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Nerds Without Pants   

Nerds Without Pants Episode 13: 2012: The Year in Podcast

We're going streaking!

It’s 2013 and somehow we survived the apocalypse! Time to ring in the new year in style, with a new episode of Nerds Without Pants. This week we’re a nerd down, as Patrick is convalescing after minor surgery. Filling in is the one and only Ty “Fighter”, who long time listeners will know as Rob’s oft-mentioned buddy. Since every podcast is doing their game of the year lists we decided to buck that trend and instead take a look back at the year that was.

Before that, we talk about stuff that we’ve been up to, including Hitman: Absolution, FTL, and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy. Ty has gone down the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure rabbit hole, and Rob has a walk of shame. Oh, and Julian went streaking on New Year’s Eve!

After that we discuss some of the biggest things to hit the video game industry in 2012. We take a look at the implications of Kickstarter on indie game development, explore why we aren’t all that excited over the PS Vita and Wii U, and try to get to the bottom of so many major game designers leaving their companies. Julian takes the BioWare fans to task over their ridiculous demands over the ending to Mass Effect 3. We close things out with our favorite games of 2012, as well as our favorite gaming experiences of 2012.

We have big plans in store for NWP this year, and we hope you continue to listen and support us. Please comment with your favorite game and experience of 2012 in the comments. You can check out Rob’s entire top five here, and you can follow Ty on Tumblr.  Visit our Facebook fanpage, and come back in two weeks for the triumphant return of The Ginger Devil!

Featured Music:

Damien Rice- Cheers Darlin’

Save Ferris- Under 21

Sugarcult- [Untitled]

Dan Fogelburg- Same Old Lang Syne




01/04/2013 at 06:23 PM

It was a really good idea to have a distinction between best 2012 game you played and the best gaming experience you had in the year. I wish more people did that, it's so much more satisfying and maybe even cathartic. I've noticed that when people across many sites do GOTY stuff it isn't necessarily a great experience but more or less a ritual. It's more formal, serious, and leads to plenty of confrontation and debate over simple placements on a list or votes for categories. I really enjoyed listening to the Giant Bomb crew debate and come up with an ordered top 10 list in a civilized manner, but I don't think everybody should have to do that. I would rather hear more people discuss the games that were developed in the year, and simply of the ones they experienced which one was their favorite.

Then outside of that in a different conversation, as was present in this episode, I'd love to hear people explain their favorite gaming experience of the year in general no matter what platform, game, or release date of the game involved. Often times I find that the most satisfying and emotional gaming experiences people have during a year don't end up having anything to do with the big AAA and indie games that came out that year. It's often something more personal, an old favorite game they played again, or maybe a game from the backlog that they're playing for the first time. Discussing the big AAA and indie games of the year is a good and necessary thing that enthusiasts all do, but when people just relax and gush about the best gaming experiences and memories we made that year in general it's even better.

This year I mostly played games from 2011 and from the backlog. The early year was dominated by Modern Warfare 3. I enjoyed the campaign, fell in love with Spec Ops Survival, and finally fully understood why this series is actually fun and why they design the levels and mechanics the way they do. Then in the spring I played a ton of Deus Ex Human Revolution and it became one of my 3 favorite stealth games ever. My summer was full of Civilization Revolution, Dark Souls, and Minecraft. Then I went through a long period where I didn't get any new games until the holiday season when I picked up Dishonored and Skyrim. Then the final game I got this year was Halo 4 for Christmas which, despite being my most anticipated game of the year, is the only game I haven't started playing yet because I've been too busy with Skyrim. Go figure, if you told me back in the summer that Halo 4 would come out during the holidays and I'd be too in love with Skyrim to get to it, I would've laughed but it's come true. This wall of text is quite legit already, but I still haven't picked my actual favorite game of 2012 and favorite gaming experience in general.

