GWJ Conference Call Episode 374

Conference Call

Unity of Command Black Turn, World of Warplanes, Risk of Rain, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, The Entertainer, Last Gen Nostalgia, Your Emails and More!

This week Cory Banks snatches the hosting chair! Julian, Rob Zacny and Allen Cook join him to wax nostalgic about the last generation of consoles and more!

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
00.01.55 Unity of Command: Black Turn
00.06.54 World of Warplanes
00.20.03 Risk of Rain
00.24.07 Assassin's Creed IV
00.36.14 The Entertainment
00.38.53 Eurotruck Simulator
00.42.54 Metro: Last Light
00.46.09 This week's topic: Last Gen Nostalgia!
01.10.56 Your emails!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Have No Tyrant - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 45:37

Coactive (Over My Shoulder Mix) - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 1:10:23

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Comments

What was the game that Allen and Julian were talking about? By the KR0 guys?

Julian wrote:

our friends at GGR

Yeah, they're really good friends when you don't even know their acronym. IMAGE(http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j274/ayumidah/emote27.gif)

MeatMan wrote:
Julian wrote:

our friends at GGR

Yeah, they're really good friends when you don't even know their acronym. IMAGE(http://i82.photobucket.com/albums/j274/ayumidah/emote27.gif)

I thought it was more of a drunken slurring, which is appropriate.

Tanglebones wrote:

What was the game that Allen and Julian were talking about? By the KR0 guys?

It's actually called "The Entertainment" not "The Entertainer." You can find it here.

The last generation was the greatest. Not everyone will a agree, but the previous generation will always be a golden era in my gaming life and I have been playing video games for about as long as they have existed.

Ten years from now I hope I will look back on the new generation and feel the same way. Video games just keep getting better and better every year and I have absolutely no nostalgia for the classics that so many gamers remember with fondness and warmth. My gaze is always looking forward to the next big thing and I cannot wait to see what the mad scientists in game development bring out for me to devour in the coming years.

My favorites, in no particular order:

Dark Souls
Left 4 Dead
Team Fortress 2
Mass Effect 2
Gears of War
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Journey
Fallout 3
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Batman: Arkham City
Assassin's Creed
The Last of Us

I feel like the middle of this current generation hit a high point of promise, but slowly dissolved into a slur of what Julian referred to as "professionalism" or some such, I guess. Games like Dead Space, Mirror's Edge, Brutal Legend, Assassin's Creed and Gears of War were all born out of an attempt by the big publishers to try something a bit different from the usual, but were either cast aside due to a lack of profit or in some fashion boiled down to raw profit potential (the annualization of Assassin's Creed leading to Ubisoft's disinterest in any game property that cannot be franchised).

While the Super Nintendo was no stranger to such business practice, I feel like it was also a time when the bigger name publishers were free to experiment and make a game about anything.

I don't think digital distribution has anything to do with the games industry as a whole as much as it does advancing technology, but it certainly has given rise to a plethora of games. Sadly, that means we're drowning in games of dubious quality, or some titles get more attention for superficial reasons over others ("Oh, this indie is so ARTISTIC because it's about depressing things! How meaningful!").

That said, when I look back at 2013, I don't think it was a banner year like everyone else seems to, but I'm actually having a rough time determining what my top ten games are, and not due to a lack of good titles. At the very least, we've reached an era full of "polish" (to an extent).

heavyfeul wrote:

The last generation was the greatest. Not everyone will a agree, but the previous generation will always be a golden era in my gaming life and I have been playing video games for about as long as they have existed.

Ten years from now I hope I will look back on the new generation and feel the same way. Video games just keep getting better and better every year and I have absolutely no nostalgia for the classics that so many gamers remember with fondness and warmth. My gaze is always looking forward to the next big thing and I cannot wait to see what the mad scientists in game development bring out for me to devour in the coming years.

My favorites, in no particular order:

Dark Souls
Left 4 Dead
Team Fortress 2
Mass Effect 2
Gears of War
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Journey
Fallout 3
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Batman: Arkham City
Assassin's Creed
The Last of Us

I find it amazing that your favorites with 2 exceptions are not on my favorites, or even on my like list in most cases. Dark Souls is the first exception. That game is awesome and would land at or near the top if I made a list. And, well I loved Left 4 Dead, but soured on the franchise due to the sequel.

I say this just to point out the breadth of awesome in the last gen, and not to say what you like is crap.

