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PixlTalk Episode 45: Capcom Chaos

Join Crew 1 along with Julian as we tackle everything Capcom in this week's show.

Who ever thought that haircuts would come to the forefront of a video game discussion podcast? I certainly didn't, but I guess there is a first time for everything. This week is all about Capcom which means fan backlash, zombies, and emo-kids are all up for discussion and that's only the first 15 minutes. Hope you all enjoy and make sure to contact us at with questions, comments, or suggestions you have for future episodes.




12/16/2011 at 01:36 PM

I agree with Julian on Resident Evil 6. It wouldn't be a bad idea to scrap the multiplayer and return to an isolated atmosphere. RE5 was fun and I liked a lot of the action oriented level designs and feel of the weapons, but it was missing any of the atmosphere and intensity that RE4 established. Being a STARS member is cool, having modern weapons, and plugging zombies is still fun, but they should take the co-op out of the campaigns at least because we need the isolation back in horror games. Adding a lot of action to the series was a great idea, but I think they need to scale back and try to balance it out with the horror. I'm not skeptical at all that they can accomplish this, because I've seen the formula work really well before multiple times in the F.E.A.R. series and Condemned. Those two series have established the formula of heavy action and creepy horror since the beginning and I love those games, does anybody on the panel like those games as well? The antagonist from F.E.A.R., Alma, is the first and only video game character I ever had a nightmare about lol. She scares me really bad.

The F.E.A.R. and Condemned series aren't "survival" games, but I don't think the survival genre has ever existed and I'll explain why. Just depriving a player of ammo by itself, to me, doesn't equate to surviving. You have to add a ton to that to make a person feel like they're surviving and you have to change your level designs and expectations for encounters greatly. Human beings haven't evolved and survived on Earth by being sexy "top" agents and just going rambo for a million years. I would love to have RE6 retain the action and weapons, but the game needs to force you to think outside the rambo mentality during the game. Each level should be built to give the player action options and stealth options. If you're given less ammo, maybe you will use your rambo mentality to blast through an encounter space and level some waves of zombies only to realize you used up all your ammo and that strategy won't work in the next space. A similar design was present in the original RE but there wasn't any stealth or anything. The excitement simply came from seeing a zombie chase you down a corridor and hoping you could get to door fast enough and leave the area.

It think it would be better to have that zombie chasing you through doors and environments, deny you that comfort, and maybe make you interact with the environment by hiding in a closet, climbing out a window and looking for a safe way to escape, etc. Maybe you could simply evade the zombie using pure stealth, or you could concoct a way to kill it like sneaking your way around the house to find a knife and attack the zombie with it, or hide outside the window you got through and pull the zombie through it like Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell. Perhaps a group of zombies find their way to the house, you find yourself with a predicament, and concoct a way to pour some gasoline around, light it with a zippo, and burn them all to hell? Maybe none of that happens during your particular play-through and you just jump out the window, get down safely, and run for your life to somewhere else. Let the player choose. Just because the later option is less action oriented doesn't mean the player is doing something wrong, because in fact, the player is surviving, the way they want to. Their could be some kind of AI Director similar to the one Valve used in L4D2.

The design should make you have to adapt, evolve strategies, and "survive" by occasionally sneaking around in the next areas, and if you get caught in sticky situations you might just have to run for your life and evade in fun engaging ways with the environment. Not in scripted quick time events either. By simply playing the game the way you want to play it in realtime, you should eventually naturally be forced to encounter situations where your tactics won't work and you have to think and come up with something new just like people in survival situations have to confront. To an extent you have to take away the empowerment, comfort, and reliability all the action gives you and force players to figure out how to deal with the horror, survival, and "realism" if you want to call it that.

Get people to think with their animal instincts at times, as well as their own internal logic, reasoning, and problem solving skills. Present them with intense situations that they will have to figure out how they want to deal with, instead of just allowing them to compile hundreds of rounds of ammo, rocket launchers, piles of cash, confidence, machismo, stroll into environments, and vaporize threats as they laugh with their co-op buddy. If you take all that away from them and see if they can still make independent decisions, adapt, and survive, maybe that's what's truly macho. That player can continue to chug his mountain dew and sit down comfortably to play his game, but while he's playing he needs to be starkly confronted with isolation, stress, discomfort, conflict, decision making, creepy atmospheres, terror, and the unknown. I would love that game, but would anybody play it? Would you play that kind of take on "survival"?