My favorite game of 2012 goes to Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition. It's perfect, it's made for me. It works great on controller so that I don't have to sit at my computer, the music is amazing, and the systems are all easy to interact with but deceptively deep and difficult to master. Minecraft is the only game I've ever played in my adult life that makes me feel like a kid again, that makes me feel free. Free of all the trends, tropes, and expectations of video games, design, and being an enthusiast. It's the perfect little game I never expected and never asked for but a fucker in Sweden with a beard named Markus designed it anyways and it's brilliant. The game was rough and basic at launch with only Survival mode, but once 4J studios added Creative Mode and tons of materials and features through patches it made the overall package much better.

The best gaming experience I had in 2012 was playing Dark Souls. When I first heard of the game I thought it would be a boring, frustrating, pretentious game that would only waste my time and keep me from playing better games. But once some friends of mine convinced me to buy it and I began playing it and studying it my opinion changed as wildly as it possibly could. Dark Souls is by far the most unique, misrepresented, intriguing, and mechanically fun RPG experience I've ever had. It resonates, there's tons of "moments". It's the type of game that by simply playing it you become part of a community, and the mysteries of the lore and the lack of details of the game's systems makes you want to learn about the game instead of turning it off. The game is simple and designed incredibly well, but it challenges you in ways other games on the market never do. It respects your intelligence and expects you to learn through experimentation, observation, and tenacity. It's much more fair than people give it credit for. I've only ever had two cheap deaths among hundreds. When you die and go back to a bonfire it's always because you let the game do it to you.

Death is a part of the learning process and in Dark Souls dying will make you a better player, it will inform you, and help you overcome the immense boss challenges and dangerous terrain. Every single enemy you come across can be the death of you, but the combat is so fun that frustration never overcame fun-factor. The game has the best third person sword and sorcery realtime combat ever in a game. I've never played another game as satisfying. The combat is intense, weighty, bloody and it's a thinking man's combat system. When you defeat creatures, knights, and bosses you know it was because you were that good. It wasn't because of a lucky dice roll or because you clicked the action button faster. This leads to incredible feelings of accomplishment and triumph that I haven't felt before in any other RPG.

One of the tropes of gaming is that you just slaughter your way through thousands of monsters in every RPG and it never means anything or makes you feel anything. In Dark Souls every monster counts, every room in every building counts, every excursion into uncharted territory is taken with caution, every swing of your sword and raising of your shield matters. As I said, the game is simple. You will rinse and repeat with many enemies, but for the first time ever an RPG has managed to make me care about all those moments, first encounters with new monsters, and all the battles. You can't just go on "auto-pilot" and run through dungeons hacking at the knees of everything in sight waiting to collect loot and occasionally use a health potion when something just happens to take your health down a bit. The combat and feel of everything in Dark Souls is the way I wished Zelda felt, the way I wished other third person games of it's genre felt. The speed of movement, how much armor and equipment choices effect you, how much your stats effect you, the lock on targeting, the use of sword, shield, and bow, the distinct dungeons.

I'm so bummed Patrick isn't feeling well because more than anything I really want to know what he thinks about this since we are both big Zelda fans since childhood, but Dark Souls is my new Zelda. That's heresy for a Hylian like me or Patrick to say but I feel it in my heart. Much as the original Gears of War elevated the feel of 3rd person shooters in its day or Halo elevated the feel and status of 1st person shooters on console, and Mass Effect changed everything for me on the interactive storytelling front, Dark Souls changes everything for me in the realm of 3rd person real time sword and sorcery action. It's the progression and evolution of the Zelda action-rpg I've always been waiting for.

I'm not saying Dark Souls is the greatest RPG ever designed, but I will say that this may be my favorite RPG ever, it made me think about system design very differently, it made me look at difficulty and pacing differently, it made me emotionally and intellectually migrate a lot of my Zelda love over to a newer franchise I had never played before.

Favorite game of 2012 goes to Minecraft Xbox 360 edition and favorite gaming experience of the year belongs to Dark Souls. I couldn't have predicted that in a million years. Early in the year I thought I would be all about Halo 4, Dishonored, and nothing else.


