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ASK MATT
Splish Splash March 14, 2006

Matt Demers - 16:01 EST

SEE!?

I told you there'd be a new host, and that her name would be Tiptail. I wasn't lying!! She also did an utterly fine job, if I do say so myself (and I do).

You'll get more of her next weekend! For now, you're in the quasi-evil clutches of me, and you're not going anywhere, unless of course you foolishly decide to click "Back" right now. If you did that, though, it would leave me very sad, and that would not be fun for all, now would it?

Anyway, let's answer some of your latest questions, and question some of your latest answers, and do the discussion thing that we always do.




L E T T E R S
Matt & Mag: Hitting Nails on the Head for months!


Hello Matt!

I think you and MagRowan nailed the issue of females in video games on the head (although where was Rexy hiding on that letter?). The majority of people playing games are male, and more importantly, the majority of developers and programmers are male. Thus, you end up with a main character that they "understand." It's easier to write about what you know, and easier to identify with what you know.

Matt

Indeedy. What is the solution, then? Naturally, we need more women to be video game designers, that's what! I'd love to do my part, but I can't really contribute, seeing as I'm not really female at all; at least, I wasn't last time I checked.

Also, usually when people co-host, I forward them a number of letters to provide answers for, and then they e-mail me back with what they want to say. Mag's just wasn't one of them, I guess!

However, in many of the best games, there is a strong female influence that drives the story, even if they are not the main character. In the Lunar series, both games (I refuse to acknowledge Dragon Song) have a female character who is critical to the plot, and without whom the plot wouldn't exist. In FFX, as much as it is "Tidus' story", the plot revolves around Yuna's journey. In the Shadow Hearts games (particularly the first one), even though Yuri is the lead, the main female character has as much influence on the plot. And in FFVI, while there are an assortment of characters who combine to drive the main plot, it is Terra's who probably has the most impact.

Matt

Yep yep, and there are a number of other examples, too. It's true, of course, that the same thing applies to many male characters, too. What I'd personally love to see is a really GOOD female villain. There aren't a huge number of games out there with one of those, and Ultimecia just doesn't kount bekause she's not nearly as well-developed as, say, Kefka or Sephiroth.

Speaking of FFVI, I'm not sure why everyone is so desperate to pull a main character out of FFVI. Part of the beauty of that game is the balance between different plot threads, rather than focusing on one or two people and throwing in bits of plot development for the supporting characters here and there. Heck, it even literally splits into three parts at one point! At very few points in the game are you required to have one person in your party for an extended period of time, unlike other games where the "hero" can't even be removed.

Matt

Hear hear!! I'm behind you 100% on that one. There are many main characterS in that game, and together, they weave a wonderful and intricate tale. Why pick it apart just to be able to point the finger at a single hero/heroine?

Finally, back to the female characters bit, I have to disagree with you about Jessica in DQVIII, Matt. While she has an excellent voice actress and the character is well developed, there was a lot of her design that was eye candy. Most of her armours later in the game were skimpy little "Look at me!" outfits. Sure, she wasn't just "Look, boobs!", as you put it, but that was a big part of it.

BigWook
Trying to remember how to turn on his windshield wipers after Phoenix's first rain in 143 days.


Matt

Heh, yeah, and I thought about that a bit more. I guess I was more impressed with the fact that they didn't make Jessica a stupid, ditzy character; however, the fact that there are SEVERAL in-game references to her bosom, and the fact that she has a great many scandalous outfits does point to the fact that perhaps it was a big part of her character (unfortunately, maybe). Va va voom indeed.



Evil MMORPGs, and Dungeons & Dragons games that are based on Dungeons & Dragons...wow!


In response to your last statement, there just isn't that many RPG's on the computer that aren't based on D & D. (Baulders Gate, Pools of Radience, Neverwinter Knights, Icewind Dales, Planescape Torment(Another reality)) And those that are, are based off dungeons and dragons (Arcanum if it ever works for my computer). With the others needing computer like system (Morrowind) just to play it. These are single player RPG's, not those evil MMORPG's. I don't even know what MMO stands for. That's it, i'm so angry. I'm so angry that I have to go o the Angry Dome!!!

