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RPGFan Editorials - March 14th, 2001

Yes, an update in the editorials department finally. Three months, three editorials. That comes to about an editorial per month. Not too shabby. =P

Actually, I've recieved a few others awhile back, but I've chosen not to post them as they were either way too short, or were more towards argueing with one person, rather than encompassing the entire audience. All readers, and not a particular reader, should be your real audience. I'll work on a set of submission guidelines soon, better than the old ones.

Oh yes, and the section has gotten a facelift to match the rest of the site. Hope you all like it. Now let's get started.


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This Week's Question: Where do you see the MMO genre going from here?
 
 
Music in RPGs: How important is it?

Throughout the history of role-playing video games, we've seen an ever expanding variety of music employed. Game music is for the most part designed so that it enhances the feel of what you see without your having to think about it or notice it. In other words, the music in games is created with the expectation that you the player will take it for granted. For this reason, sound hardware and software advancements are few and far between. Despite lacking technology, game music has in many cases managed to exceed its ordained purpose and make a name for itself among gamers and music lovers alike. Game music is both alike and different from mainstream music. Let's take a moment to discuss what makes it unique.

Behind the music is the composer, arranger (usually the same person), and lyricist (for any vocals). Much like in film, it is possible to make quite a lucrative career out of composing and/or arranging game music (some of the notable cases being Iwadare, Mitsuda, and Uematsu). One thing that sets game music apart is the variety of styles a composer must understand in order to write for a game. The composer might have to use several different styles and moods for a single game, and in many cases write anywhere from 30 to over 100 pieces. Where the music fits into the development plan can vary, but it is often the case that music is written after the story/premise has been created. For this reason, every character, the story itself, the location of the scene, and knowledge about future plot events are necessary for creating a song to fit the scene. There are a few cases, however, where the composer outdoes him/herself and other game elements are adjusted to fit the music.

How important is game music to a project? To a player? It's not altogether as straight forward a question as one might think. My personal opinion is that almost every scenario is better played if there is music present. However, it would be a rather closed-minded opinion if I did not recognize the virtue of silence. It seems to be the case that we have come to expect a theme song in certain situations, such as final boss battles and intro scenes. Should we expect such things from our games? Well, it's certainly the case that without One-winged Angel, the fight against Sephiroth wouldn't be as scary, and without Liberi Fatali we wouldn't get the same rush of emotions at the beginning of Final Fantasy VIII. But there are certainly scenes in which a careful choice of sound effects can be more powerful than a theme song, such as the final battle of Chrono Cross. It's important to know when and when not to use music in a scene. How important is music when compared to other game elements? The only thing that's certain is: good music can't make a bad game good, but it can make a good game great. Also, bad game music can ruin an otherwise good game. It has become a personal requirement of mine that the game I'm playing has good music in order for me to even say a good word about it.

The last issue I'll address is what game music has done for the industry, and its fans. Music is a popular medium of expression thanks to its portability. It knows no borders due to location, gender, race, or language. For this reason it was only natural to want to include music in video games. Thanks to the nature of video games as a multi-sensory experience (like film), the music both serves as an enhancement to that experience, and has a chance to stand out on its own. It has helped the video game industry gain popularity and the industry has helped the music world by indroducing the work of so many talented men and woman whom otherwise may not have been heard. How about the fans? Aside from providing a stimulating and positive experience, it gives us inspiration to shoot for our own personal goals. It also provides a good method for choosy gamers to choose their games. I for one will not buy a game if I know the soundtrack is bad, and conversely, I probably would buy one which I knew to have good music. Lastly, it provides for our listening enjoyment apart from playing the games. I have several soundtracks of games that I have not played, and probably won't play.

Whether or not music should be present in a video game is a non-issue. If you want emotion, you want the universal language of emotions. However, there is a time and place for everything and he who understands that has the power to create something wonderful.

- Cid

Parn:
Good ol' Cid... never stops with the submissions. Such a good boy, such a special boy. =P

Like you, I too, cannot play games that have bland soundtracks. Music is an important part of the entire package. My game music collection almost exceeds my actual game collection, which is kind of amusing, now that I think about it.
 
Merchandising: Where the real money from the game is made.

