Weekend Confirmed 146 - 2013 begins, Dishonored, next-gen predictions

By Jeff Mattas, Jan 04, 2013 11:00am PST

Weekend Confirmed is back for the firs episode of 2013! Garnett Lee, Jeff Cannata, and "Indie" Jeff Mattas are joined by Nikole Zivalich this week to talk about games like Dishonored and the brilliant new indie title, Hundreds. Much of this episode's discussion centers around predictions for the future of gaming, including possible next-steps for gaming hardware and peripherals, as well as what sort of changes might help reinvigorate the MMO genre in the coming years. Finishing Moves wraps up the show, followed by a WildCard edition of the post-show NFL TailGate.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 146: 1/4/2013

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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 - 00:29:10

    Whatcha' Been Playin Part 1 - 00:29:45 - 00:55:34

    Whatcha Been Playin Part 2 00:56:15 - 01:26:06

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News - 01:26:48 - 02:01:35

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Weekend Confirmed @WeekendConfirmd

Garnett Lee @GarnettLee

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Jeff Mattas @JeffMattas

Nikole Zivalich @NikoleZ

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Original music in the show by Del Rio. Get his latest Album, Club Tipsy 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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  • Bioware is getting a bad rap in getting compared to The Walking Dead.

    I keep hearing, and the Jeffs were both guilty of this, people comparing Bioware games to The Walking Dead unfavorably, citing the fact that the walking dead allows you to make "grey decisions" and Bioware games force you to make black and white decisions.

    I have a hard time wrapping my head around this.

    When I finish a bioware game, I'm usually about 75%-80% good. My character is almost always "grey" with a slight leaning toward "good". This is because I never subscribe to the black and white sith/jedi, open palm/closed fist/ renegate or paragon concepts they present to the gamer as OPTIONS. Instead, I face the situations as I really would in real life. If a kid is caught stealing an apple, and the good option is to turn him in while the bad option is to let him go, I choose what to do based on my heart. If I think the kid had a good reason, I let him go. This may give me "bad karma", but in the way I play these games, I do what I do and let the game judge me accordingly. I am a good guy, to me, regardless of what the world thinks. Isn't that the definition of "Grey" decisions?

    The problem with Bioware games, is that players choose to min/max their gameplay experience so they can play it once as "evil" and once as "good". That is A way to play the games, but I would argue that it is in no way the way Bioware intended the games to played. In fact Jade Empire was specifically against that ideology.

    I don't understand or endorse the praise The Walking Dead is getting, because all it seems to do differently is take away most of the gameplay that other "moral choice games" feature and thusly remove the temptation to min/max and powergame. Should games get praise for removing gameplay in order to "save us from ourselves?"

  • More on the reselling used games topic - IT business is becoming more and more service-oriented, and the same tendency is visible in gaming industry. Sony acquiring GAIKAI, NVIDIA presenting lines of server components designed to deliver streaming gaming, and I bet new offering from Microsoft (I hesitate to call this "console" as I bet it would be platform+services+box) would include something similar.

    Game become a service.

    Being a PC gamer, and buying most of my games via Steam, it seems to me the most natural thing that I am buying a right to use a service called "game". The terms on which a game is licensed to me + the price + the experience makes the overall offering which is appealing to me (then I am paying the license fee), or not (then I wait till the next round of Steam sales ;-)).

    Disadvantage of not being able to resell the game seems to be counterbalanced by the lower price (usually PC games are much cheaper compared to the console versions), and most of the time it is fine for me. It saves me the hassle of auctioning the DVD, and posting it afterwards.

    Seems that at the moment, in this area console market is still in the 20'th century ;-)

  • Just a quick comment (hopefully) on the first segment.

    As primarily a singleplayer gamer I don't really care about publishers extending my experience to keep the game in my possession. I've bought exactly two pieces of singleplayer DLC the entire generation (BioShock challenge rooms, which were awful and the wonderful PixelJunk Monsters Encore). The bottom line is, the games that I've found to be truly great, or at least interesting, have remained on my shelf. Stuff like Red Dead to Skyrim, and on to Binary Domain and even Alpha Protocol. Multiplayer and extended value just doesn't really get me excited. Most of the time I feel like I have gotten the experience that I wanted and that's enough for me.

