Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Take on RPG Classes

So I've been bouncing between Final Fantasy XIII and XIV lately, and a thought occurs to me.  I love the ability to change your character's class.

In Final Fantasy XIII, for those who don't know, you can change your characters from one "paradigm" to another.  A paradigm is a preset class set for your characters.  For example: Tri-Disaster has all three of your characters in their Ravanger roles.  Relentless Assault has One Commando and Two Ravangers.  The point of this allows you to alter your battle strategy mid-fight, in order to heal, rack up damage, debuff, etc.

The downside to this system is that you have to A) Preset your paradigms beforehand, B) Have a limited number of slots for paradigms (not that bad though, since it covers a wide spectrum of possibilities), and C) For a good chunk of the game, some classes are locked to certain characters, so say, character B can't be a commando.

All in all, it's a very interesting combat systems, and it keeps things interesting.

Onto Final Fantasy XIV, and how it contributes to this topic.

In Square Enix's latest MMORPG venture, you have a class that is determined by what type of weapon you are holding.  Holding a spear?  You're a lancer.  Holding a sword?  Gladiator.  The benefits of this is that it allows you to change what you can bring to a group immediately, instead of running back to town and changing your class there.  Actually, other, non Final Fantasy MMOs I've played lock you into your class at character creation, which is a huge bummer, and just forces you to have multiple characters, thus pay more, in order to see different playstyles.  In addition to this fluid class system, you can also equip some skills from other classes you've leveled up.  This means, you can have a Lancer who has Cure and Fire spells queued up to deal with monsters in your area.  The trade off of this is that it might not always gel well, what with Lancer's not having amazing spellcasting stats.  I'm willing to trade optimal synergy though for flexibility with my characters.

So, I kind of want to hybridize these systems with a few alterations.  I want you to have set classes you can level to learn the abilities, but then, after you hit a certain level, or reach an arbitrary story point, you can create your own class.  You could choose what stat bonuses you wanted for your class, so you can sort of spec your class to mimic main ones.  So for example, if the default Black Mage class gives you a bonus to Magic Damage and Magic Resist, you could make your homebrew Mystic Knight gain a bonus to Magic Damage and Vitality.

to determine your abilities, you would either have a set number of resource points to spend on abilities, or limited slots, either or could work.  Take some abilities from your Warrior class for an HP boost, ability from Thief class for increased Critical Hit Chance as passives, then take Thunder, Ice, and Fire from Black Mage, and then Guard, Provoke, and say, a special blade attack from Warrior to craft your custom class.

Do this for all your characters.  And now you add the Paradigm system from Final Fantasy XIII, and you can now flow between preset classes, custom classes, and other things on the fly.  This will allow the enemies to either be more difficult to compensate for increased player coverage, and you could even introduce new things like locking a character into a class as a status ailment.

This is just something I thought up.  I know the programming and implementation for this would be tricky as all hell, but it's something i could see people sinking tons of time into tinkering their characters to match how they like to play.

Enthusia Review

In 1997 one of the first console racing simulators, known as Gran Turismo, came out for the original PlayStation. The physics were, for the time, amazingly realistic, to the point where its tagline, "The Real Driving Simulator," didn't make people chuckle. From then on Polyphony Digital ruled the PlayStation's racing game world, but their throne was not uncontested. In 2005, the same year Gran Turismo 4 was released, a new game crashed into the scene from the likes of Konami. But unfortunately, not a single person noticed.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. You're looking at the cover for Enthusia, the greatest console racing simulator that nobody knew existed. This game does not have nearly the amount of cars and tracks that Gran Turismo 4 has, and Polyphony Digital easily outdid Konami in the graphics department, but what this game lacks in content and graphics, it easily makes up for in gameplay. There are a few major aspects I want to discuss, so I split this review as such.

Enthusia Life

Enthusia life is basically the name of the "career mode". It is very different in that instead of a monetary system like most other games in the genre, you have "enthu points". Enthu points are sortof like your health; if you collide with a wall or cars, go off course, etc., you lose Enthu points. If you lose all of your points, you have to miss the next race. You can also obtain experience points (calculated from your enthu points) which you use to upgrade your car or your driver (upgrading your driver allows you to hold more or gain more points). You obtain cars via a "lottery" of cars that you have beaten in a race. Overall it is a very unique system.

There was also speculation that the game was initially planned to have an actual story. This rumor is fueled by the intro sequence, which would be easier for me to show via a video than explanation.

Driving Revolution

Driving revolution is probably my favorite mode in this game. Konami is well known for their Dance Dance Revolution series, and they actually managed to incorporate similar gameplay mechanics into a racing game. I am not joking. In fact, to prove I am not joking, here is a video of one of the stages:

This game mode is an awesome twist on the license tests in the Gran Turismo series that is equally challenging and occasionally frustrating. There are these gates that you have to drive through (which may or may not be on the optimal racing line) and they have little bars that go up and down based on your speed. You have to match the correct speed when passing through these gates. You're given points for each gate based on how well you match the speed, docked points for missing gates or hitting barriers, and if you gain enough points you move on to the next stage. Utterly brilliant! I have spent countless hours in this game mode, particularly on the challenge level. The challenge level is unique (unique level in a unique mode in a unique game. uniqueception? We must go deeper...) because it has you complete 4 tests where it has the car going full throttle and you cannot use the brakes (though on two of them you do have access to the e-brake). These were a bitch to complete, but it felt so great once I beat them. I love this mode, and it alone makes the game worth it.


