Spoilers for FF15.
The best part of FF15 is in the second playthrough or a spoiled first playthrough – it’s a part that you can only experience once given the knowledge of the game’s final arc and what happens to the world (before you save it, of course…!)
FF 15’s main plot consists of 14 chapters.
The first time you play FF15, you spend Ch. 1-8 driving around the open world of Lucis, playing as Prince Noctis, advancing the plot, fighting monsters, character-developing the main cast.
Your time in Lucis, is colored and contextualized by mystery of what will happen to the world and the characters.
Eventually you progress onto Chapter 9. The game becomes linear – taking place not in Lucis, but on a long train trip through the Evil Empire’s country. By the end of the train ride, daytime has vanished, and the Darkness has taken over the world (oh no!).
NPCs and characters worry about this in an unproductive way, not taking action, because of course, it’s a Final Fantasy world and there’s no way a normal person has any ability to affect change – only you, Prince Noctis, do!
What this all leads up to is a huge ‘whoa’ in Chapter 14 – where you end up, 10 years later after separating from your 3 friends, at an early area in the game, alone as Noctis. This area was a pleasant beach resort but is now overrun by a ton of demons. You’ll probably decide to run past them. You end up in a car driven by a character who you encountered as a kid in the first arc. You head back to the first area of the game, surveying the countryside and watching demons run around everywhere, as you talk to this driver about what’s changed, and what hasn’t. Your friends are still alive. The gas station, Hammerhead, where you started the game, is now more or less an outpost for demon hunters.
For all its flaws, I think this progression is pretty brilliant – a logical conclusion to the slow insertion of hopelessness and (on average) reduced sense of power in the player throughout the game’s 2nd arc.
Anyways, you sacrifice yourself and save the world. Hooray.
OKAY SEAN WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF FINAL FANTASY 15??
Now we’re ready to talk about that!
The best part of FF15 is the emotion of inhabiting Lucis’s landscape in your second playthrough, knowing what tragedy will befall it. Viewing its visual spectacles, going on fun hunts with your band of buddies, and still having that colored by knowledge of the world’s future.
It’s the feeling of know that every anxious NPC and person you are talking to, is doing too little, too late. Whether anyone likes it, eventually once you’re on that train, daylight will wane away, demons will grow, people will die. You know things will end up linearly, on a slow train ride through deserts, as the world turns to dark.
As an NPC in the Train Arc says on the radio – the shifts happened so slowly that no one noticed it until the effects were extreme.
Hmm… that sounds familiar…
And I say emotion, because once you drill into it, you realize this is a pretty dumb game overall and the reason that emotion exists is because of a silly fantasy narrative where almost every non-hero is literally Pointless.
The social system the game creates is one in which NPCs have zero power to do anything collectively, except maybe give you money which helps you save the world (oh wait, did I just make an argument for the existence of collective action by NPCs in JRPGs? Hm).
But still, it’s a powerful feeling. You grow to hate the night while playing FF15 – you can’t fast travel, overpowered enemies spawn. And this feeling is accentuated because the entire world and everything positive about it will be lost to that night.
Maybe this parallels our world now – talks of organization against fascism. Of course, our world is different. If people band together, they can do something! We don’t have to wait for a Prince Noctis. Still, those emotions of oh, shit about the future, that perpetually color our air, are worth noting.
It’s worth bringing up a game, Even the Ocean, which has a similar feeling on its second playthrough.
Spoilers for Even the Ocean
Even the Ocean is carefully colored by a silent tone of growing dread, culminating in the ending, where everyone dies. You can completely miss this by playing through quickly or skimming dialogue.
On a second playthrough, things are toned similarly to FF15 – you know the world will end, except in ETO, the world ending is permanent. So you get this sense of dread thinking about how people are idly sitting by or misinterpreting the situation, rather than, it’s a crazy fantasy plot and Prince Noctis and the Gods will swoop in and save it all!
It’s a hopeful, maybe realistic ending, once you drill down – one in which it’s acknowledged that there could have been change, a way to avoid the events of ETO’s ending – had people known to act together earlier.
Thanks to this piece by @eatthepen on jrpgsaredead whose observation about a weird feeling hearing a song play while driving, spurred me on to write this short piece.
