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ASK MATT
Nonsense February 1, 2006

Matt Demers - 00:57 EST

I JUST PUT MY VERY FIRST batch of homemade spaghetti sauce in my new slow-cooker, and having done that, I'm now ready to sit down and look at some of your letters. I hope that the column, and dinner, turn out fantabulously.

I'm pretty impressed with myself, since I got to bed at around 1 a.m. last night instead of the usual 3:30 or 4:00. I felt refreshed enough this morning to remain awake on the bus all the way to the school, and also refreshed enough to make it through my entire Biomath class without yawning a single time, which is quite a difficult feat, to be sure. Now, if I could make this the "norm" instead of a freak incident, I'd be in great shape.

And now, insert the opening theme music and a cute little slogan! We shall begin presently with the question-answering.




L E T T E R S
In defense of dungeons random


Heya Matt,

I really don't understand your, or everyone else's, gripes about random dungeons. I mean, as far as the impact on the game as a whole goes, I really can't agree with it being as encompassing as you make it out to be. All the main plot elements usually take place outside of dungeons, or in very short "story" dungeons (Like the tower you meet Jessica in, for example). The randomness of the dungeons won't alter characterization in any way, and the actual mechanics of the battle system won't change either (or shouldn't). So your worried about the exceedingly simple maze that you have to wander through changing every time a dungeon is visited/revisited? Awwwwww, muffin! If anything, it will make the game harder, which I am always a proponent of.

Matt

Well, here we go: I can't yell at other people for stating their opinions without points to back them up (like I did yesterday to a Dragon Quest VIII-disliker) without following suit myself, now can I?

My problem is that all of the random-dungeon-based games that I've ever played before (admittedly, a limited number) have boasted on their packaging that the random dungeons "boost the replayability" or "keep things feeling new". I feel that exactly the opposite happens, though, because by the time you've made it to the third floor of the first dungeon, you've seen 90% of the possible designs that you'll encounter throughout the rest of the game. Later dungeons will only scramble some rooms around, and become deeper, until finally, by the time you're at the last one, you'll have to spend an enormous amount of time going down 30 floors of the same old crap you've seen through the rest of the game, except maybe with new colours here and there to spice things up.

You're absolutely right that it makes the game more difficult, and believe me: I like a lot of challenge in my RPGs. RDs make things difficult for the wrong reasons though. I'd much rather have intelligently-designed areas that aren't all the same, and that are really interesting to explore, perhaps with puzzles, excellently-hidden treasures, or more. You can't find those in RDs; at least, the ones I've seen. It's evident when developers have put a lot of time and effort into good, meaty areas to explore, and RDs just aren't as rich to me; I have trouble believing that they could ever be as rich as non-RDs.

Those games you mention did suck though. Lufia: Legend Returns was a bad game to begin with, random dungeons aside. Flat story, minimal character building, no frills battles. And DQ Monster was a crappy pokemon-esque game if I recall. But some excellent games that didn't suck and featured random dungeons include (but aren't limited to) Dark Cloud 1 and 2, both of which are rad-tastic, and the second of which features voice acting from the guy who played the younger brother on Mission Hill...always stayed up to watch that in school. Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon (PS1) was rockin good too, albeit kinda cute. And Azure Dreams (ps1 hidden gem) was built entirely around a town the player constructs and a huge randomly generated tower /w like 90+ floors (could be more, could be less). Again, story elements and characterization didn't really intertwine with the randomness of the dungeons....so no real basis for a complaint there.

Matt

Perhaps this is where the difference is, hmm? I might argue against the original Dark Cloud being "rad-tastic", but I know that Dark Cloud 2 is well-acclaimed at the very least. I wouldn't really be surprised if the RDs in the games you speak of are of somewhat better quality than the ones I've mentioned; it's pretty bad in Lufia: The Legend Returns, for example, when each and every single floor of every cave is made up of a 4x4 grid of rooms linked by hallways of differing shape. Yuck. You're right, too, that the games sucked for other reasons as well, so perhaps my view is somewhat slanted. If anything, though, Lufia had fun music...but that's about all.

I'd say, too, that storyline-intertwiningness-with-dungeons, random or not, will totally depend on the game. My only gripe about this is that often, the story elements that ARE encountered in dungeons never surprise you... you know they're coming simply because floors with plot-events on them will inevitably have a completely different map than the last ten floors you've visited, amazingly devoid of randomness. It's a little bit lame, even though I know it is likely a stupid thing to whine about.

