The RPS Electronic Wireless Show 36

By The Monster That Killed Kieron on January 1st, 2010 at 5:55 pm.

Hullo. So I burped, and there was this podcast. It appears John and Jim were lucky enough to have been holding onto their recording equipment when I ate them. Kieron and Alec were off on some expedition through my duodenum at the time, so I understand. With the new year here they seem to have focused on reflecting on 2009, and looking forward to 2010. As well as their meandering.

So after a brief explanation of their circumstances things get straight into the important discussion of, er, Sherlock Holmes. But true to form this does eventually reach the topic of gaming, which then leads to attempted recollections of gaming over the last year. This includes Saints Row 2, The Void, Dragon Age, Mirror’s Edge, Men Of War, and Time Gentlemen, Please with an accompanying discussion of adventure games. Then there’s thoughts on the current state of indie games, and the potential future of casual games. There’s also grumbles of some of the worst games, including Avatar and Rogue Warrior. Memories of E3 then eventually lead to a big old list of games they’re looking forward to next year.

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

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40 Comments »

  1. Kadayi says:

    Clearly going for the first gaming podcast of the New Year Award and winning ;)

    As regards the writing in GTA IV, that Nico starts off as an (initially) sympathetic character doesn’t excuse the obviousness of the writing at times. There was nothing surprising to the game in terms of what the characters did or how events unfolded because there was no subtlety to the dialogue. I’m not going to get into specifics as I’m sure there are some people out there who haven’t played it yet, but in all seriousness the entire thing was akin to a pantomime, and not a good one at that. I’m pretty sure the games an 18, so why write as if your audience is made up of children? (R* your target audience watch shows like The Wire FFS) With the amount of money they threw at the game you’d of thought they’d have gotten in some genuine scriptwriters to create characters who were more than just tired clichés moving in familiar B movie patterns.

    • Funky Badger says:

      The only thing that came close to GTAIV in terms of breadth and depth of characterisation was The Wire.

      Nico is one of the great game characters. Although that isn’t saying an awful lot in a field in which Alyx Bloody Vance is seen as a highpoint

    • Kadayi says:

      @Funky Badger

      Have you played Dragon Age? Or any RPG before?

      Nico was great up to the part where he suddenly without any clear rationale turned into a guy whose only motivation was making $$$$$ regardless of what occurs (it’s hard to empathise with a character whose suddenly going down the route of kidnapping and beating up women…), and the rest of the characters were one note (“I’m tough Russian Mafia Boss, look I kill my trusted henchman for no good reason other than to prove to stranger that I am tough Russian Mafia Boss”), and their machinations/fates transparent. In comparison CoD4:MW had more surprises in it in terms of unfolding storyline.

    • drewski says:

      You’re a bit wrong, Kaday. GTA IV’s target audience is not people who watch The Wire and play videogames – the crossover between those two groups is, I suspect, at best marginal, and probably vastly overrepresented on sites like this.

      The target audience for GTA IV is people who like blowing shit up and driving stupidly in fast cars. People who like jumping out of helicopters in games because Nico bounces hilariously. The target audience is, and has always been, overgrown teenagers with a destruction fetish. Which is why GTA IV often gets criticised for being pompous, whereas the joyously absurd Saint’s Row 2 is somewhat fetishised as GTA “done properly” – even on this site.

      I love video games, and I love The Wire. But the day Rockstar try making GTA into The Wire is the day I stop buying their titles. I play them to outrun cops in stolen Ferrarialikes, not whatever it is I get out of The Wire.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Kadayi: Dragon Age is up there, certainly in terms of character dialogue (Alisdair!) and setting (Dwarfland), but it doesn’t have the shear breadth of creation of GTAIV, e.g. listening to a radio broadcast advertising America’s Next Top Hooker, getting out of a Taxi and seeing a billboard for same on top of the car…

      re: Nico’s motivation swings – it didn’t strike me that hard, maybe should replay to confirm. The thing that stays with me from GTAIV (other than The Men’s Room) is the tragic ending, “You won, Nico.”

