Weekend Confirmed 119 - Spec Ops: The Line, Halo 4

By Garnett Lee, Jun 29, 2012 11:00am PDT

After visiting with its designer last week, Spec Ops: The Line stands for inspection. Adam Sessler and Paul Semel join Jeff and Garnett in the discussion that looks at the game both on its surface as a shooter and its underlying ambitions to seriously address the carnage of a "heroic," one-man rampage. Along with the discussion of violence, the conversation also turns to the sustainability of the big-budget console game. Halo 4's commitment to episodic content and the demise of Radical Entertainment lead the news discussions. And of course, it all wraps up on Finishing Moves.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 119: 06/29/2012

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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 00:00:38 – 00:30:19

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 1 00:30:58 – 01:01:38

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 2 01:02:26 – 01:31:24

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News 01:32:33 – 02:00:30

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

Adam Sessler @AdamSessler

Paul Semel @PaulSemel

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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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  • Loved the discussion of Spec Ops: The Line and the problems with trying to inject narrative in action games.

    I think the problem might be very simple, most action games are purely about nonstop action. The sheer volume of enemies thrown at you almost necessarily results in repetitive gameplay. Thus the only reliable way to make the game stand out is to introduce fun innovative mechanics. Most developers aren't capable of this, so they turn to various gimmicks that are hit and miss. Even really cool things like "big set piece moments", hyper-immersive first person perspective, co-op play, or giant bosses are all kind of gimmicky.

    You really can't just inject story into this kind of game and expect it to work, because mowing down thousands of identical enemies is rarely a scene you'll find in a good film or novel. It simply isn't interesting. Even in massive battles, action needs to be broken down to the human level, and made intelligible to the reader.

    I think good story-driven gameplay has to have three key elements in addition to the obligatory storyline and game mechanics: 1) interesting characters 2) unique encounters 3) a sense of progress. Action games usually fail to deliver on all 3 counts. The characters are rarely interesting. Aside from bosses, the encounters are rote repetition. Rote repetition is fine if you are a Battlefield, Modern Warfare, Diablo, etc and your mechanics are so good they support that, but if your game is anything less than these masterpieces it doesn't really work. Players will eventually get tired of playing the same 2nd-rate game over and over. Action games do a better job of giving you a sense of progress, and this is often the main element they rely on to keep the player engaged. Acquiring better weapons or powers, seeing newer and cooler environments and enemies, etc.

    The main thing I think is missing from most action games today is unique encounters. In the ideal game, the player would never face the same challenge twice. This is part of the secret sauce behind what made old school point and click adventures and RPGs like Baldur's Gate so great. Every area has unique challenges and there is very little repetition. The lack of creativity in many games today is really depressing considering how many millions of dollars go into each one.