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ASK MATT
Last of the Lot
August 8, 2007

Matt Demers - 19:00 EST

I DO NOT KNOW WHERE I would be without Microsoft Excel. I just calculated the Term marks for my calculus class last night, making me feel a little bit like a real-life professor. Plus, Sock 2 would be nigh-unmanageable without it. I really have no idea how I did the original contest using only text files...

Apparently, thanks to the higher Canadian dollar, the Xbox 360 price cut is going to be $100 here as opposed to $50 in the US. Exciting, eh? That means that my excitement level has increased slightly more, by like 12% instead. I'm still not about to leap on top of a brand new machine and start hugging, but I'm getting closer every day.

Blah blah blah... let's do some letters now.




LETTERS
New(er) to Final Fantasy XII!


Hi Matt!

I've seen a lot of discussion of FFXII since it's been released. I can't really say for sure whether it is epic or not because I am not all that far into it, but I will say that (after reading complaints about it right here on Q&A :D) I actually like the randomized treasure thing. No wait! Hear me out!

Matt

What!? How!? Heresy! Peppersteak! Gragh!

After years and years of playing rpgs, I am compulsively obsessed with exploring every nook and cranny to get all the treasures and all the stuffs and well, you know, everything. This of course leads to clocking many, many, MANY hours into the games I play.

Now, FFXII's randomized treasure means that compulsion is totally absent - I feel no pressing desire to hunt for treasure like at all. Consequently, I am further (gauging by plot and levels) into the game than my sister, even though she's clocked ten more hours than I have (and has about 15 more potions. Woo.)

Matt

Sorry about the sneeze up there. I can see how you might think that, but isn't that a bit backwards? If you're a compulsive treasure-hunter, then there must be SOMETHING about looking for those treasures that you love. Getting some cool suit of armor or some hard-to-find item after a long search for a chest? It's gratifying! And what is the point of a big vast world if the treasures within it don't inspire you to explore the bigness and vastness? Argh, it's frustrating. I stopped caring about treasures as well, eventually. One can only fight so many giant monsters before a Knot of Rust just isn't worth the effort.

I guess my only complaint is that the plot is so sparse, appearing intermittently between those looooong dungeons. Needs more character interaction. (Yeah, I was spoiled by Tales of the Abyss and its constant character interaction.)

Matt

Sadly, I think that many people would agree. Not EVERYONE, but many. I think that the central plot could have been more, you know, front-and-center. And while what's there is well and good, it's just not funky and different enough to be a truly fantastically great FF plotline. I won't say more, but you'll see what I mean, I think.

And dude, how can you say that White Knight won't cut it? Level 5 makes the BEST games; sold me on a PS3! Now if only there will be a way to play PSP games on the PS3... I would like to play FF:Dissidia but I am not interested in playing it on a handheld. (I hope you can play as Vivi!)

Carabbit

Matt

All I mean is that I'm unconvinced that White Knight will feel much like an RPG in the end. Note that I'm basing this completely on the few gameplay screens that we've seen; I could be completely, completely wrong, and it might be the most fantastic game ever. Level 5 HAS made some really great games in the past, so I could just be laying on the cynicism a little too thickly. Besides, PS3 owners need everything they can get.

Thanks, Carabbit! Keep on hoppin'.



FPSs, Fighters, RPGs, and more!


I probably haven't given FPS a fair try either. I've played a few. The first one I tried was Delta Force(PC). It was fun for a few hours, but I got tired of it fairly quickly. I never tried multiplayer for it, I don't even know if it had it. Next was playing Halo(Xbox) at a friends house on several occasions. I played multiplayer, and it was decent, similar to movies that you see on TV and will watch, but you know that the movie's not good enough to ever spend money on. After that was some WWII FPS at a different friend's house, I think it was some Call of Duty game(360), but I really don't remember. I played multiplayer, and it sucked. Hard. We just blindly ran around and every time two of us ran into each other by accident we shot each other, until someone found a machine gun and killed everybody. It was boring.

Matt

That's exactly the way I feel about some of these games, almost all of which I play at friends' houses: They're fine, but I'd never buy them myself. So many friends tell me "Oh, this is the best game EVAR," whereupon I'll try the game in question with the friend(s) and only really TRULY have fun if I'm half-drunk. This is why I always feel a bit lonely in the gaming realm in real life; I feel so out of step with most of my other gaming friends, since the things they like and the things I really like form mutually exclusive sets. And this is why I love each and every one of you. <3

There are just some things about FPS that don't appeal to me. And unlike you, blood and gore is not one of them. I am perfectly happy with blood and gore. It doesn't bother me at all. One big one is that I prefer single player over multiplayer. It's not that I hate multiplayer, I just kinda see it as an extra. There's such a focus on multiplayer with so many FPSs, it annoys me. Fine, include multiplayer, just don't skimp on the singleplayer! I also loathe those 14-year old morons who think the pinnacle of human expression is saying f*** y** over and over. Secondly, there doesn't seem to be a lot of strategy involved. I'm sure there is at high level multiplayer, but with people I've played with, the closest I've seen to any thinking involved is knowing about a good place to hide or where a good weapon drops(this is NOT strategy). When we do stumble across each other, it's generally the twitchiest person who lives. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, a serious lack of hot chicks.