01/04/2013 at 07:30 PM

@julian You should really gamefly Skyrim one day and give it a weekend or something. It's very different than Oblivion and different than the vocal minority lash out it recieved. People calling it a bad game make me furious. Just because it doesn't work on PS3 doesn't mean it's a bad game. It's multiplatform, this isn't the first time that's happened in multiplatform development. People beat up on Skyrim unfairly and it's mostly people who either have a PS3 or haven't played the game at all and are just guessing. My experience has been nearly flawless and you can't argue with that, this is just the way it's happened. Mike Wall here at the site likewise had a nearly flawless experience so it isn't a fluke.

I've always been a huge Elder Scrolls fan because they are my type of games, but I can fairly say that the combat works now. I've been playing for dozens of hours and I'm halfway to the level cap and my game has been as flawless as an open world game can be. I've only had two small bugs and one of them fixed itself (a bandit was walking around and bouncing on a table randomnly) and the other one was just a single miscellaneous quest that wouldn't make the transition to the completed quest list. That's it, seriously.

Using ranged combat finally works. I've played the whole game as a stealth game (stealth works well too) and I sneak around and attack with the bow for extra damage. The melee combat is much more weighty and paced slower. There's a lot of perks in various skills to choose that make combat more exciting and change the experience quite a bit. Almost every problem I had with Oblivion has been improved or removed outright. No longer do you have to spend an hour making a character and being stuck with the skills you invested in initially. The armor and weapons system is overhauled and you can now craft your own and upgrade it. In Oblivion you could easily come across the best armor in the game within the first 15 hours, glass armor and deadric, and there was nothing left to aspire to. Skyrim is completely different and armor and weapons are finally great.

Randomly encountering dragons is great, the difficulty is intense, combat is brutal, there's more quests and questlines than you can shake a stick at, and it's absolutely gorgeous artwork and world design. The two main stories for once work in an ES game and are better executed than the piece of crap Oblivion's was. The previous games were full of problems but I loved them because you could see where they were going and see the heart behind them. Skyrim is the proof that they've finally started hitting all the notes they want to hit from the quest design to dungeons, artwork, combat, interface, pacing, random events, vingettes, storylines, character building. They love designing this type of experience and they've really done well to learn from the previous games. Skyrim is amazing and it deserves the love it got, that's probably not something you want to hear because these types of games might not be for you no matter how good they are, and I know Jesse wouldn't want to hear that either because I think he plain doesn't like Elder Scrolls at any level, but it's just a great game.

People bitch about games not giving you your monies worth or by FPSs being 8 hours and RPGs being 30 hours, there not being enough creativity and color in games, to much hollywood and not enough heart and love in design. So Elder Scrolls games come along and give you a really expansive world with a ton of systems designed in, hundreds of hours worth of content, improved combat on all fronts, love and care in every nook and cranny, as hardcore as western RPGs get, beautiful landscapes perfect for nature lovers, it's like a nordic mythology lover's paradise, and after all is said and done people still shrug and say it's overrated or stupid. That's crazy.

If it's not your type of game that's perfectly understandble, that's all people need to say, but to throw trash on Bethesda or the whole series makes me furious just like I'm sure people throwing trash on Bioware and Mass Effect 3 would confuse or upset you. Luckily nobody here at the site trashes Skyrim like that, but back at 1UP that's what the majority of my friends do lol and it makes me not want to bring Skryim up at all. Despite how amazing my experience has been, and how this could end up being one of my favorite experiences ever, I still can't talk about it because of all the Elder Scrolls haters out there. It's silly. I have to secretly love an amazing game while everybody else tries to paint it like it's the worst game in the world and all its fans are brainwashed by fanboyism. That's one of the reasons I haven't been writing blogs lately, I'm having a near flawless experience with Skryim and I can't talk about it because there's too many people that want to just scoff at me or tear the game apart.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

01/04/2013 at 08:16 PM

That's bizarre. I'm the only person I know that's down on that game. No, I haven't played it, but I've seen enough of it and played enough of their other games to know what to expect. It's great that the game is running well enough now, but I'm really getting to this point where if a game has enough glaring technical problems that every review mentions them then perhaps they shouldn't be included in GOTY talks. I've been over this with JD with the Walking Dead. Now, I happen to think that the game part of WD is garbage, but it has a great story. It also has a ton of critical bugs. That was enough to abolish it from my top ten list this year. I hear XCOM has a ton of problems as well.

