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ATG012 – Boxing Day Special 2017 – Christmas Cheer, Christmas Chill

Feeling stuffed after Christmas? Need something to help you relax? I’ve got ya covered! Something a bit slower today, featuring classic progressive trance. Enjoy!

ATG011 – Christmas Day Special 2017 – Breathless

Something uplifting to finish your Christmas day with. Mostly classic late 90s, same as yesterday’s.

ATG010 – Christmas Eve Special 2017 – Vavoom!

A classic late 90s mix with some energy and vavoom to get you in the Christmas mood.

The New Vegas Amnesia Theory

I appear to have made a grave mistake.

I’ve been watching the New Vegas season of Spoiler Warning recently because eh, why not. And in episode 4 they talk about the Courier’s amnesia, at least briefly (around 12:30). This is an interesting topic to me because a lot of people seem to assume the Courier has this affliction when in reality… he/she kind of doesn’t.

It’s clear from dialogue choices later in the game that the Courier doesn’t in fact have amnesia, but it’s pretty easy to see why people might assume they do. For starters, you have dialogue options in the opening area (Goodsprings) that sort of indicate you don’t know the major factions in the region. You also have options to ask about your job, the very one that led you to getting shot in the head.

These speech options aren’t there for the Courier. They’re there for the player’s benefit, in order to inform them as to several important aspects of the outer world and the main story hook (the platinum chip/Benny). To quote Josh Sawyer, lead designer and project director:

The Courier is not an amnesiac. Questions about the NCR, Legion, local goings on, etc. are present so the player does not stumble around without a clue. We can’t assume any given player is familiar with these factions.

This is entirely fair. However, I have seen people argue that you wouldn’t ask these questions if you already knew the answers, so the Courier must therefore have amnesia. My response to this: nope. See, New Vegas is, first and foremost, an RPG. What does this mean? It means the game is set up in such a way so as to allow the player to decide how they want to play the game, they can choose a role for themselves and create whatever backstory they please. (more…)

How Can I Shake Things Up? (Writing)

Have you ever tried writing a story and hit a point where you think ‘I need some extra conflict and drama’? Assuming you’re not writing slice of life where conflict isn’t much of a thing, you should have been asking yourself this question virtually non-stop. But depending on where in the story you are, the type of conflict can change dramatically.

Let’s say you’re two thirds through the story and everything’s gone to hell for your guys. At least one main character has died, you’ve pushed the rest to the edge of sanity by having disaster after disaster befall them, and the bad guys are on the verge of completing their Doomsday Weapon. But your good guys still have their home base, a place of safety from which to launch operations and provide resistance. That’s good.

Or is it? In general, when writing a story the stakes should be gradually going up to introduce tension and uncertainty at every turn. Even when the characters are at their lowest point, another disaster can still be introduced into proceedings. Especially when they’re at their lowest.

The secret ingredient here is known as tension and release, or the Rollercoaster Effect. Build up the tension slowly and surely, let the reader feel the stakes as the protagonist stumbles through the darkened house being startled by every little creak or thump. Then BAM! The protagonist gets out of the house and runs into the night. Tension is released as you realise they’re not about to be eaten by a scary monster… but now the tension creeps back up again as the reader speculates on where the monster might be… (more…)

Trance Tuesday – ATG009 – Thunderstruck

Today’s Trance Tuesday returns to something melodic and vocal-heavy, and features several of my favourites of this sub-genre of trance :3 Click the title of the mix below for full tracklist on HearThis.

Let’s Aikatsu! Part 7 – Tangentkatsu

A rather different kind of making a splash.

You know how I’ve gone on several tangents so far? Let’s do that again! I did reserve the right a couple of posts ago, remember. It’s only a brief one, though, don’t worry. Something I’ve heard people say, mostly people who have no clue what they’re talking about, is that Aikatsu doesn’t have much musical variety in the first season. I… can’t even process that, seriously. Let’s count how many unique songs there are in just the first ten episodes!

Ep1 – Signalise, Move On Now, Idol Activities, Calendar Girl.

Ep2-5 – Same songs as above.

Ep5 – Love Trap.

Ep6-9 – Nothing new.

Ep10 – Angel Snow.

So in a mere ten episodes we have six individual songs. That’s not bad. Actually, that’s pretty amazing when you consider how many shows would maybe have three; an OP, ED, and one insert if you’re lucky. Of course, aikatsu has an advantage in that it has the game backing it up and can pull from all the songs made for that, same as Idolm@ster and similar shows.

Frankly it’s laughable that anyone could think there isn’t much variety. And if we went into episode 11 we’d even have the awesome Kiss of Alice Blue by Rey (More Than True in-universe), something I did not expect when I started this show. Even if you discount the sheer number of tracks – roughly 81 songs through the show’s whole 178 episode run, nearly one original song for every two episodes – there’s still an incredible breadth of variety in the genres of the music.

