Keyboard Geniuses

Temptation: The New Sale Of The Century

The Last Temptation Of Commenters

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • March 1, 2013

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Temptation Nation

This week John Teti launched a new feature covering treacherous remakes of beloved game shows called Take Two. Temptation: The New Sale Of The Century was the subject of the first column, and Teti criticized one portion of the show where a player was able to ring in extra early on every question—and because the questions were so poorly written, there was no real risk for doing so. Electric Dragon stuck up for tactically eager ringers everywhere:

If [early buzzing] is permitted, then there’s a special skill in trying to determine the likely answer from the least amount of the question.

Once upon a time, I took part in an inter-school quiz league. This was under University Challenge (College Bowl) rules: You can buzz in early, but your team gets penalized if you interrupt and get it wrong. So the quiz master starts the first question, “In Scrabble, how many bonus points…” at which point I buzz in and say “50,” having realized that the only time you get a fixed number of points is when you use all seven tiles in the rack. The opposition was a bit shellshocked after that, and we won quite handily.

It’s a technique you have to be careful with, as UC-type questions can sometimes lay traps for the over-eager by veering away from the obvious partway through.

Amazingly, Andy Kanzer’s mom appeared on the original program, and came out with a great experience:

My mom was a contestant on Sale Of The Century in the early ’70s. The host at the time was Joe Garagiola. She had gone to a studio in NYC to help a friend audition for The $25,000 Pyramid (or whatever the value was at the time). She had hair down to her waist, wasn’t wearing any makeup—very crunchy granola. Someone from SOTC asked her if she wanted to be on the show—she wanted to go home and change, but they wanted her as she was. She could tell early on that she had no interest in the grand prize, which I think was a dining room set or something similar, so she kept buying prizes as she went along. A case of champagne, a trip to Vegas, etc. So by the end of the show, it was one and done.

I got to stay home from school to watch the episode, and that was it. No VCRs, no DVRs, no reruns. Decades later, when I started a career in television, I contacted some production companies in an effort to get a copy of the episode for my mom, but sadly, I was told most of the episodes were destroyed since the networks figured there’d never be a reason to show them again. Still, a great memory and a fun story.

Crysis Me A River
Crysis 3

Ryan Smith enjoyed the hunting and shooting aspects of Crysis 3 but was disappointed by the story’s attempts to create a fallen hero. Boardgameguy saw a connection to the hero theme and linked us to an article on Michael Jordan’s post-basketball struggle as an aging celebrity:

On the topic of the sacrifices that people make to be successful, this article that came out around the 50th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s birthday does a nice job of capturing how his competitive drive prevents him from enjoying life as he ages.

365 Saunter
Year Walk

Busting out his iPad, Steve Heisler covered Year Walk, a spooky puzzler reminiscent of Tim Burton, for Sawbuck Gamer. While Heisler enjoyed that the game didn’t explain its strange imagery and symbolism remained, DMikester pointed us to a nifty accompanying app that does just that:

One thing the review doesn’t mention is the Year Walk Companion, a separate (and free) app that both acts as an explanation of the symbolism of all of the scary and haunting creatures and contains secrets of its own that coincide with the game. I love the interplay between the apps (something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before), and I really hope that more developers think outside of the box like this. Also, even if the game is very short, the art direction, atmosphere, and the innovative puzzles more than make it worth the price.

Rocky And Olaf
Disposable Heroes

In a Decadent column, Drew Toal reminisced about two wargames that made you feel for the loss of your troops, Commandos 2: Men Of Courage and XCom: Enemy Unknown. Responding to Commandos’ stereotypically named Natasha “Seductress” Nikochevski, commenters picked up on the ubiquity of Natasha in pop culture. Girard helped demystify the ugly-sounding name of “Olga”:

It was weird when I moved to Russia and actually encountered people with that (very common) name who weren’t, like, refrigerator-sized cartoon barbarians with unibrows, or whatever my American pop culture experience had convinced me was what an “Olga” looked like.

It actually seemed like whenever a male Western teacher started a relationship with a Russian girlfriend, four times out of five, she was an Olga (and typically very nice/pretty/whatever).

I guess what I’m saying is, we need some brave game to take back the name Olga. I’m not quite sure why this is what I’m saying.

Elsewhere, Swadian Knight made a case for the emotions riled up from playing the Fire Emblem games:

I think few games have made me feel as guilty about losing troops as the Fire Emblem series. Each individual soldier under your command has their own backstory and motivations, and the player is encouraged to forge friendships between them for combat bonuses.

