[an error occurred while processing this directive] A twinkle in your grandmotherís eye. Sexual lust or blindness?

Wow, this is about the first time I ever wrote to you. But with all cheesy formalities aside...

Eggman wrote a letter you regarding the Ultimate RPG. Well, I was just chuckling as I read through it, because there was an RPG I played which had all of that. It was called Avernum 3. But that's beside the point - there are actually a lot of RPGs which have most or a mixture of them.

1. Avernum actually had a reputation meter in which the game uses to manipulate certain oncoming events. In fact, some of the major quests in the story can't start without you being "known across the land". As you may guess, you can achieve a higher reputation by killing off the monsters that plague the land, etc.

2. Plots which have the "center pull" storyline exist in practically every RPG out there, especially the games with the "world getting destroyed by some magnificant evil" cliche. Avernum actually has the "progressive difficulty" thing going on with it as you progress in the game. It also happens to have a "force" who's behind all the nasty monsters...go figure.

3. I think you might just be pointing out the inconsistancies of MMORPGs when it comes to item drops. I guess it makes sense. Enemies in Avernum drop what are relative to their type or genre - spiders drop webs, rats drop fangs, etc.

4. Avernum actually had the "people reaction" think in working order. Considering that almost every creature in the game, be they friend or foe, can be attacked, towns can undoubtedly get angry at you if you steal their items or slay any of their citizens (which unfortunately leads to them all trying to lynch you in the most horrible way imaginable...unless you've reached godlike status with your characters and obliterate the townspeople...you can even attack major characters of the story!) I guess that makes sense, but with the linearity of most RPGs, the "barred from town" idea can actually be detrimental to a person's gameplay (but I guess that can just be blamed on sloppy design).

5. If towns were made as only aesthetic tiles or polygons, that would be a serious waste of time and resources. Even useless towns have their quirks - in Avernum you can just steal from them and run. And as for the logic behind a "town" and a "city"...c'mon, how realistic do you have to get in a fantasy setting RPG?

6. Why does an RPG have to explain a save point? The entire premise is based on the fact that the player is reading an immensely interactive book. Of course, considering that players have completely unpredictable minds, the author needs to add in a safe guard against such mindless fudge factors. Hence, save points. Besides, since when did you try to find a rationailty behind a save point when your curious mind say, for example, tried to imagine the possibility of fighting an impossible creature? I never once tried to question that little blue flourescent crystal when I was "curious" about how strong Emerald Weapon was in FF VII (well, it was damn impossible for my on my first time).

But enough with the endless Avernum spam, now time to get philosophical. It seems that game companies, no matter how much they try to preach about being in for the satisfying gameplay, are after all (as with every working class person) looking foward to the next dollar. The trend seems to be proportional to the company's size - which is why we get horrible games from popular names.

It may be interesting to note that Avernum was developed by an indie company. Although the graphics are EXTREMELY dated, the formula works in such a way to keep the player satisfied. Isn't it funny that players are liking the gameplay of these obscure companies rather than a lot of the "big-namers"? Being a programmer myself, I can certainly understand the change of mindsets between earning your next dollar and having fun making a game.

Sqrfrk

P.S.
...considering that there's no way in hell my letter's gonna be posted, here's a link to Avernum, in case you're interested.

http://www.avernum.com

Based on the Exile series...which was also fun to play.

Andrew:
Well, I downloaded the demo of Avernum 3, played it, and managed to die several times. Firstly, the graphics arenít only extremely dated, but also extremely bad. Secondly, the areas of the world, especially Fort Emergence, is constructed in a horribly bizarre fashion. Perhaps the game gets better if I took the time to learn all the mechanics and slowly slog my way through a combat system that takes pleasure in being obtuse, but Iíve decided that I would really rather not waste any more time on this game.

 I summon the Lord of Darkness to answer this letter...Tadrith!

Long-time intermittent reader, first time writer :-P
I have to point out that almost all of the things Eggman pointed out in his letter were been implemented in Baldur's Gate II. What's the deal with everybody at RPGamer ignoring computer RPGs? They're MUCH more detailed and interactive than console games can be...many more opportunities for altered storyline based on player actions as well.

