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ASK MATT
Post Meridiem March 9, 2006

Matt Demers - 17:14 EST

THERE'S SO MUCH SCHOOLWORK TO WORRY ABOUT, so much research to do, so much cleaning I should do, so many games I want to play, so many places I want to go...

...but right now, all I really feel like doing is eating chocolate! Do you ever get into one of those moods? I'll tell you something... Chocolate Brownie Blast ice cream with Smuckers' hot fudge topping stuff instantaneously increases serotonin levels to excessively wonderful heights. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have to partake sometime this evening.

Until then, I'll have to withstand a couple of hours of homework, and a lovely Math & Stats club event which I'm obligated to be at... but I shall procrastinate first by answering a few of your letters, as I do every Tuesday through Friday**.

**subject to change without notice, as many of you might indicate.





L E T T E R S
The XX-sporters deserve some love too!


Hi Matt,

What's your take on female main characters in rpgs? Can you even think of any? Yuna from FFX-2, Chris from Suikoden 3, Virginia from Wild Arms 3 and Eirika from Fire Emblem:The Sacred Stones are the only ones that come to mind for me and they are vastly outnumbered. I know Terra is considered to be the main character of FFVI by a lot of people but I always thought of Locke as the main character when I was playing it. It's certainly open to debate so I'd like to see a "proper", serious Final Fantasy with a female character who is definitely the lead. I know it doesn't make a huge difference but I think it would be a refreshing change and might provide a different take on the usual types of main characters you get in the series and in rpgs in general (the gruff Squall/Cloud type or the happy-go-lucky Zidane/Squall type).

Matt

I assume you meant to write "happy-go-lucky Zidane/Tidus type", instead of what you wrote... but yes. A few things to note:

Final Fantasy VI is so cool because there isn't really a main character at all. I think that you could argue that there are central characters- Locke, Terra, and Celes, and MAYBE the (Super) Figaro Bros- but not any single MAIN one. Interesting... Terra and Celes are both excellent characters, too. I often wonder why they chose to make Celes the "main character" of the second half of the game... or what it would have been like if they had chosen to start you off with someone else in the World of Ruin.

Yes, Yuna was the main character of Final Fantasy X-2, but the problem is, the RPG was just not... the same. It was silly and funny and cute and more silly... why must a female lead character be accompanied with such an "attitude change"? FFX-2 was enjoyable, but it wasn't in the same league as other FF games, I don't think.

Um, another obvious female main character that comes to mind is Shion Uzuki from Xenosaga. I really like her character a lot, because she has a great set of heroic traits... a strong will, a sharp wit, but personal insecurities as well. I liked her better, looks-wise, before they made her all "kewl" in Episode II, but alas; you can't win 'em all.

Most rpg designers probably try to make their main characters similar to their target audience which explains the large number of heroic young boys in games but you don't always have to be able to identify with the main character to enjoy the story. Which female character would you like to see get a game of her own? For some reason I'd like a game starring Freya from FFIX, she's a cool character and she received the least character development out of anyone in that game so it would be good to see more of her and I'm sure they could come up with something interesting for her to do.

Dermot


Matt

You're right... Freya was severely undeveloped, receiving only little blips of concentrated story here and there. Otherwise, she was just good for jump-jump-jumping on enemies heads.

I also think you're correct in why many game companies choose to "go guy" when choosing a main character, too. It seems like it's a shame, though, in that after 12 Final Fantasy games, we have FFVI as a "kinda", FFXI as a "whatever", and that's about it, as far as female characters go. Even in Final Fantasy V, when you're leading a team of women, the main character is the one out of the four who is indeed endowed with a Y chromosome.

You should play Xenosaga, if you haven't already...you might really like it. Oh, and by the way, in Dragon Warrior IV, you could select your hero to be either a male or a female... the female hero sprite was soooo cool!



Hmmmm!


With regards to previous commentary weighing a developer's merit in "re-imagining" a previous title, I have one comparison, albeit parallel media, to illustrate such potential enjoyment to many:

Battlestar Galactica; inspect the ratings.

Cheers!


Matt

The what, TV ratings? I've never watched Battlestar Galactica in my life, but I have a little bit of Star Trek knowledge under my belt.

