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Custom Mailbag v.2
Friday, March 1, 2002

Ah, Friday again. That means a long-awaited break of... 2 days awaits after this. As usual, today's column includes letters on the week's customization in RPGs topic. While I'm not entirely certain, I still have a feeling it wasn't the brightest of topics, considering my lack of letters on it. The most glaring issue was most people's thoughts that being able to customize things in a game is far less important than good plot and characters, which... I agree with. Oh well. With any luck, we'll have a better one for this coming week.

In the meantime, seven letters demand your attention below. Don't disappoint them.

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Xenosagagaga

I think that it all depends of how custom you make your character. I don't think you need to go to extreme like exactly how tall they are or how fat or skinny they are. Its nice to change a characters hair color and such but I think as long as you get a couple of faces and bodies to choose from you will fine off. I would give up my ability to change my character at all for a good plot any day so I guess in the end it doesn't matter if there is other things in the game to get your attention.
On a completely different note I was wondering when Xenosaga is to be released in America and if America is going to get the neat box set like Japan?
Chronologist:
Phantasy Star Online lets you do all that and more... of course, story is next to non-existent, so...

Speaking of that box set, good luck to anyone that ordered it, since it looks like it could be tough getting one now, or at least getting one for under $170. As you can probably guess, the box set is almost assuredly a Japan-only deal. Of course, technically, XS still has yet to get an official confirmation from Namco for a US release, though I'm sure it's coming. Probably at E3, in May, we'll find out.

 
RIP Dearest Einhander

Hola again Chrono!

Since my holiday letter to you, I've actually wanted to e-mail again about my little accident with my CDs (Yup. This actually has something to do with that Einhander incident, but a bit more general). I've meant to add this problem with the last letter, but it didn't seem appropriate for the time. I just had to get rid of my late holiday shopping questions. ;P Bear with me for this loooong e-mail...

A few months back, I haven't been taking care of my game CDs and cartridges (Don't laugh. I still play with my SNES, okay? =P). My younger siblings tend to not put things back where they found it... and so, I end up with lost games. While I didn't mind so much about certain games like Unholy War, FF8, and Pac-Attack, I was horrified when I found out that my Einhander and Suikoden 1 games were missing! (Fortunately, my Chrono Trigger was left unharmed.) Well, after some time searching, I managed to find almost all of them hidden in several places in the house and another, my beloved Castlevania:SOTN, unknowingly borrowed by a friend... that guy's never going to borrow games from me ever AGAIN! =P

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find one game from what I know of. That missing game was Einhander. Calmly, I told myself that it's probably just around the house like most of the rest. Sooner or later, I found it not far from my house... in fact, as I've said before, it was in the driveway.

Now, I know... it's a 'CD'. How in the world can something flat like that break? (Beats me.) So there it was split into three solid pieces on the pavement...

"WHY!?" I cried out, "IN ALL THINGS ETERNAL WHY?!?!?!"

Okay. I probably wasn't that pathetic... but you get the picture. ;P

I tried everything to get them all fixed up. Ordinary tape, electric tape, and even glue (my last option which screwed up the CD)... but none seem to make Einhander work. If it was a cartridge, it would have been fine. They're not too hard to fix unless the internal components broke. However, CDs are obviously different. To get to the point... (finally, huh?), how in blazes do you fix something like that? Someone told me that electric tape is the way to go... but it frankly hasn't worked for me. Any ideas or suggestions? Maybe someplace that sells Einhander for $5? Maybe someone to trade it in for Orphen? ;P

Let this be a lesson to all you people out there... DON'T DRIVE OVER YOUR CDs! Just 'cause they're flat, they 'might' break! Also, keeping those little kiddies and siblings away from your games would help immensely...

On another note referring to your latest topic about customization in RPGs... Hmm... honestly, I really don't mind it just as long as there's a solid plot (or a very twisted and deep one like in Metal Gear Solid... as long as it somewhat makes sense). Being able to customize would be a treat, yes, but it doesn't count as one of my main factors in selecting good RPGs. If anything, I suppose being able to fully customize 'online' characters themselves would be my only care. I really wouldn't like to be running around with a bunch of other online players who physical look the same except for minor color changes... (if you know what I mean). *sigh* Oh well. I guess no one could really change that in this time and age. =P

And with all that said, I bid thee "Hasta luego!" again. Keep up the great work, Mike!

- JavelynZA

Chronologist:
Dear Lord, glue? Man, that couldn't have been pretty. I think you're on the right track with the Orphen idea. Although, Einhander is probably more costly, even in used form (as well it should be), but hey, look at the bright side: You'd be rid of Orphen. Think about it.