Then, of course, they will die horribly. Whether you screwed up or they just had a bad roll is of no consequence; either way, they deliver a teary-eyed monologue, and then they’re gone forever. And then at the end, you get an epilogue telling you what each of your surviving soldiers went on to do with their lives, and a series of title cards with the names of the ones who didn’t make it—to remind you that the world you saved was ultimately poorer for the sacrifices you made to save it. All of which comes together to make losing a unit in the game enough reason to ragequit it for the rest of the week.

My Hear-o
Martin Stig Andersen

This week also saw Anthony John Agnello launch our newest Special Topics mini-series, an interview series on the importance of sound effects in games. First up was a chat with Martin Stig Andersen, Limbo’s sound designer. Chum Joely testified to the lengths to which foley artists will go:

There was some interesting discussion in the PlayStation 4 “more more more” article about how complex this can be, like with the scores that adapt themselves to what’s going on in gameplay.

Actually, though, what’s really fascinating is the whole process of trying to make the sound world of the game sound like a real 3D space (which Andersen says they were NOT trying to do with Limbo). I happen to be on the mailing list for the sound team on the game I’m currently working on, and there are like eight people constantly discussing how to get the timing and volume of the Foley sounds exactly right, tuning the “occlusion” modifiers so that sounds on the other side of a door or wall come through in a realistic-sounding way, and so on. It’s crazy how much work and testing goes into this.

Also, there is a Foley studio inside our building, so occasionally you see a guy in his boxers and tank top going in there with a sledgehammer and a plastic bottle of ketchup or what have you, just to get one element of that perfect “head hits pavement” sound. So that’s pretty awesome.

Elsewhere, Pagan Poet reflected on leitmotifs, or short recurring melodies, in video game music:

Do video game soundtracks still utilize leitmotifs? I’ll admit, I haven’t been very “in the know” when it comes to recent video game music, not like I was as a child/teenager when I was obsessed with Super NES/PlayStation 1 game soundtracks.

Leitmotifs were always a cool idea to me. For example, in Final Fantasy VI, the first time I heard “Celes’s Theme,” I somehow already knew the melody but didn’t know why, until I realized it was the same as her aria in the opera.

Eventually, I went on to conservatory and learned about its historical origins and use in opera and drama (especially Wagnerian operas), but it was like a light bulb went off in 10-year-old me’s head once I realized “Okay, this melody plays whenever the scene is about Terra, and this one is for Sabin and Edgar, and this one is for Celes” and so on.

More On More, More, More
PlayStation 4 controller

We compiled Keyboard Geniuses a little too early last week for the PlayStation 4 discussion to develop in its entirety, so we wanted to circle back and pick up a couple of comments that we weren’t able to include last Friday. The first comes from Llodes, who made an important point about the applications of the PlayStation 4’s new and improved technology:

I’m sorry, but this is embarrassing. Gaming on consoles has actually been severely limited by technological restrictions. In particular, it has been limited by console architecture that heavily favors graphics processing over other game elements.

This is a HUGE REASON why console games lean so heavily towards flashy, heavily-scripted shoot-’em-ups, with a minimum of interaction or exploration. The current generation isn’t really designed to handle persistent, expansive, detailed worlds, especially those with lots of moving pieces, and the limitations show. Even in games like Skyrim or Far Cry, you can see the console creaking to keep up. A more PC-like architecture allows game designers to create games with vastly larger environments, better artificial intelligence, more dynamic worlds, and lots of other things that have the potential to move mainstream gaming out of its Call Of Duty-shaped rut.

We don’t have to write navel-gazing articles about this: You can just directly compare PC gaming to console gaming. And what you find, pretty consistently, over decades, is that the technological flexibility of PCs has resulted in a much wider range of game designs and a much higher degree of gameplay experimentation.

And just so we’re clear, I’m not defending Sony or the various dubious practices of console makers. I’m sure, if Sony had its way, designers would crank out Call Of Duty clones from now until the end of time.

In response, Feisto separated technology from techno-fetishism:

Just to push back a bit (and, full disclosure, I didn’t see the event, and I’m going on strictly what Teti wrote), I didn’t take the article as Teti saying, “Pssh, better specs, big deal,” but rather to point out that the event in general seemed to focus on the improved prowess of the PS4 in the abstract, without doing a solid job of explaining HOW that prowess would create better and newer gaming experiences (something that you seem to have done a much better job of doing than the event). That is, it wasn’t Teti who was saying technical improvements equals more polygons; it was the event itself that was doing that.

