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Andrew:
1. YES. Good, good idea! I would love it if my party was stopped by a band of orc warriors who had heard about us and wanted to fight such a famous group of heroes. Or even better, having a band of thieves hightail it after they realize they’re attempting to rob the group that killed the dark dragon Poopstinkyinhimer.

2. Well, it still doesn’t explain all the people you find along your journey who join your party, but yes, that would make sense. How about this- Around towns, there are no enemies, because they are kept culled by the guards, and as you go further out more monsters appear, but how strong they are and how many appear is largely dependant on how close to a monster den you get. So in effect, if you wanted to, you could search out the den of monsters, kill them, and reduce the monster population on the world map. Hooray!

3. I’ll agree to that. However, I also say that if you’re in an area fighting, say, giant ravens, that you can also raid their nests for treasure.

4. That’d be awesome. Can you imagine being barred from entering a town for your earlier actions? And then having to find other towns who don’t know about you yet and having to make up for your misdeeds? Mmm, and getting deals in the weapon shops would be a great incentive, not to mention getting rare equipment for being either really nice or evil. It’d add a whole new aspect to RPGs!

5. Good point. To a point.

6. Heh. Well, I ignore save points on the basis that they work pretty well as is, and that any alterations, like in Steel Battalion, would be more frustrating then helpful for the player.

Great letter, Eggman!

 No matter how you play them, Lemmer has the perfect RPG for you!

"What was the last RPG that really gripped you?"

Since that was a pretty open question, I'll take the opportunity to rattle off a number of them in different categories.

Computer RPG

Technically, it'd probably be Baldur's Gate 2. Personally, I haven't seen one yet that matches the joy of playing the Fallout series. Skills, quirks, and automatic weapons! Called laser to the groin, mutant scum!

Console RPG

Aria of Sorrow, even though I REALLY don't think of it as an RPG. It's too fun to be a normal RPG.

Pseudo-RPG

Star Control 2. Whether or not it's actually an RPG is up to debate. I bring up 3 points:

1.You gradually build up & customize your ship from a barely-moving lug to a battlefleet in itself. If it had a level system, this game would be listed in RPGamer, no doubt.

2.You converse with aliens (which, in my opinion, is more entertaining than 98% of the RPG dialogue out there).

3.When I finally came out of it, I realized that I had played it for three days straight (almost 24 hours of time devoted to it) and I was still eager to finish it. In terms of time & interest, it's blown 90% of the RPGs I've played out of the water.

Anyone that's interested in seeing what all the fuss is about is hereby directed to Ur-Quan Masters for a legal, freeware version of the game. (Not only did the developers program this great game in the first place, but they were kind enough to open source the code so that the community could remake it for newer systems.)

Tabletop RPG

Paranoia, as I'm sure you could tell by the Email address. The sourcebook was the best $20 I ever spent. Homicidal characters, insane NPCs, frankenstein bots, death, destruction, backstabbing, bootlicking, scapegoating, and non-standard thinking on a grand scale. Anyone can slaughter a dragon, but how does one deal with an insane bureaucracy, or psychotic bots that you've been ordered to protect? The type of RPG that has you rolling on the floor laughing just from reading the modules.

On a sidenote, that link to 8-Bit Theater has me hankering for some old-fashioned FF play. What was your favorite team of 4 for the game?

-Mike Lemmer

Andrew:
Another wonderful letter, Lemmer. Thanks for exposing the readers to a fine bunch of games and not being skimpy on the explanations or links. ^_^

And personally, I prefer an a furry warrior, furry thief, dwarfen white mage, oh, and black mage from 8-bit theater.

...What?

 A beautiful dream.

When I first read this week's question, I thought, "There really haven't been that many." Then I got considering it, & I realized there were quite a few.

The thing they all have in common is an interesting story. Xenosaga - I want to know what's going to happen in Episode 2! Both Lunars made me laugh out loud at times (so did Xenosaga). Suidoken III - I wanted to help make that glorious world with such varied peoples a world of peace. Final Fantasy VII - the first RPG I'd ever played. Prior to that I'd played Pong once, PacMan a couple of times, some Mario game on my friend's Commodore 64 for about half an hour, & actually completed Abe's Oddysee! Then I bought FFVII, & I was transmorgified into the RPG addict I am today.

