Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2

 
 
00:00 / 0:09:13
 
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Episode 012

Summary

Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a Single Player episode in which I take you through a quick review of Ubisofts Hack-tivist Sandbox Adventure WatchDogs 2. I’ll give you my impressions of the gameplay mechanics, and story and how Marcus plus his band of digital pirates, made good on the promise of this franchise.

There is a pattern emerging in the sort of titles I have been consuming lately. I think I have an unspeakable addiction to open world exploration games. 2017 and 2018 were jam packed with adventures across sprawling spaces that imitated San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Hyrule, and The Continent (in which Geralt of Rivia resides).

These titles share a lot of similarities. They each possess some new set of tools to try to exploit. A system of scales to balance your curiosity and aggression, with success. And Watch Dogs 2 is no exception. I would say that it actually makes good on the promise that Ubisoft made with the first Watchdogs. Great graphics, a world packed with multiple ways to solve missions, aggression or subversion, are both supported in fairly expressive ways.

Ubisoft Montreal created a version of San Francisco that is fun and expressive. Filled with graffiti, tech bros, gangs, landmarks, bad clothes, and the ability to wiretap passers by to steal money, sniff dumb chat messages, listen in on peoples gossip, and blow their cell phones up while they are in their pockets.

Not only cellphones, but it the developers have allowed you to weaponize transformers, manhole covers, cars…as if the Bay were a giant Rube Goldberg machine of destruction. Nearly every mission in the game allows you to be as aggressive or sneaky as you want to be and the game really expects the player to land somewhere in the middle.

And Marcus’ character is exactly the confident personality I love in a prota-gonist. Marcus and his band of “hacktivists,” are working to thwart a conniving egotistical tech billionaire whose master plan actually reads like the terms and conditions to a iTunes contract. The plot isn’t new or special, but the delivery seesaws between Mission Impossible and Fast n the Furious in the best possible way.

The Magical Mystery Hacking Team (deadsec), is a colorful cast of supporting characters that rally to the call of adventure. They each represent a characitured but not repulsive image of software anarchists cranked up to 11. Again, the character design and the world building that Ubisoft has for us is keeping that tension between absurdity and amusement.

ONE REMAINING THOUGHT ABOUT THE STORY

Without spoiling anything there is a character in the game who dies, which is foreshadowed, but it was used as a tool to up the stakes for Marcus and Deadsec’s resolve. I don’t really like emotional manipulation that is as subtle as an earthquake. This inflection point, however well-meaning or sincere, fell flat for me.

What rocks

  • Hacking and invasion, buttery smooth and full of hilarious moments of sheer delight. Shocking enemies through their phones is amazing.
  • Combat difficulty was pretty on point, Marcus’ tools are occasionally over powered, and the AI is not always equipped to react to your shenanigans.
  • Non-lethal weapons and evasion make you feel like a cool version of Solid Snake. Once you upgrade the taser it’s amazingly quick at sleeping people.
  • Visuals are excellent and what you would expect to see from the Ubisoft team.
  • Multiplayer invasions. Having random people jump into your game and mess with you adds some amazingly tense cat and mouse moments.
  • Solving environment room puzzles.

What fell flat for me

  • Chasing/Driving around the streets felt weak. Triggering little things like street explosions and stop light breakdowns, while fun aren’t as elegant or rewarding as the infiltration portions.
  • There is a main character that joins the team about half way through the game that I found to be nearly useless and uninteresting.

Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 2 out of 3 stars. If you are looking for a fun but shallow distraction and you see it on sale, pick it up. It is easily the best action movie you will play.

Thank you for listening to the podcast.


