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questionanswer&andrew


VP In Charge of Volcanoes

Andrew Long - August 21, 2004 18:53 EDT

I NOW LUXURIATE IN HOTMAIL-FREE SPLENDOR, which means that none of your letters will ever be eaten again, surely good news for those among you who object to having your words preyed upon as though you were some sort of fast-talking politician. On the downside, it's now 7:30 PM, so I think we'd best get this show on the road.




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Mommy, Where Do Chocobos Come From?



The rain came down
In sheets
As they passed
The old woman
She hung them
Out to dry.

And I thought I was bad...


Have I ever been suckered into buying a game because of advertising? Sure I have. I bought Kingdom Hearts solely because of ads and small clips I saw on the internet. It loked so good I had to have it. Of course once I played it and realized that it was a pile of crap I promptly returned it within two days of purchase. As they say, never judge a book by its cover.

As for my two cents on the voice acting topic, I hate all English voice actors. I have never seen a well dubed anime in English, or a well dubbed game in English. So I would gladly take text only RPGs any day. Of course if they put dual languages in games it would also be nice.

And since this is a Q & A column, I might as well throw in a question. Have you ever played Breath of Fire 4, and what did you think of it? Its one of my favourite RPGs, but no one seems to have played. Like it just got left behind and was overlooked due to all the other games out there.

The City Hunter

ANDREW
Yeah, you're going to have to throw me in the "missed BoF IV" boat; it slipped under my radar due to utter lack of publicity and of course, the small matter of BoF III being one of the worst RPGs known to humanity didn't really encourage me to seek it out. I am aware of its existence, as having played and loved BoF V to distraction I am dimly aware that there is something bridging the gap between III and V, but I always just assumed it was a rabid lion that would come back to haunt me after all that time I spent failing to study for Roman Numerals in elementary school.


Hate hate hate hate hate hate... burn everything up!


Heya Casto. I too find myself hating the in-battle voice-acting blurbs, but not initially. It always ends up that they're repeated so often that even if they're acted well, they get old fast. This, in fact, is one of the large reasons that I never picked up Star Ocean 2.

ANDREW
There's also the small matter of the voice sample gallery that you can unlock bit by bit in SO2, which doesn't help matters because hearing the voice samples without corresponding visuals to back them up makes them even more agonizing to sit through.

But I actually liked the in-battle voice-acting in FFX. It's not like you had someone saying their victory tagline after every single battle, and the lines were varied enough that they didn't start getting old until near the end of the game--well, for me, anyway.

ANDREW
Or alternately, the FF Battles For Dummies malarkey at the outset, combined with the piss-poor voice acting for Yuna and Tidus negating even that small victory for the forces of sound.

And like you said: mediocre voice actors being cheaper and more plentiful, we are not likely to see too many games with spectacular voice acting. Fact of the matter is that voice acting, unless it's utterly abysmal, will not make or break a game, and therefore it's not a big factor in buying a game. Even among hardcore serious RPGamers who claim they don't buy for the pretty graphics, graphics are probably a bigger factor. And you can see the graphic quality on the package, can't do that with voice acting! Hmm...I guess I'm just supporting a point that you and your readers already substantiated pretty well... Ads, though? An ad never actually changed my mind about any game, though the Chrono Trigger "It's about time" magazine ads fed the flame pretty severely.

Much love,
Jackson Ferrell

ANDREW
Ah, if only my Nintendo Power subscription hadn't expired the month after the big Chrono Trigger preview, I might even have seen that sweet, sweet ad. As it was, however, the preview was more than enough to reduce me to a drooling zombie, plucking through the pages in search of fun and a little racecat I like to call... Catalack.


Caaaatalack...Caaaatalack!


Yeah. OK, so you've found *my* weak spot.

I love voice acting. No matter how bad it is, no matter how awfully the lines are delivered, there is still something about hearing a character say his or her lines as opposed to reading them that really, really endears itself to me. Part of it is because I did come from the old days when people "spoke" and the only auditory feedback was the machine-gun beeps signifying a letter being printed to the screen; but really, it's because voice acting is something which, when done well, helps a game's realism and adds to a sense of immersion.

Let's look at two games-- the first would have to be Tales of Symphonia. Granted, there are moments where the acting is, shall we say, sub-par; but on the whole, the game's actors do an excellent job of fleshing out their characters more than beyond what plain text could do. When Lloyd spoke about hunting down the Desians (when Cacao was in danger of being hanged), the text implied an Anakin-esque rant, and that is exactly what Lloyd's actor (the prolific Scott Menville) delivered. As a matter of fact, I'm five hours in and I have yet to find a really bad bit of acting. (This may be in part due to the fact that the majority of the actors involved in the game's localization are alumni of the Metal Gear Solid series, and we all know how that game's acting turned out.)

