Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Everything posted by Urthman

  1. On the other hand, there's something to be said for playing a game and having a familiar "vocabulary" of inputs. If mouselook, WADS, jump, crouch, run, are all just there, then an experienced player can completely ignore the controls and focus entirely on the game. When I played Myst V recently, there was an option to use a FPS mouselook+WADS control scheme instead of the traditional Myst interface. It was amazing how much of a difference that made in making the environments seem like open spaces filled with solid objects rather than pictures of environments. Even so, I kept having the urge to jump, or, yes, even crouch in order to get a better look at something. Technically, there was no "need" for me to crouch -- the designers obviously didn't intend for me to need to see anything from that angle -- but not having the freedom to move around in that way unnecessarily shifted my attention from the game world to the interface.
  2. Over two-thousand people gave more than $130,000 to hear the Chris, Jake, & Sean line-up of Idle Thumbs. But really, Idle Thumbs is kind of a format for generating great conversations with all kinds of line-ups. Nick, Steve, J.P., Ryan, Brad, even that episode where Jake & Sean just hung out talking with a bunch of guys from the BAFTAs was better than most video game podcasts. I've enjoyed every episode and am glad they found a way to keep it going.
  3. Regarding how great Tom Francis (maker of Gunpoint) is as game writer, check out his outline for a better ending to the original Bioshock (spoilers for Bioshock): http://www.pentadact.com/2009-04-15-ending-bioshock/ He fixes all the problems with the last section of the game and comes up with an ending that just reading about in his synopis is more effective, chilling, and satisfying than pretty much any actual game ending I've actually experienced. I am super excited to see what he's done with Gunpoint and hope he gets the chance to design and write for more games.
  4. Just like some people can't distinguish voices that are clearly and obviously different, some people can't parse social dynamics just from listening to strangers having a conversation. In both cases lack of visual cues probably makes it harder for some people, and there may also be cultural obstacles to understanding. I imagine there are some Idle Thumbs readers for whom English is a second language.
  5. I'm pretty sure it's pronounced Dotato Day.
  6. Awesome. The podcast is now officially named Dotato Day.
  7. Speaking of the Idle Thumbs theme, I've enjoyed all the different arrangements Chris has done, but always felt the vocals were the weakest part. Until this one. The vocal arrangement, performance, and mixing are really great. A big improvement over the previous versions. Congrats on continuing to step up your musical game, Chris. (Any chance we can get the new version of the theme added to the music downloads page, Jake?)
  8. I was concerned that the internet was so amused by saying "xbone" that everyone would forget to make fun of how ridiculous it is for Microsoft to call their 3rd console the Xbox 1. Thank you, Idle Thumbs, for keeping your eye on the ball and mocking the news that matters most to me.
  9. Regarding the question of films having more "local" flavor than video games, surely a major part of this is how everything in a video game is an artificial creation. This simplest movie -- go out on the street and film two dudes talking to each other -- will, by default, have tons of local character. The dudes will be local dudes speaking the local language and the street will be a local street. The simplest video game is typically too abstract to have much local character, and even more realistic games will only have local character if the developer specifically chooses to put it in there.
  10. Ha. I was wondering if I was the only one who kept hearing "No Love For Dad?" as "No Left 4 Dead?"
  11. I love Tom Chick as a reviewer, but I don't think he's very consistent in his attiude about Metacritc. He says he's personally interested in seeing aggregate measures of a game's critical reception, which is fine. But surely he's aware that when he gives a game 3 stars, he means something very different from what most critics mean when they give a game 60%. So his actual opinion isn't really being reflected in his contribution to the Metacritic score. The 3 stars usually makes perfect sense in the context of his written review, but he's either ignoring how Metacritic interprets it (as I think he should) or he's submitting his score as a kind of protest vote in hopes other critics will use the whole scale as he does. Personally, I think if reviewers give scores they should only be using them as a way to communicate with their readers, and not worrying about what Metacritc would do with it, and that feels like what Tom is actually doing, regardless of what he says about the value of Metacritic. The most interesting part to that Tom Chick post Gormongous linked to is in the comments where someone points out that Rotten Tomatoes used to have a games section, but it turned out to be useless. The "Fresh" score was 60% or higher, and four out of five games had a tomatometer rating of 100% fresh. How's that for proof that the review score system is broken?