Reading what Wikipedia has to say about it, though, I see what you mean!! It was revived on cable a few years back and was the greatest draw for ratings of any cable program, if I'm reading this correctly. Bizarre...

Battlestar Galactica was taken in a different direction entirely with the series, apparently, from its 1970s roots, so I'd agree that this would be a very good example of a "re-envisionment". Good job, sir/ma'am! Now, here's the trick... can anyone think of a video game example akin to this?



Looking forward to the next of the new!


Arrgh me matie,

tis good to see that Suikoden 5 be looking jollier then a chest full o' treasure, arrgh. It be having the best graphics I can be telling on the PS2, along wit its revamped Duel system, and an army system to upsurp that of Suikoden 2's, arrgh. Anyway me harties the new Battle system, with different Formations, could make a pirate cojole all night, arrgh.

Bainick be having cabin fever!


Matt

Yeah, I was complaining to a friend last night that I was going a bit stir-crazy myself, since I've been nowhere except for Guelph and home with the family for the last long while. Hence, a Toronto trip is in the works for the weekend after next! I'm most excited indeed.

Suikoden V does look really pretty... I'm going to watch for a review carefully and then I might actually jump on the opportunity to have a real experience with the series. My hour and a half with Suikoden II back in the day just didn't cut it... and I haven't been inspired since. I think that "cautious optimism" is always the best default strategy when it comes to anticipating games. That way, you won't be AS disappointed if you're disappointed in the end, but there's a good chance you'll be delighted and surprised as well! After the iffy Suikoden IV, I think that the caution is warranted.



A continued conversation.


Two Ts said more: "Are you serious?? What's the purpose of Intelligence, then? Spell defense? Or random-statmanship?"

- Unfortunately Intelligence does nothing in FF1. (Beyond sitting on your status screen looking pretty.) Its purpose should of been to boost the power of spells. But the formulas are apparently using an empty bit of data instead!

Note: This problem was finally fixed in "FF:Dawn of Souls".


Matt

Crazy... that's an interesting factoid that I really didn't know; it's definitely something I could include in a SOCK question one of these days...

*conspires*

"And, in my experience, "Ultima 11" did like 400 Damage on all enemies by the end,"

- FF2's Ultima is a special case. Its power also gets boosts, from the caster's other skills being trained up. (I.e. It wouldn't be enough to have just Ultima 11 itself. You also want the other 15 spells and 8 weapons nearing 11 too.) Someone trained as a jack of all trades, might get good use out of it. But maybe this is a spell which takes too much effort to power up!

Matt

Yuck! I never would have known. Even if Ultima is a little excessive, I really don't mind the idea behind the system for any of the spells in Final Fantasy II; my only gripe is that the points should be awarded a little faster and thus spell levels should come a little bit more quickly, to even up the playing field a little bit. The weapons-users get to increase their skills on a certain weapon-type very quickly, but at least they can upgrade to new and better weapons of the SAME type; mages can't ever do that. If you want a more powerful spell, you have to start from scratch! Looking at it from a damage point of view, which is most important at least "much" of the time, mages are just outclassed by their weapon-toting cohorts.

"Also, you're absolutely right that damage spells aren't the only spells. The thing is, though, that if I had the choice between putting an enemy to sleep and KILLING it by a well-placed physical attack, well, there's no choice to be made!"

- And if the choice is between that physical attack, or a spell which kills(or KILLS?) over half of the enemy group? (Otherwise yes, those affliction spells are pretty poor. Especially when an instant-kill spell would work on the same targets!)

Matt

Hee hee, don't mind my randomly placed majuscule-of-emphasis. I think more people should exercise their right to write "creatively", don't you?

Also, I'll give you that one... you have a good point, because I argue the exact same thing about Dragon Quest to other people. Whack/Thwack/Kathwack (Beat/Defeat/DefeatMax) can be so incredibly effective... you just have to discover which monsters to use it on. It's generally the stupider-looking monsters that are most susceptible to such tricksy spells. There are many spells in FF2 that do the same thing, if I recall... Break, Toad, Mini, Death... are there any I'm missing?

