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ASK MATT
A Taste of Things to Come
April 20, 2007

Matt - 22:39 EST

IT IS SO, so beautiful outside today. I threw down my work for awhile and went for a random walk this afternoon, and it was wonderful. People outside playing volleyball, walking their dogs, and enjoying life. It's easy to forget the thousand stresses of life when the blue sky and sun shine down upon you to tell you that one way or another, everything will be okay.

Hum. Now, if it weren't such an abysmal pit of cold down here in this basement apartment, I'd be thoroughly happy. Unfortunately, it is, and there isn't much I can do about it besides wrap myself in a comforter and work up a sweat typing responses to some letters. These letters, to be precise:




LETTERS
Puzzling Environmental Problems


Hey Matt,

Thank you! You have pointed out one of my major pet peeves about Final Fantasy XII (after the stretched plot, but I've already gone there): The almost complete lack of transition from one area to another. Your Golmore Jungle/Paramina Rift example was a biggie, but I think the one that irritated me the most was the Nalbina/Mosphoran Highwaste switch. As you walk north out of Nalbina, you see a long expanse of desert with mountains off in the distance. The screens fades out, and suddenly you're in the middle of a mountain pass. Where the heck did the stretch in between go? As much detail and size as they put into the areas, you'd think they could have casually blended between landforms.

Matt

Oh right, I remember that one too. Yeah, man. I guess that one of the problems probably has to do with the number of textures/patterns present in any one area. The loading times are... let's say "quite enough, thank you" in the game already, and I'm sure the designers realized that.

Unfortunately, jumps like that don't make sense. The fact that the world was half-desert helped mask the underlying problems, probably, but yeah, a nicer transition would have made the landscape of the world of Ivalice a little more believable. Of course, it's a bit better than, say, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: There's an Ivalice consisting of areas you can just slap on the map any old where! (I never really understood that, but, whatever.)

Perhaps this is one of those details that will be paved out more and more smoothly on more powerful consoles. Sooner or later, those blades of grass won't look much better, even with the extra capacity, and developers will focus on transitions and including more variety and such. I don't know a whole lot about this sort of thing, but we'll see what happens.

In any case, I'm sure that the geography-textbook makers that exist in these jumpy-region worlds don't mind at all. Those colour-coded "climate zones" and such, separated by definite lines? There's no question where these regions begin and end when the changes are that abrupt!

Dragon Quest VIII is a fine example of a game that does take the time to transition. Part of it is because they had to, there was no fading in and out between areas on the world map (okay, maybe with the boat, but you get what I mean). I think the number of games eliminating world maps is going to make this problem worse. With a world map, the designers had to show the areas flowing together, because you could see the entire landform. Without that map, you can cut between areas, and the lack of cohesiveness isn't as apparent to as many people. It's too bad, because it has the potential to lead to sloppier design.

Matt

You raise some good points. Developers might tend to focus on making individual areas rich and gorgeous while forgetting that they're part of a much bigger picture. How does that metaphor go? They see the trees, but miss the forest. The cohesiveness of the world, as you say, is something that I think is important to make a world feel truly real.

Dragon Quest VIII was great. There was even attention to little details, like different sorts of vegetation in different parts of different continents. As you got closer to the snowy regions around Orkutsk, the trees became fall-like in appearance, which was still really neat. The transition wasn't perfect, of course... what would be REALLY neat would be a game that makes the transition from normal to fall trees gradually, first with a tree here and there, and finally to trees without leaves, a little bit of snow on the ground, and finally a brilliant white landscape. A continuous change. That kind of attention to detail would be absolutely marvelous.

However, as much as I mourn the loss of overworld maps, there is one benefit to me. In games, whenever you gained an airship and could fly around the map at will, it almost always made the game feel a bit smaller. As silly as it sounds, teleporting still lets my mind see bigger spaces between locations. If I'm not physically zipping by it, I can keep the feeling of size.

Matt

I suppose that can be true. It's also a bit discouraging when you know that you've been to just about everywhere you can possibly go on a map. It's like a hidden voice has told you "the game is almost oooover!" I guess that's not always a bad thing (what if the game just sucks?), but it often is.

Anyway, enough looking back at FFXII. Time for me to wander off and play more Twilight Princess. Fun game, although not a leap forward from Ocarina of Time.

Thanks!

