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ASK SEAN
Column 40: Deluge of Snow
December 2nd, 2007

Sean - 7:50pm EDT

Wow, it is nice to be back. I used the last couple of weeks to deal with my schoolwork and other things. I played a bit of a few games, tried a few more, but not really too much. So, how about I run through the last weeks, as well as the next ones?

My school work is not done. True, last week saw the writing of two exams (well one real exam, and one that was more like a big quiz) and the completion of a 23 page paper, but I still have the big programming project ahead of me. It is due on Friday with a Thursday night presentation. I have two useless team members. Ugh. I've been working on it all weekend. In fact, I am taking a break from it to write this column, as I am unsure that I will have the time to write it tomorrow night. I'm waist deep in ASP code right now.

I've played a few missions further in Guild Wars, and I am approaching the end of the first chapter. It feels good. I also started playing FFXI as a dancer, but I have only played for a few hours. The game is really hard to get back into! I am unsure of how long I will stay--not having anyone to talk to just sucks. I did pick up two reward games (for studying so hard, of course) in the form of Revenant Wings and Orcs and Elves. Oh, I finished Legend of Heroes 2, as well. Should I review it? Would anyone care?

My niece, Natasha, was born on Thursday afternoon while I was writing my final exam. She was born at 8lbs 15oz. She is adorable. She is in charge of our household right now!

This week will see two columns by me and one by Lusipurr. I have an office Christmas party on Friday, and will be unable to write a column, so he offered to fill in. Wednesday's column might be posted after my Thursday's presentation, unless I am more productive than I expect to be over the next few days. Sorry about that.

There aren't that many letters today, which is actually good, since I do need to get back to my project. I expect it to be the same for Wednesday, but by next week I will bring this all back to normal again. Please be patient with me.

Oh the snow! We are expecting at least a foot of snow tomorrow, so that is what I mean.




LETTERS
Don't argue with me today!


Hey Sean,

I have to totally disagree with your comment that "the bigger issue is developer lazyness." The reality is that as a developer, I can honestly say that although some of the people in the business are certainly lazy, that is not what drives the dislike for developing on Sony machines. When you are working a 70 hour week to try and get a product out the door, and you are fighting with some stupid Sony issues, laziness has very little to do with it.

Sean

Meh, just take the time to learn these problems and then the fighting won't be needed. It is the same thing with anything else. Have a problem with a tool? Learn to use it better so it isn't a problem. At work when I have a problem with something, I often need to read/work on it on the weekend so that I don't have the issue anymore. But I guess that developers don't see the need to actually learn to work with it rather than complain about it being an obstacle.

Consider it financially. If it takes longer and costs more money to develop for System A vs. System B, which is going to be more appealing?

Sean

It doesn't matter even the littlest bit. If it costs one million dollars to make a game for easy system A and two million dollars to make the same game on hard system B, but the sales for B is five times higher than for A, it might just be worth it, right?

As for it providing a challenge, that is not really accurate either. The types of issues that developers typically struggle with on Sony systems are issues that require very little creativity and tend to be far more mundane. You struggle with things like memory management when you want to be developing new fantastic ways of rendering. Or you struggle with managing 7 processors when you want to be working on interesting gameplay elements.

Sean

Learn the toolkit, learn to work around the problems, remove the need to blame the toolkit. I won't budge on this. Developers should express an interest in learning to deal with the issues, not just blame their lack of interest on it being "hard."

Basically you spend more time dealing with the mundane aspects of developing, and less time working on gameplay, visuals, audio and all the other things people care about.

Now all that being said, in the end developers will put there push behind which ever system is going to sell the most units (for the most part). PS2 was harder to develop for than Xbox, but because the sales potential was higher, a lot more developers supported it.

As a Gamer, I am a huge fan of Sony. As a developer, I dislike Sony.

Sean

The Xbox always was easy, as it uses the same tools as PC games (well to a certain degree). Isn't the Xbox like a modified, limited PC? Isn't that exactly what you learn to program on when going to school? By this token, developers prefer to program on their learning systems. Mean, aren't I? Thanks for the letter, Eggman!



Why can't I have a scathing personality?


Lusipurr,

I'm unsure as to whether I should be prostrating myself in supplication to entreat a response from yourself, or if I should be approaching you with acerbity equal to your own. I'll likely opt for somewhere in between.

Sean

I am not he, but prostrating yourself is a good start. Oh yes, people--I AM BACK!

