The XP Rat Race, and Why I’m Starting to Fall in Love with Single-Player Games Again

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Hey Y’all, been a while!  You’re looking beautiful as ever ;)

Thought I’d give you a little bit of an update on my gaming life:  of course, as soon as I started recording FFIX LP eps, I saw that Legend of Dragoon was on the PlayStation Store.  So, naturally, I abandoned the LP and started playing.

I finished last night, and I’m slowly realizing that I’m turning back into a single-player gamer again.

I’ve played a lot of WoW in my day.  I’ve played 931 hours (hours.  That’s almost 39 days) of Team Fortress 2.  I’ve played almost 450 hours of Awesomenauts.  And y’know what?  I wouldn’t trade that time in for the world.  I’ve had an awesome time playing those games, preferably with friends, but also just flying solo.  For the most part, it’s been really, really fun.

However, after finishing LoD last night, I’ve figured out what has kept me going for those hundreds of hours in multiplayer games, and why I think that single-player, at least for me, is the smarter, healthier, less-time-consuming way to go.

It’s no secret that multiplayer game developers want you to get addicted to their games:  I’m sure most large sellers of…  well, anything, are doing everything they can to manipulate human psychology into making people buy what they sell.  That’s not inherently a bad thing;  it’s just the easiest way to sell stuff.  This addiction is extremely valuable, especially in the case of multiplayer games that never end, and especially if there’s a monthly fee attached to a game.  If the devs can keep coming up with new and exciting ways to keep you, the player, pushing the “reward” button, then bam, they’ve got what’s likely to be a loyal customer.

Recently, however, I’ve been feeling like there’s something…  missing.

After one of my classic rage-uninstalls of Awesomenauts (something I’ve done countless times), I began to think ahead:  what’s my end-game?  What’s the point of playing all these Awesomenauts matches, and being so pissy when I lose?  Say I get to the top of the heap, become numero uno in the entire world.  What then?

The answer?

Nothing.

There’s no point.  Of course there’s no point.  I’ll get to the top, probably feel really excited for a moment, drink four or five Miller High Lifes (nah, I’ll go Heady Topper.  This is a special occasion), and plummet right back down the leaderboards.  Even in the best-case scenario, I’ll be #1 at the end of a season, then have to start right back from square one.

I’m being needlessly negative here – of course, I love playing Awesomenauts.  It’s a great game.  It’s really fun, especially with my friends, and fun is a totally legit reason to play any game in and of itself.  If you’re enjoying it, that’s the point of the game.  Good job.

I digress.  Getting back to Legend of Dragoon.

I beat it last night, and seeing that “The End” screen gave me a sense of satisfaction unlike anything I’ve experienced in Awesomenauts or TF2.  My total play time was about 51 hours, and I accomplished every goal I set for myself in the game:  got a bunch of super-dank weapons;  leveled my party to almost-godlike proportions;  kicked the final boss’ ass (and the optional superboss, to boot).  I did everything I wanted to do in the game, and at the end…  That was it.  There are no leaderboards to climb, no rankings to compare myself to my friends.  It was a personal journey, one with a beginning and an end, and now it’s over.

When I play Awesomenauts or TF2, I look at the characters less as “characters in a game, each with their own personality, and trying to accomplish a goal”, and more as stat blocks:  anonymous avatars whose abilities will, hopefully, allow me to crush the opposing team’s anonymous avatars.  There is nothing wrong with this.  The personal connections I feel to the characters in single-player RPGs is certainly stronger.  I root for them to achieve their hopes, their dreams, their goals;  I am with them through times of happiness and sorrow, and feel empathy for them.  This is because I feel like we’ve been on a journey together:  it’s not a 20-minute match that can simply be restarted again and again.  Both the characters and the player grow and learn throughout the process of playing an RPG, and when the journey is over, there’s a sense of finality that, while playing these multiplayer games, I forgot I was searching for.

Of course, I have since reinstalled Awesomenauts.  I fully intend to keep playing it.  It’s fun as shit.  But I don’t think I’m going to be quite as… intense about it.  I’m out of the XP Rat Race, the endless quest for higher standing.  It brings me passing, hyperactive joy, but not happiness.  Not satisfaction.

I had forgotten where to find that feeling, the reason I fell in love with games in the first place.  Thanks to Legend of Dragoon, I’ve found it again.

Fun Times in a New FFIX Playthrough

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I think this is the first time this has ever happened (to me, at least).

I started a new game, and, as always, attempted to steal the Mage Masher from Baku (Or “The Masked Man”) at the beginning of the game.

In this battle, Baku has 3 items to steal:  A Potion (100% steal rate), a Wrist (25% steal rate), and the Mage Masher (6.25% steal rate).