Crazy J

Tadrith:
Baldurís Gate 2 was a sad example of a decent computer RPG. As far as the game itself goes, itís completely uninventiveÖ standard, hard fantasy. No imagination was put into it, no deviation from the norm. How many times do we honestly have to see the same character classes, the same monsters, the same stat system? D&D has been around the block more than few times, and I think itís ready for the rocking chair.

As for storyline? I think most people would agree that while PC RPGs have gotten better at telling a story, the stories themselves are rather dull and run of the mill. The playerís actions are only significant given the current situation, and rarely Ė if ever Ė do the playerís actions affect the end outcome of the game. The worst part of it, is that they tout the game as if the player can be good *or* evilÖ the problem with this being, their ďendingĒ to an evil character is essentially to wander around doing absolutely nothing for the rest of your days. You canít go and kill the last boss, because youíd be doing something goodÖ and the story is never changed to reflect that. The game ends, and *poof* suddenly youíre good. The characters rarely become endearing to the player, and it becomes an exercise in wasting time as opposed to a real desire to find out what comes next.

PC RPG makers design games purely with the intent of making money off of themÖ most develop a base to work on, and then proceed to churn out several games based on that engine. Generally at the heart of the engine is everybodyís favorite system Ė D&D, in some form or another. Itís been around too long, and I think itís high time the developers started putting some thought into these games. The most inventive PC style RPG coming out that Iíve seen is Fable, and thatís being designed for the Xbox.

In the end, the most infuriating part of is that we *know* PC developers can tell a good story. There used to be something called an adventure game, which seems to have fallen to the wayside. The Dig, anyone? Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis? The 7th Guest? These games all had solid, event spectacular storylines.

 Chrono Cross Spoiler, not that you should care.

Hey Andrew, here's a topic for you -

What moment in an RPG was most influenced by the music for you? I know music in a game has a HUGE impact on my gameplay experience, but sometimes it seems like a scene would fall a lot flatter without the music backing it up.

For me, the penultimate scene where the music transformed it from just "okay plot development" to "deeply affecting moment" was during the battle with Miguel in Chrono Cross. As soon as I realized he was going to try to use my party to end his life, and "People Imprisoned by Destiny" began to play, the entire scene took on this amazingly affecting aura of hopelessness and bittersweet tragedy. Amid the sunset, battling this man who I should not have to kill, helpless against fate... the whole scene came together with this perfect choice of background music. I just don't the same impact would have occurred without the foreboding "Dead Sea ~ Ruined Tower" leading up to the event and "People Imprisoned by Destiny" blanketing the actual event in a sad, inescapable mist.

Well, anyhow, I was just thinking about this and got to wondering if this has happened to anyone else: they've got a scene in an RPG that they'll never forget, etched into their memory at least partly because of the overwhelmingly perfect musical accompaniment. Just tossing that topic out!

And with that, adieu!

- andrew

Andrew:
Great description of the Dead Sea scene, Andrew. The music that has buried itself in my head is ďPrayĒ, the song that plays when Cecil and Kain leave Baron for their mission. Itís all inspiring and deep and stuff. It also makes up for how long it takes for the scene to switch back to gameplay.

 Less unbelievable then Googleís gender.

I know you're not gonna believe this, but the last game that truly had me captivated to such an extent that I played it whenever I didn't have homework or wanted to be online was... Wild ARMs 3.

To me, Wild ARMs has been the second most underrated RPG series around (Breath of Fire being the first,) but the 3rd installment caught me totally by surprise. It had enough challenge to keep battles interesting, and merely leveling up rarely solved any problems. I loved the fact that it was the first Wild ARMs game to truly have a Wild West feel (although it was very Fantasy-esque near the end.) The characters were amazingly intriguing (I especially loved Jet's backstory.) The story, which started out kind of slow, began to draw me in slowly but surely until I really had a hard time putting the game down. And then there were the side quests... I honestly cannot think of any other game where sidequests can actually take more time than the story itself. Even glitches couldn't stop me from playing, I loved it so much.

Of course, the last game period that drew me in was Wind Waker (which is not an RPG, no matter what anyone says about Zelda.) I simply recall the last time I had such FUN playing a game. The plot was more there than previous Zelda games, but it was just Combat that kept me playing that one.

