Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on May 25th 2014 at 08:57:31 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Ultra Grinding, final fantasy, phantasy star, shin megami tensei, suikoden,

You know what I love? RPGs. You know what they have? Grinding, most of the time. And there's a lot of it here. The further back you go the more grinding there is! There are many different ways that grinding is implemented. At its heart the main goal is to gain levels, but sometimes this is a secondary goal. Because of the difference in philosophies, even going back to near the dawn of RPG games period, I have thought long and hard on different styles of grinding. I have four to discuss with the class today.

Grinding Style 1: Levels

Call it a level grind, or an experience points (EXP, XP, whatever) grind depending on the way the game handles its leveling system. This is the most common style of grinding, and it dates back to the earliest college mainframe RPG MUDs and earliest PC RPGs. Wizardry is a prime early example of needing levels to get further in the game, usually having an invisible wall where enemies get much stronger and harder, but with better rewards.

This style of game usually gives you more money than experience in terms of need that is, so gear is usually quite easy to obtain in the natural progression of the game. Just moving over the world and grinding in the dungeon should give the player enough money to deck out their party at the next town, maybe with some help from a boss drop or stolen item. Final Fantasy games are a good example of this. If you spend a little bit of time building some levels between towns then the first trip to the next one will be the big weapon and armor buy up, probably with enough left over to restock on healing items.

With some more difficult level based games, like the Shin Megami Tensei and Wizardry series, it puts less emphasis on the new gear your characters can use, and instead focuses on the natural strength of the stats. Getting a new weapon might only lead to a slight damage increase, so good control, strategy, and tactics come into play. Or you could stay with the lower level monsters and work to afford the best gear.

Having great music helps alleviate the pain.

All this talk about money leads me into my next part of the lesson.

Grinding Style 2: Gold

Sometimes a game limits the amount of money that drops from each and every battle. This completely reverses the dynamic I went over above. Dragon Quest is an excellent series in this regard. Experience and money start off fairly evenly, but soon enough experience outpaces money besides certain monsters. This series is more of a hybrid of both styles introduced so far. Even though you get more experience per battle it still takes quite a bit of time to level up as you get stronger and stronger. But, it seems the level grind is always secondary to getting enough money to fully deck out your entire party with the best gear. The level gains just happen while you save up your gold.

There are as many examples of the money grind as the level grind. Phantasy Star is Sega's vision in this philosophy. The first one was recently featured as an RFGeneration Playthrough, so some more people there should understand the way the series starts off. It stays this way through the Genesis games for those that haven't played them. You don't worry about grinding levels, you just get enough money to buy the new equipment when you find some.

Money is necessary in all RPGs though, so even in games centered around any other style of grinding, you may find yourself having to stop and kill monsters for a half hour or so to afford a piece of equipment or two if you've been blasting through the game by being overleveled for some period of time. Eventually you exhaust your resources and have to stop to start it all over again. Grinding is a vicious cycle that some of us just can't stop.

Give me all your gold!

Grinding Style 3: Skill

Some games offer the ability to use skills, and by gaining extra points to learn them or level them up, you create a much more powerful party than any other style of leveling. Final Fantasy IX has skills that you can learn by equipping certain items and gaining AP to learn the skills. You can then use skill points to equip these learned or learning skills to give bonuses, learn spells, gain immunities, and add certain behaviors to your characters. The skill system is quite deep, and the player retains complete control over the entire party to see this skill grinding come to fruition as you level. Final Fantasy VI, VII, and VIII have similar systems with the Esper, Materia, and Guardian Force systems respectively. My least favorite Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II has a system where you use a spell repeatedly to level it up as well. This is also the backbone of all the games in the Final Fantasy series that feature the Jobs system.

Legend of Dragoon has a skill system that involves using combat combos in order to level up your Additions. Each character gains their Ultimate Addition by leveling all the other ones up to their maximum level. This creates a paradigm while playing through the game of whether you stick with a level 4 addition to finish leveling it, or start with a brand new level 1 addition you just unlocked. I usually stick with the weaker one so I never have to go back to it. You consistently get stronger this way even if you take a temporary dip of damage output.

Many tactical and real time RPGs have a similar system. The Star Ocean series has a system where you can earn skill points when you level up. These are allocated to skills that you want to level up, but this method by itself will fall far behind what can be done with a literal interpretation of skill point grinding. By gathering multiple parties of enemies together in one battle you will gain a green gem to add to the Bonus Board, and end up with extra skill points at the end of each battle.

Even Mario is guilty of this.

Grinding Style 4: Item

Item grinding is essentially the cornerstone of the endgame for every single MMO. When you no longer need experience and money flows like water, and you have maxed out skills, all that is left is to grind for rare items. These can be mini grinds in many other games, such as an item only being dropped by one monster before specific events happen. This happens with some of the runes in Suikoden II, they can only be obtained in short windows.

Item grinding probably leads to the most types of sub-grinds, but these all lead back to actually having the items to fulfill these obligations. MMORPGs commonly feature this idea. You can use items to increase your level of crafting skills, increase your reputation with certain factions, sell for money to just stockpile it or buy very expensive skills or weapons with, get better gear for your character, or help your guild out. There are many possibilities but all center around killing hundreds of monsters for a handful of items.

Farming felcloth made you insane in the membrane.

Posted on Apr 20th 2013 at 12:27:44 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under rpg, xenogears, fallout 2, planescape torment, suikoden

5. Id (Xenogears)

Those that are familiar with Freudian psychology already know what Id is, even if they've never played Xenogears. Well, he's a bit different than the textbook Freudian definition, replacing the libido with say, instinctual bloodlust would make the Id of Xenogears more accurate.

The ladies can't resist him either.

