2. Sports or eSports?

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Sports or eSports? That Is the Question

  
So-called "real sports" has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that's not stopping people from watching video game sports instead.
Smitty, Erik and Producer Dan discuss eSports, talk about the Special Reserve Games collector’s edition of My Friend Pedro, and take a trip to the dungeon in the Game of the Week.

Games You Deserve is a weekly podcast from Special Reserve Games that celebrates the digital art of video games. Join us for gaming industry interviews, insider perspectives, and interactive content. Production by Dan Vadeboncoeur. Music by Jesse Hamel. New episodes drop Sundays at 9:00 a.m. CST.

Listen below (or on your favorite podcast provider) and don’t forget to subscribe! Links and transcript follow beneath the player.

 

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Transcript

Smitty: I'm Smitty, this week on Games You Deserve, I've been sending people blood splattered bananas. Plus.

Dan: I'm Dan and since real sports are canceled, we take a look at eSports during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plus.

Erik: I'm Erik, we'll slap some imps around in the game of the week. And it's cool to see all these folks in the Discord that we've got getting their shipping notifications for that banana. 

Smitty: Oh, I know. It took a minute with the pandemic stuff that slowed down all the global shipping and when we're recording this right now even, we have a lot of countries that have shipping that has just stopped. And so we're holding all of their shipments for certain countries like Germany and Spain, not just little tiny countries, but the list is big.
But yeah, it is exciting to see finally that My Friend Pedro, the reserves with the reserve box and the lenticular cards made it out into people's hands. People have already been going crazy about the new process that we're using on the boxes and how we're preserving and honoring the art a little bit more with the new and improved reserve game boxes. 

Dan: What's the banana, what kind of banana they getting, the Pedro? 

Smitty: Oh, tell them Erik, what's a banana?

Erik: For those of you that aren't familiar with My Friend Pedro, Pedro is a friend. Pedro is a little floaty banana guy and he tells you to do some crazy things, he's in your head. But no, in all seriousness, this really neat pack-in that we get with these reserves and Smitty is sitting here flashing it to Dan right now. It's this great you know like the stress balls, it's like that but it's a banana shape. It's got the little Pedro face on there and the logo on the back and it's got nice little blood splatter on there. Which by the way, every single banana is unique. None of the blood splatters are exactly the same which is really cool.

Smitty: Well, they were hand done, that's why.

Erik:Yeah, it's beautiful.

Smitty: Hand done one at a time.

Erik: And there's some really cool ones out there where some people went a little nuts and there's maybe a little more blood on some of them than others. 

Smitty: Oh, I showed that, it's this one. I showed this one on Discord and I said here was an example of over spray and a couple of the guys really liked that one. I said there's only one, there's literally that one. 

Erik: Yeah, there's only one that's that bad.

Smitty: Yeah, and I mean we did randomly ship it out to somebody, but yeah, I'm sure—

Erik: I was thinking a lot about the box though, not just the banana because there's some really nice processes for the blood that's on the box. Where it's an extra couple layers there and if you put your hand on the box and touch it, you can feel the difference between that.

Smitty: Erik, the technical term for that is a raised UV.

Erik: Raised UV, don't I know it.

Smitty: And might I say, on My Friend Pedro we did multiple passed of raised UV and so what UV is is just a clear material, it's like glue. Imagine Elmer's glue, if you will, its got almost that thick consistency, it'll stay where you put it and it doesn't spread too much. But it literally is liquid, it's like a gloss and so it accentuates all the color and everything that's underneath of whatever it's on top of. But then you can actually give it its own shape as you do multiple passes.
You can build it up with one pass, two passes, three passes, it's like LEGOs or something, they stack on top of each other as well.

Erik: Like 3D printing, that's how that works.

Smitty: It is 3D printing. It's 3D printing with this type of material and then we can also add grit and textures like Hotline Miami. It has multiple processes on it and one of them was grit UV where we used different basically it's a lot of dots, little dot patterns. They're not physical dirt in this UV.

Erik: But you can feel that texture when you put your hands on it. It's tactile. It's essentially tactile.

Smitty: All of this is tactile and so it's not just one process used over and over again, like spot UV when it came out in the late 90s on all of our game boxes and I mean everybody spot UV’d their screenshots on all of the product boxes because it made them look cool. It's like, "Oh man, that's a neat shine."

Erik: Yeah, they pop. If you're at home and you want to print some now even if you've got a nice color inkjet, that thing's feeding a single sheet of paper through and it's laying all the ink down in one pass.

Smitty: One pass.

Erik: That's not what's happening here with these boxes. Multiple passes these things are going through and they're getting layers and layers built on to them for these different processes.