    Simply put, make games that are good enough to keep, and I will keep it.

    Also, make you games cheaper if you don't want them resold. I have over 100 DVDs and BluRays, many of which I rarely watch. But, I don't trade them in because I know they are worth almost nothing, even immediately after release. If I can turn a game that I enjoyed but didn't love around for $30 off the next $60, I'm going to.

  • This is yet another time I have heard about how much better The Walking Dead delivers on the promise of "choices with real consequences" then the Mass Effect series.

    I have just finished my playthrough of The Walking Dead. Sticking to "this is my story" way of playing I do not intend to replay it to check other storytelling branches. But I am a curious person, so I have checked walkingdead.wikia.com to find out what have I missed.

    Guess what - not much. Mosty extra dialog lines.

    Each time the story branches it quickly goes back on the track. In Ep. 1 you choose to save Shawn, and leave Duck to the walkers? Well we will need Duck later on, so nonono Duck will live anyway, and Shawn will die. In Ep. 4 Ben is dead, and there is noone to fall into the alleyway, so Kenny can commit zombie suicide? Fear not - Christa will be boxed in the same alleway trying to retrieve the radio - Kenny will die trying to help her. And the conversation with the Camper/Stranger near the very end? You didn't sack his wagon in Ep.2? Doesn't matter... his reaction is the same!

    And the ending.... well there is only one...... not even in different colours....just one.

    Does it make Walking Dead less impactfull? Not at all, few times I was nearly crying, burying the boy who starved to death, next to his beloved dog almost made me stop playing.

    So what is the difference? The promise, and the context.

    It is easy to agree with the fact that in the face of zombie apocalypse the fate is predetermined. Everyone will die, and you can kick and scream in disagreement, but it wont help.
    This is what you expect from the Walking Dead franchise.

    Bioware's marketing has created huge expectations (maybe not even consulting the designers), on which they simply couldn't deliver. Aditionally over the course of the adventure player is tricked into believing that Shephard can make a difference. Hence the disappointment.

    Ancient greek Moira helps modern game designers :)
    One wants a real "story that has been tailored to how you play"? Then one needs to wait for AI to happen so it can create the story on the fly, or somebody would need to crowdsource the plot creation for a game (sounds Molyneux-like, isnt' it?)

    I liked the honesty of Eidos people when at the end of DeusEx: HR they have implemented the autosave right before the final decision. It was an invite "Go ahead, make your choice, then reload, and check the other outcomes, those are there for your enjoyment and curiosity".

    Personally I was OK with the original ending of ME. I have interpreted it the same way as I have interpreted the case of Walking Dead - hey solider boy, you can do whatever you wish, shoot as many...whatever you shoot... as you wish - the cogs of history are turning, and you won't change that.

    Hey... isn't it what most greek tragedies were about?
    And many of the Shakespeare's plays?
    Nothing to be ashamed of :D

  • Having listened to the response to my post a couple of things.

    Never considered how that name sounds in other peoples heads so it was funny hearing Garnett try to spell it out (in my head because I know what all the parts mean it is R-vance-tal).

    Secondly I see where your problem comes from with the Game Over concept but I guess my problem I still have with your problem is "Game Over" is never the reason I stop playing a game. If anything Game Over is something that drives me to power on and when I reach natural stopping points I put the game down for the day.

    It all comes back to compartmentalization. I am aware when I play that there are things in place because it is impossible to program to infinity, you guys yourselves mentioned that when you run out of HP there is little to do to "get around that". The narrative of the game in my head is therefore created out of successful plays through an area and by the time I am past that part I was dying at it is already in the past in my head and I don't care.

    It is one of the unique aspects to the flow and storytelling of video games is that they have to make way for mechanics to disrupt flow and depend some of the player to put the pieces together.

