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Spectral Force, friends, and tablets - Silicon Rose [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Spectral Force, friends, and tablets [Feb. 4th, 2007|11:27 am]
Silicon Rose
[Current Mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

So, sort of in the spirit of supporting the Xbox 360 in Japan, and also out of curiosity spawned by Chaos Wars, I bought Spectral Force 3 for the Xbox 360. It's actually surprisingly pretty - in general, after playing games like Disgaea, you kind of get the impression that all SRPGs are visually challenged. It's more or less a contiguous story from Spectral Force 2 as far as I can tell, so not having played 2 is a bit of a bummer, but that's what Chaos Wars borrowed from, so I do have some of the context. My biggest piece of confusion right now is how Hiro was portrayed in Spectral Force 2, as she's definitely a protagonist in Chaos Wars, but appears to be an enemy in Spectral Force 3.

Lessons learned in Spectral Force 3? I tried the first non-opening battle and got my rear end summarily handed to me. Note: mage can heal others only, not himself. Mage should stay very far from front line and not get pinned by enemies. Sigh. Otherwise, interesting enough. It's more interesting than Chaos Wars, but I do want to continue with CW anyways.

In other news, one of genedefect's friends is leaving to return to his hometown in about a month, which makes the month of February very surreal from a friends perspective. In response to this, we've decided we're going to try and finish the current D&D campaign before he leaves, which means marathon gaming sessions. I don't mind much, but gah none the less.

And about the tablet... I'm slowly getting accustomed to it. On the surface, a tablet sounds easy and intuitive. And I suppose it is, somewhat. But you do have to learn to hover the pen at the right height to move the mouse without triggering a left click, and you have to learn not to hit the buttons on the side accidentally and such. I am learning. In the name of practice I wrote this entire entry using the Tablet PC Handwriting Input Panel. I have to say, I'm really impressed by it.

[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-02-05 04:32 am (UTC)
after playing games like Disgaea, you kind of get the impression that all SRPGs are visually challenged.
I liked how Disgaea looked! I thought the art style was perfectly suited to the tone.
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[User Picture]From: siliconrose
2007-02-05 05:35 am (UTC)
Ah, but the resolution was fairly bad during the battles. I loved the art for the characters during the event scenes, and you can tell the resolution for them was significantly higher. Nippon-Ichi's other games, up until Disgaea 2, were also done with less resolution than your average PS2 game. They improved their engine for Disgaea 2, and I liked the battle graphics for that. However, Spectral Force 3's battles are done in 3D, and it's attractive 3D, and the UI overlay is very very pretty. It's impressive, because I've been carrying the flag for 2D games.

I think it might be the additional memory in the 360 that enables it -- my understanding is that the main barrier to good 2D graphics these days is the limited texture memory. Highly attractive 2D games require a lot of texture memory.

Sorry if this isn't entirely coherent, we brewed a pot of green tea and I lost track of how many cups I had. Yes, I'm buzzed again. Damn it.
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-02-05 06:56 am (UTC)
Tea can easily trick you when it comes to caffeine, because it's so very variable. Even if you're dealing with the same type of tea, different plants from the same crop can have widely different caffeine levels, and the caffeine level is also affected by how much water you use, how long you steep it, and even the temperature of the water when you add it.

I have recently become completely addicted to Teavana's Moroccan Mint.

I honestly don't pay attention to things like resolution. I don't see why a game that was pretty twenty years ago (say, Mario 3) is suddenly no longer pretty because the hardware has gotten better. Go on. Pop Mario 3 in your emulator and tell me that the first world isn't attractively colorful and bright, with cute little animations and a strong sense of fun. Now pop Disgaea into your PS2 and tell me that its battles aren't the same, with a cartoon-Halloween aspect added on.

Designing attractive visuals is not an engineering problem. Having a higher resolution, and similar technological benchmarks, can give the artists more tools, but it is still up to the artists to use those tools. I think the Disgaea designers did an excellent job with their chosen toolset, which is all that, in my opinion, really matters.
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[User Picture]From: siliconrose
2007-02-05 07:18 am (UTC)
Yeah. We left the tea in and it kept steeping... and steeping... and steeping... so by the end, it was pretty damn potent. I knew it from the bitterness, but didn't make the connection with the increased caffeine content.

