Editorial Miscellany: Phantasee Lyphe

CHOP CHOP MINE MINE CREATE CREATE
Character creation. Back when life was simple.

I never want to chop another tree down in my life. All I want to do is chop down trees. I never want to mine ore again in my life. All I want to do is mine ore. If I spend another second in front of a carpentry bench my life will lose all meaning. I must be a carpenter until the day I die. This is all I know of the world now. That and a random sentence that I cannot make any sense of. It just floats in front of me, taunting me with individual components that I recognize but blur when put together. “Mel is always wrong” it says. I wish I knew what it meant. Who is Mel? Is she an Angler?

Fantasy Life

Do not buy it. It is very well put together and there are plenty of positive things to say about it, but as I reflect on essentially an entire weekend of it, I am beginning to doubt its worth as a use of my time. My girlfriend and I had a mini four day vacation and instead of spending it together, we spent it together seperately. We sat beside each other and played about thirty hours of Fantasy Life each, getting occassionally informed of each other’s progress.

Simply, there is too much to do and not enough of a reason to do it.

After a time (okay, a long time) it becomes apparent that the only rewards for completing tasks are more tasks to complete. This is not dissimilar to many games, but usually it accompanies evolving gameplay or a story to match. Fantasy Life adds abilities and new areas to explore, but it means nothing, really. I do not care about the story despite the charming dialogue and I do not contribute to the game world in any real way. I just unlock new spaces and side quests. My actions do not become more meaningful, I just become capable of chopping down a tree I never could before.

The game cleverly includes the smallest sprinkling of required skill for each of the tasks to enhance the feeling of accomplishment, but the game essentially boils down to the enormously long quest to fill every meter and max every skill to satisfy some dark desire in all of us.

Perhaps if the different lives (read: classes and/or jobs) were actually different from each other in a more meaningful way, the pointlessness of the game would be less transparent. Some lives are more unique than others, but of the twelve available, most of them can fall into three distinct categories that share very similar gameplay. The Angler and the Wizard are perhaps the most unique, but even they share too much with the other categories.

CHOP CHOP MINE MINE DIE DIE
Seeing this screenshot makes me want to play always and never play again.

The reason why this would help is because the game is at its best when the player feels like she is approaching the world from another angle. It was satisfying to feel like all the work I put into a certain expertise could allow me access and insight into parts of the game that I could not have otherwise. It also would have enhanced the fact that many of the classes compliment each other. It is true that becoming a Wood-Cutter and going off on excursions to gather lumber and then returning to my workbench as a Carpenter to make great quality items to both save money and improve my equipment is immensely satisfying, but the satisfaction diminishes significantly because of the fact that the miner/Blacksmith relationship is practically identical from a gameplay perspective.

I feel like Fantasy Life is a game that is going to call me back into its clutches, but not yet. Please not yet.

Dragon Warrior

I talked about playing this on Android a few weeks ago. This inspired me to play my original NES copy that I had the whole time. It is better. I do not even mind the menu necessary to talk to people or even walk down stairs. I do not mind the equipment stores that lack statistics and that automatically replace the old equipment when I buy new stuff. It makes me feel like I am playing the game as if it was just released although I was three years old when that actually happened.

Unity

I have not talked about it much on here, but I am still trying to sharpen my game development skills by working with a programmer on much smaller projects than LFoPD was. We recently made the decision to switch development over to Unity and while it will be an incredible help with efficiency in the long run, it created a number of learning curves that I have been anxious to get over so that I can be useful during development again. It will be a very simple mobile game called Sad Ryan and seeing how much work needs to go into a game this small really puts into perspective how insane it was to try and get LFoPD made with no experience and team members scattered around the world. This is why Kickstarters fail. Money would have helped matters, but I do not think it would have gotten the game finished. Better to first understand how the process actually works from beginning to end. Unity will eventually be helpful, but it does not feel like it yet.

Final Thoughts

Dragon Age: Inquisition is fast approaching. Vagrant Story is calling to be played. I have three million other games to play. I may not have a job right now, but I am essentially only giving myself weekends and late evenings to play games, so I am going to have to start to prioritize and – ugh – make a schedule for the games I play. It might feel anti-fun, but it is the only way I am going to complete anything. Anyway, do you fine readers have any interpretations on that phantom “Mel” sentence I simply cannot get rid of? Let me know in the comments below!

8 comments

  1. Fantasy Life sounds like exactly the kind of game that I would buy and never play for lack of time to pour in. I don’t need games with busy-work anymore. I want interesting experiences.

  2. Ethos, I am your guardian angler.

    And Fantasy Life sounds like it’s maybe one step above something like Clicker Heroes or Cookie Clicker.

    Also, don’t you think Sad Oliver would have made a much better title? It’s such a sad name, can’t think of why though…

  3. @DA – That’s a great way to put it.

    @Mel – It’s too on the nose! Can’t have the name of the game be too sad! If people see Sad Oliver on their phones, they’ll start weeping.

    And I would put Fantasy Life more than one step above the “games” you mention, although the category is probably correct.

  4. Sad Oliver would be like a Tamagotchi, except he doesn’t do anything you input. You keep pressing “take a shower” and “get a haircut,” and yet in every game his greasy hair just ends up suffocating him.

    NES Dragon Warrior games were great; I want them so bad on 3DS. Play DWIII ASAP! You don’t need stats in the weapon and armor stores. More gold = better stats; they’re not trying to trick you.

  5. Simply, there is too much to do and not enough of a reason to do it.

    This is what passes for ‘game development’ in certain areas today, especially MMOs and these ‘life-sims’ (like Animal Crossing etc). It is not only piss-poor design philosophy, but it is profoundly destructive and unethical as a medium concept.

  6. Final Fantasy XIV + Animal Crossing = Fantasy Life (I heard the original title was going to be Final Animal Fantasy Crossing but they thought it might attract the wrong crowd)

  7. “This inspired me to play my original NES copy that I had the whole time. It is better.”
    TOLDJA!

    Seriously, though, the original is usually (but not always) better. Even when I think of updates that offer substantial improvements, there are downsides and losses as well. And, as you observe, the temporality of a game–how its technology and presentation situates itself in a particular historical moment–is important to the experience, as well.

  8. @Dancing Matt – I forgot to post how much your comment made me chuckle.

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