Weekend Confirmed 114 - Diablo 3, Max Payne 3, Lost Planet 3

By Garnett Lee, May 25, 2012 12:00pm PDT

Diablo 3 has strengthened its hold on Jeff Cannata who really only wants to talk about his barbarian, but there's so much more to cover. Garnett returns to the driver's seat after spending last week getting a sneak peek at some of the big games ready to vie for the spotlight at E3. "Indie" Jeff and Andrea Rene complete the adventuring party that gets down to business discussing their varying degree of anticipation for E3, the demise of 38 Studios, and the plight of subscription model MMOs, whether Max Payne 3 actually improves the gunplay over previous Rockstar open world games, and a handful of other games including Lost Planet 3 and Rock Band Blitz. Put a bird on it with Finishing Moves and you've got one massive show to take along on the Memorial Day weekend.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 114: 05/25/2012

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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 00:00:40 – 00:25:44

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 1 00:26:31– 00:55:52

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 2 00:56:46 – 01:23:42

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News 01:24:34 – 01:57:49

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  • There is a side of MMOs that Garnett and Jeff and the crew seem totally unaware of. They always talk about the questing, the loot, the encounters, the cooperative play. BLECH that is not why I play MMOs! Granted, those aspects can be fun if you are playing with your friends, but virtually any co-op game can deliver that (Diablo 3 for example).

    No, the best experience MMOs can offer is mixing those tried and true RPG elements with open PvP. When you can be killed anywhere, anytime, by anyone, those meaningless fetch quests become thrilling adventures! You are dashing from tree to tree to avoid gankers. You need that new +10% stats to survive. Co-op carebear becomes brutal gang warfare. Only MMOs can deliver this and it takes two key elements: 1) Open PvP (meaning non-factional, everyone can attack everyone else) 2) High server population. PvP is not "part" of the game, PvP IS THE GAME and those other pursuits simply provide the necessary progression goals and prey to be hunted, as well as an interesting rich environment for the PvP to occur in.

    Tera currently offers this, and its a blast! DaoC had/has amazing PvP servers. Conan had it, Ultima had it, EVE has it. Many successful MMOs have used this formula, yet it rarely gets talked about by the press. Instead reviewers focus on the single player PvE experience. In this model, it is OK if PvE is a meaningless grind because story and cutscenes interfere with the PvP experience. Getting ganked by a random level 50 breaks your immersion in almost any story, the elements are incompatible.

    They mentioned the low server populations for TOR, this killed the game for me. As a single-player KOTOR3 it was pretty good, but not good enough to keep me playing after 100 hours. For that I needed open PvP (There was also no excuse for such a big-budget Star Wars title to have no aiming, no real space combat sim, and choppy netcode). The half-dozen PvP fights I had were a blast, but the fact that there were only a half-dozen over 100 hours tells you how abysmally low the population was, and how split the zones were between republic and empire. It was the exact same problem in WoW, and Warhammer. While there was good battleground and end-game pvp in those games, there was virtually zero PvP while leveling. What happens then is you level up in a month or two, taste all the game has to offer, and cancel.

    To build player commitment an MMO world has to be incredibly dangerous and slow to explore and level and master. That way players become invested and expert in the game, and feel privileged to have seen or done something few others have. This is what makes EVE such a success. It takes years to master, there is no quick and easy path. The easier it is to level up, explore every zone, and taste everything, the quicker players will grow bored and cancel. Accessibility has been the goal of many modern MMOs, to their detriment. WoW avoided this fate by being simply better than anything else, and releasing a constant trickle of new content, but this is the expensive route only a Blizzard can take. EVE shows how you can build a dedicated playerbase in a shoestring by filling your game with PvP, a world that is unique, and lots of complex, difficult systems to master. Sure this isn't going to bring in millions of players because by definition what i'm talking about is inaccessibility, but it will slowly build a dedicated core in the 100s of thousands.

