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ASK SEAN
Column 56: Finale
February 19th, 2008

Sean - 4:00pm EST

I'm sorry for bringing it up so suddenly, but it was a decision long in the making. With mounting responsibilities at work and in my personal life, I felt the need to turn my attention to them instead. My hopes are to get some kind of further certification to improve the knowledge that I bring to our team. As I love being on staff here, I came up with a compromise: I will give up my Q&A host position to take on the role of a reviewer. Hopefully, I will be able to keep up with everything now!

Like everyone else in the RPG-loving world, I have been almost fully absorbed by the marvel that is Lost Odyssey. At five hours a night since I got it, I have reached to the fourth disk where I have been running through all the side quests I could find. The game is a blast and I do believe I will need to write a review on it.

I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar on Sunday. It was amazing. I didn't know I could be so impressed by a stage production. I kind of wish I had went to see the Lord of the Rings theatrical release. I need to get tickets to see more shows now...

I didn't receive the volume of letters that I expected, but it is ok, I guess. All it means is that everyone else is wishing for me to have more Lost Odyssey time. I can live with that. Gladly.

I read that the Witcher is getting a makeover. It sounds really interesting, but I think I will pass on it for now. While a good game, I have so many unplayed games that are dying for my attention, so that is where I will go. After Lost Odyssey I do believe that some slimes will be killed by my Wii-Sword. Now on to the letters!




LETTERS
My Goodbye to Gorne, I Guess


Hello Sean,

First, according to Lusipurr, this is your final column. I assume its due to the decline in the readership of the column plus you being too busy in your personal life to continue this. Therefore, you are an expendable casualty in Lusipurr's plan to take over the column and eventually the whole site itself. Am I accurate in that assumption, or way off course?

Sean

More of the former I am afraid. Shawn had nothing to do with it, regardless of what others seem to think. Sure, he kept killing me in weird ways, but it was never really me. I have the ability to create shadow clones and he doesn't really stay around to see them go poof! All joking aside, it is a combination of things that I am giving up to improve my personal life that is driving me to stop writing this column. Readership, while a concern, has nothing to do with it. Look at it this way: I got to "talk" to a few awesome readers instead of a ton of "unsavory" ones. Did you notice the removal of Unfit for Print?

Second, in terms of games, you got an AWESOME collection there. The only thing close to an RPG I've played in a while was those Sonic RPG episodes on Newgrounds. The last two were actually a little challenging if you don't mind the plot. I might as well ask, could you recommend where I could go to find a good flash game or RPG online? Don't just say Newgrounds or Google...I'm asking out of your personal experience.

Sean

I know my collection is awesome. It is the most awesome collection in the world and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Actually... I would. Give me FFXIII today and I will trade it all in. I haven't played web games in a long, long time. When I used to work tech support, I would play them during slow shifts, but it has been a long time since then. I really wouldn't know where to go for them, let alone good ones.

Third, you were the ~Sean that did all those game faqs for gamefaqs.com, right? Since you're leaving, I should ask how did you get into the hobby of writing all those game guides? Was it something you just decided to do one day out of boredom, or was it something you did as you played each game and decided to share your knowledge with the rest of the internet?

Sean

I only have two FAQs up on GameFAQs. I go by Lord Haart there. I wrote my first guide on Might and Magic VII. Back then I was a college student and I was returning home to Germany for the summer. I picked up the game there and while bored at work, I decided to draft a walkthrough for the game. I got to work on it and within a couple of days I had written up an entire walkthrough to the point where I had played to. The day I posted it to GameFAQs, an editor-in-chief at IGN contacted me and offered to purchase a completed guide from me. I agreed and proceeded to write around twenty guides for their fledgeling guides website. I would like to say it was a blast, the dot com era came to an end, the money dried up, and it was pushed back to a hobby more than a job. That, and some assignments were not much fun. There was not much money in writing RPG guides (I was paid the same for non-RPGs as I was for RPGs.) I ended up writing guides for the remainder of my college days and for like two years following them. And to be honest: I wrote them for the paycheck more than to help people out.

