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ASK ANDREW
Subject: It Was Late And I Was Tired March 17th, 2005

Andrew Long - 23:54 EST

WELL, OKAY, perhaps late is a bit of an exaggeration, but I do feel exceedingly tired, though not quite so tired that I will not slip a reference of some sort in. Ten points to anyone who picks up where this title came from. Regrettably, those ten points are about all the excitement I can currently offer. Fortunately, I operate much like a slot machine, in that my excitement on offer steadily builds with each penny you jam up my nose, or in this case, letter you drop in the inbox, so with any luck, we'll be up to a truly earth-shattering jackpot by Thursday, yesno?

...Either way, my gibberish still beats your gibberish!



Ramblebox
Oh, no! Nobody outcrazies Ophelia! HEY NONNY NONNY HO NONNY HWHEEEE!!!

-AL  


L E T T E R S
Baby, why you gotta make me hurt you?


THANKS FOR RUINING SO3
FOR ME YOU SACK OF CRAP...
I mean, SO3 spoilers

So I just found that the entire world of Star Ocean, nay the entire universe, was all just a video game. Not “Star Ocean 3”. But the world within Star Ocean 3 was a video game within a game. That means nothing in so2 mattered. Let the Wise men destroy the universe; we’ll just hit the reset button. If the god-damn Wise-men had the power to ‘delete’ the universe; why did Luther let them get out of control? Or was that just history for the eternal sphere? If it’s true; how could a company like that make up a history of over 8 million years?!?! (Maybe it was six, but that doesn’t matter).

OH! And I really hate how the game is like “We don’t know how it’s possible a program can manifest in the real world, but since we say that it happened, that’s all that matter, he-yuck”

Seriously though; the misadventures of Dias, Rena, Aston and Claude traveling down into the murky depths of the cave of trails, to fight the right hand of a god….pointless; it was all scripted.

What’s next? The next Chrono Trigger (ok, I know it’s not possible…) turns out that it was some dating simulation so Chrono could get a date? Of course they’ll just overlook the fact that you can beat the date simulation without even having Chrono exist. Oh-oh and this new one is going to be about how the relationship didn’t work out and now Chrono has to go out and destroy the dating simulation company; and he has to climb all 152 repeating levels of the Guardia Forest Tower Caste Corporation Company. (GFTCCC). Then when he beats the last bad guy, a cheeto fingered, soda stained tee-shirt wearing programmer named Larry, and Larry decides to erase all the dating-sim programs. BUT!!! Since the dating-sim’s were so cool, they decide, the dating-sims, not to be deleted.

Now I did like Baton Kaitos, to be honest only at one particular part were the main character reveled he was the one to blame for all their misfortunes, and joined up with the crazy albino lady. On a serious note, he was a damn good actor.

Mark Belanger
SPACE Productions Chair
"On the other hand, you have diffrent fingers"


ANDREW


Seriously, people, I frigging hate emails with the dramatic spacing going on. Please to be eliminating the vast blankness from between your paragraphs, because the next letter that contains said gulfs will be deleted with prejudice on sight. At any rate, I think your extra Chrono sequel is largely unnecessary, because they already ate the characters for lunch and then buried the ashes of whatever was left over. In sum, I hate Chrono Cross partially because of this fact, and I hardly need another sequel out there to attract my ire.

Incidentally, that's the big plot twist in SO3? Oh dear. Oh very dear. I now feel very sound in my decision to avoid it like plague.



A question of spores


Hi andrew

I read the article you linked to about spore and it was pretty neat. I understand some of it, but there is still a little I want to know.

I understand that they used a computer that can automatically create an animation for almost any character of building or whatever. I also understand that he (the creater of the Sims) also had a game that used this software. What i was wondering was, is this software just for the game (Spore) or was it designed so that it could (hopefully) be picked up by any and all developers to create games in the future?

Thanks

Brooks Dodge


ANDREW

I'm not too sure how the software in question will translate into something that can be used by all developers in the future; that will, I would imagine, depend strongly upon how Wil Wright decides to license it if it does, in fact, get off the ground. The thing that looks so freaking cool about Spore, though, is that you don't really need to develop a mod community for the game because everyone who buys it is by definition a member of that community.

