Weekend Confirmed Episode 55

By Garnett Lee, Apr 08, 2011 11:00am PDT

Scheduling challenges make it a three-chair show this week. On the upside, that means there's plenty of room to spread out for Jeff, Garnett, and this week's guest Andrea Rene, host of Mahalo Video Games Today. They get right in to Whatcha Been Playin? with The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, Ratchet and Clank All 4 One, and more. An unexpected debate on whether survival horror games must be scary spills into the Warning before taking up the question of "narrative dissonance" raised by the Sword and Sorcery developers Superbrothers, who also drop a tune from the game's soundtrack on us for this week's featured music. We wrap it all up with videogame news in the Front Page and Finishing Moves.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 55: 04/08/2011

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If you're viewing this in the GameCenter application, you can play Weekend Confirmed Episode 55 directly.

Weekend Confirmed comes in four segments to make it easy to listen to in segments or all at once. Here's the timing for this week's episode:

  • Whatcha' Been Playin Part 1: Start: 00:00:00 End: 00:27:15

  • Whatcha' Been Playin Part 2: Start: 00:28:061 End: 00:58:40

  • The Warning: Start: 00:59:50 End: 01:31:40

  • Featured Music "COM-64" by Jim Guthrie: 01:31:40 End: 01:32:58

  • Front Page news: Start: 01:32:58 End: 02:14:44

This week's featured music is the track "COM-64" by Jim Guthrie from the iPad (and soon iPhone) game, Sword and Sworcery. Guthrie (jampants on Twitter) is a composer/singer/songwriter in Toronto with a legendary solo discography, he's a veteran of bands like Royal City & Islands and an acknowledged influence on other Canadian success stories like Broken Social Scene, Feist, Arcade Fire, and Owen Pallett (formerly Final Fantasy).

The Sword and Sworcery EP is available in digital form through iTunes and Bandcamp or as a 12" vinyl. Get all the details from the game's music page. And of course, the game is also out now on iPad and should be soon for iPhone/iPod Touch.

Big thanks go out to Craig (the1console on Twitter), artist, animator, and writer on Sword and Sworcery, for connecting with us.

Original music in the show by Del Rio. Get his latest Album, The Wait is Over on iTunes. Check out more, including the Super Mega Worm mix and other mash-ups on his ReverbNation page or Facebook page, and follow him on twitter delriomusic.

Jeff can also be seen on The Totally Rad Show. They've gone daily so there's a new segment to watch every day of the week!

Remember to join the Official Facebook Weekend Confirmed Page and add us to your Facebook routine. We'll be keeping you up with the latest on the show there as well.

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Comments


  • Re: Scary Game Moments

    It's too bad you didn't bring up Alone in the Dark on PC. The scariest moment I've ever had with a game involved no monster closets or "boo, gotcha" moments or even that sense of dread. It was simply reading a story.

    So at one point in the game you end up going through a library where you can read various books. All of them are based around the Lovecraftian universe (as is the game itself) and one of them details an account of Spanish Conquistadors coming across a Mayan ritual. The ritual concluded with an unspeakably horrible being brought to our dimension and doing stuff that unspeakably horrible beings do.

    Well at the end of the book, there is a sketch of the monster as seen by one of the survivors. The drawing resembled something in your inventory that was labeled as "Paper-Weight".

    Well at this point, I was so scared of closing the book, just knowing that this little doll in my inventory was going to burst into life and devour me, that I just turned the PC off cold to avoid it.

    It took me about a week before I mustered the courage to resume the game. I once again went into the library, read the book, and steeled myself for the inevitable once I finished reading it and... nothing happened.

    The scariest moment I've ever had with a game was completely in my head.

    I ditched the doll from my inventory and resumed the game. Thankfully for me, it was one of a few items you could acquire in the game that had no real use, so I never needed to retrieve it again.

    Alone in the Dark still stands as the highest watermark for "survival horror". The original just hasn't been bested. However, all of it's sequels are terrible and are best avoided.


