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  • Pete Davison 2:47 pm on March 17, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, 2K, , ,   

    SquadCast Mission: Spec Ops: The Line 

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    If ever there were a game tailor-made for the Squad, it’s Yager’s Spec Ops: The Line. Pete, Mark, Calin, Alex and special guest MJPilon stroke their chins thoughtfully over the nature of war.


    Be sure to leave a comment in our G+ Community. Next mission is Alpha Protocol — join the discussion here.

    Music in this episode:

    The Black Angels — Bad Vibrations
    Deep Purple — Hush (Remastered)
    Martha Reeves & The Vandellas — Nowhere to Run
    Alice in Chains — Rooster

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  • Pete Davison 8:02 pm on February 3, 2013 Permalink |
    Tags: !podcast, , , Home, HorrorCast, , ,   

    The Squadron of Shame HorrorCast 

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    Pete, Mark, Calin and Alex get together for a discussion of all things horrific and horrible, taking in Corpse Party, Home, Lone Survivor, Amnesia, Penumbra and other spooky treats.

    SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS for all of the above from the outset.

    Be sure to leave a comment below or in our G+ Community.

    All music in this episode is from Corpse Party: Blood Covered.

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    [Pete’s note: Apologies for the huge delay between our recording of this in November and it finally getting uploaded — real life happened a bit. Due to the long delay between recording and publishing, some things we mentioned as “coming soon” (like the sequel to Corpse Party) are now actually available. Curiosity still sucks, though.]

  • Pete Davison 10:28 pm on October 6, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: !podcast, , Sierra,   

    SquadCast Mission: Quest for Glory 

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    The Squad tackles Sierra’s classic RPG/adventure hybrid series Quest for Glory. For nearly four hours. Featuring Pete Davison, Mark Whiting, Calin Grajko and Alex Fisher.

    Be sure to leave a comment below!

    Music credits:
    Late Snows of Winter (by OCRemix user jmr)
    Quest for Glory 4 Remix (by YouTube user mofojungle)
    Quest for Glory 4 Castle Theme (OST)
    Quest for Glory 1 Medley (OST)
    Erana’s Piece (arranged by YouTube user NRGFORCE)

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    • Pete Davison 10:32 pm on October 6, 2012 Permalink

      Apologies for the shaky sound quality in portions of this — technical issues! It’s (hopefully) listenable, though. 🙂

    • unmanneddrone 9:31 am on October 7, 2012 Permalink

      Holy moley, what a mission! SoS dominated my Sunday afternoon. A great effort, even if some of the incredibly brief aforementioned technical issues gave us insight into the last hours aboard the Kursk submarine.

      Loved it. Well done, lads.

    • Pete Davison 10:22 pm on October 7, 2012 Permalink

      Thank you, sir! It was an epic discussion and no mistake. Hopefully we did the noble series justice.

      Now we need to get on to thinking about the next mission.

  • Pete Davison 3:30 pm on June 2, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: !podcast, Cavia, , , , Square Enix   

    SquadCast Mission: Nier 

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    The Squad take on Cavia’s peculiar, tragic, bleak and darkly humorous action RPG Nier, coming face to face with intersex characters, talking books and questions regarding the morality of video game violence along the way.

    Featuring Pete Davison, Mark Whiting, Calin Grajko and Alex Fisher.

    Further reading: Grimoire Nier fan translation

    • Pete Davison 4:00 pm on June 11, 2012 Permalink

      Interesting comments from “Mealtime Strategy” on Twitter:

      Big thanks for the Nier episode. It’s my game of the generation, possibly all time! You guys “got” it 😀

      I still have an hour of the ep left, so not sure if this is covered but here’s my chin strokey contribution: If androids had to create a creepy mansion in a post-apocalypse world, with no real-life version to copy, I guess they would copy a digitally coded version instead, hence the near-carbon-copy Resi mansion! #wankery

    • Lou Page 11:55 pm on June 11, 2012 Permalink

      I listened to this one on Friday and spent my weekend keeping my eye out for a copy of Nier. Nier was never a title I was interest, mostly because the cover reminded me of PN-03. Everything about it’s marketing drove me away. If you guys had done the marketing I’d have bought it. Also Like you guys said it’s hard to take $60 risks on games like this.

    • Pete Davison 1:09 am on June 12, 2012 Permalink

      Right. That cover’s awful, isn’t it? Like I said on the ‘cast, it looks like Generic Action Game #347 and gives you next to no idea about the strange wonders that lie within. I wonder what they could have done differently, though.

  • Pete Davison 10:36 pm on March 16, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: !podcast, JRPGs,   

    Squad Primer: The JRPG

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    • unmanneddrone 2:01 pm on March 17, 2012 Permalink

      A nice first crack at another arm of podcasting domination by the Squad. I’ll just throw down my meaningless dribble before the genre fans offer their dreadnought broadsides.

      I think perhaps an unsung current of inspiration for most JRPGs stems not from the Wizardry/D&D era P&P RPGs, but from the slew of Japanese P&P RPGs thereafter. Much like in the West, you simply wouldn’t see folks sitting in a park rolling the die, so who knows what the state of things are these days and what slice of mindshare video gaming has taken from these grand old games.

