RPG Classics Mailbag
Well, we're back and better than ever!
I've gotten a brand new shiny Big Red Button installed that's just itching to do something nasty to someone!
That's not better, that's just... more childish. Or more sadistic, or something.
Don't spout synonyms at me! Anyway, this week's topic continues the roaring debate about RPG cliches. Well, not so much roaring as sort of meowing. Ahem. We first turn to our dear, dear friend of ten seconds, Adrian Nadler.
hey its me again (big mad??) adrian, and heres my response to this weeks topic, One thing that really bothers me in rpgs is save points. Theyre always right where you need them, which is usually in front of a major boss. And all of them have some story behind them, you know some excuse for existing so that you dont question them. If I were an rpg villain, id just destroy all the save points and laugh when the heroes would have to either get to me without saving, or playing the game all over again once they turn it off hehehe....
I'm sure that every villans want to learn a skill that would let them destroy thoses darned save points...Then again..there some games where you can save anywhere....
However, if they didnt exist, the rpg would suck and no one would play it. But just so you dont give me the you messed up award, a cliche that ticks me off, and wouldnt destroy the fun of rpgs if you removed it is that all characters are superhuman, and can withstand any type of punishment including sharp objects, bullets missiles, elements, meteors--until an important event happens and a character gets killed by a dagger or is trapped in a collapsing building or something. Anyway this letter is getting a bit longish (if thats a word), so ill have to say bye until next time!!!
Well... some cliches just have to stay in to keep the player's tenuous sanity, I guess. It's true that practically invincible characters are getting a bit annoying, especially since they can be killed in a sword stroke during cutscenes, but can withstand meteors, supernovas, and being shot multiple times during battle. For that matter, why do guns always do less damage than swords? And longish is a word; I just made it up.
You can't do that!
What're you going to do, call the Language Police on me? Hah!
Ungahhh! Who destroying ancient and beautiful language? I hurt bad!
Uhhhh... HE did it! *points to Lunaris*
*blink* Why yes! I did! I did it countless of times! I don't care!..*see some Grammar Teachers coming in*Oh no! PLEASE! SEMONE! SAAAAAAAVE ME!!!!!*Run away...and comes back a few secondes later*
Ooh! I get to test my button out! *presses Big Red Button*
Uwaaaoooh! *falls down a plot hole with a satisfying crunching sound*
And the Big Mad Adrian is another Terry Pratchett reference, I've just got way too many of them... onto our next correspondent (that sounds like a prestigious newspaper position instead of someone who wrote three sentences to an RPG mailbag, doesn't it?) Derek Allen.
Well I dunno if this really counts as a cliche, but I would like to see bad guys get a new theme other than the rule everything/kill everything/own everything types. This may sound a little strange, but it would make games a lot more interesting. Anyone who has read Guy Gaverial Kays book Tigana well get my meaning when I say I would like more bad guys like brandin, who are not just bad guys, but have a different perspective, and have a good reason for their heinous actions other than "It's because i'm evil" I want a villain with whom we can sympathize somewhat, I know this may make no sense at all, but I tried.
P.S. Hehe, Ozzie is funny...
Hah, sure I am!
We're laughing AT you, not with you... Most people point to Sephiroth for an example of sympathetic villainy, and I point to Kuja. Depending on how jaded you are, you may want to get rid of this stereotype as well. Eventually, the really jaded people (like most folks who write in to thegia.com, for example) will discard every singly type of villain possible until the only one left is the hero himself. Self-mutilation, cool! We now turn to Matt Lutz, who only likes Klarth because I butchered one of his battle pics.
Gooday Cid, here is my flashy introduction "summons Irift who flings fireballs around Klarth while 20 Can-Can girls dance in a line behind me"
Lunaris, what did I say about flashy entrances?
I still don't know what we even have to enter! It's a mailbag!
Shh! Give the poor starved masses their imagination! It's all they have left!
