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ASK SEAN
Column 41: The Graduate
December 10th, 2007

Sean - 5:25pm EDT

Classes are done. Exams are done. Assignments are done. Projects are done. School is now officially over and done with. That means I will shortly have my paper saying that I am better than other people. Well, after graduation, that is.

I'm sorry that I missed Wednesday's column, but I wasn't able to read the letters, let alone answer them. The last four days prior to my final presentation were all devoted to it--my team really didn't step up as they should have. But now... I have time to game again!

Just prior to my final exams I reactivated my FFXI account, and on Friday my Vanguard account received the same treatment. I also played some of the Witcher and finished Orcs and Elves. So what are my thoughts? FFXI plays too slow, but I still remember the glory of beating the uber-bosses. Vanguard is a super fast paced game that (unsurprisingly) is still very full of bugs. I crashed six times in the first hour that I played. I've been playing a monk that I started right before quitting the last time. I am really disapointed by the lack of progress, even though a pal keeps telling me the game is "stable" now. In any case, I have a month trial of both games now. We'll see which of them I will end up keeping afterwards.

This weekend wasn't that much fun. We had a Christmas party on Friday night, during which my girlfriend busted her leg. We ended up in and out of clinics until this afternoon. Actually, she is sitting there right now waiting to get her cast "installed". Also, the car I have been using broke down. Luckily I don't need to pay for it, but it hurts to be without it for three days. Oh, and I am buying a car in a couple of weeks. A 99 Pontiac Sunfire for $500. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!




LETTERS
Everyone give a warm welcome to Ju... Ugh, just forget it!


Ah, Sean. The world of exams and projects is one I am currently not a participant in. Someday I shall rejoin the educational grind, but for now all my time not on the job is my own. Galbadia Hotel is being nice to me again, so here's a neat song to partake of: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/6320/2. This is the ending theme to Lost Universe, and I think you can detect the similarities with Slayers music since the same production team did both series.

Sean

I tried watching that show once. I just couldn't get into it. And remember: Slayers is one of my favorite shows of all time (anime or not). I think I have this song somewhere in my library already. Is there a cheap collection of this show? I may need to do some research...

I haven't played all that much in the past month. As documented, all information on my old hard drive was lost. Gathering the materials I desire from their disparate locations has consumed 90% of my free time recently, though I'm pleased to say even the more difficult-to-locate-in-the-first-place items have mostly been accounted for. Now if only I could find all that neato Fire Emblem fan art people were posting on the GameFAQs forums four years ago.... You wouldn't have a hotline to such?

Sean

Nope. Good luck finding all that. But if I can ask: why not just gather new junk to populate your new drive?

There is one game I've been playing quite a bit on breaks, lunches, and as a stress reliever: Luminous Arc. I know, I know: it's a game from THIS SUMMER. Who knew I was capable of such a feat?

Sean

You're getting there. The rumors on Gamespot about the Dreamcast 2 must have gotten you into a blood frenzy. I am correct, right?

As Luminous Arc is a tactical title you probably have no interest in playing it. So I'll relate the most interesting aspects I've uncovered from ten hours or so with it. At 10 hours my hero (poor Alph, he makes me think of a cat-eating citizen of Melmac whenever his name is spoken) is level 30, revealing that the game is not terribly long. Battles tend to be quick thanks to the small battlegrounds and relatively small groupings of combatants (maximum 16 characters on the field, friend and foe combined). Pretty basic tactical action from what I see; you would not find a game to divert you but I enjoy it well enough.

Sean

I heard it was a bland game from a few sources, so I decided not to pick it up. The witches do look hot though... I know another game with that levelling curve: Dragoneer's Aria. Short it was not.

The voice acting isn't omnipresent but is plentiful enough to be interesting. Prominent among the voice actors is he who voices Nikolai, and I give this fellow (whose name I do not yet know thanks to not having seen the credits) kudos for overacting with gusto. He is quite amusing to listen to. Several other actors made co-workers feel they were listening to a Saturday morning cartoon; that is not inherently good or bad, simply an observation.

Sean

Some cartoons are really well done though. I like Chaotic and 6teen. They are fun shows. Of course, Sonic X sounds absolutely horrible. I just realized that I can watch cartoons on the weekend again!