      Are you really suggesting the “writing” in MW2 was better than GTAIV?

      (Writing’s a very misused term in games, I think, the levels, and gameplay of MW2 is second to none, and barely impacted by the sillyness ofthe story, for example).

    • Man Raised By Puffins says:

      @ Kadayi: It’s been a while, but the kidnap plot never really struck me as being out of character for Nico. I mean it’s not like the act of kidnapping someone and hitting them once is any more reprehensible than the numerous hits he’d performed by that point in the game. Nico is a sympathetic character, but only up to a point. Early on he makes no bones about his motivation for being a hired thug is that he’s good at it and that it pays well.

      As for the rest of the characters, on the whole I thought they were well done (bar a couple of hateful missteps). Yeah, they’re mostly broad and loud but that has always been the case with the GTA games.

    • Kadayi says:

      @drewski

      Based on the average gamer demographic of being around 35 years old I’d say there’s a much more articulate audience out there you’re giving creedence to be honest, and I think that is true of Rockstar as well. My point isn’t that I’d say want GTA V to be exactly like The Wire (I’m all for fun & mayhem), but the fact of the matter is a bit of nuance & depth in terms of storyline, characterisation and game world wouldn’t be a bad thing to aim for now they possess the world building toolset to convey it, rather than having every NPC running around wearing their heart on their sleeve in terms of motivation. Pretty much everything you need to know about any of the NPCs in GTA IV is made clear in your initial encounter with them, that’s how shallow they are. Back when the series was top down or using the renderware engine it made sense to go for the obvious, overblown & comical because they were working within extremely limited graphical constraints, so had to offer up something beyond base appearance to sell the game & controversy was the key. Now they are in the position to do more, but have failed to capitalise on it.

      @Funky Badger

      Your talking about things that have zero to do with the games storyline (which what I’m on about and have been from the start). DA:O has a completely intergrated world; things like The Chant & The Fade aren’t background noise like the TV shows & radio stations in Liberty City are, they are an integral part of not just the culture of the game world, but also the storyline. Don’t mistake Rockstars ability to generate a lot of ambient wallpaper as actual storyline depth.

      “Are you really suggesting the “writing” in MW2 was better than GTAIV?”

      Firstly I’m not on about the recent Michael Bayesque sequel I’m on about the original title (CoD:MW not CoD:MW2). Secondly I’m on about how Infinity Ward manage to deliver a storyline that is genuinely surprising in places Vs GTA IV where in everything that is going to happen is overtly telegraphed beforehand. I’m not on about the dialogue writing specifically I’m on about the whole package of storyline delivery (you’re aware there’s a nuke, you don’t actually believe they are going to use it though…). I didn’t particularly want to get into spoilers as I said earlier on, but in all seriousness were you remotely surprised in GTA IV when it turned out Michelle was an FBI informant, or that Roman was ultimately going to die?

      @Man Raised By Puffins

      I think the key difference is that she is just someones daughter. She’s not a gangster or someone out to kill you. She may not be a likeable character, but she isn’t directly interferring in your life. As regards broad and loud, see my comments above to Drew.

    • Nick says:

      @Kadayi: RE: “you’re aware there’s a nuke, you don’t actually believe they are going to use it though…”

      Well, you wouldn’t have been had they not shown it going off during the movie that plays when you start the frigging game up.

      =(

    • Kadayi says:

      @Nick

      I don’t recall that happening, but to clarify you don’t expect that you’re going to be in the midst of it.

    • Funky Badger says:

      @kadayi:

      Re: narrative (a better term than writing?) – I agree there were 3 or 4 jaw-dropping moments in Modern Warfare 1, the nuke moment has yet to be bettered. But, you’re not really comparing apples with apples here, MW1 was a tightly scripted 8 hour long corridor shooter, and it was scripted to perfection – GTAIV is an open world game that could take you up to 70 hours to finish with. The scope of creation is somewhat different.

