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ASK MATT
Too Much Fun
August 30, 2007

Matthew Demers - 13:40 EST

ACTUALLY, I DON'T think that I had too much fun yesterday at the fair; it's just that I had not enough sleep. Man, I haven't been that tired in a long time. The problem is that I had great difficulty getting to sleep the night before, and then I had to wake up and do an ear-lie mornin' column as well. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Indeed, I got home and crashed on my bed at 10:30 pm, which is probably the earliest that I've gone to bed in years!

The carry-over effect is still haunting me today, though. And then what do I get? I open my inbox and find like seven thousand-word letters all crying my name. Waah, you guys are killer!

Actually, I'm a little excited to answer a couple of them, because we have some interesting topics going. Let us start!




LETTERS
Those rare games...


Sexuality in videogames... The only instance I happen to remember of a sex scene in a mainstream game was in Xenogears, when Fei's and Elly's past incarnations actually sleep together. No, it doesn't get THAT graphical, but you can see Elly is naked in bed, with only a sheet covering her body and Fei is getting dressed, I can't remember exactly. It's been 8 years since I played that, you know ^_^

Matt

Oh yeah, I did hear about this a long, long time ago, maybe through an ancient Q&A. We've come full circle in all these years...

I thought of a couple of other scenes involving nudity, too, since last time. First, there's the scene where Serge is reborn into human form in Chrono Cross, though that really isn't anything sexual at all. Secondly, there's the strange and very random bath scenes in Lunar: SSSC. My brother and I were both in the living room while I played, and we exchanged surprise glances when we saw anime sequences that we really didn't expect to see.

There are also numerous hentai games out there. In the RPG world, I must mention Knights of Xentar and Cobra Mission, two DOS-based games that were actually fun to play. That and the softcore scenes as a "bonus", of course!

Some screens (don't worry, just the gameplay, not nudity!)
Xentar: http://www.svatopluk.com/images/xentar.png
Cobra: http://www.juegomania.org/Cobra+Mission/fotos/pc/4/4935/Foto+Cobra+Mission.jpg

Matt

Bizarre. Yeah, I've never heard of either one, either... and I'm sure there must be a bunch more where those came from! I must lead a boring and sheltered life.

Oh, one quick SOCK question: I have noticed that sometimes, when I check the Points table, it changes from day to night - I mean, people get more points (including myself). Were they not updated to begin with, or are you already updating them for the next day?

-Alael

Matt

Oh... hee hee. Occasionally, when I put up the Sock 2 page, I'm not quite finished with it. Also, I've been known to forget to update the scoreboard, too. I think that when that has happened, I've caught the error within an hour or two, but I have to update and reload the page, which is probably what you're seeing. Sorry for the confusion!



Now I want to see a big graffiti-painted sign that says "BLU 20 OR BUST!"


1) Ignore the whiners and naysayers. You know we love you, Matt! There wouldn't be 60+ folks playing SOCK 2 otherwise! Great job with this game! Having a blast! (BLU 20 or bust!)

Matt

Heh heh, I'm glad someone's getting something out of it. I'm having fun, anyway, so I'm at least fulfilling my own selfish needs.

2) Speaking of SOCK 2, you mentioned SOCK 3 at some point during Wait Mode time! Please tell me that's a real plan and not just an idle thought! *hyperventilates*

Matt

*stares off into space*

3) It's a shame Laurie left, rather than just leaving her character idle. I regret losing a competitor so permanently, especially at this late stage. Oh, well, there are still sixty plus left!

Matt

Yeah... it's too bad, but I have to respect her decision. My intent, however, was to use those inactive characters in some way, and since Laurie was fairly well-developed, she would have been a prime candidate. Hmm, oh well.

4) Just picked up Wild Arms 5; will give comments when I start. But that made me wonder: do you Canucks usually have any sort of significant delay in American video game releases? I've forgotten if you do. If so, in any circumstance, how much do you regret that delay? I mean, you obviously see all the hype and commentary for those of us in the States.

Matt

I've been asked this question a lot lately- not in the column, necessarily, but just in online conversation with others. Generally, games are released in Canada at the same time that they are in the United States, though occasionally, there is a one or two-day delay. Presumably, this delay is to stuff french-language manuals into the game cases alongside the english ones, but I'm not sure. Generally, being an experienced Canadian gamer, I know that if an American release date is advertised online, there's about a 50% chance that it will show up in Canadian stores on that same date; if not, though, then it's almost always on store shelves within two days.

Good luck with Wild Arms! I hope it turns out just swell, continuing to prove the backwards dominance of the PS2 over any of the new-generation consoles (at least, from an RPGamer's standpoint).



What to say, and when to say it.


Matt and Sean,

Jeremy's letter from August 29th hit a topic that is often on my mind when I decide whether or not to recommend an RPG to another gamer. What makes a game "hard"? I agree with what was said in that column, especially that "hard" and "frustrating" can be two completely different things, and I also concluded previously that hard games require you to strategize to succeed whereas easy games do not. My issue follows: when I recommend a game to someone, should I warn him if it is hard? If so, it follows that I should clarify why I consider the game to be hard. But if I do that, I am emphasizing the difficulty of the gameplay over how fun the game is, or worse, implying that "fun" is heavily dependent upon difficulty, which is definitely not the case for me.

Matt

I'd say that it could be, though. Haven't you ever played a game that's SO frustrating that, after your seventh game over in a row, you feel more like tearing out your hair than to try even one more time? I haven't. But, I've come close. I think that a really frustrating game can be frustrating exactly because of some poor game design choices, which would be part of the whole "gameplay" experience. It's a weighing-thing; at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself which feeling is more girthy? The frustration or the fun? Once you've figured that out, you can report to your friend.

Dragon Quest VIII was labeled "hard" by reviewers. While playing it, the game felt difficult, but when it was all said and done with optional dungeons completed and post end game bosses slain, I had 3 game overs. That's it. 80 hours of playing with 3 game over screens. I die more often in Pokemon than that. I recommended this game to a coworker a few months ago and decided not to call the game difficult. I mentioned that it is old school and has a simple battle system, but left out the "hard" label even knowing others attach it to the game. Opposed to this is Tactics Ogre. I loaned my copy to a friend in grad school (I know, he probably sold it on Ebay by now, filthy broke grad students...) and I told him that it is an amazing game that requires actual, you know, TACTICS, to complete (looking harshly at NISA "tactics" games). The flip side is that Tactics Ogre is the most brutal tactics game I have played and if you let your brain slip you will be punished. I warned him of the eminent game over screens and replaying of levels. My guess is that because of this ominous warning he will never play it.

What is your take on this? Obvious answers like "It depends on to whom I am recommending the game" will be deleted, even if you did go out of your way not to end the sentence with a preposition. I learned from past mistakes that if a game does not say "Touch! Generations" or "Madden" on the cover that it will be too difficult for my college graduate younger brother.

Matt

Well, it DOES depend somewhat on that, but *sigh*... since you asked me for something more, I'll do my best.

I think it's important while recommending a good game to a friend to not "scare them away" from what could be a fantastic experience. It is quite possible that a solid strategy-requiring challenge could be exactly up their alley. Think about it: Many of the people who shrug off video games in the first place do so because there's often an assumption that the games are just mindless or stupid. So many uninformed parents fall into this category too, believing that little Bobby and Shawn will do nothing but vegetate by playing a games all day in front of the TV. While this depends on the game, of course, we all know that this assumption is ridiculous.

Anyway, I'm starting to diverge from my main point, but some people, I think, are really LOOKING for that challenge. So, I think that while recommending a good game, it's important that you take it and strongly present its good aspects, because the negative aspects might not even be negative aspects to the new player. And if they are? You'll have something to chat about with them later.

Lastly, regarding Sean's question about my name: Dante's Inferno is my favorite piece of classic literature. The 7th Circle is the circle in Hell where Dante would have me reside, eternally pacing a desert of burning sand with my peers as fire and ash sear us from above. It is more a reference to an outstanding book than a depressing prediction for the fate of my soul though.

7thCircle

Matt

Oh dear. I'd probably see you there, then, in his fictional elevator shaft of doom. I don't really know anything about the book... I just know that I'm definitely not heaven-bound, being a slothful, gluttonous, envious, angry, greedy, lustful, and proud, and all-around human man.

Thanks for the letter!



Another big letter.


Hi Matt,

Long time reader of the column ... first time writing in. I will admit that learning of your eventual departure made me decide to finally send a letter. I'm hoping that putting "DRAGON QUEST RULES" in the subject line will increase the odds of my letter making it into the column (hopefully better odds of finding a copy of suikoden 2 in the bargain bin)

Matt

Ah, you made it. Though, it's more because you're one of those first-time writers that I love so much than because I now have the chance to continue blubbering about my favourite series.

Here is a little about myself:

NickName: Mojoe

Age: 25

From: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (GO SENS GO!!)

First RPG: Final Fantasy for the NES - did not get far - did not figure out how to equip stuff have since beat it.

Favourite RPG: Dragon Quest 8

Favourite FF: FF6 - yes its better than the very good but still overrated FF7

Other RPG series I enjoy: Breath of Fire, Star Ocean, Zelda, Paper Mario, Suikoden, Lufia, etc.

Matt

In almost two years, I think this is my very first summarized reader bio. Heh heh.

You don't sound like you fell too far from myself, though. Dragon Quest VIII was phenomenal, Final Fantasy VI is my favourite, and your other RPG series are all goodies in my books! I have a few friends who are huge Senators fans, too. I possess no allegiance to any NHL team in particular, though my family is split interestingly between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, which, I assume is because of where we live.

I will take a stab (with my copper sword) at the hot topics and comment on a few other hot topics that have been brought up since I have been reading.

As far as tragic save game losses go I have a couple that stand out. I had been grinding levels in FF4 (probably my 12th time through the game) and had paused the game to go do something else. When I came back to my room I realized that my dog had gnawed the controller wire in half. I twisted the exposed wired back together hoping that the controller would still work, however, this resulted in a few sparks and my snes turning itself off. When I turned it back all of the data was gone :(. A power outage at a cottage made me loose about 6 hours of Earthbound play time which did not help in my goal of trying to beat the game before it had to go back to Blockbuster.

Matt

Six hours!? It's called a Save feature! What were you thinking?!? Waahhh, that's terribly brutal, and teasing aside, I know that there are several places in that game where pay phones are hard to come by. Bad luck.

As for your canine conundrum (I had to alliterate, my apologies), something similar happened to me back at my old place- you know, the one where I had a bunch of World of Warcraft zombies for friends. My roommate, Matt, had a dog named Kali, and cute as she was, she feasted on my PS2 cords, ruining one controller and an RF switch. Matt was nice enough to replace them for me, but cheaply did so by buying all this stupid "WILDCATZ"-branded stuff of dubious quality. No sparks or memory loss, though.

As far as sexuality in RPGs I think it's still taboo because games are still seen by the media as a kids activity even though there are countless studies that show otherwise. As soon as everyone (media, Nintendo, Sony, ESRB) realizes that the kids who used to save princesses and slay Blue Slimes and Imps have all grown up and are mature enough to handle sexuality in their games then it will become less taboo. Nintendo and Sony not allowing Adults Only games to be made for their consoles also slows the evolution of sexuality in games in my opinion.

Matt

That is a good point- despite the fact that the median age of the gamer is now somewhere in the mid-late twenties, it's about time that people start realizing that video gaming isn't just a fad, and that there are many things (and most things) that are not in any way geared towards children. Just because I own a portable gaming system doesn't mean that I run around antisocially playing YU-GI-OH during boring extended-family events.

There are well-placed adult themes in many movies, so why not games too?

I think most RPGamers are only into final fantasy because of the mass marketing push that FF7 received. I am not complaining about this .. I feel that FFVII was a good a game and RPG as possible at the time of its release just not the greatest game of all time. I think the hype caused anyone who had ever played and enjoyed an FF game to purchase FF7 as well as gamers who were into graphics and having the latest cutting edge technology. After FF7 is was all about the brand, much like Madden is for sports game fans. Please note I am not comparing FF to Madden. I don't want to get banned my first time writing in.

Matt

Hahahahaha, I don't think I've ever banned anybody from this column, ever. You'll be the first, though.

I have never really found that RPG characters "tickle my fancy in that way" however maybe FF13 with its sexy graphics will change that.

Matt

Of course, I was just kidding up there- why would I ban you? Silliness.

