Reponse to the first Deep Thoughts has been generally positive, as has reponse to the chats. Two new features, two seeming successes. Not bad at all. When I come back, I may be tweaking the DA format still more, messing around, improving, disproving, the whole bit, to make for a more enjoyable reading experience.

Yes, I said "when I come back." Sadly, I'm about to hit finals, and while I've updated up to now, I'm going to be bleary-eyed and incoherent for the next two and a half days, so rather than write a half-assed column for all of you, I'm handing it off for two updates' time.

My pinch hitter will be none other than GIA's on Andrew Vestal. You may remember him from such hits as "Why The Andrews Aren't Updating", and "Zelda Rap, 64DD Mix." He'll be answering all your questions and comments in his own inimitable style whilst I'm away, so treat him right, y'hear? All letters go to the same place, so don't worry your pretty little heads about it. It's all good.


#1 - The biggest reason the first buyers in the Next-Gen system wars pickedthe playstation was because Sony was smart enough to liscence the mostpopular game of the time, Mortal Kombat 3 (ugh), exclusively to theirsystem. From there, it was fairly downward sloping for Sega (except in theRPG market, but then WD defected)

#2 - Sega did devlop third-party games before they released the MasterSystem. I played Afterburn for NES (copyright Sega 1986) just ten minutesago to prove it for myself. Man did that game suck compared to thearcade...


Some leftover comments from the Dreamcast/Sega of America stuff from a few days ago that I should have printed two days ago, and deleted by accident. Whoopsie. :)

In any case, while I contest that MK3 was the biggest reason that Sony came out on top early on (the PSX's lower price point was a major factor to a number of people I know), it was indeed a selling point of the PSX at the time, sad though I find that. And yes, Sega did develop games for other systems before and even after the release of the Master System. Witness the fact that virtually every pre-1994 game system around had a version of Columns on it.

Speaking of Sega letters...

Yo Allan! (Ugh, I hate that word, yo..),

First of all, I really didn't mean to offend anyone with my Sega letter,seriously. Just wanted to make a point, but maybe I pounded too hard..

Anyway, I noticed that you recently added coverage to Un Jammy Lammy.Wasn't the GIA's original statement "coverage for RPGs, Puzzles, andStrategy games". Un Jammy isn't obviously any of those titles. Same withMetal Gear Solid. Then, you started talking about GIA covering all "smartgames" so I figured that for Metal Gear Solid. But Un Jammy isn'tnecessarily a smart game. So, the million dollar question is, what exactlydo you cover? Define smart games. Clarify your mission statement

"It depends on what your definition of is is."

-Clyde Hudman (Hey, I don't bitch all the time..)

In reference to your Sega letter, well, I'm not big on holding grudges. Just ask any of my ex-girlfriends. Well, okay, short Emma. But I digress. Your letter did trigger a rather harsh response from me, and at least one other letter-writer, but hell, what's the point in being bitter about it? It's just a letter. Relax, as I should tell myself. :)

As for the name and mission statement... well, it's a fuzzy line we've drawn. The reason we cover UnJammy Lammy is that PaRappa the Rapper was classified by Sony as a Puzzle game, for reasons that mystify me. Whatever the case, by extension of that, we also cover the sequel to PaRappa, namely UJL, because at GIA, we cover RPGs, puzzle games, and strategy games. Is UJL "smart"? I don't know. I guess we'll see.

Using protection

The new Playstation CD country-code protection most likely will notbe voided with the CD swapping method. I have heard that not only willthe diagnostic run at the beginning of the game, but periodicallythroughout it as well, making swapping vitually impossible. OldPlaystations are quite slow as well, so although swapping is an easy wayto play imports, the trade-off isn't quite worth it. Above all, I thinkit's safe to say that the entire 'hardware-check' will not be an issuein a few short months, as there will be a new device to counter it.Possessing one is another matter, however...

Thank you for your time,


The diagnostic will run periodically throughout? Yikes. Beware, owners of US Playstations, beware. They're certainly going all-out to stop piracy, aren't they? Of course, the guys that design and implement these mods aren't exactly dim-witted, either, as you imply. I'm putting ten bucks on someone breaking Sony's latest lock-out method within the next three months, myself.

Yay for level-building!

I read all of the bashing about level building yesterday and decided Ihad to be the one person that "feels differently" for this arguement.