Smitty: Oh yeah, I think we counted like for Hotline Miami, I think if you really count the layers we had like seven. Because I'm also making my own paper, don't forget. I had that one material that we were making boxes out of last year and I just knew we could improve it maybe a little bit more and the answer was just to make my own paper. So I'm laminating my own paper stock with this certain material and that's our base layer to print and then we start with white layers and then we do the art and then we do all these other processes we're talking about.
And then we do debossing and ... so the whole thing is there, like you said, tactile. The word tactile is what it's all about for me in the physical world. Is like how do we honor and preserve this digital art and the stuff we do especially with our games is we're dedicated to the old school way of presenting these games with a proper product box, a cool instruction booklet that's printed and maybe a couple cool things like stickers or whatever. And keep it simple and then just beautiful art design of the packaging and a great game inside.

Erik: But I think the end result when you grab that as a collector and you put this thing up on your shelf because I've got all of our boxes in the most prominent place in my collection that I'm sitting here, not the one behind me but the one in front of me and each box sitting right next to each other. And some of them look similar in the overall aesthetic but of course all the artwork's different but then we mix in these other designs.
And some of that is coming with what we have right here in My Friend Pedro going out and then Hotline Miami is going to combine some other elements and bring some new stuff to everyone which is going to look great. I mean some of the proofs that we've seen from the early processes and the tests just to tune that in as Smitty's saying, they're just amazing. Even the proofs are just amazing, so it's a great thing to see.

Smitty: Yeah and in the end all we're trying to do, all I'm trying to do in this business is get things that I would like to collect and whatever, but if it feels handmade when it goes out, that's not a bad thing. It used to be when I was growing up, you wanted these, handmade was what your grandma gave you or what your cheap aunt, uncle who didn't want to buy you a present, he made you something and you wanted something from K-Mart for goodness sake or Sears.
And I was like, so you remember back in the day where handmade almost meant something different and I think we went so far, the pendulum swung so far into the mass manufacturing type of idea that that's why we do, it's funny to me how radical people think that we are in some of our approach. Like, "Oh my gosh, this is so amazing, thank you for doing this." I'm like, "All I am doing, I'm telling you, is what I bought from Sears and what I bought from the weird computer shop at the strip mall in Enid."
Man, they were all handmade, I mean handmade from the jump. And so the packaging and all that, one of the guys on Discord, had to be one of the Dogfathers, one of the OG, not the OGs, but the insider group, we're the OGs, but one of the Dogfathers mentioned that they really appreciate the handmade approach. It might have been one of the pupper chat guys and they just said they appreciated the handmade feel or whatever these boxes.
And I was like, man, I can think of no great compliment for me personally as a designer or just a publisher or whatever that I was like yeah, that's what I'm going for. It shouldn't feel like it was made in mass, it felt like it was made by a few people who really cared about this art for you and it's special. You do have a one of a kind, it's cool, it's a collectable.

 

[BREAK]

 

Dan: So now of course with the whole COVID-19 pandemic, sports has been canceled, regular sports. And I know that you guys talked about it and I remember back in I think it was episode one you guys talked about playing Tecmo Bowl and the football games that you played when you were kids being a big part of it, you want to recreate those games that you see on TV.
For me, of course, I'm in Canada so it's hockey, hockey is the sport of choice here. That's the only real, no, I mean we do other sports too, but hockey is the most popular one.

Erik: You got curling too, right?

Dan: We do have curling, yes, but I don't think there are any curling video games, I would love to see that.

Erik: There should be, Smitty get on that.

Dan: No, there might be like, they do those Olympics games like there's Sonic and Mario at the Olympics and stuff like that, there might be something because curling is a winter Olympic sport, there might be that. I don't know, I'll try and figure that out. But yeah, so hockey's canceled, very upset about it, I've been going to a lot of Jets games and stuff like that and I'm having a great time.
And so yesterday I noticed on my lunch hour that our local team, the Winnipeg Jets, did a livestream of a video game, it was NHL 20. It was the current EA sports version of the NHL series and it was a game with the current roster of the team versus the alumni roster. So all the old legends, all the greatest players to ever play the game on the Jets so it's old versus new.
And it's a complete computer simulation so there's nobody actually playing it, we were just watching a simulation.

Erik: They didn't have one of the players playing it? Wow.

Smitty: When you said simulation I was like, I didn't know exactly what you meant but now I'm like oh that sucks.