If you liked this piece, consider buying Even the Ocean and telling friends about it!
A note on this blog coming back
Decided to re-consolidate things here… Medium was kind of annoying and weird to manage. Website works, but it’s nice to have this stuff working here and it looks like wordpress has decent backup exporting. Plus there’s old stuff here already.
On the blog name, not sure. It’s a term I use to describe my music, and I kind of like the juxtaposition it makes in your head. Blogs need a name, I guess.
Some essays from the time in between: http://seancom.nfshost.com/writing.html
It’s been 3 years since posting on here! Other than that writing, well, Joni and I finished Even the Ocean. Funny that the last post here was “goals of Even the Ocean”. I think we did a good job overall, the best we could. It’s not selling great. Oh well. Bad time to release and everyone wants to write about Hot Dogs 2 and Dishonorable the Second, and soon, This Game Again 15 and etc. (oops i just wrote about it too). We might get more coverage in coming months?
I kind of wish the press or Youtube or Twitch people, would do less talking about spreading diversity and then, uh, stamping it entirely out by never reporting or talking about minority work. I understand the economic issues behind why this isn’t always possible… but still!
A lot of other things happened, but are of less concern to this blog. I guess one main thing is that I now teach at SAIC for the Experimental Game Lab class, in which I taught a bunch of minority work and had students make their own games. I hope to write about that in a few weeks once it wraps up, as well as release course materials (I’ll be teaching it in the spring, too.)
I’ve started to post longer-form stuff on Medium: (this is a recent discussion of the game Morning Coffee)
View story at Medium.com
and shorter updates on my tumblr
This wordpress won’t be updated anymore, so go to those places!
some of my goals with even the ocean are
1. make a pleasant experience.
at least for me, from a level design standpoint i want to make areas that are fun to go through but not impossibly difficult with a little bit of practice . this can be condemned as not that interesting design – but – i am not too interested at the moment in creating well thought out puzzles of my own that progress in say a the witness way (though i like those games a lot). actually it may be that i am too unskilled or lazy to attempt a thing in context of all the other work the game has…i don’t know. i really want every person with basic game literacy to be able to see the game as a whole. i think the level design will be better than anodyne, but if i want to do a super good job with it i would stick to a much smaller proejct.
play the levels, understand the atmosphere, passively understand how it comes together, make it through everything and think about it. the base mechanic/gimmick is still very simple and we keep it simple so that you are repeating this the entire game, in different contexts……and yeah. i suppose the balance mechanic of it is very important in this thematic sense, otherwise we would basically just be making a nature explor-y game. which is totally fine! just not want i want to do totally at the moment
2. give a contemplative experience. this is sort of done by having these themes or ideas in the back of your head as you make music or art or design a level and decide how it fits in to the game (which you give just as much thought to in terms of those themes and strucutre….) . you can sort of flavor an area with themes or ideas about being human and when you do this in magical ways, people get this sort of…’feeling’ about an area, or a place, or an experience.
i don’t want to give a didactic, personal story, or make a political or social statement, or cause empathy with some party of people, though i think games like that are really important in the progress of games as a whole. i want to make something to reflect on or that you passively take with you but that doesn’t shove the player down one path of thought too specifically. i think we sort of accomplished this with anodyne, players had some feeling about things being ‘different’ about an area. and that’s good, at least for me. cause people to introspect a bit.
and that’s why i think the aesthetics are so important. they’re not just to make a pretty area, they are needed to go along with the ideas we have in mind for the game world and that specific area, and i think if we put enough though into that,t hen people can subconsciously (or consciously) make these connections and interpretations for themselves, especially if they kind of relate to the mechanics they are going through with jumping around and the energy balancing. i think there will be enough info that the interpretations will lie within some rough themed space of interpretations. at least that is my intention, i don’t want it to be far too vague…basically whatever walk of life you are in, something specific or personal to you i want to have created and taken away from playing the game.
because if you don’t give a shit about your music or your art and you don’t think about it with every pixel you draw or note you make…then you run the chance of just confusing someone or having a bunch of meaningless noise. yes a game is about the interaction but there are things you can also do in conjunction with that when you are careful with the music and art design.
