All First Letters Go To Heaven
August 7, 2007
Matt Demers - 19:31 EST
SO MUCH FOR *THAT* LONG WEEKEND. There's only one to go, and it's the dreaded Labor Day, where everyone pretends to be happy and such but secretly dreads the coming fall and getting-back-into-the-swing-of-things that necessarily accompanies it. What a shame! This was supposed to be the summer of forever, and it's flying by in the blink of an eye.
I'm one step closer to Etrian Odyssey, happily. I blasted through a big chunk of the surprisingly awesome Mega Man ZX over the weekend, and once I'm finished it, I'll be making my start. Yeah, I know I said I was going to do EO first, but I just needed a bit of an RPG break.
Before I begin, CW will be standing in later this week to help me cohost. If you like, write him your best questions now, and I'll try to get them to him so that he can answer 'em. Either way, here is today's selection. I hope you enjoy the show.
Make it Filmore GOLDslime... better bling.
Big Pimpin' Filmore Slime -
Alright now that was a productive weekend. Polished off Super Paper Mario and watching all of Heroes, played a round of golf, did a coupla paintings from Portrait of Ruin, and watched Barry Bonds hit 755. Actually I'm watching the game right now looking for the tiebreaker, and his cute little daughter has "pitch 2 dad" painted on her cheeks. Awwww.
So it finally happened, eh? I was away during the weekend, but I knew that Hank Aaron's record was quickly approaching. I'm not a baseball buff or anything, but I did go to a Giants game while I was in San Francisco two years ago. Predictably, he was out on injury, possibly due to his muscles exploding out of his skin due to oversteroidation (I dunno).
Congrats on your other little successes, too. Super Paper Mario would have had a more satisfying ending if the final boss had felt more like a final boss in terms of difficulty, but seeing as I always gripe about difficulty, I'll just shut up and say that it was fine, fine, fine. (It was still a fun ending.)
So having just finished a game, I have to say that this time through I mostly felt a sense of satisfaction. I was glad to clear the Wii out for Metroid with some time to spare to chip away at FF 12 some more. That's usually the feeling I get although I have felt ripped-off, or just happy to be done, or sad it was over, just depends on the game.
I know what you mean. Everyone has played those games where you arrive at some destiny-ish point about 5 or 10 hours in, when it suddenly dawns on you that, no, that's really actually the end of the game. I've played a few games like that, actually, though none very recently. Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time was a little bit like that, come to think of it, but there are better examples.
Now what I'm curious to know from you are the reasons you were given that Metroid wasn't an FPS? Granted I haven't played the Gamecube version (versions?), but what sceenshots and clips I've seen looked like FPS to me.
That's exactly what I don't get. I'm never actually given reasons. And yeah, the morph ball business isn't very FPSish, but other than that, I really don't feel a difference, with the exception that Metroid is fun and other FPSs are not. Maybe that in itself is the difference, but I doubt that the FPS fans around here would appreciate that notion very much.
As for my opinions on the genre, I think Straadin (I believe that was the name but I didn't go back to look) touched on something that pretty much sums up why I haven't played one in several years now (although I'm about to make an exception for Metroid). I played Metal Gear 3 and Resident Evil 4 within a few months of eachother and realized that I really preferred that over-the-shoulder 3rd person view. It allows you to press against walls and peek around corners, and do things like hang and jump with a much better view of whats going on, but the good ones all have a convenient way of switching to that first person view for accurate targeting of things like cameras or, you know, heads. I've pretty much stuck to games similar to those over FPS's since then, although like I said I am about to make a Metroid exception. And I'm firmly in your camp on this one comrade, I mean maybe the morphball stuff, but everything else is definitely that first person perspective I've grown to dislike in general (although I can see it working well with the Wii, thus Metroid and a chance for redemption).
Ya da da,
I really do have to give games like that another chance, too. Metal Gear Solid 2: I borrowed it from my friend Ken back in... well, a long, long time ago. I played it for awhile, but the disc must have been scratched or something, because it kept freezing up on me very, very early into the game; way too soon for me to ever really "get into" it in any sense whatsoever. I gave it back, and I haven't played any since. Yeah, I know, it's a completely lame reason, but that's the way it turned out.
