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Enticed Away
August 10, 2007

Joseph Daniels - 22:22 EST

HEY, HERE'S SOMETHING you'll never hear the royal family say: "I'm sorry, but the princess is in another castle".

I wonder why I agreed to do this, this week? I've already got a podcast I agreed to do for someone this week, due Saturday; I guess I was feeling adventurous and masochistic. But I think I can get through both a Q&A column and a podcast. Also, I'm giving my computer a mock Irish wake tomorrow: a) it's not dead, it's just slowly becoming more obsolete and I'm getting a new one soon, and b) I don't drink. It's not very Irish, nor should it really be considered a wake. Anyway, while my computer experiences its mid-life crisis, I'm going to help Matt answer some letters!




LETTERS
On Emulation, Censoring, Sega, and about three thousand other things.


CW the Honorable, I greet thee.

CW

And I return your warm greetings, JuMeSyn.

(Yay, Matt sent me a JuMeSyn letter! I like these!)

Wracking my brain, I come upon no instance in the past of us directly corresponding. Thus, the first question I must ask of thee: how much Sega experience do you have? Please be thorough!

CW

You're right, we haven't corresponded yet. Unless you have any other screen names I don't know about. I'm "CWTyger" pretty much everywhere.

Given RPGamer's stance on emulators (damn, and I've been telling myself all week that I wouldn't mention emulators in today's column, and here I am within the first couple paragraphs talking about them), I must apologize but I can't be as thorough as I would like. I have tried a few Genesis and Sega-CD RPGs in the past, but as I said, I can't really talk about those. The most non-emulator experience I've had was to briefly hold my girlfriend's old Genesis. Unfortunately it no longer works, so instead of plugging it in and trying a game out (I would've chosen The Lion King, more than likely, since I love the movie so very much), we opted instead to kill each other in Bloody Roar: Primal Fury. For the record, she and I are pretty evenly matched, unless I use Shina.

My lack of Sega experience comes as a result of only seriously getting into gaming back in March of 2002. It's been about five years and I've played quite a few games (including completing every single non-port Final Fantasy spanning from the very first one all the way to the tenth, albeit via questionable means when it comes to some of the earlier titles, and I'm part of the way through X-2 and XII), but my Sega experience is sadly lacking. Interestingly, when I was still a youngster, the console that caught my attention wasn't the NES, but the Sega Master System. Sadly, we couldn't afford it at the time, so I went Sega-less.

If you want to discuss Sega games that I have played, we could take it to private E-mail if you wish, and then Matt won't have to edit out any emulator discussion. Matt, I give you full permission to pass along my E-mail address to JuMeSyn; it's a private one I'm trying to keep off of any public forums or message boards, and am trying to restrict to correspondence.

Matt

It's funny, because this is something that I've wrestled with lots in the past. Lately, my feelings have been that, hell, why shouldn't we be able to discuss things more openly? Emulation is no more illegal than downloading movies or music, and while good boys and girls will always pay for their media, the reality of the situation is that most of us aren't good boys and girls. Pretending emulation doesn't exist is silly and shortsighted, and legal or not, it's a reality for a lot of people, whatever your staunch "moral stance" might be on the matter.

So what does that mean? I don't want Q&A to turn into a censorfest, since the whole point of this place is to be an open discussion column.

On a tangential line from something that's been banging around my brain lately, I must ask what you think of properties that are adapted from RPG materials. Once an anime exists based on a show, is it ever possible to read the text without putting the actors' voices in automatically? And can such a thing be good to an audience not familiar with the source?

CW

It depends, really. The first thing that came to mind when I read this question was Xenosaga: The Animation. The game had voice actors already, but the anime used different actors, for the English roles at least. I've not seen the anime so I don't know how close they were able to cast the voice actors, but I know that I would probably hear the game's voice actors when reading the non-voiced text in the game, and not the anime's actors.

For animes based on games without voice acting, I probably would think of the anime's voice actors automatically. As for your other question, I think it depends on who makes what. A couple better known examples: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was inaccessible to non-gamers, due to how much of the game was put into the movie, and how much back story was necessary to remember. "Frequently I got the sense that what I was watching was a *significant moment* but I didn't always know what exactly was significant about it" reads a review at Keyframe Online. The other Final Fantasy movie, however, was probably worse for gamers than non-gamers, for it was a pretty decent science fiction story on its own (in my opinion)... but with the Final Fantasy name attached, it was automatically going to be a disappointment to gamers unless it included some of the familiar Final Fantasy trademarks we all know and love.

