|| Ask Andrew
Lords, but mostly ladies.
Andrew - December 8 '02- 12:00 Central Standard Time
Welcome to the Sunday Q&A column. Since you're here for the letters, and not my sexy salsa dancing, we'll just groove right in.
In future RPGs, my whole party will slay evil in nothing but their underwear and a smile.
I've never written anything for RPGamer before, but there's something about the way you handle the Q&A section that I just can't resist.
I'm no expert in the creation of video games. If I was, I'd be making lots more money now than I actually am. I pretty much stink at the whole programming component. When it comes to conceptualizing the mechanics of games in little 0's and 1's and IF, THEN statements, I just don't make the grade. What can I say? I'm a future political science major, and computers are fun to play games with, but not much more.
I am, however, also likely going to be a writing minor, and that's where my creative juices flow. I've written a few novels in my heyday (unfortunately, as most were written in high school...when I used to have eons of time on my hands...and most haven't really been proofread or polished, they're far from publication). I do have a decent RPG script that I've worked on for a while (It may not be overwhelmingly FF7-style spectacular, but it's probably better than the standard we're seeing from most companies nowadays).
Unfortunately, however, my script, as well as ideas concerning RPG battle systems and whatnot, are pretty much moot, because I can't program 'em for beans. I'd like to, however, at least suggest a few thoughts I've had concerning where RPGs could improve. Maybe an RPG designer will catch my comments and work from them.
1: Why is it that every RPG character on a battlefield actually has to fight? An idea I'd love to see developed in RPGs is the prospect of characters you can place in your party who can't actually do any damage whatsoever to an opponent on the field. Instead, you might have combat medic style characters who heal, and only heal (Even the White Mages in FF1 could deal physical damage with their rods if you wanted them too...my idea would be to have a medic-style character who can only heal allies). Another idea might include a General or Strategiest, who adds certain combat bonuses through his leadership skill but doesn't actually fight. This kind of character could also plan ambushes, flanks and other surprises for enemies, so instead of all your fighters lining in a straight line, you can add some tactics to your fights. There could also be a character who operates strictly as a mage...can cast magical spells but has no physical combat ability at all, rendering him useless once he runs out of MP. Or, a diplomatic sort of character who, through his high charisma, can convince certain weaker enemies to give up without a fight, or maybe even convince another character to join your cause if he's at the right place at the right time. These kinds of possibilities were explored, but not truly developed appropriately, through the Suikoden RPGs, and I'd love to see more advanced and realistic forms of it.
2: The ability to communicate with other characters and plan actions during battles. FF-style RPGs make it seem as if most characters (unless doing some sort of pre-ordained combo move) act independently, whereas a tactical strike could do so much more harm. For example: You could have your mage tell your fighter to protect him as he prepares to cast a gigantic spell. Your fighter would subsequently move in front of the mage...or, if story-driven plotlines place the fighter in a position where he dislikes or doesn't get along very well with the mage, he might flat-out refuse! Perhaps your enemies will taunt you if they believe they have the advantage...similarly, your characters might taunt your enemies if you're too strong for them. Imagine the male and female love interests flirting with each other during an "easy battle", or shouting in despair if their partner gets K.O.'ed from the fight? More dialogue and emotion within the battle scenes themselves...not just before or after them...would really get the character involved, as after all, we only actually control every move of the characters during the battle scenes.
3: You'd be surprised; having your characters do such basic things as eat, drink, sleep, and quite possibly even have go to the friggin' bathroom (although I doubt you'd actually show them going to the bathroom) will add a layer of real, true-to-lifeness that games nowadays seems to have lost. In all the effort to make stories so "epic", gaming developers seem to forget how human every single one of us are, and how more effective their stories would be if they portrayed everyone just like all of us. Heck, have the hero have a splitting migraine. Not some crazy magical-induced fever that requires an entire sidequest to magically heal, just a completely normal, average, everyone-gets-'em headache. Just an idea.
4: Take a cue from FFX-2, and have your characters change outfits...though this time, have 'em change outfits once every day, if you can. Heck, if you think about it, if the average middle-ages person only has four or five outfits they wear, it's just a matter of switching on a four or five day schedule so they don't absolutely stink. Ick.
5: Keep the small talk in. Sometimes it seems like characters never talk about anything but the philosophical ramifications and next steps of the quests they've embarked on. What about gossiping about who loves who (and who despises who?) What about playing practical jokes on each other? What about setting other members on blind dates? What about, for that matter, marriages (and no, Yuna and Seymour's thing doesn't count as a marriage, as it was interrupted by some crazy fighting action scene. I'm talking about actual romantic interests in your party just deciding to get married, and going through with it in a peaceful manner). How about characters getting so pissed off when something horrible happens to them that the others suggest him or her to take a vacation from the quest?
