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The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy V, part 11

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

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

One of the things I’m enjoying about the plot of this game is that unlike its predecessors, it’s giving me something that the series has lacked. The characters here don’t just have reasons for their actions, they have motivations.

Reasons are what drive the plots of the previous four games, which is most notably to the detriment of the “story-driven” Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy IV.  You have a clear picture of what the characters need to do in those games, sure.  What you don’t get, ever, is a reason why.  Yes, Kain is there helping you take down Golbez, but why he’s doing so is never discussed beyond a vague handwaving of “well, Golbez did control him a couple of times.”

Sure, the world is in danger, but that’s not motive, that’s a reason.

By contrast, the crew in Final Fantasy V has a motivation.  Sure, there are many occasions – such as now – when the primary motivator for the group is “guilt,” since they sort of exacerbated the injuries of the drake that they’re now trying to save.  But guilt is at least a motivator, and it indicates characters trying to fix mistakes.  So that’s a good thing all around.

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Demo Driver 8: Alter World

And how.

If your first thought is “that looks like some bullshit right there” then your first thought is right.

I don’t like saying harsh things about an indie game.  Every single time I do so, I realize that I’m saying unkind things about something that someone worked hard to build, a labor of love – especially when it’s a title put together by a single person, which is quite the task.  I take no pleasure in it.  I don’t feel like it’s a fun opportunity to get digs in, not when it’s something a small group of people created out of nothing.

No amount of feeling bad makes Alter World a fun title to actually play, though, so it kind of has to take its lumps.  So you know what tone this piece is going to have.  It may be a reluctant piece of work, but this is a game that’s going on retail release for money, and that means that it gets critiqued as something asking you to spend money.  And the fact is that Alter World, labor of love or not, is doing something that lots of games have done before but isn’t actually fun to play.

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Telling Stories: Getting better but never good

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.A character who can solve no problems is boring.  A character who can solve every problem is boring.  But odds are that you’re more worried about hitting the second threshold than the first, because most roleplayers tend to make competent sorts.  Which is still fine… until, of course, you get to learning new tricks.

Everyone wants their characters to expand, obviously.  You want characters who change and grow over time, learn new skills, gain new experiences, and so forth. But at the same time, you recognize that having a character who can just smash through everything and solve every problem is just plain boring; it’s not fun to have a character with a skillset that can solve everything.

In video game terms, you always are getting better.  In narrative terms, you should never be so good that you can’t be touched.  So how do you strike a balance between the two and be just good enough to keep improving without becoming irritatingly invulnerable?

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The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy V, part 10

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

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

It occurs to me, perhaps for the first time now, that my group has actually been in the same jobs for a while now.  This is not an inherently bad thing, but it does mean that said group is moving into the territory of job levels that are a bit harder to get than they’re worth.

One of the things that the game does handle nicely by way of balance is the way that magic is balanced as a class ability.  Once you swap to a casting class, you immediately have access to every level of magic you’ve learned for that caster.  Leveling the job teaches you an increasingly large array of magic usable on every other job, so a Black Mage can always use the best black magic you have, but you have to level the class to get access to that black magic on, say, Time Mage.  And since later levels require ever more investment, it’s to your advantage to stick it out for a while.

In my group’s case, though, it was time to mix things up a little.  Especially since Faris needed another level on her Mystic Knight for Drain Sword.

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Hard Project: Jurassic Park

Fun for people who like watching from the sidelines, less so for pop culture generators.

Let’s see how absurd this all looks in another ten years of research, because we still don’t know a fragment of what we like to pretend we know about dinosaurs.

The Jurassic Park franchise seems a lot like its main draw – it keeps dying out, then getting resurrected through increasingly flimsy means as an excuse every few years.  We’re getting another movie soon, and while the temptation to see it remains because I both love Chris Pratt and dinosaurs, I also know that there’s literally no movie that has been made or will ever be made that can actually live up to what was done with the first film.

Which itself was less of a great film and more of a long love letter to special effects with a fairly straightforward plot, but at least it inspired one of the best fan videos of all time.

But I have to say, the discordant screeching of that right there is how I feel when I fire up pretty much any video game based on the franchise.  Every single time.  I’m not saying that every single one of them is terrible, I’m saying that none of them really replicate what Jurassic Park is or was, and we might need to find a different way to get our dinosaur-shooting impulses out in video game form.  A different, non-Turok way, preferably.

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