P.S. Filmore Slim is a legendary pimp from San Francisco in case you didn't know (and you probably didn't, didya Slimey?) Watch the fantastic documentary American Pimp, which comes on the Independant Film Channel it seems like every two months or so in the states, if there's an equivilent there, and should defiinitely be available for rent on DVD. You'll see what an honor it is to be graced with a play on the gentleman's name. You RPG pimp you.
I'm feeling all the more pimpin' for knowing, kezzy. I'll take a look for the show if I'm at home anytime, though- mom and dad have got a whole gamut of channels available on satellite, while cheap-ass me has nothing here at the old apartment but basic cable, sadly.
Epicness, from another angle.
Once again as I read the column, I see these debates
degenerate into arguments over the definition of terms
rather than the titles themselves. Games as art.
Presentation in games. Now, are RPGs no longer epic.
Well, here's my take on the whole situation that's a
little different from the others.
Most RPGs, in my opinion, have epic stories. We're so
used to a motley crew of characters traversing the
world to save it from certain doom, that it's the
norm. That doesn't make them less epic according to
the definition. What has been debated and actually
affected my enjoyment of games recently is how this
epicness is executed. Namely world travel.
Good points. It's true- even the RPGs with mediocre stories are a lot more ambitious, plotwise, than the most recent bland installment of NBA 2kx. Sure, some of them emphasize the story more than some others, and for a few games, it's merely a backdrop. However, yeah, I'll agree that in general, stories of RPGs are more or less "relatively epic."
And world travel, hmm? Doesn't it... okay, I'll let you talk first before I ask questions.
Most RPGs have varied ways of getting around. Whether
it be conveniently choosing from a list of locations
(bleh) or actually traveling around the world in
various vehicles (yay!). This, I feel, greatly
contributes to the epicness of an RPG, and no games do
this better than Dragon Quest VIII. I'm not just
talking about merely traveling the overworld, but the
perspective that comes along with it. FF VII is epic,
but the bird's eye view when traveling still irritates
me. I'm talking about the over-the-shoulder view,
with large characters and locales viewed with actual
scale. It makes me feel like I'm there. I got chills
when I hiked up that hill at dusk and saw that lone
red tree across the forest. I knew then this was a
world worth exploring. The epic story is almost a
given. My second favorite RPG that sports this view
(at least in towns) is Skies of Arcadia. Level 5 also
does this with Dark Cloud and Rogue Galaxy, the latter
of which I got bored with, but I still acknowledge the
epic feel and would agree with those who vouch for it.
It's true- those very things almost made me start crying in wow-ness when I played through the DQVIII demo (months before its actual release). My favourite area in the game is the road to Port Prospect from Alexandria- walking up on top of the hill besides the beach is just awesome, but it's even MORE awesome because you can walk right down and get close-up to some of the neat rock formations and such if you want to. Yeah, DQVIII had a really "epic" feel in this sense, if you want to call it epic. I'd personally just say that it's vast and breathtaking, and that sure, those things can help make the world feel a little grander in scale. Final Fantasy XII managed to pull this off too, to an extent, though I feel it was slightly less so due to the major "disconnect" between some adjacent areas. The difference is that in DQVIII, the world is one massive thing that isn't separated into a collection of different maps like most other RPGs. Man, talking about the game is making me want to play it... a lot.
I guess my point is this. The meaning of the word
epic can and will have varied interpretations with
regards to the player. For me, it's the perspective
the game uses to draw me into the world and give scale
to the already epic story.
Fair enough. But then, might I ask, what are your feelings on games like Xenosaga that don't have "worlds" in the sense we're used to? I feel strongly that Xenosaga feels like a vast game even though there isn't a world you traverse at all. It's not just the complex story, either... but if that's true, then what is it?
