Who am I? That's a good question. I'm a 26 year old gamer from Canada who's been playing video games for 22 years - I live and breathe games, and by extension, the industry. When I'm not gaming, reading about gaming or the industry, talking about games with friends or on forums or thinking about them, I enjoy reading, writing, sleeping, music, hockey, or hanging out with my girlfriend, though not necessarily in that order. I've recently finished my BA in linguistics, and I already have a half-BA in journalism that I'll probably never get done, considering I have enough experience to write news stories. Right now, I own a PS2, 360, gaming PC, DS, and PSP, and in the past, I have owned almost every console since the NES, at some point or another. I hope to expand to a PS3 as soon as I can.
I've actually written about the industry before, including an unsuccessful stint with RPGamer in my pre-university days. I was sadly forced to give it up because of a lack of time. I also wrote a gaming editorial column for my university paper, which my editor always wanted to make a "what's a cool game this week" column. Needless to say, they didn't renew me for another semester. Ah well.
I can usually be found playing RPGs or MMORPGs, though recently, I've started playing a lot of games from other genres, including some (incredibly unrealistic) racing games. Although I said I like hockey, I wouldn't be caught dead playing sports games; I just never really liked them.
I suppose if there's anything else you could possibly want to know about me, you can ask, though I can't imagine what you-
No, I didn't vanish again. I'm just here to say that "Tomorrow" turned into a few days. I'm re-thinking how I do these. Writing daily, as some people have pointed out, turns into kind of a job, and I already have one of those. I'm writing two pieces now, the Hitman Absolution piece I mentioned in my last post, and a longer one I call "Breaking In", about my uphill struggle to work in the gaming industry.
It's hard to say what brought me back. Motivation is funny like that. You're doing something utterly mundane, like showering or washing your hands and bang, out of the blue, you realize; "Huh, haven't written in a while."
And then, there you are. At the computer, writing.
It's mastering these bursts of inspiration and harnessing them that is key. What is it the key to? That's something I'm still struggling with myself. In truth, that's where I've been the past few months. Besides getting a new job, and other complicated things in my life, I somehow forgot that this is something I genuinely ENJOY. I won't try to fake my way down the noble path somehow and say that I don't care if I get recognized for my work, because I do want to be recognized. I think that the difference now is that it's not a main goal, it's a possible side-effect. As someone so succinctly put it to me the other day, the way I was before, waiting for something to happen, was like buying a lottery ticket and immediately making plans for the prize money. When you're doing something like writing, I realize now, never take anything for granted. Honestly, looking over my past articles, I completely have taken everything for granted. Every comment, every fap, hell, even every time someone looks at a post, it means something.
Because at the end of the day, no one, NO ONE is writing in a vacuum.
Tomorrow, I'll be giving my take on the Hitman Absolution trailer controversy. Spoilers: My opinion isn't very popular.
Well, it's been a while since I've posted here. I can't really say why. Maybe because I was thinking of the futility of writing like this everyday, and getting nowhere, much like waking into a closed door, day after day, hoping it will finally open. I suppose what brings me back here is that I love writing, in general.
What really brought me back to my Destructoid blog though, was my rejection. I pitched an article to the Escapist about bad endings, and was told less than 12 hours later, that they were not interested. This is the nature of the business. Either rejection kills you, or you pick yourself up and do it again. What best sums this up is this Niel Gaiman quote, which I will share with you:
"The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering "Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!" and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there's nothing left to write"
Let's hope I can write something like that one day.
Back from the dead! I've been incredibly busy as of late. Getting married will do that, I suppose, coupled with some pretty serious financial problems. Given that Final Fantasy XIV just launched, I feel the need to counter some of the negative posting on here, and online in general with some opinions of my own. Now, keep in mind that I am not blindly fanboying the game; there are definitely problems with the game in its current state, and Square knows it too. As if they couldn't, fans are in an uproar.
Furthermore, I know I won't change your mind if it's already been made up, but I feel like I need to get this off my chest before I go sleep, so this may be a bit jumbled. So bear with me.
A long time ago, before the only games with Warcraft in the name were RTSes, people played MMOs. Not very many people, but people played them nonetheless. It was a very niche market, but there were a few games, and fans played them nonstop. Among the games was a little game called Final Fantasy XI, which was released in Japan a year before it came out here. When the game came out, in Japan as well as here, people ridiculed it. No one would dethrone the king of MMOs, EverQuest. It was boring and inaccessible and there was nothing to do. Yet this little game became the only MMO in history to retain subscribers and not have a dropoff in almost 6 years. (You can look it up on http://www.mmodata.net) This does not make it a good game, as everyone knows that the number of people subscribing does not make something good. However, it means that while the game was not for everyone, it maintained a loyal fanbase, which was not considered small at the time, but pales in comparison next to eleventy million subscribers, or whatever World of Warcraft has now.
