Nintendo are the falling giants in Video game history. Unlike SEGA, and thanks to a die hard fan base (and Pokemon) they are unlikely to fall in the same way. Yet falling in popularity they are.
Why do I bring this up??? Well because the innovators, those that constantly try and improve games, tend to come from this red stable.
Some of the greatest inventions have come from the BIG N, the like of the D-pad came from them, the analogue stick, the rumble pack, the "fun racer", the platformer etc... etc...
Sony have performed a marvelous job recently with their e-toy, one of the most refreshing video game experiences since... well the dance mat.
Novalty games are always an issue, Bongo drums as part of the recent Gamecube game, Donkey Konga, are no more than a novalty. Yet use them in the up and coming Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, a platformer controlled via these drums, and you've got an innovative little number.
It won't sell. Gamers want new Zelda's, new Halo's and new GTA's. It's a shame, the recent Zelda: Wind Waker was an innovative and brave change from the ever foolhardy Nintendo. It sold poorly in comparison to its peers and thusly Nintendo suffered.
Nintendo's recent GBA-Gamecube connectivity feature also fell from grace. Despite superb editions with Crystal Chronicles and the recent Zelda: Four Swords. These are great, great REALLY fun games but of course no one cared.
Evolution is not the future of gaming. Games won't improve the way of gaming. We need bravery, we need Viewtiful Joe (a recent brave move from Capcom) and not Final Fantasy 99. We need Animal Crossing, and not GTA Vice City.
Nintendo are fools, brave fools, but fools all the same. They didn't mass an amazing amount of wealth by doing the same thing. Sure with every success (The Gameboy) there comes a failure (The Virtual Boy) and with every good idea (analogue stick) there comes a silly idea (GBA as a controller). Yet we need this bravery. We need this change.
Enter Nintendo's new brave put potentially stupid idea.
The Nintendo DS uses wireless concepts, a microphone. a touch screen, dual screen concepts.
It could well be the new thing.
The idea throws up tonnes of new ideas, new ways of movements, news ways of playing games. One game, Feel the magic from SEGA, involves blowing on a microphone to blow out a candle and flicking things from the screen. A clever little idea for a game.
It is becoming apparent that imagination is running short and that perhaps the hardware has to change in order to provoke a change in thought. The DS is beginning to do that and Nintendo promise a similar concept with their new console codenamed "Revolution".
Despite getting burnt the Japanese Mario inventor is still trying to innovate and I do hope that the DS and Revolution will improve gaming!
What makes a game classic? When you look at this question what do you really think a classic game is? There are many factors you could raise about this, the first point I think about is it’s originality. The originality is important because if it’s just a copy off another game, as many sequels are, it won’t do very well because gamers have already played it. There’s no new experience, which is what gamers want. If it’s not a completely new idea it will be rejected, a perfect example of originality is Zelda for the GameCube. First of all, it was going to be like all the other Zelda games, which Nintendo made, but then they decided to come up with something a bit more original and they ended up with a cartooned version of Zelda completely different to the other Zelda games that are out for the N64 or Game Boy Colour. Originality comes in many forms such as genre mixing. Take Wario Land 4 for the Gameboy Advance, it is a classic example of genre mixing. RPG and Platformer rolled into one. Even on the easy setting it makes it a lot more interesting have a cross genre. Playability is a key part to making a game classic. Without this in a game you will pick up the game, play it once and then throw it away. There’s one thing about playability that makes it’s unique, you can’t really copy it unless you have the right formula and if you don’t the right formula it’s hard to get it right. The playability of the game is the part to keeps you playing day and night until and even after you complete the game. A classic example of games that keep you playing after completion is racers like Gran Turismo 2 and Mario Kart 64 because you can try to beat personal records over and over, try to beat a mates in multiplayer games and just basically having a race when you feel like it. Another great example of a great playable game genre is first person shoot ‘em ups such as the amazing Perfect Da
rk and Goldeneye 007. Level after level you won’t stop and put any of these games down. Multiplayer is pure beauty. The ease of gaming is a very important part to being a classic, which is overlooked by some games makers and the whole game is ruined. It’s a very precise part of a classic game, because if the game your playing is too difficult to play you’ll just throw it down and quit unless you’re a very patient gamer. Shoot ‘em ups especially have to be easy to control because you need quick reactions and there’s no point in having to look around the pad to reload. Goldeneye 007 was great game and one of the reasons was how easy it was to play. There are some games that have been let down by this with dodgy camera angles and hard to handle controls they just go straight down the sink. If you want an original game it has to last longer than it is. They are loads of massive games that aren’t classics because they are basically really bad. Nevertheless, a good long game does make all the difference. Games like Goldeneye 007, Gran Turismo 1 and 2 and Super Mario 64 can keep you playing for at least a year. Loads of games are let down by this factor. Take ESPN Final Round Golf for the Gameboy Advance, it’s the best golf game I’ve played in a quite a while and is really let down because it only has about two courses. Last-ability is going to be a big problem with the upcoming Next Generation console, the Nintendo GameCube, as recently Nintendo revealed that their games are going to be a lot easier because of the ‘Younger Audience’ that supposedly are more interested in Nintendo products. This mean Luigi’s Mansion and Zelda: GameCube are going to be very short games. In magazines a lot of games are let down by the difficulty level of a game, they say “it may be too easy for older gamers.” However, if there’s a game like Mickey Mouse it’s created e
