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ASK MATT
Day Eighty March 8, 2006

Matt Demers - 13:31 EST

AHAHAHAHAHAHA...

There is nothing nature can do now! Winter's icy grip is slowly losing its grasp, and the snow and rain of months prior is finally giving way to sunshine and warmer breezes! Today, I even walked partway back from campus just because I had the opportunity to. With the temperature increasing by 11 additional degrees C over the next few days (that's almost 20 extra Fahrenheit degrees!!), winter has virtually no chance at all! The end result is that I'm a very happy host, and as such, I'm going to most generously grant everyone who has already entered the SOCK one additional point!! Feel honoured, all ye. The rest of you readers who feel excluded... well, you should have written in, hmm? NO SOUP FOR YOU, in the words of a certain notorious Seinfeld character. Send me some mail!

With the conclusion of my monologue comes the beginning of the part that isn't my introductory monologue. That part was up to you guys... let's see what you've had to contribute for this day, shall we?




L E T T E R S
M is not for Matt


Matt,

Been reading the lastest columns, and decided I needed to chime in.

First off, I noticed you mentioning that you don't play any games that are rated mature. This sparked curiousity. Any particular reason why? Religion? Weak stomach? Haven't found any that are interesting?

I can see how you might not like random street crime games or cookie-cutter first-person shooters, but as a huge Capcom fan, I'm just shocked when someone doesn't like series such as Resident Evil, Onimusha, or Devil May Cry. Especially so because these games feature great stories, a staple in the requirements of most RPGamers.

Matt

Thinking back, I guess it stems from my youth. My parents were always very "permissive", if you will. Myself and my siblings never had curfews, and they always trusted us whenever we wanted to go to friends' houses or have people over, or go places without their supervision... etc.

The one thing, however, that my mom and dad never tolerated was unnecessarily violent or gorey video games. I brought home Turok: Dinosaur Hunter one day from Blockbuster Video and put it in the machine. Mom stated her disapproval when she watched me play for a little while later that night. Later, when Goldeneye came out for the N64, I decided to rent it to see what all the buzz was about. Dad caught myself, my brother, and my sister playing multi-player, and gave us a "Not in my house!" lecture. It was fine... I didn't really argue. Ever since then, I just never got into them again, though I don't mind the occasional fighting game-- it's just that the one that's the most FUN is Super Smash Bros. M-rated loses again! Anyway, that's why, in my case; I don't have anything against them, per se.

Second, violence in games. Personally, I don't think it influences people in any significant ways. I played the Mortal Kombat games when I was younger and I never once went out and ripped someone's spine from their body. Nor did the film Terminator 2: Judgement Day cause me to stab everyone around me. If a parent does their job right, a child will learn not only the difference between right and wrong, but the difference between the real world and a game.

Matt

Indeed; this reflects my opinion entirely.

[Friendship Pts increased by 3!]

Video games have become the new rock and roll or television of yesteryear. Parent groups are looking for a scapegoat to blame the world's problems on, and games are the "in" thing. In a few years, they'll have a new target, and we can forget we ever even had these discussions.

And honestly, have you ever jumped on a group of turtles or slaughtered lizards in your back year with a broadsword? "Violent" games indeed...

Matt

It's true that twenty years ago, it was very popular to SATANIZE that horrible rock music, which seems really silly now. I have trouble believing that this is going to go away to quite the same extent, considering that music always existed long before/after the 80s, but video games don't pre-date video-game-bashing by all that much. Parents have been crying out over violence in video games for awhile, and given that the current trend is to make things MORE graphic, MORE real, MORE extreme... I can't imagine that it's going to go anywhere anytime soon.

Point the third, I have to ask what you people are doing to your consoles and games to not make them work anymore? I have seven different consoles hooked up in my home ranging from the original Nintendo Entertainment System to the Playstation 2, and they all work as well as the day they were bought. I know the "cool" thing to do is to bash Sony for bad craftsmanship, but I've never once had anything break down on me. No flashing screen, no disc read errors, no bad carts.

