GWJ Conference Call Episode 647

APE OUT, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Division 2 Open Beta, The Evolution of AI Companions, Your Emails and More!

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This week Amanda, Julian and Shawn talk about AI game companions, cool games and more!

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00:03:30 Dungeon Cards (mobile)
00:04:12 The Division 2
00:16:10 Ape Out
00:20:27 A Plague Tale: Innocence
00:28:15 The Evolution of AI Companions
00:46:16 Your Emails

I’ve been looking forward to Ape Out since Devolver announced it. Now that it’s out, I’m less excited.

I guess I let myself get overhyped.

Regarding companions, yes there was a companion in Daikatana named Superfly. I gave up on that game the third time he killed himself by standing under a door as it closed.

I’ve yet to find a human companion that’s much smarter than he was, though I’ve had good experiences with dogs. My favorite was Shadow in the Dead to Rights series. Sure, he’s basically just a special attack, but he’s a really good special attack, and in the sequel he hides bodies for you.

Dog-Meat in Fallout 3 was the only companion I ever adopted, but since I didn’t want him to die I basically just tell him to wait in my house while I’m out wandering the wastelands.

Dog Meat in Fallout 4 was better, but only because he couldn’t die.

Obligatory shout out to D-Dog and D-Horse. They’re both great.

Far cry 5 had the best companions I’ve ever experienced. The dog was good, but for pure fun you couldn’t beat cheeseburger. Once I unlocked him I only changed companions when the game forced me to. The cougar was also good, but I found her helicopter less useful than it should have been. Hey-Yo!

I'm nearing the end of God of War and not only is rabbit's pronunciation of Atreus weird and wrong. It's not even the character's name. His name is Boy.

Incidentally, if I were to pick my next game alphabetically, it would be 7 Days To Die

Followed by 7,62: High Calibur.

I was kind of hoping it would be Achievement Hunter; Dad’s jokes, but that’s not even the first A game on the list.

I'm surprised it took so long for Lydia to be mentioned as a companion. She's almost the prototypical lovable idiot, always walking into traps.

Dogmeat was another fine choice.

Strangely enough, you can get attached to the fighter pilots that you can hire in Elite Dangerous, especially if you hire them as newbs and watch them develop to a high rank. The worst part is that the only way they can die is if you let your ship get destroyed, so it's usually your fault when it happens.

First game in my Steam unplayed list is Baldur's Gate.

'Looter Shooter' started to be more prominent around 1.8 patch of Div1. They've always from the start wanted the emphasis to be on the RPG side of things. Because Tom Clancy is in the name people seem to automatically assume it's more standard shooter and it's not. At least this time around we're getting more story elements to explain the extra bullets needed to take people down.

Not sure if you'd count this or if anything similar exists but Uncharted's multiplayer has companions. You probably saw them in the trailers. There is a Hunter who will run ahead of you grabbing and holding enemies, a sniper, a heavy and a medic who will follow you around reviving you and other team mates. They are, of course, mostly a tactical element in the game but, because both the player character and the companions have random snippets of dialogue cleverly designed to work with each other, I've had some fantastic moments with them.

Last night I was playing against a fearsome team and had ended up out on my own. We were on the 'rooftops' map, which is set at night, I sprinted up some stairs, bullets peppering the steps around me. On a wide balcony area, I summoned a sniper. As we turned to face our pursuers my character said "I hope you're ready for this!" to which the sniper, with her delicious Caribbean accent, replied, "On it." We then proceeded to hold off four of the enemy team until my team mates arrived with my sniper commenting on her shots as she took them.

The Heavy character speaks in a child's voice and says things like, "It's a lot more fun for me when you fight back!" and "Look at them all run!"

I had a hunter out and was running all round a ruined building after one very agile enemy player. As my hunter took a sharp turn around a corner she suddenly laughed and said, "I'm REALLY enjoying this." When being chased by a hunter there are various tricks to deal with them. Often the pursuing hunter will call out to you, "I know what you're doing. It won't work."

It helps that the voice acting is so perfect. The medic in particular always sounds like he is equal parts excited and horrified to find himself in some kind of endless shoot out. He'll say, "My internship didn't prepare me for this!" or "I can't believe I'm still alive!" My favourite interaction was when I summoned a medic, my character shouting, "I'm turning you loose!!" to which my freshly arrived medic replied, "Who? me!?"

I usually listen while I’m working but today I listened while driving my daughter to a doctor appointment. She’s 11yo. She plays a lot of casual mobile games but is super heavy into Minecraft. When Amoebic started talking about what she was playing the two of us got really quiet. It was this really cool moment where my daughter was clueing in to the idea that adult women also play video games. Thanks for that.


As for NPC companions, I will always remember Brucie from GTAIV. Not because the AI was compelling in its performance, just because the dialogue and voicing was so entertaining. He played the heel perfectly, and was written and performed incredibly well. I also enjoyed Brucie’s older brother, who appeared in The Lost and the Damned DLC.

When I was listening to the conversation on companions, the first thing that popped into my head was Star Fox. It was a pretty random thing to think of: I was a Nintendo kid, and thought Star Fox was cool, but didn't play it a lot and wasn't super into the franchise or anything. Still, the game definitely wanted to make you feel like you were part of a 4-man band and not just doing your own thing. I think all of the events with the other pilots were scripted, though. And then I thought about other flight sims, like the Rogue Squadron games. Those definitely try to have the hero as part of a crew.

The idea of a companion seems like a really difficult one to implement. It can't be so independent or powerful that the player can rely on it, by itself, to solve problems, but it also can't be totally helpless or useless. When the group was talking about companions that are basically part of the UI, I thought that the first major game to do this might have been Ocarina of Time, but Navi was so damn annoying that I doubt anyone would include her on a list of favorite companions. Atreus was a fantastic example.

Here's one for the oldies: my favourite companion was Floyd in Planetfall. Spoiler from an 80s text adventure:


the little trooper's heroic death brought tears to my eyes.

A shout out to Nick Valentine who was the most humane character in Fallout 4- it certainly wasn't me.

yregprincess wrote:

Here's one for the oldies: my favourite companion was Floyd in Planetfall. Spoiler . . .

I just came here to post about Floyd when I saw your comment. He was the first character that came to mind when I read the topic. I had a very similar reaction to your spoiler comment.

(Are we dating ourselves by bringing up Planetfall?)

Teviko604 wrote:
yregprincess wrote:

Here's one for the oldies: my favourite companion was Floyd in Planetfall. Spoiler . . .

I just came here to post about Floyd when I saw your comment. He was the first character that came to mind when I read the topic. I had a very similar reaction to your spoiler comment.

(Are we dating ourselves by bringing up Planetfall?)

My gaming pcs are always named Floyd.