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ASK BAINICK & MATT
Stucco On You February 3, 2006

Bainick - 00:31 EST

READERS OF THIS COLUMN BEWARE; I control the horizontal, I control the vertical, I control Fox... bwah ha ha ha ha, or maybe fwah ha ha ha ha, as in Goemon, but I never did get any of those jokes. Anyway, for those who don't know, I, Bainick, the Greatest RPGamer of the world, will be guest hosting this wonderful column; bow before me as I hand out my opinions like the man in the enigmatic ice cream van, although why an ice cream van is out in the country I wouldn't know. I still can't find it, although that Greensleeves music haunts the air. Anywho, it only cost me my soul to become the final guest host spot before Ourobolus reaches 2000, no money or hitman needed at all. So ready yourselves as the non-drinking (that's right, I'm the only one) Australian answers all of your questions, and please be gentle.




L E T T E R S
Statisticians should LOVE random dungeons! And by love, I mean "looooooooove", kissy-kissy-like


Hey there. I only recently started reading the column, but so far Iíve really enjoyed what Iíve read; itís nice to see intelligentĖ and amusingĖ discussion of RPGs. But on to the issue at hand...

Random dungeons... The only ones Iíve come across that I can think of were in the //.hack series and they were one of its weakest points, in my opinion. I actually really love the series in spite of its many flaws; the original game concept and, more importantly, the characters and the plot were enough to get me through what quickly became bland, repetitive dungeons (four straight gamesí worth of them). I think the series could ave been much more popular had its creators put some time on sculpting individual dungeons (and worked on the battle system some more too, but thatís a whole other email...). My impression is that the only real virtue of random dungeons is that they make for less work for the game creators and thus allow them to make the games faster and at lower cost and thus make more money. So in my book Iíd say theyíre a something of a rip-off. Of course this is based solely on the experience of once series, so let me ask you, is there any other possible point to them? Is there an elite band of gamers out there that really digs random dungeons?

Erika Wolfraven


Bainick

I think they could have possibly melded the games into just 2 games, and saved us buyers $400 Australian of a game that was truthly only worth half of that. I think that the game actually did not have random dungeons, but instead had so many of the same dungeons to choose from (non story that is) that it seemed random. There were only about 6 different styles of dungeon and only about 6 different room styles also. To put it bluntly, it got old real fast. But, the story wasn't too bad, and the bonus anime made up slightly for the overly priced game. It's a pity I can't say that about "The legend of the Twilight" series, but I have faith that Bandai can improve what was in the first Anime series a great story!

Random dungeons do have a place in many gamers' hearts; just, many games don't seem to be able to pull off what is required of them just like the Hack series. I think that game developers who can't develop random dungeons to the likes of that of, say, the Dark Cloud series are really just telling us that they can't be bothered trying to impress us. Its a shame really that most randomly generated games will end up appearing like in that new pokemon dungeon game.



Annoying musics and inconveniently-placed people


Ye olde magister of inquiries,

First off, I'm writing in response to the mentioning of that accursed casino ship music in Chrono Cross. My hatred for that song knows no bounds. There is no rational explanation for it, either. I hate every aspect of that song. It strikes all the wrong chords with me. And on another note (set phasers to pun), I agree with you about random dungeons being somewhat tedious. I can say that, as a fan of both the Diablo series and the Dark Cloud series, I still find them very annoying and lacking the originality and creativity exemplified by static dungeon designs. Give me a sequence of challenging and well-designed dungeons any day.

Matt

There's a perfectly rational explanation for it. In a game so chock-full of amazing music, they went and stuck an ultra-repetitive and terribly annoying track right in a place that I felt like I had to revisit about seven hundred times, mostly because I had no idea where to go. Foolish, foolish, foolish! The casino games sucked, too. Wait, could you even play any?? I'm pretty sure you could... *memory lapse*