Maybe it's just me. Have I gotten lucky? Or am I just too careful with my equipment? The loading slots are always closed when not in use, and my games are kept in cases to keep them dust and/or scratch free. I assume everyone uses common sense when dealing with electronics, but I hear so many stories that I wonder sometimes. All I know is that with a little love and care, your games can last a long time, and you won't have any need for...

Matt

What did I do to my console? I would push the green button to turn it on, and occasionally the eject button to change discs. In all honesty, I have never treated my hardware roughly! My Sony-bashing isn't because it's popular; it's because the only Playstation that I've ever played that worked perfectly was the one I rented from Blockbuster for 2 weeks back in 1997. I borrowed a PSX from my friend Ken; games chronically froze or refused to play properly in it. My ex-roommates' PS2 died sometime early last year, refusing to run nearly everything inserted into the disc drive. My own PS2 plays games fine; it just will not play movie DVDs or music. All I've had are Disc-Read Errors since the first year I had the console!

Thus, I personally have grounds for my distrust. Perhaps you're not lucky; perhaps I'm just amazingly unlucky; believe me, it wouldn't be the first time that's been the case!! Play Risk against me for a fun, fun time, on a related note.

Emulation! Which happens to be point the fourth. I will admit to playing a few unreleased games here and there, but as a serious game collector, not just player, I usually feel that if you don't care enough about a game to actually own it, you shouldn't be playing it.

I know it sounds a bit harsh, but I'm very passionate about my hobbies, and it really gets under my skin when people download the newest Gameboy Advance game, ot just can't wait to modify their Xbox to play burned games.

A lot of people will argue that older games are hard to find, but they really aren't. You just need to look for them if you want it that bad. They're out there.

The company isn't losing any money? It's still stealing, stop trying to justify it. If you loved Contra so much, you shouldn't have sold it.

Matt

Amen. I never understand why people sell games or systems in the first place. I'm wired internally so that I always need to go back and re-play old games periodically... I'm not sure if it's genetic, or a product of my upbringing, or what. Granted, many people didn't have the opportunity to buy Contra in the first place; however, the only people that probably care about it now are the people that DID play it in the beginning.

For me, it's not about money, it's about being a serious gamer.

Lastly, the theme that's usually in my head is "Matoya's Cave," particulary the Black Mages' rendition. That's good stuff right there.

Thanks for the time,
~ J


Matt

That IS a good theme, and it always causes upwellings of warm, loving feelings for games of old. Then, I always accidentally recall other less-pleasurable musics, which causes me to remember the horrors of the famous Marsh Cave, which helped greatly to contribute to the terrible, wonderful love/hate relationship I had with Final Fantasy 1. Getting through those dungeons was quite the trial, back when you were still limited by single-digit-MP-per-spell-level. Didn't they change the system entirely for the GBA remake? The FF Origins easifications were pitiful enough!!

Anyway, thanks for your letter, J. Hopefully the many topics you've touched on will inspire some other readers to send in their own thoughts and feelings!



Tales from the deep... subconscious.


Hi Matt.

Since you wrote about your latest dream I figured I'd write in mine - yesterday I dreamed that my consciousness went back in time to 10 years ago. And obviously, I excelled in everything I did right from the start and there was some stuff I knew in advance which was pretty cool. The day before yesterday I dreamed I was on some kind of ship in a weird iceberg-filled sea, playing some kind of card game. Eventually a huge gust of wind passed through the ship and to escape it I walked through a door, finding myself by a fountain in Rome...

Matt

Yeah, dreams are really bizarre, aren't they? Mine almost never make any sense, and they generally mix people from different "sectors" of my life altogether in one big pot. Sometime last year, I had a dream involving my sister, Diane, a couple of my professors, and ANDREW, the ex-Q&A host, all of whom were travelling with me to the hospital to visit one of my family members... I can't remember who. I often have dreams that people are dying or that my own life is in jeopardy... I've often had dreams where I've been chased in a vehicle by another whose driver toted a firearm. Scary stuff.

