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ASK WHEELS
Q&A Ogre - Princes of the Universe
February 16th, 2011

02/16 - 12:00PM EST

  Yes, as that Queen-themed title suggests, the Ogre Battle series has a new entry for the first time in years (ok "newish"). We're not concerned with that right now (I'm loving it so far), we've got a great reader pitch for an Ogre Battle sequel this week, and more!

To the letter-mobile!





The Letters
Tales of Frustration

I am excited about the announcement of Tales of Graces F coming stateside, but something still aggravates me about how Namco Bandai chooses to not release Tales of Vesperia for PS3 over to the states.


Wheels

Well I can understand your frustration, but let's have a little talk about this, since I know you aren't the only one complaining about this. Can I just point out one thing first though? There are many fans of the Destiny-remake battle system who've been waiting years for one game to make it over here, who may not look too kindly on this kind of complaining amidst their joy. Just food for thought.

Vesperia is what I want the most. Since it is a Tales of game that was built specifically for HD consoles and not a port. I understand that it is already available here, but its only available to people who own an Xbox 360. I don’t own an Xbox 360. When I bought a PS3 it was for franchises like ‘Tales of’ that pushed me to get it. I can’t warrant getting a new system for one game. I guess my question is, Why would Namco release Tales of Vesperia on the 360 in America when almost all of their fanbase in America own a PS3 because we thought our beloved RPG franchises would continue their trend to be on Sony platforms.


Wheels

Well let's get a few misconceptions out of the way first. Having played Tales of Graces F I can tell you that you will not feel like this game was not made for an HD console. It may not look as good as Vesperia on a technical level, but thanks to fantastic art direction for the game it has made the transition over to HD without a hitch. This isn't an issue you should be worried about.

Now, I have to ask, why would Namco think the fanbase in America all owned PS3s? The biggest hit for the series here was on Gamecube. I don't think the PS2 games that followed really lit up the sales charts, despite a larger userbase. If you're someone who imported lots of Tales games you could make this argument, but two games aren't exactly a pattern.

Regardless, the lack of a PS3 version in the US is still odd, I will give you that. I think sales since Vesperia's release on 360 would show that there clearly is an audience for JRPGs on the PS3. I think this, combined with Graces F's quick success in Japan directly led to the decision to localize it. So then, why no Vesperia? Microsoft paid for exclusivity in the west? Something else? Who knows? Given that there are a ton of brilliant unlocalized-JRPGs, the fact that there is some sort of localized version of this game makes it hard for me to get all that agitated.
 
Is it that game developers knew that gamers would realize that and then decide to release on another platform to just say, “HA HA! We fooled you.” ? I just can’t understand why Namco did that. They already apologized to their Japanese fans, but what about us. They blame that the reason why we didn’t get any new Tales of games was because Vesperia didn’t sell to their expectations. Well I wonder why? Because you released it on a system that has hardly any Tales of fan following. So I am happy that we are getting Tales of Graces F, but I don’t think it is enough. I am not going to be satisfied until I get to play Vesperia on the PS3 in English.
 
Lenoxseer


Wheels

I'm not sure what you mean by "blame that as the reason why we didn't get any new Tales games". Other than the port of Vesperia, there's only one main series entry we'll have ended up missing since then, that being Hearts (which didn't sell well in Japan). Perhaps it stopped them from bringing over the PS3 version, but that's about it. Graces F does a lot of new and exciting things with the series, and I hope you can get yourself excited for it!



The Mummy 8: Adventures in Mummy-Sitting

Wheels, I’ve been giving a lot of thought about what I’d like to see in a Chrono Trigger sequel, and the more I think about it the more I believe that Chrono Cross had the right idea. In Chrono Trigger you explored the planet several times over and saw its entire history from earliest days to Armageddon. There’s not a lot of new ground to cover. Any attempt to set a sequel in the same setting would feel contrived. In Even Crosses’ El Nino Archipelago isn’t exempt from this feeling. Where was it during Trigger? All of a sudden there’s this new part of the world (I know I know, it’s sorta explained that the islands are (spoilers) artificial, but still, it doesn’t sit easy). But despite requiring a bit of suspension of disbelief, it’s the right idea. Trigger’s setting just isn’t realized enough to support a sequel. It’s great in the game it was designed for, but past that it’s just too flimsy. Cross did it right, it moved the action to a new location (kinda) and only had a few ties to the previous title. Trigger is an amazing game, but the last thing I want from a sequel is a rehash.