  • I don't think that you guy's feelings towards Dead Space have a lot to do with game play as much as it does with its narrative. Dead Space narrative is very minimalist and relies on you reading and listening to text and audio logs to get most of the back story. It seemed to me that Garnett quickly dismissed the game's story because of this. Do you think if Dead Space's story was a little more accessible and took more of a prominent rolein the game that you both would have felt more invested in the game overall? It seems to me that you guys have played games that aren't regarded as highly as Dead Space (Homefront for example) but were kinder to it because you felt the narrative delivered something that made it worth playing through.

    Unfortunately, the story in Dead Space doesn't really pay off until the very end, so it's a shame you guys couldn't stick it out.

    With that said, would you be willing to give Dead Space 2 a chance? It seems to me that a few of your complaints were fixed in the sequel and I'm curious to see what you would think of it.


  • Two good alternatives to killing tons of people in action games are stealth and espionage. Staying hidden or disguising yourself to fool the enemy into thinking you are one of them (not just by how your character looks, but also by how they behave) can be as tense and exciting as any full-on battle scene. It's also more realistic. Escaping combat is also an under utilized aspect of game design. Developers seem to think that gamers just want to feel empowered in combat situations, but I think Mirror's Edge proved how fun running away can be. Sometimes, just giving the player a break from killing is all it takes. The GTA games do this well. If you get tired of killing for money or running people over at random, you can always deliver some pizzas or drive passengers around in a taxi. If the only objective in your game is to kill everyone and get to the goal, it get's a little tiresome. A little variety can go a long way.

    Perhaps it would also benefit to give the player more incentive to keep their character alive. In games, when your character dies, you usually do not feel a sense of loss. If anything, you just feel frustrated that you have to start over. You feel more mad at your character for dying than sad. This is something that Heavy Rain did that was very interesting. A main character's death had actual ramifications to the story. If more developers focused on this, it may give the player more incentive to avoid large firefights.

    Games are very rewards based. This topic always gets me thinking about how consequences could be used more in a way that is not frustrating but drives the player and story as much as the rewards. It's something we haven't figured out how to do on home console yet (I think Heavy Rain was a good start). Arcades were very consequence based. If you died, you had to pay another quarter to continue. When you were down to your last quarter, you really felt the importance of keeping your character alive. I'm not suggesting we should have to pay money to bring our character back (remember when Hideo Kojima was talking about a game where the disc would somehow malfunction if you died and you'd have to buy another copy to continue? Horrible idea, but interesting), but I think developers need to come up with more interesting consequences than, "You died. Go back to the last check point and do it again."


  • There were two games I kept saying aloud to myself throughout the podcast (which did earn me some odd looks from coworkers):

    Mirror's Edge and Fatal Frame.

    Mirror's Edge was a great first-person game that actually broke when you picked up a gun.

    Fatal Frame is my personal scariest game (I had to make a rule of not playing half an hour before bed), and had an inventive way of dealing with ghosts. The camera capturing system actually made you want to get the ghosts as close as possible to you, going against your instincts to keep distance.

    Plus, both involved female protagonists that weren't ultra busty, nor overly sexual.

    Great discussion guys, and great featured song.

  • Regarding the comment about a female-focused blockbuster game.

    Jeff surmised that he could not think of a video game that would equate to the industry's "Twilight". I would put forth that The Legend of Zelda series would share a number of the tropes and hooks that makes the Twilight series so popular with the female community.

    I'm not necessarily saying "Zelda is for girls" as obviously it CAN be enjoyed by both sexes but I would put forth that it resonates with female gamers more deeply.

    At a surface level the character design and artistic choices are certainly very "female-friendly". The lead is an effeminate, well-groomed "pretty boy"; the princess is a modestly-proportioned lady; the supporting cast runs the gamut but is often presented as either hyper-cute (Tingle) or "cartoony" (see: the majority of the enemy designs).

    Furthermore, the themes that run through the storylines, as well as the behaviour of the characters, all hit on a number of female touchstones. The lead is always a noble do-gooder and to further the connection is often assisted by a strong, capable female lead (Shiek/Zelda etc.). The hero is given an embodiment of evil to conquer in each game but other than being presented as a diabolical character of one sort or another the emotional hooks of the story stem mostly from the trials the hero must endure to "mature" into the hero the world needs. The underpinnings of love, selflessness and martyrdom are all found prominently in movies aimed at the female community. Add in the fact that Link is often presented as an outcast of one form or another you can check off the "slightly mysterious" quality that the lead must have.

