[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.)


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.

Memories of an MMO: Setting the Bar

In my previous entry, I discussed my perspective regarding MMOs before having ever played one. There were many to choose from, but the style and world of WoW made me hesitant to want to play it–I knew it wouldn’t be for me.

I had spoken to many gamers in the community, and have friends, who played FFXI religiously and spoke very highly about it. They were all stoked about the spiritual follow-up title Final Fantasy XIV Online, and being the Final Fantasy whore that I am, I became more than a little interested. It would provide me with a new gaming experience, I was in need of a new computer, and I had friends who would be playing along with me. Why not test out the MMO waters?

And so, in September 2010, I took my first leap into the MMO pool with FFXIV.

Into the Deep End

Once character customization was over, I was dumbfounded by FFXIV’s, well… dumbness. They throw you immediately into a battle with no tutorial for how you attack, or in the case of my “Conjurer” (Black Mage), cast a spell. A friend was watching me during this moment and she said: “How do you attack?” and my response was simply “I don’t know.”

Really, really not a good start.

Without boring anyone with the details, I can summarize my first few weeks of playing FFXIV in a single word: frustrating. The game lacked comprehensive tutorials or instructions, the controls were unintuitive and illogical, the UI was the equivalent of a clogged artery, the gameplay was slow and repetitive, and the environments were too large and took so long to go through that I almost felt like I was playing Magna Carta: Tears of Blood. For those of you not in “the know”, Tears of Blood stands as what I consider to be one of the most atrocious RPGs ever made and a shining example of what NOT to do in a game (mental note: write a blog entry on this in the future). Each time I played FFXIV during this time I would call my friend and say: “What am I supposed to do? Okay, now how exactly do I do that?”

Never, ever force the player to figure out your game for themselves. If the game is not accessible, you’ll risk losing the player. Forever.

FFXIV, as I’ve written before, suffers from development holes that, upon the time of the game’s release, were bottomless. There was clearly a lack of communication and a holistic design concept among the developers as though 100 people had all been assigned to 100 different tasks with no leadership to tie them all together to form a coherent whole (something that an aspiring designer, for example, reflects upon quite critically). The game was a dog’s breakfast and the reviews reflected such. But it was my first MMO, so how was I to know where the bar had been set?

Treading Water

With all the pitfalls of FFXIV glaring me in the face like Mexican sun, how was it that I managed to stick with the game at all? Why didn’t I become one of those players I just described? There are two reasons for this: (1) I was sad to give up on a Final Fantasy game, and (2) I had the support of friends.

I’ve played all main entries to the FF series (and most related games or spin-offs). There are plenty of reasons why I like them and recommend them to friends. Conversely, there are plenty of shortcomings that I see in the series as well, elements of the game that are present or absent that help inform my experiences as an aspiring game designer. With FFXIV, I wanted to stick it out because I was certain that there would be a reward: the game had to include something, anything to remind me that, yes, this game was worth it (beyond the graphics which are, hands down, the best of any MMO I’ve played or seen to date). To this date, the game still struggles with this very idea, and I’m still not 100% convinced that the reward will be worth it at all. It is, however, an experience unlike no other. (Come on: how often do you get to play a game so horribly ill-functioning that the company reboots the development team who then has to nearly rebuild the entire game from the ground up?)

My friends were also there in my corner, inviting me to play and giving me direction. We were forming parties and completing tasks cooperatively, watching our characters evolve and exploring the world. Having a group of people in the game with you really makes a difference to the play experience. It’s no different than Mario Kart: it’s decent on its own, but when you have another human player in the room, the fun factor grows to levels of epic hilarity.

Making it to Shore

I’ve been playing FFXIV since the day of release, and while some things have changed (the learning curve is gone, the UI and control systems have been vastly improved, new content has been added), others have yet to evolve. Perhaps the most interesting element of FFXIV is not anything about the game itself, but how the game has been publicly received and how the game developers have had to react to the negative criticism. Since the time of release, the developers have been altering FFXIV to make it the game it should have been by listening to and incorporating player feedback. For all intents and purposes, the game, as it currently exists, is still in “beta” form. (What comes after a beta build? Post-beta?) FFXIV is, much like Magna Carta: Tears of Blood, a shining example of what not to do with your MMO.

And in entering the industry come September, the evolution of this game, the communication with the player community, and the media reaction to the decisions are what keep me informed. I see FFXIV as a game with massive amounts of potential, and as an opportunity to provide FF and MMO players with a unique and worthwhile experience. I think the development team feels this way as well. Square-Enix could have given the game the axe. Frankly, I’m quite impressed that they didn’t. It will be interesting to see what decisions are made in the future to allow the game to triumph over its many shortcomings and negative media.

That said, FFXIV set the bar, and a low bar it is–the equivalent of a high jump bar set so low that everyone in your phys-ed class can jump it with ease (just to get you warmed up). What does FFXIV do well? Beautiful graphics, excellent character customization and animation, and a world brimming with potential. But in this day and age, people don’t want a game with potential–they want a fully-realized game. The latter FFXIV is not, I’m sad to say.

Oh, and the other reason that I still enjoy FFXIV? Because my character is freaking cute.


Memories of an MMO: Part One – WoW, this is it?