I find the random dungeon aspect just adds more challenge to the game, and I always welcome that. I'm constantly getting griefed on for complaining about the softy death penalty in World of Warcraft whilst playing World of Warcraft. But I don't die a lot because I play carefully. I think a harsher death penalty would raise the general level of skill among players if there were actual repercussions for dying. My two cents. Games = not hard anymore. Maybe being 22 instead of 10 makes things easier, but the "hawt new games" I play with my younger cousins astound me in two ways: There absolutely gorgeous, and absolutely easy. They marvel over how easily I destroy them despite never having played a particular game, and all I say is basically "Yah, well, I'm used to doing a lot more /w my controller than just mashing "x". Which isn't a knock on them, just the mechanics of a lot of the pretty games they play. For hands on experience of this phenomena, play the new Gauntlet.

Matt

Well, that's something we can certainly agree on! Games are definitely easier now than they used to be, when it comes to battle systems, puzzles... heck, even outside of RPGs! Platformers have even been watered-down some over the years, to some extent. Megaman in the old days used to be wayyyy harder than it is currently; the games are all super-short and somewhat disappointing now. In the RPG world, I just remembered how insulting some of the puzzles in Xenosaga: Episode II were, too. Of course, I went on a big spiel about Final Fantasy X yesterday, too, for that very reason. There are all too many examples of series that have "punified", challenge-wise, over the past years.

Anyway, didn't mean to get into a rant or anything, I just genuinely don't see how randomly generated dungeons can affect the overall quality of a game to the extent you and some of the reader base are alleging. Granted, this may fall under the category of "Story RPGamer v. Battle RPGamer". On that note (and to get a question in) Do you feel those two subgroups adequately cover the types of gamers who rock out loud /w RPGs? Should we include a third "zomgl33tgraphicswhore RPGamer" category, or would that be a subspecies of the Story RPGamer?

Cheers bro, keep up teh good work,

ndhl


Matt

'Tis all right; you're entitled to a good rant every now and then. I can understand some of your arguments, and hopefully you can understand some of mine.

As for your question, the "zomgl33tgraphicswhore RPGamer" is definitely a category of its own, one which is heavily overlapped by the AHH-I-refuse-to-play-anything-released-in-the-1900s RPGamer. I think that one is more of an "attitude", though, wouldn't you agree? The fact is, Final Fantasy wouldn't be where it is now had FFVII not been way ahead of its time, graphically. Sure, it seems laughable now, but that first FMV left my mouth gaping wide the first time I saw it. NINE years ago. o_O



Well, I'm not the only one!


Most Honorable Matt,

I agree with you. I dislike random dungeons very much. Remember Dark Cloud? Remember how it made you dread running out of bread mid-dungeon? Yeah. That game terrifies me. The only game that had a random dungeon that I actually liked was Lufia. Yay Lufia!

Matt

Now, as I said above, the reason that I dislike random dungeons has nothing to do with their difficulty; just their blandness. As for Lufia, I assume that you're talking about the Ancient Cave of Lufia II? I don't think there is anything wrong with having a SINGLE random dungeon in the game, for fun or a change of pace, but when every single cave, tower, or whatever, is just a scrambled version of the last one, things get tiresome, and exploring, which I love, becomes nigh-pointless.

I think the reason random dungeons are bad is because, even if you spend a couple of hours in one, and have to go out to restock, and then come back into it, you feel like you haven't accomplished much, as far as conquering that dungeon goes. "Oh I made it to B8...but now I have to start all over again, and I have no idea where the doors are..." Oy.

And as a completely random afterthought, I wanna give a shoutout to my favorite RPG doctor, and second-favorite RPG character ever...Citan Uzuki! Any doctor with a sword automatically earns respect for life.

Happy belated birthday, Matt. I hope your coming year grants you the wisdom to face your challenges with steadfast resolve.

~Donovan


Matt

RDs are quite counter-realistic in that way, you're right; I like to be able to remember my way through a cave if I have to revisit it for whatever reason. At any rate, Donovan, don't admire the plastic surgeons too much; I guarantee you they're only in it for the money!

Thanks for the letter and the birthday wishes! I'm sure that this year will be grand.



More, and this time, from an RPGamer Editorialist!


Random dungeons, eh? Sometimes that's my cup of tea, other times, I run away screaming. It's all about whether or not I'm sitting on a fork (but which is it??? O_o). I've done the whole Diablo/Diablo 2 thing, and the randomness was definitely needed, because otherwise I may have saved my soul in a much quicker fashion than I did. As it stands, I believe I left most of it back in 2003, when I finally stopped playing that bloody game.

Matt

Right, I was never much of a Diablo guy, though I spent a couple of hours watching one of my upstairs housemates play on a couple of occasions once when I was bored. Suffice it to say, it didn't look 100% interesting, but I'm sure that if I had told him that, he would have ordered me to get off of his bed and never come back. He played that game a lot...

