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ASK SEAN
Column 26: Intertwining Storylines
October 14th, 2007

Sean - 11:14am EDT

Yes, the column is being written on the actual day of the column. I just couldn't help myself last night--Folklore needed some attention after a day at school. I managed to catch Keats up to Ellen and get them both a chapter further into the story.

So what do I think about it so far? I like that both characters play similarly and differently at the same time. Ellen is more of a trickster and Keats is just plain aggressive. Not being able to equip him with anything makes keeping him alive a little more difficult. I am a little irked that I have to play through everything pretty much twice to get the complete story, but it is interesting enough so far. I'll survive. At least they both get different Folks to use.

I also finished the first act in D&DT. Life is looking good so far. Next level my cleric should be able to raise the dead, so it might get easier. It is a fun game so far--I am really addicted to the pure offensive powerhouse that is my fighter. Oh and my sorceror can sling fireballs now. I still need to figure out a good use for them that doesn't also get my party killed--or just make sure that only my monk and rogue are the ones in range of it!

Today I plan on getting past chapter four for both Keats and Ellen, study a couple weeks of material, and of course, complete this column and maybe the next. In other words, I am dooming myself to failure before even beginning.

Let's get to the letters!




LETTERS
Used game topic revisited


On the Used Games topic,

I used to work at a Used Game store (won't say which). Here was my idea when I worked there. If I wanted to buy a game used, ask if you can check the condition before you buy. A used CD in perfect condition is exactly like a new CD in perfect condition. Therefore, save the 5 or 10 bucks and get it used (unless you like spending $5 on shrink wrap). On the other hand, if it has even a single scratch, it better be a lot more that 5 or 10 bucks cheaper to tempt me.

Sean

True enough. I always look at the quality of the used stuff I purchase. I need the box and manual in decent enough condition as well. One thing I do hate is when EB Games sticks on 2318904890239 stickers directly on the game case. Those damn things are impossible to remove and just piss me off.

Now I work as a game developer, and I have to say "BUY MY GAMES!!!" :) Okay, just kidding. Seriously though, when it comes right down to it, used games do not put any money into the pockets of the developer. They do not encourage the developer to make new games. In today's world, it is tough for a small developer to stay afloat, so every dollar that is lost to a Used Game sale counts. So if you like a developer and want them to continue to make games, buying new helps them out. This is less important for companies like Squenix or Blizzard who basically print their own currency, but still worth considering.

Sean

To repeat myself--true enough. I make this argument a lot of the time too. Buying used games is the same as piracy in the eyes of the developers...

Is there a better solution? No, not really. Even if you go directly to the developers website and buy the game from there, most of the money will go straight to the publisher. They will take their chunk and pass the rest down to the developer. By the time the developer gets it, they are only getting the same as they would if you bought it in the store. Now in the case where the developer and publisher are the same company, this might be important, but it is very difficult to even determine if that is the case. I frequently work on titles where the developer and publisher are listed as the same company, but in fact they are not.

So there you go.

Eggman

Sean

Thanks for the insight into the issue, Eggman. A lot of the time we forget to ask the people that are directly effected by secondary market sales. I've always advocated in the defense of game/software developers, as less sales get my friends laid off...



Evilness part 1


Hey-o Sean,

Play as an all evil party? Absolutely. Though I like the games that offer you the choice. Not actually too prevalent in rpgs.

Sean

In western RPGs it does happen quite a bit, but not so much in jRPGs. I am talking about a full-fledged goblin crossing the world to take it over kind of thing here.

But my thoughts for an evil rpg. You band together with other villains as you learn about a strange band of do-gooders who is wandering the countryside fouling plans and smiting evil-doers. You learn there are hundreds of these groups of various power levels and learn their secret to power. The level-up.

So you begin a campaign of evil to stop the good guys from thwarting all the plans each villain in your party has been working on for their whole life. Eventually you defeat the last of the heroes and the end game begins as villains don't share power. You must defeat your former comrades. Hope you didn't level them up too much. Don't want them to be stronger than you after all.

Ken

Sean

Sounds good, but not that original. The evil-turns-on-itself theme is just overdone. I kinda of like to look at the whole goal of the game to make "evil understood". Take a look at the Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms series--in each of them the evil races have started civilizations to coexist amongst the good.