I guess it all just boils down to giving enough attention to making sure the audience in general becomes familiar with the source, while also making sure long time fans won't get bored with such an intro. It's probably the same way for books being made into animes or movies. What do you think, Matt?

Matt

It used to be fun to imagine what a character's voice would be like. There's nothing wrong with leaving voices to the imagination, even if the RPG characters were based on ones with voice actors already. It might make it weird to go back and view the anime later for reasons like the ones CW mentioned, though- once you have a feel for how a character looks/sounds/etc, it can be strange to see them in a different light. It was like watching the barely-passable Da Vinci Code movie last year; I'm sure it would have been a much better film if I didn't already have my own mental picture in place.

I'm gonna mention a couple of things about Black/Matrix and see if you find them interesting or not. For reference, it's a tactical game that was first on the Saturn and then the PS1 that (naturally) does not exist in English. The single most unique aspect to its play is probably the Blood system, which requires the player to strike each enemy one final time after the enemy is at 0HP in order to kill. Killing a foe nets Blood, which is used for the player's magic. There is no other way to get Blood save by killing enemies. It does get old, however, killing every single enemy on the field to get their blood. There is also the fact that experience is awarded after battle in a lump sum, and can be applied to all characters the player kept alive on the field. One VERY annoying interface issue is the fact that nothing can be sold, however. That gets really irritating near the end when the inventory is full. Black/Matrix would be a tough sell for anyone to bring overseas, considering it seems to take a lot of the Bible and throw it around. The fact that the enemy seems to worship Satan, the numerous Biblical personalities running around (Moses and Noah come to mind) and the frequent mentions of the Apocalypse all made it through to me, and I don't understand nearly as much Japanese as I should.

CW

I think I've heard of this game before, but I didn't know many details. Still, given its Saturn origins, I'm guessing it was made during the time when game companies were adamant about erasing any and all religious material from games before they would have a chance at North American release (like removing crosses in churches, etc.), but given the success of Xenogears, I'm almost kinda surprised the PS1 version of Black/Matrix wasn't brought over. But then again, they've never been very good about bringing over tactical RPGs, have they? *Growls at Square-Enix for not bringing Front Mission 5 over.*

I find it interesting, the method of killing monsters, and wonder why such a method has rarely been used elsewhere. Most games just have monsters disappear when they reach 0HP, while a party member lies there waiting for a life restoring item or spell. If it were possible to eject a 0HP character from battle by hitting them again, then it might give battles in normal RPGs a little more edge. Shattering stoned characters in Final Fantasy X was a nice touch, although it did seem a little dirty when a character was stoned underwater and would shatter immediately upon hitting the bottom.

I guess tactical RPGs are better about getting rid of dead characters, Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem being notable examples. I'm interested to see how Black/Matrix stacks up to the rest, but as you've noted, there do seem to be some irritants built into the game play. I both like and hate limited inventory space, depending on the game. I hate dumping items, though, since I'm an item pack rat, so I have to train myself up to actually use items. Especially since I love using the Steal command in Final Fantasy games, so I almost always end up with 99 Potions early on...

Here's something I'd be interested in finding out: how many people still buy items (not counting weapons and armour) in a Final Fantasy game, what with their ability to be stolen easily/found abundantly in treasure chests/won often in battle (Final Fantasy XII excepted)?

I'm so disappointed in myself. This may be the first week since I started writing reviews for RPGamer where I don't have a new review, unless Super Robot Taisen Original Generation 2 is shorter than I think. I blame resumption of a social life for this, that and needing to read quite a bit this week. 600 page books take a couple of days, y'know.

CW

I guess with a hobby such as gaming, one pretty much has to make it their job if one wants to actively produce material every week for a website like RPGamer, especially if you write reviews. 100-200 hour games just don't lend themselves very well to being reviewed promptly. If we both worked for a magazine, we'd at least have an excuse to sit on our tails for ten or fifteen hours a day, if it earned us a regular paycheque.

Matt

I know... why doesn't anyone give me one of these jobs...?

Amusing notation: there is a title on the NES called Silva Saga. That's what the cover says, and I'm running with it. The SNES has Silva Saga 2 (and yes, they're Japan-only). What does this mean? Why, only that the life of Henry Silva is so monumental as to require two games to cover it all!

Another amusing notation: there is a series of RPGs called Aretha. They died out in the mid-90's on the Game Boy, but I find it interesting that the life & times of Aretha Franklin made for so much material. Even if looking through the manuals of the two games on SNES shows no obvious 60's soul influences....