It is more than just particular games too. I think I dedicated more time to gaming in the last generation than any other time in my life, despite a number of major life changes (i.e. marriage and kids) that made it more difficult to find time to play games.

heavyfeul wrote:

It is more than just particular games too. I think I dedicated more time to gaming in the last generation than any other time in my life, despite a number of major life changes (i.e. marriage and kids) that made it more difficult to find time to play games.

Ya know, aside from my SNES days when I had time coming out of my ears and a bunch of Square and Nintendo games, I'm there with you on the amount of timie spent. And I, too, had the whole marriage and kids thing happen. This may have also helped fuel it, though, as I was trying my hardest at the onset of the generation to become a woodworking hermit and concentrate on that for a few years without relationship distractions. I met my then-to-be wife a few months after declaring that to a buddy who was going to share the shop space with me. I at least still managed some good projects, including our bed.

TO be clear, I was stone cold sober during this podcast, any suspected slurring to the contrary, and I did say DGR, its just mumblicious.

And you're not even the one that's hard to hear over the road noise. That honor goes to Cory, at least at a few points every time he's on. This is with the volume cranked to 30 when I typically can listen to music with clarity at 12, and it gets loud at 18-20 (for an arbitrary scale of reference).

rabbit wrote:

TO be clear, I was stone cold sober during this podcast, any suspected slurring to the contrary, and I did say DGR, its just mumblicious.

As a fellow Massachusettsian, Julian did say "DGR".

You guys just have wicked clogged ears.

ccesarano wrote:

I don't think digital distribution has anything to do with the games industry as a whole as much as it does advancing technology

I could not disagree more. Firstly, I don't see how DD has significantly advanced e-commerce technology, not to mention that DD has no affect on technology used to develop video games.

Secondly, and primarily, DD has enabled countless independent developers to make and sell countless games that many consider to be good, fun, interesting, provocative, etc. In my opinion, DD is the best thing to happen to the video games industry in a very long time, and not just for that reason.

I don't have to leave the house to get new games? Great!

This game is currently selling for 80% off? Yoink!

You're selling a bundle of games to raise money for charity? Awesome!

ccesarano wrote:

that means we're drowning in games of dubious quality, or some titles get more attention for superficial reasons over others ("Oh, this indie is so ARTISTIC because it's about depressing things! How meaningful!").

So you disliked Brothers and/or Papers, Please. You monster!

I more meant that Digital Distribution should not be attributed to the generation so much as a product of the times. Of course it has had incredible benefits, and I'm starting to wonder why I haven't just started buying all my 3DS games digitally other than old fogey habits. But when discussing why a certain generation of games was the best, it's a tad silly.

It's like Xbox Live. I commend Microsoft for packaging it with the Xbox in an excellent format, but they weren't innovating. They were just catching up to an invention that already existed.

As for Brothers and Papers, Please, I've yet to play the latter, and the former was excellent up until the half-assed attempt to make me feel sad at the end.

Still better than most AAA games, though.

The console generation discussion felt really muddled and probably could've been focused better. Also, no one mentioned the DS in the context of second screen gaming?!

Other than that, fun episode

ccesarano wrote:

While the Super Nintendo was no stranger to such business practice, I feel like it was also a time when the bigger name publishers were free to experiment and make a game about anything.

So the main difference is that games didn't need to sell nearly as much back then to be profitable. Selling 1 million copies was a big deal back in the 90's, and you didn't have nearly as many expenses as you have these days. 1 million copies isn't enough copies to guarantee your studio stays open for another year these days. Also, games had much lower expenses then. You didn't need an army of artists to crank out assets, a full orchestral soundtrack, and your own private theater troupe between the mo-cap and voice actors.

(Not to really kick this off topic, but thinking back on the NES -> SNES, I think an argument could be made about the SNES being a refinement of the concepts from the NES era. Similarly PS1 -> PS2 / N64 -> Gamecube were all about perfecting 3D gameplay. But then we're left with the Wii/PS3/360 generation being largely a refinement of that, along with the introduction of motion control via the Wii.)

I don't think digital distribution has anything to do with the games industry as a whole as much as it does advancing technology, but it certainly has given rise to a plethora of games. Sadly, that means we're drowning in games of dubious quality, or some titles get more attention for superficial reasons over others ("Oh, this indie is so ARTISTIC because it's about depressing things! How meaningful!").

