Weekend Confirmed 105 - Journey, Mists of Pandaria, Mass Effect 3

By Garnett Lee, Mar 23, 2012 11:00am PDT

After a long look at Mass Effect 3 last week, Jeff, Jeff, Andrea, and Garnett turn their attentions to Journey, the upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion for World of Warcraft, and other games. However, they cannot ignore the interesting turn the controversy over the ending of Mass Effect 3 took with BioWare co-founder Dr. Ray Muzyka directly addressing fans to promise them "clarity" and "closure" through new content the team will create. We also catch up on the announcement of an Epic Mickey sequel along the way to wrapping up with Finishing Moves.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 105: 03/23/2012

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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 00:00:30 – 00:27:20

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 1 00:27:56 – 00:56:50

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 2 00:57:50 – 01:27:58

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News 01:28:49 – 01:58:34

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!

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Garnett Lee @GarnettLee

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Jeff Mattas @JeffMattas

Andrea Rene @andrearene

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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.

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  • This was the first Weekend Confirmed podcast I have listened to, it was recommended to me. I enjoyed it mostly, but was a bit turned off by the dismissive attitude (by some of the hosts, not all) taken about the critics of the ending of ME3. It struck me as sort of weirdly defensive, like party leaders supressing dissenters from speaking or complaining (I work in government, this is the first analogy that comes to mind, sorry if its heavy handed). There seems to be more variety to all the different gripes and many more expressions of disatisfaction with the ending than the hosts seem to characterize the "unhappy group" with.

    Anytime I hear that a form of protest or dissent is labeled "Dangerous", I'm a little unsettled (y'know unless the dissent actually causes danger). Whats the danger? The consumer only has as much power as the group is perceived to have. If an prudent "artist" can be swayed by monetary concerns, it can only alter his/her integrity as much as he/she chooses.

    I enjoyed the rest of the podcast though, will listen to the rest!

  • I didn't allow myself to play Mass Effect 3 until after finals week (gold star!) and so feel a bit late to the discussion, but I think I have a different take on the community 'outrage.'

    I actually thought the ending wasn't terrible, but the complete lack of closure was. The die hard fans have been waiting for years to find out the long term consequences of key choices that were barely ever brought up again. Even throughout Mass Effect 3 people are shouting "You've made a huge mistake. Just wait to see how this plays out!" Well, I never got to see how it played out. I'm not outraged, just... bummed.

    It also compounded some of the ill will surrounding the release: A concluding novel that seemed thrown off to an unfamiliar author, day one DLC, market saturation and odd product tie-ins. Had the ending been great, I think all would've been forgiven but this just added to the discontent.

    That said, I loved everything almost right up until end credits. I've loved being in the universe and am grateful that Bioware did so well for so long and won't be letting the temptation of righteous nerd rage to sully my affection for an amazing series, great characters, and memorable experiences.

  • Journey - The girlfriend's experience.

    No, no Garnett, settle down mate, I'm not referring to Sasha Grey's foray into mainstream cinema but rather my girlfriend's experience in playing Journey.

    First let me say I'm in a similar boat as the two Jeff's. For me Journey was an amazing piece of video game "art". What I took away from the game was extremely emotive and an overwhelming beautiful experience. It's for that reason I was interested to see what my girlfriend thought as she is quite interested in independent film but has little to no interest in video games.

    After walking her through the use of the controller and the first section of the game (just past the title) I left her to her own devices. I'd peak in along the way to see how she was progressing but more often than not I found myself reacting to loud noises of frustration than long periods of silence. I was sure to observe whilst she hit what were key points for me (SPOILERS), the sun shining through the ruins as you ski through them, the death of your character scaling the snow laiden mountain and your "re-birth" through the heavens. But in every case where I was marvelling at the environment and taking in the score she seemed more happy to not have to focus on jumping or collecting anything rather than soaking anything up.