That being said, I am not too interested in the evil person taking over for someone more evil and thus becoming a hero to the common people. I just want to see someone save the world for his own reasons--whatever they may be. "Hey, you! King, over there! I'll kill Sephiroth, if you abdicate your throne to me! Just a thought.

Please, write in again, Ken!



Another EVIL letter... or not. It is..


Sean,

So, first off, I've stopped playing Jeanne d'Arc. I blame this on two things: 1.) I'm currently finding the gameplay of fight a battle, fight another battle, fight another battle, with little to no character customization in between battles extremely lackluster and boring and 2.) I was really looking forward to playing FF Tactics: The War of the Lions. I think the second reason was really affecting the first one. I really wanted to play FF Tactics so I kept thinking about how Jeanne d'Arc wasn't very enjoyable because it wasn't the game I wanted to play. Not a very fair thing to do to the game I know, and once I get my FF Tactics kick out of the way I'll go back and finish Jeanne d'Arc or at least give it another shot.

Sean

I do that ALL the time. This happens especially when I know a game I want to play is just around the corner. I lose all motivation to play whatever is currently on my plate, and just sit there and twiddle my thumbs.

Then the day rolls around when FF Tactics is coming out and I eagerly go to my local Gamestop to pick up a copy. I'm idly browsing the PSP games to sort of give the impression that I didn't just rush over here to buy a game and then rush home to play it (I feel that now that I'm in my mid-twenties I have to act a little calmer about new games than I did when I was say 15), and during my browsing I come across Brave Story. In the back of my head I can hear (read?) your comment telling me to forget about FF Tactics seeing as how I've already played it and to pick up Brave Story instead. Now I'm all set to ignore you, I know FF Tactics is going to be good and while you've said good things about Brave Story, I'm not entirely sure I can trust your opinion. After all, you might be one of those people who thinks the Blade movies are decent vampire flicks, there's no telling taste. But...Brave Story does look really cool...

Sean

Eh? I hated the Blade movies. They were boring. I never bothered seeing the third one. I'm 27 and I still call EB on US release days for games I am really waiting for. In fact I called them three times this week to find Folklore. I then grabbed my girlfriend, jumped in the car and rushed to get it. There is no shame in it. Now, if you want two games... why not just buy the both of them? Wait... spoke to soon.

Honestly, I thought you were going to say something like: I browsed the shelf to look inconspicuous and ended up missing the last copy, as someone else got it first. This is the real reason why I bee-line right towards the cash when I get to the store.

So, I end up getting Brave Story and not FF Tactics.

I end up doing this a lot, honestly. There's a game I know I want and then there's a game that I'm not 100% sure on, and for some reason I'll end up buying the game I'm not sure about. I think this way I can justify to myself the need to buy 2 games instead of just one. If I bought the game I really like the first time and I was happy with it, then there wouldn't be a reason to go out and buy a game I might not be happy with, but if I get the 'maybe' game first then I have to go back and buy the 'sure thing' game. It's kind of weird that I'm justifying my reasons for buying multiple games to myself, isn't it? Anyway, in my defense this last week was really busy, work-wise for me too. I only had around an hour or so during lunch to play the PSP which really would not have worked that well with FF Tactics but worked quite well with Brave Story.

Sean

I try to work out purchasing systems for myself, but they rarely work. I see something I want and I buy it. It is one of the joys of working and not having many responsabilities. Well that isn't true--I just don't have a family yet. One day it will happen and I am sure I will find creative excuses to get new toys. Right now I am toying with the "get the Xbox 360 to use as a HD-DVD player to watch Heroes and Transformers on" excuse. I am still perfecting it for presentation to my girlfriend.... Wish me luck!

And I'm really enjoying the game thus far. It's old school, very simple but still engaging. Doesn't overload you with a slew of things to do but presents you with enough stuff to keep you occupied. I think they hit it right on the head in terms of moderation. The only complaint I have is the bloody birdbrawling and that's more because I keep losing at it than any real gameplay complaint. So, thus far, your opinions seem pretty spot on, Sean. Thus far...

Sean

I didn't birdbrawl. I don't really like quirky little minigames and this one was just bad for me. Brave Story has a like 77 quests to find, so there is extra stuff... Anyways, you just need to get better birds.

