So, I just discovered that The Last of Us, the upcoming title from Naughty Dog, will feature zombie-esque enemies. Zombies. This game is about 3 months out from release, and I just found out it has zombies in it. I thought that this was a survival game, fighting other human enemies as you try and survive the End of Days scenario while protecting a kid. Looks like the EoD scenario is zombies…

When you have certain expectations for a game and they pull a 180 on you, you can feel a bit miffed. I didn’t expect zombies in The Last of Us. I didn’t expect three playable characters in Grand Theft Auto 5. I didn’t expect Ubisoft to replace Michael Ironside in the next Splinter Cell. Modifying your expectations is a general part of life, but it can still be jarring to think a certain thing about a game or series only to have that thing change in the blink of an eye. What do you think? Is the onus on us to research these games and manage our own expectations? Or are we at the mercy of their marketing and information funnel?

Friday, 8:23 pm – Ricky

Just played a couple hours of Borderlands 2 and FTL. Those should be reversed, actually, as FTL frustrated me to the point of wanting to shoot bad guys in the face with a fire pistol.

Caught an article that kind of relates to this conversation: Ubisoft is delaying Raymen Legends on the WiiU. But it’s not due to polish – it’s so that it can release simultaneously across all three consoles. If the game is ready, why delay it? Does Ubisoft feel that it wouldn’t stand well enough on it’s own for 6 months on the WiiU? Why crunch the dev team to get the product ready only to hold it back? A very strange decision that perhaps shows Ubisoft’s confidence in the platform. Or perhaps it’s just big business being big business, who knows.

Thursday, 3:16 pm – Gavin

Let it be known that matt’s expectations were never modified.  We all remember what matt’s expectations were before it came out.

I can’t say my expectations have been dashed, only because I haven’t played with the system yet outside of a Best Buy setup.  And the more I think about it, if I only play CODBLOPS 2 on the Wii-U, how will I know if it is better or worse than the 360’s version?  The bonus for me is that I will be able to judge Wii-U ports as standalone titles.  Perhaps it will be from a position of ignorance (I might think a game is fine, but the PS4 could render the graphics so much better, or allow for more NPCs on the screen, or have smoother edges, or have more fluid animations, etc), but I’ll still get to judge them on their own merits.

Also, RIP Steam Greenlight service.  You were not long for this world – mostly because before the fee-based submissions, a ton of the entries were either terrible IOS-game clones, or  “Gaben hardcore anal sex simulator” or what have you, from people who thought they were being funny.  I honestly couldn’t be bothered to go through most of them.  I gave a few a chance, voted for a couple of the big ones (Black Mesa and The Stanley Parable), Faceless (based off the Slenderman mythology, using the Source engine), and one that looked like 2D Mirror’s Edge (Vector), but that was about it.  It was a chore to go through and find ones that didn’t look brutally bad or like a ripoff of an already-existent game.  Greenlight was a good idea in theory, but it sounds like it was a nightmare to administer, and wasn’t in line with Valve’s vision.  A couple of well-received games have come out through the Greenlight service (Miasmata, McPixel, and goddamn Euro Truck Simulator 2, though I’m not sure if the latter’s positive reviews are simply ironic), but it just seemed like a bit of a hole.

Thursday, 1:18 pm – matt

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Thursday, 8:08 am – Ricky

Hmm, would we say we’ve MODIFIED OUR EXPECTATIONS of the WiiU?

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Alright, that’s my contribution for the day. I don’t play video games anymore it seems, so I’m not that interesting.

Wednesday, 2:34 pm – mett

Don’t you dare talk shit about the 3DO. That was the shit. Or was it shit? I cant quite remember…

I feel any of the videogame companies are one mistake away from causing serious harm to their brand. Reports out today are that developers are having a harder time with the new xbox than ps4, and we tend to know how financially tight developers love choosing the easier route.

