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ASK MATT
Tiptoeing Through the Tulips
May 17, 2007

Matthew Demers - 21:45 EST

SMACK! That's what you get for not writing in. Yeah, that hurt, didn't it?? I'll give you another if you aren't careful.




LETTERS
Rant warning! Take cover! Now! Blow horns!


Hiya Matt

Your topic about buying games that you won't be able to play has been me in a nutshell for the past couple of months. I'd like to blame my local Circuit City which has been putting RPG's I've been wanting for a while in the bargain bin.(Xenosaga 1, 2, and 3, Disgaea 2, and Tales of Legendia all for 16 bucks? Must. Buy. Now!) Hopefully I'll get to play those games soon, I just have to resist the urge to stop by the store any time soon. Of course all those games are making me appreciate my PS2 even more, it's just a shame that the PS3 doesn't look like it's going to be living up to the family reputation any time soon.

Whitney

Matt

And quite honestly, Whitney, based on the Sony show that's going on right now, it's not going to end anytime soon. There are absolutely no must-haves on the list of unveiled titles for me. A couple of "maybe-I'd-try"s if I had the console in the first place, but for the most part, it's a bunch of shooters, fighters, and sports titles that I couldn't be bothered to play even if I had all the time in the world to do so.

Alas, PlayStation... how far thy name has fallen.

I'm a bit irritated. Why haven't we heard anything about the two RPGs that look somewhat tantalizing? Showing a couple of extra minutes on an existing Final Fantasy XIII trailer does not count as holy-crap-worthy, and we haven't heard a peep about White Knight since we heard only a tiny bit of info long ago. And that, my friends, is just about all RPGamers have to look forward to on the PS3 right now. Well, unless you actually like playing NBA YO COURTJAM '08 or whatever they're calling them these days.



Oh, if I could ONLY take the reins...


Hi Matt,

I have to agree with Frammy about real-life save points; they sound good at first, but wouldn't be in practice. Do you want to relive your entire life with almost everything the same? Even if you could make different choices or influence events, most things in life would be unchanged. My guess is you'd get bored way before you explored every turn in life you could have taken. Why don't we decide to live our lives fully instead of regretting the things we should have done?

Matt

It's true. Some things in life are just too scary, though. If you want to go skydiving, for example... well, I'd be much more inclined to if I knew that there was a saving device up on the plane beforehand, so that I could experience the freefall with the full knowledge that my parachutes fail and I hurtle into the ground at 300 km/h, that I'm just a "Reset" away. Plus, imagine if our lives had different files that we could save on! Imagine the best time you've ever had in your life... the best night out with friends... the best meal you've ever had... the best time you've spent with a special someone. It'd be neat to have the ability to go back and relive those great times, with the ability to return to 'the present' by jumping to a different file. Yeah, it might not do healthy things to your psyche, depending on what you choose to relive, but man, if somebody dude offered me Save Points for $1000 apiece with a quality guarantee, it'd be really hard to turn them down.

As for Pokemon, Nintendo should never have changed the requirement of collecting every Pokemon in each game in order to get the game's special Pokemon. Nintendo's marketing practices have left gamers enraged to the point where many gamers cheat regularly. And while I'm happy with Diamond/Pearl, I'd like to see a higher level cap for wild monsters in the game so it's easier to level up Pokemon. Is there anything you would like to see change in the series?

Here and there,
- Waterfiend33

Matt

It's too bad, because I think that Nintendo's intent was to create some sort of "real life" search for a rare Pokémon. You're right, though; people will find unscrupulous ways to get around the system, causing ruin and destruction to all.

In the wild, a lot of monsters that you encounter and catch in high levels are really best taken to the nursery to have some hot Pokémon action, producing an egg, giving you a new baby that will be, generally, more powerful and useful to you. I hate caps of any kind to begin with, I must admit, because ugh, they make things seem so artificial. 9999 HP max, Level 100 Max... it's all garbage. At least with Pokémon, it takes a considerable amount of effort... CONSIDERABLE... to get somebody to that cap. Personally, I wouldn't mind if the Experience was boosted a touch. Level-grinding tends to get tedious once a Pokémon gets past about Level 35 or so.

Changes I'd make to the series? What a great question. I'd really, REALLY like to see the emphasis shifted away from Water, Bug, and Grass Pokémon, because it seems that they are way overdone. Also, I want to see a different choice of three at the start. Why always Fire/Grass/Water? It would be SO cool to start out a Pokémon game with a choice between, say, a Ground type, a Dark type, and a Poison type, and have the early "easy" monsters be weak ice types or something. Why not start in a snowy village where you fight Lv 2 Seels and Snorunts from the start? It's always a grassy village with a little pond and the first monsters are ALWAYS some normal type mammal thing (Rattata, Zigzagoon, Bidoof, for example) and some flying type bird (Pidgey, Spearow, Taillow, Starly). It's time to shake things up a little, wouldn't you say?

I'd also, of course, come up with some truly wicked moves and some Pokémon with awesome dual-types. Why haven't there been any Fire/Grass or Fire/Ice types? How about Psychic/Dark? Flying/Fighting? Wouldn't that be NEATOCOOL?