These are all just thoughts. They're certainly ideas and traits I'd like to see exhibited in more RPGs as they become more and more sophisticated. Don't get me wrong; I love the epic fantasy journey stories and the "we gotta save the world" storylines as much as everyone else, but with some of the thoughts I've suggested, characters would be more realistic, relatable, and likable even when staring death in the face.
Best of luck to all those daring to make their own epics come to life,
~ Bryan "Ace" Montany
I'd kill to one day have enough time to sit back and write an actual novel. Maybe when college lets out for Winter Break I'll start. Kudos for trying to write a game's script.
1. Eh. It's not a bad idea, and Suikoden 3 uses it to a point, but having a totally helpless character on the battle field seems pretty pointless. Giving regular fighters some of the abilities you mentioned would be cool, but having a character not being able to attack at all in battle renders it a point moot. When in battle, you fight, or you die.
However, I could see this idea working if the characters were taking an NPC somewhere, and the NPC helped out by healing or whatnot in battle, but couldn't actively engage in the fighting...
Also, the diplomacy idea has been used in the Persona games, with hilariously awful results.
2. These are good ideas. Baldur's Gate and such uses communication in battle to a point, but I'd love to see it in more games.
Though...in an actual fight with monsters, even if I was fighting side by side my worst enemy, I'd be much more focused on killing off the brain sucking mutants than getting into a bitch slap fest with my arch nemesis.
3. Why? Players have the ability to choose how often characters go to the inn, and thus, sleep and eat. If the player chooses to never let his player rest or eat, then it's up to them. Basically, I'm afraid of a game where they start adding crap like a "hunger" meter, which goes down as you play, and forces you to buy food for no other reason then to increase how annoyed I am. Then before you can say "retarded" players have games where they have to watch status bars for stuff like; "Sleepyness, anger, irritation, exhaustion, itchness..." I don't want that kind of crap in my RPGs.
Games don't have to be true to real life, they should focus on the more entertaining aspects of it.
4. I would love to see this feature in more games. How about just the option to buy clothing? Or having characters switch their gear when they enter deserts or arctic tundra? Too many games assume that for some reason we want our heroes dressed in the same stinky clothing for months at a time.
5. True, but this kind of light banner would really screw up a game deep into its plot. Can you imagine Cloud and crew make wise-ass jokes as they explored the Temple of Ancients? I can't, and really, I don't want too. Still, having the heroes suffer through mundane chatter would be a good mood setter early in a game's storyline.
Secret of the Dragoons She-Male Extravaganza!
Long time reader (since Q&AK), first time writer. First, I apologize for not sticking with your topic of future careers in the gaming industry, but I've had some things on my mind since you started, and none of them are on the list of things you don't want letters on, so here we go.
Why is it that people give so much crap to Legend of Dragoon? I admit that the translation is pretty much an abortion of the English language, but as an old school gamer, I'm kind of used to stuff like that. I usually don't pay too much attention to how bad the translation is because most of the time I'm just happy to have the game. The thing that bothers me is how everyone I see around here complains about the wretched battle system, which I thought was a fairly good adaptation of the standard menu driven battle system that everyone else uses. It wasn't great, and sometimes I got tired of repeating button presses, but it was new and different, and for a little while, fun. I also don't see that much similarity between Dragoon's plot and that of FF7, which I've seen a lot of people complaining about. FF7's plot (in general) is the same as the plot of every other RPG we've gotten in the last decade. Boy (possibly with super powers) meets girl(s) (possibly with super powers) and stop some villian (more than likely with super powers) from blowing up the earth/taking over the world/killing your puppy/whatever. I thought the concept of dragoons and the aquisition of their powers was really good, and I really got into the game.
I guess what I'm getting at is that people in general piss me off, much like they apparently piss you off. Gamers complain that there isn't anything new or innovative, then complain when someone does something different. "Boo hoo. Everything is just like FF6, and I want something else. But not that. That new thing is sucky and I don't want it because it makes me do some actual work. Give me something just like FF6 like I just said I didn't want." Shut up and play the game. The reason no one does anything different is because, just like you said, game companies are in the business of making money. If new and innovative doesn't sell, or there is a public outcry, they won't make it. Instead, they'll go with the tried and true, rehashing the same plot over and over, making little or no change in the different systems inherant in the game, and it will be bought and make them money. Rinse. Repeat.
