Telling Stories: Roleplaying is stressful

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.Here’s the thing about roleplaying – a lot of people who have never done it have very strong ideas about what it entails, which are usually some mixture of well-meaning and wrong.  Mostly wrong.

This is not out of malice but out of simple reality.  It’s very easy to understand what’s required to get good at PvP in a game; there’s plenty of supplemental material available.  Ditto raiding, small-group content, or whatever else your game offers.  But one of the reasons that I felt (and still feel) that having a regular roleplaying column is valuable is because no one talks about what that requires.  No one mentions how much effort goes into making these things happen.

Mike Mearl, a designer working on Dungeons & Dragons, said at one point that tabletop roleplaying is twenty minutes of fun packed into four hours.  Roleplaying online offers a slightly better ratio, but if you’ve never taken part, you don’t realize that there’s a lot of work that goes into it.  A lot of the advice I’ve given, both here and in Storyboard, is about trying to minimize that work, or at least make the work as pleasant as possible.  But it’s still work just the same.

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Challenge Accepted: Do it yourself

For starters, you can't use special units.  For another... oh, heck, there are lots of reasons.

This is not an SCC, but it’s a nice shot.

Self-inflicted challenges and I have a long and lengthy relationship, due in no small part to my love of Final Fantasy Tactics.  An idle conversation among fans started the Straight Character Challenge – a full group of characters, all the same class, making maximum use of the game’s mechanics and taking down every battle from start to finish.  It took a long while, but every single class proved possible, albeit in many cases through abuse of the AI and odd little loopholes in the game’s coding.

I was never a super-active part of the community there, but I was active for a while, and I still admired the challenge a lot from the sidelines.  The thing is that self-inflicted challenges both do and do not factor into a game’s difficulty.  Sufficiently complex games lead to the creation of more such challenges, and they’re interesting, but they also don’t tie into the actual game at all.  And, in some cases, they get co-opted by the developers for just that reason.

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The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy III, part 9

I don't expect it to last, but it'll be nice while it does.

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

If you take nothing away from this series of columns, aside from the fact that I really enjoy this game, let it be this: the remake does a whole lot of things that aren’t to its credit.  The last set of jobs is this in a microcosm.

See, in the original version of Final Fantasy III, the jobs were not anything remotely approaching balanced.  Vikings were completely forgettable, for example, having nothing to recommend them aside from HP and some weapons that weren’t needed.  Scholars were a joke.  And everything in the game was outclassed by the last two jobs you got, which didn’t become available until the last dungeon of the game was well underway.

When Matrix Software remade the game, they really wanted to ensure that all of the jobs had some purpose.  Certainly, the remake succeeds in making some of them far more viable – I just listed a couple of them, but even Geomancers, Bards, and Rangers became more viable with the remake.  But the last set of jobs now includes Ninja and Sage, and it kind of makes a mess out of things.  The efforts to “balance” these jobs ultimately just make the last set less interesting.

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Leave this out of your game

That went in a different direction.

You move sixteen tons, whaddya get? Another day older and I’ve made a lot of gil off the Market Boards.

Guys?  We need to have a talk.  You’ve been making video games for a really long time now, and I’m not going to pretend you aren’t good at it.  I wouldn’t have a job or one of my major hobbies if you were.  I like video games!

Please stop making me regret liking video games, though, because you thought that in the middle you would be so clever by including these minigames.

Let’s not mince words.  These are not clever additions.  At best, what you’re accomplishing here is padding out the length of the game through a horrid minigame that no one would ever want to play.  At worst, you’re making Animal Crossing, a franchise of games that is literally nothing but these minigames strung together.  Or, if you’d rather, it is every tedious part of every MMO ever, but without the part where after all the tedium you get to stab orcs in the head.  So when you’re approving your final design documents and such, if these minigames show up?  Send that shit back, because it’s not done yet.

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Demo Driver 8: Hammerfight (#308)

I remember looking at the screenshots and hoping this wouldn't turn into a disjointed, floppy mess.  Alas.

Spin round for what?

My cats have a pretty standard routine at this point that passes for the two of them fighting, and it’s kind of hilarious.  They’ll both be perched on their hind legs glaring at one another, but neither one of them wants to actually hurt the other, just sort of whap the other around.  The result is that for a couple moments they look as if they’re just going to glare or pounce, then one of them smacks the other without claws, and then the whole thing devolves into kitty paw-slaps and yowls.  A confused mess of angry fur and smacking.

Hammerfight reminds me a lot of that.  Not in the sense of adorable cats, but in the idea that it’s a confusing mess of a slap-fight.  It’s got a fascinating and engaging premise, totally, but it’s an idea that never does a good job developing beyond that, and interesting aesthetics and concepts don’t make for a good game.

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