Yeah, I think, in terms of outward appearance at least, online gaming is where customization is important. Again, PSO lets you do a lot to your characters. Though really, considering the amount of people I've seen mimicking my old PSO character, I think they still need to give you more options and freedom. Luckily, I never have seen anyone, of heard of anyone, who used my design of my PSO version 2 character, so that makes me glad.

(or a very twisted and deep one like in Metal Gear Solid... as long as it somewhat makes sense) - I'm assuming you refer only to the first MGS, cuz the plot in the second was...uh... you know. :P

 
R=47 G=32 B=00

Well, that's a difficult question for me. I like to be able to customize aspects of a game, but I feel like being able to change too much removes the epic feel of console RPG's. There are always extremes to these issues, and I believe in the happy medium. There are customization issues that are merely decoration, like changing the background color on text windows. It's a fun little feature, but has no real effect on the game. The other extreme is everything is customizable but you lose the meaning of the characters and their purpose.

The other thing I've noticed is that when you have precontrolled character evolution and linear paths you can integrate those aspects into the story as well as the gameplay. In games like Chrono Trigger or Chrono Cross, where multi-character cooperative attacks are a large part of the gameplay, they can't have the same level of customization because the characters have to match each other to a degree. Just a side note, but more RPG's should utilize that combat system, it's fun.=) Well, that's about all I have to say.

Silent_Scream

Chronologist:
Actually, I'd disagree on that last point. One, for the fact that each of Chrono Trigger's characters are pretty unique from each other, and while there's a few similarities (Crono and Frog both using swords for one), I think more or less they all have their own... 'thing'. And really, looking at some of the dual/triple techs, 'match' wouldn't be a good word to use... look at Marle and Lucca's Antipode. It's not often you see a fire/ice spell in a game. Chrono Cross didn't really emphasize multi-character stuff at all, sadly. Hell, they're practically secret features, which I never liked personally.

Speaking of Antipode, I always have wondered where that name came from. As such, I just looked it up. 'Complete opposite', says the definition. Maybe I'm just uncultured, but I never did know that. Kinda interesting.

 
RPGFan: Where frivolousness reigns supreme.

Dear Chronologist,

In response to the topic on customization in RPGs, I think it definitely adds to a game when you can customize abilities, but it can take away from the character development when it is too fundamental to the game. I realize that might not be very clear, so let me try and say it more explicitly. Having characters that possess a certain set of abilities reflects the personality of that character to a degree. For instance, I just couldn't see Luca (from Chrono Trigger) as a warrior or Ayla (also from CT) as a mage. Their abilities were unique to their personalities and I think that added to the game. FF X had a very enjoyable ability system (IMO), because the characters were forced to develop along a certain path with specialized abilities to a point, and then you were free to customize them to your preference. The customization can definitely add a personal touch, but I still like having a character I can identify as primarily belonging to a certain class/job. When the abilities are completely customized, you end up picking your favorite people to augment and aren't forced to have to utilize certain characters in specialized situations. Thus you end up carrying around a party with a lot of dead weight until the game has a plot twist that forces you to use characters you have neglected.

As far as the customization of windows and stuff... I find such things frivilous. If that's what makes you happy, then more power to you, but I personally never bother.

Did you get your computer yet? Anyway, I hope you got some more letters at least. Take care and keep up the good work.

Regards,
Vi

Chronologist:
As it happens, customizing windows DOES bring me great joy. You have no idea how often I did it in Final Fantasy VII. Loading up my game, nearly every save on the memory card (I have 15 FFVII saves... I'm so sad), has a different window color. Don't believe it?

Believe it.

As for characters, I do agree with you, to a point. When FFVII and VIII came along, I did miss the uniqueness that was lacking in the characters, considering the games before it. Then along came FFIX with its retro-goodness, character classes, and all that junk. Yet, in the end, IX was the one I walked away with wanting something else. While it was neat that only certain characters did certain things, I always felt it was too limiting sometimes. But that's me. FFX manages to preserve each person's own characteristics... for awhile at least, and I like that. So if you *want* everyone to be able to steal, if you have the patience, you can. But I guess I talk about FFX too much.

Computer? No. It seems there's been 'production issues', possibly due to some minor 'radiation' problems or something minor like that. Apparently about 10,000 - 15,000 have shipped across the country. But then, considering there's 200,000 pre-orders, that's only a small part of it. Well, someday.

 
Dezo likes to talk in third-person.

Dear Chrono,

My apologies for responding to the customization topic so late, but it was one I thought about while conversing with a friend the other day.

I think character customization is a double-edged sword, depending on who you talk to. Personally, I like being able to customize my characters how I see fit. I liked the Materia system in FF7, for example, because I could teach all the characters all the magic spells. There were no limits based on class or whatnot.

