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Episode 275: The Pen-and-Paper Podcast

by James Jones, Greg Leahy, Jon Lindemann, and Jonathan Metts - January 15, 2012, 1:56 pm PST
Total comments: 25

On our fourth anniversary together, the RFN crew just do what it do.

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On this fine episode, we start by noting a nice milestone -- four years with the RFN crew you know so well. However, we waste little time in getting on with the episode, starting with New Business As Usual. Lindy gets it going with Terraria, the 2D side-scrolling tribute/rip-off of Minecraft that might be even more appealing than its source material. James, having solved his Xbox woes last week, finally delves into Deus Ex: Human Revolution and finds it to be ripe with gameplay possibilities. Jonny breaks the Nintendo cherry for this show with updated recommendations for Nano Assault and VVVVVV on 3DS. He also has some thoughts on a PC shooter called Hard Reset, and he spins a heart-warming tale of a 30-year-old man playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time. Any and all video game fans ignorant of D&D should take heed! Greg wraps up with much more in-depth impressions of Mega Man X2, plus analysis of Shinobi's closing stages and bonus content.

In part 2, we catch up with your Listener Mail and have some excellent questions and topics from the audience. At your request, we speculate on Miyamoto's next genre and the possibility of having multiple online platforms/storefronts on Wii U. We also debate how reviewers should handle buggy games like Skyrim, and we try to pull dear Sgt. Foster out of his Nintendo rut. Send your own email and we may just answer it on the show!

Finally, we announce the winner of RetroActive #21, and it's none other than Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. Many voters cited the fact that this series has rarely been mentioned on RFN, and that's going to change very soon. It's part of the 3DS Ambassador program, so there's a chance you might already have this game for free and just needed an excuse to play it. Now that you've got one, head over to the official RetroActive forum thread to leave your thoughts and see what others are saying as they play along.

This podcast was edited by Greg Leahy.

Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their newest album, Done with the Devil, directly from the record label, Amazon (CD) (MP3), oriTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!

Additional music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is copyrighted to Nintendo, and is included under fair use protection.

Talkback

KDR_11kJanuary 15, 2012

My problem with games like D&D is that I don't know many other nerds, it's already hard enough to play more hardcore board games, never mind pen and paper games.


Fire Emblem then? Well, I guess I'll try it out. I'm thinking I'll do an ironman run (no reloading) just to call it finished fairly quickly. It'll be a cynical story of a hero setting out to save the world only to be killed disgracefully by some random mugger or whatever you fight in those games.

Olimar77January 15, 2012

4 years! Congratulations! It's hard to believe I've been listening almost that long. I was strictly a Mario/Zelda/Kirby/DK guy before listening to your show. My game library and my overall enthusiasm for gaming has grown thanks to you.

happyastoriaJanuary 15, 2012

Look, I'm a Bethesda fan, but their bugs are starting to piss me off! For instance, an entire city is bugged for me (I'm playing the PS3 version). Literally -- the entire city of Markarth is unplayable because an army of guards would always attack me for no reason whatsoever. The conversation system does not work in, or around the city: a guard would come up to me, tell me I've killed someone and must go to prison, I'm given a choice to submit or fight, I chose to submit but the game doesn't register it, so the guard echos the poorly acted sentence again! It's an endless cycle of repetition until I leave the conversation and then he, and an entire army, starts attacking. I'm about 40 hours in, and I'm not starting this fucking game over again! Also, it must noted that Bethesda said they leave a lot of bugs in the game because it's "funny." UGH!!

PlugabugzJanuary 16, 2012

Congratulations to you fine sultry gentlemen for 4 years of well edited, well polished and well thought out gaming goodness.

Concerning sultry, i honestly thought you guys would have edited it out LOL.  i wrote it assuming The Lindemann would say it!

The_Darkest_RedJanuary 16, 2012


Congratulations on 4 years, guys! I've been listening for about a year or so and I look forward to RFN every week. You guys all have unique and interesting opinions and personalities that really make the podcast special.

