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6436  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Target Audiences for media and some insight on: July 05, 2009, 11:18:07 PM
I meant more that Rockadoodle was shit actually.
6437  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: How can JRPGs naturally evolve? Will we see more "big" JRPGs this gen? on: July 05, 2009, 09:56:52 PM
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"That's not how Bethesda does things" they say.

Daggerfall was FULL of tits and piles of severed heads and skewered cats on skewers, and looking back it was really, really stupid.

Let's have a mature RPG about a 40-something business man that hates his wife and has prostate issues and every time he levels up his prostate gets larger until he kills himself for being unable to pee right.
6438  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: Oh, dear God, no! Not this again! (Deaths in RPGs) on: July 05, 2009, 09:50:45 PM
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So you're saying that the character in the spoiler code was more developed than Aeris?

The sound that horses make wasn't really developed at all.
6439  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: Most Annoying Playable Character on: July 05, 2009, 09:49:13 PM
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This is why I love games like FF8 so much, where a very significant amount of the dialog and cut scenes really had nothing to do with the overarching events of the game.

Right, because the storyline was absolutely nebulous at best and something between incoherent and unfinished at its worst. And I'M well aware that YOU'RE well aware of this because you've said as much.

See, what FFVIII essentially is is a Bildungsroman in videogame form and it just completely bollockses it.

Sure, it's also a character study of Squall, but you can't make a game, or a novel, or really anything larger than an essay, out of something as broad as a completely abstract "character study." Ergo an underlying storyline is necessary to illustrate the character's personality as it is in various points within the focus period of the characters development, and to facilitate the changes that happen to the character as their life progresses.

FFVIII's story does this, but only in the most marginal of senses, primarily by introducing Rinoa as a change element, constantly putting her in danger to show Squall that he cares about her, and very little else.

Events external to a person influence them. FFVIII acknowledges this, but only in a very shallow sense, and mostly only on the first disc.

Additionally, it's hard to see Squall as realistic. His behavior is, perhaps, expected of a 14 or 15 year old, but not someone older than that. And if a 17 year old WAS acting like that, I seriously doubt that anyone would have much interest in getting them to come out of their shell. Or... any interest in dealing with them at all, really.

Even without that it's hard to see him as a well rounded character. I cannot, unfortunately, remember the exact quote, and the source is somewhat apocryphal at best, but I remember reading that Samuel R. Delaney, at one point, said that a realistic character will at some point do something selfish, something selfless and... two other things along similar lines. The problem with Squall in this sense is that he goes from someone completely closed off and fairly selfish to someone that's... mostly the complete opposite.

I also took a great deal of issue with how his thought processes were presented. Or rather, that they weren't... anything BUT presented. We see WHAT Squall is thinking, sure, but there's always a great deal of disconnect between what he's thinking and *why*. As you said -- there's a great deal of dialogue extraneous to the events at hand, but what kind of person is so utterly detached from what is happening around them that they can still be influenced by it? Then again, as I said, Squall's really not influenced by the events happening around him, outside of the very small change element aspect of the plot, and well... read up a few paragraphs.

Even his growth and development is quite small-minded and uninteresting, because, essentially, he simply switches from one mindset to another without any real reflection on why, or the inherit advantages and disadvantages to these worldviews, or whether there's anything ELSE out there. One static mindset to another static mindset. Compare it to Candide or Siddhartha, where the titular characters change their worldview several times and are constantly growing. Squall's more like a stock character from a Fonvizin play -- one of the immature and intellectually bereft ones that are primarily there just as an example of the kind of person people should strive NOT to be.
6440  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: How can JRPGs naturally evolve? Will we see more "big" JRPGs this gen? on: July 05, 2009, 09:06:29 PM
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I could count off dozens of current gen games that completely intrigue or blow me away in all kinds of genres. You'd have trouble squeezing even a few JRPGs out of me though.

I can't think of many JRPGs in general that really blew me away in general, though. Or... a lot of current gen games in general for that matter, and most of the ones I was really intrigued by weren't that well received by most people.

I think Neal and you both laid down some good reasons why JRPGs can be really hard to take seriously, as a genre, and I don't think you're going to see a lot of improvement until the genre is taken more seriously. Which won't happen until it improves. Catch-22's are fun! I think a part of me would like to say JRPGs lack innovation but that's not really how I feel. It's more like they're lacking purposeful innovation. There's no sense of learning from mistakes and refining good ideas. It's like if you look at the FF series as a whole, old systems are rarely revisited and rebalanced and smoothed over, and instead every game is sort of doing its own thing. That's pretty pervasive in the genre as a whole.