Dan: I know, I didn't know. At first I didn't know, I'm like, "Oh, we're watching this game, maybe it's two of the top players in the team playing against each other, something like that, that would be fun." And then the other thing I noticed, but the video had like 21,000 views or something which isn't bad for a short-lived video like that.
A lot of people I think they're starved for that kind of content, they really want to watch hockey so they'll watch that. The other thing I saw on the weekend is this NASCAR series, have you seen these yet? These NASCAR ones they're doing and Indy racing as well is doing it where they're simulating racing.
And it's a bit different because I mean the hockey game, even if it was people playing the hockey game, it's still one player versus one player. You're not getting a team of five players in one team, five players in another team. But for racing, they can actually pretty accurately simulate the racing part of it.
And the guy sitting, like I saw the set up on this article, the guy sitting in a chair with a steering wheel. Like Daytona, remember Daytona you were talking about Erik back in again episode one, Daytona that kind of a game, but super high tech.

Smitty: Well I mean heck, I actually worked on CART Precision Racing, that's championship auto racing teams, that was the last game we did for Microsoft and that was way more simulation than a game. And we had Michael Blondeau and he was originally from England, but Michael Blondeau was a racer for CART and I think he went to F1 maybe. 

But absolutely and to your point about how it's easy for them to simulate for the driver, for NASCAR specifically, it's also very easy for them to simulate because the idea of NASCAR is we start you with the same engine, we start you with the very similar frame and you can only use these kinds of tires, you can only use these types of things. So everybody has a similar kit and it's not so much how you put it all together, it's how you tune that kit and then how your driver drives that kit.
And so the NASCAR cars are all pretty much identical to each other from their power, from what their core is, so that would be easy to simulate. That plus GPS positioning because the tracks don't move, the tracks stay static and you can absolutely go and plot every square inch and every square centimeter of that track accurately including probably bumps in the asphalt or whatever type of surface they have.

Erik: And then it's all about who can turn left more.

Smitty: But man, I'll tell you what, I was going to say, every left turn just sounds like this.

Erik: That might be the case. Yeah, I don't know I'm not a huge racing guy, but if I am watching racing or if I am interested in that in some way, it's usually open wheel over NASCAR.

Dan: They're doing the same thing though, the open wheel are doing the same thing right? They had the same race.

Erik: Yeah, Indy circuit and F1, those are a little bit more interesting to me personally and I like the idea of that though, taking the simulation and running those guys through the paces of that. But I think in that particular case, man, how cool would it be to get yourself set up in a rig the way the old arcades had where you're sitting inside of something with a wheel and peddles and all that sort of thing.

Dan: That's what it is.

Smitty: Brother, I have one of my friends that has one of those in his house and he is an ex-NASCAR driver and it's all on hydraulics and everything I mean it's nuts.

Dan: I mean some of those games also have the resistance, you feel the resistance in the wheel as you're turning.

Erik: Right, force feedback and yeah.

Dan: Yeah, and that kind of stuff so it feels realistic, but the fun part is that they're chirping with each other and this back and forth, it doesn't really happen during a race because you can't talk to each other. So there's a little bit of fun stuff happening, one of the guys rage quit apparently, he was so upset about a crash. He rage quit and got out of there.
And they are getting legitimate drivers like Denny Hamlin was in this one, I don't remember who else, there was a couple of other racers.

Smitty: These guys used those simulators just like people who fly. They used to use Microsoft Flight Sim. I mean I lived in my hometown, shout out, had Vance Air Force Base and they were a T-38, they still are a T-38 trainer base and they train in T-37s and they've always had a room full of simulators. Simulators have always been a thing for how long. 

Erik: Well I mean the military even uses simulators constantly.

Smitty: And NASA.

Erik: And not just in flight, they do it for tanks, they do it for all kinds of different.

Smitty: But let's talk about that, why though. The simulation is totally to fool our brain, it's totally to give us a more human experience because I don't really know that it affects our performance in a game necessarily better. Because you're just playing the game with your eyes, you're not really feeling the inertia and everything like that, your life's not really on the line.

Erik: Although I got to say, if you can really get into it, some of those simulators, you talked about Microsoft Flight Simulator, man those guys get to every ... if you really want, you can get the dashboard of that commercial plane with every single knob, every single lead, they can really get deep.

 

[BREAK]

 

Smitty: I'll give all the credit to a guy named Rich Harvey who's no longer with us from Terminal Reality and he spearheaded programming a KLN 89 GPS by Bendix King when we did Fly, a general aviation flight simulator on par with Microsoft Flight Sim. And to program a GPS which that wasn't a visual GPS back in the day, it was all based on radio pings and that's how you figured out your positioning by how far away you were from certain radio towers and whatnot and visual identification was a dream.
But yeah, to be able to program and do all that detail. People who fly and people who drive, they love the machines and they love the performance of those machines and so I think that's the one thing when you get into the eSports side of the gaming how it is funny to say NASCAR eSports, that's not a real deal, well it is. Because they are tuned in on their game just like if you were playing Call of Duty: Warzone, your drop out, your load outs, I'm sorry, your load outs for your custom guns and stuff that you earn get different unlocks for a special grip or a special muzzle break or a special sight or a laser.
And so you, quote, tune in your machine so you can have the best performance with it and I think that's the same thing that can be applied to, say, the NASCAR style of esport racing because you can do the same thing. And it's actually pretty representative of the physical world.