I’m not big on MMORPGs. I’ve spent the majority of my gaming years playing RPGs, which are typically solo-only affairs where I can enjoy a story based on fully-integrated lore and discover the merits of the game based on my own personal play style. The game has a definite ending and a definite beginning. The game has an explicit purpose that it challenges me to discover, and mandatory conflicts that it requires me to overcome. And when all is said and done, a great RPG will leave you feeling a sense of accomplishment like no other: the reward that you lived a life and made a difference to a person, group or world of people and (normally) had a fun time doing it.

MMORPGs exist, in many ways, as a polar opposite to the RPG. The purpose might be there, but it can be unclear because the game, by its very definition, caters to the concept of complete personal freedom. The conflicts that arise are only those in which you choose to engage (minus tutorials). You interact with a community rather than NPCs for a shared experience rather than an individual one. There is no definite ending to this genre of game. Even after you’ve completed the end-game content, the game continues for as long as you choose to play.

Despite utilizing the same letters of the alphabet, the two genres offer extremely different experiences, gameplay and styles. They are not so much siblings as they are distant relatives. You know, the ones you talk to at the family reunion every ten years for the sake of common courtesy even though neither of you will exist in each others’ lives long enough to have any meaningful impact. You share blood, but that’s where the similarities end.

RAWR! You makey own character!

I’ll admit it right now: I was never swept away in the mass hysteria that came with World of Warcraft (WoW) many years ago. Why do I point to WoW? Because it revolutionized the MMORPG genre as we know yes. Yes, Everquest and Ultima Online came first, but WoW was the first game to make it into the ‘big leagues’, so to speak. It brought MMORPGs to a wide audience of people, appealed to hardcore and casual gamers alike, and remains disgustingly successful. Every MMORPG wishes it were WoW given its massive success. (Aside: yay for Blizzard!)

I never got swept into the sandstorm of WoW, mostly because the universe itself has worn off on me. Back in the golden days of Warcraft I and II, I played like an obsessive madman and enjoyed every second of it. Warcraft III came along with more races, more epic conflict and blah blah blah, and the fundamental aspects of the game, and the lore of the world, became saturated with so many elements that it was difficult to understand just what worldly issue required my attention and what issues were little more than minor tangents. WoW demands attention to the changes and lore within the game world, and since I’d lost interest there was no reason to pick it up at all. (The threat of losing my social life altogether was, I admit, a secondary factor in staying far away from the game.)

It’s all your fault, WoW.

As of September 2010, I had my first foray into the world of MMORPGs with Final Fantasy XIV. Since that time, I’ve made a point of trying many of the other MMORPGs to get a sense of not only what is happening within the genre, but to understand its popularity, appeal, sense of play, and storytelling. And to do a few “harmless” comparisons too, of course. :P

Next time: Final Fantasy XIV sets the bar.

MMO Madness!

Howdy folks! I know that I haven’t been frequent on the blog posts as of late, but I have good reason for it, I swear!

Some of you may know that Final Fantasy XIV is the first MMORPG that I’ve ever played. That’s right: I dutifully avoided playing World of Warcraft out of fear that it would destroy my meager existence. But the more I play FFXIV, the more curious I become as to what other MMOs out there are doing. A lot of that has to do with the fact that FFXIV is, as I’ve mentioned before, not a complete game and still very much in an extended beta phase in order for it to have any chance to compete with all the other successful games out there that demand money from you on a monthly basis.

So on my quest to see what other games in the genre are doing, and to expose myself to a new genre that I’ve never had the time to enjoy, I’ve been playing a number of free and trial games:

World of Warcraft (14-day free trial)


Runes of Magic

Rift (7-day free trial)

I’ve spent ample time with the first three games and I’m working on Rift this week. Once I’m satisfied that I’ve had enough time with all of them, I’ll be sure to write a post comparing my thoughts and opinions. Stay tuned!

Absolutely. UNBELIVABLE.

I haven’t written a blog in a long time (short reason: my brain needed a wee bit of a break). I tend to also have developed the tendency to report on factual information: that is, I don’t like to speculate about upcoming products in the video game industry and reserve such comments for when I am tossing out ideas or trying to provide a fresh perspective.

Why did I break my silence after a month? What has me so riled up that I just had to post urgently about it?

Less than a week ago, the PlayStation Network (PSN) went offline. And it stayed there. Since April 20 there has been no way for PSN users to go online and download media, play games, or participate in social networks. (It’s not a huge deal for me, but I’m sure it is for some.) Why? Because the PSN servers were compromised by third-party hackers. Today,  after almost one week of PSN downtime, the Senior Director of Corporate Communications for Sony releases this statement:

Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a sub-account for your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have been obtained. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.

For your security, we encourage you to be especially aware of email, telephone, and postal mail scams that ask for personal or sensitive information. Sony will not contact you in any way, including by email, asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. If you are asked for this information, you can be confident Sony is not the entity asking. When the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are fully restored, we strongly recommend that you log on and change your password. Additionally, if you use your PlayStation Network or Qriocity user name or password for other unrelated services or accounts, we strongly recommend that you change them, as well.

I have two words Sony, and though they’re the title of this blog post, I think that they warrant repeating.


Sony: you have 70 MILLION REGISTERED USERS on the PlayStation Network. 70 million!! And you’re telling all of us that our personal information, including credit cards, hasvebeen compromised due to a lack of sufficient security in your servers? And it took you six days to tell us this? Your PR is going to need serious help, Sony, especially on the heels of a recent law suit involving another PS3 hacker and this month’s shut-down of three development studios.

Absolutely. Unbelievable.