Weekend Confirmed 81 - Rage, Dark Souls, television on Xbox 360

by Garnett Lee, Oct 07, 2011 12:00pm PDT
Related Topics – Rage, Weekend Confirmed

Billy "plan B" Berghammer joins Jeff and Garnett on a show that sounds like it would be full of angst. Rage and Dark Souls both came out this week, and there's a lot to talk about, including how the guy who "loves loving things" takes to a game renowned for its bleakness. Microsoft's additions to the television offerings on Live also become a hot topic, but the group doesn't seem nearly as impressed as the press release would lead one to believe. The iOS update and iPhone 4S also spark some debate on how mobile gaming continues to grow, as does the news that Unreal Engine 3 runs in Flash 11. The rest of the news of the week, a few other games, and your feedback and questions round out the show before wrapping up with Finishing Moves and the weekend football tailgate.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 81: 10/07/2011

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If you're viewing this in the GameFly application, you can play Weekend Confirmed Episode 81 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:

    Show Breakdown:

    Round 1 00:00:00 - 00:30:20

    Whatcha Been Playing 00:31:07 - 01:01:33

    More Playing and the News 01:02:30 – 01:29:12

    Featured Music Break: 01:29:12 - 01:31:42 -- "Sun Dog" – Thunderhead

    Listener Feedback 01:31:42 – 02:05:43

    The Tailgate 02:06:25 - 02:13:34

Weekend Confirmed is brought to you this week by Random House Audio where you can experience books like you've never heard them before. That includes titles like the excerpt in this week's show:

Stand by Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation star Wil Wheaton reads Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours plugged into OASAIS, a virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be. When the OASIS creator hides a series of puzzles in the game, will Wade be able to complete the challenge and stay alive in the process?

Featured music this week comes from Thunderhead, a 17 year old drum and bass and soundtrack producer from Edmonton, Canada. Get all of his latest tracks for FREE on Soundcloud.

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 Cannata 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!

Follow the Weekend Confirmed hosts on Twitter! Garnett Lee @GarnettLee, Jeff Cannata @jeffcannata and Xav de Matos @xav.

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.


  • Garnett, the Zune Pass did drop from $14.99 to $9.99 but it no longer includes the 10 free songs. It was a better deal before where essentailly you where paying for 10 songs, a dollar each, and 5 dollars for the service. But the problem was that many people would forget to use their free song credits. If you don't use them you lose them. The credits don't role over. That said, now it's at the same price point as Spodify and Rhapsody and $10 a month is a bit easier to swallow than $15. I currently use Zune Pass on and off (you can start and stop it whenever you want) and I have to say that I do enjoy it. Their Smart DJ feature is an awesome way to discover new songs and artist similar to the artist that you select. I do have a Windows Phone 7 and I love using the Zune Pass in the car. And it also works on the Xbox 360. Oh, and now the Zune Pass does also let you stream (most) music videos on your PC but I don't think it works on the Xbox 360.

  • Demon’s Souls really shined when it came to co-op. If you were summoned into other games, you wouldn’t lose your souls/points when you died, so it was a great way to explore new areas. If you actually beat the boss while summoned into another player’s game, you were revived such that you could summon other players into your game. Combining these strategies allowed me to plow through some sections of the game faster than you might think. Since I played the Chinese/Korean version, I also got these great thank-you notes from other players, so it was a really unique multiplayer experience for me.

    I haven’t yet been able to try Dark Souls’ co-op options, but I’m hoping they are similar. Hopefully you all check those out since it really affects your experience with the game; the game is much harder if you never help anyone else.

    I will say that there are times when Dark Souls could be slightly more instructive. Demon’s Souls funneled you along more, particularly at the beginning. Subsequently it was easier to tell which of the hub-worlds you weren’t ready for.

    Still, I’m surprised to hear complaints about encountering areas where there are high-level enemies. I usually hear the opposite complaint, which is that areas are locked off – or that enemies scale their level to match yours, mitigating the impact of leveling-up your character.

    One of the reasons I’m most excited about Dark Souls is having this incredible world to explore – I find myself reminded of the original Zelda, which didn’t coddle you either. Sure, sometimes I like to be able to sit back and enjoy that perfect balance of auto-aim and health regeneration where I feel like I’m better at a game than I really am, or can immerse myself in a game without worrying about mistakes; Dark Souls isn’t that game. It doesn’t pull punches, but you can make it easier by leveling-up and using co-op, so I actually see it as less difficult than games like Mega Man. Incidentally, that’s my own example of a hardcore series I can’t get into, even though I love the look and feel. I can understand if Dark/Demon’s Souls ends up being that series for you, but I hope you give it a shot.

