The fun I had last week: RPG Maker Fes!!

OK, to be honest, the past week was … too hot, exhausting, and all I did was work and sleep. Friday, of course, saw the release of Ever Oasis and RPG Maker Fes. I have not played Ever Oasis yet, but RPG Maker is a lot of fun!

RPG Maker Fes has its limitations, compared to the PC versions, which allow for a lot of customization. But that’s understandable, isn’t it? After all, you can share your games online, so there probably needs to be a limit to file sizes and a way to make sure no one contributes inappropriate or copyrighted images, sound files etc. Limitations are also good for creativity, because they make you try to figure out what you can do with the things you have at your disposal. And let’s not underestimate the following factor: Since there’s no option of custom graphics or sound, there is no pressure to use them. You fall into this trap where you think you have to create unique graphics before you can actually start making the game, and don’t end up stuck in the planning phase. Well, at least that’s what I imagine it’s like for many people, especially those that do not have an actual talent for pixel art …

I’ve been surprisingly productive with RPG Maker Fes over the weekend, although I started without a plan. Not that I don’t have game ideas, but I let myself be inspired by the available character designs and chipsets and came up with a completely different idea. And … I don’t really have a proper plan for the game. Right now, I am stuffing a small town full of details and interaction possibilities. I made a first little “sidequest” which took hours and was really complicated because it required several switches and I am easily confused!

There seem to be a lot of RPG Maker veterans who are disappointed by the limits of this version of the program, but it’s probably a really good RPG Maker for beginners, exactly because of these limitations. Obviously, you have to look for tutorials elsewhere, since the program itself contains no detailed explainations, but you can build a nice little game without getting bogged down with the pressure to avoid standard chipsets and use custom scripts and all sorts of fancy things.

I hope this first game turns out well, because I’d really like it to be good enough to share online. After all, I am curious to know what other people think. But first things first. I must figure out the structure of this game. It shouldn’t be too long, but it needs to be able to tell some kind of story. Tricky, tricky. I have not really done anything with battle yet. It’s all town exploration so far. And one pretty elaborate cut scene, which I am very proud of.

 

 

Regarding the Bravely Second sidequest changes

Another sort-of-addendum to the old post about ethical choices in videogames, where I talked about the Bravely Second sidequests. You probably remember that Bravely Second‘s release in the west was met with some backlash due to several localisation changes. One job outfit was changed to avoid racist stereotyping, a few other outfits were slightly modified to show less skin, but most importantly: the way that the sidequests worked was amended.

Spoilers!

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Chrono Trigger: thoughts on a certain yes/no choice …

Remember when I wrote something about ethical choices in videogames? Uh, I won’t blame you if you don’t, it was a long time ago. Back then I said that there was a specific choice in Chrono Trigger that I wanted to write about in more detail. And then … erh, I didn’t do it. Months passed! But it’s been nagging at me all this time!!!

So I’ll write about it on this fine, sunny day! Spoilers for Chrono Trigger will follow, and I recommend you play this game, because it’s vey good.

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The fun I had last week – Sunday wrap-up

I’m forcing myself to write these posts even if I haven’t managed to write a proper blog post all week. I was kind of busy wih real-life stuff, and … videogames, haha. I’ve been focusing on Dragon Quest VII lately, and made considerable progress. Perhaps I will manage to finish the game before Ever Oasis comes out?

Playing DQ7 put me in a Chrono Trigger mood, because it’s a JRPG, it has Toriyama designs and it involves time travel! I don’t feel like replaying Chrono Trigger at the moment, but I do like to listen to its music and think about its plot and characters.

Square Enix announced a new game by Tokyo RPG Factory, the guys who made I Am Setsuna (another game I’ve yet to complete). Lost Sphear looks a lot like I Am Setsuna, and the trailer suggests that it’s also going to have a melancholic feeling. But the settings aren’t exclusively snowy and the soundtrack isn’t piano-only, so I’m thinking that this game is probably going to have a more open and adventury feel? The plot sounds kind of like The Neverending Story, which isn’t a bad thing, of course. That book will always be special to me.

