Escapist Podcast: 018: Saints Row 3, Old Republic & Horror

018: Saints Row 3, Old Republic & Horror

This week, we take some time to discuss our previews of Saints Row: The Third and Star Wars: The Old Republic. We also talk about plans for Halloween and horror games.

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I don't know if I'd say JC2 was trying to go for a somewhat realistic/serious anything - its "plot" is a poorly-acted, badly-written action B-movie, and it knows it.

Justin's comments about the fuel-air bomb reminded me of this snippet from Gabe Newell's bio on Valve's website:

His most significant contribution to Half-Life, the company's debut title, was his statement: "C'mon, people, you can't show the player a really big bomb and not let them blow it up."

Your insistence that a game needs to grip you right off the bat really scares me, as it says a lot about the inherent inferiority of the gaming medium in its current state. You cannot judge Henryk Gorecki's Third Symphony by its first five minutes any more than you can judge Tarkovsky's Stalker by its first half an hour nor M. John Harrison's Viriconium saga by any one of its entire bloody stories. Works of art ought be judged as a whole, and setting aside a large chunk of the game for the purposes of establishing context, ambience, settings, etc, is perfectly valid way structuring a narrative. Gamers really need to be more willing to approach games on their own premises with fewer preconceptions about how any given game of any given genre is supposed to be according to their own expectations.

This is, of course, assuming that you were talking about games that bored you rather than just outright sucked. :P

Also, you cast a Phoenix Down on someone who is KO'd, as in knocked out, not dead.

MatsVS:
This is, of course, assuming that you were talking about games that bored you rather than just outright sucked. :P

I think the issue is all to often those go hand in hand. There is also a subtle distinction between a bad start and a slow build up.

Also, you cast a Phoenix Down on someone who is KO'd, as in knocked out, not dead.

Oh I quite understand the canonical reason why it doesn't work, but that's the whole basis of the question in the first place. You have spells that destroy all the planets as they come colliding into you, it's kind of hard to justify nope that only knocked me unconscious. It's an immersion break.

Normal games with scary moments affect me more than horror games in general. The Lazarus scene in the original Diablo scared me a good deal. Most of that was due to my youth and the fact that I was on a late night bender. The elevator scene in the original MGS was disturbing as well.

Slycne:
I think the issue is all to often those go hand in hand. There is also a subtle distinction between a bad start and a slow build up.

Aye, and to be fair, I do not think I have ever played a game that has done the slow build up thing really well (if anyone would care to prove me wrong on that, though, I'd greatly appreciate it), so a cynical outlook is definitely understandable if non-constructive.

Slycne:
Oh I quite understand the canonical reason why it doesn't work, but that's the whole basis of the question in the first place. You have spells that destroy all the planets as they come colliding into you, it's kind of hard to justify nope that only knocked me unconscious. It's an immersion break.

I don't see why, but I suppose that simply has to do with how willing you are to suspend your disbelief. The idea of being clunked in the head by a comet that comes crashing down through the atmosphere only to give you, say, a 20% HP drop and perhaps some tiny chocobos dancing before your eyes seems perfectly apt to me, given the JRPG (and, arguably, anime-derived) context. It's arbitrary and kinda stupid, but still fitting.

MatsVS:
I don't see why, but I suppose that simply has to do with how willing you are to suspend your disbelief. The idea of being clunked in the head by a comet that comes crashing down through the atmosphere only to give you, say, a 20% HP drop and perhaps some tiny chocobos dancing before your eyes seems perfectly apt to me, given the JRPG (and, arguably, anime-derived) context. It's arbitrary and kinda stupid, but still fitting.

It's not so much a suspension of disbelief as it is something breaking that. I can accept that say a swordsmen is able to deflect bullets, but if he suddenly gets shot with no explanation that's going to pull me out. If a planet shattering meteor only does 20% health damage that's all the more disbelief shattering that getting stabbed is instantly fatal in a world of cure spells and phoenix downs.

As you can see there's a reason why Susan smiled and handed that question to me, haha.

"42:10 - X-Men: Destiny & Favorite X-Men/Superhero"

wait didn't yall have that last week?? Was that a typo??

MatsVS:

Aye, and to be fair, I do not think I have ever played a game that has done the slow build up thing really well (if anyone would care to prove me wrong on that, though, I'd greatly appreciate it), so a cynical outlook is definitely understandable if non-constructive.

