So Fez II Got Cancelled For A Dumb Reason

So Fez II got cancelled recently. Let’s talk about it.

So if you haven’t heard (And let’s be honest, by now you probably have) Phil Fish has cancelled Fez II. His reason for doing this wasn’t artistic integrity, or a lack of funding, or something else totally understandable, but rather, cyberbullying. It was a pretty interesting story.

Phil Fish has been at the heart of controversy for some time now, even before the release of Fez he made headlines with comments like “All Japanese Games Suck Period” (Which is patently false) and “Fez is a console game, not a PC game. End of story.” That last one in particular is interesting, not just because Fez now has a PC release, but because in a lot of ways I understand it. When it comes down to it, Phil Fish didn’t really say anything all that terrible to earn the flack he got. His comment basically came down to “The PC can’t emulate sitting on a couch with a controller” which, hilariously is totally doable now, but on some level I understand where he’s coming from.

The reason I bring this up is because this story has garnered two major responses, “What happened to Phil is a tragedy and just goes to show how toxic your comments can be”, and “Phil’s a whiny cunt whose absence will be a blessing.” I feel the need to preface that I don’t personally hate Phil Fish. As stupid as his comments are, I don’t feel like he was a detriment. I also don’t think he was a victim when he so bluntly invites controversy into his life. Moreover, I really want to talk about the greys of this situation. Let’s be totally clear here; Phil could not have deserved the massive outpouring of threats and cynicism he got, but he was ultimately the cause.

The internet is a pretty amazing thing, no doubt it’s one of the greatest creations of humanity. It’s an intricate web of wires that allows you to be best friends with someone a continent away and learn the lifestyles of those you otherwise wouldn’t know exist. Describing it is almost surreal, but it’s undoubtedly real. (I hope it is at least. It’s kind of hard to read this without it) Unfortunately we all too often see the big downside to this system. While the boundaries between people are lowered, it’s also much easier to cross lines you likely shouldn’t with diminished consequences. To say something like “I hope you get raped” in the real world would get you knocked out, arrested, or at the very least make you a social outcast. In virtual space, those rules are far, FAR harder to enforce.

This is likely because these threats are far less imposing on the internet. In reality, no one is going to track you down, likely across the country, to rape your wife because you talked shit about Japanese games. Still, it’s hard not to wipe your brow when someone says something like that because goddamn that is fucked up. When you enter the public spotlight, this intensifies considerably. So chances are, Phil was subject to some very brutal comments on a daily if not hourly basis. Once more I want to emphasis what you likely already know, that ain’t cool yo.

As depressing as it sounds this is simply a consequence of becoming a public persona, it always has been. The sheer amount of hate mail celebrities got even before the internet is proof that it is simply a drawback to the lifestyle. However, most celebrities have publicists and people to coach them on how to deal with these statements. Phil Fish, as an independent, didn’t get these people to guide him to his thicker skin. He got all of the downside and didn’t even get to have a month long burnout marriage. Weep with me dear reader. Weep for phil Fish.

So Phil Fish was in some pretty extreme circumstances, but it isn’t unprecedented. Many people bigger than phil have withstood the same torrent and maintained their status and dignity. The issue is that in a lot of respects, Phil intensified this torrent ne fold with his comments. Things like telling people to “Boycott harder” is bound to bring up more ire than is necessary. If you’re making such comments you need to be ready for that, (hell some people revel in it) and all signs point to Phil just not being ready for it. This isn’t some naive indie being crucified for making a platformer, this is someone inviting conflict into their lives and getting sad about it.

Were this the reason for Fez II’s cancellation I think I’d sympathize a lot more, but this was not the direct cause. Despite what many articles might imply, the shit stream may have weathered Fish but the killing blow was dealt by a man named Marcus Beer. After asking the question “Who the fuck is Marcus Beer?” I’m sure you want to know the answer to the real question, “No seriously, who the fuck is Marcus Beer?”

Well marcus Beer is an internet personality who runs a show on Game trailers where he is better known as “The Annoyed Gamer.” You can probably see where this is going. Beer spends his show commenting on current events and one such event was a recent controversy between Phil Fish, fellow indie dev Jonathan Blow, and ever omnipresent game magazine Game Informer. You see, as of late Microsoft has been rolling back on their incredibly controversial policies regarding the Xbox one, one of those being the inability for indie devs to self publish on the service. The indie scene has become a huge part of the modern games industry, as development costs rise big publishers are less and less likely to take big risks on games, leading to a more and more homogenized industry. The indie has risen lately to be a hot bed of unique perspectives on old genres (Fez, Clone Inc.) interestingly simplistic games (Journey, Flower) and just outright fun ones (Bastion, Hotline Miami). Their presence is so important that Sony spent a chunk of their E3 presentation establishing how easy it is for Independents to develop for the new PS4, as well as showcasing some of the tiles that’ll be launch ready.

Phil Fish was at the forefront of this indie wave with his game Fez. While blow may have established the console market as viable for indie developers with his pinnacle of pretension, Braid, Fez’s development was well known and followed in the gaming press from it’s reveal in 2007, to it’s eventual release in 2012. In a lot of ways Fez was the little indie that could, as it’s development was wrought with problems both professional and personal. 2012 was ultimately the year that independent seemed to prove it was on par with blockbuster titles, and in review the indie scene was the most heavily awarded when the time game for the various outlets to name their top titles. Fez also topped many of these list, competing with fellow indie tiles Journey and The Walking Dead.

Phil Fish was fairly vocal about sony’s “Commitment to indie devs” and had Fez II slated for a PS4 release, so it makes sense that he (and Braid developer Jonathan Blow) would have something to say when Microsoft decided to remove the hefty cost of publishing on the Xbox, which was previously around 10,000 dollars. As Marcus Beer recounts it, “[They] decided to go bananas and bitch and moan to Game Informer, in particular about “How dare you, how dare you ask us questions about this story! I’m sick of you guys wanting my opinion on this story!” Both of them, both bitching away.” marcus is not known for his sensitivity.