      In any case, all I ask for is more Front Mission-esque adult characters and less feathered hair. More Way of the Samurai and less of this.

      Like everyone who fell off the wagon, I’d love to climb back on. That said, if even games purported to be narrative and character powerhouses in the West aren’t doing it for me, I can’t say anything bar the most po-faced Ye Olde Japon tales have a chance in cutting the mustard.

    • RedSwirl 3:21 pm on March 18, 2012 Permalink

      @unmanneddrone Well the problem with aged characters is again the target audience.

    • unmanneddrone 10:52 pm on March 18, 2012 Permalink

      @redswir1 Which I totally get, and I think we all agreed in the aftermath of the Japanicide episode that that is often the reason why there’s rarely an effort or visible section of the subset that caters to folks wanting a more…hell…mature isn’t the word. Perhaps “less flamboyantly twee” experience?

      What gets me is that you have something – and I know it’s not part of the JRPG set – like Front Mission 5: Scars of War which has terrific story-telling and never once dissolves into lah-dee-dahisms (scientific terminology right there). Granted, it’s a fairly grounded series, but even things like the Suikoden series were just fine stories that didn’t feel the need to tap into a paroxysm of eye-rolling loli cheese or the cliched sullen androgyne.

      Of course, the roots of characterisation and conveyance are the driving force; lots of cultural portrayal conventions and the ‘act of acting’ leading to less than subtle narrative developments or accelerants, but hey. It’s just a personal want. My replies and thoughts on the Japanicide episode warrant no more reiteration here.

      I will say if the tech hurdle is such an issue, with development cycles not moving with the times (Hello there, Japanese civil and business sectors), roll on with the Vita. I wouldn’t mind a lot of experimentation with the interim PS2-PS3 level tech on the portable. Lord knows it can damn well do it.

    • RedSwirl 7:09 am on March 19, 2012 Permalink

      @unmanneddrone But where are Front Mission and Suikoden now? Definitely not as big as Final Fantasy or what have you. Even when Square lets Matsuno make a game with a protagonist over the age of 17 like Vagrant Story, it ends up nearly forgotten in a niche.

      In terms of the Japanese market, even big, successful franchises aren’t free of this problem. I heard that for some time, Metal Gear has been more popular and more profitable outside of Japan than in Japan. The same is true of similar anime franchises like Berserk and Ghost in the Shell. I’d be interested in seeing the territorial sales split for Resident Evil. The only exception to this that I can think of are the Yakuza games which are blockbusters over there but niche over here.

      As for the technical issues, I’ve heard at least one person in Japan call the Vita the last hope for the Japanese market, or more precisely, whether or not the Vita becomes a success in Western territories. There’s a very good chance that the Vita will be the only place you’ll see most HD-level asset development from Japan over the next few years. That’s just where their market is, and even then a lot of those developers might just turn to the DS where they can keep developing games with the same level of art assets they’ve been working with since 2001.

    • unmanneddrone 12:09 pm on March 19, 2012 Permalink

      @redswir1 Good points all round, man. It’s true about those niches, and an even greater travesty that Front Mission Evolved was the result of a Front Mission farm-out, even in the wake of a stellar but ludicrously non-localised 5. But as it stands, everything outside of enthusiastic circles seems to peg the entire JRPG set as a growing (or would that be shrinking) niche, one receding from the limelight – for both reasons stated on the Squadcast and due to that typical Japanese target audience measured in slivers for the most part. Funny how focus testing is always mentioned as something of a deficit notion in the studio cycle in Japan, yet they cater to such specific audiences it’s almost moot to consider it anything BUT.

      I’d also just like to blame the rising tangibility of moe as a pop-cultural phenomenon for a few things here and there, but maybe – in regards to gaming especially – more a case of the technology allowing for more intricate rendering of characters and implementation of design…but that’s a personal preference. I guess it stems from having my cultural life changed by the mature designs and stories of 80s and 90s anime back in the day – the Oshiis, the Kawajiris, Otomos yadda yadda – that I just can’t ‘grok’ (thanks Beige) the post-90s stuff. Personal preference. We just need a nice, hefty Patlabor JRPG for this generation.

      “Special Vehicle Section 2 Mission 2A: Intercept SOV-9900S SeaView Labor / Pilot Alleged to be DUI –

      > Accept Assigment? [ YES ] [ NO ]
      > Ask Ota to go [ YES ] [ NO ]
      > Pick tomatoes with Yamazaki [ YES ] [ NO ]
      > Shoot the breeze with Goto on the roof [ YES ] [ NO ]

      I hope you’re right with the Vita. I’ve read we’re getting a new Lost Planet (I actually think, despite certain wrinkles, LP2 is one of the most unique and courageous games of this generation), but if it eventually spins off onto the Vita, I’ll be one happy camper. Kinda not the genre we’re discussing, but hey – bugs, mechs and utterly Japanese shooter design = one of my nirvanas.