As far as the file compression routines they are using, incidentally, it's not like that's anything new. Developers have had the option to utilize such applications for years, and they are more or less readily available (for instance, my dad's friend, a computer science prof in the Niagara region, made one such program freely available online a few years back.) In fact, there is an entire community devoted to them, rooted strongly in Europe where a recent contest produced a workable 3D shooter that took up only 64KB of space. It was no Doom 3, but it's still cause to question why exactly your average game will devour 10 or 12 GB these days, and strongly suggests that laziness beyond anything else is the reason.



Ruminatrix


Heya Andromel,

I must say, that link you provided yesterday was Rant-tastic. While I haven't grown quite as cynical as said blogger, I can say my outlook on the gaming industry, and RPGs specifically isn't much different than his.

My greatest concern however is one that he failed to even mention: will anyone really notice?

I mean, how many GTA games, mindless FPS's, Spy games, War games, etc. will be pumped out before people start realizing they're the SAME 3-4 GAMES? In a culture that thrives on repetition (see: Reality TV, Murder-mystery novels, Law & Order spinoffs or CSI: Wherever-people-are-currently-dropping-like-flies-in-weird-and-mysterious-ways, historical dramas on the big screen, you get the picture...), I'm not willing to wager a guess. Point is, until people stop buying them, there's no reason for videogame companies to take risks, all financial constraints aside.

This plays right into the "remake" point that was made. Do I really need Final Fantasy IX for my PS2? I didn't even need it for my PSX, so please, stop asking people. You're the problem.

Along with this whole shebang is the aspect of the vg industry that boggles my mind the most: why are graphics the driving feature? I just plowed my way through Shining Force I & II, and I must say, the 2D pixelated graphics paled in comparison to the repetitvie use of, "Hi. My name is _____. I'm going to join your party." That's heroic motivation right there. Unfortunately, the graphics have improved vastly since that time, and yet, the storylines and most other features have remained stagnant or eroded completely. But the next FF game will still inevitably sell millions of copies, spawn a few spinoffs and (at worst) a full-length motion picture, all with what I'm sure will be a shell of the system, story, and innovation of older, uglier games. But I'm sure they'll have voice acting, so "Woot, wooooot!"

- Ian (awaiting the next-gen consoles with as much excitement as his tax returns. Which I really need to do soon...)


ANDREW

Tsk. You ask why graphics are the driving feature? Have you ever seen a George Lucas film? Graphics are the best and most quantifiable means of getting the most people to say "gee whiz, look how far we've come since those dumb apes were playing with giant pixellated balls in the 70s!" Gameplay, on the other hand, is independent of such tangible aspects of a game as are likely to be best conveyed in a commercial fashion, and as such, it is easy to simply fall back on a boy-howdy shot of some star exploding or something. In the end, it all comes down to one simple fact: we're stupid monkeys at heart(for those of you in Georgia and / or Alabama, pretend I'm praying or something), and we really like shiny junk.

As far as the incentive side of things goes, though, that is truly the scariest part; namely, that franchises like Madden 200x and the other slew of constant sequels can get by simply by slightly improving their exterior appearance. I long for the day when they can't squeeze another frame per second out of their polygons and they're forced to go back to the drawing board to actually make things fun again. I don't think we'll see that day for a while yet, though.

Incidentally, I know it's a favorite pastime of everyone to heap scorn upon Grand Theft Auto, but when you get right down to it, GTA is based on a number of very solid gameplay principles. While Rockstar has certainly done little to develop upon the core gameplay, it is nevertheless true that the gameplay in Grand Theft Auto has that certain something that can keep you playing for hours at a time, which is not something I can say for a number of other recent PC releases. As such, while I'm inclined to scoff at frippery like San Andreas, I am in general a supporter of the GTA franchise, even if it is just the same stuff over and over again.



On topic II: First Blood


Andrew,

Before anything:

"Nintendo [...] prefer to rely on the creativity of one aging designer."