James, regarding Deus Ex: HR it is completely and totally possible to avoid all enemy encounters in the game (other than the boss fights). I actually managed to finish the game without firing a single bullet or even using a single takedown on an enemy. I know what you mean about playing the game using stealth until you're spotted and adapting from there but if you take your time and discover some of the secret routes and passageways you'll find that pure stealth is a completely viable option. Also, there are tons of strategies for taking down the bosses that don't involve any specific upgrades so even if you are playing a pure stealth build it isn't that difficult to take down the bosses. Granted, all of this generally comes with a finer understanding of the game that takes either a few playthroughs or some guide reading but I thought it was worth throwing out there. It's my second favorite game of the generation so I'm usually pretty quick to comment on it when the chance arises!

EvilMarioJanuary 16, 2012

Even the PC version of  Skyrim, there are plenty of bugs (including multiple game breaking ones), but thanks to console the user can bypass most of them in some way. However, it really shouldn't be up to the player to use the console, or to be forced to keep multiple save files to cover their asses on game breaking bugs. Just because it doesn't ruin the experience doesn't mean they should receive a pass on it. I don't think that's a tough concept to grasp. Although I think there has been plenty of reviewers, and communities on the internet that have called out  Bethesda on it, but they still enjoyed their time playing.


Maybe going after the e-mailer a bit too much because he attacked 'reviewers', but the ideal that the bugs are acceptable is crazy. Patching is a blessing, allowing developers to fix a few holes missed here and there, but also a curse because it lets developers push out titles with the idea that 'we can patch it later'.

A review is a summary of the experience of the person who wrote it with the game in question. As they said in the episode, if the person reviewing it didn't have major problems with it, they can't write about them. Maybe you think the bugs are unacceptable, and if so that should be a major part of any review you write, but if they didn't bother the reviewer they absolutely should not be a focus of the review. Reviews are subjective; they are the opinions of those writing them, and those individuals should be totally honest about their feelings, not pandering to any kind of an audience.

KDR_11kJanuary 16, 2012

If reviews are a purchasing guide (which they are) then mentioning bugs is fairly important to allow people to decide whether they could tolerate them.

I have Skywardsworditis as well (unless that's an euphemism for an erection), the game utterly failed to grab me. The first pre-dungeon segment was fine but the second wasn't, that bomb bowling was annoying and felt like the game mechanics weren't really designed for actions like that. Also I doubt the combat is going to become less tedious/wonky. Honestly I feel as disinterested in the game as I feel about Ocarina of Time 3D.

Terraria isn't just for two people, the theoretical maximum on a server are 256 players but your residential connection won't cut it for that and it's a game you'll only want to play with friends anyway (it's too easy to grief and cheat). Still, you can share a world between several players and work your way up together. The bosses can be done solo but are much harder that way since they disappear if you die once (in MP they only do when all players are dead simultaneously which practically never happens, you can only hit the time limit on those battles). I've beaten them all on my own, including the hard mode bosses.

Also my "queue" is a three tier system: Tier one games get played: These are the ones that are currently in the system (hence a strong bias towards the PC where all the games are in the system simultaneously), tier two might get played if I have a really strong desire to: The piles of games around my systems that I haven't filed into the shelves yet (and honestly don't have enough shelf space for anyway) and tier three gets ignored: the games on the shelves. Technically there's also tier four, the Gamecube and SNES games in my closet but that might as well not exist.

What I don't get is a demand for shorter games for busy gamers, I'm a busy gamer and I don't have trouble with that. A long game can be played for much longer than a short game but a short game is over fairly soon. With the long game I can decide how long I want to play, I'll just quit once I had my fill. Can't do that with a short game. Well, okay, I can but that's usually an indicator that the game was a waste of money, for example I just saw that I played Aliens Infestation for less than two hours. Don't see games as something that has to be finished and you'll be happier for it.

jimwood27January 16, 2012

Quote:

Look, I'm a Bethesda fan, but their bugs are starting to piss me off! For instance, an entire city is bugged for me (I'm playing the PS3 version). Literally -- the entire city of Markarth is unplayable because an army of guards would always attack me for no reason whatsoever. The conversation system does not work in, or around the city: a guard would come up to me, tell me I've killed someone and must go to prison, I'm given a choice to submit or fight, I chose to submit but the game doesn't register it, so the guard echos the poorly acted sentence again! It's an endless cycle of repetition until I leave the conversation and then he, and an entire army, starts attacking.

I have the exact same bug (360 though).  It really is frustrating because all my open quests require me to go to that city so the game sits there unplayed until they fix it.  I have had funny bugs in Bethesda games (a Deathclaw randomly launching into space over and over again in Fallout 3) and I forgive those but the bugs that alter actual content are terrible.