The first two installments of the Half-Life series? Neither of them has any action for the first 20 minutes or so, depending on how much time you spend with the vending machines and whatnot.

Those fucking psychic monkeys... brrrrr... hate them.

UNHchabo:
The first two installments of the Half-Life series? Neither of them has any action for the first 20 minutes or so, depending on how much time you spend with the vending machines and whatnot.

Aye, aye, those are good examples, as they both do great jobs of establishing the setting before commencing with the action. They're kinda binary, though. They really don't have slow build ups as much as separate preludes that lead to the inevitable action sequences, at least in the first one. The second one does a better job of establishing not only the setting but also the atmosphere and the context for the conflict. I certainly cannot think of any better examples.

Eugh, System Shock 2. I loathed that game. Space FedEx with a wrench.

Susan needs to play Amnesia.

Urgently.

I cannot play horror games, because I'm a big baby. I didn't make it to the second hour of BioShock. I'd slowly creep into rooms and then back out when I heard some crazy person speaking. Then I'd come in again and run back out due to anxiety over someone jumping out at me. I probably did half the amount of things most people did in an hour and a half of that game. When the lights turned off in a morgue just as I walked in (along with creepy musical accompaniment), I said, "Oh, hell no" and put the game away forever.

List of other "horror" things in games that nearly drove me away:
-Husks on Eden Prime in Mass Effect
-The creatures in the first Uncharted
-Feral ghouls in Fallout 3 (I just got to the point where I immediately left any building or tunnel that had them)
-Prototype Dark Troopers in Star Wars: Dark Forces

MatsVS:
Your insistence that a game needs to grip you right off the bat really scares me, as it says a lot about the inherent inferiority of the gaming medium in its current state. You cannot judge Henryk Gorecki's Third Symphony by its first five minutes any more than you can judge Tarkovsky's Stalker by its first half an hour nor M. John Harrison's Viriconium saga by any one of its entire bloody stories. Works of art ought be judged as a whole, and setting aside a large chunk of the game for the purposes of establishing context, ambience, settings, etc, is perfectly valid way structuring a narrative. Gamers really need to be more willing to approach games on their own premises with fewer preconceptions about how any given game of any given genre is supposed to be according to their own expectations.

If you're playing a game to judge it as a work of art, then I agree.

If you're like most people, and you're playing a game to have fun and be entertained (whether through action, suspense, drama, etc.), then the game has to be engaging, with the appropriate emotion, right off the bat.

In this instance, I'll compare gaming to reading a novel, because they're both art that require time commitments that far exceed most other art mediums and they're both often used as entertainment and not necessarily artistic appreciation.

Most novels do not get published without an engaging hook on the first page, preferably the first paragraph. My favorite example:

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."--Stephen King, The Gunslinger.

That one sentence tells you everything you need to know about the novel going forward. Protagonist, antagonist, setting, motivations. You're set. And, above all else, it raises a bunch of questions that I want answered, and will be as I read the rest of the novel. Why is the gunslinger following the man in black? Why is the man in black fleeing? How are neither of them dying in this desert? Why hasn't the gunslinger caught up with the man in black yet?

So, with one sentence, Stephen King has established the basis for the story and made me want to read more.

Let's take another one:

"The Deliverer belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He's got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books."--Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash

We've established the hero protagonist, his attitude, his profession, and his technology, as well as the tone/style of the book. If you've read Snow Crash, you know that it very quickly subverts many of these expectations in hilarious ways, but with a consistent tone and style, and by that time you're hooked and it's exceedingly well done anyway. But it starts with an over the top description of the protagonist and his, err, noble profession, that draws you into the story.

I've got shelves and shelves of books and I could do this all day.

The opening salvo of any game, book, movie, etc. must be engaging and representative of the rest of the experience (see Extra Credits' show on pacing). If a movie opens with a heart-pumping action scene, then turns into a comedy/drama, I'm going to feel cheated; I was sold on heart-pumping action in the opening scene, and let down when the movie did not continue with that kind of entertainment. It's not that the comedy/drama wasn't good, it's just not what I was sold initially.

