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RPG Classics Mailbag

System.out.println("HELLO, WORLD!");

Er... what?

Was there something there you didn't understand?

There was nothing there I *did* understand!

Good! Welcome to the big mailbag number 50! Before we start we have a picture of us putting the finishing touches on a celebratory decoration made especially for the occasion by the whole staff! As you can see, we put a lot of work into it, so I think it deserves some theme music too!

Man, is that sweet or WHAT?

Thank you, thank you. And now, on to the mailbag! We got more answers, but smaller ones, this week. Which is a good thing, I think. First I'd like to print a very special entry by Webrunner; yep, the mastermind behind ADVENTURERS!

I personally think giving people the choice to fight some battles is good. I mean without battles, it's a movie. Without story there's no point. But being dragged down by monster after monster after monster when you just want to pull that switch makes me want to release a giant cloud of instant monster poison!


Agreed. That's what I like about the Chrono series; a lot of battles (not all, but a lot) can be avoided if you wish. And CC upped the ante by eliminating experience points, as well, so you were rewarded if you leveled up a lot, but not punished if you didn't. We next hear the words of wisdom from Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Biinasu, who from now on I will refer to as BSSB, because it's way less of a tongue twister.

Beeshooshooseshirorbeenas... um...

Er, it's not THAT bad...

Oh, shcush me... I wash eating dis peant buddah shandwich...

Ah. Did you know that they're planning on coming out with sliced peanut butter? Like sliced cheese. Really makes you wonder how lazy people are getting nowadays... but still, I hope it'll be kosher. 8p

Heyhey Ciddypoo,Evil Ciddypoo,Lucca-chan,Lunaris-sama,and green thingy Mystic.

First off,in case you were wondering all of my previous letters were written in the early hours of the morn and while listening to strange Romancing Saga 3 music ((Island at the Farthest Reaches...need I say more?)) . This letter is the product of a more sane me.And by the way,I am female..albeit a very weird one.

Could be worse. I have it on the authority of the author that at least one mailbag correspondent was actually on drugs at the time of writing. You couldn't tell which one, could you? Thought not.

Second,my favorite part of a RPG is story.Why you ask? Cause without a story you simply have people running around killing stuff or looking for treasure,which pretty much sums up a dungeon crawl.But don't get me wrong,some are fun,and as far as Pen and Paper RPGs go ((Ex: AD@D and Shadowrun)) I usually make up a big story for it,and for...err..ask people nicely to play along.Sorry to get off topic there.

Thrid,my opinion for the best ratio is where you can see the enemy,such as in the Chrono games and Earthbound(SUGOI!).Either that or Xenogears,which has *the* story and a very killer Battle System ((Yes,even gear battles,which I enjoy very much so)) .Legend of Legaia also follows the same battle system of XG,as do Chrono Cross to an extent.And running from every battle is useful as times too. ((Curse you Wazuki,and your Holy Dragon Sword attack! My poor Harle and Lynx were hurt so bad ;.;!))

...Wasent it was Miguel?...

It was indeed! Man, these mailbag people... sheesh...

And lastly,the minigames.I think they should play a moderate part in the game,as opposed to Legend of Dragoon's system for'em (The few it did have were...lackluster)). Prime Example of my fav. way is the Gold Saucer.

Now,I give you the *waive* *Waive* and *wavey*

((This letter was typed while Sacred District from Ys IV:Mask of the Sun playing...SPCs are yummie))

Nah. Way overrated.

I think they're pretty neat, actually.

Neat, yeah. But they taste horrible. Not yummy in the least.

SPCs yummy! Sound bites!

Remind me never to play music in here... We now have an entry that took us totally by surprise. I mean, here's someone we've known for so long, but who's never, ever written into the mailbag. Can you believe this one?

Who? Who?

MegamanX2K! How weird is that?

Hey, Nutsoid! Have you been putting Mentats in Cid's chicken soup again?

What was yer first clue?

Cidoldfas finally used a serious topic. And he stated that any serious answers from me would scare him, despite the fact that he already got two.

How would you like it if I spelled your name Meganman? Would it give you a warm feeling or something? Sheesh. And I never said a serious answer would scare me, I said a serious message board post would scare me, heh.

