I’ve tried to get my “real life” friends into MMOs in the past. Lord knows, I’ve tried.
And, for a brief, blissful period in World of Warcraft’s early heyday, it was successful. We were all playing together, enjoying ourselves and having a blast. Then the inevitable happened: one of us started playing more than the others, and started steaming ahead. Then another person did the same. Eventually, we were left with something of a split group, unable to practically and productively play together because of our level disparity.
This is a common problem that has plagued MMOs since their inception, and different games have tackled it in different ways. (Some games haven’t tackled it at all, for that matter.) Final Fantasy XIV, for my money, handles it in a fairly elegant manner that helps ensure that all the content in the game remains relevant, regardless of whether you’ve just levelled up enough to try it for the first time, or you’re a level 50, item level 97 veteran who has run it hundreds of times to date.
Continue reading Eorzea Diaries: Those Who Play Together…
We see a lot of comedy in games these days — it’s something which a number of creators in particular have proven themselves to be particularly good at — but not much in the way of tragedy.
Oh, sure, we have sad scenes that are designed to milk a few tears from those with less-than-stellar emotional constitutions (like me) but very few games that truly explore tragedy in the Shakespearean — or more accurately Aristotlean — sense. That is to say, very few games that have the balls to present a main character that is tragically flawed, makes mistakes and undergoes a significant reversal of fortune — either from good to bad, or bad to good.
The last place I expected to find an example of tragedy like this was in a game from Nippon Ichi Software, a company best-known for somewhat more light-hearted titles, but here we have The Witch and the Hundred Knight, a game that is a significant departure for the Disgaea developers in more ways than one.
Continue reading An Unavoidable Tragedy
A couple of years back, my main gig was reviewing free-to-play mobile and social games from a business perspective. This proved to be something of an eye-opening experience.
One of the things I discovered during this period of my career was the astronomical popularity of a type of mobile game collectively known as “card-battlers”. Distinct from more traditional card games like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering, mobile card-battlers are usually of Eastern origin — they’re particularly popular in their native countries — and are one of those breeds of mobile games that have lots of people making them, but very few people genuinely innovating in them. In other words, most of them are almost identical save for the artwork on the virtual cards you collect throughout the game.
Moreover, a lot of them are extremely unpolished affairs, their ’90s website-esque user interfaces, frequent lack of sound and music, reliance on data connections and excruciatingly slow loading times a clear hangover from the feature phone era. So why, why, why on Earth are these games so popular? And is there any redeeming value in them whatsoever?
Only one way to find out.
Continue reading Collectible Card Crusade
Your average visual novel tends to have a number of different narrative paths to explore, each of which focuses on a different character from the main cast. The free visual novel Katawa Shoujo is no exception, with each of its routes focusing on one of five different girls — each of whom has a different disability — and what the protagonist Hisao learns from his relationship with them.
I found the path that centred around the deaf class president Shizune to be rather interesting, because I spent a lot of it not being entirely sure if I actually liked her or not. Her competitive, dominant, bossy nature is somewhat at odds with what I personally find attractive, and so I found myself wondering if pursuing her would have the same degree of emotional impact as the other girls Emi, Hanako, Lilly and — still to come — Rin.
I still haven’t quite made my mind up about it, as it happens, but it was certainly an interesting story, despite being the least interactive of all the paths through the game, with only one meaningful choice to make.
Continue reading Out of the Comfort Zone
One of the things that can make or break a massively multiplayer game like Final Fantasy XIV is the community.
You can have all the great content and regular updates in the world, but if your community is largely made up of obnoxious morons, you’ll end up driving away the passionate but thinner-skinned players, leaving behind only the aforementioned obnoxious morons. And thus the problem continues to compound itself.
For the most part, in my experience, anyway, the community of Final Fantasy XIV has been a mostly very helpful and supportive place. And I think it’s important to keep it that way.
Continue reading Eorzea Diaries: Do Unto Others…
Let’s talk about Hanako, one of the heroines from 4 Leaf Studios’ excellent free visual novel Katawa Shoujo.
As you’ll know if you’ve read the previous posts on Lilly and Emi, Katawa Shoujo is a bold, remarkable work that tackles a variety of difficult subject matter. The most obvious demonstration of this can’t be missed: it’s a game where the main characters all have disabilities.
But that’s not all there is to it. It becomes abundantly clear over the course of the five main narrative paths through the game — each focusing on one of the heroines — that all of the characters are dealing with deep-seated issues other than the outward signs of their disability.
Hanako, the character whom you first come to recognise as the shy girl with the burn scars all over one side of her body, is no exception. Understandably traumatised by the events that made her look the way she does, she’s a character riddled with mental health issues — many of which are highly relatable to a general audience.
Continue reading Scars
The modern world is incredibly concerned with spoilers: the giving away of surprises before you, yourself, have reached that part in the narrative.
But some of the most effective stories out there are pretty up-front about their most surprising elements and still manage to forge a compelling, interesting narrative. D.O.’s Kana Little Sister is a good example of this — we know from the outset that Kana is likely to die at the end of the game, but that doesn’t stop it from being emotionally engaging throughout, and traumatic when the final moments of the story eventually roll around.
Another particularly effective example of this is in Nitroplus’ Saya no Uta (aka The Song of Saya), a horror-themed visual novel composed by Madoka Magica writer Gen Urobuchi.
Continue reading There’s Not Always a Happy Ending