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Column 31: The Witching Hour
October 31st, 2007

Sean - 4:43pm EDT

When I was younger I would be huddled around a map of the area with a friend at this time. Why? Planning our route to maximize the size of our candy hauls. This was a complicated affair, as we needed to plan when we would return home to drop off our garbage sacks full of loot. My record? Three garbage bags full--after removing the trash!

I've been spending some quality time with Heroes V and Dungeons and Dragons Tactics lately. The former is incrredibly fun and the latter... not so much. The latter is plagued by simple difficulty issues. It is completely easy to the point of being uninteresting, even for me.

So, since there are few letters today, I assume that everyone is getting prepared for various parties and/or trick-or-treating with their offspring. I hope you all enjoy your evening! My plans for tonight involve my PSP, and my bed. Heroes V is not on the plate for tonight.

So, what is in the letter bag today?

To Front Mission, or not to Front Mission...

Hey Sean:

I'm not going to rant as much as my other letters. I was wondering if front mission is a good series to enter? There is a new one coming out for DS so thought I might pick it up.


I don't like the series much. My experience was with Front Mission 3. It was my second tactical RPG (after FFT) and I just couldn't get into it. I assumed it was my dislike for mecha, but now I understand it is my dislike for the genre. My experiences with D&DT is not helping much either. Don't let me ruin your chances though. Lots of people seem to enjoy it!

Ahh a few things you've been confused by, by my letters. Sorry if my grammar is poor. I wrote in maybe a month ago asking Matt if he ever thought about getting an R4. You got the letter, an R4 enables you to download nintendo DS games from a site and play them on your DS... you can also convert some movies to play as well... Would you ever consider this? I've used it to get some games I would not of other-wise got. Like Tingle RPG, apparently according to the RPG podcast it wasn't released due to some homphobic jokes, here stateside.


I wouldn't play copied games. I own too many games that I don't have time to play them anyways. A few friends of mine swear by them, but I don't like the idea.

Soma was the other confusion. It's actually the new rpg from Monolith. I was wondering about Tetsuya Takahashi involvement or is the other Monolith team doing it? Becuase I don't think he would be able to do a ds rpg with it's limits.


Ah, there you see my problem. I don't keep up to date on all this RPG news. Unlike Matt, my skill for names isn't well developed. I can't remember who people are, or what they do. As for this one, my limited research turned up nothing, so I need to turn to my readers. Can anyone help Dan?

The removal of BC in ps3 is an interesting move. What I believe is becuase Sony is losing alot of money in the ps3 as of right now, the service will become more like the wii. So instead of having it able to play to games, you will have to download them. It will help cut costs, and the other companies our doing it as well. That is unless you get the 80 gig or buy the ps2. That's my take on why... I rushed out and got the 60 gig when the first price drop happened, instead of the not as good for ps2 games 80 gig machine.


The price drop brought it below $550, which was my reserve. I bought it then. The BC of the 60gigger is nice, but I have yet to use it. Would I still have bought the system without it? Sure.

For Sony to win it needs more 3rd party support. but I also think it needs more japanese support. My theory is most japanese devolpers don't make the games run like the xbox360's more PC based set-up. They will hopefully be more adoptive then the American counter-parts... Do you think this is True?


They do need more games, that is for sure. Third party support is always key for a successful console. But, then again, take a look at the DS and the PSP. Both started off slow, but they are flourishing now. It is too early to tell.

If you were Sony what would you do to change the perception of the machine being an also ran to the wii and xbox360?


Just release more games. Having some quality titles would help too. Thanks for the input, Dan!

Wild Arms 5 Spoiler Warning!

Hi, Sean,

First, I'd like to say that I don't find you to be negative at all. We all have gripes, & I've never read any of your columns & thought, "My, what a negative guy". Maybe some people are just really sensitive.


Thanks for the vote!

I had spent nearly 100 hours playing Wild Arms 5 (being a bit OC, I was trying to find EVERYTHING) when I got to the tower near Honeysday. A couple of rooms in you have to jump on two switches to lower a platform that you're supposed to jump on before the switches reset. I play RPGs because I don't now nor ever had very good reflexes. Give me thinking puzzles & I'm your girl, but twitch..... Needless to say I now know I'll never get past this obstacle - I spent two hours before giving up. I wish they had stuck something like this earlier in the game because then I wouldn't be so broken hearted after sinking so much time into it. Did you have difficulty at this spot?