there is a ‘universe theme’ or themes the universe of the game is based in. often steeped in the base mechanics and interactions (jumping, energy bar)….and sort of thought about intensely at first then forgotten – makes its way in sort of passively to everything else…Then the sort of game-world themes which is how the big macro parts of the game fit together as you progress through it, and the symbols/entities we put in each and how you play through it on that high level. then the level themes which are the most granular, ideas put into levels that sort of have this connection between sets of levels. well that was vague…hmm.
obviously we will fail at accomplishing this, but i think we can do a pretty good job if we try hard enough.
well yes okay.
development has been as usual – a combination of
– figuring out what later areas should be in specific (we have an outline of each place, or at least I do – but as you implement some areas on the level design level you somehow get some better vision of what a later level should be – this is also in part to finding coincidentally useful inspiration from outside of my room-office).
– actually making levels (level design)
– programming new entities (traps, ‘enemies’ ,etc), implementing features, fixing bugs, tweaking previous entities
– writing a variety of music for the game
and it will likely be like this for quite a while since there’s still a fair number of areas to finish. and that’s only for The Ocean part of EtO, but they are basically two games so we’ll finish the ocean first, then move on to Even (then release, I guess! so far away…)
i’ll post music later …maybe, or screenshots, but http://seancom.nfshost.com/songaday.html has some stuff though most of it is like WIPs or scrapepd things
happy halloween (well, belated…), if you celebrate it. i ended up streaming anodyne while using the bitmap cache scrambling thing.
room insulation is an annoying thing. i was hoping to save a little on heating by insulating the windows with film, but I did that and I’m not sure if it helped, but then I had to put stuff on the bottom of my door because there was a draft there. maybe insulating the other apartment doors and windows will help?
Hm, so what’s been happening recently
Well, there are some new things I am working on. As always that’s up at https://soundcloud.com/seagaia/
A new-ish one is https://soundcloud.com/seagaia/northworld-even-the-ocean-ost . I’m working on one of the overworld musics for even the ocean. I think it too me so long to arrive at this because you really need to understand your game and its structure before you can even start to work on something as unifying and thematically important as a world map theme! So it’s good that I think I am making headway on it.
Even the ocean is fine otherwise. It’s just grinding out some work on something each day, and eventually the game will be done. Though I feel like I should be able to do more !
I also had the idea to install Anodyne in some art galleries around Chicago. I want to make an installation that gives the public an eye into the creative process around a game, rather than viewing it as an entertainment commodity. I’ve been discussing with a few friends the best way to do this an dI have what seems like a decent idea (and it is cheap to do). Now to find someone that will let me display it!
It’s getting colder!
oops, look, i have forgotten to write anything recently..
still working on even the ocean most of the time, and then a small SECRET side project, hm, i can’t say much about it, but it is releasing in japan first in a very uh, different way, which should be interesting. that release won’t be for a few months though.
another side project is on the backburner, but that’s okay, since i’ve hardly done anything for it (it’s a small adventure game i want to make).
so, maybe the most recent bit of news is that anodyne android finally released! well, it released through the HUMBLE BUNDLE. This is great exposure wise for anodyne and also financially for jon and I! I had to make a few fixes though and push another build (barf). thus ends the anodyne saga forever, which makes me happy because i’m fucking sick of working on it (I was sick of working on it since like i started fixing the mobile version and bugs). it’ll be out on google play when the bundle sale’s over, anyways.
more to the anodyne postmortem is coming (never) whenever i decide to (never) write it(.)…
ANODYNES DONE FOREVER!!!
even the ocean
development’s fine. it has just been programming features and then staring blankfaced at the level editor (when you stare into the empty level, the empty level…)
didn’t decide to enter the igf, there was really no point because we’d have to spend all this time doing ‘glue’ stuff making the game playable in a coherent way (right now it is just transferring the coherent world design in our heads into levels. so we are building levels now, for the most part, which is time consuming! i stare at an editor quite often, – the level editor or code editor)
we decided to spend most of our time working on THE OCEAN and once we finish that, do EVEN. so that will be a long time i guess, but i’ll keep myself entertained with development on even the ocean , side projects, and musical projects. i have this thing of needing to release stuff every now and then so the long development cycle of ETO might drive me insane otherwise (but when it’s done it’s gonna be so so good!).