Also, I saw several outlets actually ask for the PS3 build to review but end up with only the 360 version as if Bethesda knew the PS3 version was borked and would reflect in lower review scores.  I get the 'it didn't hinder my experience' argument because it was largely true for me as well but the guard bug in Markarth has left a pretty bad taste in my mouth.  There is also a difference between releasing a buggy product and releasing a version that out-and-out does not work.  A video breakdown showed the PS3 version hitting 0 Frames Per Second, a first for that analysis.

Bethesda's problem is that they haven't properly adjusted their development processes to match the lower margin of error inherent in console development.

Historically, as PC-only developers, they could get along with a laissez-faire attitude towards bugs, because they could either patch them post-release or count on the player community to do it themselves.  Unfortunately, this same attitude permeates their console efforts, but with a catch: all console patches need to go through certification, meaning that patches are more costly to develop and test and take longer to produce (players can't patch console titles, either).  There's simply a lot more overhead.

They really need to get their QA straightened out, or it's going to undermine customer goodwill even more than it has already.  The fact that they make huge, sandbox-style games doesn't give them a license to release them with huge bugs like those described here.

broodwarsJanuary 16, 2012

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Bethesda shouldn't be making these epic 100+ hour massive open world games if they don't have the talent; time; and resources to not **** it up.  I don't accept the common excuse that it's "ok" for their games to be like this, or that they "have" to be so buggy because "the world is just so huge and there are so many interconnecting systems."  Sorry, but if you can't make your game within your design without massive game-breaking (and, in the PS3's case, system-breaking) bugs, you shouldn't be making massive open world games.  But people keep letting them get away with their shoddy QA practices, something I find particularly distasteful when reviewers allow the scope of the game to overwhelm their better judgement.  It's a broken game fond of creating corrupted data files, runs at 0 FPS frequently, and has quite a few quests that break for a multitude of common userpath reasons?  10 out of 10, because as bad as the experience will be for most users, "my 360 copy" only gave me a few "acceptable" loading screen crashes"!  Sheesh, the world we live in.

As a PS3 user, I'm especially jaded against Bethesda because what happened with Skyrim was nothing new to me.  It was extremely common for Fallout 3 to crash on me on PS3, and the DLC missions were practically a slideshow in places.  But Bethesda promised that that was a relic of their old engine, and that the new one would be much more stable and bug-free.  Then they released Skyrim on PS3, and it was even worse.  Well, that'll be the last Bethesda game I ever buy.  The scope of the game is outstanding, but when I see a game as relatively massive as Xenoblade ship on a system substantially less powerful than the PS3 and it runs 100x better with no major issues, I can't accept Bethesda's laziness anymore.

noname2200January 16, 2012

Regarding D & D, I'm assuming Jonny picked up the latest version of the game (4th edition). Each addition is fairly different from the last, and a lot of longtime D & D players actually complain that 4th edition is trying very hard to be a videogame, theoretically to get money from WRPG developers again, so it's no surprise that it feels like an SRPG. For an example of how prior D&D rule sets played like, pick up older Bioware titles like Baldur's Gate, or Obsidian games like Planescape.

Yes, the red box is a simplified version of 4th edition. That's about all I know about D&D editions, though.


I am playing KOTOR now and may work backwards to some earlier Bioware games after that, especially if I resist the temptation to try The Old Republic after my game-buying resolution wears off.

noname2200January 16, 2012

This may just be nostalgia talking, but I envy your ability to experience some of those games for the first time! I generally think the writing, combat, and general variety/freedom of WRPGs peaked in the late 90's. Although interfaces have definitely come a long way since then...

martyJanuary 17, 2012

I stopped playing SS a month ago when I got to the 3rd silent realm (about 30 hours in).

I wouldn't say that there was a decision to STOP playing--but more the idea that I wanted to play this game left my mind.  I found very little of the 30 hours I spent with the game enjoyable... a few boss fights and the first silent realm... the rest is pretty bad.

I never felt like I hit a brick wall.  I just came to accept that the game wasn't fun and I wasn't going to have any fun with it, regardless of how much time I spent on it.

SorenJanuary 17, 2012

Congrats on 4 years guys. I've been listening for only 1 year, but I do have to say that I eagerly await every new episode. It's become part of my Monday morning routine.