Alright, enough of that, my RPG Cliche gripe is Random battles, yeah i know there have been many without Random battles such as lunar and Grandia, but popular RPGs like the Final Fantasy games could have been 100% better if they just showed the enemy before you attacked it. And really, have you ever walked down a street and have been attacked by 3 wild squrels only to kill them, walk 5 more steps and run into 3 more wild squrels? It gets very boring at times in RPGs
Actually, just last week I was attacked by three wild squirrels... Horrible, traumatic event... I can't go on, I'm sorry. *sob!*
One old cliche that has been sort of tossed away is the fact that everyone can use powerful magic. Take FF6 for example. At the begining only Terra and Celes could use magic. But then you get some of those Esper Rocks and bing! Cyan, the brave knight guy, can cast ultima and kill a group of monsters in one shot in two ways- using a swordtech or magic. I dunno but i liked it better when only black mages and white mages could cast magic, and the swordsmen could use their powerful weapons (but still could cast a little white magic).
Well thats my 2 cents. See you guys later. Oh and remember "Why cast magic when you can summon spirits to do it for you?"
I never trust spirits. They disappear as soon as you turn around, often with several bits of loose change and valuables. Rude things, really. As for everyone casting magic, FF6 (er, and FF7, I guess) is really the exception rather than the rule. Usually fighter people can't cast spells well, in any RPG. Feathy is next, with a, uh, rather innovative take on the matter.
Hi Cid, it's Feathy. I was rereading the cliches in RPGs thing again, and it struck me: Quest 64, even though it pretty much sucks, has almost none of the cliches mentioned. So, here's my list, of why Quest 64 doesn't suck. (btw most of this is made as a joke)
1. First off, being charged money for items in RPGs was a cliche you fellows were all griping about, but Quest 64 changes that: THERE'S NO MONEY! Yes, everyone gives you stuff for free because you're saving, uh, something.
Of course, when the game will be over, you will have to pay the interests due you never payed...
2. About monsters giving you money and items? No worries! Monsters NEVER give you anything if you already have that item!
WHAT ?! NO Microbugs that give out pianos ?!
3. Enemies telling you where they go is never a problem. They never say much of anything, you never see the final boss until the end, PLUS the game is so linear that you go wherever you can, which is limited to one place for most of the game.
4. Hard dungeons and puzzles bothering you? Well, Q64 has NO puzzles whatsoever! The dungeons are just one long trail to the end with virtually no turns or anything that causes you to think. Finally!
Quest 64 : The Virtual Walking Workout! Play it for 2 weeks and losses weight dues to all that walking !
5. Those long cutscenes and FMVs wearing you down? Well, there are no cutscenes in the entire game! And as for the ending...
6. Too many characters to keep track of? Q64 has one character throughout the entire game!
7. Don't like the fact that your character wields a sword? Well, Brian holds the fearsome Wood Stick!
Why he ain't a DRUID ? !
8. There's so many things to equip in these confusing games, but not Q64: The clothes you start out with you stay with! No more worrying about whether to wear that Bronze Armor or the Iron Plate.
9. Don't like so many stats? Well, Q64 has only two. Defense and Agility. The best way to raise defense is get attacked by enemies, and the best way to raise agility is run away! Great eh?
Then I had a darn lot of agility...I ran often. Thoses damned fights was getting boring.
10. Here's the best. Don't like the "saving-the-world" storylines? Well, in Q64, a book is stolen and your dad is missing. NO!!!
Damn, that's pretty funny! Calling all world-weary RPGers! Want an RPG that has virtually no cliches at all? You got one right here! *rolls on the floor laughing while everyone scowls at him* Of course, some RPGs can eliminate some of the cliches, but just look what happens when you try to get rid of them all at once... heheheh... *cough* We now return to our regularly scheduled insanity. Shade is up next.
It is I, Shade! Did you miss me? Didn't think so.
Hey! You didn't give me a chance to say anything!
What were you going to say?
Anyway, RPG cliches... Like "Talk to everyone"? Not those? Oh! Right! Monsters dropping gold (or Gil or whatever the currency of the game is, which is usually gold), or people saying the same thing no matter how many times you talk to them or what happens. Also, don't you think it's strange that monsters could be carrying items when they damn well know they can't use them? That seems odd, don't you think?
An exception to that : The Romancing SaGa Series...and the SaGa Frontier. It actualy RARE to see monsters who drop money...And items they drop actualy fit to thiere natures(Like you won't see a Fly drop a Piano.*cough at the Adventuers ! ripoff*)...But do continue.
