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ASK MATT
Torn Down the Middle June 6, 2006

Matt Demers - 16:39 EST

APPARENTLY, THERE ARE ten-to-one odds that the world is going to end today. If you haven't realized it, this very day is the sixth of the sixth month of the sixth year of the millenium. In other words, it's the date that's closest to the number of EVIL "666". What does that mean? Heaven knows. Or perhaps Hell does. In any case, beware, because a bat might swoop down as you go to take out the trash tonight and poop 666 mL of guano on your head. I hear the stuff is a pain in the ass to get out of things, too.




L E T T E R S
George Carlin, now on RPGamer! What an interesting marriage.


Bonjourno Matt,

I gave it two weeks, and have now determined that my previous missive was lost in your enormous backlog. I don't think I wrote anything terribly important in it - but in case I did the utmost effort not to restate things I've already said will be expended.

Matt

Gragh. My lack of a truly organized system hath failed me once again. It's kind of funny, because you guys don't really know how the whole letterflow thing works. For some reason, mail seems to come in "waves", and while I really enjoy getting a TON of mail (the more, the better, damn it), the more likely I am to accidentally have a few fall through the cracks. It's like... ahhh... money! If someone hands you a twenty-dollar bill, you can grab it handily and place it in the pocket of your wallet without much problem. If, on the other hand, angels suddenly surround you and all sorts of twenty-dollar bills start fluttering down from the skies above you, you'll be a lot richer, but you'll more than likely have a few that slip through your fingers.

Regardless, you have my apologies.

Hm. FFVII. I've already revealed to the RPGamer users that I haven't played the thing, never having owned any version of Sony hardware. Closest I came was two years ago when a co-worker let me borrow his PS2 and I got to plow through FFIX. I definitely enjoyed FFIX, and would have played FFVIII if I hadn't been working full time and my co-worker wanted his PS2 back before he left our mutual temp job to return to Berkeley. FFIX is completely unrepresentative of post-FFVI entries in the franchise. So I gather. Short sentences are fun. Allow me to make fun. Of English grammar conventions. Frown upon proper sentence construction. I do. Watched "The Beast of Yucca Flats" again. On MST3K. Last night. Bad habit. Coleman Francis. Narrates haphazardly.

Matt

This is fun. Short sentences? Not my thing. I can try, though. Damn. A comma! I didn't mean to. Seriously. I didn't.

Final Fantasy IX. Not the best FF. It had good points, though. Four-character battles. Neat storyline. Great music. Thong-sporting "boy"-villains. Now, back to you!

I strongly suspect that every time I emulate Coleman Francis's speech patterns I lose brain cells... non sequiter over. One point brought up at Nintendo's E3 presentations was the need to bring more people into the gaming hemisphere, which got me to thinking. Of the family members who initially come to mind, the only ones who play games now are my age or younger. Excepting my uncle who owns an Xbox - which should tell you what kind of gamer he is. Otherwise... my mother hasn't played anything since the Frogger generation, ditto for my father. And while I might be able to get my mother into something, my father seems to look upon my frequent use of the GBA when bored as just another of my quirks. The only thing that he might play is sports titles, but considering he works roughly 60 hours a week there isn't time for him to be involved with much. My grandparents are unlikely at best: three of them don't play any form of electronic game and my paternal grandfather likes to play FreeCell. But he prefers to be out doing things to playing games. Other aunts and uncles; nary a potential player I can think of unless overwhelming Disney elements are present. Step-parents also don't seem likely to enter the gaming universe. And my great-grandmother is showing amazing perseverance by learning braille at 94 but gaming for the blind really seems not to be a major business strategy.

Matt

Gaming isn't just for kids anymore, and that much is clear. Where my dad used to look upon gaming with a disapproving eye and suspiciously-curved pair of eyebrows, he now plays Mariokart: Double Dash almost every night with my brother and mother. I used to be able to loop my mom into playing the odd thing now and then, and she has developed her own realm of like and dislike over the past fifteen years or so. My grandma bought an NES at a yard sale and taught me how to play Dragon Warrior and Tetris, though she also had Maniac Mansion, Kabuki Quantum Fighter, and Mario 2, which was so "exotic" to me as a youngster, since I only had the original and #3. You have no idea how fun it was to tell people that in elementary school.

