15 episodes

A podcast about what makes the best experiences in gaming. Along with a few friends, we explore the past and present, to appreciate the craft and joy of gaming…when I have time.

Between Players Between Players

    • Video Games

A podcast about what makes the best experiences in gaming. Along with a few friends, we explore the past and present, to appreciate the craft and joy of gaming…when I have time.

    Loot, Die, Repeat

    Loot, Die, Repeat

    Episode 016



    Summary



    If our hobbies carried a title that was analogous to a job, ours would probably be something like, “Inventory Manager.” Mari Kondo would find our compulsion to hoard digital items found in games like Diablo, or Torchlight to be, “of great concern.”



    Danh and I take a dive into the deeply addicting grind of loot collection. We share a common thread and propensity for these sorts of unending cycles in game mechanics.



    As in the last episode, Diablo plays a sort of central role in the formation of our interests in grinding levels, material, and items in this Groundhog Day flavored digital experience. We have carved in literally 100’s of hours honing our goals, yet never quite gaining perfection. And maybe that is what brings us such enjoyment.



    Attaining mastery is a lofty goal with Torchlight, Destiny, the Division, Borderlands, and so on. They are designed to hold our attention and yet at the same time allow us to feel the assent towards tangible success. We are getting there but, there are miles to go before we rest.







    Did we miss something about the compulsion to find, collect, and keep loot? Are you bored of the grind? Let us know if you are enjoying the show via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers



    Thank you for listening to the show.







    Listen to the show on:



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    Special Thanks



    Guest – Danh Hoang



    Illustration – Evan McIntyre

    • 37 min
    Diablo Loot Lord of Darkness

    Diablo Loot Lord of Darkness

    Episode 015



    Summary



    In 1996, a small team of developers, who would later become Blizzard, created something dark, difficult, and addicting.



    Diablo feels like something more than just a game about fighting in a dungeon as one of three archetypical character classes. It’s an action RPG, but it established something new. Players love loot and they will do anything for new loot.



    Thus giving birth to a sub-genre, and a gameplay mechanic definition akin to metroid-vania. The Looter.



    As of this writing, Looter Shooters are the progeny of Diablo with the greatest amount of universal appeal. Borderlands, Destiny, and the Division, all owe their success to the systems of play that Diablo created.



    When I describe the mechanic you can see other examples in adventure or RPG games, where quality levels of loot are dropped seemingly at random, or at least when the right combination of conditions are true. Many games share this basic concept. Witcher 3, Fallout, Shadow Warrior 2, and the Assassin’s Creed Origins ( and newer ), series also use this mechanic.



    It isn’t really the core gameplay loop of these titles. Or at the very least it’s an unobtrusive complimentary piece, that fuels more exploration rather than an urging the players to farm items.



    In this episode my brother Robert and I give an oral history of our experience playing through the three Diablo titles, and chat about what was so engaging and interesting about them. We answer questions for ourselves about what elements in the combat, skill trees, and atmospheric elements we found to be the stand outs in the series.



    Come along with us back to Tristram and beyond as we revel in our fandom of the endless loot-palooza that is Diablo.







    Did we miss something about the Lord of Darkness that you want us to clarify? Let us know if you are enjoying the show via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers



    Thank you for listening to the show.







    Listen to the show on:



    SpotifyiTunes PodcastsGoogle Play Podcasts







    Special Thanks



    Guest – Rob Meyer



    Illustration – Evan McIntyre

    • 46 min
    Marvel’s Spider-man

    Marvel’s Spider-man

    Episode 014



    A Review



    2017-2018 were years of plenty when it comes to open world, sandbox-y, AAA action adventure games. Amidst this sea of excellence, we were hit with Insomniac Game’s take on Spider-Man. A game I didn’t know how much I needed until I finally got my hands on it.



    Much like the Arkham series before it, and from which many of it’s designs cues are taken, you are granted the experience of being Spider-Man. I mean, in the Arkham games you are Batman but in Marvel’s Spider-Man, you feel like New York’s friendly neighborhood do-gooder.



    Spider-Man is a game that feels like something new, even though it’s filled with mechanics and set pieces that we have been playing with for a few years now. How it achieves this for me is through polish and pacing. Polish in the views of the city, the ease at which you can swing around building, toss bad-guys in combat, web darn near anything and transition from roof top to black top without breaking a sweat. Pacing in story beats, combat encounters, and character perspective swaps all working in concert to tie you the player to the great characters in Spider-Man’s world.



    What rocks



    You feel like Spider-Man.Swinging through Manhattan is fun and kinetic. Easy to pick up but takes some practice to master.Unlock-able costumes add a real motivation to collect all of Peters junk.Script, story, and voice cast/performance was amazingly top notch.The music in the game feels so full and connected to your actions. Everything feels connected and cohesive.Good re-writes or re-working of core characters to make them more believable and engaging.