People are being ridiculous about XIV, simply put. "Give us FFXI!" some cry. Others, not newcomers, seem surprised that there are no yellow exclamation points, no user friendliness and no jumping. It's not like XI was the most user friendly game either.
"So let's see, I'm spawning in an oft-unused section of a very confusing town trying to find one NPC in hundreds just so I can turn in a voucher for 50 gil." "Signet? What's that?" "Hmm, I can take that cuddly looking rode- *level down*"
XIV, in its current state reminds me a lot of early XI, or games where it wasn't about the quests, it, and I'd like to share some experiences with you.
So, my wife and I finish up some levequests, and rather than getting more, we decide to go exploring for stuff to kill. Well let me tell you, a few deaths, laughs, and hungry monsters later, I remembered what XI felt. Her and I were no longer people sitting at a computer screen, watching our avatars as we control them, no, we were travelling right next to them. Nothing felt pasted or artificial, I felt as if I, as a Ul'dah adventurer, were travelling with a companion out in the wilderness. This was the only shot I could actually get, and it might not be the best thing to illustrate my point, but at least we had fun doing it.
Again, no offense to fans of World of Warcraft, but these two games are polar opposites. Yes, there are some similarities, but at the end of the day one is more like an amusement park, and the other is more like a big open field. Anyone can have fun going to an amusement park, but isn't it more fun to create your own world, and find things you enjoy?
If anything, I hope this post lets you realize how most people in-game don't come to sites like this unless something is very wrong, and they have something to complain about. I've had positive feedback from people in game constantly; very few people have anything bad to say once you log in. I think times have changed. Now, it's hard for MMO players to accept a game where you think for yourself in today's climate, where games largely based on a culture of instant gratification dominate.
Whoops, this is actually a screen for Time Crisis 14: Chicks In The Sky With Gunblades Shoot Things. Sorry!
It's been a while, hasn't it, d-toid? According to the window I have open, cataloguing my posts, the last time I posted anything was before the new year. Whoops. I suppose that I should probably mention that my girlfriend and I got married on the 6th of February. So aside from that, I've also applied for creative writing at the school that I already have an undergrad in linguistics from. I've also been trying to find a job and deal with some other personal stuff; so as you can see I have more than enough excuses to not post lately. For months I've kept meaning to find something to post only to have it taken away from me due to any random number of miscellaneous ideas floating through my head. But today, I felt that I had something to say that needs to be said.
Final Fantasy XIII is a good game.
You can call this a review of a review if you want, that doesn't bother me. In fact, it's what I'm going for. Let me start with this disclaimer, though I suspect after viewing the content of this post, no one will believe me. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fanboy. While I have enjoyed many games in the Final Fantasy series, I am not blind to their faults and shortcomings. I complained in FFX after they took my world map away and gave everyone shitty English voices. I complained that it was hard to find groups in FFXI. I complained that the gambit system was broken in XII, likewise, I have similar complaints regarding XIII, I'll get to them in a moment, however, as a former staff reviewer for RPGamer.com, and an amateur reviewer now, I don't feel it deserves the bad reviews it's been getting, including the shocker on this site; a 4/10. Now I've always been against a 10 scale for game reviews, given our tendencies to equate a “good” game with a passing grade in school - 60, in my case, or 6/10, but that doesn't apply in this case. 4/10, 2/5 stars, whatever. What I take issue with is the content of the poor scoring reviews, and the implication that FFXIII is on par with games like Olympic Winter Games 2010, or Rogue Warrior. In my experience, scores that low are reserved for when there is something actually broken with the game. Buggy AI, glitchy sound, things that barely qualify it as a game.
FF XIII doesn't even fall close to “below 6” territory. 6-10 becomes a matter of opinion. If you're giving a game below 6, you better have a damn good reason besides “well,_I_ didn't like it...” yet this seems to be true of the reviews with poor review scores. Comments like “I'm going to tear this game limb-from-limb” really have no place in a review that at its core, exists to help gamers decide what to spend their money on.
So then, here is MY Final Fantasy XIII mini review. Keep in mind, I've not finished with the game yet but that doesn't seem to be an issue in game reviews these days, given that a certain site's reviewer had not finished the game before bashing it. I'll assume if you're reading this, you're familiar with the game's terminology. As of chapter 7:
Combat: Frantic and fast paced, almost to the point where I'd call it an action-RPG. All the roles feel unique and fresh, and switching to the correct roles at the right time is the key to winning battles. Controlling one character is necessary to preserve the pace of combat, though it is a shame you can't control who you want until the end of the game, or so I'm told. Once you get through the early game tedium, the battle system really clicks. Summons in particular are not only eye candy, but definitely useful, if used properly. How? Simple: summons operate on the same rules as players do. If you summon them when the enemy is already staggered, and if you use the element the enemy is actually weak to, you'll see some impressive damage numbers. If you just summon them at random times, they'll be next to worthless.