ANDREW
Umm.. Comparing something to Hayden Christensen's rather questionable acting talents doesn't exactly enhance its credibility in my book, but carry on...

Contrast that to Grandia Xtreme. You would think that a game containing somewhat top-list actors/vocalists like Mark Hamill and Lisa Loeb would be pretty hard to screw up, right? WRONG. I swear to God, if I had to listen to Dean Cain whining for a second longer I was going to put my fist through the TV. BUT, it fit with the character. Which is probably why I didn't play through much more of it, but still.

ANDREW
Now I know you're cracked, since you just claimed Dean Cain counts as top-list acting material. Come on, guy - Superman is supposed to be super and all, but Cain gave him all the life and vibrance of a plank of wood.

Bear in mind, my admiration of voice acting is contextualized by looking at how far we've come. Listening to some of the voice samples in older games causes me physical pain, just because it can be bad. But the fact that it has been traditionally bad heretofore does not in any way make the good voice acting we're seeing now any less good. Quite frankly, I think we're going to see much more good acting in games. It might never reach the level of a blockbuster movie's acting, admittedly; but even if there's forever a divide between "real" actors and voice actors, there will be hope with each game that I see announced that the actors will do a good job.

ANDREW
That's a good point, although I still think you're unfairly discounting the goodness of random old voice samples like "Mohoho.. Good evening. Stay awhile... Stay forevah!" Sure, it's cheesy junk, but you just can't get that kind of stuff with A-list talent. So yes, I am bitterly against voice acting, but random voice samples that do not occur a hundred times in a game are fantastic (and even "Destroy them, my mobots!" has its charm).

Anyway.

Last quick note: The mention that Mitsuda isn't doing music for Xenosaga 2 should have made you happy, but not for the reasons you became happy. Yuki Kajiura is the composer for the game's soundtrack. She did work for .hack and the Noir anime, both of which will blow your ears away with joy. I had the chance to see the XS2 E3 video... wow. Just wow. We'll see, however, if the game's any good, next year. I make no claims to the gameplay, but the cinema scenes certainly have me hooked.

Later.
John Z.

ANDREW
Ah, yes, perhaps the music from those games would blow my ears away, but alas, they suffer the shared and notable defect of being games I have no interest in playing ever, and so I'm afraid that leaves us with the ol' tree in the woods dilemma.


Goodness I have a lot of letters kicking around from two days ago


Hideous brain-melting Xenosaga spoilers

::Pounces on screen::

Andramel,

Voice acting, as I see it, is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, if there's a CG with dynamic music and beautiful graphics, I don't want to just see "Hello, mother dear" in bold white letters on the screen... I want to hear Sephy speak in a frightening, Vincent Price-like voice and scare the BEJEEZUS out of me! Heck, remember that scene in Xenosaga **SPOILERS** with Albedo ripping off his limbs to freak out MOMO... Deus, now THAT is scary! His voice is still imprinted in my mind... so cold... ::shivers:: **end spoiler**

On the other hand, the voice acting can cheapen an otherwise dramatic moment. I need only mention the Sea Mother from Shadow Hearts to bring most RPGamers to cover their ears. "shloooooop, shlooooop, SKREE SKREE!"... what the smurf type of ghost story sound effects are these? And Thousand Arms...? All right, that's a bad example.

Generally, the key to successful voice acting is finding voices that match the character. While some decry Tidus' voice as whiny, you must remember that he's just a whiny, mopy, my-daddy-dosen't-love-me type of character, and thus, the voice fits. Now, as for "Leon" from Kingdom Hearts...? Come on, he seemed a LOT cooler in FF8 when he didn't have the lame voice. bleh.

And thus, I depart once more for the summon world. May they never institute voice acting for summons.

NeoCarbuncle
Seriously, though, if they EVER give Carbuncle a whiny, high-pitched voice, there WILL be consequences...

ANDREW
I fail to see how Tidus being a whiny irritant somehow forgives the game for including voice acting; I likes my whiny irritants nice and silent, because then I can tune them out and be surprised three years later when I read about plot details I skimmed over on message boards.


There we go


You know, I had a whole list of catch-up type stuff to talk about, but I seem to have misplaced that list soooooo...

