GWJ Conference Call Episode 384

Conference Call

Titanfall, Jazzpunk, Wildstar, Crusader Kings 2: Game of Thrones Mod, FF VI iOS, Bravely Default Update, Game Difficulty, Your Emails and More!

This week Cory Banks, Sean Sands, Allen Cook and Jonathan Downin are all about game difficulty.

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
00.02.09 Titanfall Beta
00.13.54 Final Fantasy VI
00.17.20 Space Base DF9
00.20.13 Jazzpunk
00.25.06 Crusader Kings 2: GoT mod
00.30.00 Bravely Default
00.30.29 Wildstar Beta
00.40.01 This week's topic: Game Difficulty!
01.00.04 Your emails!

  • Subscribe with iTunes
  • Subscribe with RSS
  • Subscribe with Yahoo!
Download the official apps
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android
  • Download the GWJ Conference Call app for Android

Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Take A Shot - Echoside - http://echosidetracks.bandcamp.com/a... - 39:26

Unique - Echoside - http://echosidetracks.bandcamp.com/a... - 59:31

Comments

Screw the degenerate, Jag-D younger sister FF VII Crapfest. FF VI Forever!

(Haven't tried the iOS rerelease).

Everything I read and hear about Titanfall seems to point about this being a genuinely fun game. To think it wasn't on my radar at all!...

Great discussion about game difficulty! I definitely agree with Sean, I think the pool has diversified, we have a lot more to pick and choose from. And while I think I would've loved to dip into Dark Souls or Dwarf Fortress ten years ago, I have to admit they kinda scare me nowadays. I've definitely seen a shift in my gaming habits. The perfect example is Hotline Miami. I just couldn't get into it. Too stressful, I ended up dropping it because it got way too frustrating. At the end of the day, I just want to chill, get a change of pace. And on the other hand, my sister absolutely loved it. I think it's great that there are different games for different tastes, different needs. The hard part for me, now, is to pick and choose. There used to be a time when I had to play ALL the GAMEZ!!! But now, with less than five hours of gaming a week, I need to pick my battles.

Eleima wrote:

while I think I would've loved to dip into Dark Souls ... I have to admit they kinda scare me nowadays.

I don't usually like difficult or frustrating games, but Dark Souls really grabbed me.
I found Demon's Souls to be a lot easier personally.
Worth a rental just so you can see. If it does grab you, it'll be the best thing ever.

I agree with Eleima: the discussion about difficulty was a good one. I can't wait to read other GWJers views. There was a related discussion - about game difficulty settings - on the Worst Moments In Gaming History thread in 2011, btw.

I do wonder though whether we need to differentiate between 'difficult' and 'hard' (and probably ponder the question of 'complexity' too). I would argue, for example, that the Souls games aren't particularly difficult. What the Souls games are is hard... in terms of the levels of concentration, memory and consistent execution they require of the player.

The games I find difficult are:

(1) the ones that have complex control schemes (I mentioned Madden on the 'Worst Moments... ' thread);
(2) the ones that demand particuarly physical skills - that I no longer possess - in order to succeed. And yes, I mean the modern FPS genre here.

At the moment, I'm pinning my hopes on 'Destiny' falling into the hard rather than the difficult category.

That's a great point, Detroit. Difficult and Hard are distinctions that are easy to overlook. XCOM is an easy to game to learn and play, but certainly a "Hard" game when you have it on Iron Man and have the 'optional' boxes/modes all checked.

Even in both subcategories, there are different levels of challenge. Some games are "hard" reflex / twitch games and others are hard on more cerebral or tactical fronts. (The original X-Wing comes to mind as a game that was hard on both of those fronts)

I've totally lost my touch with reflex games. When I was younger I was insanely good at them - now I find myself shying away from shooters entirely. One of my favorite types of games used to be aerial combat / dogfighting sims. I played the heck out of Red Baron and Secrets of the Luftwaffe. I bet I'd be slaughtered if I tried to pick them up now.

I've started gravitating towards strategy and RPG games more and more the older I get. They were always staples of my video game diet, but now they seem to be going for sole ownership.

Also there's the question of what you want out of a gaming experience. If a game has problematic writing, my time is valuable and I'm less inclined to have much the patience to master the mechanics (regardless of how "easy" or "difficult" the mechanics are.)