And then there's the monster-in-a-box idea. What I'd like to know is, how in the hell do the monsters fit in the box?
Also fit of how semone can fit a long staff in a square chest...
Well, it's been fun, but I have to stop now. See you all next time! (Whenever that may be...)
Hmmm... that's a good one. How DO the monsters fit in a box? The one I really like has been more or less struck out in later games, but in the earlier ones, watching three or four characters just walk out of the main character looks pretty bizarre. One game which still does this, Star Ocean: Second Story, looks even weirder because up to SEVEN people waltz out of there all at once. Sometimes there's hardly enough space for them in the room you're standing in, let alone your pocket! But I digress. I Abibde, you have the floor.
To follow up on what I said previously, to promote a game system in which the heroes are a little more pliable, I would combine the Active Time Event (ATE) system of Final Fantasy IX with the Private Action system of Star Ocean: The Second Story and, possibly, the dating system of Thousand Arms to create a playing environment in which the player can, when not engaged in battle or in scenes where battle may occur, switch from one character to the next at will, and promote interaction, positive or negative, among all the characters under her / his control. Thus, if she / he wanted, she / he could, while stopping over in a small village on the way to the Dungeon of Doom, have her / his sword-swinging hero have a change of heart and betray the party to the enemy while at the same time planning to abduct his love interest to avoid her being hurt in the resulting tumult. Said love interest, in the meantime, could be falling in love with the hero's more sensible magic-using sidekick, all because of decisions made by the player. Depending on the number of characters involved, such a system as this would lead to incredible variety in game play, but it would also lead to more flexible heroes. A player who wants to be a do-gooder could still be a do-gooder, but she / he would not HAVE to be a do-gooder. She / he could even choose to be an out-and-out villain, if she / he pleased. As for a video role-playing game cliché that I would not remove, it would have to be local shops having unlimited resources, since having to constantly scavenge for tradable goods is something best left to the horror that is Everquest.
True, true... I've never been a fan of online PC games (mainly because I've never played them) but I can see how annoying that might be... almost as annoying as never being able to sell back items because they ran out of cash, heh. I would LOVE to play a game like he describes (and I suspect lots of folks would too) but game developers are so intensely dedicated to exploring graphical boundaries right now, I think they're kind of leaving out other sorts of exploration for the immediate moment. A game like you describe would be really tough to carry out... well, we'll have to wait for Star Ocean 3 to find out. Next up is Donald Marco III.
Before we get started, I, Donald Marco, wish to make a statement. That item I sent yuo was indended to be used in conjunction with your smily thing, i.e. it was intended to play whenever yuo clicked on the smiley. Of course, it's on your time, so I understand if you don't use it. Heck, I've chated with Macc Dozens of times. Uh... would you believe many times? (Sorry, just watched a "Get Smart" marathon)
I realized that, I think. But it's still kind of freaky to get it in the mail. 8p
Anyway, one Cliche I thought was lacking was that "The Characters Wear the same thing all the time!" Of course, thee ARE those cutscene and special event exceptions, but 90% of the time, if they start loking like they're wearing a suit of armor, they'll look like they're wearing a suit of armor all the time Regardless of whether or not they're actually wearing a suit of armor. I mean, if you have your character equipped with a Leather Jerkin, it should NOT look like she's wearing a White Dress. Also, if someone's only wearing regular clothes, they should NOT look like they're wearing a full suit of plate mail armor. And what did Square do about it in FFs 7 & 8? Instead of allowing the characters to change clothes (or at least colors of clothes), they ELIMINATE THE ARMOR SYSTEM ALTOGETHER. (I'm sorry, but how does a BRACELET afford you physical protection? Magical I can understand, but Physical? Only if you actually Block.) Haven't playeed FF9 yet, but I'm not holding out any hopes for its clothing system, one way or the other. In Closing, it's just a small thing. But if you guys can make all sorts of FMV scenes, couldn't you at leaast give your characters a wardrobe to match what they're really wearing?
