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ASK MATT
Unitara August 8, 2006

Matt Demers - 18:18 EST

THAT WENT BY QUICKLY. Here I am, sitting back in my familiar chair, in my familiar bedroom, in this familiar city after getting back from a fantastic trip. Montréal was a lot of fun; we had a lot of fun shopping, eating, going out, and uh, not drinking. This picture is a pretty good sum-up of how the trip went. Yes, that's me being vampired by my friend Dave. Luckily, the bite marks have faded since then!

This week will be a fun one, since I won't be around to entertain you at all next week! We may have a co-host floating into the scene, and the intro paragraph is being kidnapped by CW one of these days as well. Of course, the answers and questions will, as always, continue to make up the meat of the columns. Speaking of which, let's get to today's right now!




LETTERS
Only three weeks to go!


Hello, Matt! I've recently rediscovered rpgamer.com (is it just me or are the images under the 'features' section broken?) and have taken to reading your Q&A. It's interesting seeing the different opinions people hold on the many aspects of RPGs and I find myself agreeing with you more often than not.

Matt

Ever hear of the concept "absolute truth"? It should be defined as "The Word of Matt".

Of course, I'm only kidding. There are plenty of opinions out there, but this is a great chance for me to get out points of view that I strongly believe in. The neat part is that it's often readers like you that help me to establish those opinions; great letters give me subjects to ponder over. I really appreciate the opportunity!

I saw that one of your favorite games is Xenosaga and I wanted to ask you what you thought about Xenosaga II (forgive me if you discussed it in another Q&A). I wanted to ask your opinion on that game. Several friends and I have been long time fans of Xenogears and of the first entry in the Xenosaga series. However, once Xenosaga II came out, we found ourselves immensely disappointed with the gameplay and, more importantly, the story. It felt as if the developers had decided to cut down on the cutscenes and in doing so cut out many important plot points. Characters and major plot points seemed to be introduced suddenly with little or no backstory (like the Patriarch and the Immigrant Fleet) and the loose end involving Feb, Cecily, and Cathe seemed to be tied up quite unsatisfactorily (which was confirmed by Soraya Saga's FAQ describing what plot elements had been removed and rewritten for Xenosaga II). Then there were a million little things that counted against the game as well. I found the gameplay to be quite frustrating; it felt like each battle was a puzzle minigame. I also thought the new character designs and many of the new voice actors were terrible. I was fond of Lia Sargent's timid but strong-willed Shion while the new voice actor sounded quite.... unremarkable. KOS-MOS seemed to lose her metallic coldness. And, of course, the biggest complaint: no money or shops? Everyone shares the same skill pool? Are you kidding me?

Although, in defiance of nearly every rpgamer in existence, I preferred Yuki Kajiura's songs (which, sadly, were only used in cutscenes and not for the rest of the game... Miltia's theme made my ears bleed) to Yasunori Mitsuda's, of which only a couple songs really stood out (the final boss theme, for instance).

Given Xenosaga's cancellation at Episode III, it only seems to me that instead of broadening their fanbase, the changes they made in Xenosaga II only angered the one they already had. The closure of www.zenosaga.com, a huge Xeno fansite, in protest of Episode II comes to mind.

All of these shortcomings eventually turned me off of Xenosaga II before I even finished it (I believe I quit playing during the last or second to last dungeon) and turned me off of the Xenosaga franchise in general. It was to my surprise that Episode III was to be released this month. Skeptical, I did a little research, and found mention that Xenosaga III goes back to its roots in Xenosaga I in gameplay and promises to even address plot points that were originally removed from Xenosaga II including a few found in Soraya Saga's FAQ. My faith is temporarily restored and I am somewhat optimistic.. Maybe it's time I went back and finally beat Xenosaga episode II even if for no other reason than to be able to play III.

I wanted to ask whether you were also disappointed with Xenosaga episode II? If you did enjoy Episode II, what did you enjoy about it? Do you think us disappointed Xeno fans should give Episode III a shot?

Matt

I started to make a response earlier on, but I thought I'd do my whole mini-review all at once! Get ready, get set... this is my take on Xenosaga's second offering:

Episode II was a mixed bag for me. Despite the widespread criticism it has received, I don't think by any means that the game was a total write-off. The battle system was faster and more streamlined, but suffered from becoming oversimplified and too repetitive. There were too many features that ended up being completely useless. For example, why go to all the trouble of using a Double skill that does as much damage as a normal attack? The E.S. battles, however, were much nicer than the E.S. "summoning" feature of the original, which was extremely pointless. The skill system in Episode II was my biggest disappointment in terms of gameplay. How much sense does it make for KOS-MOS of legendary power to share the same skill set as Jin, katana-wielder extraordinaire? Very little, that's how much. The complexity of the skill system in Xenosaga: Episode I is one of the things that drew me to the series in the first place, and seeing it disappear was more than a little disappointing.

The storyline of the first one mystified me enough that the mysteries of the second one didn't really change the pace for me all too much; as long as they can tie up all of the loose ends by the end of Episode III, I'll be happy, plotwise. (They have a lot of work to do though!) I was unhappy with the extreme style change from I to II, since I liked the more distorted look of the characters in Episode I; however, from the trailers I've seen, it looks like III will be making a trip halfway back, stylewise! Shion even wears GLASSES from time to time! I'm so excited. Musically, I actually really enjoyed 90% of the in-game music of Episode II, and the cutscene music was fine to me in both games, though less memorable, just because I tend to more easily remember (and grow fond of) repeated themes. Tracks like Old Miltia "Submerged City" and the "Subconscious Domain" ones were, as far as I'm concerned, vast improvements over the silence that graced most of the first game. The battle themes were exciting and fast-paced, and overall, I was impressed musically. The one sound-related issue I did have was in the voice acting. While a few changes were for the better (see chaos, who went from sounding silly to sounding tantalizingly mysterious), others were disappointing. Shion's wasn't terribly bad, but MOMO sounded like she de-aged a few years, and KOS-MOS lost the delightful mechanical edge that made her a joy to hear in the first episode. I've heard rumours, though, that the original Shion and KOS-MOS actors are returning for Episode III. Those are just rumours, of course.

So, my overall take? I had fun playing it, but it wasn't without its disappointments. From the way it sounds, though, and based on the interview I had with the representative at E3, the sequel looks to put together everything that was done right from the first and the second games. I really can't wait to get my hands on this title, and based on everything I've heard, I think that it might be well worth giving the series another chance, even if you were put off terribly by Episode II.

I'm just looking for a reason to be enthusiastic about my once-beloved Xeno franchise again.

Sorry for the long letter!
Ben

Matt

Don't be. Wait until you see the next one.

PS: I saw the mention in one of the letters about Xenosaga III's rating. I also wonder what they'd need to censor. Sexuality and extreme violence both seem out of character for the Xenosaga series (simply because I can't really imagine any scenes worse than KOS-MOS blasting crippled Realians on life support or Albedo ripping off his own limbs and tossing dead Realians around, neither of which warranted M ratings). I'm not TOO worried about the censorship anyway. The first game was censored in a couple small places (like where Albedo dug into MOMO) and I believe I read somewhere that the edited scenes replaced the original scenes in its re-release in Japan (although I'm not 100% sure on this). I get the impression that keeping the adjusted scene means the developer preferred it to the original.


Matt

Perhaps so. I'm not really too concerned, though North American censors have been a little over-sensitive in the past to certain things; they'll be a thorn in the side of RPGamers for years to come yet. I'd bet my bottom dollar on it!

Thanks for writing in, Ben!!



No... NOOOOO!!!


(The following is most effective if one pictures Bela Lugosi speaking it): I vish to partake of fascinating discussions vunce more, and to do so I must write again. So zis is vat I vill do. My own half-birthday vas vun month ago, and it means I am slightly more zan vun year older zan you are. But I am undead, it matters not how I age. Vhich is vhy I vant to suck your BLOOD!!!

(If you haven't seen the Bela Lugosi version of Dracula this is considerably less effective. So see it!)

Matt

You're about three days too late, I'm afraid. Did you check out the pic I linked to in the intro? I'm looking for some blood of my own at this point...

Kittens. They're so darn cute when they're sitting still. But what everyone apparently forgets is that they're not always sitting still. There are two of them in the house now, and they're very cute when they want to be. But then they turn into wild things that run about and attack everything in sight. Their claws at four months old are big enough to hurt, too. Crazy kittens! And the 13 year old other cat isn't taking to them very well. But she's been ornery for a long time except around me.

Matt

Yeah, I've endured my fair share of claw (and tooth) marks over the past years as well, with my sister's adorable cat Bernie. I really, really want my own, except that in this basement apartment, there just isn't enough room... not for the cat to run around, but for the poo-smell to be secluded enough. I don't want to smell feline fecal matter while I'm trying to cook a nice dinner!!

Okay, those failed links last time taught me an important lesson: hyperlinks made in Word and transferred to an email message don't keep. So I'll just trust that you can make brand-new hyperlinks for everyone to enjoy! And do remember, these will probably need a fair amount of time to properly investigate, so bookmarking may be in order.

Matt

You actually type your messages in Word? Ugh, I suppose you'd have to, what with their interminable length. It's too bad that along with Word's other annoying features, it doesn't come with one that underlines your letters in blue just because the stupid paperclip thinks they're too long.

First up: the remixes of music. Results are, well, mixed (Boo for bad puns). Nevertheless some of these are delicious takes on music we've all heard ad nauseum and can now hear again in a new way. http://www.ocremix.org/ Try listening to a couple of them while typing out responses, Matt!

Now we come to a repository of massive quantities of actual soundtrack music. The site encourages its spread, so here goes: http://gh.ffshrine.org/ Check carefully, even games only I seem to have played have their music on here.

While I'm tossing links around, here's another one.
http://nuklearpower.com/ I don't understand why no one seems to have brought up 8-bit Theater on RPGamer, although its humor is not for everyone. But as a way to characterize the formerly blank slates of Final Fantasy I it works pretty well. Assuming one can handle Black Mage being a murderous ball of evil who wants to get alone with White Mage, Thief stealing everything under the sun and billing the robbed for it, Red Mage being a cross-dressing D&D ueber-player, and Fighter being dimmer than Paris Hilton. Black Belt? Let's not mention him now. Not to even begin with King Steve....

Matt

Thanks for the links! In fact, 8-Bit Theater has been mentioned a few times in the past, the most recent being last week, almost immediately after you sent your letter, when Bainick submitted a SOCK question about it! How interesting...

Ready for more of the Dragon Force 2 name game? The confusion possible from not being able to attach a definitive name to persons is great! So then: "Creft" or "Cleft?" "Dario" or "Dalio?" "Rifa" or "Lifa?" "Ribby", "Rivy," "Livy," or "Libby?" "Frone" or "Flone?" "Meirin" or "Meilin"? "Kiri" or "Kili?" "Aria" or "Alia?" Feel free to adjust my spelling slightly, it's just a close approximation as it now stands.

Matt
  • Cleft, for sure... Creft just sounds SO "Engrish".
  • Dario. Definitely. Dalio just doesn't do it as much, and besides, I just created a character a few weeks ago for my newest RPG project named "Darius". So Dario.
  • Lifa. Rifa sounds idiotic.
  • Libby, or Livy. Libby if it's a physical-fighting-style character, and Livy if she's more magical. I don't really know why that is...
  • Frone or Flone? This one is tougher. Frone, if it's an old lady. Flone, if it's anyone else. I feel like I'm being influenced by Flonne, from Disgaea, though she's technically really old.
  • Meirin or Meilin? Neither. They both sound stupid, though I think that Meirin is the stupider of the two.
  • Kiri, no question.
  • Aria sounds so sweet, and I feel like Alia should be reserved for Mega Man X games (not that they're ever going to come out with another. Sigh.)

Oh, and Leni is my choice also. It brings to mind Leni Riefenstahl, although that's probably not a good association. Even though Triumph of the Will is a very boring movie today.

Now here's something I wonder about constantly: where are all the lefties in RPGs? Sprites don't count here, lazy and/or constrained programmers have always flipped sprites around willy-nilly. But the only genuine lefty I've seen in an RPG was Aika in Skies of Arcadia, which you haven't played. I realize that lefties are only 1 in 10 but they EXIST - to simply see them vanish from RPGs isn't very nice.

Matt

I've never really paid a whole lot of attention to that in games, honestly, unless "Right Hand" and "Left Hand" is explicitly defined in the equip screen. And hey... I know another 1 in 10 group that is NE-VAR represented in RPGs. I still have my hopes for Zell, but since they'll never make a Final Fantasy VIII-2, I guess we'll never find out, will we?

I also liked Attack of the Clones; no need to feel alone! There are many reasons I like it instead of The Phantom Menace (Jango Fett being pretty cool, Ewan McGregor being much more interesting now, lots of cool action throughout) but if I had to come up with one thing it would be Christopher Lee. The man is awesome, and should get lots of work while he can. He needs to be cast in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, just so he can be in every major movie series! Oh, and his voicework is awesome. If you liked Attack of the Clones you'll like Revenge of the Sith. Just be prepared for it to sadden you, I saw it with a few people who thought it was a major downer.

Matt

Well, I even have some hardcore Star Wars fans that really, really hated Episodes I and II, but actually enjoyed III quite a bit. I'll see it sooner or later, rest assured.

One more note about Panzer Dragoon Saga. If, say, Final Fantasy VII had been released with all of 30,000 copies (I read 5,000 from another source - but I'll go with Wikipedia's numbers for now), how would its reputation be evaluated now? There have been other games that got initially low manufacturing runs (wasn't that the case for Xenogears?) and thanks to their being on systems lots of people own those numbers were changed thanks to popular demand, but no amount of popular demand short of a million people marching on Sega of America's headquarters is going to prompt more copies of any Saturn games. So let's ponder this what-if.

