Jeremy and I were discussing our favourite games of the last year, and things that sucked about the year in gaming. (Namely: most of the games released during it) So, rather than simply have this discussion on our own, we decided to record it and release it, in the name of hubris and ego, just like all the cool kids.
Also, because it’d been a bloody long time between podcasts (I’m the guilty party – I was side-tracked with a few more film projects).
You’re EA. You’re releasing a modern-warfare themed videogame which will feature both sides of ongoing conflicts in which US soldiers are currently serving. There’s going to be multiplayer, and thematically one of the sides is going to have to be the Taliban or Al Qaeda. You know that the media will take the idea of fighting for the Taliban and bang it into the ground. You, presumably, don’t mind this happening a little bit for publicity, but not to the point where stores are refusing to stock your product.
So what do you do? You could try arguing that it’s just like kids playing the robbers in cops and robbers, or the Nazis in WW2 games, but the difference is that the Taliban are killing hundreds of US soldiers now.
Well, I’d have thought the answer was obvious: you do exactly the same thing that the US military’s very own America’s Army game does: you skin the player’s team as the US, and the enemy as the Taliban. This is being displayed by a computer, and there’s no reason why the system can’t render a player differently to opponents as to him or herself and allies. Whatever side you’re on look like US soldiers, sound like US soldiers; and any hostile players are rendered as the Taliban.
Did that just genuinely not occur to EA? Isn’t it an absolutely obvious solution?
UPDATE (2/10): EA has backed down and renamed the Taliban in the multiplayer mode as “Opposing Force”.
Well, glad that’s over. Now, to tackle the diabolical Need For Speed developers who are proposing to let players DRIVE CARS OVER THE SPEED LIMIT AND EVADE POLICE OFFICERS.
I don’t know if you’ll recall a little debate I had about five years ago, on my old blog, with the games editor at The Age, Jason Hill, in which I referred to him as a “corporate shill” for defending Sony’s anti-consumer war on modchips. He was greatly offended at the time, but I assumed with the passage of time he’d forgiven me for impugning his journalistic integrity – particularly given that he even published an article I’d written for his Screen Play column in The Age a few years later.
I guess “Corporate shill” is one of the more unpleasant names I’ve been called over the years.
Oh, Jason. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings so badly! I feel really guilty now. I didn’t intend you to spend years running that beautifully rhyming insult over and over in your head.
Look, I still don’t agree with the line he’s still running on the subject of modchips, of course: he still argues that if “the majority” of their use is piracy, it’s irrelevant what lawful purposes they have, and they should be banned – logic which would’ve banned the cassette tape, the VCR, the home PC, the internet and so on.
And as to the present issue – Jason is revisiting the subject today because of the PS3 modchip that Sony is trying to get banned in the Federal Court. I hope they fail, not because I wish to pirate games, but because I’d like to see some decent media player software developed on the HD consoles to replace the brilliant open source Xbox Media Centre from the last generation, which has never been bettered by the commercial products. The idea that increasing the functionality of a piece of hardware I’ve bought should be a crime is absurd, and offensive, and I hope those defending this action are able to win through despite the vast reserves of money that will be thrown at defeating them.
But I suspect Mr Hill’s approach to the issue is more to do with the relentlessly one-sided propaganda to which he’d be subjected as he liaises with the games industry – I doubt very much he chats often to the EFA or other public domain lobbyists, for example – rather than anything dishonest or cynical. So, with the benefit of hindsight, and the cooling passions of fading youth, I regret using the term “shill”.
Even though it did rhyme.
Those gamers who’ve never tried “jailbreaking” their hardware to increase its functionality – an AR-Max to enable backing up saves from the 8MB PS2 memory cards, an Xbox modchip to run XBMC, homebrew on the DS – does having that option available to you appeal? Or do you not mind if the people who made your console can artificially limit your use of it – and send you to jail for dare trying for more?
“Narrative & Storytelling in Games”
with special guests Joab Gilroy and Jessica Citizen
After an unforseen hiatus due to a computer being in for a service and an extended period of being busy with my web series project, we’re back for another episode.