      All in all, I keep getting the impression the Western punditry gives a hell of a lot more of a damn about games and the surrounding pop culture of Japan than the Japanese do themselves, holistically. The classical inflexibility and top-down approach is just a reflection of assumed safe bets, but that’s not to say the Japanese spirit of creative innovation is gone…but like most aspects of Japanese society, everything feels a little…dormant. Oh, to have those halcyon days kick off once more.

      We’ll see what @shingro has to say. I expect a veritable Blunderbuss response.

    • RedSwirl 4:20 pm on March 19, 2012 Permalink

      @unmanneddrone The anime thing I think is just a sign of how little anime DID get localized back in the 80’s and 90’s. Even back then I think most anime in Japan was made to be cute over everything else. It’s just that most of what made its way to English-speaking countries went through some kind of filter. The hard, mature anime were what got noticed back then so that’s what made it’s way over here.

      After around the earl 2000’s though anime in America kind of exploded, and we saw a bit more of the true face of the market when the floodgates were opened. That and in recent years, even the Japanese have complained about how anime is increasingly targeting itself almost entirely to otaku fetishists. They actually tried to start a whole network of anime to get away from that. I forget what it’s called but it features anime mainly targeted towards older men and the female audience like Michiko to Hatchin, Mononoke, and other stuff. You just really gotta dig in to find that stuff.

      But yeah, I wish I could tell them over there “if you wanna appeal to the west, just write the kind of story that would appeal to YOU and your peers.” Whatever kind of mindset gave birth to Patlabor and Vinland Saga.

    • bowlisimo 8:11 pm on March 19, 2012 Permalink

      @squadcasters Thank you. The grind. THE GRIND. This is one of my fundamental problems with (or at least my perception that stops me from playing) many RPGs from Japan. It took me months to get through Tartarus. Never again.

      Otherwise, Ni No Kuni seems like a lock, I have watched just enough Miyazaki to know I like Miyazaki. I was also thinking about trying Valkyria Chronicles. Maybe the strategy element will save me.

      But, I could get behind the D&D-like mostly narrative based game with few set piece battles, that @beige put forth.

      @anyone I get the feeling that Japanese games tend to focus more on giving their players a sense of closure at the end, is there any truth to this? (past the “a winner is you” days, anyway).

    • RedSwirl 11:37 pm on March 19, 2012 Permalink

      See this is what I’m talking about right here: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=466550

      It’s this new 3DS game called Crimson Shroud from the director of Final Fantasy XII, and he seems to be going WAY oldschool with it. Mostly text-based narrative, menu-based battles decided by visualized dice rolls, and a primary focus on dungeon crawling. I can’t find it anymore, but an old interview noted Matsuno’s influences coming directly from Ultima instead of all the JRPGs descended from it and Dragon Quest. The man apparently still logs onto Ultima Online annually.

      @bowlisimo For me, the reason THE GRIND is so goddamned annoying is because of the transition between free exploration and turn-based battle. That constant back-and-forth is what get’s me bored of most JRPGs I play. The simple act of removing this and having everything take place in real time like Final Fantasy XII, or having everything take place in menus like a Strategy RPG, alleviates the entire problem of grinding for me. For me, grinding in Final Fantasy XII was actually FUN.

      On a side note, is that ever a problem in WRPGs (non-MMOs)? The only ones I’ve played have been current-gen, and I think all of those level-up enemies with you. I don’t think I’ve played one where keeping up with enemy levels is an actual priority.

    • unmanneddrone 12:12 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      @redswir1 Absolutely agree in the mainstreaming or broadening of the anime spectrum for localisation or at least access, which is kind of the opposite of what appears to be happening with the JRPG/SRPG etc. Simply put, I just feel a little beleaguered that the equivalent of the Saturday Morning Cartoon fills the spotlight when we did have, in the past at least, utterly insane stuff jumping out from the home islands like Genocyber, Dominion Tank Police, Cyber City Odeo 808, A.D. Police etc. etc.

      And I know it’s getting off the topico f JRPGs, but it’s great to see those crazy old cyberpunk/sci-fi anime and manga series channelled in things like Vanquish and Binary Domain. Warms a bio-mechanical heart.

      Oh dear. We’ve gone all a bit anime! And just to support what you said on the rise of the otaku-centric cartoons, I’ve seen that in the pachinko parlours, most of the older men who would have been the ripe 70s/80s/90s anime audiences prefer to park themselves themselves in front of the Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers/Fist of the North Star etc. themed machines…small slice of anecdotal evidence that an age has passed. That also might speak a little how little gaming in the home console sense matters to the older generation, whereas I’d say the West in part has continued to game on well into adulthood.

      @shingro Don’t hate me for these withered and outdated anime/JRPG views!

      @bowlisimo You’d like Valkyria Chronicles. Looks great, snappy tactical fun.

    • wrdsmth 2:19 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      Great discussion. JRPGs are something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

    • unmanneddrone 2:41 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      I just read @angryjedi‘s fine blog post on all things J and it did impel me to make the distinction of where grievances lay…as Japanese RPG and SRPG systems are top-tier, and certainly cement their position at the top of the pile in character-centric strategy experiences (Wild Arms XF and MGA2 are my favourites of the SRPG genre). It’s primarily thematic and character depiction that I can’t roll with these days.

