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ASK MATT
Kompression of Files
May 30, 2007

Matt Demers - 22:33 EST

MAN, IT'S HOT! It's so hot that by the time I got home this afternoon, I could have wrung my shirt out. A half-hour of walking in ninety-degree heat makes a guy like me feel like a flabby, out of shape, middle-aged man.

It seems that I'm getting started a bit later than usual, so I'd better get on with it, lest I end up taking until 11 to finish. Yuck. Art thou ready? Let us begin.




LETTERS
Addictions that aren't as bad as smoking, gambling, or drug-popping.


Matt,

"Don't you hate it when you're addicted to buying games you can't play?" I sure do, and I especially hate my addiction for buying games that I LITERALLY can't play! You see... I'm addicted to buying Halo games. Now I'm not in any way a big FPS fan. Heck, I don't even like FPS games. However, I somehow still wound up being part of that "if you have an Xbox, then you have Halo" expectation. It's funny how industry expectations can influence you to buy a game which you wouldn't have considered otherwise, no?

Matt

Well, in a sense. But this can be good for players, too. I have a perfect example of this: I always claimed (and still do, really) that I hate First Person Shooters, as well, and as most of you know, I'm terribly bad at them. However, the raving reviews and heavily coaxing friends finally caused me to get off my little snooty anti-FPS behind and try out Metroid Prime when it first hit the stores. It remains one of my very favourite Gamecube games, and remains the only FPS that I've ever completed. I loved every minute of it, too.

Of course, if you buy them and you don't like them... and then continue to buy them despite that, then yes, it's a bit stranger, I suppose.

Anyway, as stated, I'm no good at FPS games of any kind, and I could only beat the Halo games' campaign modes on their easiest settings. I always sucked the most at Halo LAN parties (and sucked even harder in online matches). For both games, I mainly just played their single-player campaign modes to completion, and then left them alone, occasionally playing other people only to embarrass myself. I know this sounds crazy, considering how FPS games are multiplayer-focused by nature.

Matt

Not really at all, no. I've watched Tom play Halo on his computer several times, and the multiplayer aspect really doesn't look appealing to me at all. Why would I want to play capture the flag with someone who calls me three different derogatory terms for making a single silly mistake- especially when I know I'm doomed to make several of them? I'd sooner play by myself anyday.

So why did I buy both Halo games? Well, the first one due to peer pressure of course, but I bought the second one totally willingly, due to how surprisingly attached I have become to the games' story and the universe that it takes place in. Yeah, good story-telling in an FPS game. In a game genre over-flooded with "lone soldier turns the tides of a war" or "badass one-man army blows millions enemies to smithereens just because he can" kinds of stories, I was shocked at how interesting, dramatic, grabbing, and twist-filled Halo's story turned out to be. Considering how one of the reasons I love RPGs so much is because of what great stories many of them tell, this aspect of Halo really rubbed me the right way, and made me see FPS games in a totally new light. So I bought Halo 2 chiefly to see what would happen and where the next chapter of the story would lead. And although I once swore that I wouldn't continue this addiction by buying Halo 3, as September approaches, I again find myself desiring an Xbox 360 and Halo 3 so that I can see how the story concludes, meaning I want to play ONLY its campaign mode and leaving its surely-robust multiplayer mode untouched again.

Matt

But honestly, what is wrong with that? You're an RPG lover, after all... of course you're hungry for a great story. I don't think that buying a game to see how a story progresses is a bad thing at all, even if the other aspects of the game aren't really your thing. I mean, look at how many people went out and bought Xenosaga: Episode III after complaining about how 'sucky' Episode II was.

Now, buying an entire console for a single game's story... that would be something else. But with a few solid RPGs for the 360 on the way, I don't think Halo will be the only thing you buy for it.

I know that I must sound like a total weirdo to both RPG fans and FPS fans alike, the former thinking "you're addicted to the story of an FPS game of all things? You must not have played many RPGs," and the latter thinking "how can you buy Halo games and ignore the awesome multiplayer that Bungie worked so hard on?!? Sacrilege!!!" I even sound insane to myself typing this, but it's the truth. I keep buing Halo games for their stories alone, and I'll most likely succumb to ponying up $450 for Halo 3 four months from now. I'm even looking forward to Halo Wars, an RTS game in the Halo universe, ONLY because I'm so drawn into the Halo universe now and want to experience everything about it. Crazy? Yes, very much so. Can I help it? I honestly don't think so, hence the term "addiction."

FirstAid

Matt

Nah, see above. And again, that $450 might be well worth it, depending on how great games like Mass Effect end up. One nice thing: I'll have an Xbox 360 correspondent! So beware, because I might come bugging you for opinions on RPGs for that system, if you keep hanging around here. I'll gladly accept your letters anyday, too.

