Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cyberpunk, Gauntlet 100, and JRPGs

On Tuesday I forgot to mention the latest Play on Target podcast episode, this time covering cyberpunk. I should've paired it with my History of Cyberpunk RPGs. We recorded before I’d had a chance to play Shadowrun Anarchy, Kuro, or The Veil. Playing those and digging through the genre's history has given me new perspective and enthusiasm for it. It has even more potential than we conclude.

Play on Target’s been a little infrequent because of schedule changes. I’m happy with the recent episodes because we now have Sherri Stewart on board for additional commentary. She brings a different perspective to the table. If you haven’t had a chance, check out our most recent shows: GM Best Practices, Character Creation, and Endings.

The other show I’m part of, The Gauntlet Podcast, just hit its 100th episode. I joined that a little over halfway along. The 100 number’s misleading since the Gauntlet had been operating as a gamers network for some time before that. Jason also mentioned some “lost” episodes exist. 

For this “anniversary” show we crowd-sourced a random table of questions ahead of time. We rolled to generate q's for our hosts, as well as members of the Gauntlet community. It’s a confessional episode that ends with a kobold. We also now co-release those shows on YouTube for those who prefer that for their playback.

A couple weeks before that I interviewed Andy Kitkowski for the Gauntlet. He’s worked on Heroine of Heiankyo, Tenra Bansho Zero, and the forthcoming Shinobigami. We talked about his translation work, the challenges of bringing a game over from Japan, and history of rpgs there. It’s a great conversation which touched on a ton of things I hadn’t known about. In particular it’s worth listening to the end to hear about Japansese “Replays” and their importance in that community. I’m only disappointed that we didn’t get to talk about Persona 5.

Finally on a related note, I’ve been thinking about JRPG video games since I’m almost done with Persona 5 (at least my first playthrough). In particular I’m focused on the cost/awesome ratio from these games. Sherri and I buy a lot of tabletop rpgs, many more than we’ll ever get to the table. Some we use as sourcebooks; others e just enjoyed reading. Taken that way, they don’t offer a great cost/awesome ratio.

Yet I’ve always thought of video games as a more expensive hobby. But I’m not sure about that. We have a lot of console games; many we haven’t finished and some we haven’t played. But we’ve still managed to invest a lot of time into many of those unfinished games. I started to sketch out a list of those: video games we’ve sunk at least 40 hours into but didn’t complete. It’s a longer list than I’d like, and many of these games sucked away significantly more than 40 hours of play.

Sherri had a good analysis of this. On the one hand, rpgs run directly at the table or used to inform play end up involving more players. That multiples their utility. On the other hand, while they’re both rpgs, video games offer abnegation, something you really can’t get from a tabletop game. Unless it’s a terrible game…

Anyway here’s my list of shame…

Things happen. New shiny things appear. Then the gravity of the game’s overcome by the pull of other experiences. It’s hard to point to a concrete reason why, with some exceptions. Several of these we set-aside in mid-grind, thinking we’d just take a break. But of course, once you’ve done that you have to relearn the gameplay when you come back, Easier to just start over or give up.
  • Ar Tonelico
  • Dark Cloud 2
  • Digimon Cyber Sleuth
  • Disgaea
  • Dragon Quest Heroes
  • Dragon Quest VII
  • Fantasy Life
  • Infinite Space
  • Kingdom Hearts
  • La Pucelle Tactics
  • Nomad Soul
  • Persona
  • Persona 2 Eternal Punishment (twice)
  • Persona 2 Innocent Sin
  • Persona Q
  • Radiant Historia
  • Shadow Hearts
  • Shadow Hearts Covenant
  • Skies of Arcadia
  • SMT: Strange Journey
  • Tales of Symphonia
  • World of Final Fantasy

These really hurt. The first three all fell on Sherri’s watch. In the case of the first two, the bug occurred right at the end. You couldn’t patch PS2 games, making it a lost cause.
  • Atelier Iris 2
  • Atelier Iris 3
  • Mana Khemia
  • Suikoden Tactics (if being too hard is a bug)

For each of these I can remember exactly where I went “nope.” In some cases, like the most recent Star Ocean, we kept playing, figuring there would be an interesting plot turn. The signs points to it, but alas no. Lost Odyssey stopped me from sheer combination of massively long badly written texts and gross character models. Chaos Wars made me stop and consider what I was doing with my life.
  • Blue Dragon
  • Chaos Wars
  • Cross Edge
  • Final Fantasy 9
  • Lost Odyssey
  • Star Ocean 3
  • Star Ocean 5
  • Wild Arms 4

Our most guilty secrets. Sherri and I enjoyed, even loved, all of these games. So why did we run all the way up to the finish line and stop? In some cases we saw we’d have to grind, in others that we still had sidequests to finish. But many of these represented no wanting to leave that world, as stupid as that sounds.
  • Azure Dreams
  • Bravely Default
  • Digital Devil Saga 2
  • Final Fantasy X-2
  • Final Fantasy XII
  • Grandia 2
  • Mana Khemia
  • Rune Factory Frontier
  • Star Ocean 2
  • Suikoden V
  • Valkyrie Profile 2
  • White Knight Chronicles 2
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

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