In more recent months, though, I've started having "comedic" dreams, where I'll wake up, remember the dream, and think to myself "how in the HELL did my unconscious brain come up with something so randomly hilarious!?" I had one dream in which I was attempting to pick out chocolates at a Laura Secord store (Canadian Ice Cream/Chocolate chain). The girl behind the counter kept selecting varieties of chocolates that I didn't want and putting them in a bag for me. When I commented on it, she blew up at me, said something along the lines of "FINE then, why don't you just take them ALL?!" She proceeded to pick up the entire glass shelf of chocolate and tilted it so that ALL of the chocolates ran into the bag, as I looked on, becoming increasingly vocal. She ignored my protests, and started singing "I'm not listening" as she weighed the bag, whose contents came to over $1000 in price, whereupon I stormed out to look for the manager.

Now that was a dream to remember...

My question is, do you ever have gaming-related dreams? If you could control your dreams (lucid-dreaming), what game moment would you like to relive? And in general, which character would you like to actually take the place of in a game? That's not an easy choice, most of them don't have very fun lives, at least not during the game.

Matt

I generally don't dream much about games, though I did have one a LONG time ago where I discovered a "secret place" in the original Dragon Warrior; an underground castle or something in which you could actually fight more than one monster at a time. I distinctly remember fighting an orange-coloured "harder" version of a Werewolf along with a Wizard simultaneously on the battle screen. Very strange.

I don't know if I've ever dreamt about Final Fantasy or other games, though I think that Irvine and Zell have haunted my subconscious in the past. I don't remember if it was actually IN a Final Fantasy VIII setting or not. What character would I actually like to take the place of, though?? Jeez... I'd have to go with Kefka. Being able to fry anything I wanted with a Light of Judgment might help me take out my pent-up rage on people/places that don't actually exist. ^_^

Lastly, an unrelated thought - did you ever think how instead of trying to kill/stop villains, you could just give them what they want? I don't mean actual power but maybe create somehow the illusion of control, maybe using some kind of hallucination... Seems to me that it'd be much simpler to give them what they want or to mentally change what they want (suddenly Sephiroth isn't so interested in the reunion as much as he is interested in gardening...). Might make a more boring game, though.

Zohar Gilboa


Matt

90% of the time, villains have a strange ability to know when they're being screwed over, one way or another. Whether they sense it immediately, or they receive help from underlings, they always seem to have the one-up on the hero's party. It'd be interesting to see a game featuring a truly intelligent bunch of souls tackle the evils of the world... but truly intelligent souls don't tend to waste their time finding random turtle dolls for random girls, etc., and thus might not be "hero material" in the traditional sense.

It would be funny to be able to contain the MASTER OF DOOM of a game in particular by capturing him/her and sticking his/her brain in a jar forevermore, as he/she perceives ultimate greatness but doesn't actually have any power at all. Then again, Tellah also perceives ultimate greatness but doesn't actually have any power at all. Too bad Square Enix doesn't have any plans to "re-envision" Final Fantasy IV with Tellah being the ultimate villain!

This response seems to be the most random of all. I should conclude it now before I spin off into another galaxy or something. Thanks for writing in!



I'm a classy guy... what can I say?


Dear Mattka,

Ok, so you're not really a Thief class, so what are you? Or what do you really think you are?

I'm going to label you as a Ranger/Hunter. You sit back from a distance and pick things off with great accuracy. Eh, maybe not, but it's a good start.

Matt

Heh heh... evidently, you've never seen me play darts. I highly warn anyone playing darts with me to crouch and cover their heads when my turn comes around... it is true that on one occasion, while leaning back in preparation to throw a dart, the dart slipped out of my hand and travelled backwards across the living room. Skillful, no?

