Malik  (10/8/04)

Well, if you checked in the Asylum yesterday, you would have found a rather lengthy feature written by myself about the state of reviews and why game reviews are so constantly flawed and incorrect.  If you didn't see that, I would advise one to check it out since there is a good dose of truth in my statements.  Anyway, I bring that up to explain why this is a shorter column today (a good deal of my efforts went into that feature, and thus less effort, but still plenty of effort on it's own, went into this column).  So, instead of rambling on and on about nothing, let's get to something...

No News is Bad News

According to the Rumor Control segment for this week at (I love this column), Peter Molyneux has put out an apology on the Lionhead web site for failing to come through with all of the features he had previously promised for Fable. At the same time, he went on to say that, 

"I have come to realise that I should not talk about features too early so I am considering not talking about games as early as I do. This will mean that the Lionhead games will not be known about as early as they are, but I think this is the more [sic] industry standard." 

which could be interpreted as the equivalent of Mr. Molyneux saying that because of the bitching of a vocal minority, we could be receiving far less news on his future projects.

This should make a good deal of the vocal (and bitchy as hell) minority quite happy...for a whole day or two. Then, and as for the rest of us, the news will become so sparse, and with how infrequently Molyneux releases a new game, we will be dying for information on his next project. The only problem is that with the constant bitching about how "Fable didn't live up to expectations and promises" (whatever...we got a great game, and anything less would have still be a great game), we are not going to hear shit from Molyneux anymore. 

So, when Fable was initially announced as Project Ego (many years back), there were a lot of cool concepts that were thrown around. This occurred for a good reason...the game was still in it's planning phases, and thus a lot of ideas looked really good on paper. Molyneux acted a lot like an excited parent (he was giving birth to a new project that he had high hopes for), and decided to brag about everything his "child" should be able to do. Well, like with real life, parents tend to over exaggerate about their children, and often times the potential of a child cannot ever equal the reality (to carry this analogy further, children have the potential to do about anything, but eventually they have to pick a set path to walk down and at this point potential and reality only vaguely and occasionally overlap). However, Molyneux was doing something that is so rare to see in the game industry; he was really excited. This, in turn, caused him to not only make a great game that he poured a lot of effort and time into (you people who bitch about the "4 years in development", I just want to say; F$#^ OFF!), but he also let us all into the development process far more than most developers ever do. 

We got to all see this game grow from a concept, to a rough draft, to a game in progress, to a final game. This is something that is rare for any of us geeks to be able to see for a title that is more than just a cookie-cutter clone of everything else that's out there. We got to see the ideas that couldn't be implemented, but very well could be worked on to be included in the next game in the (I'm hoping here...if anyone important reads this, I'm begging you here...) series. This is normally stuff that should get us all excited and put us into geek-euphoria. Somehow, the uber-bitchy geeks got too much of this information and decided to nit-pick the project into the ground every time some feature was dumped in order to make a smoother game. So, basically, in order to make the game feel complete and not just a jumble of half-working, half-developed concepts, Mr. Molyneux had to pick and choose what features would be feasible enough to include in the final project...but this only pissed off the geeks of fan-boy mentality. However, if this was another game, like a Final Fantasy title, then things would have turned out completely differently. 

With a Square game (I pick Square because they have the most rabid fan-boy base), if a feature is not included in the game, or is not able to be fully implemented (like the pocketstation support for pocketstation in the US, so this is a dead feature that only took away from some other area of the game), then the fan boys will take a different route about the information...they will get excited to see it in the next Square title. However, at the same time, these removed features will only come to light after the game is out, and thus we were not given as much information of the development of the game in question. However, with Fable, since we were granted the privilege of seeing the game develop, we saw the removed features being removed in real time, which left a lot of time between removal and release of Fable on the hands of the bitchy fanboys, who in turn decided to complain about being granted the right to see how Fable become Fable. 