Anyway, it's true that FFXIII's graphics are absolutely eye-popping. Now, Square Enix has to work on making another scene to go with the one that we've all seen three hundred times. (This game might just end up being fifteen minutes of sheer graphical awesomeness and nothing more, at the current rate.)

As for the best ending in an RPG, the one that stands out for me is FF4. I felt that the ending battle sequence was very well done with all the characters from the game lending a hand. The ending was great as it showed what happened to all of the characters and tied up all of the loose ends.

Matt

Oh, I liked it too. It's a little bit of an archetype for RPGs that have come since, too. Mostly everybody winds up happily ever after, a happy couple becomes king and queen, and one mysterious character runs off and takes off his helmet on a mountainside, proving that he's thinking about life. (How removing a piece of armor proves that, I don't know- it just does.)

In the DS vs. PSP debate I was all for the ds at the start and figured the PSP did not have a chance, however I feel that PSP is gaining ground as better 3rd party titles and some decent rpgs are finally being released.

I own a ds and have 6 games for it but I find the screen a tad small and have trouble playing it for long periods of time. There are plenty of promising games on the way though and I would have bought it just to play the DQ remakes and DQ9. I also like the GBA compatability as I had never owned a GBA previously.

As for the PSP I like the larger screen size and the kicker for me is that the new psp that is going to be released later this year can be hooked up to your TV. Because I am busy and on the go alot between a full-time job, a girlfriend, friends, and school I find it hard to juggle playing a console game when I am at home and playing a game on my ds when I am away. I think the new PSP will enable me to complete more rpgs as I can hook it up to my tv at home and then take the same game with me on the go.

Matt

Both systems hold great potential, and they're both doing quite well. I don't have a PSP yet, despite the nudgings of a few people (you know who you are), but I have to say that I play my DS almost every single day. That's something I haven't been able to say about a system since the days of the SNES.

.. Well I should get some work done as I have been at this for about an hour now and I'm probably at or over the word limit. Anyway keep up the great work on the column and your eventual departure will be a huge loss for RPGamer ... hopefully there will be another Q+A apprentice as I would love to participate.

Cheers,

Mojoe

Matt

Ah, we'd love to have you involved, if something like that ever occurs again! Thanks for the well-wishes and your letter... it's good to meet a fellow Dragon Quester.



ANOTHER big letter.


So, Dr. Demers. We meet again after a lengthy lapse in direct discourse. 'Sup?

Matt

Entirely too much. I haven't answered one of these in awhile...

I think I'll just devote most of my time today to Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation talk. I just KNOW you have a need for additional portable tactical action. Don't even try to deny it.

Matt

Do I have a choice in the matter? Go for it.

Hmm, how to go about this... I'll just explain how Will works. Without sufficient Will certain attacks cannot be executed by characters. Will does increase a bit as time goes on during a battle but goes up far faster when the character takes down enemies. Starting Will is 100, or 105 if a character has achieved Ace status (50 kills) and goes up another 5 for each enemy brought down. Some characters gain more Will simply by striking an enemy, or by taking hits, or by dodging. The necessary Will to execute strong attacks tends to be in the 120 range, though a few strikes (Masaki's Cosmo Nova, for instance) need more. Sitting around for awhile to take advantage of regeneration abilities will eventually sap Will, though not by a significant amount unless the player feels like literally wasting ten turns or so.

Matt

Mmmkay, I follow so far. This is giving me the will-ies. AHAHA! Continue.

As to those regeneration abilities.... the main thing that needs to be regenerated is Energy. Weapons in these games use one of two things: ammunition and energy. Ammunition is self-explanatory, and naturally is expended as battle continues. Energy is a characteristic of the robot and can be increased should the player wish to expend some money onto it during the intermissions post-battle. Energy does regenerate a bit each turn, by a set rate of 5 unless the player has given the robot something to increase this. When the biggest attacks require 40-70 Energy, this regeneration rate is wholly inadequate. Items can be equipped to a robot that restore all energy, but these are one-time-use. And equipping a one-time-use item instead of something that increases hit ratios or armor is up to the player to decide.

Matt

Sounds complex, but a little interesting. It's not terribly different from the concept of E.S. battles in Xenosaga, though they actually have an "energy"-boosting ability that can be used on any turn, for free.