I think I'm a Scholar (FF3) or a Calculator (FFT) for obvious reasons. If they're not really that obvious at all, then you definitely don't read this column nearly often enough!!

I think I'm more of a Warrior, charging forward with little thought of what might happen to me. Sometimes I get a good strike in, but most of the time I just fall on my face.

What are some of your favorite job classes? I generically refer to FF classes, but please, don't limit yourself.

- Warrior Macstorm


Matt

It's easiest to refer to Final Fantasy classes, because there are so many covering such a broad range of possibilities. Other series fail to capture a certain "je ne sais quoi" that Final Fantasy does so well.

Anyway, I love the "special knights" a lot- for example, the "Sorcerer" in FFV, or the Dark Knight and Paladin in FFIV. They're a neat twist on the boring old blah-blah-brawn. I also have a special fondness for Red Mages, even if they are of debatable usefulness in the long run; they wield swords and are just all-around cool.



Yikes!


M.A.T.T.

(Main Answering Talking Tech)

As a gamer, I think about getting the most out of my games, and, well, decidedly, I would like to, at some point, find a means to hook up my PS2 (and it's RPGs of epic goodness) up to my PC Monitor through some means such as Scart Input or RGB, even Progressive would be nice...however, I don't know of many RPGs that support Progressive display, and usually I have to settle for Component/S-Video for picture quality. I personally do not like S-Video scanlines, so I thought I'd ask the folks at RPGamer what they recommend for a PS2/Gamecube gamer such as myself with a Flatpanel 20" Monitor and how it might be possible to put that baby to work in service of the King (so to speak). I know most gamers hardly ever think about the quality of their displays, but I do, and I need advice, particularly for PS2 which seems to have a problem in the ways of VGA, YUV, and Scart.

If all that is way over your head Matt, sorry, but at the very least pass this one around to some folks who might know.


Matt

Yow!! I'm certainly not up on the latest in hardware gadgetry, and the best-graphics-evar aren't really my focus in RPGs. Your question, though, is surely a valid one, and I don't want your letter to go ignored! Thus, I send an official cry out to the seven-or-so other people that read the column: Does anyone have an idea of how to help this guy out? If so, please don't hesitate to write in! As long as you don't lace your message with F-bombs, I guarantee you your letter will make it in, to any willing parties!

Hopefully, someone will take notice and help you out, good sir. Thanks for using your neighbourhood Q&A column for your everyday needs!



Oy, this place attracts some interesting folks.


I strongly beleive that video game violence provides strong contributory factors to the decline of morality in this country today. Though I am a product of divorce, my nightly bloodlust is further reinforced by the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Frankly, I murdered Paul Allen with a hatchet largely in part to the homicidal and dehumanizing behavior this game elicits. Then again, he was into that whole Yale thing.

Did you know I am completely insane?


Matt

...and man, I'll tell you; after playing Earthbound for a solid week in my early adolescence, I just couldn't stop myself from going out and buying a heavy, leaden yo-yo in order to beat people over the head. Once I learned that "around the world" trick with it, I was able to cause some serious multiple concussions, but of course, that was only before I'd grab the nearest aluminum baseball bat and SMAAAAAAASH! them halfway to Jupiter. Violence in video games is a dangerous phenomenon, and the two of us are living proof!

By the way, I didn't realize that you were completely insane, but I sure as sugar know that I am! Why? Because I can abuse my Q&A hosting position by saying "moo" repeatedly! Moo moo moo! MOO.



Oldies aren't necessarily goodies!


Hey Matt, I'm here to ask for your all-reaching wisdom on this subject.


Matt

Oh, great. Why is it always me??