Bainick can't get the Dummi Bear song out of his head, which brings back memories of a worse kind of bear. (Not Humphery but that comes a close second, and bot Pooh because I actually like that bear. Okay its Care Bears, They truly are evil. Oh yeah Angry Dome.


Matt

Bainick, you are one crazy man.

Also, while MMORPGs don't really make me angry, they certainly aren't my cup of tea. They do really irritate me sometimes, though, like today, when my sister sent me this lovely screenshot:

grrr


Ridiculous, no? For those of you that can't read, it's an error message on Guild Wars my sister encountered not long ago that states that the entire game will be rolled back to an earlier state, due to some unintentional errors on their end. It's stuff like this that sets me off. You don't have to deal with any issues like this when you play a console RPG, and you don't have to pay some absolutely preposterous monthly fee in order to have any fun with the game you already purchased. Ugh, disgusting; now that notion just sets me off!

Changing the subject, I actually used to watch Care Bears alongside my sister when I was young'un. I really liked Grumpy Bear, but mostly for the cool rain cloud on his tummy. Also, to anyone begrudging the change-in-width for this little table in the column, I say "screw you", because if the pic was any smaller, you wouldn't be able to read the message. Nyah!



A mishmash of current topics.


As for women in video games, what about Samus Aran, the heroine of the metroid series, one woman taking on a whole planet of evilness. I was quite shocked when I realized that while playing the original game. or Alex Roivas from Eternal Darkness(one of the few really good games for the gamecube). She might not me the only main character in the game but close enough I suppose.

Matt

Oh YEAH! Talk about a silly thing to overlook... Metroid is one of my favourite non-RPG series! What an embarrassing oversight. Great example, because she could kick the asses of most male RPG heroes I know from here well into next week, that's for sure.

On another note, I remember when video games were almost more educational than school. I'm sure that I learned more things playing games than I did in 12 years of school. RPG's teach many things reading, mostly back before voice acting, mathematics, playing Dragon Warrior after a couple fights with a monster I'd know how many rounds it woul d take to win a fight and how many fights before I'd level up. Also, geography, mythology, science and most importantly morals, good versus evil, helping the helpless, and doing the right thing.

Matt

For sure, school is essential for kids and there are many things that they learn there that are essential for growth, such as social skills, formal training in math, english, etc... but you're right, RPGs especially are almost an auxiliary learning tool sometimes. The logic and puzzle solving skills develop a different set of abilities in young people than they can learn in most other places, I think. I'd argue that RPG-playing kids grow up to be more creative people in the end, and perhaps with sharper problem-solving (and maybe even writing?!) skills in adulthood.

on the topic of violence in games and censorship and all that BS. There is a rating system, but it does do any good when an 80 year old who knows nothing about modern technology buys her 10 year old grandson grand theft auto for his birthday because he wants it (true story). It's not the industries fault it's the parents who don't pay attention to their kids. An adult who wants to run the streets running over pedestrians in a game to vent frustration why not? and even if young "impressionable" minds do play these violent games, it doesn't effect them like the media and government officials say. a preteen child can tell the difference between right and wrong, and fantasy from reality. so you can't go blaming the problems with today's youth on video games.

off to play modded doom and blow up my co-workers,
The J man


Matt

Agreed; ratings systems do little when people don't understand the games in the first place. That's one reason why I'm not really against the current initiative being taken by certain stores; I know that at EB games in Guelph, the people at the counter have to tell game-buying parents what kinds of things are in games that are rated M before they make their purchases. I've seen more than one emotional battle between mom and son at the cash register, and they almost always happen while I'm waiting patiently behind them in line. Curses!



See no saga? Yeah, I know that one's a bit of a stretch.


Dear RPGamer,

I can't seem to find out all that much info on Xenosaga III. I was wondering if any of you have heard a peep about if it's guaranteed to coming out in the USA??? and if there's any possible release date? Thanks

~*~*~Life is hard but we all hang onto it the same~*~*~
(^-^)Jessica


Matt

Xenosaga is under development even as you read this column, Miss Jessica! Information is slightly hit or miss, but things are slowly coming together at Monolith Soft. You can see everything RPGamer has collected by following this link here. Although nothing official has been said about North American releases, I'd bet my bottom dollar that we'll see it on this side of the Pacific. Release dates, while absent at this stage, are somewhat predictable sometimes... I'd conjecture that it'll be released in Japan sometime this summer, and if that happens, an early-2007 or late-2006 North American release is certainly a possibility!