Since we were on the subject of cliched RPG stuff, I figured I'd pass along a link to the

Grand List Of Console RPG Cliches.

Why do I prefer RPGs to books and/or movies? Well...I don't. I like them all the same, they're just different. I guess the attraction to RPGs is that yes, there's a good story, but you (ideally) also have great gameplay that makes you think instead of just hammering the B button.

And if you really want to know what my biggest disappointment of the last year was, it would probably have to be Bradshaw beating Eddy Guerrero for the WWE Title. I know Vince loves big talentless slugs and all, but couldn't they find somebody better for Eddy to drop the strap to? I mean, this is friggin' BRADSHAW we're talking about here!

Robust Stu
Gold Reviewer/Swell Guy

ANDREW
And this is frigging me you're talking to here, not Thor, so let us never speak of *ahem* professional wrestling again. It will only make you hate me, as I view wrestling as the sweaty-14-year-old's answer to vaguely homoerotic soap operas.


Ooh, a chance to be useful!


Q&A Host:

Do you know of any good places on the interweb to find video game posters (specifically RPG ones)? There should be a lot floating around because of all the propaganda that companies put out, but it's surprisingly hard to find outside of eBay.

Your reader,

KnightAV

ANDREW
It appears the internet is an arid wasteland, mostly devoid of the posters you seek. A search for "Video Game Posters" turned up surprisingly little pornography, but included several links to a sinister organization known as AllPosters.com, which appears to buy various domains named after people (ie, www.jerryrubens.com) and then tack its useless poster directory onto the tag end. It is also made all the more sinister by the fact that none other than Infinium Labs, ultimate pioneers of snake oil consoles, turned up right beside them in that serach. The joint did have a cool retro Mario shirt, but since that cost 25 bucks Canadian and I lack funds, I was left to stare at it longingly and conclude that, in fact, you're SOL.

Lest you think I'm just being a lazy bastard, which frankly, I am, I do have a sound rationale behind this reasoning. For one, most video game posters are produced either as a means of advertising (ie, the ones you'll find in your friendly neighbourhood game shop / rental store) or as a nifty extra that comes with your games (ie, the one sitting on my bookshelf that conveniently contains an order form for the FFVI OST on the reverse.) As neither of these distribution channels is particularly well-suited to mass marketing, you're pretty much left with two options: people who don't care about the extra junk and are willing to sell it, and those lucky enough to work in a game shop and score the leftover merchandise when promotions end. As you've already discovered, both are regular users of eBay, so I would suggest that you use that particular site.


Scar sounds in from the depths


Dear Castomel;

You've had a change of heart for Star Ocean: TET? Yessssssssssssssss. However, I'm curious. What about the site got you to anticipate the game? I mean, they really haven't shown anything new.

ANDREW
To be honest, I haven't paid a whit of attention to SO3 in a year or so, so seeing something tangible is pretty much what did it for me. That, and the thought that I might actually find some incentive to finish SO2, have powered me to new heights of anticipation!

I have to admit that I don't pay attention to advertising ever. I ignore it. Mainly, because any publisher will tote their new game as "the end all and be all of RPGs!!!!!!! THE BEST EVAR~" just to sell it. Especially if it's bad. They really have to sell copies in that case. Instead, I tend to listen to other people. Usually friends, or I'll play a demo. If a couple friends suggest the game, I'll buy it. I haven't bought a game based on advertising since...Diablo 2, but I wanted that game before that anyway.

In other news, yes, what the hell is with the weather? It was 24 C when I got home from my interview in Whitby at 6pm yesterday, but by 9PM it was 4. FOUR. FOUR!!! That's just not right at all.

Oh, and I do think you have fashion sense, and a nice haircut. Ignore your bosses.

See you soon.

Love, Scar/Rob.

ANDREW
Four? Be glad you're not in Winnepeg; they shattered a 106-year-old record by dipping to zzzzero degrees celsius. That's freezing for all you crazy Americans who don't know how to count temperature except in hogsheads and slumgullionths, not that there's anything wrong with that.

As to your advice, I would follow it, except I know you harbour ill will towards a certain hat, and so I suspect that your compliment is simply a means by which you hope to get me to stop wearing said hat, which is very devious, but it FAILED! Also, you haven't seen either my blue cow tie or my grape tie yet, to say nothing of my famous orange shirt, which earned me the moniker "Pumpkin" from a customer who I wish death upon nightly, so you should probably hold off on making statements you'll regret later ^_^.


He lives! And just as I was about to start pining...


