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DDoP18: The Gamer’s Guide to Writing – Super Mario Bros.

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Hello and welcome to part one of The Gamer’s Guide to Writing, in which I look at some of my favorite video games and talk about how they impacted my life and what storytelling lessons I learned from them. We’re starting with Super Mario Bros! In addition to being the platonic idea of the classic platformer, this game taught me the importance of a beginning that hooks your audience and teaches them about what is to come without overwhelming them.

Click HERE to listen!

For more on the design of World 1-1, watch This Design Club Video!

Music in today’s episode is Dance Hall Raga by remixer MKVaff, presented under a Creative Commons license from OCRemix.org!

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Podcast: CCRC27-Dungeons & Dragons S1E2

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Watch along with the Chrononauts as we watch to the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon!

Click HERE to listen!

and HERE to watch the cartoon via YouTube!

Four Job Fiesta Part Two: Ahead on our Way

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I’ve been playing “Final Fantasy V” as a part of this year’s Four Job Fiesta, an online challenge that benefits Child’s Play. I wrote about approaching the challenge here, and now that I’m a bit farther in the game, here are some things that I’ve learned.
Final Fantasy V is amazingly well designed. Over the course of the game, I received my full roster of classes: Thief, Time Mage, Ranger, and Chemist. While these aren’t impossible classes to play with, they’re hardly powerhouses. Ranger gets a very good ability, Rapid Fire, if you level them for a while, and Chemist can combine items to exploit some enemy weaknesses, but they require using up rare items. But while this team is challenging, it is hardly impossible. The Four Job Fiesta works with FFV because the game can be navigated with any classes as long as you’re patient and think strategically. There aren’t any choke points that require a certain party to proceed.
The game itself feels like a farewell to the style of the early games. The crystals themselves shatter to give you your jobs. Although the franchise would return to the job system in spin-offs like Final Fantasy Tactics and the crystals would come back in later games like Bravely Default, Final Fantasy V feels like a sea change for the series. The next game in the series in Final Fantasy VI, which took the games in a very different direction. Even though it was only much later released in the United States, it still feels somewhat nostalgic.
But for now the Fiesta continues as I make my way through the middle of the game with my motley crew of back row hooligans. You have until the end of August to sign up for your run, or to support Child’s Play!

Hugh Likes Music: Chronicles of Time

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Chronicles of Time
Various Artists
ChroniclesofTime.net

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I’m one of those writers that writes to music.  I prefer atmospheric,  instrumental pieces that catch the ear but also fade into the background, and one of my favorite sub-genres to pick from is video game soundtracks.
Which is why this year’s “Chronicles of Time” has been getting heavy rotation on my writing playlist.  This massive collaboration consists of eighty-one tracks drawn from artists and bands all over the nerd-core and O C remix communities.  A love letter to Yasunori Mitsuda’s soundtrack to the SNES classic “Chrono Trigger,” it spans five discs, a spectrum of genres, and every piece of music in the game.
And the collaborators have brought their A-material.  Tracks from artists like Carless, Mustin, Super Guitar Bros, and XPRTNovice bring an eclectic but polished sound to the collection.  The stylistically diverse covers and remixes bring everything from heavy metal to jazz guitar to dance-club remixes and hip hop to the masterful compositions.
The album is available at chroniclesoftime.net as well as iTunes and Google Play.  All proceeds benefit Doctors Without Borders.  Chronicles of Time is a treat to listen to, and makes great writing music.  I heartily recommend it.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Gone Home

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Gone Home: Console Edition
Created by The Fulbright Company
Played on Playstaton 4
gonehome.game

