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ASK SEAN
Column 29: A Brave New World
October 22nd, 2007

Sean - 4:28pm EDT

I am writing this column from my desk at work, as I am currently stuck here for a few more hours. I have my second exam tomorrow night, so I will need the rest of the evening to study. Joy. And here I have so many cool games to play and no time to play them.

In other news, Lusipurr has offered to answer your questions once a month. When will this occur? The very last Friday of each month. This means that you should expect a column from him on Friday. Be sure to send him some letters. Please make sure to put Q&A into the title so that he can tell it apart from his trash mail and spam!

Seeing as to how I must study tonight, I don't intend on writing anything more in this space. Make sure that you wish me luck, AND enjoy your weekend!

So what is in the letter bag today?




LETTERS
Man, do I ever dislike Excite Truck!


Hey-o Sean,

Yeah willpower is good, but when you're working 60 hour weeks you think that you might as well spend all that overtime money on something. And they offered me something. Just happened to be Halo 3. Yeah such a sucker really.

Sean

If I had money burning in my pocket I could buy almost anything. Especially on a pay day. I don't fault you for that purchase. I did buy Excite Truck myself.

Other topic, my backlog. My trek through Final Fantasy 1 proceeds well. I'm attacking the water shrine now. I hope to be through the game by next weekend and then onto to Final Fantasy 2. Which I might not like, but I'll give it a shot anyway.

Sean

I wasn't a fan of FF2 at any point in my life. I did play through it a couple times though. The first was a fan translation and the second was the Origins version that was released here. I thought it would be fixed, but it wasn't.

Then I'll go at my Virtual Console games. Not sure which but probably some action games.

Anyway, good luck with the captains chair.

Ken

Sean

I hope I didn't bite more than I can chew. I already have a growing mail bag, so I will need to figure out an efficient way to answer them all. I just need to work harder, I guess. I would suggest Gunstar Heroes for the VC. I had a blast with it! Thanks for writing!



I am normally very shy, you know.


Sean,

Wow, you got guts taking on Q&A all by yourself. Sure, you may still be doing this three days a week like before, but the fact that you have ALL of our undivided attention must make things at least a little harder, with all of our eyes being fixated on you, your sole image in our reticules... er, retinas.

Sean

Matt was an incredible host. I likely won't be able to top him, as my innate creativity is by no means a match for his. Depending on letter count, I might need to play around with the column frequency, but we'll see what happens when the time comes.

While thinking about this, I started to wonder why Q&A always has only two hosts. If we had more regular hosts, not only would be get more opinions and diverse thoughts, but it would also make doing columns less of a hassle for each person, as the more hosts we have, the fewer the days that each host will have to work per week. So why does Q&A still stick to the two hosts at a time standard?

FirstAid

Sean

That is a good question. I am not too sure of the answer myself and I can't find Castomel to ask him. I'll have to get the real answer when next I see him. I want to bring in various staffers on a regular basis to get some more variety, but that project has yet to begin. It isn't that writing a column is a hassle, it is finding the time in a busy schedule to write it that is. When I was in college doing my undergrad, I could have easily found enough time to write four columns a day. Now it isn't quite so easy, especially during the week (it was far easier on the weekend). Sorry for not having an "official" answer, FirstAid.



Does the PS3 even need backwards compatibility?


Hi Sean,

This is my first time writing to you personally. I've been reading your columns, but I've never gotten around to writing you personally. However, I'm curious as to your opinion of Sony's latest decision, given that I believe I read that you already have a PS3.

Sean

Yes, I am a proud PS3 and Wii owner.

What do you think of Sony's decision to remove backwards compatibility from the low-end PS3? My main sticking point with them has been the nasty price tag, but cutting the backwards compatibility to save $100 doesn't do it for me, either. The smaller hard drive isn't as issue for me, I can't see myself filling it up. However, my PS2 has it's struggles, so it would have been nice to factor in the PS2 games that it coule play. Not that I'm ready to budget myself into any of the new systems at this point.