It is very often that I hear people measuring the games today by the games of yesteryear, and proclaiming that games were better "back in the day." I don't believe that is true at all. I firmly believe that, as a whole, games have only improved over time, and not just technologically. As the franchise has grown bigger, it is also taken more seriously. Because of this, games today are more intelligent, deeper, more complex, and more polished products overall. The quality of writing in games has improved dramatically, and in RPG's particularly, we are given stories that oftentimes put modern fantasy novelists to shame. And yes, there are the technological advancements as well. While I don't praise them as the be-all end-all, they do enhance the experience. RPG's can now tell their stories visually with cutscenes and CGI that can rival animated films. Improved technology h as also allowed developers to include voice acting, which can greatly enhance the experience. (It can, although I admit it's sometimes more of a detriment.)

Matt

You do, do you? I'm going to make a premature conclusion that you're one of those "story-based RPGamers" with a bit of a weakness of graphical splendours-- maybe not quite someone classed as a "graphics-whore", though, or you wouldn't care enough to write in about the subject at all. Now, person: explain yourself!

And yet, people cling to the games of old. Take, for example, The Legend of Zelda franchise. It started twenty years ago, and even now we are looking forward to the next entry. (God knows when we'll actually get it.) Now, the original Legend of Zelda was an amazing achievment for it's time, and the amount of popularity it received back then is why it's still going now. However, as gaming itself has evolved, so has Zelda. If The Legend of Zelda was released today, would it be nearly as well accepted? No, it wouldn't be accepted at all. It would be rejected and critisized, because by today's standards, the game simply does not stack up. It is incoherent and confusing, the gameplay is simplistic and minimal, and the story is non-existant. I have tried again and again to play through this game, only to give up every single time. It simply will not hold my interest. It's the same with other game franchises such as FF1, the original Metroid, and Mario. What keeps them alive today, and why do people frequently claim that they were better back in the 80's? Well, in my opinion, the answer is nostalgia. For a lot of people, the games of today will never live up to the memories they have of playing games back in the "glory days." Because of this, they completely disregard the vast improvements that have been made to franchises such as The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing; it can seriously cloud judgement.

Matt

Just because games are presented in fancier packaging nowadays doesn't mean that the games of yesterday that WERE great all of a sudden "aren't". It doesn't make sense... there's a REASON that these games were giant hits, you know. Certainly, they don't stack up when put on-par with today's fare: You're absolutely right that graphics, sound, storylines... they're all bigger, fancier, more complex, more detailed!

It doesn't mean that they're ALL executed well. ALL games of today are not wonderful, I'm sure you'd agree. In fact, I'd go as far as to claim that a FAR larger ratio of games were "great" in yesterday's world than in today's world. Exactly how many RPGs do you really care about today? Most people will answer "Final Fantasy", and then a meagre selection of games from a couple of other series. While those may indeed be superior games, there are several atrociously presented games with terrible storylines and laughable fun-factor, often in the name of amazing visuals. I'm not saying that games like these didn't exist in the past; I'm just saying that there are more of them today.

This doesn't even skim the "gameplay" surface. Sure, some older games were boring. But MANY older games have masterfully great gameplay. As long as we're on Zelda, who can dispute that Zelda: Link to the Past was sheer genius, both in level design, puzzle design, play control, and general fun? Secret of Mana? How about the original Lufia games? I'd add the original NES Dragon Warrior quartet to the list, but some people really do think they're boring (silly people).

I'm not saying that all the games back then were crap and that all the games today are perfect. Final Fantasy in particular was arguably just as good, if not better, back in the SNES era. Games like FF4 and FF6 are among my all-time favorites. But Final Fantasy is an exception, and even so, it has improved aesthetically if nothing else. And on the subject of games today, I don't think I have to list all the trash that clogs the shelves these days.

Matt

Well, damn! You just managed to refute my last half-hour of writing. Most of it, anyway. I guess that'll teach me not to read through entire letters before I start responding to them. ^^;

I guess that something that just bugs me from the above is that too many people just refuse to play games for the reason that they're technically inferior to the games of today. They don't wow you in ADHD-inducing 2943723946-colour palettes at 2333092580 polygons per nanosecond (or whatever things are measured in these days); thus, of course there's no way the game can be any good! I have a pair of Daves who I'm friends with (they happen to be going out, too- how odd would that be?) and they won't even consider playing anything pre-Final Fantasy X. I give them all hell every time we talk about it, and it gets really frustrating, because dammit, there ARE a lot of good games from the past! I was worried you were one of those, for a second.