CW

I actually took a moment to look up Henry Silva on Wikipedia to see what it says about him. Interesting, he's still alive! And seriously, what's with all these Japan-only games? You know, they could release them on the Wii's virtual console with a full translation, and they wouldn't have to spend any money on manufacturing or packaging, and would only require minimal marketing. I mean, they have a viable and legal alternative to emulation right there, and they're not even using it to its full potential!

Hm, hot topics. I dig Halo, must've played it both in campaign and multiplayer for scores of hours. Other than Halo (and a bit of Halo 2, but I left the country before I could finish it) I have little meaningful FPS experience. I think I played Zero Tolerance way back when, but it's pretty dull nowadays. Lacking easy Xbox access now, I get my adrenaline rush from a good TMNT or Streets of Rage play.

CW

The most FPS experience I have is some Tribes experience with my friends in The Balto League, as well as the Metroid Prime: Hunters demo that came with my DS. Such a fun demo that is, too.

That nap I took earlier today tided me over for going to sleep now, prior to another great day of servicing customers tomorrow. Yay. My enthusiasm wanes already. Hope the co-hosting goes well.

JuMeSyn

CW

Thanks JuMeSyn, and thanks for writing in! Good luck tomorrow, you sound like you need it. Ugh, the service sector. Where are those magical video game related jobs we so wistfully dream of?



Hesitance


Hey Matt and/or whoever,

Just writing to formally respond to a hot topic for once (well, as of the 9th of August)! Anyway, I never tried the Suikoden series, either. At this point, I don't want to just jump in wherever, so I won't jump in at all. For a while, anyway. Maybe it's a bad preconceived notion at this point; after all, I've played the Shadow Hearts games without Koudelka. And I've played the FF and the couple DQ games I've tried out of order, but it seems less of an issue there. Are there other "series" without a sense of plot continuity to 'em?

'Til next time,

Joshua

Matt

I'd almost say, Josh, that most RPG series these days lack continuity from game to game. I think that it helps to encapsulate, in a sense, each game in its own nice individually-wrapped package, kind of like a delicious electronic Twinkie (R). At the same time, interesting stories and associated "to be continueds..." like those in Xenosaga, and hey, Golden Sun... they're pretty rare nowadays, it seems.

Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Pokémon, Star Ocean, more or less, Dragon Quest, and Zelda too. A lot of these series are defined by similar themes or elements in the games rather than having the games connected by a single, arching storyline. Maybe it's easier/less risky for a developer to play it game-by-game, so in case of poor sales, they don't feel "obligated" to finish unfinished business. I dunno!



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


Hey Matt,

Which RPG series have I been afraid to try? The honest answer is any one that has a lot of games in it. The best example is probably ..hack. Since all the games in the series are related, I'd have to play them in the correct order, and I'd have to play ALL of them. It just seems like a daunting task to figure out the order and play them all, especially given that I have an already substantial backlog.

-Raaj

CW

You can certainly call me Matt if you wish, I don't mind. Most people call me CW if they know me from one place, Tyger if they know me from another, Ch'Tah if they knew me years ago, Joseph if they know me in real life, or Math if you're one of the local contractors (long story). But I answer to just about anything, so I'll just pretend that you're addressing me every time I hear you call someone Matt. I'll just consider it a typo of Math.

I suppose you're right about the .hack games. I'm not entirely certain, but the first four may have been numbered "volume 1", "volume 2", etc. along with their subtitles. I can't seem to remember whether or not that's right, and I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't. The G.U. series does include volume numbers, fortunately. But combine the games with the mangas, animes, etc., and the prospect of getting through the entire series in the correct order is rather herculean, so I don't blame you. (You know, Ouka was rather hot in that Legend of the Twilight manga.)

I've been meaning to send something in to Matt about which serieses I'm scared to try, but... I want to try them all. I suppose I'd have to go with the Shin Megami Tensei series, but I can't really say why, other than how... different it is from the fantasy settings I'm used to in RPGs. Granted, I've played modern-set games, but I'm unsure if I'd really go for such a grim looking series. Is it really as grim as it sounds, Matt?

Ah well. I'd certainly be open to try it if they had it available to rent locally. But for now, I'll just have to concentrate on other games that I've bought but not completed. I'm so woefully behind: I only just managed to acquire Chocobo's Dungeon 2...

Thanks for writing in, Raaj!



This is the path of life that I should have taken...


A friend and I really want to get into videogame programming and one day work for a development team like sony,contrail,eidos,etc. or start our own since his family has bazillions of dollars and live in Japan. I was just wondering, what courses do you have to take in college to have the credentials for being a videogame designer. Please let me know.