Okay, so here's the question that I've been contemplating for the last couple of days. This question has gone through my mind because I find I'm growing tired of buying and playing newer RPGs. This may be due to my ever-decreasing at tention span or my ever-depleting bank account. Most gamers can think of all sorts of things to add to RPGs to improve them, but if you could take one element out of the standard RPG equation (in an effort to improve the genre as a whole), what would it be? Battle systems and battle encounter methods have been evolving in the last few years, so try to pick something other than that. Several games have tried doing this, like FFVIII's removal of treasure chests and standard gil accumulation, but in my opinion these were changes for the worse in a genre where monster conquest and dungeon pillaging tendencies are at their highest. FFX implemented a different world map exploration system (again, I wasn't too fond of this change). Your answer could be anything like getting rid of block puzzles once and for all, offing the obligatory long-haired pretty boy moments after meeting him, changing the way experience is gained , or even completely revamping the way dungeons are approached (in a non-linear way). You can probably think of some larger vice that irks you to a greater degree, so what is it?

Matt

Yeah, I wasn't really that fond of those changes either, though FFVIII's money thing was slightly more forgivable- I got used to the salary-pay pretty quickly. I really do hate it when games don't include overworlds in some form though, so I agree with you on FFX wholeheartedly (and its sequel) along with games like BoF III and IV (perhaps even the original Super Mario RPG). I don't know why, but the lack of an outer, ultimate overworld map that you can travel at least somewhat freely seems like a sort of cop-out. It provides a kind of geographic "backdrop" or a "surrounding environment" into which the important locations fit like perfect puzzle pieces. Areas in RPGs seem disjoint or constraining somehow without that, I feel.

Other than those things, though, I really don't like it when the hero is FORCED to be in your party, when you're given the option to switch any of your other members. There are an enormous number of offending games in this department, but to me, it takes some fun out of the mix 'n' match element of party-construction, and nine times out of ten results in the hero becoming a bit overpowered (or a lot, depending on the game).

Personally, I despise the Johnny Roadblocks. I'd rather get decimated by a level 76 Titanium Death Toaster in the Appliance Forest than have some lousy NPC or strategically placed sprite prevent me from exploring it. Part of exploration is the element of risk and encountering the unknown for the first time! Remove those silly bumpers preventing gutter balls already! Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but that's definitely a small thing I would change. Salvation is only a save-point away, so why curb one's curiosity?

-- Kaz (running like hell from Death Toasters)

Matt

But Kaz was blocked in front!

Death Toaster sticks a fork in itself! Tongues of lightning careen from the toast slots, carrying month-old burnt crumbs with them! Kaz takes 143 damage! Kaz was blinded from the crumbs!

Yes...anyway...

You're absolutely right!! That's SO true, and it's really dumb when people "don't let you by". It's a really lazy way of programming event-flow in an RPG, so I appreciate it much when you actually do have the opportunity to explore areas "before you should", plotwise. There are... a LOT of games that do this; in fact, I can't really think of any recent games that don't, off-hand. Can you?

And a quick question: barring the casino ship music, what particular song from a role-playing game struck discord with you (for whatever reason)?



Matt

There are plenty; trust me. The first one that immediately springs to mind is from Star Ocean 2; while there are a great number of excellent themes in that game, the first town in Expel's background music actually put me to sleep on the first night that I played it. My brother still makes fun of me to this day about it... my dad found me snoring with the controller upside down on the couch and myself curled up in fetal position. It was just... so... BORING! Really, it was the sort of music that you would expect to hear, perhaps, in a Japanese restaurant's bathroom playing quietly in the background.

Also, it's been coming up a lot lately, but Breath of Fire 2 will make one more appearance right here. The town music in that game is probably one of the very worst in RPG history. It's incredibly monotonous, headache-inducing, and well, it tends to just go ON and ON until you wish you could find the remote control so that you could hit the MUTE button if the remote wasn't ten years old and the buttons actually worked.

I'm finished! There are a hundred more that I hate, but if I get into an alphabetized list, I'll put all of YOU to sleep, which would be undesirable.



Beautiful, scary, dungeons


Matt,


Matt

Oop- this one's going to be Bainick's. Hope you don't mind!

Now, you say that making a fun randomly generated dungeon crawl is pretty well impossible. I feel the need to call you on that one: I mean, just look at Level 5's previous work, Dark Cloud 2. That game had phenomenal dungeons, and they were all of them completely randomly generated. Admittedly, most of their appeal came purely from their aesthetics, the background music and the atmosphere of the graphics. Then there was the medal system, which actually managed to give you sort of an incentive to play through dungeon floors multiple times.