This time, after playing through the relatively-recent possibly-overhyped PS3-exclusive Heavy Rain, we decided it was worth focusing an entire discussion on narrative and storytelling in games. As it seemed like a natural continuation of our inaugural episode on Gaming as a Unique Medium, we brought back Joab Gilroy from GameArena. To provide a different perspective, we also invited along Jessica Citizen of Gamepron (and some other sites).
Due to the nature of this discussion, please be warned that we spoil the ending of a fairly large number of games including Heavy Rain, System Shock 2, Bioshock, Shadow of the Colossus and Planescape: Torment.
Our meandering discussions took us to subjects such as:
D&D Gold Box games
Space Quest, Quest for Glory and other adventure games
Half-life 2 (Because Jeremy can’t go 5 minutes without discussing it)
101st Airborne in Normandy
The Mass Effect series and character death
Continuing on after character death
Delivering multiple choice options in games
Meta-story in the game world (such as in Assassin’s Creed and the new Prince of Persia series)
The passage of time in game stories (such as in Metal Gear Solid)
Cut scenes as a method of delivering plot
Plot twists in games
A huge discussion of the merits of Heavy Rain
The limitations of game stories – having to be based around action or conflict for the most part
Flower & Flow – narrative without dialogue or even characters
“Epic Fail – Gaming Mistakes & Disasters”
with special guest Nate “Blunty3000″ Burr
During one of our fairly common drinking-and-gaming sessions, an idea popped up: Why not devote a podcast to all the things that have gone wrong with gaming? From niggling but constantly-recurring game design mistakes to whole consoles that failed to launch, it seemed the perfect topic for our next big discussion.
It also seemed appropriate to bring on one of youtube’s most creative rantists (yes, I’m inventing that word if it doesn’t already exist) Blunty3000.
So, join us for a 90 minute exploration of all the things that gaming has done wrong – either by ineptitude, publisher intervention or just plain old bad luck.
Topics brought up include:
Common gaming gripes and mistakes, including static cameras, quick-time events, random crates, unskippable cut scenes and inverting the Y-axis
Failed consoles, such as the Virtual Boy, N-gage and 3DO
“Game Jam 2010 & Indie Game Development”
with special guest host Epona Schweer
and guests Marc Chee & Glen Forrester
Last month, I had the good fortune to watch the incredible unveiling of the results of the Sydney Game Jam 2010 competition at the Powerhouse Museum in Darling Harbour. In a packed room near the bottom floor of the Museum some 50 sleep-deprived developers showed what they’d been working on for 48 hours straight – and blew the audience away.
Inspired, we decided to bring on two of the GameJammers to discuss the competition, and indie game development in general.
With us for this episode is Marc Chee, who worked on the team that built the fascinating game Spy Wear (a game complete with multiplayer code) and Glen Forrester, the one-man team who built Gnilley, the game that almost literally made Stephanie “Hex” Bendixson fall off her chair with laughter.
RAD & Agile (yes, those are real terms) software development as they relate to games.
Note: We had a few internet-related technical issues while recording this podcast, and as such there are a few glitches that had to be edited out. They should not cause any listening issues, but if something if a conversation point sounds slightly strange – we were cutting around internet dropouts.
Links to things discussed or relating to this show:
Nintendo has won its second legal victory of the month in Australia, with a seller of R4 flash cartridges in the country ordered to pay the Japanese company over AUD$500,000 in fines.
Local tech distributors RSJ. IT Solutions, which had been selling the cartridges – which allow for the use of both legally-acquired homebrew and illegally-acquired pirated games on a Nintendo DS – must cease the sale of all carts immediately, and relinquish all remaining stock and all promotional material associated with them.
In addition to the corporate fine, two men named individually in the case, Patrick & James Li, must also pay AUD$100,000 in penalties.