When I am home my time is almost all devoted to the aforementioned computer tasks that are hardly difficult, just time-consuming. Once I deem my new computer acceptably molded in my image I shall finally start up the Samurai Shodown RPG for the Saturn. Possibly a foolish choice considering how I really am not a wunderkind with regard to Samurai Shodown, but I feel the effort will be worthwhile.

Sean

Good luck with that. My experience with the series is exactly nil squared.

I ask you now to delve into the past. Do you remember a game on the Dreamcast called D2? I certainly do, for I attempted to play it five years ago and was thwarted by a scratch on the third disc. Having at last found an eBay auction offering simply the discs and not the packaging (which I already possess) I was quick to snag it even with the funding impoverishment I related an earlier day. Which brings me to the subject of this digression: would you consider D2 in any sense an RPG? Damn if it isn't one of the strangest games I've ever played, but I think a case could be made for my getting Adriaan to list it on the site if I reviewed it.

Sean

Well, seeing as to how I never heard of it or played it, I couldn't make the judgment call on it. Why not write an editorial?

Snow is a novelty to me, having seen it so seldom. Currently it is gusting very heavily with the fear that the power may go out thanks to an inopportune tree fall. PG&E gets a lot of abuse, most of it deserved, but this windy weather would befoul any power company's efforts.

JuMeSyn

Sean

I live in an area that is prone to power outtages. I hate it. Always the first to go out and last to go up. It can be rather infuriating at times. I do hope that you get your PC rebuilt and some Enchanted Arms in. I need to know how that game is!



Cheese with milk, milk with cheese!


Sean (or whoever is filling in)

About whole issue on Gamespot altering their controversial review of Kane & Lynch (and possibly even firing Jeff Gerstmann) for the sake of appeasing Eidos and their business relations, I feel that THIS is the biggest problem with video game review sites that employ their staff, and relying on advertisement money to do so. Sure, employed staffs tend to work harder, and run larger websites like Gamespot, but then they also require much more money. Since poor reviews can have a way of being taken as saying 'so-and-so game and said company sucks,' they naturally aren't good for the business of the company in question, who rely on game sales to stay afloat. I hear that Eidos is one of those game publishing companies that has been having tougher financial problems in the past few years compared to most other companies, so they could understandly feel more threatened by a bad review. That being said, it still seems childish of them to withdraw advertising support from a source that gave their game a bad review (especially considering how advertising is beneficial to them on a big website like Gamespot), unless the review is altered. If Gamespot didn't like Kane & Lynch, then Eidos and IO Interactive themselves are to blame for not making the game better. What they did was almost like blackmail.

Sean

I didn't really want to touch on this whole issue, but I feel the need to express myself on it a little bit. I don't agree with the actions of the readers: we don't know what the truth of the matter is. It has been blown widely out of proportion because of this. What happens if it was an amicable parting and not a violent send-off? I never really noticed any reviews on Gamespot that were unfairly biased towards certain games and Kane and Lynch proved it for me. I think it was just an unfortunate coincidence that this all happened at the same time. Of course, if it actually is as rumors say, then there will be some trust issues between me and them.

Writing reviews and other such gaming articles are time consuming. Someone who has a full time job, or goes to school full time cannot hope to sustain a heavy quota that the major sites require. Having written for IGN in the past, I know how it is. It is sometimes all about the speed that you get an article posted, and with games requiring more and more time to complete, it is impossible to do so quickly, unless one has huge reserves of time to throw at the task. This is why paying people to do is the correct way of doing this.

Game sites need their ad dollars. There is only one way around it: make it a pay site. Of course, us readers will not like to see that happen, so we are in a bind. We want it for free without pesky ads. Remember the days before the Internet when we had to pay to get magazines to get any information? They had ads in them to lower the costs for the consumer. Think of it something like that.

For sure, without the pay to go along with it, there is no way that I can push myself to review something that I don't throroughly enjoy in a timeframe to match the big sites.