So I guess my question is what do you think of games today vs. the games of yesteryear? Do you agree with me that nostalgia for the past can make a person unreasonably biased? Or am I the one who is biased?

Oliver.


Matt

In all honesty, I think that there always have been, and always will be, crappy games and good games in ALL genres- not just RPGs. Over time, of course things will get better and better from an aesthetic standpoint: Graphical splendours will improve, and sound quality will increase (not necessarily the music itself, of course). New features will be added, bigger and better backstories will be written, and production quality will grow (as will the money pumped into producing them). What is missing from the equation, though? Entirely independent is what makes the game a game: gameplay! When it comes down to it, graphics might draw someone TO a game, but how fun that game is in actuality is what will get that someone to come back and buy the sequel. Great gameplay has been done well and not-so-well in the past, and it has been done well and not-so-well in the present as well.

Thus, is there bias against old games? Sure, nostalgia can play a big part of the love people have for games; but perhaps there is an equal bias against old games due to their inherent inferiority on a superficial level. Then again, if you aren't like me and you play RPGs *JUST* for the plotlines, then I could understand why you feel the way you do!

Anyway, I hope this wasn't too much too digest. I think my head is gonna start spinning unless I take a break for a drink of water. Thanks much for writing in, Oliver!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

I just randomly recalled the flying fortress' music from Secret of Mana, "Leave Time for Love". I dare say that that is one of my all-time favourite location musics out of any game, ever. Yes, it's old... but there's just something about it that makes it a truly incredible way to finish off that game. MAN, I miss it!! It's been... definitely five years or more since I last played through SoM, after all.

Ugh, NOW look at the nostalgia, huh? Now I'm going to be thinking about this in my sleep.

Flashay!


Now, I get to slap you ALL on the wrist for getting #131 wrong! I know that the lot of you go cruising the Internet to resourcefully come up with the answers, but this time, it burned you all! The question wasn't actually my own; my brother gave it to me to ask. I was mystified when more and more people kept mailing in saying "e" as their answer. Thus, I went on a Google search and found a script to the game, in which at the food town, it sounds as if Jerin alone tastes some strained slime. If you had actually played the game, you would know that there is another mini-event that takes place in the town where the whole party tastes a little bit of a chef's dish. Aguro's reaction? "No texture. 2." Thus, the correct answer was a) 2, and no one got any points. You guys should find and play this game... it's so good.

#132 was a question from FinalDelerium, and while you might debate exactly how sentient they really are, the clear answer was c) Gargant, the giant insectoids from Final Fantasy IX that pull carts underground. 90 points to correct-guessers, and 180 for FinalDelerium!

Question #133:
With this column, I've posted exactly how many as an official RPGamer staff member? (100 points)

a) 65
b) 70
c) 75
d) 80
e) 0

Question #134:
Ask Erika!-->Making a pact with Galf will earn you which tarot card at the end of the game? (110 points)

a) IV
b) XII
c) XV
d) XVI
e) XX


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

800 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
2,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (3 remaining!)
5,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #3 (5 remaining!)


So, we talked about some interesting topics today; why don't I open the floor to the lot of you? Tell me about your game-related dreams! Are you really THAT into your RPGs/other games that they won't even leave your subconscious mind alone? Also, what games from the past do you want to re-play soon... and why? Believe it or not, it's already been five years since Final Fantasy X was released, and next year will be the tenth anniversary of FFVII, to use a central series as a benchmark. There are a lot of PS2 titles, even, that are quickly becoming "old classics"! Man, I feel old. Anyway, do write in... I'm a-waiting like always!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt didn't change this little witty blurb yesterday...


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