Matt

The first what-if that you mentioned? Final Fantasy VII? I'm sure that it wouldn't have gone through the waves of popularity that it has. FFVII is the RPG that almost everybody has played, and that almost all of those people really liked. Because of that, it brought RPGamers together and spawned an entire online culture-of-sorts. I think, though, that FFVII has gone through four distinct phases:

  • The initial hype (1997-1999) occurred right after the game was released, where the popularity of the game snowballed, thanks to excited talk and pretty TV advertisements (I still remember them!)
  • The cooldown (1999-2002) took place as everybody played and became more interested in arguing over the merits of Final Fantasy VIII, IX, and to a degree, X. FFVII wasn't the centre of attention, but everyone used IT to compare, contrast, congratulate, and/or condemn Square's sequels.
  • The recapitulation (2003-2005) was really born when Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was first announced, and built as new information was revealed and spinoff sequels were announced. Everyone and their brothers seemed to be squirming with delight at the thought of more FFVII.
  • The souring is the current phase. While many people are still excited about the Final Fantasy VII spinoffs, many others seem to be cool to the idea now that everyone has seen AC, and especially with the word on the street that Dirge of Cerberus isn't all it's cracked up to be. The result has been that more than ever, the original FFVII has been under serious attack as an "overrated" game.

And that's my take on reality! What do you guys think? If only 30,000 copies had ever been released, Final Fantasy could never have gripped the RPG world in the way that it has. Of course, it was destined to be released more widely... after all, its prequels were.

As for Magic Knight Rayearth only getting 3000 English copies made: that's possible, but I think Wikipedia might have confused it with something else. Working Designs put that game out because it had said it would, and putting out such a token number of copies seems like a slap in the face to the Saturn fans who had waited so long. Plus, I 'only' paid about what the game would have cost new to grab it complete on eBay. Panzer Dragoon Saga cost about twice the store price - and that was with me getting fantastically lucky.

So no movies or TV shows at all seem potentially applicable to making RPGs out of? I'll readily concede the lackluster efforts in this field we can gaze upon now - from what I understand the Matrix games are all buggy pieces of crap, but surely something could be well-done if given the proper time and development staff. Such as: Godzilla! Yes, why not a Godzilla RPG? YOU MAKE THE CALL!!

Matt

I'm not sure about that. I just have this ingrained feeling that every movie or TV-based RPG (or video game in general) is destined for mediocrity.

Oh, and I'm not entirely inexperienced here; a favorable EGM review of the Harry Potter and the Sorceror's (or Philosopher's) Stone made me try the thing, and it quintessentially failed to involve me. I'm past acting solely on EGM reviews by now. Have there been any good Harry Potter RPGs? The backstory is entirely amenable to RPG treatment after all.

Matt

Surely. But as soon as you have developers who are more excited about pumping a game out quickly following a movie release for the sake of making a quick buck, rather than taking the time to make a high-quality experience, you know such a game is truly destined for doom.

To be fair, I have no idea if there were ever any decent Harry Potter RPGs. I'll very likely never have that answer for you, though.

Speaking of adapting things to the RPG realm, how about using some variant of the Tales battle system to make a Street Fighter RPG? And we're ignoring the horrid movie here. But there are already plenty of characters with some form of backstory, and with not much effort the fighting engine could be toned to better deal with multiple unimportant drone fights instead of every fight being against a worthy opponent. I'm not very good at Street Fighter but I think it's fun.

Matt

Now that's a somewhat better idea. Crossover series to RPGs have proven to be successful in the past. Just look at Mario! And the Panzer Dragoon Saga you always talk about, for that matter, among many others. I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere, way down the road, we'd see something like this, in some form. Perhaps not with Street Fighter, but with some popular fighting game. Who knows?

Another Dragon Force 2 item. There is a spell a fair number of commanders obtain called Turn Undead. This clearly would have been changed in an English version, but it eliminates all the ghosts and zombies in a certain part of the battlefield. Here's the kicker: only the player ever has ghosts and/or zombies. They aren't starting troop types, and thus the spell is completely useless in 6 of the 8 ruler scenarios. There is 1 (yes, 1) enemy who shows up with these troops in the other 2 scenarios. Annoying, yes?

Matt

Yes.

Okay Matt, time to sell me on the virtues of trying Lufia 1 again. I played through it 6 years ago and got through the entire thing - which says something important, because games I hate I stop playing. But I have no desire to play it again. Can you inspire me? Oh, and please annotate exactly what made Lufia on GBA stink so badly.

Matt

Well, I just like the original RPG because it reeks of traditional turn-based Dragon Quest-styled RPGness. Yes, it's slow-paced, and it lacks quite a bit of the balance that the Dragon Quest series is renowned for. But, it had a pretty good storyline, a huge world to explore, and the elements of old-school that are really hard to find nowadays. Plus, there's an enemy called "Fight". Isn't that VEERD?

Lufia: The Ruins of Lore for the GBA showed a lot of promise. The battle system returned from its creative departure in Lufia III to a more Lufia II-like style, and the dungeons were no longer randomized, which seemed to be a big plus. The game, however, was marred by unlovable characters, terribly unbalanced battles, a really uncreative skill system, a largely useless monster-recruitment system, a relatively uninspiring Old Cave bonus dungeon-of-sorts, a "point-and-select" overworld, and even worse, a storyline that didn't even include SINISTRALS! Sacrilege! Worst of all, though, was the fact that the dungeons were anything but well-designed. While there were creative bits here and there, they were UNBELIEVABLY lengthy, perhaps rivaling the length of your letters, JuMeSyn; in fact, I think that some of them were so incredibly and annoyingly endless that they made the game almost unplayable. My brother would agree, too!

Games I hate and stop playing: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories falls into that category. And I didn't exactly hate it, but I just got bored and stopped playing. Something about running around and whacking things as hard as I could as fast as I could got old quickly. Now I can find no inclination whatsoever to resume it - which explains why I sold it. I know you're not big on Kingdom Hearts, but is there anyone who feels I should give it another try?

Matt

Well? *nudge nudge* Tell him, everybody. It seems that Chain of Memories is a rather divisive game, so you might get a broad array of opinions on the subject. Be forewarned!

Now, I certainly would annihilate everything in sight if I had Kefka's Light of Judgement - another reason not to give me the keys to anything destructive. But insanity is too easy a characterization. I want to see a villain whose motives are not only understandable (Cuja's were, and who can blame the guy for not wanting to die in service of someone else?) but one more than that: a villain who the player could easily envision himself/herself as having become. Where is the point at which protecting the people becomes too stifling and shifts into oppression? A villain who only had the best interests of the world(s) in mind and must be defeated for a mistake, not out of any evil in his/her heart, is something I would like to see.

Oh, and who is Dhoulmagus? Clearly from a game I haven't played but you have, I presume.

Matt

While the stereotypical villain wants nothing more than to annihilate everything for some reason or another, there are lots of 'em out there who aren't out to cause an end to everything. I know of a game that I won't mention for sake of spoilage, where all that poor final boss wanted was to marry the hero! You've gotta love a game whose final battle takes place decorated for a wedding.

And Dhoulmagus is a major villain from Dragon Quest VIII, for heaven's sakes! Go boost Square Enix's sales by one this minute if you can! It's the least you can do after I've spent the last hour answering this letter. How much longer do you have to go now?