While Nintendo may not be putting the focus on the actual hardware side of the system, as Gavin mentioned they still hold so many titles that mean a lot to gamers who want to continue playing those series on the newer systems. I can’t help but think of Sega, an industry staple that continuously put out exceptional hardware that suffered with terrible software and caused the company’s disappearance form the console market. You can make the flashiest car in the world and if there’s no gas to make it run it’s a glorified dust collector. Nintendo might be making undervelopped hardware but they certainly know how it make it run. It will be interesting to see how far behind it lacks when the new systems come out.

The big issue for me is that the power of the console doesn’t just affect graphics. We need game systems with advanced tech to start powering more diverse games that are deeper than ever, and I worry that not only will Nintendo’s graphics lag behind, but that the complexity of the games they create will not be able to match the new generation.

Wednesday, 12:14 pm – Gavin

I wouldn’t say that it’s hubris.  To Nintendo’s credit, they have never, ever been followers with respect to the industry.  They’ve always done things differently than the other big players in the business.  They craft their hardware to their first-party IP and not the other way around, and always have, so it’s not a big surprise that they’re putting out a system that, while demonstrably better on paper than the current generation of systems (you would hope so), will not directly appeal to those who want “newest best explodiest” by the time the PS4 and Nextbox arrive.  It’s not like this is the first time that a Nintendo console isn’t the most powerful on the market.  The 3D0 positively obliterated everything when it was released.  Now remind us again how Panasonic is doing in the console market these days…

It’s a gusty move, especially in this economic climate.  Despite having a veritable strangehold on the Japanese market, Nintendo needs to appeal to the North American and continental European markets; Japan is big, but not that big.  When gamers can only choose one system due to economic concerns, Nintendo needs to give them a reason to pick that system.  I think you’d all really enjoy a Wii-U release of a Metroid Prime game.  But is that worth $350, plus the cost of the game?  At what point is it worth it for you to buy the system?  Are you all going to enjoy Mario games?  I love them, for reasons aforementioned, but have others grown out of it?  I guess time will tell.

I never want Nintendo to stop producing hardware, if for no other reason than Nintendo produces the best-quality console hardware out there by an inarguable margin.  When it came to light that the idiot who reported the bricking of the Wii-U unplugged his console during the update as he was expressly told not to do, people started to remember that Nintendo has a console hardware pedigree that is unmatched.

And all that notwithstanding, Nintendo has cash reserves that the MS and Sony gaming divisions would kill to have.  People have been predicting/hoping for the death of Nintendo for years, and every single time, Nintendo has had no problem proving everyone wrong, in a big way.  The Wii unquestionably won the last-generation console war in terms of units sold and in financial terms, and the DS is nothing but a license to print money for Nintendo (3DS excepted, as Nintendo took a loss on that one).  Nintendo can take a hit; that’s not the problem.  The problem is how many sustained hits they can take; no company is invincible.  They won’t simply stop producing hardware; Sony is one console failure away from demolishing their gaming side (considering they lost almost all of the profit from the PS2 on the PS3), Microsoft would bury them, and no way whatever company would pick them up would allow the other one to even sniff it.  It would take a catastrophic failure by the hardware division for this to even enter someone’s consciousness, let alone be a feasible decision.

Also on a completely unrelated note, I think I can say with full confidence that I will never, ever play DOTA2.  It’s been sitting there in my account for ages, and I honestly have no urge to play it whatsoever.  I simply won’t play it.  If you want to play a multiplayer game with me, I’ll play some Dungeon Defenders or Left 4 Dead 2.

Wednesday, 11:39 am – Ricky

Man, I have so much respect for Nintendo’s legacy, but I just can’t get behind this kind of thing. It feels like hubris – “Fuck you people, we don’t care what the rest of the industry does, we’re Nintendo and we’ll do what we want!”. I can’t help but hope they eventually go Sega-style and port their amazing 1st party titles to other systems.

On a completely unrelated note, does anyone need a DotA2 invitation? Seriously, this shit annoys the hell out of me.

