Sunday, April 1, 2018

The World's Best DLC

Do you wish there was more innovation in the video game industry? Are you sick of companies spitting out the same thing year after year, without consideration for craft or quality? Do you want to see a bold new face, leading the charge in providing you top-notch gaming experiences? Well then we know just what you're looking for, and it's called Generigame Studios.

Founded all the way back in late 2017, Generigame Studios has a long and storied history of creating high profile, innovative new IPs. Our epic back catalog of gaming excellence includes The Square Who Killed Another Square, an indie game made by one guy in a few weeks of spare time, and nothing else. With such a tour de force of quality games and services, it only made sense to expand into a new company set to take the gaming world by storm. But we're not just here to spread the word about Generigame Studios. We're here to share info on DLC for one of our most popular titles! That's right, The Square Who Killed Another Square is getting brand-new content, details of which can be found below!

Exciting New Customization Options!

Some games allow you to truly immerse yourself in a strange new world. You feel like you're really there, in a realm of fantasy and adventure, ready to brave treacherous trials and deadly dungeons in an epic journey spanning countless hours. At times like these, as a small determined hero in a vast land of magic and uncertainty, what more could a gamer ask for? We think we know. And the answer is MAD SWAG!!!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Dragon Quest 7: The 100 Hour RPG

In Dragon Quest 7, most of the story comes from the sub-plots on each island. This means that some NPCs on these islands have as much development as the main characters. It also means that the game can tackle a bunch of different stories with varied themes and presentation. The main problem with these is the same as other aspects of the game: Quantity over quality. Trying to fit over 20(!) stories into one game means none of the characters you meet get enough time to make an impact, even if This Game is 100 Hours Long.

As much as I disliked the wait for classes and completely eviscerated the Rashers and Stripes fight, that segment was one of the game's best points, writing-wise. It’s an interesting set-up with some twists along the way and a satisfying conclusion. Though the focus is as always on NPCs, we get some with visible personalities and drama that comes from how their characters interact. Apart from the dull dungeons and awful boss fight, I was fairly engaged.

But even this high point in the narrative still serves the argument I’m making. One of the reasons it’s a better part of the story is because it lasts longer, giving the characters time to grow. And then once this quest is over? Those interesting side characters limply trail off into oblivion, never to be heard from again. You never go back. Never hear what became of them afterwards. They’re from the past, so they don’t even get a late-game cameo. For all intents and purposes, they had zero effect on the world, the plot, or the main characters.

They had an ENRAGING effect, but only out-of-character.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dragon Quest 7: The High-Quantity Narrative

It’s said video games have low standards for writing. On average, this is true. What most neglect is why this is the case. The obvious answer is “bad writers”, but there’s more to it than that. Video games are a different medium than books or movies, and writing them requires a new approach we haven’t collectively figured out yet. I’m not just talking about interactive narratives or branching paths, but how the introduction of gameplay completely changes the pacing and tone of plain ol’ linear stories.

This video outlines some of the problems with writing game dialogue. Not only do games have far less words per minute due to all that pesky gameplay, many of those words are spent on where to go, what to do, and reminding you of current events. It might’ve been an hour since the last conversation, let alone major plot point. Game writers, on top of sharing their story with a team of dozens of people with changing agendas and budgets, have to be economical with dialogue to keep pacing tight and stories interesting in between your lazy afternoons killing a thousand rats.

RPGs are often heralded for their stories, but in truth, they’re not much better. A lot of what makes RPG stories enjoyable isn’t their quality, but their quantity. They’re just as wasteful with their words, but bring enough along to make up the difference. 40+ hours is a long time to properly explain yourself. Dragon Quest 7 has 100, and it’s not shy about packing them with words. The key question is does it use those words well?

Weeeeeeell…there are some parts of the writing I like! And we’ll get to those. Eventually. But first, let’s talk about characters.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Genericide Update: Rectangular Realism

Greetings, strange future people of 2018! I'm sure you're busy sipping VR cocktails from your chrome battle cruisers as you escape the Lizardman uprising. But those with a moment to spare between hyperspace jumps may be wondering why I went half the year without content then stopped in the middle of a series. Fear not, my purely hypothetical legion of readers! I have a very good reason why the rest of the Dragon Quest 7 series hasn't been posted:

I didn't finish writing it!

Yeah okay, this was about the reaction I expected.

Now if you'll give me a moment to clean up the soot off my monitor, there was another reason the series hasn't been posted. Probably should've led with that.

I made a free video game!

Dedicated and observant readers* will note that I was working on an RPG at the beginning of this year. This…is not that RPG. Instead, it's something I started a few months back when I was lured by the siren call of a game jam. It's a short comedy RPG with all-original art and music named The Square Who Killed Another Square.