    What fell flat for me



    In lower difficulty, the gadgets feel like insta-wins.The DNA puzzles.



    Based on my notes, the game earns a solid 3 out of 3 stars. Which means you should go and get it ASAP. As open-world games go, Spiderman synthesizes all the great things from its Arkham parents, and then adds a levity and charm that only one web head can. If you want to really enjoy yourself when sitting down to your PS4 you really can’t pass this adventure up.



    This is Zach, keep playing.



    Listen to the show on:



    SpotifyiTunes PodcastsGoogle Play Podcasts







    Special Thanks



    Guest – Danh Hoang



    Original Score – Artist: John Paesano



    Music & Audio Consulting – Josh Hunt



    Illustration – Evan McIntyre

    • 28 min
    Just Cause 3

    Just Cause 3

    Episode 013



    Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a Single Player episode in which talk about my 10 glorious hours with the zipline, sandbox, explosion factory Just Cause 3. So let’s take a second to appreciate Rico Rodriguez’s talents as a wire-fu demo man of the people.



    Avalanche Studios has been making Just Cause games since 2002, but JC3 I think marked a crucial turning point in the serie’s cycle where a form of stunting became the primary goal of the mechanics presented to you for getting around the islands of Medici.



    Sandbox and or Open World games have, what I like to think of as, gift wrapping mechanics. They  But unlike many games where you have to wait for story beats to have access to the full range of traversal tools that are available, Just Cause 3 suits you up right away. The only thing the game does, in terms of upgrades, is amplify the already absurd level of versatility that your movement possesses.



    JC3 wants you to get into the action immediately. In fact it seemed like every story mission was just a whip lashing me to blow up more stuff. I’m surprised they hadn’t added a DMC style grading system to rank your destruction style. Oh wait, they did think of that. Destruction challenge modes let you revisit demolished enemy strongholds and start a fireworks show that ties time and destruction into a scoring system. Seeing how I ranked against my other destruct-ologists was fun and leads players to experiment with the options without the reprisal of enemy troops.



    JC3 is only the second title in the series I have played, however, for 10 golden hours I was totally hooked. This game is a rollercoaster conducted by Michael Bay’s dreams. Even the driving outperformed my expectations, a feature that frequently slips past the hardworking teams of code machines spinning magic out of thin air.



    Sadly this is the part of the review where I need to explain why there wasn’t an hour 11 or further. Avalanche made a truly entertaining and hilarious game. Unwrapping the carefully folded paper and peeling back the tape on this gift of a game was amazing.



    The wind got pulled out of my sails around the chapter titled A Terrible Reaction started and the plot jumped into the driver’s seat. And to be fair, Just Cause games are not about the plot. The plot isn’t good or bad, it simply exists to tie things together and give you context for blowing things up.



    Just Cause allows for ample amounts of freedom and creative problem solving, but this level asks you to be stealthy while you blow things up, and while I am not against stealth in games, it really doesn’t make any sense in a game where one of the primary movement mechanics is used offensively ( eg zip-lining into an enemy ). I honestly could have done without the interruptions and exposition about what this paper thin dictator was trying to pin on our heroes. Just let me get back to destroying bases ala your favorite 80’s era G.I. JOE.



    One way I would have solved this, would have been to create a popularity meter. Rico can cause destruction, and if he blows up civilians his popularity plummets and the regime rises, however, as he destroys the dictator strongholds his renowned grows. And you could tie that into NPC aggression, so in less pro-Rico areas he gets the cops called on him more often for being a disturber of the peace.



    At the end of my time, I really enjoyed JC3, for what I played of it.



    What rocks



    Rico’s voice work was fun but he could have delivered even more 90’s era action quips.The visuals are dialed in in such a way that I never felt lost navigating Rico or knowing the direction of incoming fire.All the vehicles are intuitive, easy to learn, and met my expectations.The enemy NPCs are appropriately bad at catching Rico, but on the hard difficulty they become excellent marksman which makes movement even more esse

    • 37 min
    Watch Dogs 2

    Watch Dogs 2

    Episode 012



    Summary



    Howdy friends, this is Zach, with a Single Player episode in which I take you through a quick review of Ubisofts Hack-tivist Sandbox Adventure WatchDogs 2. I’ll give you my impressions of the gameplay mechanics, and story and how Marcus plus his band of digital pirates, made good on the promise of this franchise.