He pops up seemingly out of nowhere, for no reason. Its unclear when Id first starts showing up which side he is on, but the characters quickly learn that he's more just out for a nice stroll with a side of wanton destruction. I do not want to spoil the truth behind Id though, but knowing Freudian psychology, or playing Xenogears can let you figure that one out. This 'twist' is one of the reasons why Id scores so highly on my list.

""That was interesting. But dropping a warship on me is cheating. Take it back!" - Id

4. The Godwins (Suikoden V)

Motive. I cannot stress how important it is for a villain to have a good, believable motive. There needs to be purpose behind actions, words are empty, especially in the highly politicized Game of Thrones which happens in every installment of Suikoden.

Unlike most villains the Godwins have a very clear motive for the coup d'tat of the Queendom of Falena, personal power, wealth, glory, and the ability to declare war on their neighbors whenever they desire. That said, Marscal and Gizel Godwin are much deeper than their motives. Marscal is the grizzled veteran, no stranger to the game of nobles, I would compare him to Tywin Lannister as he's not afraid to deeply scold his son in private.

Dress for the job you want they told Lord Marscal.

Gizel however, just seems to shrug everything off of himself. In public he oozes charm and watches his tongue and body language carefully. In private Gizel schemes and hatches various little plots, usually just putting them in motion and watching as the story unfolds before him.

Gizel is just so sneaky and snakelike, an absolute joy to watch scheme. The Godwins, Gizel in particular, are just so interesting. You always want to know what they're up to and the game indulges your curiosity. This family is the pinnacle of the idea of loving to hate something. I hate them because of their actions, they killed the Prince's family and took his little sister and her throne and now want you dead. They're so well written, casual, and laid back that watching them brings a big smile to my face.

But enough talk, have at you!

"When you get involved in intrigue, do it decisively." - Marscal Godwin

"What if my master plan was murdering you... in front of your beloved brother?" - Gizel Godwin

3. The Transcendant One (Planescape: Torment)

The greatest enemy one can conquer is oneself. The Nameless One is the main character of this cult classic, but that immortal bag of bones is only half the equation. The real power lies with The Transcendant One, the mortality of The Nameless One personified and he fortifies himself in The Fortress of Regrets.  This is one antagonist that makes their appearance known quickly and is just completely imposing.

Imposing might be putting it lightly...

The Transcendant One does not have much screentime. The Nameless One does not even know he exists until you are inside the Fortress, but his sheer force of will is maddening. What makes this villain score so highly for me is the fact that you can just talk him into committing suicide by recombining with The Nameless One and fighting in the eternal battle of the lower planes, finally blessed with the death that breaks The Nameless One's prison of eternal life.

2. President Dick Richardson (Fallout 2)

Eugenics. How often does this subject come up in gaming? If you ask me, on the whole, whether I prefer Eastern, or Western villains, I'll usually say Western. Most of the Western ones I've experienced have been great villains that were well written, had a clear motive, and were devious enough to really rustle your jimmies.

Its time for my Nintendo Power nap!

President Richardson is one of the few examples of a reluctant villain. He just happens to be the President of the Enclave while all these plans for purification and recolonization of mainland North America are coming to fruition. Their main weapon for 'purification' is a modified strain of FEV, Forced Evolution Virus (why Super Mutants exist), which will supposedly eliminate all life on the mainland.

In the end, President Richardson is just another frail politician hiding behind a wall of muscle. Literally.

His name is Frank.

"The only way for true humans, and democracy, to be safe is to cleanse the mutants from the globe. We humans will take back that which is rightfully ours." - President Richardson

1. Luca Blight (Suikoden II, Genso Suikogaiden Volume 1)

The White Wolf of Highland. The Mad Prince Luca Blight.

There have been deep, excellent villains on this list but none of them match the sheer raw ferocity of Luca Blight. Most antagonists usually have some sort of political power and use it to hide in their castle while they bark orders. Well, Luca Blight is a prince, he is known as the Mad Prince and is not afraid to be on the front lines, leading his soldiers during their killing. You see this happen right from the start.

The moment that really solidifies Luca Blight as a more sinister villain than the others on this list is that he is the only one that actually raises his sword and slashes it downwards towards a defenseless little girl. A small child! Pilika is like 5 years old! Even then, it takes four people to save little Pilika from her early death. Even before all this there's the systematic slaughter of the Unicorn Brigade, which is where Highland's young, up and coming recruits train during their teenage years until they're ready to wield a sword, all just so he will have the support of the Highland population to go to war.

Viktor you magnificent bastard, never stop drinking!

Every time Luca is on screen the entire tone of the game shifts, even though he only speaks in text boxes the man is so charismatic that he commands the attention of the room he's in, even if he's not talking! The fear that others feel when they are around him is quite evident as even his own generals start plotting a way to kill him.

Also, since when does an incredibly powerful madman become challenged by a small handful of teenagers? No, Luca's better than that and you better have three full parties of six decked out characters when it comes down to the final rumble. He even takes a dozen or so arrows to the chest by the time the final duel happens between the deadly White Wolf Luca Blight and Little Riou.

Great villains are always shown being rather villainous.

Remember when I said that Kefka is the best uber super destruction wanton killinator? Yeah, totally taking it back now. Well, Luca Blight has some reasons for his mental state, but that would ruin the experience of playing this masterpiece would it not?

"It took hundreds to kill me but I killed humans by the thousands. I am sublime!!! I am the true face of evil!!!!" - Luca Blight's dying words

This is SirPsycho's Blog.
View Profile | RSS
A collection of memories and philosophies based on my own best and worst gaming experiences.
Blog Navigation
Browse Bloggers | My Blog
Hot Entries
Hot Community Entries
Site content Copyright © rfgeneration.com unless otherwise noted. Oh, and keep it on channel three.