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Distant Early Warning
October 4, 2004

Yeah, doing these updates in the morning are much easier on me, just like I thought they'd be. No roommates to distract me, no moronic neighbors making enough noise to wake the dead, and best of all, no friends harassing me over AIM and/or IRC. Things move quickly when I'm bored, I guess. :P

To the letters.

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E-mail Daniel, unless you're a scammer from Nigeria.
 
 
In the future, employees don't take a leak.

Dear RPGFan,

Playing Star Ocean 3 has got me thinking a lot about something that most people never talk about: dungeon and town layouts. First look at an example of good dungeon/town design. Xenogears' forest felt like a real forest. The Yggdrasil felt like a real ship where people lived and worked. The churches felt like places people would actually come to worship. Even the Soylent System felt like a real factory. Every location felt like it had a real purpose to it. It felt like you were in a real, living, breathing world.

Contrast this with Star Ocean 3's dungeons (or lots of others, for that matter). The churches are big rectangular rooms with one or two people wandering around at random. The Shrine of Kaddan doesn't seem like a real shrine; it's an endless maze of identical, rectangular hallways and empty rooms. This pretty much sums up almost all of SO3's dungeons. The Duggus Forest feels nothing like a real forest; it feels like a big maze built out of walls of impenetrable trees and brush. The dungeon design is especially ridiculous for Sphere Corporation. This is supposed to be an office building. It's 211 floors of big empty hallways and empty rectangular rooms! There are no employees, desks, cubicles, computers, break rooms, bathrooms, anything! Apparently corporations in the 4th dimension are run by a bunch of storm troopers and missile-launching spider robots who wander the hallways at random.

So, in conclusion, I wish game developers would pay way more attention to how they design their locations. If a dungeon looks like a place that actually was designed for a purpose, it immerses you in the setting and makes you want to explore. On the other hand, when each new dungeon is nothing but a bunch of rectangular hallways and empty rooms built out of a new kind of "stuff", with no apparent purpose to its layout, it starts to feel like you're playing through pure filler.

All too familiar with what a real office looks like,
Brandon

Very good points, my friend. Unfortunately, basic designs have been a problem for pretty much every RPG thatís been released on this generation of gaming consoles. The vast majority of Final Fantasy X is played on a straight road from Luca to Zanarkand, for example. Sure, all of the different areas at least look different, but that doesnít change the fact that itís pretty much a straight shot.

I have a feeling that your problems with the dungeons would not have been so strong if the gameís graphics had been of a higher quality. Letís face it, dungeons have been very box-like since level 1 of the first Zelda. To use one of your examples, the forest in Xenogears has a layout as basic as one can possibly get. However, the graphics and various sounds in that area are so rich and vibrant that you canít help but be immersed in it. SO3 doesnít have a single area like that.

 
I swear, sometimes it seems like I must have played some other game. :P

Star Ocean 3 is shaping up to be the best game so far this year. It has an element many RPGs in recent years have lacked - challenge. Why do Japanese companies make RPGs that are increasingly easier, instead of finding a decent balance? While it is true that games like FFX have very difficult sidequests, I find myself wishing that I could find a greater sense of accomplishment when the credits are rolling.

Star Ocean 3 has quite a few flaws though. The meandering of the plot for the 30+ hours on Elicoor II, the often horrific AI of the two CPU controlled characters, the fact that some of the music sounds like Motoi Sakuraba got drunk while composing it, the annoyingly implemented item creation system, the over-done sci-fi stuff once you reach disc 2, and that darned annoying girl at the invention info screen.

I like the length of the dungeons though, and some of the music...

Oh well. I'll have more to say once I finish the game...

- Xeno-Eva Fan

I donít know what the deal is, but I seem to be the only person who had absolutely no trouble beating Star Ocean 3 at all. Everyone keeps saying how difficult they found the game to be. I got killed a total of two times, and both of those were due to my own stupidity, not some bit of overwhelming difficulty. Maybe all my years refining my reflexes with overdoses of Megaman and Castlevania made things easier for me, but I doubt it helped much. Iím just good, I guess. :P

Wait, you think Sakuraba was drunk when he composed the music? Then how does that explain the rest of his work? Letís face it, heís a one trick pony. Oddly enough, I love his Valkyrie Profile music far more than his Star Ocean stuff, which really makes no sense since they are practically identical. Iím no Sakuraba hater (I like the majority of his fast stuff, in fact), but he could definitely use a good dose of creativity.

And Welch gets my vote as the most annoying character of the year. Sheís as air-headed as Shion of Xenosaga infamy, but dumber.

 
OMFG BOAT

hi, i was lookin through your archive and saw a crazy letter http://www.rpgfan.com/mailbag/2003/04-09.html when i saw the name, i knew that was the nickname from youre staff page. is that you?

if so, you crazy

Wow, I'm being investigated. :P

Yeah, that's me spouting off nonsense about Zelda. I used to harass former Mailbag chick/current "board admin who neither comes to the boards nor admins" chick Liz Maas all the time with my ramblings. Hearken to my words: if you get drunk and send in the first thing that pops into your mind, one day you too may be able to run the Mailbag. :P

Closing Thoughts

Remember last time, when I said I'd have a new topic up? Well, I'm a filthy liar. Keep your eyes open for it.

~ Daniel Stringer (letters@rpgfan.com)



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