Thanks! And good luck wrestling with this awful, terrible addiction of yours.



Dragon Quest remakes, column suggestions, and the seventeenth iteration of Final Fantasy IV!


I have finished a bunch of RPGs lately:

Kingdom Hearts 2, FF 10, , Okami, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, LoZ: Twilight Princess, and just tonight I finished FF 12. I clocked about 80 hours. The ending is a little over-the-top huh? It must be the longest ending sequence in any FF game thus far.

In the backlog is Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Shadow of the Colossus, and Dragon Quest 8.

In the DS: Castlevania: PoR and in the GBA slot Riviera: Promised Land,

Boy, thats a lot of subtitles, isn't it?

Matt

Yeah, they're all the rage these days. Castlevania gave up on numbering its sequels after Super Castlevania IV, if I recall correctly; Fire Emblem is big on the subtitles too. Even Dragon Quest is now doing the whole subtitley thing, and truly, the "Defender of the Stars" subtitle for DQIX is way more exciting than DQVIII's "Journey of the Cursed King." Even so, I think that the underlying reason for this is that developers want to produce new games with old names. With a good old colon and a subtitle, Square Enix can call anything it wants "Final Fantasy" or "Dragon Quest" and it'll be pretty much guaranteed to sell better than if it wasn't named as such. Kind of sad, really.

I think I am going to pick up Odin Sphere next. The reviews for it are quite positive.

Matt

Indeed. I haven't heard much bad about it at all, really. I think it would be a safe bet for some good gaming, if you're looking for something new to play with.

DQ Remakes: I am not that interested in remakes because I played through to the end all the NES dragon quests.

I beat DQ1 multiple times on the NES. I beat it again on GBA color. I have no idea why I played through this game so many times because it is a terrible game by today's standards. The music is terrible and the gameplay boring and repetitive. This is why it was released along with DQ2 in a GBA Color multi-pak - because no one would buy it if it was just DQ1. Also probably because the game source code is tiny and it didn't take them long to port it.

Matt

Aw, how can you put poor old Dragon Quest I down? It's kind of like insulting a little old man. Yeah, everybody knows that they are annoying and boring, but you never actually come out and SAY so.

It'd be fun, I think, to have a remake of the original except with a fantastic presentation and several layers of added features. I can dream forever, and I know it won't happen, but I think it would be fun.

I finished both DQ2 and DQ3 on the Game Boy Color. These games were more interesting than the first because you have multiple enemies per battle and multiple party members which makes games much more interesting.

Matt

Indeed, they're a nice step up. Of course, when I talk about DQ remakes, these aren't the games I'm talking about: The ones I want to see are Dragon Quests IV through VI, because a) IV is my favourite; b) V has never been released in North America; c) VI has never been released in North America, and d) through m) they're DRAGON QUEST games, and I'm absolutely bound to love them.

I finished DQ4 on a NES emulator. As you have said before in this column, it is the best of the NES bunch when it comes to RPGs. I would most like to see Dragon Quest 6 "Remade" - It was never released in the US. It is a pretty long adventure, has a huge world and interesting story, on the level with Final Fantasy 6 (Fanboys notwithstanding). I played a ROM of Dragon Quest 5 and didn't like it very much for some reason. It seems to me too much like the NES versions (That's not a terrible thing but...).

Matt

Enh, I'd debate that the story isn't nearly what FFVI's is. However, the world of DQVI is far and away the most sprawling of the series. It's insane. Anybody who likes the feeling of exploring a big vast open world would be in wonderful heaven. Once you get the boat and the world is your own to search and discover? There's just nothing like it.

Suggestions for the site: More columns! One column per weekend is fine, but I think you guys (The RPGamer Q&A Staff) "Miss" too many columns. Some of my favorite columns are the letter request ones. - Google search for "Creemore Springs" site:www.rpgamer.com and you will see one of the funniest columns ever written on this site. If there are not enough letters then please post a request for letters column so I know to send you a letter.

Matt

Hahaha... the problem is that I don't think I've ever been sapped for letters to the point where I don't have any. I hope I never come to that day either!

As for having more columns? I try to get columns up as regularly as possible, but I have to remind you that it takes a few hours to write this thing every day! Q&A is very much a part-time job (unpaid, mmmyes) for me, and it can be difficult not to miss a day now and then; not when you have a partner, a family, and friends that want to spend time with you, as well as a class to teach!

All of this, and then we have to remember that I need to stay on top of the gaming too! I wouldn't be much of a Q&A host if I wasn't able to play the games I talk about, yes?