*Correct, just me.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Dragon Quest 7: The Turn-Based Traditionalist

There’s nothing wrong with tradition. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to what’s reliable. There’s nothing wrong with iteration over innovation. This is good for Dragon Quest 7, as it’s a traditional RPG that sticks to what’s tried and true. What’s bad for DQ7 is that it executes what’s tried and true poorly. This happens frequently.

Blatant Classism

Dragon Quest 7 uses a fairly standard class system for 80% of the game. You’ll note that, since This Game Is 100 Hours Long, it leaves 20 hours unaccounted for. This is how long it takes to unlock the bloody feature. In the time it takes to unlock the core mechanic for advancing your character, you have gone through a lengthy intro, several completely separate story arcs across time and space, and the entire development of a major character. If you’re playing in short bursts, like me during commutes to work, this takes weeks of real world time.

That’s not to say that there’s zero character progression before this. Your party still earns experience and levels up, increasing their basic stats. There’s a fairly standard array of equipment: A weapon for damage, a shield, helm and armor for defense, and an accessory for wild card bonuses. Only certain characters can equip certain things, and everyone learns a few set skills early on to compensate for the lack of classes. But what they don’t give you is options. It’s all set in stone and you don’t feel like you’re working towards a greater goal, which is half the fun.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Dragon Quest 7: The Neglected Best-Seller

Once upon a time, in the days before Mario, Pac-man or even Spacewar, there lived two men named Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The pair had a fondness for miniature war games, to the point where they spent time creating their own. Together, they collaborated on a system of pen-and-paper fantasy adventure called Dungeons and Dragons. This was the codifier of a thousand gaming tropes and standards that came to be known as RPGs (role-playing games). RPG is a vague, messy label, and it’s been increasingly difficult to nail down what constitutes an RPG as games have evolved. But it’s hard to argue with games directly inspired by, if not outright ripping off, Dungeons and Dragons.

There were many, many such games even in the infant days of gaming*. But there were two in particular that reached such ridiculous popularity that they defined the genre for years to come. The second of these released was called Final Fantasy. It’s a long-running series with dozens of entries. It’s one of the most popular franchises in video games. You’ve heard of it, seen it, probably even played it. The first of these released was called Dragon Quest. It’s a long-running series with dozens of entries. It’s one of the most popular franchises in video games. Most of you vaguely recall the name, and that’s where your knowledge ends.

*Ultima, Wizardry, and many others commenters would yell “I forgot” had I not made this qualifying sentence.

Dragon Quest is the one about the Super Sayamen, right?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Final Fantasy 2: Dungeons, Combat and Music

Last time we contested the logic of a cat hair moustache, discussed the perils of fearsome Clown Dragons, and explained why you can’t stop hitting yourself. This time we’re jumping right into the fray by discussing who’s in the fray. Let’s talk about how Final Fantasy 2 handles enemy design.

Old School Eeeehnemies

There’s a simple question to ask any time you’re evaluating the usefulness of a new enemy, attack, or feature in general: Does this change player behavior? Ultimately, this is the entire point of adding new content beyond aesthetic appeal. Different foes provide different challenges, which you strategize and respond to appropriately. To speak bluntly, most old RPGs were bad at this, and Final Fantasy 2 is a prime example.

There are a large number of different enemies in FF2, technically speaking. But a significant number are only separated by stats, their vast web of techniques summed up in a word: Attack. They hit you and you hit them, then one of you falls over. Sometimes even bosses do nothing but attack, and not just the “bosses” that are literally groups of enemies with different theme music. Stat differences are usually too slight to noticeably separate monsters*. The vast majority all blend together as things to hold the A button against. To the game’s credit, it does have several enemies that utilize different tactics than just attacking. The problem is most of these are terrible.

*I wonder if this is due to how varied the encounter tables are. The number of foes you fight can range from two to eight in just about any configuration. Perhaps monsters are mostly the same power level because that way they can be mixed and matched in differing quantities without worry. I prefer the approach of later games: lower encounter rates and fewer foes per fight but higher HP and longer battles to compensate. At least then you’re likely to see everything an enemy has to offer before giving it the ax.

"Big Horn A, I've just come up with another magnificent strategy!"
"Fantastic Big Horn B! We can always count on your keen intellectual mind!"
"So first: You attack them. And then, and this is a work in progress, try to keep up: I attack them."
"Brilliant! Big Horn B, you've done it again!"
"What do I do?"
"Sorry Big Horn C, I haven't gotten that far ahead."