Maybe it's just me and LoD is just my Secret of Evermore.
And while I've got you (unless you cut this, which you're obviously free to do),
why does the vast majority of the people who wrote in about it say that Suikoden 2 was so much better than Suikoden. I liked the first game a lot more than the second. I hated the new strategic FFTesque battle system. I much prefered the Rock-Scissors-Paper strategic battles from the first game. I also liked the characters a lot more in the first game. But something keeps bothering me. I couldn't for the life of me figure out Gremio's gender. Every time s/he had something to say, I changed my mind. Gremio doesn't really lend itself to one or the other. Any help there would be greatly appreciated.
That took some room, but you seem to print the lengthy stuff as much as the short, so I didn't feel the need to be short-winded. Keep up the great work keeping the masses in line.
I never played Legend of the Dragoon. Nothing about the game's plot or visuals looked remotely interesting to me, so I never bothered to pick it up.
Gaming companies have a pretty thin line to walk on. If they make their game too unique, no one buys it. If they make their game too conformist to the genre, no one buys it. So they have to strive for a happy medium, which is nigh impossible to get exactly right.
Where I think most game designers go wrong is when they try to add useless functions to a game. Oh, stuff like cooking is all well and entertaining for awhile, but when the hero has to win a cooking contest to forward the plot, causing the player to spend hours traveling the world finding recipes and practicing their cookery skills, then the developers have let their game get way out of hand. Too often entertaining mini-games are given large roles as plot devices, whose shoes are frankly to big for them to fill.
1. I'm pretty convinced that Gremio is a guy, if only because Hero and him weren't making out at the dock in Suikoden 2. Also, Gremio acted like a depressed butler, and I'm not cool with picturing a woman talking like he did.
John Woo and a space station too.
In reply to the guy dissin' customizable PCs yesterday:
Personally, I get a gleam in my eyes and rub my hands with glee whenever I pick up an RPG
with customizable characters. It means I have a clean slate to work with, whether I wantto sketch Mona Lisa or splash paint all over it.
It means I get to create the character I want, and give him the personality I want,
instead of having some damn developer that lives hundreds of miles away decide for me. The
latest FF hero might be able to quote Shakespeare until the audience weeps, but he isn't
my PC; it's like I'm driving someone else's car. My own PC may not be as stylish, but I
made him and he's my own. There's a special pride in that. If he doesn't have a
personality, it's because you don't work hard enough trying to give him one.
Generating my own character also means that I have plenty of paths to take, since the
developers can't plop me onto a linear path and tell me I gotta do this and that "because
the character would". With most of the good customizable games, you have to play through
at least twice: once Good and once Evil. If you get really carried, you have to play
through again just to see what would happen if you played as a Bond-like character... or a
Redneck Hick. Your choice. I never see a reason to replay an FF game again, but as soon as
I finish a customizable RPG, I'm rarin' to go again just to try a different PC.
In such games, my PC is mine and mine alone, and no matter what his flaws and lapses may
be, I created him. Part of me went into making him, and to take him away you'll have to
pry him out of my cold, dead hands.
About Secret of Evermore:
Yeah, it was an interesting game. And Cecil as a shopkeeper was great. I wish he had a
bazooka in FF4 as well.
About Future Games:
There are two games that I would snatch up in a heartbeat:
1.An RPG with a very simple goal: You're on a space station that's going to hell in a
handbasket. First, you gotta survive. Second, you gotta escape. You take it from there.
Do you take the time to repair the deteriorating life support systems, or do you just
search for an escape pod? Do you go it alone, join another small group of survivors, or
try to rally the numerous factions together? Do you try to get revenge on the bastards
that left you here in the first place? Do you attempt to break into the TOP SECRET labs
whose secrets are now left unguarded? Do you spend the time and effort to discover WHY the
station is breaking down?
This type of game just begs for a wide-open (yet reasonably constrained) environment,
multiple solutions, and the type of character bonding that happens when your buddy's the
only thing keeping you from becoming another mess of organs on the wall.
2.RPG, John Woo-style. Excessive violence, big explosions, martial arts galore, and the
revered fighting style of Gun Fu. (Boot to the head, bullet to the nads!) I want a game
where, after a battle, I can replay it and it looks like something out of a Hong Kong
flick, with fluid action and graceful ass-kicking.