In short, Gameinformer tried to interview the two on their opinion of the new system, but neither of them wanted to comment and seemed upset with how they felt hounded by the press on anything indie. Notably the duo starred in a film about the development of indie games (the aptly named Indie Game: The Movie) and became (as Mr. Beer puts it) “The self styled kings of indie” explaining their predicament. He goes on to point out that the press promotes their games and without them, Fez would not have been successful, and by cooperating with them they only get more coverage.Mr. beer may be a shithead but in some sense I do agree with him. Fez, and by proxy Fish, was the heart of a controversy when a game breaking bug in Fez couldn’t be fixed because of the cost. While the patch was relatively simple, Microsoft requires a fee of a few thousand dollars per patch.

Considering this and that the press are trying to feel out what the policies mean to developers themselves, it wouldn’t really be a big deal for them to comment on it, and the two do come off as fairly snippy considering how big they are in the indie scene, largely BECAUSE of the gaming press. Regardless, Marcus lacks tact and comes off as a massive dickhead in his words, even if they have merit. Ironically, it’s exactly how I’d describe Phil Fish. Needless to say, Phil got a little upset at his.

Okay he got mad wack yo.

Marcus Beer may have said some unnecessarily mean things but the worst thing he called Phil was an asshole. phil’s response is drastically worse, as you can see. Just so you know, “Compare your life to mine and then kill yourself” is a futurama quote. One that doesn’t actually work out of context. So as you might ascertain, Phil was not very happy. He was pretty far from happy. From here, marcus Beer offered to bring Fish on the show to debate this topic but of course Phil wasn’t in the mood. He then cancelled Fez II.

Fez II’s cancellation was hasty and just as sudden as the above statement. It came out of the blue, and was stated to be “The end of a long, bloody campaign” for Phil. And with a bang, phil Fish leaves games behind.

The fallout for this controversy was, in many respects, more interesting than the controversy itself. Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb spent the latter half of his article trying to convince the audience (or more likely, himself) that there was enough positives to the internet to justify it’s existence, noting the out pouring and love the site received for the recently deceased Ryan Davis. Edge Online had a particularly mean remark with it’s closing line, “You might hate him- but at the end of the day he made Fez, so he’s probably better than you.” Which seems in incredibly poor taste.

In all of this, few have pointed out the grand irony in all this. From his glass house, phil Fish claims that people “Don’t know how much this shit hurts.” At the same time, He says things like “It must suck to be a small time commentator, only being able to vomit from the sidelines.” Marcus Ber may have thrown the first stone, but he didn’t throw them as hard as Phil.

Ultimately, Phil’s departure is not a blight on the industry. We did not lose a bright star who was attempting to elevate the medium like Hideo Kojima, or change the very way the industry provides a service like Gabe Newell. He’s an indie dev who made a retro platformer. He made a good one, but there will be others, and the loss of Fez II is not a black cloud that we will never leave behind. It’s just an egotistical prima donna taking his frustration out on the few people who made it worth it- his fans. And that’s the worst part about it.

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My Many Problems With Final Fantasy 13 Part 2

It’s at this point that once more I need to specify that FF13 does not explain It’s mythology to the viewer, instead expecting them to look it up themselves in the game’s wiki. I personally didn’t explain this because I wanted to recreate that feverish first few hours, but at this point I did read the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom and actually found out what the hell is going on, so i figure I might as well do the same to you.

FF13 takes place on two worlds, the Monstrous uncivilized planet Gran Pulse, and it’s technological utopian moon Cocoon. While Cocoon is civilized and incredibly advanced, Gran Pulse is seemingly occupied solely by monsters and everything from there is seen as poisoned or cursed. Both worlds are populated by strange beings called Fal’Cie.

Now describing the Fal’Cie in any stringent terms is kind of impossible, as the game features a wide variety and doesn’t seem to have any rules to govern what they are or do, so I’ll give you my own definition. The Fal’Cie are god like beings, but are so advanced they’re beyond human comprehension. They can’t communicate clearly as they simply don’t understand human beings. Despite this, the Fal’Cie conscript humans into their plans often. A Fal’Cie will brand a human with their mark, turning them into a L’Cie. A L’Cie is then given a “Focus”, a mission to accomplish for the Fal’Cie. Completing it turns them to crystal, making them immortal. Failing it turns them into Cie’th, monsters forced to roam the world in perpetual hell.

From this premise alone FF13 sounds like some really interesting fiction, I mean there’s a lot to do with this, the moral conundrum of being selected by a god to fight against your home land is a very complex one with a lot of layers to it. Do you have a right to deny god’s will? Does a god have a right to force you into their own war? If the Fal’Cie are so god like, why can’t they make their Focus clear? And then there’s all the world building to do! Are there individual churches for individual Fal’Cie? Do people fight wars over individual Fal’Cie? How do they interpret the Fal’Cie’s words? Does atheism or agnosticism exist in this world? If so, in what form?

In other words, it’s an interesting premise. And it’s a complex one, giving this information to the player outside of a straight exposition dump would be difficult, so I can understand why they opted out of it. But that doesn’t justify it or make it less lazy. And as you might’ve guessed, FF13 doesn’t deliver on any of these concepts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhbpgnt9vbI&list=SP8856276FE50DAAA2

So as you might’ve guessed the Fal’Cie from Pulse are seen as demonic, which is why PSICOM destroyed the Fal’Cie in the game’s prologue. After the Fal’Cie falls and turns the lake to crystal (No, really) we then take a flashback break to before “The Purge” and see one of Snow and Serah’s last dates. As much as I want to chastise the game for not taking the opportunity to deliver some much needed exposition, the scene is pretty well done and does a good job of making Snow both more relatable and likable. Which brings us to:

1. The Wrong Protagonist

Yeah I know I touched upon this last post, but part of what makes FF13 so incredibly perplexing is it’s ability to repeat problems in radically different ways. Snow makes a far better protagonist then Lightning, and that’s after I spent much of last update bagging on him and will spend part of this doing the same.