While my uncle and his Xbox is on my mind: the Xbox 360 seems to be making an effort to do what the original Xbox did not. While I enjoyed many hours of frenetic dorm-room action via Halo on the Xbox, and several other titles seem appealing to me, I cannot say the system was ever my target of choice. If the Xbox 360 continues to acquire potentially good RPGs that fulfill their potential, however, I might be coerced into a purchase (although my backlog of Saturn titles begs to be finished - more at 6). The system does seem to be selling pretty darn well, which is a feather in Microsoft's cap. And Halo works for me. Probably not for you based on prior commentary, but I like to have the occasional pure action experience.

Matt

Yeah. I don't know about anyone else, but my belief that Microsoft could become a serious contender for top spot in the next generation is quickly accelerating. Week after week, Xbox 360 games are filling the sales charts, and it's a little bit... surprising, I suppose. It's still my view that Microsoft is the devil of console gaming, but they must be doing something right to attract so many buyers. With a few promising RPGs on the horizon, could the 360 actually be the next place for RPGamers to call "home"? It's scary to imagine.

Fire Emblem: the Sacred Stones entertained me quite a bit. I'm hoping it does the same for you. Just remember to keep the rage in check when people die, and recall that this is apparently the easiest Fire Emblem ever thanks to unlimited experience. I'm not any kind of veteran but the change from FE7 to FE8 is striking.

Matt

Ah, the difficulty builds character! I'm on "Easy" level, and I've restarted chapters on three different occasions already, with only three hours of playtime showing on the clock. It's so delightfully challenging, for a change.

I would now like to diverge briefly into a pet peeve of mine. This doesn't relate much to RPGs but intead towards a trend in the English language that infuriates me to no end. 'Pre' is overused. This is one item about which my mind cannot be changed, so don't even try. As it relates to gaming in general, the phrase 'preorder' comes to mind. What, exactly, is a 'preorder?' Can one order before ordering? When did the word 'reserve' cease to be effective? What is wrong here????? Other words do not relate to RPGs except tangentially, yet I shall throw them out now. 'Prescreening'... excuse me? If I've been 'prescreened', why am I being screened? 'Prescreening' ought to obviate the necessity of screening! 'Prerecorded'... well this of course makes perfect sense. To postrecord something requires a rewrite of the process that is recording, so of course things are 'prerecorded!' 'Preheat'; this one just irritates me every time it is mentioned. There are only two states an oven can possibly exist in, heated or unheated!!!!!! 'Preplanned' smacks of idiocy to me. How can something be planned BEFORE it is planned? ARRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! This line of thought is partially derived from a George Carlin routine, which I have done my best not to plagiarize. The obsession is shared between us however. If I can obliterate this overuse of the prefix 'pre' from the world, I will die happier than I am now.

Matt

I KNOW that skit, because I bought a George Carlin CD for my boyfriend about a year ago with that very routine on it! That's why I figured you used some of those ideas well before you actually admitted to it. I'm glad you did, though, because now I find myself in the presence of another Carlin fan. Welcome to the club! In the meantime, "F*@# the children!"