When the use of level building began, I believe it was for the purposeof creating realism in RPG's, which tend to be very unrealistic (just readthe Game Cliches list; you'll believe me.) The thought of fighting more =bigger muscles is used constantly in fantasy and realistic-fiction alike andtends to give gamers a chance to bond with the characters, allowingthemselves to fight in their place. Another reason I believe level buildingwas used was to give the gamers themselves the feeling of having to work alittle to be able to achieve the goal, to kill the dragon, to save theprincess, and so on. The thought of blowing right through a Final Fantasy atlight speed, never needing those big level-gains, never having to slowdown-- It makes me shiver in fear. "Yep," I would probably say, "I just satthrough a $50 movie." Level building increases the interaction.

Believe me, I'm not downing the new movie-like approach in modern games.I might be an old-school gamer, but I love the modern approach, and I wantmore. But I'm afraid it might be one or the other: Rpg's, or interactiverandom-battle movies. The loss of those random-battle binges would be small,but maybe just a step over the edge. Give 'em a chance, everyone; they won'tbite. Unless you bite them, of course.

-Agent J

On another note, I liked the Deep Thoughts section. A good idea forthose of us who read the column daily but cannot always get into the longones. Oh yeah, you should call it "Delectable Dissertations" or "ProfoundPonderings" instead. Just thought I'd let you know.

That's an interesting point, that level-building increases the feeling of interaction, of making the player work to beat the Dragon Lord or whoever. On the other hand, especially with the advent of CD storage, game size is limited only by how much time and money the developer is willing to invest, not memory limits. Consequently, I'd much prefer that we get more actual gameplay, and less random battles. More dungeons, not more encounters per dungeon.

As for Deep Thoughts, most people thought it was quite cool. Each letter/piece will stay up there for a few days, and eventually be archived. There won't be set updates of when a new one goes up - just whenever something really good and appropriate comes down the pike. As for the new names, well, they appeal to the Stan Lee in me, but what about the rest of you? Should the thoughts go alliterative?

Staff turnover - no, not ours


I flipped through the staff credits section in the manuals of both FF7 and FFT today. I noticed that, with the exception of the producers, nobody from Square involved with FF7 was involved with FFT. I already knew that Nobuo Uematsu wasn't the music director (and he can eat his heart out, cuz Masaharu Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto did a bitchin' job), but I don't understand where everyone else ran off to. The reason I was looking through the manuals in the first place was because I heard a rumor that Square hired some guys from a rival company to make FFT, then promptly fired them again when the game was all finished up. Is that true?


Well, at least half of that is true. Square did indeed hire up a lot of programmers and designers from Quest, the company that developer Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, and is now doing Ogre Battle 3 for N64, to do FFTactics for them. They specifically wanted a game in the style of the critically and commercially successful Tactics Ogre. The FF7 team went on to do other projects, with only the producers left to oversee the new blood. As for being fired, I haven't read anything to that effect, and frankly, they'd be bloody idiots to fire designers of that calibre. Ah well.

Lavos Day and chat report

What do you mean the chat session went well last night? I tried toget in for an hour and it kept giving me messages that it couldn'tfind the IP address or whatever. Is there a complicated procedure Ineed to go through to get in? A password? When's the next sessiongoing to be?

In case anyone doesn't know yet, yesterday was the Day of Lavos. Areyou disappointed the world didn't end?

Well, there's a few questions for you. I don't want to waste any morespace.

A few people expressed regret that they missed the chat. We did have a pretty good turnout (it hovered around twenty-two people for most of the hour and a half main session before I had to leave). It was held, again, on DALNet, channel #giachat. For information on logging on check out Dalnet's home page. I'm not sure when there'll be another one, but I'll keep you posted as to the wheres and whens, all right? You'll all get your chance.

As for the Day of Lavos, um, I always thought that was January 9th, 1999. I mean, *my* world ended that day. What's with this January 23rd crap? The world's dead already, man. You just haven't noticed it yet.

The Wayback machine

The hours I spent raising levels in Dragon Warrior 1 were probably fairlygreat, but what sticks in my mind more is the time, back in 1990, raising mylevels in FF1.

Actually, that game, I turned overkill into a fine art, simply because I,being a rather cautious 6 year old, decided that I should be at least 10levels higher than NP's strategy guide suggested. I beat Garland (damn, I'vebeen playing too much FFT...I almost typed that up as Gariland) at level 10,the Marsh Cave at level 25 (which is probably why I can't identify with allthese people talking about how hard it was), and I was at the max level of 50before I ever fought Kraken.