with THE OCEAN, we’re in a “early/mid july” anodyne state…i.e., we are building out dungeons and levels and tilesets and sprites and music and have all of the main dungeons/levels planned, with some interstitial stuff that will be thought of as we go. so realistically…there is like 5-6 mos of work left on The Ocean. I will try to work harder though to get it done faster…
this post gets more miscellany/boring/personal after this point, so you could probably skip it.
in a secluded northern place
I wrote this for the indiestatik kickstarter and also even the ocean. it’s in an even-the-ocean melodic style (even the ocean music is tending to fall into a melodic or ambient style, both being sort of supported by use of sound effects as instruments at times).
i’ve been using the free Carbon2 NI synth for some of my sound effect instruments and leads/pads/etc. It’s nice, i guess, but I like to balance it out with snes/genesis instruments to not give the music too much of a ‘modern’ feel, because i feel that would overly clash with the art style.
luckily, my production is quite bad so i would probably have trouble giving a modern feel to the music, whatever that means
Little Neurotic Space Station Vignette #1
This is a non-game music project I’ve been working on. you can listen to the first song here (i need to fix it, it clips in this.) The title is mostly meaningless but seems to describe what it ended up sounding like. I’m trying to work on a series of sort of upbeat, melody-driven/traditional structured electronic stuff that kind of focuses on describing an abstract scene or short series of events. i’d like to add lyrics in some way but i don’t know how to do that / setting up recording is a huge pain / mixing is hard / i should practice more at writing something that is electronically interesting without the difficulty of lyrics anyways
So, yeah. I’d like to nail down a personal style for my non-game music, but it may take some time. Ideally a style I would be able to do a live show with. It may be cool to sing or whatever, but I don’t know what to sing about…I don’t really have any emotional crisis or thing worth singing about – my outlet for that is often talking with friends – what would i sing about? hm. maybe i’ll just not sing. I think I have an okay style for my game stuff – it will get better as i get better production skills, I think – i would like to experiment more with incorporating sound effects into the music)
i’ve also been listening to a lot of perfume’s LEVEL3 and capsule’s CAPS LOCK. the first is nice dance/techno/jpop fare from yasutaka nakata, the latter is also by him but more of an avant-garde/electronic self expression album, which is more interesting i think.
outside of that,
…it is starting to get colder. chicago weather can be like that, fall ends so quickly and then you get this sort of mediocre muggy wet/freezing period that goes on until half-ending in april/may and then summer. i am also trying to get contact lenses. i got some last fall as a test (they charged me like $200-$300 without telling me to ‘get them fitted’, what a load of shit), and i can’t get them in. my eye hurts after trying, but whatever, i will figure it out eventually/
Well, for one, Anodyne will be out on Android next week.
I was thinking about creative control and games.
There’s an initial perception you have when creating areas in a game. My goal is to get the realized area as close to your mental image as possible.
Of course, it’s impossible to replicate this unless you are skilled in all mediums that the area requires – in my case, I can’t quite cut it for art .
So every sort of compromise you make is going to distance you in some way from the initial idea. Something is “lost” when you are communicating what you want to the composer, or artist, etc. But it’s sort of necessary…but should be minimized.
Is it possible to realize the idea in a pure-form with no compromise? I’m not sure. And there are likely things that benefit from compromises (discussing design decisions, letting someone else do something else…)
The reason I like a small team is because we have the most control. And I think this is why it’s important to know the person you’re working with if it’s sort of a game where you are coming up with environments and a story and stuff. Because when you have an idea for an area, and how it fits into the game world, you want to get the best real approximation of that idea, and the best way is if the person you are working with you can trust – since they kind of get used to what you’re going for with the limited expression that words afford us.
I think this is why larger-than-necessary teams often suffer (though of course large teams can still work out well if there is great management and a strong creative lead). There’s a lot of cross-communication and stuff gets forgotten, and there’s sure as hell no way the creative lead is going to remember every detail they had in their head or whatever.
And it’s also why I think knowing the artist and musician is important, and letting them know about your world design or whatever, otherwise the music comes off as out of place or not very “personal”.
Communication is key, I guess.
This entry was rambling.