Of course the other problem is that if people start making JRPGs artsy for the sake of being artsy, at best, they're going to come off as pretentious and silly.

6441  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: Best Unique Gameplay Feature on: July 05, 2009, 03:28:06 PM
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i'll second the generational aspect of PSIII. i'm actually surprised it hasn't been tried again.

It has, though not frequently. DQ5 did it, although not maybe to the same extend since only two generations were really playable. I'm also pretty sure I remember some PC RPGs where you could take over playing as your children if your main guy died or got too old.
6442  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: How can JRPGs naturally evolve? Will we see more "big" JRPGs this gen? on: July 05, 2009, 01:53:10 PM
Atlus does what Squaredon't.

Wait that doesn't work.

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Why are they stuck being kindergarten crushes when they're also 15-18 years old like in love adventures?

Without sounding too much like a bastard here, I think that in Western culture games are generally considered art (and the whole videogames as art debate is more whether they're high art or low art, really) whereas in Japan they're considered strictly as a form of entertainment. So going off of this, I think there's also a sense that maybe in JRPGs you just want to, well, please the player as much as possible, and not so much in a "well this game is fun and enjoyable" sense. They're the hero. They get the hot ditzy chick who's pretty useless as a person but nonetheless is packed to the brim with endless, puppy-like adoration and nipples. They get the endless, puppy-like adoration of everyone in the world they save. And they're not very smart or good at anything but they still, well, save the world and get the girl and get to be the hero anyway, because a totally worthless waistoid of a gamer would LOVE hearing that they can still be the hero, or something.

I think there might also be a segment of the game making population that's targeting the shut-in, otaku portion segment of the gaming population, although I can't really say.

And I think that Atlus sort of parodies this.

And I LIKE to think that FFVII parodied this.

Anyway...

I've said this before but I think that from a game standpoint, visual novels are games in a more marginal sense, and maybe this gives them the freedom to be more willingly seen AS art. In a sense they're closer to more traditional art forms like, well, the standard novel, or comics, or even movies, which are more established and acceptable.

But going from that, I think a less-linear storyline, or at least one where you have control over the relationships and outcomes of certain events, would allow the story to be more developed, since there are multiple routes and the developers would be forced to address every character equally, as such, and because the player having choices would give them a more personal investment in the story.

Atlus is a good example of this though. Even in like Devil Survivor the characters pretty much act their ages. About the only megaten games where the characters act like little kids is Devil Children, and that's probably understandable given that they... are.

And here's a fun thought experiment: Consider SMT: Nocturne as a romance/love/seduction story.

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but I'd like JRPG writing to perhaps go beyond kidnergarten crushes, wangsty "why do I exist?" moaning, and petulant "I have nothing left, so I will fight you!"

Which is why it's so hard for me to go back and play all my old favorite JRPGs. They all do this! I can't really stand it now! (Brief aside: Lloyd and Colette's relationship was pretty believable in Symphonia, in the sense that it's usually ditzy girl and dark, purposeful teenaged hero. In Symphonia, it's ditzy girl and ditzy boy. Something like Colette and Regal would've been more par for course for your usual JRPG, and would've, obviously, been damn bizarre).
6443  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Target Audiences for media and some insight on: July 05, 2009, 10:28:17 AM
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Curtain Fire games are a manner of side-scrolling shooter

They're vertical scrolling.

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Throughout EVERY Don Bluth production, there is horror, blood, death, chaos, and darkness lurking in every single shadow.

Jeepers, I'm a furry!
Jeepers, I'm a furry!
Jeepers, I'm a furry!
Jeepers, I'm a furry!
Jeepers, I'm a furry!
Jeepers, I'm a furry!
Jeepers, I'm a furry!
6444  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: How can JRPGs naturally evolve? Will we see more "big" JRPGs this gen? on: July 05, 2009, 09:47:00 AM
Comments on Storyline:

To addendumize something I said earlier, yes, linear storytelling IS a design choice, but I don't think it's an appropriate one for a story driven game. Visual novels, while not having a lot of interactivity, focus the interactivity they do have onto the main focus area of the game -- the story. While they're also essentially linear, you still get to pick who dies, or what girl you end up with, or what information you get from where, or basically, how it ends.

The storyline is essentially linear and fully a product of the writers, but you have control over how it turns out/is presented to you.