Tell us about your favorite Hacktivist Simulator or let us know how we can do to improve the show via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud


SHOW NOTES:

Special Thanks

IllustrationEvan McIntyre

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Background Music – Artist: Hudson Mohawke

God of War aka Dad of War

God of War aka Dad of War

 
 
00:00 / 0:36:34
 
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Episode 011

Summary

2018 gave us an overwhelming selection of action adventure titles to enjoy, and none of them shone as brightly as the jeweled handle of the Leviathan axe carving through our TV screens. Sony and Santa Monica studios gave Cory Barlog and his talented team of artists, what seems like limitless creative opportunity to create an engaging story accompanied by incredibly satisfying exploration and action gameplay.

The Ax, The Boy, The Gods, The Monsters, The Realms. Everything in the setting of God of War feels cohesive and expertly knit together. Kratos desires to hide within the world that appears to be falling apart, his past, and his progeny are drug into the machinations of Odin’s children.

Triple A titles should all be at this same level. It has all of the massive action moments that you want to entertain and delight but the quiet moments with Mimir in your boat telling stories or listening to the two dwarves complain about each-other’s work, really draws you in.

God of War is wracked up awards that were well earned and deserved. Josh and I talk about some of these finer game points and we can’t recommend it more.

If you have been on the fence about spending time with Kratos and friends, you should go ahead and get it. All the fine details in the game are pulled off with a professional grace that is impossible to ignore.

3 out of 3 stars. You need to add God of War to your list of todos ASAP.

Thanks for listening!


Tell us about your favorite God of War moment or game and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud


SHOW NOTES:

Special Thanks

IllustrationEvan McIntyre

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Background Music – Artist: Bear McCreary

NieR Automata Hot Take

NieR Automata Hot Take

 
 
00:00 / 0:06:36
 
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Episode 010

Summary

NieR Automata is a great game. The open world is a well polished End of Days theme park ride filled with interesting combinations of combat and RPG mechanics alongside a story that will ask for your attention.

2B, 9S and A2 are designed to be sympathetic heroes attempting to prove to themselves that they are indeed alive. As they roam the seemingly killer robot filled husk of a battered earth, they uncover conspiracies about their nature and the other beings in the universe.

For all of it’s design aesthetic, the deeper questions being prodded at are somewhat obscured by mandatory repetition and cryptic in-game NPC dialogue. The overwhelmingly textured and sometimes lonely feeling world, hides ideas about the self and consciousness that can be explored.

The clever folks at Wisecrack did an amazing video on the ideas that are buried in the game’s multiple endings and character experiences. Personally, these ideas would have been otherwise really interesting to me but I wasn’t as captured with the setting and characters enough to grind past three endings.

The game is worth your money, but not at full original asking price and if you don’t want to repeat yourself, you probably won’t make it through to the more compelling story pieces.

1 out of 3 stars. While I enjoyed the mashup and mechanics, the repetitions required to un-earth the remaining ideas in the game proved too high a cost for me.


Tell us about your favorite cursed earth robot adventure RPG and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud

Thank you for listening to the show.


SHOW NOTES:

Special Thanks

WisecrackVideo essay on The Philosophy of NieR: Automata

IllustrationEvan McIntyre

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Background Music – Artist: Belzifer
Track: NieR – Automata OST – Pascal (Instrumental)

Agency Through An Avatar

Agency Through An Avatar

 
 
00:00 / 0:30:04
 
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Episode 008

Summary

Something you create and also take with you. A reflection of you, but not of your image.

Avatars in games are not a new thing. Being represented as a 3D photo realistic polygonal model, is a far cry from our humble start. Our beginnings as paddle in space, or a hungry little mouth running from ghosts, or even a plumber trying to rescue a princess.

Inanimate objects in I Am Toast, anthropomorphized Raving Rabbits, or a simple adventurer with pointy ears and sword are us. They are extend us in that virtual plane as we conduct their movements, agonize over their steps.

These pixel powered apparitions are more than figures moving on our every whim. We can find ourselves attached to these surrogates, especially the ones we design ourselves. Spending an hour or more in a character creation screen, tweaking every possible combination until we have designed that next perfect reflection.

