The Forgotten RPG: A Lesson On Community

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Before I begin, I'd like to shamelessly plug @Pokecharm's blog post about solutions for some of the problems the community seems to have at Gamespot. While the problems don't affect me nearly as much as it affects others, the potential loss of what makes Gamespot what it is--its community--has prompted me to speak up and share my own wisdom regarding exactly what online communities are and how they work. However, to do this, I have to frame this advice within the types of communities I have experience with, so bear with me as I try to explain things as best as possible. So, onto the topic of Role-Playing Games (RPGs for short). When you hear the term "RPG," what do you think of? Neverwinter Nights? Baldur's Gate? Knights of the Old Republic? Some aspects of the Mass Effect series? Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga? The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim? These are the RPGs that I would expect GameSpotters to be familiar with; digital stories told through branched interaction and turn-based battles. But, as I'm sure some of you know, there's a flip side to the RPG genre. A side that is truly freeform, with a truly open world, limited only by your budget, your art skills, and your storytelling imagination. I'm referring, of course, to the ancestor of digital RPGs, the dice-based tabletop RPG systems like GURPS, Dungeons and Dragons, and the Star Wars roleplaying game. Some well-known video game RPGs are pulled directly from these RPG systems, simply adding story to an existing rules system; of these, the original Knights of the Old Republic games is probably the best known. These tabletop RPGs are oft-ignored by mainstream media, but they posess a thriving culture that's only grown through internet communities. However, there is a third, less-remembered form of RPG that, in the modern era, is somewhat of a hybrid between the two: the text-based RPG. GameSpot used to be host of one such RPG; some of you may recall the Jedi Council Union and its ill-fated Star Wars-based text-based RPG (or TB-RPG). For those of you who do not, recall classic text-based adventure games like Adventure, the Zork series, Trinity, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (yes, THAT Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). In these games, you input your commands through text, and the program told you the results; it's the same basic formula as modern-day video game RPGs, but with few to no graphics and other fancy features. TB-RPGs take this basic input form and put another person--a GM (Game Master) on the other end, just as in a tabletop RPG. These RPGs have the advantage of needing no physical notes, dice, or figures (which are vital for tabletop play) while at the same time remaining flexible and free-form (something that no video game RPG to date has ever truly done, though some are coming close). As an added bonus, the internet is a haven for artists of all kinds, so if there is a graphic artist within your role-playing group, you can have beautiful art as a part of your game as well, depriving video game RPGs of one of their greatest advantages over the other two types; likewise, in a text-based game there's no need for complex sourcebooks and backstory information, since the GM can create whatever world they'd like and all the relevant info will be right there, online. But TB-RPGs' greatest strength comes from something neither of the other two RPG types have: community. MMOs like City of Heroes, Star Trek Online, The Old Republic, and of course the venerable World of Warcraft thrive on huge worlds filled with many, MANY players who can interact to expand the gameplay experience. While some do claim to be MMORPGs, few truly focus on role-playing and story; even The Old Republic's stories, though branching, are fixed; two players a month apart can make the same choices and see the same content, minus the odd loot drop. TB-RPGs keep the positive player-interaction benefeits (even though they tend to exist on a smaller scale), while adding their own style and truly open world. If a Rogue walks into a fancy banquet at King Zodion's royal hall and then kidnaps the princess to extort money from her father, he may successfully complete the deed; if another Rogue tries the same thing a month later, the princess will likely turn the tables on the Rogue and beat him up for his foolishness--the world is persistent and constantly changing. The LEGO Heroica RPG on AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) fan forum Eurobricks is an excellent example of such an RPG. As you can see, I am a huge fan of TB-RPGs; they satisfy many of the same creative urges that their kin do, without the hassle of setting up meetings and reading sourcebooks to learn backstory. However, there IS one major issue regarding TB-RPGs, and it applies to all communities, no matter their interest matter. In the beginning of a TB-RPG, the world is an empty