While Serah deals with the very complex problem of being a L’Cie, Snow has to deal with seeing the woman he loves being used by indescribable monster. It allows the complicated L’Cie issue to be front in center while keeping the conflict relatable. While few people have had to deal with being forced into a religious war, most of us have had someone we love being forced into a conflict they didn’t want to be a part of and been unable to help.In fact, this conflict directly mirrors the story of FFX, but this one scene already has better characterization and plot then all of FFX.

Either way, the cutscene ends and we catch up with our motley crew of ‘heroes’. The group awaken and try to piece together what happened to then, Sazh in particular completely confused. I should point out that Sazh is easily the best character in the game. He’s the most relatable character, manages to be funny without being sad or annoying, and is typically the closest thing to an audience surrogate. Plot wise there’s no real reason for him to be the protagonist, but he game would be better for it simply because he’s awesome.

The group discover that in it’s death throes the Fal’Cie has branded all of them as L’Cie, and in the process bestowed them with magic to complete their focus. The group also realize they’ve shared a dream. For some reason (Presumably because of how advanced they are) the Fal’Cie can’t just let you your Focus and can only give broad hints about them, the group’s shared dream.

The crew realize their dream was of Ragnarok, a walking apocalypse from Pulse that attacked Cocoon some centuries ago and nearly cracked it in half. Now, each of the protagonists are from radically different backgrounds so it makes sense that they’d all interpret the message differently. Unfortunately the only person who even tries is Snow, who believes that for some reason a Pulse Fal’Cie wants them to save Cocoon. Everyone else just sort of ignores it. To be fair, PSICOM can’t be far behind and now that they’ve been branded Pulse L’Cie they might need to put some distance between them before sitting down and discussing fate. Which they never do.

2. The Gameplay

If you’re wondering why I haven’t brought up the gameplay yet it’s for two reasons. 1. the first part was long enough. 2. It doesn’t really open up until you hit this point in the game, and I want to tackle it all at once. Spoilers: I hate it. FF13 was designed to modernize Final Fantasy. It was meant to keep the essence of turn based combat while making it faster and more action packed to entice new players. Instead, it become an overly complicated mess of bullshit.

Combat in FF13 is still technically turn based but follows the principle of games like Chrono Trigger, where in taking too long can lead to the enemy getting in an early hit, encouraging quick thinking and more tense combat. Chrono Trigger simply allowed enemies to get in an extra hit, but it wasn’t a massive lose as you could take the punishment and if you were taking so long chances are your strategy would come out on top.

In FF13 you are made of chalk, at least by RPG standards. In most RPGs you can take quite a bit of punishment before you need to heal unless you’re fighting something drastically out of your league. In FF13 I think there’s maybe a 1:2 ratio of turns I didn’t heal to turns I did, so when an enemy gets in an extra hit and can completely fuck up the battle.

FF13 does move at a faster pace but it’s completely to it’s detriment. Usually an action in an RPG is definitive, it’s important and when it doesn’t pan out it’s disappointing. Taking the time to use Fira instead of Magnet should be a gamble, and if it turns out Fira doesn’t pan out when Magnet does, it feels like a failure. On top of this, having to heal or use an item to recover can often feel like a wasted turn. It’s a delicate dance and making the wrong move can be devastating, it’s what makes turn based combat so good.

FF13 lacks this sensation as by the time your attacks have taken effect you need to prepare the next round. There’s no room for breathing and cycling through menus to find the proper moves can mean death. Attacks are volleyed at the foes with no real grace or meaning, and the impacts are lost in the fray of animations. It’s nearly impossible to tell if Fira did more damage then Freeze because it’s impossible to see through the cloud of numbers and dust. Every move in FF13 feels like a mistake, and even when playing correctly I felt like I was playing wrong.

This issue is amplified with the stagger meter, a game mechanic that is the very bane of my existence. The meter requires a certain type of damage to fill up. Once it is filled the enemy staggers and takes more damage. It’s a simple enough mechanic that encourages more aggressive tactics, but in practice it bogs down the combat because many enemies are impossible to beat without staggering them.

Staggering is a time consuming process taking up to ten minutes per stagger, and even then enemies don’t take an astronomical amount of damage. Sometimes I found normal enemies that took longer to kill than bosses simply because of the immense amount of damage they can soak up. This isn’t even bringing up that the stagger meter drains over time or how you need to routinely heal.

So with all these mechanics working off of each other you don’t really have time to go digging through menus to find the right move since time is of the essence. Don’t worry! FF13 has that covered with the new Auto Battle option! Once upon a time auto battle was used to speed up combat for you to brute force through lesser enemies, but now FF13 has made Auto Battle a way of life. Why bother with strategy? Auto Battle selects the most appropriate attack for the given situation. You can’t possibly be as efficient as Auto battle is. Auto Battle is FF13. Auto battle is life. AUTO BATTLE SIMPLY IS.

So now that we know the gameplay is time consuming and plays itself, what exactly are you suppose to do during it? Well you’re in luck, because you get to take hold of the paradigm system! The Paradigm System is kind of hard to explain, it’s sort of the role each character is given during combat. Okay it’s not hard at all.

