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Article - 'GamingWorld Roundtable' by Guest

An item about Miscellanious posted on Aug 9, 2003

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A roundtable featuring KaosTenshi, DarkPriest, Pyrate, and Faust!

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Do you believe music is being used well in homebrew RPGs? How do you think it can be improved upon?

DarkPriest: The current situation of music in homebrew games is quite horrendous. 90% of it comes from commercial games, which of course is understandable, but still bad.

Faust: Unfortunately most people don't have the talent to make their own music. I, for one, am relying on Moriason and MrY (whom I both bullied into helping me) for my project. Without talented friends I'm afraid my game would be using all ripped music, which is never a good thing. HOWEVER: midis are freely available from many places on the Internet and the vast amount should assure that no one is used twice. When a good midi IS employed, people have a bad habit of ripping it from other homebrew games. Show some DECENCY.

Pyrate: I do understand the dilemma people have with finding suitable music for their games. In an ideal world, it would be no problem for somebody to find a person who would be willing to make music for their project, but this isn't an ideal world and it is quite acceptable and understandable to see people using commercial music in their games, just because they seem to fit well with the particular atmosphere. But, in general, I don't think enough emphasis is put on music in homebrew games.

Faust: I TOTALLY agree there. Music sets the atmosphere; it can make or break a game and can build up empathy with characters and events. ALL excellent commercial games have great music scores so why do we place lesser focus on them?

KaosTenshi: I think music in homebrew games is in a sad state. Not only is much if it ripped or taken from Japanese musicians without giving them credit, but when it's put into the game it's often used badly... Cheery music in dark villages, the latest Creed hit being played in a shop, the theme from Gundam Wing being played durring love scenes… Music deserves a lot more credit than it gets. Without the beautiful work of Nobuo Uematsu, the Final Fantasy series would be so much less powerful. The same goes for Yoko Kanno's work in the anime Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Blue Sub 6 and Escaflowne. I find a lot of games getting good reviews when their music is over-used, badly used, and extremely common. To top it off, many games don't stick with a common thread... None of their music sounds the same. One minute it's an intense techno track, the next a delicate piano piece, the next a twangy country piece. This isn't always bad, but if there's no flow, the game looses all sense of immersion, and making the player feel like they're part of the game's world is one of the most important (and fun) parts of RPGs.

DarkPriest: Using music you like is always not the right path. Of course you should like the song, but you shouldn't take it to extremes and fill your game with Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park just because you like them. Otherwise RPGmaker Story 2 would've been full of SATANIC METAL.

KaosTenshi: I think 'common music' can be good if used properly. If a single song with lyrics that fit the character become the character's theme song and the lyrics appear in the game, it can add a lot of depth.

Pyrate: I don't think it matters WHAT the song is, if it works with the scene then it's all good.

Faust: I agree Py, but it must FIT the mood. The song should be aesthetically beautiful as well as relevant. Putting classical music into a king's palace for some CLASSY quality isn't really very good. On another point, what about vocals in games? I am AMAZINGLY fond of the idea of a vocal track or two in a homebrew game if you have the resources available to do so. It isn't that hard, so why don't people make more effort? Because they like RIPPING OFF FF?!

DarkPriest: The choice of song does matter even if it fits the scene, because if you want your game to be played and to be graded highly around the community, using well-known music is not the way to go.

Pyrate: I disagree with DP, if it is well known and fits with the scene then it should still be used.

DarkPriest: 90% of all reviewers take point off for popular music (take RPG Advocate as a good example). So if you want to get good scores, DON'T LISTEN TO PY >:O

Faust: Then the reviewers are morons. They should take points off for ORIGINALITY, not audio in that case. Now, what about my VOCALS point? ;_;!!!

Pyrate: This isn't about 'getting good reviews'. It is about picking the correct music for the mood.

