The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (September 2021)
Question to @Brannox about Final Fantasy VII.
Every artform evolves over time, but videogames evolve especially fast, and things that were groundbreaking and innovative yesterday feels simplistic and limited today, because follow-up games took those ideas and pushed them even further. And I’m not talking just about technical side, I’m talking about everything, even storytelling. I loved Mass Effect 2 to death when I played it a decade ago, but when I’ve replayed it in Legendary Edition this summer, I was extremely disappointed with the fact that your companions don’t talk to each other even when they really should (I took Miranda on Jack’s loyalty mission and she remained silent even when Jack talked shit on Cerberus’s experiments). Lack of such subtle conversations didn’t bother me at all in 2010, but in 2021 a hero that doesn’t react to his surrounding feels poorly written.
So, it’s hard for me to believe that things you were praising in your presentation (story, characters, battle system) will have the same impact if you play this game today for the first time. Final Fantasy VII may be an important part of gaming history and was probably Great in 1997. But is it really Great in 2021?
Question to @JDINCINERATOR about GTA: Vice City.
In your presentation you’ve praised this game for perfectly capturing the vibe of the era and being incredibly immersive. At the same time, you said that there’s no time for emotions or serious storytelling and you spend most of the time wreaking havoc and destruction. Aren’t these two aspects contradicting each other?
Question to @DIPSET about Tony Hawk's Underground.
In your presentation you’ve talked about “One more try” aspect of this game and from my experience the desire to try again only kicks in when you feel like it was just a stupid mistake, and you can do it perfectly on the very next attempt. You may then lose 10 times in a row, but you must always feel that next one will be the one. But then you said that a lot of goals are really difficult. Giving “one more try” to a difficult task usually means just bashing your head against the wall – to succeed you need to commit time to analyze the task, to get good at each component and then to practice chaining those things together.
Does that mean that “One more try” aspect of Tony Hawk's Underground only works when you’ve already mastered this game and just improving your scores?
Question to @Oscillator about The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
My biggest concern with games with time loop mechanic is that you have to redo a lot of actions over and over, which can be especially unpleasant if you were on the right track and just ran out of time. And one-hour loop seems like a lot of progress ready to be lost. I imagine that the prospect of such significant progression loss will pressure you to skip dialogs, exploration, and experimentation, which are probably the very things that make this game worth playing.
So, I want to ask you: what positive aspects time loop mechanic bring to this game and what makes drawbacks of having time loop mechanic less dreadful than they seem from the outside?
Question to @Sentinel-Beach about Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
In gameplay video that you’ve presented, camera was seamless during traversal, but there were a lot of perspective shifts during combat. Having two different camera behaviors seem odd on its own, but it’s especially strange when the more “chaotic” version is allocated to fighting enemies. This was a very simple environment, yet I was disoriented and confused to the point that I initially thought that some portion of gameplay was cut for the interest of time.
How camera feels when you play the game? Is it more, or less a hurdle than when you watch someone else playing it?
Question to @Capnbobamous about Katamari Damacy.
In your presentation you’ve mentioned simplicity, joyfulness and equality as the main things that make this game a unique experience. And while it’s true that most games try to be more serious or focused, there are many games (especially among indies) that shares the same qualities. Flower, Donut County, ABZÛ, probably Journey, probably Tearaway, likely the most of “walking simulators”… If I was more familiar with this sub-genre, I would likely name many more similar games.
It’s obvious that Katamari Damacy is a very special game for you, but new player doesn’t have such bond yet. So why should he choose to play Katamari Damacy instead of any other simple joyful game with positive meaning?
@ffff0 I believe that Vice City is fully capable of providing something that feels authentic whilst leveraging that with GTA's brand of open-world sandbox mayhem. I don't think there's a formidable contradiction here. I think I see what you're saying because serious storytelling when done well can make a game even more immersive, but I think Vice City is able to marry its 80s era presentation with a penchant for destruction by doffing its cap to all the references it makes to pop culture.
@ffff0 Generally do you think it's a bit too early to consider Apex Legends a great given that it's two-years old and its community is still going strong, or do you believe enough time has elapsed for it to be considered a great?
@brannox Given that Final Fantasy VII is over two-decades old, do you think it's capable of being as enjoyable today as it was when it came out in 1997?
@dipset Do you think that Tony Hawks Underground's ability to get off your board undermines the arcade pleasures of its predecessors in any way?
@oscillator Do you think Majora's Mask does enough to step out of Ocarina of Time's shadow and establish an identity all its own?