Then came along this wonderful system called the SNES, with a wonderful(though, IMO, slightly overrated by some people today...I think that thesequels to this game are consistently slightly better than it) game calledFinal Fantasy 2. FF4 was the first RPG to really have good pacing.Unfortunately, like nearly every RPG up until FF7, this pacing DID break downnear the end of the game, where you had to spend some time raising yourlevels. Despite this, the game totally alienated me against level raising. Whywould anyone want to spend time raising levels unnecessarily? The main reasonis fear. People don't want anything remotely resembling a challenge in theirgames, so they still raise their levels far above what is required. Squaremade FF7, extremely easy, but to the people who were already still raisingtheir levels, they were alienated by FF7, which was probably sickeningly easyif you spent time raising levels.

Hmm...anything else for me to rant about? Why not the crummy music inParasite Eve. I mean, bad music in a SQUARE title really annoys me...everyother Square game I've played (including Rad Racer and King's Knight) has hadgood music. However, in PE, 80% of the game was silent (to add to thesuspense, I suppose), most of the music was based off of that annoying themeplayed in the police station, the battle music was basically a vague throbbingnoise that went off in several second intervals. Even that Spanish vocal songat the end wasn't very spectacular sounding...I mean, I know Mitsuda andUematsu were busy with XG and FF8 while this game was being made, but Squarehas more good composers than them..(Ito, etc)...why didn't they use a goodcomposer? (Who DID compose the music for PE, anyways?) more thing to rant about. Why does everyone consider FF4's boss andfiend music the best battle music ever made? I LOVE the boss music in everyFF....EXCEPT 4's. I loathe those two crummy pieces. Was Nobuo on pot when hecomposed them? Or was he just drunk? Just thinking about those pieces makesme angry...yet everyone LIKES them. The boss music in every other FF that hadboss music was great...3j's was catchy, 5's was thrilling, 6's gave a feelingof the danger yet had heroic overtones, as did 7's. But 4's was boring anddull. It sounded like it should be overworld music, or something.

All right, I guess I've attracted enough flame mail for one day. See ya.

The Owner of the Berserkins,The Elephantine Gutless Wonder,

Daniel Seltzer

Whew. Quite a barrage of opinions, and this is actually a clipped-down version. I'll leave the level-building to others, and deal first with the PE music. I didn't find it actively bad, and most of it fairly appropriate for the more modern, "realistic" tone of the game. It's atmospheric music, not sweeping operatic stuff like in most RPGs. The only comparable game I can think of is Secret of Evermore, which also had a mostly atmospheric score, and was easily my favourite part of the game. Admittedly, the PE police station theme was annoying, but I think the rest of it worked as was intended: it set tone, and raised suspense for an eerie game. But that's me.

The boss music from FF4 didn't do much for me. A little bland, but nothing offensive. But you DARE insult the Fiend battle music? Blasphemy!

... okay, I'm better now. Suffice to say that I think the Fiend battle theme from FF4 is the second-best battle music the FF series has ever produced, second only to the Gilgamesh theme. It's fast-paced, it's got a great beat to it, and conveys the majesty the Fiends should have (and which only Rubicant actually pulls off). Glorious stuff, and easily thrashes the generic, tinny-sounding FF7 Boss music.

Of course, the best battle music in the industry is the Ys boss battles, but I'll leave that for AV to tell you about tomorrow...

Your mom helps you hook it up

Holy cow! I actually remember that thing! For years during my childhoodI would be haunted by a dream in which I saw a blocky green figurerunning away from one-eyed spiders jumping around to a deep base beat.The origins of this recurring nightmare were criptic until I saw yourarticle on it. Thank you for ending this traumatic nightmare!

A grateful GIA fan,


And everyone loves the Zelda Rap. :)

Closing comments

Well, I'm off for the next two days. Wish me luck with my exams (I'm gonna need it), and barring any disasters, I'll be back on Wednesday night, as you please. Be gentle with Vestal while I'm gone, and take care for now.

- The Double Agent

Return to the Archives
Everything you ever wanted to know about games (and asked)
Deep Thoughts
Paulette Caswell on RPG design flaws
Vestal's in da HOUSE!