[Endrant] Dissidia Duodecim 012

I need to vent or I’m going to explode.  Seriously.

Everyone knows that I love Final Fantasy. I LOVE FINAL FANTASY.  The Dissidia games are a godsend to me: fanboy love that crams together a multitude of characters from every (main-series) game and allows them to kick each other in the teeth, hurl one another across the screen, and blast them into the next eon with a flashy light show.

But this game also drives me crazy.

More Features Than a Swiss-Army Knife

The Dissidia games boast what I consider to be one of the best examples of a polished, rewarding fighting engine: accessible, simple, and customizable.  It’s accessible because it takes familiar faces and worlds and blends them together.  It’s simple because characters perform attacks through the use of literally two buttons and the directional pad.  They level up over time, giving you new abilities and skills that you can map to the controls to suit your play style.  And there are dozens of characters for you to try until you find one (or ten, or twenty) you like.  Everything about the game is customizable: skills and abilities, music, armor, weapons, accessories, summons, costumes.  Freaking everything!  It means that you make the experience your own.  It also means that two players can use the same character in vastly different ways due to the sheer variety of skills and accessories to make you powerful.  Seriously, Street Fighter is a garbage heap next to this game.

When it comes to context, Dissidia crams more into that little UMD than any game I’ve ever seen.  On top of dozens of characters and environments, you have hundreds of weapons, armor, accessories and summon spells.  You have plenty of music.  You have over a dozen story campaigns (the last one is looooooooooooooooooooooooong), you have bonus modes, a playback option, a theater to review cutscenes, voice data and artwork.  You can create your own quests and send them to friends.  You have friend cards, and then you have multiplayer mode.  Other fighting games have less than 20% of the features packed into Dissidia.

I LOVE Dissidia.  LOVE LOVE LOVE!  And I want nothing more than to tell everyone to play it.

But I can’t.  Want to know why?  Because the games are easily one of the most frustrating gaming experiences I’ve ever encountered.  I focus the majority of my comments in this post around Dissidia Duodecim 012, but similar sentiments apply to the original Dissidia as well.

Intent to Kill

(See how angry I look? Soon that’ll be you.)

I want to talk about cheap tactics.  You know, that monster that appears in every fighting game to devour your patience and make you scream bloody murder?  It’s a problem of AI programming.  Developers love to give players a challenge, but rather than program AI that is *cough* clever, developers choose to make characters “challenging” by doing any other number of things: increasing range and damage are the most basic.  But fighting games are awash with characters who have unblockable attacks, faster animations, unavoidable attacks, and a teleport ability.  (I will marry the game designer who invents a fighting game without the use of a teleport ability.)  Seth (Street Fighter IV) has all of those qualities.  Shao Kahn (Mortal Kombat) has all but a teleport, just as a couple examples.

The developers of the Dissidia games go not one step further, but many.  With a level cap of 100, they introduce enemies that are level 120 and up.  Alternately, a level 90 character will have level 100 weapons and armor equipped.  Or better yet, if your character has level 100 armor and your opponent a level 60 weapon, your opponent will continually do more damage to you in a single hit than you can to them.

Really, Dissidia?  Your method for challenge is to break your own rules, which you yourself have imposed onto the game?  Seriously, this is a bold new stage of laziness when it comes to game design.  My characters can’t do that, so why can yours?

On the matter of AI programming, Dissidia “boasts” what is easily the toughest and most intelligent AI I’ve ever seen.  The “computer” knows your strengths and weaknesses and will try to exploit them, as it should.  Characters will kick your ass.  And by “kick your ass”, I mean they will jump out of the game, pull you out of your chair, turn you around, kick you in the ass, and toss you from your 32nd story balcony.  If that were the only issue, the game would be fine.  But add to that those cheap tactics I just mentioned and you have a recipe for high blood pressure, stress, hair ripping, and sentences that utilize every swear word in the English language.

Motivation, Such an Aggravation

“I’m gonna beat your face and look like a slut doing it! Teehee!

I mentioned earlier that Dissidia is plentiful when it comes to content.  It’s true: you’ll spend dozens of hours leveling up your characters and mastering their moves.  You’ll spend another dozen hours obtaining items to make the best gear for that character.  And after all of that work, guess what?  The AI will *still* kick your ass.  All of the evasions and dodges and accessories and attacks won’t help you: the programming in Dissidia is so unforgivably ruthless that playing the game can arguably become an exercise in self-inflicted torture.  I’ve put over 70 hours into my game already (I still haven’t finished the main story), and I’m ready to toss the game literally to the wind.  And I hate that feeling.

So why have I kept playing for so long?  Because Dissidia peppers you with treasure chests, free gifts, and motivational messages as you play.  It will actively encourage you to continue playing because the developers believe that the game is a fun experience.  And it certainly can be!  But for all of the work and effort that you put into it, Dissidia will find a way to prove that you’re still not good enough.

No game, ever, should motivate you into spending so much time and effort and then prevent you from simply completing the game. (Note: Dissidia does not “prevent” you from anything, but the indirect result of its programming is that many gamers will feel as though the game is intentionally keeping them from success.)

Endrant

Dissidia is, on many levels, what many fighting games should aspire to be: accessible, polished, and worth more than its price tag. On the flip side, Dissidia is also a game that should never be marketed to casual gamers. The Street Fighter crowd would love Dissidia because it requires such technical finesse that casual gamers will rarely be able to complete it.

And when I give up on a FF game, you know it’s a black, black day.

“See that? That was your face. Loser.”

Memories of an MMO: These things can be free!?

In my ongoing series regarding my thoughts on the MMO scene, it’s time to examine the slew of games out there that are free to play.

After months of playing FFXIV Online, I began exploring the genre. After all, I’d spent the majority of my gaming life with RPGs and action/adventure titles (i.e. God of War, Silent Hill, LBP, Metal Gear, FF, KH, and so on) and I knew little of the MMO genre at all. What motivated me into exploring was actually the result of the game I was playing: why was the critical response to FFXIV so bad? Why didn’t the players like it? What was it missing? Apart from my own frustrations with the game (and my sticktoitiveness to overcome said frustrations), I wasn’t really sure how valid the criticism was. So it was time to make a foray and discover what the other MMOs were doing and why they were doing it well.

And since I don’t walk around with bags of money and coins overflowing my pockets, the MMOs had to be free. Did such a thing exist?

Hells yes. Seriously: have you people actually explored the VAST number of free games available these days? It’s actually quite impressive to see that these games are not only free, but that the studios continue to support them as long as they retain a decent player base. Here’s a quick few:

  • Runes of Magic
  • Shaiya
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online
  • Age of Conan
  • Runescape
  • League of Legends
  • Fiesta Online

Much like a player is set to invest months (and sometimes years) into an MMO, so too is the commitment for a game studio to this type of game: bug support, patches, new content, exclusive content.  For game studios to be able to provide these games to players at no cost** is not only a significant commitment, but a strong sign of the way in which the MMO genre as a whole is changing. Monthly subscription fees now exist only for the minority of games, and they are often AAA titles that have budgets in excess of millions (i.e. Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI). Free MMOs, by contrast, are not AAA titles. They are instead crafted by smaller studios who may never release another game. But they want to be strongly vested in one title that can offer great longevity to the company and the player. As a result, most of the free MMOs will not have the production values of their AAA siblings, but they can easily be just as much fun once you get into them. And when it comes down to it, the gameplay is what makes the difference no matter how pretty the graphics turn out to be (FFXIV is a perfect example of this).

But if you’re someone who is looking at breaking into the genre, there has never been a better time to play. It’s even worth it to download most of them just to see if you like them because there is no risk involved and thousands of others are already playing.

Next time: a free game, not in the list above, that deserves everyone’s attention.

**Most of these free MMOs include a voluntary payment system in the form of an exclusive in-game currency (i.e. gems, runes, crystals and the like). Such currencies are used to purchase exclusive items, upgrades and features for a character. Players who want to be unique or have the best gear can choose to pay money in exchange for exclusive currencies, which in turn also supports the game studio.