I think Teti would actually agree with you on the fact that technical improvements can give developers more freedom to create better and newer gaming experiences; but instead of showing that, the event focused on flashy, heavily-scripted demos that seemed to suggest, in anything, more of the same. And if anyone seems to be rolling his eyes, it’s David Cage, sniffing at the current lame technology that doesn’t allow him to fulfill his “artistic visions,” as if technology was to blame for whatever flaws his previous games may have had.

Nazis! Nazis! Nazis Galore!
Nazi Zombie

Drew Toal recapped the games that were recently released for Out This Week. One game in particular, Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army, caught the eyes of our commenters, and Steve McCoy assembled this handy crib sheet for other dumb Nazi games yet to come:

Untapped Nazi potential: Mummy Nazis, Invisible Nazis, Giant Nazis, Leprechaun Nazis, Cyberpunk Nazis, Furry Nazis, Fraternity Nazis, Anti-Nazi Nazis…

Thanks, Steve! Well, that’s it folks. As always, thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.

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12 Responses to “The Last Temptation Of Commenters”

  1. Effigy_Power says:

    Picking topics I don’t have much to say about on purpose… that’s low.
    I mean, has to be. The alternative would be that I didn’t really have a rant or joke handy this week and that sounds totally made up.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I figure you say what you want about what you want and see where it goes. I wish I had the 3DS, because otherwise I would’ve Fired my Emblem all over that thread. My old FE games are too distant in my memory to apply. But I only ever let one guy die. In the first GBA game.

    • George_Liquor says:

       I haven’t been cat-commented in like… forever! I refuse to accept any explanation other than it’s a massive, multinational feline conspiracy to rob me of the recognition I so desperately crave.

    • PaganPoet says:

      Spread the wealth, @Effigy_Power:disqus , you greedy gobble-gannett! You have a wealthy cache of studs, and some of us over here are feasting on scraps!

  2. George_Liquor says:

    I don’t buy Llodes’ point. There’s no reason to believe that games like Gears Of War require any fewer system resources than games like Skyrim. Grand Theft Auto 3 was a huge, expansive sandbox game running fabulously on the lowly PS2. A game console isn’t running a full desktop OS, and it isn’t checking for viruses, system updates, new emails, etc while playing a game so it doesn’t need as much memory or processing power to provide a gaming experience comparable to a PC.

    At this point, if you directly compare a PC game to a console game, you get basically the same game. There are precious few big-title games released exclusively for PC anymore.

    • Bakken Hood says:

      Indeed.  I also think that argument puts the cart before the horse.  Even if console hardware is geared towards explosions over number crunching (something I don’t buy either, given that RDR/Fallout/Op Flashpoint all run fine on Xbox, even if OF’s devs have never held a controller), it’s because so many deluded devs think that’s all console players want.  (Because they love “console-friendly button mashers” like the universally beloved Dragon Age II, apparently.)  The alleged hardware limitations, if they do exist, are a function of the CoD-clone focus, not the other way around.

    • I disagree quite strongly with Llodes’ assertion that consoles are strictly COD machines. Ignorant console players in the late 90s had the same criticisms of PCs, that all they had was shooters. It wasn’t true about PCs then, and it isn’t true about consoles now. 

      Yes, Xbox had the most successful console launch of the 2000s (based on units sold in the first three months) because they built the entire console around playing Halo (which was originally developed as a Mac exclusive). That naturally made Xbox the console of choice for shooters. But over the long term, its sales lagged because it didn’t offer that variety.

      Meanwhile, Playstation 2 had an extremely successful run in the long term. As this site mentioned in its retrospective, the PS2 did one thing very well. That became a strength. It was much more reliable than PCs of the era. (Windows XP) 

      In theory, there’s no reason why games like “Dark Cloud 2” or “Jak and Daxter” couldn’t have been made for PC. Many console games of the era were ported to PC (“Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” for example) but it was unheard of for a developer to make an original 3D platformer or open-world game on the PC that tried to take unique advantage of the PC’s enhanced power and customizability. 

      That’s not to say that consoles have held PC development back. Blizzard has been quite successful at developing games that don’t work on consoles. 

      Right now, developers are faced with a choice: develop “simpler” games for a wider audience, or develop “cutting edge” games for an elite audience. The first option is a win-win: it means lower development costs and higher sales. Luckily for us, “simpler” doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality.