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Soft Serve July 19, 2006

Matthew Demers - 19:54 EST

TODAY, I WAS BOOKED SUPER-SOLID! I walked almost ten kilometres earlier this afternoon, too. First, I went to campus to meet with my professor to talk about my "progress" (yes, in quotes) and then I met my friend Brett downtown for lunch at the charming Angel's Diner, where I had a delicious bacon cheeseburger and french fries. From there, I walked halfway back to meet another friend, Tyler, who I had a conversation with for a couple of hours under the shade of a tree in one of this city's numerous parks. It was a most pleasant afternoon, and a perfect day for the pleasantries to occur!

But, I'm back now, and I'm ready to go! Hopefully this column won't be as long-winded as, say, yesterday's was.

Sony's secret, sinister sneakiness strikes!


In July 18's column, a writer briefly mentioned that a Blu-Ray DVD player will retail for $999 US. The writer then stated that it would be "more cost effective to just buy the fricken PS3." It was at approximately that point that I was hit by an epiphany the size of a freight train: Sony is using the PS3 as a weapon to push a Blu-Ray standard.

It's no secret that the next-gen DVD format wars are a major concern to the entertainment industry (as well as the computer industry). Whoever controls the standard has a huge advantage. Sony has already lost many, many format wars, and likely doesn't want to lose this one, as well. Fortunately for Sony, they seem to have more backers than HD DVD at this point in time. Sony has many supporters, including EA Games, Vivendi Universal, and The Walt Disney Company. In fact, the amount of support (from hollywood in particular) for Blu-Ray is, at least on paper, much more substantial than HD DVD support.

So here's the kicker: Sony has gone and set themselves up a nice one-two punch to push a Blu-ray standard. If all the movie studios standing behind Blu-Ray release their films on Blu-Ray, then what kind of DVD player are people going to need to buy? That's correct, a Blu-Ray player (except for that guy who said "laserdisc." You know who you are). And when people see that the PS3 can play Blu-Ray DVDs, in addition to being cheaper, why not just buy a PS3? Even people who don't play games will likely be tempted to buy a PS3, which could lead to them eventually playing games, meaning more customers for Sony. In addition, gamers who are considering an Xbox 360 or Wii purchase may decide on the PS3 instead, since it would be able to play Blu-Ray DVDs.

In essence, the PS3 is a high-cost console, but a dirt cheap Blu-Ray player. I think this is intentional, and that Sony's strategy is to use the PS3 to standardize Blu-Ray, and then use the Blu-Ray standard to sell PS3s. Sort of a mini feedback effect, if you will. Of course, I could be completely wrong, but it certainly seems suspicious from where I'm standing.


Very interesting theory. My question is... is it the wisest thing to market the Playstation 3 as the most affordable next-generation media player? My feeling is that no matter what, the average person is going to see the name "Playstation" and immediately think that Blu-Ray is nothing more than some newfangled gaming-centric format. People that aren't into video games but might be movie buffs might never consider buying a PS3 as their next media-playing device, just because they see it as, primarily, a system for gaming. I know this, because I could name many personal friends of mine who would very probably think that way.

The same sort of thing has happened with the Universal Media Discs that were supposed to be a big new format as well: They just haven't caught on and I don't think they will. Why? Because for the average person looking for a portable movie player, they would see "Playstation" in the name and come to the conclusion that it's "just something like a Game Boy". Thus, the only people that bought UMDs were the people were both gamers AND movie buffs.

Thus, I'm not so sure that Sony's strategy will work. As it stands, I'd guess that less than 10% of the population has even heard of this weird "Blu-Ray" business as of yet, so I highly doubt that players will be must-have items for some time yet, and even then, only if they do successfully become established as the next generation of media storage.

[Also, ...]

What's your opinion about the current way game progression is handled in the current wave of RPGs? Nowadays, every game uses a point-n'-click system of navigating. You choose an area that the game will allow you to travel to and poof! You're there! I can't possibly be the only person who absolutely hates this.

Now, I never thought I'd be the one to do this, but I'm actually going to use FFVII as a refernce here. Remember when you got full control over the airship? Or when you got the advanced chocobos? There were tons of hidden, completely optional areas to find! There was even a fully optional town. How many games have exploration like this nowadays?

In FFX, you're given a simple pull-down menu that basically lists where you get to go. There are a few "hidden areas," but they're all just a screen with a chest that you find by randomly clicking points on the map. Pretty much the same story for other modern RPGs (with a few exceptions, of course). It's not nearly as fun.

Even in games where there WERN'T any secret areas on the world map, is was STILL more fun to hike there than it is to click a menu option and magically appear there.

I want my world maps back!



You're not the only person that likes a good, big, detailed overworld filled with fun things to find, DDX! Not at all. I guess now I'm pretty neutral on the subject, but when I first played Final Fantasy X, I was dismayed when I learned that THAT was how the airship worked.

On the other side of the same coin, that's definitely one of the reasons that Dragon Quest VIII attracted me so much. Sure, I'm a longtime fan of the series and all, but I've mentioned it many times before right here in Q&A: Part of me loves the exploration part of an RPG. I love hunting down new towns after being told vaguely where they are, and trekking through the geography of these incredible, unique, yet fictional worlds helps to "immerse" me more deeply, I think.

So, I'm with you. Let's hope together that our overworlds don't disappear entirely in favour of something else.

Time to take some action!

Hi Matt

What is your take on action-rpg’s. I am playing a rather old one called Dungeon Siege 2 and while it is really point and clicky it does have a decent story, lots of upgrade choices and some serious difficulty. It is the only game that I have run into recently where dying, a lot, is common. I miss the older games with their sometimes horrendous difficulty. This is one place where I have found it again.

Ps. Where is that FFIII video available?



(real guesses)

260 a)

261 c)

Angus Creighton


Ah, Action RPGs have always been hit or miss with me. Don't get me wrong; I really really love the classic ones, like Crystalis and Secret of Mana. Star Ocean games have some action elements in them, and while I enjoyed the Second Story, Till the End of Time just didn't do it for me. I being in control of all of my characters, not that I'm a control freak, but more because... wait, maybe I am a control freak after all. Because really, that's one of the bothersome things about Radiata Stories to me, too. I want to have the option of controlling other people if I choose to, but I can't. In Final Fantasy XII, my major worry is that even though there are customizable "gambits" in play, controlling allies might not come as naturally as in previous FF games, thanks to the action-oriented battle system.

To answer your other question, type "Final Fantasy III video" into Google right now, and the first link is a Youtube video sequence. Check it out!


Hey there, Matt

I have an interesting question today. Has anyone ever played through games like Xenogears, and never saved? Like, they would try to get as far as they can in the game without dying or saving, and keep the console on pause or something while they sleep? I was contemplating Xenogears, and how during a scene they reveal that your characters are being monitored through the save points. So what would happen if one doesn't save at any point in the game? Would the dialogue in that scene be the same, or would it play out differently?



Well, I'd assume that very few people have ever tried before, but I can't imagine that they'd say anything different... though it would be the ultimate in cool if the scene was changed slightly. I love it when RPG constructions actually get incorporated into the storyline; for instance, the incidents resulting from Kuja's "Trance" mode in the plot of Final Fantasy IX made me goose-bumpy with delight. There are many other examples that I could probably think of if I put some effort into it, too.

Thanks, CW! (What does CW stand for, anyway?)


how do we buy the final fantasy 7 action figures at the front of the website?


With a credit card, perhaps? No, I'm serious.

I dunno, click on whatever the banner is and float to wherever it takes you. I've never bought one myself, but it can't be too difficult, or else they wouldn't have them up for sale!

Suikoden Answers, Part I

Hey Matt

I am a veritable expert on Suikoden! Ask me anything about it and chances are that I will know the answer. As I don't want to spoil anything, I'll be a little cryptic in my answers about what you get when you gather all 108 Stars of Destiny. In the first one, Leknaat revives somebody, plus you get the best ending. In the second one, Leknaat un-seals the fourth level spell for the main character, plus the CHANCE to get the best ending. Thats right, you have to work to get the best ending, instead of getting it handed to you like in the first one, although you still need to work in order to get it. In the fourth one, the main character gets to live. Don't know about the fifth one, as I haven't gotten all of the Stars yet, seeing as I'm immersed in the plethora of mini-games in it, not to mention it's an awesome game.

Dwarf hamsters are silly little buggers!



Excellent! And thanks for your knowledge! No matter what anyone might think, it's impossible to know absolutely everything around here. I do my best. One day, though, I hope that Suikoden and I get to know each other a little better.

Suikoden Answers, Part II. BigWook, are you reading?