canvas. There's no designated tone, so crazy antics and zany misadventures often blend freely with the heavy drama favored by "serious" roleplayers and the Mary Sue-esque feats of skill exhibited by the min-maxers (also known as "munchkins" among the RPG community). But sooner or later, the style solidifies, and becomes uniform. That feel, that tone of community starts to draw in new players, who subconsciously expect that tone to continue. But here's the thing: it doesn't, it won't, and it never will. TB-RPGs, and indeed all communities (internet-based or not) change over time; people change, it's in our nature. As our lives lead us in new directions, we develop new traits, interests, and ways of thinking to adapt to the changes around us. Whether our changes lead us away from a community or just change how we interact within it, it fundamentally changes the tone of that community. Some people (mostly those who take the community itself too seriously) will deride those people who have changed for being "inconsistent" or for "not conforming" to the old community tone, failing to realize that the tone is always changing, and that their own responses further change it in their own favored direction. The real issues start when the Game Master's tone changes. Perhaps they saw a movie that greatly inspired them, or a life circumstance caused them to rethink their outlook on life (which WILL change how they run their game, no matter how much they try to avoid it). Usually this manifests itself as a just-for-fun RPG being reinterpreted as "Serious Business", though the reverse can happen. Ultimately, the initial response is "They Changed It, Now It Sucks" (as TVTropes wiki so tactfully puts it), but the long-term response is what's telling. We are in the middle of a series of changes to GameSpot. The "Game Master" saw new things in the world, and made their decision to change how GameSpot works, for better or for worse; these changes aren't good or bad, they're different. For those of us who have poured our time, energy, and creativity into this site, the natural reaction is indeed "They Changed It, Now It Sucks." The question that remains for us is, what will break, the community, or the resistance to the change? When a community changes, sometimes the change is just too great, and it breaks; users leave and disappear into the murky depths of the Internet, never to be seen again. An attempt at "migrating" to another home may be made, but unless a new home has already spread its net to catch the refugees, there will be little progress. Even if the net is already there, only a few stragglers will make it to the new home, and the community will be greatly downsized. For members used to a large community, this may be a fatal loss, and after a short time they will vanish into the Internet like so many others among their bretheren. This is what happened to the players of LEGO Universe; though a few made it to existing fan sites (especially larger ones like Eurobricks), the bulk of the game community, AND all the sub-communities attached to it, disappeared into the ether with the game itself. There is another way: for those strong enough, bold enough, and determined enough to stick out the turmoil, even if they don't like the community's new direction. Though the nay-sayers may disappear, these people will stick it out, and form a new community amid the ruins of the old. This is an important thing about community: it changes in its own way, regardless of the desires of any one participant. If we choose to stay, if we remain determined to further our existence here in the face of the changes that some of us may not like, then our community will thrive. Our community depends not on forum software or features or whether or not the site staff appear to be listening to our complaints. A community depends on the people who are a part of it, and we are no different. If we choose to stay, then we can stay. If we choose to go, then let us remember our time with fond memories. I do not know what the GameSpot community will decide. I do not claim to know which is the right solution. What I DO know is that the choice is in our hands. The vast majority of the arguments I've seen, in favor of disbanding or against it, seem to think that the fate of the community is out of our hands, vested in the decisions of "the suits" as I've heard them called. This is not true. The staff may have control over the site itself, but they cannot force us to stay or to go. They play their role in influencing the decision, but that decision is ultimately ours. Fighting about it (especially fighting with the staff) is pointless; we can only make our choice. Will we continue to try to sustain our community, continuint to try to work with the staff to find a middle ground? Or will we see our fortunes elsewhere, our departures changing the remaining GameSpot community forever? Remember: there is no "enemy;" there are only different directions of change, neither good nor bad. I know what I'm doing; what will YOU decide?

Where I've been

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So, if you've read my last blog post (or have looked at my profile page), you'll notice it was made almost six months ago. This was not an intended absence. To put a long story short: I was grieving. For a game. About a month after I posted about the "Fall of an MMO", LEGO Universe announced its impending closure. I was stunned--almost seven years' worth of work had been thrown away before it was even given a chance. And it wasn't given a chance--but back on topic, grieving. For about three weeks I just stopped playing. I jumped on once in a while to kill time when I was bored, but that was it. I bought Minecraft and played it obsessively, just for the distraction from LU. Booting up the patcher and seeing that news notice was just too much to bear. Next, I moved into denial: the game wouldn't close, it couldn't close, because the community would rally and save it. I started joining various efforts, making plan for an epic publicity campaign to save LEGO Universe. But then I saw some of the responses my fellow players had gotten from LEGO, and as laid-off employees' and developers' NDA contracts began to expire and they began appearing on various sites to explain the politics of the situation, I began to see how hopeless it was--LU would have been doomed even without the closure announcement, and it had nothing to do with money--but again, more on that topic another time. For the final month, in January, I played obsessively. I'm not talking about 3-4 hours a day, I'm talking 8-10 hours per day, every day, with minimal breaks for physical needs. The skeleton crew of devs and mods began sending out free stuff, from rare items to things that had been in development but weren't quite ready for release, and used their coding skills to transform certain instances with all kinds of wondrous unreleased models and content. They had been caught off-guard just as much as we had, and they commiserated with us. In the final week I scrambled to join as many LU fan communities as I could, trying to make sure I could keep in touch with as many folks from that great community as I could. In the game's final moments, I raced around the main hub, rounding up as many of my friends as I could so that we would all be together at the end. The moment of shutdown was so simple and sudden, it caught us all off-guard. In our hearts we expected some cataclysmic bluescreen with lines of indescipherable code across the screen informing us of the ultimate loss of our world. Instead, we were simply kicked to the title screen, and upon attempting to login were greeted with a simple "LEGO Universe is currently closed" message. It was so anticlimactic as to be even more heartbreaking, I think, than a more catastrophic end; I think we were hoping for something, some ultimate moment where the end would strip away the veneer and remind us that LEGO Universe was just another computer game, not the rich, vibrant world we had created through the game and our own imaginations. Instead, it was like the world was still there, just beyond reach, and that we had been exiled from it, like the Pevensie children in the Narnia stories. Worse than the loss of the game itself (I have no problem now admitting to its many flaws) was the loss of the community. We had a unique family in LEGO Universe, and the closure broke something the like of which I fear shall never be seen in the world again. It was all terribly traumatic, and for a while I was put off of video games entirely. But now, after having had time to heal, I am back. So, how does this relate to GameSpot? It doesn't, really, except to explain where I've gone; a few months, in denial, the last month, playing obsessively, and the time since then, avoiding video games. But perhaps there is something of value here, something the gaming world at large can learn from the loss of LEGO Universe. A big part of that is community. LU was more than just a bunch of little kids. A surprisingly large portion of the population were adults, who enjoyed the atmosphere and the decency of the people who played the game. And it's true; although the game had its trolls, most of them were little kids whose parents never taught them manners; the serious players were almost all good, decent, non-judgemental people. This game brought out the best in people, and I don't see that a lot these days. LU, more than just a game, was a social construct, an MMO that, more than any other, exploited the potential for human connections that exists in such massive online worlds. This is one of those elements that you never realize was missing from games until you experience it firsthand, and once you do you can never look at multiplayer games the same way again. LEGO Universe was, in all honesty, a hidden diamond that never got a chance to really shine, but maybe, just maybe, if the game developers can somehow recapture that factor that allowed a community like ours to exist, then its light will live on somehow. One thing is for sure: if a mainstram game manages to capture that special spark, it will transform the gaming world as we know it forever. You can count on that.

Fall of an MMO

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Adam 1808 recently posted a blog about his experiences with multiplayer gameplay in video games (specifically, Portal 2). This reminded me of a few gaming experiences of my own that I'd like to share. But first, some minor backstory: I love Lego. I'm a HUGE Lego fan; even today, I am a member of several Lego forums, the value of my Lego collection exceeds that of my video game collection, and I even own a one-of-a-kind set with pieces and a minifigure that exist nowhere else in the world (aside from a copy sealed away in the LEGO Archives for...well, archival purposes). I had played and thoroughly enjoyed the LEGO Star Wars and Indiana Jones games, so in late 2009, when I heard that Lego was developing an MMO, I was ecstatic. Now, to make a long, exciting (to LEGO fans) story short, by winning that one-of-a-kind set through a LEGO Alternate Reality Game in January 2010, I earned the right to join the Alpha Test of LEGO Universe. It was slow. It was rough. It was buggy. It was also darned fun. You see, despite the similarities to LEGO Star Wars and its ilk, LEGO Universe (LU) was an entirely new experience. I saw dozens of plastic people running around in front of me and exploring the same world I was; more importantly, I knew that these people were, like me, devoted fans of LEGO, with a dedication to the brick rivaling my own. Now, you might wonder how I knew they weren't just curious gamers. Well, due to the stringent standards of Alpha test admission, I knew they were either a.) friends and family of the LU developers and other LEGO employees, b.) kids who were part of an organization LEGO uses specifically for brainstorming and consumer research, or c.) people who had, like me, followed the Bradford Rant ARG and earned the chance to test. When we figured out how to use chat (this being Alpha testing, there were NO instructions), we talked for hours about what we had discovered in-game, what we liked and disliked about LU, what drew us to LEGO, and on and on. There was a sense of a tight-knit community that was later lost. When Alpha ended and open Beta began, not much changed, aside from the obvious technical and gameplay changes instituted during the process. The biggest social difference was that there were even more fans to share in this community. However, that's when the trouble started; you see, among the many, MANY dedicated fans of LEGO, the "leet" gamers and the trolls started to leak in. Since the process of getting access to Beta took a while, not everyone was accepted into Beta, and the developers weeded out most of the bigger jerks pretty quickly. In retrospect, we the fans should have noticed the signs and taken action (through our feedback reports) to preserve the kind of community we had. The leetists, unlike the rest of us, made great use of the feedback reports; they complained loudly and often that LU was too easy, and it wouldn't be worth their money to buy it when it came out. The LU devs responded to their feedback, and while some of the ramp-ups in difficulty did improve the game, it rapidly escalated to the point where some parts of the game were more like work than play. The second half of Beta basically consisted of the few fans who had spotted the warning signs desperately scrambling to stem the tide of negative changes before release. We succeeded--but it was not to last. We lost most of our ranks when the game went public; most of us didn't have the budgets to afford a $40 game as well as $10 per month subscription fees. Worse, many of the rest of us were lulled into a false sense of security by the early-play month for those who had pre-ordered LU; like Alpha and early Beta, only the most dedicated fans were willing to pre-order, and so once again LU was a close-knit, peaceful, encouraging community, only this time we had a fleshed-out and (mostly-)stable game in which to socialize. Life was good, but our hopes for LU were dashed when the rest of the public got in. In less than a month, the community shifted from one of cooperation and equality to one of greed and elitism. Chat was flooded with spam and questions from new players who ignored the instructional mission dialogues and the signs placed in plain view. Instead of helping other players reach new Achievements, players stole kills and bragged about their loot. The bugs we testers had gleefully shown each other before reporting them to the development team were mercilessly exploited to gain money and loot without any real effort. The community economy (through the trade function) soon exhibited the primary flaws of uncontrolled capitalism; namely, unrestrained greed. By the time of the Christmas update, those of us who had only played for the first month then returned for the new content were shocked by the unfriendliness of the new LU, and we found that rampant inflation caused by greedy elitists had rendered our formerly-formidible tens of thousands of coins chump change. The problem just got worse with time; the Crux Prime update introduced more symbols of elitism, and a pair of bugs caused massive inflation through the introduction of literally millions of coins into the economy. It was a disaster, and incivility ran rampant. However, that same update introduced a feature that (I think) at least partially redeemed LU: teams. Now, I could join a team with my friends, and our loot was shared; furthermore, we got our own chat window, so we could safely ignore the spam-filled cacophany of general chat. Of course, players found a way to abuse this feature, too, but at last there was a semblance of positive community in the game. Things looked up even more when Nexus Tower was released; it was a new non-combat world, which seems to have been the final straw for many of the elitists; many got bored and left. To be sure, LU is still full of "a whole lot of ugly from a never-ending parade of stupid," but it's far more likely to run into a genuine fan now than it was at the start of the year. (The reduction of the software itself to $9.99 also helped, as it allowed many cash-strapped Lego fans to get back into the game.) So where is LU now? Well, I'm not sure. I was worried that Levels would bring back more of the WoW-like behavior (which it did, partially), but LEGO implemented them in a nice way, heading off a fair number of the problems before they could crop up. LEGO also seems to be policing the chat a lot more than they used to, which is a welcome change. However, there are still other problems that Lego refuses to address, and the biggest elitist names are still a mar on the beauty of LU. The recent release of another major combat-oriented world has likely attracted more of these people as well. But I just don't know. I plan to find out before the month is over, though. For now, I can only watch, and hope that LU can find its soul again, and if it can become half the gameplay experience that Portal 2's co-op is, then I will be a happy, happy man.

My JRPG -- King of Dreams (with art!!!)

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Game name: King of Dreams  Story: You wake up on a bench in Narita airport. A 12-year-old child is with you-YOUR child. Their other parent is nowhere to be seen. Suddenly you remember why you are there: you were on your way to visit your spouse, who has been working in Japan for the past six months, when suddenly a news report of some unknown disaster came in on the in-flight television. Then, the news blacked out, and when you arrived, the airport was in lockdown. It's been twelve hours, and your spouse is nowhere to be seen. You decide to take your child out into the world and find out what happened. It turns out, some unknown force is bringing peoples' dreams to life. At first, it's not too noticeable--the culture shock make Japan seem strange enough as-is; statues dressed with real clothes, streets with decorative fountains running down the sidewalk, miniature replicas of the Empire State Building used as streetlamps (yes, these are all real things that actually exist in Japan--and these are the tamer elements). But as you get used to traveling around, you realize that something isn't right--no one will talk to you, and the few Japanese who exhibit their famed helpfulness leave you with dire warnings to leave this place and go home, or you will be doomed along with everyone else. The weather, too, is strange, and the sights don't match at all with the images you see on posters and in books you find. That's when things start coming to kill you. In the first battle, you are rescued by Clorio, a tall man with spiky blonde hair, blue eyes, a red hat, overalls, and a sword wrapped in gauze. However, before he can get to them, your child is kidnapped by voracious green reptiles that spit exploding eggs. Clorio disappears, revealing a frail, wheelchair-bound teenager who has extraordinary powers of the mind. The true Clorio explains that something is bringing people's dreams to life and twisting them into horrific monsters, but those who realize this can use this power to their advantage, to survive. Clorio agrees to help you find your child and your spouse, and to help you escape the ruined country. Meanwhile, your child awakes in a jail cell, along with their cellmate Alfonso. Alfonso, a soldier from an American navy base that was overrun by monsters, explains that something terrible has happened, but it is definitely not a natural event. From what the guards have mentioned while the child was asleep, he/she is an extremely important part of a shadowy master's plans. Alfonso agrees to break him out, as long as the child promises to help him stop the madness. As they break out, they encounter Alan, another soldier from the base, one more skilled with mechanical inventions and computers. With his help, they find out that hidden devices across the country are generating psychic frequencies that drain the people of their dreams and feed them into a central generator, which transforms them into real, physical manifestations completely loyal to their shadowy overlord and ready to help him further his plans. Just then, they are detected, and must make their escape. You enter an abandoned U.S. Navy base with Clorio, where you must fight through monsters as well as ghosts of the past in the form of ghostly WWII soldiers in the midst of a terrible battle. Neither side is hostile to you, but if you aren't careful you can easily get caught in the crossfire, especially with web-traps laid by cybernetic spider-monsters hidden about the area. With the help of Nami, a member of the JMSDF, you must search the base for clues and intelligence as to what happened. These clues indicate strange behavior among several prominent leaders and scientists in Yokohama, which leads you northward. However, that's when the monsters attack in force, trapping citizens in their homes and killing anyone unlucky enough to get in the way. You head for Clorio's home, only to see the building leveled and his parents murdered in front of your eyes. That's when Ryu, leader of the resistance, comes to your aid, taking you to their base beneath the streets of Yokosuka... As the story goes on, you must fight back the abominations through either strength or clever problem-solving (a la Knights of the Old Republic, with a bit of Jedi Knight-esque puzzle-solving), as you travel across Japan in search of your spouse and your child. Meanwhile, your child must gather allies and destroy the monsters' means of attack. Both paths involve recruiting new allies by completing quests, as well as characters who leave one party and end up joining the other (though the core characters listed below (except Ryu) will stay with the character they are first introduced to). Ending: SPOILER!!!! Midway through the story, Alfonso is revealed as the leader of the Nightmare army, who allowed the child to escape in order to further their mental powers, which are the key to his becoming all-powerful. Once