  • And another one bites the dust.

    Danny Bilson has left THQ, and been replaced by Jason Rubin.


    Now, I have no problems with Jason Rubin. Guy created two of my favorite character action game franchises, and has made some insanely good, thoughtful speeches at shows like GDC. I think he knows games and the games industry well enough to be a good fit.

    The press release says Danny is choosing to leave to pursue other interests... which could be true, or PR spin for forcing him out of the company. Either way, I'm sad to see him go, because even though THQ was losing money, I felt like if they could get their spending under control, they had a good plan moving forward.

    Under Bilson, THQ brought a ton of new IP to the market, and concentrated resources on ambitious projects instead of shitting out Nickelodean or Pixar licensed crap. Not all the IP turned out brilliant on the first go, but some did (Darksiders), and others laid a good foundation to build on (Homefront).

    Sad to see somebody with a games-first vision for a company leave before the vision really came to fruition. Luckily, it seems Rubin is on the same page as Bilson.

  • I find it interesting that you guys have been talking about MMORPGs and where they will move next and the one game / company that has been the best at evolving and updating and branching out is always left out of your discussions.

    Now I don't even enjoy playing EvE: Online but those guys at CCP have crafted a Universe whole cloth and really let the player base run rampant in the confines of it. From the constant improvement and refinement of the old, along with very interesting additions and new content at regular (free expansion) elements, combating inflation and skyrocketing money by letter players buy game time in game, branching out to another console/genre to create DUST 514 to interact with the persistent world of EvE.

    My problems with it stemmed from the combat generally not feeling engaging, however the system, freedom and world they have kept running for 9 years is something that I don't think can be ignored in the MMO space. When I see Old Republic and see all the ways a Star Wars game could have worked with ideas and systems EvE set up it is unbelievable to see that game turn out as it did.

    I do get that crafting the game in a universe leaves a lot more room for the player base to own content and really go crazy but I always question why World Maps in video games have to be practical sizes in the first place it is a video game.

    It is exactly the world I expect out of every MMO I play and am constantly let down.

  • There needs to be a major shift in the MMO experience from character development to world development. Players need to be able to have a major impact on their environment and on each other for MMO's to be anything more than a giant co-op rpg. Like reality, players need to be able to manipulate the world, not only physically, but also in terms of player interaction. Minecraft was the lesson on where multiplayer experiences should be moving. Give me that kind of freedom, with some loose systems to incentivise more dynamic behavior. Allow for freely evolving institutions of business and government. I want there to be room for the development of nations, religion, warfare, politics, folklore, organized crime, maybe even worldwide technological advancement. Essentially I want a game that can be as interesting as the real world.

  • RE: Co-op gameplay

    Garnett, I'm totally with you when it comes to the desire to have a more flexible, "drop in drop out" multiplayer or co-op experience.


    Every game I have played that tries to realize this idea suffers because of it.

    Look at the Gears 3 Campaign Co-op mode: Epic developed a very cool matchmaking system for the online co-op mode. You can select a chapter and difficultly, and the matchmaking system will find a game currently in progress and throw you in, right on the fly.

    Here's the problem: It's so easy to come and go from these games that it ruins all sense of "Playing with people". I played for 4 hours straight last week, and not once did I make it through a single mission with a consistent group of 4 players. I may as well have been playing with bots. On top of that, Gears co-op suffers from the "host" problem of having the game completely shut down if the host leaves, which happens often (presumably out of frustration due to people constantly leaving their game).

    Another example: Halo's "Firefight" mode. When Firefight was introduced in ODST, it was a pain in the butt to get a game together. There was no matchmaking system for it, and getting it to run properly was very dependant on all 4 players having a beefy connection. BUT, once you got a game going, it was one of the most thrilling gaming experiences I've ever had.

    But now look at what Firefight has been reduced to with Halo Reach: The matchmaking system makes it far easier for people to go into Firefight "solo". This leads to match after match of people lone-wolfing their way around the map, with no teamwork or communication.