In most RPGs you have 3 main roles that you assign yourself: The jack of all trades character who can cast a wide range of moves to find what works best, the mage who specializes in offensive magic, and the medic who deals in healing. Depending on the game you might swap the roles around or have more contextual roles, but that’s usually how it goes. FF13 takes these basic roles, splits them up into multiple roles each, and then forces you to swap between them a dozen times every fight.

There’s the Ravager role specializing in normal damage, the Commando role focusing on stagger damage (grr), the synergist who specializes in status buffs, the antithetical saboteur working with status ailments, the Sentinel who takes damage, and the medic. Why. I cannot even begin to understand why these roles were split up or needed. In most RPGs the player would assign these roles based solely on the individual moves and their effects, they would be ROLE PLAYING. But we can’t have that in FF13! No, in FF13 we need to spoon feed every gameplay mechanic across 80 fucking hours.

Once again I am nothing short of amazed by this insane fuck up. Each of these systems is individually fine, but they way they’ve been mixed together makes them barely function. How? How can you so completely fuck up something so easy? I’ll never understand.

3. Repetitive story beats

Switching gears from the ludicrously complex to the overly simplistic, our motley crew is attacked by PSICOM officers. Get ready to hear that a lot, because it keeps happening and happening and happening. No matter what any time it seems like the characters might have a moment to develop or bond, PSICOM will show up and ruin it. It seems that one of the major complaints from more casual players was the overabundance of cutscenes, so Square took steps to remedy this by spacing them out with combat encounters.

Here we find something that plagues the greater games industry. Publishers have continually casualized their games in an attempt to cast a wider net and try to get some more periphery sales. But in the process they alienate their core audience and find that the casual audience really doesn’t give a shit because they don’t pay attention in the first place. So you have a worse product, a pissed off audience, and no more sells then you would before.

This problem feels much more apparent in FF13 because as I’ve highlighted already, the personal conflicts are the more interesting aspect of the story. In the immense desert of Final Fantasy 13 Square occasionally brings you a canteen only for the cruel hand of PSICOM to pour it out on the ground. If you want to have the most authentic FF13 experience, copy the “And then our Motley Crew are attacked by PSICOM” like and paste it in the space between paragraphs.

And then our Motley Crew are attacked by PSICOM

4. Dissonant Linearity

Afterwards the group continue through the crystalline landscape to...to continue the story. I mean that’s as good a reason as any. So if you’ve kept your ear to the ground you might have heard that FF13 is a tad linear in it’s environments. You can’t even imagine the truth of this statement, FF13 is tubes spaced out by occasional circles that attach to more tubes. Samus Aran doesn’t have to deal with these many tubes.

And then our Motley Crew are attacked by PSICOM

Now I’m not one for parroting the opinions of others (hence the multi-part saga about how dumb FF13 is) so I won’t spend too much time on this aspect of the game but I do want to bring up how strange this linearity is in the context of the story. FF13 almost never gives you a long term goal and it makes the games story disjointed and almost schizophrenic in it’s presentation.

However, despite never giving you a goal, FF13 never lets you be lost. the game’s insane linearity is in complete juxtaposition to it’s broken wandering tone. Compare this to a game like Dark Souls where the game has a similarly lost tone, but is open ended in it’s gameplay as well, turning it into an atmospheric element rather than a detriment. So it’s not an inherent issue with this kind of story, but rather how it doesn’t communicate with the gameplay.

So we have a lost story tonally, an overly linear one gameplay wise, and a retardedly complex one mechanically. And then our Motley Crew are attacked by PSICOM.

After this our ‘heroes’ come across Serah’s crystalline body which for some reason was a mile away from them despite being in the exact same location before. As you might assume Snow freaks out and spends ten minutes trying to dig her out of the landscape so he can take her with him, presumably because he doesn’t have the attention span to remember her and wants to jerk off at some point.

5. Underused Character Moments

Now here you could probably take the opportunity to grow some bonds between the group as it’s a surprisingly human moment. For all his faults Snow’s connection and relationship with Serah makes him at least a little relatable, and from it you could even make him likable. With Lightning going through the same personal issues as Snow you could use this to show her softer side and try to convince Snow to leave Serah behind so he can complete his Focus like he promised. Hell, as we continue with the story we find out Sazh has a wife and family of his own, so it would make sense that he would relate to him and try to help.

Instead, Lightning hits him. Like, hard. And a lot. It’s kind of uncomfortable to watch but she just smacks Snow around for a bit. Which brings us to perhaps the most controversial of my issues with the game:

6. Lightning

I hate Lightning. As the game unfolds I’m given only more reasons to do so as she continually makes herself out to be brutish and violent. Despite being the ‘hero’ and being in the same boat as Snow, she’s outright abusive to Snow and won’t even listen to his point of view. She also never shows any real remorse for these actions and continually shows a lack of empathy to the plight of other characters. Couple this with the fact that in the grander scheme of things she does nothing all that important to the plot aside from existing.

Lightning is almost a deal with the devil when it comes to feminist characters as in all honesty, she might be the best example of a female protagonist in video games despite being so terrible. She’s strong, independent, not really sexualized in the game itself and no one really questions or draws attention to it. It’s entirely honest, it wasn’t done to prove a point it was done because someone wanted to have a girl as the protagonist.

And yet, it might be the most anti-feminist feminist character ever. In Lightning’s characterization as a strong soldier she loses all her femininity, any sense of affection or gentleness is lost. Lightning becomes some androgynous entity that looks like girl minus everything that makes girls the fairer sex. it’s bizarre. In a weird way, it’s the only true protagonist FF13 could have, something that finds failure even in success.

7. No exposition in exposition

As the gang continues forward you get shorter scenes of the crew standing around talking, admiring the scenery and doing something suspiciously similar to world building. I say suspiciously similar because there’s no real world building going on, nor bonding. They just sort of state facts with no real reason. “OH BOY LOOK AT ALL THIS CRYSTAL. OH BOY LOOK AT ALL THIS SANCTUM. OH BOY LOOK AT ALL THIS FOCUS.”

