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ASK ANDREW
Incipient Five Car Pileup April 28th, 2009

Andrew Long - 14:00 EST

I should not golf. Specifically, I should not golf at Dentonia Park. The reason for this is the third hole. Imagine, if you will, a 3 par course, bout a hundred yards to the pin for every hole, and this particular tee-off box perched atop a hill, still glistening with the previous night's torrential rains. To the right, a stand of fat conifers; in front, a fairly steep downhill, to the left, 4 lanes of traffic. I think you can see where this is going, but just in case you're slow this afternoon, I'll give you a hint: before teeing off, I was heard to remark "well, time to hit it into traffic again."

Needless to say, the driver of that white van was lucky to escape with his windshield (and face) intact. It's a pity, too... I didn't manage such a lofting drive for another 8 holes.




L E T T E R S
Randomblings: the returnening


Castomel,

Here's a letter for you. I sent it to Q&A back in January 2008 before I was a staff member, but it was never columned. It's been decaying in my sent mail folder for 15 months, so I tossed a phoenix down on it and now it is all yours. Hooray for you!

Sean,
Andrew

You know, you could have changed that. Anachronism warms my heart.

Reading the RPGamer year end awards along with the feedback in the forums and the QNA columns has been interesting. It seems that 2007 was the year of the niche RPGs: nearly every standout RPG has a group of people who abhor it and a group of people who thought it was better than a swimming pool full of puppies. I wrote in previously to say my favorite games from 2007 were Persona 3, Odin Sphere, and Etrian Odyssey, and I can easily admit that those are 3 niche games. To me, they were all fun and outstanding. To someone else they could be grating and unplayable. That is what 2007 was for RPGs. There was no Dragon Quest VIII or Final Fantasy X; there were only Blue Dragons and Folklores, Jeanne D'Arcs and strange Atlus games. As for RPGamer's awards, it was disappointing to see games I do not consider to be RPGs (Zelda, Rondo of Blood?!) knock out games truer to the genre. Other than that, I agreed with or at least can accept the results and the piece as a whole was well written - the choices were well defended too.
Andrew

So, having worked here for around a year now, what do you make of letters like this now? Do you see the difficulty involved in shutting out titles of dubious RPG pedigree, or do you still think to hell with it, that crap is blocking out my precious niche game? While I'm at it, what qualifies a game as a niche game and not just a plain ol' RPG? I mean, of the games you've mentioned I haven't played all of them, but I know that at least a couple are what you would consider traditional RPGs, which leads me to wonder what exactly you would qualify as niche.

To answer a question from lusipurr: After trading in a backpack full of games to Gamestop, I still have around 10 GC games, 2 dozen PS2 games, and over a dozen DS games. I only traded in the ones I know I will never replay, like Final Fantasy XII.
Andrew

DIAF!

As for lusipurr's other question, Gamestop is the devil because of their customer service policies. Sure they are a monopoly, a pawn shop, and have become rich by stealing money from game publishers and developers, but what bugs me the most is that they assume their customer base is nothing but lying, cheating teenagers. Back when I was a lying, cheating teenager I did not notice this. After a few years of "real life" and shopping at various stores it became clear that Gamestop loves money and hates their customers. I got carded there yesterday for buying a strategy guide for an M rated game. I turn 26 next week. Ugh, this is about be a full blown rant - commence abrupt subject change!
Andrew

Yeah, that's a little strange. I've never had to deal with Gamestop, since their red-headed stepbrother EB Games rules the roost hereabouts, but I can't fathom thinking someone who is 26 and, by your own admission, follicularly impaired, is somehow worthy of carding. You would think demographic research would let them in on the fact that there are plenty of gamers in the 25-39 demographic.