Castsubsided,

It is in my best interest that I clear up some facts that have gotten jumbled up during my little "absentee administratinoal clinic" checkup that results in hilarious outtakes only avaible on the extended version of our DVD. Okay, now that long opener is out of the way. No, I can never lose interest in you, because there's this huge destiny-theme interwined between us. Speaking of chemistry...why am I the androgynous-looking one? Why has ASV taken my spot as the love interest? Madness, I tell you. You're never boring, you actually updated your staff picture, so I have new sexiness to stare at. As per Jbumi's question, yes I have a sister. No, she's not avaible for stalking you cuz she's in love with a man who will be my brother in-law. But, you can forward me your resume so I can mark it as spam or post it on my dying site! Today I went to the Erie County Fair. Not very interesting, but they did have a smoothie stand with creamsicle kind. I even took a picture of it and myself after purchasing the souvinere medium size. They wont be developed until later, so they'll be in for next weekend's column! It was delicious, by the way. Kingdom Hearts is the only game where I gained interest after seeing propaganda. The commercial piqued my desire after seeing Sephiroth and Aeris. Errr..Aerith. I just saw a commercial for Leon's, not very exciting due to non-video of my favorite employee!

Summer sizzling blow-out sale!,

O' Shrouded One

ANDREW
You are the androgynous looking one because I was too lazy to do the meme over again, and besides, Zach wsan't the love interest. It was SDHero, and given the subject matter of his LJ, I would tend to suggest that such a description is highly inaccurate (this is, after all, a meme we're talking about.)


YOU 'DREW
QUICKIE I
Everytime I visit rpgamer
I see these funny headlines in the window titles. I wanted to know, is there a list of all previous tag-lines? like, an archive or something?
-thanks, Ixion

Andrew:
Regrettably, our quote collection, which all you miserable punks seem to have lost interest in guessing at, is as ephemeral as the wind, owing to the fact that it is generally changed at the whim of whoever decides to pick up the task at any given time. Currently, it's poll-master head of interaction extraordinaire, Zach "How would you rate your interest in FF7AC" Lewis. He might keep an archive of the ones he's posted, so you could try contacting him if you'd like. Otherwise, my friend, you are, after the fine example of the Canadian Olympic swim team, SOL.

QUICKIE II
I just started working on Xenogears for the first time.
The other day, I was reading your column, and you wrote at how much you hate Xenosaga. I just want to know why you do and do you feel the same for Xenogears? I've never played Xenosaga myself but I'm kind've scared at the amount of cutscenes that are in it.(also someone said you couldn't skip them)

Topper

Andrew:
If you'd read that column carefully, you would have seen I mentioned why I dislike Xenosaga. You'll be happy to know, however, that my reasons for disliking it do not extend to Xenogears. I hate Xenogears because I've been stuck in the bloody forest outside of the first town since I got the game, and that sort of thing really gets on your nerves after a while.

QUICKIE II
I have never been swayed to get a game
just because there was a commercial or something with... oooh shiny lights *drool* but seriously I have never played a game just because of advertising. I have played a game because of p2p (person to person) hype, and that has been disapointing. Really really dissapointing. I do have stong will aginst tv comercials and magazine advertising. I have little to no P2P will thoght so if some one tells me a games really good I ight get it jus ton dat. okay well yeah

JOJO

Andrew:
Is that so? Then let me tell you, dude, Rhapsody is the BEST FREAKING GAME I HAVE EVER PLAYED! And if anyone even so much as thinks of taking this quote and using it out of context when I run for president of cool in a few years, I will kick them in the brain.



DA LAST GRUMBLE

So all this talk of memes has me groping towards a stupid column topic for tomorrow, which I will continue to grope towards because really, there's not much to talk about besides, of course, that delightful Mist Walker studio that Sakaguchi et al have constructed out of popsicle sticks and toilet paper rolls. Do you guys think ol' Hironobu can recapture the magic of old, or will Mist Walker just become another generic spewer of generic crud? More importantly, will they secure the rights to superstar feline Catalack? I see good things in their future if they do, but it's splitsville for Delta Burke! Now, having been relieved of the necessity to grope, grope, grope, I think I'll go take some aspirin, cuz my knuckles are INFLAMED! ...With passion, that is.

In other news, as this column is going up so horribly late, feel free to get a head start on emailing Google for Monday - I think he wanted to talk about..why, exactly the same thing I just mentioned! Now that's convenience (and probably thievery at its worst on my part!)

castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long has provided safe haven for rumrunners since 1950.

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