So, that's another issue with all of this. We saw deeper into the development of Fable than most titles, which means we saw the removed features. With many other game, if we knew of all the features that were removed in development, those same fanboys would probably shit their pants, and then fling the poop at the developers in an angry fit just like they did with Mr. Molyneux. True, we did hear of all the cool things that "would" be in Fable from Mr. Molyneux, but he could not honestly know how the final implementation of these features would play out until he started to work on them. So, if something must be removed from the game, for now (sequel...please...), then so be it. He is only trying to give the best game he can (and you can tell from the interviews that he wanted to make one hell of a revolutionary game), and if parts have to be removed to make the game better at the end of the day, then so be it. I mean, would you rather have all of the features that were supposed to be in Fable and have them not fully integrated, developed, and so glitchy that the game crashes every 5 minutes, or would you rather have a game like we had received? I think I'd chose the fun and innovative game that works, any day of the week. Quality over quantity...otherwise I'd just play more Square titles (hell, Star Ocean 3 is really long and even feels really long...the game is clunky, boring, and bland, but it's long! I don't think so). 


I personally am a very bitchy person who will find any REAL faults within a product or developmental cycle. However, if there is nothing wrong, then I can easily say that we need to leave what's good least leave it alone in terms of bitching at it. If something is cut from a game while it's still being developed, but the final product is fun and ingenious, then that's a good thing, and not a bad thing. For, if a good product comes out and some things were cut, then they probably were cut for a very good reason. In the case of Fable, it was done with many features because it would've only delayed the game to have them implemented. 

For example, when Fable was being planned, it was said that you could chose to be either male or female. This part was removed because the voice acting for many characters would have been doubled (lines that use reference to your gender, like "Why do they call him Avatar?" would have also had to be recorded to say the same line with "her" in place of "him"), requiring more time for development. Also, the character models would have required more work (and time) and thus it would have been further delayed. 

The people who bitch about Fable would've probably found fault with the game no matter what. The thing that these asses don't realize is that a game requires work to be made. This work is hard, tedious, and can be quite frustrating when the designer has such high hopes for the final product (I personally hope that Mr. Molyneux is quite happy with the final product of Fable, despite what some people are bitching about, because you can see how much effort he put into this project. Bravo, Mr. Molyneux! I salute you). For us to have received such a revolutionary game is a great thing in itself. 

Worst of all, by the vocal minority being so bitchy about everything, we may never have this level of insight into the development of a game, especially from Mr. Molyneux (a true god of geeks), again. We need to control out outbursts. It's like many people have said in the past; when you take a normal person and the lack of identification of an Internet message board, you will come out with a total ass (Penny-Arcade has put it best in the past...but I can't find the link to where they said it...sadly). We need to realize that just because we have the freedom to bitch, it doesn't mean we need to always exercise our freedom...since over use of that freedom will now cost us a great privilege into looking at the development cycle of a game from such a great designer as Mr. Molyneux (I'm not trying to kiss his ass or anything, but he is a genius in the realm of game's a fact). 

Another Good Games Goes To Cra...Online

So, as I read some news about Namco the other day (see my news post from 10/5/04), I came across the information that said Namco is working to develop an online MMORPG version of Tales of Eternia (or, as we in the US would call it, Tales of Destiny 2). I cannot contain myself when this type of news comes out. I have long been a fan of Namco's Tales franchise, and to see a new version or seuqel coming out should excite me like few other RPGs...however, when I hear that the basic concept of the game is being horribly corrupted and tarnished in this way, I cannot restrain my bitchy side. Why, you ask?... 

Well, with many games that have recently gone from standard games to MMORPGs or pseudo-MMORPGs (Phantasy Star Online, for example), I have seen a good (as in obvious and steady...not as in good quality) trend of these games taking everything that mattered in the original and removing it. All that remains in the final product is a similar looking world with a similar set of locations. For example, in PSO, we are given many of the same classes (well, three of the same classes) as seen in previous PS games. We also have the same basic techs (PS speak for magic), races (well, some of the Dezolians to speak of...or cats), weapon types, and story. However, the actual plot is missing (we only get a background story and a bastardized version of a plot that would have been skimpy for a Sega Master System PS title), the game play is corrupted beyond recognition (no action existed at all in PS1-4, and PSO has a really clunky action system to be the forefront of the game's engine), the use of parties are gone (PS1-4 were never about being a solo hero, while PSO will require a good deal of solo work) short, everything except the background story and a few of the basic elements of the PS world have been removed in favor of a corrupted game dedicated to "the grind" (battling and gaining levels but never having any plot or character development). 