Dragon Force 2 I put on hold for several weeks because Riviera sucked up my attention, as I zealously attempted to garner all the extra contents. I still have to play through one more time... but now that I have returned to DF2 and have given it some serious playing time I feel an encapsulation of the title's simultaneous appeal and aggravation to me is in order. Certain changes from DF1 are for the better, such as not having multiple commanders with the same face and sprite who are intended to be different. Also having different battle themes for each of the 8 nations was a wise choice, as in DF1 the battle themes were determined by the area one fought in; 95% of the time this was a castle. But there are a few unfortunate changes to the game as well. In DF1 the level of one's chosen leader determined the level of opposition. This was incredibly helpful, meaning that puny level 1 commanders with virtually zilch experience would not be wasting one's time for long. Sadly this is no longer the case in DF2 - only through the player's actions will a commander gain experience. During the endgame in particular, where many commanders with a variety of skills are quite useful, this alteration becomes horrendously irritating. Also, in DF1 anytime a commander was captured and refused to join the player's ranks, the player could dump said commander off at an enemy castle and the enemy would gladly recruit a fresh force. This was useful for staving off annoyance at having jails full of incalcitrant commanders, and because beating the commander down all over again would not only gain extra experience for one of the player's commanders but frequently make for a person more amenable to joining up. In DF2 if the player dumps prisoners off at an enemy castle they stay prisoners until the player actually conquers the castle, at which point they revert to prisoners of the player. Boo.

Matt

I see. It sounds as if you have a lot of passion about Dragon Force, which is one of those series that I just haven't gotten around to sampling myself. I'm only one guy with so many hours in every day, you know?

Riviera, however, was great, but I won't be going back to the game for awhile. While the game was fun, it did get a little bit repetitive by the end, and so it was nice to be finished with it. Bonus goodies/extra content generally isn't inspiring for me anyway, though that isn't always the case; it really depends on what a lot of that stuff is, exactly. Bonus dungeons and storyline extras? Whoo-hoo! Mini-galleries of in-game art? Not so hot. For me, anyway.

Nevertheless I have played through but one of the 8 scenarios in DF2 and will play through all of them; hopefully the entire summer will not be required. Then Princess Crown shall require my attention. As I haven't finished with Sakura Wars 1 and 2 they must also be appended to the playlist. And then the Langrisser titles on Saturn. Woo - to state it so baldly makes the head spin.

Hm - SOCK questions. #212... c? And #213 I believe is b. There were enough deaths to make a. an option also - but it changes the type of love in question.

JuMeSyn


Matt

So many games that I just am not familiar with... we may as well have been born on different planets, sir! It just goes to show that video gamers are a varied folk, even within a single genre. Perhaps with Nintendo sitting close to Sega on the park bench, the possibility of seeing some of these Saturn games revived in one form or another is greater than it used to be. Who knows? Maybe one day I'll get the chance to play some Dragon Force myself, along with all of the rest of us who weren't Saturn enthusiasts the first time around.

Thanks, JuMeSyn, for writing in, and I hope to hear from you again sometime soon!



Grrr... I almost forgot to change this blurb!


Heyyy, Matt! I was highly amused by your list of RPG inside jokes. It reminded me of my single video-gamey inside joke with the family: I was on the way to school with my friend and my sister, and I spent most of the previous night playing Star Ocean 3, and for some reason, I was telling them about how much I love it. I usually don't like talking to them about RPGs, because I'm usually the only one who's played the game, and I feel like I'm boring them with such talk. Anyway, seemingly out of nowhere, and possibly due to a combination of sleepiness and desire to glorify the game, I sang the words "Till the End of Time" whenever I referred to the full title. Since then, we all sing "Till the End of Time" in the exact fashion, whenever possible. "Ugh! My new schedule sucks! On Monday, I have class Till the End of Tiiiiime!" "Sorry, I can't hang out, I have to be at work Till the End of Tiiiime!" etc. It's one of those "you just had to be there" kind of things, I guess, but I just wanted to share, since your examples got me thinking about how fun it is to have a secret language with the loved ones. Sigh... good times.

Matt

Hahaha, that's wonderfully random and strange. On a related note, I really definitely wish that I could live-feed some video from my dining room back home during family game-nights that occur semiperiodically. You don't even want to know how weird all of us act while seated around the table playing Trivial Pursuit, Balderdash, or card games. A lot of the video game humour comes into the situation, too, with my brother and I constantly making weird noises for no real reason whatsoever. Awhile back, we got into the habit of mimicking the "AHHH, SPACE PIRATES!!!" music from the original Metroid Prime whenever someone on the opposing team of whatever game is close to winning, for some strange reason. If we're playing Risk, we'll make old-school Dragon Warrior noises whenever we successfully make an attack. You know that sound that used to indicate a party member's attack? "Lblblh! THWCK," we'll say, as we flick off two of the defender's units with a swift kick using an attacking piece. It's SO fun! (We're such geeks...)

