Final Fantasy VII

This post contains a big Final Fantasy VII spoiler which, chances are, you’ll know anyway but I thought I’d warn you.

Do you ever get that urge to go back and play one of the classics? I had that urge the other week to go and actually finish Final Fantasy VII, having never even made it past the first disc. My first attempt barely made it as far as Junon and my second came to an end when I got out of Corel Prison and realised that my lack of levelling had severely crippled my game. When I decided to play it again my old PAL copy was long gone, and since I had a chipped PS2 I thought I’d make sitting through those summon animations 17.5% less painful and go for a US copy. One trip to the local importer later I had in my hands a mint NTSC copy of the 29th best game ever (according to the worst list ever).

This playthrough has been much more successful thus far and I’ve done so much levelling that it’s becoming something of a cakewalk in places, but the real point of this was because I’d just seen for the first time the death of Aeris. It was such a beautiful scene – the way that the whole thing was done slowly in that ethereal location, the way that Aeris’ theme kicked in as a requiem when the materia hit the ground, and the way that the music continued through the battle with Jenova (which, incidentally, is a piece of piss if you have a Water Ring since every attack heals you).

It really shows how cinematic games can be and was an amazing way to end the first disc. Even though I’ve been told about it countless times the beauty and emotional impact of the scene wasn’t diluted at all and now I’m anxious to see the rest of the game. If I can make it to the end this will actually be the first time that I’ve finished a real RPG.


Just found this, the results of a PR survey for 7 Sins on what people thought the biggest gaming sins you could commit were. I can’t be the only one who found it slightly worrying that a significant number of people seem to think that cheating for personal gratification in games comes above both piracy and sabotage (I’d guess that hacking in online games as well as more nefarious tricks like stealing CD keys fall into this category) in the sinfulness stakes.

There’s apparently something very wrong with people…

Champion’s League Final 2005

Wow…what a match. Liverpool totally deserved to win if only for the fact that they came back from 3-0 down within five minutes against possibly the best club in Europe. Dudek’s penalty behaviour was questionable (aren’t you supposed to stay on the line until the ball is kicked?), but it was a victory that was thoroughly deserved.

The only downside is that it nearly killed my Freeview box, so now I’m going to have to go and spend £40 another one. Now all ITV channels make it crash within about a minute and I need my E4 on Friday. This one was free and lasted me six months so I suppose I got my money’s worth.

A Gamers’ Manifesto

In a similar vein to my previous editorial on what future hardware can actually bring to the table, Pointless Waste of Time is running A Gamers’ Manifesto, a long but insightful read into what we should be wanting from the future generations of consoles. It’s well worth a look if graphics alone don’t really do it for you anymore.

Graphics Over Gameplay

Without a doubt the biggest step that gaming has taken graphically happened almost a decade ago, when those familiar characters that we know and love first stepped out into the third dimension. Now that we’ve done that and we’ve seen at E3 what’s in store for us for the best part of the next decade, what’s apparent is that graphics have nowhere to go beyond what we’ve seen before, but bigger and better – more characters on screen, more detail, better textures, faster framerates, etc. Surely it’s a matter of time before true photorealism is achieved, and then all that’s left is to try to give it more and more raw power until there is no real limit on the sheer amount of stuff on screen.

That’s all in the future, but it must be of real concern for the industry bigwigs to wonder how they can sell consoles when the graphics aren’t going to get shiny and new every few years. This upcoming generation is geared towards nothing but more polygon-pushing power, but what is there left when graphics have nowhere to go?

Realistic in-game physics were brought to the forefront last year thanks to Half-Life 2’s tight integration of the Havok physics engine with the gameplay, and the underrated Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (pick up a cheap copy if you can) showed other ways to use it. There are rumblings of dedicated PPUs (physics processing units) being added to future hardware in the same way that dedicated GPUs came about as 3D graphics began to pick up momentum. Valve showed us how physics could not only provide some interesting puzzles but also create a fantastic form of “sandbox” to play in – who didn’t spend at least some of their time with the game destroying furniture or finding creative ways to fling projectiles at enemies?

Looking at the original Doom and the original Halo, it’s easy to see how far artificial intelligence has come and how much more fun it can make those ubiquitous gunfights. Enemies coming at you in a straight line with no regard for their health just won’t fly anymore, and now it’s almost a requirement that your enemies run and hide when you’re kicking their ass, flank you, and take cover. Now we’re starting to see squad tactics and chains of command in enemies (kill an Elite in Halo and watch his Grunt underlings run away in terror), and the sheer number-crunching power of the latest consoles should see some pretty clever stuff. I can’t wait for Halo 3 just so I can see what Bungie manage to pull off.

This speculation is all well and good and I’m sure that any hardcore gamer can see the possibilities, but the trouble is always going to be getting the casual gamer to buy into it. Selling them lifelike graphics and shiny eye candy is one thing but most of them couldn’t or wouldn’t care less about whether or not you can knock over the scenery or the enemies can react to you. They just want to shoot shit up and get a quick shot of adrenaline, and the closest most will get to a cerebral game that requires any time investment is GTA, and so if a console is capable of photorealistic graphics they’re not going to see any reason to buy a new one.

Of course this could all be moot since arguably any console that is capable of true photorealism will be perfectly capable of running a great physics engine and human-like AI, but as phenomenally powerful hardware begins to give diminishing returns it won’t be long before they really are going to have to find another way to get an apathetic casual fanbase to part with £300 every few years.

Photo Gallery

I’ve now got a photo gallery section for the site which for now will serve as a repository for my random photographs but has the ultimate purpose of being my way of keeping a photo diary when I’m in Japan. It’s running on the excellent Flickr Gallery WordPress plugin which, after trying just about every other WordPress image gallery solution, seems to be by far the most versatile and customisable. I’ll make a post whenever I have new updates to the photographs to check out but in the meantime it’s available in the sidebar.

Thanks to Collin from Command-Tab for the help in getting the plugin to work and for drawing my attention to it in the first place. Give his site a look if you’re an Apple fan.