her cells don't produce a protein that the spores latch on to.
  • Her cells produce too much a protein that fights the infection.
  • Her immune system is able to fight off the infection.
  • Her immune system ignores an infection that attacks the spores rather than her own cells.
  • Her immune system has antibodies (created fighting another infection) that attack the spores.

And this is just from the top of the head of someone with no formal medical training.

Joel's selfish decision to save Ellie is at least as likely to save humanity as the Fireflies course of action would have. If there is something in her genetic makeup that make her immune to the infection, killing her prevents her from producing offspring which would also be immune to the infection.

Hey Maeloch,

Spoiler:

I think Naughty Dog was more concerned with the characters and their actions than the hard sci-fi of it all. Not saying it's good or bad, I just don't think anyone is talking about it because it's kinda beside the point. I can totally see how it would pull you out of it, though.

I really love these kinds of in-depth discussions about a single game. More, please!

Fun spoiler section.

Spoiler:

I'm surprised nobody mentions that Joel always fiddles with his watch whenever he's thinking about his daughter. That's about the only emotional cue I ever saw from him.

No comments on the how many Doctors everyone killed at the end. I tried to kill 0 doctors, but apparently the first one dies from being shot in the hand...

A ride into the mountains isn't $1 for me. It's at least the cost of an iPod Touch, however much that is. I don't use Apple iDevices for gaming systems because I don't have an iPhone, and I don't want a console that I need to replace every 2 years yet costs as much as a home console.

If they release it for Android, I'd be very slightly more likely to play it because I own an android phone... Though I barely play any games on it. The most likely system for me to play it on would be Vita, if they ever released it for that.

bring back the bleeps!

High School of the Dead! Hard to choose, but the "steadying the sniper rifle" scene had to be the peak of ridiculous misogyny.

Growat wrote:

High School of the Dead! Hard to choose, but the "steadying the sniper rifle" scene had to be the peak of ridiculous misogyny.

The more I learn about you, the weirder our simpatico becomes.

Yes, the sniper scene was SO CRAZY it almost transcended the problematic, rampant objectification. I think the part where he calms the girl down by squeezing her chest is up there too. Good lord, why did we watch this?!

The fanservice in Highschool of the Dead is way over the top - much more than is common in anime works, and much more ridiculous. I'm not sure if that's meant as a satire or if it's just selling itself as the goto anime for fans looking for that sort of thing.

The boobs moving such that they actually bounced around bullets suggests satire, but I can't be sure.

As for the topic, I personally found my limit with Ivy in Soul Calibur and Bayonetta. I won't pretend that it's because I feel offended for the sake of the women in my life, or because I don't want my children to see it. I feel disquieted by Bayonetta's general imagery for reasons I don't really understand.

kazriko wrote:

Fun spoiler section.

Spoiler:

I'm surprised nobody mentions that Joel always fiddles with his watch whenever he's thinking about his daughter. That's about the only emotional cue I ever saw from him.

No comments on the how many Doctors everyone killed at the end. I tried to kill 0 doctors, but apparently the first one dies from being shot in the hand...

A ride into the mountains isn't $1 for me. It's at least the cost of an iPod Touch, however much that is. I don't use Apple iDevices for gaming systems because I don't have an iPhone, and I don't want a console that I need to replace every 2 years yet costs as much as a home console.

If they release it for Android, I'd be very slightly more likely to play it because I own an android phone... Though I barely play any games on it. The most likely system for me to play it on would be Vita, if they ever released it for that.

A Ride Into the Mountains on Android, if you were curious.

I thought it was weird that during the AAA vs indie quality discussion you didn't really address the elephant in the room;there are some great discussions about how games are viewed as creative works of art and our stereotypes of exactly what are our cultural value judgement's about a games value. The influx of indie games is giving us another chance to evaluate that value.

You guys stood on the precipice of this great discussion about how games could primarily be judged by the intent and execution of their creator versus pure capitalistic commoditization. Almost the difference in how we as a society view music and movies, we reflexively scoff at musicians who "sell out" and yet intrinsically expect it from Hollywood.