On to the sock!

214: b (A Star Ocean 2 question! Be still, my heart!)
215: c (Because who doesn't love rainbows and despair?)
And I'll take the [CENSORED], please. It sounds so deliciously eeevil.


Matt

Ooooh, I wonder what item our favourite Aurelius acquired! Of course, I wouldn't make such information public, because you never know what secret schemes and strategies might be underway by our SOCK competitors! I wouldn't want to interfere... <3

Best of luck in your Fire Emblem endeavors! Personally, I can't play those games for long. After restarting a chapter for the tenth time or so, I just say "screw you, I have to go play a less INFURIATING game," and then my gameboy and I don't talk for the rest of the week. I still think fondly of the Fire Emblem games, though. When I start to get into them and actually use (gasp!) strategy, they become pretty fun. Also, the stories are usually exciting, and being unable to resurrect your allies is a good way to make the game more challenging, even if it can be unbearably frustrating at times.

I hope you're having a lovely weekend and that your steak was everything you dreamed it would be. Bye for now! Hugs! <3!

Aurelius


Matt

Something about that game feels so incredibly "classic", and almost familiar, in a strange way. Why strange? I've never even played a Fire Emblem game before, but it really, really strongly reminds me of the little bit I played of Shining Force II way back when. In any case, it looks like it could be a lot of fun for me, and now the challenge is finding the time to play it!

Thanks, and many warm embraces back, Aurelius!! And yes... the steak was absolutely wonderful, as were the shrimp that I ordered with it. Excellent, excellent, excellent!



Tick, tock, tick, tock.


Konbanwa, Matto-san.

Mae ni, nihongo de messeji kattekita kedo, conpyuuta no mondai dakara, zenbu ga keshita... Mendoukusai yo... Kore wo yomemasu to, omae wa boku yori nihongo de jouzu desu..

Matt

Oh jeez. It's been a long weekend; don't make me try and figure this out NOW!

*bashes head against monitor*

OK! SOCK answers! B, for #214 and #215 (Noel and Life Force, respectively)

If you could decypher my atrocious Japanese grammar above, you'd see that I've been having computer problems recently. This has, unfortunately, caused the erasure of a very nice, long, detailed letter which took me quite a while to write. Stupid computers...

Matt

Damn, don't you hate it when that happens?? That reminds me of one time last fall that I had spent two HOURS writing Q&A when the phone rang. I picked it up, and chatted for awhile, but as I did, a thunderstorm arose, and suddenly, the power went out, just as it was beginning. I returned to my computer, having forgotten about it, and realized exactly how much I had lost. Needless to say, that was one of those three-letter days, and I've been a super-paranoid "Save"-r ever since, as you might suspect. ;)

Well, the gist of it was, do you think that many games feel shorter than their forebears in the same series? My specific example was Grandia III, and how the pacing seemed much faster than that of the original Grandia game. And in a related question, I tried to argue that the increasing move to cinematography over exploration in game focus was probably to blame. However, since my computer crashed before I could hit the "send" button, we've all been spared that. Huzzah...

This moment in randomosity brought to you by:
Gaijin Monogatari


Matt

There's nothing wrong with randomness! Around here? Come on. And yeah, while some games feel shorter, I think that game companies are really starting to catch onto the idea that people want to play thick, juicy games- not paltry, paper-thin ones. Replay value and size have increased lately after shrinking back some, I think, in recent times. Dragon Quest VIII is a testament to the long game, and I'm sure that many people will clock 100 hours or more when Final Fantasy XII is finally released this fall. Wild Arms: ACF took me a good sixty hours to play through, Atelier Iris was longer than it SHOULD have been, and yeah, I'd say that most of the games I've played through lately haven't been lacking in length. I could just be getting lucky, too, though that doesn't seem to be my style.