Some of the characters, most of the time: Now, I'll get to what I mean by most in a second, but a few of the characters of the characters are (mostly) likable, chief among them Sazh whose outlook is often a stark contrast to other party members. But again, I'll get to that in a minute.
Scratching the surface: Final Fantasy XIII is not a game that feeds you its story on a silver platter. In the first few hours of the game I was ready to write the story off. I found it, as many of the negative reviews have said, to be virtually nonexistent. Then I started reading the Datalog entries, and I was rewarded with an amazingly detailed backstory, summaries of who people are and what the various terms the characters use mean, monster descriptions, and so on. Is the story straightforward? Absolutely not. Is it well presented? Not really. Is it still there? Definitely. Did low review score reviewers bother? Doesn't look like it.
Linearity: Let me get one thing straight. Final Fantasy XIII is unabashedly, a linear game. Is it as linear as you're led to believe? Probably. Is this a bad thing? Not really, but it can be depending on how you come at it. If you review this from the perspective of linear games, such as most JRPGs, other Final Fantasy games, or games like Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden and God of War, XIII is a great game. Yet I've been seeing reviewers throwing linear around as an insult when it should be something to be praised. It's almost like everyone was expecting XIII to have a structure as non-linear as the Fallout games or GTA. It's as if I review a slide in comparison to the sandbox next to it. You don't compare slides to sandboxes, you compare it to other slides. XIII is no more or less linear than any modern JRPG. Marking it down for that is simply unprofessional.
Whiny characters: I can understand, even appreciate character evolution. However, when I only actually like two characters in the whole cast, there's a problem. Okay, it might change as it goes on, but I can only watch Hope whine so many times early-game before I write him off entirely.
Forever is a long time: Some battles take forever. This isn't because of poor paradigm choices or underpowered characters, it's just that some monsters have ridiculous amounts of HP and abnormally high stagger gauges.
Game over man, Game over! : Come on guys, seriously? If an insta-kill happens to tag my main character, it's game over? What, do the other party members just decide to go on strike? Is it so impossible for us to suddenly assume control of another leader when one bites it? Ending the game just doesn't make sense when your main character drops.
Vanille: She's so bad she deserves her own bullet point. The character is annoying, the design is annoying, and even the Aussie they got to mimic her very Japanese squeals and assorted sounds is annoying. Any time she's on screen, I feel like I'm watching a car crash in slow motion.
If you put a gun to my head for the number score, I'd say 3.5/5 stars. It's not perfect but by no means is it THE WORST RPG IN HISTORY OF RPGS OMG. At least, that's how certain people played it up. It also makes my top 5 FF games, and it's easily the best modern FF to date.
So there you have it. But then again, my opinion doesn't matter as much as professional reviewers' opinions do. Because having a fancy title in front of your name like editor means your opinions are worth that much more, on this site more than anything, since they essentially have a big say in how many people actually read c-blogs. I can say that we need a watchdog to internally regulate the quality of the reviews in our journalism, but who's going to take me seriously unless I run a website and have fancy titles next to my name?
If you haven't read BioWare's somewhat recent comments on JRPGs do so now. Once you do that, maybe this post will make more sense. Or not, but I'm hoping that isn't the case.
With that out of the way; I think their comments are right on, though a bit biased, and missing the point. In truth, RPGs in general are on the decline. True, JRPGs have not made any attempts to be accessible to those who may be new to the genre, but that isn't necessarily an indicator that a game won't be well recieved. I don't see BioWare's own Dragon Age as an accessible game for those new to RPGs, and yet it has sold quite well, despite not making an effort to cater to those who are not so accustomed to the realm of RPGs. The success of an RPG is not determined by the developer's ability to sweep the 'undesirable' elements of a game under the rug. I would argue that the game's story and characters are what makes an RPG worth playing for me; with a copious amount of loot whoring thrown in for good measure.
What bothers me about talking about JRPGs in the West in general is the expectation that the games, for some reason, need to evolve past traditional plot, random encounters, turn based battle systems, and unlikely heroes with a mission to save the world. I find it interesting that the very things we fault Japanese RPGs for, we find over and over in western game series, and not just RPGs. Has the highly popular God of War series needed to reinvent itself from game to game? Not really, all three games released so far involve swinging of chain blades, combos, spells, and gratuitous amounts of sex and violence. Not much was revolutionary about the sequel and prequel, Chains of Olympus on PSP. Yet, these are lauded as pinnacles of western game design, much like the Grand Theft Auto series, for what essentially amounts to cosmetic differences. Yet this is the very thing that purportedly results in a decline of JRPGs; their adherence to their roots. While Bioware does make some good points regarding the state of JRPGs and player accessibility, I don't see how mainstays like western RPGs, FPSes and RTS games are any different; none of these really makes any effort to cater to newer players; yet we never hear any complaining about them in the media.
Funny. How many times have we seen the Carth Onasi character archetype in BioWare games since Knights of the Old Republic, again?