I am not saying there aren't musicians who are mainly in the business well for exactly the purpose of treating it as a business, nor that there aren't directors/producers/actors that honestly want to create a piece of art sometimes at the expense of their paycheck. But culturally the way we value music and art has an impact; we get a much better overall quality of music due to our cultural perception. Its also why we get better books than movies, its not that the written word is some superior form of consuming media, it is the cultural traditions and value we place on the written word that gives us movies made from books and not the other way around.

Games are still not fixed in our cultural value system. I think right now we are standing at a decision point of where games will stand in our cultural consciousness. The birth of video games happened in most our our lifetimes, followed by a golden age of games being created by the artistic/scientific elite who had a particular vision they wanted to convey in media, almost how you define the essence of high art. Then the over reaching capitalistic influx of the past 10 or so years when cross-platform code gave the businessmen an ah-ha moment where you could write a game for both pc and console with a single team and make alot of money by halving your investment and nearly doubling your market but also creating a more generic work.

We are at another sea change moment with a real influx of independents into the community/market, how we react as consumers, critics and game makers matters to how we set video games value as art in our culture.

Certis wrote:

Hey Maeloch,

Spoiler:

I think Naughty Dog was more concerned with the characters and their actions than the hard sci-fi of it all. Not saying it's good or bad, I just don't think anyone is talking about it because it's kinda beside the point. I can totally see how it would pull you out of it, though.

I had a similar response to the ending but it didn't pull me out of the game or story, it justified my in-game actions more so than if I'd have believed that there was a chance through the goals of the stated course of action. Sure, it also made for great drama... But that ended up all working together.

I was a bit surprised at julian's response to the mechanics of the game though. How many times do we hear that less is more and that design constraints result in improved design and gameplay? Personally, (and of course acknowledging that people have differing opinions) I thought the gameplay in TLOU was very refined and streamlined and worked perfectly 100% of the time. Yes, there were no innovations or situational nuance to it but once the rules were established they were what they were and I liked the game for that purity.

Contrary to certain people saying that you couldn't hide once enemies were alerted (around critical circles) and that gears of war did cover-shooting better (it most certainly did not!) TLOU managed to focus on a few characters and gameplay mechanics and, as a result, pull off a very focused experience. I also saw character development in the main characters though other critics did not, stating that Joel was fundamentally the same person going into the game as when he came out.

On another topic:
The two games I would mash together are Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider. The combat, traversal and realism of the new one coupled with the fewer enemies and more exploration and puzzles of the old one.

Spoiler section

Spoiler:

I agree with Certis early on but then towards the end side more against the grotesque interpretation of his actions. I think you can quite easily see many people's reactions and choices being the same as Joel's are as opposed to choosing the opposite. I felt that his character was selfish but as was pointed out, love is selfish and I think that Joel's arc was learning to experience feelings again and to trust in humanity whereas Ellie's was to learn to also trust other people and form a family unit which depends a lot on poorly explained trust (which I see a lot in the world -family comes first, blood is thicker than water.) It is perfectly possible for broken or damaged people to provide support and familial duties and I doubt many people would describe those people as grotesque so I feel like that's a bit off the wall in this instance because, though having a violent past, selfishness by itself isn't grotesque and the choices Joel makes are against entities and events that are not easily definable as positive or good. At best, I could define Joel as chaotic neutral rather than, imo, a grotesque lawful evil or chaotic evil.

I love how there was a tiny bit of (probably unintentional) self censorship at the beginning, there, Julian started saying "big pile of sh..." before someone else jumped in. In light of Jonathan's prank two episodes ago, I found it absolutely hilarious.

Of course, the only point I would like to touch upon is the one you guys "blasted through".

I find it absolutely hilarious that you guys (or specifically Julian) had no recollection of how Morrigan in Dragon Age was dressed. If I'm not mistaken, it made quite the splash when the game's concept art was initially released, even before the game was finished. Shawn had the right of it, there was major sideboob:
IMAGE(http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090922095047/dragonage/images/d/dd/Morrigan_profile.jpg)
The sad part was that she didn't need to be so skimpily dressed! She had a lot of things going for her, her manner, her seductive tones and wily ways. I still hate her guts, of course, but that's just me, I'm able to recognize her strengths. My point is that she would've been a great character even had she been dressed like this:
IMAGE(http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4137/4805843659_c03681b883.jpg)

Agree about Triss in TW2, though, she's very crafty and very much a pro when it comes to the political game. The game had her taking her clothes off a lot, but same went for Geralt. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, but at least they both got the same treatment.