Matt

It's true, and it's not just f*** y**, it's "f*** o**, f**," "lol f***** noob," and so on. I'm not trying to be grandpa-like or anything, but language like that does nothing but repel me like very strong body odor would. I have better ways to spend my time than to be insulted by pubescent idiots who should be doing their homework instead.

If you're one of those people, and you're reading this right now, take a message from this: You can be a better person! Pick up a dictionary and read it; your vocabulary may expand beyond seventeen words (and "pwn" does NOT count!)

On the strategic side of things, I too can't see how things are ever very strategic while Tom is Halo-ing it up, since he gets one-hit-KO'd all the time. How can you ever adopt and change strategies if you die in so few hits?

Anyway, I think I'm not big on the multiplayer either, because of all of these things. I've never really played a single-player quest on an FPS, though, except for some sort of bland missions in Goldeneye, so it's hard for me to judge.

I suppose I could give them another go. I could actually say that about a lot of games, many more deserving than FPS of a chance. The thing is, I like RPGs and I own a PS2, so I've been kinda busy. Why take a chance on a genre I don't like or just might like when I can't keep up with all the RPGs I know I want to play? I did try a few other kinds of games when the PS2 started out. That's how I got into GTA. But when the RPGs started coming wave after wave, I even had trouble keeping up with my other favorite genre, fighting games.

Even if I had the time, I'd rent them first. Why spend $60 on Halo 3 when it probably isn't worth $20?(to me)

Matt

It's true- it becomes more and more difficult to justify "trying out" games that haven't made a good impression on you already, when SO many other great games are coming out that you just know you'll probably like! This has been my big problem with so many things, from FPS to PC gaming to more, and most of the time, my reasons to avoid these genres are based on stupid first impressions that are probably not representative of ALL other games within the genres. However, if you're a guy like me who wishes that the world would start rotating more slowly for the sake of having longer days, then you know that you need to get the best bang for your limited-gaming-time buck. For now, at least, and for a long time to come, I've got to concentrate on my love- RPGs!

I understand your pain! Thanks for your letter, monsieur.



RPGs... they just aren't what they used to be.


Well Matt,

Here's the thing. I play me some RPGs. I play them regularly, in fact. But I just don't enjoy the suckers as much as I used to, and lately I've devoted a relatively minor amount of brainpower to figuring out why that is. I've come up with a few ideas and figured I'd run them by your forum to be either agreed with or violently debunked. For reference, the last RPG I played and completed was FFXII, but it kinda pissed me off and I finished the game feeling like the hollow shell of a human being. More on that later. I'm currently an occupant of The World (of Warcraft), which it seems that you irrationally fear, but I'm not necessarily a happy citizen, and I will tell you why. In a bullet point further down the list.

Matt

Sounds like you have a lot on that list. Let 'em have it.

My theories for my diminishing enjoyment of RPGs:

1) STORY. What the poop is happening to the stories of RPGs? My favorite RPGs of all time are FFIII (US), FFVII, Chrono Trigger, and Chrono Cross. These games all had phenomenal stories, and even though they each embraced the cliche of "impending apocalypse thwarted by unlikely, spiky-haired heroes," they did so in creative ways. This creativity has been mimicked with offensive frequency by almost every subsequent RPG, and when story-writers do attempt a departure, it's usually laughably bogus and makes me want to collect all of the RPGs in the world and melt them in an RPG pyre (SPOILER ALERT:: the Reality Show "plot twist" in Star Ocean 3? Kill yourself. ::END SPOILER).

Matt

Wah, I kind of liked that plot twist, though it was executed pretty horribly. It makes the entire game up until that point seem absolutely pointless.

The thing is, though, that FFVI, FFVII, Chrono Trigger, and Chrono Cross... they were mimickers in their own right. The Final Fantasies, Breath of Fires, Dragon Quests, and other RPGs that came before them all had their own spiky-haired heroes who quested to save the world in their own creative ways, and wacky Final Fantasy plots did not start with VI.

Now, I really like FFVI and VII too, as well as Chrono Trigger, but it's more for how the storyline is executed and developed-- and how the characters in the storyline "hit" me, than anything else. In the Final Fantasy realm, I'll agree, VI and VII got it more right than any game since. There are other games that pave out nifty stories, though, and that have great character development. For more, see Xenosaga.