Sean

Having a smaller hard drive might prove to be a problem. Some games, like Heavenly Sword, require that you install a portion of the game on the hard drive. Sure it was only two gigs, but it took quite a while to do it. I wouldn't enjoy having to do this every time that I wished to play the game. It is like turning your PS3 into a low storage PC where you need to micromanager your disk space. Hence, I said no thanks. To tell the truth, I have yet to play a PS1 or PS2 game on my PS3. I have the memory card reader, but I just never got around to it. Prior to Folklore, my PS3 was in the living room, and my PS2 was in my basement. I was still using my PS2 to play my games. I haven't touched a PS2 game since I moved my PS3 downstairs.

As a current PS3 owner, what do you think of this decision? You currently have backwards compatibility, but do the price cuts frustrate you? I have a friend with a PS3 that was greatly irritated by the 60gig price cut. As someone who isn't directly affected by this, I'd like to hear what you think.

Thanks!

BigWook

Sean

I get asked this particular question quite a bit. I don't fault Sony for lowering the price at all. In fact, I encourage it. I bought my system when it entered my price range and I am still happy with it (even if I could have waited four months and gotten it for $50 less). In fact, I hope all the prices drop. I am a big follower of the accessiblity mode of thought--the more that have the system, the better it is. Personally, I would love to see a single console in the market to further aid this. It really bugs me that I can't play a game that I really want to play just because it is on a system that has no other attractive games on it. So to summarize, I am not bothered by the price drop and I don't really use backwards compatibility anyways.

But, is backwards compatibility completely removed, or switched to emulation? I know I heard that they removed the Emotion Engine, but didn't they also say that they were just going to emulate it instead?

What are all your thoughts on this? Thanks for the letter, BigWook!



A really LONG letter.


Greetings,

I've been reading this column for the past couple of weeks on my lunch hour at work, but this is my first time writing in. I'm continuously flabbergasted at the, well, the ignorance displayed by some of the letter writers, and I just felt I needed to comment.

Sean

Oh good! This looks like an angry letter--I hope it is alot of fun!

Regarding the "silent heroes are retarded" nonsense. No, they are not retarded. No, they are not "incapable of speech". They're perfectly normal human beings(within the scope of the game anyway); the point is that you're supposed to supply their side of the conversation with your own thoughts. Other people react to them as if they're speaking because they ARE...through you, the player. Just because you don't see their text doesn't mean they aren't talking. It's the same with all the comments about "haha NPCs can only say one thing lol"; they can say lots of things, but they're restricted to certain things that are plot-relevant because the game would have only one NPC if they could say lots of different things. Of course, there's always the fact that a large part of the public wouldn't respond the way the game assumes you will, but that's a topic for another day.

Sean

I'm sorry to interrupt, but I do believe I said that in a past column. I guess that since I am a fan of western RPGs as well as jRPGs, the silent hero seems like a waste. I mean, in western RPGs I can do like a billion things instead of just one. I am not assumed to have said anything, but am rather given a choice. To make this illusion, Crono would need to offer us choices of things to say for him, not try and guess what he said after the fact. This was one weakness I could not forgive the game for.

Regarding the question about "a game where you would play as the villain", I refuse to believe that there's such a large part of the RPG-playing demographic that is so narrow-minded about the role of a villain. A proper villain isn't a character who sits on a throne and bellows laughter at the top of his lungs, as most of the crappier games in the genre would have you believe. A true villain is more of a simple antagonist; someone who is not MWAHAHA EVIL but rather, is simply going against the viewpoint of the hero via having his own way of doing things. In fact, a good example of a game where you play as a villain is Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, yes, the game everyone loves to hate(Even if it is the only decent game to come out of that franchise since FF6). If that game, you play as Marche, a child who, along with his friends, gets drawn into a fantasy world where all their dreams come true. And what does Marche do in this world? He promptly decides it needs to be destroyed so that everyone can go back to reality. He's destroying the children's "perfect world" because it's his view that it's wrong to live there. He's technically the "villain" of the game, fighting the "good guys" who are trying to protect it.

Sean

We can go a step further and say that a villain is defined by the viewpoint of those looking at him or her. I mean, a burglar will think of the cops as the bad guys, if he really needs his stolen goods to survive. For me, a good villain is one that we love to hate. A villain that makes us HATE him and want to stop him. Someone like Kefka. Recent villains in games I have played have come nowhere close to this, with the possible exception of one from Brave Story. I need to HATE my villains. Playing as such a villain would be a really fun change of pace.