My intent was to make a comparison between Disgaea and other games. Standing on its own, Disgaea is not unattractive, but there are games that did better from a graphical perspective in its generation. (Take Summon Night EX Thesis, for example, which is also a 2D sprite game with 3D rendered backgrounds, so it's an apples to apples comparison, though admittedly Disgaea was much earlier in the generation.) In general, SRPGs do not pay as much attention to graphics as other genres, in my experience. Spectral Force 3, to me, compares positively against other games. However, it's still early in the generation.
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-02-05 08:44 am (UTC)
You make a good point there. I would argue, however, that if you look at graphics alone, and not art design, on a linear scale where Pong is 1 and the most graphically advanced PS2 game is 10,000, Disgaea is somewhere around 9,900. In other words, that graphics are now so universally advanced that advancing them further is no longer impressive, and therefore being slightly behind is not damning.
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-02-05 08:45 am (UTC)
Addendum to above: this is the same reason that "it has good special effects" has ceased to be a selling point for movies for me. They ALL have good special effects now, so if they want to impress me with special effects they have to make particularly good use of them.
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[User Picture]From: siliconrose
2007-02-05 09:03 am (UTC)
Yes, and actually this reflects on one of my biggest problems with game graphics today. Sometimes game developers focus so much on creating impressive graphics that they fail to create attractive graphics. Some people worship FFXII's graphics, and while I think their CG was exquisite (this is Square, after all), I think their in-game was flat out ugly. I'm not sure they had any anti-aliasing, and there's severe shimmer issues with their textures.

That is one of the nice features of the 360, by the way -- it has a built in chip devoted to anti-aliasing, so developers get it for free. They can technically take over the chip and use it for something different if they want, but my hunch is that most of the developers who need the anti-aliasing, who wouldn't add it just as a matter of course, are the ones who wouldn't try to swipe the power from the daughter chip because it'd be too technically irritating to use effectively. That's just a hunch, though.

With the higher resolutions of today's graphics, anti-aliasing can be critical. When you're striving for realism, jaggies kill the mood. And I love games where the characters are as defined as a human being, where I can see the snow on the mountains in the distance, and the clouds going by overhead, and the leaves as they move on the trees. There was one scene in [eM] where I just stood and watched for awhile as water cascaded down a waterfall. There is significant graphical improvement this generation, but you're right, it is more subtle than in generations prior.
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-02-05 10:20 am (UTC)
Your comments are interesting, because they clearly show that we are looking at entirely different things when judging a game's visuals. I honestly do not know what a "shimmer issue" looks like or what, precisely, "jaggies" are. I can spot the more serious resolution issues, and find clipping errors extremely annoying.

My main issue with the FFXII characters, which I also find ugly, is that they suffer from the typical inability of Square characters to wear clothes assembled by an insane, colorblind scrap merchant, and they have those funky lips every Square character has since FFVIII. It's hard to pin down exactly what's wrong with them, but they are just enough different from human mouths to be really creepy. The characters tend to look like they're in the very beginnings of transforming into Deep Ones or something.

In other words, it seems to me that you are primarily judging game visuals on the basis of their technological sophistication, by which rubric newer games will almost always beat older ones, while I am judging them on the basis of artistic elements, by which rubric there is not a strong correlation between game age and relative ranking. One method isn't superior to the other; it's just an interesting point of variation, and does give me some insight into similar (but far more rancorous) debates I've encountered between partisans of various game systems over the years.
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2007-02-05 10:22 am (UTC)
is that they suffer from the typical inability of Square characters to wear clothes assembled by an insane, colorblind scrap merchant
Halfway through writing this I decided to use a metaphor instead of what I was planning, and it only half took. Replace "inability" with tendency. Originally, it was going to simply say "inability of Square characters to dress themselves."
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