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I played “Gone Home” for the first time when it was released on PC.  Unfortunately, my Mac Mini wasn’t quite up to the task of the game’s graphics.  So I was quite pleased to be able to download it as a part of Sony’s Playstation Plus offerings for June of this year.  The span of a few years make this indie game’s 3D modeled mansion a bit less spectacular, but the game’s story and technique remain just as impressive.
The player steps into the first-person shoes of Katie Greenbriar, a college student just returned from a trip to Europe.  She arrives home in the middle of a stormy night to find the house empty, with a message from her younger sister not to come looking for her.
As you begin to explore the strange house, “Gone Home” feels like a survival horror game.  It does borrow some of that genre’s puzzle and exploration mechanics, but the game is actually something else.  As you learn more about Katie’s family through letters, buttons, scraps of notes, and other evidence, voice over narrations of her sister Sam are unlocked.  Formatted as unsent letters, they reveal the true story piece by piece.  I won’t spoil it here, but it is well worth experiencing on your own.
“Gone Home” is a by turns creepy, moving, and overall heartfelt piece of interactive fiction, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Hugh Likes Podcasts: Gosh Darn Fiasco

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HLP-Gosh-Darn Fiasco
Hosted by: Angela Webber, Richard Malena and guests
Goshdarnfiasco.simplecast.FM
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Gosh-Darn Fiasco is a live-play role playing game podcast hosted by musician Angela Webber.  But where most of these kind of gaming shows feel like audio dramas, this one is more like improv.  The difference lies partly in the source material, and partly in the rotating team of talent that comes to play.
“Fiasco” is a GM-less roleplaying game in the style of classic caper movies.  Written by Jason Morningstar and published by Bully Pulpit Games, it is a storytelling RPG.  This means the goal of the game is to play out a scenario, rather than winning a battle.  As the name implies, the fun isn’t in winning, it is in snowballing the story from a small problem into a huge catastrophe.
Each episode, Weber and her guests play through one single play Fiasco game from beginning to end.  There are a variety of settings, or ‘Playsets’ that they have gone through, from a Colonial Salem to McMurdo Station to a heist at the Jim Henson Workshop.  Each episode takes the Cohen Brothers aesthetic of the game and turns it even more towards the comically ridiculous.
Frequent guest such as Lucia Fasano and Kevin M. Arnold add improv chops to the game, making it a lighthearted, gonzo joy to listen.  Gosh-Darn Fiasco is a monthly podcast that runs about 90 minutes per episode.  It’s not something you’re going to get through in a single commute, but it is a heck of a lot of fun.  Find it at Website, in iTunes, or in your preferred podcatcher.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Retronauts

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Retronauts
Hosted by Jeremy Parish and Bob Mackey
Retronauts.com

For a long time, video games have been trying to rise as a medium from frivolous entertainment to serious art form.  Some notable successes have been achieved, but also success hasn’t been universal.  Something similar can be said for video game podcasts.  While many gaming podcasts fall into the ‘bro-gamer’ subculture that seems to permeate the internet, Retronauts rises above the field by mixing intelligent analysis with nostalgia.
Nominally hosted by gaming news site USGamer.net , Retronauts covers games from the dawn of the medium up to about ten years ago.  Hosted by two veteran game reviewers and bloggers, the cast is in-depth and smarter than it needs to be.  It not only provides a dose of heady nostalgia, but historical analysis and design critique as well.  The main show updates every two weeks considering topics such as specific games or series, but also topics like a retrospective on the career of Final Fantasy score composer Nobuo Uematsu.  These episodes go in-depth with three or four guests, running one to two hours.
Alternate weeks update with shorter microsodes that focus in deeper on more obscure, but none the less interesting topics like the groundbreaking but often overlooked survival horror adventure ‘Clock Tower,’ or the music of the SNES port of Sim City.
Host Bob Mackey and Jeremy Parish, who is also the talent behind Game Boy World, really know their stuff, and have plenty of anecdotes and inside information that really sheds a light on the game design and development process.
As someone who spent much of his childhood with an NES controller in hand, but usually couldn’t afford the latest generation system, I am a dyed-in the-wool retro gamer.  This podcast is my jam.  If you prefer pixelated nostalgia over the latest shooter, Retronauts might just be the gaming podcast you’re looking for.

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