FFTA is one of my favorite FF games, but not my favorite. I don't know, if I could call Marche a villain, as there are really no victims to his crime. Leaving the pages of the book is equal to me closing a book--the characters don't die, but rather live on in the pages, and in my memories. Just a thought.

When I imagine a game coming out where you could play as the villain, that's exactly the kind of game I imagine. Not a game where you sit and laugh maniacally as you try to raze the countryside, but one where your character's beliefs are simply in the minority, and viewed as wrong, even though they're for the right reasons. Other games where your character is arguably a villain include Breath of Fire 3(Let's kill the goddess who's protecting us from certain doom!) and Tales of the Abyss(Spoiler: You've been stealing Ashe's life away from him, and have the gall to try to kill him when he attempts to take it back).

Sean

Any game that you play as a fugitive or as a member of a resistance movement may protray you as a villain. Of course, we need to separate the common good from what society is. Even though the returners were "villains" to the goverment, to the common people they were not. Ryu was after the goddess to remove a tyranical figure and improve the lives of people across the world. True villains on the other hand don't act out of altruism, but rather out of a desire to improve their lot in life or for simple enjoyment. Theft, murder, genocide--these are the hallmarks of a villain. Removing crazed despots is what a hero does.

Regarding the Halo RPG idea that's been discussed lately(Keep in mind I haven't seen the original question that spawned this conversation, so I'm just going off what letters I've seen posted about it). To get an idea of how this would work, one needs look no further than Bioshock. Sure, there's no experience points, but most of the other elements are there. You can conceivably mix any number of genres into one game as long as you've got the idea to tie them all together. I mean, there was a time when I would have thought a 2D platformer and an RPG were mutually exclusive genres. And now we've got Super Paper Mario, Valkyrie Profile, and Odin Sphere to prove me wrong. It's not a matter of the concept being impossible or possible. It's a matter of somebody having the idea to make it work.

Sean

I like the idea of Bioshock. If I ever get a 360, I will need to check it out. My PC seems to be a little under par for it and I have no intentions of upgrading it anytime soon. The whole idea of a Halo RPG was my brainchild, but I keep forgetting to insert important deatails. What I should have added originally is that it would be turn-based.

And to Virtuoso, who had a letter printed in your Monday column. I'd like to specifically call out the following line: "/Halo does have some RPG elements - a cutscene here and there, a storyline with plot twists, and a sexy female AI companion who plays a major role across the series./" I'd like to know when cutscenes, female partners, and storylines were RPG-exclusive. I can name off the top of my head at least 5 fighting games, 4 FPS games, countless adventure games, a Brawler, 10+ survival horror games, and a PUZZLE GAME that have better stories than masturbatory RPG fan-favorite FF7. Cutscenes have existed since the original /Donkey Kong/ game, and "sexy female partners" are in so many games it's mind boggling. I'd just like to know where this comment even CAME from. Has the writer even played a game that wasn't an RPG, or is s/he just extrapolating from his imagination?

Sean

Ok, this is a little unfair. He meant that there is a story told through the medium of cut scenes that contain those characters. While we all know that there is more to an RPG than a story, all he wanted to say was that the game contained a decent story. Wasn't Ninja Gaiden the first game to show a story through cut scenes? I think you will reserv some flack for that FF7 comment though!

Anyway, that's all the rantings I have for the day today. The letter's probably already too long anyway, so I bid you adieu.

PS: I am the only one who gets physically ill seeing all the people in these letters jerking it to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest? Those games have been about the graphics and nothing else since the NES era(It was in Square's mission statement to focus on making games with "only the best graphics". Nowhere in there did it say anything about making games fun or having impressive stories...makes it easy to see where non-game trash like FFXII came from, doesn't it?). Why don't some of the readers go out and play a real RPG for once? I would probably pay good money to see a letter talk about, oh, Shadow Hearts or Romancing SaGa. Maybe some good Suikoden or ANYTHING that wasn't the vomit of S-E.

Sean

You really need to hang out more here. While Matt did talk alot about DQ and Pokemon, and SE games are always a big topic amongst the rest of us, we do talk about other games. Didn't we just talk about Halo 3? If you want to discuss something else, by all means write in and start a discussion! Or better yet, write an editorial about it!