Conversely, if a game opens up boooorrrring, I'm going to expect the rest of the game to follow suit. Sure, Final Fantasy XXCVI might be really awesome twenty hours in, but if the opening half hour tells me the game's going to be boring, why should I care? That's really what it comes down to: the opening of a game has to tell me: Why should I care and What can I expect later (gameplay, style, etc.). If it can't, it has already failed and I don't care. I'll go play Dragon Age or Deus Ex or Europa Universalis or Halo or Arkham Asylum, something that grabs me by the spinal column and never lets go.

The scariest game I ever played was The 7th Guest which came out back in 1993. I was nine, and it freaked the CRAP out of me. Really. The opening credits would run and I would just pull the plug.
Amnesia didn't scare me, it just made me sick to my stomach, so I gave up 15 minutes into it.

Yay, you read my question! ^_^ Incredibly satisfying to see that I agree with the Escapist on this point, about being a Gamer as much as the next person. I'm so sick and tired of seeing all these threads in the forums about what a "true Gamer" is, and seeing that I wouldn't qualify according to their ridiculous standards.
Oh, and sorry about that, I just knew when I sent the e-mail that it was a bit too bulky. =*)

Also, I hope you guys have a blast at the Escapist Halloween party!! I miss Halloween ever since I've moved abroad, I miss carving pumpkins, getting a costume and giving out to trick or treaters. One of the most fun holidays ever! *sigh* Think I'll celebrate by watching Hocus Pocus again. ^_^

No mention of Eternal Darkness? Okay maybe it got old, but hearing a person crying along with the sounds of knives being sharpened in another room could get to you.

As for the childhood sounds taken out of context being scary it could be that that simplistic nature in the hands of say, an adult capable of doing whatever they want might make them DO whatever they want without any thoughts of consequences or social implications.

Endocrom:
No mention of Eternal Darkness? Okay maybe it got old, but hearing a person crying along with the sounds of knives being sharpened in another room could get to you.

As for the childhood sounds taken out of context being scary it could be that that simplistic nature in the hands of say, an adult capable of doing whatever they want might make them DO whatever they want without any thoughts of consequences or social implications.

Oooo, good choice. That game really is quite creepy, even once you know the sanity gimmicks.

Totally agreeing on weird universe mechanics in 4E. Somehow me punching a monster can make me damage resistant, but not punching anything else.

Oooh, Susan, you need to play Amnesia. It gives me shivers just to remember the scares that game gave me. It has all that you guys are saying:

- isolation
- the unknown
- defenselessness
- atmosphere
- disturbing use of sound

plus a sincerely messed up storyline that you make out of the confusion and an engine that has givne the most immersion through its almost tactile respose to input.

Endocrom:
No mention of Eternal Darkness? Okay maybe it got old, but hearing a person crying along with the sounds of knives being sharpened in another room could get to you.

As for the childhood sounds taken out of context being scary it could be that that simplistic nature in the hands of say, an adult capable of doing whatever they want might make them DO whatever they want without any thoughts of consequences or social implications.

Oh yes that was a great game even though it had pretty bad controls but the amount of ways they found to screw with the player without destroying the narrative or the immersion was great. I don't know about fright scares but it definitely gave an atmosphere of unknown and wonder what could it possibly throw at you next.

Another game that I loved and though definitely had its scare moments was The Suffering I just think that game had a good amount of scares. It does the hallucinations better then Fear in my opinion.

Failed lost my last post :( Oh well the shortened version cause I do not want to retype everything

Endocrom:
No mention of Eternal Darkness? Okay maybe it got old, but hearing a person crying along with the sounds of knives being sharpened in another room could get to you.

As for the childhood sounds taken out of context being scary it could be that that simplistic nature in the hands of say, an adult capable of doing whatever they want might make them DO whatever they want without any thoughts of consequences or social implications.

I thought eternal darkness was brilliant in its use of both the game/sound/monsters to scare along with messing with the player directly giving it a real fear on many different levels.

Another one that is definitely high on my list of scary games to play would be The Suffering it just has those moments that are both scary and though provoking.

So you mean if I want to get older and still love long, winding RPG's I should never have any social/romantic obligations?

XP

I kid, thanks for giving me some scary games to try :)

@Justin about the Fallout 3 end game. I pretty sure you can tell Fawkes to enter the radiation room and save it.It's actually pretty funny since he's pretty slow with inserting the code you give him.

 

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