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Collective Sigh December 6, 2005

Matt Demers - 03:18 EST

WHEN I TOLD YOU GUYS to think of me today, I didn't mean "hope for my utter demise". That exam was nothing short of a complete disaster; my only saving graces are these:

a) It seems that almost everyone in the class thought it was equally terribly hard, which will make me look like I'm just part of a dumb class rather than an exclusively dumb individual shining amongst a pack of bright people.

b) I had a 90% or more going into the exam (which unfortunately was worth 50% of the overall course mark).

I've never said once in my life "I'll be happy if I got a 40%"; not a single time! Tonight, I said those very words. SIGH.

I guess that one way or another, I'm finished, and I can finally move on. And, as I said yesterday... I'll never have to look at a Partial Differential Equation again in my life. THAT is something to cheer about!

This week in Q&A is just getting started, though, and we have exciting things happening! Guest hosts will help me take the stage both Wednesday and Thursday, so I hope that you all enjoy the show! It's gonna be a lot of fun, I imagine.

Let us do one more boring, normal day though, first, beginning with this letter:





L E T T E R S
An XBox defense


Matt,

I finally used Yangus' Steal skill work...twice!!! Since it was two out of 50-100(rough estimate) attempts, I would say it's probably closer to 5%, that or I'm just extremely unlucky.

Matt

A round of applause, everyone? I think it worked for me on my 4th or 5th attempt, but I think it might work better on monsters that tend to drop items more often in the first place. I'm not sure, though.

Gotta agree with that guy about the XBox, it has some pretty good games like Halo, and I'm not even into FPS usually. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 are two of the best RPG's ever. Storyline, character development, customability of characters, it uses dungeon and dragons rules for combat and skills, and translates said rules to the Star Wars universe very well. Even if you aren't a Star Wars fan, you should definitly give these games at least a couple hours to prove themselves if you're ever able to borrow an XBox from a friend. Seriously, I bought a used XBox, Halo 1 and 2, KOTOR 1 and 2, these were the only games I got for the system and I never once regretted the purchase. Better to have a system with four perfect games than a system with a bunch of pretty good games and a couple great games, and now Dragon Quest 8, the first PS2 game to make me glad I bought a PS2. FFX and the GTA games were good but not on par with Dragon Quest or the aforementioned XBox games.

Matt

Fair enough. However, that still leaves me puzzled by something: Aren't all of those games also PC titles? Why not just play them on the more expensive XBox you already have?


(bwahahaha... this is coming, admittedly, from the anti-PC-gaming king, for one; for TWO, I know that Halo 2 isn't out for PC yet, so my argument holds about as much water as a broken colander. Will it ever be out for PC, though? *shrug*)

Sorry for the long "XBox pledge of allegience", but the only games I can think of better than KOTOR would be Chrono Trigger, FFVI, and FFIV.

Crono8581


P.S. Crono's Warlords are totally rockin the Monster Arena!!! Class D champs baby!!!!

Matt

Are you kidding me? Don't you dare apologize! This is an opinion column, and so it's a pretty silly thing to say your mind and then follow it with sorries. I may not be that console's biggest promoter, but I like to hear what everybody has to say about a topic on-hand!

To me, I only invest in Sony consoles (*cough*NOTPSP*cough*) because that's where my games have flocked to. I'd buy an XBox if I had to, too. I don't, though, and while there may be a few shining diamonds popping up here and there, I can't justify spending the extra hundreds of dollars more I'd have to shell out just to give them a try. It's unfortunate, but points to only one thing: The solution to all of life's problems is "money". If you learn one thing from me, let it be that.



ATTACK OF THE CLONES? Beware.


Hi Matt

I thought I'd write in mainly to express my thoughts in response to Donovan's (Dec 1 2005) worries about the Final Fantasy series and magic because I also share many of the same principles.

Matt

Shoot. (I actually hate it when people say "shoot" in this context in real life... blah)

Firstly I'd like to say that I believe 'customisable' systems definitely take away from the uniqueness of each character and destroys a certain level of character development that we all say contributes to the overall quality of a game. In novels (yes, books) characters are stuck in only one possible path and all characters develop in exactly the same way each time you read the book. Of course I'm not saying that RPGs or any game for that matter should be critically compared with books, it's just that in terms of real character development the linear narrative is really the epitome and I've always equated the RPG genre with book-like qualities.