  • Hey Jeff, I've got a little thought experiment for you:

    Imagine that just today, you're playing the original Super Mario Bros. for the first time in your life, and you have no prior experience with the franchise, you're just plopped into world 1-1 with no knowledge of the game other than go right and save a princess.

    You quickly learn the basics through trial and error, burn through all your lives a couple times, discover a couple secrets along the way, but despite spending all day with the game, the farthest you can reach is 8-3. The dreaded Gamer Over screen pops up, and you walk away from the game knowing you're gonna have to start all the way back at 1-1 the next time you play.

    Would you call your experience playing Super Mario Bros a waste of time?

    If so, why? If not, why not?

  • Here is something I did in an MMO 13(Thirteen!) years ago:

    I started by creating a new character on a different shard than the one I had already been playing on for a few years. Rather than start completely from scratch, I was able to choose for my new character to have Archery proficiency at 50% and the combat damage multiplier skill "Tactics" also at 50% proficiency. I was then able to choose one of about a dozen cities to start in, and so I chose the island city of Magincia where I knew everyone was meeting.

    I begin with a basic bow(not cracked or weak or minor) but just a bow, and some arrows. I made my way to the meeting spot where about 15 other players where hanging out wearing all the same shade of blue, top of the line armor and carrying top of the line weapons(except for 1 or 2 magic items, these were nearly all player-made). My friend, who was a member of this guild, met me and provided me with a top of the line player made bow, a good amount of arrows, and a basic set of leather armor.(All of which I could equip and use within minutes of starting the character).

    Once we all gathered one of the players opened a gate and we went through one at a time to find ourselves immediately in one of the game's most dangerous areas surrounded by Ophidians and Terathans that could have shredded me in seconds if I was on my own. Despite most of the other players being at 100% proficiency (max level) for their various combat skills I was able to contribute quite well by standing back out of danger and firing on the targeted and already aggro'd monsters with my bow. Unlike in level-based MMOs, my arrows(fired from a character less than half an hour old) were draining about 10-15% health per hit. At no point was I a burden and I was able to hang out and enjoy the guild event as the first step of my membership application process.

    By the way, for those not familiar with Ultima Online, we were not on a quest or a game-driven raid. In UO, every dungeon and continent had areas that were more challenging than others and you just simply chose where to go based on how many people were with you. Two or Three? Shame Level 1 with Earth Elementals and Scorpions. Three or Four? Shame Level 2 with Air Elementals and Water Elementals. A Dozen? Blood or Poison Elementals on level 4.

    MMOs need to be skill-based again(the above example illustrates how perfect the system was), they need to contain non-combat related skills and professions capable of making money. In UO, you could play for years and amass a fortune simply through mining and smithing, or lumber-jacking and carpentry. This brings in a lot of unique gamers(*cough* girls *cough*) that wouldn't normally play MMOs and it actually sets up the chance for you to really feel like a hero. One of my favorite moments was coming across a Player Killer chasing down a miner who was trying his hardest to make his way to the safety of a nearby city. I managed to stop the Player Killer from killing the miner (only because he escaped while the PK was handing my ass to me) but it felt so much better than stopping a warrior from killing a hunter who would been able to fight back. On top of this, if the Miner had died he would have likely lost 10-30 minutes or more worth of ingots while in nearly all other MMOs my sacrifice would have meant someone would have lost a few minutes travel time when the spawned back at the nearest city.

    Lastly, like someone below already sorta mentioned, MMOs should get rid of quests. At the very least they should be cut down considerably for only the special high-end situations and maybe a brief tutorial. Personally, I can see the appeal of quests when they keep you motivated to keep playing by giving you purpose, but I never felt that I lacked purpose playing Ultima Online for the five years that I did. Imagine how great the mechanics of an MMO would be if all the time, money, and talent that when into creating the hundreds of simple to elaborate hours long quests was focused entirely on just making the game better. We'd have more skills, more crafting items, more transportation options, and a much better focus on guilds and other social mechanics. I'd easily sacrifice quests, even the good ones, for an overall better MMO.

