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ASK MATT
Pickled Eggs? Unusual! October 17, 2005

Matt Demers - 00:19 EST

IT MAY HAVE been the Vicks Vaporub smeared all over my face last night, or it may have been the Advil-of-false-pleasure that I had popped throughout the day yesterday; it may even have been the extra fiery shrimp curry that I made myself for dinner last night, or the hours of Yahoo Graffiti I played into the early hours of this morning. One thing is clear, though. I had some really damn weird dreams last night. Considering that I really don't dream very often, much less quite vividly, I feel like there must be an explanation somewhere for this mysterious happening.

What were the dreams about? Hahahaha... like I'd tell you guys. Well, OK. You know when your dreams blend elements of all sorts of different things that aren't connected at all in reality? My dreams took members of my extended family and associated them with RPGamer identities, and then placed them into a most unlikely plot that happened to be very sad. My emotions have been flying strangely all day as a result, so there definitely might be some weirdness present in today's column, which I shall begin at the conclusion of this sentence.




L E T T E R S
More RPG-defining ponderings


Okay, now, I suppose this isn't technically a question, but I feel compelled to speak my mind on the "what makes a game an RPG" topic. Now, strictly speaking, in an RPG you are, of course, pretending to be somebody else. The idea of role-playing is to create an aternate personality. To truly make the character you are pertending to be your own role, your decisions have to have an impact on the world around you. If there are no opportunities for choices with real consequences, then there is no role-playing... you're just a spectator.

For this reason, most modern console RPGs are not technically RPGs. In Final Fantasy games, you are not really taking anybody's role. Each character has their own personality, and makes pre-ordained descisions that you cannot change. The game is a static world, like a book or move. The is no actual role-playing in a Final Fantasy RPG... or most other console RPGs, for that matter. By the traditional definition, these games are NOT RPGs.

Now let us examine the classic PC RPG, Fallout. Fallout is a true RPG. Your character is fully yours to create. From the skills you use, to how you interact with NPCs. When speaking with an NPC, rather than simply getting a single message, you engage in an actual conversation, and your conversation choices determine whether the NPC will help you, refuse to assist you, or maybe even try to kill you. In addition the choices you make throughout the game have a very real impact on the world around you... towns literally live or die by your actions. This is true role-playing, using the traditional definition.

Matt

Mmmmmmmmmmgrawrrr...

Yes, I see what you're saying, but I think that that definition just excludes so many things that the RPG genre has grown into over the past decade or two. Perhaps it's true that you don't "become" or "construct" the hero(es) of Final Fantasy games, but what you DO is get a better snapshot than anyone else in the game's world of the adventure or story of the hero as it unfolds.

Surely, what you describe is where the seeds of today's RPGs lie; but your definition is like describing math as "the study of numbers and geometry". Sure, that might be where things started, but in today's world, it's not what it used to be. Or, better yet, SKITTLES: if you defined them as "little fruit-flavoured candies that come in a red bag", that would be fine and dandy, except that now, there are something like four other varieties! Things have grown and changed and expanded, and the definition ain't what it used to be. Oh, and I'm definitely feeling "off" on the analogies today, so cut me some slack (fresh slack, preferably).

Before a bunch of people try to kill me for "dissing" console RPGs, let me stress that I love console RPGs as much as anybody else. They simply are not RPGs in the traditional sense. They are, however, RPGs by modern standards. The meaning of the term "RPG" has slowly changed over the years as genres have developed. As many people have noticed, RPG elements have been seeping into other genres for quite some time. Deus Ex is a fantastic FPS/RPG that uses an experience system. Warcraft 3 is an RTS with RPG elements. Castlevania is an action/adventure game with a dash of RPG. Even Zelda, which used to be considered simply an action/adventure game, is now considered by many to be an RPG. Likewise, elements of other genres have been invading RPGs, as well, such as the fighting game style real time combat in the Tales series.

Matt

Well, la-di-dah. I guess that'll teach me to not read ahead before answering. Very good, DDX; you get an apple.