  12. I definitely agree that the best kind of game review is when you get to know an individual critic. She can just write about whatever interests her about a game, and that can give you a better idea of whether it's worthwhile than most regular reviews. Idle Thumbs plays that role for a lot of us, even though you guys probably don't consider yourselves game reviewers. And if for some reason you feel the need for a more "objective" rundown of the basics of the game, there's already dozens or hundreds of those for most games. But Metacritic is one of the many stumbling blocks to allowing a critic to write this way. Look at Tom Chick. He basically writes reviews like Ebert did. He reviews a wide variety of stuff, both AAA and niche games, and will write a long, comprehensive review or just a couple paragraphs depending on how much he has to say about a game. But then Metacritic picks up his review, assigns a percentage score to it, and if the result is an unusually low score for a AAA game, he gets hundreds of angry fanboys showing up in his comment section who have no context for reading his reviews and just want to yell at him and accuse him of being a troll. (As if Tom were posting inflammatory drive-by comments on the Metacritic site rather than the other way around.) Now Tom has been around a long time and has a devoted readership and community at quartertothree, so the flack he gets from Metacritic readers is more amusing than anything else, but for a new game writer to try the same thing would be a lot harder. Metacritic basically tries to repackage every review as if it were an IGN Consumer Reports style article that kicks the game's tires and gives it separate ratings for "Sound," "Replay Value," and "Mouth Feel." (Although now I really love the idea of Metacritic scraping the list of "games discussed" from the descriptions of Idle Thumbs episodes and then trying to assign a percentage score based on what you guys say about it.)
  13. What was hilarious to me in this episode is how a month ago you guys were marvelling at the breadth of data available (and the cool visualizations) playing the Sim City beta. You guys were all, "The Mayor of CoolCoolTown has the greatest data collection of any municipality ever." Then this week, it's all, "With each Sim doing his own thing, it's impossible to predict how it all adds up. You have various inputs and outputs that don't match up and you just can't figure out what's going on and what's causing what." In other words, just like a real-life mayor. Your description of businesses building shiny new buildings, failing, and immediately another business comes along and builds another new shiny building sounds just like real life. In fact, I wonder if the problem of simulating individual Sim behavior and getting it to behave, in aggregate, the way a real-life city behaves is beause in real life we don't have a very good idea of how individual behavior sums up into the macro-level effects we see in cities. And when we do things like raise taxes or change zoning laws, we can't always predict what will happen, we don't know for sure how much of what happens is a direct result of our policies, and we aren't sure if maybe something nefarious is going on, with money we thought was going to infrastructure just disappearing (remember all the tax breaks in the 90's that were going to bring broadband to every home in America?)
  14. Yeah, Sean's fantasies about besting the president in sport were very amusing, as was Chris teasing him and egging him on. With that, Nick's story, the maniquin story, the Castle Doctrine discussion, Cool Cool Town, and the Zafehouze Diariez, this was an exceptionally great episode. Thanks, guys.
  15. Of course AC is hardly the only series where the visuals are a couple orders of magnitude more thoughtful and higher quality than the narrative. That's pretty much an industry-wide issue. Seems like most people have a pretty good idea whether they're any any good at creating artwork, but crap writers have no clue how bad their writing is. Pretty much everyone thinks they can write a rad video game story with snappy dialogue.
  16. I'm sure the whole "let's act like Nick's always been here and it's no big deal" thing was funnier when you thought of it than it was in practice on the podcast. Imagining your amusement, all is forgiven. Congrats, Nick!