Wheels

I mostly agree. Though I think the best route is still a new game that doesn't connect to the world of the first. If you're going to a direct sequel, it does makes it difficult to re-use the time travel mechanic. You either have to wave a white flag, and not care about destroying the original timeline (see some of the previous entries), or try something completely different. Let's see what you have in mind.


Trigger explored time; Cross, alternate dimensions. What’s left? Why, the vastness of space! My Chrono Trigger sequel would take things intergalactic. The premise is that in the peaceful years in which Lavos didn’t blow up all of everything an advanced space program has formed (started by Lucca of course,). The game be with the first manned faster-than-light expedition. Our hero is the pilot of this experimental ship. Of course things go wrong and he finds himself stranded far from his home. Eventually it’s revealed that the whole space program was devised by Lucca to end the threat of Lavos once and for all. I’ve always felt that it’s implied that the Lavos spawn on Death Mountain will eventually grow to leave earth and feed off the energy of new planets, and that Chrono Trigger’s Lavos similarly came from somewhere else. This game’s true purpose is to discover the source of this parasitic alien race and end its destruction of a thousand worlds. The hero would move from system to system, finding allies and solving galatic intruige, but always moving twoards the source of the Lavos race.


Wheels

I ... really love this idea. It feels like a true continuation of the story of Lavos, and would serve to answer many of the questions that the series didn't really answer. As long as you don't find out that the universe is a giant MMO and Lavos is a virus or something stupid like that. When your series is based around a giant parasitic space creature, maybe the only way to go with the story is space?

Time travel has to come into play somehow. Space travel offers plenty of time-bending shenanigans, what with relativity and all. Return trips between long distances means the hero arrives years or decades after he left where he gets to see how his actions have shaped the future. This is taken to its extreme when the hero finally returns to his home planet and finds that centuries have passed and, yep, the world is a lifeless wasteland. The secret of true time travel is discovered again and the hero must right what went wrong, etc, etc. You know the deal.


Wheels

You know, it's odd that you don't see something like this (meaning relativity) in more science fiction. About the only major example I can think of is the classic Ender's Game (which makes awesome use of it). This could lead to many different branching paths, as you have to decide where to travel to next, needing to complete the overall mission before time runs out. I'm sure fans would be angry about the massive shift to sci-fi, but it would make for amazing story telling. I want to play this game.

That’s what I’d like to see in a Chrono Trigger sequel, but who are we kidding? The fans would never go for something like that. And you gotta keep the fans happy. What do they like... Let’s see, that Kingdom Hearts version of Cloud all wrapped up in bandages is quite popular in the fandom. It’s clear what they love: mummies!


Wheels

Fans will never be happy with any sequel to a cherished game. I say they should just make an awesome game and then...what? Mummies?

Chrono Trigger 2: Mummy vs. Mummy: The Mummy Wars: Vol. 1: Mummies of Future Past!

mummytrigger

Crono and his friends are enjoying the peaceful life (before they all get killed by that stuff in Chrono Cross) when the kingdom is invaded by The Mummy Emperor (actually Magus in disguise; the whole invasion is a clever plot to find Schala). Chrono & Co. rush to defeat the Emperor but he turns them into Mummies and time travels them back to Ancient Egypt! Except for Lucca. She gets bitten by a Twilight and turns into Draclucca. In Egypt they get caught up in the mummy rebellion against the Real Mummy Emperor (actually Robo in disguise). So they have to find a way home, turn back to normal, end the Real Mummy Emperor’s evil rule (actually a clever plot to find Magus), while manipulating the past so the Mummy Virus doesn’t infect all future life on the planet. At the end it turns out Lavos was behind the whole thing, thus setting up the sequel “Chrono Trigger 3: Mummy vs. Mummy: The Mummy Wars: Vol 2: Mummies Only Die Twice!” The battle system would be exactly like Chrono  Trigger’s but way cooler. Like, there would be a combo tech where Crono spins Marle around and all her mummy bandages fly off and she’s totally naked. Except that would only be in the Japanese version. In the USA Nintendo would censor the nakedness so that it was tea instead.