My friend David Diers will tell us about his, a red headed paladin that fights to protect those less fortunate. She has had a long history with him and it is amazing.


Tell us about your an Avatar you have and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud

Thank you for listening to the show.


SHOW NOTES:

Special Thanks

IllustartionEvan McIntyre

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Background Music – Artist: Asthetic
Track: Space Trip II Chillwave – Synthwave – Retrowave Mix

Quality of Life

Quality of Life

 
 
00:00 / 0:29:58
 
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Episode 007

Summary

There isn’t anything more frustrating than losing your focus. The trance-like state that you can be in while playing games, like a spell, gets broken by choices that seem to be available.

The frequency and quality of games over the last 5 years have been incredibly high. As a pro-casual gamer it is all but impossible to keep up with the relentless release schedule. I myself am contending with a backlog of titles that, I dread, will never be complete.

With such limited time to devote to this hobby it should be easy to avoid pitfalls. The well tread loops of loot drops, discovering shortcuts to interlocking routes, mastering enemy patterns, etc… all serve to keep us in one place. Six feet from the couch.

But even with all these studios producing high-quality computer generated adventures, patterns slip through QA that can remove all commitment. Josh Hunt joined me to examine some of these dark user patterns and catalogue experiences that if removed, would have made for a flawless game.


Tell us about your favorite Quality of Life in a video game and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud

Thank you for listening to the show.


SHOW NOTES:

Special Thanks

IllustartionEvan McIntyre

Music & Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2

 
 
00:00 / 0:08:24
 
1X
 

Episode 006

Transcript

Howdy friends, this is Zach, with another Single Player episode as I attempt to promote the value of a game that you should sink some of your hard earned dollars into. Today I am your virtual sherpa to what I see is the best multiplayer shooter of 2016 and 17, even though we are in 2018.

And that, my friends is the robot buddy-cop first person shooter TITAN FALL 2.

Even though the 4th quarter of 2016 was overflowing with FPS choices, and I will get back to that point later on. TitanFall 2 is empirically a game you should be playing. Respawn Entertainment, has been continuously releasing new modes, Titans, maps, and balancing patches over the course of the games life. And they have been doing it without asking for a single extra nickel.

Oh, did I just say that all the DLC has been free? As in beer? Yeah that’s right! FREE. No loot boxes, pay to win, blah blah, content locking expansions, etc.. Free.

And yet even with all this commitment from the studio, TitanFall 2 hasn’t been able to grow an audience equal to the first title’s.

When the first Titanfall came out, there wasn’t anything even close on the market. It had the pedigree that came from the Call of Duty series of solid gun handling and arcade like speed. Thanks to a brilliant team of passionate ex-Infinityward employees. But making a future space shooter wasn’t enough. What they added was piloting a Robot. A robot who could help smash and blast your way through the enemy team. That was the revelation. And they made it look easy. But I’m not here to talk about history.

TitanFall 2, picks up where TitanFall 1 left off, and then proceeds to kick the ball further downfield by adding a superb single player campaign. Something that many people said was missing from the original. Along with this a more refined class based system for the Titans. Plus, a few new pilot abilities, weapons, and progressions that upped the challenge in multiplayer.

They took that already delicious future combat sandwich and added more meat.

With all the accolades and praise coming out for the sequel, I am perplexed by the lack of adoption. The gameplay experience is something that is fun and addicting. If you like nimble, yet sharp gunplay, combined with some of most intuitive, albeit dizzying movement mechanics, look no further.

TitanFall 2 does something that none of the other shooters on the market seem to be able to capture or accomplish.

They set up the players for blockbuster heroic moments.

Something that Mark Brown at Game Maker’s Toolkit would describe as a positive feedback loop. Regardless of you or your team’s actual status as winning or losing, individual player moments feel like major accomplishments. Whether it’s goal denials in capture the flag, multi-kill sprees that slow the opposing team’s progress in Attrition, or narrowly escaping fire to deposit cash into the team bank during Bounty Hunt, TitanFall has an ebb and flow that builds in a cinematic way.

