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Allan Milligan

I've been getting a lot of mail recently, mostly asking about one topic, so I'm going to address it right now. That question is, surprise surprise, "When will <game> be covered by RPGamer? How can you ignore this classic of western civilization?" This question deserves an answer. So here it is: we're working on it.

There's a whole lotta RPGs out there, but it takes time to get a well-supported section of this site put up right. We're not interesting in doing a half-assed job here, and I doubt seeing one, either. So you've got to be patient out there. There's a lot of RPGs to cover, with new ones popping up every single day it seems, and it's impossible to cover all the bases. So be patient. We hear you. It just takes time.

Oh, and a note to everyone who wants to see a letter posted in RPGuru: just say Yes to capitalization. He said hintingly.

Q: Wow, updates everyday, now life as I know it has just begun. Anyways, on to the questions...

1. The MOD chip for the playstation, does that actually work? Will it actually play imports?

2. Just want to tell all you gaming people that you can find many games cheap at www.ebay.com. I got FF3 there for $10! i got PE there for only $15! hehe, just want to save all of us gamers some money.

3. I know this has been asked, but will RPGmaker(or whatever it is called) be coming to the us or not? I wish it would...I've seen "programs" on the net which could make games, but I want a good one for my ps. :)

4. Will Rpgamer ever give out free stuff? Ya know to promote the site? Hehe wouldnt that be a good idea to get some more hits? I dont know, just a thought.

5. Do you, or anyone else, think that Square will make a FF fighting game? or racing game? Like Super Mario Kart but use FFVII characters or something. That would be fun as...well you know.

Well, thanks for listening!

Kahgani

Allan: 1) Yes, mod chips work.

2) PE for $15? Sweet. Gotta look into that...

3) ASCII is "in talks" to bring RPG Maker to North America. Still no word on how these talks have gone, though.

4) Would it be cool? Sure. Is it realistic? Not really. Hardcopy promotional material for a web site doesn't seem nearly as cost-effective as banner linkings from related web sites.

5) Well, Ehrgeiz (an arcade fighting game) has Cloud and Tifa as playable characters, with other FF7 luminaries rumoured to be available in the PSX port. And hey, you can always play as a Chocobo in Tobal 2, along with sixty gazillion others things...

Q: I beg to differ that Earthbound is the funniest RPG. The funniest RPG IMHO is a little dittie on the Sega Saturn by the name of Albert Odyssey. Where else could you find lines like "You stupid slut!" or "Your momma is so ugly, she stuck her head out of the window and got arrested for mooning."? Where else is there a leather-clad dominatrix with a whip who has a thing for the hero? None that I know of, that's for sure. That's one reason to own a Saturn (along with STHA and PanerRPG)

A hoochie is a "frisky" girl who wears tight/short clothes, whether that has anything to do with the quote or not, I'm not sure...

P.S. I think they should have a tutorial option in Xenogears with bad translations, it'll be the hottest thing since moogles!!


Allan: Like I said last time, Working Designs games are usually good for a chuckle, at the very least. I'd have liked AO more if the regular battle music didn't remind me so much of being subjected to eye surgery, but I digress.

Lots of people wrote in to tell me what a hoochie is. Most of them were less delicate than the above letter about it. My face is deeply red. And I tried so hard to make this a family-friendly little site...

Q: Hey there Allen. How's your cold commin' along? ...That's what I was afraid of.

Anyways, I'm here to defend Quest. I played it through and through at my little cousin's house. Personally, I thought it was pretty nice. People talk about the lack of armour, weapons, etc, but I think that's original. Most everything to that game was original. It was tough at some points, due to the higher than average enemy encounter rate, but that was about all. If you are a true RPG fan, you'll see some hope in the game.