Now, out of all the games mentioned, what common ground do they share? Answer: a significant focus on plot and character development, along with some traditional RPG elements. That is the modern definition of "RPG." It IS becoming increasingly difficult to determine what is a true RPG, however. For example, you could make a reasonable argument the Devil May Cry is an RPG... there's not really any less plot the the typical new-style Castlevania game, and there is the ability to improve your character's abilities and attributes. However, nearly all of us will agree that Devil May Cry is NOPT an RPG, as despite the plot and the ability to improve one's character, the focus is still quite obviously on hack & slash action. In the future, with games becoming more and more cinematic, and gamers increasingly desiring ways to improve their in-game avatar, the line between RPG and other genres will blur further.

Matt

Okay, that's more like it. Your letter has turned from one that was stressing me out, to one that I agree with, mostly. I'd personally argue that "traditional RPG elements" are slightly more important than plot and character development in the definition, if only because 95% of modern RPGs still find it necessary to keep around such things as "HP", money dropped randomly from monsters that probably wouldn't actually carry cash on-hand (on-claw?) in reality; and levels, a rather artificial way of representing skill development, if you sit and think about it.

Okay, so that was a huge wad of text with no question. I can't write in to Q&A without having at least ONE question, so here goes:

What's your favorite Dragon Warrior (or Dragon Quest, if you insist). Mine would have to be DW 3, simply because of the vast amount of control you had over your characters and party, such as being able to create almost as many characters as you wanted, and the ability to multiclass characters. A close runner-up is DW5, as it retained the classic DW "freedom," while having a rather good plot (at least, by the standards of the time).

On a side note, it's great to see another fan of DW... it's a great series that most people in the US have, sadly, passed by. Kudos to you for having an awesome taste in RPGs!

Sorry for the giant letter,
DDX

Matt

That's okay, since I seem to invoke the urge to write lengthily in lots of people. Also, it's not REALLY true; you can write in to Q&A just to blab and not really Q anything. Chances are, your letter will make it up here anyway, because if you want to just rant, there's nothing more fun for me to do than just rant back.

But yes, my favourite Dragon Quest games are Dragon Warrior III and IV; V is close behind. III just left the entire world open for you to explore, especially once you got your ship. It was absolutely amazing. IV was easily one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) NES RPGs, and it's evident when you sit down to play it. It had the first hints of a good story to go along with Dragon Quest gameplay, and hey, the artificial intelligence in that game was better then, thirteen years ago, than many more recent games... *glares at Star Ocean 3 with distaste*



I'm not a letter ignorer!!


Mattykins,

Okay, couple things. First of all, using P in 1337 doesn't work, because the point of 1337 is that you don't use ANY letters. So to say "leetspeak" in 1337 is 1337$|*34|< with |* being P.

Matt

Mattykins is a new one... oh-so-cute, and in a fuzzy-wuzzy sort of way.

Oh, yeah, I'm sure my leetspeak is anything but 100%. My ultimate goal is to instead construct "geekspeak" in which all numbers are represented by letters. Maybe I'll make that my challenge for the rest of today's column...no promises here.

Megaman Legends IS a very cool offshoot. Both games were extremely cool. I hardly played either but I watched two of my firends play both quite a bit and I can tell you it was sweet, and kinda RPGish. I suggest a look at it and I also suggest Capcom make another.

I'm very proud of you for not mentioning DQVIII anymore in that last QnA (after my letter) "tosses you a doggy treat". Good boy!

Now I'm not smart enough to know if Pythagoras actually did his whole theorem because I'm not a math major, but I know that the theorem is in a right triangle, the sum of the squares of the two legs is equal to the square of the hypotenuse. In other words:
b) a^2 + b^2 = c^2 in a right triangle where c is the hypotenuse and a and b are the legs.

The capital of Nicaragua is:
e) Managua (And i didn't even need to look it up, i'm that smart)

Matt

I almost wish I hadn't brought up Megaman at all, because I really DO like at least the core games, and when I hear that there might be another gem in the series somewhere, it makes me want to pick it up, though I've already got seventeen games on the go, or so it feels, and then I ramble on and on in overextended sentences like this one in a more-distressed-than-I-should be manner because I don't have time to add another to the roster of games-needing-completion. Ew, I just noticed a spider on my windowsill...

Yes, you're smart. *pat pat* ...unless, of course, it was a dreaded TRICK QUESTION! Now, to hunt for a book, shoe, or other ideal murder weapon...