A sample attack action should illustrate just a bit of what goes on. I choose, say, Viletta to attack a boss (Axel, a fairly cool guy who's just on the wrong side). Upon looking at her percentage chance to hit and to be hit, I use her Spirit commands of both Alert (which guarantees the next enemy attack will miss) and Strike (which guarantees her next attack will hit the enemy). She is next to Rai and he has an offensive Support to use, but to ensure it hits I have Rai cast Strike. Then the action goes through: Viletta uses her Remote Slasher to hit Axel, he counterattacks and misses, Rai Supports the action with his Hi-Zol Launcher for an extra hit. Considering Axel has roughly 160,000 HP and regenerates some of it each turn, every bit of additional damage is welcome.

Matt

I assume that putting these spirit commands into use will also sap you of some of this valuable energy? It sounds strategically difficult, perhaps in a good way.

Particularly in the second game there are a LOT of bosses with HP over 100,000, so be prepared for lengthy fights. The first game only possessed two bosses, both coming in the final stretch, with more than 100,000 HP - though it takes a very long time to bring them down.

Matt

Which, I guess, is a lot? HP is a funny thing- 10,000 in one game can be nothing in Final Fantasy, but unrealistically ridiculous in, say, a Paper Mario game. It all depends on what the "scale" of the game is, really; play Star Ocean 3 and you can fight things with 10,000,000 HP!

I can't let a crazy Tengai Makyou IV incident go by without mentioning it, can I? So here we go: what do people in America do for fun? Go to Sin City, of course! Naturally there are numerous options for gambling in Las Vegas at Hotel Casino, along with the opportunity to develop the city as you see fit. But also in Las Vegas is the WTC - which is a big tower of financial dealings and stands for exactly what you think. The WTC is where one can practice stock trading and play the market for all it's worth!

Matt

That game sounds more and more like a bad dream, where everything is not where it should be, and random stuff is tossed in for good measure.

Another game I played recently was Time Stalkers for the Dreamcast.. It wasn't good. Though I got little nostalgic trips from all the Climax fan-service, the twin devices of having randomly generated dungeons and resetting character levels to 1 after exiting a dungeon made it rather unpleasant.

Matt

Oh dear. Yeah, that sounds about as grotesque as everything I've heard about Dawn of Mana. What are game designers even thinking when they make choices like these? *shudder*

That probably does it for today. I get to work at 5:30 tomorrow, so best go to bed nice & early.

JuMeSyn

Matt

All right, JMS... do take care!



QUICKIES

You do realize some of us just tune it out when DQ comes up?

Matt

Oh, go jump off a cliff.

Hey Matt!

Sorry to hear about your long term plan to leave, but I understand completely. From my few cohostings, I'm amazed at the time this takes up, and that is not even considering the time you spend on Sock.

Just a quickie today: For anyone who has played Alundra, there is a very blatantly implied one night stand at the end of the game between the main character and the lead female character. Then it ends with them going their seperate ways.

Thanks!

BigWook

Matt

No muss, no fuss? Thanks for the example! And yeah, it'll be unfortunate to go, but I'm optimistic for a bright and happy future where I get to play RPGs regularly again.



IN CLOSING

This new hot topic is probably more a result of me being a nerdy math guy than anything, but I want to know what your favourite numerical scales in RPGs are. Do you think that it's stupid when RPGs have HP that goes up into the hundreds of thousands (like Disgaea), or does it annoy you when in Paper Mario, you never get more than 40 or 50? Why is there such a difference across RPG series, anyway?

It's something my brother and I talk about from time to time, so it'll be fun to hear your opinions on that. Of course, if you have other things to chat about, I'll be glad to receive your letters on anything.

Until tomorrow, everybody!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 27 - very good



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt is blistered, but doin' okay.


I haven't played Etrian Odyssey in almost an entire week! This is insanity.

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4. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

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Hot Topics:

1. Have any blackout/fire/flood-related RPG-loss stories to share?

2. Why is the theme of sexuality never explored in RPGs? Is this a bad thing?

3. Is it dumb when characters or monsters have millions of HP? What is your favourite "numerical scale"?

4. Which RPG characters tickle your fancy? Yes, in that way.

5. Which RPGs have the best endings?



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