Well, this doesn't exactly answer the question, but one RPG sticks out in my mind: Ogre Battle. In it, Battles and Story were balanced almost perfectly, andintertwined interestingly: Every descision you made, especially battles, affected the story. A big example of this would be fighting monsters lower than your level. Doing this lowers your ALI, and thus makes you mroe evil. The more evil you are, the worse the ending is (unless you like being executed).

Now, because we need a break from this sanity, a little visual:

*break to forest scene, chibi evil Lv. 1 soldier strolling through the woods*
ChibiSoldier:Lah Dee Dah...I'm evil...Ho Hum...GWAUGH!! *is stabbed through the back by the hero*
*break to two evil Lv. 1 sylphs holding hands flying above a flower field*
BoySylph:Dee Dee Dah...We're evil, aren't we? ^.^
Girl Sylph:Yes we are! We're so evil! ^.^
BoySylph: If only we...*are both obliterated by fireballs from one of the Hero's magicians*
Hero: Hey, do you suddenly feel less like a good guy?
Magician: I feel like rending flesh from mortal bodies.
Hero: Eh, let's just walk it off.
*the insanity is done. Sorry, they make me do this. I'm so much more than you all make me out to be, but...oh, n/m...*

Yes, sure, a diamond in the rough, all the way. O_o Now we have Ken Rountree, aka Cybercompost, who seems to be one of those guys who takes any RPG question not involving fart jokes and turns it into a generic "What I like in RPGs" answer. But we like that, of course, don't we?

*whistles innocently*

*elbows him in his ample stomach* Of COURSE we do.

It is I, Cybercompost- the refuse from within the depths of the net. Anyway, since this is a serious mailbag, I will not answer as Cybercompost. I will answer as my alter ego Ken Rountree, who is not impressed with my horrible work in last weeks mailbag (BTW by the "pussies" retaliation by Ultros, he meant people called him names all the time). Anyway, heeeeeres Ken!

The storyline has to be THE most important element in RPGs. Who the hell wants to play an RPG where you just fight things all day, and your quest is something horribly clichť such as rescuing a princess, or thwarting the Emperor/President/<INSERTAUTHORITYFIGURENAMEHERE> (unless of course it is well done, like FFVI and FFVII). However, the battles do have to be a: interesting, b: easy to figure out, c: fun. There is nothing more upsetting when the final boss of the game is ridiculously easy. So how do you get a really good RPG?

KEN'S LIST OF IMPORTANT RPG ELEMENTS (in no particular order)

1. The story is the most important thing! DIDN'T YOU LISTEN, YOU F___ERS!

2. The battle engine itself.

3. The interest level of the battles.

4. The difficulty level of the battles (not too easy or too hard).

5. MINIGAMES!! These break the pattern of RPGs a little bit, and are crucial to you not going crazy (the I'M TIRED OF LOOKING FOR THE 7 HOLY POTATOES OF BOB [which is another unoriginal type of RPG, where you're looking for the 7 this or the 8 that, but they can be fun!]type of crazy).

6. Sidequests! For replay value, mainly. But again, it breaks from the tedium of the story.

7. Plot continuity! Did you ever play FFIX? Did you remember how the great story sort of fell apart around the middle of the game? NONE OF THAT IN THE PERFECT RPG!

8. A main character who isn't too much of an asshole. Well, maybe that's just my preference, but I HATED FFVIII, and that's one of the reasons.

9. You have to CARE about beating the final boss. Remember Ultimecia? Neither do I, that's the point! I loved kicking the crap out of Kefka because he was such a thorn in my side the whole game (plus he is the ULTIMATE evil!), but I didn't even KNOW Ultimecia.

10. There has to be a little comic relief, you can't have an RPG that is serious ALL the time nowadays.

11. ORIGINALITY, ORIGINALITY, ORIGINALITY!!!! If a character for you in the prequel, don't use him/her/it in the sequel!

12. If a character DOESN'T work, then try to recycle him, with more personality. I found the eight-armed-always-runs-away-guy Gilgamesh a bore when I played FFV. But when I played FFVI, Ultros was one of my favorite characters, in fact- I'm a fan of his (believe it or not, Ozzie, I'm a fan of you too, you're so stupid its funny). Ultros was an eight-armed-always-runs-away-guy, but he had flair while doing it, personality.