Yes, I did actually. I wasn't sure what to do since I hadn't seen anything of the sort throughout the rest of the game. There is a trick to it, just make sure that they all stay down at the same time... Try alternating!

Thank god this month is almost over because it seems to be a month designed to annoy me. I recently bought a PSP (the new slim one). My only complaint is that the memory stick keeps popping out. The cover for it is a soft rubber that doesn't seem to be strong enough to hold the stick in place. Not to mention its placement on the handheld is exactly where my left index finger wants to be. Do you have this problem?


Not at all. I have a fat PSP and I have never once had an issue with it. I'll keep a look out when I finally cave and buy a new PSP.

May your days be less irksome than mine have been lately (these are only my gaming related gripes - I could go on, but then people might think I'm being too negative!).



I had a big problem sleeping for a while, which always leads me to being grumpy. I just need to stop myself from writing letters on nights that I feel like passing out. I know I shouldn't, but on nights like that I feel I need to do so. This column becomes something that needs to be done, a job, and I don't really want to think about it in that way. That is why I apologized for being negative.

I need to work on that, and my school work. When it is all done, I will be freeeeee! Thanks for writting in, Jbumi! I believe this is our first discussion!

A definition

Hi Sean!

Eggman asked for a definition of RPG's, and I've come up with a couple of things:

-Length: RPG's are usually longer than other games. I'd say 25 hours at least, but 40 hours is the minimum average length for an RPG.


Are Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy RPGs then? I know a lot of good RPGs that are short. It is not enough to define a game as an RPG by length alone. By that token a season of NHL XX would last over 80 hours and would then be an RPG by this definition.

-Numbers-based: video games are built on computers, which obviously operate on numbers. In many game genres though, the numbers are hidden from the player. In FPS's, the player can usually see his own character's health numerically, but damage numbers can't be seen, nor is weapon power described numerically. In RPG's, the player can see HP, MP, attack, defense, etc, as well as damage numbers and the like.


Yes, I would say that stats need to be explicitly shown to the player. Of course, not all RPGs show this...

-Customization: usually in the form of equipment or some job/class system, but there are other options too. In Ogre Battle, you assemble your units of soldiers in whatever configuration you like, and there is a complex class system. In Pokemon, you travel with a party of Pokemon which you select from whichever ones you've captured. In Dragon Quest VIII, you choose skills for the characters to develop..


In Heroes of Might and Magic V you customize your heroes, build your own armies and level up. Is it an RPG? RPGamer doesn't cover it, but it does contain all the elements present in the above criteria.

That's all I can think of for now... These core elements came from D&D, and you can see the similarities between the D&D tabletop game and the first Dragon Warrior. The game console acts as the Dungeon Master, while you, as the player, are the hero. Final Fantasy refined this concept by boiling down the action menu (the one which contains the commands like "Talk", "Check", "Menu", etc) into two buttons, and having there be four heroes instead of just one.


I need to refine my previous answer. An RPG focuses on its story, characters and the interactions between these. Gameplay while important, tends to take second seat. There is no clear definition, but we can all agree that certain things qualigy as RPG elements, like the things you mentioned.

Over time RPG's have evolved, borrowing ideas from each other, "reacting" to each other by trying out new things either through technology, gameplay or story, and generally growing more complex.


I see this as other genres borrowing some elements, or the RPG genre borrowing from the outside in the hopes of doing something "new".

I think the three elements I mentioned above should still work today.

It's important to note that many other genres today are borrowing concepts from RPG's, usually the customization aspect, as in X-Men Legends. At the same time, some RPG developers are borrowing elements from other genres, as in Dirge of Cerberus. This is the natural process of one thing reacting to another and growing, similar to the evolution of art and music over time.

Anyway, I've babbled on for a while... Time to do some work!

Great job on QnA, by the way!



