Monthly Archives: February 2007

What is that flaw with computer RPGs?

In the article http://rpgvault.ign.com/articles/763/763050p1.html Jeff Vogel talks about how he starts to hate computer roleplaying games (RPG). It is funny, but I have recently been thinking about these things as well.

I recently moved house and finally had normal use of my PlayStation 2 and various other equipment again. So I set out to finally finish Final Fantasy IX, X and X-2. Final Fantasy IX wasn’t as bad as X was when it came to having to grind your way constantly in order to not suck at the next part where some boss enemy would otherwise kick your butt hard. What’s even more perplexing is the fact that Square Enix in some strange state of mind forces you to go through games of reflex (some very bizarre) in order to obtain some item so that you can get the other item/weapon/thinghymajig that will enable to more easily beat the game.

Now, I am not sure what part got confused, but would I be playing an RPG game if I wanted to be tested on my reflexes? If I want to test my reflexes, I’ll fire up Half-Life 2, multiplayer Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, or CounterStrike. I never understood these games of reflexes in adventure games like those from Sierra (remember Leisure Suit Larry) and I do not understand them from the point of view of an RPG. No, I do not want to do a bloody Chocobo race! Perhaps I am alone in this mindset, but I do not think so. I do not mind categories to blend, it can make games more interesting, but in these cases it just serves no point whatsoever.

Perhaps this is why Zelda always didn’t annoy people. It does not pretend to be one thing and annoy you with something else. You are attacked in real-time by monsters, you fight back in real-time. You have a wimpy three hearts of energy at the start, but as you beat more bosses you gain more hearts. Alternatively you can find more heart pieces that will, once you collect four pieces, give you an additional heart as well. Parts you cannot do or reach is solely due to you not having item X or Y. And you typically do not have to jump to various hoops to get these items. Normally it’s either reaching some location and open a chest or beat a monster and gain said item. There’s one part in Oracle of Seasons where you have to dance in order to obtain the boomerang. It might take you perhaps three of four times to get it right, but it is obtainable.

Now, try to race the Chocobo in Remiem Temple and try to get three chests. No matter how hard I tried, and granted I might just be bad in this, I managed to get one or two chests only. Reaching for the third always made me loose to the other racer. It gets even more bizarre in the manner that you need one or two 300-400 page strategy books to find out about all secrets. I am all for secrets, but this is getting bizarre beyond comparison (and yes, I have two of the Japanese Final Fantasy X books, and one for X-2, if only for the artwork).

Now, I played World of Warcraft for a few months, but it became so tedious. The moment you encountered someone from the opposite faction who was perhaps two-three levels above your current level you might just get your butt handed to you. I will readily accept that someone of a higher level can beat you more easily, but normally you have at least a fighting chance. Also, to obtain these levels you have to go grinding (the act of sharpening, in the case of MMORPGs the act of building up experience points to gain a higher level) in order to improve. Sure, I can accept the fact that you need experience, it is no different from joining a martial arts group in order to learn a specific art. But there is a big difference here, I think, between the paper based RPGs and the computer ones when it comes to characters and experience. With the paper-based ones you can at least express yourself and choose your path, especially along the axis of alignment (good, evil, chaotic, lawful). With World of Warcraft, no matter which faction you choose, you wind up doing quests that all push your character towards a lawful good or neutral good alignment. You do not have the option yourself to assume a mantel of evil. And that also brings us back to major problem with computer RPGs, you make no lasting impact on the world around you. And ultimately, this was what RPGs set out to do with the paper-based variant. We all loved The Lord of the Rings that we wanted to play our own parts in such grandiose stories and alter the course of history or at least die trying. So, aside from the time spent on the game leveling and gaining items, just what exactly did you accomplish in the world you played in with, say, World of Warcraft?

Empty Skies

Look in my eyes,
shocked with terror.
Paralyze ‘n’,
pull me over.
I’m so dumb,
and you’re so clever.
Scrutinize,
my best endeavour.
Come the day,
when I will leave,
at my Pride,
you will be.

Empty skies but a butterfly’s wings beat silent like air,
call us free by a promise torn, you said “I’ll meet you there.”
Empty skies but a butterfly’s wings beat silent like air,
call us free by a promise torn, you said “I’ll meet you there.”
Meet you there,
you know I’m there.