Well, I don't want to praise unfinished or broken games by awarding them at the end of the year. Are they enjoyable beyond their bugs? Sure. Should they be given a gold star for releasing their games with game breaking bugs like deleted saves and levels that can't be completed because the scripting didn't trigger an event? I don't think so.

And for the record, I like a lot of bad games. But I also don't let them anywhere near a GOTY list. Again, I'm not saying that Skyrim is a bad game, but when it was released, the conversation was dominated by its technical issues and bugs. That doesn't scream 5 star review, and that doesn't scream game of the year to me, either.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

01/04/2013 at 06:50 PM

It's funny how you've been into both Skyrim and Dark Souls. I've come to the conclusion that Bethesda RPGs just aren't for me, and it comes down to the combat. There's no weight or impact behind it. It was so frustrating to me last year when everyone was talking about Skyrim as the best game of the year, but it was always couched by "well, the game is full of bugs, and the combat sucks." Okay, but combat is a huge component of that game, so if it sucks, I really don't want to play it.

But if Bethesda took a page from the Dark Souls design document for combat, that's a whole new world. I love the idea of exploring a world as vast as Skyrim, but if you're going to put me in combat so often it had better be satisfying. Maybe that's why I like Far Cry 3 so much. It's a massive, vibrant landscape to explore, but when things get real I have some solid combat mechanics to rely on.

Thanks for listening! We'll be sure to get Patrick's best game and experience next time. Oh, and I'm with you on Dark Souls being the new Zelda. But of course, I think Zelda has been rehashing the same material since 1998.

Joaquim Mira Media Manager

01/05/2013 at 07:33 PM

Michael117 - "It's multiplatform, this isn't the first time that's happened in multiplatform development."

That's a really good excuse. From a gamer's standpoint I should be able to have an equal experience on whichever platform I choose to buy said multiplatform game. It's not the first game that Bethesda has released on the PS3, so what's their excuse? Of course gamers should vote with their monies, and they are also in part responsible, but then the people at Bethesda that distribute the monies think "Nobody on PS3 bought this game, so how about we don't release any more games on that platform"... that's just retarded. How about "Hey maybe we should have done a better job with this release, so our customers are happy with what we've done, and they can spread good words about our games which might bring in more people to buy our games"... insane logic, I know.

Like Professor Farnsworth has said: "I don't want to live on this planet anymore."


01/07/2013 at 01:22 PM

It's a great game that's really poorly done on PS3, it's incredibly unstable and they haven't fixed it. There's plenty of reason for PS3 owners to be upset and for gamers in general to be upset. Doesn't mean the game isn't excellent though. My point has been about the game and its design and comparing it to previous games. My experience has been great, than there's people with experiences that make them want to break the disc. It's pretty uneven and there's multiple sides of the Skyrim story to tell but for quite a long time since release the only story I've been hearing from people at 1UP is that this is a horrible game and Bethesda should be burned at the stake and people who enjoyed the game aren't real gamers.

Be upset with the game they shipped on PS3 and haven't fixed, that's fine. The PS3 version is crap and they haven't done anything to earn the respect of the people who bought it. Just know that there's a whole other side of the story where people have had an amazing time and aren't angry, and it doesn't end up having anything to do with fanboyism. Hard to imagine isn't it, a scenario where this game is great? I don't have a PS3 and haven't experience any big bugs, so I don't have grounds to tell their story. I can listen to their story though and understand why the game they got is horrible.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

01/07/2013 at 05:59 PM

It bothers me, this hyperbolic talk from gamers. By all accounts, Skyrim has an amazing story and a world that sucks players in for a good hundred hours. It's not a game I'm interested in playing, mainly because I haven't been able to enjoy their other games and I don't find the combat enjoyable, but I can't imagine people (besides PS3) owners saying that the game is terrible. My only sticking point is, again, that if it had so many glaring  issues the year it launched it may not have been deserving of perfect scores and a slew of GOTY awards.

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