specially for younger gamers. If all games had a high difficulty level, there wouldn’t be any games for the younger generation of gamers and if all games were too easy there would not be any challenge for older gamers. This is why there is a contrast between games for older and younger gamers. The biggest contrast’s are usually with cartooned games like Kirby and serious games like Perfect Dark, if Kirby had a very high difficulty it would not be the same game, it would be for the older generation but they might reject it because of it’s childish style. You need to get the difficulty level right to get a classic game. It may not seem like much but having an ‘easy’, ‘hard’ and ‘medium’ option which can make all the difference. A classic game has to be simple to be classic. Simplicity is very important because of, again, how easy it is to play. Complicated games will get you confused and can’t really be called a classic if you don’t understand what the game is trying to achieve. This is the beauty of puzzle games like Tetris and Denki Blocks. Try to get rows of blocks while different shapes fall and all you have to do is move them into place, getting harder as you progress. Again simple. There are added extra’s you’ll find in games such as good graphics, which are not essential but can improve the gamplay a bit. You might be thinking at this point “What?” but hear me out. A lot of games are let down by dodgy camera angles and backgrounds that make the characters blend in. Such as games like Castlevania for the N64 with it’s annoying camera angles and Jurassic Park 3 for the GBA which is annoying because you can hardly see who you are. However, when you have good graphics these problems can be avoided, which essentially makes the games more playable. Thanks for reading. Firebalt.
Why are RPGs so good? Unable to explain in one word or one sentence alone, this takes some heavy thinking. Many areas attribute to a successful and well selling RPG game. Areas such as the plot that would need to captivate the game player. Or the characters, their attitudes; their visual perception; their actions towards their friend and enemies; their special attacks and how they develop. How about the minigames? All RPGs, to be successful, need to have some sort of fun, weird and wacky detour, just to satisfy everyone’s taste. Even better when the gameplay requires you to go through these ordeals in order to either complete a section or to acquire the best item of equipment. Talking about equipment, what the characters equip usually define what type of special attacks or attributes that that characters onto which they are equipped have. There are weird and wacky weapons that could do all sorts of things, and look completely different to the normal attitude of the game. Then there are bad guys. Either serious or very weird, these guys can really hurt what the main character can call his backside if the main character has not been properly raised. Bad guys can come in all sorts of shapes and forms, from the reptilian kind, to the inhuman or the alienated. They usually have some sort of death attack as well, and unless the parry isn’t highly protected, a number of hours of hard work could go down the pothole. But the only way to kill a bad guy, boss or final boss, in an RPG, would be through a battle system. By the battle system and certain elements found within it is how I classify an RPG compared to an adventure game. Not many people know, or can distinguish, between a ‘turn’ and a ‘time’ based battle system in RPGs. However, there are RPGs that are exceptions because of their use of statistics. No RPG would be complete without sound - whether they be long midi style background tunes or shot blips to sig
nify certain sections, and any RPG requires them. Some RPGs even create short little ditties that everyone remembers. With the new wave on consoles appearing practically every 5/6 years, eventually speech by the characters should become the norm. Even though nowadays, in FMV, we often hear speech. FMV is such a vital element of RPGs that it really is pretty stupid not to include it for RPGs from now and onwards. Whether it be the preliminary story explanation or frequently throughout the game, FMV has to be somewhere. Yet with all RPGs there has to be bad points. The main ones I find sometimes the frequency of savepoints; how unexciting the game can get once everything has been completed when all the main weapons have been acquired and also the inability to backtrack if the characters are underdeveloped for the boss ahead. Primarily, I wish to start with my generally accepted definition of what I call an RPG and what I call an adventure game. It generally comes down to the battle system. Games such as the Final Fantasy series on the Playstation are great examples or RPGs - apart from creating a new niche on which all RPGs are trying to achieve from the date of FF7s release - they use a time-based battle system. Each character from within the party has either a speed statistic or an agility statistic on which when moves can be performed is set. In a time-based battle system, it is possible for one character of enemy to get in two separate attacks before another enemy/character. Now I must stress that there are two sub-divisions for time-based battle systems - ones like FF that do not take distance into account and ones like Grandia(PSX) and Grandia 2(DC) that do take movement into account. The idea behind this is that it also takes time for your character to move to hit the enemy, and the further away the two are, the more time it takes to run to the enemy, then hit it. The other system is the turn-based system. Games that use this include Wil