It's ambitious but it's achievable. Look at what games like Skyrim achieve with their scope and non-linearity. Look at what games like Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed do by letting you deal with enemies in different ways, as well as how they let you interact with the environment via haystacks, sneaking, hiding, etc. Look at what the AI Direction in L4D2 did to alter the pacing of encounters.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

12/16/2011 at 01:52 PM

Mike, your comment hits home an idea for a game I've had for a while. Every zombie/survival horror game I've ever played has had some level of combat in that steered it closer to action game and away from survival.

I've always wanted to see a zombie game where you spend more time hiding/escaping from zombies than shooting them. I wouldn't remove guns completely, but imagine a game where firing a weapon resulted in attracting MORE zombies to your location. Using a bat would be preferable, and hiding from them would be even more ideal.

Also, I like the idea of trying not to get hurt at all. In all these zombie games the main character is somehow immune to contracting zombie-itis. I'd prefer if there was some kind of energy or balance gauge that depleted as you wrestle or otherwise maneuver away from an attack. If it depletes fully, you're more likely to get bitten/scratched - and then it's all over.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/16/2011 at 02:08 PM

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories should weigh into this argument. That game did a great job of making you feel pretty powerless.


12/16/2011 at 02:47 PM

I love your ideas Jesse. I actually get a lot of my gaming level design and mechanic ideas from watching horror movies or television. Often when I'm watching The Walking Dead I see a character in a situation where I think, "That's intense, that's compelling. How could we adapt that to a game that would be interactive, make sense, and be every bit as compelling?" In most games you never find yourself scared for your life, stuck in a closet, evading, hoping the enemy doesn't hear or sense you. In games you just enter a door, sooner or later enemies notice you, and you start plugging away with a weapon till everybody is dead at your feet. I want to play a game where it isn't that simple. Fighting zombies and enemies should be more complex and taxing on your decision making, similar to how some of the Big Daddy fights in Bioshock were for me. In real life you should never ever be willing to go into combat, put up your fists, knife, bat, or gun against an enemy unless you're fully prepared to win or fail, kill or die, you know? That's how I felt in Bioshock at times, and that's how a survival game should be. Don't fire a weapon or attack a Big Daddy unless you're dead fucking serious about it, have that killer instinct, and a plan. We could do the same with zombies whether they're isolated or in groups.

Your idea about having noise attract more zombies is perfect. I love the idea of the environment around the player not being too predictable, being very dynamic, and based on whatever chain of events a player is experiencing during his specific playthrough, he will have to react in his own ways to each situation and none of those choices should be "wrong" unless you die of course or get infected. I also like your idea of making a player vulnerable to infection and failure, on top of all the other means of death like blunt trauma, lacerations, fire, electricity, etc. What I've started to realize over time is that I don't like it when fans demand a game be a certain length, and the designers force themselves to try and appease that. How is a 15 hour experience more valid than a 7 hour one? It's the same mess that game review score scales get into when you compare a 9.3 score to a 6.1. People start focusing on the arithmetic and quantity instead of the quality. If you start forcing yourself to create a certain length of gameplay, it absolutely changes the way you think about level design, mechanics, and pacing.

I'd rather create a dynamic environment that the player could effect, be affected by, and have to work through or around at their own pace and style. Maybe that little house sequence could be farily inconsequential for one player because he evades the single zombie, doesn't attract others, and escapes, taking a whole of 10 minutes or less. Maybe he decides to hold down the fort, plan a way to kill the zombie and it takes him 20 minutes, maybe something goes wrong and a group of zombies is attracted but the player decides to stay and attempt to kill them all. If it ends up taking him 30 minutes in that single encounter space, that's great. Think about the guy who escaped the house and got out in less than 10 minutes silently, how is that guys experience less valid for him? If the player is fulfilled and had a quality experience playing the game the way they wanted to, who's to say it's wrong?

Gamers whine about not having enough options in games, but at the same time they cry out for games to be certain lengths. If you want a game to be a certain length for the majority of players and reduce the spread and variability of the average completion time, it will require the design team to reduce the amount of options you have and the amount of situations the player could possibly find himself in. Linearity isn't a bad thing at all, but it is if your whole concept for a game is to make it more open and dynamic. I think open world level designs, dynamic environments, and dynamic AI would be the best ways to accomplish the kind of survival feeling were talking about. RE5 is a fun game, but in its design it shoots for action, linearity, and looses the survival element, albeit while adding fun action elements.