      That said, I loved the little I played of Resonance of Fate! I can’t include it in my most recently-played JRPG due to only spending a couple of hours with it when it released, but damn if that isn’t a direction – both character-wise and theme – that I’d love more of the genre to roll with.

    • Shingro 3:04 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      Okay, this is really, really hard, I got 3 pages of notes for the blunderbusses, 2 and 1/2 pages of stream of conciousness stuff penned while listening to the podcast, and then I want to join this discussion…. sooooo I think what I’m going to do is hold the stream of consciousness, work on the blunderbusses (it looks like it’ll need a few passes for clarity c_c) and participate here =P Imma work backwards and see what comes up trying to make it a tad more bite sized.

      @unmanneddrone I will say I miss some of ye olde Bubblegum Crises sort of things, I think a lot more of what exactly happened to the anime niche is going to make it into the blunderbusses but I think what happened is that the niche followed the money, and the love that people feel for certain characters makes us an easily exploitable market for merchandise, if you sell a figure of a cute girl who is cute that’s easy, you barely have to tug the heart strings, if you want to sell a figure of Patlabor, or something with a grand plot, that’s much harder to merchandise later on and there isn’t as much obsessive love to tap into to get people to ignore prices. If there was a 120$ version of AT3 with a pair of these or all 3 heroine figurines I’d have bought it without a second thought and I’m such a cheapass 50% sales on steam often aren’t good enough for me.

      Song 1: Skies of Arcadia OP
      Song 2: Persona 4 – Specialist
      Song 3: Lunar: Silver Star Story OP (I like this one more, but great selection anywho, I think she remains the only person to ever really successfully dub A SONG and invoke love from casual and hardcore fans alike. The japanese lyrics are miles different but the rewrite was an excellent move, a brief flare of intelligent localization that sadly died out, look at the comments to see how it affected people (mostly the young)

    • Shingro 3:26 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      This song rather, I’M VERY GOOD AT REMEMBERING THINGS :\

      Additional short versions of thoughts/answers!
      @redswirl they’re all sorts of places, often on portables The World Ends With You is a fantastic JRPG that won Game of the Year in a smattering of outlets, the Persona series is so good it got a followup re-release and Persona 4 melted even Jeff Gerstman’s Japan-type cynicism, and that’s a guy who I’d never in a hundred years suggest a JRPG to. Main thing is they aren’t advertised so often never found.

      @bowlisimo Grind as a concept isn’t too surprising when you consider how much japan venerates that steady, eternal work ethic as a path to success. Besides, if you consider grind as an answer to ‘what do we do if someone isn’t very good at these games and can’t get past this fight?’ it’s not a bad solution. Since I’ve played JRPGs all my life I’ve had to grind in maybe 2-3 games. there’s often a type of language that lets you alter your power level significantly. For example. Say there’s a set of 3 persona 3 players on the same boss
      Player 1 solution: Attack with three characters, heal with 1
      Player 2 solution: uses Elemental attacks to strike weaknesses, uses knockdown stuff
      Player 3: Power Charge with main, Takukaja (attack up), Dekunda, heal

      Player 1 will have to grind more then player 2 and player 3 won’t have to grind at all. This sort of thing is also really in line with how much consecuative time you can spend with a game, I beat FFVIII with Squall at lvl 28 and Rinoa at lvl 14 (since she yoyos in and out of your party so much, still was a main person though due to Invincible Moon) Later when I came back to it I couldn’t remember how in the hell I beat a FF last boss (level scaling or no, she could still easily one shot everyone with anything) with levels like that. If players can grind though, then anyone can complete any game, which is something a Zelda game can’t really say.

      Anywho, I’m done skirmishing for the moment, I’ll say that I actually really enjoyed the podcast =) Good work by yon squadies, good to see it getting some good discussion too, I’ll make sure I get the blunderbusses up after Akido if possible. It’s gone into some odd areas c_c feels like the KS pitch a little bit

    • bowlisimo 4:17 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      @Shingro I don’t really buy your second point. I’m no developer, but isn’t a better solution just to pace the game and xp so that by the time you get to a boss you’re powerful enough to handle it? If you’re terrible at games, well then you have difficulty settings. For instance, I don’t remember grinding in Baldur’s gate, all of the xp was gained through playing the game naturally. You could probably make the argument that sections of that game were grindy, but it was always in service of the plot or towards completing a sidequest, thus it felt like progress (which is a big difference, mentally).

      Anyway, I just strongly disagree with the notion of getting to an end boss, not being strong enough, and having to go waste hours of time fighting things over and over again. The weird thing is, I didn’t mind it as much in Demon’s/Dark Souls. Maybe because I understood that getting your ass kicked and coming back stronger was the whole point? I dunno.

    • Shingro 5:24 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      @bowlisimo I can respect that, let me say that I’m not saying grinding is a good thing, I just think it’s an understandable thing culturally.