Anyway, it's something that I haven't really tasted in an RPG since I finished FFXII. The games I've played since: Dragon Quest Monsters: Rocket Slime, Lunar Knights, Pokemon, Valkyrie Profile 2, Zelda: TP... the only one that comes close to having an epic-scaled world is obviously Zelda. Even then, though, the game felt somehow confining in an odd way, sometimes.
What are your thoughts, everybody? Do you think that this definition of epic is the definitive one? Share your opinion!
I have a question I keep forgetting to ask. What was with the FF series
long time tradition of having Fire, Blizzard, and Thunder magic but not
really balancing them out? In some games, there was no sure-fire way to
know what element was useful against what monster, and many of the games
just made things ridiculously complicated with eight or more "elements,"
fire, ice, thunder, water, earth, wind, dark, holy... yet Fire,
Blizzard, and Thunder were inexplicably the most accessible spells,
while many enemies continued to have weaknesses against darkness or holy
when such spells were rare or unavailable at that point in the game. Or
there are three tiers of thunder magic but just the one spell "Water"
and even then only in some cases. Or wind magic is inexplicably left to
the Blue Mage. Why? It all seems so arbitrary and strange to me.
Oh, I don't know either. It's one of those things that irritated me a lot when I was younger, but I grew to love the idea that some elements were easier to use than others. In Final Fantasy VI, for example, enemy weaknesses to things like water and wind gave some of the Blue Magic and esper attacks a little bit greater purpose and usefulness. When "Water" was finally made into a spell in Final Fantasy VIII, it seemed so weird for some reason.
Final Fantasy XII just did this to us too, actually. What did you think of having access to dark-elemental magic so early in the game? It gave me shivers of delight, personally, just because it was so fun to be able to for a change (not that ANYTHING is ever weak against darkness, but, you know).
So yeah, it is rather arbitrary, but somehow really likable for me. I don't really have a good reason why, either.
When I take over the world and start making video games, I'm going to
insist on a bit of balance to the elements. I think FFX was on the right
track with the opposites of fire/ice and lightning/water, but they
ruined all the potential fun of the system by having a black mage who
just knew spells of all four elements anyway, so what did it matter? She
might as well have had the spell "Whatever this thing's weak against."
(And never mind the summons debacle... though honestly, I rarely if ever
used the summons, penalty or no. It was, first of all, a waste of time
and second of all, prevented characters from obtaining double AP for
overkills, so there was no way I would allow a single battle to end with
a freaking summon dancing around preventing my characters from sliding
across the sphere grid faster. But I digress. Clearly. FFX is still my
favorite of that series, though! Probably even partially because the
elements thing was considerably better balanced.)
See, that's exactly it: If one and only one character has access to all of the elemental spells, then it doesn't really matter anyway. That's why I like it when things are mixed up a bit; when someone has elemental weapons, another has summons, and so on.
I actually didn't like FFX's opposite-elemental pairings very much. It simplified matters in a somehow annoying way. Call me obsessive or weird or Aloysseus, but I really don't enjoy having simple pairings like that, because hell, Fire SHOULD be weak against Water, even if Water is "married" to the Thunder element instead. It just should be. Plus, they did away with all of the other elements in the game, did they not? Was there even a "wind" or an "earth" element in FFX? No?!? Sacrilege!
As for the summons thing, it's true that I rarely used them too. The fact is, though, that if there ever was a case where you were in a pinch, you COULD bring them in and destroy the world most of the time without much trouble, if you really needed them to do so.
Seriously, if I ever do make a game of my own, you can bet there will be
a bit more symmetry involved.
'Til next time!
Aye. However, I think that there's a danger to making things TOO symmetric. To me, spells would get boring if there was simply an Ice/Thunder/Wind/Water/Earth version of every single Fire spell. I like having super-powerful Quake and Aero spells that are off-the-beaten path, in a way. Coming up with a nice balance, though, that maintains variety while trying to include all elements... that's the truck. Er, the trick. (I really actually made that typo, but decided to leave it in because it was just fun.)
As a mathematician and probably OCD-sufferer, I know your pain. Asymmetric things are just irritating. Or ugly. After all, I read a study, and apparently, the most beautiful people are those with great amounts of symmetry in their beautiful, beautiful faces.