Addressing Mr. Snuggles, I cannot say that I particularly enjoyed Tales of Legendia, but it was not an abysmal game. However, compared to the Tales games as a whole Legendia was horrendous. I found the characters and story to be shallow, not to mention the pacing was strange. It played like a dungeon crawler rather than a Tales game. Etrian Odyssey was an amusing game, but definitely not what you would expect out of a Tales game. Perhaps punishing the developers for straying from the formula sets a dangerous precedent, but in this case I believe it is justified as it added nothing to the game and arguably made it worse. The battle system was a step backwards from Symphonia as well, not being nearly as well polished. The problem here is that Symphonia was released nearly two years prior to Legendia. Many people believe Symphonia is the clear winner between the two and was released first, consequently Legendia is considered awful regardless that it was mediocre at worst when reviewed on its own merits. Tales of the Abyss however, did nearly everything "right." Fantastic in-depth story, characters that really develop from start to finish, a finely honed combat system and great music. My only complaint is that they push the PS2 hardware so hard on the world map that it suffers from immense slow down on occasion. Thankfully, that is limited only to the world map, and not battle.

Sean

I haven't played Abyss yet, nor Legendia, really. I am currently three hours into Tales of Legendia. So far it isn't THAT bad.

To answer your favorite musical composition from a game request, mine would have to be the final JENOVA theme from, obviously, Final Fantasy VII. Of course others come close, but since you were so polite as to request that we do not offer those as well, I shall leave it at that.

Sean

I like 1000 Words. I think that is my favorite.

On the subject of musical arrangements from video games I am fortunate enough to be attending a "Play!" concert in January. Colleagues of mine have lamented being required to dress up as it is the symphony, even though it "is only video game music." Of course, I chastised them immediately and rebuked their statements. However, it does bring up the subject of video games as art again. The question this particular situation begs is one could easily infer that the music is art-worthy, being performed by a world-class symphony, but does that make the games that include such music art as well? I would hesitate to invoke transitivity here as one could cite counter examples simply by pointing to numerous YouTube videos which often take fantastic compositions and arrange them against something infinitely absurd (albeit on occasion entertaining), such as squirrel catapults. That being said, does that reduce video games to not being art in of themselves and more a composition of disparate art forms? I believe that a composition of separate arts does not necessarily qualify it as art in of itself, but perhaps creates the potential to be art. What is your opinion on the matter, Lusipurr?

Monion

Sean

I should have left this one for him! To a certain degree, video games should be considered as works of art, the same way that movies, pieces of literature, paitings and music are. In fact, they contain a little of all of the above! A lot of games even carry hidden messages, or require thought to appreciate. That's just my thoughts. I would ask what you all think, but I think this topic is an old one. Thanks for the letter!



I am not good with song titles.


This is the first time my cat has ever (ever) seen snow, and now he's running like mad around here and making these funny noises.... He's already jumped on my face once while I was sleeping and gave me a bloody nose. Anyways. Music time. I majored in music so I know a good chord when I hear one.

Sean

My dog was the same way with first snow. She panicked, barked at it and then later romped around in it. She loved it.

But there's lots of possibilities here. Like those different genre awards they present on TV for "real" music. The one I'd like to solo most to is Jean's Theme from Lunar 2. The one stuck in my head right now is Simple and Clean (US ver.) BEST techno in a game is that first sub-boss theme in Einhander with the vocals no one can understand. But talking about video game music, you simply cannot disregard Rhapsody! Evil Queen! Old School? That's gotta be Corneria from Star Fox (SNES). And, of course, music for music games. That's tough, but Symphony of Destruction for GH1 is one I play through most.

Sean

Ok...

I gotta agree, just because a game is great and gets hyped is no reason to start hating it. Even I'm annoyed by the reputation of FFVII, and I still love it. But there's a reason you see a movie, spinoffs, action figures, and cosplayers for that game more than any other. Because it is all that. And when people OTHER than yourself realize that, you just get jealous and try to stand out by whining and saying they took your candy away. But that's the price you pay for liking the company that started most people out on their addiction of RPGs. Even I can't name a company I like more, with my favorite being Chrono Trigger. Same with TTRPGs. Just because D&D is the most popular doesn't mean people won't play it out of spite of its fans playing it.

Sean

Actually, with the D&D thing, it is true. I know people who play Rifts, etc because they don't want to be seen playing the same game that everyone else does.

So what non-RPG do you think would have the most potential? Halo doesn't have my attention, either. I still want Kirby, but I'd have to make it myself since no one I know agrees with me yet. Or Tetris! That would ...... take some thought. Would you be surprised if they put Jack from Jack in the Box in a game, RPG or not? Have you ever seen an ad in the classifieds for assassins with a secret phone number to call?

Sean

Most potential for what? To be played? Right now I would say Mega Man. That's it. Oh for an RPG? A whacky Ratchet and Clank RPG? Yep.

How do you say, "Where is the bathroom?" in Japanese?

Sean

I asked Sensei, and he deigned to reply: "Toire wa doko desu ka?"

Thought I'd throw some real questions in there....

dshwshr (bows to Kujo cat)

Sean

Thanks for the letter!



NO QUICKIES TODAY



IN CLOSING

That is it for me for today. I have another 3-4 hours of various technical papers to write before going to sleep. Tomorrow is work again. I did want to thank Lusipurr and Sensei for helping me out over the last two weeks. I hope to be more available over the next few weeks. Did anyone read my new review?

See you all on Wednesday! I will try to get something interesting to say by then too!



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