My ability to be able to game in day long chunks has diminished, and with it my desire to tackle a game like Dwarf Fortress. It is absolutely my bread and butter in terms of what I love about games - but I need to get that initial long gaming session to fidget with it and see how riding it is possible before I can dive in whole hog and be satisfied with an hour session here and there. Same goes for EUIV - I can't wait to start it, but I need an entire afternoon free.

With adulthood comes shorter gaming sessions. I get about 5 hours a week, if I'm lucky, for games. If I take my laptop into work I can squeeze an extra 5 out by utilizing my lunch for purposes other than lunch.

Regarding the first e-mail, I always have to pipe up with Dragon's Dogma when people are discussing Elder Scrolls. The world isn't as large or open, and it is certainly more difficult at the start, but it joins the ranks of Dragon Age: Origins and Crimson Shroud of "games that make me feel like I'm playing Dungeons and Dragons". The story is a bit weak, but you'll feel pretty damn epic when you take on two giant Cyclops at once.

As for difficulty, I feel like people get a bit lost in the shuffle of a broader discussion. Challenge is one way in which a game can engage the player. Engagement is the core element to enjoying a game, after all, and why certain games can be so memorable even if they aren't exactly "fun". I don't describe television or books as fun, yet they are enjoyable because they can be engaging to my mind.

Naturally there are different types and levels of challenge. If I peak at a certain skill level at, say, Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, then the only way to make things less challenging is to adjust damage levels and, potentially, A.I. behavior. I tried to play through Ninja Gaiden 2 long ago, but less than halfway through I felt like I hit a brick wall. I wasn't getting any better at the game and it felt as if passing through a certain section of level was impossible. So I started over on an easier difficulty, wanting nothing more than for foes to deal less damage to me.

Instead, enemies were full blown demoted to easier beasts, or removed altogether, or they tossed fewer foes at me. Sometimes all of these changes at once. It made the opening of the game easy enough as to be insulting.

Yet I still managed to be engaged with the game, because there was more to the combat than mashing a single button to progress. It also still managed to provide enough of a challenge that I felt death was a possibility.

There are some that would make light of my having to play Ninja Gaiden 2 on the easy difficulty, but honestly, I don't care. I was engaged.

With Titanfall, I imagine Respawn is looking to address the player like me, who goes into an online match and is killed within five seconds. That is not engaging, and as a result is not enjoyable. So they are trying to find ways to make the game as engaging as possible for a wide variety of skill levels.

If this is what Respawn wants to do, then it is a goal, and criticizing them for this goal just seems silly to me. On the other hand, if your desire is to make a game for competitive eSports types, then I understand where it is a flaw. I think Respawn, and EA, like money a bit too much to cater exclusively to a niche audience like that, however.

I just ran through the Titanfall tutorial this morning; it looks like it would actually be pretty damn fun with an all GWJ group, and I'm the target 'not my thing usually' market.

Where they'll end up losing me is if it goes down a play-to-win route, of experienced characters earning drastically better gear/insta-win strategies. I'm already at a disadvantage by not being good at the genre; hopefully it won't be too compounded.

Just listened to Sean defending FF7. It was wonderful.

I find it funny that there's a lot of negativity towards FF7 these days in particular, though, as not being "that great" or that it "doesn't hold up as well". How many games from 1997 really do? Considering I occasionally go back and replay FF7, sh*tty graphics and all, and still have a fun time means there's something in there that I still enjoy.

Considering PC gaming's history of God awful interfaces and poor design choices in usability, I know there are plenty of "classics" that aged even worse than FF7, yet they don't have the same backlash. Then again, I only mention PC games here because I'm used to things being a sort of PC vs. console mindset around here, in particular in regards to JRPG's, but I've seen the backlash from other more console centered communities as well.

Wonder why.

About the email regarding Elder Scrolls. I had the same experience. Couldn't do Oblivion, couldn't do Morrowwind, LOVED and finished Skyrim. It finally came to me why. In Morrowind and Oblivion I felt so powerless. I could make no progress without jumping in whole heartedly and with both feet. In Skyrim I was killing stuff right off the bat. I could have fun while learning the system. That's the key to 'deep' games for me, I have to have fun while I learn. I'm not having fun in EUIV while trying to figure out the trade mechanic. I'm not having fun in CKII while trying to figure out why I should care about these icons and interfaces.

