In response to "The Tragedy of Alone in the Dark" from The Escapist Forum: This article interested me, because it echoed many of the thoughts I'd had on, of all things, Final Fantasy VIII. Yeah, that one. The middle child in the PSX FF brethren, doomed to never quite receive the attention of his younger, thicker sibling (VII) or his mightier, more respectable elder (IX).

VIII, like AITD is riddled with bad design decisions, yet each one redeems itself on reflection by being a good, swift kick to the face of convention. The worst issues that plague JRPGs are all swept away by a new and radically different 'Junction' system. Gone is the ability to simply grind your way to victory, mashing attack and intermittently casting some Cure spell (a la VII) - enemies don't just level alongside you, but ahead of you, gaining significantly better stat boosts. Fighting need not be about gaining experience, but there's now a more varied, more interesting incentive to go out and fight, which is to draw spells and obtain a collection of items. GFs shook up a stale and predictable battle system that had stayed virtually unchanged since the days of the very first FF.

Of course, that doesn't stop them from still being bad decisions. Giving any player equipped with more brain power than a cephalopod to junction himself to 9999 HP and max stats in the first few hours of the game was never going to turn out well. Nor was building a junction system that punished magic casting use with stat decay: in essence, players had little incentive to do anything other than junction to Str and spam attack, or, failing that, junction to Mag and spam the GF command command instead, the latter being only marginally more relentlessly uninteresting than the first. Hunting down rare enemies to obtain some obscure item vital to a weapon upgrade became tiring quickly, and the card game was either a pointless distraction or an express route to 99 hero drinks, that then made the game virtually un-losable.

At least the spirit was there, though, and perhaps with better execution and a little more thought, FF as a series could have taken a radically different direction. As happened, though, the cool reaction from fandom prompted the self-consciously conservative IX and may well have seeded the stagnation JRPGs have suffered from (and for) over the last decade.

- Bosola

If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right. If a game is worth playing, what makes it worth playing? You'd want to play it right, since your idea of right will be my variant of left.

Perfection is quite a fickle thing. We can never quite get to that point where we say ''This is perfect, it cannot be improved any more than it has been.'' due to the fact that someone may not like it thus making the whole thing, well, imperfect. When someone has brilliant ideas but is unable to shovel them in to a product correctly they're usually shunned, but it doesn't make the idea any less of a good idea if you believe it to be so.

Even if Alone in the Dark was a monolithic goose-chase in several areas, it has still made an advance of some kind and I believe that's what matters.

Also an off topic: Many great ideas were spawned in sheds.

- TheSeventhLoneWolf


In response to "Crying Out For More" from The Escapist Forum: I applaud games like this. But to spurn certain gameplay conventions is doom for the medium. There are certain things that the game industry take for granted but are not (i.e. 'everyone loves burly space marines! who needs a storyline? let's stick some guns in there.') But there are some things that are the result of true and tired trial and error, and you should not ignore it. Look at Portal. Okay, it's no Citizen Kane, but it has a nice difficulty progression, it makes you feel all fuzzy inside when you complete a puzzle, and you almost never wonder where to go (unlike, say, Half-Life 2).

The same way some experimental moviemakers will try to do away with basic moviemaking elements, or literature deconstructed itself with postmodernism, some people will push these boundaries. But since games require the gamer's effort to proceed, you are failing in your quest unless you expected the game to be so hard to solve the player had to resort to a walkthrough. (Now that would be an interesting commentary.) There's little point in building an amazing wonder of sensation and misdirection if those experimenting it need to alt-tab back to our drab old world to proceed through it.

Then again, after watching the characters in Dead Space explain exactly they were feeling as if the designers assumed I might be an autistic robot raised by wolves who would be unable to comprehend that strange thing humans call fee-lings, I welcome any game that assumes I am able to understand things that are not explicitly said.

- The Random One


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