Mike Wall Staff Alumnus

12/16/2011 at 02:56 PM

I agree with you guys I think a game that really focused on ingenuity and observation would bring about a much more realistic experience of survival. The only problem with the title that you are describing mike, is that it is a very ambitious project.For a game like this to work it needs to offer ample flexibility in the solutions offered, but it also needs to be clever in how it delvers these solutions to the player. A game that stresses on alternative thinking cannot simply freely provide players with alternative options, or the discovery of these solutions would lose all sense of meaning. At the same time the game must incorporate a very clear system in figuring out how to achieve objectives or it might become to abstract for players to understand.

Don't get me wrong Mike I really like the idea of this game and hope to see it someday. I just have yet to see a developer that has been able to implement multiple choice paths in an organic manner suited to creating this type of atmosphere. Who knows maybe someday it'll be you who creates the first game like this. As I said I'd love to see this game, I'm just not sure if the industry has reached the level needed to implement these design choices.


12/16/2011 at 03:44 PM

You're absolutely right Mike, the idea is very ambitious and it's extremely easy to let concepts and visions reach far enough to the point where they are no longer realistically achievable or profitable at the current time. I can't let the ambition and pride get to my head too much, because then nothing would ever get done. I love to come up with level designs, mechanics, and concepts, but I absolutely have to have people around me that keep it down to earth and realistic.

The way I've always seen design and the development process is that when you're at the very beginning sitting with your team mates conceptualizing what you want to accomplish with a project, it's the best and only time really where you can "reach for the stars". The rest of the cycle is spent implementing, testing, evolving, and figuring out how much or your original dream you really need to make the game you want to make.

The team could reach for the stars, inevitably miss (which is natural and okay), and start scaling back to figure out what they can do with the ideas they have. As opposed to not dreaming big enough, and not having anything to cut, or scale back. I have no idea how successful that plan would be and if it would amount to better games, but I think it's possible it could. I'm young, inexperienced, naive, and I have plenty of time to learn and be proven wrong, so I'll be willing to adapt. As long as were making the best games we possibly can, challenge our boundaries, make games we want to play, are proud of, and don't make excuses for, I'd be as flexible as I could.

A huge problem with the ideas I was presenting is that there's so many options for alternative thinking, how will you teach the player these possibilities exist? If you were in the military attending survival trainings it would take months to expose a candidate to various situations, show them possibilities, and let them evolve over time with their decision making. You don't have months to teach a player anything in a game lol. I saw that Portal 2 was your GOTY winner and one of the things I was so inspired by in Portal 2 was the pacing and learning curve they ended up with. I kept learning throughout the whole game, never felt like I was in a rudimentary learning section ( learning to crouch, jump, etc) but the way the game taught me to play was so natural. Mechanics kept getting added but it was never unnecessary or boring. When I was introduced to a new environment I never felt I couldn't accomplish a task, but I was challenged and required to use my brain in fun ways. Such a beautiful design, I'm going to spend quite a while studying that game and its design much like I study all of Valve's other works.

I absolutely appreciate your constructive criticism, observations, and conclusions Mike. In fact I need them. A level designer will never get better if they begin to think they've learned everything they need. This is perfectly true in my case because I'm barely beginning this whole process. I don't even have a degree or experience in the field yet. One of the reasons I love to hang out around here and be part of this great community is because the staff and community here are smart passionate gamers, and I like to learn from conversations everybody has with me and with others. I get to learn about the industry, gaming history, and I get opportunities to subtly study why people care about their games, what they want from games, why this art form matters to us all etc. I love hearing people dissect level designs and mechanics they like and don't like and why. Even with great little conversations like this, all this data will pile straight into my brain, I'll think about it all, and over time it might evolve my understanding of design in some small or great ways.