Before my buddy moved to Homer, we played three-man D&D sessions on a regular basis--1st edition. I have the simplified AD&D set and the red box that Jonny mentions. Haven't tried the red box yet. D&D is really fun--more fun the more people you have playing it. We also really like Talisman (4th Ed.), which is like if D&D were a board game.

CptrobotoJanuary 17, 2012

Greg,
After your New Buisness, I went out and bought Shinobi. I'm really surprised at how much I'm enjoying it. It IS hard, but I keep chipping away at it in short bursts so it is is satisfying when I finally make some progress. Thanks for talking it up, otherwise I would have passed over it.


Also, my heart was glad to hear D&D mentioned on the podcast. I'm not a huge fan, but I did my graduation paper for an English degree on the positive uses of game systems like D&D in the classroom. So, I kind of grew fond of it. The Red Box is a great start and is the one I use with my middle schoolers (and Pathfinder).


Congrats on four years.


3ds: Cptroboto 4897-6497-8151

bhurakJanuary 17, 2012

I'm Skyward Sworded out for the moment too.  I'm not too far in - just doing some bomb bowling stuff but the game is really not grabbing me.  I put in OoT 3D and I was amazed that for a game I remember starting so slowly - how quickly I was in the Deku tree dungeon!  Zelda's are really getting too heavy with story / fluff, etc.

Anyway, enough of that - and congratulations on four years together.

Oh and Nano Assault arrived today - seems fun and well put together so far.  Thanks for the recommendation!

noname2200January 17, 2012

Quote from: Cptroboto

Also, my heart was glad to hear D&D mentioned on the podcast. I'm not a huge fan, but I did my graduation paper for an English degree on the positive uses of game systems like D&D in the classroom. So, I kind of grew fond of it. The Red Box is a great start and is the one I use with my middle schoolers (and Pathfinder).

If you don't mind, I'm curious to hear some of your thesis on this. Could you PM me a rough outline, at your convenience?

MonteblancoJanuary 18, 2012

Good episode. As a Bethesda hater (not really, but close), I just want to point out why I really dislike their products. I've played about six hours of Oblivion and I finished Fallout 3, both in the Playstation 3. The problems you discussed are also true to these previous games. Fallout becomes nearly unplayable after a while. I would have to reboot the game every 10 minutes to avoid it freezing in a slide show. As far as I know, Skyrim suffers from the same problems. The fact is Bethesda knows their engine will not work properly in the PS3 as it doesn't have as much memory as the PC in which it was initially developed. They know it for years now and they don't care to change it because they think the press, for most part, is to eager to bite the hype and objectively review their games and their customers are stupid enough to learn from their previous products. As the company appears to not care about their customers' experience, I stopped caring about their games.


Regarding Skyrim, I might be biased but I am not sure why so people are excited about it. The graphics are better than Oblivion but the characters still look pretty bad. Also, if the game follows Oblivion and Fallout and considering what I heard so far, the story should be mediocre at best without no emotional linkage to the player. Finally, I keep hearing praise for this game from the same people who complains about padding in Skyward Sword. Really? I guess Bethesda improved their quests design a lot since Fallout.

happyastoriaJanuary 18, 2012

Quote from: Monteblanco

Good episode. As a Bethesda hater (not really, but close), I just want to point out why I really dislike their products. I've played about six hours of Oblivion and I finished Fallout 3, both in the Playstation 3. The problems you discussed are also true to these previous games. Fallout becomes nearly unplayable after a while. I would have to reboot the game every 10 minutes to avoid it freezing in a slide show. As far as I know, Skyrim suffers from the same problems. The fact is Bethesda knows their engine will not work properly in the PS3 as it doesn't have as much memory as the PC in which it was initially developed. They know it for years now and they don't care to change it because they think the press, for most part, is to eager to bite the hype and objectively review their games and their customers are stupid enough to learn from their previous products. As the company appears to not care about their customers' experience, I stopped caring about their games.


Regarding Skyrim, I might be biased but I am not sure why so people are excited about it. The graphics are better than Oblivion but the characters still look pretty bad. Also, if the game follows Oblivion and Fallout and considering what I heard so far, the story should be mediocre at best without no emotional linkage to the player. Finally, I keep hearing praise for this game from the same people who complains about padding in Skyward Sword. Really? I guess Bethesda improved their quests design a lot since Fallout.