    When she'd finished I asked her what she thought of it overall. Her response "cute". Further prompting as to elements of the story, or rather what her interpretation was were hollow in response. She found the game "finicky" and "annoying" when trying to reach certain areas the other player was calling for her to go to.

    Now obviously this is a one user test case but I had really hoped she was going to find more of a connection with the game. As it turns out because of her unfamiliarity with gaming and gaming concepts she was left confused a lot of the time and ultimately that frustration outweighed the underlying story of the game. It was a relief for her to finish rather than an experience she would refelect on, where as to a seasoned gamer like me the gameplay was simplistic and purposely designed that way so I could take other aspects of the game in.

    It was an interesting experiment, one that I hope to repeat with similar gaming experiences to come. Has anyone else done similar? I'd be interested to know how their normally "non-gaming" friends go and what they come away with.

  • I bought the Lancer Prop for my avatar because I wanted to support Epic.
    I bought the Gears of War 2 theme for my xbox because I wanted to support Epic.

    In return I am given the ability to buy weapon skins which apparently are 3 times better than say a game like Shadow Complex. I am shown a seasons pass which is so horribly handled that by the time the multiplayer maps I thought I was buying all along are released the gaming community has moved on and are playing other games. As well the community that is left can be some of the rudest people you will ever meet online.

    I bought the ME2 theme for my xbox because I wanted to support Bioware
    I bought the alternate character outfits for my characters in ME2 not because I thought they were worth it, but because I wanted to support Bioware.
    I bought pretty much every piece of DLC for Mass Effect (1 & 2) not because I thought they were worth it, but because I wanted to support Bioware.

    I don't like the ending, I am told I am too stupid to understand the authors intent and that I have no right to ask if something could be released that explains what I just saw. For supporting Bioware the only thing I see are people in the forums upset more than I am and they are outright demanding changes. I wanted to see the final battle where if I hadn't got the support of the Krogans, that some team on the ground was wiped out. I wanted to see the Quarians save an alliance ship because I had done their missions. Instead, I saw the exact same ending everyone else saw, save a color variation.

    The solution to everything like Jeff said is not purchase Day 1 anymore. This will also be a huge problem down the road. I am planning to purchase 2 more games this year day 1, that is it. There will be no more seasons passes for me, there will be no midnight launches, there will be no more trying to get every piece of DLC as they make it harder and more expensive for me to be called a true fan. So, companies like Bioware and Epic can no longer count on me for day 1 purchases. They cannot even count on me for DLC purchases anymore as I will wait and see if they are all included in an ultimate edition later down the road.

    I wanted and expected a game I could play over and over and see how it would have played out differently if I had sided with "A" instead of "B" is not there. That if I had let "A" live and "B" die I would see a different cutscene at the end of the game. That to me, is not an artistic choice, but something that should have been included in the game no matter what the ending is.

    Well I buy another Bioware game? I imagine I will and to say otherwise would be extremely short sighted of me. Will they get my money on Day 1, never again. Maybe me not buying Day 1 will do nothing to a studio like Bioware, or a publisher like EA. I don't know and I don't care anymore.

  • I wanted to touch on Journey for a second. Not only do I agree with you guys that it was a wonderful experience, and probably one of my highlights in gaming ever - not just this generation - it is simply something that must be experienced.

    One thing I noticed though:

    As much as I love the player interaction, and believe me, I love the player interaction; I find that I wish there was an option to limit or extend the possibilities of playing with people. Let me explain further. My playthrough consisted of me meeting 8 travellers along the way. While playing, I definitely didn't feel I met 8 people, but I definitely felt like I met more than 3. You can figure these moments out simply by human behaviour. At some points I noticed my companion was behaving different than normal, and after playing I am now certain that I was playing with a different player. While this idea is OK and works to the point where unless you are paying attention it is hard to notice, I find that a more powerful way to experience this game is to play with 1 person only. That way you can have a unique experience with a complete stranger; an experience that has potential to be the most emotionally powerful thing you have experienced in gaming. I find just a hint of this is taken away knowing the idea that you can be playing with handfuls of people at any one time.