Fourth, since you're leaving QnA, there's one loose end to wrap up...your unfinished unnamed contest. Some things seem unresolved about it. Like, only one person entered Lusipurr's Halloween contest way back, correct? Shouldn't that one person get a prize then? No one really sparked a debate, so I understand that prize never being given out. And in your Feb. 5th column, you mentioned the possibility of starting a simpler version of your contest. When Matt left QnA, he continued SOCK2 since it had yet to finish when he left. My real question, then, should be to ask could there be or is there any possibility to follow in Matt's footsteps and start another text RPG seperate from the column for RPGamer? Where people could decide which games to play from your backlog and stuff?

Sean

The Unnamed Contest: I had many ideas for it, but I never really got them straight. I ended up just giving out prizes randomly. I used the contest to spread around a bunch of my older games that I couldn't sell for decent prices. I hope others are enjoying them now! I can't remember the specific plans that I had for that poor thing and I am too lazy to look around for my notes. All I can recall is that I wanted people to pick up on some things I was talking about and open up discussions on them. I would have dropped prizes for those--even if I needed to purchase them. I ended up needing to stop the contest when I ran out of money to ship the prizes. I had just purchased massive amounts of gifts and a car. I am starting to recover now.

The Halloween Contest: Shawn explained it as follows: only one person entered and it didn't qualify as an RPG related costume. We didn't award any winners.

The Mini Contest: I forgot about this thing. Looking back, I should have started it then and there. I have a few mangas and books to spread around and it would have been the perfect venue for it. I am not very creative when it comes to creating certain things, such as contest questions. I was thinking of having writing contests and stuff, but I ran out of time to fully put something together.

Future Games: Those that were around a bit before Christmas might remember me talking about putting together an online web game. My focus flagged when I couldn't procure funds for a system to host it and I dropped the idea when I had to fix up the car I bought. I still have my notes on it, along with the work I had already done on it. For now, the idea is shelved, but I might resurrect it at a later date. If I did, I would figure out a way to get you all to play it. In any case, it will be on the backburner for a while as I need to complete a similar project for work. I need to work on that system on weekends. Ugh.

Finally, just to clarify, you're just leaving QnA, right? Not the site as a reviewer, correct? Cause your reviews were pretty cool since they were legitimite, factual, and objective. I mean that as a compliment, by the way. It would be a shame to see you leave the site completely with a journalistic reviewer of your talent go away.

Sean

I wrestled with my choices for a long time. I decided to stay on as a sort of part time reviewer. Knowing my motivation it will mean either zero reviews, or I will review every damn game I play. I haven't decided what I will do, but I am sure you will see my name on index at least once more. ^_^

That's all from me...except me saying goodbye.

So, thank you for your wonderful input and advice while helming this ship called QnA.

Good luck with all your future endeavors,

BLG

Sean

Thanks for the support, BLG. I really appreciate all the letters that you sent me over the last six or so months.



I hate goodbyes


Dear Sean,

I'm really sorry to hear that this will be your last column. You did a fine job, & I always enjoyed reading your posts.

Sean

Thank you. You've given me a lot to think about, Jbumi.

Will you be staying with the site? Either way, good luck & may forture smile on you in all your endeavors.

Sean

Yes, as a reviewer. At least for a while.

I was shopping with a friend last week & decided to stop in EB to see about getting the cable to connect my PSP to the TV. Turns out you need an HDTV to do it so I didn't pick the cable up, but they also said that it strecthes the image out making it grainy & distorted. I know you have the older "fat" model, but have you heard anything about this?

Thanks for all your great reads.

Jbumi

Sean

I'm sorry, but I don't have any knowledge about this. My friend with a slim PSP uses it only as a portable system. He just doesn't have any interest in playing his PSP like that when he could play his 360 or Wii. Thanks for all the letters, Miss Jbumi. It was always a pleasure!



Farewell, Sean!


Sean,

I wished to write you a farewell letter. I failed to do so with Matt a few months ago, so I'll consider this a chance to redeem myself. I quite enjoyed your columns, and while I'm sorry to see you go, I certainly understand your reasoning.

With that out of the way, let's talk about Lost Odyssey. I know you're playing it, and you're probably quite a bit ahead of me. (I have about 15 hours; I just beat disc 2's first boss). I take it you're enjoying it thus far? I certainly am, and I'm most displeased with the average-or-below reviews it has received. At the same time, I've come to expect this of the mainstream gaming press.

Sean

I love the game, Oliver. I really, really enjoy it so far.

