Weekend Confirmed 120 - Dawnguard, Day Z, Diablo 3

By Garnett Lee, Jul 06, 2012 11:00am PDT

Despite the summer's dearth of new releases, the Weekend Confirmed crew get into some spirited discussions about Diablo 3's questionable end-game, and what it's like to be a vampire in Skyrim's new expansion, Dawnguard. Garnett, Jeffs Cannata and Mattas, and regular guest Andrea Rene also delve into some talk about the Day Z beta mod that brings hardcore zombie survival to ArmA 2, and opine a bit about ZombiU and Sim City Social as well. The eclectic mix of topics all wraps up with another batch of Finishing Moves.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 120: 07/06/2012

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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 – 00:28:15

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 1 00:28:49 – 00:58:47

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 2 00:59:43 – 01:29:24

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News 01:30:16 – 02:04:42

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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Weekend Confirmed @WeekendConfirmd

Garnett Lee @GarnettLee

Jeff Cannata @jeffcannata

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.

Del Rio's next album, Club Tipsy, is also just a few days away from its July 10 release. Check out his official web page for more information.

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  • Garnett,

    Regarding your theory on Sony's multi-million dollar purchase of Gaikai as a solution to solving backward compatibility on the next Playstation or other platforms, I have to ask: Are you nuts?!? Am I the only one who thinks that Sony would be batshit-crazy to entrust a cloud-based streaming service as the delivery method for its invaluable back-catalogue of PSN classics, much less ANY GAME of post-Atari 2600 visual fidelity?

    Dark Souls on Xbox Live is a standout example why cloud gaming will not work in the next generation. As you know, Xbox Live currently allows Gold Members to store their gamesaves for just about any game in the cloud, rather than on the console, and Dark Souls is no exception. However, Dark Souls also has a curious design flaw that should you lose your Internet connection, the game immediately boots you out of your session and forces you to reload your game in offline mode. Problem is, even though your console has been physically caching your gamesave on the system itself in the interest of speed, that gamesave MUST first sync with the online save before your game will recognize it and allow you to continue where you left off, and this is impossible for the console to do when it's offline. So while your gamesave is technically the ONLY part of your game that is actually stored offline, in the case of Dark Souls your entire game experience behaves as though it is purely online if you are using cloud saves, that is, if you don't have an online connection, you essentially don't have a game at all. Now imagine if this was an experience you consistently encountered shortly after "purchasing" a Sony PSOne classic on your PS4 that you are streaming from the cloud. You would be demanding a refund of your money in less than a week. Don't think it will be a problem? Why not check out Sony's Music Unlimited and check out "epic online fail" in action. Songs get mysteriously skipped or are unplayable and the service regularly disconnects and hangs -- ON A WIRED CONNECTION. And this is just music streaming we are talking about, a walk in the park when compared streaming an actual game.

    Let us take a hard, honest look at where we are now. Cloud gaming services such as OnLive and Gaikai can and do work, but they require a solid and reliable internet connection, preferably wired, and halfway decent hardware to run on. Try to apply these rules to the wide variety of Sony devices out there in the wild (e.g. TVs, Sony S Tablet (NOT "PLAYSTATION TABLET", Garnett), Android-based mobile phones and Walkmans, Internet Player with Google TV, PS3, PS Vita, Blu-Ray players and the like) and you have a drastically sliding scale with no constants, no common operating system and no chance of working consistently and reliably. Are people truly going to be willing to pay for a game delivery service that not only can't be counted on to perform reliably across all compatible Sony platforms, but also effectively cuts them off if they don't have internet access, or an unreliable connection?

    Then you also have to consider the cost of streaming game content itself. A 2-hour movie streamed from Netflix in HD to a PS3 can be 4GB or larger in size. Imagine how much streaming a 3-4 gaming session might be, and then consider that many customers outside the US don't have unlimited bandwidth, have to contend with ISP throttling and/ or bandwidth caps, or are streaming content via mobile internet, which is far more expensive. The point of purchasing a Playstation game, be it an inexpensive PSOne classic or a current triple-A title, is that you can play it again and again whenever you want, for as long as you want, without having to pay another third-party through the nose for the ability to do so. It makes no sense to any intelligent consumer to have to pay an ISP double, triple or even quadruple what a game costs in Internet fees every month just so he or she can play it.

    Perhaps years in the future, where everyone as a broadband Internet connection with unlimited bandwidth and no drops, EVER, cloud gaming will truly take off. Maybe even sooner. But it definitely won't be Sony and Gaikai that takes us there. Sony's already got enough problems.

  • I don't obviously know what Sony wants to do or will do with the gaikai purchase but I can think of a few other less obvious ideas that could be good.