Andrew misses all the time on the weekends, for reasons beyond my personal control. Bug him about it, and make him feel 10% guilty. ^^

There seems to be a real disconnect between "Professional" reviewers and RPG fans on Etrian Odyssey. The former don't like it; the latter do. I read the GameInformer review. A quick, one-sentence summary of that review: The game is about mapping a dungeon and I didn't like mapping the dungeon. Apparently RPG fans enjoy mapping dungeons?

Matt

Yeah... this is the sort of attitude I've come to expect from some of the big sites. They really cater to the "mainstream" gamers that like playing NBA TWOKSEVEN YO, and any game with a traditional-RPG backdrop is immediately shoved on their "no higher than an 8 out of 10" list and reviewed in a way that would make FOX News seem unbiased.

On to not-so-hot topics...
What is with the large number of games being declared RPGs these days? GrimGrimoire is a "Fantasy RTS." I think it might be the first of its kind but that is a side point. Let's compare StarCraft (PC, Sci-Fi RTS) with GrimGrimoire and begin with the only difference: The setting. This is really the only difference. Now the long list of similarities: Start w/ a limited number of units - Check. Units available to player increases slowly throughout the "Campaign" - Check. Voiced cut scenes between missions with animated portraits - Check. RTS gameplay mechanics (Gather resources, build structures, build units, destroy enemy) - Check. "Tank Rushes" - Check. All of these are present in both games. The Starcraft mechanics are slightly different - There is a slightly higher number of units in Starcraft and a greatly higher number of structures. The gameplay mechanics are slightly different - S/C has 2 resources whereas G/G has only one. In S/C, the buildable units depend on the race you are playing; In G/G buildable units depend only on how far along in the story you are. Level design in StarCraft is a complicated NSEW High/Medium/Low system while the G/G system is a simpler Up/Down/Left/Right system. These are cosmetic differences, not fundamental ones. After that long tirade, I ask you this: What makes GrimGrimoire an RPG? Is a fantasy setting alone enough to make a game an RPG? Don't get me wrong - I love RTSes and this one looks like it could be fun.

Matt

It's really hard to say, not having played the game, but I know that the RTS genre does bleed into the RPG genre quite naturally. It's thus pretty difficult to draw the line. I think that it's a little bit popular now to say that games "have RPG elements" though, and so by that point, you're just one step away from calling such a game "an RPG." Who knows... maybe by 2036 we'll be calling everything an RPG, and we'll go to our local (levitating) RPG storepods.

In other news, my first Nostradamus/Rush Limbaugh prediction finally came true! In a previous column I said (among other things) the future of the F/F franchise was to give the remainder of the F/Fs the DS treatment and I was right! Now FF4 is getting the 3-D treatment.

Thanks,
Flamethrower

Matt

Yeah, sadly. I mean, I'm happy about it. But really, I'd be so much happier if they had announced something else. I mean, the screens look cool and I'll be sure to get it when it finally comes out, but I'll hate myself every step of the way. Why? Because damn, they just re-re-remade the game a year and a half ago!

Anyway, it's good to hear from you again, Flamethrower!



Mmmm... BBQ smell from outside. Open windows ftw.


Matt!

Greetings! I understand your dualistic dilemma of being an instructor and gamer simultaneously. I'm sort of in the same boat as yourself, trying to finish up my masters, write a thesis, teach a class and keep up on my gaming all at once. Recently though, I've had some help with the latter one, which ironically enough leads to the source of a multitude of other problems. Sometime around the middle of January, my apartment was burglarized and amongst other things, I lost my PS2 and pretty much every PS1 and PS2 game I've ever owned and worst of all, my memory cards. Insurance money came, and I restocked my shelves with old favorites and some new ones, but nothing can replace the hours lost! Now I have over 30 current generation RPGs that I'm trying to start or re-start right in the prime time for summer field research.. How would you react to a situation such as that as both a gamer and an academic?

Matt

Greetings yourself!

To answer your question, I think I would bawl my eyes out. Seriously, I don't know what I do. I have invested so much time in this hobby over the past twenty years that losing all of it would be a tragedy beyond any comparison. I'd probably curl up in the corner staring catatonically at the space where my PS2 used to be, rocking back and forth while hugging my legs.

How scary. I really hope this never happens to me.

Luckily since I'm sort of neurotic about keeping my games in pristine condition, I back them up on my hard drive (well the PS1 ones anyhow). I know there are a ton of laws regarding emulation, and I've never believed in stealing games as I like to support the relatively small RPG industry, but considering the topic of one of your previous letters about the classics on console vs. the convenience of portability, how do you feel about playing games that you have personally backed up on something portable, like a laptop?