  • Jeff mentioned something that I thought I was alone in thinking these days, actually doing a little investigation before making a purchase. I think the reason companies can now chop up a game into 3 parts, still getting $60 on the front end then another 2 or 3 dips for $10 to $15 is because consumers will not only buy, but preorder. The business model makes sense to me, hurry and push out a game before the next guy to get a better place in line for the cash grab. I sometimes wonder if we're nearing the end of some sort of boom period for games, and they all know it and are rushing to grab as much cash as possible before the well goes dry. Can companies really put out broken or poor games because they know it doesn't matter, just get it out there to start making money, then issue a patch later. It seems like common sense to me that companies put out DLC because they can sell them and it's a profitable business model, otherwise, why do them. Is the first day or weeks demand so great that companies can continue to practice this model without fear of the gaming public putting on the breaks?

    Seriously, what if 25% or 50% of people who regularly purchase games decided to wait until 2 weeks after a release date to purchase, would it have any impact on total sales over the life of a game? How many would find out during that time period that a game was broken, or total crap, and not purchase at all or purchase another game that came out during that same. time.

  • Garnett, I'm not usually one to tell people their opinion on this or that is quote/unquote "wrong," but I was hyped as hell for Sine Mora based on all the praise it received leading up to and after it's release.

    All I can really say is that your opinion is incorrect. Sine Mora is not a good game.

    - The planes are squirrely and twitchy at the best of times, nevermind that they move at the same speed even when the much lauded slowdown power is active. What the hell is the point of a slowdown mechanic where you still move at the same speed? All that does is give you more time to look at the bullet patterns as your twitchy little gnat of a plane bangs into them.

    - Boss hitboxes are small and fussy. Hey, I'm all for moderate bullet spray, but the rule of thumb in good shmups is that you're shooting in the general direction of the enemy while your primary focus is on weaving through bullets, protecting your own hitbox. Having small targets all the while means you're only dealing damage when lined up with a specific horizontal slice of the screen. In a game where the time limit is your health bar, this presents a problem.

    - Tons, and I do mean TONS of "aha, I gotcha" moments, where enemies or obstacles fly onto the screen completely and utterly without warning or without adequate time to react. The bosses in particular are really bad for this, often having sudden, fast moving attacks that sweep the entire screen. Cheap hits is not the same thing as challenge.

    - Some bullets or obstacles blend into the background. Ever notice how Cave and Touhou shmups tend to have large pink and purple bullets? There's a reason for that: you can fucking see them! It's the same reason why the backgrounds tend to have a muted colour pallet.

    - Two words: Gradius Syndrome. Your success in several areas is more or less dependent on how powered up your guns are. If you lose your powerups, good bloody luck.

    - Powerup drops are anything but balanced.

    - Poor level design and pacing.

    - I will concede that the art style, music and story are all amazing, but that's not really what you want to hang your hat on when making a horizontal scrolling shooter.

    - On the whole, I wouldn't call it garbage, just very amateurish. There's still some fun to be had, but the design just seems kind of haphazard and poorly thought out.

    If anyone out there is curious about the genre but found the whole danmaku thing to be too intimidating, I urge you, don't pick Sine Mora as your gateway game. Jamestown is cheaper and a better game in every way.

  • Micro-transactions ...

    They send a really interesting message. Now, presuming an essential part of the game isn't lock away behind a micro-transaction or the function of a micro-transaction isn't the banishing of ads, the message of micro-transactions seems to be "pay us money to not play our game".

    This could be a device of the reward being greater than the experience. People might grind for an achievement or superfluous emblem in a game in a way that isn't enjoyable to play so repetitively. Isn't that strange to anyone?

    Take Mass Effect 3. You can pay to get extra credits to unlock more gear. But you can get more credits by playing the game, y'know, the game you supposedly bought because you'd enjoy playing? So now you're paying X amount of dollars for a game and then paying small amounts on top of that to avoid playing the game.