    For example, you could demo a game on stream as the service currently runs, see http://www.greenmangaming.com/ and try the gaikai powered demos they have (and today they also have hacker evolution for free! so here's a tip) you could decide to buy the game and game would start to download while you played on the stream, of course it's a bit unrealistic now, but later who knows.

    A different idea would be a evolution of the failed remote play feature, where your playstation would act as a server for when you are out and could still enjoy the game on your mobile phone or tablet or pc.

    A more realistic and grounded idea in the near future, is that they will reinforce the cloud in such a way that your save between the playstation 3 and vita is very quickly synced so there's no need for "transfarring" or connecting the two device. Within 60 seconds or a bit more of a Wifi connection would suffice to sync the save.

    This just to name a few of the options that they could be pursuing with that purchase.

  • Glad you brought up Planescape in response to my comment! What an amazing game! Those old games were based on DnD module design which tries very hard to avoid repetition. You don't wade through hordes of enemies filling every corridor, most corridors are actually empty aside from the occasional trap. Instead, action consists of discrete "encounters". You and your party poke around searching for interesting stuff and checking for traps until you stumble onto the next encounter, which is always new and different from what came earlier in the module. Of course there is a lot more to it than that, these games also required players to actually understand the storyline and pay attention to the dialog in order to make progress (what a novel concept!).

    I feel video games often have a dependency on addictive repetitive mechanics that limits them as an art form. For most games the main draw is that "12 gauge needle" in the arm addiction you get from the pure pleasure of pounding enemies and watching loot pop out or shooting people in the face and watching their head explode. Or just making those satisfying jumps over and over...and over. Well sure I loved all those kinds of mechanics as a kid, and I still love shooters to a large extent purely based on the pleasure of shooting stuff. But we have to admit that on some level that is really a very thin thread to build a 20, 60, 100 hour experience on, and as you get older and play more games those mechanics start to wear out as you see them in game after game.

    On the show you guys have complained numerous times about how Nathan Drake's murderous rampage in every Uncharted game simply doesn't fit in the story they are telling. Even if the shooting was improved, it still breaks the narrative. Try to find a film, book, or TV series where the main character spends more than 50% of their time methodically mowing people down. No, even the most action-packed movies have a surprisingly low % of time devoted to heads exploding. Too much of this kind of action quickly begins to feel like "filler". Worse, it takes your mind off the story and at some point the dramatic tension bleeds away.

    Fewer, more interesting, more challenging, more meaningful encounters would allow developers to tell the kinds of stories they are trying to tell but failing. So many games lately have been full of promise but really disappointing because of the massive amount of repetitive "filler" action. No wonder statistics show a surprisingly small proportion of players actually finish games. I couldn't believe how many identical groups of identical enemies I had to fight just to get through the stadium area in Max Payne 3. Was it 20? 30? It felt like 100. I bought Kingdom's of Amalur expecting to be dropped right into a Salvatore novel, but after getting only the most bare-bones hint of a story instead I was dropped into a world filled with the exact same steaming pile of repetitive open-world throwaway fetch quests that really need to be retired from video games permanently. Why do they think games need so much time-filler? It isn't like an MMO where they need you to keep paying. Edit out all the repetition and many of these games would be great.

  • In regards to the power gap between the Wii U and whatever Sony and Microsoft have cooking, Iwata might be right to a certain extent. The latest rumored specs on all three systems are making it look like the gap won't be as big, and ports between the three platforms will likely be a lot easier next gen.

    First of all when it comes to display tech, most Xbox and PlayStation games right now are in 720p, if that. We might get more 1080p games next gen but most developers will probably forsake resolution for additional eye candy. Running a game in native 1080p means putting out twice as many pixels as 720p. This will probably be the case for all three next gen consoles. So I think there's a greater chance of there being resolution parity between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.

    RAM being the bottleneck is a good argument and we still don't really know where that's going. According to leaks/reports/rumors, the Wii U is looking more and more likely to have 1.5GB of RAM - 3x that of the Xbox 360. Sony and Microsoft's next gen systems will probably have between 2 and 4GB of RAM (I could be totally wrong). Take that for what you will.

    More importantly though, the Wii U is shaping up to be a system that performs on the level of Xbox 360 (or slightly above), but has more modern features and architecture, like functionality at least matching DirectX 10.1. A lot of 360 and PS3 games could not be ported to the Wii no matter how much the developer sacrificed because the Wii hardware just didn't have the right features - no programmable shaders for one thing. It doesn't look like that problem will exist with the Wii U, so ports down from PS4 or whatever should conceivably be easier on a technical level, they just won't look as pretty. In my mind, it might be like the difference between the PC version and Xbox version of Battlefield 3. It's also a question of whether it makes any business sense.