But...I dunno. Maybe I liked the game so much because my cousin and I (Hi Mike) had such a wonderful time playing it...Kinda like a cousin-to-cousin thing. Anyways, there ya have it. A defendant. All I know is I liked it. Now, sit back and wait for backlash ;-)

- John "MavericK" Livingston

Allan: I still don't like the game, but hey, if you had a good time playing it with your cousin, that's great. Good for you. :)

Q: Hey everybody. I've been reading about whether Illusion of Gaia is a good game or not. Now I know that an opinion is an opinion, but I want to defend not just Illusion of Gaia, but the whole three game series containing the original Soulblazer, Gaia, and Terranigma.

All three Games were made by Quintet, a portion of Enix, and Soulblazer and Illusion of Gaia both came out here in the US, and Terranigma in Europe. Having played all three games, I have found each game to be better than the last. But all three follow the same basic outline for its battles: Swipe with sword, Kill enemy, enemy turns to some ball-of-soul and upgrades your weapon/defense/life if you can wipe out the whole screen of them. Other than the different types of power-ups one gets in the game I can't see any reason why one would like one game and not like the other. But then again tastes do differ. I liked all three games because each had something memorable: Soulblazer had the towns "reconstructing itself" after defeating the enemies, Illusion of Gaia's Jewels (Collect them all to meet a familiar face) And Terranigma's Character, Ark (Mischeivous, not exactly a good start for a would-be hero). I think it all comes down to whether you really like that style of gameplay or not. I do, and I know some other people do too.

There might be some holes in my explanation, but hopefully I got my basic idea through. See you on the other side of the web =-}

"TheFreak"


Allan: Interestingly, Soublazer was the first SNES RPG I owned outright. Lots of good memories there, aside from the first boss, whom I found more difficult than the rest of them combined. And, of course, there was poor old Turbo... *sniffle*

Q: Mr. Guru,

In the last column, you wrote <<You see, there's a line in the Book of Numbers that states that "thou shalt not wear clothes of mixed fabric, lest ye be struck dead.">>. In actuality, that is a poor translation on the part of the bishops hired by good ol' Kingy Jim. You see, what is essentially being stated there is that wearing clothes of the opposite sex (transvestitism) is spiritually bad for you... i.e., you'll be struck dead. (However this was before Christ, so now you can be forgiven of this sin.)

Still, if that lovely fellow with the Transvestite tiger named Geebles(?) following him uses this law, he is certain to have one of two things happen. Either Geebles will be struck dead, or Nick will get some kind of nasty STD from touching Geebles undergarmentry. Let us hope it is the former. . .

~Shawners

I'd really like a referance for that mixed fabric "line in the Book of Numbers" 'cause I've read through the whole damn thing (before you said anything about it) and I never saw it. Of course you could just be playing with my emotions.

- The Great (I don't care if it's impropper) Torger

 

Allan: I don't have the exact passage, but the quote is from the Bible I found in the bedside drawer at a hotel I stayed at this summer. It was called The Good News Bible, had a bright orange cover, and the translation seemed a bit... off. But that passage was just too bizarre to ignore, so I copied it down verbatim. I seriously didn't make it up. Trust me on this. I just read a really, really weird Bible.



Q: Hi Guru!

Just on a minor note, you said that the Shining series didn't have anything in common except the developer. I have played Shining in the Darkness and Shining Force 1+2 and they do have a continuing storyline (unlike the FF's for example). In a temple in SF2 (I don't remember the name), there's a story written about 3 demons competing to be the master demon or something, this is what really happens in the other two games. In SITD you battle Dark-something (can't remember his name... the dude with the weird helmet :)), in SF1, the same Dark-something awakened the Dark-Dragon-something :), and at last in SF2, you battle Zeon (YAY! I remembered a name!) who was the victor of this contest. I don't know anything about SF3 though since I don't have a Saturn... That'a about it, sorry about the names, I havn't played those games in a long time...

-Magnus Pihl

Allan: Wow. I totally didn't notice any of that. I feel like such a twit. Good call to you and the three other people who wrote in to point out the bloody obvious to me. :)

What is challenge? Let's find out, shall we?

