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Psycho-Crazy-Busy March 16, 2006

Matt Demers - 15:09 EST

GOOD GRACIOUS ME, I have one heck of a lot to do between now and Friday at 9 o'clock pm. Predictably, the test that I went to invigilate last night landed me with a huge pile of papers to have marked for Monday. Being away for the weekend means that, well, I've got to get them done beforehand! What is the logical thing to do in this situation? Of course! Take time out to do a lovely Thursday Q&A column. Obviously, I just can't get enough of you guys.

So, what am I waiting for? I've gotta make this quick so I can get back to slaughtering the hordes with my deadly red pen weapon (attack power: 2).

The long-proclaimed princessly attire letter!

Hey Matt,

Just SOCK this time. That and a little note on your question about right vs left brain and a woman's ability to do math/science.

Just to let you know, the first computer programmers were in fact females. This was when computers were large vacuum-tubed monstrosities. At first programming was seen to be menial and "brainless", so it was left to all these women who were previously calculators. Basically the computer was taking over the calculations, and the women would maintain it.

Then, when it was figured out that programming actually took thought, surprise surprise, the guys started coming in and taking over, cause it actually took brains. And so part of the wonderful stereotype began.

It was never because the women were having trouble with it, nope they were doing just fine programming, but at that point in our history, women were still only allowed to do menial or educational jobs. Anything else would be too hard.


Yes, I seem to recall learning about that at one point or another, too. I don't know why, historically, western society has viewed women the way they do, but this is a perfect example. If it's any consolation, I don't think you're stupid at all, nor any of your kind.

So yeah. Anyway, you should be well aware that things like math and science are not wholly left-brained as art and math are not wholly right-brained. A person's ability to perform a certain set of skills is based on their individual abilities and wants not necessarily their left/right-brainedness. For example, Geometry is more right-brained, I'd argue, while Calculus is more left-brained.


Mmm, good point. I'd wager that to have the best understanding of everything mathematical and superior math/science problem-solving ability, a blend of both right and left-brainedness would certainly be a requirement. Coming up with theories and proofs really does require a lot of creativity, and all sorts of other things: interpreting results of experiments, finding new ways of thinking about or representing problems, theoretical or not... it all uses a lot of right-brained skills.

But, just for edification, yes, indeed there were always more guys than gals in my computer and my math courses. In the computer science department it was like 1 to 9 undergrad and 1 to 14 graduate. But, meh, we survive.


That sounds about right. In my Mathematics of Computer Science class I took during my Bachelor's degree, there were about a hundred people, and exactly four female students. Quite incredible, really.

Okay, sorry bout the rant, skip down to SOCK answers:

#137 - d) Magical Mystery Tour
#138 - e) -4

Also, I want to argue about the last set of questions, specifically, #136. Garnet is wearing Yellow not Orange. I have it on several people's authority on that. In fact I believe the name that came up in conversation was Saffron. Anyway, it is Yellow, in fact most people who cosplay as her use a bright yellow.

Catch ya later!


Oho, really? Take a look at THESE and tell me why in the world I'd think that Garnet's jumpsuit is orange, pleeeease:

The colour of carrots!
The colour of pumpkins!
The colour of oranges!

Cosplayers or no cosplayers, there's no way that piece of clothing ain't orange, at least to my left-brained male self. ^_^

*note: Matt actually considered going to university for music OR visual art as well as math and physics*

Snarky retorts aside, I always love a letter from Mag, and after all of these months, we've gotten to know each other pretty darn well, all things considered, so I know she can take a little sarcasm. Besides, I have to suck up my pride, because she's helping me host tomorrow! Make sure you come and see!

Death? Final!? Preposterous!

Howdy Q&A Host,

One thing that *really* peeves me in many RPGs is when they dump players back to the title screen when they die. I'm playing through SMT: Nocturne again, and given the degree of enemies that can kill you instantly, this feature is just plain irritating. I mean, how would you feel if you got near a save point and got killed by an enemy after spending nearly half an hour getting there? Even the Dragon Quest games are nicer to players when they die. Why do developers *insist* on dumping players back to the title screen when they die when save points are so far apart? What's your take?

Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland


My Dragon Quest history means that I only have one answer here: I hate it when dying brings you back to the start screen. DQ, of course, is very kind to players by allowing them to continue the game with all experience and treasures you obtained since last saving at the price of half of your current gold. It's always been that way, and it's what I'm used to.

