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The Land Was Flat, The Highway Straight And Wide May 1st, 2009

Andrew Long - 23:00 EST

SO AS IT TURNS OUT, Mr. Adoboros was actually just hiding out in no-man's land, taunting me with his dubious availability. He will therefore hopefully be debuting for real next week, assuming I can pin him down long enough to extract a column from him. Speaking of which. I know my signature pic says, but that email address is very broken for reasons that are unclear. It used to reliably receive the thousand or so spam emails I woul amass in a given week, and then stop at around 4000 or so, at which point I would delete the spam, and whatever real email was mixed in with it, and hope that things wouldn't get so bad again.

Alas, in addition to being an email that's plastered all over this site, it is also a very old email address, and as such, I am certain that every spammer in the known universe has it in their possession, a suspicion that is borne out by the number of letters I receive from Messrs. Patrick Chan of FIRST HANG SENG BANK BECAUSE A STOCK EXCHANGE SOUNDS OFFICIAL AND IT COULD BE A BANK RIGHT? and Robert Odagunde from Totally Not A Nigerian 419 Scam Concerns, Ltd.

What I am saying is, under no circumstances should anyone send email to that address, because it is broken down, not receiving mail, defunct.


You should only use, or if you absolutely must have the personal touch, cas-to-mel at gee mail dawt cawm, with appropriate dashes and phonics removed from the equation (please note that if you cannot reason this out, I don't want to hear from you anyway.) In any case! My plans henceforth are: I will update Mondays and Tuesdays, and Danny, if indeed he has not re-coalesced into the aether, will pick up Wednesday and Thursday. I think based upon what I've seen that we have a sufficient flow of mail for such a schedule; if not, well, you'll see the odd gap in that rotation, but I think it should be doable. For now, please enjoy what is sure to be a rare Friday column, and remember: NO CASTOMEL@RPGAMER.COM.

Costa del Whut?

Hey Andrew,

What do I think about digital downloads? I have to be honest and say that since I'm currently stuck with a dial-up connection, I have a bit of a problem with them. I think it's great if a game is offered the old fashioned way and as a digital download(I understand not everyone has unlimited space to devote to their collections) but I hope developers that are moving to download only, realize they are shutting themselves off from a certain percentage of consumers. Someday soon I hope to have high speed internet, but until that day I am completely incapable of downloading any game and I doubt that I am alone in this.

Okay, okay, I get it. You people are all a bunch of dirty luddites who can't deal with technological innovation. Nobody was suggesting that this was going to happen anytime soon, but I can easily foresee a time in the not-too-distant future where broadband access reaches all but the most rural of communities, and when that time comes I think from a cost effectiveness and environmental standpoint, it's the only possible solution. But apparently I'm alone, which is puzzling given that gaming used to be the domain of technology-minded people. Who knew that our generation would go all Andy Rooney and wax eloquent about the joys of a little plastic case? I mean seriously, can't you just see his liver-spotted lobtser claw brandishing a flash drive right now and complaining in that scratchy little voice... "Nowadays we have downloadable content.. I mean what exactly are we supposed to do with that? Look at this thing," he'd say sardonically, holding it up to the camera with an arched eyebrow. "*This* is what they want me to put my games on. Call me old fashioned, but I don't see anything wrong with a little thing called cartridges. They worked just fine when I was eight years old, why can't kids nowadays just make do?" Then he'd finish with a bad joke and toss it back to whichever of the walking dead was finishing the show that particular night.

Obviously Andy Rooney isn't much of a gamer, but I still think you're all worrying a little too much about the downside of this situation and not focusing on the potential benefits. But who knows... Perhaps Wiiware is actually just biding its time until it can go live and FIND SARAH CONNOR.

My question for you is, if you could vacation in any RPG world, where would you go and why? I would personally love to to go relax on one of the beaches in Chrono Cross. As long no monsters or waves were trying to swallow me.



Those were some lovely waves, to be sure, but FFVII went to all the trouble of pencilling in what you'd spend your downtime doing, so I think I have to give them the nod, much as the worlds from KotOR and Skies of Arcadia (yeah I know, I spent a significant portion of my last column trashing it) have their upsides from a vacation perspective.

Sure, sure

Hey, Cast,

To set the record straight, I'm a girl, but I wasn't hitting on you.

The thing I don't like about download only content is that they put a limit on how many times you can download it after purchase. A game in my hand has no such limitations.
An Angry Squid


I have a question I hope you or someone reading may know the answer to. The Sega collection that came out a couple of months ago for the PS3 has the original Phantasy Star on it. The catch is that in order to access it you have to beat the first boss in one of the Sonic games in two player mode. They might as well as asked me to walk a highwire over the Grand Canyon. Not only do I suck at Sonic, but have no friends who are gamers. Which leads to my question. Does anyone know of some kind of code (i.e. Up, Up, Down, Left, etc.) that I could use to unlock the game?

I know it's a long shot, but figured it couldn't hurt to ask.
Have a wonderful week.


Oh, come now. Sonic two-player mode essentially amounts to turning the second controller on and maybe sticking a brick on the d-pad so Player 2 can keep up. Sure you have to put up with split screen, but seriously, if Sonic 2 is the game in question, you ought not have too much trouble if you just fake having the second player, unless they've decided to insert some sort of needless two player super challenge mode. If they have, surely your friends are devoted enough to subject themselves to five minutes of a ten-year-old videogame? If not, I advise getting new friends, because while I used to know various codes to do various things in Sonic 2, they have quite escaped me, since I haven't played the game in 10 years or so. Rest assured though, I don't believe any of them are of much use to you. One lets you flip through the music, one gives you varying amounts of lives, and one lets you choose a starting zone.

