PAXCast 2012, Part 1

By Shamus
on Apr 17, 2012
Filed under:
Video Games

splash_pax2012.jpg

Josh and I got together and compared notes on our Pax East experience. This podcast is the result. It’s 35 minutes long, so you can think of it as a spoiler warning without the video portion. Or the other hosts.

Sorry I didn’t have time to make a transcript, which is a common request whenever I post audio like this. If you’re of a mind to make a transcript yourself, please feel free to email me and I’ll post it so the audio-less folks can get in on the conversation.

The audio player below (assuming it shows up for you) is a WordPress plug-in and it behaves a little wonky on Chrome. If it doesn’t work for you just use this direct download link so you can listen to it on your Sony Walkman, which I guess is what you young people are using these days.

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From the Archives:

  1. Even says:

    Bullet Time multiplayer.. If I recall they’d planned the same for The Matrix Online. Makes me wonder, how exactly would you handle synching it up for multiple people anyway? For the layman it just seems like a logistical nightmare.

    • Dasick says:

      EDIT: Holy wall of text Batman, why does this keep happening every time I click the “reply to this” button?

      TL:DR Glorified lag and a bit of clever visual and audio effects and cues to make the player feel like time has slowed.

      Well, first of all there are certain effects you can use to make the player feel as if time is slowing down… whooshing sounds, more exaggerated animations, some sort of trail. If the game has some sort of beeping countdown or heart beat health indicator, you can slow those down to make the player feel as if time is slowing down. You can also change the way movement and mouse accelerate/decelerate (make it lower) to enhance the feeling of slow movement and precise aiming.

      As for the actual time slowing down… one way I see it happening is player movement prediction and player separation. Once the times are desynched, the normal time players see the slow-time players movement as extrapolation of their current action. Once a player uses time-slowing mechanics, all the players in the vicinity are separated form the rest of the server.

      If Neo is moving left, then Smith will see Neo move wayyy farther than Neo has already travelled, but if Neo interrupts his movement, you can just play a dodge animation for Smith. If Neo and Smith aim at each other, then Smith will see Neo shoot first, based on Neo’s gun play statistics, even if Smith shoots faster than Neo in real world time; then if Neo hits, Smith is hit. If Neo doesn’t fire or if he misses by the time Neo time is equal to Smith time, Smith’s shots are fired(they are delayed until that moment).

      Once Neo is done playing with time, his time is set to be faster than the server’s so that he can catch up. Once he is caught up with server time, Neo and Smith become part of the server again. If Trinity joins in late, the server should be able to predict when she will appear in Neo time, based on her distance, direction of travel and an AI trying to figure out what Trinity will do next based on her stats.

      If the above sounds too much like glorified lag… it kind of is. I think that a truly successful action game having bullet time it would have to use a lot of smokes and mirrors and only a very subtle delay between the players in order to feel right.

      • Ambitious Sloth says:

        You’re idea is good. Complex, but good. However there’s a simpler way to do it.

        TL;DR: You could also just make the player using bullet time go faster.

        Basically it comes down to the fact that there are a lot of way to affect the players perception of reality in a game world. You need everything to go slower? Why not just make the player using bullet time go faster. It’s functionally equivalent but there’s still some work to do. And it’s mostly in visual cues.

        So you can make the player faster and everything they do faster but there’s still the problem that the rest of the world is moving at normal pace. Without it done right the effect will be jarring or feel like something else because of things like bullets going the same speed as the player is used to in normal time and character animations still going at the same rate.

        So how do you fix that? On screen effects like what you suggested, heartbeats, whooshing sounds, maybe some motion blur and bullet’s vapor trails can be elongated. Those would all most likely be necessary. It would have to be very carefully done to feel and look right, but it’s not impossible to do. Just hard to do right. As humans we have a natural bullet time, time slows during a catastrophe, and there are times when this happens to us as we play games. But for something like bullet time in a game, where it’s a on command effect with the push of a button? it would be very hard to make it so engaging as to tap into that state every time.

        • Dasick says:

          Well, regarding my implementation I was thinking more along the lines of “How is this useful to the player”? When the game is slowed down ALA FEAR or ME sniping, it helps with lining up your shot. I don’t really see the advantage of moving faster in an shooter. I feel this kind of system isn’t really worth it if it’s just smokes and mirrors. There needs to be an advantage, even if it is enhanced by the illusions. Plus, even if the world moves just noticeably slower, it’s easier to tap into the natural human bullet time.

