Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Philosophical Issues in Harvest Moon/Rune Factory

A comment made by a veteran Harvest Moon player on one of my posts resonated in my own soul and I therefore publish it here. It deals with a fundamental philosophical issue in Harvest Moon and Rune Factory.

Here is the comment:

Dear Freya,

I believe that the creators wish to tell us, with the increased difficulty in 'forging' a wonderful during winter, that something in life is meant to be out of our control, and therefore, we better be patient and NOT try so hard to obtain it.
I mean, an orange wonderful set into a tool surely increase the yield of milk, wool, ores/gems and black grass/coins, but even without that wonderful you will still obtain those number of items! The only difference is that you will take longer to achieve those numbers, but is that really a bad thing?

How many players really 'lives' more than 5-6 years game time in any HM game?

I remember that in HM FoMT, in order to obtain the mountain cabin one would have to had been married for 42 years!

Remember that in FoMT, once every 5 years, if you walk up the mountain on Fall 11, after 23:00, you will encounter a shooting star event, and your profits will double the next day?

But in recent games I find myself giving up after reaching the 4th year, because the money was already infinite, and all heart events were seen, and everybody was at 10 FP, and the list is 100% complete, and the ONLY thing I have to hope for is to see my son/daughter grow old... and they surely take a long time to do so!!! So I stop playing...

Without the wonderfuls, one might actually need 10 or 20 years (game-time) to accomplish everything, but with those...

Hope I am making sense, in some way.'

Of course, the writer makes perfect sense and is absolutely correct. Although I myself love to reach the point when I have attained every goal and can 'rest on my laurels' in any Harvest Moon/Rune Factory game, I have to confess that I tend to play THAT game less often afterwards. In fact, telling myself that it is for the sake of my guides that I must start a NEW game to see if I can accomplish all those goals even faster, I usually would begin a second game in another slot...

(Too little time nowadays in my REAL life in any case to enjoy a very well-earned 'retirement life' in any Harvest Moon/Rune Factory game... There always are new games to explore.)

In fact, the creators are very conscious of the virtues of patience and determination and although little rewards like the Wonderfuls in IoH and SI are included to give a player a bit of excitement and a sense of being chosen by Fortune as a Favourite, they are not intended to take the place of the initial hard work that is required in any Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game.

I can illustrate this with an experience from ToT. When I was working on the Official Strategy Guide for Tree of Tranquility, I discovered a fabulous exploitation device in the game. Decent Cocoons, sold at the Brownie Farm, could be converted to Yarn, dyed with a Blue Herb or Blue Flower and then shipped for an incredible profit. This would allow the player to afford all upgrades to his/her farm very quickly.

Filled with the very natural excitement any player (and guide writer) experiences when he/she discovers an exploitation, I included the information in my Guide. What happened then is known to any player who read my Guide AND played ToT when it was released.

Although the sections of the Guide that dealt with this exploitation device were not removed from the strategy Guide, the actual exploitation WAS removed from the game before the retail version was released. Why should Natsume allow the very fabric of the game's natural timing to be destroyed by the ability to become a millionaire almost instantly?

There IS a natural timing to every Harvest Moon and Rune Factory game. Despite the fact that players are allowed to do things as they wish, in their own time and to create their own priorities, players who neglect NO activity in any Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game and are content to move slowly but certainly forward in every aspect find that they do not experience problems for the most part. It usually is the player with 'tunnel vision' who focuses on one aspect of the game to the exclusion of the rest who finds everything grinding to a standstill at some point because he/she ignored shipping requirements or Friendship requirements or some other integral part of the universe of Harvest Moon or Rune Factory.

You cannot focus on making money exclusively, ignoring your neighbours, and expect that you will unlock every new option. Nor can you focus on courtship exclusively, while letting your farm go to ruin (or remain in its original neglected state) and expect to unlock new options. Everything is connected.

Players who use 'codes' or cheat devices to boost their progress artificially find that this destroys other aspects of the game, as many variables are intended to work together to create results. That is why I advise strongly against codes and cheat devices where Harvest Moon and Rune Factory are concerned.