More on the FPS, the RPG, and me.
I thought that I should write in with my take with the FPS genre like you
asked, since I think that I was possibly the one who brought the topic up a
few weeks ago.
From what you described, the bulk of your FPS experience was playing with
other people on competitive multiplayer. Being an RPGamer, fast-paced,
competitive multiplayer must not have meshed well with you. I don't like to
generalize people, but I will say that I think that FPS fans in general are
very, very unfriendly to newbies, as my experience with sucking in FPS
multiplayer sounds a whole lot like yours. But then you mentioned loving
Metroid Prime, a single-player only, methodically paced FPS game where you
do a whole lot more than just shoot things; you can also explore, solve
puzzles, navigate rooms a la Zelda (which you also mentioned liking), and
basically have fun learning more about the world and its history, and stays
true to a Metroid game in those regards. Many people even say that BECAUSE
of these other great aspects of the game, which make you do more than just
shoot things recklessly, the game is disqualified in being considered an
FPS, but I think they're just being snobs; doesn't the definition of a
first-person shooter mean that you fight by shooting in a first-person view?
If so, then I say Metroid qualifies, and should be praised for trying
different things, rather than sticking to the established and cliché, but I
I totally agree. 96% of the time, while you're playing MP games, you're behind her visor and blasting away at things. I just find it interesting because a lot of the time, there's a puzzle-solving feel to the game, alongside an interesting and unique element of discovery. It's absolutely exciting to me to scan new pieces of data in enemy labs to get a better and better grip on the backstory. The music and graphical style help to contribute a phenomenal feeling of foreboding as well; one which I haven't really felt in many other games.
Anyway, it seems like you really enjoy playing a game like Metroid Prime
which did things differently, as opposed to Hexen, Goldeneye, and Halo,
which more or less stuck to the norm. So I concluded that you should try
playing similar games, possibly ones with RPG elements too. So I naturally
decided on suggesting System Shock 2 to you. It's also a very single-player
focused game with a very cool story; it's also very methodically-paced in
its action; many of the enemies move very slowly, and certainly don't
require refined marksmen skills to take down; you also do more than just
shoot enemies, as you can hack machines to avoid conflict, and spend time
exploring and finding upgrades to your weaponry; and it's very much an RPG
at heart, with inventory managing, magic-learning, and character
customizing, which leads to a lot of open-ended ways in getting through the
game with differently-customized characters, learning skills that you want
and avoiding other that you don't want, which adds ample replay value. I can
add a lot more praise to the game, but I think you understand what kind of
game this is, and why I think it should sound appealing if you liked Metroid
Eh, that sounds kind of funky. I haven't really looked into the series before, but if I want to broaden my horizons, it'll be nice to have a series or two to watch out for.
Then again, maybe System Shock 2 isn't the right game to recommend, given
what you said about how you deal with blood and gore. It's also a very
creepy, and might not bode well if you scare easily. Still, given the game's
nature, I still think it's the kind of FPS that you would enjoy the most. I
also hear a metric ton of similarly good things about the Half-Life games,
though I haven't played either of them yet. Just read Jonezy's letter from
the June 5th column for example, so maybe you can try those games too, Matt.
It's "superfluous" blood and gore that I have difficulties with sometimes- when it's over the top, my stomach can make unhealthy gurgly noises. So that disturbs me, but moreso ultra disgusting and contrived scenarios, like, for example, the entirety of the movie "Saw." Not good. At all.
I know that FPS gamers and RPGamers often seem like polar opposites to one
another, but I think that we have a lot more in common than people often
assume. I still suggest System Shock 2 or Half-Life as FPS that people like
us have the best chance of enjoying. I hope that gave you a little bit of
encouragement to give the genre another shot (no pun intended).
To me, there's no reason why they shouldn't have more in common. Storyline? I'm sure that there are FPSs out there that carry a great plot. Why not? Gameplay? Metroid proves that the monotony of "shoot-everything-that-moves" doesn't have to define the genre. Perhaps one day soon, I'll play a new game to make the genre deliver once more. For now, I have my Metroid, and a little bit of hope.