BigWook

Matt

No, I agree. I love the game, but I'd say it's more of a leap to the side. That's okay, too, because it has reminded me so much of exactly why I love the Zelda series.

More later, sir!



A word of warning!


Very excited about SOCK 2! Looks FANTASTIC!

But if I don't find a way to become a Blue Mage, and FAST, I will be forced to resort to bloody, mindless violence, as befitting a Black Mage.

Just a little warning.

Matt

Careful! You might receive more than your share of backlash! The masses could revolt against your wicked powers and put a hunt out for your head, and your points along with it. You'll find a way, and sooner than later. If you're good. Probably. ;)

Some good news for ALL people interested in the contest, though: There will be more than $300 of prizes to be won! Not only will Rogue Galaxy be a featured prize, but games-of-your-choice for portable systems, the PS2, and new-gen consoles will ALL be available! Since not all of these systems are region-locked, PAL gamers have a lot to look forward to, too! If I've finally piqued your interest, check out the Sock 2 page, updated daily. The fun begins May 8!



Fuzzy memories, brand new socks, and game recommendations!


Hi Matt

Inspired by a letter where you talked about how you replay several Dragon Quest games a year, I would like to propose a new topic. That is, what is your "comfort blanket" game - i.e. which game do you find yourself turning too when you long for those warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia, the brilliant characters, the sublime gameplay. You know the game like the back of your own hand, yet you still keep going back time and time again and enjoy it as much as the first time.

Matt

Sure, I'll make that today's new topic. That was easy, wasn't it?

Personally, I have several candidates. These include Shenmue, the first Resident Evil (specifically the Gamecube remake) and the first Paper Mario. None of these games are perfect (though I think PM gets close) but to me that doesn't matter, I have such fond memories of them that I'm more than willing to look past any little irritations. The ultimate winner is The Secret of Monkey Island though. Never have I played such a feel good game. The sequels and other games from LucasArts never quite matched up to its brilliance in my opinion.

Matt

Oh, man. Ouro actually sent me that game awhile ago, and I played it for awhile until life turned me over and slapped me in the behind for doing something for fun. No, really. I said it yesterday, and I'll say it again: Life is the final boss.

Anyway, yeah. Totally strange, that game. It reminded me of a bizarre, twisted, and silly King's Quest. Man, I loved those games.

On another note I have a couple of slight concerns about Sock 2 which I hope you can clear up. I'm a bit worried that those of us in another time zone may suffer because of the Active Time Battle system you have in place, as we might be asleep when the column goes up. I understand why you put this system in place though, to make it more manageable for yourself.

The other query I have is, if a player misses quite a few rounds, will they be booted off the list? The reason I ask is because while I'm at work reading Q&A is part of my daily routine, before I start work or during lunch. But I have two weeks holiday coming up and when I'm not working I sometimes forget to read the column. I guess I should start getting into the habit of surfing with my Wii, especially now that the full version of the browser is available.

Matt

And that browser is actually pretty good. I spent some time fiddling around with it the other day, and I was pretty impressed by it. Who'd have thought? I prefer my computer still, of course.

To answer your questions, it's important to remember that "going first" might only present an advantage at certain times. Other times, the people who go last might have a leg up, depending on what happens. No matter what, it's a necessary evil in order that my head doesn't explode, for that mess would likely not be very nice for anybody to clean up. Also, players could get sucked out of the competition by the evil one-eyed horselike monsters called "Vacuumares," but only if they're around, and only if they've been gone for several weeks.

I'm glad to see such great interest! It won't be long now. But back to the conversation of "real" games that are coming out soon...

Finally, I need a new game to keep me occupied on holiday, and I've narrowed the list down to the following choices: Gurmin, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI, Tales of the Abyss, Steambot Chronicles and Rogue Galaxy. What would you go for? If it helps, RPG's I've recently played and enjoyed are: Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy III, Contact and Puzzle Quest. Oh and by the way, I actually have never played Final Fantasy VI in my entire life (mostly because Europe was denied it first time round). So er, thanks for the spoilers. Nah, only joking, it's my own fault if I read them.

Time to get 30 minutes Puzzle Questing in before I have to carry on working!

Ice^Tiger

Matt

You've NEVER played Final Fantasy VI?! Okay, do yourself a favour and buy it immediately. You won't be disappointed, I'm quite certain, especially if you loved FFVII. Tales of the Abyss would also be a smart buy, since I have yet to hear from anyone with anything bad to say about it at all. That's pretty amazing.

