Thursday, 25 April 2013

Final Fantasy X: Open Concept Barn

I'm replaying Final Fantasy X, and I got to one of the parts where you get a different cutscene depending on who you were palling around with.

Two of the characters get into an argument about organized religion. While driving to their next destination, the protagonist and one other character are talking it over. It's meant to give the player some insight into the thought-process and feelings of characters that are otherwise pretty guarded (FFX is populated by several hard-asses who refuse to tell the main character important information. There's a good reason for why this is, but it makes them to seem like cold, unhelpful jerks for the first half of the game).

Who the main character talks to on the way is different, depending on how you play the game.


All of this is decided from something under the hood. The "Affection System", which apparently keeps score with certain dialogue choices, as well as how often you heal specific party member in battle. I had no idea this could play out differently until another playthrough. Heck, I didn't even know you could win the Blitzball championship thing until I read Shamu's article. Knowing there were different ways for this game to play out just made me want to try it out again even more. Maybe because JRPGs aren't known for their malleability of late, so any game with elbow room for this kind of stuff is a novelty.

On the flipside, in the Mass Effect games I feel like I have to play it "the right way". Even though it was designed from the ground-up to be played over and over again in different ways, I feel I have to stick to the script of the story of My Shepard. I feel similarly with the open-world Fallout series. In a linear game, I'm excited to play it in different ways. But in games that offer much more freedom, for some reason I adhere to a strict sequence of events. Curious...

Is it better that I didn't know about the different cutscenes in FFX? Is it better if these branching paths aren't telegraphed, or advertised? I wonder if it's healthier for games for people to discover this stuff on their own, instead of being a bullet point on the back cover.

NOTE: I was thinking about this while reading the notes on an episode of Spoiler Warning. It should be mentioned that part of the affection system involves tossing potions to your team-mates. Which means if Dishonored were Final Fantasy X, Josh's habit of tossing bottles at people for chuckles would actually be rewarded.



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