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Step Back March 22, 2006

Matt Demers - 04:24 EST

DID THE INTERNET explode yesterday, by any chance? The fact that I've had all of two new letters in the past 24 hours would seem to indicate that that is a possibility. Q&A can't exist without letters, guys! For those of you that are regular-writer-inners, I much appreciate everything you do to help make this a great column. For the rest of you, I'm not sure what to do! I'm trying to make it fun with an ongoing contest and some fun opportunities to have some creative input (co-hosting, question ideas, etc), but perhaps these things aren't what you're looking for.

In that case, what things are you looking for in RPGamer's Q&A? What things am I missing? Is there anything that you'd really like to see in this column every day/once per week/as a special feature to make it more interesting? I'm totally open to all of your ideas, guys, because I want it to be a fun place for everyone to come to every day!

Anyway, I end the necessary beggar's paragraph and start with the question-answering right about HERE.




L E T T E R S
Maybe this letter deserved its own column, anyway.


Hey Matt,

Just a note to start: Guild Wars isn't pay for play. Their comment about the economy is a just one and their action is the right one. In the game, a trader is an NPC to which a player sells materials or runes at the given market price. This price fluctuates with supply and demand. Of course, the lower the demand, the lower the price will be for players that wish to purchase that good. By buying for high (lets say 3000) and then selling for low (like 125) puts a lot of free cash into the system without later it back out. This leads to people stockpiling such items and re-selling them when the error gets fixed. As a consequence with this cash influx, most things sold by players will increase in price, leaving the honest players with the need to spend more time farming to buy things at the inflated price.

This happened in Diablo 2 when the currency became duped Stones of Jordan (all good items required a number of "fake" items in exchange, most of which had to be purchased on Ebay from someone who just made them).

In other online RPGs, such errors could alter the economy in more drastic ways. Take a look at what happened in Final Fantasy XI - prices are now 20-100x more than what they were a year ago (they might have went down a bit since I stopped playing). The economy was being infused with a large amount of cash created and farmed by gold selling companies, often by not so legal means (as in exploits, etc).

Matt

That's all well and good, but the issue that annoyed me much more greatly was the fact that they actually reset the game to a point several hours earlier in the day at one point (and presumably, at other points, for other reasons). Whether it was a necessary action or not, it's an action that would be infuriating to me. I wouldn't want to lose 2, 3, 4, even 6 hours of my precious time because of mistakes beyond my control! In console RPGs, in contrast, things like this just can't happen.

MMORPG economies intrigue me greatly, though, I'll admit. It would be fun to be a sort of analyst to make sure that the online economy stays in check over time. I'll bet there are jobs like that at video game companies, actually. Neat stuff, that is.

On to another topic...

Status effect spells, or debuffs, are very common in online RPGs. In FFXI, it is very common for the Red Mage to use Blind, Bind, Paralyze, Slow, Dia/Bio, Poison and other such spells on every single enemy. Also, Dispel to remove positive effects that the enemy casts. In MMOs each and every debuff helps by weakening the ene my just a little bit. Some like Silence can make a really nasty demon wizard a walk in the park...

Most online RPGs include ways of doing crowd control - Sleep, Stun, Mezmerization, etc. In an online RPG it is very rare to have one attack or spell that outright kills an enemy, since you are usually fighting something many times more powerful than yourself. When you draw more than one enemy, it is very important to have means of controlling the crowd - ie put them to sleep, stun, mesmerize them, etc.

Debuffs and Crowd Control spells are not something that I nomally use in single player games, unless they prove to be really devestating (should they hit). I am a little disapointed that Rosa casting silence has about a 1% chance of it landing (ie whenever it isn't really needed) and the enemy has a 100% chance of it landing unless that character is resistant/immune to it because of an item.

Matt

Hear, hear on that one. Admittedly, I don't have the online experience I'd need to be able to effectively argue or agree with you about status effects in those types of games, but on the second thing you touch upon, I say "YES! YES YES YES!" I'd personally prefer a system where status effects like those work almost all the time: on both your party AND on enemy parties. Status ailments give battles a little bit of "crunch", so long as the enemies use them semi-wisely. I still remember good ol' Golden Sun, and the tendency for low-HP monsters to throw an ineffective smoke bomb or something else that obscures vision for a single ally with 30% probability... in order to use up their only turn in battle before being defeated. Designers, take note: If a monster is going to inevitably last for a single turn only, they should probably do something a bit more effective. I dunno.