As much as I love Polyphony Digital's series, this game drives much better than Gran Turismo 4. GT4 has an issue where there is too much rear grip, which induces understeer (some drivers refer to it as "tight") in cars that don't actually have it. Enthusia essentially nailed the grip balance compared to other console racers of the era. The other thing that gives Enthusia an edge is the force feedback given to racing wheels. Force feedback in GT4 was poorly implemented. In the turns it felt fine, but at very high speed on straightaways the wheel simply rattled back and forth in a very unrealistic fashion. Konami did not do such a half-assed thing, and it really makes the driving experience so much better. It also actually penalizes you for driving like a dumbass. If you hit something or go off course, it knows and tells you "hey, you screwed up". In these days, damage was not a major feature to consider, but this was definitely a step forward.


I did say Enthusia lacked content. It did.  Compared to Gran Turismo 4's astonishing 722 cars, Enthusia makes you feel like a kid looking at a grown man's hotwheels collection when your mother only occasionally bought you one or two at the Target checkout line just to shut you up.
what an asshole. I would have played the shit out of those
However the catch is that a lot of Enthusia's cars are not in Gran Turismo 4, and these "exclusives" were some damn good icons. BMW M1, De Tomaso Pantera, Bugatti EB110...
Right. The game also lacks tracks, especially real ones, but the fantasy tracks that it has are pretty cool and are just as fun and interesting to drive as the competitor's offering, so there isn't too much problem there.

Final Thoughts

So what Konami did was create a damn good racing game engine, infused elements from RPGs and music games, did it really well, and not promote it hardly at all. The result is an amazing game that will never see a sequel (apparently a sequel was in the works at one time, but never actually came to fruition). That said, the masterminds were not suddenly lost. One of the physics developers from Konami has their name in the Gran Turismo 5 credits, which explains why there was so much improvement in that aspect over 4. I'm going to give this game a rating of 8.5/10. They nailed the physics and made the game very unique, but the lack of content and unappealing graphics compared to competitors brought the score down. This game really did not get the popularity it deserved, but it has become a bit of a cult classic, much like old Volkswagen Beetles and Reliant Robins are in the automotive world.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ingress Review

I'm not sure how many people can relate, but I used to be a very secluded person. I would wake up, go to school, come home, and go straight to my room to play video games and do other stuff on my computer, only coming out for the bathroom and food. I had a small, close-knit group of friends, and overall I didn't get out much. That changed when I got my requested invite code to Ingress in late January.

Ingress is an augmented reality MMO game for Android phones (official iPhone port is apparently in the works, though there are some unofficial ones) which some people may consider like "geocaching on steroids". It was created by Niantic Labs, which has a tie to google of some sort (I forget the details on that, you can look it up yourself). The game has little markers scattered around everywhere known as portals. These portals are associated with public attractions and other places of interest. This includes things like statues, historical buildings, murals, historical markers, etc. The whole point of the game is to gain mind units for your faction, which is done by capturing portals and linking them together into triangles.

The game itself, like many other MMOs, consists of trying to level up so that you can be more useful, and "farming" for supplies. The backstory for it never really caught my attention, so I don't have an opinion on it. I've heard mixed thoughts on it. But that's not what makes this game awesome.

What makes Ingress well worth trying to nab an invite for (it's currently in a closed beta, but they've been giving out invite codes like crazy to people; more on this at the end) is that it can really change you as a person. As I said, I used to be very secluded and stuck inside my shell. This game is great to break that, because often times, especially just starting out, it's hard to do things solo. So you get a chance to connect with people that are just as nerdy as you are and interact with them in person.
this was from an event some local faction members did. Long story...
The other benefit to Ingress is that it's almost a fitness game without trying to be. You have to actually get out of your house and visit these locations (which can also cause you to get out and find something new, regardless of how long you've lived somewhere). Admittedly, some people tend to play from their cars, but in many cases it's easier, more legal, and a lot more fun to actually get out and walk from portal to portal. I actually lost 15 pounds in my freshman year of college because I really got into this.

I would give this game a 9 out of 10 simply because while they do still have bugs and balance issues to work out, it's a damn good idea, a damn good game, and it is still in beta so they have time to work it out.
If you want to play (it is free!), first try requesting an invite code to your email address at their website

If that doesn't work after about a week, get onto Google+, join the Ingress community, and make a post asking if any local players have an invite code for you to play. Chances are you'll get plenty of responses from people that want you to join under the condition that you join their faction (either enlightened or resistance). As I said, this game is well worth it, so give it a shot.

Agent belisario93, signing out