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Reply to All: Call of Duty, Sexy Games, and I Don't Even Know What

Okonoko
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Posted November 6, 2009 - By Andrew Pfister


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Reply to All: The G4tv.com Community Mailbag

I stopped playing Madden after I left the confines of college housing, as I was no longer forced to provide human competition to my addicted roommates. And even then, using the term "competition" was a stretch. Even though I love watching the sport and I know how the game works, the deeper strategy of football play-calling has always eluded me, which is why I was one of those guys who always called a fake punt on 4th and 12. It usually didn't take longer than halftime for me to be excused back to my room and Unreal Tournament. I bring this up because I had to endure last Sunday's Packers/Vikings rematch, and watching Aaron Rodgers (whom I still kind of believe in, kind of) go down sack-after-sack reminded me of my own struggles on the gridiron. Slamming my fists repeatedly on the table wasn't a show of frustration, no…it was me frantically pressing the A button to get him to throw the damn ball already. I mean, how could he not see that Driver was wide open? What camera angle is he playing with?! And shame on Mike McCarthy for not attempting a 73-yard field goal. You can't win if you don't score.

In that spirit, let's get started with this week's Reply to All, which has absolutely nothing to do with the story I just told.

*   *   *

Arrow RightSex in video games has become much more prevalent (especially in BioWare games). I've been reading reviews for Dragon Age: Origins and most of them mention awkward sex scenes, which I felt was awkward in Mass Effect. My question, I guess, would be do you feel sex in video games really contributes to the story telling aspect of the game or is it just there to bring about some notoriety or attention to the game? -- usemeup

Right ArrowHow much or to what effect a sex scene contributes to a story, regardless of the medium, is entirely dependent on the skill of the writers, directors, and actors involved. If done properly, it can contribute quite a lot...the ultimate expression of human love is indeed a powerful thing, but its meaning and impact is heavily dependent on the relationship of the participants. That's why it's much more challenging to get right in video games, where action frequently trumps meaningful character development, and it can easily come across as awkward or done simply for the shock value.

Heavy Rain MadisonThat's not to say that it can't be done in action movies, as anyone who's seen Shoot 'Em Up can tell you. The scene with Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci was shocking in an over-the-top way, but because it fit in with the unrestrained insanity of the entire movie, there was a certain frantic and satirical artistry to it. The closest analogy would be Kratos' exploits in God of War, which could explain why it slipped by the mainstream media relatively free of controversy.

Keep your eye on Heavy Rain, though. We recently interviewed Quantic Dream's David Cage and asked him about sexuality in games, to which he replied, "It is what two adults in love usually end up doing, it is a way to express feelings. I don’t think there is anything wrong if you deal with it in a non-gratuitous way and in a tasteful manner." Basically, if you're a developer who wants to put a sex scene in your game, it behooves you to first ask "Why?"

THIS LETTER HAS MODERN WARFARE 2 SPOILERS! 

Arrow RightIt seems that Infinity Ward is repeatedly shooting itself in the foot when it comes to the media hype around Modern Warfare 2. Back when the trailer was released that revealed there was conflict on US soil, it felt like a huge spoiler in my opinion. Then with the leaked video of terrorist gameplay and now the recent ad against "frag spamming," it feels like this media coverage has ruined a portion of the game for me. Do you guys think that the hype revolved around Modern Warfare 2 has become detrimental to the game and possibly its sales? -- jsleibold

Right ArrowPatrick Klepek and I talk about this on almost a daily basis, but the way Activision and Infinity Ward are handling the traditional PR run-up to Modern Warfare 2 has been utterly baffling. The amount of goodwill that Infinity Ward has accumulated over the past few years could easily put them at the level of a Valve, a Bungie, or a Blizzard: gamers believe in your brand so devoutly that you can just sit back and let the game speak (and sell) for itself. Instead, we get something new to be confused about every week.

1) We still lack the context for the scene of a destroyed Washington D.C., but regardless, that image will have lost a lot of emotional impact by the time we encounter it in the game -- just as if we saw the now-famous mushroom cloud in a commercial prior to COD4. Simply knowing that something like that exists is enough to damage the experience.

2) The airport scene is a wait-and-see thing for me. That, too, is lacking context, and since you can't fully blame Activision and IW for a leaked video, they deserve the benefit of the doubt (though it is surprising that something that controversial was allowed to get into the wild). It could be a daring and thought-provoking perspective on the blurry lines of modern-day war. Or it could be mindless shock value. We'll find out and debate it next week.