I cannot continue any further, for the next number is of great EVIL (I'm superstitious). Anyway, thank you for posting this, Cidolfas. And if you didn't: *changes to Cybercompost* MANY WINGED MONKEYS WILL FLY OUT YOUR BUTT AND BEAT YOU MERCILESSLY WITH CORN ON THE COB!! VWEEHEEHEEHEEHEE!!!!!! *changes back to Ken* Sorry about that. Carry on, good chap!

That was one of the most original insults/curses I've ever been given. I'm touched. And of course, who wouldn't post such a sweet e-mail? And if anyone out there says "Me", you should be ashamed of yourself. Next up is Shade, who seems to have taken the flashy entrance thing a little TOO far...

*A delivery truck drives by and drops a package at Cid's feet. Suddenly, without warning, Ark (From Terranigma, but you probably knew that...) pops out of it and looks around*

Ark:Uhhh... Hi?

Ark:I know, you were expecting Shade to appear, but he's... Ummmm... Held up at the moment...

*Shade drops in through the ceiling* Hey, there, Ciddy! How'd you get hold of Lucca? She belongs to me! See? *Holds up one of those "Pocket Bishoujo" cards with "I Got Lucca" on it*

EWWWWWW! *hits him very hard*

Anyhoo, I was busy fighting off my evil twin...

*Evil Shade falls into the room*

Evil Shade:There you are!

Leave me alone! Cidolfas hates it when other people have evil twins appearing in his mailbag!

Evil Shade:So?

Hey Lunaris!

Huh? What?

Do me a favor and blow Evil Shade's head off! Use something really menacing, too!

Er...sure...I guess. *Take out a Turbo-Pepsi Sprayer with a Jell-o Cannon MARK 23 and blast the Shade head off...if such a thing possible*

Okay, now, What was the topic for this maolbag? Something about plot and battles, right?

Yeah, whatever. Anyhoo, I prefer Action-RPGs, as you can probably tell from my use of Ark as one of my friends (Read "Eployee under contract"), so you can guess how that affects my veiws on storyline and combat.

Not a bit.

Now, back to Topic at Hand... Which was?

Anyway, I've played some RPGs that often have bits of storyline that lead into battles and vice versa.

Ark:Wait... That happens in just about every RPG ever made. Most boss battles happen from storyline lead-ins.

Well, there weren't many storyline lead-ins in Dragon Warrior.

Ark:Yes there... Wait, no. You're right.

And to think you're from an Enix game... Shame on you! Anyhoo, Let's move on to some other thing, say, the perfect balance of storyline and combat, for example?

Well, here's my opinion: There's pretty much enough stroyline and combat in most of the RPGs I've played. However, you'll have to note that I've mainly played games for SNES and Genesis, and mainly on emulators. You're probably going to say that if I have an emulator I should get Star Ocean 1, but I'd get in serious trouble if I download something without parental permission first. I'm only 17, you know. No, you don't.

Well, I do now! Fool! I shall use this information to extract horrible things from you!

Quit stealing my lines!

Okay, okay... you can have them back.

Thank you. Ahem. "And I wish you long life and prosperity and all the best for your family..." HEY!

What? You don't like them any more?

These aren't my lines!

You don't like it, think up your OWN lines. Sheesh. Anyway, even if you don't want to get Star Ocean, at least try out Tales of Phantasia, since that's fully translated...

I think it's about time I left now. I have stuff to do that will more productively waste my time... *Leaves through main exit*

*Shade comes back in, shoves Ark into his box, and picks up the box* I knew I forgot something... *Leaves again through the main exit*


*Shade comes back in* Oh, wait. Lunaris, I have something for you! *Tosses Lunaris a working scale model of WingZero's Buster Cannon* I hope you like it! *Leaves (for the final time) through the main exit*

At least we were saved the flashy exit. Um, let's see... *rustle rustle* Here's something by "Ing. Carlos E. Lopez". Doesn't say much, but let's just show it to you for a second...

i think the story is the best...however...what's a good story without a good battle engine...bout mini games...well they sorta fun...and always nice to have...but i think plot is the main thing...sub quest are great for replay value...