That's one thing I wasn't too fond of in FF9. Each character was limited based on their class. I wasn't too happy that only ONE of my characters could learn Esuna. I found myself wishing for a customization system wherein I could teach all my characters all the magic. I wanted ALL my characters to know the healing and revive spells rather than just a couple.

However, the latter case is something many people like better, because the characters retain their individuality. My friend preferred the individual character classes used in FF9 over the customizations of FF7 and 8.

A cool customization tactic comes from the Persona games. I love how after your main character levels up, you can allot three points to whatever stat you want. I usually allotted 2 to agility and 1 to something else, so my character would always strike first:)

As for other types of customization, I like when games allow you to reconfigure the controller settings. For example, I find it more comfortable to have 'circle' as accept and 'X' as cancel on PlayStation RPGs rather than vice versa. As for menu background and colors, choices are good. I sometimes find that my settings improve readability than the defaults.

Another important customization to me is text speed. I don't like my text to scroll slowly. And even if there is no text speed increaser, I should like there to be a button you can press so that all the text appears in the box.

And my favorite customization comes from Phantasy Star Online. I could, pretty much, make a character from scratch. I could select his/her outfit, his/her hairstyle, play with his/her hair color and proportions. This was a character of my own design- not some factory preset.

So bottom line, Dezo likes customization. Dezo likes choices. Dezo likes to think for himself. Dezo thinks more RPGs should utilize a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' format where each choice you make influences the direction of the story and what ending you get (Chrono Trigger and Star Ocean 2 were great in that regard).

~Blademaster Dezo (dezo999@excite.com)

Chronologist:
That's a whole lot of points there. I think the Persona system kind of resembles that of Koudelka, spending points on whatever attribute you choose. Of course, I've not played much of either, so I might be wrong. For that matter, I don't even know why I mentioned that in the first place. Moving on...

Actually, now that I think about it, that's almost similar to Final Fantasy X as well. Huh.

Good one about the controller layout too. Back in the SNES days, I got so used to A being accept, and B cancel, I'd always set PSX games to follow suit (though with circle and X, naturally), since most of them used X as the default confirm button. Sadly, I guess the bottom button has caught on as 'confirm', so I've had to get used to using it. I know it's kinda silly, but it just feels more natural using A/circle, at least for me. (and apparently you)

Last thing: I still say Xenogears would be a much shorter game if the text speed was increased. (and yeah, I know about the GameShark code)

 
There is no way, I am -not- kissing a boy.

Well first let me see if i can get some Brownie Points. That little qoute about the Power Glove wouldn't happen to be from a little movie called "The Wizard" would it? Ah yes, i remember the days when Super Mario Brothers 3 was THE GAME to end all games, and Fred Savage was "cool".

So anyway, about customizations. i have a question really. What the heck do you do with Kimahri in FFX? I mean, once i make it around his little circle on the grid, what the heck shoud you have him learn next? All the other characters have a pretty obvious path to follow, but Kimahri's unique abilities end rather abruptly. I tried having him learn Black Magic, but his Fire spell makes Blue Slimes laugh. I tied having him learn Cure, but im better off using a potion from FFIV.

Is it only me that finds him a completely useless character? Have you found any uses for him?

Zelgadis

Chronologist:
Ding ding ding! I knew someone out there would have to get the Wizard reference (hey look, there's another one on this page somewhere :P). I Wonder whatever did become of Fred Savage after those Years of fame. Oh right, he starred in Working on NBC. That didn't really last long, did it?

Kimahri huh... if I'm able to contain my laughter, I'll answer you. At first, when I was moving him around the grid, I was unaware he had a huge choice in what direction to go. As such, I took him into Lulu's area, as you did. He was a decent magic user for awhile, but once I started having Yuna learn black magic, he became useless really. The fact that you have to play that unholy butterfly game in the stupid forest to get his stupid Celestial Weapon was also really... stupid. I figured, since there's no way he'll ever do more than 9,999 damage... who needs him? Wakka's fate ended up the same way. I mean, when 4 of my characters do 99,999 with each attack, doing 9,999 just isn't helpful.

PS - catch the TV show reference in this one and score even more.

... more points, you pervert.

... er, brownie points, as in... see, they're metaphorical.

I... oh nevermind.

 
Closing Thoughts

Another week done, and another lovely weekend is upon us. Unless you don't like weekends, then nevermind. If you need something to do over the next couple days, might I suggest writing to the Mailbag? I could use some submissions, and we have a shiny new topic this week. Oh, and as I mentioned once before, any ideas for the weekly topic are welcome, so if you have an idea, don't hesitate to mention it. While I can't guarantee they'll all be used, I'll consider everything. On that note, I'm outta here.

Cheers,

~ Chronologist (chronologist@rpgfan.com)



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