I left the sun in Africa
to be with you, to fly
cross the oceans
licking flame
every movement
speaks your name.
come the day
when i will leave
at my Pride
you will be

Empty skies but a butterfly’s wings beat silent like air,
call us free by a promise torn, you said “I’ll meet you there.”
Empty skies but a butterfly’s wings beat silent like air,
call us free by a promise torn, you said “I’ll meet you there.”
meet you there,
you know I’m there.

Empty skies but a butterfly’s wings beat silent like air,
call us free by a promise torn, you said “I’ll meet you there.”
Empty skies but a butterfly’s wings beat silent like air,
call us free by a promise torn, you said “I’ll meet you there.”
meet you there,
you know I’m there.

— Empty Skies by Kosheen

Nintendo DS Lite and DD-WRT

I bought a Nintendo DS Lite recently and wanted to try the WiFi funtionality for playing over the Internet.

I have a Linksys WRT54G with DD-WRT as firmware. After some messing around I found that I need to set it to B mode only (so not mixed), with 64 bits WEP. I also entered my SSID statically so that I can keep the broadcast disabled.

After this I was able to connect to my router. I then was able to playing Koi-koi (Hanafuda) over the Internet against some other human player. Quite nice and fast too!

Macintoshes and PCs

I was pointing out to a friend of mine that for her new PC, or in this case a laptop to be more portable, she might actually consider a Macintosh. I think the Macintosh would, at least for her, mark an increase in productivity.

Instead of focusing on maintaining her computer she could actually spend the time working on her personal coaching business.

The only downside of the entire story is that a Macintosh laptop here would be about € 2000 whereas a similar Windows-based laptop would be about € 1000 – 1500. It is hard to justify such a difference in cost when she never really screws up her computer in the first place anyway. And yes, remarkably Windows is still running without much problems. So at the end of the day people like her will probably never turn to a Macintosh environment for a number of reasons:

  • they have to get adjusted to another operating system,
  • they do not encounter so many problems on Windows that warrants them to consider it a pain in the proverbial butt,
  • they already have established a workflow based on their current software,
  • they will look at their wallet and a € 500 – 1000 price difference is hard to justify (especially for those who are not crazy about computers for more than a tool for doing their work).

So I wonder what Apple will actually do to draw in more of the normal users instead of their largely elite-based userbase still. It’s hard to sell a Macintosh based on price alone and does the price difference account for the productivity gain, however small?

Searching for Him

I tried to find Him on the Christian cross, but He was not there; I went to the Temple of the Hindus and to the old pagodas, but I could not find a trace of Him anywhere.

I searched on the mountains and in the valleys but neither in the heights nor in the depths was I able to find Him. I went to the Caaba in Mecca, but He was not there either.

I questioned the scholars and philosophers but He was beyond their understanding.

I then looked into my heart and it was there where He dwelled that I saw Him; He was nowhere else to be found.

Often misattributed to Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī.

Kung wala ka

The song Kung Wala Ka by Hale. Obviously my translation still needs work.

natapos na ang lahát (already/finished/ended everything)
nandito pa rin ako (it’s-here yet also/likewise/too I/me)

hetong nakatulala (?)
sa mundó, sa mundó (the world, the world)
hindi mo maisip (you can’t see)
hindi mo makikita (you can’t see)
mga pang’arap ko (I daydream about you)
para sa’yo, para sa’yo (for you, for you)

oh hindi ko maisip kung wala ka (oh I’m not complete without you)
oh sa buhay ko (oh in my life)

nariyan ka pa ba (are you there yet?)
hindi ka na ma tanaw (I don’t see you)
kung mayro’n bang daraanang (if/when have (got) … …)
pa s’ulong, pa s’ulong (going onward, going onward)

oh hindo ko maisip kung wala ka (oh I’m not complete without you)
oh sa buhay ko (oh in my life)

sundan mo ang (follow me/you/your …)
pag himig na lulan (on/if/when …)
na aking pinagtatanto

sundan mo ang pag himig ko (follow me/you/your .. on/if/when melody/mood my)

oh hindi ko maisip kung wala ka (oh I’m not complete without you)
oh sa buhay ko (oh in my life)