Of course, it would need a story whose main purpose is to get the PCs into kick-ass
fights. And moves with crazy names like "Talk to the Hand" or "Cajun Flipkick" or "The
Soprano". And lots of stuff to smash and hurl at your opponents. Maybe a few tall cliffs
for some to fall off of screaming...
About Getting Into Gaming:
In CompSci, they say: "You can't go wrong with an English minor." It seems like there's
always a company that's looking for a skilled worker that also knows how to write a
I'd say the same applies to the gaming import industry. How many poorly-translated RPGs
could be improved merely by having an English editor play through it after it's
translated? He could jot angry memos like "Who the hell WROTE this piece of crap?!?" or
"Dammit, it's 'they're', not 'there', bastards!" or "This sentence doesn't even have a
VERB! You forgot the frickin' VERB!"
As for me, I plan on getting a major in Computer Science (programming), while getting
minors in English & Art. That way, I can test, program, sketch designs, AND write the
stinkin' manual! Then when I become a lead designer, I'll know when they're all screwing
"In the rather unwieldy language of the Nar it is called 'Gaze in Stunned Disbelief at the
Tool of Our Destruction.' In Nebulonese it is known as 'The Big Floaty Thing What Kicks
Our Asses.' I believe the Phfor call them Juggernauts." -Durandal, Feel the Noise
Both types of RPGs, ones that plunk you in the role of the hero and scoot you off on the straight forward path to destroy evil, and the RPGs that allow you freedom in the creation of your character and what they do, are both great in their own ways. I don't really have a preference of one type over the other.
1. That sounds like a fun RPG. Of course, the only problem would be how long a game like that could hold a player's interest, since most of the fun would be unlocking different paths and endings, which I know isn't everyone's cup of tea. Hell, I don't even like tea.
2. Heh. Well Mike, I think you've got two great game ideas to get working on.
3. Poor translation in games hasn't been as rampant as it used to be, but yes, great translations never seem to be in the majority for RPGs. For myself, I couldn't stand having to translate an entire game without a lot of freedom in the interpretation of the story, since Japanese culture is so different from ours.
"You farted in public! Death is too good for you giant, long-nosed freak of nature!"
DDR and Cetra. What a wonderful world it would be.
First off, I'm another of those wanna-be game-design wonks who just doesn't
have enough time. Call me futile, but it's a dream. A dream that I'm still
going after, but am usually too busy playing DDR or watching Star Ocean EX
That's not important. The point of this letter is that I think I've figured
out what Square's probably going to do with FFVII2.
We read in FFVII that Jenova, the "Calamity from the Sky", attacked the
Cetra (in the forms of their fallen mothers and brothers and all that) and
began spreading all manner of sickness and disease. However, it's directly
stated in the game that "A small number of the surviving Cetra defeated
Jenova, and confined it."
If Square's going to do a second FFVII, I predict that it will be a
prequel, and that it will deal directly with how the Cetra defeated Jenova.
Think of it: They're starting 2000 years before Aerith's birth, so they can
add all the events they want. You can use the same spells; even add some
that were never 'found' in FFVII. You can have a whole new cast of PCs, who
are never heard from afterwards. It all makes sense.
That's just my stab at things. They already have the plot. They just need
to expand it. Makes more sense than humanity respawning and screwing up the
earth again, doesn't it?
-Nerdboy "Don't Hate the Calculator!" Himself
I loved the first episode of Star Ocean EX. "Let us chase a bunny around for 30 minutes! That will make great starter episode! Ha ha!"
Bah. I'd rather watch Chobits.
1. Interesting theory, though I'm sure Square is going to at least make an attempt to be clever about it, considering how pissed fans would be if they messed it up, or worse, pulled a Chrono Cross and showed a bunch of Final Fantasy 7 character's dead from your actions in the next game.
As for the humanity coming again to screw up the Earth, well, take a look at human history, buddy.
Your friends are all idiots.
Hello, this is a question I've been musing on for quite some time, and the recent bout of gaming industry questions have prompted me to ask you, or at least throw the question out for people to answer.
Like many gamers, I too would like to break into the video gaming industry. My ultimate dream would be to work for either Square or Nintendo, but getting into any company would be a dream come true. Here's the kicker, though; I don't program. True, I've taken a few undergrad courses on C++, but nowhere near enough to prep me for game programming. What's worse is that the one thing they DID teach me was that programming really isn't my thing. I can DO it, and actually do it quite well, but it doesn't "light my fire" and quite frankly makes me insane. My strengths are in more "creative" areas (e.g. script writing, character development, etc).