d Arms(PSX), Breath of Fire 3(PSX), Skies of Arcadia(DC & GC) and Pokémon(GB, GBA, N64). This is where each of the characters and each of the enemies chooses an attack, and depending on how fast each of them are, the fastest usually goes first, then through to the slowest. Notice I have included statistics - statistics make an RPG an RPG, for sure. Main statistics that are included generally all RPGs are changeable character names; an attack power; a defensive power; a luck statistic; a speed/agility statistic; a HP(life force) statistic and some type of special move/magic point statistic. This leads me onto the exceptions to the turn/time based battle system RPG rule because of their use of statistics. Phantasy Star Online(DC), Phantasy Star Online ver.2(DC & GC), Diablo(PC) and Diablo 2(PC) are all examples of this exception rule. Even though there is no visibly set battle system in operation - in fact whenever in sections with enemies, the battle system is already operational, just not turn-based or time-based - their use of statistics introduces that RPG feel. This is basically what I consider to be an RPG. Adventure games are different, however. I must highlight, although this does not concur to everyone’s opinion, that games such as Alundra(PSX), Alundra 2(PSX) and Zelda(Various) I consider to be adventure games, because of their use of the heart system. Before you think that I hate these games, I must say that they do hold anticipation when I play them. The Zelda games on practically all platforms are excellently scripted and are well catered for, and they invigorate my mind to play and continue with the story. I just don’t classify them as RPGs in same way as the Final Fantasy Series, or on Nintendo format (just for you, Dringo), Paper Mario. Mind you, people classify games such as the Resident Evil Series(PSX, PSX2, GC) and the Tomb Raider Series(PSX, PSX2(?)) in the adventure category as well, but I don’t like those adventure
games as much as Zelda. All RPG games need a plot. Plots need to captivate and energise the game player to continue playing to find out the result if it isn’t painfully obvious. Good plots include cliff-hangers, A hero/heroine and their band of associated partners, some sort of very unmethodical twist and a really bad bad-guy or group of bad guys that is hell-bent on doing some sort of nasty manifestation of which you and your band of merry men have to stop. Good plots involve separation of the main characters by some unknown force or to somehow help each other, some sort of romance lines (like Squall and Rinoa in FF9 or Vyse and Aika/Fina in Skies of Arcadia) and some sort of back-stabbing/reverse roles (Seifer in FF8). Also, a great number of social areas like towns and cities helps, (like Court Seim in Wild Arms, Toad Town in Paper Mario) so the characters can interact with NPCs (Non-Player Characters) and buy/sell items and equipment. Basically, an RPG is a book that uses a variety of stylistic techniques to make the plot more exciting rather that reading a book. That relayed the question, would ‘Harry Potter’ become an RPG with magic spells and FMV clips from the film? But if Harry Potter did become a character in an RPG, what would he be like? Within an RPG, a character, especially the main character, needs to seem to have a mind with constant thoughts in line with his/her personality - i.e. their attitude. Relationships between characters need to be structured, and their attitudes need to be maintained. A completely random sounding and acting character could be the death of an RPG. The characters would need to look suitable for their surroundings and their natural demeanour(i.e. Squall in FF8 dresses seriously when in his own clothes and his uniform as he takes life seriously through his own views) and sound natural towards emotions such as anger, love and laughter. Emotions such as love or hatred are usually di
rected at another character. Inter-reaction between characters and different character's perception of each other may seem complicated, but is actually quite simple. It entails one character's opinion of another and what they say towards them and what they think about them. Though the character's perception between friends and enemies hopefully, within an RPG, would be different, possibly in the extremes and which hopefully would modify throughout the story as the plot develops. The most important area of a character within an RPG would have to be their special attacks and how, by the developers and programmers, they are displayed. The most famous, in my opinion, special attack is probably Omnislash, the final special move from Cloud in Final Fantasy 7, which finishes with the first special move for Cloud, the Braver. However, those attacks are specific to Cloud. Within Final Fantasy 7, there are also special beings that can be summoned. The graphical detail, at the time when FF7 was released, that these summons entailed was graphically superb for the PSX, whose speed (so I’ve heard) can max. out at 33Mhz. On the Nintendo, Mewtwo from Pokémon has his powerful psychic attack and Mario in Paper Mario has special Star Spirit attacks. Speaking again about FF7, you have to win the item to learn Omnislash by participating in the ‘Battle’ mini-game. Minigames in an RPG provided the humouristic element within any RPG. They usually involve accuracy, timing, achieving a score or another task with the utmost of classical humour added. How the mini-games form part of the RPG depends on the ideas of the developer and programmers. The minigames could whether be part of the game, necessary to complete in order to move on, partially like FF7 to get Omnislash, or just as an aside in order to stimulate humour, like fishing in Breath of Fire 3, where it is only required once throughout the whole entire game. Now with minigames, prize