Andrew:
Hey, I can believe most anything. Iím glad there are some people out there who enjoy the third Wild Arms game. Most of the letters Iíve gotten on the subject were asking me to explain how to level up or what the heck to do in battle.

Iíve never heard anyone claim Wind Waker was an RPG, unless the person was painfully stupid, however, this doesnít stop RPGamer from giving it an honorary place on the site, since the staff happens to love the series oh so very much.

 I have no idea who this person is.

Sorry I haven't chimed in on anything in the recent past, only I've been a bit busy.

With what, might you ask? Let's just say that the vast majority of my recent labors have involved either huge quantities of Atari games, the pursuit of Advance Wars glory, or the latest installments in a certain 15-year-old gaming franchise. Said installments, especially the one for the 'Cube (a game not covered within the spectrum of RPGamer), kept me gripped with nostalgia and hideously-oldschool-difficult platforming action. (Note to everyone: Zero.EXE is the man... er, program.)

Oh, and there was my GBASP event. I managed to purchase a black (the color that screams IMPORT) GBASP on the day that Nintendo announced that said color would be sold in the US.

Oh well. Just threw $30 bucks on a few months of being unique. If nothing else, I can have no qualms about playing Mother 1 + 2 on said system, as it's an import on an import. I should get a bloody medal.

So that's the story, those are the events, tune in next time, until then, bye bye!

(PS: Webcomic Notice! If you haven't been exposed to the fantastic art, rampant sarcasm, and obscure FFVI references that is Errant Story, I reserve the right to assault you in the parking lot with a Peanut Cheese Bar.)

Andrew:
I loved Megaman Legends, but havenít touched the .exe series. I donít know why, but the thought of controlling lovable kids and their robots makes me want to hurt things, and seeing as the series recently did a pokemonesque spilt, this was probably a good choice.

Iíve actually held off on my GBA-SP purchase until I leave for Japan for the express reason of getting one thatís blindingly, horribly, ugly. Neon mauve, anyone?

The only people who are unaware of Errant Story is a small tribe of midget ninjas, but thatís only because they havenít seen the surface for the last decade. You will never escape the fortress of the moles!

 Why yes, I do reign over small, dead animals. Why do you ask?

Hail Supreme Commander! I salute thee!

I've been grabbing up lots of great PS1 RPGs, and I'm trying to decide what game to get next. It's between SaGa Frontier 2 and the Arc the Lad Collection. What would you recommend? Also, are there any under-rated PS1 games that I might have missed? To give you some idea of my gamingtastes, my favorite RPGs include Lunar 1 & 2, FF Tactics, FF6, Skies of Arcadia, and Chrono Trigger.

Thanks,
deadgerbil

Andrew:
Arc the Lad Collection takes Saga Frontier 2 out back and beats it until Square spits out another awful sequel.

Since I have no idea what games you already own, Iíll save my suggestions and instead recommend that you just keep your eyes open till something in the bargain bin catches your eye.

Just as long as it isnít ďEternal EyesĒ. >_<

 Here thar be dragons. Talkative, blowhard dragons.

Hello, Andrew!

There are many PC RPGs I could suggest, but in light of your complaints about stupid stuff in RPGs, I'm going to go with The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind.

Morrowind has its strengths and weaknesses; if you want a storyline that grabs you and pulls you along, you won't find it. The combat system is also a bit cumbersome. However, Morrowind has the best and most realistically-built world I've ever seen in an RPG. You want more realistic towns? They've got all sorts of people in the towns who have absolutely nothing to do with you. They sell friggin' flatware in the shops. There are a ton of factions with long and storied histories, some of which are happy to let you join, and some of which couldn't care less about you.

You're free to do whatever you want in the world, but there are consequences. If you want an NPC's stuff, you have to steal it without being seen, or they'll attack you. You get in deep trouble for killing somebody, if anybody else is in sight/sound distance. Unless that person is a bandit or a necromancer or some other declared "criminal." Not everyone you'd like to be a criminal is; you can't kill slavers with impunity, for example, because slavery is legal in the gameworld.

I'd recommend Morrowind for anybody who is interested in an immersive world and a great deal of freedom to take their character any way they wish. It has some very annoying bits, but since they released a construction set with the game, there's a thriving mod community that has "fixed" just about anything you might find annoying about the game.