Hair. It's a funny thing in the RPG world. I see all sorts of stylized hairdos, yet there are a couple I haven't seen on the hero and I have to wonder why. First off, I know it's rare for younger men to start losing their hair - but it happens. Why no balding RPG heroes and always saving it for someone else in the party (usually one who gets whacked later in my experience)? And with such fantabulous feats of fancy freestyled fur, how come no one ever sticks to a basic ponytail? I realize many men look terrible with ponytails, but such is the beauty of being able to design a game around characters who don't exist in real life.

Matt

Hair is a silly thing in reality, my friend. You should have seen some of the weirdness I encountered this weekend on the streets of Montréal! And look no further than Xenosaga to find a simple ponytail; Jin sports a fairly simple one. You're right, it's not my favourite look, but I guess it's not up to me.

I've heard more often that Lunar:Silver Star Story Complete is the best version of that story to exist. I did play the GBA version and had some fun, but the Sega CD version is the earliest title put out by Gamearts and in many ways it shows (who likes not being able to tell what a weapon/piece of armor will do if you buy it? Not I). They apparently polished it up greatly for its Saturn and PS remakes. And of course, the Saturn version was originally scheduled to come over the Pacific but then Sega of America and Working Designs got into their nasty argument, leaving Playstation owners the winners.

Lunar: Eternal Blue quite possibly is better on Sega CD than on PS. Not having played it on the latter I cannot definitely comment, yet I can say that reports from the time indicate Gamearts excised or pared down numerous areas and removed enemies from the world map. Since the encounter rate wasn't bad on the world map and the distances to travel weren't long, this smacks of streamlining to me. And by the way, you now sort-of know someone who owns a Sega CD! Not that it's a mystery why no one you knew earlier did, when Sega botched the handling of its hardware add-ons horrifically. Someone through a Robotrek question into SOCK awhile ago. Have you played it? Is it recommended?

Matt

I honestly don't know much about Robotrek, but it's quite obscure in today's world of video gaming. Perhaps we should get into a time capsule and go backwards to find out more. Or, perhaps not.

As for the Sega CD, the first person I ever met with one didn't actually HAVE one, but borrowed it from a friend at one point in the past. That person was Castomel, our good old Q&A friend from the past! You, I suppose, would be the second.

Microsoft does have a point in its projected pricing structure, since it would be an ideal time to drop the Xbox 360 price just about when the PS3 launches. That would mean a buyer could obtain the GOOD version of the Xbox 360 package along with a Wii (at whatever price it ends up being - hurry Nintendo!) for less than $600 most likely. Is the Canadian price just a basic exchange-rate conversion from the US price (what is the C dollar lately, $1.15 US? In which case you're getting ripped off by most of the booksellers I see) or has Sony announced separate pricing plans for every potential place?

Matt

The PS3 has been announced for a release at the price of $659 in Canadian funds. The exchange rate is a bit better than what you mention right now; it's been hovering around $1.12 or $1.13 per US Dollar lately, but it still means that Canada will probably be the cheapest place to buy one come November.

And yes, I'm fully aware of the potential that Microsoft holds with this strategy. A lot... and I mean a whole lot banks on how expeditiously Nintendo gets their own console out the door. I really can't believe we haven't heard more information by now, which is just starting to worry me a bit.

At this point I think the only way to influence those timid translators at Nintendo of America vis a vis Mother 3 would be sending physical letters. Got an address?

Matt

Nope, but I'm sure there are some enraged fansites out there getting angry and creating useless petitions. Remember that one that was created for Earthbound 64? It didn't do much, did it?

If I had an address, I'd personally like to send a 'J' to Nintendo. That letter should give them a pretty clear message.

(I wonder what proportion of readers I'll lose that last horrible pun on? Ah well, this is what ninety minutes of responding to the same letter will do to a person. GYAAARR!)

There is a subject I have wondered about for some time, and it deals with the different audiences for RPGs in Japan and North America. Why did Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy take off almost immediately in Japan, yet require so very long to attain mass audience level in the English-speaking world? Also, why do RPGs normally top the charts in Japan and almost never in North America?

Matt

RPGs just seem to be a more widely-accepted thing in Japan, perhaps because of cultural differences. Here, the average person finds blood, guns, and speed to be much more exciting than numbers, thoughtful plots, and weapon management. It says something a bit unfortunate, I think, about the western world.

The original Final Fantasy launched with a fair amount of success, though, in North America, as did the original Dragon Warrior, though the latter was a bit overproduced. A lot of people played Dragon Warrior that might not have otherwise, thanks to Nintendo Power's ridiculous promotion early in the magazine's life. DWII, III, and IV didn't do nearly as well, which is really sad as far as I'm concerned. I thought they were fantastic games- three of the best for the NES.

That tangentially brings me to yet another line of thinking. Japanese- and North American-designed RPGs we all know and have dealt with. But are there any RPGs developed in Europe? I believe Ubi Soft's headquarters is in France, and Ubi Soft translates quite a few RPGs, but do any European developers make RPGs? I feel for the you who discovered prices in London. I was informed by many people who had been there before me, and I still only ate maybe 4 meals in the three days I was there to conserve cash. Stinking Tower of London cost 11 pounds to get into - yikes! If it makes you feel any better, prices in Disneyland are sometimes worse than London. A slice of pizza cost $8.50 US - ouch!

Matt

That is expensive! I remember ordering a Cheeseburger and fries at the Hard Rock Café in downtown London back when I went on a school trip in 2000; that dinner cost me 14 pounds plus a tip; back in the day, that worked out to about $34 Canadian, making it the most expensive sandwich I've ever had in my life.

And you know what? That's not an easy question to answer- the one about European developers. I immediately thought about Terranigma and went on a hunt to find out more, but apparently, that was developed by a company called Quintet, based in Tokyo. You're right about Ubisoft; they are indeed based in France, and they have developed several games, though I'm not sure how many RPGs they've been directly involved in creating.

Good question. I'm sorry I can't do any better.

Breath of Fire. You've mentioned Dragon Quarter multiple times, and certainly if and when I own some form of Sony hardware I'll give it a shot - the concept intrigues me. BoF II we've mentioned before, and I would like it better if stupid Capcom had translated it with someone who actually understands how to write English. But I've never mentioned BoF I, and I've never played BoF III and IV (obviously). BoF I was rather generic to me and mostly forgotten as we speak - yourself? And III and IV stack up how?

Matt

Oh, I guess you're not buying Dragon Quest VIII soon after all. Phooey.

The start of III was too boring for me to invest much attention in, and I was going through my first year of university with my PS2 at the time, so I had no chance of getting through it. IV was good enough for me to get all the way through, but I'd still say that the game, on the whole, was worse than average. It had a few scary concepts in its story, but the battle system was pretty boring, and the entire experience just seemed fairly bland.

BoFII is still my second-favourite of the series, behind Dragon Quarter, but that still represents a remarkably large step down. You're right... it's all because of the translation.

Go ahead and be lengthy, BigWook! There are so many things to speak about that limiting yourself just because it seems too lengthy a letter is wrong!

Matt

...