Looking forward to the spoiler section!! Sorry, still chipping away at the podcast, this one's big!

Great and lengthy spoiler section. I don't think I'd need 2 hours of spoilers for every game, but this one definitely warranted the length.

My opinion on the game's ending pretty much mirrors Russ Frushtick's over at Polygon (spoiler-laden article, so fair warning!). It's worth the read.

A few other brief thoughts:

Spoiler:

I didn't have any problems with the mechanics, overall, as they were still very much in line with Uncharted's, where the shooting was never really spectacular, anyway. However, I got extremely frustrated during the boss battle between Ellie and David. Any time I would jump out at him and swipe with the knife, it would fail and he'd kill me. You were required to either stun him with a brick/bottle or sneak up behind him. It got pretty annoying.

Personally, I don't think Naughty Dog ever intended you to stealth your way through the entire game. The story wouldn't make much sense if you get through the game killing absolutely no enemies/zombies, as you wouldn't feel as though the ending was earned (as Frushstick suggests). You had to be a killing machine in order for the last sequence to make any sense, in doing everything in your power to save Ellie. If you had snuck through, you'd seem like a pacifist that, all the sudden, shifts into a high-powered Rambo-type character.

I get the frustration with giving you the ability to sneak around some situations and not others, and how the game doesn't really telegraph which situation you're in at any given time. But I don't think the designers intended this to be a Metal Gear, Rainbow Six, or Dishonored game.

Overall, a spectacular game that is hopefully fondly remembered this December when Game of the Year discussions begin!

Finally finished the spoiler section! Woot! Although I'm console impaired, I did keep an eye on The Last of Us, since, well... everyone's talking about it. Haven't played it, but I read a detailed synopsis and watch a couple of videos on YouTube. This is a bit of disclaimer, I guess, since I do not have a complete picture.

I did, however, have the same issues that Maeloch did with the plot and motivations of certain characters. It definitely put me off, and I couldn't see how that would "fit".

Can't say I'm surprised about Julian's reaction to TLoU. As a parent reading the game's plot, there were moments when it became just too much to bear, one in particular that might be considered as "minor":

Spoiler:

In the sewers in Pittsburgh, there's a room filled with children's toys, three skeletons and the words "they didn't suffer" on the wall. A nearby note reveals that an adult killed the children to save them from turning.

That, to me, is something that just churns my stomach and breaks my heart. I had to take a break from reading the synopsis before I could get back to it. Like I said, I understand why Julian couldn't get through TLoU, be it the story or the issues with the gameplay. However, I definitely felt the feedback of a parent would've been nice (I'm fairly certain, Cory, Rob, Karla and Shawn don't have kids, and pretty sure I heard Dean on the podcast say he didn't ; I could be mistaken, though). I'm not saying that the feedback would've been more or less valid, perish the thought, just that the point of view is markedly different.

Somewhat surprised when Rob said that "parental love is selfish", such an absolutely truly, truly bugs me. Sure, some parents are selfish, just as others aren't... News flash, just like the rest of the population!

For what it's worth, I wish Karla was on the podcast more often. She may not be the most talkative of the bunch, but her comments always felt spot on.

Eleima wrote:

Somewhat surprised when Rob said that "parental love is selfish", such an absolutely truly, truly bugs me. Sure, some parents are selfish, just as others aren't... News flash, just like the rest of the population!

I don't (or at least I didn't) take that to mean that the parents are selfish - just that they put their children first as much as is reasonable. I've never met a parent who wasn't at least a little like this.

I am stunned by some of Julian's comments about The Last of Us. It seems like you don't turn into a mech in the second half of the game, and therefore there are no new gameplay elements? This beggars belief. Obviously he was joking but the implication here is so off-base and wrong, I can't believe the other guys didn't call him on it. The second half of the game, after Joel leaves his brother, is completely different--the level design, the strategies that are required to navigate new challenges, the mix of story and gameplay surprises are all the best work that Naughty Dog has ever done.