      I think the question becomes ‘what is powerful enough?’ Depending on the game, RPGs can have vastly different power levels where people are capable of fighting this or that boss. Further it is a rare RPG that has difficulty settings at all, much less dynamically shifting ones. You might have not needed to grind in baulder’s gate, but what if you were someone who did ‘main quest only’ stuff and you ignored all the items/monsters/etc from subplots you would have a very hard time of it . Some people would argue that by doing sidequests at all you were grinding secondary, optional content. If you’re the sort of person to clear every sidequest and zone possible then you were theoretically at maximum possible level for every new area. I know that’s what I did, and I don’t think there was really any way for me to be any higher level. Then again, I was a mage, which ment my game was ‘harder’ then a fighter’s game in different areas and easier in others because my combat was totally different. Requiring different levels of xp for a smooth or challenging road

      Similarly I find that by the time I’m done exploring all the weird features on the map and running sidequests I’m more then strong enough for the next item in most JRPGs

      Ideally I think it’s good to have a more streamlined experience, but what do you give up? Say you had to complete every sidequest in BG before you could move to the next area to ensure that you were at an optimal level for each fight. Say you had to do the quests in a certain sequence to ensure that the curve remained smooth. Besides, it makes the narrative smoother. Say the terrain that connected those quests in order was fairly linear, to be sure that they found everything and weren’t frustrated with pointless searching, or finding out of depth stuff and getting caught somewhere they didn’t belong.

      That game is only a crazy plot from being FFXIII. The more freedom you give the player to choose what content they do and what they don’t the more you risk them missing not only game experience, but real world experience in manipulating the game. The more flexibility you put in the combat system the more you risk people shooting ahead before they’re ready or having a real tough go of it through every small bit of combat. It’s gotta be a real hard thing for a developer to manage.

      There’s definitely room to innovate though, grinding wouldn’t be as painful if there were completely new areas to explore and new monsters to fight that were optional places you could go if you needed to boost your power somewhat. Often the complaint about grinding is that you have to rehash old content, both in areas and in monsters. This is intensified by the tradition of creating palette swap monsters further eroding the excitement of the player. There’s a few games that do excellent work in disguising or making the player excited about old content, Final Fantasy 3/6’s Veldt is a good example, I hung out there for AGES trying to get Gau extra skills and powers, and in the meantime I fought dozens more monsters without a thought. Which brings up another thing. If you make every combat a joy, you won’t mind if you have to fight a bit extra to finish something. The World Ends With you is a good example of combat that is very fluid and flexible and always introducing something new.

      Actually while on that topic battles in TWEWY were to a large extent optional, and your level gets high pretty fast, but you get better drop rates the lower you set your level, making you try to scrape by with the barest minimum level necessary to finish the fight. Further if stuck in a battle in addition to exit and retry you could drop the battle difficulty to easy, which weakened your loot but you were only ever as stuck in that game as your pride, but it was also always pushing you to challenge yourself to the maximum extent.

      I dunno, I don’t think making a game everyone can get through is as easy as it seems, BG certainly did it for the completion crowd, but that’s not everyone. grinding does it but the way it used to be done was indeed monotonous.. It seems to a great extent games are solving this problem by making things so easy no one could possible fail, and that causes problems for yet other demographics. Mana Khemia and Ar Tonelico solved it by becoming incredibly easy games that rewarded good play with more and better crafting items from monsters. Kamidori fixed it by making ‘free’ areas which are brand new maps that can be left at any time and have all new monsters and materials but no story significance.

      I dunno what the right answer is. What would you like to see?

    • unmanneddrone 5:31 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      Is it just a case of encounter design? It’s not solely a JRPG notion, but damn if that loading flourish leading to…my team being attacked by two dragon flies isn’t a fatigue-inducing experience. Give me a four-story boar. Or a Tonberry.

      I suppose we’re asking for a real paradigm shift in game design.

      EDIT: I did like the variety of beasts and whatnot that popped up in FFVII, as an aside. So many great area-specific enemies.

    • Pete Davison 10:51 am on March 20, 2012 Permalink

      I’ve never really had a problem with grinding, personally. It’s something you can “tune out” of while you’re doing it — a relaxing, relatively mindless activity that benefits your character in the long run. Sure, it’s repetitive, but if it bothers you, take the @feenwager approach and put the ball game on while you grind 🙂

      I know I’m an unusually patient person though. During my time as a teacher I was regularly complimented on it, and I attribute a lot of that patience to many grindy, repetitive video games I had played prior to that point. Especially Chocobo breeding in FFVII. Oh GOD the horror. Worth it, though. Knights of the Round was awesome.

      @redswir1 made a good point about FFXII — the grind in that didn’t feel like it was interrupting your play. Rather, the game often gave you a story mission on the complete opposite side of the world map to where you were, and you could either fast travel or walk there, kicking seven shades of snot out of every enemy on the way. The latter approach led to some very efficient levelling as you travel, and didn’t feel grindy at all. It helped that FFXII’s combat was pretty satisfying anyway.