    The more I think about it, the more I begin to believe that there is danger in making multiplayer gaming "too convenient". Imagin trying to play a board game where people could just get up and walk away from the table whenever they wanted, with other people showing up mid-game and just jumping in.

    I'm not saying it's impossible for it to be done well, but I think the vast majority of multiplayer gaming benefits from a certain commitment level. After all, if the other "people" in your multiplayer game are just random strangers who can come and go whenever they feel like it with zero need to commit to the experience, why do we even want them to be there? Are they not WORSE than bots at that point?

  • Maybe I'm crazy, but I saw WoW and the rise of the MMO and though, "Cool, that's an interesting content delivery mechanism." But, apparently publishers see WoW and think, "Gee, I gotta copy THAT game in every way. I just don't understand why publishers and developers would try to mimic WoW, rather than try to innovate and capture the essence? WoW does what it does well, but I don't think it is the only potential zenith of design decisions for the MMO experience. Cross bars are lame. Gluing your eyes to cool down timers is lame.

    So, why the hell would Zenimax plop that same design philosophy onto the Elder Scrolls IP, when it is so counter to what the Elder Scrolls games are all about?

    The only two answers I see are that they have a dearth of creativity and a scuzzy desire to mine the same plot of land as WoW just to get those juicy subscription charges.

    I would never root for a game to fail, but I think Elder Scrolls Online will. And I think it could take Zenimax down with it, or at least severely dampen their expansion.

    Seriously, I just finished the GI article on that game, and it sounds and looks like a stinking turd. Phantasy Star Online is one of my favorite gaming experiences ever. Sadly, I think MMOs are destined to be hurt for the foreseeable future by overcrowding and lack of creativity.

    What the heck do you think is going to happen to save the MMO from becoming the next mini-game collection? I shudder now when I hear of a new mini-game collection announcement. I'm starting to do that for MMOs too.

  • I played Skyrim with Kinect yesterday. It was a blast!

    The best part was swapping between my archery/sword/dagger loadouts including switching gloves. It makes the game SO much easier. Saying the names of the dragon shouts made things SO much easier, being able to 'detect life', throw voice and sprint saved time and stopped me from constantly pausing to access the favourites menu. Also, saying 'quick map, Whiterun' was handy too.

    As far as down sides go there were few. I enjoyed the Kinect functionality with Mass Effect but it felt a bit too sensitive, if my wife was having a phone conversation the next room over it would often trigger powers. With Skyrim however the Kinect seems tuned a lot better, I hardly had any interference except the one time the wife said 'sorry' which caused my Dragonborn to cast a frost spell. After playing a couple of hours I think I only needed to repeat myself about 5 times when the game didn't understand me so that's pretty good in terms of accuracy. I found that saying the shouts in the dragon language was almost impossible, the game couldn't differentiate 'fas' and 'fus' so it was much easier saying 'unrelenting force' and such.

    Anyway, it was a great experience and it made the game a lot more enjoyable. Having bought the Kinect for the kids I didn't expect to use it much myself but I found the 'you are the controller' slogan gaining some traction. I didn't feel like a controller as such but I did feel like I was an extension of my controller and I felt like my voice was far more effective than any hotkey or quick select menu. It seems so intuitive bypassing half a dozen buttons in favour of saying a word. It makes me excited about the future of controllers and our bodies being peripherals or extensions, in particular with voice commands. I'm not talking just with Kinect but the concept as a whole. I'm not interested in using my body as the sole control input as I agree with the sentiments expressed on this show that a controller is suitable because it allows a great range of complex actions to be mapped to minimal button inputs. But if you reverse that philosophy and look at how complex games require lengthy input and user interface to achieve simple results like swapping a weapon, doesn't it make sense to use our body's infinite repitiore of simple gestures to bypass encumbering user interface?

    It's exciting to be a gamer these days.