But well that's just me...

Have you ever seen a more vague reply in your life? Maybe all those initials sap brain power. If I ever get a reply from someone named D.H.C. Rev. Smith, Esq., M.D., Ph.D., B.Sc., I'm gonna throw it out without reading it first.

But... aren't those people usually *smarter* than normal?

Weren't you listening? Are you trying to disprove my initial-brain-drain theory?

It's a stupid theory! It makes absolutely no sense!

Um... and this is a problem?

URGH! *goes off to tinker with something probably very dangerous*

I have that effect on people, can't imagine why... while I'm at it, let's whip out another reply that says absolutely nothing, this time by RpgDragon.

I like the story of an rpg the most but the combat also plays a big role. There should be events that relate to the story in every mayor battle. Mini-games should just be mini-games, nothing more, nothing less.

I feel like I'm in an episode of Seinfeld. Next up is ex-Sephiroth252, now MagusTheEternalRuler, if you can believe it. What people won't think up for handles...

Well to me the story is the greatest thing to an RPG. A RPG can't be a RPG without the story to support it if it was, it'd be Pokemon Stadium! The battles are nice to get you strong & be able to defeat enemies! The ratio of battles over story to me is 36.276/63.724. (battles/story) i used to be sephiroth252, but his last life(252)has left him so now I MagusTheEternalRuler, rule over this humans soul!

Amazing. And how did you come to this specific number? No, don't answer that, I think I shall treasure my ignorance for the time being.

Well Cidolfas, i think that you should hurt Ozzie more often, ok?

MORE often? Are you nuts? Have you seen the kind of bruises I've got? Have you no mercy? No pity? No feeling?

Nope. *drops him down a plot hole, then consecutively drops a 10-Ton Weight, Merlin-Style Piano, and Small White Elephant down the hole.*

Hmmmmm,anyway, the story is what sucks a person into RPGs, if it weren't for the story, I would problably not have had as big a heart as I do today! The battles add the excitement of a movie with that "you can help feeling".Well that's all see you guys next week! Happy 50th Aniversary!

Thank you, thank you so much. *sniff* We now have a reply from Ishiman128. And yes, apparently this is a reply to the mailbag. I have no idea why. I actually e-mailed him to confirm that it was a reply to the mailbag. He apparently didn't get the hint. But here it is anyway.

If you've ever played Diablo 2 for pc/mac from Blizzard Entertainment,you'll know what I'm taking about. There are no "battle-modes" or anything, its all done in real time. You can get on which is run by blizzard and play this great RPG/HacknSlash game with other people. In fact, I think you should have a shrine for Diablo 2, and its expansion Lord of Destruction.

Isn't it great how people can stay on topic? I wouldn't know, I've never seen it happen. Eden would like to say something now, and how can we resist such a... er, well, let's not get into it.

*From ou of no where snow falls, quietly filling the room with as you reach down to feel it you are suprised that it is not cold at all, but warm.* "Mush, Mush doggy".*You hear off in the distance and with a crash a sled bursts through the mailroom door.* Hello there everyone! It's Eden yet again. *Un hooks Toan from the sled* I hope you injoyed that, I personaly hate the sun. Anywho, it is time again to return to reality. *I clap my hands and the snow melts into nothingness alone with the sled* Much better, now on with ze topic. I like story the best, no saying that battle are not needed as well, but that having a exelent story would get me through a game more so then a good battle system, or alot of battle for that matter. Now a RPG should have a envoling story that involes more then the main charater in big ways. Battles are need for EXP and money. So I would say that if you are just going to go though a game no extra leveling (that is if you can do it) then you should have to fight alteast 20-40 battle along the way. Of corse if you are in the last dungon that all changes, but relitively speaking 20-40. IN the last dungon, the game needs to pull ever stop its got or else the game will have a easy ending. To many times has that happend. Now the story I like to start of nice and slow with only one main goal in mind. During this time they need to atchive that goal and/or have a twist that opens up the hold game. Now things should "Evolve" from there. There should be atlest 2 other Big twists to keep the player on there toes. One of my favoret things to do is have a twist at the end of the game and such. Like the last boss is your father or something. Now mini games are a exelnt idea, I like it when you have to beat them to go farther in the game. But you should only have to beat it on easy or normal because not everyone may be good at it. There should be extra mini games and such. Also side quest are very good. Have it so that you find more out about a charater and get a item, that way it all seems to have its part. Now I am sure that just about everyone will be saying nearlythe samething. Well thats is, hope you injoyed it, remember Learn not to burn. Cyaz! *A white mist fills the room and after a minute it seems to be sucked into a a hole. As the mist clears a crystal ball is left lying on the ground with a tag that reads* "To Cid, This is a ultra flashy entrance and/or exit stopper. Us it wisely.