There are so many little examples of this sort of thing that a whole episode on all the aspects of these moments could be easily produced. And this loop makes the draw of aggressive play styles feel rewarding.

The value of these big spectacle moments can be felt as either a lone-wolf player or a team member. Combining the strength of the Titan’s skills or timing an attack on a defender will happen many times in a single match. Last-ditch efforts can snowball into a victory. And this sense of being able to turn the tables is the foundation of the risk and reward of playing TitanFall’s multiplayer.

Now I want to take a second to acknowledge the fact that while TitanFall borrows many simple mechanics from MOBAs. Think Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends. It doesn’t dwell on being a hybrid in the strictest sense. Yes there are powers on cool-down that are earned from kills and other actions. And these are for both the Pilots and the Titans.

I heard you liked cool-downs, so I put some cool-downs on your cool-downs.

Yes, there are small hordes of enemies that are at different levels of artificial intelligence and offensive power. But they aren’t anything to trifle with. They add a fuller feeling than the 6v6 rooms would be otherwise.

The multiplayer game play isn’t a horde-mode, combined with defense on laned choke points. Unless you are playing Frontier Defense. You don’t gather teammates and push behind a single tank as the clock runs down.

TitanFall truly operates as a first person shooter, with some MOBA mechanics to add layers to every match.

Level design is spectacular in both multi-player and the single player campaign.

For multiplayer, each of the starting maps has several vertical slices that pilots, and sometimes your metal sidekicks can roam around.

Part of learning these maps includes maximizing your routes to reduce travel time. Speed in each level area is critical to success and stagnation is punished swiftly.

A quick note on the single player experience. The 6-10 hour campaign (depending on your difficulty level and shooter skills), contains levels and chapters on par with the likes of Half-Life 2, and Portal. Without spoiling anything, the future planets, and massive industrial complexes contain truly memorable mechanics that are both challenging and exciting.

Visual puzzle solving in shooter isn’t something you see everyday. And in games that are strictly about puzzle solving you have time to reflect on your object. TitanFall asks you to take the new tools and then run as fast as you can. Never looking back. And it works. So well that they could have made a whole game with just that mechanic and I would have been thrilled to play it.

On the topic of the new movement options introduced in TitanFall 2. The introduction of the grapple hook has to be one of the greatest mobility augments in a video game. Pairing this tool with malleable gravity and momentum rules, the Pilot Jump Pack transforms you into a WIRE FU futuristic Jon Woo shoot em up superbeast.

So what could deflate the success of a title with such a wide range of fun and value?

Two words, Electronic Arts.

Titan Fall 2’s launch was suffocated by EA’s ridiculous plan to release it within a week of Battlefield 1. Another “AAA” shooter, whom, insert personal speculation, until now has been the real in house favorite. This coupled with Overwatche’s late year traction, seems to have bogged down the potential adoption to a shadow of what it could be.

I see this as a terrible tragedy. An opportunity to build on a solid rock and expand out further with a community that is genuinely fun to play with. Not to mention, rewarding a company, that listens carefully and reacts with quick amicable solutions.

TitanFall 2 is my hero shooter of the last two years. Everytime I hop onto a match on PSN I am reminded of why I like it so much. Everything else right now pales by comparison.

TitanFall 2 is a solid 2 out of 3 stars making it more than worthy of your money and time to play.

Thank you for listening to this week’s episode about a shooter I love, and you can find me playing on the weekends. Feel free to drop me a comment and let me know how you like the show and what you would like to hear about in the future.

Until then, this is Zach, keep playing.


Tell us about your favorite FPS games and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud

Thank you for listening to the show.