Oh man, that was just supposed to be the intro. I will cut what was to be the meat of this letter down to a delicious, lean portion. My thoughts are easier to consume this way and will take up less space too! I have grown tired of JRPGs to the point where I fear it will be a long time until I want to touch one again. The whole formula, the fact that every game is nearly the same, the recycled plots and boring worlds, that incessant feeling that I am just "playing" an anime, and the fact that you do not actually role play in Japanese role playing games - it took about 6 years but it finally wore me down. I thought Final Fantasy XII was boring when I played it last summer. I dove into Suikoden V in the fall with low expectations and was still disappointed. I started Wild ARMs V last week and barely made it past the intro-ish beginning. The only JRPGs I enjoyed lately are far off the beaten path, such as the 3 mentioned in the first paragraph. My point? I still love RPGs, but have shifted away from ones with a typical JRPG setup. I am playing turn based strategy "RPGs" and 2D platforming "RPGs" right now. I also have 2 unplayed treasures from the awesome PC RPG era of not too long ago - Arcanum and Might and Magic VII - which I saved for a moment like this. I know that you heart the PC games and hate the strategy RPGs. Can you recommend some games to help me through this hard time? As fair warning, I played everything made by Black Isle and Bioware, so try to stick to obscure games. Like Sacrifice. Only not Sacrifice, because I own it already. My mad gaming machine is a crappy company laptop, so recent games like the Witcher are not considerable.

Thanks!
~7thCircle

Andrew

Sorry, but I don't buy into the "obscure=good" notion, and I loved Suikoden V and FFXII. Herego my opinions are probably of little use. Still, if you're looking for something with a slightly non-typical setup, try BoF V. The battle system is fairly standard, but the world is anything but, and the "AMIGAD I'M A DRAGON AND THIS PLOT IS LAYERED LIKE A DELICIOUS ONION" business ensures something slightly out of the ordinary. But you've probably played that, so nuts to you. I don't really dabble too much in PC RPGs, unfortunately, and the ones I have played are from Bioware. Nothing new means no Fallout 3 for you... Umm. You could try going back in time and play something like Panzer Dragoon Saga, that's a little off the beaten path. Or if you like action RPGs, something like Brave Fencer Musashi is fun. If quality is no object, you could try Dual Hearts, if you like T-RPGs one of the Ogre Battle games. Again, though, I'm probably not able to help you.



Finally, they get the name right!


Dear Mr. Long,

Interesting to see you doing this column again. Anyway, about the difficulty of RPGs lately. I don't think, in addressing their reducing difficulty, we should focus only on RPGs. Gaiming in general has become less difficult over the years. In general, the prettier the game, the less difficult, it might seem. Why? The reasons are many. Firstly, gaming is a MUCH wider and more expensive endavour than before in the 80's. Also, due to this expense you can bet devsa are focusing more on "production values" than the quality of the challenge delivered.
Andrew

I would buy this argument except there is absolutely no reason that focusing on one is necessarily exclusive of the other. I mean, if you're going to spend $120 million on something, shouldn't it have a solid foundation to build upon? It used to be you could count upon Nintendo to make this argument, but now that the Wii is a graphical laggard when compared to the 360 and the PS3, you can't really say that they spare no expense on visuals while maintaining a relatively challenging experience. I guess it's just another symptom of today's societal value system, that places more emphasis on "winning" than on any of the effort that should be required to make victory worthwhile.

As for an actual question?.....Since I can't stop thinking about this game when I consider RPGs, what do you think the prospects for a Skies of Arcadia remake or sequel have become? Better? Worse? Same? Of course I bring this up due to Valkryia Chronicles' inclusion of that game's characters and of VC's creators interests in a comming sequel. I think the prospects have gone up....a hair. And likely that's all there is to that, unfortunately. Another question might be: What would be better, a remake or a sequel to Skies? I say remake.

About to head to class,
Mel

Andrew

I say neither, that game was average, and the only reason it got so much acclaim was because it was a solo act over on the DC when it was released, at least in terms of playable RPGs. In time there came stuff like Grandia 2 and a couple of other titles, but when that game was released, it was the best thing going on the DC. I played it a couple years ago, and I really found nothing to suggest it is more or less deserving of a remake or sequel than any of its contemporaries that were never serialized. The music made me want to punch a cat, the voice acting was beyond bad, the battle system wasn't particularly interesting (the ship-to-ship combat was okay, I guess), and the plot was run-of-the-mill. Also, do I need to remind you that it had this annoyance in it? About all it had going for it was the floating islands in the sky thing and the fact that it was on what was then the most graphically advanced system, which of course meant that anyone who was drawn in by sparkly graphics declared it the next coming.