    I'll have to agree with the sentiment that up-ports from 360 will look like 360 games for the most part. The guys developing Aliens: Colonial Marines have already admitted that the Wii U version will have higher quality textures because of the additional RAM available, but I haven't heard anything more than that.

    Moving into the future, I think the best scenario for Nintendo would be for the Wii U to compare to the next gen systems the way the PS2 compared to the Xbox and Gamecube. The PS2 was weaker, but established a userbase early on and became the baseline spec for multiplatform games. If things go REALLY well for Nintendo and they can actually establish a leading userbase in 2013, some developers may just choose to start multiplatfrom games on Wii U and then port up to the PS4/Xbox8.

  • I wanted to bring up that Andrea made a very good point that was dismissed rather quickly on the show. The iPad has very cheap $.99 games but it's a very expensive $500+ purchase.

    I was reminded of this by vinny mike who was saying why would anyone spend $300 on a wiiU when the next Xbox and PS4 will come out soon. And I'm thinking to myself what do you guys think the PS4 and Xbox are going to be inexpensive? Really the better the tech they put in those box the higher the price rises.

    To my point why would someone buy new hardware with old tech, because new hardware with new tech is going to be twice the price, and that's not easy for a lot of people too swallow. After all how many people have dumped there PS3, and 360 for a $1,000+ gaming PC.

  • I have to contest the separation between the narratives of Diablo 3 and Skyrim because I don't think there is anything different about them, just Skyrim uses illusions to make its story seem more important than it really is.

    Skyrim is to me one of the most frustrating current gen games because when it is working right it is firing really well but it breaks flow so easily and so often that I find the only way to enjoy the game is disengage with the story and just go roaming the landscape being Fantasy Indiana Jones.

    The NPCs in that game are the weakest part of it and when they are barraging you with the same repeated 10 lines that are now playing in your head, they may have the distinction to be part of a question that offers the semblance of choice without really doing it at all. Most of the quests are completely linear regardless of your choices they just give you choices that don't effect anything so you think you had input. Some examples of what I mean:

    Really early in the Mage quest a character mentions that the government liaison at the college is untrustworthy and you shouldn't tell him what you discovered at the ruins, he confronts you seconds later and either option you pick he already knows the piece of data, that prior conversation and your choice was meaningless.

    The Dark Brotherhood opening is predicated on you killing a person based on choosing which one deserved to die the most, and it was really about following orders and killing someone period something that could have been gotten across with having a single person.

    The Markarth major quest with the family in charge of the banks, now at the time that I got to that city I was a pretty high level, so I had already robbed the bank blind one of the books I looted that was a quest item that I couldn't delete if you read it mentions clearly that they are plotting against the thane. Does my possession of that book change the fact that I will have to do a massive run around prison quest either way? No.

    These are just 3 of countless examples I have run into in the game where the fact that you are given choice for no reason other than the illusion of the narrative actually mattering.

    It is a game that punishes you for paying to much attention to what it is doing. Coupled with the fact that the actual story is a level of ridiculous and old hat for fantasy stories that it comes off as very slight and just a means to kill stuff in the world doesn't help, also that main quest being incredibly linear doesn't help much. Also the fact that at a certain point the combat is much too decided on stats before it even begins and based on how many potions you are carrying rather that skill with your controller (something a Dark Souls absolutely murders Skyrim with).

    They get the look of the world, and the fun of excavation down but everything else just grates on me so much.

  • I think Diablo 3 having a shorter lifespan than D2 was somewhat predictable. Mostly because the skill system removes any incentive to make a new character of the same class, whereas in D2 you kept making new ones just to try different builds. You also hit the level cap much earlier in D3. In D2 you felt like you were making some progress even as you were farming for items, because you're still slowly leveling.

    Also, regarding loot, the problem is twofold. The auction house is a large part of it, because the reason people got addicted to farming items in D2 was because it's psychologically similar to gambling. Every time you're about to kill a boss you have that moment of anticipation, and regardless if you get a good drop or not you want to kill the boss one more time because it'll just take 1 minute and maybe next time you'll get something great. Farming for gold is just a grind, it's monotenous and there's never a moment of anticipation.

    The actual loot itself it also just not as interesting. Specifically I don't like how there's mostly a linear progression in terms of stats and how higher level items always obsolete lower level ones. A decent lvl 63 bow is just like a lvl 62 one but with higher numbers. In D2 item progression was much less about finding an item that had the same stats but higher and instead about finding an item that did more things at once. In D3, everything just gives you stats and resists, it's so homogenized.

    D2 had more item stats that were so powerful they had a profound impact on your character and a lot of them were restricted to unique items, which made uniques feel much more special. For example, in D2 you can get a 100% chance to freeze or knock back enemies on hit, just from items. That's extremely powerful crowd control. In D3 similar effects are limited to like 2-3% and all crowd control comes from skills.