REALLY, Matt. Suikoden is the gayest RPG series in existence; it deserves attention just on those grounds.



I guess I've always kinda thought that Shadow Hearts had a gay kind of aura about it, but what do I know? I quit after playing ten hours of the original. I guess I've never really sat down and thought long and hard about it before, to be honest. I guess, though, with that knowledge, all I need now is a pair of too-tight jeans and a shoulder bag, and I'll be all set strut with pride. :P

To answer the question, for getting 108 stars:

*Suikoden had a slightly better ending. (And I mean SLIGHTLY.)
*Suikoden II opened up the best of its four endings.
*Suikoden IV: see Suikoden.
*Suikoden V opened up the best two of its dozen or so endings.

Suikoden III was the only one to reward the player with an entire final chapter to the game, a stroke of brilliance.

And to make another comment about the same letter, which I would have otherwise ignored, my initials are MAB. I was named after various relatives, but somehow my initials ended up spelling out the name of the Queen of the Faeries. My parents would probably have regretted it had they ever noticed.



Hahaha, wonderful! The only reason that I know who Mab is, is because I really... wait, maybe this would make a good SOCK question for tomorrow. Yeah, maybe I'll hold onto this thought for soonish, instead. Mwa, ha, ha...

Initialwise, I'm MRD the nerd, but I got over it a long time ago. *sigh*

Thanks for the answers, Mike! May your evening be fabulous!

I'm not the only Maple-user out there!!

Maple really isn't that bad. It could be a lot worse. Maple works much better as a math programming language (especially with it's gui) than, say. Fortran.


Ha! I thought someone out there would have at least a little bit of Maple experience besides myself!

And indeed, I am a bit melodramatic whenever I complain about Maple. Sure, it's very, very powerful, and definitely easier to use than many alternative routes, but I just can't stand the fanagling around to find the right tags names, function-calling formats, and whatnot. I also find that the help menu is quite unhelpful, though it has improved somewhat in recent versions.

Final Fantasy III, The only Final Fantasy I haven't played. Even though I can't say I've enjoyed every Final Fantasy I've ever played, there is something to be said for completeness. It is my most anticipated Final Fantasy for the year.


And mine. And so many others', too. As an old-school RPG fan, word of this game alone gave me reason to invest in a DS one year ago. Now, the time of truth is almost here!

So far the only other GAME I'm looking forward to other than Final Fantasy III is Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner. An action RPG set in 1920's japan.

With College being so frustrating (hence the fortran), I really only have time for a few games a year.



Hey, believe me: I feel your pain. I worked in Fortran three summers ago on a project involving finding corners of thirteen-dimensional polytopes, for a professor who resembles Rick Moranis in a nearly disturbing way.

Thanks for writing in! I'm afraid that Devil Summoner might get lost in the shuffle with all of the other high-profile releases going on, not to mention the two major console debuts. But Shin Megami Tensei fans should keep vigil over announcements nonetheless... I know my brother is excited for that game, too.


Phew. I think that I got a rather significant burn outside today in during all of my errands about the city, on top of my already-in-place tan. My skin feels warmer and drier than normal. And no, Palom isn't going crazy with "Stone" spells somewhere nearby.


***Answers to July 18th's Questions***

#260. d) The arrival at such a pathetically low level relative to the rest of the force - 375 points/750 for JuMeSyn (Yes, the question was a little bit vague, but most of you got it. The question didn't refer to Disgaea or related games, as a couple of you thought; I don't think that the Prinnies are ever referred to specifically as penguins in-game, are they? Nevertheless, the game in question was Shining Force III. If you have a problem with that, take it up with JuMeSyn!!)

#261. b) Green - 420 points (While the pyramid around Kefka fades through ALL of those possible options at some point during his ending spiel, it is unquestionably green while everyone in your party says their bit. Good job, to everyone that got this one correct!)

***Today's New Questions***

Reader-Submitted #262: Other than the introductory sequence in which all characters appear, which player character from FFVII was the last to physically appear in Final Fantasy: Advent Children? (375 points)

a) Cait Sith
b) Red XIII
c) Yuffie
d) Barret
e) Cid

#263: How many possible menu screen backgrounds are there in Final Fantasy VII? (450 points)

a) 16,777,216
b) 66,325,500
c) 67,108,864
d) 75,593,101,654,204,447,168,212,890,625
e) 79,228,162,514,264,337,593,543,950,336

STRAGGLERS: (people who I love, but who still need to check their e-mail or somehow get in touch with me because they have unclaimed items- if you fall off the list after a week, it's TOO LATE FOR YOU! Check your spam/trash folders for my messages if you're not getting them, and I'll check mine, too!)
  • none to speak of!