So I guess my answer is I don't really care. The game is almost ten years old and it was never that great, I'd probably rate it about a 7/10 if I had to review it. And to your second question, it was already ported once, that should be plenty in my estimation.



I love the smell of...polyurethane in the morning


Hey there!

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine about digital downloads. He was all for it, since he owns a PSP and truly hates the UMD as a medium. That got me thinking, digital downloads would really benefit the handheld. No more boxes to carry around, no more cartridges you can lose etcetera. For home-consoles, I donít know. I really like the whole process of walking into a gameshop, selecting my purchase, walking home with whatever I bought, smelling the fresh box, flipping through the manual, inserting the game for the first time into the system. Iím 29 but when it comes to new gaming purchases, I get exited like a 10-year old! Like I said, for handhelds digital downloads would be great, it would really benefit the mobile aspect, not having to carry around dozens of games. But I can also see that piracy, already a huge problem, would only get worse and worse when games are fully digitised and stored on an internal hard-drive or flashcard or something similar. Also, when you paid for a download, it should be yours for ever. You paid for the product, so itís yours. But what if your hard-drive breaks down and you lose all of your games? Would you be able to download it again for free? Lots of problems will surface when digital downloads become the standard, Iím afraid.
Andrew

Somewhat true, but most places do have a policy that once you buy it you can download it again if you suffer some sort of calamity. I kind of have the opposite mindset, funnily enough. While I think that downloads in general are a pretty great step forward and a lot more economically and environmentally sound, I always was of the opinion that home-based consoles are more suited to them, simply because their access to an internet connection is more likely to be constant and stable. I guess, though, that as wireless broadband continues to expand its reach that this issue will become less a problem, and both will be equally viable.

I agree with you, though, in that there is a certain tactile pleasure in opening a new game. I don't go sniffing the manual and getting all quivery when I plunk a CD into my PS, but I won't deny there is a certain enjoyment to it that you would be losing from a strictly digital setup.

What is your opinion on strange RPGís? I never really played ďweirdĒ games, but after buying Baroque for the Wii, I am intriguedÖ I think itís a great game! Critics seem to really hate it, because itís weird, itís strange, itís hard, and doesnít seem to reward the player. I thought it was really fresh, and in a way, even moving. The fact that most of the game you didnít know what was going on, a story that develops when you die, man, Iím really, really impressed by it! Itís addicting, almost like an arcade game for the RPG-crowd! I definitely recommend it to all who are looking for something totally different! Do you have any suggestions of games that are somewhat different, or considered strange or weird?

Till next time!
Peter/7thRest

Andrew

Umm... define strange for me. From where I'm standing, "strange" is the label that gets applied to bad games that are different from your average yarn about a spike-haired young fellow out to save the world, something like the aforementioned Dual Hearts or, oh, I don't know... this crap. Good games, meanwhile, that deviate significantly from the norm, are more often slapped with labels like "groundbreaking" or "inventive" or "THE EVOLUTION OF GAMING!!1one".



Reality bites


Howdy,

I am impressed - two posts in a short period of time AND the the hidden text is back. This is a most excellent turn of events.

Anyway I am here to give my take on the digital downloads idea. And that take is that it's a bad idea. Not everyone has their console system connected to the internet nor do they necessarily have a good connection with which to download quickly. There are still plenty of areas where anything other than dialup isn't available to a person even if they wanted it. With handhelds not everyone has access to wireless internet. Personally I don't have wireless and everywhere that I am aware of that is a reasonable distance away that does have wireless is not free or is password protected. I already have a perfectly good cable connection, I would not go wireless.
Andrew

This may be the case right now, and I certainly concede that digital content only is not going to fly out in the sticks, but with things like TV going digital and opening up more of the broadband spectrum for internet providers, I think you will find that broadband access is going to continue expanding at a fairly decent clip. I don't think anyone is expecting that games will be disappearing from stores in the next few years, I just think that downloadable content is only going to be on the uptick moving forward.