    One last thing: UO had player controlled boats, dozens of different clothing and armor options with dozens of possible shades, and it had cartography, Seriously, that game came out 15 years ago!

  • So darksiders is awesome but it reminds me of a huge flaw in the Zelda games and this game on general principal. The problem being you play through 1/2-3/4 of the game before all the systems in the game really click with you. So there's this awesome game with little replay value, and you really aren't unlocking your potential until the end.

    So what would I like how about they get the game out earlier and rather then work on sequels, work on getting 2-3 dungeons out for dlc every 3-6 months that would be awesome treating it somewhat like WoW just a single player game:)

  • On the problem of all games being either $60 or $15, there definitely needs to be more variable pricing. More importantly, developers and publishers need to be more realistic with sales expectations.

    First of all, I think Jeff and people like him are addicted to the $50 million production value game. That's like being addicted to moves like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. A lot of them maybe great, but they aren't the only great movies/games. I think this is definitely more true of games, where it seems production values have almost no effect on how fun they are, just how pretty they look and sound.

    Secondly, publishers need to realize that every game is not going to sell 5 million copies. Last generation 5 million copies was considered exceptional. Even 1 or 2 million copies was usually considered extremely good. 5 million used to be a number associated with the likes of Halo, Zelda, or Final Fantasy. Expecting your average action game to do that much is just silly in my opinion. Publishers I think need to realize that, reign in the investments they put into a game, and maybe market them specifically towards the hardcore audience.

  • You guys brought up The Walking Dead game- just wanted to say that I never would have played it if I hadn’t heard about it on this podcast. Thanks! You also briefly mentioned projecting your personality into the game. I had an experience with The Walking Dead that I’ve never had before. I played the game, then watched my girlfriend play the game, and after she finished it we discussed the choices we made, and had an inciteful conversation that told me more about her, and told her more about me (and then I felt bad about myself). I’ll try to tell this story briefly. Spoilers (maybe), but I’m only gonna mention stuff from the first episode.

    I can’t remember his name, but at the beginning of the game you briefly go to a farm and stay with a senior man and his son. At one point the senior man is trying to dig into your past, and he asks something like ‘Where were you headed?’ I answered with ‘WE were going…’ So then he asks ‘Who were you riding with?’, and I reply with ‘Nobody’-he takes this as if he caught me in a lie, which wasn’t at all how I meant it (I knew I’d said ‘WE earlier, so I said ‘Nobody’ as if to say ‘Nobody worth mentioning’, or “None of your business’). Long story short, the old guy really annoyed me. I felt like ‘hey, I just helped your son out of a crappy situation; be thankful and leave me be.’ But he kept probing me, which eventually left me feeling very unsympathetic when bad things happened (don’t want to say too much).

    When my gf played this part she answered all his questions without holding back, and felt more like ‘Thanks for letting us stay here, and I understand you wanting to know who is under the roof of your barn, so this is who I am, and this is what I’ve been through so far.’

    We discussed this part of the game over dinner, and it soon turned into a (heated) general discussion on whether it’s better to be completely honest with people you meet, or to hold back a bit so they don’t have ‘ammo’ to later use against you. As she spoke to me it became so clear that how we played that game is pretty much how we live-I don’t tell people anything about me, while she is an open book.

    I could say more but I’ll just end by mentioning that, like in the game, my girlfriend ‘took note of what I said’…and I realized that maybe I said too much.

  • (french listener here, sorry for the bad english).
    I keep thinking about how multi-support is a big deal on the MMO Market. Most of the best selling and succesfull MMO's are compatible on both Windows and Mac and I think it is a pretty important feature.

    I am in the very same case as Nikole, playing on a Mac because I simply do not have enough money right now to build a decent PC and as an avid MMO player, my choices are pretty limited.

    Sure, there aren't so many "Mac gamers" out there but still...(and then again, steam has done A LOT in that regard).

    The social component of those games is one of the main feature and you'd want to play with as many friends as you can.
    The fact that for example WoW or GW2 are available for Mac has 2 main consequences:
    -The games are available for me, so I will buy them.
    -I can play with my buddies so we will both be playing more of the game and have more fun.