I still remember... "Damnit! Lavos just confused Crono again!". I hate final bosses that just overload the party with status effects and go for the "cheap" win, which of course the party can never do, since the enemy is immune to pretty much everything.

Matt

Perhaps so, but I don't mind it when final bosses are ridiculously hard. They should be! They're the ultimate evil, the big bad guy, and (hopefully) the greatest challenge of the main game. Status effects put a bit of an interesting spin on the stereotypical final boss, I think. Perhaps it would be interesting, though, to have bosses (final or regular) that can indeed be afflicted by bad status. If they had remedial or dispelling spells to counter such things, I wouldn't mind; it would make the battle a little bit more "realistic", in a way, perhaps, if you know what I mean.

Girls in video games... Yes, Metroid id a good example - it stunned me when I first played the game. I find myself playing Super Princess Peach lately, a game on the NDS that had Peach running around saving Mario and Luigi. While it is not that difficult, it is a terribly fun game! It was about time she got her own game...

Matt

Yes! I am certainly playing through Super Princess Peach right now, in fact, and I'm quite happy that we finally have a new 2-D sidescroller to enjoy for the first time in far too long.

I think that most developers think one of two things about female lead characters - either is will be a girl game, or it will be a super-deformed-top-heavy female lead to draw in the male crowd with bo... err eye-candy. Using a female lead in a game discourages a lot of the tween boys from buying a game, so the game companies feel a need to avoid the lo wer sales from making a game in that way. And I am sure that most of us RPGamers don't want to see an RPG created just to show off someone's near naked physical form *cough* Sudeki *cough*, but would rather see something with actual entertainment value.

Matt

I know what you mean. I guess, though, that things have always kinda been this way. If you look back at the character art from Final Fantasies long ago, many had questionably-attired female characters as well. Heck, even Dragon Warrior II's original cartridge (and box?) art included a Princess of Moonbrooke whose legs were quite bare and uncovered to a startlingly high level. Females aren't all, though; look at Kuja and his lovely thong, for instance, next time you gaze at him in Final Fantasy IX, or Tidus running around happily with bare chest for all to see, even on the slopes of snowy Gagazet. I guess that it's more noticeable, though, now that we live in a world filled with nothing but eye-poppingly gorgeous CGs.

Like you, Matt, I keep a list of games that I would like to play next (mine is about 30 long, just including the ones I currently own and haven't finished), but whenever it comes to choosing the next game to play... I never take the next one off of the list. I usually second guess myself about ten times before finally deciding on one to play... does this every happen to you?

Matt

Up until the last couple of years, I've really been able to stay on top of my own collection. I guess that because of that, I've only truly experienced a backup of games-requiring-attention only in recent history. So, I'd have to say no; in the past, if I had more than one game to play, I'd have them all balancing on the go at once, and it worked well enough!

And... Have you seen what Cailintz is wearing in Magna Carta? I wonder what the designer was thinking about when he was designing that outfit...

I am going to stop ranting now - a prof that was absent for two weeks decided to assign the two remaining assignments and a project and make all of them due on the same day. The same day that I have a midterm in another class, as well as an assignment in my third one. Fun. Guess I better start now... :(

~Sean~~


Matt

Well, best of luck, Sean!! It's good to hear from you again, as always! As for Cailintz, I took a peek after a quick date with google.com, and Sean's absolutely right: It looks as if the character got lost on the way back from the polygonal lingerie shop, because yikes...if any of you readers decide to take a look yourself, you'll know what he means, too. ^^



ERAU QSSI DLRO WEHT


Dear Matt

Concerning FFVII being the revolutionary RPG that made the genre popular, I actually think that FFIV was that game. It's certainly the most influential RPG ever, with its gameply inspiring coutless other games (and it also doesn't have that 14-19 year-old youth star syndroum that was mentioned yesterday). The reason it was so influential must be attributed to how popular it was. In 1991, it the game that everyone had to have played to be considered a gamer (those with a SNES, anyway). It was probably even the game that started Square fanboyism, drawing many people into RPGs for the first time and attributing the Square name to quality RPGs, so much so that they wouldn't play much else. True, FFVII brought RPGs into the limelight for the 32-bit era in ways that we never expected, but I thought FFIV was the game that did it for the 16-bit era in an equally comparable revolution of great magnitude. That's my opinion, anyway.