Dan: Yeah of course and you want to get into it, but the one thing I would say that's probably different as far as the NASCAR stuff goes is you can take more risks. You know you're not going to die if you crash, there's that. When you're really racing and you crash, there's a good chance you could die. Although they're safe, but there's always that chance, but when you're doing it in a simulator, you know that's not going to happen.
So there's a part of your brain that knows that it's not real even though it might feel real. But what blew me away about it was the realism of what it looked like, it was on this, I don't even know why I still have sports channels right now, I should cancel them all because they're nothing. All they're doing is showing old reruns of old games from the '80s.
I came across this and I'm like, "What is this, like an old race or something?" It was new and it looked real. It just looked like a real race and the only thing that looked weird is that when they stopped to pit, all the cars are raising and lowering, their tires are being changed but there was nobody there changing the tires, none of that was happening. But they still simulate that tire wear and all the other stuff that happens during a race as well.
So you do have to pit, you do have to stop and refuel and that kind of stuff which is really cool. But yeah, it looked super real.

Erik: Imagine how cool that is for the game developers to be able to watch something like that with, I was thinking about the racing one, if they turn around and watch the behaviors of the drivers doing this in the sims and take that feedback and roll that into that next game, right. This is, what you're talking about an event like this with multiple drivers doing this live in a simulator, is not something they can always pull off.
They can get drivers and then go to do it, but to have a whole host of professional drivers doing it at the same time and pulling that data in live together, that's a great experience, a great opportunity for them to learn some stuff and roll that into the next game.

Smitty: Well, you never built a whole season around that, you might have built a game around that, but the whole idea of a battle royale and all this has brought a whole different idea to multiplayer gaming. It used to just be Quake and back in the day—

Erik: Love those.

Smitty: Love them, but it was a different style. Like I'm super deep into Warzone, I play it every single night. But the thing about the competition that you could look at with NASCAR that has a real world representative where, I know, so does Call of Duty, but we're not really—

Erik: A little different.

Smitty: Yeah, just a little different. So the NASCAR thing you could actually compare, if you go back to the idea I was talking about how in the real world, the real cars do have the same basic specs. And we know by GPS positioning where the cars would be on any track at any given time, what you could do is you could be able to synchronize real world racing with eSports simulators and you would be able to have people on say the PC or a console cued up, you could download all the tracks that they're going to race, we're all racing the same track.
We all have quote unquote the same engine in the same car with the same type of performance, it comes down to driver skill. And then you could technically be able to race in a virtual space against real world drivers in real time as they were really racing the real tracks. Because when they start, you start. Everybody's synced and you know where they are at all times on the track and then you would almost be able to see them and if you really wanted to freak the drivers out, you could give them a heads up display while they're racing that they could actually see digital racers, virtual racers, eSports.
So, there's a few ways that I think that eSports could actually bring a few real world sports with digital, virtual sports and actually let them create a new sport.

Dan: So what about games like League of Legends or Dota or these other more fantastic games that are not as grounded in reality as what you've been talking about.

Smitty: We're going to have to find some dragons then. I mean, there's no other answer.

Dan: No, but it makes a case for the old argument that eSports aren't real sports. People always get into the physical nature of it, a sport is something that takes physical effort which arguably—

Erik: You ever see StarCraft? You ever see these players play StarCraft?

Dan: No, I know, yeah, that's right.

Erik: Don't tell me that ain't a sport.

Smitty: I've got my Space Force t-shirt.

Erik: That's right.

Dan: Right, that's the thing, it's as much mental as it is physical and it is about coordination and it is about reaction time and reflexes and all that stuff plays into it.

Erik: Well they're hard as racing, man. Their blood is pumping, their adrenaline is kicking through. Just because they're physically sitting down doesn't necessarily mean anything, so is the driver in a race car and you ever see him at the end of that, how emotionally and physically worn out they are at the end of something like that and they're sitting down. They're turning a wheel, but they're not running, they're not taking a jog, but it's still a sport. They're exerted.

Smitty: Thank God you said that, I was going to say we're going to have some real angry people.