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Wednesday, 9:23 am – Gavin

Well, it’s finally happened.  The NeoGAF community has finally cracked the mysteries behind the Wii-U’s graphical power.  Nintendo has been deliberately secretive about their hardware in this case, and for the spec-skanks, there seems to be a good reason: it’s not overly powerful.  We all knew that, because Nintendo has routinely put out hardware less powerful that its competitors, but now the details about the GPU have come to light here.

It’s a long article, but well-written and gives some solid numbers.  Basically, here’s the quote you need to read: AMD’s RV770 hardware is well documented so with these numbers we can now, categorically, finally rule out any next-gen pretensions for the Wii U.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II was targeted for testing as it is a direct translation of the game from the Xbox 360 version.  Here’s what they had to say about that:

All of which may lead some to wonder quite why many of the Wii U ports disappoint – especially Black Ops 2, which appears to have been derived from the Xbox 360 version, running more slowly even at the same 880×720 sub-hd resolution. The answer comes from a mixture of known and unknown variables.

The obvious suspect would be the Wii U’s 1.2GHz CPU, a tri-core piece of hardware re-architected from the Wii’s Broadway chip, in turn a tweaked, overclocked version of the GameCube’s Gekko processor. In many of our Wii U Face-Offs we’ve seen substantial performance dips on CPU-specific tasks. However, there still plenty of unknowns to factor in too – specifically the bandwidth levels from the main RAM and the exact nature of the GPU’s interface to its 32MB of onboard eDRAM. While the general capabilities of the Wii U hardware are now beyond doubt, discussion will continue about how the principal processing elements and the memory are interfaced together, and Nintendo’s platform-exclusive titles should give us some indication of what this core is capable of when developers are targeting it directly.

There’s still a lot to discover about the Wii-U’s hardware, but one of the major mysteries has been cracked.

So, it really does look like Nintendo’s not aiming to compete with the PS4 and the nextbox.  A shame, because it would have been nice to play a port that didn’t have a blatant deficiency.  With the Wii, it was power and control.  At least with the Wii-U, it figures only to be power, but still, while I ALWAYS tout that graphics aren’t everything, that shouldn’t give companies free reign to provide poorer graphics on one of their ports (i.e. the developers), or to provide hardware that offers these ports but can’t maximize them or provide them at an equitable level.  Now, I understand the philosophy of Nintendo’s hardware development – they aim not to take losses on hardware so that they aren’t obliged to make up the difference in software sales, whereas Sony and Microsoft needed to sell X number of new games for their new system in order to break even, as those pieces of hardware were manufactured and sold at a loss.  But still, it would be nice to pick up a port for the Wii-U and not have this heavy asterisk hanging over your head – “the other consoles give you a better experience in this game than Nintendo does”.  I know that the big elephant in the room is the tablet controller and what that can provide for you, but in a lot of cases, that’s going to get shoehorned in the way motion controls were in 3rd party games for the Wii.

So where does that leave me?  Am I, as Gamentary’s biggest Nintendo fan/apologist going to skip out on the Wii-U, considering even I am criticial of the hardware?  YOU BET YOUR ASS that I won’t.  I’m absolutely going to pick it up, just not right now.  I’m waiting for an expanded library and I’m hopeful for a price drop.  Honestly, considering the amount of enjoyment and the amount of time I spent playing Nintendo’s first-party games on the Wii, if I got even half as much enjoyment out of it, it would have been absolutely worth it.  Nintendo’s first party games don’t exist in a vacuum for me.  There’s an awful lot of nostalgia at play, and playing those games just makes me feel happy, even when they’re frustrating as hell (cough *LUIGI’S PURPLE COINS* cough).  They bring me back to my golden age of gaming, when all was new and gaming was this nascent concept in my life.  Discovery was just as important as success, so whereas now I often hope to 100% a game in the shortest amount of time possible so that I can move on to the next thing in my library while being completely satisfied with my experience in the game, with those earlier games, I would just explore for the sake of it.  “I wonder what happens if I do this”, that sort of thing.  We didn’t own as many games when we were 12 as we do now, so we had to make use of what we had.