      Regarding DA:O – again, not apples with apples, DA is a series of quite small arenas, but every interaction within them is scripted – you know when you see 4 NPCs in a circle waiting for you to get close enough before starting to talk. GTAIV is the closest thing to a living breathing city yet created in videogames…

      Finally, on Roman’s tragic end. The point about tragedy is that you know exactly what’s going to happen right from the start.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Funky Badger

      95% of Liberty City is 3D filler. There’s are whole tracts of game space that serve no purpose other than to look good and provide an arena for driving around and shooting in. I’m quite sure if they’d wanted to Bioware could made DA:O an open world game like Fallout 3, but clearly from their perspective why not cut to the chase (esp in a game without vehicles). Also unlike DA:O your not directing the conversation in GTA IV, you’re just experiencing it (like you do in MW), so there isn’t any reason why it can’t be as tight and nuanced as anything else.

      Also 70 hours? Perhaps if you’re OCD enough to want to find all the pigeons, win all the races, do all the jumps and get 100% completion, but that’s not exactly necessary to the storyline. There was plenty of opportunity for them to evolve their storytelling from the level of GTA San Andreas. As I understand it the L&TD & TBoGT are much tighter experiences, so when they do eventually come to the PC (as seems to be the scuttle bucket) I’m interested to see how they’ve evolved from GTA IV.

      If GTA IVs tagline was Romans Tragedy, perhaps you’d have a point on the last. However fact of the matter is, it wasn’t sold like that. They might as well of taken a leaf out of Hot Shots and called him Deadmeat.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Kadayi: I’d like for R* to evolve the use of narrative in sandbox games like Infinity Ward did in MW1(for FPSs, that is) – more emergent storytelling, rather than gameplay etc. Presumably that’s far from easy – the narrative in Fallout3, for example, is garbage, with one of two exceptions (the Lost Droid mission hinted at something great, I think).

      All that being said, GTAIV’s still a masterpiece, and the most realised world to play in yet…

    • Man Raised By Puffins says:

      @ Kadayi:

      As I understand it the L&TD & TBoGT are much tighter experiences, so when they do eventually come to the PC (as seems to be the scuttle bucket) I’m interested to see how they’ve evolved from GTA IV.

      Well, they’re shorter. Gay Tony is probably a bit more focused, as the diamond heist is more central to the story, but they both suffer from some haphazard plotting. I doubt you’re going to see much evolution in that regard so long as the Housers remain at the helm.

      Also: Roman didn’t die, you greedy basts!

    • Kadayi says:

      @Funky Badger

      Most realised? I mean sure it’s a great take on New York architecturally, but then for some reason they decided to cover it in a layer of one dimensional in your face jokes that undermined the whole affair.

      @Man Raised By Puffins

      That’s a pity. I think principally it’s a case of them handing over the writing to different people who can bring something fresh to the franchise, as well as a structure to it.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Kadayi: its still the best there is, Denerim? Doesn’t even come close…

    • Kadayi says:

      @Funky Badger

      I don’t think Denerims great either (personally, I prefer open worlds to closed), but I’m not so foolish to mistake flashing lights, beeping horns or the inclusion of strip clubs as proof of a games actual narrative depth, or find them an excuse for it’s ultimate shallowness (3D virtual tits..woo hoo o/).

      There existed an opportunity for R* to deliver a game with a tight focussed narrative, with believable characters that weren’t drawn from the great book of loud stereotypes you ultimately don’t care about, and undoubtedly purely on previous reputation alone they’d have cleaned up financially. Instead we ended up with this awkward halfway house, that strived for meaning in a game world devoid of it.

      Would it have been that terrible a thing for them to have focussed the game more so that you as Nico were more lead in how you progressed through the game, in terms of who you meet and where and when? Rather than the game allowing you to open up myriad different branches that then ultimately compete for your attention, to the point where the phone becomes your enemy rather than your aid?