Oh, I've got one of those already. Had it ages. But the problem, see, is that people write in with these flashy entrances, and if I would erase it, that would just be dictatorship and plagiarism. My conscience would bother me, you see.

Conscience he says! I ain't never seen it!

No, I'm sure it's in there somewhere... I think, anyway. Marginally sure. AHEM! Here goes LiteYear (man, speak of the devil!)

*A small hemispere of shadow appears in the center of the room. It keeps growing in size steadly until it's about 14 feet in diameter. While it's growing, a chilling wind escape it, and lightning bolts rip through the shadowy surface. When it his the max size, a big ray of light hits the exact center-top of the semi-circle. The light slowly absorbs the shadow until I am left standing in the middle.*

I think I outdid myself there. What did you think of it?

Shall we say: "..."

...Well, live with it. Anyway, I have found you wrong in the last mailbag. You said last week was the record setting mailbag. Well, you're wrong. Sure 49-24=25, but you forgot that Celes took over one, and for some inexplicible reason, you number her mailbag as one of your own. That means you've done only 24, and this is the 25th, the record-breaker. So, I've made a special mess up sign for you. All I have to do is order it in. Excuse me for a second: *Whips out a cell phone, and dials a 13-digit number* Yeah, I'd like my special order delivered right away, and... WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT ISN'T READY YET? WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON YOU, I'LL... Hello?... Dang, they hung up. I guess we'll have to make do with this one: (Insert Cid Messed Up sign here)

I think NOT! Have you forgotten that SpoonyBard hosted one of Macc's mailbags as well?


I've always wanted to do that for a long time. Crono, bring me my victory drink! *Crono appears in a similar flashy enterance, and gives me a can of Coke. He then goes to a corner to be waited on further.* Ah, you can't beat the real thing.

No, no, I'm sure that contract has expired by now. Unless... *whips out a piece of paper and writes a few extra lines* There.

Ok, now onto the topic of the week. *Reads rather large topic.*

No contest. Story is definetly the best part of an RPG. Story is absolutely vital to make the RPG worth is to play. A great story can greatly enhance the battles of a RPG. I like the feeling of impeading doom in playing RPG's. My best btwo examples I can think of off the top of my head it the Ocean Palace in Chrono Trigger, and the Grand Palace in Secret of Mana.

I find generic monster battles to be kind of dull and unintresting. I mean, who cares about them? What makes it even worse is that they sometimes carry super powerful items that you can't live without. My best example on this: Pink Puffs and Pink Tails in FF4. Also, how many monsters can fit in that dark castle/floating island/airship anyway? There shold be a limit to monsters in all places except the world map. I know I went slightly off-topic there, but who cares?

I do care! I care for every damn off topics comments that peoples do! Who...

Quit while you're ahead. On-topic is not one of your virtues.

So, I think in an RPG, a greater emphsis should be put on story. Story enhances the gameplay much greater than battles with random monsters. Fighting bosses is great if it relates to the story (and when doesn't it?), while some monster battles are good, but too many just detract from the game. As to how to tie mini-games into this, I'd say as long as they're tied into the story, like the Mine Cart Ride in SMRPG, then they are ok.