Well it looks like we agree then. I keep getting asked by people WHY I play RPGs almost exclusively. My answer helps me add some more elements to the broad definition of RPG. Why do I play them? I tend to get frustrated at skill-based games, so the slower paced RPGs are more my cup of tea. The emphasis on storyline and the strategic battles make them more cerebral, so I guess I like to think when playing my games. Just not too much thought!

Thank for the letter!


Heyya Sean,

So I haven't been to the site in like 5 days because I wasn't receiving my daily email newsletter, I kinda assumed there wasn't anything new going up (ok call me lazy if you want..) Well I received it today, read the column and hear I am...


Meh, just sit on the site like I used to. At work I would just hit Refresh every ten minutes or so.

Don't get me wrong about heroes, I do enjoy the show just not as much as those other 2. My main beef is with the plot holes (as I see them), such as in the last episode when Peter and sexy (Scottish?) girl decide to go to Paris based on a whim and that painting..they don't even know that he's painting the future or whatever... The show seems to rely on what the audience knows and not so much on what the actual characters should know. To me what keeps it cool is the powers, the story as a whole, and the so far succesful implementation of several story lines in one show, I haven't seen it done with a super power show before. I could totally imagine an adaptation to RPG being successful as well! I'm thinking action RPG, but who knows..I think it would be awesome if it was done with a character generator so that the main hero could be one you create, and you could form parties with the cast from the show..I remember reading that Ubisoft gained the rights to create a Heroes video game so who knows what we might be getting? I'm going to guess it wont be an RPG by classical terms, but nowadays the line seems to be blurring between RPG and non..


I think it will be an adventure game. Did they go to Paris? I thought Montreal, my home city! They were merely following their only clue. I don't see many things as plot holes in that show. They end up explaining everything in the end, so when the sense of confusion that the series fosters is finally cleared up, it feels so good. That is why I really enjoy the show.

And I guess that hits on one of the hot topics. To me it's hard to define an RPG in the new market of video games. I can't think of any specific element in RPGs that NEEDS to be present in order for the game to be classified as so. In fact there are many games being released nowadays that I would call RPGs (but aren't typically called so), such as Ratchet and Clank. Like most RPGs you play the role of a character in an attempt to save the world, you have a party (Ratchet AND Clank..), you gain levels, your hitpoints increase, you equip weapons, the weapons become more powerful (in a very similar way to Secret of Mana), you collect new gear, explore new worlds... I guess since you use guns to kill enemies it seems like a shooter/action game, but I hardly see how this 1 feature would instantly bar the game from being entitled an RPG. It begs the question if RPG is even a term that can be used to classify a video game in the current market or if it is now too broad a term applying to a slew of titles. I don't know.. but it's seeming to me that many genres will soon be entering the world of RPG (or already have and we just don't acknowledge them yet). I think that what we will be seeing more of is games created and titled 'classic RPGs', while the rest of the genres continue to borrow/steal from what RPGs bring to the table in order to keep their fans addicted to their games for longer periods of time, and coming back for sequel after sequel..


Ratchet and Clank focuses more on the platforming and combat then the story, and is more twitch-based. It is a typical adventure game for me. Sure it has borrowed some elements from the genre, but I wouldn't classify it as an RPG.

I need to get going..gotta finish my work for today as I have to leave early, the Ontario government is threatening to take away my health care if I don't get my old-school (non-photo) health card replaced with the new, flashy, photo-sporting card that comes with a damn annoying expiry date.




Do you have any info on that? I work with an Ontario-an who swears his card will never expire. It is being held together by like a pound of tape. Thanks for the letter, Rolly. I look forward to many more!


An RPG is "A game that puts the emphasis on the story and not on the gameplay."? If that's the case, you'll really like Xenogears or Xenosaga. Talk about all story and no game.

I did. The second disk of Xenogears pissed me off though. And guess what? As the 66th posted quickie, you win a prize! Let me know what you want, Mr. Thrower-of-Flames!


I was really hoping to get some Halloween-themed letters today, and was disapointed by the lack thereof. I was even prepared to give out a prize for it...

Today being Halloween begs me to ask the following question: have you ever dressed up as a video game character? If so, which one?

With supper quick approaching, I need to leave my computer for the rest of the evening. Enjoy your candy-gathering, apple-bobbing and other Halloween activities!

Peace out!

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