What's your whole take on the Wild ARMs series? I loved the first and third of the series, the second was pretty much poop. I'm not sure how i feel about the remake of the first one. I must admit that where the first one is one of my favorite games ever, I can't really play it nowadays because it was made right after that transition to 3D and looks rather un-good. They shouuld have held off on 3D for another couple years in my humble opinion. Heck, I like sprite-based games better as is, they should NEVER have gone to full 3D...oh well.

Anyways, what's your take on it? Have you ever played any of the games? If so, like them? dislike them? reasons?

Wild ARMs 1 was rad because I liked the three characters and their abilities (Rudy's ARMs rocked) and how it all meshed together. The game was super tough too...one of the hardest i've ever played, especially if you go fight that ninja guy at the arena. Plus the story is amazing too, very dark and some really cool twists. Fantastic game, easily top 10 rpgs of all time, with or without the graphics taken into account.

I don't give hearts to letter ignorerers, even if you didn't ignore my last one.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend,
Gryphon

Matt

SPLAT. That's the end of him! Now for the ceremonial funeral-flushing...I'd better watch out for a possible onslaught of overzealous animal-rights activists...all "Oh save the spiders!"-y and such.

I've never played Wild ARMs, to be honest with you. That said, I think it's very common opinion that the first was the best, and the other two lag behind, with the second being quite terrible indeed; so you're not alone. Graphics aren't really an issue for me generally, though if they're bad to the point that it affects other parts of the game, I take it into consideration. I'm playing Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana currently, and I find it very difficult to perceive depth correctly in some areas, which is sometimes irritating to a great extent.

WA seems to be something that has become quite a rarity these days... I really wish I had done more than just read the back of the boxes on the Electronics Boutique shelf in the past. There's always e-Bay, I suppose. Oh yeah, and I don't need your hearts; I have other readers that <3 me. *sulks*

<3



Yeah, yeah, yeah, Barbie is too tall, I know


Hi, Matt,

Hope you're feeling better. I don't think any coughing can help but sound like a death rattle. Hopefully it'll soon pass.

I have to agree with the writer yesterday who "predicted" that DQVIII will finally be the PS2's stelllar RPG. I'm also not very psyched about the FFXII demo. Without a good battle system, the story isn't going to be enough to sell me. After all, this is a game - not a book. Which also ties in with while yes, I like getting free stuff with my game, I'm buying it for the game.

The little Barbie tables in pizza boxes are for when the delivery dude stacks the pizzas. It keeps the lids from crushing down & sticking to the cheese. Yes, I am a Master of Minutiae!!!!!

Matt

So my cough progressed into a more sinus-related ailment, so now I'm popping Advils every now and then for kicks. The problem is that they only relieve the pain; the pressure/swelling is still firmly in-play, so it still feels quite like someone has shoved two golf balls too far up my nose and left them there for fun. Quite unpleasant, though I've had some kick-ass sneezes lately (sneezing is definitely up in my Top 3 most-fun involuntary bodily functions).

I'm big on your opinion about DQVIII/FFXII. I'll grant this: If indeed FFXII has a battle system I can appreciate, we'll see. I can say with certainty that it's not going to be a "wash"; there will be some redeeming qualities to FFXII, whether they're found only graphically or not. Either way, we all know that most RPGamers are just going to go buy the game anyway (and so does Square Enix, for better or worse...)

Also, my inbox was assaulted by people pouring forth their Barbie-table-knowledge after that column last week. I guess I never really thought about it before. Stop laughing at me! STOP!!



The only remake that makes any sense to me is FFIII. Simply because that one's never been released here. All the rest of these remakes are already easily available. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SQUARE ENIX, STOP THE INSANITY!!!!!!!! Sadly, as long as they can make a kaboodle of money, they'll keep churning out these remakes.

Have a good one.

Jbumi

Matt

Wow, you bang-on echo pretty much exactly how I feel. I'm so excited to finally play Final Fantasy III over here... we've waited a long, long time for this one. FFIII is really the launchpad for the rest of the series; so many things, ranging from the battle system and class system, right down to the sound effects were all started in FFIII, and not many people realize it.



