The RPS Electronic Wireless Show 31

By John Walker on September 26th, 2009 at 3:20 pm.

If there were a logo for the RPS podcast, this is what it would look like.

Hold onto your hats, it’s a new podcast. It’s almost too much to bear. Jim and John ascended in the RPS Zeppelin to discuss matters of PC gaming. And in a shocking twist, this time they do discuss PC gaming. It’s beyond belief.

Conversation turns to games such as Mini Ninjas, Call of Pripyat and Gridrunner. There’s thoughts on cheating, and the accompanying griefing. Which also raises questions about difficulty levels and John’s plan for a skip button in games. There’s more discussion on how to approach previews, the role of spiders in games, and the Monkey Island special edition.

Get the mp3 directly from here, subscribe to it by RSS with this, or get it on iTunes from here.

Here’s the griefing article John talks about.

Here’s the bit about J Nash’s previewing of Frogger.

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63 Comments »

  1. A-Scale says:

    Is your audio quality any better these days? I’ve avoided your podcast since the start because of how bad it sounded.

    • Premium User Badge

      James G says:

      Quality is fine in this episode, and is generally a lot better now than it was at the start.

    • Andrew says:

      The podcast would still be worth listening to even if it was performed underwater with 2 tin cans and a bit a string. Shame on you!

  2. Feet says:

    It’s been fine for months and months.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    No, it’s terrible. Don’t listen.

  4. Orange Required says:

    It generally seems excellent in the presence of Msrs. Rossignol & Walker, and absolutely abominable in the presence of The Gillen.

    Make of that what you will.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Yeah, the last episode especially was heartbreaking because we actually bought a new mike. In fact, the same mike the other half use. C’est la vie.

      KG

    • A-Scale says:

      Probably an issue with upstream bandwidth rather than the mic then. Try optimizing skype using voodoo methods, then make sure that nothing else is using up bandwidth. Also, was it over wifi? That can quickly kill audio quality. Skype is a finnickey bastard.

    • Jazmeister says:

      Who’s mike?

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Incidentally if you are recording via Skype then you’re doing it wrong. Skype is fine for the actual communication itself, but suffers from random audio artifacts and quality degradation. In the off chance that you are doing it this way with your co-hosts that you can’t get into the same room, do this.

      1) Setup your Skype call as usual.
      2) Fire up whatever audio editing program you use, have any other host who is not in the room with you do the same.
      3) After a count-in, everyone starts recording their own voice, on their own machine, with their own audio editing program.
      4) Stay silent for 20 seconds or so, that’ll give you a good sample of background noise/hiss for noise-reduction in the post-production process.
      5) Do the show
      6) After the show is done, everybody stops their recordings, whips up an mp3 and sends it over to the producer.
      7) The producer puts each track he’s been sent on a separate audio channel, if you all started at the same time, then they should be in sync by default so you won’t need to muck about. Use the 20 seconds of silence to create a noise reduction profile in order to reduce background noise. If it ends up sounding too robotic (ie. you’ve gutted the frequencies of your voices in order to rip out the background noise), then you need to either dial it back a bit, or use a music-bed to mask the background noise. There are plenty of royalty-free/creative commons tracks you can use for a music-bed and these are commonly used by local/university radio studios who do not have ideal studio environments. When setting up a music bed, ensure that it’s volume is just a smidge higher than the volume of that background noise. A lot of folks make the mistake of having their music beds too loud and then listeners complain.
      8) Run all the audio tracks through compression/normalisation to make sure you’re all the same level. Also make sure that each audio track is mono, stereo is weird as hell for something like this, don’t use it unless absolutely necessary to differentiate very similar sounding voices.
      9) Encode and upload.

      And that’s that, in a nutshell.

  5. Legionary says:

    This was on iTunes before it was on Rock Paper Shotgun. How exciting.

  6. ChaosSmurf says:

    Not sure I want to listen if you actually talk about PC Games…

  7. JKjoker says:

    oh, ive been waiting for news about “The Void” for a while, im looking forward to the wot i think, hopefully its better than that other colorless game Saboteur

  8. Premium User Badge

    Arathain says:

    They talk about you a fair bit, ChaosSmurf. No, really.