Regards,
Derek

Matt

Hi Derek! I have a funny relationship with video game programming. Basically, in the past, I'd often get upset while working on my thesis or designing my imaging algorithms, and so on, during my Master's Degree. REALLY upset, and frustrated. On many of these occasions, I'd start grumbling to myself about why I'm doing what I'm doing when I know I love video games, and I'd end up on game-programming-job-related websites for awhile.

There are a few schools out there specifically related to game development that you could research. There aren't terribly many of them, and I think they're concentrated in the western US, but they're out there. If that's not an option, though, load up your plate with a lot of computer programming classes as well as visual arts. Companies will want to hire creative people who have a knack for coding complicated things, so this makes sense. Math courses might be of some importance too, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a math major.

Best of luck! It sounds like the two of you are pretty ambitious about this whole thing. If you get a great thing going, do me a favour and give me a job. Rescue me from the oft-hellish hole I've dug myself.



First person shooters, it rhymes with "looters."


Hey Matt,

CW

Hey, I just realized: JuMeSyn didn't include any mp3 links this time! *Sad.* Sorry for interrupting, Boojum.

I'm a fairly marginal fan of FPS games, and haven't played one in a couple of years. I tend to quickly lose interest in "pure" shooters such as Doom, Quake, Unreal, Half-life, etc. Despite advances in story, atmosphere, sound, and so on, there's just not enough to do apart from walking from one area to another and shooting things. Instead (probably predictably for an RPG fan), I gravitate towards the games with more elements involved, such as the Jedi Knight series (traditional shooting + lightsaber duels + force powers that you can customize as you progress) and the No One Lives Forever series (traditional shooting + stealth + lots of gadgets with unique effects + awesome sense of humor). Deus Ex is another good example, with fairly extensive RPG elements to let you customize your abilities. All of these are a few years old, and could be run on even an out-of-date PC if you ever want to try a shooter with a bit more to it.. Sadly, nothing along these lines has come out in the past few years, although Bioshock is looking promising.

CW

So I could run them on my computer without too many problems?

Metroid Prime is a game that I sadly haven't finished. I got it for Christmas the year it came out, and played it extensively, but then it got set aside when I went back to college, and I never managed to get back into it. I think I'm near the end, but as I remember, there's some requirement to wander back around the whole world collecting artifacts or something, which makes a really bad way to get back into a game after a long layoff. I can see the point of those who want to distance it from the FPS genre, but I don't entirely agree with them. I think the argument is that the core gameplay mechanic of an FPS is moving your crosshairs over the enemy and pulling the trigger. Since MP uses lock-on, the gameplay is much less reliant on twitch-aiming. Whether that makes it a sub-genre of FPS or a separate genre entirely is just semantics.

CW

I've never played the original MP, but I guess that would make it more like a platformer than an FPS? I don't know, but I would assume that FPS purists would probably come up with some tiny pinhole classification for MP, and then rant on for five minutes about why MP isn't a true FPS, or something like that.

Besides the lack of really appealing games, the other reason for my drift away from the FPS genre is more technical. My PC has fallen pretty far out of date due to the cost of upgrades, and trying to play console FPS is pretty painful. Having played so many on the PC and gotten used to the mouse for quick and accurate aiming, trying to use an analog stick for it is like trying to cut steak with a spoon. The Wii actually has some good potential here, making point-and-shoot gameplay possible, so I'm looking forward to MP3. Hopefully there will be more along the same lines as developers come to terms with the Wii.

--Boojum

Matt

"Lord love us," my mom would say. I totally know what you mean. The system specifications for some PC games have been so wacky for some new titles over the past years that it makes it unattractive to even try. I don't want to install a game onto my computer that brings my entire system to a three-toed-sloth-like crawl, and where I'm forced to reboot after every single session. Add the idea of keyboard + mouse controls, worrying about having up-to-date whatevers and patches for glitches and so on and so forth, and... I'd really just rather stick with my consoles. Anyway, back to you, CW.

CW

I'm feeling a little guilty right now, as I've not played enough FPS games to really talk about them too much, and yet I managed to find a lot to say about games I've never played when responding to JuMeSyn.

I agree with you there about the analog stick. Trying to use it for anything requiring precision after getting used to using a mouse is like, well, I like your example. I absolutely hated navigating the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X, but the License Board in Final Fantasy XII was alright. I imagine if some good FPS games come out for the Wii, I might get more into the genre. I have already admitted to liking the demo of Metriod Prime: Hunters for the DS, and I hope the actual game is more of the same fun game play as has been demonstrated in the demo, but I've been too busy with Etrian Odyssey to bother picking up any more DS games. (Note to Matt: it's mad fun, and would definitely appeal to a Dragon Warrior fan like you, so what are you waiting for?)