For the longest time, I've felt that the challenge of a RPG is the new situations that may arise. This is my perspective from a pen & paper RPG view. The whole purpose was to play a character in a different reality and have fun. The challenge lies in facing new situations and unpredictable results. Unfortunately, this is lost in computer and console RPGs...

-The Red Scare


There are two things I'd like for everyone to consider about RPGs.

1) The level building process. If you think that a game is too easy, you probably spent too much time developing levels and abilities. In this sense, the difficulty of an RPG is variable - it reflects the time and effort that you as the player put into the game. It also reflects your judgement on the level-building process. Have you gone too far or not far enough? If you think an RPG is too easy, here's the challenge - try finishing it again with about 15 experience levels less.

2) The game itself. Are you trying to play a story-based game for the challenge? Better question: How many people out there are actually playing the game for the story? Let's be real here: if you aren't, you might as well try to explain to everyone that you read Playboy magazines for the articles as opposed to the pictures. RPGs were meant to tell a story. The flashy FMVs and heavenly scores are just there to add to the experience - to add a third dimension to the story-telling process.

If that doesn't settle it... How many of you have read Moby Dick? It was hard, wasn't it? Did you struggle through it in English class? Did you curse the dead body of Herman Melville for writing the stupid book? Last question: Did you enjoy the story?

Rob Allen

 

A short comment on the nature of difficulty:

Well, I think that what makes a good definition for something being diffucult, well, is quite impossible to pin down. But, as far as a good example of what hard is, take Ruby Weapon from FFVII, you have to have the levels, the skill, and the mindless luck to beat that monster. And while it is an extreme example (extremely hard) I think that the combination of the three are good. You need to have worked for your current strength, you NEED to have a stratagy to beat the opponent, not just the ability to push the circle button over and over again, and lastly a little luck. Cause sometimes, baddies have the instant death and utter destruction spell, and whattya gonna do?

Raoul Duke, Still Wondering about Dark Wizard

 

"What do we (collectively) consider to be "challenge" in an RPG?"

I can only speak from some feedback I have received regarding two editorials I have written, but as far as challenge in the battle system, it seems clear that RPGers are divided (might make for a good poll)... some believe that a game is not challenging unless you level up, others agreed with my opinion that a game which requires leveling up is creating the wrong kind of challenge.

As far as battles go, I believe the ideal level of challenge is a game where no leveling up is actually required, but only if you are capable of finding and exploiting weaknesses or determining working strategies against enemies. Final Fantasy Tactics was, in my opinion, relatively close to this.

In other words, if you want to level up, then you can fight enemies purely on your terms. If you choose to merely charge straight forward, then you might be defeated a few times because you need to think about your strategy some. I know this is probably a difficult balance to acheive, but I believe designers could do it if they put more time and thought into the player's perspective.

As for adding puzzles, yes, it is lacking in recent RPGs (although Wild Arms did a pretty good job with that), and that is another aspect of challenge I would like to see put back in. Of course, designers still need to make sure players can figure out the answers without having to decompile the program (well, that's for those of us who can't read minds).

And I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to put difficulty settings into RPGs. I believe it would add a lot to a RPG's replayability. I have often wanted to go back through a game with the enemies being stronger and smarter, especially since after I have played it once, I know most of their weaknesses, not to mention I find more powerful weapons and armor and gain more levels the second time through.

I think it's also a good idea because RPGers views on difficulty are pretty much contradictory from gamer to the next, so it would help a RPG reach a larger audience. But, that's just me.

The editorials I mention are in the archives of RPGamer... "The Difficulty Factor: How difficult do you want it?" and "The Difficulty Factor: Who are we challenging?" I seriously hope my opinion is not a unique one...

Shawn Bruckner


I have some thoughts on the difficulty of RPGs. What makes an RPG difficult is a slightly ambigious argument, so it can be somewhat difficult to keep the comments along the same line of thought. Let me try my best though.