Wheels

I'm just going to let me people enjoy this without comment, as that was absolutely hilarious (amazing picture!)

So yeah, it would have all the best stuff from Chrono Trigger except its way dark and mature. Like Crono totally kills this dude and you’re all like “wooooah!” Also, Serge shows up, trips over a bug, and lands on a knife.
 
Love, Loki


Wheels

Well that would certainly make the Chrono Cross haters happy. I think you forgot to mention that Crono would have to talk now, and be a whiney dude with spikier hair with a dark past. That'll make the kids happy!

Anyway, thank you for two fantastic pitches!


Ogre Battle: Don't Stop Me Now

Hi there, Wheels. I want to enter the contest for a chance to win some cool RPGs. Here is my idea for an Ogre Battle game. I actually wrote this in 2006 for Ten Ton Hammer. I will include a link to the feature page, but the relevant text is below:

Wheels

Excellent! I was wondering when the Ogre Battle fans would show up with some lengthy sequel ideas. Let's see what you've got.

Ogre Battle Online: Play This Game
The Ogre Battle series has been confined to consoles, and its fan base may be a bit small...The great thing Ogre Battle Online (OBO) would bring is some innovation to the genre of MMOGs. Hailing from turn-based strategy roots, OBO would introduce a new type of MMOG to the market. And if you're wondering about my subtitle for OBO, previous Ogre Battle games have incorporated Queen songs as subtitle. I thought no Queen song fit better than "Play This Game!"

Ogre Battle games have a tested core system for those who are familiar with it. It would take some nifty marketing to get the rest of the gaming world interested in the concept. Griefing would be less of a problem than normal becuase of the juxtapostion of the Imperial and rebel forces; players are suppoed to fight each other frequently. The bigger issue would be preventing exploits in the battle mechanic that would make gaining experience too easy. In Ogre Battle games, certain classes mow down other specific classes with ease (Knight vs. Mage or Exorcist vs. undead).

Wheels

I love the Queen song sub-title.  Sounds like you have a good starting point as well. World of Warcraft showed how well two warring factions can work out in a MMO type game. Obviously your idea is much different, but conflict makes for an interesting world, especially one involving strategy. MMOSRPG? Sign me up.

Story
OBO, like its predecessors, would feature an imperialistic government oppressing the working-class. Players would be able to choose to become part of the rebellion or enforce the law for the Empire. Though that story breaks no new ground, OBO would present a MMOG with world with complex political strife. Decisions would be less black and white.

Wheels

I'm not sure how that would work for an online game though. Are we talking decisions that players on each side ultimately would make as a group, that would change the current state of the online world? Or would it be static for each player, where each user experienced the story in their own way. The former would be the most interesting of the two, though difficult to implement.

World
Ogre Battle games have never really featured an overworld. Instead, players navigate from plotpoint to plotpoint on a map. Along the way, players encounter random enemies or major attacks. For OBO to work as an MMOG, players need some sort of environment, though. Thus, I see OBO having a full overworld teeming with enemy forces. Near the starting cities, players would encounter very few enemies. NPCs tend to sympathize with others in their region. As players move farther from their starting points, they'd encounter cities that are torn between loyalty to the Empire and a desire to see political change. OBO players could influence the political landscape of the realm through their actions.

Thus, in addition to overworld locations such as the Tenne Plains and Pogrom Forest, OBO would largely feature cities as battle landscapes. But the world wouldn't be all war all the time. See my ideas for diversions below.