Matt

I guess you could say that Final Fantasy IV made a slight breakthrough on what was, at the time, a brand new system, but I'd argue that a roughly equal number of North Americans found new joy in Secret of Mana, which was released right around then too; that was an unbelievable fifteen years ago, now!

My point is, while both of those were relative "hits" as far as RPGs are concerned, they didn't spawn vast numbers of clones and millions of new players to the genre; Final Fantasy VII, though, turned the RPG world upside-down in comparison, I think, and truly carved out the path that has led us to where we are today. Yuck, it sounds so crazily epic!

BTW, do you know where the Square name came from? Why did the company decide on that for a name?

Alan


Matt

Wow, good question. I'll have to do a bit of hunting for that one, I must admit.

*hunts*

Nothing! I can't find a darneded thing. I can only assume that it was chosen for coolness' sake; as far as regular polygons are concerned, triangles are a bit too pointy while pentagons and up, well, they just sound kind of dumb for a video game company. Plus, "The World is Triangle" doesn't really seem to have the same effect, does it?



Revolutionary, perhaps... but great for everybody? Perhaps not!


Dear Matt,

How art thou, slime of perplexed-ness? Okay...before I start, I have to do one thing.

*dons his karate gi for battle*

Matt

Ooh, exciting. All-new Q&A, now with uniformed martial-arts masters?? This is SO cool. Oh, and I'm less than fine; Seminar of Death coming up on Thursday and bacteria invading my inner systems are keeping me from being 100% happy. Oh, well, I guess that's life...

Okay. Here's the deal. I really didn't like FF VII that much. Yes, it is a good game. Yes, I have it. Yes I've beaten it. My favorite part of the game? The crystal theme on the title screen. I didn't care much for Materia. It just seems so much more difficult to learn spells than it needs to be. Do you not think it's a little taxing to master Materia?

Matt

Yeah, but it's just so exciting. The Materia system was one of my favourites, just because it was so flexible and full of interesting possibilities. Mastering Materia wasn't really necessary, either, unless you're an obsessive maniac or just intent on doing as much as you can in the game. The first two times I played through, I made no special efforts to master anything and progressed with ease simply by playing "naturally". So, nah, I didn't have a problem.

As far as the story...it's different. I love the fact that Vincent uses a gun. Y'know what though? I like VI's story much better. If they did a remake of VII...mind you I said if...I'd probably buy it, just because Advent Children's looks make me melt, and I'd love to play a game that gorgeous. But...more importantly...it would open the door for more remakes...*stares hard at his copies of Crono Trigger and Xenogears*.

Anyway Matt, I just wanted to toss my coin into the kitty. To quote Setzer: "My life's a chip in your pile. Ante up!"

~Donovan


Matt

The story is interesting, but it isn't very clearly presented, in my opinion. Perhaps, a remake of Final Fantasy VII would make some very central plot elements more evident; as it stands, Cloud's past remains somewhat enshrouded except to the very careful observers, but perhaps unintentionally so. Maybe I'm just slow, but a few other key plot elements (i.e. the nature of the Sephiroth you're chasing through half the game) really escaped me until I had played it through a few times. The game could also use a much cleaner translation, obviously.

I personally like VI's story better as well, but as similar as the two games are, they're almost incomparable to me. I find it difficult to say WHY I like it better, necessarily. To me, one thing is for sure: The villains of FFVI and VII are two of the strongest antagonists that any game or series has ever seen in the history of RPGaming, and that alone makes both titles very appealing, plotwise.

Thanks for writing in, Donovan! Good old Setzer... hearing quotes from FFVI makes me desire an announcement regarding that alleged GBA remake very highly.



