Tales of Xillia: 4-man Co-op (first impressions)

So, for anyone who doesn’t know, I stream myself playing games pretty much every Saturday night. Usually, I do single-player games with a commentator or two. This time, after talking to a friend, I decided that I would tackle a game from the Tales series of games. These games are known for supporting 4-player combat, although most people just play by themselves or with one other person. Now, each Tales game generally has a gimmick that they can use to enhance combat.

However, Tales of Xillia’s is a little odd. It actually “hampers” 4-man combat. When you link with another character, the one being linked to is automatically taken over by an AI, and only unlinking will restore the ability to control that character. It’s basically a way to make playing by yourself easier and more fun because it makes the AI much smarter.

Now, at first, I didn’t like it. I didn’t think my group would need it. But then I started doing some research after a very painful 1st boss, and after doing some research and really thinking about it, 4-man combat with linking is starting to grow on me.

Let me explain linking really quick. Linking allows characters to beef themselves up, share skills, and use “Link Artes”, more powerful versions of normal Artes. With 4 players, linking isn’t really an option if everyone wants to participate in 100% of the combat. So, you’re basically gimping yourself for bosses, which is the problem (normal battles are completely fine with no linking). How can my group utilize linking effectively while not feeling like we can’t play during boss battles?

The easy way is to have two people allow themselves to be linked from time-to-time. I played a lot of Tales of Symphonia – it was my first ever Tales game! I played it so much I’d go through the whole game just having the CPU’s fight during boss battles and managing them through items. So, really, I’m okay with being linked and just sitting there sometimes, but even I’ll want to play sometimes, so I’m set on finding a way to utilize linking differently than the game intends you to (which is have it up basically all the time).

My strategies going in are not to try and fill the Link Gauge, which is filled through normal attacks while linked and using Artes while linked.

We could link for different things quickly. For example, if one of us is knocked down, we link with Jude, get picked up, and then unlink. We could link to position someone from behind quickly since the AI is programmed to take the best route to the back of an enemy. These are the kinds of small optimizations I think we could use with linking to utilize it while still basically playing the whole time.

We could also link just to spam more powerful artes if the boss is knocked down/stunned, and then unlink. It’d be a quick link to unleash a couple powerful attacks.

Those are all I’ve got right now though. If we wanted to fill the Link Gauge effectively we could go in waves of 2 players being linked and switching off every “tier” (I think there’s 4) of the Link Gauge. Again, I personally am okay with letting myself be linked, but this is a final resort kind of option if the boss is really hard and we need over limit.

I’m actually pretty excited to try and master linking with 4 people. Sure, it’s not the standard Tales 4-player experience, but to be honest it’s kind of refreshing and I think it can be a lot of fun. It’s obviously poorly designed (it feels like the multiplayer for Xillia was shoe’d in), but I’m the kind of guy who tries to make something work, and I think linking could be a really cool way to play this game with 4 people, even if it’s generally seen as bad. I think there’s a lot of strategy to be had with this sort of linking; unfortunately, no one’s really experimented with it and just bash it, so I think there’s a lot of untapped potential here.

There’s got to be a way to make this work. I think people just focus on filling the Link Gauge too much and not on the little optimizations you can make regardless of the Link Gauge.

Just Sayin’.

OPINION: Casual players have less fun than competitive players.

Do any of the following phrases sound familiar?

“I just want to have fun.

“I play for fun.”

“You’re ruining games by playing competitively.”

Maybe you’re one of those who says this to others when getting beaten to a pulp. That’s okay, I understand; I’m just going to point out that your ego is bigger than my ego, and I play games competitively.

Outrageous? Not at all. When hardcore and casual – especially in games with a competitive scene – collide, there’s an almost instant animosity: casuals do not like competitive. Why? Because we, the collective competitive, take away from the experience (apparently), and make games not fun.

Before I delve further, I’m going to define what a casual is for this post (as to not offend everyone. LOL). Casuals are not retired competitive players, they are not players who only play every once in a while, they are not players that respect competitive play; casuals are players who degrade competitive play and players, and complain when they lose to said competitive players by utilizing those three phrases (among others similar to those).

See, the problem with those three phrases are that they implant this kind of hierarchy onto “how to have fun”. “Having fun” is at the top, and “playing competitively” is at the bottom.

I guess now is as good a time as any – casuals, you’re not having as much fun as I am.

See, no one likes to lose. We like to succeed. When we lose, we stop having fun (this is somewhat true – you can learn to accept defeat and still have fun, but I’m digressing). When casuals say they want to play for fun, they’re not just playing a game to “have fun”. No, they’re playing with friends that they can beat, or with a randomness factor so large that sometimes you can’t tell who is better and winning is almost purely by chance (Mario Party comes to mind as an example).

Casuals say that playing a game at a high level takes away from the experience, but think about this: have you ever played through a game and not gotten better at it? Difficulty curve is part of game design; the game is designed to become more difficult as you progress and improve. That means all the casuals who are beating these games are doing so because they’re improving, getting better; they’re playing at a higher level.

They’re justifying their losses by putting down those who are better, or put in more time and effort than they do, but it’s still not fun to lose. They’d be having more fun if they accepted that they’re not going to put effort into a game and will lose to those who do most of the time, or if they start putting in that effort and seeing some results. They’d have more fun if they learned how to take a loss and still have fun instead of getting salty and trying to make excuses as to why they’re getting their ass beat. They’d have more fun if they respected competitive play.

Oh, you play for “fun”? Yeah, right. Everyone wants to be good at what they play. The difference between casual and competitive is that casual blames the competitive for their loss, while the competitive blames themselves (or the game. LOL) for their loss.