Well, congrats Cid for making it past 25 mailbags. I know it's been a long, hard battle, especially with me around, but I think you can do at least another 25 mailbags before finally deciding to quit. Also, a note of further thanks for actually having only one mailbag late, and that was only by a day. So, keep up the good work, and make sure Ozzie gets what he deserves. Until next time, Cid. *Disappears and leaves a cloud of tear gas.*

Well... Ozzie has no tear glands, Lunaris doesn't know how to cry, Lucca has that nifty helmet thingy, and my nose has been stuffed up for the last ten years. So too bad! No go!

Waaaah! How can you be so MEAN?

Of course I *would* forget him. Sheesh. *snaps fingers* *men in white fur come in and cart away the bawling Evil Cid* And now we have something by a newbie! !!!! UnholyServant, in fact.

I guess I would have to say the Story. The battles in most RPG's are meaningless, like the Final Fantasy Series and countless other Rpgs. Usually the plot is blah blah he's evil we must hunt him down and encounter numerous servants and the such. Tactics was the perfect blend between battle and story because there was a purpose and plot to every battle. The story unfolded before, during, and after the battle and is the best blend of story and battle I have seen. Nothin much stands out like Tactics.

Yeah, but Tactics was a strategy RPG... there wasn't anything at all in the game besides battle and story. Since they didn't have to worry about all that exploration and NPCs and stuff, they had time to concentrate on the good stuff. Second-last honors go to Megaman984. Take it away.

What do I enjoy most about RPGs? It would have to be the story. I like the stories from most RPGs, but I also donít want them to be so story heavy that there arenít any fights. I mean, if I wanted pure story, Iíd read a book. If I wanted just fighting, Iíd go play Marvel vs. Capcom 2. I never really pay attention to the battle system in RPGs unless I find it to be exceptionally good or just down right bad. Basically, I prefer more story than fighting, just not too much story.

I canít really say what a right ratio is between story and fights. That can always be altered just by stopping in the middle of the game and do some power leveling. Besides, how much fighting there is compared to story also depends on the RPG. An RPG like Harvest Moon 64 doesnít require much fighting because all you do is farm. You canít even take an axe to the Mayorís head. Stupid Natsume.

Minigames are a must in RPGs. Minigames help to just take your mind off the game and take what should be a 50 hour game and turn it into a 100 + hour game. I donít think Minigames should be required to progress the story unless itís only one or two of them. Take Skies of Arcadia for example. It had a Minigame that was just you flying around the world searching for Discoveries. A few of the Discoveries were needed to progress the story, and the rest were not. So, Mini games are good as long as theyíre not neccessary.

Oh yeah. congrats on getting to the big 5-0. You could celebrate by going to Hawaii! Get it? Hawaii 5-0? Eh? Eh?

.. I waste all my good jokes on you people.

No... I still haven't seen any of them. Maybe you waste them on other people so there aren't any left when you write in? Last but not least is another new writer, and here is your ration of exclamation marks: !!!!! Shock Ra, you are cleared for landing... *Shock Ra lands on Ozzie*

Battles or story? Which is more imoportant? Well, every RPG has at least a little of both. If I look at my favorite games, I can't point to one or the other. It's how they work together to keep me interested
The key is having the two play into each other, the story compells the player to explore and gives the game life, the battles keep players hungry for new treasure and gives them a chance to play with their new toys. For me, the key is to balnce these aspects. Plotline and character development good- But keep the action moving. Too many sappy vignettes without some dungeon-exploring time can slow down a game's momentum.

On the other extreme, a game needs something to keep it from becoming a series of repetitive battles.I think the key is to keephe player curious. Mysterious villains, quirky townfolk, and well-devolped heroes are of great help. There are other ways, too show the player a glimpse of that exotic continent they can't get to for another 12 locations. Make them desperate for that new armor that will help them against the Silver Dragon boss. Just keep the momentum going.

Momentum brings me to the next issue-Minigames. Minigames can be great-A cool arcade-type game with some goodies as a reward can make for a great little aside. Maybe a little casino to build up gold or win treasure. A puzzle here and there. That's great. However, if a mini game distracts a player from the actual game play too much, then they will play the rest of the game with less relish. I know many a player who has never bothered to finish this game or that because they are caught up in the mini-game and just haven't gotten around to going to the next dungeon. That can ruin a game right there. By all means, keep the minigames in. They add variety. Just don't allow them to steal the show.