Anyway, I hope that little bit helps you out some; you're not the only one eagerly awaiting this game out there! I'm interested to know how the saga turns out in the end, though it will be with a certain degree of sadness. Ends of series are never happy times, especially if there's some goodness present within, wouldn't you agree?



Status Spells need a little love too!


Hi Matt.

Yesterday you agreed with someone who said status spells are useless when compared with "mainstream" black magic.

Matt

Yes, "most of the time". There are some games that status spells tend to be more useful in than others, for example, Dragon Warrior versus Final Fantasy. Other games are even worse; I haven't ever considered using bad-status-inflicting spells in Xenosaga, most Breath of Fire games, and in lots of others, too. Not ALL the time though. Anyway, continue with your letter, you.

I'd like to give a few examples to the contrary:

1. In FFVIII, if you wish to draw spells from creatures it's really useful to stop them or put them to sleep etc. Also, when fighting the T-Rex at the beginning of the game, you don't have a strong enough magic spell (or single attack) to kill it with one hit. Casting blind on it makes practically all of its attacks on you ineffectual. Lastly, the junction system makes the spells incredibly useful (either by stat-boosting or by adding a status ailment to your attacks, like my all-time favorite - 100% death).

Matt

Yeah, I don't think I ever used the spell of Blind, not once, in FFVIII. I might have junctioned it to my Status Defense a couple of times, but yeah, I dunno. My tendency is to use Sleep if I use anything at all, but perhaps Blind would make more sense in this situation. Either way, a far more effective strategy to me is to junction Blind TO your weapon so that you can inflict the bad status at the same time as attacking. Then, even if the spell doesn't work, you're guaranteed to do something to the monster instead of uselessly wasting your turn. I actually love status-inflicting weaponry... it's wonderful stuff.

2. In FFT, status spells are incredibly useful if you want to level up or need to take time doing something (such as searching for Deep Dungeon exits and treasures). Also, the calculator can cast spells on practically everyone on the playing field. Using proper accessories you can make your characters immune to sleep, or "don't act" or petrify or whatever, thus allowing you to obliterate your enemies at your leisure (as opposed to casting Holy with the calc. and killing all enemies, as well as yourself). Also, think about bards or dancers, who can instantly cast good or bad status improvements (or ailments) on you or the enemy, they rock too.

Matt

Sure, I'll agree with you on most of what you've said, except that using those spells to level up isn't really a REAL reason to use them; it's just a way to spend your turn to get experience while drawing out the battle to gain more next turn and in the turns beyond. Essentially, in this sense, status spells are most useful for "not killing monsters", which seems fairly counter-productive. Bards and Dancers did rock my world in FFTactics, though.

3. In Radiata Stories, status ailments greatly improve your strength in a game where magic isn't that powerful. Having a character cast "freeze" on a bunch of enemies is usually more useful than casting a lowly fire spell.

Matt

I'll be able to respond to this one when I finally crack into the game itself (coming: VERY soon)! I just have to breeze through Wild Arms: ACF, and then Radiata Stories is next on the list o' games requiring my attention.

4. Just think - in most games, to cast a powerful black magic spell you need high magic attack. On the other hand, you can haste anyone you want (which doesn't require high magic attack) and give them double attacks = more damage. Same deal with slowing an enemy.

Matt

That's quite true, and it's a good point, though support spells like Haste/Protect/Shell/Regen (in the Final Fantasy world) are always useful. When I talk about "status" spells, I'm mostly talking about the kind that inflicts negative status on enemies 50% of the time, but only on the ones that aren't immune (i.e. 50% of the monsters in the first place). This is exactly why Haste spells are infinitely more useful than Slow spells.

These are just some ways in which status magic kicks ass. True, it's not the most direct approach to killing enemies, but it has great benefits. I once thought like you do but since then I found how, with a bit or tactical thought and planning ahead, battles can become a lot easier with status magic.