P.P.S: Yes, I realize the irony of complaining about all the people talking about FF in a letter where I talk about it too.

P.P.P.S: Before I forget, I have an answer to Annalou's short letter. The answer is "neither". America started the RPG genre of video games with early PC games based on Dungeons and Dragons, as well as Atari games like /Adventure/. The genre was pretty well established by the time Yuji Hori rolled onto the scene and made Dragon Quest, which is the first JRPG. Japan's games are actually modeled on American games.

Sean

Yes, it must be so, if my memory serves. Thanks for the letter--I hope it helps start some discussion here!



My first complaint...


Sean,

I'm wondering why you took this Q&A job if you spend so much time complaining about exhaustion. Seems like it should have went to somebody that isn't so "swamped" with school work. It's really annoying to hear people who have "school" work to do complain about it.

Sean

I'm sorry, if I give this impression. I often wondered why I was a masochist and took over the weekend columns int he first place. Part of my wanted to work with Matt before he left, part of me always wanted to do this, and finally part of me didn't know exactly how much work one of these is. If it's that bad, I will cut back on the school work comments, and only use them to justify why a column is late, or on the short side. On the bright side, I have only six weeks of classes to go, so it will be over before I know it.

It seems like you're sort of a little bit angry or annoyed half the time in answering letters, too. Matt would complain about his work, but he didn't seem to have this chip on his shoulder like you do.

Sean

Some days I purposefully write in a different style to reflect my mood. Monday's column must have been horrible, as I was literally dripping from my chair in exhaustion. Maybe instead I should have pushed the column to Tuesday. What do you all think? If I can't adequately perform my duties, should I hold off on the column until I am better?

I dunno. Seems like you should just focus on being a positive force in answering questions instead of trying to take everyone down into whatever black hole of a life you're experiencing....Good luck at improving on this.

Sean

I'll try. Sometimes it takes a few comments about something to bring an issue to my eyes. I'll try to improve, I promise. If I don't... well then, I guess I will need to find a new host for you all.

If not, I could take over for ya. I have tons of RPG experience, and I love the genre in a way that would allow for me to answer questions in a positive and helpful way, as opposed to the slighty fanboyish way i've noticed you do.

Sean

I'm a little irked by being called a fanboy. I really don't have blind devotion to anything and I don't think I gave this impression in my writing. It's true I am not a fan of FPSs, but I am allowed my opinion. I don't own a 360, but that is more from a position of not being confidant in it being a good purchase for me on a stability and game basis. If they do release a HD-DVD equipped model, I would likely to be the first in line to get it. Of course, it would need to run as silent as my PS3 and Wii. System noise is the first downer for me and the main reason I had to sell my original Xbox.

Well, thanks for reading.

Matt D.

Sean

I like hearing criticism, and thank you for being civil about it. If it comes to finding a new host, be sure to apply for the position! I'll try to lighten the mood by not being so negative. I just had to answer this letter today--I skipped over quite a few really good ones to get to it.



QUICKIES

This made it into one of Matt's letters a while back. Maybe it could be a new topic. What do you think of pets in RPGs? My stand: They don't appear often enough, except in MMOs, where they don't hold a candle to the (few) all-time favourites like Interceptor (FFVI), Munchie (DQVII), and even Flammie (SoM - just a transport, but cute nonetheless). Oh yeah, and in the Pokemon series.
-Virtuoso

Sean
I admit that Muchie and Hanpan were pretty cool, but Interceptor and Rinoa's dog just didn't cut it for me. Seeing them every now and again isn't good enough. Being able to play as Munchie was a nice plus, too! I've never been a fan of pet classes in MMOs.

To the fella writing in about the console game where you set traps for heroic parties of good guys, I think you may be thinking of Tecmo's Deception, not Dungeon Keeper. Tecmo's Deception was on the PS1, and it was BADASS. And really pretty creepy, when you get right down to it.
RUFiO

Sean
Heh, well you did the same thing in Dungeon Keeper, so both stand. So there! ^_^



IN CLOSING

I'm sorry, if I've been a downer lately. I'll try to lighten the mood. The old contest needs a revamp, too. I'll try to give it some work on the weekend. At least some prizes were given out. I do need to study some more, so I will bid y'all adieu at this time.

Oh! Please make sure to send Lusipurr some love. Peace out!



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