I find that minigames are great in games with a weak story; it helps to break up the monotony of fighting. In games with a good story, though, it may have the effect you say. Anyway, that's our mailbag #50...Ooh, wait! Last minute really big entry sent in by Amaranthinus. I'd say no, but he's the guy who made up the topic, so let's see...

Wow, my suggestion was accepted again. You must really be desperate for decent topics...

Not at all! What gave you that idea? Er... we're not just using yours and MMX's topics, I mean, c'mon... okay, we are. Sue us.

Anyways, yes, it is I, Amaranthinus, back for another long ramble about rpgs (note how I write Amaranthinus - and not Amaranthius *cue for Cid Messed Up sign, thank you very much*)


Apparently this is the 50th mailbag - and because the number ends in an '0' it is obviously worthy of celebration, as cultural tradition/conglomerate marketing dictates. What fun. *blows party streamer without smiling* Happy golden mailbag then... (On the subject, it is also customary to celebrate age by year (i.e. an anniversary) The word on the street says there are 52 weeks in the year, and there's one mailbag a week, making the mailbag after the mailbag after this one another party event! Wow! Gee Whiz! Although I did hear a few rumours about late mailbags from the past... Macc? ... does that mean the yearly anniversary has been missed? :-O )

Um... sheesh, you want me to remember DATES too? Gimme a break!

But regardless of the irrelevant significance our race places upon a linear concept - and, to be precise, the subsequent adherence to, and reverence of patterns within, the said mental construct - which precludes any genuine perception of reality, I'm here today to talk about games.

As I mentioned in my topic-suggestion-thing last week, I prefer the story element of an rpg - in fact I prefer the story element in most types of game. If the action in Metal Gear Solid lacked context it wouldn't be anything like as fun - and I should know, since I just spent two dull-ish days completing the Special Missions (sets of VR simulations).

Rpgs are the same. The fights *are* exciting when they're relevant - infiltration into a Mako reactor, robbing a house, storming the enemy castle, passing an exam (okay, maybe the exam was a bad example...) Fights are *not* exciting when you're killing the 30th pack of wolves you've encountered today while on your long and arduous journey up a mountain that is only a few screens high, but has a path that twists and turns all over the place (which you cannot leave).

So why bother including fights if they're not exciting? In my opinion, it's because fights are often just a filler to stretch the longevity of the gameplay for a few more hours. You're told something along the lines of "Get me the mysterious book of Elna from Tarn Manor - but *that* manor's incredibly dangerous! - , ahem, yes, where was I?" The end result is that our hero spends a good half hour wandering around a house killing off annoying monsters while solving simple-yet-time-consuming puzzles. Then you return with the book and get another block of story, realising that you were just forced to play yet another irrelevant sub-quest (note that not all sub-quests are irrelevant: Yuffie's, for example, from FFVII added depth to the story; sub-quests in other games are often superfluous (Baldurs Gate anyone???)).

And that's the way it always seems to work: story, followed by fight, followed by story, fight, story, fight. The fights start to work against the story - acting more like a barrier to the next bit of narrative than being part of it. Also, because most rpgs fights are all the same (i.e. the battle system never changes; the fight at the end of the game is played in exactly the same manner as the very first fight, the only change being prettier looking spells - and, because your spells grow more powerful alongside the enemies, new spells rarely add to gameplay, they just give you enough fire power to dispatch of strong enemies in the same way as before) the only part of the game left which can really take you by surprise - do anything shiny and new - is the story. Hence my favouritism.

So what am I saying? I want more story? Because the solution is not a series of games like The Bouncer (please, God, no). The Bouncer didn't solve the problem it only inverted the balance: story was given huge emphasis, playability was... well, where was the playability?

Do I, then, want a more varied battle system? I wouldn't say no. As much as I like the FF series I have to say that the fighting leaves a lot to be desired. All too often I am reduced to repeating the same action over and over again to defeat all the enemies - and, because there is no variation of terrain/ obstacles/ situation in battles, once I find the most powerful attack I can repeat it. An introduction of tactics (above the level of "cast Wall to raise defense" or "cast Haste to speed up") would be nice. The same goes for CT and BoF: again, a repeated tactic is almost always more practical than varied play (Luminaire, followed by Luminaire, followed by...).