First off, I want to talk about the whole level-building area. It appears in varying shapes and forms in virtually every RPG known to man. The difficulties it seems to give are usually one of two. The first being that of deciding where to put the resources gained from the time spent (in *some* RPGs, such as which jobs to learn in FF5 or DQ6, or which weapons/spells to advance in SOM or RomaSaga). The second being that of how much is to be done. Doing too much can waste time and make dungeons boring, while too little and you'll be behind the ball and struggling to survive in no time. These challenges can both be annoying at times. Especially when a character has a virtually unlimited number of little things that need to be built up, and which can't be built up all at the same time. Or in the second case, generally you can tell how much level-building needs to be done before a new dungeon after playing it for a few hours, but occasionally a game will throw a curve, and that can really be a pisser.

Personally, theres nothing I hate more than blowing through a dungeon, or a town for that matter! I believe that a little level-building here and there turns what might have just been a brief pit-stop of a location into someplace where you have to settle down for a while, maybe get to feel like you actually know the place. To that end, I feel level-builing is less of what should be a challenging thing, and more atmospheric and emersing. It's a simple little time-consuming routine in games which can help the player fall a little deeper into the illusion of being somewhere else, and of being someone else. The rewards you get out of the level-building, after all, make your guy more destructive and 'cool'.

Next, I want to talk about puzzles. Allow me to divide puzzles in RPGs into two categories. The first variety might be a little more familiar. As an example of it let me mention Lufia 2 (Estpolis 2 for you importers), which is basically a puzzle game in which one fought battles and was told a story. While it is a good game, it is hardly much of an RPG by my book (although the puzzles did make the dungeons fairly interesting). This is a bad example of puzzles in RPGs. The puzzles don't really seem right where they are. It ends up being either obtrusive or all-consuming (in which case what you have is a puzzle game, not an RPG). The other kind is one where the puzzles are less physically obvious, much more intregal with the story of the game, and do not interfere with, but actually enhance the atmosphere of the game. The net result is difficult to describe, but the best example I can think of it appears in the little-known import title "Mystic arc" by Enix (The sequel to 7th Saga, but you'd never guess it due to the fact that it's actually an interesting game).

Puzzles are often used simply to make the player have something to do inside a dungeon or a town. They work to this end, but come closer to being menial tasks than to brain-stimulating 'puzzles' (most often just finding a switch, or pushing blocks, or talking to the right villager or some such nonsense). With the exception of Mystic Arc, I have yet to find any RPG which sufficiently wields the puzzle with any grace or skill. Probably because it takes a heck of a lot of design work to do so.

I'm going to have to stop it there, for now.

- KusoDaimyo (plangwor@mediaone.net)

Allan: Whew! I'll now encourage everyone, if they haven't already, to read Shawn Bruckner's editorials on this subject, apologize to anyone whose letters didn't make it in today's column, and steel myself for tomorrow's response to this batch.

Quick 'n Dirty Tidbits: Sandra Hayward asks if there's a Chrono Trigger 2 or Breath of Fire 4 in development (nothing announced as of now, but I wouldn't be surprised), by asks if the characters in Seiken Densetsu 2 had default names (not in my copy), Booga asks if FF6 is available for anything except SNES (no PC or PSX ports, I'm afraid) and where the promised archive of daily quotes is (working on it...), SammyBlade asks if there's any Dragon Ball Z RPGs (there's a whole bunch in Japan, but none over here yet), Phil asks what Kefka's last name was ( ), Simkin asks who composed FFT's music (check Q&DT in the 25th's column), and Justin Thomas asks where he can get TG-16 stuff (older gaming stores, pawn shops, eBay auctions and Turbo Zone Direct are good places to start).

I think I hit a nadir, healthwise, today, so hopefully this means that I'll only get better from here on in. I can dream, can't I?

- Allan Milligan, noticing how serious today's column is

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