Answers to Questions


Hey Matt,

First off I would have to say #147 d) H and #148 e) Ashura.

Final Fantasy 7 was their first big attempt at 3d and they steadily honed their talents raising the bar with each game. Because of this, I feel there is a precedent for a remake as long as it stays faithful to the original story. Honestly I would rather have them working on a whole new FF but I will not deny what's in my heart of hearts, fanboyism be damned. I will say though, that as much as I welcome rumors of said remake I hope they don't keep recycling the whole line or it will be 10 years before we see 13.

Matt

True enough! I remember back in my high school days where I was totally convinced that we'd see a Final Fantasy XXIII by 2020. Now, we'll be lucky to get to XV! Actually, on that topic, what does everybody think about the enumeration system of Final Fantasy games? I've thought about it quite a bit, recently, and I wonder if Square Enix will continue to number them forevermore. How offensive would it be for them to switch to subtitles? The idea is somewhat disturbing to me, for some gut-wrenching reason, at first thought, but can the numbering really continue indefinitely?

Here are my answers to Blade's questions:

1. Every Final Fantasy contains a Prelude Theme, but in which Final Fantasy was the theme put to use in the game's quest and what was it used for?

FF7 to get Tifa's final limit break

2. Yoshitaka Amano did some amazing concept art for the Final Fantasy games, particularly the monsters, however, what monster did he draw for a specific Final Fantasy that was not put in the game until later installments?

Tonberry would be my guess too

3. In Final Fantasy X, Kimahri's Celestial Weapon, Spirit Lance, had an alternate name in the Japanese release, what was it called?

Longinus, I heard this before but had to check spelling

4. In Final Fantasy VI, Terra's father Maduin, appeared in a later installment of Final Fantasy, what was it and where did he appear?

Most likely Madeen from FF9

5. What's the name of the Moogle you encounter in FFIX that gives you rare and useful items if you financially contribute to his travel expenses?

Stiltzkin

6. Red chocobos cross mountains, Blue chocobos cross oceans, Gold chocobos can fly long distances, what can White chocobos do?

Restores MP

8. Sabotenders are sometimes found in the desert regions, and often drop luck or speed related items, what is this monster also known as?

Cactuar

9. What culture is said to have invented the first airships?

I would guess Lufenish from FF1

10. According to Final Fantasy II, what is the name of the first historically known Dragoon?

Can't recall so I'll say Kain


Matt

Bah, most of your answers are the same as my guesses from yesterday, and your #9 sounds about right. I'd contend that at least one of us misunderstands Blade's Question #1; to me, the Prelude theme of every Final Fantasy game is the crystal theme. Perhaps you're right, though.

Finally, while I haven't played any of the games Dice referenced I too have become bitter towards the younger generation of video game heros. For me though it's just a sign that I am getting to old to identify with the youngsters nowadays. I'm twice as old as most of these wannabe saviors and have a hard time caring about their teen issues dealing with authority figures and first loves among others. I'm more likely to connect with an old grizzled warrior than a teenage farmer chosen to save the world from the latest Big Bad. Maybe this why prefer Wizardry and Neverwinter Nights style games. I can make my characters however I see fit at the time and can replay a whole new way. Maybe I want a righteous paladin crusading for justice or maybe I want a mercenary that is in the main quest just for the gold or an evil mage that takes on the quest cause he wants to take out his competetors. I can't wait to get my hands on Oblivion. Eh I got off track with my point there but really who needs teenage angst when you can compete with the Big Bad? As far as those console games that follow a set list of hero characters I prefer characters at least in their 20's if not older. Maybe thats a sign of youthism and wrong, but thats how I feel.

Xlash the dwarf berserker


Matt

Of course, there are many different RPGs out there to suit the preferences of many different types of players. Young or old, grizzled or not, old-school or new-age, I think that there really is something for everyone. I'd agree that it's nice to get away from the canonical spiked-hair teen boy-hero every now and then, though, sure. What I'd personally like to see is a main character of a console RPG that is NOT a physical powerhouse in any way; for instance, a white mage hero would be kinda cool. Perhaps that's one redeeming quality of Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana. It did break that mold by making the hero the only really magical character with nary a muscle to be found. Klein, though? Honestly, what a stupid name.