Compare this to Pulp Fiction, a movie built almost entirely about inane nonsense. About 60% of Pulp Fiction is characters talking about things that aren’t really relevant to the current situation, but these scenes are actually quite important. These scenes gives us some insight to the characters and make them more likable. Sure they’re talking about nothing all that important, but it’s a humanizing aspect and gives us some insight to their thought process. On top of these, the things they talk about are usually so strange you’re enticed by them regardless of their relevance. In FF13 characters just talk exposition at each other, usually while not expositing anything at all, and it just comes off as awkward.

Keep in mind, my biggest gripe with the game last update was that they didn’t exposite ENOUGH. Once more, even in success FF13 finds failure! And then our Motley Crew are attacked by PSICOM. As they continue through the crystal sea they come across some ruins that were not turned to crystal and whose purpose we will never understand. More importantly, they find a crashed plane that’s mostly functional, but most first deal with a member of PSICOM’s Mothra division to use it.

Something that comes up in FF13 is how PSICOM modifies local wildlife into cybernetic ground troops, using them like tanks or armored vehicles. As you might imagine, there’s a lot of parallels to draw between the way Cocoon views Gran Pulse and it’s treatment of local wildlife. Despite believing Pulse to be a world of monsters, but here they are turning their own animals into walking tron monsters to fight against this very threat. It’s a complicated satire of how far our governments go to avoid the militaristic fascism of third world countries and become such monstrous societies themselves. It’s a very complicated look at the world that is never highlighted or properly used because fuck you it’s Final Fantasy.

The group board the ship and manage to take off, with Sazh’s past as a civilian pilot being revealed. In the Codex. Either way the group take off and come close to Sanctum headquarters, where they see the Sanctum Fal’Cie, personified as a giant glowing light. Presumably, this Fal’Cie works as a sun for Cocoon, allowing warmth and growth on the moon that otherwise might not exist. With PSICOM on their tails (because of fucking course they are) the group fly directly into it and while they manage to get away, they’re struck by one of the Fal’Cie’s tentacles (?) and crash. Once again, I did not skip anything there, that is the exact order of events.

Following this we get the introduction of one of the game’s worst, most pointless additions.

8. Eidolon Fights

As we move back to see Snow still digging he’s attacked by (and you’ll never expect this!) PSICOM, specifically the Guardian Corps. I don’t actually know the proper distinction between the two, but as far as I can tell PSICOM are evil Pulse trained soldiers while the Guardian Corps are closer to Police. Which of course, begs the question what they’re doing here.

Snow fights them off for as long as he can but ultimately can’t keep moving. in his moment of weakness, a duo of monsters appear to save him from the attackers. The duo turn out to be Shiva, a recurring summon in the series. However Shiva turns her (their?) sights on Snow, and a boss battle begins.

Now the Eidolon fights aren’t your normal boss fights. Instead, the game decides to throw a curveball with a puzzle boss. Shiva (as well as all Eidolons) has a “Gestalt” meter, which is bullshit for how close you are to taming them. Once it’s full you press a button and gain a summon. Noticeably, attacking Shiva doesn’t do much to the meter. Instead, taking the defensive stance will fill up faster. As the boss is timed, this is vital. In general the Gestalt Gauge raises by doing the opposite of what is expected of the character. So the violent abrasive Snow can raise his Gestalt meter by taking attacks. In theory this encourages more versatile strategy and to get the player into different play styles.

In practice it (and you’ll never guess this) doesn’t work at all. This is still fairly early in the game so the player isn’t familiar enough with the combat mechanics to start working outside of it. on top of this, this is the VERY FIRST time the Sentinel role is even available, so the player will probably die once or twice without even knowing they have it. On top of this, basic attacks fill the gestalt gauge as well, and there’s no hint that you need to switch tactics. perhaps if the combat moved slower it would be more apparent that you need to change tactics as you’d see that you’re strategy wasn’t quite cutting it.

The Eidolons are pretty much worthless in combat proper but after this fight Snow passes out and we don’t get to use the Eidolon quite yet,s o we’ll talk more about that next update. With that in mind, we’ve reached the end of this update and the end of the chapter. Next time we’ll switch gears back to the under developed personal conflicts and how FF13 manages to craft one of the most layered relationships in modern video games, and how (surprisingly) the game doesn’t capitalize on it in anyway. Thanks for reading.

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My many problems with Final Fantasy 13 Part 1: Prologue To Pain

I don’t like Final Fantasy 13. You could probably guess that from the title, but I REALLY don’t like Final Fantasy 13. It’s not because I’m some sort of FF fanboy who is offended by the game or an old school RPG fanatic against anything that doesn’t make me draw my own map, I have no real experience with the series aside from what I’ve learned purely from osmosis and when it comes to RPGs I’ve got little experience with anything not involving paper plumbers. I’m just someone who wanted to get into an unfamiliar genre and instead found one of the most complicatedly flawed games ever.

FF13 goes beyond conventional game flaws. It isn’t poorly made, it isn’t falling apart at the seams, but it is bad. I have spent more time trying to fully grasp all the problems of FF13 then I have actually playing the game. It is a perpetual conundrum to me how people haven’t written dissertations about everything this game does poorly because I am nothing but perplexed by it. So Imma do it.

I don’t like Final Fantasy 13. The entire point of this little series is to go into grave detail on all the reasons I don’t like it, partly because of trying to garner some reputation as a writer, mostly because I think i’ll go crazy if I don’t let it out. So that’s what you’re in for, a Red Letter Media style breakdown of FF13. If you like FF13, that’s fine, but you might not want to keep reading. So, let’s get started.