    On MMO level scaling: it’s another thing I thought City of Heroes does well. You can choose the difficulty of your missions, and as you go through the game you really can ramp up the level as you go. It’s even better in the outdoors bits- staring at a big group that 5 levels ago would have been too many and wondering if you can take them, and finding out you can. It’s gotten even better with the recent update, where you can populate your missions as if you were a team of any given size, even while solo.

    Puzzle Quest never cheated. I’m sure of it. If anything, I bet the Puzzle Quest AI thought I cheated.

  9. symuun says:

    I would buy a T-shirt with “Spiders are the enemy” written on it.

  10. nabeel says:

    When you were talking about games where difficulty settings don’t matter much, and you brought up adventure games, I thought immediately of Curse of Monkey Island, which had an easy level and a harder level called ‘Mega Monkey’ or something like that. The difference was that a lot of puzzles were a little more involved, and needed a few more steps. I thought it was a pretty good way of increasing the difficulty, but it does mean a lot more work for developers.

  11. Heliosicle says:

    Yay podcast!

  12. jalf says:

    Hum, I’m optimistic about Deus Ex 3. I really didn’t like Invisible War (and I don’t think it’s because it was DX2, I just didn’t enjoy it), but I’ll happily assume that upcoming Deus Ex games are good until proven otherwise. :p

    And the anger at L4D2 is more directed at Valve than at the actual L4D2 game, isn’t it? I mean sure, there are things about L4D2 that make me skeptical of it as a game, but the whole boycott thing is about Valve being (perceived as) jerks, not a belief that L4D2 is going to suck. At least that’s how I see it.

  13. G√ľnter says:

    The audio quality, while not incredible, is not a pile of quiet, painfully swirly, single-channel unlistenable shite, as Episode 30 was. This makes me very happy.

  14. Noc says:

    PC Gaming in MY RPS Podcast?!

  15. TooNu says:

    Do not talk about Deus Ex Invisible war ever again, we do not talk about that game ok? just don’t it’s the Rocky V of video games..”what Rocky V?” exactly, exactly.

  16. TeeJay says:

    When are we gonna get an RPS video-podcast? I have a visual fetish, so what?

    • Sartoris says:

      Ooooh, I’d like that. Then we could finally compare the length of their respective beards and sate our scientific appetites!

    • AndrewC says:

      Oh gosh, a video podcast sounds like an awfully bad idea.

    • Noc says:

      We’d also just be staring at the grotesquely pulsating brain-jars of the Hive-core for an hour. As subliminally hypnotic as the experience is,* I’m not sure if it’d hold up for the full duration.

      *Except for John Walker’s brain-jar, because he doesn’t believe in that sort of thing. His just pulses sort of randomly, out of sync with the others. Which is remarkably honest of him, really; it’s obviously a great temptation for an array of disembodied brains wired into the Internet via some vile, unholy alchemy to pretend that they have psychic powers.

    • TeeJay says:

      It doesn’t need to be (just) talking heads – could have a (quasi) random mash-up of you-tube, promotional and flickr slide-show images as a backdrop…

  17. TeeJay says:

    Anything that can reproduce itself will destroy the world: so most organisms then? (or just humans?)

  18. Sartoris says:

    I hoped you’d fulfill my wish to record the sound of John and Jim embracing. Wouldn’t it make an excellent ring tone? Or at least a fine piece of audio history? Alas, we may never be treated to its mellifluous tones…:sadface:

  19. SirKicksalot says:

    That Titan Quest bit sounds awesome :(

    Indeed, Stalker sold a lot better in Russia and the CIS countries – but the prices are also lower there.

  20. Novotny says:

    I won’t listen to it.

    I don’t care if it’s just an mp3; the term ‘podcast’ irritates me so much that I can’t partake.

    • Jazmeister says:

      Just close your eyes, whisper: “It’s time to download the Rock Paper Shotgun on-tap pre-recorded bedroom radio conversation in mp3 format!”, and hit that download link. Works for me, every time.

    • jalf says:

      Well, thanks for letting us know about that. That is indeed terribly relevant for us all, and I don’t know how we’ve been able to survive without this piece of knowledge until now.

      Let’s trade information then. Here’s mine: This isn’t a podcast, it’s an electronic wireless show. Of course, you’d have known that if you’d actually listened to the damn thing, but that would ruin a wonderful example of futile and pointless internet rage (which they also talk about on the electronic wireless show).

    • Thants says:

      And yet you have no problem reading a blog.