Matt

...and it's your God-given right to do so, my friend! I don't really equate the two myself, but when I explain "why I like RPGs" to interested parties (usually only-sort-of-close friends or extended family) I tell them that these games are like my novels... they take you from the beginning, progress through a plotline, reach a dramatic climax, and then finish (except, with credits). I think that it shows them, in a way, how much "deeper" an RPG is than a stupid sports game, when their first instinct would be to just equate all video games to one another, "more or less". What am I talking about? This has nothing to do with your question. Go on, please.

But hey, you say, if we wanted that kind of experience wouldn't we rather just read a book or watch a film or something? The answer of course is no, and that's due to interactivity. People like to interact in their world, and the RPG formula allows this kind of interaction to happen. The problem of course is that developers have mistaken interactivity for complete control. And that's not the reason that I play RPGs. If I wanted complete control I'd go play an RTS where giving your god-complex its much needed therapy is the idea. All I want is to be a part of the story; to assist the characters by making them strong enough to overcome their challenges.

Matt

You could say the same thing about those dreaded sports games, though, couldn't you? The more you play, the better you get, and the "stronger" the characters you control become. Interactivity is what defines all video games by definition, but I know what you're trying to say... RPGs take that definition and place it on a more "personal" level, in a way, I think. I guess it depends on the game in particular.

And this is my point: if everything about a character is interchangeable with another character, why not just have one? Granted, some games give some characters different stats so that they have a strategy that you can work to (ie. strengthening strengths or eliminating weaknesses in characters) but overall and at the end of the day just about any character will be able to do max damage with whatever skills you've taught them or equipped them with. Think about this: In FF7 (I'm using it because it's popular), no matter what characters you were using did you end up with three 'templates' that you would switch around depending on which character you felt like using at the time? And then in FF9, did you pretty much just choose the four characters you liked the most for the entire time (while you had a choice) and got them to high levels so they had all their strongest attacks? I don't know about anyone else but I think the second example displays a more in-depth level of character development.

Matt

Aha! This is the thing: RPGs have transformed over the years. No longer are characters only defined by what they can dish out in battle; with big dramatic cutscenes, flashy FMVs, and teams of voice actors, characters are becoming defined more and more based only on their personalities. I guess this is a good thing, but I do like character-specific differences. Dammit, I like it when the big hawt strong muscle guy has double the max HP of the sweet little innocent girl. My Sabin had like 13 HP more than Relm when she joined the party last time. That's not right!

I will admit, though, that I have never played FFVII or IX in the way you describe. I always, always use my lowest-levelled characters at any given time, changing every few save points or so, in order to have everyone at least in "pretty good" shape by the end. I feel guilty...or bad, or something, if I arrive at the conclusion of any game with three of my characters being godly and the rest being completely useless... I just can't stand it when that happens.

I understand this is pretty much just a big rant but I feel strongly about the concept. Think about Pokemon and how each little monster has different moves to the next, or learns something earlier or knows it innately. Each is unique, and that's something I think contributes to the general popularity and addictiveness of the game. The only other example I can think of includes fighting games. Think of the top-tier fighters like Soul Calibur etc. that all have unique characters where each has his own weapon and style. Then think about your lower-tier ones like (ugh!) DragonBall Z Budokai where pretty much every character is the same and its just another cell-shaded image with a different 'super' rather than a completely different character.

I know this went on a little bit and I'm sorry but just as an avid reader and gamer I think that RPGs could do with a little more RP and a little less G (and that is why I'll always love NWN and D&D).

Regards,
Mitch (Sydney, Australia)


Matt

Thanks, Mitch, for the heartfeltness. For those of us who play RPGs MORE for the game and LESS for the story, though, this really hits home, so don't worry about ranting away! I personally like a little bit of customability, but I never like completely customizable systems (or ones that are virtually so) quite as much. It doesn't BREAK a game, I don't think, but there's a reason that Final Fantasy I, II, III, and V's characters are just not as loveable as those featured in other games of the series. Anyone agree?