Erik: That's exactly where I'm going with it though, it's just as exerting, they’re putting their body through the physical paces. I liken this and I'm going to make an equivalent argument here to what you're talking about with something like League of Legends or Fortnite or whatever, poker. Poker tournaments, I don't know if you've ever experienced that but if you are sitting there and you realize how difficult it is to put your money or the chance of some serious money on the line when you are heads up with somebody on a set of cards.
And you've got to make that decision to push in or not and you don't know if you're going to walk away with that money or not. That gets your adrenaline pumping and hours of that is also draining.

Dan: The joke when all this started out and they canceled the NBA season, canceled all the NHL season and all the sports stopped was that, "Oh, I guess all these networks are going to show poker 24 hours a day."

Smitty: We've got like five channels that are all dedicated to poker, they did that, absolutely.

Dan: Yeah, no, I know. There is still that as well, I mean they are hurting for content right now which is probably part of the reason why they did this, but it certainly is more exciting to have real people involved than it is to do a ... like I thought the thing with the hockey game, it was fine, but it was like get real people involved otherwise don't bother.

Erik: Yeah, why not have the players actually play that?

Dan: Yeah, I made that comment on the stream and they said we're going to work on that.

Smitty: They've done it with the NBA, the NFL does this and they're more like novelty things, they haven't ever really coalesced around the idea that Dak Prescott is actually going to play Dak Prescott. That's a concept and then don't you think, that might be beautiful for eSports because then you might have pro athletes and everything getting so in depth with these that each and every player might actually have an absolutely real world facsimile of you.

Erik: And they're getting close, right? A lot of those sports, they do, they bring in all the stats and the player is very close.

Smitty: Every player and like record them and I know they're doing that for graphical reasons and I'm sure they do some for performance reasons.

 

[BREAK]

 

Smitty: Since you're talking about poker too and sports of all kinds, then we can also talk about the gambling side of things because eSports, there's a ginormous world of gambling, like Las Vegas gambling, around eSports for games like Overwatch

Erik: Really, what do you think of that though? I'm curious what your take is.

Smitty: Well, number one, anything that ... I've always never trusted the games, I always think is this game cheating me and it wasn't until we started making the games that I really realized it might not be cheating you but there might be a bug. There might be a little small bug, they exist and out of millions of lines of code, there might be some off. But it's hard to believe that you could rely a hundred percent on a digital game being flawless and being completely based on player skill versus player skill.
Let's just say, I don't know, freaking something went wrong with the CPU and I had a millisecond delay, I mean whatever, I just don't know. So, there's a couple of things that are different than real world sports betting, but real world sports betting, you have more of I think a negative influence for people who are really trying to, people can be swayed. Machines, no, you can't use emotional baggage on a machine most of the time to get it to do what you want.

Erik: Have you ever placed a wager on an eSports event?

Smitty: Never, but I was just having a conversation with a guy about eSports betting and they had developed an algorithm that allows for a more accurate point spread or bet prediction for the casino side and so they could offer better odds, more accurate odds. Now of course the house always wins, they want those odds to be in their favor, of course, but this was a serious conversation with a very serious guy and they were already talking with a very serious casino in Las Vegas about this very thing. About more accurately giving bets out or offering different lines for eSports.
So they are trying to figure it out, so I think my answer is it's in its infancy, we're going to see what it really does, but I don't think that it's ... I never really liked gambling.

Dan: I'm not a huge fan either, but if you've ever gone to Vegas and you see their slot machines are basically just video games now. If you look at those big digital slot machines, I went there and I found a Star Wars one and I couldn't get away from it because it was so freaking cool.

Erik: Was it the one that had the Death Star on the top that spun around?

Dan: I think so and it was—

Erik: Because that's an amazing, I've played a couple of those and that was an amazing game for a slot machine. 

Smitty: I made that game, you'll never win, I got all your money.

Erik: Of course we'll never win. 

Dan: But I think honestly, I don't think they exist anymore, I'm pretty sure this was pre-Disney Star Wars, I don't think Disney allows the Star Wars brand to be used in gambling, but before that they did. And it was just a lot of fun just to get to the bonus and you choose the droids and do all these things on the screen, it's a touchscreen and it's basically it's all digital. Back when these were still physical slot machines where you pulled the lever of the thing, it was all clockwork, they had a way to make sure it was random every time. Now it's random by program.

Erik: Isn't that weird? Isn't that weird how all of this stuff has converged. What you're talking about, you're bringing in things, you're taking video games, you're taking sports, you're taking gambling and all these things are now coming together and it's all converged into just one giant industry. I mean look how many people look at Konami and what Konami has done over the years with their properties, they're more of a gambling company than they are a video game company now.