Why are RPG's penalized for executing the traditional formula well? I don't understand. Every single review I've read says something to the effect of "Lost Odyssey doesn't take any chances" or "doesn't bother to innovate" or "doesn't rewrite the rules." I ask you: Why the hell does an RPG have to rewrite the rules to score anything higher than a 7.5? And furthermore, what are these rules that (supposedly) need "rewriting?" Will these critics of JRPGs tell us what needs to be changed? Apparently not.

Sean

I have the same problem with these reviews. What did Lost Odyssey do to get a 77% average? I just don't see it! Do they even play the games? Why does Ratchet and Clank 6 get such high marks when it is essentially exactly the same as the previous title with new weapons in new areas? Nothing gets changed, no bars are raised, and yet it is still critically acclaimed! I just don't understand it.
I tend to check RPGamer for reviews of RPGs and back them up with IGN and Gamespot reviews. The latter ones are useful to spot technical problems that the typical RPGamer might not be too interested in.

What counts as "innovation?" Is "innovation" synonymous with real-time battles now? Are turn-based battles just some silly convention that needs to be done away with? Does every RPG now have to include first-person shooting, land mines, and giant, unwieldy land vehicles to be considered any good? Come on, now; this makes no sense. RPGs are ripped for incorporating many of the same conventions from game-to-game, but I don't see this criticism being levied against other genres. Hell, games like Halo 3 and Guitar Hero III score in the upper 9's on GameRankings. These games certainly don't "rewrite the genre." Why aren't they being called out? EA releases a virtually identical Madden title every year, and its greeted with great reviews and massive sales.

Sean

I know, I know. If BioWare were to release a turn-based KotOR game, it would get critical acclaim from everyone. It just doesn't make sense to me. I don't think the media gives JRPGs the time of day. The reviewer plays them for a bit, gets bored and writes a review. It is no secret that the average American gamer is uninterested in turn-based systems, but it doesn't change the fact that these games are released for our crowd and that the games should be reviewed by people like us to showcase what we would see as defects and innovations. I personally find that the ring system in Lost Odyssey is a great addition to the turn-based formula as it keeps me awake during combat! I've always had a problem with losing interest between actions and it is currently not a problem.

I know I've been rambling here, but this is my case in point: RPGs should not be required to "rewrite the rules" or come up with some magical new "innovation." No other genre is held to these standards, and it's becoming ridiculous to see every RPG that comes down the line (other than Final Fantasy) get criticized for the same stupid reasons.

Sean

Innovation is always good to have, but it shouldn't be expected to be included in every title. I still think that sticking with what works and doing it well is all that matters.

Anyways, about Lost Odyssey itself: I think it's amazing, and the storyline is, without a doubt, the game's main draw. I don't want to spoil anything, but a certain scene that takes place near the end of Disc 1 nearly brought me to tears, which is an impressive feat for any game, movie, or book; because I really don't cry over fictional events. I also find A Thousand Years of Dreams feature to be another great feature; it really enhances the plot, helping us understand Kaim and what he's been through. I was hoping with all my might that Lost Odyssey would succeed where Blue Dragon failed, and my wishes have come true.

Sean

I agree that it is an amazing title. In fact, I feel the desire to play it as I write this column. To tell the truth, I don't watch the dreams. I find that they take way too long and I lose my place in the game. I can always read them later, right?

I'm impressed with the gameplay as well, traditional as it may be. You see, I'm an RPG fan, so turn-based battles and extensive skill management are actually FUN to me. Anyways, LO's skill system isn't the greatest thing in the world, and I find that it comes almost directly from FFIX, but it works. A bit early to say, but it doesn't seem to encourage a party of identical cutouts, which was my number one problem with games like Final Fantasy XII and Xenosaga Episode II. The battles are pretty standard turn-based affairs, but I will say that I'm glad that LO actually presents a challenge. It certainly isn't a "difficult"game, per say, but it keeps you from holding down the attack button during random encounters. Most bosses I've fought have been QUITE challenging, which is good, because there were some boss battles in Blue Dragon in which I didn't even have to use a single healing spell. (No joke.)

Sean

The immortals are cutout characters, but they don't really offer many real options. All characters have strengths and weaknesses. Kaim just does not make a good caster and I doubt Ming can be equipped as a fighter. While they can all learn all the skills in the game, I find it hard to see cross-classing them from their original purpose. I like it when characters have specific roles though. Aside from two boss battles and transitions into new areas, I have not had many problems with the battles in the game. I had a few moments where I wanted to smash the 360, but that had to do with some thieving monkeys stealing rare items from me.