Ahhh, Nintendo's statement of its goal to get new players into the videogaming world. I'm happy for you, Matt: it sounds as if you can and do play with your parents and siblings frequently. But how would you go about getting other family and friends who don't play video games into the fold, let alone the RPG fold? I'll outline my circumstances below:

My mother has intimated interest in playing a few times, but she suffers from chronic migraines bad enough to make her avoid the sun during the day lately. I've thought about putting one of my older consoles out into the living room so she can try playing, and an RPG would be good because her hand/eye coordination has declined since she played Frogger and Space Invaders. But those kittens would doubtless attack any controller wires... My parents divorced 19 years ago so I have step-parents also. My stepfather I can't picture playing much of anything. My stepmother... let's just say there's a relationship difficulty there and leave it. My father might be coerced into playing sports games, but he tends to spend upwards of 60 hours a week invested in actual jobs so he really isn't home to play anything often.

My grandparents... hm. My paternal grandfather won't play anything, he'd rather go outside and work than sit around 'wasting time.' My paternal grandmother probably wouldn't play anything either, but I'm not so sure here. No foul language or anything untoward though - I've only heard her say 'damn' in my presence once. My maternal grandfather has his hands full taking care of his Parkinson's Disease-afflicted wife, and my maternal grandmother might play something if I dare to talk about every aspect of it with her. She's deeply into philosophy, it's a dangerous stratagem to get her talking about anything she can philosophically analyze.

Then there's my maternal grandmother's mother - who won't be playing anything. Her wits are still completely with her at 94, but she's gone blind. I can't fault her though, she's learned Braille in the past few years to cope.

I have no siblings. My aunts and uncles are varying degrees of likelihood, although most of them are too busy working to try anything new in their entertainment routines - although one uncle has an Xbox. I have a cousins who (I THINK) showed me some of Final Fantasy VII once, but since he's currently awaiting trial on criminal charges Sony probably wouldn't care for his spokespersonhood.

Matt

Good to know, if only for some crazed and obscure SOCK question sometime in 2007. Hey, you never know!

To answer your question from way above, I just like to talk excitedly about games around people that aren't initially interested, and generally, they start to come around. I've been waving my DS around a lot every single time I go home. Now my family owns another one, and my Aunt Erin and her kids are all excited over the concept, too. If there's something I feel deserves a good plugging, I'll plug away. (Now there's a sentence that could be easily taken way, way out of context!)

And before I drop this line of thinking, maybe you can answer a question that has plagued me for quite some time. The children of my great-aunt (grandparent's sibling) are related to me how? Are they my second cousins, or something different?

Matt

I believe that they are not. If you were in the same generation, they would be your second cousins, yes. However, you're one generation removed from them. And thus, if I recall correctly, I believe you would refer to them as your "second cousins once-removed". The son or daughter of your great-great grandparents, then, for example, would be called your third cousins twice-removed, and so on. Correct me, of course, if I'm wrong!

Better get back to RPGs now... on my last playthrough of Secret of Mana, something happened to me that had never happened before. I fought through the Mana Fortress just as I'd done probably 5 times before - and Thanatos (aka Dark Lich) knocked everybody out and proceeded to kill me for the first time ever! I felt most foolish.

Matt

Mmmm... the last area of that game, the Flying Mana Fortress, has quite possibly one of my favourite final-area background themes of all time. It comes with a weird name, too; I think the official name is "Leave Time for Love", if I remember correctly.

One of the most... atypical moments in my RPG playing experience happened in the middle of my first year at UCLA. I was playing Grandia 2 in the dorms, and the most people had remarked upon it was that the music reminded one fellow of ESPN SportsCenter. But when I embarked upon the final area and people understood that I was about to fight the Pope - for some reason a crowd gathered. Those who have played Grandia 2 know what I'm talking about, and that probably doesn't include you, Matt. So think: if the Pope of a game was about to be taken down, would you watch like the 10 people who I got interested did?

Matt

Sure, why not? That reminds me, too, that I randomly bought Grandia III this weekend, as some sort of souvenir of Montréal '06. I hope that I get the chance to actually play it sometime.

A little later in the dorms I played through Skies of Arcadia. While getting into yet another random battle, a friend brought to mind a line of thinking I hadn't pondered before: most random encounters deal with animals or plants, yes? Then isn't killing these parts of nature akin to a reverse-environmentalist stance? By depopulating the wilds, aren't we helping make extinct entire species of new worlds? I realize that these creatures picked the fights themselves, but if I was to wander about the Australian outback or in the forests of British Columbia plenty of Earth creatures would try to kill me.

Matt

Hey, I'm sure that if you were being growled at by a pack of purple oversized three-eyed were-hyenas, you probably wouldn't be thinking about environmental conservation. Besides, there are infinite numbers of most of these guys anyway. After all, I wouldn't recommend playing a game with random encounters "until you've gotten rid of all the monsters". You might end up working on that for a really, really long time.

Eh, I already threw some links up top - why not another?
http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=112 It's a video-game related comic site. Fair warning that plenty of these are quite messed-up and not for the easily-offended. Also most of them don't deal with RPGs. But if you're a warped person in my mould, go for it.

Matt

Awesome. Be fairly forewarned, then, all ye who venture: RPGamer is not responsible for any of the material found not on RPGamer's site.

Regarding the issue of going through an RPG and never saving: just remember my experience with the power going off during the final battle of Dragon Force and giving me corrupted save data. It was the eighth and final playthrough, too! If you're confident in your electrical supply, go for it. If you live in crappy PG&E zones, watch out!

Matt

Yeah. Also bad around here are the sudden thunderstorms that happen to pop up in the summer heat. Last time I played Lunar, it got shut down prematurely because of a sudden unexpected lightning strike; I'm not sure how much data I lost, because I haven't turned it back on since.

The 60 page paper actually had to be read in its entirety by my teacher - he was grading our mechanics, meaning he had to go through every line looking for errors in grammar and sentence structure. I can't remember what he wrote but it was interesting. And I did write something in the neighborhood of 150 pages of crappy sci-fi a year earlier. This stuff my prior teacher did probably just skim and say 'Great! A!"

Matt

This is a paper you referred to in your last gigaletter? I think that if I was your teacher, I'd take you aside and have a word with you. Conciseness can be a virtue; in all honesty, I'm now up to just over two hours here. Sigh.

As for the surname, it depends upon where I am. In the Netherlands last year it was Mohn - key (German name, but I spent 8 months with the Dutch last year). Thanks probably to some lazy paper-pusher in Ellis Island it's Mink-e for the North American market. Yours was the most common mispronunciation I've heard though, Matt. One woman misread it and thought the name was French - that was odd.

Matt

Heh heh, my dad has the habit of looking at just about ANY name and trying to make something french out of it. He grew up in a french household, and he'd love to believe that just about every word's origin is of that tongue. Silly homme.

How was that Mega Man X:Command Mission? Worth playing in spite of its mediocrity?

Matt

If you're a Mega Man fan, sure. The storyline is about as deep as any other Mega Man game, in that it doesn't really exist, but the gameplay can be surprisingly good. The battle system is the high point of the game, and some of the bosses require some interesting strategy. The encounter rate, however, exceeds the "annoying" threshold, and many things about the game seem a little bit tacked-on. In the end, it's no better than average. But the boss music is cool, at least.

Pokemon. I've been intrigued in the past but have never taken the plunge. What would your recommendation be?