1. No Setup

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdxVdZHDPaQ

When you boot up Final Fantasy 13 you’re treated to a cutscene of a train trafficking people in glowy robes through some canyons. One of the robed figures begins an assault on the guards, freeing the other people inside the train and boasting some visual impressive gravity powers. This is Lightning, the chick on the cover and our main protagonist. Along for the ride is fellow captive Sazh, a black man who is black and presumably has been for some time.

As the scene continues the train enters a massive cavern of rails where it’s obvious Lightning’s uprising isn’t an isolated incident, and there seems to be a full on war in the cavern. This scene establishes a few of FF13’s better parts, notably the amazing visuals and fantastic score. No matter how much I put down FF13, I’ll never knock it for being ugly or sounding bad.

Now, you’ve probably been able to deduce from the title that my problem with this scene is how it tosses you into a complex situation with no real setup on what this scene is and you’d be correct. This type of scene is very common, it’s called a Cold Open and it’s one of the easiest way to engage an audience, by putting them in an unfamiliar situation that’s visually interesting which prompts interest in what exactly is going on, allowing you to deliver exposition to an eager audience. It’s not new and it’s not bad, in fact it’s a fantastic way to introduce the viewer to their world. This problem is more long term, as we never reach the exposition stage.

2. A Severe Lack Of Exposition

At this point there’s already a lot of questions rolling around. Who are these robed figures? Why are they being moved around via train? Why are the Helghan moving them? Well, FF13 is a pretty high concept game. There’s a lot going on and a lot of things to explain, but of course you can’t just ignore the ongoing conflict to get into the fairly complicated elements of the Fal’Cie and Cocoon.

However FF13, even when giving the player a moment to reflect never gives the proper exposition to the viewer. Instead FF13 focuses on the Codex, an in-game wiki that serves as the sole source of exposition. Compare these to the Codec from metal gear Solid. Aside from the cutscene Codecs which are used to cutdown on disc space, the Codec is used to expand on plot points in the game proper, but is never necessary. So long as you pay attention you can play the entire series without using the Codec once and still have a full understanding of the story.

FF13 Even has the perfect moments built into the story to offer this exposition, and the perfect characters to ask these questions but never does so. It almost goes out of it’s way to avoid exposition, as if it was a negative. These leaves the player, confused, as we never get a direct explanation for concepts like Fal’Cie.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. As the prologue continues we follow Lightning and Sazh and as they confront “PSICOM” the strange soldiers and battle their way through the cavern. We hear some bits and pieces about Lightning, namely her status as an AWOL soldier and her mission of attacking a “Pulse Fal’Cie.” Once more, the game doesn’t explain what this is, but it’s early enough that it isn’t confusing so much as mysterious.

We’re also introduced to our third protagonist, Snow Villers. Snow leads a group of flamboyant soldiers known as NORA, a resistance front that seems to be leading the uprising even though it apparently only consists of maybe 8 people. I’m not quite sure of NORA is a bigger organization or assisting other groups in the assault. What we do see is NORA recruited the robed figures into their war, most of whom are untrained civilians.

3. Thematic Dissonance

As you can imagine, this is a pretty dark scenario. Unfortunately, almost none of the characters treat this with any sense of urgency or dread, the underlying conflict of war is completely lost on them. Instead, NORA is obsessed with heroics and almost goes out of their way to avoid any sort of strategy.

To FF13’s credit, the game does highlight this dissonance in the character of Hope, our fourth protagonist. Hope’s mother joins up with Snow’s group and is murdered because of it. Hope, being a perpetually sheltered boy, spends a good chunk of the game trying to murder Snow for it. Unfortunately the game doesn’t go deep enough into this personal conflict, opting instead to focus on the grander Fal’Cie conflict, a conflict that isn’t properly outlined and completely alien to the player.

This is actually the strangest aspect of FF13 and might be the most interesting. FF13 seems to stumble into interesting conflicts without knowing it. Hope is a far better suited protagonist than Lightning. His age gives him a unique perspective on the conflict and makes him the perfect audience surrogate, as his sheltered life style would obviously leave him naive to concepts such as Fal’Cie.

Along with Hope we’re introduced to Vanille, a young eccentric girl who seem strangely alien to the rest of the characters. The two of them play off of each other well and can relate as both are being thrust into a strange setting. Ultimately Vanille becomes heavily entwined with the main conflict and could be seen as the ‘true’ protagonist, but were it properly developed Hope could become just as vital to this conflict as Vanille. Instead, the two are set to the sidelines and underdeveloped.

4. Prolonging it’s Stay

At this point we’ve been introduced to each of our protagonists, and the game throws us another curve ball by revealing the Pulse Fal’Cie that seems at the heart of this conflict. The Fal’Cie is menacing, completely alien and colossal. Apparently nothing more than a monument, it’s profoundly strange and intriguing. Independently, each of the protagonists makes their way to the monstrosity.

Ideally, this would be the stopping point. The player has been subject to quite a bit of this way without a clear idea of why it’s going on, and in order for the story to continue properly we need to have a clear idea of what a Fal’Cie is. Here we would stop and take a moment to get some much needed exposition. A flashback to the normal lives of the heroes would probably be the best way to do this, and with one of the protagonists being a student it wouldn’t even be an out of character exposition dump.

Instead, the game continues the characters into the Fal’Cie, revealing it to be a temple like entity. We’re then introduced to the next major drawback of FF13:

5. Inconsistent action and characterization

Once inside the Fal’Cie we take control of Hope and Vanille for the first time, and the two begin to enter conflict with the monsters inside the Creature. Now, FF13 is host to some pretty big problems when it comes to consistency. Characters change motivation radically across the story, and there’s no real connection between the combat and the plot. However this particular moment is the most jarring, as the ever sheltered Hope pulls a boomerang out of his ass and begins to go to war with no training.