Wheels

What would such a world map look like though? How would moving work? Your description isn't 100% clear on this. I like the basic idea though. Try and create a living and breathing world that really feels like it's at war, and really have change driven by the players.

Combat
MMOGs [have] not [mixed] well with turn-based combat [in the past]. Wait--do they? Aren't the 6 seconds between quads from a skeleton in EverQuest II establishing turns? OBO would incorporate turns based on initiative. All players with the current highest initiative could act in one round. Then the next. Then the next. Combat would feature the full grid-based movement system, and players could choose from basic actions on their turns: attack, defend, cast, items. Players would receive damage bonuses for flanking, and resistances and elemental alignment would play a huge role in any battle.

Grouping in OBO would form "Units," which could consist of up to 10 players. Whenever a Unit is short some members, players could hire Imperial soldiers or rebel vigilantes to fill out the Unit. Battles would be decided by defeating all enemies on the field. Defeated players would be sent back to the last headquarters visited, with a loss of all XP above the current level.

Wheels

MMOGs have not mixed well with turn-based combat, and it doesn't sound like your battle system would fix many of the issues. MMOGs with cooldowns for abilities don't really function the same as games with "turns" given that most of the time other abilities can still be used during that period. A game like this though, you have to wait while players make their move, select an ability, and hope that no one walks away from their computer for some reason (ok so clearly you'd have to have a turn time-limit). Even with a time limit for turns, there will still be way too much down time. This is the same issue that plagues multi-player in Civilization games. No matter what kind of wrinkles you throw in it just doesn't work out all that well. Not that I would care. I love turn-based strategy!

Quests
OBO quests would tend toward things such as "Liberate the trade city of Velnan from the Empire" and "Crush the rebel resistance at Lake Jansenia." Even so, OBO would have room for training exercises that could lead to XP. It is also possible to envision rescue missions of the type of "Save the Seer's Daughter from the Gryphons." This would be a great way to incorporate the wild animals of the Ogre Battle universe. These wild animals also show up in diversions below.

Wheels

Counter to the rescurer missions, you could then have kidnapping missions for the opposite faction, that then start the rescuer missions when they're complete. Perhaps even have the ability to use spies to find out that these missions are going to go down, and lay a trap for the would-be kidnappers. That would really give the quests a dynamic feel.

Character Customization
OBO players would start with a basic character--male or female, Empire or rebel. At level 5, they would be able to choose a class based on training completed at each level up. For instance, training at the Imperial soldier training grounds would yield a Knight or Archer. Training exclusively in the Arcane College would produce a Wizard or Mage. As players increase in levels, they would be able to cross-train. Mix Knight training with Exorcist training to produce of Paladin. Mix Knight training with Thief training to produce a Ninja...OBO would allow for utility of pure classes and hybrids alike.


Wheels

Sounds mostly standard, but that's perfectly fine. If it isn't broken, no need to fix it, right?

Diversions
OBO would lend itself to a couple of no-brainer diversions: Diplomacy and Breeding. Because of the politically-charged climate of the OBO, rebels could talk their way into a major Imperial outpost on the premise of being Imperial spies. Diplomacy would also help those destitute farmers on the outskirts of the Empire to remain loyal to the king. In short, the Diplomacy system would allow players to affect the tide of the civil war. Though the Empire may have a firm grip on the region known as Zenobia this month, rebel players working hard through battles and Diplomacy could shift the balance next month--making Zenobia a dangerous place for Imperial-aligned players to visit.

The Breeding program would allow players who choose the Beast Tamer and Dragon Tamer classes to hone their skills in controlling monsters. They can persuade wild beasts to join them, take the home, and eventually breed them. The resulting beats could be rented for combat and further bred to create more powerful creatures. The breeding classes could also choose to take their beasts into combat with them, though they would be controlled by the game's A.I.

Of course, OBO players would be able to craft weapons and armor, convert beast hides into gear, brew potions, and build boats and fortifications as well. When the whole land is at war, everyone must chip in!"