I loved Dark Souls but it took two tries to get into it. Once I made a sliver of progress and started seeing how to progress the fun came and the learning flowed.

Carl

ccesarano wrote:

Just listened to Sean defending FF7. It was wonderful.

I find it funny that there's a lot of negativity towards FF7 these days in particular, though, as not being "that great" or that it "doesn't hold up as well". How many games from 1997 really do? Considering I occasionally go back and replay FF7, sh*tty graphics and all, and still have a fun time means there's something in there that I still enjoy.

Considering PC gaming's history of God awful interfaces and poor design choices in usability, I know there are plenty of "classics" that aged even worse than FF7, yet they don't have the same backlash. Then again, I only mention PC games here because I'm used to things being a sort of PC vs. console mindset around here, in particular in regards to JRPG's, but I've seen the backlash from other more console centered communities as well.

Wonder why.

I can't really decide if you're hoping for someone to respond to this or if you're just thinking out loud. Like, do you want me to try to convince you that the game you clearly enjoy isn't as great as you think it is? Because I don't really want to do that.

Genuinely curious. Maybe you're just thinking out loud here, I dunno.

I think the thing that jacks up game difficulty in many cases is a large multi-player pool, esp in regards to MOBAs. Once there are so many players the skill gap becomes evident and the min maxing takes hold as a necessity. I like playing my three friends at the N64 smash bros because we learned together, are comparable in skill, and I can keep trying characters I don't get (Fox) or I'm not sure are powerful (Mario). And that's what I want, a game where I can just be free and try something and maybe it works. Add in online team multi-player and a defined min max metagame, and suddenly I can do that anymore.

So sad, the Official Android App on appzoom redirects to a dead item. No more Android support?

EDIT: Oh, it just works to click on the audio link directly, so no problems.

Demiurge wrote:

I can't really decide if you're hoping for someone to respond to this or if you're just thinking out loud. Like, do you want me to try to convince you that the game you clearly enjoy isn't as great as you think it is? Because I don't really want to do that.

Genuinely curious. Maybe you're just thinking out loud here, I dunno.

Pretty much thinking out loud. If you tell me that the game I still enjoy is actually pretty bad, I won't be offended, either. I'll not hesitate to jump into a debate, naturally, but I'm also not trying to find one.

I suppose to be more clear, though, it feels like of all the older games out there that haven't aged well/perfectly, it feels like there's a Hell of a lot more negativity being hoisted upon Final Fantasy 7 than other games, which seems silly since the late 90's and transition to 3D were, to me at least, an awkward era of experimentation. I feel like there were other popular games that don't get half the thrashing that FF7 gets.

But, it could simply be because I happen to look into the corners of the Internet where there's a lot of people doing that, versus the corners where it's not happening or where it's happening to other games.

ccesarano wrote:

I suppose to be more clear, though, it feels like of all the older games out there that haven't aged well/perfectly, it feels like there's a Hell of a lot more negativity being hoisted upon Final Fantasy 7 than other games, which seems silly since the late 90's and transition to 3D were, to me at least, an awkward era of experimentation. I feel like there were other popular games that don't get half the thrashing that FF7 gets.

But, it could simply be because I happen to look into the corners of the Internet where there's a lot of people doing that, versus the corners where it's not happening or where it's happening to other games.

I'd guess that's a pretty subjective observation, but it's also natural to see something that had a lot of hype around it get bashed in subsequent years. Consider how today's generation views Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall."

jk "Off The Wall" is perfect and no one hates it obvs.

ccesarano wrote:

I find it funny that there's a lot of negativity towards FF7 these days in particular, though, as not being "that great" or that it "doesn't hold up as well". How many games from 1997 really do?

Depending on what is important or interesting to you as a player, there are games from 1987 that still hold up today, frankly.

Having said that, Final Fantasy VII is a critical point in gaming history because it shifted the idea of what could be important in a video game. More than any other game before it, Final Fantasy VII embraced spectacle and positioned sheer presentational force of will as a viable way for a game to engage its players. Forty-five million dollars in CG production, a one-hundred million dollar marketing budget, four CDs worth of compositions from Nobuo Uematsu, and three discs of gameplay, none of which could be contained in the cartridge formats that had served as Squaresoft's home for the previous entries in the series.