I agree when you said you're not sure if these kinds of concepts and designs would be possible in our current industry with our current tech, I don't think they could be fully achieved either but that might not always be the case. I've always had a hard time of coming up with concepts that fit a current generation, but maybe in several years once I have the education and field experience I need, the tech might start showing the power to do what we dream of it doing. It might be optimism to the point of being unrealistic, but I'm hoping that these more ambitious designs won't be far-fetched for ever.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

12/16/2011 at 07:59 PM

Finally finished the podcast. I hope you guys are right about Capcom's approach to the Mega Man franchise. If they are just taking a step back to sort of re-focus and put their best effort into their next game, I'll be very excited. I agree the game needs to change to be relevant, but I hope they don't lose what made the games great to begin with, which in my opinion was the gameplay and the music. Let's face it, nobody really cared about the story too much back then.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

12/17/2011 at 01:05 PM

@Michael117 Your idea comes close to mine. I didn't get to go into it in the podcast, as we were all very excited to talk about Resident Evil, but here goes. My RE game would eliminate all the weird and nonsensical puzzles that the series is known for. I know that there's a reason in the canon for why the Spencer mansion had all the weird lock mechanisms and puzzles to reach important items, but that reason has never worked outside of the first game. So, no more weird keys, block pushing, or crank turning.

Instead, the environment as a whole is your puzzle. You're one person surrounded by the undead. How do you get from point A to point B? The key is traversal; finding places to climb above the zombies, destroying parts of the environment to make walkways or block the enemies from getting to you. I'd want a little bit of stealth in there, as well. Maybe if you're quiet and stay out of sight you can sneak past the zombies, but if you're wounded and bleeding, it's like chum in the water, and they will flock to you. I'd include a strong melee element to the game,because I would make ammo precious. You may be out of shotgun shells, but that shotgun would make a pretty good zombie bat in a pinch, don't you think?


12/17/2011 at 04:34 PM

@Julian I like your idea for taking out the nonsensical puzzles. Remember before RE5 came out and they said they were going for a Black Hawk Down feel to the game? I assume by that they meant they wanted to achieve a grittier more down to earth feel similar to that modern war in the desert appeal of the film. I don't think they can achieve anything like that when you have players chasing down pretty gems, magical statues, and puzzle pieces to solve slow as molasses puzzle environments. I love puzzles but the ones in the series aren't really fun to accomplish anymore and they don't make sense for the context they're in. I'm not saying puzzles are filler, but in RE games, the way they are used kind of makes them filler. They could sit down with their guys and flush out a puzzle idea, implement it, and suddenly add 20 minutes or more to the game. You add time to the game, but you don't necessarily add value, in Resident Evil's case that is. Portal is a puzzle game and it doesn't require you to shoot anybody or spill any blood, and it's great. Likewise Resident Evil shouldn't feel it has to have puzzle elements in its survival horror context. Puzzles in action games are usually a way to break up pacing after action events, but there's better ways to break up pacing than the way Resident Evil has done it.

Your idea of having the environment itself as a puzzle is great. Using a little stealth, strategy, and creativity to get through areas and survive is better than training the player to become a bullet hose. Not all games have to be a childhood superhero fantasy, there's plenty of games out there that do that very well already. I think that as a player I'd feel even more badass if I didn't have all those typical advantages our survival horror games give us, and still found a way to survive and get through any given encounter space. Your idea about having your injuries and blood attract zombies to you is great. You can give the player the option to use that shotgun, use sweet melee animations, but doing things like that should be risky just like they would be in real life. You could get injured, start shedding blood making your situation more complicated, or just die. As players most of us have been conditioned by our games to just wander into new areas, not look around much, and whenever something appears to be a threat we laugh as we blast it.

Jules imagine if we designed some survival horror levels, were watching some play-testers play through them, and instead of waltzing around willy nilly, they actually went into a space and observed their surroundings, tried to make sense of them, sensed genuine danger, and started thinking on their feet about risk-reward, a tactic, and tried to work it out. That's basically interactive survival. Artistically dramatized a bit and in a dark fantasy environment, but it would mean they were actually showing observable human traits and survival instinct as opposed to just running on autopilot through a game using all the typical "video game logic" we have been conditioned to over the decades. It probably doesn't seem like a big deal to most people but I think that would be pretty important because I would observe these people play-testing the game and say, "Holy shit, they're using their fucking brains! I'm not sure exactly what they're going to do next or what choices they will make, but all I know is that the wheels are turning in their heads. They're sitting there taking time thinking and reasoning all at different speeds, to different degrees, results, failures, and successes."

It's hard enough to get people to do that even in academic environments, imagine if they could have fun doing it naturally in your games. Having people engage in a game that way is a small step and event, but it would be pretty cool and make for some entertaining interactive experiences for the players.

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