the child reached their full potential, Alfonso would brainwash them and use them in conjunction with the dream machine to make their wishes come true. HOWEVER!! Once the main character and their child reunite, it is revealed that Alfonso had been possessed by an ancient demon, who fed on his nightmares to create the whole scheme, and that Alfonso himself truly wishes to repair the damage "he" had caused. It turns out that the demon is trying to free itself from the underworld, but even with the power of dreams at his command he needs to bind himself to a human form to remain in this realm. Alfonso was a useful pawn, but his weak mind powers makes him a poor choice for a permanent form. The child, with his/her extreme mind powers would be a good choice, but the power of dreams is diminished by an impure heart; however, your character's abducted spouse, whose line gave your child their powers, is a much better choice, having decent powers of the mind but a heart damaged by the evils of the adult world. In the end, Alfonso re-binds himself to the demon and tries to sacrifice himself to stop it, but by then the demon is too powerful, and, anchored to this world by the paralyzed Alfonso and your imprisoned spouse, the demon attacks your combined party (this is the only time you can replace fallen party members during a battle, as if your party drops below the normal 3 another character replaces them). After an intense battle, your party is on the brink of defeat, but the power of belief your party has in you allows you and your child to reach your spouse's mind and, with their help, you release the demon's grasp on them. The demon is sealed within Alfonso's body and, rather than risk the demon escaping to wreak havoc once more, he throws himself into the underworld, to prevent the demon from repeating the scheme with another unsuspecting victim. A moment later, he turns around and shatters the gateway into a thousand pieces, which slowly melt away. As the credits roll, your reunited family and the rest of the party oversee the reconstruction of Japan--using the power of the dream device for good. But after the credits, a boy discovers a small, dark fragment of stone with a glowing spark within, and decides to take it home... Starting characters: You can choose to be either male or female, but the game plays pretty much the same way either way. You also choose their child's gender, which has a slight effect on who joins the party when. * You: You choose your name, appearance, and gender. Your stats depend on your job: programmer (low strength, medium mind skills, high mechanical skills), actor (medium strength, high mind skills, low mechanical skills), reporter (low strength, high mind skills, medium mechanical skills), and soldier (high strength, low mind skills, medium mechanical skills) being three potential choices. However, your character won't engage in a lot of combat, as your path involves seeking the truth behind your spouse's disappearance and rescuing your child from the machinations of the Nightmare Army. * Your child (Sophia/Michael): As mentioned above, you can choose your child's gender, but not their name. Your child's "cla ss" is complementary to your own; however, they always start with low strength and mechanical skills for their cla ss but extraordinary mind skills. *Clorio: Clorio is a master of the mind powers that have been granted to the Japanese as a result of the disaster. His alter ego, generated from his Internet avatar, is a cross between Cloud and Mario, and its strength makes up for his weak physical skills. (Str 4, Dex 9, Con 2, Int 8, Wis 17, Cha 15) * Alfonso: Alfonso is a soldier, strong enough to challenge any monster one-on-one. Unfortunately, he lacks in mind power and mechanical aptitude, something he must rely on other party members for. (Str 15, Dex 12, Con 13, Int 5, Wis 4, Cha 7) * Alan: A good buddy of Alfonso, trained in espionage. He seems oddly suspicious of Alfonso at first, but is glad to meet his friend again after several months. Moderately strong and mediocre in powers of the mind, he is most skilled in accessing locked doors and other such obstacles. One of the more balanced characters in the game (Str 9, Dex 14, Con 7, Int 14, Wis 7, Cha 3) *Satomi: Love interest for Michael. She joins the party in Akihabra if Michael is the child character, or can be recruited in Shinagawa as part of a side quest if Sophia is the child character. Regardless, Satomi has decent mind and mechanical skills but lacks in strength. (Str 6, Dex 9, Con 5, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 14) *Gaku: Love interest for Sophia. He joins the party in Akihabra if Sophia is the child character, or can be recruited in Shinagawa as part of a side quest if Michael is the child character. Regardless, Gaku has decent mechanical and mind skills but lacks in strength. (Str 5, Dex 12, Con 6, Int 9, Wis 14, Cha 13) *Nami: A member