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ASK ANDREW
Daily... What's the Opposite Of Affirmation? April 23rd, 2009

Andrew Long - 9:45 EST

Greetings. I bought some clothes yesterday, and I was appalled to find that the pastel-neon pastiche of the late 1980s has apparently somehow made its way back into style. Now I'm no big city lawyer, but it seems to me that we should have learned our lesson about this regrettable period in the history of fashion. Then again, there was a Cyrus making it big in the entertainment world then and another one now, so perhaps learning lessons isn't our greatest strong point as a culture... But I digress. Letters HO!




L E T T E R S
The 10000 Hour Rule


Hello, Andrew. Just a quick letter today. First off, great to see QNA back. Now, at the end of the last column you said:

"Mainly, things are just too damned easy nowadays. I remember a time when you had to scrawl out ten floors of a dungeon onto a 5x5 grid of graph paper and the boss at the end could smash your face in by blinking if you didn't have some magic talisman of facial fortitude purchased at great cost from a famous armorer who for some reason lived at the bottom of the ocean."

It really seems to me that games are just easier because I'm very experienced in RPG's. The first RPG I played was Tales of Symphonia, and I thought it was hard as hell at the time. I replayed it about a year ago, though, and it was ridiculously easy. So are most RPG's to me, and most games, even ones that are allegedly 'very challenging'. What do you think?

-StormofSwords

Andrew

You could certainly apply the notion that the more you do of something, the better you get at it, but then you'd be in Secret of Mana. I think this is certainly a factor in the perceived dumbing down of World of Warcraft; while Blizzard is surely given to catering to whoever whines the loudest on their forums, the simple fact of the matter is that the game has been out for four years, and there's only so many different types of encounters that can be inserted into the game. To their credit, the latest content expansion has featured a lot of fresh-seeming material, but it's also not very challenging. In terms of RPGs on the whole, meanwhile, I don't know that I buy the argument. For one thing, while most of us have doubtless put in thousands of hours playing the games, there are still games that feature a learning curve and aren't super easy. Additionally, going back to play older NES games still presents a certain modicum of challenge. I think that was really the only time when RPGs were particularly difficult; the SNES era started the decline and it has only hastened since. To be sure there is the odd title - I'm looking at you, Unlimited SaGa - that is still somewhat challenging, but often the challenge arises from poorly designed interface or game physics - I'm looking at you, Phantom Brave.

So I don't know. Your particular example of Tales of Symphonia is interesting. I think that having played through the game once, you are probably better suited to know what to do than you would have been the first time through, so it seems obvious that the game will be easier for you the second time through. This is true of any game, though, and what I am more interested in is the long-term overall decline in difficulty of games as a whole. But then you say that most RPGs are now easy to you. So who knows. I guess it is somewhat difficult to come up with new and exciting ways to make traditional RPGs difficult at this point, so I would imagine that TRPGs and action RPGs are the ones with the best chance to be difficult, nowadays.



Reality bites


Ok Casto, you want questions, I've got questions.

What are you thoughts about RPGs and games in general going to digital downloads? This new Vandal Hearts game is only going to hit Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, so does this worry you for the future of seeing physical copies of games? Heck, Patapon 2 is going to be sold in retail stores with a PSP game case only containing a voucher for a download, no game. I think it's crazy. I don't know, I guess the collector in me wants to have a product I can place on my shelf. I don't seem to mind digital downloads for music, but games, that's just wrong.
Andrew

I don't see any problem with it, so long as there is some mechanism to ensure that if you lose your digital copy that you can receive another free of charge. I think it's turned into a great feature for both the Wii and the 360, and as soon as Sony finishes borrowing from both services they'll doubtless have a similarly robust set of offerings, which that Patapon 2 business is probably a prelude to. Speaking of which. That's just retarded. I know that packaging is important to some people - This week, I read in the local paper all about an artist whose living was made doing album covers who was decrying the loss of his livelihood, while simultaneously saying that thanks to up and coming emo bands he had never been busier - so I can see the logic from that standpoint, but from any other it's just ridiculous to be selling something like that in a game shop.

Also, limited availability of Vandal Hearts doesn't worry me; far from it, I see that as a very good thing. The original was horrendous.

Finally, what are your plans for Final Fantasy XIII? Are you going to break down and buy a system for it or what? Last I heard, you didn't have a 360 or PS3, so will it be enough to push you over the edge? Also, what are your thoughts on the demo, assuming you watched any of the gameplay walkthroughs of the Japanese demo? I'm avoiding as much media as I can for now. The less I know about the game, the happier I'll be.

That's all for now. I need to go boot up my DS and play some Rhapsody.

- Macstorm

Andrew

Why you gotta hurt yourself like that? Anyhow, yeah... I want to get a 360, so if I ever get a real job that will be near the top of the list of things I buy. Alas, my current job is using the recession as an excuse to shave its workforce back by about half, so I don't really have much in the way of funds right now. So yeah, I'm kind of hoping there's a 360 release of FFXIII. It's not that I don't want to play all these RPGs I've been putting off, it's just I'm kind of hooked on WoW, so umm... Opportunity cost ftl!