I don't like the idea of save points being located two teensy minutes from each other in each area map, because it seems to make random battles even more inconsequential than they already are; if you die, you don't lose much time at all, so why bother caring? I guess this relates back to what I was talking about yesterday or the day before about challenging games being addictive, but that's not exactly what your question refers to.

My answer is getting more convoluted by the second, so here it is in condensed form: The BEST system has few save points but allows you to continue, but if the system has to be one where you go back to the start screen upon grisly annihilation, there had better be a half-decent number of save points, because man, repeating hours of lost work is definitely NOT my idea of a good time. I guess that's simple enough!

Wonderslime: Mind-reader extraordinaire!

hello can you help me with the game? how can i open the heavy door inside the pyramid?

thank you


I can't believe I'm even dignifying this letter with a response. First off, I have no idea what game you're even referring to. Secondly, this should be the last place you come to seek answers to specific-in-game questions! Look for walkthroughs or bug someone in the forums; that's what they're there for! So, my answer to your question is NO, I cannot help you, given that I have zero information on any RPG entitled "the game". Sorry!

Just don't steal my sunshine!

Hey there, Matt

The Final Fantasy series seems to change the effectiveness of their status spells in each game. Final Fantasy II's spells were only effective if you spent hours levelling them up... Final Fantasy VIII's spells were better effective if you equipped them to your weapon... etc. But the game in the series with the most effective status spells seems to be Final Fantasy III. Frog status still counted as an instant kill to the enemy in that game, and I think mini status did as well. So there were a plethora of instant win spells you could use in the game, and a lot of them were effective almost right up to the end. I remember being able to cast Toad on a lot of the enemies all the way up to the final dungeon. However, in Final Fantasy IV, Toad was next to useless (and no longer an instant win) when I could just use other spells.

(And yes, I admit I had to emulate Final Fantasy III... the DS version can't come soon enough!)


Tsk, tsk!! I'd watch out for the thought police, now, if I were you. Hopefully, you do choose to buy the most-delicious-looking remake upon its release, though, because it looks incredibly impressive at this stage of the game.

You're right that many status spells weren't really that useful in FFIV; as I noted yesterday or the day before, I use Mute now and then for fun, but I don't bother with spells like Hold, Venom, Sleep, Stop, Mini, Toad, and "Bersk" (I don't know if they changed all of these names for the newest GBA remake or not) because they're just not reliable enough to count on when you actually really need them. Also, you can get away with just blasting enemy weak-points through most of the game anyway.

When it comes to the other forms of magic... I tend to save my magic use early on in the game unless I absolutely need it, especially when you can only afford maybe three or four Cure spells before running out of magic. Then later in the game, when I have hundreds of MP, I tend to cast Curaga and Full-Cure/Curaja with abandon. Item use also helps a lot.


It depends, of course, on the game in question as well, right? In Final Fantasy, it isn't a major issue to cast spells incessantly because there's always Osmose or Ethers to back you up if you do find yourself running short on MP. In Dragon Quest, say, it isn't quite so simple, so (especially in the older games) you find yourself really saving MP for emergencies through even the last dungeons, just because they're long and challenging. They are two different styles, and there are many examples of games that fall somewhere in the middle, and I don't think that either one is necessarily "better" than the other in any way. It is fun to let loose with those fun fireworks, though, if you're able to.

Speaking of potential wastes of time, am I the only one who likes to use thievery if it's available? The last time I played Final Fantasy IV, I nearly filled a slot in my inventory full of Artemis arrows by stealing them before I even won any of them from a Kary. Yet I've seen in random FAQ browsing that thievery is thought to be a waste of time in the older Final Fantasy games. Your thoughts?



Ha, I'm a stealing fiend when it comes to RPGs! See, even if there isn't a real class-system built into the game, I'll tend to class-ize people anyway, so I'll make my most thieflike character into a stealing machine. Last time I played through Final Fantasy VI, I had Locke equipped with a Thiefknife through most of the game, as well as a Sneak Glove to raise Steal's success rate. In Final Fantasy IX, I was nigh-obsessive about stealing items from bosses, even if it would take me a half-hour to snatch everything. In Disgaea, and more recently, Makai Kingdom, I absolutely loved running around and grabbing items from enemy characters by means of gloves or UFOs. It brought such wonderful satisfaction to steal with success in those games!

