Wednesday, October 13, 2010

EXP Podcast #99: System Spoiler

Most people would probably agree that revealing the end of Star Craft 2 is considered a spoiler, but would they feel the same way about revealing unit stats or building techniques? This week, we use Kieron Gillen’s article about game mechanic spoilers to explore the notion that the enjoyment of a game’s systems and rules can be affected by premature knowledge. We cover everything from the role of previews, the responsibility of critics, to the effects of preconceived opinions. We even stumble upon a new potential business venture: the “mystery game of the month!” As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

Some discussion starters:

- Are there certain games that are more susceptible to mechanical spoilers? How does a game’s plot relate to this susceptibility?

- Have you ever played or avoided a game because of a mechanical spoiler?

- How should reviewers and critics discuss a game’s rules or mechanics?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
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Show notes:

- Run time: 29 min 12 sec
- “Mechanic Spoilers: Beyond I Am Your Father,” by Kieron Gillen
- Music provided by Brad Sucks



    Thankfully, this spoiler did not reach my ears until after I finished the game. When I started playing this game, I was under the impression that any of the 4 characters could die at any time. This made me feel a very tense experience especially since I promised myself that I would not reload a save if I lost someone. After completing the game, however, I discovered that there are only certain points in which characters can die. For example, Ethan can only die in the powerplant or at the warehouse. If I had known this before playing, then the scene where you drive against oncoming traffic would not have been nearly as tense. Jayden and Madison were the exception because they can die in just about all dangerous scenes. Scott, however, can not die until the very end of the game. The shootout? Nope. The car UNDER WATER? Nope. You can literally not touch the controller and he will get out of the car himself! Maybe this is something that the developers had to do because of the plot line (He's the killer!) but hearing this really made me feel kinda sad. The game loses it's magic, the magic being that for the first time I was TERRIFIED of dying because the game would go on without them! In fact, knowing this has probably made me hesitate to play it again. But I will always remember my first experience and will always tred carefully in terms of any kind of spoilers. Great podcast btw!

  2. Hey guys,

    I have noticed that Rockstar Games go to great lengths to avoid specific mechanical spoilers for their games. Their trailers show some gameplay footage but it is never presented using the over the shoulder camera position that they player will be occupying.

    By lifting the mechanics out of the context in which they meet the player Rockstar are able to show off their exciting possibilities without spoiling them completely. I think this also is a way to emphasize the Rockstar strength in presentation whilst masking what are sometimes very weak gameplay mechanics (GTA IV was the first release to get shooting right, and only barely).

  3. Hey Alli,

    I went through the very same revelation about Heavy Rain! I don't know what put the idea into my head, but I was sure one false move in any given scene could eliminate a character.

    I'm a bit conflicted about how to feel about this. On one hand, maybe me believing in the danger is all that matters? On the other hand, it seems a bit disingenuous to frame the game as so focused on consequences when, in reality, the lasting consequences are few and far between.

    Something to think about, I suppose...

    Hi Gerard,

    Excellent point about Rockstar. I always think their ads to a great job of setting the tone of the story; the soundtrack and cinematography sets up the world of the game (be it 1980s Miami or The Wild West) rather than introducing the mechanics.

  4. Hey Alli and Scott,

    I had a very very similar experience with Heavy Rain, where I too thought anyone could die at any time and I even thought you couldn't reload even if you wanted to! So I was super stressed the whole time, such to the point of having a very tense argument with my husband over which tool to use to cut off Ethan's finger! It was just so stressful! ;) I wouldn't have changed the encounter for anything since it was something so unique for me from a video game. I went back after beating the game to try to see the different endings and get some other trophies, only to discover that you could "break" the game so easily and the situations were not as perilous as originally thought.

    So, yeah, I agree 100%, that would have been awful to have spoiled. You would really miss out on such a huge part of the experience.

    Anyway, great podcast guys!