Dan: Really?

Erik: And Konami's got some amazing properties, yeah. A lot of their stuff goes into these gambling machines overseas and they take their properties and stick them on there and they make a ton more money doing that than they ever did on video games. 

Smitty: For people who aren't familiar, they're like literally pennies and nickels and dimes, you're not sitting there betting dollars. They're these little penny machines and they're everywhere, they have little arcades that are just little gambling machines stuck over right next to the machine that gives you any kind of food out of a machine that you want.

Erik: And you can win some real money out of those things in some of the spots, but it's just to me I just find it fascinating how all of that stuff has come into together into its own thing and it's converged into one major part of the industry.

Smitty: Well, but gambling on sports of any kind I think was not necessarily just a way to make money and it's all about capitalism, I think it was a way for other people to get another kind of thrill and excitement out of sports. It's like another layer of sports, some guys really could care less, they don't know any of the teams, they could care less, they just know stats. Some guys love the Dallas Cowboys and only bet on the Dallas Cowboys and that's cool and then some people play.
But I just think it's an excitement level, it adds another level to the game of sports for some people. Well, what the difference is between eSports and say, the NFL versus let's say Fortnite players that are competing, the NFL only half of a percent of one percent of the one percent of one percent of people that have even ever play football in their life would ever end up in the NFL. But Fortnite, if you got 40 bucks, well hell it's free, but I mean if you got 40 bucks you're doing your packs and you're getting extra guns, but the barrier of entry to be an eSports player is much, much lower.
And I'm not discounting it, I'm just saying the opportunity is much more wide and more open for eSports players to engage and practice and try to get better. And one thing about eSports is if you practice, you can get better, but let's say in the NFL, doesn't matter how much you work out, you're not going to grow six inches taller or eight inches taller or run two miles in three minutes. You're never going to do those things because gravity and other things like that.
But some people are physical specimens that they can do that. So what I'm just saying, eSports, I think, gives a greater opportunity for people to be competitive if they want to be competitive in this and I think that that might maybe decrease some of the onus on mimicking exactly what professional sports are with the whole thing about betting all around it. The types of sponsors that sponsor it, the way that events are broadcast and shown because we've already changed that with Twitch and Mixer. We've already changed how competitive eSports are even broadcast.
And I think it's great because I feel like the video game industry maybe has a little tighter grasp on all of our products and everything like that and how they're marketed because we just will not tolerate misinterpretation of our artwork and stuff. I've seen it before, I was a developer, I'm a publisher now and you know Erik, I had many conversations where I was like, "Oh yeah, you're not going to do that? Well, then we're not doing it, it's over, thank you, we're out, bye, next." There's no room for—

Erik: Right.

Smitty: And so unlike most other industries, in the video game business when you own an intellectual property, you can actually throw down the gauntlet and say no and that's your negotiating tactic.

Erik: Yeah, you can walk away certainly. I think one of the things that I find really interesting about this portion of it here though is the way that the fans feel so much closer to this than they do real sports. I mean, even if you let's say, let's just say you grew up and you played football in high school and maybe even you played football in college. Let's just say you went so far to do that, you probably knew there was still not a snowball's chance in hell that you were going to make it into the pros because it's one percent of one percent of one percent that even gets there and then it's another—

Smitty: And that's still too high.

Erik: Yeah, and then it's another one percent of that that even makes it on the field.

Smitty: And then can I cut in and tell you something, I talked to an offensive lineman from the NFL and you know what the average life expectancy of an NFL lineman is in the NFL?

Erik: Oh just a few years if that.

Smitty: 18 months.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: Boom.

Erik: It's crazy.

Smitty: Guess what the minimum qualification is to the non-profit, non-tax paying NFL, guess what the minimum qualification is in years played to get to be able to get long-term medical coverage. Do you think it's three years? It is.

Erik: Yeah, beyond the threshold. 

Smitty: You think it's 24 months, exactly, you're right, exactly.

Erik: And it's amazing how that lines up, but in eSports, like you said, the barrier to entry is that much lower. Because a fan can pick up a mouse and a keyboard and a computer that's halfway decent, plug into their favorite kind of game and it doesn't have to be League of Legends, it doesn't have to be NASCAR type stuff, it doesn't have to be ... it can be almost any type of game now that's competitive and boom, off to the races they go. And if they spend a little time and get good, they can register for a tournament and hell, hit it big. Become the next Ninja. 

Smitty: Brother, I'm watching an Age of Empires 2 tournament on Twitch Rivals channel for the last two weekends. Age of Empires 2, you know what I'm saying, you don't have to be a first person shooter. 

