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ASK MATT
Blow-By-Blow February 2, 2006

Matt Demers - 02:18 EST

IF I COULD JUST FAST-FORWARD to the end of this semester and continue along my life-path from that point, I would. This semester has it in for me, I swear! All I wanna do, is have some fun. I've got a feeling I'm not the only one. Et cetera, et cetera, thanks Ms. Overplayed Songstress.

At least it's February. We're past the worst of winter, aren't we? It won't be long before sunburns and shorts are part of our world again. Er, well, for anyone living in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway- sorry Bainick, and all of you other southerners.

Let us now begin.




L E T T E R S
He's such a Crad


Hi Matt,

I'll get straight to the point. I've never liked main characters. I just can't stand them, and never will be able to. I always feel bad for the others who support the character, but never receive as much attention as he does. This is why I really like characters like Gale in Digital Devil Saga, or Final Fantasy 6, where there is no main character in particular (though there are certainly ones that are NOT main... see Relm, Strago, Gau, etc.). Okay, so what's the big deal about that? Well, I keep thinking that if the other characters got more attention, then I would hate THEM instead of the main character. So I'm in a dilemma, you see.

Matt

You have major issues, my friend. Why not just like characters simply for likableness' sake? I'll confess that in recent times, there have been many more annoying main characters than not, notably in the Final Fantasy series. What about Shion from Xenosaga, though? I think she's pretty likable. Fayt from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time isn't too terrible either, I think. Remember, you're the main character of your own story, so I hope you don't have any tendencies towards self-hatred. We must love ourselves! Love, love, love, grandly. Luvluv G.

Anyway, my question to you is this: what characters do you think have deserved more attention for what they contribute to the story than they have received? And, what main characters can you not stand? I in particular can't stand Cloud, who too often manages to get ten levels ahead of my party. I mean, the short and insignificant time that you're not him is not an equalizer of any sort... But, on the other hand, I don't mind Crono, because he dies. Hahahahahahahaha. Anyway, there you have it. My question.

Keep up the good work!

~CRAD


Matt

...And let me guess: You never choose to revive him, do you? You're such a meanie! First of all, Quina gets wayyyy too much attention in Final Fantasy IX. S/he serves as the random comic relief every other minute, but is definitely the stupidest character of the game (sorry, Quina-lovers).

Who deserved more attention, though? You should play Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana. The MAIN CHARACTER, Klein, ironically enough, gets almost zero attention throughout the entire story. I hated him by the end, mostly for his irritating voice, though it was mostly for his annoyingly arbitrary ambition to become an amazing alchemist. He had slightly greater character development than Pacman, and slightly less than Snifit #3 in Super Mario RPG. Perhaps if we got to know him better through the grueling game, things wouldn't be that way.

Now that I'm thinking about it, though, there is a little bit... but it's the complete shallowness that turns me off. There's NO character development for Klein because all he does is act randomly helpful here and there, or angry when confronted by an enemy, or happy when good things happen... etc etc. It's all boringly shallow. There's no "personality" when a character carries out every action in some universally default manner.

I dunno. Maybe it wasn't that bad; maybe I've been jaded by the rest of the game's flaws. I've totally spun off on a strange tangent, though, so I'll stop before I careen over the edge of the woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorl...



I do not know what this line is for.


I'll save you, Magna Carta!

Honestly, I was very surprised by this game. I bought it because A.) it was Atlus and B.) it was a deluxe box set... which usually means it'll be worth a lot sooner or later!

Matt's Replacement

You are right. They usually are worth a lot sooner or later. Maybe you are right that buying it was a good idea.

Anyway...the game has beautiful graphics, beautiful music (except the opening song), and a great story with only the bare minimum cliches found in just about every RPG. The battle system is confusing at first, but rest assured it's very fun and actually requires quite a bit of strategy. It did have kind of a steep learning curve (30 minutes to an hour before I was proficient in timing the buttons). So basically...I think most people hate on it because they suck with timing, suck at sticking with a game past the prologue, or simply suck at life. :)

Matt's Replacement

The person who sucks most at life is a baby because babies suck on bottles and soothers.

Also, did I hear something about a possible Vagrant Story 2?! That would make my day/year...because I feel that Vagrant Story and Parasite Eve are Square-Enix's two secret weapon franchises (I loved PEII...unlike most other people). But I mean come ON...both games had great stories, great graphics, and possibly the best replay value of any RPG known to man. Vagrant Story is one of the few GREAT dungeon crawlers that doesn't actually involve random dungeons! *GASP*

Matt's Replacement

You are right that it could happen. Parasite Eve is an interesting game that I wish I had played. Vagrant Story is supposed to be fun. Vagrant Story 2 would be a sequel to Vagrant Story so if you thought Vagrant Story was good it would be exciting if Vagrant Story 2 was announced.