      Regarding the point on grinding in WRPGs, no, it’s never really been an issue as such. Sure, you can find yourself in an area filled with enemies that will completely maim you if you’re not careful, but that’s just a sign you need to come back later rather than grind any. You typically get so little XP for combat in WRPGs compared to quests that grinding is barely possible anyway.

      The exception to this is the Elder Scrolls games, which are very grindy if you want a top-spec character. It’s grinding skills rather than combat, though — making a hundred daggers, jumping on the spot for three hours, repeatedly firing arrows at passing wildlife, obsessively buffing yourself while you’re waiting for a non-hostile quest NPC to walk over to you, eating mushrooms and hoping you don’t die. Sure, your quest-essential skills (mostly combat and magic) will level up naturally as you proceed through the game, but for other skills (particularly in earlier titles) you’d have to make a specific effort to spend some time training a skill. That or making enough money to pay a trainer.

    • pepperized 6:20 pm on May 3, 2012 Permalink

      I am guilty of hating grinding. I don’t know why, it may be because I’m simply impatient or because I need that “gamer’s rush” from games.

  • Pete Davison 9:36 pm on February 17, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast Special Mission: Katawa Shoujo

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    • wrdsmth 1:00 am on February 19, 2012 Permalink

      You know I came into this expecting to look down on you guys, just some random jack offs doing a podcast I’ve never heard of on the internet.

      What I got was some insightful, level headed discussion about elements of Katawa Shoujo and it’s fan base I hadn’t even fully formed an opinion on yet. I’m surprised at how intelligently you went about this. The bit about what visual novels have over regular books was particularly interesting to me, I think it was about 2 hours in.

      Anyways, thank you guys for all your wonderful thoughts on the subject. I haven’t listened to a podcast in years because I found most of them to be absolute shit, but you have a new fan in me.

      Also I’m sincerely sorry for the prejudice I walked in with, you guys are great.

    • Pete Davison 1:08 am on February 19, 2012 Permalink

      What a kind comment. Thanks so much! We’re glad you enjoyed the podcast and hope you’ll consider having a listen to some of our others. 🙂

      Do feel free to introduce yourself in the freeform discussion below, too — it’s always great to meet new people.

    • Shingro 9:56 pm on February 19, 2012 Permalink

      Great to have you =) I’m glad that what was possibly the most esoteric podcast of the bunch struck people so well. It means a lot to hear that =D

    • Shingro 10:13 pm on February 19, 2012 Permalink

      So, for Katawa Shoujo Supplemental: I’d love to hear from @rampantbycicle as to her opinions, outlook and experience.

      Barring that, one topic we didn’t really hit very hard and might bear some discussion is how the game seems to unerringly mimic conversations we’ve had with real people. Is that due to the effort the devs made? Is it because it was originally made in our natural culture and language? Why can’t other games seem to tag this very often?

    • unmanneddrone 2:32 pm on February 22, 2012 Permalink

      Just wanted to say cheers for the fine podcast. I admit to being in the middle tier, but was rather interested to hear the discussion regardless. The hard sell worked on a grognard, @shingro!

    • mrgodravan 1:13 pm on March 5, 2012 Permalink

      Hello. I’m an unwashed foreigner brought here by a link in reddit’s katawa shoujo subreddit. I guess I missed the normal commenting window–had some trouble setting aside three hours to listen to it.

      Anyway, the reason I registered a wordpress commenting account: something startled me when listening to the discussion about why more games don’t/whether they can have much of an emotional punch. Ico was brought up as the sole example of a professional game with more than rudimentary gameplay which works on this level. Mulling over that I returned to an old criticism of games as art: that gameplay seriously detracts from them because it can’t be made into a holistic experience with the narrative. While a player is experiencing the story of Mass Effect, they’re also playing at short-range tactical combat and stat-maximizing, and both of those by their irrelevance are alienating. Ico is to some extent a counterexample, as the gameplay is the workhorse of the narrative: the game is, up until the end, exploring a strange, desolate place, protecting the only other person there, and trying to figure out how to get her somewhere only you can reach. I think the first time I heard that criticism I just wrote it off as older generation who just couldn’t ever grok games, but now I’m sold. I don’t think it’s possible for an action RPG to be a great creative work. Maybe in the future as game theory develops there will be more games which truly are unified creative works, but I doubt they’ll be similar to much of anything we have now.

    • feenwager 5:50 pm on March 5, 2012 Permalink

      Welcome, mrgodravan! Thanks for the comment, and feel free to join in any of the discussions we’ve got going on around the Squawkbox. We’re a friendly lot. Except me. I’m a jerk, but they put up with me.

    • Shingro 6:50 pm on March 5, 2012 Permalink

      Welcome =) Interesting thoughts, I have to admit, Katawa Shoujo is definately moved towards the non-interactive bend compared to other types of games, so your point is certainly valid. I guess I’ve started to think of it more like a sliding scale, the more guided/less interactive a game is the more stable it is, the more people it can affect. Then at the other end, the more wide open and less guided the experience the stronger the effect is on the player.