Of course, the real problem here is that Gamespot actually DID change Jeff's original stance on the game, all for the sake of mending some damaged business relations with Eidos. Such a problem can easily occur when people make it a business to critique certain products, while simultaneously receiving advertisement money from one of the companies that manufactors said product. I don't know how RPGamer works, or if/how you are paid to run ads, but the fact that you don't pay your staff can actually be a good thing. RPGamer reviewers need not feel like they have anything to loose or any business relationship to damage by giving a bad game a bad review. The same can't be said of game sites that make a business out of what they do. For all critics who are indeed in such a position, this is probably a constant challenge for them: review a game impartially, or take financial and employment factors into account, reviewing an important investor's game well, even if it isn't good. A critic's job isn't so easy when you consider these. Some critics must put their jobs on the line on a daily basis.

Sean

I don't think it is that harsh. Companies know the quality of their games when they get to market. They aren't all jaded that their creation is the best thing ever. Sure, some must be let down as they expected better results, but in the case of Kane and Lynch, I recall the single-player demo not going down well. They really should have listened to the playtesters and demo-players and fixed it before release.

RPGamer relies heavily on their ad dollars to stay in operation. From my experience here, publishers want us to advertise their games, as we are one of the definitive RPG sites on the web. They know that (for the most part) our reviews are heavily proofed, impartially written and even when negative, can be a selling point for a group of gamers. The fact that we are required to complete a game before reviewing it is steps ahead of what our counterparts do. Often at IGN, an import copy is played, and the review is based on either a partial playthrough or on a version that may or may not be the same as the domestic release.

In fact, I believe it to be entirely possible for a reviewer to damage our relationship with an advertiser. By saying crass things in a public forum, or calling out a defficiency in an improper way, can lead to trouble and an advertiser choosing not to advertise with us on a future campaign. Imagine if a rep from such a company sees me say something like you usually see on the Gamespot forums. It could turn messy.

Now EGM has a history of pissing off companies with unbashingly harsh reviews, and possibly losing support from them. But they don't care. They just always say they just tell it as they see it. I totally understand why this is seen as admirable to a lot of readers who want to make worthwhile buying decisions, and EGM has amazing respect from the gaming community because of that. If Jeff Gerstmann did indeed get fired for telling it like he sees it, in the face of the almighty dollar, then I say more power to him. He totally has my respect, and I wish him well for the future.

Sean

He always had my respect. Sometimes I read things in reviews and I can't believe I saw them. Personal bias (I can't give this game a good score since it stars a woman, asian guy, isn't an FPS, etc) always pisses me off. I need to see what qualities and blemishes the game has. If there is personal bias, I might as well be looking at the reader comments below it. I mean, why review an RPG, if all you like is the sports genre? Stay away and let someone who is interested handle it. I know a good few guys here who would jump at the chance to work for a big site! Give them a chance to do it!

Also, this is beside the point, but do you think that Q&A should have a holding policy on letters? Take last Friday's column, for example; both Philip the Tomato and JuMeSyn wrote letters that were meant for Sean and J_Sensei, respectively. But Lusipurr got them both instead, and (I presume) his responses to those letters were... less than satisfactory to their respective writers, to say the least. In those cases, wouldn't it be a better idea to not answer some letters that are meant for other hosts, but instead leave them in the inbox, and wait for the right host to answer them when his turn is up? I imagine that it shouldn't be that difficult to do. In cases with J_Sensei, when you don't know when he will be back, maybe you can just forward the letter to him directly (maybe in addition to answering it yourself). Of course, I also understand the complication that occurs if you do not have enough letters left over to make a column on a day when there should be a column, and the pressures involved. What do you think?

FirstAid

Sean

I used to think the same way, but with the trickle of letters that I receive now, it is hard to hold letters. When I receive letters in my personal box, I don't forward them to the communal address. Basically, if someone wants their letter answered by the correct person, send it to him! I felt bad that Philip's letter was answered by someone else, but I didn't have the chance to intercept it before Lusipurr got his hands on it. While his answers were amusing, I wish I had a chance to answer the letter myself. But to get back to the question, the thought of one letter columns does not please me.



I might like the 360, if it had more than two good games that aren't shooters or sports games


Quick thanks to Philip the Tomato for explaining more fully what I was trying to say.