of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Nami provides some needed strength to the player's party early in the game. She is also well-balanced. (Str 12, Dex 12, Con 8, Int 8, Wis 8, Cha 12) *Ryu: Ryu is the leader of the resistance, and interects frequently with both parties. Due to the frequent but brief contact he has with them and the surrounding chaos, it is some time before he realizes that Michael/Sophia is your character's child. Ryu is the best-balanced character in the game, even more so than a perfectly balanced player character; however, he is only playable for certain segments. His stats cannot be upgraded (unlike other characters), but upgrade automatically between appearances. (Note: the stats listed are his starting stats from his first appearance, but follow the same pattern as they increase throughout the game.) (Str 13, Dex 13, Con 13, Int 13, Wis 13, Cha 13) Systems: Steam (PS3/PC/Mac), Live (Xbox360/PC), WiiU. The WiiU version has special features relating to the screen on the controller, though co-op multiplayer missions can occur using a DSi or DSi3D as a controller (an alternative to buying a second WiiU controller). Depending on Microsoft software development, a similar feature may be available to Xbox players with Windows-enabled phones. King of Dreams is not compatible with the Xbox Kinect or the PlayStation Move, though online multiplayer missions can utilize the Kinect for video chat. Enemy examples: Dyosha: Dyosha are scaly green reptiles with six spindly legs and long, whiplike tails. The first version is quick but weak, and a few blows can take them out. They attack in packs, however, and spit yellow "eggs" covered in green veins that explode on contact. Other versions add spikes to their tails, and some can grab party members and drag them off, separating them from the rest of the group and thus putting them in more danger. The toughest version requires use of certain Dream Powers to make them raise their armor to attack, allowing other party members to use their skills and/or Dream Powers to attack. Spidrorgs: Spidrorgs are tough, but mostly just annoying. Their bites don't cause much damage (though tougher versions may cause poisoning), but they are well-armored and deploy sticky spiderwebs around the area. A few can even leap into the air and turn themselves into spinning buzzsaws, though they can easily be dispatched by certain Dream Powers. All Spidrorgs are weak to Dream Powers, and most have a weak spot at the rear. Swordmantula: This miniboss consists of a series of swords connected by bandages. It can attack with an earthquake, eyebeams, or even just the swords that make up its legs and fangs. It is fast and tough, and has few weaknesses. Fire-based attacks will set it ablaze, causing constant damage every round, but it can still attack. Since it takes sixteen rounds for a swordmantula to burn to death, a concerted offensive is your best option for survival.  Gameplay: King of Dreams plays like a cross between Magica and Knights of the Old Republic, with platforming elements and puzzles from the Jedi Knight series added for good measure. Though battles are turn-based (a la KotOR), tactical positioning has a definite effect on battle (revealing weak points and other attack options), and Paper Mario/Mario and Luigi-sty leaction commands allow for other variations on basic attacks. Characters with high Wisdom and Charisma scores can use Dream Powers as an alternate means of attack, and certain creatures can only be affected by Dream Powers. Characters with higher stats in Dexterity and Intelligence can improvise weapons from inventory items, and can use certain mechanical skills on mechanical and computerized monsters (such as locating a monster's power source and unplugging it, or reprogramming a computerized monster to fight alongside you temporarily). Of course, all characters can also use environmental hazards (such as cliff edges and operable machinery) to their advantage as well, but beware: some of the tougher enemies can do the same thing to you! Why you should play this game: Even in spite of all the supernatural and otherwise unrealistic elements of this game, the setting in general IS Japan. All around are bits of information about Japan, and playing the game is intended to be the next best thing to actually visiting. Additionally, King of Dreams combines the best elements of KotOR (deep storyline, well-written dialogue and character interaction, etc.) with the best elements of the Jedi Knight series (puzzle platforming at its best), and it's not afraid to make fun of itself at the times it doesn't make sense. And, if that's not enough, the music in the game is entirely from authentic Japanese bands, further immersing you in the cultural experience. In short, King of Dreams deconstructs the traditional JRPG, reconstructs it, and fills in the gaps with the unique cultural experience that is Japan. What more could you ask for?!