Final Fantasy VII, for good or for ill, is the first AAA video game. And if it were anything less than that, I don't know that it would be half as good.

Uhh.. I'd preface all that FFVII talk with 'console', because the FMV era of PC games hit its height a year or two before that, and I'd challenge anyone to say that Wing Commander III and IV weren't spectacles

Maybe in intent, but there's a dramatic difference in scale. Wing Commander 3's estimated budget was $4-5 million. ($4 million per IMDB.)

I think difficulty is, as with many other concepts, a difficult one for games (and the producers of them) to handle. Any path that is followed to try and ramp up difficulty is going to turn some folks off to any game.

Look at the progression of raid mechanics over time in WoW (and similar games). Boss fights had to get more "difficult" over time so folks would spend some time mastering them. Bosses couldn't just keep getting bigger and hitting harder, so more and more intricate timing based mechanisms are needed. Then as mods progressed every raider of any flavor got ones that tracked when events happened, so events with even more precision in reaction to them are needed.

I think the gaming community could aspire to better define (or delineate) what it is looking for in terms of difficulty, as an example for someone like me twich =/= enjoyable difficulty.

I think what is needed is a progression from some catch all difficulty slider where the AI gets more stuff (units, HP, etc) or where I have to get the timing just right or so much fail. Difficulty systems that let players guide themselves to an increase in the challanges they find entertaining while keeping other aspects at a managable level so a game is still enjoyable. A system of dynamic starting choices or multidimentional sliders for difficulty (more HP but not as much of a boost to damage) so that the experience can be tailored to what a given player is looking for.

The example of the choice of starting country in EU IV is a perfect example. The rules are not changed, and the AI nations do not get more stuffs. Rather as a player I get to choose the challanges I want to face.

So now I'm haunting Spacebases?

-The SpaceGhost05

From everything I’m reading and hearing about Titanfall, it sounds like Respawn is doing something that’s a halfway point between Call of Duty and the arena shooters of old like Quake and Unreal Tournament, at least with the emphasis on movement and z-axis/vertical play. Is that at all an accurate impression? I'm not totally sure it’s my cup of tea (it doesn’t go far enough on the sci-fi) but I’m curious to see how well it does. Between Titanfall, Destiny and Evolve it looks like the pendulum might be swinging away from realistic military shooters again.

Also, is EA marketing the one saying Titanfall is the shooter game for people who don't play online shooters? That seems really at odds with what people were saying in the catch-all regarding the beta.

Oh and Shawn defending FF7? Awesome.

For me, when I think of EVE, that game signifies everything that I consider difficult in games.
I tried the demo, loved the visuals but realised that this game would take the best part of a year to master.
Gamers that say "I play EVE online" remind me of people in the 80's saying "I live in New York". To my eyes it's hardcore for the hardcore.

Tanglebones wrote:

Uhh.. I'd preface all that FFVII talk with 'console', because the FMV era of PC games hit its height a year or two before that, and I'd challenge anyone to say that Wing Commander III and IV weren't spectacles

You and me, dawn, pistols, good sir.

Okay, okay, I loved the FMV era of PC games, I admit it, and they weren't that great in retrospect, I know it's the nostalgia talking.

Nostalgia or no nostalgia, some FMV games were pretty flipping great. I'll take Gabriel Knight II over many games.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

Nostalgia or no nostalgia, some FMV games were pretty flipping great. I'll take Gabriel Knight II over many games.

Yarp. And while the $45 million budget of FFVII dwarfs Wing Commander IV's $12 million, I don't think either one can be considered 'not a spectacle'

Demiurge wrote:

Consider how today's generation views Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall."

jk "Off The Wall" is perfect and no one hates it obvs.

arguably the best pop album ever made.

also, OTW is my go-to practice song for bass playing (still working up my slapping skills to learn Get on the Floor)

---

Hadn't been paying any attention to Titan Fall but the podcast sure did a great job selling me on it.. though I'm a bit wary of "parkour shooters" ..I haven't had the best of luck with them panning out(Brink/Mirror's Edge).

Titanfall was 100% off my radar, until the beta hit and friends are going crazy about it. I can't believe I'm actually thinking about picking it up. I've been going out of my way to consume every preview I could find, and

Also, I'm a glutton for punishment, and have been picking up the Square iOS re-releases of Final fantasy games whenever they go on sale. Except for FF VI, which I did blow $16 on. I've been slowly working my way through the original Final Fantasy port, and plan to switch over to FF VI soon enough.