  2. Pseudonym says:

    The way I understand it is that Shale is a measure againts buying the game used. You can only activate the code once for every copy, and if you get it after someone already used the code and downloaded it for their profile, you will have to pay 15$ for the Stone Prisoner.

    Back to lisening now.

  3. Muzman says:

    Hurrah for podcastness.

    You guys are dead on about Mirror’s Edge, but I fear holistic game reviewer habits are getting in the way a bit. The running is fun and stays so despite all the problems (at least, I think so) and the time trials offer quite a lot of opportunity for exploring different ways of getting around. It is a pity the game didn’t capitalise on that in the narrative as well, I agree

    I dunno what was with the plot. My guess is they were nervous that people wouldn’t want a game with little or no combat, so they concocted this conspiracy thing. Frankly, I think a game mostly (or entirely) about a semi secret private messaging service in a world of total surveilance, who run around on rooftops thumbing their nose at authority needs nothing of the sort (there’s obviously some rich culture there; all the planks and things on the rooftops are obviously put there by the runners themselves. The various routes through the city could have names and, like Jim was saying, you could use them more than once in the game having to traverse them differently based on enemy placement etc).
    The next one should be a prequel/reboot where Faith just does her job and that’s it. Or accidentally unseats some important politican in a sex scandal by dropping a some secret love letter she was carrying or something. Simple stuff.

  4. Heliosicle says:

    Apparently rps has a mobile version :o

    anyway good way to kick off the yarrrrr cheers!

  5. Calabi says:

    I think the The Void devs are working on an easy mode patch for it.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Last I read, they’d given up at least temporarily on the easy mode patch and just gave players cheats to use. Which works for me, but YMMV. Cheats are here: http://forum.ice-pick.com/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=9044

    • Lilliput King says:

      It’s not massively tricky.

      You only actually need one heart pumping blood at any point to stay alive in the Void. Keep all your hearts full and you’ll just be processing too much nerva. You can then fill your hearts when in a chamber to give yourself particular attributes, and empty all but one before entering the Void, as that’s the only place that your hearts ‘beat’.

      Maybe they should’ve explained this to people more explicitly, as I’m sure people are running out of colour because they’re keeping too many hearts full. It’s quite difficult to run out otherwise. Still, I enjoy how oblique it is. I became so low on colour at one point that I thought I was certain to die, but I did my time surviving on almost nothing, crawling around desolate chambers looking for scraps of colour, and learning the abstract rules of the Void the hard way. I enjoyed it too, because I’m weird.

    • Muzman says:

      You’re right LK, that worked a treat. Cheers.
      It seemed for a while there you’d have to have the best blooming trees perfectly managed right from the start just to get past Famine. Little did I know I was just over amping myself. The game does explain how to do things pretty well, if obliquely. But I doubt I would have got that one by myself.

      And now I’ve unleashed all these brothers on the place, who I only seem to piss off and who like to wreck my stuff.
      ‘Tension’ is a good name for this game.

  6. Jason says:

    No mention of Napoleon : Total War? just a tiny franchise that very few people play…or did i ear blink and miss it?

    otherwise an enjoyable electronic wireless show from the belly of the beast.

  7. eyemessiah says:

    @John re. DA’s Nightmare difficulty re. “Shut up you idiots!”

    Imo whether or not nightmare is meaningfully difficult in DA depends on your preferred playstyle.

    If you are willing to always carefully pull from max range, and have multiple spellcasters meticulously managing crowd control abilities then it doesn’t matter what difficulty your playing on.

    The reason being that because the party size is so small, that enemy groups tend to be quite diminutive as well – even smaller on those occasions where a careful pull nets you a partial group. With such small groups of enemies and such a crazy abundance of crowd control abilities 7/8 of your opponents will generally spend most of the fight paralysed, sleeped, on their backs, horrored, frozen (oh cone of cold!), mind controlled, greazed, blood-wounded, e.t.c e.t.c leaving you focus fire on the active enemies at your leisure.