I think that offering games soley as downloadable, particularly as a handheld would cut severly into a company's potential profit. It's one thing if it's an indy game and they can't afford to pay to have it distributed, having the game downloadable only is perfectly understandable, but it's another for a major company to do the same thing. I suppose a PC game that is download only is slightly more acceptable, as generally people are more likely to have a decent connection on their PC than anywhere else.
Andrew

Uhhh what? That doesn't even make sense. How is it going to cut into a company's potential profit? For one, they don't have to incur the cost of production on a physical medium, and with the proper advertising campaign, I don't think it would cut into their ability to distribute a title all that much either. You, and others who have been writing in to poo-poo downloadable games, are acting as though you don't really have to go far to get a game now, ignoring the fact that Ma and Pa and Auntie Em don't really have a friendly neighbourhood Gamestop perched between their cow pasture and the cornfield. Downloadable content doesn't necessarily have to be downloaded at home, and I could easily foresee a situation where a lack of broadband access was compensated for by having terminals in stores like Gamestop where out-of-towners could download titles onto portable media and then bring it home to be uploaded to their consoles. Obviously this removes one of the main selling points of downloadable content, but this would be one way around the issue of rural availability.

But let's pretend for a moment that everyone can download anything they choose. I still think downloadable games are a bad idea. Hardware fails. This is a fact. If the hardware fails, there go our downloaded games.. Admitedly most companies let you re-download, however, what if the company goes defunct or simply takes away the webpage? Or as apparently some companies are doing they take down the download due to unpopularity? At least with actual physical software you actually own the copy of it. Even if say a DS cart fails, you haven't lost all of your games.

Anyway I'm done ranting. Hope you enjoy however long you remain our host

Andrew

Again, you're acting as though physical hardware never fails. I think anyone who ever owned a first run PSX/PS2, a 360, or NES can tell you that in fact, hardware is pretty often prone to failure, and with it, CDs to being scratchable, cartridges to being easily eroded by dust and exposure to air, and portable games to forever being lost. You also state that companies can go out of business, which is true, but thus far most downloadable content is provided by the makers of the consoles upon which said content is playable, and I don't foresee any of Sony, MS, or Nintendo going under anytime soon. Well, maybe Sony, they've had a bad couple years. But probably not! And again, I think as downloadable media becomes more common, portable storage will become more available concomitantly. Or maybe not, there does seem to be considerable resistance to the notion from you hardcore gamers.



Unfit for Print


Four weeks ago two starwars fans began doing weekly podcast show for Starwars:The Old Republic, the new Bioware MMO which is currently set for a launch in 2010. The show is rapidly becoming very popular with over one thousand subscribers already. This Sunday the hosts, Musco and SammMoney, will be doing their fifth show.

It is highly recommended listening for anyone interested in this new MMO from the makers of the KoTOR series! Visit NO.

Andrew

Hello, Mr. Chris Blane. This is a Q&A column, where people send questions and comments on RPGs, not a "hello I am a bad PR rep and I don't know how to follow the links section on your page and send this stuff to news@" column. Sounds like a bangin' podcast though!





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

Well, there's another one down. Apparently Adoboros isn't quite as AWOL as I thought, which I had a feeling posting a column might make apparent. We will be figuring out who updates when and having two Q&A hosts again, so feel free to address mail to him, I'll only steal it every so often. For tomorrow, all you Luddites have quite exhausted me on the matter of downloadable content, so umm... Which of the current gen systems should I get, and why?

qna@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long probably shouldn't alienate Bioware like that.


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Who am I kidding, I LOVE ALIENATING BIOWARE! I mean their logo is an alien, isn't it? What? It isn't? Well doesn't that just beat all.

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