Since the nature of MMOs require a simplified format that removes the true sense of playing as a party (you play as an individual who can be part of a party), a real concept of plot (you may have "missions", but you never have a true goal to never can beat an MMO), the basic interaction of NPCs that applies to your current status in the game (NPCs in a real RPG should be able to give new information based upon your place in the quest...not just a generic message for everyone), or the alteration of the world that comes from plot progression in an RPG (like when the world gets completely changed from catastrophic events in FF6 or Palma blowing up in Phantasy Star 2). Basically, an MMORPG will always be a bastardized version of an RPG and will only be an outlet to power level and work towards "the grind". This is not what an RPG series, such as the Tales series is meant to be, at it's core, at least. The basic elements that made it familiar and fun to the long standing fans will have to be removed, or at least horribly simplified, to make it playable to a massive number of players who are all at a different state of existing (different levels). 

Yes, I do realize that I've said this a dozen times in the past. However, since then I have gotten into MMORPGs, myself. For those who don't remember, I got into City of Heroes about 2 months ago. However, I think the main factor is not that MMORPGs exist (I'm still not the biggest of fans, but I can see a purpose in them now), but what becomes an MMO. For example, CoH was a good thing to make into an MMO since the nature of the world and game would serve best as a never ending battle of good versus evil. I mean, isn't that the nature of a comic book (which is what CoH is best represented as) for a force of good and a force of evil (or at least a force of very evil and a force of less evil...or the same thing with two good forces) to conflict in a never ending battle that cannot end until all the world ends around them? So, something like an MMORPG is perfect for a superhero game, since the battle to overthrow evil can never end. This also applies to things like DaoC, since the main nature of the game is medieval style life, in which you will continue until you, there's the eternal battles of the three kingdoms fighting to conquer each other. 

However, something like the Tales series (or the Phantasy Star series, for that matter) is set in having a concrete story (as in, it has a beginning, a middle, a climax, and a conclusion), with unique characters and a progression of the nature of the world (places change as the forces of good or evil affect the world). This cannot be translated into an MMORPG. At all. I mean if the world was to progress, then it would not be playable for other people in the MMO world who were just starting out. Plus, the unique protagonist element would have to be removed since we cannot all, as in all 100000 of us, be the hero of this story or this world. Lastly, how can a set story be taking place when the end of the story would mean the end of the evil? If the end takes place for one person, then it will have to be the end for everyone...would this mean we would play for only about 120 hours after the game is released before someone finished the game and the MMO is shut down? In reality, there is no way to have a set story, and with such a plot driven game, like a Tales game, there is no way to include the most important element, being the plot. 


On the plus side, Namco is including an engine much like that found in Tales of Eternia. The world map and the town maps and the dungeon maps are not all supposed to be in the same scale and are not all directly connected (when you leave town, a new map is opened for the world, and the town map is closed), the battles will take place in separate battle maps that will take place in a 2D action style just like with Tales of Eternia, ToEO will include skits (the way you communicate with party members as you travel around the world), and many of the same locations will exist from ToE in ToEO. However, while these will make an MMO experience that is much closer to the classic style of ToE, the final product will still have no plot, which is what many Tales fans played Tales game for. 

Plus, I might add that the thought of adding these console RPG concepts into an MMORPG will probably become overly complicated and may make ToEO almost impossible to be properly created. However, if it works, I guess this would be the perfect MMO for Square fanboys, since it will be a console style system that's about "the grind" and not about plot (and Square does pretty well making games that lack a serious effort in plot...FLAME ME!! I dare you!), but for the real Tales fans, this will undoubtedly turn into a bastardized version of what could've been a good game...if it was made to be offline only and had a plot...of course that would make it into a new Tales game set in the world of ToE...or it would just be ToE. Blah! Why do people have to over-complicate simple and great game ideas? 


As you can tell, from my many previous Bitchings, MMOs will always be a subject of my rage.  I think of MMORPGs as the reality TV of video games.  If done correctly, they can be entertaining and fun (like CoH), but when they are not treated with care and are massively over-produced in order to cash in on the latest fad, they serve to do nothing that diminish the quality and dignity of an entire industry.  Sadly, with both reality TV and MMORPGs, despite the over-saturation of the industry, neither one of this will die as they should have by fact, they keep growing despite how there is not enough time or resources to properly handle this gigantic boom in crap.  So, I'll just end now since this is the way the industry is least I know where to find something of quality from Namco (ToS, Katamari Damacy, other words, offline).  Anyway, if you don't like what I've said, or if you actually have the wisdom to speak out in favor of my wacky (logical) concepts, feel free to write me or put it on the forums.