On the topic of games with random dungeons/dungeon crawlers, I think that the two things that can make or break the game are it's aurals and visuals. Without that, it's just another drab dungeon crawler! But with great graphics and music, it can become quite the memorable game...one such example of this would be Chocobo's Dungeon 2.

Matt's Replacement

I like cool graphics like the graphics in Final Fantasy 8. My favourite video game music is the background music in Final Fantasy games like Final Fantasy 9 because it is really good.

Last, I'm not sure why people whine about FFIX's ability system. Most of these people say FFVI is the best game with the best system...but in essence it's almost the exact same thing except with equipment instead of espers. Yes, I'm one of the few people who actually thinks FFIX Is the best of the FFs (come on! the nostalgia!) simply because I've been around long enough to play through all of them (excluding III). What are your thoughts regarding FFIX?

Matt's Replacement

Final Fantasy 9 was pretty good. It had four people in the battles and that was really cool because Final Fantasy did not have four people in the battles since the days of the Super Nintendo. The storyline was okay and when there were things from older Final Fantasy games I thought it was really cool.

Matt

*backstabs*

Matt's Replacement

That was not very nice. I am bleeding. I do not understand why you would do that.

Matt

*kicks off of the edge of the floating continent*


Sorry about that; I'm back at last. Apparently the world is round... who knew?

Anyway, I just want to respond to the above, because I LOVE video game music, and I have to answer all questions about it. Music is one of THE most important things in an RPG, because it is central to building the right kind of atmosphere for any given situation. Graphics aren't quite as important, though they can definitely wow-factor you into loving a game more than you might otherwise; I'm pretty sure that graphics are one of the only true reasons that Final Fantasy is as popular as it is today.

Also, I respect your opinion of Final Fantasy IX. I do, however, think that it fell short of "everything it could have been". Number one, I wasn't really that big on the characters, who were all kinda one-dimensional. Zidane was eager, Garnet was wishy-washy, Vivi was slow, Steiner was brash, Quina was hungry, Freya was wistful, etc, etc. The plot was really cool, I think, and there were several REALLY neat ideas involved. The battle system, though, was a bit cheap 'n' easy; a little like the scary for-profit girls that walked the corner outside of a cheap Paris hotel I stayed at back on a high school trip. Really- I mentioned this the other day, but the fact that Steiner does 9999 damage for the last third of the game is only trumped by the fact that Regen continues replenishing even during 45-second enemy-attack sequences. While there are similarities with the magic system and that of FFVI, item-space gets soooo cluttered in FFIX by the nature of it, which isn't as "bad" as it is annoying. I dunno. Good and bad. Happy and sad. Disappointing and glad. It was a mishmash, sir, and while it was a wonderful GAME, it wasn't the best Final Fantasy; at least, for me.

Okay now I'll coherently ask some questions:

1. VAGRANT STORY 2? YES? NO? MAYBE?!?!?!


Matt

Maybe. I've only seen things on other sites; nothing here. Does that mean anything? Perhaps. I don't think anything concrete is in the works yet, but I'm wrong lots.

2. Since Square-Enix has Quest...do you think there's a possibility that a new Ogre Battle (NOT tactics ogre) game will eventually come out? I immensely enjoyed OB64, and so did everybody I know who played it...but it seems kind of like a niche title.


Matt

Eventually, maybe... but how long "eventually" will take is anybody's guess. I'd love to see them start building on the series now, but Square Enix's bigness and badness might end up compromising some other games in the name of their two flagships, which is probably unfortunate. One day.

3. Give me your thoughts on this idea.....a Futurama-based RPG!!! Ingenious? I think so.


Matt

Eventually, maybe... but how long "eventually" will take is anybody's guess. I'd love to see them start... er, that was my answer for the last one, wasn't it? Isn't it funny how I can say almost nothing, and it fits anywhere? That's how fortune-tellers and horoscopes work, by the way.

4. Will somebody help me destroy PSPs everywhere so that Square-Enix will be forced to release the Valkyrie Profile on the DS? I loved VP for PSX...but I mean the DS is OBVIOUSLY the better system when compared to that other handheld that shouldn't exist.


Matt

You're like, my favourite writer ever.