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*You may obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!*

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5,000 points: Your choice of Ultra Sneak Glove (2 left) or Haste Spell (1 left)
7,000 points: Your choice of Firaga Spell (1 left) or Demi Spell (1 left)
10,000 points: Your choice of Item Destroyer (1 left) or Warp Stone (1 left)
14,000 points: Your choice of Magic Pearl (2 left) or Killer Sword (2 left)
19,000 points: Your choice of Rename Card (1 left) or Vanish Spell (1 left)
25,000 points: Your choice of Demiga Spell (2 left) or Nightmare Staff (2 left)

SOCK's Prize Shop

*You may SPEND points here in order to obtain any of the following prizes- new ones may appear at any time*

2,000 points: Matt's Mom's Cookie Compilation- 6 fantastic recipes right out of Matt's mom's amazing kitchen! Yours, upon request. (3 left)

4,000 points: Intro Paragraph Cameo- If you feel like having a piece of Q&A all to yourself for a day, but you're not up for answering a bunch of questions, this option might be just for you! Say the word, and the Intro Paragraph is yours to do whatever you want with for a day. (5 left)

15,000 points: Nintendo Wii Canvas Carrying Bag- It's simple and white, with blue print, and two drawstrings; I picked this up while waiting in the nigh-infinitely long line to play Nintendo's new console at E3 2006. If you'd like it, I'll mail it to you free of charge! [Pictured] (1 left)

15,000 points: Pokémon 10th Anniversary game case- Not as special as it sounds, but useful for carrying up to 4 DS games or 2 DS games and 2 Game Boy Advance games. [Pictured] [Inside, Pictured] (1 left)

15,000 points: Bonus Cohost Opportunity- I like giving these out because I don't have to pay for shipping. (1 left)

20,000 points: Cohost Opportunity #4- It might sound like a lot, but it'll be here before you know it. Your next chance to reign over Q&A with yours truly. (5 left)

22,000 points: Slime Keychain Danglers- Fresh from the Square Enix booth at E3 2006, this cute little guy can be yours. Not really a keychain as much as it is something to put ON a keychain, but better used as a figurine, I think. [Slime, Pictured] [Slime Snail, Pictured] (2 left)

25,000 points: Full Host Opportunity #1- This is it. Write your own Q&A section, without having me interrupt, break in, or steal your sunshine. Be RPGamer's new idol for a day! (1 left)

30,000 points: Nintendo DS Lite Carrying Case- This won't quite fit old-model DS handhelds, but it's lightweight and flashy. White and black with an extra zippered pocket for carrying games, and a hook to attach to clothes, backpacks, or whatnot. I received this at Nintendo's Pre-E3 Media Briefing. [Front, Pictured] [Back, Pictured] (2 left)

30,000 points: Your choice of Megaman X4, X5, or X6 for the PSX (NTSC). The instructions are in each, but the jewel cases are cracked from use. (3 left)

50,000 points: Vandal Hearts (PAL) for the PSX. One of the earliest tactical RPGs of the Playstation era. Latch onto this if you're a PAL gamer and you have enough points! Thanks to Sean for the donation. (1 left)

50,000 points: Final Fantasy VII (PAL) for the PSX. If you're a PAL gamer who still hasn't experienced the greatness of this game, this is your perfect chance! This is another donation by Sean! (1 left)

50,000 points: Suikoden for the PSX. Play the game that started off the entire series! Thanks so much to Ouro and Sean for donating these - it would be cool to send them to a good and loving home. (1 left in NTSC-format, 1 left in PAL-format!)

100,000 points: Arc the Lad Collection (NTSC), for the PSX. Donated by Sean, so thank him! This collection contains four RPGs from an often-overlooked series. If you can get to 100,000 first, you can call this your own. (1 left) *********************************************************

Phew! I'm beat. More tomorrow, I promise. Come back, y'hear? (What game is that from...?)
***One of Matt's Aunt's initials are "MEB", but not MAB...

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She goes by her middle name, though, because she finds her given name so detestable. "Marguerite"? What do you think?


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