    There is a pattern emerging in the sort of titles I have been consuming lately. I think I have an unspeakable addiction to open world exploration games. 2017 and 2018 were jam packed with adventures across sprawling spaces that imitated San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Hyrule, and The Continent (in which Geralt of Rivia resides).



    These titles share a lot of similarities. They each possess some new
    set of tools to try to exploit. A system of scales to balance your
    curiosity and aggression, with success. And Watch Dogs 2 is no
    exception. I would say that it actually makes good on the promise that
    Ubisoft made with the first Watchdogs. Great graphics, a world packed
    with multiple ways to solve missions, aggression or subversion, are both
    supported in fairly expressive ways.



    Ubisoft Montreal created a version of San Francisco that is fun and
    expressive. Filled with graffiti, tech bros, gangs, landmarks, bad
    clothes, and the ability to wiretap passers by to steal money, sniff
    dumb chat messages, listen in on peoples gossip, and blow their cell
    phones up while they are in their pockets.



    Not only cellphones, but it the developers have allowed you to
    weaponize transformers, manhole covers, cars…as if the Bay were a giant
    Rube Goldberg machine of destruction. Nearly every mission in the game
    allows you to be as aggressive or sneaky as you want to be and the game
    really expects the player to land somewhere in the middle.



    And Marcus’ character is exactly the confident personality I love in a
    prota-gonist. Marcus and his band of “hacktivists,” are working to
    thwart a conniving egotistical tech billionaire whose master plan
    actually reads like the terms and conditions to a iTunes contract. The
    plot isn’t new or special, but the delivery seesaws between Mission
    Impossible and Fast n the Furious in the best possible way.



    The Magical Mystery Hacking Team (deadsec), is a colorful cast of
    supporting characters that rally to the call of adventure. They each
    represent a characitured but not repulsive image of software anarchists
    cranked up to 11. Again, the character design and the world building
    that Ubisoft has for us is keeping that tension between absurdity and
    amusement.



    ONE REMAINING THOUGHT ABOUT THE STORY



    Without spoiling anything there is a character in the game who dies, which is foreshadowed, but it was used as a tool to up the stakes for Marcus and Deadsec’s resolve. I don’t really like emotional manipulation that is as subtle as an earthquake. This inflection point, however well-meaning or sincere, fell flat for me.



    What rocks



    Hacking and invasion, buttery smooth and full of hilarious moments of sheer delight. Shocking enemies through their phones is amazing.Combat difficulty was pretty on point, Marcus’ tools are occasionally over powered, and the AI is not always equipped to react to your shenanigans.Non-lethal weapons and evasion make you feel like a cool version of Solid Snake. Once you upgrade the taser it’s amazingly quick at sleeping people.Visuals are excellent and what you would expect to see from the Ubisoft team.Multiplayer invasions. Having random people jump into your game and mess with you adds some amazingly tense cat and mouse moments.Solving environment room puzzles.



    What fell flat for me



    Chasing/Driving around the streets felt weak. Triggering little things like street explosions and stop light breakdowns, while fun aren’t as elegant or rewarding as the infiltration portions.There is a main

    • 9 min
    God of War aka Dad of War

    God of War aka Dad of War

    Episode 011



    Summary



    2018 gave us an overwhelming selection of action adventure titles to enjoy, and none of them shone as brightly as the jeweled handle of the Leviathan axe carving through our TV screens. Sony and Santa Monica studios gave Cory Barlog and his talented team of artists, what seems like limitless creative opportunity to create an engaging story accompanied by incredibly satisfying exploration and action gameplay.



    The Ax, The Boy, The Gods, The Monsters, The Realms. Everything in the setting of God of War feels cohesive and expertly knit together. Kratos desires to hide within the world that appears to be falling apart, his past, and his progeny are drug into the machinations of Odin’s children.



    Triple A titles should all be at this same level. It has all of the massive action moments that you want to entertain and delight but the quiet moments with Mimir in your boat telling stories or listening to the two dwarves complain about each-other’s work, really draws you in.



    God of War is wracked up awards that were well earned and deserved.
    Josh and I talk about some of these finer game points and we can’t
    recommend it more.



    If you have been on the fence about spending time with Kratos and friends, you should go ahead and get it. All the fine details in the game are pulled off with a professional grace that is impossible to ignore.



    3 out of 3 stars. You need to add God of War to your list of todos ASAP.



    Thanks for listening!







    Tell us about your favorite God of War moment or game and let us know if you are enjoying the show or what we can do to improve it via electronic mail or on twitter @betweenplayers



    You can also leave comments on our tracks on SoundCloud







    SHOW NOTES:



    Special Thanks



    Illustration – Evan McIntyre



    Music & Audio Consulting – Josh Hunt



    Background Music – Artist: Bear McCreary

    • 36 min

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