      Also, arguably, the less guided the experience, the more it becomes the player’s story, not the developer. Perhaps in the future there will be game design capable of putting people in situations where they organicly and of their own free will create an amazing personal story on par with a guided creative vision.

      Noooot expecting it anytime soon, but I could certainly see it as possible.

    • beige 9:13 pm on March 5, 2012 Permalink

      In other words: Everybody should play Journey when it launches next week.

  • Pete Davison 5:10 pm on January 4, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    The Squadron of Shame Review of 2011: A Big Bowl o’ Podcast

    Listen now!

    Direct link

    And we’re back! The Squad takes a look back at the year that was 2011 and determines what the highlights and lowlights were, taking in everything from Xenoblade Chronicles to Modern Warfare 3 along the way.

    Music in this episode:
    Duel of the Fates — John Williams
    YO — Shoji Meguro

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    Got any thoughts on 2011? Post ’em here and tag ’em “2011 in Review”.

    Enjoy the show!

  • Pete Davison 7:30 pm on June 3, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 3.3 We Are The World Listen now… 

    SquadCast 3.3: We Are The World

    Listen now!

    Direct link

    The Squad talk about all the stuff that all the people you don’t notice in the credits work on: the world you’re running around in. What makes a good one? How is this unique to games? And what exactly is the plural of medium?

    Music in this episode:
    Good Ending – Planescape Torment
    Neutral Ending – Planescape Torment
    Bad Ending – Planescape Torment

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    Got any thoughts on game worlds? Post ’em here and tag ’em “We Are The World”.

    Enjoy the show! Extra-special thanks to Jeff for editing this one as I’ve been super-busy.

  • Pete Davison 3:45 pm on April 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 3.2 Everything but the Game Listen now… 

    SquadCast 3.2: Everything but the Game

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    The Squad tackles the thorny issue of downloadable content, expansion packs and additional material and dispense Great Justice.

    Music in this episode:
    Ferelden at War from Dragon Age: Origins
    Justice for All – Court from Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All (Gyakuten meets Orchestra album)
    Battle at Eden Prime from Mass Effect

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    Got any thoughts on DLC? Post ’em here and tag ’em “Everything but the Game”.

    Enjoy the show! Apologies for the wonky schedule at the minute. Hopefully we’re back to normal now!

  • Pete Davison 8:23 pm on March 16, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 3.1 The Man’s Way Listen now audio… 

    SquadCast 3.1: The Man’s Way

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    The Squad kicks off 2011 with an all new season of podcasts, starting with a discussion of game difficulty and pacing. Jeff reveals himself to be a mainstream gamer, Pete gets excited by bullet-hell Gothic lolitas and Mark finds that Nier drives you to socially-questionable levels of distraction.

    Music in this episode:
    Fly Above The Sky from Do-Don-Pachi Resurrection (CAVE; iOS)
    (Unknown Title) from Catherine (Atlus; PS3/360)
    Besieged Village from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Konami; PS3/360)

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    Got any thoughts on game difficulty and pacing? Post ’em here and tag ’em “The Man’s Way”.

    Enjoy the show! Apologies for the wonky schedule at the minute. Hopefully we’re back to normal now!

  • Pete Davison 9:09 pm on December 2, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 2.X: Deputy Willie’s One Toug… 

    SquadCast 2.X: Deputy Willie’s One Tough Chap!

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    It’s an old-school SquadCast this time as Mark, Pete and special guests Calin “Just Calin” Grajko and Ashton “I Write About Games For Actual Newspapers” Raze discuss one of the most relevant games of 2010 – SWERY’s DEADLY PREMONITION.

    Music in this episode:
    Intro: The Woods and the Goddess
    Break 1: Life is Beautiful
    Break 2: Deputy Willie’s One Tough Chap!
    Outro: Miss Stiletto Heels

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    Got any thoughts on DEADLY PREMONITION? Post ’em here and tag ’em “Deadly Premonition”.

    Enjoy the show! Apologies for the wonky schedule at the minute. We’ll be back to normal in the New Year. Expect at least one more show before the year is out, though!

  • Pete Davison 9:32 pm on November 10, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 2.7: Shot to the Head Direct l… 

    SquadCast 2.7: Shot to the Head

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    Jeff, Mark, Pete and, back by popular demand, Kev get to grips with video game violence. And Jeff gets angry about Fable III.

    Music in this episode:
    Fragrance of Dark Coffee from Ace Attorney
    McLarty Party People from Super Meat Boy
    Theme from Forbidden Forest

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    Got some thoughts on video game violence? Tag ’em “War Violence ‘n Vidya Games”, like this one, and any striking new thoughts that we hadn’t brought up will be read out on the next show. Because we love you.

  • Pete Davison 7:29 pm on October 26, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 2.6: Grand Finale Direct link … 

    SquadCast 2.6: Grand Finale

    Direct link

    Jeff, Mark and Pete get together to discuss the topic of game endings and finales. What makes a good ending? Can a bad ending ruin a good game? Plus the usual helpings of Hot and Horseshit.