Zohar Gilboa


Matt

Surely, you raise some good points, and there are always special instances where status magic is especially useful. I, for instance, found that enemies in both the Sylph cave and the cave to the Land of the Summoned Monsters in Final Fantasy IV were made a lot more handleable by casting Mute, which many of them are fairly susceptible to. Spells like Stop and Sleep can be useful as a last resort in case of an emergency, too; the problem is that usually, the only monsters that are capable of causing such an emergency are exactly those that are bigger and badder, and (gosh gee!) possess the immunities against spells like those anyway.

I think there are several examples of useful status-inflicting spells if you look outside the Final Fantasy series in the right places. I remember casting Sleep, Stopspell, and Surround in early Dragon Quest games quite religiously. Even in Dragon Quest VIII, the confusion and sleep spells often come in very handy when fighting huge battles.

I think it would help if in a game, there existed a character that was almost completely useless in every other respect EXCEPT for that kind of magic. Then, you'd have no real choice *but* to utilize it, and hopefully, it'd be fairly useful. For now, though, outside of exceptional circumstances, I'm just going to keep attack-attack-attacking to get the job done efficiently, and save my MP for cheap cure magic and ridiculous damage spells.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

I must say that I made a very large mistake this morning when I actually put stuff in my hair to try and style it before leaving my house. With winter's rage back in town after the amazing warmth we received over the weekend, much wind is also present. I realized the mistake as soon as I opened my door and heard nothing but a ridiculous, blizzardlike, continuous ROAR. Predictably, my hair was a poofball by the time I got to the bus stop just across the road.

Also, on a random note, I've been craving french onion soup ever since Tip told her little horror story about her own salty disappointment. That is one of my very favourite dishes ever, and the bowls are cute too.

Flashay!


Let's see...

Rexy's question was #137, and true to her British ways, it asked about Beatles songs and RPGs. The correct answer, of course, was c) Yellow Submarine, just one of the things inside of Brick Road's ridiculous giant walking Dungeon Man. 125 points for that one!

#138 was the first mathy one I've done in awhile, so don't be too mad at me; each number in the sequence was generated by taking the number after it and subtracting the next number after THAT. You could look at it the other way, also; every number is the term before it minus the term TWO before it. Of course, you'd need the first few entries given in order to generate the sequence, but details, details. The answer was e) -4, because -1 - 3 = -4. That is all, for 125 points.

As inflationary pressures increase, so do the consolation points! Thus, if you didn't get either of those questions correct, you will receive 64 points (instead of 32) for your efforts. That's right, it's just because I'm such a nice guy. Also, at the request of a couple of people, while I can't give you the full scorecard for the SOCK competition (it contains e-mail addresses and such that people might not appreciate me giving away for free), I have decided to expand the scoreboard to include the TOP FIFTEEN! Exciting, no?

Anyway, today's questions feature a crazy geography one from Bainick (he likes those) as well as another random one from yours truly. I was going to do a question leading into a recent message I got from a certain common writer-inner about colours of princessly attire. I decided it would be too spiteful, though, and so I'll address that letter tomorrow in favour of a nicer problem for the lot of you to tackle.

Question #139:
Ask Bainick!-->Which of these towns is not situated on the Apollobay-Colac road? (140 points)

a) Apollo Bay
b) Barramunga
c) Scenes Creek
d) Forrest
e) Colac

Question #140:
A device for breathing underwater can be obtained in the original Final Fantasy. In the NES version, this item's name could be obtained by smushing together which TWO of the following five famous universities' names? (160 points)

a) Yale
b) Oxford
c) Princeton
d) Cambridge
e) Stanford


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

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


Okiedoke, folks. There will be more to read in Q&A-land tomorrow, and hopefully another guest host before the week is out! My apologies for all of you who are patiently waiting to see your letters featured; I'm slowly working through a bit of a backlog, which is nice for a change! For future columns, why don't we talk about some fun topics related to the current ones? What are your favourite non-attack magic spells to cast in RPGs, Final Fantasy or otherwise? Also, what is your opinion on Xenosaga and its upcoming Episode III?

I hope to hear from you soon!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt bit his tongue twice in an hour's time earlier today...


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Really hard, too... there is a welt on my tongue now that hurts like the DICKENS!

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SOCK standings:

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