Short games have their place, too, though. So many people love Final Fantasy IV even though it's a measly 10-20 hours in length. I just played through Riviera, and the 20 hours I spent was really all I needed. It definitely depends on the construction of the game, and if the games you like to play are slower paced and lengthy, you might want to think about changing gears and searching some new titles for maximal pleasure.

Make sense? Best of luck, Gaijin!



Here's to making memories...


Hi there, Matt!

I've been visiting RPGamer for quite some time, but in the beginning I mostly came just for the updates concerning the games themselves. Then, for no particular reason, I started reading the editorials, Q&As, etc. And you know what, it's a lot of FUN, even if I don't actively participate in then.

Matt

Good!

That's the point. This place is designed to be a lot of fun for all of us RPG-geeks to hang around and have a good time. Sure, we have our debates, our scrums, and our fusses from time to time, but there isn't really anywhere else like it. As staff, nah, we don't get paid. But doesn't that prove immediately that we work here just because we find it to be a rewarding experience? I find that, anyway. ANYWAY, ask. Question. If you have one, of course.

I'm actually writing this because of Megan's letter in the June 2 Q&A. It amused me to see that there's actually more people that share my love of playing games (mainly RPGs) with someone else (or more) around. The amount of laughs, jokes, and even tears, exponentially incresases. I have a friend that recently got a PS2, but before that we used to play games together a lot. Sadly we can't do it that frequently anymore. When I first got Kingdom Hearts, she watched me play it every weekend we could meet, and, after that, it happened with virtually every RPG that I got. I had separate save games for those occasions. We still use every inside joke we created with FFX to this very day (and believe me, there's a lot). I don't think it's just me, but the more I love something, the more I make fun about it!

Well, just wanted to share this. It's great to create memories. While playing games we have the possibility of creating very unique ones, and they are capable of staying forever in our minds, just like the ones we create in the real world.

Franklin


Matt

Thanks for sharing, Franklin. That's the difference between RPGs and other genres, I think. With RPGs, you can actually talk about stories and characters and emotions, because they are all there waiting to be drawn out in a well-done game. You can't get that in racing games, shooters, puzzle games, or anything else, most of the time, I think. It'd be nice to have more multiplayer RPGs, though, so that everyone can actually actively participate; there's no reason that games like Star Ocean couldn't implement something like that, and it could make some experiences so much more fun.



RPGame-makers


Wow, what a coincidence. I just decided to start working on a new RPG recently after a hiatus of over 6 years and just for kicks, I typed in Rainbow Despair (the name of my old project that I never finished) and I saw your column and Reader submitted question #215. Gave me quite a laugh.

I'm sure my fans (both of them) would love to hear about my new project so I figured I'd give you the exclusive scoop (just what you wanted I'm sure, an exclusive scoop to a under contruction fanmade RPG). The game will be called MaZoGiDeSto: A Magical Zombie Girl Detective Story and will star a detective named Molly who happens to be a zombie. Molly is not merely the protagonist of the game, but she's also the narrator. How this works in game terms is that you have a Creativity stat that increases as you accomplish various goals and if it's high enough, at certain parts in the game, you'll be able to rewrite the course of the story if you so chose. At any point in the game, you can scrap the current "draft" and start over, however your creativity stat will carry over from draft to draft. Think an expanded version of Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter's Replay system and you'll have a good idea of how the system works.. In conjunction with the Creativity stat, the narrator will also gain various "Suspension of Disbelief" abilities as their Creativity goes up that can be used a limited number of times and can give the player an edge if used wisely.

Matt

Well, that's pretty coincidental! Your letter just brings home the fact that many of us aren't just RPGamers; a lot of us have been inspired enough to create our very own games and original ideas. I have an entire series that I designed; I started making my first "Lost Legend" game at the age of 13, and stopped working on them, kind of, last year with the dawn of my era here at RPGamer. You should see my binders and notebooks; almost every day, while attending classes, I'd be busy sketching ideas for class systems or new spells.