    This topic would obviously benefit from being expounded upon further and I'd love to take the time to draw more-specific parallels between the two but I just wanted to put the idea out there.

    In closing, Epona. Heh.



  • Great show guys!

    Just a quick thought on dissonance between story and gameplay:

    I know that this is not the direction you were taking the conversation, but I couldn't help chuckling to myself when I thought of God of War. Here is a game that is all about slaughtering every single thing you come across, yet it actually fits the story and character perfectly.

    I think that's why I get so absorbed into the story of God of War while I'm playing it, even if I find it silly and rediculouse when I think about it later.

    I think it is a good example that achieveing coherence between story and gameplay does a lot to make the experience more powerful and enjoyable, whatever direction that coherence goes.

  • Hi Weekend Confirmed. I love listening to your show. WIth all of the discussion of maturity in games I was wondering if you can revisit Nier. I know it’s not the most obvious choice, but the experience it turns into at the end of the game is the most mature story I’ve seen in video games that I can remember.

    I know Garnett loves good JRPGS and although it can be a chore to play without knowing where the story goes, the arc for the characters and the revelation of what the enemies actually are simply floored me. It even goes far enough to justify Kaine’s over the top outfit. I don’t know if you’ll have time to play through the game, but I do think Nier is as meaningful than the games from Team Ico. I would love to see it included in some discussion.

    Thanks for the great shows!

  • Adventure games say hello to the no combat thing. They've been doing that for a long time. Why you guys keep forgetting about those games... Anyway I also agree with Andrea's sentiment on combat in games. I don't think about it when it comes to the story. Look at the approach Rockstar has taken with their games. Since GTA4 they've stopped caring about fitting the moment to moment experience in the narrative. They give you a fun world to play in and some cool things to do during your missions but they're still going to tell their story. I just accept it as part of a lot of games. The Metal Gear series though has always dealt with killing your 'enemies'. You're always made aware when playing those games that killing is not necessary and you're scolded at the end of each level when you do it. The beast girls from MGS4 hammer that home with their origins



  • Hey whatdya know, I didn't skip the music segment for once! Put more video game related music on there and it might just become a habit.

    I was thinking that if everyone on the podcast want more game protagonists that don't fit the idealized "space marine" mold then you should spend more time highlighting the games that already do this. I can't recall a whole lot of discussion about games like Professor Layton or Ace Attorney, which feature characters that don't use violence to solve problems (unless there's a broken slot machine nearby) and aren't always super heroic (Ace Attorney characters in particular tend to have self confidence issues to overcome). Oh, and guess what, these games have a strong female fanbase!

    Previously 1up Yours and now Weekend Confirmed are in the position of informing gamers of what's out there, yet there's an awful lot of time devoted to space marine games (which let's face it, get enough media coverage as is). Games with non-traditional heroes are out there, they just don't get equal coverage.



  • I'm with Garnett in that I have never been scared by a game. I feel like this is because I have been trained by modern games to know that even if I fuck up I will be rewound to a place where I didn't canonically fuck up. Outside of Heavy Rain and a couple other exceptions (almost entirely not survival horror) games anymore don't allow you to make permanent mistakes. With me personally it has gotten to a point where I in games like Dead Space and Limbo I try and find the cool death animations and laugh my head off, to me there is nothing scary about it. I do understand how it could be very scary to others and, to be fair, it does depend on the person, if there was a horror game about bees or feet I would stay a million miles from that thing.




  • Dead Space is about the crispness of the gameplay and the atmosphere. The actual mechanics of the game feel great and the way it never takes you out of the world is very well done. It's lighting and sound design are also second to none. There is nothing new about what it does, but it does everything excellently. If you appreciate that it doesn't matter that things don't change a great deal. It is a consistently well made experience. And "scary" doesn't even come into the conversion. Whether it's scary or not, it doesn't need "scary" to be fun.