I thought  Fallout 3, Oblivion, and New Vegas had better quests/overall story than Skyrim. In fact, Skryrim's story is pretty bad. Let's just say when the main quest ended, I had to go to my quest log to see if that was really it.  To be honest, I don't know what happened. I don't know who is who. And most importantly, I don't care. The game is nothing but a big disappointment. As for Skyward Sword, the game is f'ing boring as hell. I know plenty of people (even hardcore Nintendo fans) who stopped playing the game. I'm sorry, but that game looks ugly, Link looks like an idiot holding the sword, the worlds are uninspired, the music is pretty meh, etc.

NinSageJanuary 19, 2012

2 cents:

1a. I loved the PS2 Shinobi game.  That last level or so was hard as nails!

1b. I could definitely see myself getting the Shinobi 3DS game.  I still feel like the graphics are remnants of a DS work-in-progress but, the gameplay looks awesome enough and I'm hardly a graphics whore to begin with.

2. I... agree.... with broodwars? (This is like the 2nd time in a month!)

Bethesda shouldn't try to make games so big they crumble under their own weight.  Make those games in 5 years when the technology catches up to your vision.

In the meantime, I fully understand the perspective that the bugs simply don't detract enough to ruin the experience.  However, it just seems like an odd double standard the things that DO "ruin the experience" for games that work, but don't flex their digital manhood in the process.

Hypothetically speaking...
"Game X was not in HD so it ruined the experience."
"Game X did not require immense processing power so it ruined the experience."
"Game X's characters were too happy and cute and not at all covered in the blood of their enemies. It ruined the experience."
"Game X had a glitch where if you talk to this guy 5 times in a row and put a bucket on your head after the 2nd and 4th times, it will freeze.  It didn't ruin the experience, but I must bring it up every time the game is mentioned."
~
"Bethesda Game Y is the game of the year!!
...
.....
.........
............ also there were bugs...... in the GAME OF THE YEAR!!"

TizonaJanuary 21, 2012

Just wanted to let you guys know I added an Itunes review. I think I remembered to use all the words from the podcast....Keep up the great work!

Also, Jonny, your theory about psychological "wall" is spot on. So many times that has happened to me, and you just have to sit down and force yourself to finish. I had to do that about halfway though Okami the first time, but I'm sure as hell glad I did, or I would have missed the second half of one of my favorite games.

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusJanuary 23, 2012

A bit late to the party since I am catching up in the podcasts which do end up a little long at times...

Deus Ex gameplay is still very solid despite it's age. The amount of care and detail was unheard of back then and is still far more engaging than a lot of today's games. If you are having issues with how low rez it looks, Give this a try. It is a community HD re-texture of the game. It's one of the many community mods out there. Biomod fixes many gameplay oversights and adds additional gameplay elements not found in the original.

There are texture upgrades for Deus Ex:IW, but nothing fixes how fundamentally flawed that game is. If it wasn't a Deus Ex game it would be average at best, but as one, it's a massive step backwards in every way making it a terrible game.

I haven't played Human Revolution yet and I am waiting on the Mac version which might be Steamplay. But it's being done by Feral who have a history of not going Steamplay(Balls). Based on what I have seen, SE's influence is mostly graphical. It looks very much like Front Mission Evolved with the colour palette and the distinctive Japanese clean texture style(See: MGS, PN5). It doesn't look western.

The Bethesda situation is Bullshit. Reviews are indeed subjective, but it's no reason to throw objectivity out the window and not do analysis on the gameplay fundamentals including it's stability. Giving it GOTY except for PS3 is a cop out in the worse possible way especially since the bugginess was universal enough so it should have disqualified it. You have to ask the question, "If this was any other game, would this be acceptable?".

If games were wine the subjective part would be the taste, the aroma and whatever BS adjectives you use to describe it(Crisp Spring dew). The objective portion would be alcohol content if any(Not wine without it!), contaminants, age, basic chemistry of it, did they fuck it up and make vinegar?. It doesn't matter how subjectively good the wine is if a significant % of the bottles aren't wine or poisons you. The same has to be said for games and reviews of them.

It's also naive to take their word when they say we will fix it later. History has shown that they do twist the truth, omit and outright lie or threaten to get a good review and it's not acceptable. Bethesda's situation is worse as they have never lived up to those promises. Bethesda is an entire studio full of Peter Molyneuxs and even as a joke it isn't funny anymore.

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