That's about all I have to say at this point, I'm sure I'll have a more well-rounded opinion of the game upon completion.

Thanks for your time, Sean; and thanks for over 50 Q&A columns! I wish you well in any future endeavors, and I hope that you don't become a stranger around the site.

-Oliver "Metaridley" Motok

Sean

You won't be getting rid of me so easily. I will be around and lurking in the corners. I have to keep Shawn on his toes, don't I? Thanks for the letters, and more importantly for all the help, Oliver. And did I mention that I like to read Currents?



The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies


What's this, Sean? Today is your final column? While this is somewhat dispiriting to hear, I shall see you off in grand fashion! And your pardon I pray for not sending a letter last week: working overtime along with having either the flu or bronchitis (not sure which, unpleasant either way) left me in a mood not amenable to letter composition.

Sean

Ugh. Get well soon, JuMeSyn. I still need you to send Shawn weekly letters!

Now let's see here, I spent a strange day last week tackling Revengers of Vengeance. On the very high chance you've not heard of the game, it's a Sega CD title that attempts to blend the RPG with a fighting game. And for variety's sake, a few vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up sections are included. I can't reasonably recommend the thing to anyone interested only in a quality experience, because that will not be found. Think about it: can the fighting game and an RPG be melded? Would anyone want to play the result, which allows the fine balance of a good fighting game to be destroyed by someone overpowering a character? Moreover, as observed in my matches against the computer, the result is pretty damn boring if the player is so overpowered as to destroy the CPU character in three moves while the CPU can land a dozen hits and barely dent the player's life bar. With all that said: the game is different from anything else in existence. That cannot reasonably be held as a worthy reason to play it, but it's the only one I can come up with.

Sean

My thoughts: really stupid name for an interesting concept. It actually sounds good to me!

Before I played this on Sega CD I broke out the Terminator. Good game, not worth buying a system for but a fundamentally solid action game with a VERY good soundtrack. Even you would rock out to this music, but since a sample is probably too much for you to handle I'll forbear. If you ever find yourself with a Sega CD and the Terminator game, though, pop it in and have a good time. I've come up with plenty of weirdness from Tengai Makyou IV, but I simply must give you a couple more instances of just what a lunatic asylum the designers must have escaped from. Item: Hollywood Tycoon Ron Terry, who somehow makes me think of The Great Gatsby when I look at him. How does he fight you, in the climactic Death Valley showdown after you have defeated King Manto with Geisha Robo? Oh, he'll use his ornamental Hollywood cane to smack people, or he'll use the Silver Screen to shield himself. As a Hollywood Tycoon, his greatest attack is The End.

Sean

I still need to catch that new Terminator show on TV, though I was never a fan of the movies. That other game just keeps getting weirder and weirder, doesn't it?

...I must also mention a genuine reason for Rizing, the protagonist, to be sixteen years old: Ron Terry does not like older people in his auditions, and the only way to enter Hollywood is to attend an audition he is judging. I refuse to read any further subtext into this and suggest you do likewise=

Sean

Thanks for all the letters, JuMeSyn. It has been fun, hasn't it? I will always remember sicking you on the other hosts... ^_^



The Sims 2: Travesty


Hey Sean.

Sad to hear that you're stepping down as Q&A host. It's been fun, and I hope that you'll still be around the site, if not as staff.

Sean

It would have to be on staff, as I don't usually do the forum thing. Forums once consumed my life and I won't return there.

Anyway. Valentine's Day. I got my girlfriend The Sims 2 Deluxe, instead of the mandatory overpriced roses. Tsk tsk, what an unromantic chap I am. But then again, she'd been whining about how she was missing the Nightlife expansion. That was my induction into the travesty of a series that is The Sims 2.

Sean

I fear for your soul, Virtuoso.

For those reading this that are not in the know, The Sims 2 Deluxe is a two-in-one package containing The Sims 2 original and Nightlife expansion. The Sims 2: Nightlife is no longer in stock so I had no choice but to get her the Deluxe package. But that was by no means the worst part...

Sean

I bought Deluxe for my girlfriend a long time ago. She played it once and then forgot about it. That was money well spent!