s for your achievements will usually be catered for. Some good - some not so good. Yet all of them somehow add to your characters' inventory, whether they be healing items or weapons and armor. Now equipment can take many, many forms. I believe, with proper application, it is possible to complete an RPG with the original equipment provided unless a certain piece of equipment is needed during the game (but trying to complete Phantasy Star Online with just a saber would be blooming hard!). How the equipment is distributed is dependant on how the developers and programmers wish to enforce its potential. Equipment can be in the form of weapons, armor, items or certain specifics that each RPG has. Some of these, like the weapons and armor, can be equipped. With Phantasy Star Online, most of them require a certain statistic to be at a certain level. This way only the best armor can be equipped near the end of the game. In the Final Fantasy Series however, with the right cheats or walkthroughs, the best armor and weapons can be equipped right at the beginning of the game. Again it depends on the designers and programmers preference. Now weapons can take many forms, such as frying pans(Phantasy Star Online), mops(FF7) or puny cutlery knives(Breath of Fire 3). Armor usually comes in the form of leather, steel, and in some cases, a weird material called adamantite; with either chain mail or plate mail. Depending on the graphics of the RPG, the weapons and armor can look weird with wonderful shapes, or all the same but just will different names. In each individual RPG, this equipment would have different abilities and attributes. Some might randomly kill basic monsters in one hit, others could have the power of the thunder element added to them or could be used in a big combination attack. But then again, there could be bad effects that make you more prone to poison, or lower your HP automatically when you equip them. These help the bad guys to vic
tory. In any RPG, usually monsters can be classified in three sections: Easy monsters, like the ones at the beginning of the game that are really easy to dispose of when you’re near the end of the epic journey; Late monsters, as in the ones found randomly right at the end of the game; Boss monsters, who have huge HP and usually get harder as the game progresses. The last section also includes the final boss, which in many RPGs usually takes more than one form. These monsters take all different shapes and forms - not only between different ones in different RPGs but also within the individual RPG itself. An example of this would again be in Phantasy Star Online: A Rag Rappy looks cute and cuddly, and are pretty easy to kill; whereas a Dimenian would probably lose a beauty contest to the Rag Rappy as they really look so *** damn ugly. Usually, different monsters have different characteristics. Certain ones, like a Malboro in the Final Fantasy Series, are resistant to poison or are weak against fire attacks. With the right combination of skills, these monsters can easily be felled. Yet when you only just kill a monster that seemed very hard before, the sense of relief that I receive is one of personal achievement. Usually, the main characteristic of bosses is that they are wholly resistant to death attacks of any sort. After having a flick through some of my walkthroughs, I have come to one conclusion about final bosses - there have and never will be a final boss who is ‘undead’, for one sole purpose - if you heal it, it takes damage. Ever noticed that? Yet whenever you hit an enemy, usually a small sound is heard to say that you have either hit it, missed it, or done a critical hit. Now sound is all important to an RPG adventure - a change in the tone of music can set the mood for that portion of the adventure. Without anything to listen to in the background, an RPG would just play as it would sound - dull. Even with
the best quality smooth graphics, an RPG without sound just doesn’t cut it. That, I think, is the biggest problem with football manager simulations - the music. Yet the types of music that you hear in RPGs usually fall into three categories, with some of the older RPGs not including the third one. Firstly, long music. This music is usually played in the background while playing and interacting with the people on screen. Or it can, as I have said before, set the mood. Secondly, short music. This usually comes in the form of short blips that indicate something, or are used to fade in and out of different types of looped long music. The common Final Fantasy tune, the one after a fight (any Final Fantasy fan will know what it is, and I can’t really display it here), would classify as short music as it is used to fade out the battle music and introduce the exp. gaining screen. Thirdly, and sometimes missed out on older RPGs due to limitations or something like that, speech. Many RPGs that involve stories (like Grandia) use speech. Some, like Grandia, use it infrequently for emphasis. Others, like Jade Cocoon (sorry, can’t think of a better example!), use speech all the time so you can feel the sense of interaction between the characters. Yet one problem I feel could be resolved is the opportunity to put in your own music CDs to play in the background, or to be able to customise the general background noise to something that the gamer likes. In my case, that would be Punk Rock/Techno in the form of Blink182 and the like. Yet this personal choice of music would have to be muted for the potentially death-defying section of what makes a good RPG a great RPG: FMV. For those who do not know what FMV is, it stands for Full Motion Video. FMV is practically a video that doesn’t incorporate any interaction from the game player. Technology in the future should allow games to run in FMV style graphics. Some games do one of two thin