Matt

Eh, I've played with and danced around this subject in the past on a few occasions. Ultimately, I don't have anything personally against the idea, but I can't exactly endorse it. My general feeling now is "Do what you like, but if guys with dark glasses show up at your door and take you away forevermore, don't blame me."

Hopefully I'm not committing some sort of horrible faux pas but considering I spend a lot of time in the lab rather than home, its awful nice to throw on some Xenogears while waiting for an experiment to finish. In fact, currently I'm replaying my old copy of Breath of Fire III. Generic plot aside, it can be incredibly fun once you get into it, but then again I guess that's just my opinion. Speaking of finishing games, do you find it difficult to finish RPGs of certain genres? For myself, many of the plot-oriented games just seem to fly by for me, however games that focus more on graphical prowess or gameplay/action I will often rapidly become bored with..

Matt

First of all, you're talking to a guy who takes his DS with him whenever he holds office hours. No, I'm totally not kidding.

Secondly, I think that for me, I'm a bit of a horse of a different colour than you. See, I feel that a great story is nice and all, but it's the great gameplay that keeps me truly interested in a game and coming back for more. That's why I had difficulties getting through Xenogears (I still haven't)... the story sounded cool and all, and I still WANT to experience the game, but it was just too slow for me.

Graphics, well, I couldn't really care less. That gameplay, though, she's golden.

Odin sphere, huh? That's a game I've been tracking ever since I heard the announcement. It makes me jealous to hear everyone saying how great it is, and I know I have virtually no time to play it. Do you think it's worth buying considering that most NIS games seem to be fairly limited print? Maybe someday I'll get around to cutting down the backlog enough not to feel guilty buying new games. Is guilt something you feel for buying new when there is plenty of old still to play? It makes me feel like such a consumer...

Matt

NIS? Not this one, my friend.

Regardless, though, I still think that if you plan on buying it, it'd be a good idea to do so sooner than later. You never know when the PS3 might start catching some fire. But IF it does, game stores will be peeling away their PS2 sections before you know it. I don't really think there's much danger in that happening, though... you should be fine if you wait a little while.

Do I feel guilt when I buy games that I don't need? Not really. I might have, back when money was a little bit tighter, thanks to good ol' dad's pennypinching genes. Now, though, I know that gaming is really the only thing I spend much money on. I don't buy DVDs or CDs, I rarely buy new clothes or go to the movies, and I seldom hit the bars for a drunken night on the town like I did when I was a young little 19-year-old. Spending some money on an extra game here or there? Nah, it doesn't make me feel guilty.

I think in the archive I read that you listen to videogame OSTs on your mp3 player. I recently imported a bunch of Shin Megami Tensei soundtracks, including the one for the new Persona game. Considering the musical selection for games such as the Avatar Tuner series, the new Persona music is so mellow! I miss the heavy guitar of battles that get your adrenaline pumping for every fight. Do you ever find yourself becoming overly effusive in gaming moments due to choice musical accompaniment? Remember the infamous Aeris scene at the end of disc two of FFVII? Replay that without sound... It didn't hit me the same at all. And I digress... How full (%-wise) is your mp3 player of choice with game music and what is your favorite soundtrack?

Matt

Wow, lots of questions! Now, let's see...

Firstly, I cannot play a game without having the music on. I just can't. If somebody yells at me to turn it down or mute it, I tend to get really pissed off and stomp away after turning off my game. It doesn't matter how crappy the music is; I just feel that it's AS much a part of the game as the graphics are, and without sound, you're missing part of the package.

My MP3 player (which, I might add, is not an iPod of any variety) currently has roughly 75% video game music on it. My favourite soundtrack is difficult to pin down, but I sure do like my Breath of Fire V. The music is so rich and wonderfully dramatic... it helped to make the game as great as it was, in my opinion. Even people who hated BoFV have acknowledged the fact that the music is just bang-on-great.

I apologize for not following the topics concisely, but I figured that I've been reading the Q&A since 2001 and have never written in, and chances are this may be the only time, so I decided to only ask questions that I've had time to ponder rather than just fire off. Take care, and go for that PhD. A 30K pay raise for only 3-4 more years? Worth it!

Cheers,

'Darsk

Matt

Hey, nothing's stopping you from writing again, 'Darsk! You can write about whatever you like- that Hot Topics guide is just there as a helpful nudge. I appreciate your letter much, and while I doubt my PhD will get me that chunk of change more, I'll do it anyway, because I really don't have the last clue what I'd do with my life if I didn't.

Until next time!



Clarification!!