Venting aside, I'm stoked about Eternal Sonata. That seems like a great, creative idea that I hope is backed up by great, creative gameplay. And it's got the graphics too, shorty, which brings me to:

2) GRAPHICS. This is more of a personal issue, but I have an ongoing love affair with old school, 2D sprites. I will also happily tolerate a 2D/3D hybrid (a la FFVII and FFVIII), but I really just can't get behind these new-fangled, sprawling 3D metropolises (metropoli?), where I'm forced to navigate by minimap to avoid becoming hopelessly, tears-streaming-down-my-face, lost. Sure, they're pretty and they represent a new technological era, but I'll take El Nido (Chrono Cross) or Midgar (FFVII) over Rabanastre any day.

Matt

Eh, I guess it's a personal preference more than anything. At least with Final Fantasy XII, there's enough detail in most of the towns that once you've familiarized yourself with one, it's pretty tough to get lost. That said, I really do miss the pretty backdrops from FFVII through IX sometimes. Oh, and would it be "metropoles"? (Meh-trah-pole-ees)

The minimaps do get annoying to me sometimes, but I always figured that that's because I hail from the times of Dragon Quest, where if we wanted a map, dammit, we'd MAKE one.

3) PAYOFF. FFVII told such a bombass story that I was satisfied with just the ending, and FFIII and Chrono Trigger had different and bonus endings (and CT kicked off the New Game+ craze). In FFXII, however, I spent many, many extra hours slaving through the sidequests, and then railed on the last boss so badly that I was ashamed (and I hadn't even progressed enough to take on the quadrillion-hit-point Hunts towards the end!). It was like using steroids in baseball and then, instead of setting home run records, just blowing up the stadium. Payoff is also the issue at hand with World of Warcraft - I'll often be deeply embroiled in a hunt for 8 more Crazy Fox Noses or whatever, and stop to ponder: "What the hell am I doing?" What happens when I get to level 70? The game's not over, I haven't saved anything; I have a cool helmet and my axe looks like a glowworm, but who cares? Do I start over now? Note: despite my musings, I AM still playing, along with billions of other people. I just haven't figured out why.

Matt

Haha, and THIS brings in a new line of conversation: Do you know that I sometimes go out of my way to avoid doing some bonus things exactly because I worry that the final boss will turn into more of a comedy act? The answer is "often," for the record. It's massively disappointing, because how on earth can you take an EVIL, MASSIVE VILLAIN seriously when you hardly break a sweat while fighting him or her (or it)? Either I'll avoid gaining extra levels if possible, or I'll put some artificial restrictions on my characters, which is what I did in FFXII. I restricted Basch and Vaan from learning much magic until they had absolutely no choice to, and similarly, disallowed Ashe from gaining any skill with weapons other than rods and staves. Penelo was FORCED to be a "Red Mage" by always having a convex shape of license squares opened. Yeah, only a math major would dream this up, but the point is that it made some of the battles more challenging than they would have been otherwise.

As for World of Warcraft... I don't know. Why are you still playing? Why do people continually play ten hours per day for months and months and months? I DON'T KNOW, and it drives me nuts. That's my "irrational" fear, I guess.

So there you have it. I'll keep on keeping on, but I may not like it. If you have any recommendations that fit into my particular standards, please throw them at me. I'm drowning.

RUFiO

Matt

I'm watching you sink- glub, glub, glub. Grab my hand!

I dunno, RUFiO. You just have to get out of the Final Fantasy rut. If the series isn't giving you what you want, then try something else. I mentioned Xenosaga above- have you given it a try? If you're into turn-based RPGs, I have no choice but recommend a game like Dragon Quest VIII. More recently, though, there have been some other potential goodies: Odin Sphere, Tales of the Abyss, and the like. For something very challenging but possibly refreshing in many ways, keep your eyes peeled for Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga and its sequel. They might be tough to find, but the search could be worth it!

There are lots of options to explore, potentially, but try to keep an open mind, and you might be surprised at what you find. Get back to me if you decide to try something new out, and we can continue this story soon.



Yesterday, an MMO recommendation- today, an FPS.


Hi Matt

Hmmm I am not sure just how off topic to take this but I will admit to playing shooters, both FPS and 3rd person, since ID software brought out the original Doom on 3 1/2 inch floppies. (Boy does that date me!) I am not certain that I see a real difference between the Action-RPG's that I love so much and a well designed shooter. For example let's look at Oblivion and Mercenaries.

Matt

Eh, it's somewhat on topic, since it's my fault it's gone on this long anyway.

You think 3.5" floppies date you? Man, I remember playing through the original King's Quest games on 5.25" floppies! Yeah, the floppy disks that were actually floppy. I can't believe how long ago that was...