    I would have thought that if you wanted extra credits you'd play the game to get them because the game is a rewarding experience and you get rewards by experiencing it, y'know you enjoy the gameplay and then the game rewards you, then rinse and repeat. If the game was fun to play why would you pay money to skip playing it?

    Then it makes you wonder. Do designers purposely make their game not fun to pay unless you pay little extra fees? Do they create a desirable reward for players that could be obtained by playing the game repetitively but then hide it behind an amount of repetitive gameplay that is mind numbing and boring to achieve no matter how fun the game is?

    Makes you think huh?

  • Since it probably won't get much praise on Weekend Confirmed, I just wanted to say that Kid Icarus: Uprising is a fantastic game.

    The controls seem to be the most divisive factor, I can't promise you won't have any trouble with it, but I will say that for myself personally, it felt absolutely impossible to wrap my head around it for the first couple chapters, then it slowly started making sense. Finding a way to hold the system that didn't cause any cramping or discomfort took a little while as well, though from reading reviews, some people are having much more difficulty than others.

    The only advice I can offer in that regard is that you don't need to keep the stylus pressed on the touch screen at all times. Think of it less as a surrogate mouse and more as a surrogate track ball. Give it a flick to spin the ball, then give it a tap to stop it, and don't worry too much about precision, the game seems to be built around broad strokes.

    Also, the lefty controls work just fine. There are several configurations available, and you can jump directly into the practice arena from the options menu to try them out.

    The writing is really self aware and clever, and the voice acting is great. The combat has a great feel to it, and the more I play, the more subtlety is revealed. I thought I was getting to be pretty good at it, then I jumped into multiplayer and got completely massacred, so clearly, there's much more to learn. The weapons are all varied and interesting, and the loot whoring, while not up to the level of a Torchlight or Diablo, still makes re-playing stages on higher difficulties very enticing.

    Speaking of which, the difficulty slider in this game is excellent. The balance is absolutely perfect between how much it costs to boost the difficulty, how much greater the rewards, and the penalty for dying.

    I know, I have a reputation as a big N fanboy, so consider the source, but honestly, I was excited for this game when I saw the reveal trailer, then it'd fallen off my radar completely, to the point where I couldn't care any less, then the pre-release hype train got me back on board at the last minute, and this game did not disappoint at all. One of the best games for the system.

  • One of the things I love most about Journey is the way it communicates it's mechanics. It doesn't have long verbose pop up messages telling you how to do things. It shows you commands and you experiment with those commands. It gives you a sandbox to experiment with the mechanic it just showed.

    It reminds me of the original Metroid. Metroid showed you that you could go from right to left in the beginning of the game by putting an impassable object in your way to the right. Back then a lot of games had you going from left to right so they wanted to demonstrate that you could move in any direction. Once you do go left, you immediately pick up a power up (the round ball) that allows you to continue where you could not previously go. Those two lessons are taught at the beginning of the game with little to no text, just experimentation. I love this kind of tutorial and wish all games did it this way.

  • Hi! First I just wanted to say that I started listening to Weekend Confirmed on episode 96 where David Jaffe was a guest. Great Stuff!

    Without spoiling anything, my problem with the ending on Mass Effect 3 is the few last seconds on the ending that I chose. Those last seconds didn't provide closure at all. Just to give some sense to what I'm talking about, my end had orange...

    But I do agree that they shouldn't change the ending. All the time I played the game was well worth it. But in my opinion because of the choices I made, I found that my Renegade story was more fulfilling because of his last action than my Paragon, or my Own (this character wasn't a renegade or a paragon, he was the character that did what I would do without a care in paragon/renegade points).

    And I did like Journey a lot. It was a fantastic experience. And one I will have to repeat someday in future.

    I actually still have one hour of the podcast to listen to, but I thought I should come and express my opinion on the matter while it's still fresh.

    Keep doing what you do, Weekend Confirmed became my company on the bus :D