Hello Matt,

I feel I need to clarify something that was said "In Closing" yesterday. I never said that great RPGs could or have never appear(ed) on a handheld system. Off the top of my head I can think of several good handheld exclusive RPGs, such as Golden Sun, Riviera, Yggdra Union, etc... Yet as good as these games are, none of them come close to my personal favorite console RPG (DQVIII).

The point of the question I was trying to ask wasn't whether or not a great handheld RPG has been or ever would be made, but instead, if there is (or ever would be) a handheld exclusive RPG which could be your favorite of all time. It is simply an opinion question. It seems that the last sentence in my letter had changed the meaning of the primary thought, which was not my intention.

However, I think you brought up an interesting point about games like DQIX being made exclusively for a handheld. One of the reasons I said that "I don't think such a thing is possible" (i.e. a handheld RPG matching the depth of a console game) is because I believe that in the past (maybe not so much today), most companies have treated creating RPGs for handheld platforms as, well, making a game for a handheld. Meaning that I don't really think any of them have gone into that process with the expectation that a portable game would be able to compete on the same level as their major console releases in terms of popularity, sales, or critical and fan acclaim (I'll make an exception for Pokemon).

Recently though, companies like Atlus have been bringing us more handheld games than console games, and they have been pretty good too. With SE making DQIX a handheld exclusive (which I'll admit is a pretty major thing to do), I also think there might be a changing of attitudes as you implied. That said, my opinion stands that I do not think any future handheld RPG will be better than the best of their console counterparts, if for the simple fact that no matter how great the game is, it will probably still feel restricted by the hardware somehow. This is just my current opinion though, and so I welcome the future and the possibility of being proven wrong.

-thinkfreemind (Currently playing my fifth handheld RPG in a row.)

Matt

OK, fair enough. My apologies for misunderstanding!

In turn, now: I have to say that I agree with you. To this point, there have been many decent RPGs for handheld systems, and among my favourites are the two English-translated Fire Emblem games and, of course, the Pokémon series. Golden Sun was good too, but it wasn't really "great" to me. Indeed, overall, the games that I truly would call my favourites have all appeared on consoles.

I still have a bit of an issue with the hardware-limitations argument, because my favourite "great games" have all been for systems that are far less powerful than today's handhelds. However, I think you might be right about the attitudes developers have taken in making new games. I do, however, think that those are changing. Over 60 million current-generation handhelds are in the hands of gamers worldwide. That's a number that I'll bet the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 combined will take a long long time to reach. Thus, I think that it's a healthy idea for those attitudes to shift. With lower development costs and a higher potential userbase, there's no good reason that a game like Dragon Quest IX, for example, couldn't be a massive success. It won't have as many polygons per square millimetre, but processing power does not a great RPG make.

I appreciate your letter o' clarification, Thinkfreemind. Write again soon!



QUICKIES

Hey Matt,

This site shows a HANDHELD PS2 built from a Console PS2. The link is http://www.briangardiner.com/, and no, I'm not plugging the site either. Just what's your opinion on it?
BLG

Matt
Well, I don't see why not! Really and truthfully, the Slim PS2 is almost small enough to be a handheld as it is. Really, it's less bulky than the original Game Boy ever was. I'd take one, please.

Hey Matt:

You ever see the word "pshaw?" Well, I'm going to use it now in reference to the very concept that handheld RPGs must be less epic or what have you. Pshaw, sirrah. Pshaw.

Jeffrey

Matt
Jeff, I know you best for your playing of Puzzle Quest and Etrian Odyssey (which is apparently awesome, can't wait to jump in myself). I'm somehow not surprised that you feel this way. But, I'll pshaw right alongside you... with Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Dragon Quest IX, and hell, the new Zelda game, based on those screens, I think that there's plenty of "portable epic" on the way.

IN CLOSING

Lazy days must come to a lazy end, and that's where we stand right now. Thanks to everybody for writing in, and I'll be back tomorrow, unless I melt into the floorboards due to excessive heat, never to be re-integrated into my original form.

Bye, all!



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On my Wishlist:

1. Dragon Quest IX

2. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

4. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker

5. Metroid Prime 3



On my Portable Playlist:

1. Pokémon Diamond

2. Lunar Knights

3. Mega Man ZX



On my Console Roster:

1. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess/Super Paper Mario

2. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

3. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance



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2. Dragon Quest remakes (possibly)?!? What are your thoughts?

3. Are handheld RPGs inherently limited in their potential for greatness?

4. What is it about an RPG that keeps you coming back for more? Graphics? Story? Gameplay?

5. Don't you hate it when you're addicted to buying games you can't play?



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