DarkPriest: Ok, I think using popular music is the easy way to go. It requires very little trouble to get some Metallica midis for example, even though they might be good theme songs. Vocals are good, if you have the resources for them. Take God Of Cheese for example…

Faust: I believe that too many people are using "stereotypical" fantasy RPG music, making it seem semi-stale. How about using some original stuff? Or, if you can't CREATE it, then why not mix in a few audio tracks from artists of different genres? Punk music, metal and Goth music can have excellent "rhythm" or whatever the hell the damn music is called. And by the way guys, thanks for SIDESTEPPING my vocals point.

Pyrate: Music is generally not being used well enough in games. It's an inescapable fact. Stealing work is wrong, of course, but if you find a MIDI that you think would fit well with the mood/scene then you should not be discouraged from using it (as long as you are allowed to use it). The idea for vocal music is a great one, but few people have the vocal talents for vocal music, so I wouldn't expect to see it become a widespread thing. Finally, I think that many game makers need to realize the importance of music in games. Turn your sound off and play a game, and compare the experience to if you'd played it with the sound. Pay more attention to the music you use!

KaosTenshi: I think music in games is suffering from a serious case of laziness. No one is willing to take the time to hunt down good music to use in his or her games, on English -or- Japanese sights. Personally, I'd like to see more MP3s/Wavs appearing in games, or see someone take the time to synch text lyrics to midis durring cut scenes.

Do you think First Seed Materials resources (AKA: Mac & Blue/REFMAP) is becoming an over-used eyesore in games, or is a very good tool when used properly?

DarkPriest: Using something a lot doesn't decrease its quality, in my opinion. RTP, as well as the First Seed Materials are totally acceptable because you can achieve some very splendid stuff with them.

Pyrate: I don't think that Mac and Blue could ever become an eyesore. It is beautiful stuff, but to tell the truth, I do get sick of it after a while. However, like RTP, if it is used correctly it can do the job just as good as anything else in the community. I must admit though, it has become the new RTP somewhat.

KaosTenshi: I think people make a huge deal about Mac & Blue, nearly as much as RTP, and even reduce points for games that use First Seed Materials/Mac & Blue... I think this is a terrible decision on the behalves of the reviewers. When you're using chipsets as beautiful as FSM chips, then you should be judging on how well the chips are -used- in the game. FSM chipsets are extremely well made, with smooth edges and lots of chips to make things look seamless. The worst part is that many people don't use these plusses, or at least don't use them properly. I don't think FSM is an eyesore at all... It's become very common, yes, but the rare beauty is in seeing it used well.

DarkPriest: I must agree on that. Most games seem to use FSM stuff, but they use it very badly. Although it takes some time to understand how to use them effectively, it’s very well worth it in the end.

Pyrate: There isn't much to argue with on that note. Mac and Blue isn't used to it's full potential often enough. Their chipsets are beautiful, and in the right hands they can be used to make a beautiful game.


What do you believe is the most over-used plot in RPGs?

Faust: I don't believe any plot can be "overused" in that sense. If a plot is used more than once then THAT is too much. A unique plot is always required. However, this doesn't mean a RADICALLY unique plot, just not a blatant rip of another game. For example: Villains changing sides to become "good guys". That is an EXCELLENT plot point, especially if pulled off right and with emotion. The fact that every game has one and usually without reason = NO.

DarkPriest: The most overused plot is definitely the Rebels VS Evil Society.

Pyrate: Yes, a basic plot outline can be easily overused, and often is. I think the most overused is the peasants rebelling against the "evil empire". There may have been many variations of it, but they are only very slight ones. And it makes me sad.

KaosTenshi: I think to some extent, 'save the world' has been over-used as a straightforward plot. This COULD be remedied though... Games don't have to, and in my opinion, usually shouldn't begin with 'save the world'. Instead, they should begin on a much smaller scale of events and grow into something larger.