Thanks for reading my absolutely wonderful letter...I personally think you answer the questions best around here! (Not to be rude or anything)


Matt

Psh, no kidding, after that horrible replacement came in thinking he was all that and stuff. Have you ever seen "The Emperor's New Groove"? My replacement was Yzma-esque in his practices, except that for whatever reason, he refused to use punctuation, and I think he liked spinach puffs.

Thanks for writing in! Come again soon.



The Epic Tale of Alan's Opinion (I could have split it into parts)


I have played a few games with randomly-generated dungeons before, and I thought it sucked in games like Evolution and Dark Cloud. But for Diablo, it worked differently, and, in my opinion, much more effectively. Diablo does contain randomly-generated dungeons, but this only occurs when you start a new game, and then the dungeons are fixed. This means that the dungeon and floor designs will be different for each file you have. However, in one game, if you enter a dungeon, do some stuff, leave, and come back, it will still be the same dungeon, and all the chests, potions, enemies, money, items you left behind, etc. will all be in exactly the same spot as you left them. And in Diablo, it actually IS possible to permanently "clear" a floor (kill all the enemies, get all the treasure) without worrying about there being more enemies and treasure respawning later.

Matt

Ooo, interesting. I never thought of that hybrid... a hybrid of nonrandom randomness. Or, a "hybrid of random nonrandomness" would be more like it, now that I think about it. Such a thing would still be "lame", but perhaps not to the same level of lameness. At any rate, go on.

So again, Diablo's dungeons are only randomly generated at the beginning of a file, so they bring the benefit of exploring new grounds for each new game to increase replayability, as well as avoid the pitfall of frustrating the hell out of the players by giving them a freshly unexplored dungeon whenever they re-enter one. If a game like Diablo had dungeons that would randomize themselves EACH AND EVERY SINGLE TIME you re-enter them, then that would indeed be maddening.

Matt

Ew, yes, of course. That's the kind of thing I'm so irritated by in other games, and it's maddening in them, so I'm sure it would be maddening in that one too.

In fact, I've grown so accustomed to this concept that I was downright horrified when I replayed Baulder's Gate: Dark Alliance and saw that it DIDN'T have randomly-generated dungeons for new games! It didn't have new quests for new games! That's actually what killed that game's replay value for me. In my opinion, these types of RPGs where ALL you do is dungeon crawl from a 3/4 perspective MUST have a random dungeon generator in order to be replayable. The way I see it, these kinds of games don't typically have things like solving cool puzzles to attain an item or to move on, secret passages, boss locations, hidden treasures that surprise you with their amazing shiny contents, and other cool stuff (and if they do, they are in preset locations that are never randomly-generated and actually have some design to them), so they better have the random dungeon and random quest selection features to not make each new game exactly the same. Granted, Dark Alliance did have a LITTLE more of this stuff than other such games, but many of it's floors still felt really uninspired, and that's why the game, while entertaining for the first run, is an utter snorefest to me now. If you're going to replay a game to trek endlessly through the same old flat dungeons, take on the same quests for the same rewards, and do ONLY that until the game ends, you really need to branch out.

Matt

That's why they need crazy fun creative people like ME designing them. I guarantee you that if I were behind the scenes, you would not be met with anything describable as a snorefest. A good prerequisite to having enjoyable dungeons in a game would definitely be NOT making them tasteless and bland- what's the word I'm looking for? Insipid. That's the one. *cheap ploy to get hired somewhere*

Games like Final Fantasy don't have randomly generated dungeons, so they have the liberty to present dungeons with creative puzzles, strategically-placed chests, treasures protected by tough enemies, and all that other good stuff. Then there are games Dark Alliance which also doesn't have randomly generated dungeons, but have floor designs that might as well have come from a random dungeon generator. But I don't think randomly-generated dungeons are a bad thing if they can be done masterfully. Diablo and other similar games show how they can be done right, while game like Evolution and Dark Cloud show how they can be done very, very poorly.

Alan


Matt

Fair enough, and I suppose that to a degree, that's true; anything can be terrible when done very poorly, including non-random dungeons, or even the math tests that I'm currently marking. Even games with mediocre systems can be really fun if they are executed well. Final Fantasy X-2, for instance, has a whole lot of stupid mini-games, but without the mini-games, FFX-2 is absolutely useless. Somehow, the end product is somewhat presentable, and sometimes even fun.

Anyway, thanks for the letter, Alan. Your long-windedness has made me happy, because it makes my column seem so much longer than it actually is. <3



Italiano Matt


Matt,

Did your homemade spaghetti sauce turn out to be splendiforous? I have to know!