I stole all 3 in only 3 steal attempts.  It was absurd.

If you do the probability on that, that has a 

1.00 * 0.25 * .0625 = .015625 = 1.5625% chance of happening.

Pretty wild, man.

Don’t believe me?  Luckily for you, you’ll be able to see for yourself, because I recorded it and will be posting it online soon.  And then I’ll post the rest of this playthrough, because I’m finally getting back on the Let’s Play horse.

#FFIXBLP is back, baby.

(…  That stands for “FFIX Blog Let’s Play”, and I just made it up now.  Tell your friends.)

Email Address Change

Hey Y’all,

Just thought I’d let you know – I changed my email address a few months ago, and forgot to let anyone know about it, because I suck.  Anyway, it’s changed from zidane@finalfantasyix.com to FFIXBlog@gmail.com.  If you’ve emailed the other address in the past few months and I haven’t responded…  That is precisely why.

Any Interest in a FFIX (Re)Playthrough/Discussion?

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Man, sorry it’s been so long – it’s been a super-busy couple of months:  just moved in with my girlfriend, I’m participating in two Pathfinder campaigns (running one…  now that is some work), and doing a lot of writing and golfing on the side.  Whew!  (Not to mention that whole “going outside” thing…  when you live where I live, you take every snow-less day as a gift!)

Anyway, I’m getting my LP-recording stuff back from my brother…  within the next few weeks, and will be recording a new attempt at a Let’s Play (without spoilers this time, I think).  So I had a question for y’all:

How do you feel about going through the game together?  Anyone up for a FFIX-playing club this year?

I’m not thinking about going too fast – we could even do a disc a month or so, then be done around the end of the year.  Then I can either put up a post here or start a thread on the forums every once in a while, and try to start up some discussion…  Whatever.  We can figure out the pacing and stuff, if I find that there’s interest;  I just wanted to check.

I hope everyone’s summer is going superbly!  I just got my first birdie of the year a few weeks back, so that was super exciting for me :D

Happy Birthday FinalFantasyIX.com!

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Damn.  Year 1, already complete!

Just a quick overview of what has happened at FFIXBlog over the past year:

-  13,000 page views
–  69 posts (neheheheheheheh)
–  Almost 200 followers
–  Created a forum with a few members
–  A super-cool poster contest, with one of the followers winning “The Art of Final Fantasy IX” art book
–  A text-based C++ version of Tetra Master (yes, it’s utter shit right now, but hey, if you know JavaScript, hit me up!)
–  A few interviews with people who worked on FFIX
–  Me having a buttload of fun writing about my favorite game of all time
–  I’ve even got a couple of bucks donated!

Man, it’s been awesome, guys, really.  Thanks so much.

A reminder that this is your site, too – if you wanna contribute an article or start a topic on the forum, etc., etc., please do!  I’d love for there to be a nice community around this site and Final Fantasy IX in general :)

Have a super day, guys!  I’m working on writing something up about the ending of KH, too (which I finished).  Great game.

Also, I’ll be starting up a new blog, broetry.com, where I will be writing beer-swillin’, backwards-snapback-wearin’, ridiculous poetry.  It’ll probably be up next month.

Necron: The Really, Truly, Seriously Most Underrated Villain in All of Final Fantasy

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Hi Everybody!

I was thinking about the feedback that I got from the Kuja post, and I was amazed by the response;  I’m glad I got people to look a little further into the character of Kuja, and see that he wasn’t all pomp and flair, and could actually stand on his own as a great Final Fantasy villain.

That said, I was just talking with a buddy of mine, and we were talking about the end of FFIX.  We are both huge IX fans, and the subject turned to the final boss, Necron.

“Yeah, the less said about Necron, the better,”  he said.  “He was definitely just thrown in there.”

Now, I think this was the first time we had truly disagreed on something FFIX-related.

“Wait, what?  What are you talking about?”  I sputtered, and we proceeded to have a heated debate about Necron’s purpose for a few minutes.

After these few minutes, my friend said, “y’know, I think this would make a great blog post.”

SO HERE I AM!  :D

Anyway, here goes:

Yeah.  Necron.  Gets shit on by pretty much everybody, right?  You may think he’s one or more of the following:  useless;  never referenced;  no purpose in the game?

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Let me begin, like I did with my Kuja post, by saying that I don’t expect to turn you into a huge Necron fan.  I’m just trying to give you a bit of my perspective on why I think he’s fantastic.  Maybe I’ll even get you thinking that there is a bit more to him than you previously thought.  That’d be great.