Wheels

Well I think your ideas fit the Ogre Battle world quite well. I'm not sure how many of your ideas would be implemented, but that is not a concern of this contest. Raids and grinding replaced with political drama and a world that actually changes based on the choices of the players? Yes please.

I still stand by most of what I wrote back then. It would be fun to have some PvP action in the Ogre Battle world.

Good luck with the contest.

Danny Gourley

Wheels

Thanks for the pitch! I can say I did not expect anyone to come up with the idea for a MMO  Ogre Battle game.

The SaGa of Answering Letters Out of Order

Hey Wheels!

While you haven't seen fit to put my Chrono Trigger pitch into the column (yet), I saw something in the latest column (Feb. 3rd, 2011) that I needed to reply to.  It was the bit about sequels to Final Fantasy titles.  To quote:


JuMeSyn

Final Fantasy II-2?  That's possibly the stupidest title of them all, but at least it might allow people to beat themselves over the head to get stronger once more.

Wheels

Well first of all, I seem to be answering your letter out of order! As you saw last week I did quite enjoy your Chrono pitch. Now, let's what you've got to say about Jume's bashing of Final Fantasy II.

Sorry, Jumes, but I fail to see how this would be a stupid idea from a story point of view.  FF2 had a pretty decent world set up for an NES title.  From this comment, I'd guess it's all about the battle system though.


Wheels

I would say so. Final Fantasy II's battle system, as you know feels underdeveloped. You're right though, it has a well-developed world for an 8-bit game, and I found its location much more interesting than Final Fantasy III's. All it would need is nice, updated battle system. I'm surprised they haven't done that yet in one of the game's many re-releases.

So I spent some time before classes started thinking, "Just what could one do to improve Final Fantasy II?"  More clarity to the system would be nice, perhaps clearly marking different armor types or instituting
an equipment weight system (like in Unlimited Saga) that affected spells. Removing the ability to hit yourself would be good too, though some might not like the loss of a cheese leveling method.  Adding in weapon-related skills and combos would be welcome as well.


Wheels

So, if I am reading this correctly, essentially make it a SaGa game? Yes I think I would like that very much.  Maybe we'll see something like this the next time Square Enix refreshes the first two Final Fantasy games. The biggest issue I had was the increasing mp costs of spells as they level up. It'd be nice if there was an option to spend less mp for a lower level version when needed.

Then it hit me.  I already knew a game like this. It has FF2's weapon leveling system, combos, stat-leveling on the fly, and a complete inability to hit your own guys intentionally.  I'm playing it now, in fact.


Wheels

<insert drum roll>

Which leads me to this question: How's SaGa 3 going for you? How close are you to finishing?  I've already beaten it once, and I'm doing an all-Esper run now. Should I hold of on the review for a little while
longer so we can do a dual review combo? And do you agree that a Racjin-developed, full-contact remake of Final Fantasy II à la SaGa would be pure awesomeness?

Your fellow columnist,
--Gaijin


Wheels

I'm still not that far in, though I'm making progress when I can. It's a bit harder to play when you don't know the language at all, sir. I'm completely down with your idea though. SaGa 3's battle system is fantastic. Considering how generic the original game's systems were, it was complete surprise to see what they did with it. Final Fantasy II with that battle system would be an amazing game. I mean, Final Fantasy II is basically a SaGa game anyway, right?

'Til next time Gaijin!

IN CLOSING

That's all for this week! Thanks for all the fantastic pitches so far. It's going to be difficult to pick the eventual winner. More than that though, theorizing about sequels like this is a lot of fun. Perhaps we should do this again prior to the release of Mass Effect 3?

'Til next time!

-Wheels

Current Backlog: Metal Slime

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What I can't wait for:

1. Tales of Graces F in English!

2. Disgaea 4

3. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

4. Ys 1+2

5. Radiant Historia


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1. Queen

2. Various Suikoden Music

3. Tales of Graces Soundtrack



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