MW2 blip

3) However, the grenade spam video was a complete public relations failure. Infinity Ward's most-outward facing employee Robert Bowling, aka "fourzerotwo," described the video as a "social commentary joke" on his Twitter feed.  But what that actual commentary was still isn't very clear. That the bulk of their own audience consists of foul-mouthed adolescents? Yeah, we already know that, and it's not that funny. That the design of their game allows for poor play experiences? Also not humorous. Even in the hands of comedic masters, socially-charged humor has a lot of baggage attached, especially when you start throwing around damaging slurs (in acronym form or not).

It may not have been a "fist-bump of acceptance" of the behavior as Bowling claims it wasn't, but officially endorsing it sure as hell wasn't the condemnation it deserves.

4) That's not the only evidence that IW is having a community communication breakdown. PC gamers who were previously looking forward to Modern Warfare 2 have been getting bombed with a constant barrage of bad news. First was the $59.99 price tag (on par with the consoles, but $10 higher than the PC version of COD4), then came the news that there'd be no dedicated game servers, no mod tools, no custom maps, a reduced player limit for multiplayer, and no console commands ("console" in this instance meaning finely-tuned game and technical settings). They even took out the "lean" ability. The omissions themselves speak volumes of IW's attitude toward PC gamers, but that wasn't enough. In a recent online chat, Infinity Ward representatives treated PC-related concerns with vague answers and visible disdain:

Grenademaniac1969
Vince, there are 178,000 voices that say you need dedicated servers for the PC.  COD4 is the bigest online game in history!  Why in the world would you take away dedicated servers and change the whole MP experience for us?  And Mackey, the PC version with dedicated servers is already the best experience the way it is!

Vince-IW
All I can say is that we changed it to make it a better and easier experience. Also, not all of the names on that list are legit. ;)

Mackey-IW
402 signed it 4 times I heard.


And:

Moriarte
Ignoring IW.net, is the PC version a direct port of the console version?

Mackey-IW
No, PC has custom stuff like mouse control, text chat in game, and graphics settings.


Here's the thing, though. Modern Warfare sold millions and millions of copies. Modern Warfare 2 is GameStop's most-preordered game of all time. While it makes a difference to industry observers like you and me, the truth is that the summation of these PR blunders does not amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme. Call of Duty sells. And outside of the peripheral marketing noise, the games themselves are generally very well done (there's a reason 99% of people in the office can't wait to play it, even the Style Network girls).

END SPOILERS!
 

Arrow RightAre you not planning a review of Torchlight? Sure, it's PC only and has to be bought through Steam or directly from the developer, but it's becoming a really hard choice for me each day of whether to fire up Borderlands or head back into the Ember mine. At $20 it's probably the best value in gaming right now. I have a lot of respect for what you guys do on X-Play and g4tv.com, but I wish you'd give Torchlight some love. -- Brad

Right ArrowTorchlight isn't currently on our official reviews list, but I recently downloaded it from Steam because it's been getting such good worth of mouth. I haven't had much time to attack it yet due to other assignments, but I can easily see it eating up hours and hours of my free time just based on the 45 minutes I've put into the intro. I'll try to make more official coverage happen in the near future. In the meantime, if you like the loot, definitely check out Torchlight.

Torchlight



Arrow RightWill they make E3 open to the public? -- Michael

Right ArrowProbably not, but honestly...you don't want to go to E3. You want to go to Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). More and more publishers are showing their games there, there's more that's playable, and guys like me don't get to cut in front of you. E3 is properly enjoyed from the comfort of your den, office, or living room, streaming videos, reading previews, and arguing on forums while drinking tasty beverages and wearing loose-fitting clothing.

In fact…Adam and Rob, if you're reading this, I officially am choosing not to attend E3 next year. Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Arrow RightWhat classic Sega games would you like to see remade? Jet Set Radio is the main reason I bought an Xbox, and I'll be damned if it doesn't get another game. -- DreamingDarklyRobin

Right ArrowI came from a Nintendo family, so my appreciation for Sega games is based mostly on the Dreamcast. That part of me wants to see Jet Set Radio, Chu Chu Rocket, Crazy Taxi, Sega Bass Fishing, Skies of Arcadia, Virtua Cop…but another part of me wants to let that era of Sega live peacefully in the past. Their development studios aren't the same, their publishing philosophy isn't the same…and as much as we'd all love Jet Set Radio Future Perfect or Get Way More Bass!, it'd be awfully difficult to recreate that turn-of-the-millennium magic. They tried with Crazy Taxi 3, and it didn't work.

But there's no reason we can't get those games re-released on Live Arcade or PSN. You hear that, Sega?  No. Reason.