So this leaves me in a little bit of a bind, hence my question: is it possible to break into the video game/RPG industry WITHOUT being a programmer? What sorts of jobs are available for an English Lit major who can't program worth SMURF but has a good eye for language and plot? I am positive such jobs must exist, but my Computer Science friend insists that most jobs I'd be interested in (e.g. script writer, translator, etc) are done by people who ALSO help out with the programming. In my ideal world, I would be either writing scripts for an RPG or translating Square games, but he keeps insisting that it'll never happen without being a game programmer; according to him, the person who writes the script for one scene is often also the person who does the textures on the 3rd dungeon, etc etc.
So, the question: Do I have a chance in the video game and RPG industry, or do I HAVE to learn how to program? If the answer is no, what sorts of jobs should I be looking for based on my skills (primarily creative/English based)?
Thanks for your time,
PS A sort of added question; I have a working knowledge of Japanese, though I'm nowhere near fluent. Would you say complete fluency is needed to be a translator, or do you think they just consult Japanese dictionaries most of the time?
1. You do not need to know programming to break into the industry. There are plenty of free RPG Makers online that will let you create your dream game with little or no programming.
For some links to engines.
If your skills in writing are that good, create a game on paper. Design the plot, characters, battle systems, everything. See if you can actually go through and create an entire RPG, all without actually doing a lick of coding.
2. Your friend must be severely mentally retarded. Programmers PROGRAM. They do not do graphics, write text, or stick hoses up their asses while helping to create a game.
Look, I firmly believe that with enough experience with games, by playing them, reviewing them, writing about them, creating them, etc, it should be easy to impress a potential boss, or at least easier then telling him you've always loved video games and want to make them. YOU CAN CREATE THEM. RIGHT NOW. REALLY.
3. Yes, you need to have an excellent grasp of Japanese to translate Square games for a living. Gah. What did you think? That Square hires people with SMURF for brains that are great at what they do?
...that was a rhetorical question, people.
I'm not absolutely sure what the guy from NAD meant by getting rights to a system, but assuming he meant that he wanted to use the source code for a game engine (which, by his mention of the Quake engine, makes me think that's what he means), the copyright holder has pretty much full discretion in deciding how they want to license their code to other developers.
There are libraries and engines available out there that license more on a percentage of sales terms (or percentage of profit, and so on . . . like I said, they can set pretty much any terms they want). You may not necessarily be able to get a single all-encompassing game engine like the Quake engine this way, but I do know there is a pretty good code library out there for music and sound effects - I believe it's called BaSS or something like that. (I'm sorry . . . it's been a couple of
years since I've seriously looked into this stuff. I don't have a link to a site where it's available anymore).
Anyway, I highly recommend trying to find stuff like this that meets your needs. Unless you want to write a basic 2D graphics engine, developing that kind of stuff is very time consuming and pretty technically difficult, especially for a single programmer working in his spare time (which is why I switched simply to writing for the time being). Sure, you'll have to share some of whatever money you do make on whatever game you create, but at least you'll be more likely to actually manage to finish one. I wish I could point all of you aspiring designers to engines available for licensing, but I was trying to take the more foolish route of writing my own. I do know that there are some out there, though.
Thanks for that well thought out reply on engine rights, Shawn. This is exactly why I'd rather use a free engine online. Why bother paying or making your own, unless you want a bunch of flashy graphics and useless shinies to detract from your gameplay? Unless you have either massive amounts of time on your hands, or massive amounts of useless money to give away, then I suppose that could work too.
Nothing finer then a happy Swede.
Heya, mail from Sweden!
It's not really a question, just a comment.
I was so happy reading LrdDimwit's mail. I really think it'll encourage a lot of young programmers continuing whatever work they are doing/planning. Me too (like so many others) want(ed) to be a game designer/-programmer, but I soon found out programming is nothing I'll ever be good at. Perhaps I should say, "good enough", at. I kinda abandoned the idea of being a programmer but... Yeah, it's awesome to see somebody succeed in today's gaming industry. I'm not jealous, just... Just very happy. I think he's (just like you guys at rpgamer.com are) kind of important for today's industry, today's youth+. Even though you may not think of it, you're a great support among the RPG players and programmers. At least for us amateurs. This isn't really something you need to post on the site, I just want you read this. That would make me happy, anyway.
- An American Swede ^_~
You've made some wonderful points, Swede.
It is my opinion, that only by learning as much as we can about the industry, working hard at what we do best, and by keeping up to date with market can we achieve our goals of becoming game designers. Thanks for such an inspiring letter.