Now the unlikely hero is one of the most common tropes in video games, RPGs especially, but usually they preface it with some footnote on how impossible the situation is. FFX at least had Auron preface the event as life or death and Tidus is an established athlete. It makes no sense for Hope to even have this boomerang, let alone know how to use it.

It would have just been better to not have any combat at all, and instead focus on the exploration of this strange alien temple.

6. Under developed Personal Conflict

As the groups converge at the heart of the temple they find a girl upon a slab. The girl, identified as Serah, turns out to be both Snow’s Fiance’ and Lightning’s sister. Again, this adds a layer to the already complicated conflict, but it’s a much more relatable one. Amidst the Fal’Cie and l’Cie and AC/DC are these nuggets of fantastic storylines. Lightning, a soldier, is the sister of Serah who is married to Snow, a terrorist. That conflict, even if a bit far fetched, is considerably more interesting simply because we can understand it.

of all this personal conflicts this one gets the most development, but even it is lost amidst the shuffling of characters into teams and lost in the Cie chatter.Serah turns out to be a L’Cie, which is not explained at all, and implores them to complete her “Focus.” Another concept that is ill defined. her focus, apparently, is to “save Cocoon.” A place that is not defined. She then turns to crystal, as L’Cie that fulfill their Focus become crystal as a reward. Something that is defined but only after it’s relevant. With nothing to lose, Lightning and Snow head into the heart of the Fal’Cie to kill it, the rest of the group following.

The group encounter the Fal’Cie itself, a random assortment of swords and tubes that makes no sense because as you might have imagined, FF13 was written by a madman. Upon defeating the Fal’Cie, the entire group is transported to a strange dimension where they are branded by the Fal’Cie, a concept we were unaware was possible or what it means. The Fal’Cie temple then plummets hundreds of feet into the massive lake below (That we didn’t know about) and turns everything into crystal.

If you need to read those paragraphs again don’t bother. Even as I wrote them I needed to watch the cutscenes again to make sure I had the events correct, because it reads like a fever dream. But that is what happens. And this is ultimately what makes FF13 so strangely interesting. While playing it I didn’t realize how asinine and ill-defined this all was, but in review none of it makes any sense and makes me feel crazy.

It was about here that that shine of FF13 began to wear off and I saw the ugly monstrosity underneath the pretty graphics. And it only gets worse.

If you’ve read the entire article, I want to give a personal thank you for sticking with it and hope I gave some insight into my issues with the game, and hope you’ll come back for the second iteration. As we go no I plan to better compress the plot so future installments won’t be so dense. Please join me next time when we look at the combat mechanics, the poor characterization, and the infamous HALLWAYS.

6 Comments

My perfect Batman Video Game

You mother fuckers best strap in because Imma bout to explain the absolute PIZZERFECT Batman game. Here's what you do:

First off you build you a big ass city. I think like, you get Ubisoft Montreal on this shit, because if AssCreed does somethin' good it's big ass cities. You gotta give this city a vertical edge to it though, like if I fall of a building I better french the pavement so hard we be married, ya feel?

Next up you gotta give this game a calender. This'll be like, a year in the life of batman. Call it like, Year Of The Bat, or Gotham's last Year, Or some shit. You figure that out.

and like, every day you gotta decide what you do during the day as Bruce Wayne. You gotta make deals, be slick, charismatic. Go to gallas and shit you know? And like the fucking Star Labs donates 30 Million to Wayne Industries and you got like, a new fucking jet.

And some nights you like "Hey man, I Batman'd enough. I gotta be Wayne for a bit." And like you gotta socialize. And like, you learn about shit going down at these gallas. The Penguin is grubbin' on shrimp and you learn about a big heist going down and like, alert the cops and shit.

And then like, you can be all smooth and shit. "Why hello Ms. Kyle, what are you up to tonight? Oh Ms. Ghul! I didn't expect to see you here." Be bagging broads left an' right. But like, you gots to be careful. Catwoman be all up on yo family jewels and she be smellin'm some Ghulish smells and ya'll got issues. She be stealin' yo shit, and we you need her help she be all like "Screw you Bats." Damn son.

SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI: PERSONA: BATMAN

but that's small shit. Meat of the game is when you go out on patrol. Ain't no center plot line, every game is randomized. Certain events may or may not happen on certain days. Be like, 100 quests you could possibly complete during the game but some show up some don't. EVERY PLAY IS UNIQUE DOG.

Ain't no main plot line, not at first. You on patrol you get alerts to crimes and gotta be like, detectivin' and shit. You walk across a crime scene of dead bodies and there's like, a big ol' red bat sign made a' blood. You could like, analyze some shit or beat down some witnesses. MULTIPLE PLAY STYLES YO.

Alfred be callin' you up like "Master Wayne it seems a similar crime is higlhy likely at these coordinates' and you like, walk in and OH SHIT RED HOOD SHOOTIN' UP THUGS. How you gonna handle this? Talk him down? Beat him up? take him out all silent like? IT'S YO BATMAN! YOU GON' BE ALL-STAR BATMAN, NEW W52 BATMAN, NOLAN BATMAN? YOU TELL ME!

An' like, every actions counts. You got like, a hidden moral system y'know? But this ain't Mass Effect, you can't just tap RB instead of LB during a cutscene and be a paragon. No man. You walk into a room full of thugs, take em all out, and then talk down the leader? No son. You kick his teeth in whether you like it or not. That's yo' actions taking importance. You can violent, detective, or ninja. Pick a style, stick to it.

So you gots you 100 quests to do. Some you do, some you don't. Maybe this night Scarecrow is shippin' in fear gas, but on yo next playthrough people are disappearing down at the abandoned amusement park. You be getting ready for a Joker fight, and then AW SHIT KILLER CROC IS HANGING OUT AT HIS OLD FREAK SHOW. Fuckin' curve balls son.

