Posted by thatpinguino (1825 posts) -

Hey ya’ll, while I was thinking of blog topics for this week I was a bit stumped. I have a bunch of half ideas that I don’t feel exceptionally strongly about so I got to thinking of a possible topic, and one game and one idea kept coming back to me. The game is Final Fantasy V and the topic is party construction and customization. You see, FFV was the first game in the series that I played that featured FF’s iconic job system. The job system lent that game a level of gameplay freedom and personal choice that was staggering for me to grasp at the time. Not only could you pick which character archetype you wished a character to be, you could also mix and match abilities across jobs: allowing each party member to be truly unique. I always attempted to create teams that were a mix of effective and interesting, often erring to the side of interesting when the two were at odds. I largely used eclectic mixes of character types such as beast masters, geomancers, and time mages (not exactly the standouts of the Final Fantasy franchise). Those were my preferred teams and if you asked me I would say that those are the best classes to use in the game. However, I think that my choices less reflect the inherent shape of the game’s power structure, and more my own values and priorities. For example, I valued that the geomancer and beast master classes had abilities that did not cost mp, but did comparable damage to more straight forward characters like summoner and black mage. Now my choices were also less reliable than the more conventional character classes; however, I realized that I personally love exploiting free resources and strategies that I think are novel or obscure.

Hakan is not necessarily the best pick, but he is the pick that makes you feel unique.

I noticed that my party choices in just about every game I have ever played follow a similar pattern. I used an infiltrator specializing in AI hacking (gaining temporary party members? Yes please!) in Mass Effect and prioritized biotics in my team mates, largely forgoing guns beyond the occasional sniper shot. I thought that stealing characters and using “tricky” spells would be better than just shooting guns. My party of choice in FF9 was Zidane, Freya, Amarant, and Garnet. In this case I chose a dragoon/red mage, ninja/samurai/monk, theif, and summoner/white mage and left out the two most obviously powerful characters in the game: Vivi and Steiner (each of them can deal max damage every turn without much trouble). In this case I appreciated the versatility of Garnet, Freya, and Amarant over the clear damage potential of Vivi and Steiner. In Street Fighter 4 I play Hakan because I love his oil mechanic and I love the surprise on my opponent’s face when a red, oily man is flying at them. I know he isn’t the best character in the game, but I love to think that I know something about him that my opponent doesn’t. I always pick characters or abilities that I perceive to be undervalued, clever, or efficient in some way. Therefore, I think that I am at least subconsciously stating my own beliefs and values through how I select and build characters in games. I value exploiting untapped resources, looking at things in a slightly different way than others, and sometimes I just value being unique over being effective. While I thought I was just creating characters and playing games, I have also been painting a picture of how I see myself and see the world around me.

Now with all of that said, I wonder if those of you in the GB community have noticed similar patterns in your playstyles. How do you define yourself through your playstyle?

#1 Posted by Slag (5448 posts) -


I definitely have a play pattern, one that probably limits the amount of fun I could have in a game and I'm trying my best to break it. One thing I like about the approach you use from the sounds of it, is it you get to experience the unique aspects of a particular game. That usually isn't true for me.

Generally In most action/RPG games or really any game that features RPG elements where a class is selectable, I go with a fighter or near equivalent. The reason I suspect I do this is I tend to hoard resources (especially consumables) and in my mind mana is a resource. As you mentioned a Fighter's damage is essentially reliable and usually cost (mana) free. And the reason I do that is because back in the day before there was easy access to guides and when games had less forgiving save systems I really had no idea how difficult the final boss would be. And I wanted to be ready. I always hated getting to a final boss and not being able to clear it. With a fighter/knight/paladin etc I knew even my offensive capabilities would not be affected by resource depletion the trek to the boss itself. I also knew that my character would have reasonable defensive capabilities and high enough HP, that in many cases I could survive the boss long enough to figure out its' attack pattern. Games were meaner to players back in the 2D days.

So almost every time, I'll go with a straight forward class like that, then immediately go do every available sidequest before progressing. What usually ends up happening these days is I end up way overleveled for the end of the game and I crush it.

Other things I do,

  • Almost always play lawful/good. The in game rewards usually seem better and it's my natural instinct to think that way.
  • Go for every Collectible and Achievement as early as a I can, I like exploring and but yet hate excessive backtracking.
  • If I'm building a party I always select a healer as the second member (after the fighter) and will often prioritize classes that have healing/defensive powers over offensive ones for other slots.
  • I tend to play games in long spurts, usually several hours per play, for several days in a row when I play.
  • In Fighting and multiplayer games in general, I go with characters/options I know I can use well. e.g. I never play Zangeif cause I stink with his grappling moves.