Just Sayin’.

Geek ‘Til Dawn 9 Recap

Last Friday, DePaul‘s game club, DeFrag, hosted an event called Geek ‘Til Dawn (GtD), which is an all-night gaming event. From 8PM to 7AM, students at DePaul (and guests brought by students) can play anything from board games to video games. There’s anime viewing, group games, and even a raffle! It’s a very fun event, and this Spring’s (this was the 9th time they’ve held this event), instead of playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl all night, I went out and did more, and it was a lot of fun!

Here’s a quick recap:

– I hosted an impromptu single-elim Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament and found someone who wants to be part of the competitive scene at DePaul! That’s almost 4 people I’ve found this year who really want to improve, and that’s awesome to me. I won the tournament in style, and found out that you only get a silver trophy for winning Brawl’s in-game tournament. What a ripoff! Even though I won, I was (not so) secretly rooting for the girl playing red Link and the guy whom I chose the Marth color for (he actually faced me in the finals. LOL).

– I found someone who doesn’t think Yuzu from Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor is horrible character (but her ending does suck unless you play OverClocked)! I could write a paper on the cast of that game and I guarantee 2 pages would be dedicated to Yuzu and how she’s not a bad character.

– I finally beat my friend Pat in Snowboard Kids 2, which we’ve been talking about playing to see who’s better for the past year. He won game 1, then I won games 2 and 3. Swag hat coach with Balance Board lvl 3 da bess!

– I played 3 games of League of Legends, landing with friend who went AP Soraka. I went Support Ashe, and we won all three games. 3-0 Support Ashe/AP Soraka!! In the last game three of the five on the opponents team disconnected! LOL It was kinda sad, but at 5AM none of my team cared.

– I played Anime Name that Tune and won 1 point off of Clannad. At least I got a point off my favorite show! LOL.

– And then… AND THEN… the most hype match of Jenga I have EVER SEEN! I can’t even describe it, so here’s a video of the last six minutes of Game 3:

Jenga Game 3

And that was my GtD! Now it’s time to finish my one month left of school and begin Summer Vacation!

Just sayin’

Be Kappy LoL

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Kappy. A rather peculiar soul, he seemed to influence a certain kind of hellish laughter upon many by ending all of his sentences with the acronym ‘LOL’. LOL. After years of of LOL’ing amongst his friends and acquaintances, a certain air for trolling and being-well, bad, to put it bluntly-began to swirl and hover about his person. OK, so this isn’t really about Kappy. It’s about what he thought about a certain LoL-that is, League of Legends. You see, boys and girls, Kappy thought LoL was a bad game. He hadn’t really played the game, but he had seen it being played and thought it was ridiculous that so many in the Smash community hopped on as time went by and played it competitively.

OK, it’s not really about him thinking it was bad. It’s about him being convinced to download it last fall when school started and not touching it until two weeks later and finding out that it’s actually pretty damn fun. That’s right, after months of bashing League of Legends, I picked it up a couple weeks ago, and now that I’ve gotten to play it a little more, I’m starting to really enjoy it.

It’s not even that I enjoy it as a game. I think the teamwork aspect and playing amongst my friends is really what’s fun to me. I had heard so much about the horrible community it had, and since I’m not really a fan of elitist pricks (which is what I heard many were), so even after downloading the game, I didn’t touch it.

Finally, I spent a night talking to two of my friends and they helped me explain the game, and I said, “Hell, why not?” I had already finished my work for the day, so I made an account quick-like, sat down, and began playing.

Honestly, it’s fun. Really fun. But it’s definitely NOT fun unless I’m playing with my friends, and I think that’s important to note. A lot of my feedback came from people playing pick-me-up style games with random teammates. There was no synergy, and if you didn’t follow someone’s specific style you weren’t received warmly by them.

But when I started playing against real people with my friends, there was an air of knowing what was going on. Lots of talking back and forth without a lot of silence, like a real team would during a match of Halo at MLG. I’m not saying the games stack up competitively, but I think the similarity of constant talking is what’s important, here. Most newcomers (like myself) look at a game like LoL and think, “how can this be fun? It’s long, it looks boring, and it looks really confusing.”

I remember specifically myself watching a game and asking, “what are you doing?” My friend said he was farming for gold, and I replied with, “farming? How can you enjoy this game? Why don’t you go kill someone?”

He told me that people farmed before they went and attacked, and that that can take around 10 minutes. Really? Talk about slow-paced.

Then I played a real game, and I died within the first minute. Yes, I was stomped on and my friends LOL’d at me, and I asked, “isn’t there an unwritten rule for farming?” They explained that it depends on the characters and what lane you’re in, and I began to really understand how the game worked on a social level. THere’s a lot that goes into when you should push or fall back.

As I got better (which isn’t that much, by the way LOL), I got to the point where I did farm, and here’s where I became hooked. If you’re with a teammate you’re constantly talking to them (and your other teammates) about what’s going on. Who needs help, when you’re going back and buying an item, what items to buy, when you get your ult and have it; really, there’s a lot to talk about, and I think that’s why I find this game so attractive. There’s a real sense of team that I never saw until I had a chance to play it myself.

There’s a little lesson to be learned here. While word of mouth and watching can be two excellent methods of computing content within a game and deciding whether or not you, personally, want to play it, it’s a good idea to get a little hands-on with it in different ways, especially if it’s multiplayer.

I’ll always advise offline multiplayer first over online (unless it’s a fighting game, but that’s for another blog entry) because playing with your friends is generally a better experience (unless you’re playing with a friend online LOL).

Just sayin’ LOL