Matt

I don't know. I'm an idiot to the max.

I have been branching out into other genres lately, so I might give more FPSes a try in the future. Tribes can't be all there is to the genre.

Thanks for writing, Boojum, and I'm sorry I couldn't really get into this topic as much as I would've liked to.



First person shooters, it rhymes with "looters."


Hi Matt: Long time reader, second time writer. In fact, I found this website in 1998, I think it was called Square.net at that time, if I'm not mistaken.

CW

I think so, too. I've only known this site as RPGamer, but I'm pretty sure at one point it was Square.net.

Anyway, after reading Chris' letter in which says that Final Fantasy XII lacks of epic, I have to say that I couldn't disagree more. There are several ingredients in this game that put it in the highest clouds of epic.

CW

Judging form the opening, I'd say that the game already starts out as epic. As I'm only a few hours into it, I don't know if the rest of the game continues as it began. Let's hear your arguments

I think there are some reasons, it`s the first Final Fantasy since the sixth instalment that includes an Empire (and an Emperor, of course), that concept alone carries a lot of epic elements. (Spoilers ahead) And the core of the story, it's a reminiscence from the famous tale of Prometheus, when you compare with Vayne, Cid and Venat intentions ("The reins of history back in hands of man").

CW

Until you mentioned this, I didn't really think about it, but you're right. There haven't been any evil Empires in the series, unless you count Shinra in VII. And yet II and VI were big on the whole rebels vs. empire thing.

I haven't played very far into the game, so I can't really comment on your comparison of Final Fantasy XII to Prometheus, but I'm pretty sure you won't have spoiled it for me, since I'm also pretty sure I can cast such a comparison out of my mind until I play further into the game, at which point (and not a moment sooner), I'll remember what you said and smile at the fond memory of my first RPGamer Q&A session.

The story itself is more complex that many people think. Because after watching an interview with the game's developers, they said that neither of the characters are entirely good or evil, for example: In a very small percentage I had to agree with the Archadian Empire's desire of cut the bond that existed between the Occuria and the history of Ivalice, and also I dislike the way that Ashe treats Vaan in many parts of the game.

CW

And given that Vaan is a thief in the first place, he couldn't exactly be considered on the right side of the law...

To sum up, I consider there are strong elements of epic in Final Fantasy XII, only hearing Hitoshi Sakimoto score many of us can take that conclusion.

Kontostephanos.
Asuncion-Paraguay.

P.S.: I'm sorry for my grammatical mistakes, due to English isn't my first language.

CW

There are people I know from the United States who have pretty poor English skills (honestly, they couldn't spell their way out of a paper bag that was left out in the rain, and is already half disintegrated). And then there are people I know for whom English isn't their first language, and yet you wouldn't know this unless they actually told you. My friend from Argentina can write English very well, and his skills with spoken English are impressive. I can tell you're making the effort to be grammatically correct, and you're succeeding. Keep up the good work, and I hope you write in again soon. Matt's been pretty swamped with letters lately, so he hasn't been able to get to them all in a timely manner, not to mention he's been the only Q&A columnist for a while now. He answers an average of 25-30 a week, and at one point, he had at least 40 in his inbox and the number kept growing. But if you write in again, I'm sure he'll include your letter in one of his columns.

At any rate, thanks for writing in and discussing a game you liked!

Matt

Hee hee. Thanks for the nod, CW. It's true that I'll do my best! Write again soon.



QUICKIES

Hi, Wonders

I can't help myself but check out Sock 2 every day. I'm not even a player but I just find the whole thing crazy. Matt, you're nuts.

Matt

Yeah, I am. But it's fun. And so nuts I'll continue to be... hopefully no one is allergic.



IN CLOSING

Yuck... this is Matt again, and I really need a weekend. You'd never expect that running your own classroom, giving out exams, marking them, and maintaining a life would be so tiring, but the last few days have left me feeling exhausted.

Also, I haven't had any time to play any games lately, except for my nightly installments of Puzzle League. That, however, will be remedied shortly.

Thanks, CW, for a job very-well done!! Perhaps you'll get to do this again sometime soon, who knows? I apologize to the couple of people who didn't manage to get their e-mails to CW in on time.

If you're thinking about something to write about over the weekend, turn your attention towards that one neat question that we had. We've all played RPGs (or I'd assume that most of us have). But, are you interested in designing games? I love making RPGs, if you haven't figured that out by now. Could you see yourself making a career of it?

That's all I've got for this week, so I bid you farewell. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you again next Tuesday.



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