Also a further comment that even if you learn to use the Sony tools and are absolutely brilliant at it, they still cost 10-20x as much as the Nintendo and Microsoft tools. So ask yourself, why would I buy 1 PS3 dev kit when I can get 10 Wii or 360 devkits for the same price? No amount of overtime or education is going to fix that problem. The math isn't hard here. If you try and share 1 devkit among 10 people, your productivity is dramatically reduced when compared with each person having their own kit. Reduced productivity = Higher Costs.

Sean

I will concede on the price point. Anyways, it is all moot now until the PS3 picks up. Who knows? It might still become first! I need to figure out when I will purchase a 360: I am still holding out for one with built-in HD-DVD support. That would really make me happy. In any case, a little waiting never hurt anyone--it is not as if there are more 360 games that I want to play than PS3 games in the same group.

It is certainly true that if I can make more money by developing for PS3, then it is worth taking the time to do so, however, currently that is not the case. Currently my best bet for making money is 360 and Wii. To top it all off, both those platforms are much cheaper and easier to develop for.

Sean

I kinda of see this as a bad thing. The PS3 might one day become a viable platform--more so than the others. Look at the PSP! Last year no one wanted one. Now I see them everywhere I go. Even I have one. I even said I would never buy one. I now own three PSP games per DS game. Anyways, I do agree that Sony needs to step up here. If it is so hard to use, make it easier. Make it cheaper. I see way too many ads for 360, Wii, DS, PSP, but not PS3.

And I am sure that most gamers would agree that they would prefer the developers spend their time (and money) making a game more fun and more interesting, rather than spending their time trying to learn how to use a clunky, expensive, and annoying tool.

Sean

I don't see the point here. I would like to see the suits give the developers the time to make quality games regardless of the console. If the troubles would take an extra six months to fix for the PS3 version, the 360 and Wii versions would just get six months less. The suits just need to give them time to work on the quality. We get too many crap games on the Wii and 360, so it just not something that we see on the PS3.

If I have a choice between a car that looks great and runs great for $1000 dollars or a car that looks great but runs like crap for $10,000, can you guess which one I am going to buy. Sure maybe I could spend the time fixing up the $10,000 car, but why bother.

Eggman

Sean

Just for your information, the PS3 does not run like crap. I know three people personally that own 360s. Between the three of them, three consoles have needed to be sent to Microsoft. Imagine waiting in line for a day and then not being able to play it for three weeks. Meanwhile, our PS3s are still running. And seeing more use. But then again, nothing sees as much use as out PCs--MMOs for the win!



QUICKIES

With the whole Gamespot controversy, I thought I would ask the question: How much editorial control do RPGamer's advertisers have over RPGamer?
-Flamethrower

Sean
None, as far as I know. At least not for anything that I write.



IN CLOSING

I don't like being labelled a fanboy. I've owned pretty much every console since I have been able to afford them, but with conflicting needs for my hard-earned cash, I have been unable to do so recently. I can't justify buying a system for two games: Mass Effect and Eternal Sonata (which will be PS3d soon enough anyways). It just doesn't make economical sense. The Wii is also in my posession, but it sees little use. The games just don't grab me as I expect them to. Of course, I have as of yet to play Super Mario Galaxy, so that may change later! I equate the term fanboy with the immature people found on various forums that cry "M$ Sux! WiI bl0wS!" or other such drivel. Having faith in a product or brand is ok in my eyes, but too many people see that as a bad thing.

I wish I could have just cause to purchase all the major consoles. That would put to rest all the negative comments about me being a "Sony fanboy". Why is it such a bad thing to have and use a Sony product? Can anyone tell me this?

I have decided to cut the contest for now. I need to think up some new ideas for it anyways. I was wondering, if in the New Year, if I should spend some time and put together a little web-based game. So I decided to run a little poll. Which would you prefer:

Something based on trivia (a la SOCK)
Something based on stats/actions per day
Something solo-based
Something team\guild based

I am in the planning stages and want to gauge interest. I was thinking of something built with ASP. Is anyone interested in this? I might even try to gather some aid from my fellow staffers. Who knows? Matt may want to help!



Send a Letter!

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gorne@rpgamer.com
Sean is tired of this debate.


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