From what I’ve read, it seems like Necron may be mentioned once or twice throughout the game, but these claims seem shaky at best.  My question is, how is one supposed to know of the existence of an entity that exists outside of normal spacetime?  This, of course, is kind of a flimsy excuse for making a final boss, but, in Pixar’s “22 Rules of Storytelling“,  #19 says “Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great;  coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.”  Again, not saying that this is a great excuse to just throw a final boss into the mix, but this is the perspective with which I look at the final battle.

I’ve read that Necron is “summoned” by Kuja’s hate and fear.  I have a different perspective.

kuja ultima

Kuja, right after he casts Ultima.

Now, here’s what I see in the above gif:

-  The main characters disappear.  The only time you see that in-game thus far is when someone or something dies.

-  The Crystal is no longer behind Kuja.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:

-  When Kuja casts Ultima, it destroys the Crystal.  The Crystal’s destruction is what prompts Necron to come start kickin’ ass, not just Kuja’s massive amounts of butthurt.

-  The heroes were the first people to die after the destruction of the Crystal, which is why they’re in this weird quasi-death-realm thing.

-  When Necron is defeated, the crystal is restored due to the “nothingness-vacuum” caused by his absence.  Because Necron is the personification of oblivion/nothingness, when he is defeated, he’s gotta be replaced by… somethingright?

Huh.  Weird.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Necron made… some sort of sense existing, at least.  He’s also a great foil for…  well, every protagonist in the game.

These characters have been through hell.  Homelands have been laid to waste.  Family members, loved ones, and thousands more have been slaughtered, many of which were at the hands of Garnet’s own mother, gone mad with greed.  Freya’s lover, Sir Fratley, who she has been searching for for years, has no memory of their past.  Eiko’s family was dead or missing.  Steiner and Amarant’s most long-standing philosophies, one of blind loyalty to another, and one of blind loyalty to self, that had kept them alive through the most dire of circumstances, are dissolved before their eyes;  the same thing happens with Vivi and Zidane, except instead of their philosophies, they face an even more harrowing question:  the status of their humanity itself.

I don’t think Necron is a useless, no-purpose final boss.  Quite the contrary – I think he’s the linchpin of the game, the story, and the transcendent theme of Final Fantasy IX.  Without Necron, the game would cease to have the exact quality which I think makes it the greatest video game in history:  the absolute, against-all-odds, blindingly-bright love of life itself that finally answers the great question that each of our protagonists face when they are staring down the seductive peace of utter oblivion:  “is life worth the pain it brings?”.  Each of the characters above have fan-fucking-tastic reasons to say, “Hey, nothingness sounds pretty great, compared to the shitstorm that I’ve been through!”.

Not one of them does.

After everything they’ve been through, each and every one chooses life.

I think this has a two-pronged effect.  If thought of in this manner, the choice shows more starkly than ever before the fortitude of the heroes, as well as making Kuja slightly more sympathetic and less villainous.  He’s just scared, guys.  He’s been dealt much the same hand as Zidane, and he’s scared.  He doesn’t want to die;  more importantly, he doesn’t want the fear of death.  Who can be blamed for trying to escape fear?  Not that Kuja went about it the right way or anything, but still, he was misguided and scared, and I can’t blame him for that.

Maybe Necron could have been referenced more in-game;  maybe he should have been somehow hinted at, if only for the player’s knowledge;  maybe it’s not an original idea.  But Necron is the character who poses, once and for all, this final question to the protagonists of Final Fantasy IX, providing the single most intense experience I have ever felt from a piece of media in my life.  I was 11 when I experienced this;  it was the first time I had encountered such a question, and Zidane’s response left me in tears.

“I’m gonna live!”.

I can’t call that useless.

Master Redux Hiatus and a Continuation of my Kingdom Hearts Adventure

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Hey Y’all,

I’ll be honest.  This Master Redux thing has burned me out.  I’ve been working my butt off, but I simply think I don’t know enough JavaScript to continue work effectively on the project right now.  I tried using this thing called Emscripten to translate my C++ into JS, but it kinda seemed like a pipe dream from the start;  besides, even if it worked, it’d be really hard to debug/add any functionality :/  so for now, the Master Redux plans are on hold.  I’m going to keep learning how to program, and we’ll see what happens.

Also, I’m around level 30 in Kingdom Hearts.  Just saved Pinocchio from Monstro.  As I suspected, Riku is a dick.  AND YAY I FOUND A FFIX REFERENCE IN MONSTRO :D

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Look Familiar?

Anyway, I just wanted to let you guys know.  I’m sorry to all who were really looking forward to a playable Tetra Master port anytime soon – it’s just really hard to do on your own, especially when you really are learning JS/HTML/CSS from scratch.  I’ll keep plugging away, but it’s gonna be a while, unless a JS expert falls into my lap.

 

Love y’all,

Casey

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