In fact, it is when a player does something the WRONG way often and writes to me for advice that I discover potential problems in any game. A good Guide MUST include all potential problems. When I go through my initial game, triggering events effortlessly, I often fail to discover those potential problems or the 'hidden' triggers that need to be included in any Guide.

I do try to find any and all exploitation devices that exist in any Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game but, as this player has stated, the creators do NOT intend that you should be able to move too quickly through your life in Harvest Moon or Rune Factory. 'Everything in its season' to paraphrase the wise King Solomon.

Once upon a time, we could save our games before our character went to bed, then reload to change the weather if the heavens did not conform to our personal wishes. Island of Happiness and now Sunshine Islands made this virtually impossible by setting the weather almost a week in advance. Those of us (yes, I include myself!) who had become accustomed to the ability to dictate the Weather to the game were faced with an almost insurmountable task. I was frustrated and upset initially when typhoons and blizzards smashed through my field... but then I realised I was relaxing a little more while I played the game. I did not have to PLAN so much and I therefore LIVED more. Typhoons certainly are a natural threat in Island life and they have positive results as well as negative in some Harvest Moon games. In Tree of Tranquility and Animal Parade, there are rare fish that can be caught ONLY on the day of a severe storm.

I discovered, as well, that the day of a Blizzard in Sunshine Islands is one of the few days when it is relatively easy to conjure a Wonderful at Chen's Market. This, I respectfully submit to Natsume, is NOT an exploitation that needs to be removed. After all, the player pays a potentially hefty price in the destruction caused by the storm.

The destructive aspects of any Typhoon or Blizzard are balanced a little by the amounts of stone and wood they deposit on the Map in games where upgrades require vast quantities of Materials.

As far as the ability to make Wonderfuls in Sunshine Islands is concerned, I think that the creators of the game engineered this properly, according to 'Harvest Moon' philosophy. It is very thrilling to find that Recipes for the Wonderfuls exist, knowing the powers of these Wonderfuls. At the same time, the ingredients and the complex process required to create them allows them to remain valuable and precious RARE commodities. Creating the 'Orange Book' that is one of the ingredients in the Recipe for an Orange Wonderful is not a breeze... to take another step and make an Orange Wonderful is a fairly burdensome undertaking. If you have the Will to do so, you can, but I suspect that most players will wait for an Orange Wonderful either to appear at Chen's shop NATURALLY in Winter, to be given as 1st Prize in a Contest or as a gift from a grateful and loving spouse.

Magic is an integral part of the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory universes but it is not something that can be used indiscrimately and usually, a player must prove himself first, by demonstrating the ability to scratch a living from a neglected field. He/she must be willing to endure privations, to balance the need to eat with the need to earn money through shipping, must meet and greet neighbours even without being able to give their 'Most Favourite' gifts to them, and EARN their respect and liking. If you have money, you can fill a barn with Livestock, but you still need to EARN their affection by caring for them on a daily basis. Otherwise, the products that they produce will be of low quality and little value.

In many cases, the most Magical Accessories are not available at the start of the game. Again, you must EARN the right to have them, either by mining for the materials needed to create them or by unlocking them through your efforts in other areas of life. The Teleport Stone in Sunshine Islands is a real godsend, but it will not appear at Chen's Market until you have 100,000G in your Earnings total. When you do, you must be willing to invest all of it in the Teleport Stone if you want it that badly!

In fact, in any Harvest Moon and Rune Factory game, almost every decision requires that you make choices. Do I expand my house or build/expand a Barn? Do I use this item to restore energy or do I ship it? Do I give this valuable item to some one who will prize it or do I ship it to make money? Do I allow a Bachelor/Eligible Girl to marry my Rival in order to be able to meet their Child or do I marry the individual myself? Decisions like these can be careless or they can be based on intelligent consideration. The beauty of any Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game is that you can be whatever you wish. You can be wise or foolish, careful or careless... It's YOUR life! At the same time, as in our real lives, the individual who is careful and weighs the virtues of any choice probably will be far more successful than the one who barges forward heedlessly.

