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Telling Stories: Short stories with tragic endings

Yes, I know, it's a horrible logo. I'm not always good at those.Not every sad story is a tragedy.  You have to do a little more legwork than that.

A character who loses the man she loves is a sad story.  A character who loses the man she loves because when it came down to it she simply could not be honest with him, not without giving up a part of herself that mattered more than him?  That’s tragic.  A man who became everything he ever hated because he was too afraid of being controlled by others to let his guard down.  A pair of people who once were lovers, still love one another, but find themselves on opposite sides of a war because the strong ideals that once drew them together now push them apart.

Tragedies aren’t just sad events.  And tragedies are not the only way to create drama, and they’re not the only sort of dramatic characters worth considering.  So let’s talk about what tragedies are not, about what tragedies are, and about how to make the most of them in play.

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Challenge Accepted: What makes a good challenge?

Well, in this case, it's the fault of terrible troop placement.

It’s not the fault of the level, it’s the fault of my own choices.

Good challenges are a little like pornography: when you see them, you know it.

Glib though that may be, the fact is that there’s no single formula that leads to a fair and enjoyable challenge every time.  Heck, not too long ago I was talking specifically about challenges that work fine in one place but don’t work at all in another game or setting.  So let’s be real and say that at best, you can put together the elements that should make for a good challenge whilst accepting that it might all fall apart under scrutiny.

Still, there are elements that point in the right direction.  Perhaps it would be more fair to say that simply putting these things together won’t create a good challenge, but a good challenge will assemble all of these in a way that makes sense.  Which brings us back to the same fundamental question in need of an answer.  What makes for a good challenge?

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The Final Fantasy Project: Final Fantasy IV, part 9

I don't expect it to last, but it'll be nice while it does.

Artwork from a sketch by Yoshitaka Amano

Here we are, back at the tower again, assaulting it in the hopes of accomplishing… something.  I’m not entirely clear on what the heroes plan to actually do here.  On one level, we’re sort of chasing Rubicante, or Edge certainly is; on another level, it’s one of those situations wherein the plot has stepped back to allow the player to keep moving forward based solely on what’s available to access.  Since the Tower of Babil features rather prominently in Golbez’s plan, I suppose anything that involves us screwing with it is probably a good thing.

It is neat that you see this tower from two sides, though, with this run starting closer to the top while the previous one started at the bottom.  Edge helpfully ninja-moves us into the tower proper, and the group can start heading toward… wherever Rubicante is now.  Hey, maybe he he still has the crystals!  That would be a good thing.  Let’s go with that as our motivation, then.

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Mangling terms

In some ways, this version is more like God of War, but then God of War was pretty heavy on copying this series anyway, so six of one, right?

Sometimes, admittedly, it’s not necessary to call a game a clone to get an idea of how it plays.

Remember when “clone” wasn’t a term of scorn when discussing a video game?

When people first started saying thing like “Saints Row is a clone of Grand Theft Auto III,” it was actually conveying useful information.  Considering the sheer number of games available and the tendency for a new game to closely emulate previous games with a few changes, “X-clone” can often be more descriptive than a simple genre listing.  Sure, both New Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 are side-scrolling platformers, but saying that a game is a clone of New Super Mario Bros. provides far more relevant information about how the game plays.

Not that it matters any more, because if you call something a clone of another game, the implication is that it’s a bad game.  Because calling things clones has fallen victim to an odd part of discussing games, where we as a culture somehow manage to create and then destroy the terminology we would use to discuss this stuff.  It happens everywhere given time, but when it comes to game our new terminology seems to have a half-life of ten minutes before it becomes totally useless.

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