Of course, if they don't, I'll still play the games...I can't not. But, it'll give me an excuse to gripe more.

Thanks for the letter! It's keeping the column from crumbling to a crumbly death.



Ahem... what an interesting question.


Hello Matt,

Your rant against JuMeSyn Tuesday how you're overworked inspired my question...what is your average day like when doing this column? I'm not asking this to be stalkeriffic either...you are a professor now, correct, doing lectures two or three times a week? AND running QnA with your now-daily commitment to SOCK2 with 80+ players, correct? I'm asking so you can show how much work you put into this column, aka your main work, so people don't ignore it and go to your SOCK2 contest, aka your extra work. SO, my question what is an average day like when you do this column?

BLG

Matt

Oh man... I love you. Hugs and kisses. <3

Really, life is not that bad. I like to gripe and complain, especially when I have long days. And I do quite regularly, but well, it's largely my fault.

Anyway, I appreciate the question! Right now I'm teaching for the very first time in my entire life. It's a first-year, second-semester calculus course, and I give three lectures and run one lab per week. I have a couple of office hours on top of that. Between preparing for my lectures, ensuring that the online materials and tests are up and running, going to regular meetings with the previous professor to make sure things are going well for me... that part of my life is plenty busy. An RPGamer column typically takes me about two to two and a half hours to write, and I do that four nights per week. Now that Sock 2 is back, though, it's an extra hour and a half or so every day on top of that. With a partner and friends to fill in some cracks, the end result is that I have limited time to play many of the games I talk about. It's a sad reality, but that's the way it is!

Of course, it hasn't stopped me from becoming obsessed with Pokémon over the past few weeks. I've taken time out of my sleep schedule for that game (which is a very, very dangerous thing to do, I'll have you know).

The important thing to know is that I wouldn't do this column if I didn't love to. I maintain that writing this every day and getting to talk about the games I love (and hearing about the games you love) keeps me grounded and sane, especially with theses to write, headaches to overcome, and other personal issues I'd rather deal with another time.

Thanks, BLG. To everybody: Q&A is always work in progress. If there's something you'd like to see included, or if you have any thoughts, comments, suggestions, or criticisms, I'm completely open to anything you have to share. So please, tell me what you want to see, and I'll try my best to make you happy.



Life's - and virtual life's - decisions.


How do you feel about RPGs that offer a choice that you cannot go back on that has a major effect on how the game proceeds or how much of it you can complete? I'm not talking about vital stuff, of course, but optional, like getting all of a particular type of spell, or being able to finish all subquests.

Examples include Final Fantasy VII (where your options for getting all Enemy Skills are limited), Shadow Hearts (where a single battle determines the ending you get), and, the game that got me to write this letter, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (where choosing wisely when forced to discard a mission item when you run out of room is VITAL to you completing all available missions and getting the best optional character - my mistake was common, but damn me if I didn't think it through enough, and on a game of this length too!).

Matt

Ugh... and especially if you don't have an FAQ or strategy guide of cheatery at hand. For people like me who abhor them, things like this are especially irritating. Final Fantasy XII did the same thing, reportedly. "Oh, don't open these random treasure chests, or you'll never be able to get the ultimate weapon!" There aren't even any hints in-game about what you need to do. I don't get the logic, frankly, from the developer's side.

Yeah, so I guess I'm divided on the issue. There are times when I love the decision making: Final Fantasy VI has a couple of fun ones. Ragnarok Sword, or Esper? Mog, or a Golden Bracelet (like there's any REAL choice there... Bracelet ftw! JK). However, when they're so obscure and random that there's no real way to know that you've doomed yourself to losing out on something because you got rid of a specific item or tripped one chest in particular, it's nothing but annoying.

I suppose it won't matter to you too much if such optional things don't appeal, but they do to me, and I wonder.

(PS: SOCK r0xx0rs my b0xx0rs. Just so ya know.)

Matt

Heh, I'm glad you're enjoying it! It's classified under "highly experimental" and it's still work in progress, but it's fun.

Anyway, sorry that this letter got lost in the shuffle before, but here it is now and out in the open. I appreciate the contribution, Leaper. Now leap on over to a certain sidebar link and see if you can figure out how to become a Blue Mage... if you can.



QUICKIES

Another goat sighting, this time in Treasure Hunter G. Even comes with bringing a goat back to a (presumable) goat herder.

JuMeSyn

Matt
I'm surprised there haven't been any goat pokémon so far. There's been Mareep and Flaafy and Ampharos, but they're more... sheep, aren't they? Electro-zappy sheep.

IN CLOSING

Unfortunately, with just a couple of letters left floating around, I have to cut it here. With Andrew on the way for the weekend, I have to leave him with a little bit of something, after all.

We had a good question above, and so I'd like to pose it for all of you, extending past the realm of Pokémon. Pick a series, any series. Pokémon, Xenosaga, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest... you name it. If you could, what would you change about the games to make them better? How could they be altered to go from being "good" to "OH MY GOD good"?

One more day will round out the week! I'll be looking forward to hearing from you.



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