    I'm not sure if I make any sense to you guys but to me, the next successful MMO must be available on both PC and Mac.

  • Re: Garnett's Finishing Move question - I don't play anywhere near as many games as many of the gamers I know. I'm fairly selective in what I choose to play, but what I play I will play repeatedly. The original Deus Ex I've played through completely at least 5 times, probably closer to 7 or 8. Over the holiday's I replayed Half-Life 2 and the episodes (probably 4th or 5th time for HL2 proper). I'm currently working through another run with Alan Wake. I played Dishonored 3 times last year.

    Why? For many of the same reasons I rewatch a movie or re-read a book. One, it is a known quantity. I tried, for example, to play Max Payne 3 (I've played Max Payne 2 at least 3 times) but for whatever reason that game failed to hold my interest. It just didn't feel like a Max Payne game to me. But when I pick up Half-Life 2 I know exactly what I'm going to get.

    Two, it is a familiar world, characters, and story. Sure, new experiences, like Dishonored, can be great. But if there isn't anything out that meets my somewhat limited gaming interest, I like revisiting old friends and stories. My like why, when I get together with old high school friends, the same stories keep getting re-told. Remembering where you came from can help you understand where you are.

    Third, I tend to be a game finisher. I don't like to start a game and not finish it; unless I've already beaten that game. So over the holidays, if something had come up and I didn't get to finish my replay of Half-Life 2, not that big a deal. On the other hand, had I picked up some title I'd not played before I would have been much more driven to finish it.

    I get that I may be missing what others would consider great games, but I would rather spend my time (sometimes, at least) with a game I know I will enjoy playing. As for the objection that this is different than a movie, I agree. Movies are much shorter (typically) and therefore less of a time investment. If I watch a new movie and it is bad I have given up a couple of hours. If I play a new game I could spend 10+ hours with it hoping it gets better. Therefore, replaying a game, for me, makes more sense than rewatching a movie (though I do that too).

    But it seems to me that I'm odd in this regard, based on gamers I know. Very few replay games at all and the few that do are mainly doing so for achievements. So I suspect Garnett is in the majority but I also suspect as gaming tech stabilizes (lots of people do not replay Deus Ex because of dated graphics, etc.) more people will replay older games.

  • Jeff C brought up the idea of a combat-free MMO, and the first thing that came to my mind was the boardgame Diplomacy. Even though it's set in WWI, the game doesn't emphasize combat, but rather interacting and negotiating with the other players. Maybe it could be an MMO where players deal with a combination of espionage, mystery and detective work. There could still be combat, but on a rare occasion, rather than the main mechanic advancing the narrative.

    On a different note, my dream setting would be an MMO set in feudal Japan (I'm quite nostalgic for the "Oriental Adventures" AD&D expansion...).

  • As a long time MMO player I've given a lot of thought to the kind of MMO I'd like to play, and after listening to your segment on MMOs this week I decided to throw it up here.

    I'd like an MMO set in the Game of Thrones world, where the objective was less focused on theme-park events like dungeons and raids, and more on the kind of political conflict over territory that takes place in the books. Players could chose to represent one of a number of factions and fight over land, castles, and titles. The most dedicated players and guilds could rise to be the kings and queens of their respective faction, giving them control over tax rates, war declarations, treaties, hiring NPC guards and merchants, and other powers. Smaller guilds could control smaller land holdings, keeps, towers, and villages, with the key being that not every guild is it's own faction, but numerous guilds belonging to one of several huge factions. Castles, keeps, and land could all be conquered and taken by another faction through Aion style timed sieges.

    Rather than just being an entirely PVP focused game, there would be many elements to running a kingdom that would require the help of PVE focused players. For example, repairing castles damaged in sieges, equipping NPC guards and armies, and feeding those same NPCs would require a large player base to obtain the supplies. In this way even lower level or peace loving players could contribute to their faction (and make money) through crafting, mining, fishing, farming, or adventuring for materials. In return the big guilds who ran the war efforts of the faction would have an incentive to protect the "peons" of the realm, lest they defect to a faction that would treat them better.