Erik: There's a game for everybody, I mean we talk about the fighting games just a little bit before and guess what, what's one of the biggest eSports fighting games there is? Street Fighter. 

Dan: Yeah, I think it's a good point of the fans though because it really is the fans of these that makes it what it is. I mean you can have people playing, but if they don't play in front of anybody, does it really happen? Probably.

Smitty: Are these people even real?

Dan: No, but the fans are what drive sports, all sports, that's really what it is, is about getting people to watch and enjoy the exhibition of it and you can do that whether it be a physical game of football or hockey or whatever or if it's a virtual game, you can still do that. The thing I started us off with this, talking about the simulated hockey game, in the comments, in the chat, people were all talking about the Jets and how much they miss the team and the old days.
And lots of people reminiscing about watching the legend players play when they were on and that kind of stuff, but there was a great sense of community there and I think that's what you get out of all of these. No matter whether it's eSports or quote unquote real sports, you get that sense of community from other fans of the same thing.

Erik: I just want to say go Black Hawks.

Dan: That's fine.

Smitty: Go Stars.

Dan: The captain of the Black Hawks is from Winnipeg so you're welcome.

Erik: As if somehow you had something to do with that.

Dan: Yes, I did.

Smitty: If for any reason the old friend Jamie Langenbrunner, if Langenbrunner is still out there listening to this, Langenbrunner I miss you, I wish we were back at Macaroni Grill having a two entrée lunch, bro.

Erik: Dude Langenbrunner was the best.

Dan: I love the guy, he's awesome.

 

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Erik: The last time we were talking about some old games and sparked a memory that I really hadn't played this game in a long time so I went out to GOG, Steam's competitor and I went out and picked up Dungeon Keeper. It was like a buck forty, it was on sale so nice and cheap and I hadn't played it in years. I downloaded that and I was playing that just before we came on to the podcast, I have actually been playing it for a little bit from last night and a little bit today and man, I just picked it right back up again.
For those of you that aren't familiar with Dungeon Keep because I know it's a little bit more obscure, it was made back in 1997. Developed by Bullfrog, Bullfrog productions, they're the same developers that made Populous and Syndicate.

Smitty: Oh, I remember Syndicate.

Erik: Both of those series. Yeah. The main guy, the visionary for this and I know Smitty is going to beat me up about how I say this, but Peter Molyneux.

Smitty: Molyneux.

Erik: Molyneux, Molyneux, yeah, I know it's something like that. I've never personally met the guy, but I have a hunch you might have.

Smitty: Yup.

Erik: That guy had some tremendous brain power for these things, he made the Fable series. Yeah, into that. Black and White.

Smitty: Black and White, man if you were kicking it around that time, that game visually but the concept of Black and White was next level, next level.

Erik: This guy's got a great brain for that kind of thing.

Smitty: Oh God, yeah, does he ever.

Erik: Think about what some of those games are, so Dungeon Keeper is you are the Dungeon Keeper, you're the god that's manning the dungeon and so it's a real time simulation of you being the Dungeon Keeper. You've got a bunch of space, a bunch of imps and literally in the game you are the hand that can pick up the imps, smack them, you can right click on them and smack them around which by the way makes them pissed off but they work faster.

Smitty: And that same concept by the way goes right into Black and White with the hand.

Erik: It's so great to see how that works and you build treasure rooms and hatcheries and living quarters for your dungeon creatures. Eventually if you do this right and you gain enough treasure and you build a training room, you can build a library and get some wizards that are there and all these things attract more and more creatures. And then eventually the good guys come knocking and they'll start banging on your walls and try to break into your dungeon which is really great.
There's actually a sequel as well, Dungeon Keeper 2. Both games play very similarly, Dungeon Keeper 2 came out a little bit afterwards, I think it's a couple years afterwards. But what I found most interesting was a lot of these older games, many of them you can find on Steam and GOG and some of them use DOSbox which is basically DOS emulation to run that stuff in a modern setting. So you can just go out, purchase the game, download it, install it and it's as if you are sitting in front of your old school CRT with your beige box on your desk and you're playing this old game from 20, 30 years ago.

Dan: And no space, takes up no space, 281 megabytes I see here which is like nothing. Back then that was a big deal.

Erik: It was back then, yeah.

Smitty: Wasn't there something about Dungeon Keeper, Erik, they had an increased audio field or something like that and if you had one of the really cool sound cards or something, you could do I'm going to say 3D sound, but it's called—

Erik: And I think Creative had an audio mode that did that

Smitty: Sound Blaster. Because remember Klipsch had some PC speakers out around that time too where they had rear speakers and I think several of them, like you said, Creative did. Anyway, I thought there was also some other technological advances with this game that involve the audio around it as well as the gameplay for some reason.