Oblivion is a first person Action RPG where there is a major focus on exploration and a minor focus on skill development and customizing. You spend most of your time running around doing tasks for other people. If you play like me then you are adept with a bow and some minor magic.

Let's contrast that with Mercenaries. In that game you play as one of three predefined characters. Mercenaries is a 3rd person shooter with a major focus on killing your target and a minor focus on exploration. You run around, or drive around a lot doing tasks for other people. If you play like me then you spend a lot of time finding that free helicopter and using a sniper rifle.

Hmm seems to me that there is a great similarity between those two descriptions!

Matt

In an interesting, roundabout way, I suppose so!

Now that is an extreme comparison and using only those two games I really don't see the problem with playing FPS and RPG. (By the way Matt, Mercenaries is available for your PS2 and is a real blast of a game to play!)

In both games you get better weapons as the game progresses. While only in Oblivion does your character get better the ability to call down supplies from the heavens in Mercenaries balances this out nicely.

Matt

Well, it's true- in my column yesterday, I mentioned how, well, there really doesn't NEED to be much difference between the two genres in many ways. It's kind of funny, since you sent your e-mail to me before then, but as it turns out, you're touching on these same points.

The problem is that, much of the time, while RPGs have traditionally focused on strategic gameplay and interesting stories, many shooters opt instead to go for massive graphics, emphasizing story less and online multiplayer elements more. Because of this, and some less-than-great first experiences, I've been rooted in the land of RPGs instead. That's not to say, of course, that there aren't any great FPS games out there, or any I might not like. While I haven't heard of it before this minute, Mercenaries could be neat, thanks to those RPG elements, and possibly an interesting strategic element.

Now I will admit that there are shooters that I will not play since they can get really bloody. Gears of War is a really good example but even here I can play the game by instructing the system to hold the blood. Some shooters I find too difficult to play since my reflexes are not those of a 12 year old anymore, my nephews of that age continually demonstrate that to me, and I will not play them. Some like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon take too much focus on a squad when I really want to be a Rambo.

Matt

I think that my reflexes are probably fine... my problem is that, when vaulted into multiplayer besides a bunch of experts, they always hand my ass to me while I'm fishing around trying to remember which buttons do what.

"Maybe I should take some time out and read the manual..."

"The MANUAL!? Ell oh ell, just use square to shoot."

"But I'm DYING all over the place! There must be some way to, you know, defend myself or dodge or something, isn't there?"

*too entranced in killing me to respond*

Still I would much rather play a game of Halo than slog through some of the really ugly RPG's that I have started and left unfinished. I was attempting to go through a game called Rogue Galaxy recently until I realized that I just did not care for the characters anymore. I will not play a game past that point when I find that I don't care what happens to them. I just stop. Sad really. (For the record I did go back and play a full round of Halo on normal which is about as difficult as I can make work!)

So there is my $0.02 on the subject of FPS.

Have a great holiday, Matt

A

Matt

Ouch... there's a burn. I know what you mean, though- just because I love RPGs doesn't meant that I'd tolerate a second playthrough of Wild Arms: Alter Code F. I'd take up one of your recommended FPSs any day over that glitchy piece of spewware.

Thanks for your letter! The FPS and the RPG... they're an odd couple.



QUICKIES

Hi Matt,

Are there any RPG series that you've wanted to try but are too afraid to be disappointed by and possibly waste your money on?

-Kharamain

Matt

Absolutely- and what a good question. My answer is Suikoden. I played a tiny bit of Suikoden II a long, long time ago and didn't feel like it was my thing. Ever since then, I've picked up Suikoden games so many times and put them back down that it's embarrassing. I really should have gotten over it with Suikoden V. I guess I still could.

Having played a couple of levels, DQH: Rocket Slime seems to have combined the aspects of Banjo-Kazooie, Skies of Arcadia, and Dark Cloud to create a really unique game. I like it a lot so far.

Vyselocke

Matt

You ain't seen nothin' yet. Within the next level or two, you'll have more MAJOR newly combined elements and the game will be more unique than you ever bargained for. I can't wait to hear from you once you understand what I mean. <3



IN CLOSING

The final exam for my course is tomorrow. I have some evil questions on that there exam, but I hope they do well. After I get back, though, I'll be writing another column, and you know what that means: I need your letters! CW needs them too, since he'll be cohosting on Friday.

For tomorrow, my new hot topic is Kharamain's: Are there any series out there that you're just afraid you'll be disappointed in, and thus you've shied away from playing it? Everyone has tried Final Fantasy, but Kingdom Hearts? Suikoden like me? Xenosaga? Dragon Quest? Fire Emblem? Or is there something that's keeping you from trying?

Let me know, and I'll do my best to respond to you in a future edition of Q&A.



Send a Letter!

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Matt and his final exam are the final boss!


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3. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

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