James Smith: Hello, and welcome to the fourth installment of RPGamer's
News Roundtable. Tonight's roundtable is going to be slightly different
than those we have brought to you in the past, due to the simple reason
that this time it is I, James, moderating our discussion. First things
first, I'll allow all of our participants to introduce themselves.
Doug Hill: Hi, this is Doug Hill, current Business Manager for
RPGamer, and former Head of News. Rumor has it that our roundtables were
my idea once upon a time...
Shawn Covington: Greetings, I'm Shawn Covington and this is my
first Roundtable session. I'm a mediaite.
Henry Olsen: Hi, I'm Henry Olsen, a guest panelist in tonight's
Michael Bischoff: I'm Michael Bischoff, once again being dragged
into the Roundtable kicking and screaming.
Mikel Tidwell: Hello, I'm Mikel Tidwell. I am the Head Dragon,
so to speak.
James: I'm James Smith. Usually I'm just a lowly mediaite, but
tonight, fate thrusts me into the spotlight. Justin Weiss is unfortunately
unable to attend this Roundtable, so you're stuck with little old me...
But enough of my overdramatic ranting. Let's get the ball rolling with
our first question: Do you foresee RPG companies focusing more on series
with a continuing story, like Golden Sun and the like, or separate stories
and worlds, like the Final Fantasy series? The fans seem to want the former,
but companies have been concentrating on the latter.
Michael: RPG companies should devote equal ground to games with
continuing storylines and separate ones. One would think that it would
be easier to continue storylines though, simply because your world and
characters are already developed.
Mikel: As the companies try to find the niche between the profitable
offline games and the money-sucking vortex of MMORPGs, many companies
have tried the latest trend of spanning multiple games for one story.
Assuming the online worlds do not become profitable, I see this trend
continuing unless the players realize that in most cases, they're just
paying at least double the price for one story.
James: Making a new world for each game has its advantages. You
don't have to watch out for inconsistencies and you don't have the problem
of your storyline dragging and running out of possibilities. However,
when you look at something like the Final Fantasy series, it seems that
even with a new world every installment you can still run into repetitiveness.
I think that's what has made Square look into the online market as well
as the obvious profit possibilities.
Michael: Some would say that online RPGs also have repetitive
Mikel: Gameplay has never been the place where Square is repetitive.
Michael: Which is why it will be interesting to see how they handle
the online market.
Shawn: I agree with Mikel, companies will follow whatever path
they believe they can make money at. Gaming has increased to the point
where every game will have an audience.
Henry: I personally like games with continuity. It's great to
see what happens to the characters in a game, or even the world in a game.
Even games with only a few connections, like Chrono Cross, are fun to
play because of these connections. I hope game companies continue to create
games in this manner. On the other hand, games with no continuity are
fun in their own right too.
Doug: There are two huge problems with storyline sequels. One
is that a good sequel in any medium is almost always inferior to the first
product. Secondly, many companies feel locked into gameplay mechanics
if they keep with the same storyline that might be changed otherwise.
Mikel: There's a difference between sequels and spanning games.
In spanning games, the first game is usually not given the ending it deserves.
Some examples of this are Golden Sun and the Zelda: Oracles pair.
Michael: For those types of games, it's difficult to judge how
good they are. On their own the games simply don't work. However counted
as a series each individual game is strengthened by the overall story.
Shawn: I'd say that if a series is designed in advance, and is
done properly, an episodic RPG series could be done very well, but only
if each episode introduces new gameplay elements gradually in a way that
provides new challenge for the people who have followed it from the start.
Unfortunately, that tends to exclude people who come in during the third
Mikel: It's like reading a series of books. Coming in the middle
just doesn't work.
Henry: Some games take a different path. Chrono Cross's play mechanics
where vastly different from Chrono Triggers (to an extent anyway). On
the other hand, the story did somewhat falter in Chrono Cross, because
it was so strongly based on what happened in the first game.
Michael: I recall Chrono Cross only making vague connections to
the Chrono Trigger plot. And that was the weakness of that game in my
Mikel: Chrono Cross keeps being mentioned, but it doesn't really
apply here. The Chrono series are vaguely sequels. There was never a design
in place to continue the story of Chrono Trigger, they just decided to
do it at a later date. If you play through Golden Sun, you'll see they
explicitly made it a two-part game. You can already tell half the story
Doug: It seems that we are discussing three kinds of sequels here.
One is the episodic sequel, which pretty much has to be planned out ahead
of time. The second is a branch off sequel, which has something
to do with the first game but doesn't directly rely on it, like Suikoden
and Chrono Cross. The third is a completely new story based on the first
world and its characters, and that is what I wouldn't mind seeing.
However, that is also the most difficult to pull off.
Michael: Golden Sun 2 is trying to do just that.
Doug: That makes me wonder... how important is it to know ahead
of time if you are possibly going to be making a sequel?
Mikel: Doug, there's the problem. Nowadays everyone assumes if
the game sells, then there's a sequel in the works, and I think that tarnishes
the storyline's attempt at closure.
Michael: What if the first game in a planned series tanks though?
Does the developer simply can the whole series they want to release or
bravely attempt their second game?
Henry: I personally wouldn't want to be left hanging if they didn't
go on with the story. That would disappoint me.
Mikel: That's where business decisions get in the way of what
the gamer wants, though.
James: The question I have is, are any sequels other than the
"planned sequels" really relevant? Unless they are planning a complete
story from the start, isn't making the other types of sequels just a cheap
way to increase hype for a new game and leech off your previous successes?
Doug: Not if you think of a good idea.
Henry: But what games with sequels like that have had good ideas?
Or even if they do have a good idea, it can be very hard to pull it off
without disappointing fans of the first game.
Doug: The only ones I can think of right now are PC games like
Diablo or Baldur's Gate.
Michael: Xenosaga is probably the most anticipated of these episodic
RPGs coming around. I feel that series might show everyone else how it's
supposed to be done.
Henry: We'll have to see how it turns out first.
Shawn: I think I should take this opportunity to point out that
Dragon Warrior had a technique that we haven't mentioned yet. Dragon Warrior
was to have a group of episodic sequels. Dragon Warrior 1, 2, and 3 were
part of the Erdrick Saga, and Dragon Warrior 4, 5, and 6 were part of
another saga, the name of which escapes me at the moment.
Doug: I still think that we have yet to see a full epic "non-episodic"
sequel console RPG.
Mikel: There was a lot of excitement about .hack, but now that
I've learned it's designed in four parts, I've lost a lot of interest
in playing out the entire thing. Anime episodes are one thing, but a series
of anime games can be too daunting for the typical gamer.
Shawn: Hardcore Gamers, however, will usually buy and beat every
game just for the sake of beating it.
James: Well, we're straying from the question a little now, so
I'll close things up. What kind of sequel do you foresee game companies
focusing on in this new gaming age of ours?
Michael: Episodic seems all the rage to me.
Shawn: Anything and everything profitable, which will leave something
Mikel: As I stated in my opening, unless the market changes, the
games won't change either.
Doug: I see a lot more episodic gaming, especially once the console
systems are fully online.
Henry: Personally, I'd like to see more sequels that are direct,
but are more on the side, like Suikoden.
James: In the end, developers are going to develop what they think
gamers will buy. So in the end, the choice of what kind of sequels we
see lies in our hands (Well, Japan's hands, at least). So what it comes
down to is, if you like it, buy it.