Erik: Yeah, and that game has some amazing sound. One of the things that is really good about this, I think I even mentioned it before is the mentor, the voice of the game is this great voice actor Richard Ridings and he's got these wonderful sound clips that back in the day were so good.

 

[BREAK]

 

Erik: He ended up releasing a sound pack that could replace your system sounds on Windows, so when you logged into AOL, instead of getting the you've got mail, it would come up with his voice and go, "New mail has arrived." And then you've got his voice doing those kinds of things. They had just this great ambiance in this game, but really Peter's brain for creating just amazing concepts and putting that into something you can play, that's almost the best part of all of this is you have somebody who really was a high talent and he's been in a gaming industry for decades.

Smitty: Yeah, and the character design on that game was done by an artist named Mark Healey and Mark Healey went on to found a company which made a game called LittleBigPlanet.

Erik: Oh yeah. Very good.

Smitty: So Mark Healey, I think he was co-founder of Media Molecule. So anyway, once again if you dig into some of these old games you will realize, or older games, that oh my gosh the talent. Just the talent we had at Terminal Reality and we were all in awe of Peter Molyneux or Molyneux. How did you say it, I can't remember.

Erik: Molyneux.

Smitty: And he's English, so I'm not even trying to be rude here. So anyway, the great talent.

Erik: Yeah, I really appreciate a lot of those older games and picking up the mouse again for those. I actually pulled down a few other really good classics. I know we were talking about some of the old GTA games and I saw those on there too, some of the first couple of those that were the top down. But to the creativity because of the limitations, that's something that we don't have to deal with as much anymore. In your mind's eye, if you want something to appear on screen, as long as you've got the talent and the artistry to make that kind of thing happen, you can pretty much make it look however you want.
But that wasn't the case back then. We had so many limitations on the machine's capabilities, the program capabilities, the game engines weren't what they are today and yet, with those limitations, some truly amazing games were able to be made and released and it really set the pace and tone for what modern gaming is. It's just something that when you revisit it today, you can certainly see the fruits of that in what we have now.

Smitty: Well, I'm just going to say it, Minecraft is a level editor. It's all Minecraft is, it's just a level editor. This is what we would have made, a tool like this. So Peter Molyneux, Terminal Reality, anybody else, I mean current developers, we all made our own tools back then to do things. But level editors were one of the main things that we had to build for ourselves to be able to have this shared cooperative, creative collaboration here. And man that was amazing, my mother would be so proud of me on that string of words. 

Like Minecraft when it came out, the thing that resonated with me and my daughter, my daughter and I added it up and I think she and I played over 700 hours of Minecraft probably within just the first six months that it came out. We were playing on Xbox 360 because we can play co-op with each other and we can go into sandbox and just have fun. 

Erik: Yeah, and build whatever you want, do whatever you want.

Smitty: And that's what I realized, I don't think I would have appreciated Minecraft as much if I didn't have a child to experience it with because she was totally unjaded in any way. This was completely a literal sandbox for her to play in. She had no preconceptions of what any of this is and to her it was just endless open-world exploration, building opportunities with no consequence once you weren't playing the game you were just playing with sand.
And so I think there was so many ideas that were new in 1997 when Dungeon Keeper was at and those same ideas are still new today, it's just we have, like you said, different tools to enable that vision to come to life and so kudos to everybody in this amazing industry that has worked their booties off to make things as cool as they are today and I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Erik: Yeah, imagine 10 years from now or if we're talking 1997, imagine 23 years from now.

Smitty: Probably just going to have chips in our heads, sitting still, communicating with each other without moving.

Erik: Yeah, I hope so.

Dan: I just wanted to ask you Erik, I really like to show my kids older games and teach them the value of them, they sometimes roll their eyes and get, oh, the graphics are so bad or whatever, they get worked up on that. So I try to find really good games and this looks like a good game, Dungeon Keeper, but is it appropriate for my children? I wonder, it says mature, but that's 1997 mature.

Erik: I was going to say, it's pretty tame nowadays, but I think maybe back in the day it might have been just a little bit on the edge.

Dan: I see there is a torture chamber in this game.

Erik: It's not what you think. It's not what you think.

Dan: It's not 50 Shades of Grey, it's not that kind of torture chamber?

Erik: No, definitely not, definitely not. But very fun game, very fun set of games to be honest. Both of them are great and they're definitely classics that I recommend. Well it looks like we are out of lives. For Games You Deserve, I am Erik.

Smitty: I'm Smitty. 

Dan: And I'm Dan.

Erik: That is it, thank you for listening.