    Suddenly the difficulty setting is fairly irrelevant, and this is before you even need to start using whatever stuns & knockdowns your melee characters have!

    Small crown sizes + an unprecedented abundance of powerful crowd control = it doesn’t matter how tough your enemies are.

    Personally I found microing that much to be hella boring, but I can see why players who were inclined to play that way anyway might find combat to be too easy and not threatening at all, even on nightmare mode.

  8. Andrew Dunn says:

    Good wireless show John and Jim, you are my favourites.

  9. Roland says:

    Very good podcast again gents.
    What do you think are the chances of seeing HL2:EP3 this year?
    While playing through again recently using the Fakefactory Cinematic mod I could not help but laugh,how during the commentaries there are lots of mentions of how doing it episodcily it allows them to release the games faster and more regularly.

    • Kadayi says:

      I’m thinking Valve are probably going to reveal it along side Portal 2 & some multi-player game (possibly CS2) as an Orange Box style bundle for the PC & 360 either at GDC or E3 with a probable release come Sept/November. I can’t see them delaying it any further than that, unless they are going to push out a major update to the Source engine. It’s definitely much better looking now in L4D2 than it was when HL2 was originally released, but it isn’t quite pushing all the buttons compared to other titles such as MW2, Farcry 2, etc etc.

  10. brooklyn67 says:

    A truly comprehensive look back. Thanks. I’ve been looking for information on the “Eve Online w/Robots”…”Perpetuam”??? Am I just way off on the spelling?

  11. Shadrach says:

    ‘Twas a joy to listen to you gents. Seems audio quality is really good in the belly of the monster, compared to the last one :)

  12. mrrobsa says:

    SPOILERS AHEAD:
    Do you guys know that Kate or Roman die based on whose advice you listen to at the end?
    Obviously since Roman is far more likable character than Kate I’m guessing most people would listen to him, and thus the game becomes ‘Roman’s Tragedy’. I felt this was a great narrative touch.

    • mrrobsa says:

      @mrrobsa:
      Ah, first time Reply has failed for me :(
      This is in response to Kadayi.
      Sorry for confusion!

      KG

    • Kadayi says:

      Really? Well I can’t say I bothered much with Kate, as I’d given up worrying about the girlfriends by that point. The only one who seemed useful was the lawyer because she could reduce your wanted rating.

      Also please let’s end the KG meme, it was funny for all of about 5 minutes, now it’s just become tiresome.

  13. terry says:

    Entertaining listen. “Obviously, Activision have turned into giant lunatics” made me laugh.

  14. Schmung says:

    I still maintain that GTA IV would have worked a lot better if Nicos story had made up only a third of the game and that you became someone else. There was too much stuff that the game wanted/needed you to do to fit into one persons story. Hence it was a bloody convoluted mess that dragged on for far too long just so it could show you all the fun stuff they’d put in Liberty City. If they’d have narrowed down the focus of the story or shorten Nicos journey then it would improve things dramatically. Lost and Dammed is far more enjoyable for precisely this reason.

    oh and jolly good to hear mention of Naumachia. There’s going to be a pre-release beta of it at some stage, but details of how you apply and indeed how it’ll be structured are a bit thin at present.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      San Andreas had a similar problem — all the early missions with CJ were excellent, then it all went to hell when he left the city and suddenly seemed to care more about flying planes through glowing red hoops than fixing his ‘hood.

      It makes me wonder if a Starcraft-style handoff between different campaigns would work well, e.g. (and this is a terrible example – I’ve not played GTA for ages) after Nico befriends that Playboy chap, making Playboy the player’s character for a bunch of missions, before handing off to another person higher up the crime ladder.

  15. The Dark One says:

    Sherlock Holmes IS in the public domain, which is why awesome/horrible things like this can be made:

    http://www.theasylum.cc/product.php?id=164