And to jump ahead to the emails - I'm with Sean. FF VII was a tremendous step for story telling in games, even if it was a little halted and doesn't hold up well to the years. I did wind up with it on Steam during the last sale, but am hesitant about going back to it. It was great when i was in high school and had tons of time to waste spend playing JRPGs, and really don't want to tarnish the memories I've got hidden away in my brain.

ETA: I think OzymandiusAV hit it 100% on the head for me, so just pretend this is a "+1" for his post.

The Blackwoods are vassals of the Tullys, they have a long standing feud with the Brackens.

I guess I'm the odd man out on Final Fantasy VII. I think rather than moving storytelling forward, it set JRPG's back at the time, and JRPG's are still struggling to recover the strong place they once held in gaming after learning the wrong lessons in the wake of Final Fantasy VII. It was a novelty of an era when there was more disc space than technical power in consoles, so developers compensated for this by putting together some amazing cutscenes that were rather divorced from the actual game. At the time it was very successful, but it disconnected the gameplay from the narrative in many JRPG's. Over the years the power of the machines caught up with the storage, and narratives became more intertwined with the gameplay (this is still a work in progress), but Final Fantasy games continued in the storytelling method that they had used with FFVII to lesser and lesser success.

I remember borrowing a friend's Playstation just to play FFVII and being extremely disappointed at the time in the disparity between the game I was playing and the story presentation. I just couldn't get over how jarring the contrast was between the two. It was even more frustrating if you followed the marketing at the time which only showed the cutscenes. I don't remember anybody at the time talking about the materia system or any other mechanics, all of the focus was on the cutscenes.

Just listened to Sean defending FF7. It was wonderful.

I find it funny that there's a lot of negativity towards FF7 these days in particular, though, as not being "that great" or that it "doesn't hold up as well". How many games from 1997 really do? Considering I occasionally go back and replay FF7, sh*tty graphics and all, and still have a fun time means there's something in there that I still enjoy.

Considering PC gaming's history of God awful interfaces and poor design choices in usability, I know there are plenty of "classics" that aged even worse than FF7, yet they don't have the same backlash. Then again, I only mention PC games here because I'm used to things being a sort of PC vs. console mindset around here, in particular in regards to JRPG's, but I've seen the backlash from other more console centered communities as well.

Wonder why.

Well, this is obviously way late and I don't expect anyone will read it, but I just now listened to this episode and found out I got my email read on the show. That'll never happen again, so what the heck, let's create an account and run with it.

Anyway, I just wanted to address this one thing specifically--my email was a pretty long one, and went to great, unnecessarily verbose lengths to assure the guys that I wasn't being dismissive of FF7 (it was definitely the showy wording of the email that made it sound like they were trying to read Sanskrit).

That's why I mentioned having played and enjoyed many other FF's, including pretty awful ones like FFX-2. I mentioned Banner Saga just to say I love FF Tactics so much that I'll buy anything that even remotely smells like a tactical RPG. I made reference to the original Fallout as well to draw comparisons with games that I played well after their initial impact. I first played Fallout a good 8 years after it was made and still was immediately taken with it, so I thought I might similarly react to FF7.

The point of the whole thing was that I was honestly perplexed why FF7 doesn't grab me. I've had a few tries at it, enjoyed many parts of it, but ultimately felt like I wasn't seeing something that other people were seeing. I still feel like the fault lies with me, not the game.

Sean's conclusion probably explains it, which is simply that I can't appreciate now (or, more accurately, 10 years ago when I first played it) how formative it was when it first came out. But no negativity toward the game intended, just honest bewilderment at my own inability to see the light.

PDXJoe, it may have been because you were already so attached to the style of the 2D RPGs like FFVI and FF Tactics. The first thing that always kept me away from FFVII were the awful, awful graphics. It was such a letdown from the amount of detail and artistic character in FFVI. Beyond just the sheer drop in artistic graphics for subpar 3D technical graphics, they also drastically changed the setting. FFI, IV, and IV were much more based in typical fantasy, obviously except the airships and a few things. FFVII, though, it went way hard into the steampunk-ish realm, so that may have eaten at you like it did me. So overall the Dragon Quest games on PS1 and 2 were far better than the FFs.