          Also, it would probably require three sets of animations to make it feel right. Normal perspective, Neo looking at Smith perspective and Smith looking at Neo perspective.

  2. some random dood says:

    That reminded me – did any of you try out the released Old Republic MMO afterwards? Any comments if you did?
    (And about Tera – I first thought you were talking about a game called “Terror”, so was expecting some comments about some undead based thing or something ;-)

  3. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Shamus, do you still have other pictures of Josh?

    We will soon be able to resconstitute his entire facial. The trick is to Assemble, Enlarge and Enhance.

    ALWAYS Enhance

    • Jokerman says:

      I thought we were building up to a full reveal :(

      • James says:

        *enters into bad cop show mode*

        But all we have to do (oh btw two people are using the same keyboard) is zoom in, now reconstruct, yes, yes, now lets increase the resolution, now enhance, and again.

        *bad long winded joke over*

        i expect josh to look like a mix of Cuftburt and Conan Sheapard, but with Regina’s makeup

  4. Dev Null says:

    so you can listen to it on your Sony Walkman

    I tried, but it wouldn’t fit in the casette slot.

  5. Dave B says:

    So, about Tera having combat based on aimed attacks. How does that compare to the combat in Star Trek Online?

  6. Philip says:

    When did you (Shamus or Josh) record this audio? Sword & Sworcery is out on Steam now for 25% off… Never mind answered in later in audio

  7. Alex the Too Old says:

    “Eight comments? Nobody’s THAT hungry.” BOOOOOOO! /vegetables :-P

    Serious, neutral question: why Ogg rather than MP3? (Besides the fact that MP3 is patented (I think?))

    • Shamus says:

      Audacity wanted me to run off and download some extra DLL’s to do MP3 export.

      So yeah, basically the proprietary format thing.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        It’s a license thing, yeah. Audacity doesn’t want to charge users, so they can’t include MP3 encoding, but can write software so that if someone had something that worked like LAME documents, it would make MP3s. LAME doesn’t make anything tangible involving MP3 technology, and source code is covered by copyright not patents. People in countries that don’t recognize software as being patentable compile the source code and distribute plug-ins that work in accordance with the guidelines LAME describes. And Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft grumbles over the only €100,000,000 they get from Apple, Sony, Microsoft, etc that would rather pay money than make users install a file by hand.

      • Alex the Too Old says:

        Allegedly this software component will allow you to play Ogg media in iTunes (but not on iPods/iPhones), but I tried it and it doesn’t appear to work.

        http://www.xiph.org/quicktime/download.html

        Oh well, I needed to install Audacity on this computer anyway…

        • Nyctef says:

          Audacity is geared towards making audio, so it’ll be a bit of a pain if you want to just play stuff.

          Get VLC — it’s really simple and it basically plays everything

          • Sumanai says:

            For people who don’t like media players as their audio players, I suggest XMPlay for Windows. A friend of mine uses Audacious on Linux.

            I have to say a word against Clementine, however. When I tried it, it reorganised all the files according to their meta-data, which was a huge hassle since I had files from a compilation. Which meant having folder for a band/author that contained only one file.

            I also often make the author whatever the album says, so if it says “Alpha” I put Alpha. If it says, for another track, “Alpha/Beta” I put Alpha/Beta. Which meant that both of those were in separate folders despite being on the same album.

            • Ambitious Sloth says:

              Just throwing my own hat this ring. Personally I use KMP player which is also full featured media player but it has different programs that depending whether you’re playing music, watching movies or .jpegs etc. Which avoids the giant bloated program problem that occurs all to often. Only thing I haven’t done with it is throw in a dvd and try that but there’s rarely one within 20 feet of this computer so I haven’t really had an urge to test it.

              For record though, I only use because it was the first free one I found and since it still works I’ve had no reason to ever change it. VLC may very well be much better.

              • Sumanai says:

                Sounds interesting. I don’t know if I’ll give a try though, since I’ve been making a slow transition to Linux* for a while and KMPlayer seems to be Windows only.