I'm sorry to hear you've been bitten by the Puzzle Quest bug too, but I think it's going around, and that it might be here to stay. Is it really true that there's a sequel in the making? Ahh!

Thanks, sir frozen member of the cat family! Write again soon, or I'll make your species even more precariously endangered than it already is. (Just kidding, though it would be cool to have the ability to reach through someone's screen and pull their hair for fun. Imagine the look on their face!)



GOO QUE


Hey, MATT.

I'm gonna say that from now on because the last letter I sent was directed towards you and it was answered by someone else. Most unfortunate... for me.

Matt

Aww, Uncle Andy isn't so bad. And don't you dare tell him I called him that! <3

Anyhow, my ears (or rather eyes) perked up at the mention of Wednesday's letter involving nethack. Now that game is insanely HARD, but also extremely good (for a ASCII game). Oh I remember in the old, old days playing that. I must've been around 5 years old or something and I cried whenever I was about to die. Which happened far more often than you'd like in that game. lol. I have it installed for my system right now and when I'm feeling incredibly brave I'll start it up again just to see how far I can make it before I bite the dust. I seriously recommend the game for anyone interested in an insane challenge, because I don't think I've heard of anyone who won the game without cheating (I ALWAYS cheat by copy/pasting my last save file before I start playing so that even if I die and it's wiped, I have a back-up. Although that's a good way to end up fighting for your life against your own ghost. Ah wells. If it's not one thing, it's another).

Matt

That sounds a bit surreal- how would one go about fighting against one's own ghost anyway? It would make for some serious funeral entertainment, anyway, possibly.

I know I always bark at people who whine about graphics, but I think it would be difficult to get into a game like that; I'll look around sometime, though. Don't get me wrong; I used to play old text-based games when I was really young. This one called "Haunt" used to be my favourite. Interestingly, you only ever had to type in the first three letters of any word- that was like "high-technicallll" and some of you will understand that reference. Anyway, I had to type in "NEU GHO" so many times; you obtain a ghost neutralizer that just happens to be lying around at one point, and you use it to NEU GHO a whole lot. Fun times.

Anyhow, I read your quip about how random dungeons suck, and I don't really understand why. Maybe people who don't like dungeon-crawlers think they suck? I quite like random dungeon generators, since it means that I can keep going back to an area and loot it of all the new treasure chests that pop up there. I remember doing that a ton when I play Dark Cloud and Dark Cloud 2, when I want to stock up on elemental orbs to attach to weapons (it's easier than finding money to buy them). I guess random dungeons appeal to people who like to spend hours on end just beefing up characters, weapons, or item sacks.

Matt

See, my problem is that it's not as much FUN to do the treasure-looting in the first place, because of the very fact that treasures are randomly generated. Most of the time, you've seen just about everything you're going to get within the first few treasures, and nothing is ever special or surprising, which to me is the whole point behind a treasure chest. It was the reason I gave up on chests in Final Fantasy XII; I'm really not going to go to excessive amounts of effort to find yet another Knot of Rust, or better yet, 13 Gil.

Random dungeons aren't completely bad- sure, you can never memorize the floor plan, making for a new experience every time. Sometimes, though, that "new" experience isn't "fresh" at all; the designs are so often constructed such that the layouts become unearthly repetitive within a very short period of time. Add to that the fact that many games that include random dungeons simply make later dungeons more difficult by simply increasing the variable "NumberOfFloors" and wow, dullness potential plus seventy-six.

Perhaps my experiences have just been all bad, and there are some games with decent random dungeons out there. As of yet, though, I haven't found one.

On a last note, in the last letter I sent, which you never got, I mentioned that I'm also an avid vgm fan and more often than not, I have it playing on my iPod on the bus to and from University. Nice to see there's someone else out there that can appreciate some truly good music. Have any favorite composers? Mine by far are Hitoshi Sakimoto, Motoi Sakuraba and Hideyuki Fukasawa (Chaos Legion). Also, the Onimusha and Ace Combat series have some terrific music. Oh, and the Atelier and Panzer Dragoon series too. Ahhh, there's just too many to name them all. ;) What's some favorite albums of yours, and do you ever listen to vgm of games you've never played/have no intention of playing? I don't own or play many of the games where my vgm is from (Ace Combat for just one example), but I can appreciate the music all the same.