Bainick

I couldn't agree more. I love Level 5's work in both Dark Cloud and Dark Chronicle, for they use beautiful scenery and blend it with music that to be honest I sometimes just listen to without even playing the game. I always had trouble with the medal system myself, probably thanks to the fact that I was useless at using items at weapons; now where did I put that game again?

Speaking of aesthetics: that's why I play games. Now, you say you play games for the action, and that the tougher and more challenging the better, and that's fine. But I prefer the exploring as much of a game world as possible. If a game has lush, beautiful locations, rich, ambient background music and whatnot, I'm pretty happy.

Bainick

Level 5's games certainly had that. Also, the only reason I bought FF:CC for the Gamecube was because of the beautiful landscapes and the music; it certainly didn't end up being for the battle system, as my wallet cannot afford two Game Boy Advances just to play multiplayer.

I tend to go for dungeons like The King's Tomb in FFVIII or the Ancient Ruins in Shadow Hearts. You know, the subdued, sort of awkward, easy-going types. What about you? What kinds of dungeons do you enjoy?


Bainick

Me? Well, there are three types of dungeons that I love. First is the pre-mentioned Dark Cloud style dungeons that use beautifully rendered areas matched with the finest background music around. Second are the Lufia/Zelda puzzle dungeons that require you to use all of the wit you have available. Lastly, if a game doesn't have any from the first two choices, I like short and sweet dungeons that don't disrupt the game; Pokemon, I'm looking at you.



Mothers Against Monster-Powering-Up (MAMPU...isn't it a wonderful acronym?)


hey matt.

been reading for a while, and normally id be content to sit back and watch the discussions and blind defense of dq8 (great game, incidentally!) but i'm stuck at home sick from work, and this talk of random dungeons got me thinking. i dont know why i lump the two together, but i always got annoyed by games with random dungeon generators and games that scale the enemy difficulty to match your party strength. i feel that both take away from the "feel" you want to get when playing an rpg- that hope that something strange or new might be waiting on the next dungeon floor, or anticipation of some super-huge bad guy that might kick your ass. the random dungeons seem like a ploy to save the designers the effort of creating more than ten floor designs in an entire game. in dark cloud 2 it was a necessary evil only because you end up walking through the same floors dozens of times, but the game was great despite the dungeon design, not because of it. as for the battle scaling, the most popular offender is probably final fantasy 8, which heightened the already considerable boredom by forcing you to fight the same enemies at level 10 that you do at level 100. considering the total lack of exploration in that game, i cant understand why theyd make the fighting equally stagnant. anyways, i was wondering how people felt about this, considering both have always gripes of mine. okay, ive got other questions, but ill save em for another day, cuz i dont want to take up too much of your space! (moreso)

SgtDawkins


Bainick

I enjoyed Dark Cloud 2, although I missed those timed events from the first Dark Cloud; I would have liked a lot more of them, but beggars can't be choosers. But, there was always a specific floor for events/boss fights in Dark Cloud 1/2 and you could usually tell that you were nearly there when the difficulty of the floors started to jump. As for Final Fantasy 8, it is only 1 of three Final Fantasy games I have actually passed, and frankly I don't know how I made it through the first section. It was like constantly stabbing myself in the eyes, as the whole plot went slower then an Australian with a bear in his hand. I think I only managed to work up the effort to fight the final boss because my brother bribed me with cash; I'm only human, you know!

P.S. He actually worked up 30 levels for me just to fight the final boss (no spoilers here) and we didn't even need to. In fact, it would probably have taken less time than the 2+ hours to defeat the final boss, and if you don't believe me, we've got video-tape proof of the whole boring game; 4 tapes worth. Anyway, are you sure you're not Australian, as we are known for our complaining?

Matt

Now, now, Bainick! Put your palm-bears away and don't insult the writers!

Good points, Sgt. I really do agree that it's a much lazier scheme from not only a programming standpoint, but a creative one. Since creativity is an essential part of RPGs, of course random dungeons are bound to get boring after awhile, especially if you're someone who likes an intellectually stimulating challenge every now and then. Of course, it's not everything- as the writer from above pointed out, a good atmosphere is important, too.