Another new country... check!


Hi Matt,
Greetings from Germany!

Now, down to business.
Since EBGames bought up most of the native gameshops around here, everything seems to become more Xbox orientated. It's really spreading like wildfire. I'm not anti-Xbox, I own one myself and are pretty satisfied with it, but if things continue like that, I really think, that in a few years everyone around here will think that Sony sucks. Why that you ask me?

Matt

Well, I would ask you, except that I already know the answer: It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that Sony (and now Microsoft, too?) sells shoddily-made products, because we're stuck in this "PLAYSTATION AND XBOX ARE COOOOL" phase, and I just don't see it changing anytime soon. Somewhere along the line, Nintendo got snuffed out of the competition back when a few pompous gaming magazines/programs started slinging the word "kiddie" around in reference to the Nintendo 64. It's been "not as cool" to be a Nintendo fan ever since, and developers had already flocked to the CD-based consoles by then anyway.

Regardless, this isn't a history lesson in consoles; you guys all know what happened. I really don't think that the next few years are going to be much different than the last few, honestly. There aren't any sweeping driving forces to make one next-gen system more popular than the current gen ones, or so it would seem. Thus, I don't think that the XBox 360 is going to grab a bigger piece of the popularity pie (good with ice cream!), especially once the PS3 hits the stores. Nintendo, I imagine, will lag behind and do its own thing once again.

Yesterday a friend of mine was at my place and cautiously asked me if it is really true that Microsoft bought up the Final Fantasy francise, and that in the future new Final Fantasy games are coming ONLY to the Xbox 360. I really thought this to be a joke, but when I told him how things really are he was suprised! He made a practical training at an EBGames shop near by and often heard his boss keep telling little children who asked about RPGs that this is really the case. Then he said, "well and it's coming here in dezember so keep your money save until then". Now, why are they doing this??? Is it allowed to lie to young children, who beleave what the nice guy in the gameshop tells them, because they don't know it better, just because they will buy the new Xbox because of that??? No it's not...

Matt

Psh... lies, lies!! The man is spouting potentially harmful drivel! Square Enix has indicated that they'd like to expand across all platforms, but the Playstation is still "home base" for them; it would be suicide for them to leave Sony entirely. Besides, I don't really know if they could just depart altogether; Sony has a stake in Square Enix, after all.

That just by the way, now to my questions. :-)

1.What kind of different weapons can the hero of Dragon Quest VIII use? Are his fists counted equally as one of them? Cause I'd really like to let him fight with his bare hands. :-)

2.What's the maximum amount of healing items a charakter can carry? It really got on my nerves in StarOcean3 where you could carry everything you want, but just a maximum of 20 from each...

I really hope, that my DQ will arrive here soon (I bought it on the first day via my import dealer, but it hadn't arrived yet).

Ben


Matt

Every character, not just the hero, can opt to fight with their fists, and if you stick enough skill points into the ability, they can become quite powerful at fighting weapons-free. I haven't given it a try, but maybe that's why I have no money at all in the game. Ah well... all the more reason to play it through a fourth time, no?

You can carry an enormous number of items in your bag, which is a universal storehouse for items. During battle, though, you can only use items that your characters themselves are holding; there are twelve slots total per person, and up to five of them will be used up by equipped weapons/armour. Theoretically, then, I guess there is room for about 25 healing items at a time, but you could replenish after every battle. Something to remember, though: You're certainly not going to have to worry about healing quite as frantically with items as you are during Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. This game is a -totally- different animal altogether, and I only very rarely use healing items during battles.

Good luck getting the game!! It's an amazing experience! And of course, thanks for the letter.



......@....!


Did you ever play ADOM (Ancient Domains of Mystery)?
You can get it free (yes, FREE!) at www.adom.de. The simplest way to describe it is a turn-based, single-character strategy RPG.

Matt

You sound like an infomercial. BUT WAIT! There's more! No, though, I haven't played it, unless I've just blocked out the memory.

Tell me more, Flamethrower! Why do I want this game?!?