Good luck and survive your schooling. I don't wanna see no giant red piece of popcorn on the news.

animetayl

Matt

Oh, my favourite composer has to be Hitoshi Sakimoto as well, but Uematsu really isn't far behind. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, the Final Fantasy Tactics games, and FFXII all have ridiculously awesome soundtracks, and I can't wait to see what's in store for FFXII: Revenant Wings. Why Uematsu? Is that even a question? I have such a fondness for his work in just about every Final Fantasy he's ever been involved with, and that is more than enough reason. I also love with a special happiness the work of Koichi Sugiyama, though I don't really think it's as great as that of some others.

I'm doing my best with school! It would be cool to make the news for being the first person to ever spontaneously turn inside-out and expand to thirty times my normal volume, but probably it wouldn't be great for my health, right. I'll keep it in mind.



One of the few places where it might be nicer outside than it is here today...


Hello Matt! Or anyone who's reading this!

This is the first time ever i write to QnA, breaking a silence of almost five years that I visit RPGamer closely! I'm from Brazil, and although the RPG Games scenario are not as strong as in the US; several people enjoy then as much as you guys!

Matt

Welcome! We don't have a huge number of South American readers, but it's great to have you along for this kind of crazy, not really that bumpy, ride.

I consider myself an "old geezer", as you once said, since I play RPGs since 93 (I still remember my first RPG ever, which was Phantasy Star for Master System!!!), but I also like the games from nowadays. So that puts me as an absolute RPG Freak, that almost never distinguish a good game from a bad game! Bear with me. This kind of game that we love so, are rare gems that grace my country shores once in a solar eclipse (maybe I'm a little too dramatic about it)!

Matt

Nah, not at all. I've played RPGs for the better part of twenty years... I think I first played Dragon Warrior in 1990, when my wonderful grandma showed me the ropes of how to survive in Alefgard. I can't say that I've never looked back, since I still replay the game, but I'm not so closed-minded that I can't appreciate modern games too. So I guess that makes us two old geezers.

About a game that I'm "ashamed" to play, due to it's terrible ratings is (hold tight in your chairs, gentlemen!): Digimon World 3!!

I'm a huge fan of the series, believe me or not; and this little game is awesome for me! But besides the "fan factor", I like the mechanics of the game; although the frequency of random battles seems to be a little higher than usual.

Matt

Ouch. Yeah, I always looked at Digimon as nothing more than a terrible Pokémon clone, but perhaps that's an unfair judgment to harshly pass. I can honestly say that I know close to nothing about the game in reality.

Another terrible game that I played often in the time (mostly because I didn't have another choice) was Secret of the Stars! looking back it was terrible; but it sufficed my hunger for RPG games by the time. And I can see myself actually playing it again, just for the nostalgia!

That's all for now...I don't want to be put under the "gigaletters" group!

Until next time!

Ziphakiel Valkrist :[

Matt

Thanks, sir! At least, I assume you're a sir- maybe that's a dangerous assumption to make. Regardless, it's good to hear from you, and I hope everything is well down in Brazil, in and out of RPG land.



QUICKIES

Do you know if they are planning on putting FF3 (jap) to the playstation?

Thanks

Matt
Yes. They aren't. PlayStation games haven't been sold in North America for years. PS2? No. PS3? Ahaha.

Mattster - what movie/TV show/book/alternate form of media do you NEVER want to see turned into a video game at all because it unquestionably works best in the extant form of media?
JuMeSyn

Matt
Nearly ALL such things, to be quite honest. Most things in book, TV show, or alternate form of media are best kept as such, and there's about a 99% chance that if they DO make the cut into video game land, I won't play them anyway. But for fun, I'll say "Full House" starring Bob Saget.

DS, the new system king of this generation?

Matt
No questions there. Funny, some of the first questions I ever answered in Q&A dealt with the viability of the DS as a handheld at all!

IN CLOSING

Okay. I'm super-tired like super-tired never was. The only week worse than this one will be the next, though! Prepare for lots more whining, lots more fuss, and a few questions and answers on the side. Oh right, and we have a new topic up for discussion. What was that again? Oh right. "What's your comfy game?" Sure.

Send in your letters to ensure the existence of columns this weekend! Also, send in letters addressed to Boojum, and you're pretty much guaranteed to get into Tuesday's edition! Pretty good deal, eh?

I'm signing off, at any rate. Bye, all!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 17 - great!



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt HATES it when certain people don't do dishes.


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