In any case, your ideas sound very ambitious and exciting! Best of luck in the development process, and I hope it goes very well for you. I really miss the "making" side of RPG-land.

Oh right, this is a Q&A column, I guess I'd better come up with some questions. What do you think the most important aspect for a successful turn based battle system is? My vote is speed. I enjoyed combat in games like Vay and Metal Saga, because despite using simplistic systems, battles in those games were blistering fast (when you turned off battle animations in MS anyway). On the other extreme, I thought the battle mechanics in Magna Carta were quite interesting, but I just couldn't stand fighting in that game because it was so slow.

Matt

Speed, huh? I can see your point, and having more "interactive" turn-based battle systems can help to spice up games like the Mario RPGs or Shadow Hearts. However, if I wanted to play a "fast" RPG for the sake of having a peppy battle system, I just wouldn't choose a turn-based RPG. I'd play Radiata Stories or Star Ocean, or Rogue Galaxy when it comes out, hopefully. To me, the selling point of a turn-based battle system is the strategy; if turn-based RPGs lack that strategy (as to me, they did in recent games Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, and Wild Arms: ACF), they fall quite flat. On the other hand, the systems in Xenosaga games, while not perfect, have been engaging, and more recently, Dragon Quest VIII's was of course impressive (as they always have been in that series).

What is your favorite RPG level-up system? My personal favorite would probably be Diablo 2. There's so much customization you can do in that game, it's just insane and surprisingly, everything is fairly balanced. If I came across a traditional turn-based RPG that used a similar system, I would be in heaven.

-Robert Boyd


Matt

Customization is often a good thing, and while I gripe about the game now and then, I really think that Final Fantasy X got it wonderfully right. A giant "board game" of skills, that ability system was very inspiring to me, despite the fact that many other aspects of the game were a little bit disappointing. I also really, really enjoyed the Party XP addition present in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. It was very simple, but rewarded good strategy and speed by awarding bonus experience points, which you could then save up to use however you wish at any time later on. It was a lot of fun to build, and build, and build, and then BANG- use 50,000 XP on a single character before a major battle.

Interesting questions, Robert! Thanks for taking the time to write to RPGamer's Q&A.



O M G


Hey Matt

Congratulations on starting Fire Emblem. I played through the first GBA entry earlier this year (and also Path of Radiance, but I found it much much easier), so I can appreciate what you're saying about the series' difficulty level. I suppose it would be less difficult if one didn't mind losing characters, but I went with the all or nothing approach so I did indeed spend hours and hours of time resetting the game and restarting levels whenever one of my characters got killed off. In spite of this I found the game to be enjoyable and rewarding so I'd classify the series as the "good" kind of difficult.

Matt

Indeed. It's worth the effort the first time around, because I think it is do-able. If ever I play through the game someday again, then, I'll crank the difficulty level up and plough through it a little more recklessly. Unfortunately, it seems that replaying games seems to be a less and less likely prospect these days...

This got me thinking, though, about games which aren't difficult but just temporarily seem to be because your brain has suddenly gone on strike resulting in really stupid gaming mistakes. Does this ever happen to you? For example, when I first started playing Radiata Stories I am embarrassed to admit that I got a game over on the first mission. Basically I got distracted, didn't watch my HP gauge, and ended up being killed by a giant sloth. That was a deeply humbling experience. I also remembering playing Final Fantasy IV once and getting lost on Mt. Hobs... and it wasn't the fist time I'd played the game either. Somehow I just kept walking right by the little grey blocks where the exit was without noticing them. I can only assume that I was very very tired that day.

I guess it's like having a senior's moment. After all, since we're in our twenties that makes us seniors in gaming years, right?

Best,
Erika


Matt

Gah, I feel old enough doing this column every day, without you bringing up the "senior's moment" terminology. I always feel a little elderly, rambling on about how things used to be and how back in the day, this and that. Cranky Kong! That's who I am. Cranky Kong.