The game features an ASCII interface in which you control a little @ sign. Other @ signs signify people, while other letters of the alphabet represent enemies (W is a big werewolf and w is a small werewolf, etc.). The rules are based on D&D. If you die, you die permanently (like in D&D). Like real life, the game doesn't really have a point. Your character is left without any sort of mission in life. Its pretty much a dungeon crawler. Each adventure is randomly generated, but there are certain scripted things (like an arena) you will run into with each game. I was impressed by the incredibly large number of actions you can take. You can: Drink from a fountain, attack enemies, climb stairs, read from a scroll or spellbook, drink a potion or from a fountain, eat, equip 20 kinds of items, use tools, pray to your god, pay for items in a store, steal items, and many other things I didn't mention. Enemy actions are well thought out as well. Ant and bee-type enemies are capable of digging through dungeon walls. There are also about 20 skills that can be used throughout the game. A lot of thought was put into the game's content, but the GUI could use some work.

Matt

Interesting...and you graphics whores were complaining about Dragon Warrior VII! It'd be enough to drive them completely mad, but it could be orgasmic for those who tend to overuse textual emoticons. ;) ;) :D ^_^

I enjoyed it, but wasn't able to beat the game. It is difficult to begin with and gets harder as you venture deeper into the dungeon. A word of advice: Don't try to be a bard. They suck pretty bad. I had some good luck with a night elf wizard (just keep firing spells from afar until the enemies die). Warriors are pretty easy to play as well.

Thanks,
Flamethrower


Matt

Ask yourself this question: Are bards ever useful? One of these days, the trend is gonna have to buckle, won't it? Singing does seem like a pretty stupid way to attack an enemy, though...

Oh well, I guess this would be a unique experience for anyone wanting to try something with a certain old-school charm. Me? Um, @ some ., I might try it out... once I'm through my 501501329 other games on backlog!

Thanks for the pointer!



This 'n' that, from a fighting Irishman


Hey Matt,

I'm liking this mailbag thing you have going. There are some way better questions here than on many of the other, more "professional" sites. Keep up the good work.

Anyway, I'd like to talk about Final Fantasy. First off, Advent Children is still headed for NA (this month it seems). In the recent EGM (issue 199) there is an advertisement for the movie, set to be released sometime this month. Hopefully they'll choose some good American voice actors because the Japanese one's are already excellent. I'm really getting into the whole setup for FF7 in general. I bought my first Playstation (2) this summer along with FFX and FFVII. While I absolutely despise Materia, which is more of a hassle than it's worth to me, the combo Scifi-Fantasy setting is very appealing. It doesn't hurt that the storyline and characters are excellent. I just wish Square Enix would remake it with more accessible graphics and some tweaks to the battle system (FFX is my favorite turn-based system, so that would be great). What do you think?

Matt

I think that Final Fantasy VII's battle system is superior to Final Fantasy X's. Sure, the ability to switch your characters anytime in FFX makes SENSE, but ugh, it sure is cheap and only helps to make a really easy game even easier. If they do re-make Final Fantasy VII, the battle system is the LAST thing I'd touch other than the storyline. Ooohhhh my, I just thought of something dreadful... Just imagine If they... if they... decided to remake it, except with the mechanics of... the mechanics of... !!!! OH, I can't say it. I just can't!! This is horrible... if they mutilated Final Fantasy VII THAT way... I would be distraught. If you don't know what I'm thinking, that's good. I don't want smart-asses at Square Enix to pick up dangerous ideas like these telepathically.

Also, you're not the only one with problem concerning Star Ocean 3. I am thoroughly disappointed with the game. Almost every review I read gave it high scores (FF high) so I figured it must be good. Maybe it's just that I'm not a fan of real-time battles, but I found SO3s battle system to be tedious at best. Most of the time I feel like I'm just randomly button mashing. I rarely have needed to use magic to finish a battle, which leads me to another problem. How the heck does one die from running out of magic? It's a totally dumb system, one that has caused me much anguish (stupid mushroom critters).

Matt

Good! I'm glad I'm not entirely crazy, in at least this respect. Magic was completely underpowered... so much so that it was quite useless, all in all, except to heal. Funny, then, that my allies would run around using attack spells on many occasions while other characters lay dead on the ground, regardless of what tactical strategy I had them set to. Really, I'm not exaggerating, to the best of my knowledge. I actually liked the MP-death idea a lot, because it was new and different, but blah... definitely not worthy of anything near Final Fantasy accolades.