This one's pretty good. The only two games I've ever heard of that make some sort of concession to this is Legend of Legaia and some obscure RPG for PS2 which I don't remember the name of, where puzzles actually depended on what the character was wearing. (And there again we have the example of a game destroying a cliche but not being improved at all by it.) It certainly does get kind of ridiculous in the end. Next we have... er, Adrian Nadler again. That other one was for last week's mailbag, and since the topics kind of overlap, I'm printing it again. Sue me.
...No case, your honor.
Hey there Cidolfas, and even though I know you told megaman x not to make enemies with everyone, but I can tell you he already made me an enemy of his......... He told me I have bad grammar! I have perfect grammar and spelling! I just leave out some punctuation cause Im lazy! Do you think I deserved that??
Well, no... considering that most people online treat sentences like grab bags. "Hey, let's throw in a period here! Isn't the word The always capitalized? Whee!"
Anyway, an rpg cliche that should stay would definately have to be that characters dont have to anything that we do, meaning eat, go to the bathroom, and I dont know wash, change clothes. This would totally suck. Just think about it-
Kid- Come on Serge hurry up!....hehehe you better watch it Lynx, today is gonna be your day of reckoning! Serge- Just a minute Kid lets grab a bite to eat first.
Now I know Serge doesnt talk but thats beside the point. And I know that what Kid says isnt perfect, but thats beside the point too. If that cliche were to change now it would be strange and annoying. So I say let them be anorexic! Let them wear the same dirty, bloody clothes all the time! Now I know this letter does not prove a good enough point, but will you include it for my rant at the top? Come on, please? No then what if I make a flashy exit? No?? Okay Ill just leave.
A man after my own heart. RPGs have always, er, glossed over the finer points of life. It's not life, it's RPGs! Forcing everyone to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom all the time woud just be completely tedious. No one would do it, just like no one would make you sit there for an hour or more and watch characters sleep. So yep, this one should stay in, I agree.
I've never washed this robe in my life! Still as fresh as the day I bought it!
*Edges slowly away from Ozzie* I now leave you with our last correspondent, Amaranthinus, also known as Chris Beaton, he of the Ph.D-thesis Villains e-mail. Before we go, though, note that next week's mailbag is a general one about the status of the new RPGClassics site, the mailbag, the new mailbag, the old mailbag, the retired mailbag, the unborn mailbag, or random RPG rants which have only one stipulation: they must be funny. The new address to send to (thanks to this lovely new server) is email@example.com.
Clichés. Intriguing. It's a good topic, and I was surprised to see that nobody even skirted around my next suggestion.
Magic. Its manifestation is most definitely clichéd: how many times have you used the same old hackneyed spells? The orgasmically original lightning, for example. How about good old fire? Sure it does the job, looks hot, burns things, but couldn't developers use a little more imagination? (And when I say this I certainly don't mean they should rename them: call lightning "Myollnir" (BoF3), call fire 2 "Fira" (FFVIII - although, the small changes to the names did seem to make them more interesting\ tough sounding) or call - uh oh, I've run out of examples. But you get what I mean... that just makes the whole thing worse...
The sin of recycling these spells is compounded when we notice that while developers have been perfectly happy to rip off names\ monsters \ espers (GFs, whatever) from the majority of religions or myths around the world they've completely ignored the wealth of magic on offer. Just snatching examples out of the air, the enemy Gilgamesh (FFV, I believe) is originally a fierce warrior in Sumerian myths (although he was a hero in them); the character Loki (BoF3 again) is a norse god of fire and trickery, and he tricks the heroes in the game; Quetzalcoatl, Ifrit, Shiva and Odin, to name a few, are all gods used as espers in the FF's. So if this tactic is so common, where are all the damn spells that the world has to offer?
Well? When playing all these games when have I ever been allowed to make someone's blood boil? Why can't I cast plagues (and I'm not talking crappy old poison spells here, I mean serious body-parts-falling-off and whole-armies-of-creatures-infected spells, perhaps a plague of locusts too)? Where are the zombie spells that actually allow you to create and control forces of the undead?