The other day I went into K.B. Toys and bought a plastic figurine of Miles "Tails" Prower that has articulating arms and says two things when you press a button on its shoe. It stands there in all its orange, white, and red splendor and will probably wind up collecting dust, but for right now itís mildly cool. My friend bought a set of Final Fantasy VII figurines, Cloud, Sephiroth, Red XIII, a few others, I donít quite remember. Why the hell did I buy a piece of corporate mass marketed plastic? Why did my friend (I think those were pewter, not sure)?

Iím not here to argue 2D vs. 3D, sprite vs. polygon, Nintendo vs. Sega vs. Sony vs. Microsoft vs. Mr. T. I donít want to talk about how lamers affect the RPG scene, how "newbies" to RPGs donít appreciate the 16-bit golden days or how the industry is getting too mainstream. Square can bite it, Sony can kiss mine, Working Designs can stick their Lunar where the sun donít shine for the sake of this editorial rant. What I want to talk about is why I have a Tails figurine sitting near my television, why I have a Vivi Ornitier plush toy on my desk (why I managed to remember his NAME), why I have a Punching Puppet Ghaleon sitting on my printer.

I wouldnít call myself a collector. I donít have my walls covered with posters of Squall, Cloud, half-naked Luna. I do not have RPG-themed keychains, cell phone covers, bedsheets. I have never purchased trading cards with sprite OR polygon characters on them. I do not own a Sakura Taisen Dreamcast.

Yet, one day I might. Yes, one day I might give myself over fully to the RPG equivalent of what the author of Fight Club christened the Ikea nesting urge. Itís already started: Iíve already revealed to you the extent of my collection; sure Ghaleon and Vivi were free, but Tails, I bought Tails. Right now, if I could find some collectable plastic pieces of junk that slightly looked like any of the Persona crew, Iíd snatch it up before you could say Velvet Room.

Hello, my name is Damian, and Iím an RPG junk-a-holic.

My question to myself is, when did this start. I know the answer, so Iíll go on to a better question: why did this start? What led me down that road to purchase Mr. Prower? Iíve always saved my money, never spent on things that were frivolous. Transformers, I did collect, but they DID stuff. You could make them into a car OR a robot. They were robots in disguise man! Thatís quality.

Tails sits by my TV looking slightly goofy, Vivi protects my floppy disks (yes, I have floppies, leave me alone) and Ghaleon, well, he sits on my printer and every once in a while my friend takes him and punches me with it. But I just know that Iíd buy even more useless stuff if I saw it for sale in my local EB or Software Etc. Todd McFarlane will soon own my soul, and I will have given it over gladly.

No, I am not a communist, pinko, socialist, anarchist, candy-ass, liberal, eco-freak, anti-fur, anti-materialist non-plutarch, anti-American yokel. I love my country and the ability it affords every man, woman, and child (over the age of 13) to go out to their local processed-petrochemical repository and consume until, much like Mr. Criasote, they explode all over their fellow human beings who themselves are soon to face the same fate.

What I do take issue with (bout time he got to the point) is that companies that so successfully marketed underwear with plumbers and koopas on them, that got a generation of Japanese citizens hooked on everything from Ape Escape fruit snacks to the Hello Kitty vibrator, the mammoth industries that made me beholden to each new season of Captain frigginí N., have set their sights on my last bastion of escape from the real world: RPGs. At least a third of every software store I go into now peddles Pokemon watches, Final Fantasy pins, Lunar wall scrolls. Weíve got figurines, time pieces, jewlerey, stickers, posters, RPG-themed consoles, clothing (first t-shirts, then hats and socks and such), videos, TV shows, collectible trinkets that run the gamut with more to come. Címon, letís see the FFX disposable enema kit.

Itís just a matter of time before the final culture barriers drop and we are all inundated with the entire mass production capacity Taiwan has to offer. Those who donít know, who donít read the import mags will find out how much Japan can crank out in terms of product tie-ins. Those who do know, will feel the full power as the Far East meets the Near West, as we throw them our money for that ultra-rare statue of Zidane with the off-white cravat, rather than the eggshell white. It will be a beautiful day for e-Bay.

Weíve been force fed products since we were children. I bought Transformers. My friends bought G.I. Joe. I knew a kid who had Catís Lair, and he was like unto a god to us. We slept on the Voltron Lions, we ate Link and Mario, we wore Goombas in places that only our parents and doctors were allowed to look. And pretty soon weíll be doing it all over again, as RPGs get more commercialized. Donít think you can stop it: itís already begun. We live to own, we see, we like, we acquire. Luke, it is your destiny. Barbie and Ken are nothing compared to whatís coming. Garnettís dream castle? Oh yeah, itíll happen.