I’ve decided to quit visiting The Mary Sue. It’s something I’d mostly been doing out of boredom and because I don’t really know any other websites of that type. But since I don’t care for Marvel, superhero movies and Star Wars all that much, most of their content is boring and irrelevant to me anyway. I also think this narrow focus on the biggest franchises is not compatible with the website’s supposed feminist ideals. Most of their resources go towards promoting multi-billion dollar corporations, instead of more obscure stories and creators that don’t get much attention from mainstream platforms. I have a similar problem with AnimeFeminist, who focus a lot on current moe anime available via Crunchyroll, and who have neglected to talk about a couple of manga that should be right up their ally as far as “feminism” is concerned … But anyway, that’s not a fair comparison because AniFem is just a bit disappointing, while TheMarySue is actually loathesome in their hypocrisy and disdain for their readership. The PR disaster surrounding the Geekosystem merger is a great example. For something more recent, try this article, an ad for an unpaid internship at TheMarySue. After commenters criticize the website for not paying their interns, the article is quietly edited to remove any mentioning of unpayment. Which is a bit dishonest already, but to top it all off, a TMS writer goes around the comments smugly telling everyone “Where does it say it’s unpaid?”, which is just incredible disrespectful and insulting and dishonest and so many adjectives more. Basically, this website has no credibility left. I don’t consider it a feminist website at all. I’m not saying that the individual writers and editors aren’t feminists; but the website itself, the way it is organized, financed and run, makes it a very bad platform for actual feminist thought.

I really hate that fandom has been taken over by all these shitty enterprises that try to cash in on pop culture hypes, usually exploiting young, aspiring writers who are naive enough to believe that writing clickbait listicles is going to count as “experience in journalism” and help their future career. A few months ago someone offered me the ~amazing opportunity to work for him for free and get “exposure” – in retrospect, I should have been much less polite. I genuinely hope that all of these websites fail and disappear. Remember: if someone is going to be making money with your work, you deserve to be paid for it; if your business model hinges on unpaid labour, your business deserves to go down.

Anyway … I wonder if E3 is going to bring any videogame news that is relevant to my interests. I hope so. I actually have this dream fantasy that Square Enix is going to reveal Final Fantasy XVI and it will be a “back to roots” kind of thing that melds traditional Final Fantasy traditions with a unique graphics style and more modern elements that feel fresh and unique. I really appreciate all the non-FF titles that Square Enix has produced lately, but deep down inside, I just want to get excited about a Final Fantasy game again. I want to listen to the main theme and get chills of anticipation, I want to save crystals, ride chocobos, stuff like that!

What else? I promise that the next Kenshin post is going to come soon. It’s just such a good part of the manga, I don’t want to half-ass my commentary! I am also deeply in love with Wave, Listen To Me. I wish I was one of those influential bloggers so I could convince people to read it! Alas, I’m not.

 

The fun I had last week – Sunday wrap-up

I am in a race against time: Later this month, Ever Oasis and RPG Maker Fes will be coming out – on the same day, even! Since one of them is technically not a game, but a game creation engine (for noobs), I can easily play them at the same time without getting annoyed. But I still haven’t finished Dragon Quest VII. I haven’t been playing a lot of videogames lately. Some adults would consider this proof of their maturity, but I just feel like a failure.=P  I hate having unfinished games, and when it comes to Dragon Quest, it’s like I’m cursed. But I will finish this one.

So much manga, though. So little time. I am proud of my collection. It’s not especially large, but that’s the point: it’s only titles I actually consider worthwhile or interesting! There are so many Youtube videos where people show off their manga collections, and it’s all about how many books they have, like, the sheer numbers! Many people even say that they keep buying a series just to have it complete, even though they don’t enjoy it. I don’t get that. I wouldn’t have the space for this to begin with, but I don’t see the point of spending money on something you don’t care for.

I feel very disconnected to English-language manga fandom. That’s probably to be expected, because I’m not American and I rarely read manga in English. I speak French, so I buy French manga. The quality is better, the price is lower and there’s a greater choice of titles. But English is the language I’ve always used for my fandom activities, so I’m kind of stuck in my own personal corner!

While tidying up my manga shelf corner, I found a potted plant that I had put in that corner at one point, and then … forgotten. It’s a vriesea … in red, but I cut off (ripped off) the red leaf padle because it had completely dried up. Considering that this plant hadn’t been watered for a couple of weeks, or even months, it must be completely dried out anyway. But I can’t tell, the leaves are still completely green. Apparently this particular plant dries out without turning brown? Or it’s super-resilient. It’s also growing two or three sideways offshoots, which makes me excited about this plant again. The reason I forgot about it to begin with was that it always looked the same … Is there a manga about house plants? There must be.