The decision is both absurd and wrong, and akin to fining importers of VHS recorders because they can play pirated movies. (more…)
Keith Stuart of the Guardian‘s “Gamesblog” has torn apart a broadcast on UK TV last night by “supernanny” Jo Frost, in which she sought to smear videogames as “desensitising kids to violence” and “reducing empathy”. As Keith points out, Jo’s methodology is highly suspect, open to contrary conclusions and highly misleading – which means we can expect to see Michael Atkinson relying on it any day now.
I’m not much of a scientist, but I sure am good at patronising people with bullshit.
Just thought you should be forewarned with the details of this fakery before you see it reported uncritically.
“The As-yet Incomplete History of PC Games, Part Two”
with special guest Ben Mansill
About the first part of this podcast: “It was weeks ago now, over a number of beers, that the three of us here at RRQ decided that really, what would make a fascinating podcast, was to go over the history of PC Games. Now, while most of us have at least partially changed our gaming habits to include Consoles, really we’re all PC gamers at heart. We tinker, and we love depth over The Shiny.”
So, as the discussion with our special guest Ben Mansill of Byteside (Hey! That sounds like some kind of Stargate reference) continues in this episode, we delve into different genres, how they affected PC gaming as a whole, and finally discuss the future: where PC gaming is going, and just how we all feel about this.
To be more precise, the topics covered include:
The development of 3D Acceleration
Real-time Strategy games
Turn-based Strategy games
Simulations (including Elite and its clones)
Distribution methods & packaging PC Games
and finally, the future of PC Gaming
We hope you enjoy the episode! If you’d like to help us out, spread the word – let people know what you’re listening to on twitter, facebook, via telegram or smoke signal (although we’d prefer a review on the iTunes store or a good tweet/forum post).
FOOTNOTE: Comments about the Ares launch vehicles were made before the Obama budget was released. Sigh.
Links to things discussed or relating to this show:
I think people like to see the dollar amount. We never intended to ever mislead people. I think we want to be transparent about it, and so it is something that we’re looking at. How can we be more transparent and let people see it in actual dollars? The fact is that you’ve got to think that we have one service that we’re offering around the world. The nice thing about points is that no matter if you’re on the yen or the euro or the dollar — something that’s 200 points is 200 points everywhere around the world.
Yeah, but those 200 points don’t cost the same.
And you don’t sell in multiples of 200. In fact, whilst most games are priced in multiples of 400, you only sell points in multiples of 500, so consumers HAVE to pay more for games, even once they’ve figured out the real-world cost – something the points system clearly obscures.
“We never intended to ever mislead people” indeed. What a total lie.
But don’t think they’re just doing it because they’ve suddenly acquired a conscience. In all likelihood, if Microsoft moves away from the Points system on Xbox Live, it’s because they’re planning on expanding the Zune Marketplace and integrating it more with the Xbox 360. The Zune Marketplace is in dollars (or whatever local currency you’re using), and it’d be much easier to unify the two systems by switching it all to currency than cramming the points system into the Zune Marketplace.
Meanwhile, someone else is suing Microsoft on the grounds that they were charged for points they were prevented from using.
Oh, Microsoft, will you ever really change?
(No, as the next post – about how Microsoft’s offensive ripoff hard drives for the 360 discourage gamers from purchasing Live content, and how publishers should consider switching to a platform where potential customers can actually store their product – will demonstrate.)
UPDATE: And now MS is removing online support for all original Xbox games. See the problem with games whose multiplayer is dependent on the indefinite good grace and benevolence of a soulless corporation? And just to rub salt in the wound, MS has removed paid DLC from Live, so many of those those wanting to play a last Halo 2 match at Bungie’s farewell, can’t.
Microsoft’s explanation for shutting down original Xbox games is that those older titles are to blame for the stupid 100 person friend list cap. Does that make any sense to anyone? If older games don’t support more than 100 people, then just limit those games to the first 100 games on someone’s friends list. MS’s original solution, capping EVERYONE to 100 friends, makes no sense to me; and its new solution, shutting down all original xbox games, even less.
Remember, online Xbox gamers – you’re paying Microsoft for this service.