Faust: DP, the "rebels vs evil society" is pretty much one of the only "broad types" of Plotline available. It is excellent as it mimics real life events such as the Hungarian uprising, the Warsaw uprising or the Prague springs. HOWEVER, evil societies are a NO-NO. Why would a group deliberately set out to be evil? A better plot would be "group vs group". If applying a "rebel" theme then it could be "rebels vs government". What's wrong with the government though? Why not make the REBELS the "villains"? I mean why does peasantry and rebellion automatically make them the good guys? However, RPG's are set in the world of fantasy but "illusion and reality are still very important". RPG's events tend to mirror our own world's traumas. Peasant uprisings ARE part of our history and many, MANY pieces of literature have been written on the subject. It = great IMO, but not THE SAME DAMN PLOT OH NO THE NOBLES ARE EVIL

KaosTenshi: I think that the reason rebels are often seen as the 'good guys' is because they're rebelling for a reason; they've been oppressed and mistreated, and they're fighting for freedom and what's right. But I think it -can- be done with a twist, making the peasants the villains if the rebels go too far in their fight, and become inhumane.

DarkPriest: Yes, those are very good views. However, most games simply use the "Rebels VS Evil Empire" where the empire truly is evil (abducting humans, sucking mako energy, whatever) lacking any kind of originality.

Holy: I just wanted to add that their is nothing wrong with using the 'rebels vs society' outline, but it would be nice to see a large innovation in the idea.

Faust: I TOTALLY agree there. Evil King + oppressed rebels + great hero = NO. There HAS to be some kind of DEPTH to a story. Throughout history there have been many rebellions, and hardly ANY have been to do with the peasant's mistreatment. Usually they are political, economical, religious based and are usually full of MANIPULATION and shit. They are ALSO very brutal and very bloody. Making "uber heroes" = _

DarkPriest: However, one of the charms of the Rebels VS Society is that the society is usually big and powerful, thus making the fight sort of desperate. The player might feel true feelings of success after he beats the evil and big enemy. Not many variations other than organizations can be big and powerful like this.

Pyrate: Maybe so DP, but nobody finds a charm in completing a somewhat cliché objective, and rebels VS society is as cliché as they come.

Faust: What about a government (rather than monarchy, something like communism or fascism _) street gangs, small aggressor nations, tribes or the church? These are all examples of "organizations" that can be the "villains" in a game, and each can have more depth than a simple “evil empire”.

DarkPriest: I do agree on that Py, as the cons of Rebels VS Society (when badly executed) easily overweight the pros. However, that is one good point not easily found in other "plots".

Faust: The hell is like EVERYTHING corrupts with the "evil empires" anyway? Surely some parts of society would make the rebels HAPPY. I'm sure not every soldier is corrupt, not every peasant is dissatisfied with the regime. Why are there never LOYALIST rebel groups? For example: In Suikoden there was a rebel and his army, who were enraged by the government. However, the only PRO-imperial groups were the imperial soldiers and generals themselves; there were no militia or peasant (like the rebels were) groups that banded together to aid the imperials. Why?

Pyrate: I don't see what is wrong with having a Society VS Rebels. Rebels can, and often are bad people, so how about seeing something like that for a change? But, new ideas and concepts are nut nurtured to the point, which they should be. What was the topic again?

Faust: Be original. You don't have to TOTALLY avoid all plots used before in games or literature, but don't just blatantly copy. You can get a great amount of influence and STEAL stuff from sources of literature as well as games, but don't steal too much.

DarkPriest: I'd like to add that if you think your game reminds some other thing too much, it most likely does.

Pyrate: Be radical. Don't follow the classic the classic RPG plot outline, even if it's for pure irony. Envision what you want players to get from your game, would you want a player to be 'amazed and immersed by the story'? Well, then you must be original. It's as simple as that.

KaosTenshi: I think that 'evil empire trying to take over/destroy the world' has even overtaken 'save the princess' as the most over-used plot. But like 'save the princess', with good enough twists, even it can be snatched from the jaws of cliché.

Faust: One final point. Princesses suck. Save the prince! *runs, hides*