The Gamer’s Conscience Mailbag 09.29.03

Teaser: 8 months since the last mailbag! 2 per year ain’t bad!

Greetings, all, and welcome to The Gamer’s Conscience Mailbag, where minds gather round to discuss pertinent aspects in issues in gaming with a half-wit attempt at keeping a straight face! OK! so these ‘issues’ aren’t that pertinent. At all. But on keeping the delusion alive, it does indeed take two to tango, right?

While I wish I had some kind of overly-wordy introduction to kick this 2nd mailbag into high gear, or have some kind of relevant theme to place into it thus unifying all of these responses into some HUGE COSMIC PHENOMENON, alas I can’t. The school week just started for me this past Thursday. Yes, Thursday. Why so damned late, you ask? Well, alongside the University of California’s “Three Quarters Make a Whole” academic calendar year (minus you arguably lucky Berkeley cats), most of us in the system get out halfway through June, and go back at the butt-end of September. This year, it was the 25th. But I digress!

The order of today is sharing your thoughts and opinions. So let’s get right to it!

This first installment of feedback pertains to my yet-to-be validated but seeming-with-credibility hypothesis that a story as great and as imaginative as Super Mario Bros. had to have some kind of hallucinogen behind it.

John, via Yahoo, agrees that there are drugs involved, but has another angle to it!

“my theory is simular to yours but a little different.

Me theory is that the games never really happend Mario
was just trippin. Not the creators”

Excellent take there, John. Just as plausible as the ‘creationist’ theory, but it shifts the burden of proof from the development house to the beloved plumber himself. Hell- I’d believe it.

One thing I had in mind was the nostalgia angle, for to play the original Super Mario Bros you’d have to have access to of among the NES, the Super NES, or the Gameboy Color/GBA. So when I got this in my inbox, I was delighted to see that in this day and age of over-hyped 3D gaming on powerhouse systems, respect for the classics does indeed persist!

“Haha, good column homes. That shit was funny. My little brother just bought that old Mario game All Stars and now that I think about it, all of that shit makes sense. Funny shit, heheh, good work.”

T’is indeed great stuff, man. Outside of A Link to the Past, All-Stars was probably the best thing to happen to the SNES. Pleasant gaming, and keep that torch burning.

Next up is a reply to one certain part of the column, in which Doug reminds me that at some points in the process, a whole is only the sum of all it’s parts!

“Normally I trash talk the shit out of anyone who bad mouths FFVII, Xenogears, or any other popular games I like, and make no mistake, while the impulse was still there and there’s no way you could convince me FFVII was a bad game, that was an awesome article. I recall making similar points to my friend years ago, but the AIM log is lost. I didn’t go to the depth you did. Great execution too. I’ll read whatever you release next.”

This one strikes me for two reasons. One, the topic of last week’s Conscience centered around Xenogears, a game whose religious overtones and giant robots kept me at the edge of my $19.99 office chair for nearly two years! It’s a great game, and Doug, you evidently agree. Second, that assessment of FFVII is our very own Alex Lucard’s, and not my own. But if you feel so inclined to get into a fierce argument over it, then you can e-mail him at alexanderluard@usa.net.

Next up on the column block is one that I’m quite fond of; that is, the Street Fighter II/World Politics piece. Being a Poli Sci major at a public university brings many a peril to my evenings, from endless paper drafting to perfecting the phrase “would you like fries with that?” for future employment. So when it finally dawned upon me that Capcom really did their homework for Street Fighter II, my futile academic pursuit felt validated. And evidently, some of you liked it too!

“Hey,
Just wanted to drop you a line and say I enjoyed the shit out of your Street Fighter II / World Politics column. It’s nice to see something original, well written, and informed floating around. Good job bro, keep it up!!!
– Ken A.”

and

“You are a visionary. I never thought of it that way. Video games are not a waste of time. Keep going. —A New Fan”

Thanks a bunch, guys. It’s not every day that I can combine what I’ve “learned” in academia with one of my favorite Capcom franchises. At the moment, I’m waiting for the US Military to announce some kind of Cybernetics program so I can prophesize with Mega Man as an aid. One day, my friends.

Because I need to do something between the atrocious load times in Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen (which I finally beat this past Thursday! “Whoop!”), I do try to keep up with current events. Places like BBC News.com and FARK.com is where I get the bulk of it, so when I came across a story about a wrongful death lawsuit with Grand Theft Auto III at it’s epicenter, I felt compelled to expound upon it. I got many opinion-affirming responses, but I believe this is the one that best reflects the bulk:

“::Clap clap clap clap clap::

Well said.

john, parent.”

Thanks, John. The more I think about the topic, the more it seems that it is simply common sense to not ‘outsource’ parenting. Sure, ratings do seem to serve some purpose in being part of a purchase decision, but it shouldn’t be the end-all be-all solution.

The column on Homebrew Development for Older Consoles also got some strong feedback. As Bryan Berg mentioned earlier, Nintendo is currently putting development hardware in academic institutions- something that, in the long run, can only enrich the gaming community. As for organized homebrewers, I was turned on to some others by way of Nik Thorpe’s feedback, which gives some insight into existing prime candidates for console-bound glory:

“It was great to read your article on homebrew development for systems, and it was a highly interesting read. I’d heard of both Good Deal Games and Feet of Fury thanks to my long-standing love of Sega games, and it got me to thinking.

At Shadowsoft (www.shadowsoft-games.com), we’ve recently come out with the first demo release of our 2D space shooter, Terra Galactica. It’s a fun little game, and was made entirely within the spare time of some bored teenagers. Now, through the process of making the game, we always thought “wouldn’t it be cool if this could be released on GBA?”, and I think it’d be quite cool. The only current problem is that the game itself takes a hefty PC to run, but that should be sorted out soon enough. So yeah, it would be gratifying to see a small hobby project get out onto the major stage for it’s crack at the whip.