SHOW NOTES:

Play Titan Fall 2

Special Thanks

IllustartionEvan McIntyre

Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Music – dark cat – Maple Adventure

Follow dark cat

Overwatch Retirement

Overwatch Retirement

 
 
00:00 / 0:06:26
 
1X
 

Episode 005

Transcript

Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a quick Single Player episode. Today I want to tell you about my retirement from the e-sport shooter sensation that is Overwatch.

Overwatch, is a class based hero shooter in case you have never played or heard of it before. Blizzard has poured tons of money and talent into a game that is designed to capture both the e-sport craze and the adoration of filthy casuals. Marrying together MOBA like mechanics and map styles with a FPS twist.

I started my journey playing with two close friends and we were a merry trio learning the ropes. We began playing with bots at first to get the feel of things. But slowly we started playing matches with actual real oxygen breathing people.

After a few weeks of getting used to the flow of the basics, controlling and defending, denying and succeeding, we each started finding the characters that matched our play styles the best. I found myself playing a flex role for the most part, either support or tank rarely a skill shooter. In general support is the play style that I gravitate to in multiplayer games. Even during my short stint on DOTA2, I found support to be an appropriate role for myself.

In the beginning, we had good nights, we had bad nights, we drank deep the fun of learning how to manipulate aspects of the characters to our advantage. But, as the weeks went on I started to have compounding frustration with Overwatch. There seemed to be this uneven yo-yo of failure and success.

As I started looking at my win to loss stats as well as the those of the players around me, it appeared that most players don’t have a much greater than 50% win loss ratio. What does this mean? It means luck has more to do with victory than skill. Overtime this percentage will change as the game becomes more sophisticated. But for those first 6-8 months, it felt like a coin toss.

One of the things that contributes to Overwatch’s feeling of a lack of balance, is the introduction of new heroes. With each new hero or an existing hero retooled (could be nerfs or buffs), the match balance breaks. Without fail, the new hero is either overpowered or enhances another character to the point of OP as well. This seesaw shift in the power dynamics nullifies any skill you accrued in the previous season. And forces you to begin the process of relearning familiar characters and developing new strategies of play.

Even without this difficult development challenge that Blizzard has of play balancing so many unique heroes, Overwatch is a game that is very over-extended. It can’t decide whether it wants to be an E-Sport or another casual friendly, competitive power fantasy.

Game modes in Overwatch are an example of this fence sitting approach to design the team has taken. Overwatch launched with two core game modes, point defense/capture and escort. Point capture or defense is what it sounds like. You death ball your way from one defensible point to a second one. It uses a king of the hill mechanic to capture that location and move the next.

Escort, has your team following or riding an superbly sluggish vehicle from one point to another on the map. While the fury of the opposing team descends upon you. Like a bunch of hangry pigeons pecking away at a loaf of bread dragged along by a string. This mode has a very Tug of War ish feel mechanically but the driving team has way more momentum and speed when driving.

The ranking system also seems to be unable to decide how to reward you. Players who have crossed the 100lvl mark multiple times are more often than not, people who have invested time but perhaps aren’t that skilled. And many of these are single character players. Such as the Pro-Genji or the Pro-Macree. Unwilling to switch their roles to help support the team they are currently on.

Tilting. A term coined in poker to describe a mental state of frustration that leads to poor decision making. Even with the aide of industry leading communication tools, games range from fun to complete melt-downs. I don’t want to dwell too much on this because you know what I am talking about. Things start to go bad and nothing seems to turn it around. Everyone’s moral drops and all of your positive endorphins commit seppaku.

I don’t hate Overwatch. It’s a beautiful clone of Team Fortress 2. The characters are super imaginative and fun to play. The diversity and variety of roles give you tons of agency and cool swag to collect when loot (dupe) boxes don’t screw you over. The combinations of play styles and environments combined with lore give the game a real sense of depth.