As for your shtick against monsters-levelling-up, I found it to be really disappointing too, in FFVIII, until I grew used to the idea and began getting excited over experiencing more powerful versions of the same monsters. What new techniques do they use? How have they grown and strengthened since their first forms? I think that for the same reason, I'll be incredibly disappointed if Dragon Quest ever drops the idea of having different colour-versions of the same monsters. I love the fact that when you find a new version of the same family, you know "generally" what they can do, but not exactly. It throws an element of something I can't put my finger on into the mix. Anyway, we started on Final Fantasy and ended up on Dragon Quest... what's new around here?

Back to Final Fantasy VIII for a second, it would have been a better idea, perhaps, for Square not to have ditched the idea of treasures for that very exploration reason. That said, discovering secret draw points with funky spells was always fun, wasn't it?



Don't say the V-Word!


Hi there Slimeh and Bainick,

Question #103:
b) Lambda

Question #104:
b) Katt

Holy crapcabobs I can't believe I got both questions right yesterday o.o

Matt

Although I don't advocate constructing crapkabobs, let alone sacred ones, yes, you did very well.

Anyway I'm now 21 years old since today, Feb 2nd is my birthday, anyway that isn't the point unlike last years letter, I've recently made a friend who is both female and an RPGamer but despite her love of DQ8, she usually likes games purely for their visuals or for collectors sake, is there anyway to convert graphics lovers into non-graphics lovers? Then again her first gaming experience was FF8 and she likes Legend of the Dragoon... Anyway just curious if either of you have any schemes on how to sway someone over from graphics to gameplay and story

Matt

Well, happy birthday, Arros! You're now officially an adult in most regions of the world, to my knowledge, though you've been an adult in the eyes of Canada for over a thousand days by this point. How about that?

As for the graphics whores, it is a difficult thing to convert one outside of brainwashing and/or 12-step programs that don't yet exist. My best advice is probably to work backwards through the Final Fantasies; taking too much of a step back might scare your friend away, but by gradually immersing her into less and less glorious-looking realms, she might be able to take it. It's kind of like a hot tub; you can't just jump in right off the bat, because it would be way too disturbingly hot, but if you slowly sink in at the rate of about an inch of skin per minute, it's real nice (put a southern accent on the last two words there for a fun effect).

So yeah I doubt that'll make it into the collumn but still, I'd personally hate to see a sequel to Vagrant Story seeing as the first one was utter crap, I think someone who wrote into the collumn or wrote the collumn mistook Vagrant Story for some other V-named game and that is what lead to this shocking rumor

Matt

Youch! I take it that it's pretty safe to say you don't like Vagrant Story, hmm? Maybe a sequel would improve on the original formula twentyfold.

Matt notes: -5 times 20 is -100

Arros Raikou
*doesn't want to choke down another assless pants filled convoluted adventure, Vagrant Story how I loathe ye*


Matt

I don't even know what that means, but assless pants only look good on... hrrrmm, maybe I shouldn't answer that question here.

Anyway, happy birthday; I'm puzzled but glad that you spent it writing into my (our) little space here. Have a slice of cake for me!



Conversing with one's self? This might be a first for Q&A...


Hi Bainick

What was your first game you ever played, and what was your first RPG you ever played?

What is your favourite/worst rpg in your collection?

What is your favourite boss theme?

What game are you getting next?

What game do you regret getting?

Thanks Bainick, I want to be just like you when I grow up, you're my Hero!

Bainick


Bainick

Well I must answer some questions from this charming, handsome and overall godly muscular man.

Matt

Rowr! Australian guys ARE supposed to be hot, and Q&A hosts never, ever lie. Anyway, sorry to interrupt.

The first game I ever played just happened to be that classic called Mario Bros. 3. I was only 4 years old at the time, but I was hooked, line and sinker from the fact that you could jump on little squishy things.

My first RPG that I ever played was Secret of Mana, which i've only recently reacquired. I reckon I spent about $150 (renting $10 a week) just trying to pass the game and the fact that you could play with more than one person meant I never was the little spirit, ever.