Silly monthly-fee-payers


Alright, so I finally got myself a new computer and I want to go pick up Final Fantasy XI (especially sice the release of The Vana'diel Collection) but I'm not sure what the payment options are. Is it credit card only? Paypal? Can you buy prepaid card thingies like you could with Everquest?

And beware the space monkies!

Matt

I'm always looking out for those dreaded space monkeys, though the aforementioned overzealous animal rights activists would have a lot more to complain about if I did anything proactive about them.

Payment options? I assume they probably have several online choices. Given that they want your money so badly, as is nicely evidenced by the ridiculous monthly charges, I'm sure you'll find out quickly enough the possible methods of bank account-rapeage available to you. Enjoy!



Review the reviews?


The answers to Thursday's column:
13: b
14: e

And now a question:

I liked the two fire emblem games for gameboy. I am think of buying the fire emblem for the gamecube on Monday for this reason. This is not normal for me, normally I wait for a few reviews before buying a game.

So my question is: Is it OK to buy a game without reading reviews and such? After all, it might be a bad game. You wouldn't know without reading a review or two. My personal experience with this has been with two non-RPGs in the Rogue Squadron series. Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2 was a great game. Its sequel, Rogue Squadron 3 was absolutely terrible. I read the reviews, and didn't buy the game. Anyway, let me know what you think.

Thanks,
Flamethrower

Matt

I'll tell you something: Not a single game out of my most-beloved RPGs were played as a result of reading a stellar review. It is possible to go and get a game you think will be good, after all, by chance, especially if your chances are augmented by having enjoyed previous games in the series.

I think that the necessity of review-reading depends mostly upon two things:
a) Your cash-richness/poorness
b) Your time-richness/poorness

If you have lots of time and money to waste, then it's not much of a big deal to go and try random games on for size; if you don't like them, then no harm, no foul, essentially. On the other hand, if you don't have these fundamental game-playing resources to a big extent, it would probably be a good idea to double-check and make sure that you're buying something that's at least semi-playable.



I should have known that someone would SOCK me back


Dear Lonely Question Answerer, I'm writing this because apparently you don't get enough questions to answer, so I figure I might pique your mind a bit with some Trivia! ^^

Matt

Oh damn. My trivia hat isn't on right now; it's not a Jeopardy night. Alas, though, you went to such a significant effort that I am compelled to put this one up anyway.

Question #1:
In the first Final Fantasy, why are there bats flying around the black orb in the Ruins of the Chaos Shrine?

Question #2:
What RPG has a spellcasting system where creating new words results in a new spell?

Question #3:
In Final Fantasy 6, what does Gogo say he is the Master of?

Question #4:
In Valkyrie Profile, what is the name of the Strongest Armor? (hint: it's found in the Seraphic Gate)

Question #5:
In Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, who is General Leo's alter ego?

Question #6:
In Super Mario RPG, what is the name of the enemy that you fight who has Final Fantasy battle music/music themes when you encounter him?

Question #7:
Who is the Heroic Knight you play as throughout the course of Bahamut Lagoon?

Question #8:
What is the name of Squaresoft's Playstation Side-scrolling Shooter?

Okay, that's enough questions for now, hope you get them right. Good luck! ^^

~Blade

Matt

Well, readers! Here's a good chance for you to show exactly how smart you are, and prove that you belong in this Q&A writing spot more than I, since I know like, three of those.

Which three? Let's see here...

Answer #1: I wouldn't have remembered, except that your question sparked some familiarity. Are they like some unsuccessful Warriors of Light from the past? (I guess they weren't quite as bright..."Warriors of Dimness" indeed.)

Answer #2: Scrabble IV, the epic experience?

Answer #3: He's Gogo, master of the simulacrum! And his miming skills will shock and astound you! Or something like that.

Answer #4: Clearly, it must be the Seraphic Gate Armor.

Answer #5: Nooo idea. Again.

Answer #6: It's Culex and his four crystals. Everyone, get out your Rock Candy, quick!!

Answer #7: Damn you and your not-really-that-obscure games! You remind me of how inferior I really am...

Answer #8: Hahahaha... is it Einhander you speak of? Does this mean I pass?