Other developers deserve the chance too. Prime candidates for console versions are Space Tripper (www.pompom.org.uk), Live for Speed (www.liveforspeed.net) and of course, Ragnarok Online would be perfect on Dreamcast (what with online play being possible, etc).

So yeah, I wholeheartedly support homebrew development. As long as the correct quality controls are in place, it can only help the industry.”

You definitely know your homebrew, Nik. I wish you the best of luck to you in getting Terra Galatica onto the GBA screen.

However, there is the legal angle to think of, as Andrew, via Yahoo explains in his letter below. While the entire letter is in quotation, my comments are in parenthesis. He brings up excellent points, of which I want to address paragraph by paragraph!

“Dear Fred,

I thought that was a very interesting column, but at the same time I doubt it is likely to become a reality. Yes, I know that it goes on, but to have such games be distributed on the market isn’t very likely for a number of reasons.

A great number of the older platforms may have long been sold off by those who might be interested. For NES, SNES, Genesis maybe–Jaguar and 3DO weren’t really profitable back when they were in their peak. The bottom line is, after all, profits.

(Profitability is the number one concern of any of these businesses operating today, true. But for all of those older systems, the production and publishing rights are still in their original producer’s name, which means that if they wanted to, they could still develop for these machines. Since they’re apparently not, I say let the little man get a chance.

The sheer number of older platform pieces that have been sold are now can be seen as a development ‘dead weight.’ An accessible development and profit structure, which put development outside of their hands would mean that the console manufacturers don’t have to spend a dime on game creation. In the case of cartridge-based machines, I’m certain that there exists an equitable solution that benefits both the developer and the console owner.)

Secondly, legal concerns. There have been quite a number of games that have been on the market that were merely knock-offs of existing hits by legitimate publishers. Take a look at the Krion Conquest for NES, for instance, or the many sprite-hack jobs you see for titles like Sonic and Mario floating around the net. Some games may merely steal a lot of code, while others may be almost the same game as a famous old title. If big-name companies took it upon themselves to publish titles of that nature, they may find themselves targets of lawsuits by companies who published older games that the homebrews are supposedly ripping off.

Sure, lame-ass ripoffs may be weeded out by the publishers, but it seems a lot of work they would have to go through with little payoff.

Maybe they can loosen up regulations and allow homebrewers to create games themselves but make them distribute them if they like, but similar problems may arise if homebrewers take it upon themselves to “convert” a game on one system to another and distribute it. Even if not, the potential may cause big name publishers to look upon them as groups of pirates.

(The stress of the open publishing model is on original material. Unless the developer wants to get a first hand account of how jail operates, there would be no way that a small time developer would try to profit on another’s intellectual property. Allowing development on your console and access to your intellectual property are two different things.)

Still, it would be cool to see, however it seems more likely with Saturn, PS, and similar consoles–since CDs are cheaper to make than cartridges and those systems are newer, so there’s a greater chance of interest.”

Just another reason to bring the country club closer to open membership.

This past week exemplified that columnists are human too, up to the point of maddening confusion. The biggest piece of evidence to that statement was this past week’s column discussing RPG gamers and the lives they either do or do not lead. The question of how RPG heads can lead outside productive lives had been rattling my head for quite some time. And to help qualm the confusion, I’ve received some enlightening answers.

The first one comes from a gamer who apparently is the real 6 Million Dollar Man, as he appears to be the utopian zenith of the time efficient gamer that some people try to be!

“That’s simple. We don’t. For example, I’m 18. I’ve had a 30+ hour a week job for 2 years now. I’ve started(but not finished) FFVIII-X, Legend of Dragoon and that goddamned Xenosaga movie(that’s right, movie), not to mention many other RPGs and other genres. Before I had a job, I could finish 3 RPGs a month.”

While I’m not a social researcher by any means, I would wager that the majority of gamers would fall into this particular bracket. In true friendly fashion, I would offer some advice on the matter. However, when it comes to RPGs, I’m as lost on direction as Bush 43 on fiscal responsibility.

But my favorite response on the matter comes from a Law School student somewhere in this world, who in the true and tired lawyer fashion, has come up with a way to cheat father time himself when it comes to playing time-consuming RPGs!

“Laptop + SNES9x’s turbo function + endless digression by law school profs = Sven getting 30 hours of Final Fantasy V play in last week (during 14 hours of actual class time).

And I’m like the anti-RPG player – I can’t stand any Final Fantasy game after VI. Once they got to the PSX, the games just became too self-masturbatory for my tastes. Xenosaga’s endless cutscenes annoyed me in much the same fashion, to the point where I just gave the game and PS2 back to my friend.

-Sven”

Sven, you are the man. Anyone else who says otherwise should look to this assessment. By the way- you wouldn’t have spare LSAT book lying around, would ya?

So that does it for this round of mail. Big thanks to all of you who wrote in, and continue to feel welcome to do so in the future. There will be ample opportunity to do so in the future, just so long as there are inquiring minds like yours to keep the fire going.

Remember- we here at 411 Games strive to do an awesome job, which we only do better after reading your feedback. So as Greg Graffin says on track 12 of The New America, “Don’t let it die! Let it burn!”

And as corny as that reads, and believe me- it does, that is the Gamer’s Conscience.


Which leads me to a question for you all- would you prefer the inception of replies to be in a separate ‘Mailbag’ column like this, or would you like them at the end of every GC? I can accommodate either way- just let me know.

And with that, I’m out for the week. As per the usual grind here at 411 Games you’re up for an awesome week of great BS-less reviews, and news brought with more personality than you’d meet in a Creative Writing class. So until next week!