I was just looking at my collection of RPGs..... and i'm back. I would say that Terranigma, FF7, and Star Ocean 2 would be the cream of my crop, whereas the Gamecube Pokemon games and Final Fantasy: CC would be the lowpoint of my collection. These games are hidden from the eyes of the casual visitor.

My favourite boss theme would be Neclord's theme from Suikoden 2. I was reading the most recent Roundtable and someone stated that Suikoden 2 didn't have any rememorable music in it. It's a Gothic styled song with midi version Violins, electric guitars, and an organ. I rate it better then most music in any of the FF games. Oh, and Lufia's Sinistral boss music is pretty darn good too.

Matt

Good idea.

*starts listening to Lufia music*

I regret buying only a few games. These include: YuGiOh Dualist of the Roses, or something like that, for the PS2, Beyblades for Gamecube, Glover, Holy Magic Century, Duke Nukem 3D for N64 and an AFL game for the PC... the horror, the horror.

Lastly, I plan to buy Mario and Luigi: PIT and Dynasty Warriors 5 Xtreme Legends, if they are ever deemed fit for release, and maybe the next Elder Scrolls if the XBOX 360 is ever fit for release. Yes, it still hasn't been released in Australia when the rest of the world can get their grubby hands on it.

Thanks, Bainick. Your letters are always welcome here.

Matt

I'LL be the judge of THAT, thank you very much! You've done a fine job co-hosting, but don't get too comfy. I'm the dictator here, and don't you forget it; that is, at least until I get hit by a sniper bullet from Ouro the assassin.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

We lived through yet another week, and I think we finished it off in grand style, wouldn't you agree? That now brings me to my next announcement, so everyone, prepare yourselves: I'll be back next week to give you more!!! Awahahhaha.

Flashay!


I can't go without finishing up the week in SOCK, though, can I? Also, Bainick has two cents to contribute today, so, well, there are no two ways about it. Let us do it.

Yesterday's questions were, for the most part, really well done! I'm proud of you all, especially given the fact that there was a slight amount of subjectivity in the second one. Anyway, #103 asked about what greek letter is used to represent eigenvalues. The answer was b) Lambda, for 65 points. The most useless character I was referring to in #104 was e) Jean, who is stupid, powerless, and altogether pathetic except for his Death spell, which he learns far too late into the game, if I remember correctly. 80 points for yon correct-guessers.

Now, believe it or not, Ourobolus just crossed 2,000, so he will again rise to become the next in the history of co-hosts, and our first repeat customer; this time, as true blue RPGamer staff! I hope you've been reading his editorials, or he might give you a whipping. Watch for him sometime next week!

One MORE announcement: Inflation has struck yet again! People who submit SOCK answers and get both wrong never go away empty-handed; now, if this befalls you, you will receive 32 points to your name at the very least, starting next week. There's more reason than ever to participate; after all, E3 is coming up in just a couple of months, and I hear they like to give out freebies. *WINK WINK*

To wrap up the week:

Question #105:
Whose theme is this? Take a listen (85 points)

a) Bernard's
b) Syd's
c) Wendy's
d) Dave's
e) Jeff's

Question #106:
Ask Bainick!-->In the Otway Ranges south of Colac, there is a road well known for its windyness and its closures due to landslides that connects Beach Forest to the Colac-Apollo Bay Road; what is the name of this road? (80 points)

a) Turners Track
b) Turning Track
c) Turks Track
d) Turtons Track
e) Turnover Track

It's now very close between the top ten, but there are some new up-and-comers (Dermot, Knighttrain, and others) that have their eyes set on the leaderboard as well! It will be a tight race to see which five cross the 2,000 mark first! Also, the last crazed-chipmunk FF1 zipfile-soundtrack was claimed today, by none other than Kanato. My eccentricity will remain hidden forevermore, unless, of course, there is enough demand for a sequel.


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

400 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
1,000 points: The Mattie's Mom Cookie Recipe Compilation (1 remaining!)
2,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (5 remaining!)

5,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #3 (5 remaining!)


It's been another enjoyable week! Please return and join me next Tuesday, when I will resume the answering and the questioning. In the meantime, please enjoy your weekend! Rack up some good Qs for next time, and make me a happy Guelphian.


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt needs a haircut. Really badly.


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