Thanks for the letter!
Another MMO recommendation!
After reading about your status as an MMO newbie, and your fears about annoying the more experienced players and whatnot, I figured I'd make a little suggestion.
Sure! I'll take whatever you can give me.
If you're looking for an entry point into the MMO genre, I would highly suggest picking up either the original Guild Wars or Guild Wars: Nightfall. The plus side of this is that there's no monthly fee to play it, which means you don't waste money if you don't have the time to play. It's also nowhere near as grind-intensive as other online RPGs, since the maximum level is only 20.
Although, I know a lot of people do make the comment that it's not a real MMO, because of the way the world is set up. I don't know how much you know about Guild Wars, so I'll explain a little. Rather than having one large interconnected world that everyone is wandering around in at all times (like WoW and others), the world is divided up into zones. While in a town, you can chat with others, trade items, form parties, dance like a fool, and basically interact with other players. Once you leave town though, it's just you and whoever is in your party in your own copy of the world. They make up for this by offering NPC party members in every town that can be freely added to round out your party, so you're never stuck adventuring on your own if you can't find another player to go with you. There are also fairly decent tutorials at the beginning of each game that explain how things work, and ease you into things before the real action starts.
Just my suggestion on things really. I've been playing GW off and on since it released, and it's always fun for a little diversion, even if the storyline gets a little cheesy at times.
Oh, funky. I had no idea that that's how it worked at all, just because you do have the freedom of having other REAL-LIFE people in your party at the same time, according to my sister. Diane tried to loop me into playing the game about a year ago, and nearly succeeded before my thesis sucked my soul out and spit it back at me.
I should just suck it up and play it, for fun. Maybe I'll borrow it from my sister... or buy my own copy sometime soon, so that I can play with her. I think I need to, just so that I don't have this awful, gaping whole in my brain's database.
Thanks for the pointer! I think I'm getting close to actually trying. There's no monthly fee, which is a big thing for me, and a lot of different people have recommended the game to me over the past year or more. It's high time I respond.
DQVII Bonus Dungeons. Your opinions on them? Minor spoilers acceptable.
Not nearly as good as DQVIII's. Fighting The Almighty himself at the top of the first one, however, was pretty damn fun. The second bonus dungeon, unfortunately, had a disappointingly easy boss at the end. Overall, like the rest of the game, the bonus material was "all right, but nothing too special."
Here's a question for you...where do most of your letters come from? If most come from America, do they come from the Midwest, the East Coast, the West Coast, or somewhere else? OR does most of your material for your column just come from good ol' Canada? Don't mean to ask an odd question, just bored and curious...BLG
Hmm, good question. I get a good number of Canadian readers, but I'd say that most are from the States. A few people write in from all over, though- I've had a few from Europe, Japan, Brazil, and the Middle East! I know, I know, it's an international forum to say the least.
More tomorrow? I do believe so.
Our new hot topic is a spinoff from one of today's first letters. Which RPGs have the best worlds? They might be vast and amazing, or smaller but incredibly detailed- either way, I want to hear what you have to say. Of course, any other things you feel like writing about are always fair game too. Failing that, I just hope you have a good time reading!
Unanswered Letter Backlog: 34
Matt is sad that the summer semester is winding down and research is starting baaaack up.
*cry* I hate programming! Can someone PLEASE offer me a job?
Aug. 2: Matt
Aug. 1: Matt
July 31: Matt
July 27: Matt
About the Host
On my Wishlist:
1. Dragon Quest IX
2. Metroid Prime 3
3. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn
4. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
5. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker
On my Portable Playlist:
1. Mega Man ZX
2. Etrian Odyssey
3. (Taking Suggestions!)
On my Console Roster:
1. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
3. Tales of Symphonia
1. Have there been any "epic" RPGs lately? Is FFXII epic? Why or why not?
2. Your thoughts on the FPS? Is there one that I should play?
3. Which RPGs have the best worlds?
4. Which Zelda is your favourite?
5. Tales games galore! Yay? Or Ugh?
Enter Here for