@sentinel-beach How do you feel Prince of Persia has inspired other games in its genre and do you hold it up as a trailblazer of sorts?
@capnbobamous Before I ask the question I'll say that video brought a tear to my eye-you have demonstrated what the true power of the videogame medium can do with this presentation. As for my question do you think Katamari Damacy might be too strange to appeal to younger audiences?
Respond to @jdincinerator question about whether Apex Legends is too new to be considered for Hall of Greats.
I think that determining how much time needs to pass to evaluate Apex Legends as a possible Great is very tricky question because this is an evolving game. We can wait two more years, and we will likely be in exactly the same situation – it’s too early to evaluate entire legacy of this game, because it’s still happening. So, we either have to keep waiting until this game dies, or we have to be open to the idea that some games can be called Great while they are still active. Since we are open to the idea of “living classic” among writers, film directors, stage performers and other artists, the second option makes more sense to me.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t wait at all - we all had honeymoon phases with certain games only to realize later that they aren’t as great as they initially seamed. But my case for Apex Legends mostly revolves around things that were there from the beginning (character-specific interactions were added a year later) and I think more than enough time has passed to let emotions cool down and evaluate them rationally. After all, my presentation was mostly based on facts, rather than my passion for this game (this statement DOES NOT mean that certain presentation style is better than other).
DIPSET last edited by DIPSET
T.H.U.G - RESPONSE #1
Response to @ffff0 question about the addiction-factor and difficulty in T.H.U.G only comes with Mastery of the game.
Really good question—I wanted to elaborate on this more and was hoping somebody would bring up the "one more try" addiction factor.
There are two really strong qualities to the "one more try" factor and the first one is exactly as you describe it. Even on Normal mode, there are at least one or two tough goals per level. Your desire to keep going again and again is mostly from small mistakes. Something like a slip of a thumb or not ollieing far enough to reach the next object which might ruin momentum. So it's almost always "Damn—so close! Next one!".
The goals aren't brutally difficult in the sense you need to have a mastery of the game and score a 2M point combo. It's difficult in the sense that you need to focus and stay precise. Goals are difficult in the sense that they provide a reasonable challenge that you likely won't complete on the very first attempt.
The other quality to the addiction factor is the snappiness of the <START> <DOWN> <RESET> process. In T.H.U.G, the goal restart is nearly instant. You get back into the action in a blink of an eye. So when you do feel like you absolutely have it the next time, you're right back in there. Bam bam bam. The addiction factor is amplified through the roof by this quick process. It is also significantly more quick and addicting than other sports/arcade games of it's era like SSX or Gran Turismo which take a long time to restart a challenge.
T.H.U.G RESPONSE #2
Response to @JDINCINERATOR question if getting off your skateboard in T.H.U.G undermines the arcade nature of the series.
Getting off your skateboard in T.H.U.G actually enhances the pre-established combo system by introducing the "Cave Man" mechanic which gives you a short ongoing timer which limits the amount of time you are allowed to be off your board and still keep your combo. It also helps your character level out if you Cave Man in mid-air which I think enhances that pre-existing arcadey combo system.
That said—I know the spirit of your question was about the overall experience of getting off your board. I really don't think getting off your board is the reason why T.H.U.G feels a lot different than earlier THPS games.
In Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 you CANNOT get off your board. Yet, it was the sweeping design changes introduced in THPS4 that introduced the open world Career Mode and individual goal structure that carried into T.H.U.G. That specific design decision moved the direction from 2 minute arcade frenzy into more open world sandbox and individual goals. So getting off your board isn't really a factor in the change of direction. Old school arcade THPS is great. I think the open world formula is a bit less arcadey, but better overall.
Question to @Capnbobamous about Katamari Damacy
First of all, I think what you extracted from this game on a personal level is really wonderful. I have a really personal connection to this game as well, but mine is a lot less touching. Regardless, I think the game invites itself to bring a lot of joy and good memories to those who played it, especially when it came out.
There are many Katamari games available across many platforms at this point. My personal favourite is Katamari Forever on PS3 because it packages the best levels across all games, remixes the levels, remixes the music, remasters the graphics to HD, and even contextualizes the remix within the story. So it's something like a "Remaster+" in our modern vernacular.
Do you think Katamari Damacy is the definitive and greatest game in the series and other than your sentimental attachment, why would you recommend it over a bigger package like Katamari Forever, or some of the other more traditional sequels like We Love Katamari?
Question to @Sentinel-Beach about Sands of Time
It's been a long time since I played this title, but I do remember thinking it's a classic. However, if my memory serves me correctly, I think I found almost everything to be improved upon in it's sequels (mainly the combat). Can you elaborate on why you think Sands of Time is better than the other games in this trilogy?