Tharrrr, you got your kicks in. Now leave me alone!!
Oh yeah, if people want to try answering any of those, then by all means...

Thanks for the interesting diversion, by the by.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Well, there you go.

I don't have much else to say, and since my throat is becoming more and more sore by the hour, it's a good thing that anything I HAVE had to say has been say-able in text. I actually lost my voice the other day while tutoring students in the help centre. Why? Hahaha... of course, because I roar at them whenever they're wrong in a booming, thunderous bellow (this coming from the guy who is always mistaken for "Mrs. Demers" if he picks up his home phone...)

Actually, there was just lots of background chatter to talk above on that particular day; cruelty is not my thing, usually.

OK, most people got the questions right from last time; they weren't particularly excruciating, and I'm not sure why I allocated 20 points to the first one, though it launched some of you into a researching frenzy. Definitely, the answer was b) the right-angled triangle one, and if you were thrown off by d) or e), you must have overlooked the fact that the two other mathematicians came MILLENIA after Pythagoras walked the earth, and with the dinosaurs, according to former Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day. If you don't know what that means, never you mind.

Also, the capital of Nicaragua is NOT Quinoa, you silly things; that, fool humans, is a type of uncommon South American grain-of-sorts. Guava is a fruit; Guatemala is a country. Guanoville... well, come on, guys. The answer was e) Managua and those of you who guessed this were credited with an additional 10 points. Now, for this day's ponderances...

Question #15: A Magic Pot appears! Command? (10 points)

a) Use an Elixir on it and hope that it does something nice in return.
b) Attack it with the Seraph's Sword.
c) Give it at least 1000000 GP to obtain something special.
d) Run away! The faster, the better.
e) Hit RESET.

Question #16: Vat ees my MEEDLE name? (20 points)

a) Andrew
b) Matthew
c) Ryan
d) William
e) Jayson



Okay, so here's the thing. Try sending SOCK answers to MY e-mail address, or at the very least, to the QNA mailbox, or else they may get overlooked! Cast is in no way affiliated with the great Spectacular Ongoing Contest of Knowledge, so he might just toss your e-mail out the window, if he's in a bad mood. He's not usually in a bad mood, but he may be one day.

We've got three items in the points-shop right now. If anyone has fantastic ideas for something new, then by all means, let me know what you're thinking up.

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

100 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
500 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #1 (5 remaining!)
100000000 points: All-expenses-paid trip to E3 (can this be yours??)

'Tis an exciting competition. Keep it exciting by responding, and you'll get 2 points at the very least (which would happen if you were completely wrong!)

All righty. That's about enough out of me for this edition. Send more, now.

wonderslime@rpgamer.com
***Matt is waging a war against the infectious disease...

Send a Question

I didn't actually know Einhander, but it was pretty easy to look up. And no one will ever know!! MWAHAHAHA...

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Matt's Next Unhealthy Addiction

Another Unhealthy Addiction

Matt's Top 3 Current Games:

1. Makai Kingdom
2. Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana
3. Warioware: Twisted!

Matt's Top 3 RPG Desires:

1. Dragon Quest VIII
2. Final Fantasy III

3. Mario & Luigi: PiT

Cookie o' the Update:

Mattie's Mom's Oatmeal Cookies
That's right! A real recipe! If SNES Final Fantasy games are my nostaglic video games, these are my nostalgic baked goods.

-1 1/2 cups butter

-1 1/2 cups brown sugar

-1 egg

-2 1/2 cups oatmeal

-1/2 tbsp baking soda

-1 3/4 cups flour

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

--------

-a little bit of cinnamon

-a little bit of white sugar

Cream together butter and brown sugar. Mix in the egg. Separately, mix together the next four ingredients with a fork. Combine the wet and dry mixtures. Roll into balls, and place onto cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with a moistened glass dipped in a mixture of white sugar and cinnamon. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees, and cool on a rack.

SOCK standings:

1. Nwash
140 pts

2. Jbumi
125 pts

3. Yugiohfan1986
59 pts

4. darkcecil13
57 pts

5. Binser
55 pts

5. DDX
55 pts

7. Angel0886
52 pts

8. Arros Raikou
49 pts

9. Gryphon
42 pts

10. Jeremy
37 pts

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