I think soon the graphics on video games will reach their pinnacle of excellence - our eyes won't be capable of seeing any better, & the images will be pretty near perfect. Then the real golden age will begin because game companies will have to concentrate on content (story lines, gameplay) - pretty graphics alone won't cut it (FFX - all pretty pictures - a story so predictable a 6 year old could figure it out, & gameplay so dull I became convinced that Square decided to take a vacation & let Ford Motor Company mass produce this pap).

Sorry this letter's so long, but I'm glued to this couch............

Jbumi

Andrew:
Yes, story has often dragged me into an RPG, though I often stay because of game play mechanics. RPGs offer players such a unique chance to “live” the story, and too few creators take advantage of that.

Well, I wouldn’t say that graphics will every reach a perfect point. Look at 3D, when it first came out, all everyone used it for was to create “life-like” crap. And I do mean crap. Blocky figures, completely unrealistic, painful to the eyes. Finally, someone came up with cel-shading, and games got a whole lot more colorful and enjoyable to play. For every hyper realistic piece of graphical trash out there, there is a handful of artists dreaming up new ways to use graphics to tell their stories, and those are the games I can’t wait to play.

 I only copy things I own! ...or rent, or borrow, or download, or...

One of your correspondents wrote: "First, the people primarily responsible for illegally sharing music files are simultaneously the same group of people who buy the most amount of CDs". This article contradicts that assertion, but has some good things to say about kids-as-consumers:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/29/arts/29RICH.html?th

(Not sure if you need to sign up to NYT to read it. If so, sorry.)

What was the last RPG that really gripped me? Dark Cloud 2. I have this bad habit of butterfly-flitting between games and not getting anywhere with any of them, but for some reason DC2 kept me interested enough to finish it in a mere four weeks (a record for me). It was strange because my favorite RPGs are ones that have characters I can really get attached to, and DC2 wasn't like that.

The theory that I came up with as I was typing this, is that how the towns were set up appealed to me. Most of the game in RPGs, towns are indistinguishable from each other except for the skins, and I get bored with traipsing between essentially identical places with essentially identicalcitizens. Also (blushing), because of the aforementioned bad habit I often forget where I am or where I'm supposed to be going if I've been away from a game for more than a few days. I built DC2's towns myself, giving me a "personal interest" in them, and because of how travel was set up, there was no chance of ever being lost. Its setup does have the disadvantage of not giving the "feel" of world map exploration, though. Sometimes I really believe that the world is a big place when I'm on a world map--choosing a town from a menu and getting there immediately isn't the same thing at all.

The dungeon-crawling in DC2 was fun. And, Hot Shots fan that I am, I loved Spheda!

Beth.

Andrew:
You do need to sign up for the New York Times to read the article, but I have to say that when I hear a great song, like say, “Duel of the Fates” from Stars Wars Episode 2, I’m going to download it. Why? Because I bought the Episode 1 CD, and it was complete, overpriced crap. I felt completely ripped off for showing my support for the movie, and yes, I’m stealing, but you know what? I’d rather feel the guilt of stealing then the embarrassment of supporting a shitty ripoff of a soundtrack.

Well, most towns are just places to refill your heroes stats, buy some new crap, and get a quest. Rarely are you dragged into the town as a person, which is something more games need to do.



Quickies

This is Tony’s uncle.

Andrew,

I wanted to say thank you to you and all the wonderful people who so obviously cared about Tony. One of my favorite quotes is:

"Friends are the family you choose for yourself"

It was a huge honor for me to do. I hope we gave you and your family solace in this hard time, and I’m glad I could help in a small way.

The Final Grumble:

“Hey Andrew! Why is this column so short?!”

Well reader, I decided to pick the letters today that I really enjoyed reading. I wanted the best of the bunch, and I picked them. Yeah it’s selfish, because there were a lot of decent letters too, but frankly, I was getting sick of columns double this size with half as much entertainment. Let’s see what happens tomorrow, eh?

Andrew "Heil America!" DuffClaire Belton

Well, monsters they were, but you have to love their pointy helmets.

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