Question to @Oscillator about Majora's Mask
Firstly, you might be the only person to explain this game in such a way that truly taught me what it's actually about. The main discourse around MM only even mentions it re-using OoT assets but rarely describes the game itself.
In asking this question, just consider that I've never played Majora's Mask: Can you elaborate more on how the gameplay dramatically differs from prior loops once you get new tools and masks? Or if it's easier, explain how the loops in general differ from one another?
Question to @JDINCINERATOR about GTA: Vice City
The PS2-era GTA trilogy really leans into influences like mafia movies in GTA III, Scarface in Vice City, and West Coast hip hop and films of the 90s in San Andreas. You praise Vice City for it's detail oriented 80s immersion, but do you think it leans too far into capturing a vibe and feeling as opposed to creating great characters and satisfying a plot?
This question stems from me having a lot more attachment to the characters and story in GTA III and San Andreas while somewhat drawing a blank about most characters and beats in Vice City.
Brannox last edited by
Before answering the questions posed to me, I want to give a quick note:
I will create a massive post with two questions per game in a little bit as I just got off work. I need some time before I can properly ask questions.
Now on to my answer, which actually (to me) seems like the two posed (so far) are asking the same thing:
To @JDINCINERATOR, absolutely. Now, if I didn't think was enjoyable at all I wouldn't nominate it in any capacity, but enjoyment really comes down to the individual. Over the years, while there are a variety of reasons I've heard people say they didn't enjoy VII, or bounced off of it after a few hours, the most common complaint I've heard is that people didn't enjoy the turn based battle system. And this could also be for several reasons itself: It maybe paced too slow for some, or the menu based system wasn't as organized as others would have liked. As games have evolved over the last two plus decades, it's evident many, MANY games have adopted an action-first or action-emphasized pace, in battle system, storytelling, etc. But what has made it stand the test of time is at its foundation, it's easy to follow along in all of its mechanics from movement, to inputting commands, character management, and the activities you do from battles to the mini-games I mentioned. And, if you choose to play the PS4 version, by clicking the sticks you activate certain cheats. Don't like grinding or random battles? Turn them off. Want to have Limit Breaks always on to always do the strongest attacks? Turn those on. Want to make the game go at super speed? There's a cheat for that too.
And all of this actually ties into what you asked @ffff0. To simply ask if something is "Great" is entirely subjective to a person's tastes. If someone struggles with RPGs in how the genre is structured, they're not going to like VII, or any game of its kind, immediately. However, VII became as popular as it did because it made easy to understand, coupled with being a part of a franchise that heralded games on the SNES/Super Famicom in FF II & III (IV & VI in the west). As such, if anyone played the Remake with its action based system and liked it enough to check out the source material, then the original game is easy enough to pick up and enjoyable to play. That is one it's "Great"; it's comprehensive and welcoming design to new players.
In regards to the storytelling example you gave, that's a very specific example that is inherit to Mass Effect, because heading into that mission, it's already been long established Jack and Miranda hate each other, so taking Miranda on the loyalty mission without comment is odd, but not a guarantee for many players if they chose to take anyone else and they don't have that on their mind, whether they like other crew members or don't like using Miranda. In VII, there are all these little choices throughout that, in the moment, may not seem like much, but over time add up to a big impact. For example, choosing whether or not to give Marlene the flower or pushing the wrong barrel in the church when trying to escape Shinra forces with Aerith adds up (among many other choices) to who you go on a date with much later on. Also, to provide a different kind of storytelling example, there is a place called Gongaga that is the home of a crucial character and if you have Tifa, or Aerith or BOTH of them in your party, you get different dialogue on a scene that's otherwise completely missable, and that's just one example. Now these examples aren't SUPPOSED to be known for first time players, so on the surface, you shouldn't know you need to have specific members at specific times for certain optional dialogue. Taking Tifa into Nibelheim is a GREAT example, as you would have experienced the flashback sequence LONG before arriving, and having that context when you bring Tifa adds more to the narrative and again, is completely missable.
To close, people's tastes change so if you're someone who doesn't like the aesthetic, gameplay, etc. of the various components of a game, then there really isn't anything that can be said to convince someone their updated tastes retroactively make a game bad. Personally, I didn't play VII for the first time until TEN YEARS after it came out and it was an experience that permanently left a mark. Sure, in many aspects, many other games had better visuals, gameplay structure, etc. the medium had introduced in the intervening time, but VII is "Great" because regardless of the time period, its ingredients are timeless.