However, aside from revamping fights to make them better, I think that an intelligent solution would be to try and integrate storyline and fights - why separate them at all? We've all seen the classic scene (seen the scene! ha! two words that sound the same!) where the superhero is discussing his/her life problems while casually dusting all enemies in his/her path. Now that games can store enough information for full voice acted scripts (strangely, MGS is one of the only games which uses them) why don't characters talk during fight scenes?

They could trade dreadful puns with super-villains in classic Bond style, they could goad the opposition, they could shout out their worry when they think you should run away, the could inform you of the infiltration plan as you infiltrate, they could even have spoony bards who actually sing. It would add depth to the story and gameplay (more expression lies in voices and all the battles could be made story relevant if characters talk in them), and because all those static dialogue scenes would be gone forever, games could be made snappier and more film-esque, without losing any of the quality.

Ever played Star Ocean 2? They tried that. It didn't work quite as well as it might have, but yeah, it certainly did give a better ambience to the battles.

Characters could chat while walking around towns - all upper body animations remaining separate from the legs, meaning that none of the gestures would be lost while walking - or they could talk on the world map, making travelling a lot more engaging.

And those who dislike the story aspect of rpgs would be happy, because they could ignore the talking in a way they couldn't ignore the text boxes of yore (ha! ignore and yore rhyme! ha! ha ha!).

So, to sum up, I prefer the story aspect of games, partly because fighting is often dull (story is sometimes dull too, but a good writer can make the most mediocre experience engaging) and partly because fighting is often used to pad out game length. My solution is to merge the story and fights, add in a more variable fight system, and - boom! - you have a classic game. Ta daa!

Well, I'll be off then...

*wanders away, wondering (ha! wander and wonder! ha!) if it he should have left out the page of explanation and just sent in the last paragraph*

No comment, of course. Anyway, to business. Next week I'll be away, but for the week after we have another topic by MegamanX2K (yes, I know, but no one else seems to send in any decent non-serious topics). It goes like this: "Make an RPG-related toy! An Action-Figure of a hero, a Airship Kit, or more! Bonus points if it's recalled by the factory for safety or other reasons." So have fun thinking this one through. You'll have two weeks, so I'd BETTER get some decent answers! Send them to And before we leave, I am going to print a special Mailbag #50 utterly horrible song written by Gryzz. And Lunaris has been tied down with chicken wire.

*is tied on the ground, eyes wildly open*MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!


Hey Ciddy. Itís Gryzz203 again! Yay! Personally, I prefer more fighting than story. Donít get me wrong, stories are good, but I prefer to just kick some green slimesí respective asses. Mini games are fun too. They help take a break from the fighting. I mean, it canít be ALL fighting. Anyway, for the 50th Mailbag, I have a surprise for YOU! Itís another song, but I think this one is better than "Ciddy, Donít be a Hero." This one is called "The Mailbag Man," and is sung to the tune of "The Candy Man." Enjoy.

Cidolfas: Who can take your answer?
And fill it full of laughs?
Make the people laugh with some laughing gas?
The Mailbag Man!

Ozzie and Lunaris: Yes the Mailbag Man Can!

Ozzie and Lunaris: The Mailbag Man can
And he does it with a smile
And never judges your reply.

Macc: Who can host the Mailbag?

Cidolfas: I don't mind at all!

Mr. Saturn: Who can make me laugh before the big Staffersí Ball?
The Mailbag Maaaaan!

Ozzie and Lunaris: Yes the Mailbag Man can.

Mailbag Repliers: The Mailbag folks
Are pretty corny blokes.
Hilarious and easy-going

MegamanX2K: They'll tell you when your mess ups are showing!
Megaman984: And when your humor away is going!

LiteYear: Who can?
Lucca: Who can?
Adamantaimai: Who can?
Quina: Yummy-yummies?

All: The Mailbag Man can!

Ozzie and Lunaris: Coz he's Cidolfas, man!

All: He hosts the!

Awww... I'm touched. Now I'm going to go away and never think about this again.




*is still down*Meeeep! Somebody? Help?