    • Vinraith says:

      Both “podcast” and “blog” bug the crap out of me, but I make exceptions for RPS. For one thing, they really do take some pains to call it the “Electronic Wireless Show” rather than “podcast,” which makes it a bit easier to ignore. It’s sullied a bit by being available on iTunes, but fortunately other download options are available. Certainly the quality of content far outweighs any remnant distastefulness in the format/labeling.

    • Jugglenaut says:

      I was really against itunes originally, but once I found out it can automatically download new electronic wireless shows (and convert music into more accessibly formats when I “borrow” them), i actually started to use it a bit.

  21. aoanla says:

    I’m fairly optimistic about about Deus Ex 3, as well. The apparently radical change in art direction suggests that whatever we get will at least be different enough to its predecessors to stand out (regardless of how good it is).

    (And, clearly, John and I have identical boss-fight glands too. I’ve definitely had boss fights and other difficulty spikes push me over the edge from “whoo-whoo, I did it” to “thank gods that’s over, meh” before. What does it for me is being made to use your least favourite mechanic in the game to succeed – like the driving at the end of HL2:E2 (which I know some people adored the final sequence of, but for someone who tolerated the driving sequences in general, it was like pulling teeth).)

  22. Lewis says:

    But it’s the Electronic Wireless Show!

  23. Me3 says:

    I hate the term as well. A broadcast of something implies either a “live” event and/or streaming media and the “pod”…well because we all know only iPod’s can play mp3 files, right?

    I want to find whoever coined the term and use an Oxford dictionary to papercut every square inch of his body.

    • Legionary says:

      I would imagine that Apple marketing drones coined the term.

    • Martin K says:

      Chalk that one up to UK journo Ben Hammersley, back in the dark days of early ’04, so speaketh Wikipedia.

  24. Premium User Badge

    monkehhh says:

    Great stuff – I’ve not listened to too much pure talking stuff on the internet, but this really held my attention – all in the subject matter I guess (and the talkers, to an extent :)). I’d recommend it to people who wouldn’t normally listen to an electronic wireless show. Count me in for episode 32.

  25. qrter says:

    Hey, I grew up in the ’90s, when IDM was still the thing and people had handles seriously lacking in vowels! And don’t even suggest I could change my name, or I shan’t be able to fight back the tears.

    Thanks for handling my tweeted question so gently, always fun to hear. :)

  26. minipixel says:

    Regarding the skip-level button… what about the unlock-everything button? So I can play the game as I please instead of playing with crap almost until the end?

  27. Radiant says:

    These are really great.
    Thank you.

  28. Muzman says:

    No good spiders since Doom 2? Is this person not familiar with video games?
    For starters Thief and System Shock 2 have pretty nasty spiders that jump on your face. With those games’ general immersive qualities they’re bloody horrible. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic has horribly realistic ones that crawl on the ceiling and everything.

    • Dave L. says:

      Dark Messiah had the most terrifying spiders I’ve ever faced in a game.

      I’m also surprised at John’s suggestion that the spiders will fight against the bugs. Does he not know that spiders are not insects, but in the war they will side with the insects?

    • Muzman says:

      Traitors. Spider traitors.

      Yes the DM ones are pretty amazing. The first time I saw them (probably in the dark) I was saying such things as to myself as ” I hope those ceiling ones are just decorative…Nope. Wow, look at the detail and fluidity of those animations on the Giant Fucking Thing..Oh god! .WaaaaaaAAAhhhahahaaaaaa *sob*”

  29. Urthman says:

    Regarding the discussion of difficulty and boss battles and skipping hard parts:

    I think there needs to be more recognition that there are (at least) two different genres of gameplay that have nothing to do with the traditional RPG/FPS/RTS divisions.

    There are games where the fun mostly comes from exploration, novelty, and narrative. Seeing the next beautiful landscape, getting new skills and equipment, experimenting with new combat strategies, progressing through an interesting story. Then there are other games where the fun mostly comes from mastering and perfecting a set of skills.

    When I first started playing Trackmania and saw that many of the later levels were locked until I got a gold(!) medal in EVERY SINGLE previous race, I was filled with I HAVE NERD RAGE! Those gold medal times were ridiculously hard and I had no interest in trying to spend time mastering every single track.