"I never understand WHY indirect "strategic" spells fail to work at least MOST of the time. If they're going to do nothing half the time,"

- Well in FF2: It is either due to the monster having better Magic Defence or an immunity. Or due to severe interference from the caster's equipment. Whilst FF1's problem was that Intelligence-bug. (I can't really say for other games!)

Matt

Just plain silliness, I reckon. I suppose the developers want to keep things from "becoming cheap", but coming from a company who likes inserting special abilities that do 9999 damage fifty times over randomly into their games, well, it seems a bit silly. I think it would be cool to have ULTIMATE status spells, like a sleep spell that works with 90% probability and isn't curable by a physical hit. How about a spell that reduces attack power to ZERO? A spell that causes the target to absorb physical damage as HP? Now THESE are fun ideas for non-attack magic!! Alas, though, no one wants to hire little old me, crazy talk or none...

"Grrr... you people and your strategy guides. Or, if not:" (etc, researching data, etc.)

- And: Grr... you people and your ability to listen to those people who know more than you do! (I guess I do make use of all 3. Although the very first time I had made my own similar mistakes, only learning more and getting much better since.)

Matt

I suppose so, through message boards, word of mouth, and other things like these. I generally go ballistic when someone gives an unsolicited tip away, especially if I haven't finished the game yet.

"What kind of mage knows six stupid spells? Not any mage under *my* control, that's for sure."

- If it helps, they may still of had 16 spells and just that most saw little use, or were there for the really weak battles. (It was mostly an example of what little, a "powerful Mage" might need. Not a definitive strategy for their best usage!)

Matt

Yes, yes... and admittedly, my most-magical character of FF2 had a large fraction of spells that were never cast more than two or three times over the course of the entire game. It would take... a LOT of time to have a full list of high-level magic in that game, but as you said last week, it would also take a lot of time to have your warriors with a lot of skill in every single weapon, too.

(Better add in a) BONUS QUESTION:
What is your favourite ever spell or spell-type, which you like (or would of liked) to have in any game?

I was thinking MP-absorbing is nice and so are the Cure-types. But for now I will favour the "Return" spell from FFV. (It res tarts the battle, as if nothing happened.) Good if you want to test something first, or when your schemes go awry. (Would also avoid the cut-scenes from normal reloading!)


Matt

Return is a very fun spell indeed, and I'm surprised it hasn't come back at all. I gave a few ideas for my own spells above, but how about a few more? In a Final Fantasy context, how about "Drainga", which would instantly kill an enemy in order to revive a fallen ally? How about a spell that increases the effectiveness of the party's special abilities, like Steal or Control? A spell that causes an enemy to become weak against physical attacks? A spell from my own game series, "Blast", that deals a certain percentage of MP damage to an enemy and causes their own spells to cost randomly between 5-10x the expected MP per casting? There are so many great, untapped ideas out there!!

Anyway, thanks for the banter! I'm enjoying this little back-and-forth thing we have going. :)



Co-host no more, but writer for shore!


When is the next co-hosting day? I didn't see any announcement in today's column but I thought there was going to be a few more soon.

Matt

Hmm, good question. The answer, I hope, is tomorrow! Rexy is warming up in the metaphorical green room... I'm sure she'll be delighted to jump into the limelight at long last.

Also might want to remind people that we have an IRC channel. I only recently started hanging out there myself, but its where I first saw the link for the Spore game.

Matt

Absolutely! If you are an IRC user, please come on to the #rpgamer channel to meet other readers and the quasilegendary staff. Even I'm around there from time to time... imagine; you could say "hi" to me in REAL time! Ooooh...! Ahhhh...!

Oh yeah I wasn't sure if this came up before but have you watched the show Numb3rs? I am just curious is math geeks support or cringe at such shows like computer geeks(like me) cringe when other shows fictionalize the way computers work. Personally I like the show but as you probably have seen from my sad attempts at answering advanced math questions I don't know anything more advanced than grade level math, so I can never really tell if what's being shown is based on real world equations or just fiction.