You have Spanish-themed songs for Juri, Indian/psychedelic for Sora, electronic music (Signalize and Yurika’s god-tier Eternally Flickering Flame), ballads and love songs (Etude ♥♥♥), the aforementioned Alice Blue, cheesy J-pop, experimental (Dancing Baby), modern traditional (you know, stuff like Miyabi’s incredible Light Pink Daytripper), gothic/British rock (Glass Doll/Sweet Sp!ce), period-specific style tracks (Hey! Little Girl) and on and on. Hell, there’s even a marching band song (Little Bee, Little Wing).

Fashion check.

And the best thing? They’re almost without exception really damn good songs. Dancing Baby and Mysterious Party, as I mentioned in a previous post, aren’t exactly on my favourites list, both are a bit too experimental using weird rhythms I dislike, but they still have a certain something. But beyond those, the whole show’s music line-up is stellar, especially compared to something like Idolm@ster which has an incredible amount of mediocre music mixed in with the excellent stuff. (more…)

Star Ocean 4 Story Critique Part 2 – Hopeful Beginnings

The most punchable face in the universe.

After the opening cinematic, in which we’re introduced to the newly-formed USTA – the Universal Science and Technology Administration – as well as the SRF, Space Recon Force, we have our first run-in with the slimy piece of flubber known as Deputy Director Shimada.

Everything about this man is designed to repulse, from his looks, to the silly way he moves, his voice and mode of speech, and especially his personality. In a game where the main antagonist is an incomprehensible entity from beyond the void (or whatever), it’s a really good idea to have a human (or other species as long as they’re relatable, like Saren in Mass Effect) sub-villain for the player to hate first before the Big Bad is introduced. And boy, oh boy does Star Ocean 4 deliver.

Not only is Shimada himself a thoroughly detestable piece of unripe manure, he also has three intensely irritating yes men with him, as if he couldn’t get any nastier. He’s the sort of man who only thinks of himself, doesn’t care about the mission or humanity or the SRF, and is literally only in it for his own personal self-aggrandisement and gain. Bravo, Tri-Ace, this is pretty much the perfect example of a drama-first bad guy.

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to our hero for the story, Edge… Maverick. Star Ocean 3’s Fayt Leingod was already pushing the boundaries of good taste when it comes to character names, but Japan always finds new ways to outdo itself. This is truly the edgiest of names. I also sort of have to wonder if perhaps someone on the writing team was a fan of Top Gun…

Incidentally, in the Japanese dub Reimi pronounces Edge’s name more like ‘ecchi’, which is the Japanese word for… well, I’ll let Wikipedia fill you in there in the event you’re not aware. Take a guess what my Edge spent the entire game renamed as? Yep. (more…)

The Genius of Fallout: New Vegas’ World Map Design

Welcome to New Vegas.

I often hear people who clearly have no clue what they’re talking about moan that New Vegas is too linear, or that there’s nothing to see or do, especially from Fallout 3 fans. To this I reply: did we even play the same game? I’d therefore like to talk briefly about the genius of New Vegas’ map design.

The world of Fallout: New Vegas is carefully designed to provide a first time player with an optimal experience, by gently channelling them in a particular direction down south from Goodsprings, around the bottom, and back up past Novac towards Vegas in a rough horseshoe shape. But at the same time, an experienced player can easily sequence break this and take a shorter path by running north from Goodsprings, or across and up via Sloan, among others.

So let’s analyse the path set out by the game. You kick off in Goodsprings with your ultimate destination visible on the horizon; New Vegas, specifically the Lucky 38’s tower. This gives you a visible goal to aim for and, in the event you’re knowledgeable enough with the game, you can easily set out north and head straight there with a little care and attention, assuming you’re interested in not being murderlised by Deathclaws and Cazadores.

Goodsprings is the tutorial area, which provides an interesting and multi-layered quest to get you started, and allows for any play style; kill everyone, side with the town, side with the Powder Gangers, plus a few combinations of these (take over first, then kill the Gangers, for example, or even ignore the quest entirely). This introduces you to the idea that there are many ways to complete quests and that you can play pretty much as you like. Plus it gives a first-time player the knowledge that skill checks are a thing.

Next, you’re prodded south towards Primm. This is important in that it’s the first hint a new player receives that the NCR is overextended and having trouble keeping a grip on things. The Powder Gangers are holed up here and the NCR is effectively unable to do much about it without the player directly getting involved.

Again, an experienced player can take a route through Sloan instead, meet more unlucky NCR people, and potentially sneak past the Deathclaws to bypass a large portion of the southern half of the map. Obsidian ensured that players of different experience levels have alternate routes and options, even if they take a little bit of skill and knowledge to take advantage of. (more…)

Trance Tuesday – ATG008 – Tokyo

Melodic, trancey, vocal. Hope you enjoy! Click the mix title to head over to the HearThis page for the full tracklist.