In older Final Fantasy games, though, I think that there was less incentive to steal. Many enemies in Final Fantasy IV just carried the same old things: either a Cure1 Potion, or some other measly cheap item that I'd already have many multiples of. Only a select few had anything special, so I was never as into stealing in that game. It's become more interesting in recent years though, I'd say. Anyway, you asked for my thoughts, and you got a random collection of them. Hopefully, that will do! If not, write back again someday soon~~

Always use protection!

I would believe that my favorite non-attack magic spells to cast would be Cure spells. I will have to say that until FFXI, I was never really fond of using Protect, Shell, Haste, etc. I found I could use brute force to get through most RPGs, so I never used them. Also, it would seem like a waste of a turn or waste of MP. When you start off getting slammed, you hardly have time to worry about casting Protect or any other buff, you just want to stay alive.


Hmm, I suppose I should have clarified, but I kinda figured that restorative magic was an over-obvious choice. Surely, that's what I use most, but it's not really anything out-of-the-ordinary or "cool". I personally like using Protect and Shell (or analogous spells in RPGs other than FF) to keep lower-HP characters alive in stressful battles. My biggest problem with these spells, though, is that in some games, the effects really don't last long enough to be really worth using a turn up for. When such a spell only lasts for a few turns, it's quite possible that the target character won't even be hit for the duration of its effects; essentially, the spell would go to waste. Generally, though, I like bolstering spells like these in most RPGs.

Ah, Xenosaga Episode III. I will have to say that my love for the series has faded from the glory that it held around the release of Episode I, but I still am looking forward to seeing how the story will play out. I think it would have almost been better to make Xenosaga into just a movie, because the gameplay is what has been lacking to me.

- Macstorm


It's too bad, really. Xenosaga still has a decent fanbase, but I think that it has shrunk considerably since the debut of Episode I, partly because of what I consider to be a "lazy" sequel. A few things were better: The music was fantastic, as far as I'm concerned, there were some more creative/interesting battles, the ES battles were much better-polished, and some of the areas were much more interesting. They eliminated so many things from Episode I, though, that I absolutely adored. The e-mail was a lot of fun, and with such a convoluted storyline, the ability to look up names and terms in the U.M.N. database was essential to me. The battle system in Episode II was more repetitive/boring, I found, and the lack of real variety between the characters, from a battle point of view, wasn't helpful in that regard at all. Largely, they eliminated the ability to upgrade equipment and ES equipment as well, which I found to be disappointing. Finally, the game was really damn short, and in the words of a certain Twain, "That don't impress me much". Ewww, sorry.


You know the expression "out of the frying pan and into the fire"? Well, lately, I feel like walking from outside to inside is like walking "out of the fridge and into the freezer", if you catch my drift. It seems warmer at first, but within twenty minutes of sitting down, my toes turn to ice and the colour drains from my skin, presumably to protect my insides from congealing into a solid, frigid mass. Summer, where are you?!?


So I thought I had gone a little bit insane with yesterday's question, but holy crap: I did NOT expect so many people to nail that question. I'd guess that a majority of you guessed the right answer, so while I was preparing to write an apology here, I'm instead going to try to make up even HARDER questions in coming weeks to try my hardest to stump someone. Ridiculous!

#141 wasn't so bad, though. Belthasar2 wanted to know which composer was NOT Austrian out of his list of five. The answer, of course, was d) Ludwig Beethoven, who was German through and through. 120 points to those of you who knew the answer, and 240 to Belthasar2. Thanks for the question, sir!

#142 was the killer. Aktemto is a town in Dragon Warrior 4 built around a mine. The second time you travel there for storyline purposes, the miners in the town have struck something terrible; foul gas and deadly monsters have caused death and destruction throughout the village and within the mine. The second character you come upon in the well is running about like a chicken with its head cut off and he says "Monsters! Monsters are coming! Help!" Thus, the second word is b) Monsters, for 290 points. I promise no more of these anytime within the next, oh, day or so.

Question #143:
Complete the following sentence: The square root of the height in metres at which you fight Hortensia is... (150 points)

a) irrational
b) greater than 20
c) an integer
d) less than 15
e) not a real number

Question #144:
What is my University of Guelph e-mail address? (150 points)

e) I do not have a University of Guelph e-mail account

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

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

One more for the week, but for now, I must dive into marking-land! Mark, mark, mark. It'd be funny if my name were Mark, wouldn't it? Hmmm.
***Matt is about 1/7th finished his stack of tests!

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Pretty good marks sooo far!


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Matt's Top 3 Current Games:

1. Dragon Quest VIII

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1. Final Fantasy III

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