I'll forgive your ignorance since I think you've said you're not much of a PC gamer How big a deal is it? It's a very big deal for the PC crowd. PC gaming hasn't had a dedicated retail space since the mid-90's. Once all the publishers started switching to CD-Keys that had to be authorized with central servers retail stopped selling the games because they were effectively merchandise that couldn't be returned. You can't walk into a Gamestop and get a good feel of what's out there for PC Games because they don't stock anything outside of the Activision-Blizzard/EA/Ubisoft wheelhouses and even then you're not guaranteed they'll have more than 1 copy of anything. Furthermore, you don't have the wall-to-wall shelving of pre-owned games like all the other systems. People were saying, up until a couples years ago, that PC gaming was dead for a very good reason: if you only went to Gamestop to get games it might as well have been dead.

Digital distribution single-handedly reversed this trend. Gamestop still doesn't have the same selection that an Electronics Boutique, Babbages, or Software Etc. might have had in the 80's or 90's, but it doesn't need to. We've all moved on.

And you can also thank digital distribution for lowering the barrier to entry for games coverage too. Be it podcasts, digital magazines, or streamers it's a lot easier than ever to get the word out about games. (Hey, board games are benefiting from this too!)

ccesarano wrote:

I more meant that Digital Distribution should not be attributed to the generation so much as a product of the times. Of course it has had incredible benefits, and I'm starting to wonder why I haven't just started buying all my 3DS games digitally other than old fogey habits. But when discussing why a certain generation of games was the best, it's a tad silly.

It's like Xbox Live. I commend Microsoft for packaging it with the Xbox in an excellent format, but they weren't innovating. They were just catching up to an invention that already existed.

There really weren't a lot of digital download options prior to this generation. Steam was still an experiment by Valve when the 360 launched, and I think the only other options might have been GameTap (a la carte model) and IGN's Direct2Drive. The big roadblock was the lack of broadband penetration across the US.

As for Live Arcade... I dunno. Someone at MS had to make the decision to create a storefront to sell games at a time when the App Store nor Steam existed. The big twist I guess is that eventually MS wisely decided to open up the service to non-arcade style games which in turn helped spark the indie boom.

shoptroll wrote:

I'll forgive your ignorance since I think you've said you're not much of a PC gamer

Actually, you raise many good points that just didn't occur to me because I'm not a PC gamer. I've also developed a bit of a bias against PC gaming for a variety of reasons, though little of it actually has to do with using the PC as a gaming platform.

Still, that doesn't really have to do with discussing the previous console generation, where digital distribution was just an extension of what Xbox Live started in the previous generation. If you are going to bring up digital distribution in this console generation, I'd say PS+ would be the big service to take note of. Similar to Steam sales on the PC, getting new games every month for cheap or free as part of a cheap subscription service makes it easy to snag games and adjust purchasing habits (for example, even if I can get DmC cheap, I'm curious if I should wait a bit longer in case it goes free on PS+).

As for budgets on the SNES, this is also a good point. The cost of development was a lot different back then. Still, I think one of the problems with this generation is the development of "go big or go home" mentality. After all, Tomb Raider was still profitable, yet was considered a failure because it wasn't profitable enough. A lot of developers don't see room for middle-ground software that isn't trying to be Hollywood blockbuster, targeting a niche audience with a smaller budget. While I'd say this is a problem with corporate America as a whole, it's become an even larger issue this generation than ever. It's hard for me to feel too positively about this generation over previous ones as a result.

ccesarano wrote:

I've also developed a bit of a bias against PC gaming for a variety of reasons, though little of it actually has to do with using the PC as a gaming platform.

I'm guessing your bias is against something other than specifically "PC gaming," which means playing games on a PC, for which you claim that has little to do with it. That would be like saying "I've developed a bias against PlayStation gaming, though little of it actually has to do with using the PlayStation as a gaming platform."

Based on a different thing you said, that I quoted in my previous post, I'm wondering if your bias is actually against indie games. If that's not true, please elaborate.

I was surrounded with a lot of "PC Master Race" folks in College, and their attitude towards consoles and console gaming went from tolerable to outright infuriating.

When they recommended Quake 4 over Kameo: Elements of Power as my first Xbox 360 game and I listened, well, I've kind of not gotten over that.