    For the combat I'd like an action combat style, similar to TERA but with more precise control. Something like the combat in Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, but with some special attacks like TERAs to keep things interesting. Finding some semblance of PVP balance would be key, while keeping all the classes fun to play and viable in PVE as well.

    By establishing those as the base setting for the game you'd have conflicts in place to keep the hardcore crowd, who tend to burn through game content, active and playing. From there start adding variety in the form of more traditional theme-park style events: dragons like TERA BAMs to fight, group and raid dungeons, lengthy multi-step quests (think Everquests 'epic' quests), ship to ship sea battles, etc.

  • All games are better when played with people you know, but MMOs live and die by my ability to play with people who don’t suck. (not just suck at the game but don’t suck at being people) WoW is crazy successful not really through any bit of design or some ground breaking game play but because it percolated for so long as the only arcade style MMO and made it easy for the massive community that exists now to germinate and maintain. In fact I would say that the community is keeping itself and WoW alive now long past the quality peak of the game. Jeff hit it on the head when he said that Blizzard doesn't know why WoW is successful. They keep focusing on changing the mechanics more then actual player experience when the real amazing advances they have made are their group finder and raid finder tech. The tweets from their design staff seem so confused over trying to manage player reaction to their content, then just making sure players just have access to that content.

    New MMOs have such a huge focus on world and mechanic design and very rarely engage the community they are going to need when constructing their game. The big sin that SWTOR made was doing a great job of engagement with their community in the beginning and then completely ignoring them after launch.

    The biggest reason that F2P is great for MMOs now is that it gives them the ability to exist for a while in near profitability while they build that community they need to survive. Then once that community arises the micro transaction economy is a direct pipeline into that community to deliver content that is laser focused on their desires and priced according to that demand. Another SWTOR sin in that all their micro transaction offerings have been more about Star Wars then about the needs and desires of the player base.

  • Garnett’s math seems wrong. He seems to think that the conversation is “Our game isn’t going to be “successful” at this price, so we should be pricing it lower.” No, the conversation is “It cost us X to make this, and we are expecting it to sell Y. There is NO way we make our money back at $40 so the price HAS to be $60 for us to even have a dream of making our money back.” The consumer and the consumer experience in relationship to cost never even enter the conversation. If you have ever attended an investor meeting at any company this is how they report. They have to show stock holder's and investors that the concern of the company is increasing value of the company and not whether the game is good or if they are charging to much for the quality of the game they are releasing.

    That is the real disconnect. It is between the success of a fun game and the effect that this has on stock price, which is none at all. Investors don’t know from good games or bad, so when a studio get’s closed up after the launch of their most recent game, it’s really just about the economics of investor confidence then anything to do with the quality of the released game or the pedigree of the design team.

    You guys....Economics is depressing.

  • The television talk was a bit interesting. 4K's biggest issue is delivery. Having the TV means nothing if there's no pipeline to deliver content. RED's 4K server is too proprietary and SONY's is deprived of content/expensive and time consuming. None of these recent trends have caught on. 3DTVs were a bust and so were SmartTVs and for the similar reasons. No one wants to wear glasses to watch TV when they don't have to and SmartTV apps are slow, buggy, and unintuitive. No one uses them. Take a look.

    Cable companies haven't even delivered on the promise of proper 1080p, 4K is mountains off. The networking pipeline isn't even there yet. People don't have the network speed to download 125GB+ (and that's a modest starting point) files in any reasonable type of timeframe.

    The front end is ready for 4K, but the backend isn't. It's years behind. Games running in 4K... big fantasy. They barely run in 720p! How many people playing high end PC games are playing them at that kind of resolution on their PCs? Or even half that?

    As a photographer/filmmaker, I dig the idea of 4K. I've shot my fair share of RED and it's definitely a clear upgrade in the cinema, but at home? TV industry is in shambles, companies will have a hard time selling people on a new TV.

    Jeff is also smoking when it comes to Google Glass... that is way off. Expensive as hell too. That's like a generation away.