I guess if I boiled down my playstyle to a single ethos, it is that I play to win as easily as I can.

But yeah I'm trying to break myself of this rigidity. I've been forcing myself to play thief and mage classes lately, and just to experiment more in general with the mechanics. I've also tried to force myself through the plot quicker to enhance the challenge of boss fights so I'm not so overpowered to the point they aren't a thrill. I think I've missed out on the best parts of some games by playing too narrowly.

#2 Posted by Video_Game_King (36566 posts) -

It shifts from game to game, so trends like yours aren't liable to pop up. But there are a few:

  • If I die in a Metal Gear Solid game, I refuse to continue. This is less out of me trying to get a no-death run or anything; I just feel it a personal shame to have fucked up in those games, and instead choose to go through the menu back to my last save.
  • I choose party members in games less on utility and more on how much I like them. That's how I ended up with Naoto/Yukiko in my Persona 4 party, and Aigis/Mitsuru in Persona 3 FES.
#3 Edited by thatpinguino (1825 posts) -

@slag: I was actually thinking of writing about my need to hoard consumables in games, and how breaking myself of that habit has improved my gameplaying experience. I decided to go with what I wrote instead. I treat mana as a resource as well, so I tend to hoard it for bosses, but the damage potential per attack is usually so high that I feel like I can wipe a boss before its game ending attack can come out. I also tend to do research and reading about a game before I really start playing, so I enter the game with an understanding of what is available and what is possible. I used to be a big strategy guide user. I used to hate playing fighters because they don't have many options as far as attacks go and I really prize synergy. Straight forward characters don't tend to synergize in interesting ways since they kinda just do their thing.

@video_game_king: Do you find that you gravitate to the same kinds of characters though? Like I tend to find the ditzy female characters in FF games (Selphie, Yuffie, and Riku) endearing while it seems most people hate them with a fiery passion.

#4 Posted by HatKing (6405 posts) -

In GTA I like to shoot cops in the dick.

#5 Posted by Slag (5448 posts) -

@slag: I was actually thinking of writing about my need to hoard consumables in games, and how breaking myself of that habit has improved my gameplaying experience. I decided to go with what I wrote instead. I treat mana as a resource as well, so I tend to hoard it for bosses, but the damage potential per attack is usually so high that I feel like I can wipe a boss before its game ending attack can come out. I also tend to do research and reading about a game before I really start playing, so I enter the game with an understanding of what is available and what is possible. I used to be a big strategy guide user. I used to hate playing fighters because they don't have many options as far as attacks go and I really prize synergy. Straight forward characters don't tend to synergize in interesting ways since they kinda just do their thing.

I bet it has, I don't think games were meant to be played that way (hoarding) yet I think a lot us do it. I think the way we have done it ruins the intended difficulty balance. I recently played through the Witcher on the hardest difficulty and made frequent use of alchemy. It was pretty freeing. I doubt I would have enjoyed the game as much if I didn't use the alchemy system. Old habits are hard to break though, especially since I know the old way is effective.

Strategy guides and pre-play research, boy I don't envy that habit of yours. I don't think I'd enjoy doing it the way you do, that would take the fun out of solving the combat puzzle etc the out of the equation which is arguably my favorite part of games. I was lucky in that when I started gaming guides were expensive, so it made it easy to resist that temptation. Today's it the toughest it's ever been, given that it's an ALT+TAB button press away.

What I'll usually do is play a session, then the next day if I'm worried about missables glance through a guide for the section I just played to see if I missed anything. If I did then decide whether or not to replay it. Other than that the only thing I let myself look for beforehand is whether or not the game has missables or not. If it doesn't I don't consult the guide again until the game is over or I'm really really stuck. I don't like to do second playthroughs immediately after the first very often.

But I really try to limit my use of them.

As for team synergy, I never construct my teams that way or view it that way. I usually made them more hero centric. 1-3 primary damage dealers (dependent on party size), everyone else is there to basically keep the heavy hitters alive whether it be via aggro, buffs or healing. The way you do it sounds interesting, I'll have to try your way sometime. I guess if our parties constructions were bands, yours would be more like U2 (equal billing) and mine like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (headliner + a band).

fwiw thinking about this a bit more, I think I know which game made me play the way I do. I think it was Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest). I played that when I was pretty young and I remember getting slaughtered by the Dragon Lord repeatedly (not to mention the issue of infamous difficulty spikes once you ever crossed any bridge on the overworld) until I just grinded for what seemed like forever and managed to finally best him.