Cybernetic Empire


Matt

You know it! Tom was griping about how my pasta sauce is always way too chunky, because I like a good, super-chunky sauce full of things like broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, and the like. Well, I took it upon myself use more tomato than usual, and I used an entire can of tomato paste instead of my usual half-can. Along with many wonderful spices, my vegetables were all there (minus the mushrooms) but after four hours of slow-cooking and a little love, everything desolidified into a lovely mass of italian-flavoured goodness. The proudest part? I definitely snuck a few chopped up olives into it, and Tom despises olives. MWAHAHAHAHAHA! In conclusion, yes, it was splendifferous. Come on over if you want to try some!



Ooo... forgot about that one.


Hi, Matt,

Am I the only one currently playing Wild Arms 4? I'm really enjoying it. I think it's the best of the series thus far. I'm particularly enjoying the battle system. It requires you to think (not just button mash). Also, as you progress through an area & get good at whooping the baddies there so that you think you're all that; you then go to the next area where the next batch of baddies will whip you silly if you don't refine your tactics.

Matt

Actually, that's a good point. Not very many people have written in about Wild Arms 4; in fact, I don't think anyone has. I'm glad to hear that the battle system is somewhat more complex; the one I'm being raised on in WA:ACF is a little o'er simplistic to the point I got to. I heard that it was supposed to be a bit of a departure beforehand, though, so I'm glad it turned out to be fun for you.

One thing I've been meaning to ask: why, in every RPG I've ever played, do you get NO experience if the baddies run away from you? If they think you're so tough that they turn tail & flee the moment the battle starts; you should get at least a little something for it. What do you think?

I've never played a game with random dungeons, but from what you guys are saying; it sounds like a headache.

Have a great rest of the week & weekend.

Jbumi


Matt

I'm not really as bothered by that as I am about the fact that you can never "block monsters" when THEY try to run. It's an inequality that MUST be fulfilled sometime in the future, because ugh, it's infuriating at times, especially when you're trying to gain levels in certain nameless games that I love so dearly. Doesn't it make sense? How come THEY should be able to get away 100% of the time?

Anyhow, it's good to hear from you again, Jbumi... it's been awhile! I hope the rest of the week goes swimmingly as well.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

It looks like we're finally going to have a column featuring Bainick tomorrow! He's sent me at least 100 letters in the past, so it's about time he gets his moment of glory, no? Anyway, that will come tomorrow; let's finish off today's column before we worry about that.

On a random note, perhaps it's my weird mood or something tonight, but I just talked to my brother and sister on MSN for more than an hour using Robot speech (and a fun grey-coloured robotic font, too). Go me, and my lack of a life! One thing is for certain: I sure pissed off Diane's roommate. HAH HAH!

Flashay!


Yesterday's Questions: Group Hug can certainly become more powerful, as long as you c) press a certain button at the right time. Sure, it was an easy one, but it was still worth 60 points! Also, for 80 points, the hero of Breath of Fire 2 a) vomits after eating a fly, which occurs after the cook-off in Simafort. It's made quite more humourous, too, because the sentence of text in which that is made known lacks any punctuation, if my brother remembers correctly. It goes something like this:

Matt eats the Fly Pudding.
Matt vomits

Anyway, some of you said e) with the cockroaches, but he wasn't saving a puppy at the time, he was saving a member of the SWINE family. Too bad for you! 80 points to everyone who said "a", and 0 points to the rest of you, unless you also got the other one wrong too, in which case you'll get the charity points totalling 16.

The newest crop:

Question #103:
The eigenvalues of a matrix are usually represented by which Greek Symbol? (65 points)

a) Tau
b) Lambda
c) Omega
d) Chi
e) I hate you and want you to die.

Question #104:
Which of the following characters in Breath of Fire 2 is pretty much worthless until learning the spell of Death later in the game, which isn't even that great, thanks to the character's relatively limited AP? (80 points)

a) Bow
b) Katt
c) Spar
d) Nina
e) Jean

Things to work for (the SOCK item shop!):

400 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
700 points: The Final Fantasy 1 "Official" Crazed-Chipmunk-Hold-your-Ears Zipfile Soundtrack (1 remaining!)
1000 points: The Mattie's Mom Cookie Recipe Compilation (3 remaining!)
2000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (5 remaining!)


That's all! Keep your eyes open for tomorrow's column, if you feel like coming back for more of me, but with an Australian twist. Sounds pretty sexy, now don't it? Alas...


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt has scaly closet doorknobs, strangely.


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I think I need a diagnosis... I'm feeling way too weird today to describe.

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Matt's Top 3 Current Games:

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SOCK standings:

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