I bought Dungeon Meshi vol. 1. In the USA it’s being released under its Engrish subtitle, Delicious in Dungeon, but I got the French version, which has the superior title: Gloutons et dragons. Admit it, that’s brilliant! One thing I’ve found surprising about the reception of this manga is that no one is mentioning how very many JRPGs contain a cooking feature. It’s been in some older titles, like Tales of the Abyss, but more recently it’s been in I Am Setsuna and in Breath of the Wild! Just to name some. The feature felt a bit out of place in I Am Setsuna, which really made me wonder when and why “cooking in jRPGs” even became a thing. This is an excellent opportunity to promote the blog Pixelated Provisions, which is dedicated to the worthy cause of recreating meals and food from videogames.

The weather is nice and I am feeling much more energetic than I’ve felt in a while! I’m a loser who’ll spend that energy on videogames, manga and hopefully on blogging.

Videogame music analysis!? Be still, my heart.

Great news! I stumbled across a fairly new Youtube channel, Game Score Fanfare, which is dedicated to analysing music in videogames. Awesome! I’ve been waiting for a channel like that! There are only four videos so far, but among them are an analysis of “You’re Not Alone” from Final Fantasy IX and an analysis of the use of character themes in Bravely Default. (Both videos contain spoilers.)

Memories! Back when I had just finished FF9, I asked a friend about his own progress. He replied “I’m at the part with the really awesome music!”, and I knew exactly what he meant. Even though the soundtrack of Final Fantasy IX is generally excellent, You’re Not Alone somehow stands out as something very special.

As much as I love videogame music, and thinking and talking about videogame music, I am really noticing my own lack of education in this regard. :/ Recognising theme repetitions and instruments … It’s not that I am totally deaf to that stuff, but I am still capable of missing the obvious. It is probably a matter of training, but in the meantime, I enjoy listening to someone more knowledgable explain these things!

Will RPG Maker Fes take over my life this summer?

The 3DS has been a revelation for me as a JRPG fan. New installments of old francises like Zelda and Dragon Quest, remakes of games I hadn’t previously had the chance to play, and completely new stuff like the Bravely series or Fantasy Life … The thing about being a thirty-something gamer is that you are always, to some extent, tying to recapture the excitement you felt as a child, when everything was new to you – but I’m glad that my 3DS RPG experience so far hasn’t been just about replaying and rehashing familiar games and concepts. The genre is living and developing, including on the 3DS.

So, I’m thrilled by the announcement of RPG Maker Fes, set to be released this summer in North America and Europe. I’ve always dreamt up all sorts of RPG ideas in my head, but I’ve also never had the discipline and long-term commitment to turn any of them into an actual game. Compared to the previous PC versions of the software, RPG Maker Fes might end up a bit limited in its abilities. Being able to use one’s own art and music is something experienced users wouldn’t want to miss. But having to work with limited, pre-made resources actually sounds a bit … freeing to me. It sounds like a good idea for beginners like me, who’ve never made a game before, to just focus on the game itself without also having to worry about creating all the art (and make it look nice!).

OK, to be honest …. looking at RPG Maker communities, I think that using one’s own art over the standard chipsets and sprites is a little overrated. First of all, it often leads to people combining mismatched art styles, with an end result that was probably a lot of work, but looks incoherent. The other issue is that it’s not just about having great, unique resources, but also about how you use them. Good mapping is an art, and a constant challenge. It can go wrong in various ways: sometimes maps look empty and boring, sometimes they are stuffed full with distracting, pointless details. Maps are usually too big (which is probably why they end up either empty or purposelessly crowded with random nonsense). The challenge is to create towns and dungeons that are no bigger than they have to be, interesting to look at and never confusing.

The most exciting thing about the 3DS RPG Maker is that you don’t have to own the software to play games created with it. There will be a free, downloadable app for this. I wonder how this will play out in real life. Will there be a lot of games worth trying? Will there be some kind of rules concerning the content of games hosted online? Will people have access to games created worldwide or just in their region? Questions, questions.