As for DQ...I don't really see this being awesome, but I could be wrong. It's happened before (I think it was SOCK 78 or so...). If they do have random dungeons, then there should be variety in the treasures that are inside. Maybe not an infinite supply of impressive weapons or anything, but maybe gold or something...something to justify having to fumble my way through the place again.

Matt

Bwar, and you know what? You got both of today's questions wrong, according to Rexy, and my Earthbound screen. Sorry about your luck, Ouro... it's very uncharacteristic of you.

Anyway, YES. Treasure variety... that would be another bothersome issue I haven't gotten into in great detail, yet. It bugs me that after opening a few chests on any floor of a random dungeon, you get a pretty good idea for what is going to be in the treasure chests on the next floor, and the floor after that. There are almost never, in my experience, any big, special, hidden treasures that surprise you with their amazing shiny contents; if you grabbed an herb from the last chest, it's very likely that you'll get a few more before you're finished with the dungeon-in-question. This issue weighs heavily on any desire I might have to explore, a desire that is already hampered by the overly repetitive nature of the RDs I've played through.

And I have to go ahead and give the thumbs up to Triple Triad. While I never thought FFVIII to be one of the best FFs (it was still...good), the card game was definitely a highlight for me. I must have played that more than the main story. Got all the cards, cursed loudly at that stupid 'Random' rule when it was paired with 'Closed' and no 'Plus/Same' rule. Urgh...stupid Moon Base wanted to make me gouge my eyes out.

Matt

Agreed. It was fair, yet challenging, and the rewards were worthwhile and exciting, in my opinion. It was always with a great lump in my throat that I'd decide to refine a rare card, of course; I couldn't care less if I lost a card for any reason in FFIX, in contrast.

Agreed about FFIX. Tetra Master? Most useless thing ever. Played a few games, quickly lost interest, then spent hours doing Chocobo Hot & Cold (surprisingly, the one I found the quickest was the one that just showed you the picture of the ocean ^^). Have any luck like that?

Matt

Oh, no! In fact, I'm pretty sure that I had almost no trouble with most of them EXCEPT for that very one, and it sticks out in my head just because I think I combed the world for a good hour of playing time looking for it with my sister, while becoming increasingly frustrated.

....And if you were hoping for me to defend Magna Carta...nope. I literally couldn't stand it after the first 10 minutes. The graphics are gorgeous, I'll give it that, but there was one thing that completely put me off. Battle speed. It mooooooooooooooovessssss slllooooooooowwwwlllllyyyy. There's literally about a 3 second delay between the time you input your commands and when you actually execute them. I don't think my PS2 and disc were screwed up, so I believe it's an internal game COMPLETE AND UTTER DISGRA--...err...I mean, problem.

Matt

It'd be interesting to see what the prequel to the game was like, hmm? I believe it was released in Korea and Japan, but never over here, but I haven't seen much about it. I wonder if the emphasis on graphics over gameplay was similar. At any rate, that's unfortunate; we could have used a refreshing new series to help bolster RPGaming life in North America, and the way you and many others describe it, the game just doesn't seem to make the cut.

Did I ask a question?
Ah, there we go.

~Ourobolus (Staring down at the lowly SOCK players from on high)


Matt

HA! Smart aleck. Yes, you did ask a question, right at the end! Imagine that. Anyway, thanks for your randomblings, as Andrew would call them, and please write a tribute to me in your next RPGamer editorial, if you please.



I know you!


Teh Matt,

Am I the only person on earth that doesn't...freaking...understand...the story in Chrono Cross? Well, maybe it's not that it's hard to understand, but that it's to meh that I just can't force myself to care enough to pay the attention required to understanding it?

-A guy who is most certainly not a RPGamer staff reviewer or forum admin.


Matt

It's quite convoluted and overly symbolic, isn't it? Much like Xenosaga, I found that in many ways, Chrono Cross just took itself too seriously, except for when it came to the random personal quirks of your 2535 allies, which weren't as amusing as they were dumb. I seem to remember something about a computer, developed in the future, that controls the past to ensure that events always unfold in a manner that leads to the same future. Imagine that the computer's name is called FATE?

I don't really know how accurate that wisp of a memory is; I just remember fighting the thing. Somewhere along the way, dragons were involved, you turned into a cat for some reason that might have had to do with the clown-girl, and you had to deal with a stupid pirate guy far too many times- I think he was stupid mostly because I hated the upbeat background music of the casino-ship thing. By the end, I recall just nodding my head at whatever the game threw my way, plotwise, and then being happy when the credits popped up on the screen.

