This is part stream thoughts, part review, and part an exercise in getting back into writing again.
We took this weekend off from streaming for two reasons. Foremost, I lost my voice somewhat to a cold and didn’t want to subject the audience to four hours of wheezing and groaning. But secondly, I said I was going to do a post-mortem for our most recently completed stream longplay, Project II: Final Fantasy IV. So in lieu of a stream this weekend, have an article.
Usually when there’s a turn-based RPG that we want to do on stream, I’m not the one playing it. This isn’t particularly because I’m bad at them, but because I haven’t played as many and my repeated failures are less likely to bring more people into the viewing audience. No one wants to watch some idiot bumble around a video game unless they’ve already committed themselves to watching that idiot. And from this idiot to you, thank you for suffering through my terribleness. Your grace knows no bounds.
To relieve my dear compatriot and reality-grounder of his usual duties on our Saturday streams and give him the opportunity to laugh at me, we decided that I should do an RPG on stream, one that he was familiar with. We settled on Final Fantasy IV, but with a twist: The version we would use would be the mod/romhack called Project II. This hack is a new translation of FFIV, remedying the myriad issues with the various translations that have been released over the years. It also restores a significant amount of dummied content and fixes various bugs and outright useless pieces of equipment and spells, but we’ll get to that in more detail later.
Jake has played Final Fantasy IV several times through, making him an excellent guide through the game to make the process smoother. While by no means am I new to the concept of turn based RPGs, I haven’t played many of the Final Fantasy series to be quite honest, and having someone who knows the game fairly well handy and watching my every move did have the wonderful effect of bringing my peak stress levels down from “holiday season retail manager” to “holiday season retail temp hire”. It’s a potentially aggravating experience, and it’s something new with foreign oddities and incomprehensible processes around every corner, but at least it’ll be over soon.
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Well this is a bit late, isn’t it?
Probably because we finished Super Mario RPG and I enjoyed it, so I didn’t feel the need to rant immediately. [editor’s note: also because Troy was very slow at getting the GIFs for this post done.] SMRPG got a lot right and very little wrong, and I’m really looking forward to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. We’re skipping Paper Mario because while it’s a competent game, of the three console Mario RPGs that actually count, it’s the weakest. Writing’s fine, but the gameplay is a bit too simple.
The game subscribes to the Chuck Jones theory of gravity.
Right out of the gate, Super Mario RPG gets you started. No lengthy cutscene, no slow exposition dump. You’re Mario, Bowser just took the Princess, and you’re invading his castle to get her back. This doesn’t work, because if it did the game would be over entirely too quick. A giant sword crashes through the castle and sends everyone flying. Mario lands in his own house, on a clothes peg, and Toad immediately snarks at him for it. Then he suggests that you go back to the castle and get the Princess. You do, and you don’t, respectively. The sword collapses the bridge by violently flapping his gums, and you go back home to explain to Toad.
The explanation is the best way I’ve ever seen a silent protagonist handled, and I wish all future depictions of Mario handled dialogue the same way.
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On this very special episode of Fourteen Ninety-Nine, Troy has a flashback to being chain-stunned in battlegrounds by a rogue with RNGsus on his side, while watching the BlizzCon annoucement for Classic servers…
For the first six months of its life, World of Warcraft was a complete shitshow. The game was, by almost all accounts, unfinished and rushed out the door, likely to beat some EverQuest hype train that was about to depart the station. The level 50-60 range was practically devoid of quests, and the mid-game was rather lacking in dungeon content to offset the grind. At one point, the French and German versions of the had a broken loot rolling system that just wouldn’t work. There was no group finder, no matchmaking, and no organized PvP system.
And yet, this was more polished and more fun than most of the MMOs that were out at the time. So much so that people remember it as if vanilla World of Warcraft was the result of the heavens opening up and the hand of Yahweh descending to deliver it unto the chosen peoples of the land (apparently, the intersect of disgruntled Everquest players and Frozen Throne fans), and those same people begged Blizzard to launch official vanilla throwback servers so hard that this year at BlizzCon they said they were going to do it. This is an insanely nutty idea that I am immensely looking forward to and today on Fourteen Ninety-Nine, we’re going to take a look at some of the more egregious violations of sanity that early World of Warcraft had with the kind of nostalgia that only exists elsewhere in vaporwave and arguments about the Berenstain Bears.
Note: I am not slandering Blizzard here. This is all about how massively things have improved in quality since the mid-2000s for MMOs. I would be all down to do vanilla WoW’s progression with some of the major QoL improvements recent expansions have functionally added. Hindsight is better than 20/20 in this case.
I apologize for the relative lack of interesting pictures in this article. I don’t have any screenshots from twelve years ago and getting new ones is complicated by Blizzard C&Ding all the 1.12 private servers.
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We’ve been streaming for RPG Saturdays for a while now, but Sin of Mana was the first modded game we used. Perhaps I chose poorly.
It began with me, as Hawk, getting killed several times in one shot by an enemy on the way out of the starting area. The solution was to leave and return until one I could survive spawned. But in the course of these deaths, the death HP penalty kicked in. Oh, yes, this mod has a death penalty. 10% of your max HP. Your punishment for dying is that dying is easier. There’s a reason Final Fantasy XIV’s battle-res penalty dropped the Vitality reduction in favor of stronger offense penalties – if someone’s already dying, the last thing anyone needs is for them to die faster. Death spirals are not fun. This penalty is most punishing in the early game; revival with Angel Grails spares you the penalty, but those are expensive.
About an hour of frustration into it, we applied one of the lower difficulty patches, the Normal one (mid-range, 3 out of 5 with default being 5 and 2 being compared to the original, though I’m starting to have doubts given that praetarius5018 thinks the default is reasonable). At this point, the game was fun again. There was occasional grinding necessary, but figuring out what worked against the bosses was interesting and an improvement over the unremarkable slugfests I vaguely remember from my attempt at the original. On the other hand, Lugar was a straight-up brawl, but it was paced well enough to be fun – just two sides beating the hell out of each other at a steady pace. Healing wasn’t stressful but it also wasn’t too easy and the fight didn’t overstay its welcome. The God-Beasts is where the fights started to get unpleasant again, mostly for sheer length.
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Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 418 days since my last confession. I have missed raid night 58 times. I don’t remember how many times I lied. I have taken the Lord’s name in vain. I have coveted my neighbour’s item level. I have fallen from grace and have forgotten the importance of enormous shoulderplates. I have been conjugal with another game (I’m sorry, Father, but those catgirls were too enticing) and I felt no shame. For these and all of my sins, I am truly sorry.
As penance, my child, please re-subscribe to World of Warcraft.
Yes, Father. I will do so right away. Thank you, Father.
In the name of the Uther, the Thrall, and the Holy Light, I absolve you of your sins. Amen.
Confession is the easy part. Now comes the penance: getting back into World of Warcraft after a year and a bit away, levelling up to 110, and (gasp) liking it.
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