Explosion spells? Implosion spells? Spells which increase air pressure? Suicide spells? Invisible spells? (Yeah, they've been done but who's ever exploited their full potential? Why are there no "Metal Gear Solid" style stealth-suit moments in your average RPG?) Possession spells which, rather than just letting you select attacks, allow you to play the game in a completely different body (that would get around the whole young-child-becomes-strongest-warrior-in-world-cliché: you could just do a Joe 90 set up. In fact, it would be possible to orient a whole game around a single possession spell.) [Editor's note: Eidos's Omicron does just this.]
Why isn't there more of an emphasis on shape changing - both for enemies and heroes (a little more in-depth than the pitiful Frog and Mini spells, which wouldn't even work on a boss)? Last mailbag someone mentioned lycanthropy - why stop at a wolf? I think that one of the FF's had a moment where you changed into a frog to get under a wall (or something) [Editor's note: FF3j, and I also loved this idea] - a brilliant idea that's never reappeared. I'm sure that there's an old game called Kid Chameleon (platformer,ugh) in which you depended on transformations to get past different types of obstacles? Why don't rpg's do likewise, and harness the full potential of these spells? What's to stop someone from making a game where you can transform into any animal in the game world? (Although now I think about it, Legacy of Kain might do some of the whole shape changing stuff, but *still*, that's only one game in a thousand)
Alundra lets you enter peoples dreams - this is a *good thing*, but why can't it just be a side plot in a game? Is your companion going to betray you? Enter his dreams at the next inn. Need to do a spot of enemy infiltration? Find out the battle plan from a sleeping general. In several games you get charm spells - why can't you charm shopkeepers into giving you a discount? (RE: last cliché mailbag) Where are all the practical spells?
Why do you never get to fly? Float's the closest (yes yes, the closest that I *know* of, and I'm sure you'll provide me with a huge list of games in which you can fly), but I personally have never seen fly used practically: to cross dizzying chasms perhaps or to slow your fall from a cliff or to divert enemy bullets etc. [Editor's note: Breath of Fire games.] World map flying doesn't count - I want to be able to swoop around my enemy as I battle, I want real time flying. Where is telepathy? - and I mean telepathy which lets you read peoples thoughts, not their HP or their available attacks. How about telekinesis? If I want to Psycho Mantis someone why can't I use the power of my mind to rip cupboards of walls and project them at the enemy?
Why can't I use magnetise spells? Imagine being able to suck the sword out of your foe's hands, or having the ability to rip whole body parts from cyborg soldiers. Why can't I lay booby trap spells? Mutter a few mystic words and if any enemy creeps up when I feel a call of nature KABLOOIE! (On the subject, why do rpg heroes never go to the toilet? That's not exactly a cliché... but still - do you get a super bladder along with super strength? Sure, it'd be annoying if you had to go to the toilet at certain times (although being able to save the world, yet soiling your pants by mistake would hold a certain charm), but if you get to an inn you should be allowed a little relief in a rest room. No? And they never wash either...)
I'm going to stop now - and not because I've run out of ideas, but because this endless list is dull. I'm supposed to nominate a cliché and I have. The seven paragraphs after that were just indulgence. But they were right. Some people might argue, justifiably, that most rpg's have a very wide range of spells - much more than lightning, fire, thunder, etc. - and these people would be right. But from my experience of rpg's all the interesting spells seem to be stuck in some kind of "secondary" spell category: they're limited to certain enemies; they're only useful about twice; they're effective, but not as powerful as the primary spells, and therefore not very sensible to use; they have an abysmal chance of success. It sucks. I've shown how a few spell ideas could be developed, so where are they? Seriously, where? Can you tell, me because I'd love to play a game with a speck of originality left. I don't believe that a *huge* majority of games are stuck in this rut, but all the ones I play seem to be affected. And, to be truthful, I've not played that many rpg's: FF's, BoF's, CT, Shining Force, Sukoden and some of SoM, Villgust, 7th Saga... that's all I can think of. Most (all?) conformed to the clichéd magic theory, and only CT seemed to do anything interesting with spells - the whole tech system.
*Sigh*... I'm depressed now... I'm just going to go to sleep, and dream of ways rpg's would work it I could make them...
Chris Beaton (who has finally thought up one of those weird name things and from now on shall be known as (flash, kaboom) Amaranthinus)
And NO ONE MENTIONED THE SAGA SERIES ! BLUUUUUURG !