Is there any gaming experience you can think of that made you play the way you do?

#6 Posted by falserelic (5721 posts) -

It all depends, but I do know that the Trade Value for Thief on ps4 is 27 bucks store credit, gamestop manage to amaze me.

#7 Posted by Video_Game_King (36566 posts) -


Characters who are cooler than they are efficient? That's the best pattern I can discern.

#8 Edited by GERALTITUDE (4191 posts) -

Usually I tend to be an extremely aggressive gamer, which I think is a really obvious psychological tick due to me being so passive and nice to people in real life.


Exceptions include strategy and stealth games, where I tend to be more "me".

#9 Posted by dankempster (2588 posts) -

This is a brilliantly written blog, duder.

I used to have a serious problem with hoarding items, bordering on obsessive-compulsive. Playing through the PS1 Final Fantasies for the first time, I used to grind battles for cash, then spend all my Gil in the shops so I'd have 99 of each healing item in my inventory. What's perhaps even more bizarre is that I'd then refuse to use any of them (I'm pretty sure that was a hold-over from my Pokémon-playing youth, where it always seemed more cost-effective to use a free Pokémon Center than to buy a stack of Hyper Potions). I'm now much better at only buying what I imagine I'll need, and I also no longer have hang-ups about using the items I buy, so thankfully I've managed to break those habits over the years.

Reading about how you build your parties in RPGs really interests me, because I've always been the kind of guy who sticks to the cookie-cutter party structure. When I played Final Fantasy IX my party was Zidane, Vivi, Dagger and Steiner, which when I think about it is essentially the exact same party I used in the original Final Fantasy - thief, black mage, white mage, knight. That's one habit I'm keen to break, because the prospect of experimenting with different battle strategies and finding weird and wonderful examples of team synergy sounds like a very exciting and rewarding way to play RPGs. I'm currently trying to build a competitive team in Pokémon Y, but I'm keen to avoid the Pokémon that everyone seem to be using online, so maybe I'll take that mindset into that game and see if I can make anything interesting happen.

#10 Edited by thatpinguino (1825 posts) -

@video_game_king: I actually found Naoto and Yukiko to be very efficient in Persona 4 since Naoto is one hit kill central and Yukiko is the most straight forward healer/ nuker in the game. I have definitely done the same thing as far as gravitating to the interesting characters rather than the most efficient ones though. My squads in Mass Effect all contained Tali when I was already an infiltrator, which let to a complete redundancey of tech skills between my Shepard and her.

@slag: It was definitely FF8 that made me play the way I do. I got that game when I was little and got the strategy guide with it. The game's combat system was so obtuse the first time through that I was barely able to beat the game at all. Once I went back to it I really looked through the strategy guide and noticed that in every sceenshot in the guide the author's party had hp in the thousands, while my party had hp in the hundreds. That made me realize that I was flat out playing the game wrong, and that there was a better way to do it. FF8 is a game where you are only really limited by your knowledge of the junction system and your knowledge of where to get certain items, so I learned how to abuse those and getting through the game has gotten easier every subsequent time.

I definitely learned to focus on team synergies by playing Magic the Gathering since I was little. I am a big fan of finding unique cards and building around them using interesting interactions. So I tend to apply that mindset to games when I play.

@dankempster: In my first playthrough of FF9 I actually used the exact same party and stomped my way through the game on the back of Steiner's shock and Vivi's flare. But, the second time through I looked at Amarant and Freya and thought, "they are my two favorite characters why don't I actually use them?" Then I found that they were the only characters in the game that could heal mp, which allowed them to keep my party fully stocked during battles without needing any healing items. My first full blog post was actually on how oddly synergistic Amarant is given his initial prickly personality.

#11 Posted by thatpinguino (1825 posts) -

@dankempster: Also thanks for the compliment on the blog post! It was something I have been thinking about for a while.

#12 Posted by Slag (5448 posts) -


I wonder since Final Fantasy seems to be the common thread here between our playstyles then perhaps it is a factor why there is this item hoarding playstykle similarity that we both have and @dankempster seems to have as well (I used the exact same party in FFIX fwiw). Maybe Final Fantasy's old game design subtly encourages hoarding, by scaring the player with massive difficulty spikes in late game bosses. The NES and SNES Final Fantasy games definitely encouraged an expedition mindset for a boss run due to the limited save points in dungeons. Which was more or less retained in the PS1 games as well.