  17. All these years of asking, "What is game?" Not even we knew that we were inarticulately asking for this conversation you guys had about single-player games. But we were. Thanks guys! I wonder if this is what Chris was trying to get at when comparing XCOM to chess: Chess, poker, football, and basketball are all things where you have a defined set of rules, and then you can play them over and over again, each time playing a complete, discrete game that you either win or lose. XCOM is much more like that than most single player games are (more so than Walking Dead or Dishonored or Mass Effect or Mark of the Ninja). Dishonored has lots of replay value, but if you played it 20 times, you'd have exhausted most of it (or at least start getting diminishing returns). XCOM may not be as replayable as chess, but it's more the sort of game you could play over and over getting more out it each time as you get better. When it comes to things like Super Mario Brothers or Pac Man or Super Hexagon (and maybe even Peggle), I think those are games in the sense that pole vaulting, weight lifting, and archery are games (and maybe even things like bowling or golf). They're all high-scoring contests. My favorite bit, though, was Jake's insight that we ought to pay attention to the fact that we have a tendency to call all of these things "games." That means something! We definitely need to scan a sweet brain to get more data!
  18. I thought you guys had decided not to do genre fiction for the podcast? I was kind of disappointed this turned out to be Science Fiction.
  19. Did Cow Clicker actually make money by using the evil Zynga methods it was trying to satirize? There's no way to know, but I'd guess that most people purchasing Cow Clicker transactions were basically giving Ian Bogost a tip for making such a good satire, not because they actually got hooked by the cow clicking. "Prime numbers: IT'S WHAT COMPUTERS CRAVE!"
  20. As someone who vaguely likes Biden, but hasn't really seen much of him, I was intrigued by the tweets Sean made recently about him, and hoped he'd say something about why he likes him or particular occasions Biden's impressed him, but it was mostly just more awe-struck noises on the podcast. Got any links or anecdotes about why Biden impresses you so much, Famous? (And hopefully any discussion can be more about him as a person than how much people agree/disagree with his politics -- unless Sean's answer is something like "He's always right about everything!")
  21. Regarding Ultimas: Ultima 9 (rightly) gets pilloried for being an unfinished mess that required hardware that didn't exist when it released. But Ultima 9 did (or tried to do) first a whole lot of stuff you see in open-world, single-character, action RPG's like Morrowind, Oblivion, Gothic, Risen, Divinity 2 (Dragon Knight), the Witcher, Two Worlds, Venetica, etc. The first of those I played, Gothic 2, felt practically like a remake of Ultima 9--done right.
  22. I never know whether to laugh or cry when Chris spends ten minutes talking about how he's uncomfortable reading a reader mail if it takes more than 90 seconds to read aloud. I get the impression he thinks that spending too long reading aloud makes for bad radio? I don't think that's the case. Sure, if the e-mail is tedious or repetitive or digressive or spends two paragraphs on how much he loves the 'cast, you wouldn't want to read the whole thing. But if it's a good e-mail, I don't think it would make the podcast grind to a halt, and I don't think it actually takes as long as it seems when you're reading it.
  23. Probably the foremost example of non-linear (in the non-gaming sense) storytelling in games is a work of interactive fiction called Photopia. It's short and powerful. A great example of using interactivity and non-linearity to tell a story that couldn't be experienced the same way in any other medium. (Also, very little puzzle-solving to get stuck on.)
  24. Is there anything out-of-the-ordinary about the .mp3 files for the idle book cast? My little mp3 player choked a little bit on both files, freezing for about 45 seconds before starting to play. It played them fine once it got going, but it was weird. I've never run across an .mp3 file that does that (including idle thumbs episodes), but it happed with both of these files.
  25. Deus Ex and Deus Ex HR do a pretty great job of giving you a reward for every secret or difficult-to-get-to place you find. Even when I feel like I've got tons of everything in my inventory, the games pretty regularly manage to say, "Oh yeah? How about one of these?" and I go, "Oh, yeah, I do want that. Great."