I'm absolutely ASTOUNDED, though, of your Mt. Hobs admission. My jaw hit the floor as I read your letter because the very first time that I ever played Final Fantasy IV, I got lost on that mountain for the exact same reason. Somehow, my eyes just didn't catch the different shade of grey indicating the exit path, and I wandered about lost until I had used MOST of my Cure potions up and I was ready to declare defeat. When I pointed out my frustrated puzzlement to my mother, she is the one that spoke up and said "Well, what's that little path down there?" to save the day. Moms are the greatest, aren't they? It's just nice to know that I wasn't the only blind kid on the block. Or on the continent, if you prefer.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Phew! I just sprawled out in the sun for a little while, and it's a beautiful scorcher of a day outside. My skin feels a little tight though, so I think I may have added to my sunburn slightly. At this rate, I'll be tanned as a... er... piece of leather?

Flashay!


***Answers to June 2nd's Questions***

#214. b) Noel - 325 points (I claimed to be as unlucky as Ashton, a character from Star Ocean: The Second Story, the other day)

#215. c) Rainbow Despair - 275 points/550 for Alexander (thanks for the submission!)


***Today's New Questions***

#216: Which of the following enemies from Dragon Warrior 2 did not make a reappearance in Dragon Warrior 7 OR Dragon Quest 8? (310 points)

a) Metal Hunter
b) Enchanter
c) Goopi
d) Flame
e) Evil Clown


Reader-Submitted #217: Fryd myhkiyka ec drec cahdahla fneddah eh? (300 points)

a) Ahkmecr
b) Ymprat
c) Tidlr
d) Cbyhecr
e) Zeppanecr

Many announcements today: Firstly, to everyone who was in the Top Twenty-TWO as of last time, Alan Tse has rained a Fire Spell down on you all, sparing himself, and Ourobolus, who is officially out of the contest for reasons to be described below. The spread-out damage only did 25 per person, so it shouldn't be that big of a setback.

And awesomely, if the SOCK doesn't turn your crank, or you're just not getting enough Q&A gaming fun in, get involved with Ouro's new game, the aptly-named THONG, on the weekends. I'm sure it'll be a lot of fun!

In other news, yet another game- or set of games has been added to the prize list, compliments of ~Sean~~ with the extra tilde. For an admittedly astounding price, Arc the Lad Collection, a compilation of FOUR RPGs, can be yours. It's never too late to start playing!

FINALLY, to give you a head start on that daunting journey to six-digits, Ourobolus' 2,094 points are now up for grabs! Every day this week, there will be an unassuming secret link somewhere in the column that will lead interested competitors to a bonus question, and each correctly-answered bonus question will be worth 1 Star. The person with the most Stars by the end of this week will be awarded 2,094 bonus SOCK points, and if there's a tie, we'll keep it going into next week. Good luck, Star Hunters!


SOCK's Item List

*You may obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!*

2,000 points: Your choice of Fire Spell (2 left) or Drain Spell (1 left)
3,500 points: Your choice of Blind Spell (1 left) or Sneak Glove (2 left)
5,000 points: Your choice of Annoying Curse (1 left) or Firaga Spell (1 left)
7,000 points: Your choice of Mithril Sword (2 left) or Damage Deflector (3 left)
10,000 points: Your choice of Ultra Sneak Glove (1 left) or Confuse Spell (2 left)
14,000 points: Your choice of Auxiliary Point Generator (1 left) or Blind Spell (1 left)


Click Here For Item Descriptions and Contest Rules!