The next RPG I played after Dragon Warrior was Final Fantasy I. Making that final boss run to get to Garland/Chaos was brutal. All those Gas and Zombie Dragons really ripped me up by the time I go to him. I played Dragon Warrior fist but Final Fantasy was the game where I became a JRPG fan for life more or less.

I've never actually played Magic: The Gathering, so that could somewhat explain the difference between us in party construction philosophy.

With that observation in mind it raises the question, Are we shaping our gaming experience to suit our personal whims or are games shaping the way we play them?

#13 Posted by thatpinguino (1825 posts) -

@slag: Firstly, the first FF game I played was FF8 so while I think that game encouraged some item hoarding for refining purposes, I really never experienced a game with the difficulty spikes that Dragon Warrior and FF1 have until I was older. Though I did not necessarily know that I did not need to hoard items at the time when I was playing. I think that FF8's refinement system paralyzed me when I was little because every item functions in so many ways that using one in the conventional way seemed like it could be a mistake.

Second: I think that games act as both a medium for personal expression and a vehicle for new experiences, so really I think that game playing is a bit of give and a bit of take. Games give you a window into different worlds and give you the tools to shape that world in some fashion based on your own thoughts, desires, and values.

#14 Posted by lethalsilicong5 (4 posts) -

I like having fun with games when they give you opportunities. I would pick Knuckles in S3&K since he can glide around and climb walls Sonic couldn't. Devil May Cry also lets you have tons of fun with the different guns you can use.

#15 Posted by Marcsman (3371 posts) -

It's true alcohol makes everything better. Cheers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#16 Edited by Video_Game_King (36566 posts) -

@marcsman said:

It's true alcohol makes everything better. Cheers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know you meant to post in another thread, but I love how it's still relevant to this one.

#17 Posted by Marcsman (3371 posts) -

@marcsman said:

It's true alcohol makes everything better. Cheers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know you meant to post in another thread, but I love how it's still relevant to this one.

Nope I meant it for this one. Recently discovered the joys of drinking in GTA V. I mean real life too. Now bring me Minecraft for the PS4 and liver watch out!!!!!!! Ha ha ha

Drinking it's just not for Rockband or Just Dance anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#18 Edited by ImmortalSaiyan (4745 posts) -

I don't think I have such a pattern across genres but can think of some trends.

For intance in any game that allows you upgrades I always go for more combat moves so I can experiment with the combat and figure out what works best for me and have more tools for any given situation. Kinda like going through the character in a fighting game see how they play.

In games with magic spec options I always tend to prefer fire based abilities and will spec myself that way.

In fighting games I will always pick the character at first who is most aesthetically appealing and my play style always prefers characters with solid footsie options/range. Characters who don't really excel at far away zoning or up close pressure but make due mid range.

#19 Posted by Schatzy23 (181 posts) -

I know for every game that allows you to build and upgrade a character, I always go for brute force and health over any magic or thievery. An example would be my Skyrim character. I got the heavy armor, shield, and one handed weapon ranked up so quickly that I had to stop myself from doing those skills and start leveling up other skills to increase my rank.

I also am notorious for item hording. I will always grab everything I can, then dumb it off at shop as soon as I can. I think that probably goes back to the early days of gaming and always being afraid of what's coming around that corner.

#20 Posted by thatpinguino (1825 posts) -

@marcsman: That might not be the healthiest lesson... but it is definitely a lesson

@schatzy23: Is there a reason that you go brute force? Like preferring melee combat or liking to have a wide margin for error?

@immortalsaiyan: Could your well rounded approach to rpgs and fighting games be a cross-genre pattern?

#21 Posted by Schatzy23 (181 posts) -

@thatpinguino: I think the reason I prefer the brute force/melee focused path is I have never had the patience with some games or myself to be much of a magic or ranged fighter. And sometimes, it's just fun to be a super powerful melee dude. Like my Juggernaut character I upgraded in X-Men Legends 2. Every two or three swings would knock down the toughest enemies (minus bosses) on the harder difficulties.

#22 Posted by thatpinguino (1825 posts) -

@schatzy23: I tend to just go bursty in action games under the assumption that if I hit something hard enough fast enough it won't have a chance to hit me back. That sometimes means magic and sometimes melee.