Xlash the dwarf berserker


Matt

Hee hee... I saw a couple of minutes of the show once, but it's generated a lot of conversation among friends and professors of mine in the math department. I think they mostly watch it so that if any mistakes are made on the show, they can point at the TV screen, laugh out loud, and then parade around touting how little society knows about math... it's a rather popular thing to do among math-minded folk, which is perhaps why we're so UNpopular. I try my best to restrain myself. ^_^



RPG applications of graduate study... eehehehehee!


This is a bit of a delayed reaction, but I remember correctly, many columns back you mentioned a course in "Biomathematics". This sounds both incredibly interesting and horrifying at the same time. What is it actually about?

Better yet, to make it RPG related, would a character's HP be an example of a biomathematical value?

- Sean Acid


Matt

I only wish!! A major area of study in Biomathematics has to do with population dynamics: i.e. "if you put these x number of species in a certain ecosystem and forget about them, which will be alive after a thousand years?" Problems like these are modelled by systems of ugly differential equations. Other areas of Biomath, though, include genetics, pattern formation (how do zebra stripes form?), models of biorhythms (like heartbeats), diffusion of materials across organic tissues (like in your intestines/lungs), etc, etc.

I suppose that in an RPG context, HP would be a definite candidate for study. What causes HP to increase in the manner that it does? Why does poison influence the body to cause exactly xx% HP-loss per turn? What exactly are the logistics of bringing a dead person back to life? If ONLY I could do my Master's thesis on stuff like this... I'd be undoubtedly in happy-land!



Revolutionary hopes and hard-to-find RPGs.


I should like to point out one thing about yesterday's sock answers.

" If you had actually played the game, you would know that there is another mini-event that takes place in the town where the whole party tastes a little bit of a chef's dish."

Maybe you should amend that to "if you had played the game *recently*". Lufia's a wonderful series and I loved both SNES games when I played them-- ten or twelve years ago. I never had the chance to own them and the Ebay prices are quite inflated (some people are setting their "buy it now" option at nearly $100 U.S for a used copy. That's more than the original price of the game!). There are so many games I'd love to play again after seeing them mentioned on Q&A. I'd love to get my hands on E.V.O.; that was a favourite of mine. I tell you if the Revolution really allows us to play classis NES and SNES games I'll be ordering the system in advance.

Erika Wolfraven


Matt

Sure... my apologies. Lufia is a really old game, after all, and even if you have played it, it might be difficult to remember every single thing that happened in the game. I DID remember that there was a dish that everyone rated; for some reason that stuck in my mind. It took a re-play from my brother for me to remember exactly what Aguro rated it, though.

I'm telling you... I will WHOOP with joy if the Revolution allows us to play classics like this and E.V.O...but if you're thinking about selling one of these oldies on eBay or something, you might want to think about doing it sooner than later, just in case. If all of these games are suddenly available for a low price or free, you're not going to be able to get $100 for a copy over eBay anymore!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Wow... Canada just beat the U.S. at their own game. What's next?? Canada losing in the quarter-final round of Olympic hockey? Oh, wait a second...

Flashay!


I'm frankly surprised at the number of people who got #133 incorrect, considering that the answer was in the very title of the column, which was "Day Eighty". Anyway, the question was worth 100 points!

Erika's question had to do with an Ogre Battle game, and the correct answer is c) XV. Thanks, Erika, for your submission! 110 points to everyone who managed to get it right, and twice that many go to you, as always, for submitting it.

Question #135:
Which videogame monkey did yours truly have the hots for at the age of thirteen? (humbling question) (140 points)

a) Donkey Kong
b) Candy Kong
c) Dixie Kong
d) Funky Kong
e) You were a *@%#-ed up kid, Matt

Question #136:
Every controllable Princess in a Final Fantasy game save for one wears an article of clothing with what colour?

a) White
b) Orange
c) Brown
d) Pink
e) Purple


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

800 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
2,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (3 remaining!)
5,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #3 (5 remaining!)


Tomorrow, barring any unforseen circumstances, Rexy will be stepping up to the plate and taking her best shot at co-hosting alongside myself! I hope it'll be a lot of fun. Regardless, keep sending in your best queries, questions, inquiries, or whatever you feel like calling the stuff you interrogate me with. There is much to chat about!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt prefers white meat.


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As long as people don't cook the crap out of white meat, it remains juicy and wonderful... MMMM I'm hungry!

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