Matt

Just give it a try. What do you have to lose? I'd start with one of the latest ones; the interface has improved remarkably from game to game, and that is... well, it's a very important thing. Going back to the original games now proves to be really annoying now, because managing your monsters can be a real headache in those ones.

So, if you feel inclined, try out Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire, or Fire Red/Leaf Green. Let me know what you think, if you do! While they might feel kiddy from the start, there's actually some decent strategy involved, and an impressive amount to explore and find. I can't wait for the DS incarnations!

And now to close with that story regarding Hector Hard Mode in Fire Emblem I have mentioned before. Lest it be misinterpreted, this was a one-time event that will not be repeated. I had made it to the later chapters, and after perhaps three battles without losing anyone I was feeling good. Too good. I reached a battle where I would repeatedly play for awhile and lose someone to a swarm of powerful enemies. I reset again and again. On perhaps the 7th or 8th playthrough of this chapter, I lost it. When once again Heath died to a swarm of powerful wyverns I freaked and slammed my GBA down upon the table - hard. Immediately did I recognize my mistake when the screen cracked. To no avail did I try making it play again - it was no longer the clear of 'off' mode but instead multi-colored in grains, indicating that the display was leaking. There was nothing to be done. My moment of anger had broken the GBA, and I had to replace it. This was just about the time the DS was being released, and nothing on it screamed out 'Must Buy.' So I bought a GBA SP. In the long run I may have saved myself money, considering how many batteries got sucked up by the original GBA. But I could have bought a DS then and didn't. Moreover I forever learned how moments of passion must be mastered.

Incidentally, I tried to wreck my GBA more thoroughly before trashing it and was unable. Even after throwing it around the room repeatedly and stomping on it, the thing barely showed a scrape. Nintendo certainly can make durable products. Except when I'm involved - stupid Amtrak also managed to break my SNES once.

Oh, I forgot to demand Shining Force III's release to the English-speaking world in a format befitting of its grandeur. That is now done.

JuMeSyn


Matt

Well, thanks for sharing. And thanks for taking such a massive amount of your time and investing it in constructing such a monstrous letter. Yeah, it took me the greater portion of tonight to answer, but that's okay. I only have a course to deal with, a thesis to write, and a social life to keep up. Nothing too major! ;)



See? Canadians aren't crazy.


Hi there Matt

Actually I've never been to Canada, I've lived a good chunk of my life in Texas but I too have eaten french fries slather with gravy, in fact my memory of first meeting Flonne of Disgaea fame is tied to wolfing down fries with gravy and both were quite good ^^

Though I always assumed slathering stuff with gravy was just a southern/country thing, I didn't realize our friends to the north also ate gravy on darn near anything, or maybe me and my family and the area we live in are really part of Canada o.O

I also have topped fries with chilli, marianara sauce, assorted types of cheese so um uh yeah ^^;; or maybe I'm just psychotic, but the voices say I'm ok so I must be right?

Matt

I should say so! And it's good to know that we're not the only ones! As for me, I prefer ketchup, but in Québec, they serve mayonnaise whenever you order fries at a restaurant. Not my cup of tea, personally...

An even more Canadian thing is to serve fries as "poutine", which is a very popular fast food dish consisting of fries smothered with cheese curds and topped with hot gravy. It's a giant mess waiting to happen, and a bigger heart attack, but they taste pretty darn good. Some people eat that with ketchup or sour cream, which I've never understood. Isn't there enough goo involved already?

Now for the questions I really hope you post this ^^;;

Question 1: How was your trip to Montreal? I'm hoping you get this after you get back otherwise I'll just feel silly ^^;;

Matt

Thanks for asking! It was really fun, but really fast. Three nights just isn't enough time, especially if you drink so much that you can't remember half of them. I didn't, but one of my friends sure did. I can't wait until next year's trip!

Question 2: Do you have any memories of eatting a certain kind of food while playing a certain game? If so which foods go with which games?

Matt

Oh yes... my Christmas candy, which I ate ALL night while playing Final Fantasy IX on New Year's Eve, days after buying it; I had just received my shiny PS2 for Christmas. It was an exciting night, but I ate way, way too much chocolate, and I'm pretty sure I had unmentionable digestive difficulties the next day as a result of my gluttonous ways.

Question 3: What are your thoughts on uncolored instruction manuals? I personally hate it when I've shelled out 30-50 dollars for a game and the sorry -------s don't bother to color the bloody instruction manual, what is up with that, a reprint of a classic game for a cheap price I can see but a brand new game not having color to the manual is madness

Arros Raikou
*wants chicken fingers french fries gravy or honestly anything that isn't yogurt... diets suck...*


Matt

Ah, I don't really care that much. I buy games for the games; not the instruction booklets. It is notable, however, that in the past, I have to say that on average, uncoloured manuals more likely belong to below-average-quality titles. Perhaps it's an indication of a rushed job or a low budget. Maybe, though, it's just chance!

Good luck with your diet, too. I have to get used to non-restaurant food this week- I was spoiled on the weekend!!



Who doesn't like free bonuses?


Hello dude,

I hope you are having a super day. I saw from your column that you are working on Lunar: SSSC. That is good news, because I love that game with a passion. For once, I'm glad that Working Design went with a light hearted approach to the story-telling, kind of a foreshadowing of the Disgaea school of story-telling. Do you know if the original Japanese version was that humorous and fun-filled? Also, I hope you got the music cd that came with the game, because it does have some rockin tunes to relax too. The cloth map wasn't too hot, and the hardbound instruction is useless, but anytime a game comes with a soundtrack cd, it makes the slightly higher price a lot better. Speakin of which, whats your fave pack-in or bonus in the past? And has that ever swayed you to buy a game? I feel like you've been asked this before, and maybe recently, but I have to ask. I know Disgaea 2 had an amazing package that went on sale yesterday, but the steep price ($80) for the complete collection scared me away a bit.

Matt

Really, bonus stuff has always been welcome in the past. I have to say, though, that I've never gone out and bought a game because of it, and the bonuses have never been enough to make me want a game that I'd otherwise be uninterested in. The result is that I haven't really received much in the way of free stuff in my video gaming past, and in reality, I don't mind all that much.

The one example that rings in my mind was the instruction manual of Dragon Warrior III, which I loved to read whenever I rented the game. For anyone who is unfamiliar (probably most of you), the manual was absolutely enormous for an NES game. It had "full-length" pages, unlike most NES half-sized booklets, and there were over 75 pages within, and perhaps more- it's been awhile, after all. Why? Inside the booklet was a mini-strategy guide! Pretty cool, I thought.

Also, I saw that you're also playing Radiata Stories, though no mention of progress. I am also in the middle of playing that, and haven't gotten much done. I know, its late, but the backlog of rpgs to play lately is just sick. I still need to finish Steambot Chronicles and need to get back into Dark Cloud 2. I loves me the cel-shaded look of those games. Anywho, keep up the good work, anbd enjoy your vacation.

Sock:
274 - d)
275 - e)

- Nino

Matt

Thanks for the well-wishes, Nino! Radiata Stories is one of those backburner games right now; I got stuck on one of those tasks at Vancoor Theatre and after running around for hours of playtime without getting anywhere, I haven't been very inspired to play it. That has been especially compounded with Lunar and Fire Emblem on my plate, lately. Maybe I'll get some time to play next week while I'm at home vegetating, though!