I also found the comment that Julian made about shooting to be stupefying. We've all played Gears of War and we all expect a certain kind of shooting mechanics in a third-person shooter? This is not that kind of game. I hardly shot my gun at all. I strangled dudes and snuck around bloaters and shived clickers and threw bombs at groups of runners, but I didn't try to act like a COD soldier because this is not that game. The gunplay is perfectly and deliberately designed to create tension and to fit Joel's character, to remind us that he's a normal man. A violent, angry, and dangerous man who knows how to kill but IS NOT A SUPER SOLDIER. You could not have chosen a worse baseline to compare the game to than Gears of War. It implies that everything that was important about this game--the way that the story, the acting, the environments, the dialogue, the gunplay, the stealth, and the music all combined to create a synergistic experience--was lost on you, Julian.

Duoae wrote:
Eleima wrote:

Somewhat surprised when Rob said that "parental love is selfish", such an absolutely truly, truly bugs me. Sure, some parents are selfish, just as others aren't... News flash, just like the rest of the population!

I don't (or at least I didn't) take that to mean that the parents are selfish - just that they put their children first as much as is reasonable. I've never met a parent who wasn't at least a little like this.

Granted that may have been his meaning, but selfish means "caring for oneself only". Putting your child first is rather selfless.
I don't know, maybe I'm reading way too much into this, but the phrase "parental love is selfish" just set off a whole bunch of lights in my brain. XD

Eleima:

I get what Duoae is saying. Putting your own children first is only selfless in the sense of the individual. In that sense, parents are generally selfless. However, in the sense of the family unit, lineage, or clan, putting your own family members over the members of other families (especially other children) is absolutely selfish. I agree with him there, parents tend to be a lot more forward about grabbing advantages for their children, even at the obvious and catastrophic detriment of others.

Eleima wrote:

IMAGE(http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4137/4805843659_c03681b883.jpg)

That would have been much better. I really hated Morrigan's 'sexy' outfit. It undermined her character for me.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

A Ride Into the Mountains on Android, if you were curious.

I'll take a look at it then.

ilduce620 wrote:
Spoiler:

I didn't have any problems with the mechanics, overall, as they were still very much in line with Uncharted's, where the shooting was never really spectacular, anyway. However, I got extremely frustrated during the boss battle between Ellie and David. Any time I would jump out at him and swipe with the knife, it would fail and he'd kill me. You were required to either stun him with a brick/bottle or sneak up behind him. It got pretty annoying.

Spoiler:

That was pretty much the whole point of the battle. It's asymmetric, he can kill you at any time if he gets close enough, and you have to sneak up on him to do any damage at all. It's a pure stealth battle because you have no other possible way to fight him. I actually didn't even know you could do damage with bottles though.

This is no different from the prior 15 minutes of gameplay with Ellie. She can only do melee kills from behind, any other way and they catch her and stop her. She's too weak (Being a teenager) to kill anyone from the front without a firearm or bow.

Any chance Joel *didnt* lie? There is a voice recorder where a Doctor seems to imply that there are others that are immune.

Eargh. I bought A Ride into the Mountains. It's everything that I hate about phone gaming. Primary controls being Touch screen, so that when you're trying to use them you're obscuring the action, and you frequently get killed by projectiles flying at you under your fingers. Secondary control scheme being tilt, so that you are constantly moving the thing and can't completely focus on the screen. Lastly, when you accidentally hit an OS soft key in the middle of a battle, it kicks you out to the home screen or last screen with no verification, then when you go back in it doesn't keep your location, only the last checkpoint. When the combination of those 3 issues kept hitting me on the same battle, over and over again, I wanted to throw my $600 phone against a wall. I was on the boss of the 4th segment of the game...

Great CC as always, but the spoilercast was in a league of it's own. It was a joy to have such a long discussion on a game. Many other spoiler sections are too short, I want a full in-depth session on exactly what people thought of the game, not just a quick discussion of the ending.

As a follow up it would bee good to hear a similar section on the mechanics and why people quit.

One last thank-you for all the time and effort in putting that section together it really is appreciated - I hope Santa has an extra special something for you this year as you all deserve it.

Bob

What is the IndieGoGo swordfighting card board game thing? A link was promised. I want to give them my dollars!