gs - either use FMV as the introduction and the end of the game and let the game player control all the in-game movement, such as Phantasy Star Online; the other is to use FMV to continue the plot or in areas where the controller cannot perform the necessary combination of moves to complete the section. Games like this would include the Final Fantasy Series, especially FF9. The only game made recently without FMV is probably Wild Arms(PSX), yet that lacked in the general graphic area throughout the whole game. And this leads be onto the very, very short section on the bad points of SOME(and I really need to emphasise SOME) RPGs. First point is the number of save points in some RPGs. Whether it’s stylistic or not, some games have too few save points too infrequently. Or two really close together. Another point is the limited use of an RPG once all the areas have been unlocked and all the key items have been found. Phantasy Star Online counters this by the online feature and the ability to inter-react with other people. Lastly, I hate it when you’ve just saved, and can’t beat the boss ahead. And you can’t backtrack to gain experience so you can beat the boss. The only way to get past this would be to luckily kill the boss by strategy. Or start again, and prepare. But then the fun dissipates of new challenges up to that point. After that really, really tiny section comes my conclusion to the beginning question: Why are RPGs so good? Reason: ability to inter-react with characters that can do wicked special moves that need to be earned in minigames with equipment that make sounds when you use them that kill big bad guys. Three things to finally finish off: (i) RPG = good (ii) get RPGs now, because of reason 1 (iii) What are your top 10 RPGs? Mine are: 1) Final Fantasy 9 2) Phantasy Star Online (and ver.2 when I get it) 3) Grandia 4) Final Fantasy 7 5) Paper Ma
rio 6) Skies of Arcadia 7) Breath of Fire 3 8) Final Fantasy 8 9) Diablo 1 & 2 10) Wild Arms Jcsuperster: The Saviour of Souls
Games... The way games evolve must be in favour of getting the gameplay right. If a game is so good in terms of the way it plays, it doesn't really matter what it looks like! Slightly strange review here, but I thought I'd share with you my views on how games should evolve! Gameplay enhancing improvements are the way forward, let me give you some examples…In a 128bit world, how can such a graphics light game like Snake manage to compete with the latest games on the newest games consoles?! I mean, is Snake and the other mobile phone games anything more than 2bit? 4bit perhaps? Well, I just have to say that graphics mean absolutely nothing if a game is a dog to play. You know it's true really... Last June I bought the visually stunning Ecco the Dolphin, was pretty impressed, but I gave up trying to get anywhere because it just didn't play to my liking - aside from the fact that it was one of the most incredible looking and sounding games, where the word 'ambience' fits like a glove, it was and is incredibly difficult, frustrating and just not something you need when you're trying to progress!! So where am I going with this? Who knows, but as most will tell you 'graphics maketh not a great game' and it's true. Look at the current crop of PS2 titles. I don't see an awful lot of cream from the odd 70 games available for it!! So Ecco may suit some, but can you imagine a game with such amazing, mind boggling, jaw dropping and palm sweatingtly good looking with sound and everything presented in the best way, only for you to find that the control system may as well have been designed by Mike Tyson, and that it's practically unplayable?! That'd suck, that'd hurt big time, because a game that looks great deserves to be good to play too. So, what's all this about Snake? Well... I've 'just' got a mobile phone (oh dear), and Snake 2 is one of the mini game
s available to play on it - one of the only things you can do without spending 40p a minute, or something similar, and so I've ended up playing this far more than anything out of my real games collection, and why? Ok, so I was boredom, but the simple things in life do entertain, they are addictive and the original concepts are the best. Tetris, Packman, even ChuChu Rocket - aren't they all just great! So any who, I have been playing Snake, it's a cracking game that I recommend you all have a go should for some reason you haven't played it yet, and forget graphics - this is pure addiction from a 2D (if that), with one line that gets bigger every time you eat a little dot, with the occasional bonus points from larger funny shaped creatures, and it really is a very good game. Free with most mobiles! So whilst games like SSX are also good fun, and offering up to date graphics, it just goes to show, you don't need a £300 PS2, just get into...Snake.... Anyway, forget snake for the moment. I doubt we’ll see future snakes appearing on the future games machines, but the point I’m trying to stress is that I want to see good games with good gameplay continuing to be at the forefront of gaming and of sales as these deserve to sell well. It’s good at the moment, there are some games that refuse to be playable, let’s make things better though!! Thanks D1A1
Tomb raider, FIFA and monkey island are three very different games, which have all been very successful. But is doesn't stop there because these games like many others are so popular that the developers decide to produce sequels. Sequels provide gamers with many more hours of gamplay and enjoyment. Its also true that sequels are usually a very much improved version of the one before. For example the interface maybe much better and easy to use, or the sequel may use a more advanced 3D engine providing better graphics. So sequels are generally good things, improving on the original and getting rid of a few of the orginal bugs too. But some sequels seem very similar to the previous version and it seems like the developers are just trying the make more money from the same old original, but with abit of a face-lift. One such game is EA's FIFA, of which the latest version is FIFA 2001. But if you compare FIFA 2000 to FIFA 2001 you will be hard pushed to find many improvments or major differences. It is very difficult to improve the best football game going, which is so near to perfection already. However if you compared the original FIFA game to FIFA 2001 you would be very impressed by FIFA 2001's massive improvements in gameplay, sound and graphics. And so the point is one or two sequels of a game is fair enough, a sequel each year however, which is improving very little of the version before is just not on. Sequels need to have alot of time put into them and show quite large improvements on the original or the previous version. Developers should not try to re-sell the original game, calling it a sequel, put into a different box with minimal improvements to the original.