Girl? I'll crush you and feed your bones to my cat!


Hey Q and A guy/girl,

This is the first time I write in, and I’m not sure how often I’ll write but I hope to write in more often. [I’ve been a reader of the site for a long time but never wrote a letter. English is pretty hard for me but I’ll do my best at it.

Anyway, you asked in your last column if RPG’s are too easy nowadays. To an extend, I think that’s true. This has to do with growing audiences and adapting a balance in games were people aren’t scared off because of an insane difficulty, so that these people keep playing games. Stakes are high in this industry where everything has to be bigger, better and preferably in High Defenition. Games with high difficulty seem to get slashed even by professional critics. They tend to forget that there is a difference between a ‘challenge’ and just ‘high difficulty’. They lower the difficulty to such an extend, that even the challenge isn’t present anymore. If a game has an healthbar for example, this is being criticised as an ‘archaic game mechanic’ or something stupid like that. Now it’s popular for not using healthbars (not in RPG’s, but more the shooters and games like that), just using on-screen feedback that tells the player to search for a place where he or she can lay low until his or her health is replenished in some sort of magical way.

Also turn based game systems are being criticised as ‘archaic’, which is ridiculous, since it’s a game mechanic which fits a game or not, it’s not just because technology offers developers to use more realistic real time mechanics that it should be used within every game in the RPG-genre right?

Then again, there are some games with a very good difficulty and sadly, these games aren’t as popular because they are so hard. First game which comes to mind is Valkyria Chronicles, where good tactics is key to survival. But also Eternal Sonata on PS3. While the Xbox360 version is ridiculously easy, the PS3-version really offers a challenge, and is worth playing, even if you already played the 360 version.

Sorry for not sending a question, I'll try to think of one when I write in some other time, good luck with the column!

Peter/7thRest

Andrew

That's ok, if questions were required around here, this column would have died out about 8 years ago. I think you raise a good point when you mention that it definitely pays to make games easier, since you can by default attract a larger audience in today's world where people are all about the results and less about actually having to expend any effort to achieve them. I think that latter is the reason why there are so many cheaters in online games; the sense that to win and deserve it is an accomplishment has been replaced, by and large, by winning at all costs, which is probably a bad thing.

I don't know if it's ridiculous to criticize turn-based games as archaic; that type of battle system is, after all, a product of what used to be the technical limitations of a system. Nowadays, with more computing power available to developers, they don't necessarily have to structure battles that way, but can use the free-flowing sort of system you find in FFXII. That is not to say, however, that turn-based RPGs are no longer worthwhile or valid. Technical limitations created something that millions of people adore, and I think that to say that they should cease to exist is silly. What I was saying to Kit yesterday is that if that's the only thing you're looking for in a game, well, then you're cheating yourself out of a lot of good games. Again, maybe it's just the fact that my kindergarten teacher told us to try everything once, which by the way was about the only useful thing that dried-up old bat imparted to me, but I just don't see the sense in avoiding something because it's new or different. This is not to say that I don't enjoy older games, though, because I do; take a look at my bio page and you'll see, two of my top 3 favorite games are turn-based RPGs, FFVI and Chrono Trigger.



That's what he thinks... muhahaha


Welcome back!! I know you'll only be the Q & A host until you find someone, but it's nice to have you back, if only for a while.

I noticed in your last column that you were kinder (even to the unfit for print writer) than you used to be. Just like games nowadays, are you easier too?!
Andrew

Are you coming on to me? Ack!

All kidding aside, I do think games are easier now. I don't think they have to be unmercifully hard, but there's a happy medium to be struck. After seeing the FFXIII demo, I'm hopeful that this will find that point. Did you watch the guys on 1UP playing it live? It was too funny. The guy playing it was saying how easy it was & that perhaps they'd rigged the demo so that you couldn't die. The video was about 55 minutes long, & he kept repeating how easy it was. Then, in the last 5 minutes, he went up against Behemoth & got creamed!!! He was at a loss for words!

Hope you have an easy time finding a new host. May all your troubles be creamscile related.
Jbumi

Andrew

Mmm... Creamsicles. I think I'll eat one RIGHT NOW. That's good to hear, though; my first encounter with FF Behemoths was in FFIV. I was 11, and not very good at the game, and those bastards wiped the floor with me repeatedly. I guess what I'm saying is, I like my creamsicles orange, and my Behemoths freaking difficult.





C L O S I N G
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLING BLING BLAH:

So anyway, I don't have any set updating schedule in mind here. If I get enough letters to post a column, and I feel like posting one, you'll get one. If I don't, you won't! For next time, the difficulty question is still open for discussion, and I think Mac brings up an interesting issue: do you guys think digital downloads are the way to go, or can you just not get enough of that new game smell? I don't reckon as instruction manuals are much of a draw anymore, but do you like that feeling as you struggle to pop those stupid DS games out of their stupid plastic holders and hurt your fingers? Or would you rather just download them? Talk to me, but not like lovers do, that would just be weird.

qna@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long is raining with you.


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