After a year of playing the game casually I had reached my fill of it. I miss playing with my friends, but the overwhelming sense of failure I got from the game led me to stop. Overwatch has a lot going for it and if you haven’t already tried it out, you should. Play it for yourself and you may experience what I am talking about. Or you might love it. And that is just fine.

Thanks for your time friends and until the next, keep playing.


Tell us about your favorite quick players and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud

Thank you for listening to the show.


SHOW NOTES:

Play Overwatch

Special Thanks

IllustartionEvan McIntyre

Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Music – dark cat – Maple Adventure

Follow dark cat

The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian

 
 
00:00 / 0:18:08
 
1X
 

Episode 004

A short reflection on this long awaited/forgotten title that doesn’t quite hit all the notes for me.

Hello there friends and listeners, thank you again for your time in listing to my thoughts and ideas. On this occasion, I wanted to be able to deliver all my thoughts regarding the latest title from Fumito Ueda while it was still a strong impression.

I wasn’t necessarily waiting for The Last Guardian to ever arrive. I figured it would have had the slow death of silence that so many titles like it experienced during the generational changes in hardware. Clearly, TeamIco had missed the PS3 window entirely, and aside from an HD Collection re-release of the first two games, I had assumed Trico had been put to bed.

But lo, in the final quarter of 2016, just as it seemed the universe was opening and interdimensional rift above us, a shower of titles came rushing through the gates.

Trico seemed to crash through many reviewers without much of a beating, and I think it could have been a little more seriously critiqued as something of an exercise in too little, too late. While filled to the brim with captivating art and mysteries to behold in our imaginations, gameplay controls and frame-rates all seemed to bore down on the quality of the title.

Do you think I have missed the mark on this?

Tell us about your favorite quick players and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud

Thank you for listening to the show.


Special Thanks

IllustartionEvan McIntyre

Audio ConsultingJosh Hunt

Music – dark cat – Maple Adventure

Follow dark cat

Time

Time

 
 
00:00 / 0:32:17
 
1X
 

Episode 003

I remember I used to have time to play games.

A recurring theme in this podcast is the notion that, both myself and the people I interact with are Hard-Casual Gamers.

I am apart of the Millennials, which anyone born between 1977 and 2000. Although, there is no a universal agreement on this definition. Millennials in the US total more than 80 million.

Stats according to the census: as of July 1 2015 Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf

In the past we would have been considered extremely dedicated gamers, sacrificing long hours to Playstation or Nintendo gods without a second thought. We didn’t have a lot of money but we had time.

Now that we have a full load of adult responsibilities we look for opportunities to unwind and decompress but with an ever growing surplus of games in our Steam accounts, it seems like a task that will never be completed.

We want to play, but what do we choose based on our limited time?

How do you find time to play games?

Tell us about your favorite quick players and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud

Thank you for listening to the show.

SHOW NOTES:

Guest

Dave Rupert

Games we recommend from our chat

Special Thanks

IllustartionEvan McIntyre

Audio ConsultingDavid Diers

MusicAnamanaguchi – Dawn Metropolis

Difficulty

Difficulty

 
 
00:00 / 0:20:21
 
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Episode 002

Easy, Normal or Hard.

When games were younger, it seemed like there was one level of difficulty. And apart from secret codes, there wasn’t much you could do to improve your chances of success other than practice.

Is the challenge what makes a game compelling, interesting, or even valuable?

What are we getting out of the experience as a whole, without consequence?

Why does there appear to be an obsessed recently with the difficulty?

Do you remember the first game you played where you tried to crank it up to hard and decided it was too much?

Somehow, the notion of difficulty has migrated into the realm of modern game mechanics. Or more appropriately, difficulty has been sort of singled out in some cases as a pseudo mechanic.

What do you think about difficulty?

Tell us about your harrowing tales of game difficulty via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers

Games we talked about

Special Thanks

Illustartion Evan McIntyre
Audio Consulting Josh Hunt
Music Anamanaguchi – Dawn Metropolis