And thankfully, my work load will be easing up tremendously (I'll actually have a 4 day weekend next week) so I'll pick up FF Tactics next and have plenty of time to play through that and probably beat Brave Story to boot. Life is good.

Sean

Sounds like it. For a while I thought you would bash Brave Story and lose instant respect with me. But you're good. ^_^

Oh, and I have to say that I'd thoroughly enjoy playing a game that has an evil party as the pro/antagonists. That's always been one of my biggest draws to CRPGs is that they at least let you play as an evil-ish person even though you eventually end up doing good deeds, you just kind of convince yourself that your doing them in the name of evil or something like that. If they came out with a game that would truly let you make choices that would truly affect the gameplay and the gameworld so that you could actually be a villain I think that would be awesome. My only hestancy is that I'd be afraid a game about villains would fall into one of two pitfalls: 1.) They'd make it comical, ala a disney villain; or 2.) They'd make it too gritty, i.e Black Dog publishings, and the ESRB ratings would eat it alive. I'd much prefer the 2nd problem over the first, but there's definitely some villainy out there that is too sick to make a game about.

Sean

3) They would make it a gorefest as evil characters would naturally only offer messy deaths to their foes. This I could not abide. Overlord was a good evil game, as was Dungeon Keeper, but most games that offer the choice just end up having you do the same thing as the good guys, but just by more questionable means.

That's just about it for me, but before I go, I would like to say that I found Lusipurr's Q & Abuse to be delightfully amusing and anytime you guys have to take a break he gets my vote to sub in for the two of you.

Koala Bob

Sean

That is only if I can coax him out of hiding for long enough to do it. He spends most of his time locked up in a cave with Final Fantasy XI...

Thanks for writing in Bob and I am happy that you found happiness!



Why is it called PHantasy Star with a PH? Grrrr...


Well, the problem with the first two Phantasy Star games is simply that they're very badly dated--at the time they were hailed as masterpieces, and some elements (the female protagonist, the death of Nei, the destruction of Palma) are still groundbreaking. But they still feature very little character development and require the usual tedious leveling and talking to every single townsperson. PSIV doesn't have any of the shocking plot twists, but I think it's a totally playable game by today's standards; the characters are memorable and the plot moves along at a snappy pace. The online games, of course, are junk.

Sean

I need to interject here to explain my experiences with the games. I found Phantasy Star to be highly enjoyable. I even wrote a guide for it for IGN. It was right up my alley. The second one took me close to a year to finally polish off. Why? I spent long periods of time wandering in the stupid dungeons with all their chutes and ladders and circular hallways that had no landmarks! I couldn't figure my way out of these places! Now, I played it on the GBA--mapping the game wasn't feasible to do on the bus, which is where I played it. In my little 20 minute sessions I wouldn't get anywhere unless I also had a walkthrough in my hands and ticked off items as I did them. This is what ended up happening...

I started the third game and just couldn't get into it. The taste that PS2 left in my mouth killed the series for me. I sold it to a friend and I couldn't be happier.

As for your question about evil parties--aren't people willing to do exactly that in the Grand Theft Auto games? Transposing that concept to RPGs would be difficult only because they require so much more plotting, and I don't think we'd be able to indulge ourselves in evil at such length.

-Mike

Sean

I don't play that trash so I completely forgot about it. Areb;t those guys just looking out for petty interests? I am talking about taking over the world because I don't like the look of the current ruler's face. I am getting a little carried away here. Anyways, I think old Jackie-boy would have issues with a game that is advertised as an evil-simulator... Thanks for writing in, Mike!



I had more turkey in my veins than blood for a few days...


Well Matt and Sean, I hope you guys ate your fill of turkey. I still have to wait a month until I can do the same without being called a glutton. Do Canadians also eat yams and pumpkin pie and such Turkey Day as well?

Sean

Yes, some do. My family is not big on either. We eat our turkey with a lot of German side dishes. Stuffing is there, but I refuse to touch it.