Who knew? Not everyone hates the game!


Stop picking on my poor Beyond the Beyond!
Believe it or not, I actually *enjoyed* that game. True, not my favorite game of all time or anything, but it was fun.

Why? Namely because it has one thing that no other console-RPG since has had...

Difficulty.

How many normal console RPGs (meaning no strat-RPGs) in the days of the PS1 through today have actually been genuinely difficult consistently throughout the game?

Matt

6.

I mean, come on, you need to use healing items in the first dungeon of the game!

It is entirely possible to get a total party kill on a normal random battle during certain sections of the game, especially if you don't exploit one of the game's infamous glitches with a resistance item.

Matt

Heh heh, I totally agree with you; I really miss RPGs that make you wince because of the difficulty, because they're hard to come by these days. They aren't completely gone though. Take a look at Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter if you haven't already. That game is extremely evenly-balanced, but it is balanced on the hard end of the difficulty spectrum. I absolutely loved it. Xenosaga games have their tough parts as well (especially the first game, which was more or less difficult throughout). Dragon Quest VIII has a few difficult parts in it too, but Dragon Warrior VII is harder from beginning to end, I think, not to mention harder for most people to sit through. To descend to lesser-quality PS2 offerings, Summoner was also rather hard, though it wasn't really a game to write home about, as far as I'm concerned.

Out of the huge number of RPGs in my collection, BtB is only one of two games (the other is far older) that will consistently make me whimper for my lost party. And I like it - a lot. It is just the right level of difficulty; difficult enough to make me actually need strategies in normal play and yet easy enough where I don't feel like it is impossible.

Most people that don't like BtB fall in one of three categories.
1) They have never played more than one hour of the game.
2) They do not like difficult RPGs.
3) They grew up on FF7.

Not that there is anything wrong with #3 - it is just that growing up on FF7 means that they expect a complex plot with pretty graphics - neither of which BtB has. In fact, the plot is nearly as cliched as you get and the stunning graphics look like an early SNES game rather than an early PS1 game.

Matt

It's true, though, more or less, that people who haven't experienced the NES days of RPGaming are less likely to appreciate a difficult game. Leveling-up used to be part of the fun, back in the origins of the video game genre. In Dragon Warrior, gaining a level meant a whole lot; you could actually feel the difference in your character's strength whenever you'd level up, or buy a new piece of equipment. It was like a reward for all of your hard work! Final Fantasy was a little bit more ridiculous... did anyone ever save up the 40,000 Gold required to buy the armour in Melmond once they first arrived?

The fact that it was made by the same creators as the original (not the newer crap, ye olde Strat-RPG) Shining Force (along with Shining in the Darkness and Shining the Holy Ark) and with a couple of word changes easily fit in such a world is just a giant plus as well, as I'm a Shining Force (pre-Shining Soul) fanboy.

So, in relation... what are some of the difficult RPGs (NOT Strategy RPGs) that you've played? Console-wise, BtB and Final Fantasy 1 (*) would have to take the cake for me. PC-wise, I'd have to say Ultima 4 and Autoduel.

Matt

I guess I've mentioned many of them above. The NES Dragon Warrior games might be right up your alley, honestly. They aren't over-the-top difficult, but they present a constant, balanced challenge, and boss fights are never, ever trivial.

The most difficult game I've ever played, though, is The 7th Saga, for the SNES. I've never given up on a game because of difficulty, but anyone who has ever complained about how hard a game may be in today's world has honestly never played this one. Holy, holy crap. The experience curve was just out-of-this-world slow, and it was nigh-impossible to recruit allies, since you had to defeat them first, and most of them that I ever fought could do nearly my Max HP worth of damage. Granted, it was a very long time ago that I played the game, but I remember being dumbfounded by the difficulty.

No modern RPG (console or PC) has actually been nearly as difficult past BtB. I have yet to find a game that I die even ONCE against a required challenge (so I'm not counting things like Sephy in KH2 or Angomois from WA) newer than Beyond the Beyond now.

* - I've got the SPOON!ed luck in FF1. I've never been able to live long enough in normal FF1 to see my party actually survive level 2. I always end up attacked by a vicious pack of monsters that I can't run away from and die. Every single time. I'm sure if my luck would ever change and I could fight past then it probably wouldn't be on my list of super difficult games

--
aetherspoon

Matt

While the original Final Fantasy was fairly challenging at the beginning, I think you might have just been approaching the game incorrectly. I actually don't find the original Final Fantasy to be terribly difficult, with the exception of a few long, long dungeons- the Marsh Cave and the Volcano. While the Hit rates of your characters is really disgustingly low in the beginning, fights aren't too bad if you first go to the town and buy some simple weapons and armor; save money for spells until later. Once you gain a few levels, many of FF1's battles become trivial, and once you get to be halfway to two-thirds through the game, I find that it becomes almost stupidly easy. The bosses are all far too weak, and the final boss is honestly a complete joke. Perhaps you should give the game another try, and you'll see that it really isn't so hard after all!



The side of DQ we haven't seen...


Hey Matt,

This time for SOCK
#276 - e) Gyro Man
#277 - c) Xiphias

I know you are a huge fan of Dragon Quest/Warrior. I have also played the first four and 7 and 8. You mentioned the other two (5 and 6) as having parties that could interchange in battle. I was wondering if you could give a quick mini-review of one or both of them for those of us who haven't had a chance to play them.

Matt

Yes, I'll admit it; I've dabbled in the dark world of emulation before, and I've played the fan translations of Dragon Quest V and VI. I'm not saying that you should, of course, but that's always a fun topic that gets debated in here from time to time.

The important thing is: Dragon Quest V and VI are absolutely fantastic games, and if Square Enix were ever to release remakes of them in North America, I think I'd start crying involuntarily with joy.

Dragon Quest V was one of the first RPGs in history to emphasize monster-recruiting, and indeed, that was a major part of the gameplay. Every single recruitable monster had their own experience curve, technique list, and equippable items. They'd approach you after battle in the same way that monsters in Dragon Warrior VII approached after battle to go to the Monster Park. You could then control them as you would any other ally. Similar to Dragon Warrior IV, you had a wagon in which eight characters could be held and swapped in or out of battle at any time, but monster keepers can store extra monsters for you, if need be. The storyline is my favourite part of the whole package though, as it follows your life from the time you're a young lad, to the time that you're married with children. The feel of the game is distinctively NES-like, and the graphics really aren't much of a jump over Dragon Warrior IV.

Dragon Quest VI was really, really long, and one of the most difficult games in the series. DQVI was the first game to truly adopt monster animations, and there were several other graphical leaps as well. One could argue that the graphics in DQVI were almost as good as they were in Dragon Warrior VII, which, outside of battle, were pretty damn ugly. DQVI uses a class system much like DWVII, but it feels like it moves a lot quicker because of the fact that you aren't stuck with three or four characters for most of the game; the wagon returns from Dragon Quest IV and V, and thus, you have eight members always levelling up and learning new techniques. Additionally, monsters may be recruited again, in the same vein as DQV, though it isn't as essential to the adventure. DQVI is the best game of the series for the RPG explorer in you, as there were two enormous worlds to comb, a "real world" and a "dream world", both of which were totally unique and each at LEAST as big as the world of any other Dragon Quest in existence.