Gay TonyArrow RightI was wondering whether I should get Left 4 Dead 2 or Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City. Can you give me your opinion? -- Julian

Right ArrowTo me, these questions are just as ineffective as "What should I have for dinner, grilled cheese & tomato soup, or a delicious steak?" The answer, always, is to satisfy the immediate craving. L4D2 has you killing zombies with your friends. Lost & Damned and Gay Tony are really well-done Grand Theft Auto stories. If you can only do one, which one do you want to do first?

If that doesn't help, I'll flip a coin. Heads is L4D2, Tails is GTA.

….flipping….flipping…flipping…

…enjoy Liberty City!

 

Arrow RightWhat do you think about a G-Police remake? I think that was a title ahead of its time and suffered from lack of technology. I think with multiplayer (good guys vs. bad guys) and open world gameplay the opportunities would be near limitless. What's your take? -- ghostflesh

Right ArrowYou know, the near-complete disappearance of space shooters has been baffling me for quite a while. It doesn't make any sense: people like shooting things, people like space, ergo, people should like shooting things in space. I know that G-Police didn't even take place in space, but its cousin Colony Wars did, and both are two PlayStation era franchises that I'd love to see come back. The developer that made them, Psygnosis, is now a part of Sony's internal studio system (renamed as Studio Liverpool). They've been busy updating their other other PSone classic franchise, Wipeout, so it's not a complete stretch to think they could do the same for G-Police and/or Colony Wars. If you put G-Police type vehicles in an open world in the vein of say, Crackdown? I would buy.

We can also hold out hope that "Starhawk" comes to fruition soon. Remember that? All we have to work on is a trademark filing from earlier this year, which includes the comment "Operating a real-time game for others over global and local area computer networks."

In the meantime, I'm going to check out Shattered Horizon for the PC. It's an FPS and doesn't involve spacecraft, but it reminds me so much of the battle room in Ender's Game that I cannot resist. I'll also continue to harass LucasArts' official Twitter feed (@lucasartsgames) to get them to re-release the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games. And...and...the great Freespace 2 is available on Good Old Games for $6.

Shattered Horizon


Arrow RightIs there any possibility that Brutal Legend will come out for the PC? -- Gorlioth

Right ArrowPossible? Sure. Probable? Doesn't seem like it. Double Fine's Tim Schafer did a live chat with Eurogamer back in July and shot down the idea, stating that the game "was meant to be on a console." It's one of those situations where the door isn't locked, but it's been securely closed, soundproofed, and somebody's blocking it from the other side.

But who knows? Maybe one day you'll try to go through the door, and as you grab the handle it opens outward and almost smacks you in the face. Then you awkwardly apologize, even though it's ridiculous to feel guilty for trying to go through a door. Yes, this has been happening a lot to me in the office.


F7 Letter of the Week


Arrow Rightneed for speed sucks again heres why again they suck at making games not everyone wants to steer with the L3 button or the joy stick or the anolog stick there are those that are fine with using the direction buttons you know the buttons with arrows and here is the big one not a two player game on the ps3 internet only 2 or more forget that i want my friends in the same room to play games with and not every one has cable internet because they live to out in the striks so take your game and stick it were the sun does not shine

-- Eric M.


Right ArrowI sympathize with your plight, Eric, in regards to the lack of local multiplayer. We've been hearing a lot about that in Feedback and mailbag questions lately; it's something that we're going to look into.

But I am curious about your aversion to analog technology (as well as your complete aversion to punctuation, nice job on that). Especially since we're talking about a racing game. I'm going to assume you are not yet of the driving age, so believe me when I say that when you get behind the steering wheel of a real automobile, you're going to want a little more control over where you're going. There's a reason the government outlawed those giant "Left" and "Right" buttons in cars built after 1992.

WEBMASTER DOESN'T UNDERSTAND YOU

Pete RoseMonkey scribbles,

Corrupted illumination, banana feast.  Ark house demolishing carnauba. Surfing kaleidoscope blasted noodle; abrasively down plentiful renderings child-like miasma.

Drowning intellect?

Dave
Ann Arbor, MI


 

Sanitized stapler,

Dwindling water supply, the sharpest of knives. Sun going down, then up, but sideways. Falling technology eats all of the cake -- phosphorescent memories reappear with severe tire damage. Three hundred and twenty-six.

Ya dig?

Webmaster
Los Angeles, CA

*   *   *

Arrow Right  Send your letters to webmaster@g4tv.com.  Correspondence will be edited for sanity.   Right Arrow
 

Reply to All: Call of Duty, Sexy Games, and I Don't Even Know What
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