Thursday, July 9, 2009

News from the front, part 2

I've been here for a few weeks now, and I'm pleased to report that it's as fun as I expected. There are some really good writers out there on these internets, and that they happen to be nice people too is almost too much of a coincidence. (Although some of the nicest people I know I've met through roleplaying, so maybe it's not a coincidence after all.)

I've also had some time to reconsider the question of timing, and there are a couple of advantages after all, things I'm surprised I overlooked before. First of all, it means that the game's pace is a bit more flexible; I hate it when a session's plot gets rushed along because we only have n hours to get through it. It also means that side plots and character building can go on concurrently with the main story, instead of slowing everyone else down. And, of course, you avoid the perennial problem of having to talk over people to be heard, or missing your chance to act, which is a boon for the less experienced and/or less assertive roleplayer. Overall, a forum game is different enough from a tabletop game that I'm inclined to stop comparing them, and start trying to judge it on its own merits. At any rate, it's certainly not the second-rate substitute that I envisioned before I got started.

As far as dealing with more than two people, the group I'm in seems to have adopted the convention of posting round robin. This is a bit frustrating, since the timing doesn't always work out -- sometimes I feel like I'm cutting into somebody else's conversation, and at other times I don't really have anything to say, but have to post so I don't hold everyone else up. It does mean that everyone gets a chance to say something at regular intervals, though, which is a nice thing to have in a large group. If I were running one myself, I might go for something a little more free-form, but then again I don't have nearly enough experience with forums (roleplay or otherwise) to be confident in my opinions on these things.

In other news, the newest installation in the Shin Megami Tensei metaseries was recently released. SMT wasn't particularly known for anything until the release of Persona 3, which captured the hearts of gamers with its unique aesthetic (high school kids shooting themselves in the head to summon monsters). Since then, it's apparently become fairly popular; Devil Survivor was sold out in the first few stores I tried, though this might be because Atlus likes doing limited releases.

The game itself is notable for its original combination of (unoriginal) elements -- it's a strategy RPG which becomes a normal turn-based RPG for a bit when you attack -- and for possibly having more endings than anything since Chrono Trigger. It also takes the obvious but uncommon step of making the various small choices you make throughout the story actually have an effect. In fact, it's one of the few JRPGs that actually allows and encourages roleplaying. This and the number of endings combine to add a lot to the feel of the game; it's entirely possible to reach a point where you have three major options, all of them terrible. It's been a while since a JRPG has had me sitting there agonizing about which is the lesser of two evils. Or maybe that's just me. Either way, it's a lot of fun, and only increases my desire to track down some of the rare old SMT games (particularly Nocturne).

Well, that's it for now. No sweeping thesis on reality here. Move along.

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