The modular nature of that series created problems that I would not wish on any gamer. For a start, she could not install Deluxe because the original The Sims 2 was already installed. But before she could uninstall The Sims 2, she had to uninstall EVERY EXPANSION first... That's right, her University, Pets, and Seasons all had to go before she could install Deluxe, and after that she had to reinstall all of them. Bloody waste of time.

Sean

And I bet they needed to be removed in the reverse of the order that they were installed in? I have that problem with removing MMOs sometimes. Removing the expansions out of order can be a real hassle. Ugh @ FFXI.

One of the expansions, The Sims 2: Seasons had been taking flack because it caused uncontrollable lag due to the weather conditions. When my girlfriend's sister decided to uninstall it because her computer could not handle the graphics, she lost her savegame even though she backed it up, because it was created in the Seasons-only town, or something like that.

In all, I don't think such a complicated system is a good thing.

That wraps it up, and I wish you all the best in real life!

-Virtuoso

Sean

Thanks, Virt. It really means a lot to me to hear all these good wishes. Thanks for all the letters and congratulations on your staff position. It was well deserved (or so I have heard)!



IN CLOSING

Well that is it from me. I want to thank everyone else that didn't have a chance to say goodbye. I will really miss this little column and I have hopes that it is in capable hands. I mean, how bad can Shawn screw it up? For those that are interested, I can still be contacted at my RPGamer e-mail address, so feel free to drop me a line should you feel the need. Thank you all for the six months of fun!



Send a Letter!

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gorne@rpgamer.com
Sean is getting all teary-eyed.


Oh, my. This is my last hidden text...

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Now Playing:

  1. Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves
  2. Guild Wars: Prophecies
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
  4. Heroes of Might and Magic V: Tribes of the East
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  6. Metroid Prime 3
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My Reviews

  1. Dragoneer's Aria
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  3. Lord of the Rings Online
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  5. Folklore
  6. Dungeon and Dragons Tactics
  7. The Witcher
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My Backlog:

    XBox 360:
  1. Blue Dragon
  2. Eternal Sonata
  3. Kameo: Elements of Power
  4. Lost Odyssey

    PlayStation 3:
  5. Enchanted Arms
  6. Marvel Ultimate Alliance
  7. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

    Wii:
  8. Metroid Prime 3
  9. Soul Calibur Legends
  10. Super Mario Galaxy
  11. Zack and Wiki

    PlayStation 2:
  12. Dawn of Mana
  13. God of War II
  14. Jak 2
  15. Jak 3
  16. Odin Sphere
  17. Onimusha 3
  18. Onimusha: Dawn of Warriors
  19. Persona 3
  20. Ratchet and Clank 2
  21. Ratchet and Clank 3
  22. Ratchet Deadlocked
  23. Romancing Saga
  24. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner
  25. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
  26. Sly 2
  27. Sly 3
  28. Suikoden V
  29. Tales of Legendia
  30. Tales of the Abyss
  31. Wild Arms IV
  32. Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner

    Gamecube:
  33. Baten Kaitos
  34. Mega Man Battle Transmission

    PC:
  35. Age of Empires III
  36. Age of Empures III: The Warchiefs
  37. Guild Wars: Nightfall
  38. Guild Wars: Prophecies
  39. Heroes of Might and Magic V: Tribes of the East
  40. Neverwinter Nights II: Mask of the Betrayer
  41. Planescape: Torment
  42. Spellforce: The Order of Dawn
  43. Spellforce: The Breath of Winter
  44. Spellforce: Shadow of the Phoenix
  45. Spellforce II Shadow Wars
  46. Spellforce II: Dragon Storm
  47. Tomb Raider Anniversary

    Nintendo DS:
  48. Bleach
  49. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker
  50. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
  51. Lunar Knights
  52. Mega Man ZX
  53. Mega Man ZX Advent
  54. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

    PSP:
  55. Astonishia Story
  56. Blade Dancer
  57. Bleach: Heat the Soul 4
  58. Daxter
  59. Dungeon Maker
  60. FFT: The War of the Lions
  61. Gurumin
  62. Jeanne d'Arc
  63. Legend of Heroes III
  64. Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner
  65. PoPoLoCrois
  66. Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters
  67. Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology
  68. Untold Legends II: Warrior's Code

    Game Boy Advance:
  69. Final Fantasy VI Advance
  70. Summon Night II

    PS1:
  71. Persona 2

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