Also also (the repitition is intentional), the real DQ8 would HAVE to be better than the demo. I was completely put off by my short stint with the title, especially the fact that I kept dying in the demo dungeon. That battle system really seemed to hate me.

Matt

As far as I know, almost everyone has agreed that the game is superior to the demo. If you really didn't like the demo, though, don't be worried if Dragon Quest VIII isn't your thing. It's not like most other RPGs released in this day and age, so if you don't know what you're getting into, you might be surprised. I'd still argue, though, that it's a system that anyone with a shred of patience will grow to love in time. Maybe rent it first?

And is it just me, or are most of the upcoming PS2 titles worth having RPGs? Maybe it's just that I'm big on Eastern RPGs, but I honestly have very little else to interest me (I seem to use my Gamecube more for regular gaming, oddly enough).

--
~ The Irish Ninja


Matt

"Are most of the upcoming PS2 titles worth having RPGs." I'm not quite sure I understand this question, but I'll answer you like this: We're in the midst of an RPG-rich time that started about a month ago, and will end perhaps with Final Fantasy XII's release next year. With Dragon Quest, Magna Carta, a pair of Wild ARMs games, and four other Final Fantasy titles in the works, we have stirrings about Disgaea sequels, Children of Mana, and so much more. If you like Eastern RPGs, this should be a happy time for you!



System Adjustment gone wild: EMERGENCY?


Hi Matt,

I had to write you and let you know that I completely agree with your stance on FFXII, I don't know what the heck Square Enix thought they were doing with the new battle system. It would have been so much better if they had implemented a system like Star Wars:KOTOR, to explain you were able to pause the game and issue commands to your characters, as well as in real time. On a side note I highly recommend you check it out Matt, I am not a Star Wars fan and personally I loved it, don't be put off by the first hour or two which are terminally boring, it improves massively from there. Back to the topic at hand :), the battle system feels so disjointed, to me it's as if they were trying to go in a new direction and couldn't quite decide where to go from there. It's not fast paced enough, or varied enough in attack animation, to be exciting from an action perspective and yet its too fast to be exciting from an strategy perspective (especially given the method for controlling other characters). I love the Final Fantasy series but the battle system really seems to be more concerned with treading new ground than focus and improvement.

Matt

See, though, THIS is what the Final Fantasy series has always been about. From the very beginning, Square never kept the same battle system from game to game. Sure, there was an ATB for awhile, but altogether, battle mechanics, spell systems, and intracacies have always been shaken around from one sequel to the next in the Final Fantasy family. Maybe, then, that's why I'm hesitant to pass definitive judgment; my biggest concern is that they've changed the whole genre of the game, to me. This looks more like another action RPG... or a "nonline" RPG, so to speak. In that transition, you're absolutely right: I felt like I was too busy concentrating on positioning characters and fiddling with the camera to actually do what I LOVE to do in RPGs: STRATEGIZE. I really hope (and am optimistic that) the final product will be more involving than the demo was. We can only wait and see!

I will await the finished product to give my final judgement, but so far I think Square Enix have dropped the ball with this one, I am going to assume that some of my dissapointment stems from the fact that there is no explanation for the settings or character interaction of any sort, in its current context is seems like an RPG trying to be an action game, trapped in its own conventions. The interesting thing is that is was more interested in the FFXII Demo than DQ8, after playing the two DQ8 is looking far superior and a nod to the RPG's of old. Maybe its just me, but Marcello from Maiella Abbey looks a lot like Magus would if Square Enix were to do a Chrono Trigger Remake..... Owen


Matt

Maybe he is! MAYBE it's a cameo... their names even start with the same two letters! *gasp*





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

O, sigh. It really sucks when you pump all sorts of effort into something, and you end up doing a completely unworthy, horrible job that sours the entire semester's worth of work. I've been feeling bitter all night long about it, so I apologize if it rubbed off during my responses above. Believe me... you guys are the ones that make my day!