All in all, I feel like we missed two GOLDEN games from the SNES era. If we ever, ever get the chance to play them "officially", I wouldn't wait a minute to spend my top dollar to do so.

Also, you mentioned that the dark effect was hampering those who want to enter the top 35. Shouldn't it be helping them? The rules say dark only effects the top 35.

Matt

Ah yes. This is a problem that has been created because of the order of events. Essentially, the Dark status that DMJewelle has been under has been wreaking havoc upon newcomers, because every day, it is possible to nose your way INTO the Top 35 before DMJewelle's damage is done. For simplicity's sake, I've been calculating points every day by first adding everyone's obtained points, and then treating DARK damage as a status effect, thus removing the points from the people who are in the Top 35 after points have been scored for the day.

Is this unfair for some people? No, it isn't. If I instead did the DARK damage at the same time as people received their points, then the damaged people might turn out to be different near the bottom (since 36th, 37th, etc, don't receive any damage), but as a result, 36th and 37th will float up into 33rd or 34th place, and they'll just be the ones to receive the damage on the next day. In the end, it'll all work out fairly. This effect will wear off someday... I promise. And DMJewelle is loving this, laughing maniacally in the background, I'm sure!!

I was just getting ready to ask you your opinion on RTS with RPG elements, but then I remembered that you don't play on PC much. Have you ever had a chance to try your hand at RTS's?

Draconn

Matt

Believe it or not, this has been more "mom-territory"! I've played a little bit here and there, but it's never really been something that I've gotten into much. My mom is addicted to Civilization IV, for example, and loves to drag me back to her computer from time to time when I'm home to show me everything she has accomplished. It looks cool, but I don't have enough time to play my number ONE genre lately, let alone add more to my plate.

Thanks for writing in, Draconn!!



Some of us are here... some of us are there!


Hey there, Matt

With the Canadian Dollar hovering around the 90 cent mark in comparison to the US Dollar, do you find that you're buying games from the US more often (yay, cheap games!), or are you still buying locally?

-CW

Matt

What is it with you people and the Canadian/US exchange rate? That's two letters in one day. Bizarre.

And no, I generally buy from Canadian retailers still. By the time you factor in shipping costs, which are often stifling ($15 from EB Games!!), or customs, shipping, and handling fees from eBay sellers, no money is saved in the end. It is the case that some of the prices on Canadian games have fallen ever-so-slightly over the past few years, likely in response to the fact that the US currency has devalued so strongly against ours.

Thanks for another letter! This is turning into a megacolumn!





THE NEXUS

So yes. Next week, my plan is to head home, and do absolutely nothing requiring anything resembling work. Lunar will be a priority, as will Radiata Stories, if I get bored of the former, with my DS and Fire Emblem to keep me busy on the portable end of things. I think it's going to be a fantastic time!

I urge you to take a look at Sean's list of games! Sean has generously donated prizes to the SOCK and THONG competitions, so please support him and take a look at the items he has decided to put up for sale. He has quite a few games spanning many consoles (PS1, PS2, Gamecube, Super Nintendo), some available with art books, strategy guides, or more, all for reasonable prices. If you're looking for something that's hard to find, Sean might be the one to talk to! Get in touch with him at BuddyWingnut@yahoo.com, and he'll be sure to tell you more.


Caption


For complete contest rules, click here!


Answers to August 2nd's Questions

#276. a) Flash Man - 450 points/900 for Leaper
Most of you got this, which I thought was a bit interesting- it might have been difficult because the robots weren't on-screen for very long. I didn't realize there were that many Mega Man fans out there! Thanks for the submission, Leaper!

#277. c) Xiphias - 450 points
This was a reference to the puzzle in Ultimecia's castle of Final Fantasy VIII. Though option b) was Invigilium, the actual word used in the puzzle was Intervigilium, and that messed a couple of you up, I think. Xiphias was the one, and good job to all of you who cracked that question!



Today's New Questions

Reader-Submitted #278:
Which of these pillars is closest to a climbing wall? (475 points)

a) Nature
b) Conflict
c) Mind
d) Death
e) Balance


#279:
There is exactly one "Ask Matt" column whose title featured the name of the logical symbol for NAND. What were the correct answers to the SOCK questions asked in that column? (450 points)

a) b) and c)
b) a) and d)
c) b) and e)
d) c) and c)
e) a) and a)


...And the reign of DARKness continues. How can you deal with this awful storm of damage? Only the people who are vigilant and persevere will ever survive the storm and make it to the top of the totempole. For more information on status ailments and why DMJewelle's status is making life difficult for everyone on the Scoreboard, check out SOCK's official rule guide here. And again, for a listing of everything in your inventory, e-mail me to ask!

In still more news, there have been several new items added to the SOCK shop! If you're a Pokémon fan, or you're interested in games like Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga or Ephemeral Fantasia, you should thank Bainick for generously donating to the shop! Check out what's up for sale here, and start saving up your points!



SOCK's Item List

Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

2,000 points: Hastera Spell (2 left) or Point Doubler (2 left)
3,500 points: Mithril Armor (3 left) or Rename Card (1 left)
5,000 points: Venom Spell (1 left) or Confuse Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Blizzaga Spell (2 left) or Damage Deflector (1 left)
10,000 points: Merton Spell (1 left) or Hyper Beam (2 left)
14,000 points: Slowga Spell (2 left) or Killer Sword (2 left)
19,000 points: Point Tripler (3 left) or Gold Armor (2 left)
25,000 points: Demiga Spell (1 left) or Nightmare Staff (2 left)
32,000 points: Point Quadrupler (2 left) or Hastega Spell (2 left)

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!


SOCK's Prize Shop

Obtain enough points, and you may buy merchandise or guest-hosting positions.

Click here for the current list of potential prizes!


IN CLOSING

Later this week, we'll have Macstorm in for his latest co-hosting! If you'd like to ask him any questions, now is the time to send them! From the glut of e-mails I've had lately, it's obvious that there's a whole lot to talk about. What's on your mind these days? Let me know, here at RPGamer's Q&A!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt has homework to do. Sigh.


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*yawn*

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Resources

About the Host

Quote Archives

What am I playing?

1. Lunar: SSSC

2. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

3. Radiata Stories

What do I want to play?

1. Final Fantasy III

2. Xenosaga: Episode III

3. Disgaea II

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1. Aurelius
22,614 pts

2. Kanato
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3. Xlash
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7. MagRowan
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20. Megan
6,397 pts

21. Gilgamesh
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5,388 pts

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5,313 pts

25. JuMeSyn
4,849 pts

26. Gaijin
4,698 pts

27. Knighttrain
4,271 pts

28. Alexander
3,687 pts

29. CW
3,370 pts

30. Macstorm
3,075 pts

31. Donovan
2,869 pts

32. Arpijy
2,325 pts

33. Ourobolus
2,324 pts

34. Rexy
2,284 pts

35. Draconn
2,140 pts

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