Video games are great ! They have come on leaps and bounds over the years...or have they ? I remember the old days, when I played on a Spectrum, Megadrive and the like. Now we're in the age of the PS2, Dreamcast and soon enough, the time will come for the X-Box and the Gamecube. But are the games nowadays really as good as their yesteryear counterparts, and if not, why ? I personally think I prefer games from recent years to the current crop of chart toppers. My reasons for this are mainly aimed at the developers of the games, but also at the consumers who buy them. So many people now are more worried about the look and sound of a game that we tend to forget the feel. 3D Graphics, lifelike backdrops, surround sound, accurate looks of place and generally showing off the platforms power has in my opinion taken away from the games themselves. My personal favourite games all seem to come from now defuct consoles like N64 (almost dead), Megadrive and Snes. Of course there are some absolute classics on PS and DC, but they are coming few and far between, whilst many games that look great are not really worth playing, merely looking at. I remember a game on Megadrive called Streets Of rage, I dare say a lot of you do. A side scrolling 2D beat em up, and with its sequel we had one of the greatest side scrolling games ever created. The game was a joy to play, it looked and sounded decent, but was outdone on those counts by Sonic 2. However the gameplay was amazing, I still play it now. Compare this to the current scrolling fighter, Fighting Force 2 (Dreamcast) Its awkward controls, dodgy moves and general simplicity make it a quick play and gather dust game. Yet people say it is superior to SOR2 because it's 3D, and looks better. I also prefer the original Sonic games to the new 3D adventure, and no matter how good the 2 N64 Zelda games have been I still feel the top down SNES game (Zelda III) is
the greatest of the series. Therefore my way of making games better is easy, forget graphics, sound etc and focus solely on Gameplay. Once this is perfected, then make it look great, sound the part and have all the great menus and things. At the end of the day the gameplay is what makes the game last, no-one surely plays a game because its a looker for anything more than a week. Recent games have been so focused on looking the part (and by part I mean what the average consumer now seems to expect) that the developers have forgotten to make the gameplay as good as they could. MSR, a renowned racing game on Dreamcast looked and sounded so good, that SEGA forgot to have the game playtested and released millions of bugged copies on the public. Quake 3 Arena (DC) was robbed of its mass multiplayer mode (there is a 4 man limit) to ensure the graphics would look as good as they could, but id rather have a few less polygons and be able to fight more men. My PS2 experience so far has been "Wow great to look at, bad to play" I have yet to see a PS2 game that can claim to be a classic. I remeber when I first played the original Tomb Raider, blocky, fogging and blurred graphics couldnt detract from a stunning game, one of my all time favourites. But in the sequels the gameplay was lacking and all the programmers could discuss was the improved effects. Joe Public doesnt help a lot of the time. Games seem to race up the charts because they looked good on Bits, or use the new emotion engine of a PS2. Never mind if the gameplay smells. Many people seem to screaming "3D, layered backdrops, real life animatin, CD Sound" and are content with that as a game, I would be happy to buy a game that looked worse but played better. My current plays are Worms Armageddon (hardly a Shenmue in the looks department), Sheep (PSX) Not pushing the limits, and ISS Pro Evolution, which despite its slightly blocky graphic
s and tinny sound, outperforms every next gen footy game out there. So to all programmers - 2D is OK !!!!!!! Gameplay beats graphics and sound !!!!!! Price matters, make them £30 instead of £40 and they will sell more !!!! Testing is a big help, theres nothing worse than getting a new PC game and having to wait a month for the patch, and now with the MSR debacle, it seems this problem has spread. I hope games continue to push the boundaries (Shenmue) but not at the expense of the gameplay (Tomb Raider 4) Before I finish I must say Im not against new games, Shenmue is amazing, and Jet Set Radio is as good a racer as there is, but these are games few and far between, with the rest of the litter a sullied combination of great looking, top sounding FMV extravaganzas, that you occasionally get to play.
Sorry to those expecting me to talk about the future of SNK fighters here, I just couldn’t resist using that title for this piece. Instead, with the forthcoming Final Fantasy X supposedly due to sport an entirely new combat system, I thought that I would relay some of my musings on the subject of RPG combat. Combat systems in RPG’s tend to be split into a number of areas. There is preparation (the inventory and equipment system) and the encounter system that come before combat. Then is also the experience that comes afterwards. Then there is of course the combat itself. I’m going to take this in the above sections. Oh, you’ll also find me referencing four games/series frequently – Final Fantasy, Grandia, Lunar and Chrono Cross. These games cover a fair amount of ground as far as combat goes, so are good examples. Inventory ========= This is the often most neglected area of combat in an RPG. The inventory system is the system by which items are stored and can be used. In general, most RPG’s follow a ‘big bin’ system, where by all of your items are put into a big pot so that any character can access and use at any point (this is the system used in FF and CC). The advantage of this system is its simplicity – it is very easy on those who are not experienced with item management systems. It keeps you from having to think too far ahead. Most games using this system have a almost infinite inventory size as well, meaning you do not have to worry about throwing items away. The alternate is to give each character their own inventory, often limited to a few items. This is the system used in Grandia. By doing this, you force the player to think ahead in regards to which items are genuinely useful and which are not. You also force them into thinking about which items a character should be carrying when entering dangerous areas. Finally, it is more realistic. My preferr