What now? I still tutor until Wednesday, when I catch the train home to flee this city until the weekend. I can't wait to see my puppy, Zack! I haven't seen him since, erm, Thanksgiving weekend two months ago, along with the rest of my family. *sigh*

In an unrelated note, I could really use some chocolate right now! Anyone wanna hook me up?

Alright, enough stalling:


Flashay!


Thanks for all of the great questions that are seeping in one after another! I wish I could do more than one, but if I started doing many questions per day, your points would go up way too high, and I wouldn't know what to do with the lot of you. So keep sending, and one day your question will appear!

Going back to yesterday's questions, #63 was a bit funny. I'm surprised that more of you didn't get it, though. Ayla is the one who coined the term Lavos back in the day, and in her tongue, La means FIRE. Thus, if you were to run about singing "La, la, la!" in her world, you'd quite possibly send everyone into a frenzy. The answer was e) "Fire, fire, fire!" for 25 points.

Thanks, Bucket, for your contribution! Question #64 was something almost everybody got right, amazingly. I picked it because I thought it was a little bit obscure; evidently, I'm not on top of my DS gaming. Anyway, the right answer was indeed d) Winston Payne, and 30 points go to everyone who got that right, with 60 points going to Bucket herself.

Those extra points really launched my friendly rival of yestermonth into a comfortable 11th place position, with 245 points. Thus, Bucket, you'll get the first tilde that I've given away in, huh, a couple of weeks now! This one's for you:

~


Also, a perfect day for Flamethrower puts him within a hair's breadth of becoming the 4th co-host, with 499 points! Remember, if you don't get into the first set of 5, there's always the next set to work towards! To do that, though, you'll have to answer me questions like these:

Question #65: Follow me!--> Consider the following quotes that occur back-to-back in Chrono Trigger:

"No! Stop the music!"   "Ha! There we go!"


The character who says these shares his name with the current premier of which Canadian province? (40 points)

a) Ontario
b) Québec
c) Prince Edward Island
d) Manitoba
e) British Columbia

Question #66: Ask MagRowan!--> In the comic series "Forty Winks", Annabelle Wu, the Pirate Queen, names all her Proles which of the following five names? (25 points)

a) Sam
b) Roger
c) Rick
d) Tim
e) Prole


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

200 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
500 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #1 (5 remaining!)
700 points: The Final Fantasy 1 "Official" Crazed-Chipmunk-Hold-your-Ears Zipfile Soundtrack (5 remaining!)
1000 points: The Mattie's Mom Cookie Recipe Compilation (5 remaining!)
2000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (5 remaining!)


Dammit, that reminds me... I'm actually going to have to cough up my chipmunk-sounding zipfile full of Final Fantasy 1 songs very shortly, at this rate. Ugh, this "following-through-on-my-promises" thing is really going to come back to haunt me!

Anyway, keep writing in! There are a lot of hot topics right now; obviously, the XBox 360, Dragon Quest VIII, and the Final Fantasy XII demo are on lots of people's minds lately. Do you have something to add to the discussion? Give me a shout!!

wonderslime@rpgamer.com
***Matt can classify PDEs with grace! ...and that's about all he can do...


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Cookie o' the Week:

Mattie's Partial Differential Equations squares

The only study food while preparing for an exam with the coincidental same name. Tastay.

-1 1/2 cups of flour
-1 1/2 cups of butter
-1 1/2 cups of sugar
-lots of chocolate frosting
-1 set of Dirichlet conditions
-1 travelling wave front at time t = t0
-1 domain, D

Cream the butter and sugar, and add the flour. Mix until well combined, and spread into the domain D according to Dirichlet conditions, and place a travelling wave front at time t = t0 anywhere within D. Bake at 350 degrees; the heat will distribute according to the heat equation uxx = ut until t = 15 minutes. Remove from oven; the travelling wave front should have maintained its shape and the crust should be golden brown. Spread chocolate frosting everywhere and eat while studying differential equations.

SOCK standings:

1. Ourobolus
690 pts

2. Jbumi
638 pts

3. DDX
522 pts

4. Flamethrower
499 pts

5. MagRowan
400 pts

6. Bainick
386 pts

7. Arros Raikou
352 pts

8. ~Sean~~
349 pts

9. Jeremy
312 pts

10. Xlash
300 pts

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