  • Regarding the conversation on Dark Souls, two things surprised me:

    1) Everyone on the podcast treated Dark Souls like it was the first game in history to use difficulty and challenge as a way to funnel players down the appropriate path. True, there are many games that rely on locked doors and other similar methods to block off more advanced areas of the game until the gamer is 'ready,' but is it really all that uncommon for a game to allow you the freedom to figure it out for yourself? Just off the top of my head, Bethesda games are a perfect example. In both Fallout 3 and Oblivion, you could find areas in the beginning of the game that would hand your ass to you on a silver platter, no questions asked. This should trigger the obvious response: "Huh, maybe I shouldn't go that way right now." This is nothing new.

    As for Jeff's commentary about enjoying the risk but not finding the reward, I hope that he's played the game a bit more now and found a good rhythm. He seemed pretty down on the idea of losing all of his souls in the Catacombs, but I was having a hard time figuring out why this was such an issue for him. He had already leveled up using his souls from the Asylum, so how many souls did he actually have on the line? A couple hundred? Also, by his own admission, he sprinted past mobs of enemies he couldn't kill with (apparently) a stockpile of souls he wasn't willing to lose. The idea of doing something like this should really raise some alarm bells in your head in a game like this.

    2) There was no discussion at all about the multiplayer aspects of the game. Sure, they commented upon the ability to leave messages for other players, but one part of the game that really, truly shines is the sense of community and comaraderie that it creates. Pushing through an incredibly difficult section, though enjoyable, can be a lonesome and stressful experience. Catching a glimpse of another player's phantom as he/she runs up a nearby staircase or battles his/her own invisible demons is like an oasis in the desert--unexpected, and it helps to propel you forward on your own journey. Or, dying in your attempt, seeing the ghosts of other players huddled around the bonfire as you respawn... you know you're not alone--this section is handing out grief to a host of fellow gamers.

    Even little environmental cues like the ringing of the bell at the top of the chapel... I struggled for hours on end to reach a point where I could ring the bell myself, but it gave me reassurance to hear that bell ringing in the distance as I died repeatedly. Other gamers were doing it, so I could, too. When I finally managed to ring the bell, I had to smile and wonder if other gamers were sitting in the dark somewhere, dying in game, but listening to the sound of the bell and deciding to give it one more try.

    And that doesn't even touch upon the feeling of fellowship and goodwill that can be had by actually inviting other players into your game. Tackling a challenging boss together that has given you a lot of trouble? Really, really satisfying. I don't wax ecstatic about many games, but Dark Souls is really something special and I hope the WC Crew gives it the fullest chance they can.

  • Dark Souls:

    So I know I might be a pansy when it comes to challenging games now, but when I play a game I like a challenge to a certain extent. I dont have time to play games to torture me. Truth is I dont really play RPG's so maybe I shouldn't even be part of this conversation at all, but I understand there are games made for a specific crowd and Dark souls sounds like a game made for people who like to challenge themselves to an extent that doesnt make sense to me. Hell I use to trophy whore games and when I played "Uncharted 2" on hard I ended up not enjoying the game as much. Because of this I have started playing games on normal so I can enjoy the experience more and if I am so tempted I will play it again on hard. My goal when playing games now is not necessarily trophy hunting and is more to experience the game and enjoy the story, and less punish myself.

    I forgot why I came to post. This game sounds a little broken, because I dont see why they cant leave some hints on what to do. The concept that because you are being destroyed you should know not to go that way is broken. That is just my opinion. It is not for me.

    Xbox TV thingy:

    I really enjoy concept of this, the cool thing is that you can have all of your entertainment in one location. The problem is that you need to previously have all of these services to use them. For me I am a person that cut the cord to cable a while ago. Too much stuff that I dont actually watch and too much time wasted watching stupid stuff. So all of these cool services are useless to me. When HBOGO becomes usable without needing cable I will be on board.

  • "Hardcore" versus "Intuitiveness"

    Just to pick up on Garnett's point about Dark Souls, I think it is a pretty big misnomer to call Dark Souls "hardcore" in the way we usually use that term or even "hard." The word hardcore is usually reserved for someone that basically makes a lifestyle out of playing a certain game like "hardcore" Street Fighter or Quake players. A hardcore Devil May Cry player is one that continuously plays thorough and triple S ranks every game.

    I would argue that Demon souls is not a "hardcore" game in the same way that fans of a particular genre or series need only apply. By the aforementioned definition, I have never in my life been a hardcore player of anything. I like Street Fighter, but I suck at it. I'm not very good at Halo or Call of Duty. I almost always come in near the bottom when I play online matches. When I went back to finish Gears of War 2 before 3 came out, I bumped it down to "easy." I don't platinum rank games or play bullet hell shooters. I'm not masochistic and I'm barely competitive at all when it comes to videogames. I came into Dark Souls totally blind having never even played Demon Souls. And I did so hesitantly because I don't typically like hard or frustrating games.