You out doing one quest Alfred tells you about another crime, you gotta decide which quest is more important. Paper comes out tomorrow, "CROCODILE MAN MURDERS 12 COPS IN LAST STAND" shit son.

But Gotham is alive son. You got you two meters to determine how the city reacts. Crime rate, and reputation. Yo' rep is dependent on y' actions. You be beating the shit outta thugs yo' rep ain't gonna be good. But if yo' crime rate be all low and shit folks be defendin' you. "Hey man he tough but he get results!" but like, maybe you be stealthy and you ain't got no rep. but yo crime rate still supa low. Then you be like, an urban legend. "Yo son I was mackin' on Yieesha on the dumbster behind burger shot and I saw the Batman! He ran up and smacked her ass bro!" that's what they be sayin.

Like, yo rep be representated in yo look too. You go around beating dudes up you gonna have a brawny suit and a bruised face, be all Dark kngiht Returns and shit. But you be sleek and stealthy you gonna need a beyond style suit. Got high rep and low crime maybe a brighter silver age style costume, cuz you the motherfuckin' bat.

That's what I be thinkin' anywayz. I think this be a good idea. What you think?

13 Comments

my take on teaser trailers

teaser trailers. they basically do nothing beyond confirm that something exists, and far too often *cough duke nukem cough* they don't even do that. usually a camera pan of a character or a live action event that really doesn't tell you anything about the game or movie. so if you judge it and aren't in the norm, you'll inevitable come across the jackass that says "dude. it's just a teaser, wait and see." 
 
now that pisses me off. the whole point of a trailer of any kind is to decide whether or not you like it, their entire point is for you to judge them! if they're willing to spend that much time and effort on a teaser, god knows how much they spent on the actual GAME. not only that, but in the case of a a trailer with gameplay and plot details, that should be enough to tell you what to expect in the game. in the case of ratchet and clank: all 4 one (god i fucking hate that title) all i saw was a shitty ass party game that lacked the iconic weapons of the series. 
 
little side rant here, why the fuck would you play a shooter if you don't like the gun play? there were like 4 guys on my reaction to ratchet and clank party (i refuse to call it ratchet and clank 7) that said they didn't like the gun play on R&C, a shooter! go to kongregate there are literally thousands of free paltformers! hell buy a wii the only good games are platformers! well i guess that's not true but you get my point. 
 
anyway...back on track. so yeah i guess that's it. that's how i feel on teaser trailers. huh. i feel angry now, i'm gonna go play infamous, something that makes me happy. maybe i'll go watch an uwe boll movie and piss myself laughing, that's always fun.

5 Comments

what i want from a 2D game

okay so we've come a long way graphically in gaming. crysis, ratchet and clank tools of destruction, uncharted 2, okami, killzone 2 all praised for their graphics. when you want to prove your PC's worth you run crysis with it's extreme jungle beauty, despite there being games harder to run on PCs. seriously you ever try to run GTA4 on high on a PC? don't.
 
anyway being 14 i missed the age of 2D gaming, but i still love the 2D games. hell sonic 2 was my first game. so now that we're so far ahead in graphics, why is it that the one thing i want from a 2D game still hasn't been produced! what is it that i want? a moving cartoon. i want it to be fluid, i want it to be moving seamlessly, but so far i haven't seen that! look at street fighter turbo HD remix remaster championship ultra rare super collector's limited edition,  all the sprites are beautiful,  but they move like street fighter II! they smoothed it out some but it still looks chunky and very 1992-ish.
 
the closest thing to what i want is shank, and even shank looks a little...off. like the parts just kinda slide around, like someone screwed them together and left the screws loose. i don't know maybe it's because the backgrounds don't move it just seems...weird to me. but that's from the 09 trailer i haven't seen much of it since.
 
hopefully, this fully realized cartoon 2D game will appear some time, but so far i haven't seen anything like it.

2 Comments

my GOD the new ratchet and clank game looks horrible...

now let me just say i love ratchet and clank, like a lot. 3 was my favorite for the longest time, and i even thought deadllocked was great. but this? THIS!? 
 
first off the title, all 4 one, oh i get it! 4 players and for and 4 sound the same. hehehe....GODDAMN YOU LEAD 4 DEAD! i knew this would happen! 
 
but i can look past the stupid title, after all, all ratchet and clank games have stupid titles. but the game is obviously a PARTY GAME! jsut look at clank! look at him. his head is twice the size it was in crack in time. and why is nefarious player 4? i can understand him being palyer 4 but they didn't bother to explain it! who's the bad guy then? is techien coming back? is it drek? vox maybe? who!?
 
and look at it! most of the trailer is platforming, in fact the entire trailer has 1 scene of gun play. 1 scene in a SHOOTER! ratchet is firing at some enemies with a generic looking pistol. so what will the other players use? how much you want to bet they don't fire weapons at all? what to you want to bet they all have "abilities" and ratchet's is he can shoot a gun? what the fuck man!
 
you know the worst part? resistance 3, which looks awesome,was announced at the same time. now, insomniac isn't a big company, so they can only work on 1 major game at a time. that means while they were spending time working hard to fix the issues in resistance 2 for 3, some assholes they hired off the street were working on ruining my favorite franchise! 
 
now, i have no issue with co-op in a ratchet game, but you can't base an entire game around it! GOD MAN this sin't rocket science!
 
well at least resistance 3 looks awesome.

27 Comments

mass effect 2 is coming to ps3

i don't like buying games i've already owned. i badger my friend non-stop because be bought 2 copies of twilight princess and 3 of resident evil 4. but this? i think i've got to buy this one again.

37 Comments