    Music in this episode:

    Cardia II from Trauma Center New Blood
    Connected Hearts from Space Channel 5 Part 2
    Helicopter and Tank from Uncharted 2
    Genesis of Destruction from Final Fantasy IV, OCRemix version

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    Wanna talk endings? Tag your posts “endings” and make sure to clearly mark any spoileriffic sections.

  • Pete Davison 7:06 pm on October 12, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 2.5: I’m Right, You’re Wrong… 

    SquadCast 2.5: I’m Right, You’re Wrong

    Direct link

    It’s a wild card episode this time around as Jeff, Pete and a mystery guest get together to set the gaming world to rights, disagree a lot and Pound It Out.

    Music in this episode:

    Mororina, The Elegant Coward from Space Channel 5
    Blinded By Light from Final Fantasy XIII
    Inside of Every Man (There’s A Little Boy) from Atari
    Sign of the Hammer by Manowar
    Adagio for Strings and Organ from Rise of the Triad

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    If you’d like to argue with us about anything discussed on this episode, tag your posts “I’mrightyou’rewrong”.

  • Pete Davison 10:58 pm on September 29, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 2.4 Squadron of Sound audio http www… 

    SquadCast 2.4: Squadron of Sound

    Direct link

    Chris Tilton joins us for a discussion of video game soundtracks. We talk about the evolution of game sound, how dynamic music has a place even in non-narrative soundtracks and where things might go from here. Also, there’s the usual blend of Hot and Horseshit to enjoy.

    Music in this episode (not in the right order, as I forgot to write it in the correct order while editing and it’s late now)

    Reflections from Silent Hill 2
    46860 Choices from Geometry Wars 2
    Mass Effect Theme from Dragon Age: Origins
    Another Winter from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
    Brothers in Arms from Halo: Combat Evolved
    Black Wing Metamorphosis from Final Fantasy VII OCRemix album
    Otherworld from Final Fantasy X
    Painful Memories from Heavy Rain
    The Opened Way from Shadow of the Colossus
    Glass Halls from Shatter
    The Elite from Split/Second
    What You Are from Lost Odyssey
    Warhawk Theme from Warhawk (C64, not PS3)
    The Friendly Arms Inn from Baldur’s Gate

    If you want to discuss the topics raised on this episode, be sure to tag your posts “Squadron of Sound”, like this one is.

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  • Pete Davison 10:00 pm on September 14, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 2.3 Japanicide audio http www squadronofshame com… 

    SquadCast 2.3: Japanicide

    Direct link

    Chris, Mark, Pete and Jeff set out to discover who killed Japanese gaming… for Jeff. Is Japanese gaming really dead? Are we just a bunch of racist assholes? What the hell is Tingle all about anyway? All this and more, only from the Squadron of Shame.

    Music in this episode:
    First interlude: Dream of Sky, Ocean and Rainbow from Bust a Groove.
    Second interlude: Suteki Da Ne from Final Fantasy X.
    Ending: FURAI MI TO DA MOONU from Bayonetta.

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  • Pete Davison 6:26 pm on August 31, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, ,   

    SquadCast 2.2 Cheap Fu audio http www squadronofshame… 

    SquadCast 2.2: Cheap Fu

    Direct link

    In this second episode of our spangly new season, Chris, Mark, Pete and Jeff explore “Cheap Fu”, the mystical wonderland where $15 buys you many wondrous things. They also take their bi-weekly delve into the vats of Hot Shit and Horseshit.

    Music in this episode:
    First interlude: That piece from Zuma.
    Second interlude: Theme from Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark by Jeremy Soule
    Ending: Theme from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game by Anamanaguchi

    The tag for any discussion about this episode is Cheap Fu. If you’ve got thoughts to share, please remember to use the tags so Chris can find what you said later!

    Enjoy! Happy Tuesday/Wednesday, boys and girls.

    Important note: If you were formerly subscribed to the MP3-only feed, please resubscribe to the other one. We’re consolidating everything into that one feed. All new episodes are in MP3 format now.

    Subscribe via RSS
    Subscribe via iTunes


  • Pete Davison 12:43 am on August 18, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: !podcast, , ,   

    SquadCast 2.1 Hot Shit audio http www squadronofshame… 

    SquadCast 2.1: Hot Shit

    Direct link

    Welcome to Season Two of the SquadCast! In this episode, Chris, Mark, Pete and Jeff explore web adventure The Curfew, discuss the concept of “gaming literacy” and brand a selection of things “Hot Shit or Horseshit”.

    Music in this episode:
    The Squad’s new intro music courtesy of Mr Jeff @feenwager Parsons.
    First interlude: The Painkiller from Painkiller Black.
    Second interlude: Baba Yetu from Civilization IV.
    Ending: Bust a Groove from Bust a Groove.

    Hot tags for discussion following this episode will be “Game Literacy” and “The Curfew”. If you’ve got thoughts to share on some of the things we’ve talked about, please use the tags!

    Play The Curfew here if you haven’t already.

    Above all, enjoy! Have a happy Wednesday, everyone.

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