And visual novels are an incredibly Japanese thing and not that much like western adventure games (which I need to talk about to). Which is why I think that it's more than a little odd that more JRPGs don't incorporate this kind of element.

I've recently been playing Planescape: Torment. While it IS non-linear in a gameplay sense, the main storyline is actually not that non-linear. However, you have different ways of approaching the various plot-points. If, for instance, a character, at one point, asks you to keep something they tell you secret, you can vow to do this and either honor or break this vow, or just lie about keeping the secret, or not promise anything at all, and this'll affect how the character, and the story, presents itself to you. Or at various points you have to pick between helping one faction or another.

Perhaps most interestingly is that a lot of sidequests and optional things can lead you into learning more about the nameless one's past. In this sense the player is involved in the story not because they have CONTROL over it but because they have to make an extra effort to learn some additional plot points -- and the gameplay reward for doing this is often more experience, too. A JRPG example of this would probably be CT's sidequests, as they were all VERY story relevant. Or maybe FFVII's think with Vincent's backstory.

Ultima 7, in a sense, is similar. Again, the storyline is fairly linear, but instead of entering a town/talking to an NPC and triggering a Plot Point into occurring, it's more about getting information and settings events in motion yourself. Ultima 7, despite not having a hugely non-linear/open-ended storyline, uses non-linear gameplay, world interaction, and NPC interaction to give the player a very active role in how its linear story progresses. I can't really think of any JRPG examples of this or uh really many non-Ultima examples of this.

Ultimately, I think the goal should be to involve the player in the storyline as much as possible, if that's your goal. I tend to think that ultra-linear storylines, much like featureless worldmaps and random battles, are kind of an unnecessary throwback to the days when it was hard to do the alternative well.

Comments on Gameplay:

One of, or perhaps in a JRPG context the GREATEST, asset of non-linear gameplay is that it overcomes the problem in grinding. I've mentioned this elsewhere, but in Dragon Quest 4, I happened upon a storyline boss that I HAD to beat to progress, but was a bit under-equipped and under-leveled for. Being in chapter 5 and having the boat, the game was fairly non-linear, so instead of doing the boring thing and grinding, I went off, explored, and found some hidden items.

Non-linearity isn't just being able to do dungeons whenever you want, although I am fond of that style (and if you need a more controlled way of doing things, just... occasionally have moments where the player can do three or four dungeons in whatever order they want.) It's also in things like character advancement, like, not having a linear spell progression but rather being allowed to allocate skill points as you see fit, or being able to class change, or being able to convince demons to work with you instead of getting new party members via plot points. 

Also, weapon advancement is still a very linear thing in almost every JRPG and it kind of bugs me. I'm tired of the "get to new town, replace everyone's weapon" setup.

I also don't believe on placing artificial restrictions on player movement, especially in regards to backtracking. If you want to block them from going forward, fine, but never shut them in an area if at all possible. (I also believe that giving the player new abilities to get past an obstacle -- like a boat in a dragon quest game, or a tool in Zelda -- are better than having plot points remove obstacles. Again, player involvement. Although this is still essentially linear design. Hm.)

I think the other huge merit of non-linear gameplay is exploration. Let the player go off the path and look for treasure. Let them experiment with other skills and spells. Let them find secrets and hidden things. This is what I thought was so cool about DQVIII. Sure, very linear game, but between towns, out in the field, you could look around as much as you want and find all KINDS of things.

I'm also not a fan of TOTALLY non-linear gameplay, like in Daggerfall. It's so wide-open that it tends to lack any sort of clear human touch.

Comments on Adventure Games:

The lack of openness in solving puzzles in adventure games is why I don't really like them anymore. Most point and click adventures, especially, have really limited puzzle solutions. Even a lot of text-adventures have limited solutions. This is why I didn't like the Longest Journey though. Story-driven, but no real control/involvement from the player perspective in the story from what I recall, and the ppuzzles all were single-solution things and the solutions weren't even that sane.

Part of the problem is that you have to consider the personality of the player character. They might now do something that the player would, or would do something that the player wouldn't.

One of the better examples of having multiple solutions I've seen is the old BBC-A sidescroller/metroidvania, Exile. In Exile there's this underlying physics engine behind everything so you're pretty much free to use EMERGENT GAMEPLAY elements and physics to do whatever the hell you can think of doing.