So, here I stand, passing judgment on everyone who buys RPG-themed merchandise, knowing full-well that Iíve been just as materialistic and probably will be even more so in the future. Do I have fun with Tails? No, not really. Do I play with Ghaleon? Yeah, every now and then. Do I get ::shudder:: enjoyment out of these "toys"? I have to admit that I do. And is having fun with RPG-themed merchandise, of extracting pleasure even from simply owning figurines and the like, wrong? No, itís probably not. But itís a sign of whatís to come, and you might as well be prepared.

As for me, Iím due for a Tide colonic.

- Sensei Phoenix

Parn:
Excellent piece of writing. I personally am looking forward to seeing game merchandise hitting our shores. Importing is a big drain on my wallet.
 
A Blessing or a Curse?

When reading the most recent editorials, I could of sworn I was experiencing dťjŗ vu. Some guy called beans was talking about another gender/sex related topic and another guy called Cid (very original name by the way) addressed the issue of 2D versus 3D. Now beansí articles were funny and had good points but I sighed when I read Cidís article. Itís tiring reading about the same crap. People should realize that the only reason (for the most part I believe) 2D RPGs are better are because it holds some sentimental, nostalgic, place in their gaming hearts. The first RPG I played when I was in 5th grade was FF4. From there it went onto FF6, Chrono Trigger, SoulBlazer, etc. All being 2D games. So now when I see a good 2D RPG I smile and remember the good old days (and when I say good old days Cid, I mean the days when I first discovered the joy in RPGs).

But thatís not the issue I really want to address. I just felt like getting that off my chest. What really worries or I should aggravates me is the new kid on the block. Heís packing a load of heat and with the army to back him up. Iím talking about Xbox by Microsoft. The new contender certainly provides interest. How will old time veterans Sega and Nintendo and the pretty seasoned warrior Playstation fair up on the battlefield against Xbox? Itís suppose to have the hardware and graphics superior to Dreamcast, GameCube and PS2. It also has gaming companies from the PC gaming world and the gaming console world, including Squaresoft. Its future does look promising, but why shouldnít it when its being made by Microsoft?

Microsoft has basically monopolized and dominated desktops all over. Right now, Iím writing this editorial in Microsoft Office, which will be sent by Outlook which is all loaded into Windows. Theyíre a good software company, but they should keep their dynasty in the PC world. Iíve always seen game consoles and PCs in two different worlds. If you wanna worry about trying to get the best graphics card or the fastest processor to run games, then play on computers. If you want to get good graphics and play great games without worrying about it crashing then play on a game console made specifically for games. And if I had the money, or more importantly the time to live in both worlds, I would. Yet it doesnít justify Microsoftís trespassing into the gaming society.

I know some are probably saying that Sony dominates all that plugs into the wall and runs on batteries (I know they have the Vaio comps as well.) and they have Playstation, but for some reason Microsoft pisses me off. Sony doesnít dominate in computers and they donít have some guy with billions. Probably the only reason Xbox came out was because Gates saw some kids playing Dreamcast or Playstation and said to himself, "Hey, I have billions of dollars, and Iím getting tired of computers (lawsuits and all), so why donít I pay someone to build me my own console?" I guess I just see Xbox as another capitalistic gain for Gates. Then again I might be kicking myself in the ass come its release because it turns out to be just so damn good :).

- JMC

Parn:
Don't take offense to this, but I've never understood the hatred towards Microsoft for entering the console market. There are a large number of people around the world that feel the same way you do, but come time when the system is released, how many of you are just going to back out on all that you said and buy the system because everyone else around you is getting an X-Box?

Like with everything else.... it's a wait and see game. Did it with the Dreamcast, I'm watching the PlayStation 2, and I'm keeping my eyes open for the Gamecube and X-Box lineup. I've never purchased a system at launch in my lifetime, and I don't have a lot of cash to spare as it is, so all I CAN really do is watch and make a decision on purchasing one of the next three killer apps.

Sega fans cried out when Sony entered the console market, but being realistic, Sony helped make gaming more popular than ever. Who is to say Microsoft couldn't go further? Microsoft is the huge company that it is now for a reason. Regardless of your feelings towards their methods of monopolizing the market, a lot of their products ARE of excellent quality. I do wish Windows Millenium Edition would crash less, though.





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