    But the game sucked me in anyway and I discovered that it has an almost perfect learning curve. On almost every track (except for ones with tricky stunts) I could get a bronze on my first race, and then a silver on the second or third. And by that time I was starting to get a feel for the track and the gold medal seemed challenging but within my grasp. Some of the tracks took me a long time, but I was enjoying it and in almost every case my eventual victory has been a moment of elation rather than simple relief. (It helps that they follow the Rollcage series in allowing you to restart instantaneously the moment you crash or get too far behind, which made practicing the tracks over and over much more painless.)

    I’ve enjoyed Trackmania immensely and have almost finished gold medals in the Red Level of tracks. If all the tracks had been open from the beginning, there’s no way I would have put the same amount of effort into mastering them. I would have missed what has turned out to be 90% of the fun in this game.

    People who ask for more choice and more control, for the button that will skip the hard boss or unlock all the tracks, say that if you want the challenge of mastering the game, then just don’t push the button. But are you really able to do that? If you have a walkthru for a game can you really force yourself to only look at it if you’re really, really stuck? I know that if I’d had such a button for Trackmania, I’d have pushed it and ruined the game.

    Similarly, I think that in a lot of cases, the decision to design a game around save points vs. the ability to save anywhere ends up creating two different genres of game. If the PC version of the Prince of Persia games had supported quicksaves, then the games would have been almost entirely about exploring the nifty environments. The rewinding time would be pointless, there would be no tension in trying to chain together a whole bunch of moves. There would be no need to master the fighting skills to be beat the bosses. It would be a different genre of game.

    If a game has a frustrating amount of tedious repetition, for instance, forcing you to replay long stretches of boring stuff to get back to the boss that keeps killing you, I’d argue that the problem is not the lack of quicksaves. The problem is that it’s a badly-designed game in the save point genre. So maybe John Walker could convince game developers to only put skip-the-boss buttons in bad games?

    One problem with all this is that there are games in the skill-mastery genre that appeal to people who are only interested in the narrative / exploration side of games. They really don’t want to master the game mechanic, they just want to see what comes next after the boss. But at some point they’re not asking for a better game so much as for a different one.

  30. Urthman says:

    Regarding the TQ Titan Boss that you could only see the feet:

    At PAX this year it seemed like every single game demo I saw featured a gigantic boss so big it didn’t fit on the screen. I think they were mostly copying God of War, but it looked like bigger-than-the screen bosses are going to be the bloom lighting effect of 2010.

  31. The Dark One says:

    I thought your comment on anticipating a sequel to a game you didn’t like was interesting. The opposite can happen, too. I enjoyed Bioshock, and despite there being nothing really objectionable in the content they’ve shown for the new one so far, I have almost no interest in the thing.

  32. aoanla says:

    Yes, but I think that’s a more common response – sometimes games just feel complete in themselves. (The same thing, of course, happens with films – you can always tell when the sequel was made purely because the original did well, rather than being narratively justifiable.)

  33. Lewis says:

    Games need to understand the experience they’re trying to offer a bit better, and work their difficulty around that. So, Spelunky absolutely should be that bloody difficult, as that’s the whole point. But, say, BioShock – that was absolutely correct in going with the Vita Chambers.

    • qrter says:

      I tweeted the question because I’m playing Red Faction: Guerrilla at the moment and ‘lo and behold, I (almost) immediately got stuck on the third ‘main story mission’. I must’ve tried playing that mission about 30 times, feeling worse and worse every time. If I had beaten it then, I wouldn’t have felt satisfied at overcoming an obstacle, I would still feel bad because of all the frustration and time lost on playing that mission.

      In the end I downloaded a trainer from somewhere and cheated my way through. That didn’t make me feel much better either, but at least I could move on to parts of the game better suited to me.

  34. westyfield says:

    Get well soon, whoever that poor, cold-afflicted person is!

  35. pignoli says:

    Had no idea Stalker did that poorly in the West (Talking about West as opposed to Eastern Europe / Russia, rather than Japan here. I'd be surprised if it ever saw the light of day there). I didn't pick it up until this year and now consider it an essential part of the shooter (hell, gaming in general) landscape. Does the Western market have a lower tolerance for such flawed jems (i.e. only to the level that it is great in free/indie/cheap stuff a la Dwarf Fortress, but full price games must be highlt polished)?

  36. Rei Onryou says:

    When it came to the end, I didn’t actually think it would be the end. More wordspeak please! Your random witterings entertain pleasingly!