N.B. With respect to the word 'forging' in the original comment that sparked this post, I am not certain precisely what was meant here, unless it was used in a strictly poetic sense. There is no forge in Sunshine Islands but Wonderfuls CAN be made in your Kitchen in ANY season if you have the necessary Recipes and the required ingredients. In Winter, Wonderfuls may appear at the maximum rate of one every three days ONLY WHEN the last two digits of two Farming Degree totals match.

Perhaps it would be useful to include the Recipe for making an Orange Wonderful for players who have not completed their Cookbooks yet in Sunshine Islands:

Orange Book

Orange Book: 2G
Ingredients: Failed Dish, Wonderful Piece, Orange Herb, Orange Curry, Black Book
Obtain with 5th Black Book from Haila at Cafe
Energy Value: None
Optional Ingredients: None

This may look deceptively simple, but players who have obtained the Recipe for the Black Book will be very much aware of the labour involved in 'cooking' even one Black Book, let alone FIVE!

Black Book

Black Book: 2G
Ingredients: Failed Dish, Elli Leaves, Yggdra Soup, Chazuke, Poseidon Bowl, Sweet and Sunny
Obtain with 7th Failed Dish from Haila at Cafe
Energy Value: None
Optional Ingredients: None

It is easy enough to cook Failed Dishes. Each of the Failed Dishes that you create, when given to Haila and used successfully by her, will elicit a Recipe for one of the Dishes that constitute the ingredients in the Black Book. Obtaining the Recipe for the Black Book is a fairly simple matter as well. It will be given when Haila uses the seventh Failed Dish you offer successfully. It is the creation of a Black Book in your own Kitchen that will prove labour-intensive.

Here are the Recipes for each of the items needed to create one Black Book.

Elli Leaves

Elli Leaves: 2G
Ingredients: Failed Dish, Herb Salad, Salad, Pickle, Pickled Turnip, Boiled Spinach
Obtained with Failed Dish from Haila at Cafe
Energy Value: +4 SR +2 FL
Optional Ingredients: None

Yggdra Soup

Yggdra Soup: 2G
Ingredients: Failed Dish, Sangria, Relax Tea, Soy Milk, Herb Soup, Fruit Smoothie
Obtain with 1st Failed Dish from Cafe
Energy Value: +4 SR +1 FL
Optional Ingredients: None


Chazuke: 2G
Ingredients: Failed Dish, Dried Bean Curd, Steamed Egg Custard, Mochi Mix Natto/Red Flower Mix Natto, Spring Roll, Buckwheat Chips
Obtain with 2nd Failed Dish from Nick at Diner
Energy Value: +4 SR +1 FL
Optional Ingredients: None
Official Description: A dish from the East

Poseidon Bowl

Poseidon Bowl: 2G
Ingredients: Failed Dish, Fried Rice Noodles, Egg Over Rice, Porridge, Ultimate or Finest Curry
Obtain with 3rd Failed Dish from Haila at Cafe
Energy Value: +4 SR +1 FL
Optional Ingredients: None

Sweet and Sunny

Sweet and Sunny: 2G
Ingredients: Failed Dish, Chestnut Gelatin, Fruit Dumpling, Trifle, Apple Pie, Chocolate Fondue
Obtain with 4th Failed Dish from Haila at Cafe
Optional Ingredients: None
Official Description: A heavenly blend of sunny delights! Mmm!

It is not impossible to make any of the Dishes that are required to make a Black Book, but as you can see, each includes a fair number of ingredients in its own right. Furthermore, it is unlikely that you will have the necessary ingredients in your first year to make most of the items required to create the ingredients for even one Black Book. Many of the items require Fruits harvested from Trees. To grow your own Trees, you need to raise Link Island, build a Bridge to it, then raise Fruit Island and build THAT bridge... and finally, plant the seeds for the trees and nurture them, with a combination of good farming knowledge AND proper weather conditions. It is only when you offer your FIFTH Black Book to Haila that you will have a chance of obtaining the Recipe for the Orange Book. In other words, obtaining the RECIPE for the Orange Book or for any of the Books required to create Wonderfuls in your own kitchen is an advanced project!

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