                * I think it took me two years to install it again, and my current version is misbehaving, so I doubt I’m going full on Linux any time soon.

          • Alex the Too Old says:

            The reason I had meant to install Audacity is that I do still occasionally delude myself that I’m an amateur musician. Also, I needed to convert the file into something I could put on my iPod – when I’m sitting at a computer, I’m generally a) working, and b) near other people who are also working and who expect me to jump when they say “jump”, so no headphones. Music and podcasts are for the 3-4 hours I spend in a car every weekday. :-/

        • Raygereio says:

          You can easily convert the ogg into a MP3, wav, whatever without the use of any program other then your brower. There are plenty of free online file conversion sites.
          For example:
          http://media.io/

          • GM says:

            Thanks for the link i had this music from Dungeons of Dredmor in Ogg and a mp3 player :)

          • Alex the Too Old says:

            Thanks, this is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for, although I’m slightly amused that 256Kbps is labeled as “Extreme” quality. :-)

            • Sumanai says:

              When encoding into MP3? Because I think the maximum kbps is something like 320, so calling 256 “Extreme” is not that far off. Even if you think that it’s melodramatic. I mean, I think it’s a bit melodramatic. Funny, but melodramatic.

              Not that I encode into MP3 anymore, so it might’ve changed.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Initially, “How I Learned” the audio book was all Ogg as well, and for exactly the same reason. Eventually I converted for compatibility’s sake.

        Also, I have Chrome and the player worked fine… until I tried to pause and resume. Ahh well, the browser player for ogg files worked perfectly.

  8. Dave B says:

    I’ve seen older editions of Oregon Trail, but the only one I’ve ever played is Oregon Trail 2. For reference I am almost 24.

    • Spirit Bear says:

      I’m 18 and played Oregon Trail 2 and the demo for 4. I have no idea if the game is still in my old school’s computers but I know a thirteen year old who played it.

      • asterismW says:

        I’m 29 and I didn’t even know there were other versions of Oregon Trail. I played the original, though, and loved it. Except when all my family got sick and died.

        • Spirit Bear says:

          I don’t remember if the version on the school’s computers had a two in the title. It just was an updated version from the 90’s

          To all my friends it was just the hunting game. I was the first person in my grade to get to Oregon

  9. Tony Kebell says:

    Shamus, please keep us up to date on Orgon Trail, just you know, at the bottom of a post just say, oh, hey, rutskarn is a zombie now. Kl thanks! =D

  10. The Hokey Pokey says:

    But Shamus, you can’t get ye flask!

  11. Tony Kebell says:

    Godamn! STOP USING KANE and “MOTHERFUCKING” LYNCH AS A WHIPPING HORSE!

  12. Garrett says:

    The only things Swords and Sworcery did right was its art and music. The rest of the game just gets in the way.

  13. McNutcase says:

    Oregon Trail was entirely a USA thing. I’m in my 30s, and never even knew it existed until I moved to the US and everyone was making fun of it.

    • LunaticFringe says:

      Was going to bring that up as well. I’m Canadian, never played Oregon Trail and actually never even heard of it until probably my teen years. I do faintly remember playing something that might have been an Oregon trail rip-off though, it was about an early 16th century trans-Atlantic journey to the New World where you had to buy food, gunpowder, a ship, etc. Only non-map events were the point-and-click combat encounters with pirates or the Spanish. I also remember the controls and wind mechanic being so bad that most of the time your ship would beeline to the coast of Africa and sink in a storm or crash into Newfoundland (thus influencing another generation of young Canadians to hate that godforsaken island).

  14. 4th Dimension says:

    Hit and run sword combat? That does sound more like sword combat than usual fencing/Flyning.

    • James says:

      TV and games has tought me that sword combat is swinging like a madman trying to decapitate the other guy, and always avoid the protagonist and/or sean bean

    • Ambitious Sloth says:

      If you’re trying to stay in range to hit the other guy you mostly use blocks and parries so you don’t lose an arm or a leg, but if you need a break or something you usually back away and get some distance from you opponent because their sword is only going going to be so long.

      Unless you’re opponent is using one of those collapsible plastic light sabers. Then you’re screwed.

    • tengokujin says:

      Durn movies, teachin’ boys how to fight like idiots!