As for a new console or handheld entering the industry, I say why not? Besides the obvious like arcade manufacturers, there are computer tool companies, cell phone companies, makers technology-based toys, portable music player companies, and basically any type of technology or communication firms are already making products that are video game system-like. For instance, haven't you ever seen various educational toys that look identical to game consoles (complete with controllers, TV cables, and game carts) or handheld game systems? They're obviously being influenced by the electronic game industry (I'd give you specific product names if I had them in front of me, but I'm kind in a hurry at the moment).

Sean

This is a long letter for someone in a hurry! I think one is the Leaper, or something like that. I don't really want to see more companies enter the scene--I really want to see less. Get me a unified platform with everything on it and I will be happy.

Many cell phones and portable media players, while not quite full-fledged like the N-Gage, still are including more features that make them more game-like, like internet connection and button interfaces that resemble game controllers. Outside of game-specific peripherals and chips for computers, I even think that the ideas of the track ball and touch-controlled screen for computers present lots of gaming possibilities. I even think that corporations like Dell and IBM could easily take their products and stick them into a game console if they really wanted to.

Sean

True enough. They actually do, you know. They make PCs that... play games. ^_^

Who knows, it's very likely that some could take the plunge like Microsoft and Nokia did and make a full-fleged game system out of their already-game-like products. I think that if people gave them the chance, anything is possible. When Microsoft first announced that they were making a game console, I actually remember feeling embarrassed for them, thinking that NO ONE could possibly just enter the console industry with Nintendo, Sega, and Sony, and that the Xbox would never be given a chance. Heck, I even felt this same feeling when Sony was just an electronics company and first announced their Playstation way back when. It's the same feeling that probably compelled Matt to type the word "laughable" at the thought of more video game systems entering the market: it just seems ludicrous to think that anyone else could challenge the established giants of the game industry.

Sean

All they would need is a good marketing plan AND a decent product and they could potentially make it big. The Xbox made it big, because it is seen as a cheap PC replacement. In fact, many of the games are available on both. In the new generation, the 360 is more powerful than most PCs, so it is the clear upgrade path. What I do fear is the inevitable release of the iGamer... with new versions released every second week. Ugh.

Of course, the Xbox and the Playstation brands are flourishing now, BUT back when they were first announced, it didn't seem that this would ever have a chance of happening. It took killer software to get people to give the Xbox and Playstation a chance to succeed, and I think the same can be said about any possible new console. That was something that the N-Gage and Gizmondo didn't have, but the Game Gear, Wonderswan, and PSP did, hence the former handhelds failed and the latter ones became successful enough to be considered legitimate handheld gaming systems.

FirstAid

Sean

The PlayStation flew under my radar back when it released. I didn't know it existed for like a year after its release. In my defense, I was in Europe at the time. All it took was for a certain game with the number VII tacked on to get my interest. But yes, a lot of companies can theoretically break into the handheld market. MS and Apple are both prime candidates, and of the two I will prefer the former. At least they have some experience in the area...

Thanks for writing in, First Aid!



QUICKIES

Hi Matt,
..... I've got nothing. I just want some free time so that I can play Persona 3, which I got for birthday recently. It's pretty unique so far! In a 99% good way I think.
-Kharamain

Sean
I hate you. Keep writing in though!

UNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hey Sean,
Ever wonder what happened to Imperial Mog?
I do.
Mr. Snuggles

Sean
Wasn't he a reader here? I guess that like a lot of people he just comes and goes with the wind!

I hope the trend of FFIII and Dracula X Chronicles keeps up, and we get more handheld remakes of games that were never localized here. How hopeful are you about the remakes of the original Star Ocean and Fire Emblem finally being brought to us?

Sean
Yes, I really like these releases. I hope to see Star Ocean 1 here, but I personally couldn't care less about the Fire Emblem games. I do hope that the good ones come out here for those that are fans.



IN CLOSING

Ok, when a laptop says it has 22 minutes of power left, it really means that you have less than three. Luckily, I saved quite often...

Tonight is Animation Domination. I also wanted to write tomorrow's column, but seeing as to how I only have one letter in my inbox, that might be a problem. In exchange, I will just do all the pre-work and hope for more letters tomorrow afternoon. This means that the column will be late tomorrow. If I don't get any, expect a short column. I might steal some space to write about some personal stuff, or spend the time writing a review, or something. In any case... I'll see you all tomorrow!

Peace out!



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