But basically, I spent enough time having to defend console gaming and its various titles from infuriating people that just wanted to make fun of and belittle something that I have a knee jerk distaste for anyone that professes to be PC-centric. It's stupid and irrational, but it sort of bleeds over (for example, I can't help but feel that part of the reason gaming became infested with brown and grey shooters and very samey titles is because the Xbox made it easier for PC games to be ported and developed for consoles, where the most prominent genres became very "me-too" line-ups of shooters, RTS titles and MMOs for a while there).

Hence why I didn't elaborate. It's not a well-founded stance, and is more likely to generate an argument rather than a discussion. However, it should be noted that I have found NO ONE on GamersWithJobs to resemble the behaviors of my College friends and acquaintances. "PC Gaming Master Race" is a humorous term, as it was intended to be, rather than being taken seriously and worn proudly. Also, though I might "blame" PC gaming for blah blah yatta yatta, at the same time the past generation or so I've seen a LOT of good design and games come out of Western studios, which would not have happened without the Xbox making it easier for PC and Western devs to develop for consoles. I mean, Halo and Bioshock are two of my favorite games of all time, and Dead Space is probably my favorite on-going franchise in the past decade.

Which I suppose does wrap up to one truth that I believe the Conference Call crew touched on: the games industry is at its best when actual game development is easier for everyone, which would be where the whole digital distribution/indies thing comes in.

Rob should try War Thunder, which is in the same vein as World of Warplanes. I played both for awhile, and came down much preferring War Thunder for a lot of reasons.

MeatMan wrote:
ccesarano wrote:

I've also developed a bit of a bias against PC gaming for a variety of reasons, though little of it actually has to do with using the PC as a gaming platform.

I'm guessing your bias is against something other than specifically "PC gaming," which means playing games on a PC, for which you claim that has little to do with it. That would be like saying "I've developed a bias against PlayStation gaming, though little of it actually has to do with using the PlayStation as a gaming platform."

Based on a different thing you said, that I quoted in my previous post, I'm wondering if your bias is actually against indie games. If that's not true, please elaborate.

I feel similarly to ccesarano about PC gaming, but it has everything to do with the platform itself. PCs are powerful and adaptable, but I love the pure simplicity and elegance of the console gaming and media experience. When I look at my computers I think "work" and when I look at my consoles I think "play!"

I understand the allure of PC gaming, I was pretty dedicated for a while, but the consoles just make the whole experience so fun, welcoming, and enjoyable. Having the Xbox One in the house has put a big grin on my face and I cannot wait to see how this generation builds on the last one, which provided me with so much joy.

ccesarano wrote:

I was surrounded with a lot of "PC Master Race" folks in College, and their attitude towards consoles and console gaming went from tolerable to outright infuriating.

Those people are morons I primarily gamed on my PC in college because for the first two years it meant I didn't have to try and sneak a console in my parent's vehicle. I missed out on a lot of stuff in the Gamecube and PS2 era simply because I opted to stick with PC. I don't regret that at all since I played some good games on PC during that time (hello Diablo II and Unreal Tournament). But as someone who grew up on SNES and PC titles I definitely feel like I left part of myself back home when I think about that decision.

Consoles, PCs, and touch devices all have their strengths and weaknesses. What's important is to acknowledge them and seek out what works best for your enjoyment of the hobby. Anyone who regularly disrespects your decisions is a waste of your time.

I think preference for one or another has less to do with the actual experience than surrounding factors. Like in my case, I prefer my PC because there's zero contest to use it in my household, I can use it while keeping an eye and ear on my kid, and Steam is where I spend most of my money. Add on top of that, most of my gaming friends are PC only. If I want to use a console a lot, I usually find a way to work it into this area of the house for my entertainment.

As far as the episode, I think we are certainly in a Golden Age of Indie and mid-priced games. That said, I believe in a few years we're also going to see a contraction in this market. I just don't think the market can support all of these teams and their ideas. Although, I'd love to be wrong and have the PS4 and XBOne continue the momentum and keep this train rolling.

shoptroll wrote:

Consoles, PCs, and touch devices all have their strengths and weaknesses. What's important is to acknowledge them and seek out what works best for your enjoyment of the hobby. Anyone who regularly disrespects your decisions is a waste of your time.

Agreed. And to develop and/or hold on to a bias against a certain platform because a small group of "morons" once gave you sh*t about playing on a different platform is also a waste of your time.

MeatMan wrote:

And to develop and/or hold on to a bias against a certain platform because a small group of "morons" once gave you sh*t about playing on a different platform is also a waste of your time.