I can’t tell you how many hours I dropped into the Mario Galaxy games, or Mario Kart, or New Super Mario Brothers Wii, or Wii Sports.  Realistically, if I was looking to just “beat the game”, then with Mario Galaxy, I probably could have spent almost half as much time in the game and just beaten it.  But I had so much fun with it that I needed and wanted to replay levels just because they were so well-designed and so much pure fun.

I know exactly how much time I spent in Zelda: Skyward Sword and the Metroid Prime Trilogy, and let me just be brutally honest – it was a lot.  Am I a first-party whore?  Sure, when it comes to Nintendo’s IP.  But who cares?  I’m getting crazy levels of enjoyment out of those games, and that’s literally all that matters to me.

Anyway, new SimCity.  Looks awesome.  Looks deep.  Looks challenging.  Will I buy it?  Nope.  It’s simply too much game.  I can tell by looking at it that this is the kind of game that will absorb me and eat away at my life.  A non-terminal game with such incredible systems and mechanics?  That’s exactly what I don’t need right now.  Plus it looks like I need a frigging degree just to be able to play the game.  I do totally want someone else to pick it up, and then play it for 20 hours so that I can see where that gets them.  I want to jump in and watch someone play without doing any of the work myself.  I bet it would be fascinating.

Wednesday, 8:33 am – Ricky

I think Gavin hit the nail on the head. Developers can’t be surprised if and when we form the wrong impression of their game. They hold all the cards and own all the keys. The information they release, including the how and when, are what we as consumers can use to inform our impressions and opinions. If you withhold too much, you risk losing the audience’s interest. If you give away the farm, you might turn off people who care more or less about certain mechanics that you’ve highlighted, regardless of their actual prominence in the game.

It’s a thin line, and certainly, it varies for each game. Call of Duty can release nothing but a screenshot of a dude holding a rubber chicken and a sign that says “Bob’s Discount Tires” and people would still buy it. But The Last of Us is a new series, and I have no concept of what to expect from it since I’ve never played it. I might give some weight to the developer’s legacy (Uncharted is loved by many), but in the end, I can only go on what I see from the team.

One game that’s flying under my radar is SimCity. Releasing March 5th, I know next to nothing about this game, and discovering all the trailers they’ve released is kind of exciting! I’ve only watched the Digital Deluxe Edition trailer, which highlights some of the additional content packs you get with the premium bundle. This game will be mine.

Monday, 8:40 pm – Ricky

Get the show notes here.

Gamentary Round 18 – Februar 4 2013 (right click and “Save As” to download the mp3, or use the player below)

Monday, 9:38 am – Gavin

Funny you should mention this – the principle of the “defeat of expectation” is a cornerstone of classical humour and how jokes are structured.  You expect one thing, the punchline gives you another, you find it humourous.  It can be as simple as a dirty limerick, where our brains expect poetry to be a high art, or it can be taken to a ridiculous extreme in something like an Aristocrats joke.  AW YEAH USING MY EDUCATION IN A REAL WORLD SETTING.

But obviously, the defeat of expectations requires no harm or disappointment.  Losing out on Michael Ironside in the new Splinter Cell disappoints me, because I enjoyed his voice presence in the previous installments.  His replacement may end up being good, and it wouldn’t be fair not to give it a chance, but still, I’m going into that game with it at a disadvantage already, as I’m disappointed in the lack of Ironside.