    And yet, after 10 hours, I absolutely adore Dark Souls. Let me try to briefly explain why.

    What Dark Souls has made me realize is how passive I play most games. Recovery mechanics in modern shooters mean that we barely have to worry about being shot as long as we retreat for 10 seconds behind something. Most modern Action games and JRPGs have become so passive that most of game time is spend mashing on attack buttons and only boss encounters demand much more.

    I've learned to compensate for this lack of real engagement. I listen to podcasts, I chat with friends, I drink lots of beer while I play. I admire the eye candy of explosions and vistas around me and pay more attention to that stuff than I do the enemies I'm fighting most of the time. But Dark Souls made me realize how great a gaming experience can be when I don't have resort to those distractions. When the gameplay can be good enough to hold my attention fully on a moment by moment basis. There is no more immersive experience than that. The prettiest mega-textures in the world won't get you there.

    Dark Souls isn't overly hard, or non-intuitive, or obscure. It simply demands your attention. It is such a conscious choice that the designers go out of their way to refuse players the ability to use voice chat while they play. You can't button mash in Dark Souls, not even on the easiest enemies. And it's not because they are hard, it is because the game is interesting enough that even the weak enemies are going to try to engage you--they will block and flank and try to gang up on you. They will wait until you attack and try to counter. It isn't that they are "hard" in the traditional way we think of games being hard. You don't have to have lightening reflexes, you just simply have to pay attention to them and your surroundings.

    The same could be said for figuring out where to go, what weapons to use, what to upgrade. There is no right way to do this stuff (unless you ARE one of those crazy hardcore players trying to make a perfect build). There is only the way that works for you. Everything else is just for the New Game Plus crowd.

    Every really good game has moments where you are on the edge of your seat or when you feel a sense of real accomplishment. But in Dark Souls those moments come minute by minute. if I have a real criticism of Dark Souls it is almost that it is to exciting, too exhilirating. Sometimes I have to take a break because it is too intense too often. I have had harrowing encounters with basic enemies. I have never been more scared my life than I have been playing this game and having a giant black knight chase me down a stair well. I never felt so much was at stake before in whether or not I land a blow or manage to down a potion in time. There are big moments in Dark Souls and they happen all the damn time.

    So maybe it isn't for everyone, but Dark Souls isn't a "hardcore" game in the way we typically use that term. You don't have to spend years honing your skills in tournaments or learn some secret slang language or gain muscle memory by practicing combos to enjoy it. You don't have to be a member of a clan or drink a pile of energy drinks or be 18 with the reflexes of a god to find it engaging. You simply have to learn not play games as passively as you have been conditioned to play them. And you'll probably end up wishing more games were good enough that you didn't have to resort to distractions to tune out all the repetition.

  • On the subject of comparing RPGs, one weird anecdotal thing I've noticed is that I've enjoyed all my favorite RPGs for completely different reasons. It just goes to show how RPGs are probably the most flexible genre in gaming in terms of what defines them.

    Now before you get into the semantic "any game is a role-playing game" argument, forget the actual word "Role-Playing Game" and focus on the elements that have come to define the word. This is just me talking, but I've come to identify three or four over the years (depending on how you split it up):

    1)Combat/Stat Management/Dice Rolls

    2)Nonlinear Exploration


    4)Characters (I choose to count this separate because there are RPGs where I've hated the story but still enjoyed the characters)

    Right now I'm loving Dark Souls for its core combat and equipment-based gameplay, and that's almost all the reason I need. On the flipside, I know people hated Dragon Age II and to an extent the Mass Effect games because of dumbed-down gameplay, but I still really enjoyed their characters and parts of their stories enough to really enjoy those games overall.

    If I do get into Skyrim, it'll probably be for great exploration above all else. Conversely, The Witcher 2 had completely unbalanced combat when it first launched, and it is quite linear compared to most RPGs, but the main thing that sold the game was how well CDProjekt portrayed the narrative and atmosphere of Andreji Sapkowski's world.

    Maybe I'm just weird like that when it comes to RPGs. Maybe a lot of people should step back and ask themselves why they even like each of these games.

  • Billy's message to game developers "HOW DARE you make a game outside of my comfort zone!!! if your game doesn't have instant gratification it FAILS"

    I'm now thinking about signing up for HBOGO so I can stream more episodes of The Wire.I don't really watch to much cable TV anymore myself video streaming from netflix and other services can fill my fix.

    Somehow the discussion of Skyward Sword made me more interested in it than before despite the complaints about standing up. Nintendo should make Mario Kart 7 spin-offs like a shooter starring dry bones or a prequel starring Jumpman on a lawnmower and they can even make a CG movie with product placement.