ed method is actually that used in Lunar:SSSC. In that game, each character has a limited inventory as in Grandia, of which only those items can be used in combat. You also have a pot of items, which is much larger whilst still very finite in size. The main pot can only be accessed outside of combat. This forces some prior thinking, but isn’t too limiting. Equipment ========= This means weaponry and armour. Most games handle armour in the same way – you buy completely new armour at every opportunity. I have no real problems with the armour system, its fine by me to leave it as is. Weaponry tends to be a little more complex. Most games tend to follow the same pattern as armour – you find or buy new weapons. More recently games have been moving away from this – In Suikoden you kept your weapon, but could have it re-forged in blacksmiths. FF8 and CC used a similar system, but you required certain items to re-forge. This is in the belief that a weapon tends to be far more personal than armour, and you wouldn’t want to give it up. Alternately, Grandia follows the armour-style system. The interesting thing about Grandia was that characters could use different types of weapon. The main character, Justin, could use an axe, a sword or a mace for example. This allowed for greater flexibility – an Axe is far more effective against anything made of wood for example. Grandia also took the step of tying this into the experience system. I like the system used in Grandia. I guess ideally they could use a combination of personal weapons and allowing multiple weapon types a-la Grandia. Encounters ========== The source of much annoyance in RPG’s. Most RPG’s follow the Random Encounter system (the FF games included). The system is a relic of early RPG games, designed to recreate some of the random nature of traditional pen-and-paper RPG games. Personally, I wish they w
ould just drop it. Lunar, Grandia and Chrono Cross elected to do things differently. In these games, opponents can be seen on the map, and it is quite possible to avoid them. Combat is run in the traditional way once you collide. In Grandia the way in which you collide with a monster effects the situation in which you find yourself in combat. Sneaking up from behind will give you the upper hand. THAT is the way to do an encounter system. Experience ========== After combat, your skills are generally improved. In most games, you get one pot of Exp (Experience Points) for each character, and once this level reaches a certain amount all of your stats increase. FF tends to use this as a basis, with maybe one or two smaller pots separately. Lunar sticks rigidly by it. Grandia takes it to the extreme. In Grandia you not only have your main experience pot, but each magic class (fire, water, earth, wind) has its own level, as does each weapon type a character can use. When you use a spell in combat, you will earn extra experience in the type of magic classes it falls under. Getting a magic class up to certain levels also introduces new magic spells that can be used. Level-upping certain weapons types and magic classes also effects the main stats – improving with fire magic increases wisdom (the stat governing magic), whilst Earth improves strength. By tying the use of magic and weaponry into the experience system it keeps it more interesting, and allows you to develop characters towards the roles you wish them to play, rather than being stuck with pre-defined roles. Chrono Cross actually takes things very simply. The only large increase in strength comes from defeating key badguys. Whilst defeating smaller nasties will occasionally increase strength, it isn’t based on experience points. Actually, I personally like Grandia’s system, you can tailor the skills of characters to suit you. Experience is actuall
y added during combat in Grandia was well, so you can take immediate advantage of new attacks. FF8 introduced the junctioning system, a method of artificially increasing stats by tying them to the stock of certain magic spells you were carrying. It was interesting, but proved a little clumber some at times. Combat ====== The really big subject is combat itself, and there are so many different ways of doing things. Rather than compare different systems, I’m mainly going to talk about the best features of different games I like. Chrono Cross had an interesting system. The main thing I really liked about that was that it tied the use of magic to the physical attacks you had used. I liked the fact that you could rely on just one or the other. The other really great thing was that it was really quite fast to get through, there is nothing more annoying than the FF summons animations, which take forever. Grandia and Lunar have a feature I really like – positional combat. By positional combat, I mean that the positions taken by characters and monsters actually matter, they don’t just line up in rows and attack each other. In these games, you had attacks which would cover certain areas, such as charging in a straight line. It is possible, with a bit of effort, to herd monsters into a group for simpler frying. Characters actually have to move to be able to hit. If they can’t reach a character, they’ll eventually just give up. Another thing I do like about Grandia is the magic system. Rather than the normal, single magic point system of magic, the magic spells are split into several levels depending on strength, which each strength of spell having its on magic point level. This prevents you from just using all your magic points casting the stronger spells, and encourages preservation and rationing skills. As mentioned before, CC has an interesting system. Each spell can only be use
d once in each battle. You can take more than one of each spell, but the number of spells you can actually have available at once is very highly limited. Grandia also has my favorite method of determining who can attack. It presents each character on a gauge at the bottom. Each character moves along the gauge at a rate depending on their speed statistic. Upon reaching a certain level, you may choose your attack. The big difference is that attacks may not immediately be activated (as in FF). Depending on the type and your skill with an attack, you have to wait a fixed amount of time for the final section of the gauge to fill. During the time it takes for this gauge to follow, attacking a character with a strong attack will cause the gauge position to drop way back, to before the attack was chosen – attack canceling! I love that feature, it allows you to prevent big attacks coming your way if you spot tem soon enough. The Final Fantasy games haven’t really moved on since FF6 in terms of combat. The only really interesting thing I can think of is the drawing system from FF8. Magic in FF8 was governed by how many of a spell you have – to be able to use magic you need to have some. To acquire spells you had to ‘Draw’ (effectively steal) magic away from a monster who had some. By drawing magic, it was added to your collection. Of course, certain spells could only be drawn from certain monsters. The Draw system (and the Junctioning which went with it) was interesting, but I can’t see it being used in the future. Lunar had an auto-fight feature. Basically you could switch combat to autopilot, so you didn’t have to bother playing yourself. That was pretty neat. Conclusions =========== The best way to get a good combat system? Clone Grandia. Yup, Grandia is as close to combat perfection as currently exists. The major additions with could be made to the system
is to allow greater control over the position of characters (Grandia tends to limit you to certain points). The other thing would be to allow great control over attack points – make it possible to attack from behind during combat and give the advantages which go with it. The problem with this is working it to a workable level of abstraction. The danger is that by making combat too complex you make it too dull, clumbersome and slow to make the rest of the game worth the effort. You need to keep the controls basic enough to be workable by anyone, and this is what FF has aimed for in the past. Anyone can play FF, and that’s probably why the combat is generally pretty poor. *Sigh*, you can never win, can you?