Also, despite not having multiple solutions so much, I like the puzzle design in the Myst games because they generally present you with machines that you have to learn how to use, either by fiddling with them and observing, or finding an explanation somewhere. Again, I think this involves the player more with solving them -- and involvement is the key goal -- because it's not just a matter of finding Key Item X and using it on Key Item Y, but rather a much more interactive process. Aaaand Myst games tend to do a good job of reacting to what the player does. Most notably Riven and it's several million bad endings that happen if you do something really stupid.

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The last FF-game fight that made me think (besides optional bosses) was one of the seymour encounters in FFX where you have to zombify your party. Otherwise it was kind of simplistic overall..

FFX tended to have a lot more puzzle bosses, and I found them harder than I probably should've because I was approaching them from the normal FF mindset -- buffing is uselss, strategy is useless, etc. So I don't know if FFX is really more strategy driven, with the puzzle bosses, but it is a rather more involving.
6445  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: Most Annoying Playable Character on: July 05, 2009, 09:23:13 AM
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OK, Quina may have and an awful, ugly design, but she was NOT useless.

To be fair, a pretty, attractive Quina would probably be even more disturbing. She'd be this sultry looking, eternally hungry woman-child.

Basically Emeralda.
6446  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: Most Annoying Playable Character on: July 04, 2009, 11:04:16 PM
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Because he's shitty and generic.

You're shitty and generic and in fact you're so generic that I have like forty of you in my basement and none of them cost more than 20 bucks at Dollar General.
6447  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: Best Unique Gameplay Feature on: July 04, 2009, 11:02:32 PM
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How Chrono Cross handled ending battles and your hp/mana.  I forget the actual name now.

No mana. Rather, you had a certain number of spells you could use every battle. To use a spell you had to charge up with regular attacks.

if you were charged up enough to use healing spells, at the end of battle you could use as many as possible to heal your guys. You could also have it auto-use as many comestibles as possible to heal you.
6448  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: How can JRPGs naturally evolve? Will we see more "big" JRPGs this gen? on: July 04, 2009, 11:00:00 PM
Chevalier are you intentionally not reading my posts or something?
6449  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: Best Unique Gameplay Feature on: July 04, 2009, 08:01:33 PM
Grandia and Valkyrie Profile are both interesting in that in a large part they play more like action games, in the sense that unlike most turn based RPGs attack animations and enemy positions and movement speed AREN'T totally divorced from the actual gameplay.

I really wonder what Xenogears would've played like had timing been at all relevant to the comboing system. As it stands, XG's combos were more like a really elaborate way of just selecting regular attacks -- replacing a menu with a minigame, like in the case of Judgement Ring.
6450  Media / Single-Player RPGs / Re: How can JRPGs naturally evolve? Will we see more "big" JRPGs this gen? on: July 04, 2009, 07:58:12 PM
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I don't like highly open ended games like Oblivion; they tend to be less polished,

Oblivion being less polished is not a factor of its non-linearity. Oblivion being less polished is a factor of Bethesda being fairly inept and everything.

It's also worth noting that Oblivion also fails from an interactive storytelling point since nothing you do has any affect on the story progression. The main storyline there is *COMPLETELY* linear. Every *questline* for the guilds is completely linear. Every *quest* is completely linear, for that matter.

I'm talking more like Wing Commander, where the storyline can be affected by your performance.

Or Persona 3, where the main storyline is essentially linear, but you have a great deal of control over what happens outside of that in regards to your S. Links and how each day progresses.

Or Crusader Kings, which has no set story but TELLS a story, and I can't really explain that very well, sorry.

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On a different note, one way that I think the JRPG genre could evolve is by adding more gameplay outside of combat.

This is also more what I meant and should've brought up, but anyway, going back to Oblivion -- and this is something that the elder scroll games have always done -- every sidequests amounts to lots of killing and little else. Daggerfall is the most egregious and concrete example of this. In a 16-bit JRPG there's not much gameplay outside the random battles. In Daggerfall there's not much gameplay outside of the endless questing.

If you want to make a Go Anywhere, Do Anything game, you have to be willing to go ALL the way in and let me be a goddamn farmer if I damn well want to be a goddamn farmer (or chef, or shopkeep).

GADA's also not really the kind of non-linearity I mean either. GADA, honestly... I can think of a few examples of it being done well, but not a whole lot.

The reason that GADA fails is pretty much because feature creep is near-mandatory and the projects basically implode.

I'm going to write more later tonight. I have to organize my thoughts for a bit.
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