I think, then, that your easiest solution is having a brick as your second player and banking on your ability to clear what I remember as being a pret-ty easy level. PS - If it's Sonic and Knuckles, it's still easy; Sonic games have not gotten harder as the years have gone by, they've just gotten worse, till we arrive at the nadir of gaming badness that is Sonic Heroes. If that game happens to be included in your collection, demand a full refund, every other Sonic game in existence cannot make up for its odious badness.

I vaguely remember you...

In answer to your question, games are definitely too easy. It is not your imagination.

Specifically if you read much into game development trends you will find that there is a trend towards "casual" and "accessible" games. This generally means dumbing the games down so that anyone can play them. Apparently many people don't like dying when they play a game.

Yes, I am all too familiar with the scourge of catering to casuals; it's essentially turned WoW into Barbie's Magic Fun Castle - Now With Pets! I mean hell, they've even come out with a brush so that you can keep your vanity pets shiny and clean. That's all well and good, but I'd really rather have content that takes longer than 2 weeks for the top guilds to blow through instead.

What I would love to see in all RPGs is a difficulty level. They have had them in some games but many don't bother. It can really make a difference though. Kingdom Hearts springs to mind for me. I read many complaints about that game being too easy. When I started playing it I deliberately set the difficulty to Hard because I knew that it was supposed to be easy. On Hard it was fairly challenging in spots. I think I enjoyed it a lot more because of the difficulty level. But then again for me dying every 10 seconds in Contra is fun. So it really depends on the person.

Heh. Depends on the spot in Contra. I remember growing decidedly less than mellow on the first snowboarding level in the PS2 version, which for some reason completely defied my ability to complete it for a very long time. Now that I'm past it I can see how it isn't terribly challenging, but at the time I was definitely grumpy about the whole situation.

This trend is also not limited to RPGs. You will find it in almost every game genre out there. There is probably some argument to saying that it is also becoming increasingly difficult to program intelligent AI for games but I think that is less the case in turn based RPGs.


Yeah, I think you can chalk that one up as a societal trend at large; people want results without those results really meaning anything, and it's a big reason why Wall Street just went kaboom and yet few of the people responsible seem to have paid any price. Civilization has devolved to the point where you get a participation ribbon and a pat on the back for the whole gamut, be it destroying the economy or cheating at a game to "win," or for that matter getting through a game where there's no actual challenge. Call me old fashioned, but winning a game over someone else or completing a single-player game should mean that you had to do some work and master some aspect of the system over time, without immediately being able to win without giving it a thought from start to finish.

Spitefully Unfit for Print

Hi Andrew,

Welcome back to Q&A!

The percentage of easy games versus hard games has definitely been changing over past the past decade or two. Coin-op games rewarded purveyors of the hard games with more money because it took a fortune for players to master and beat the dang things. We started getting easy games when gaming consoles stopped being filled with arcade ports and somebody realized there was a non-hardcore audience that craved electronic entertainment. I guess the big surprise has been how lucrative the market for "press x to succeed" titles have been. Still, it's nice that the market has grown large enough to accomodate both hardcore titles as well as "interactive cinema".


Yeah, let me hasten to say that I am not of the opinion that all games are easy, because they aren't. FPS titles still require a modicum of twitch reflex to be any good at, and any strategy title that pits you against other players will by definition involve some challenge, though again the impulse of the press x to succeed people is to then press x for cheats in these two situations, which correspondingly results in the dilution of my enjoyment of both of these genres. One of the last bastions of the difficult game that even this breed of mediocrity cannot touch is the shooter. Games like Ikaruga and Gradius V and their ilk are easy enough to pick up, but mastery requires the soul-crushing repetition that the arcade days made de rigeur back in the day, and while there are doubtless cheat codes out there for many of them, those seeking to master them individually will not have that enjoyment watered down by easiness in most cases.

Speaking of hard games, have you tried The Dark Spire for the DS? It's definitely hard (oh god the traps) and it also comes with Fogey Mode (tm) which sounds like it would be right up your alley.



HEY! I'm not old yet! You just earned Unfit for Print!


Okay then. I shall see you on Monday. For then, let's seize upon someone else's idea, as I am fond of doing, and you tell me where you'd like to vacation in a game world. I am declaring the downloadable content and difficulty topics retired, although I may still post a couple more letters I have kicking around in the backlog if I feel like it. Other things you can talk about: as you may have noticed from the feature on index, E3 is a comin' and the geese are getting fat. What are you looking forward to at this year's show? Are you pleased with the return of the old format, or could you care less? I know personally I found the whole experience kind of tiring and was pretty glad to get back to the hotel where I watched 7 straight episodes of Law and Order, but I never pretended to be normal. Until Monday, wishing you delicious creamsicles and lots of letter-worthy ideas to fill my inbox with. Oh, incidentally, I know, the archives are a bit of a mess at the moment. I'll have them fixed up by Monday.
Andrew Long is wondering if that other guy is going to post a column next week.

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Here's hoping!


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