      But yes, swordfighting with real swords tends to be either swipe and retreat or swipe/deflect.

  15. Ambitious Sloth says:

    That’s it! Shamus, I have the perfect idea! We need you’re procedural terrain generation skills for the ultimate Oregon Trail parody. The gritty first person remake of Oregon Trail. It’s the perfect game.

  16. BeardedDork says:

    As a message to our gracious hosts, I liked this and would consume more similar material.

  17. CaptainMaybe says:

    I think it’s really interesting that what tends to get lost in discussions about TERA is what immediately jumped out at me: the overt sexism. I find that I can’t even get through the home-page of their website without cringing. The game goes out of its way to exclude female players–I’ve looked through some of their character designs and there is not a single female character that I could even start to relate to. No matter how innovative the combat is, this is one game that I will never, ever play.

    Organ Trail, on the other hand, sounds quite fun.

    • noahpocalypse says:

      Disclaimer: all this info was discovered unintentionally after a harmless Google search.

      Plus, according to Wikipedia, the only people that ‘Tera’ might refer to are two porn stars. And there is the ‘Topfree Equal Rights Association’ that fights for women’s right to go out in public topless. Seems like they might be appealing to a certain audience.

      In a certain sense, though, nice marketing- picking a name that will pop up in Google searches for p0rnoz, true to their target audience. Of course, there’s also a reason for them to be infamous for that.

    • Klay F. says:

      I’m not going to say you’re wrong, because I’ve seen the character designs you speak of, and I agree with you, but it is in no way worse than any other MMO I’ve ever played (though I don’t claim to have played every MMO). World of Warcraft is just as bad, as is Guild Wars 2. Its a problem with MMOs in general and not TERA in particular.

    • Shamus says:

      This was actually part of the discussion when Mumbles and Josh visited the Tera booth in 2010. At the time it was worse. There was a situation where a guy giving a demo of the game, and the feature that really excited him was that one class wore this little miniskirt, and when she ran she leaned forward so you could see her underpants.

      I’ve said for a long time: I’m not against oversexed avatars. If you want to have shirtless guys and girls in thongs, fine. But if the men are in bulky armor and the women of the same class are half-naked, it feels absurd and pandering.

      Some women do like to play as half-naked avatars. Some prefer not to. Some don’t mind, as long as the guys get the same treatment. I think the best solution is to give everyone the option to dress how they like. Unhook the stats building from the dress-up game, and let people, you know, roleplay.

      Crap. I should turn this into a column or something.

      • Rosseloh says:

        Fortunately they do have the ability to change armour cosmetics in Tera, unfortunately I don’t think there’s much choice for the female characters when it comes to outfits.

        Anyway, if it means anything to the people who are on the fence about trying Tera — I got to try the Press demo, despite never even hearing about the game prior to PAX. That short instance run convinced me to preorder the game. It’s definitely different.

      • Usually_Insane says:

        yes, please do a column about this.

      • Sumanai says:

        What. That. I.

        You’re not supposed point that kind of stuff out. If someone else points it out you’re supposed to act like it’s an accident and that no-one in the team noticed it. Then explain that the art team is kind of busy, so there might be no time to change it.

        If only so you don’t make the whole team appear more sleazy than you have to.

      • Mephane says:

        This is a topic dear to my heart, as I so much want to have character stats and looks be entirely separated, not just in MMOs, not just in RPGs, but at best in any type of game. Some games achieve this remarkably well, others do not even try, or do some weird stuff that only half-solves the problem.

        Those that do work usuall< just give you second character screen where you put stuff to be shown visually instead of the item you wear for the statistic… Simple, elegant and tested. LOTRO for example does that, as does Rift, and as far as I know WoW also now has something similar.

      • Merle says:

        This gives me an idea. Equal-opportunity eye candy…how about a John Carter of Mars MMO? Naked swordfighting for all!

  18. Sozac says:

    Have Shamus and Josh heard of Dragon’s Dogma?!?!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrCiV4LOYk4&feature=relmfu
    If so what do you guys think about it or about doing it after ME3?

  19. JPH says:

    Oh! Organ as in internal organs!