Poochythegenius Ain't Stupid

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OK, time for another blog entry. This time, I think I'll explain my username: poochythegenius

I am a big fan of Yoshi's Island. One reason I like it so much is that it is one of the first platformers I was good at. Unlike most platform games, I could get hit by enemies as much as I wanted and not die (the most common way I died in other games). After a while, I pulled out my GBA again and started playing. After I beat B- I mean, the final boss, I decided to try to finish the game 100%. It was at this point that I discovered Rainiac666 and his play-through of Yoshi's Island on YouTube. After watching only one video, I was hooked. I had to see more. Rainiac has now finished his playthrough, but I continued looking at his older videos. One video was for the near-infamous level "Poochy Ain't Stupid." "Poochy Ain't Stupid" is a scrolling level that involves the player riding a NPC dog named Poochy over lava pits that almost completely cover the floor of the stage. Stop and think about that. You're riding a dog that you can't control over lava, and on top of that, it's a scrolling stage. That's insane! In addition, you are trying to collect all of the items to get 100%-it's almost impossible! Anyhow, I watched the video and came to a conclusion: Poochy IS stupid. I quickly came up with the username 'poochythegenius,'and when I came to GameSpot, I realized it was the perfect name for my account.

Anyhow, that's how I got my username. do you like it?

obligatory links:

Let's Play Yoshi's Island:

LP YI 10: Poochy IS Stupid:
WARNING: videos 10 and 11 contain SEVERE swearing, unlike the mild cursing done in the other videos.
Watch at your own risk!

Hurt and Heal

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Hmm...upon reading my webcomics, I discovered a quite entertaining "contest" going on in the forums. The original is at, but I'd like to see if we get the same result here as they do at Irregular Webcomic!

So, without further ado, here is the H&H:

Hurt and Heal 21 - What do you take to the 1600's?

So, you're about to be transported back in time to the 1600s. You will return in one year. You have been asked to document your trip. You may take one of these items with you (and the technology to use it (electricity, etc)) to use however you wish. However, if you take one item, its technology will develop much faster, and the world to which you return will have had this technology you took developed in the 1600s.

What do you take?

(100) Computer
(100) Handycam
(100) Telephone
(100) PDA
(100) Sketchbook
(100) Bolt-cutters
(100) Diary
(100) Lots of LEGO bricks
(100) Still image camera
(100) Dictation machine
(100) A knife
(100) A musical instrument
(100) Radio transmitter
(100) A rubbish bin
(100) A letter opener

Assume all items have a double in the future which gives the report back to the scientists who sent you there. Assume all items have unlimited storage capacity.

It is your job to think of uses for each of these items, as well as what you think the effect might be.

Standard rules - one play per day, hurt for 10, heal for 5, last one standing or first to 200 wins. If you hurt and heal the same item (for a total hurt of 5), the hurt takes precedence, so if you have, say, (10) Sketchbook, and want to hurt it for 5, you can't. It would die with the hurt for 10, and you can't resurrect dead items.

Let me know what you think of this idea!


My First Blog

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This is my first blog. I don't really know how to blog, so I'm just going to ramble randomly and hope you find it enlightening (or hilariously entertaining, take your pick).

First, let me introduce myself. I'm 16 years old, a homeschooled 11th grader, and a 100% bona fide geek. My primary interests are Star Wars/Star Trek, video games (especially Mario/Sonic), LEGO, or any combination of the above (hence my logo). I am also an avid roleplayer, even though I've only played four sessions. My favorite webcomics are Irregular Webcomic! and Darths and Droids ( and I am currently living with my mom and dad on Yokosuka Navy Base, Japan. My gaming consoles are the PC and DS, although I'd LOVE to get a Wii. I like to build my own games, though (I use Game Maker for Windows v7.1,, and I am not devoted to any one developer (except, perhaps, Traveler's Tales). I do NOT like XBOX, not due to any fault of the console, but because of the way Microsoft has marketed it. In my opinion, Microsoft should pay more attention to us PC gamers who don't have the money to buy consoles. I could go into a long rant on this subject, but I'll save it for another blog post (or for the System Wars forum LOL).

OK, moving on. I suppose that, since I'm a Star Wars fan, I'd better clear up my views on the major conflicts:

*Han shot first (but only by a couple of milliseconds)

*The Prequel Trilogy is just as good as the Original Trilogy, just in different ways (PT has better effects, OT has better characters)

*Jar Jar Binks is a perfectly valid character for his purpose (which is to slightly annoy viewers:lol:)

Let's see, I'm running out of time, so let me clear up one more "issue of loyalty" :P: Mario vs. Sonic. I like both Mario and Sonic. Actually, I have to take that back. I like both the Mario theme and the Sonic theme. As far as the characters themselves go, I actually like Mario better (Sonic is a bit too arrogant for my tastes). My favorite characters are Yoshi and Tails, though I have no idea why.

Oh, and my favorite game of all time? Hmm, it's a close call between Yoshi's Island (for GBA) and the LEGO Star Wars games.