I think we’ve all had our expectations defeated at some point or another.  I’m not just talking about games that I was excited for that let me down by way of execution – there are a ton of those (cough *FABLE 3* cough, cough *RED STEEL* cough).  Disappointment based on a key principle of the game that is different from my preconceived perception?  Here’s the relevant list:

  • Dead Rising 2.  I don’t know if there would have been any way for me to find this one out prior to purchasing, but I remain eternally disappointed that this game didn’t have a simple free-roaming option.  It’s a massive open world and fine, maybe you want me to progress through the story to unlock certain areas – I can appreciate that, even if it’s not my preference.  But the free-roaming option was never available to you – you always had to be aware of the time so that you could get some damn Zombrex to your shitty kid, and so that you could engage in certain missions.
  • Metroid: Other M.  “Here, let’s shit on everything you know and love about Samus and make her this subservient, meek little woman who lets her feelings cloud her judgment because women, amirite lol?
  • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (re-release).  Just let me do a goddamn offline time trial you little bastards.  I’ve ripped on this game enough that I don’t need to go any further with it.  Just let me drive on my own terms.  The original Need for Speed let me do that.  Why would that feature be removed?
  • Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat.  What I wanted was a new Donkey Kong Country.  The levels were decent enough, but being a Wii game, there were motion controls shoehorned in where they didn’t need to be.  Not a problem of execution; more a problem of principle.  You primarily use motion controls at the boss fights, which are fist-fights between you and the boss.  That’s a fundamental (and stupid) change from the DKC bosses, which were ludicrously large animals that were generally conventional bosses.  There was a charm to those bosses, and it was sorely lacking in DKJB.  I ended up skipping Donkey Kong Country Returns, much to my chagrin.  I heard it was a fantastic game (how could it not be?  It was one of Retro’s games, and everything they touch turns to gold).  I’ll probably pick it up if/when I acquire a Wii-U.

I don’t want to discourage or punish developers from taking risks and trying to innovate.  When you don’t do that, you risk ending up like the Modern Warfare series, completely stagnant and riding the same formula nonstop.  But if you’re going to change, take calculated risks and see how you can keep your franchise/IP fresh and interesting.  If people adore your first game, then maybe don’t change everything about it, but add more on.  Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a prime example of this – aside from some administrative options, generally the game was very similar to SMG1, but the addition of Yoshi fundamentally changed the game in many different ways and sufficiently differentiated the game from the first that it was worth releasing (and boy, was it ever worth releasing – GOTY 2010 no questions).  Just don’t be surprised if your gamble doesn’t necessarily pay off.

We’ll never be able to stop ourselves from getting excited about a game.  I think we absolutely have to be prepared to manage our expectations, but I think all we can do with that is manage our expectations regarding execution.  No developer has a 100% track record of smash successes (though if you look through the game development history of Nintendo EAD, you’ll see they aren’t far off), so we need to remember that nobody is infallible.  Bethesda has some phenomenal games out there with the Elder Scrolls series and Fallout 3, but they also put out IHRA Professional Drag Racing 2005.

At the same time, developers have to be aware that people will form their opinions based on what they see and read.  If you’re producing a game that is part of an established and storied franchise, and your trailer shows that your game is fundamentally similar to those games, but the game itself is actually different in key areas, then you can’t necessarily blame people for being disappointed.  And if your trailer is fundamentally different than the established franchise, then you really can’t blame people for not liking what they see.  Yes, I’m talking about YOU, Splinter Cell: Blacklist.  Unless your game includes a massive plot twist or shock/surprise to the player (Spec Ops: The Line, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, etc), it’s probably a good idea to be very honest about what your game is.  Everyone wants a cinematic trailer like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the original Gears of War, or the Halo 3 ones, but you need to be honest with those as well.  Fortunately, at least in my experience, my expectations were not defeated at all with those games based on their trailers (at all, really – I enjoyed them all thoroughly, and as you all know, DEHR was GOTY 2011 for me).  Just remember that the trailer should be a preview for the game, not a standalone media entity.

Monday, 8:39 am – Ricky

Looks like there are a few new previews up this morning for The Last of Us (hence, the topic this week). You can check out the articles on IGN and Gametrailers to start. Are you guys still interested in this game now that you know there are zombies in it? Did you know this already? Maybe it’s just news to me…

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