Seeing as the Final Fantasy series is the greatest series gaming has ever known, with so many touches of genius lovingly added to each instalment and so much effort put into such minor details, WHY, WHY, WHY do so many obvious limitations remain. Firstly, the game would be significantly improved by just taking the time and effort to replace the text with speech (or have both with an option to choose, as I can see that games such as Vagrant Story probably work better without speech). Would this be too costly or demanding after having 100s of staff slave away to produce the most spectacular FMVs and to incorporate the subtlest of qualities like ff8’s screen focus? One CD (Playstation 2 ffs have no excuse with DVDs) would easily cover the ground and would make a world of difference to the immersive atmosphere of the games. Secondly, and a point which is difficult to deal with, it would be nice if ff games could be continued after the ending and also if there were to be a different ending once everything has been achieved. OK so the alternative ending isn’t difficult to accomplish, but how to go about the continuation of the game ain’t so obvious. Including having extra sub-games at the end, I have come up with 3 possible ways of doing this: 1.Leave the world free to explore after it has been saved/restored – allows magical extension of the storyline. enemies who are more powerful than the “end of game” boss (i.e. weapons) can be located here and (as they are generally harder than the final boss) fought in logical progression. the prize for defeating the weapons could be 2 or 3 (see below), as opposed to something which will make you more powerful. GREAT!!! I BEAT THE HARDEST ENEMY IN THE GAME AND MY REWARD WAS TO BECOME STRONGER AND NOT HAVE ANYBODY WORTHY TO FIGHT WITH MY NEW POWERS! 2.Restart the game, but keep all of the powers you had accumulated R
11; meaning that you can waltz through the storyline again without any hassle (most people want to re-run ff adventures several times, they’re filmic games and it would be nice to play through them without having to concentrate on the battling too much). this works like a cheat and would be mildly enjoyable for the simple reason that you can waste everyone easily. 3.Restart the game, removing all powers (it would be hard to make these games difficult with all of the powers) and make the enemies more challenging (new attacks, more HP etc.) – veterans will enjoy the challenge Which of 2 and 3 is best? I don’t know! Nor can I think of any ways to include them both in a single game. Tough decision, but either outcome would be preferable to a frozen screen ending! On a more aggravating note, no enemy should be able to wipe out your party in one go (I’m not talking about death, I’m talking about 9999 damage all round). In ff7 at least you could use final attack materia to revive yourself (nice and tactical), but against Omega Weapon in ff8 it was a case of “You’re invincible or you’re dead”, and the most skilled of gamers could just be washed up in the gutter like any random punk on the street. The miserable feeling you get when you can destroy some of the hardest enemies in the game with ease, and then some cheesy attack annihilates your otherwise impenetrable defence, is indescribable. Solutions- increase the characters MAX HP if you want to demonstrate dramatic damage make the battles more tactical instead of relying on luck or an individual item just stop it! I’m certain that Square could come up with some better ideas if they put their minds to it. Eeerrrm… jusht one moy question! What the hell is the need for random battles (annoying, die, DIE! … er Sorry)??? Random b
attles must be either taken out of the games, or shifted to a specific region within the game, such as magical forest/desert/marsh/shadow areas, like the crashed Gelinka in ff7, in which many and varied random beasts could be found. Even in the case of the latter, the annoying loading screens must be altered to something more pleasing to the eyes and ears (uh that searing sound!). What do I propose should replace random battles in the main game if they are tucked away by one means or another? On an initial simplified level, sprites (stationary or mobile). I can identify only 3 reasons for random battles, and with the replacement of random battles by sprites, each has many alternative solutions: 1. To make the game more challenging: Solutions- a.) Make the enemies tougher b.) Have the sprites blocking vital routes so that battles must be fought (at least now they can be seen), but only when you first travel through an area (like mini-bosses), ensuring that the challenge is there only when it really is a CHALLENGE. c.) PERHAPS, have VERY RARE random battles whenever you get backattacked 2. To allow the accumulation of exp etc.: Solutions- a.) Best of all would be a training ground, in which you could fight any of the enemies that you have defeated so far (in any combination), including both “alpha” and “beta” enemies (as described above). b.) The specific region approach would suffice. 3. To annoy people Solutions- no comment Squaresoft, I admire your considerations to provide everything vat is required to provide a challenge and to build up experience in your games, but if you came round ‘ere and started putting in random battles, while I’m trying to enjoy the quiet scenery, storyline and atmosphere, I should say OI! SQUARESOFT, NOOOOOO! Give ya a slap and send you on your way! I’m not trying to be picky (the ffs are all sublime games), a
nd I can understand that Squaresoft might be afraid (even though they have boldly and relentlessly broken new ground) to change what has always been a winning formula, but I strongly believe that the above suggestions would not isolate any potential followers, and indeed would revitalise and strengthen future ffs and help them attain the perfection for which they strive.