For the love of God, Miyamoto hasn't directly worked on a game since Pikmin (maybe Pikmin 2).
ANDREW

Which is incidentally probably the last time Nintendo didn't farm something out to second-party outfits.

Anyway, that whole article just stinks of jaded, overly biased neophobia. The author makes some good points, I'll give him that much, but most of what he says has been said since the early days of the Playstation--and yet we still get innovative games. Quite often, in fact.

While there's a great deal of truth in claiming that risk breeds discretion, on the other hand, safety breeds incompetence. If games are cheap and easy to make, why bother to spend a lot of money on little things like removing bugs and quality graphics? Why bother creating an amazing and memorable experience when you could make several hundred dollars on a couple of week's worth of work?
ANDREW

You know, I would let this pass if only so many developers over the past few years hadn't taken to the practice of releasing buggy crap to the public and patching it to hell after tricking some fools from that soon-parted money they're so famous for.

There's more to innovation, also, than what the author credits: games grow through innovation because innovation sells. The highest grossing games are inevitably the ones with the greatest innovations (and their sequels); on the other hand, at the bottom of the sells charts, are the second-rate imitations of those high-grossing, innovative games. Sometimes, yes, there are flukes--Halo wasn't so much innovative as it was a streamlined experience.

Anyway, as for my question: in Shadow Hearts: From the New World, what continent or country do you think the second half of the game will take place in? It's a staple of the series, you know. Personally, I'm hoping for Northern Africa. Egypt is the perfect setting for some macabre action, and the Cradle of Civilization is a hop, skip and jump away.

-DiNi


ANDREW

Well, I've never gotten to the point in a SH title where I hop continents yet, but I am sort of hoping that Jack and Shania wander into Canada, if only so that they can bomb Timmins into the ground and save us all a lot of bad music sixty years later. Failing that, random battles with mounties and moose would satisfy my cheesy soul. At any rate, if anything, I'd say the more logical junket would be to South America, since Trotsky and various other expat Russians have been known to lurk there, which would be a great excuse to Russify things back up.



And again!


Hey Andrew and/or Google,

I read the article, and I have to say that I agree with almost all of it. Games are, sadly, going towards cool graphics and not enough story or plot that's new enough to mention... However, there are games out there that choose to defy at least one of those. Phantom Brave, as well as the other Nippon Ichi releases, are proof that you don't have to have the most beautiful 3D graphics ever in order to have a game that is extremely fun to play. Tales of Symphonia and Baten Kaitos kept me going with their endless plot twists; I could barely keep up with what was going on in Symphonia, and once I reached the second disc of Baten, I was seeing the ending around every corner BUT the one from which it appeared.

Oh, right. I need a question, don't I? I was just wondering... with all the "innovation" Mr. Iwata promised, such as the Nintendo DS, in what form do you think it will come, and how will the gaming industry react? Nintendo has the potential to reverse the current trends (remember WarioWare? That was a breath of fresh air)... what's your prediction for the future?

-Kevin Cox


ANDREW

Whatever Nintendo comes up with, it will likely involve some sort of DS compatibility, though it seems to me I heard something to the effect that such would not be the case. Failing that, there will certainly be much better online capability than you saw with the GC, as Iwata has indicated Nintendo will finally explore that avenue in the next year or two. Whether that's all Nintendo feels it needs to add to its gaming experience to qualify it as a revolution is anyone's guess; my money would be on no. After all, who imagined anyone would conceive of a dual-screened system? It seems like an inherently redundant sort of thing, and yet so far, the NDS has been moving briskly, and garnering some popularity. Either way, speculating on unveiled Nintendo goodness is a difficult business, so I think I'll wait until I'm safely at E3 and can back up my "speculation" a little better.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

To paraphrase the dragons in that latest Simpsons episode, the ones that actually made me laugh for the first time in three years:

Canadian jerk is leaving forever
Now he will sleep for 1000 years
When he awakes the world will end....

Ooh, spinetinglydingly! Which is to say, see you Thursday, and may you eat many creamsicles.

castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long yawns too much sometimes.


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