    This whole time I’ve been thinking of the musical instrument called the organ. And this whole time I’ve been thinking, “Is this a joke? I don’t get it…”

  20. HBOrrgg says:

    War of the Roses and Chivalry: two games medieval fighting games, two games I’ll have to get and nitpick into a bloody pulp. (Though maybe I should get Mount and Blade first, I’ve put off trying that one just because the combat looks so clunky).

    I think you might have some misconceptions about what “real swordfighting” looks like. You won’t have two guys standing 3 feet away from each other and beating each other with swords. Instead it tends to have a lot more to do with distance control (the only way to protect yourself 100% of the time is to stand where he can’t hit you), so you get a lot of circling (to stay mobile) just out of range and hoping for openings to show. This also means that things get really finicky about exact range, the warrior with 4 more inches of reach is going to have a huge advantage by playing the area where he can hit an the enemy can’t, so I have doubts they’ll be able to represent this well with a camera angle that makes it hard to judge distance and laggy online multiplayer. Alternatively when armor was involved they might be finished at the right moment with a really quick bearhug, wrastle, dagger.

    Although if it is trying to be realistic there probably shouldn’t be much swordfighting in the first place. Especially in the Wars of Roses era everyone should be armed with a bow, an arquebus, or a polearm first and a sword second. You shouldn’t be seeing many “swordsmen” running around and swords shouldn’t be too great against the likes halberds.

    • Actually, this is far from universally the case. At least, if you’re talking sword-and-shield. In the kingdom I’m from, for people running round shields the standard doctrine is to get in and strike continuously from multiple angles, ideally while employing one’s own shield to hook and press the opponent’s shield and interfere with their blocking. People with larger shields like the heater-style shield are much more likely to manipulate distance and “snipe” quick single-shots, but even there many prefer to move in and use combinations a good part of the time.

      And of course, people working with shorter weapons, such as shortswords and maces, will nearly always be boring in, getting inside the opponent’s comfortable range and trying their best to stay there. People with longer weapons will try to keep away–but this is much harder than it seems.

      Fencing is different. I know less about that, but it seems to vary a lot depending on whether you’re talking modern sports fencing or Renaissance-style, more rough-and-tumble “in the round” fencing, or even whether you’re talking foil, sabre or epee.

      I don’t know much about fighting shieldless with a single sword that’s not balanced for fencing. It strikes me as a mug’s game–anyone with either a shield or a rapier, or even a secondary parrying weapon, will cream you. But I suppose, yeah, you’d have to manipulate distance, because your defence with a single unbalanced weapon would kind of suck.

      Incidentally, you are mistaken about the one way to defend yourself 100%. One thing that stuck in my mind from a lesson; instructor asked us “What are the four ways to stop your opponent from hitting you with his sword?” We quickly came up with “Block with your shield, parry with your sword, move out of the way”; I believe I was the one that clicked after a bit and said “Kill him!” You are 100% defended after your opponent is dead.

  21. uberfail says:

    The “Damn Kids, get off my lawn” thing is really alien to me. Probably because New Zealanders realise that grass is for walking and sitting on rather than looking at. Or because we focus on the back yard rather than the front. Though if though if there were random kids in my back lawn I would be concerned.

  22. Simon Buchan says:

    I totally intend to listen to this on my Sony Walkman NWZ-A866, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

    • Sumanai says:

      Wait, Sony has started supporting Ogg? Last time I looked up mp3 players only a handful companies had Ogg Vorbis support and the most known name was Samsung, who in their next line of players either stopped support or stopped admitting they supported it.

      • Simon Buchan says:

        Don’t know if it’s Sony or Windows 7, but it asks if you want to convert (to WMA) when you drag files onto it (you might be just using it as a USB drive). So… sorta? I’m not sure what the Mac experience is.

        • Sumanai says:

          That’s a pretty bad “sorta” in my eyes, but I’m not exactly a fan of WMA. I really hope that they’re not claiming support for Ogg in advertisements.

  23. Paul Spooner says:

    Really enjoy the audio-only. I usually “watch” SW that way as well. Makes it easier to follow along at work.

    I think the Tera booth was actually made of layered plywood. I wouldn’t call it carpentry, but maybe artistry. It was nicely stained, so there’s that. Must have weighed a ton though.

  24. slipshod says:

    Josh, speaking of LucasArts — did you ever play “Outlaws”? I played that game to death growing up.

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