Cheers,
The Cranky Dragon

Andrew:
Alright, Iíll admit that Morrowind does sound pretty interesting, kinda like Avernum without the embarrassingly bad graphics. Iíll have to talk to a few friends who have and see if I can borrow myself a copy and give it a spin.

 Webcomics!

white lights here again.

not being able to find the really GOOD webcomics out there is a big problem for those who are into that sort of thing. sadly, while i don't know of any "super ultra hyper DX webcomic list with totally accurate quality ratings top million list," there ARE in fact fairly reliable ways of finding good comics. personally, links pages tend to be great resources for me but apparently you're not IN-to that kind of thing, so you can just...

follow the webcomic ring that a given comic belongs to. webcomics within rings tend to be of comparable quality, but the problem lies in the fact that not all webcomics belong to rings. this isn't that much different from following link pages, either. hm...

but i'm sure a mister smarty like you knew that all along. you could also get friendly with other readers of your favorite comics, and get some recommendations from those readers, readers just like you! these people can often be found lurking in irc channels, forums tend to be filled with various stupids (moreso than IRC channels anyways). if a comic has a set irc channel, chances are you can find it on the site. another reason i like this one is that you also get to see a lot of webcomics begin, which is kinda fun. i hang around in #rpgcomics on irc.nightstar.net drop by and have a chat. we have plenty of minorities AND a gay, so you know that there's going to be some really wacky hijinks.

or just y'know, ask people. i hear that the "internet" is a good place to start.

oh, one request before i sign out:

every time a burstnet.com or gorillanation or doubleclick.net banner gets on my screen, my browser suddenly goes to a "cannot find server" error page. see, this really sucks for me since a lot of pages i visit HAVE these ads, and i gotta press "stop" before the dreaded ad loads, or else i can't get anything done. unfortunately, some of these pages have the code for the advertisements load before pretty much anything i actually want to see.

i'm running IE6, and have the demo/whatever version of Ad-Aware 6.0 if that makes a difference. if anybody out there can make the "cannot find server" pages stop coming and would please TELL me about it i will gladly have sex with you.

or not, whichever encourages you more.

white lights out.

(afterthought: have you ever considered doing a "don't write this kind of letter" thing? i mean, just putting up the stupidest letter that you receive for that column in a hall-of-shamey fashion? granted, there would be those who would write incredibly stupid letters just to get in said hall. it's your call.)

Andrew:
So basically, if I want to find a good comic, I should do what Iíve always done, which is wander around from webcomic to webcomic, digging through links and searching news posts. *le sigh*

As for your question regarding ads, Iíve no idea. So I leave it up to the readers to ignore your plea and leave you to suffer for all eternity. Sorry.

ďDonít write this kind of letterĒ thing? You mean the quickies?
But seriously, I get enough stupid to not want to promote it in any fashion, even if it was simply for the stake of embarrassing the preteen creator to tears of rage.



Quickies

If you're looking to find a lot of online comics i suggest you swing by onlinecomics.net. It's in no way a complete source to every web comic there is but none the less a great place for finding some quality stuff in almost any genre. And they've got reviews.

-Butch Sam

Thanks biker chick! Your link helped me uncover a couple of decently good comics. Oh, and I hope you find true love as your ride into the sunset.

Do you know is Sega/Overworks is planning a second installment in the Skies of Arcadia series?

Seeing as how I disliked the original so intensely, Iím completely the wrong person to ask.

How do I change my password for my ps2 you know for the dvd.

By picking up your Playstation 2 and throwing it as hard as you can against a wall, you forgetful dweeb.

Never leave Q&A up to Divine Wind again. Nothing against 'im, but it just wasn't entertaining at all.

You and Goog should be the only two allowed to touch the column nowadays. >D~

Since Kami is coming back for Monday, I suggest you start running now. Besides, Kami did a pretty damn good job when you consider he got next to no letters and none of the ones he got were exactly gems. Sheesh.

The Final Grumble:

Pirates of the Carribean was mighty fine, with Johnny Depp stealing the show and my heart. *swoon*

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was mighty blah, which hit me really hard, since Iíd been looking forward to it so.

Andrew "Funk Drain!" DuffClaire Belton

Dingdong the Slime is dead! Or in Japan! Whatever!

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