SOCK's Prize Shop

*You may SPEND points here in order to obtain any of the following prizes- new ones may appear at any time*

2,000 points: Matt's Mom's Cookie Compilation- 6 fantastic recipes right out of Matt's mom's amazing kitchen! Yours, upon request. (5 left)

4,000 points: Intro Paragraph Cameo- If you feel like having a piece of Q&A all to yourself for a day, but you're not up for answering a bunch of questions, this option might be just for you! Say the word, and the Intro Paragraph is yours to do whatever you want with for a day. (5 left)

10,000 points: Cohost Opportunity #3.5- Ah, why not? Cohost days are fun, so here are a couple of extra chances for you to snag, if you're so inclined. (1 left)

15,000 points: Nintendo Wii Canvas Carrying Bag- It's simple and white, with blue print, and two drawstrings; I picked this up while waiting in the nigh-infinitely long line to play Nintendo's new console at E3 2006. If you'd like it, I'll mail it to you free of charge! (1 left)

15,000 points: Pokémon 10th Anniversary game case- Not as special as it sounds, but useful for carrying up to 4 DS games or 2 DS games and 2 Game Boy Advance games. Translucent plastic with a silver Pikachu and print on the front. (1 left)

15,000 points: Bonus Cohost Opportunity- I like giving these out because I don't have to pay for shipping. (3 left)

20,000 points: Cohost Opportunity #4- It might sound like a lot, but it'll be here before you know it. Your next chance to reign over Q&A with yours truly. (5 left)

22,000 points: Slime Keychain Dangler- Fresh from the Square Enix booth at E3 2006, this cute little guy can be yours. (1 left)

22,000 points: Slime Snail Keychain Dangler- Anyone remember Slime Snails from Dragon Warrior III? I managed to snag one of these, too. Strut with Dragon Quest pride!! (1 left)

25,000 points: Full Host Opportunity #1- This is it. Write your own Q&A section, without having me interrupt, break in, or steal your sunshine. Be RPGamer's new idol for a day! (1 left)

30,000 points: Nintendo DS Lite Carrying Case- This won't quite fit old-model DS handhelds, but it's lightweight and flashy. White and black with an extra zippered pocket for carrying games, and a hook to attach to clothes, backpacks, or whatnot. I received this at Nintendo's Pre-E3 Media Briefing. (1 left)

30,000 points: Your choice of Megaman X4, X5, or X6 for the PSX. If you're into the Megaman series as much as I am, and you don't own any of these, I don't need them any more, now that I have purchased the collection. You can take your pick, and I'll send it to you in the mail with a handwritten note of congratulations from myself. They aren't RPGs, for sure, but I'm working on it for the future. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (3 left)

50,000 points: Suikoden for the PSX. Play the game that started off the entire series! Josh was generous enough to donate this exciting prize, so it would be cool to send this to a good and loving home. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (1 left)

100,000 points: Arc the Lad Collection, for the PSX. Donated by ~Sean~~, so thank him! This collection contains four RPGs from an often-overlooked series. If you can get to 100,000 first, you can call this your own. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (1 left) *********************************************************


That's all for today! I'll be returning tomorrow, however, to chat with you a little bit more about your favourite subjects. I was asked above by a keen reader, but what are your favourite elements of turn-based battles? How about level-up systems? And have you ever been stuck in an RPG only to find out that the solution was right in front of your face? If so, I'd love to hear from you!

slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt needs to catch up on his Zzz-ing.


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Matt's Top 3 Current Games:

1. The New Super Mario Brothers

2. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

3. Radiata Stories

Matt's Top 3 Gaming Desires:

1. Disgaea II

2. Final Fantasy III

3. Xenosaga: Episode III

SOCK's Top 25:

1. Erika
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2. Dermot
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3. Bainick
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4. Macstorm
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5. Alan Tse
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6. Xlash
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7. Colabottle
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8. BigWook
9,810 pts

9. Alexander
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10. Flamethrower
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11. FinalDelerium
7,097 pts

12. Aurelius
5,940 pts

13. Knighttrain
5,829 pts

14. TV's Adam
5,385 pts

15. Cap
4,719 pts

16. Kanato
4,702 pts

17. MagRowan
3,387 pts

18. DMJewelle
3,250 pts

19. Gaijin
2,738 pts

20. Leaper
2,615 pts

21. Rexy
2,284 pts

22. Bucket
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23. Donovan
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24. LufiaLvr
1,675 pts

25. TalonX13
1,660 pts

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