Really, I'm not giving it enough credit, because I think that Chrono Cross was also enjoyable in many ways; it just doesn't TRIGGER many spectacular memories.

Thanks for the letter, "mystery guy". Are we going to see a non-RPGamer-staff-review from you soon regarding this game?



Dreams-gone-unfulfilled


Hi Matt,

#99. d) Umaro

#100. e) Wario

Now something I've been wondering about - with all these remakes and update of games coming out, would you like to see any modern 3D rpgs remade with classic 2D graphics? For example, I always thought FFVII remade in the graphical style of FFVI with cute little character sprites and beautiful new background art would be really cool to see. Another fun idea would be having a prequel to an existing 3D rpg made in 2D style to show that it takes place "in the past". Games made like this probably wouldn't sell very well these days but I'd still love to see it. What games would you like to see remade like this if it was a reality?

Dermot


Matt

I didn't really think anyone would stumble upon this so soon, but 2D-izing 3D games is something I've ALWAYS loved. There are some pet-projects out there, I believe, that actually recreate some of the later FF games in 2D format, but I'm not sure where you can find them.

I'm mostly surprised that you wrote in because I've had ideas stirring around in my head about making up a Dragon Quest game of my own in old-school graphics, and I've gone as far as to take images of monsters from Dragon Quest VII and VIII online and "NESify" them, so to speak, pixel-by-pixel. Proof positive:

Here's one...  Here's two!


Making games of all sorts has always been a dream of mine, but I find less and less time to do it these days, and I definitely don't have the resources- programming-language skills, etc- that I'd need to construct something that I could be truly proud of. Over the past eight or nine years, I've made a number of my own "console-style RPGs", not based at all on any series in particular. They were all in pencil and paper format, with a plot planned out, a number of characters to control, all of the monster art... everything, right down to the last detail. My brother played them all, but few others even knew about my pet projects, all of which are still alive; their current home is in six binders, all stored away in the closet three feet to my right. Alas; maybe in another life...

In any case, I think that it would be amazing fun to play through the most recent Final Fantasy games in 2-D graphics. It would also have been interesting to see a 2-D version of Shadow Hearts. I can envision in my mind a neat sort of interface/set-up for the battle screen involving the ring-thing at bottom centre, dividing the window into monster and ally info sections, with the action taking place above, perhaps with monster graphics at the top and allies lined up along the bottom. This is the sort of thing I doodle in the middle of the most boring of Numerical Analysis lectures, believe me...

Thanks, love; promise you'll write again soon!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

I hate to break it to you all, but I have to wrap it up right here, to leave some for tomorrow. Tune in, in another twenty-four hours, for more answers, banter, questions, and, yeah, that's about it. Before we conclude completely, let's start the second hundred questions for the SOCK.

Flashay!


Yesterday we started things off with Rexy's question about the age of characters in FFVI. The youngest of the options is in fact d) Umaro, or at least it is according to Rexy. If you have a gripe with that, yell at her, not me! 55 points to all correct-guessers, with 110 going to Rexy herself for her submission!

The great #100 was SUPPOSED to be difficult, but then I didn't realize something: First of all, the game that Marauder Octobots hail from is Earthbound, where swirly kaleidoscope backgrounds dominate every battle scene. The battle background while fighting those enemies is certainly pink and red, and so my initial "right answer" was supposed to be Kirby, until I realized that Viewtiful Joe has that pink scarf thing flowing off of him too. Thus, because I'm in a good mood, I'll give everyone who said both a) Kirby OR c) Viewtiful Joe the hundred points they deserve. Grrrr.

Question #101:
Can you make Toadstool's Group Hug more powerful? (60 points)

a) No
b) Yes, if you hold a certain button long enough.
c) Yes, if you press a certain button at the right time.
d) Yes, if you press a certain button repeatedly.
e) Yes, if you make circles with the control pad quickly enough.

Question #102:
Which one of the following things does the hero do at some point during Breath of Fire II? (80 points)

a) He vomits after eating a fly.
b) He gets terribly drunk after a feast.
c) He cleans out the insides of a king's circulatory system.
d) He hitches a ride on the back of a giant octopus.
e) He raids a house full of giant cockroaches to save a puppy.

Things to work for (the SOCK item shop!):

400 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
700 points: The Final Fantasy 1 "Official" Crazed-Chipmunk-Hold-your-Ears Zipfile Soundtrack (1 remaining!)
1000 points: The Mattie's Mom Cookie Recipe Compilation (3 remaining!)
2000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (5 remaining!)


Good night, everyone. I urge you; lend me your words, and ask me the questions that have haunted you for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years. I'll do my best to answer you! 'Til next time, ta ta.


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt had an evening nap, which is most unfortunate.


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