Agreed, but old habits die hard.

MeatMan wrote:
shoptroll wrote:

Consoles, PCs, and touch devices all have their strengths and weaknesses. What's important is to acknowledge them and seek out what works best for your enjoyment of the hobby. Anyone who regularly disrespects your decisions is a waste of your time.

Agreed. And to develop and/or hold on to a bias against a certain platform because a small group of "morons" once gave you sh*t about playing on a different platform is also a waste of your time.

He's definitely not a moron, and I love having him on the CC, but ccesarano is basically describing Rob Zacny, who I thought was a terrible choice for this particular topic. The dude loves his PC almost as much as he hates consoles. We really didn't need a bunch of, console games made gaming boring to start off that segment. It pretty much ruined any chance of a reasonable discussion going forward.

And really, I love hearing Rob's opinions on gaming, as he has a lot of insightful and interesting takes. He even makes me want to get a gaming rig up and running from time to time, But for the love of God, don't ask him for his take on console games.

As for media streaming, I suspect that Sony and Microsoft both would like to eliminate consoles as media servers, at least serving anything that you are not buying through their service. They both have plenty of music and video to rent, buy, or subscribe to. I'm not saying its good, I'm saying they have a vested interest not to offer the services Rabbit was lamenting. Now, if enough people lament, it will probably come back. I just don't think it's what they want to offer.

I'm not entirely sold on the entire "polish" and "made games boring" and "simplified everything" sentiments voiced in the Conference Call. I may not be interpreting those correctly, though. For examples, let's take out that oft-beaten horse, Mass Effect and the series.

Mass Effect 2 combat is NOT a Gears of War clone. It can be if you just ignored the entire defense-power triangle system that's reminiscent of typical menu-based JRPG combat, but that's like saying Mario is an endless running game if you never took your finger off the right-move button.

In ME2, a significant chunk of enemy health is in Defense. There are three kinds: Shields, Barriers, and Armor. Tech powers are generally good against Shields, AP and fire powers are generally good against Armor and Health, and Warp Biotics are generally good against Barriers and Armor - balanced by the other costs of having biotics and the generally higher prevalence of Armor.

Systematically leveling your squad to have a mix of anti-defense powers as well as having access to the variety of add-on effects from each power (Overload kills weapons as well), and then predicting your defense mix in a given mission is every bit as complex of an RPG system as anything Bioware or Black Isle has ever produced. On top of all that, ME2 also featured a combo system wherein combining a power with another power that's currently active will produce a third, hybrid effect. This combo system is more fully fleshed in ME3, though the defense system was stripped out.

On top of that system, ME2 also featured a robust instant-control system and AI system that truly allowed you to be in full control of your three-man squad's every shot and power use in real-time even while maintaining the POV of a squad leader in the midst of shooty GoW combat. It is nothing short of inspired.

I do not perceive a simplification of game here. If anything, it's an evolved RPG in the strictest sense of the term. In the sense that the action portion of the game is rather simple compared to other action-based titles, it's probably more technically accurate to call it an RPG with a tacked-on action system rather than the other way around.

The tragedy of ME2 is that it required you to get up to Hardcore to get all this, and Insanity to truly grok all the systems and how they interacted. At any setting lower than these, the enemies just died too fast to make any of the RPG systems matter. As a result, the majority of players simply never got to see any of it.

A true tacked-on RPG system is the one in Muramasa, the Demon Blade. This latter game is essentially a 2D brawler in the vein of Princess Crown, Kage, Zero play in Megaman X4, TMNT, and so on. Its chief attraction is in its fast and furious fighting system, boosted by a nominal leveling system, and a somewhat less nominal powers system that gave you special attacks as you opened new swords. There is virtually no RPG element aside from the swords powers system, and the fact that your numbers go up as you gain XP and levels. That's a simplified RPG, though it's more accurate to just call it a brawler.

Did you commenters just get meaner lately? Sorry my track is so quiet, and sorry you don't like some of the people on the show.

Demiurge wrote:

Did you commenters just get meaner lately? Sorry my track is so quiet, and sorry you don't like some of the people on the show.

It's the Christmas spirit!

Atari 2600 > all other consoles hands down.

Demiurge wrote:

Did you commenters just get meaner lately? Sorry my track is so quiet, and sorry you don't like some of the people on the show.

I'm sorry. Still love the podcast, and listen every week. I thought you did a great job hosting, and I like all of you guys.