More thoughts on the big one.


Hi there, Matt!

As I wrote in the other day, FFVII is probably my least favorite of the Final Fantasy's that I've played. However, I'm somewhat intrigued by the idea of a remake. Probably my biggest gripe with FFVII was what I considered to be a terrible translation. Awkward, cliched (especially Barret's nonstop swearing Mr. T impersonation), I just really didn't like it. FFVIII was no cup of tea translation-wise, but FFVII just absolutely rubbed me the wrong way. So, for that reason alone, I'd be interested in a FFVII remake, but not if it means another five year delay until we get FFXIII.

Thanks!

BigWook


Matt

I'm really hoping that a little more effort is pumped into Final Fantasy XII's translation. FF has always been a series that has suffered through atrocious translations, with the climax, for me, occurring during the Playstation era. So much was lost, left unclear, garbled, or massacred... it's really a shame! Final Fantasy X really wasn't perfect either; I was ready to put my fist through the screen at one point if I heard Tidus say the words "my old man" just one more time. There were several other irritations about it too, but all in all, it was a fairly clean translation in comparison to its older siblings.

To address your other point: Square Enix, if you're watching from above, take note!! We want more original Final Fantasy games, and not just re-regurgitated/re-re-regurgitated material! Some of the latter is nice, but more of the former would be sweet, like brown sugar pie.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Seminars suck! A few hours tonight, and I managed to throw together an eight-page monster of mathematics for me to muck through come Thursday morning. I'm worried that I'll have to bring harsh stimulants in order to keep everybody regular- er- awake. Funny, how the worlds of consciousness and fibre-capsule induced bowel movements collide sometimes, hmm?

Flashay!


Aha, it's time for the answers from yesterday! Question #147 is something that I've just picked up over time, for no real reason other than crazy obsession. I don't actually have a link or anything, but the correct answer is just through the power of my own observation over the past months. It's true that c) G is not a letter that appears on any new non-personalized Ontario license plates, along with the letters I, O, Q, and U. The poor guys probably feel really left out, too. 160 points for those of you who guessed correctly! Sorry, by the way, for the local bias.

#148 was Erika's question! 140 points were yours if you could identify b) Aura as the name of an ethereal girl, who happens to hail from the .hack series. Thanks, Erika, for the question submission! You'll receive 280 points to your name.

Question #149:
Which is least valuable? (150 points)

a) 1 coin
b) 1 jewel
c) 1 talon
d) 1 credit
e) They are all of equal value.

Question #150:
Ask ????????!-->Who submitted this question? (175 points)

a) BigWook
b) KnightTrain
c) Kanato
d) Bucket
e) Xlash


A little bit of clarification on the new item additions: You can only obtain these new items, indicated by a double asterisk (**), as you pass the required amount, and you can only obtain one of them. Your score will not decrease by buying them; it's more like "winning" right now. I might introduce new items later that will indeed be up for "actual" purchase. ;)

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

500 points: **Point Tripler (4 remaining!)
500 points: **Auxiliary Point Generator (3 remaining!)
800 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
2,000 points: **Point Tripler (2 remaining!)
2,000 points: **Auxiliary Point Generator (2 remaining!)
5,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #3 (5 remaining!)
5,000 points: **Auxiliary Point Generator (1 remaining!)
20,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #4 (5 remaining!)


**These items may only be obtained upon reaching the required amount. Point Triplers good for one use only on any one day's SOCK submissions; APGs will work forever and add bonus points whenever actual letters are submitted to the column, whether they are used or not. Offer not valid in Uzbekistan.


I touched on something I've been thinking about for awhile, up above: What's your take on the enumeration of RPGs within a series? Does it make a difference whether games continue counting up forevermore? Or is there a point where things just get too out-of-hand to consider the notion of numbers? Please, write in and tell me what's itchin' inside your RPG-loving minds!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt produced the von Koch curve tonight!


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Eeeeheeheeheehee, I said "Koch"! He was a funny German, he was.

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