RPG: Hearthstone, my newest addiction

RPG: Hearthstone, my newest addiction

For a long time, RPG was a foreign word to me. I knew it from my so called geek friends, from the newest CGI games, and from hearing references of classics like Dungeons & Dragons. But I didn’t really know what it meant.

This summer, I was introduced to Hearthstone. It had something to do with the universe of World of Warcraft. Ok: a familiar name. I had never played it myself, but had seen people addicted to it and talking about how awesome it was.

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And…I’m dead…

My first reaction: cool graphics, but… so many cards with… numbers… and what do they all mean? There’s the little diamond shape thingy and then the other two on the bottom… And the ones with a skull have “Deathrattle”? My inner monologues ended pretty much with “Wait. Why did that monster die? No! Wh-why am I dead?!?”

Yup. Not the easiest game ever, I give you that. Especially if you have no experience with card games or RPGs in general. But I was hooked. I continued to try. I had help building my first decks and got used to playing with the same character: Mage (c’mon, you’ve got to love a good Flamestrike!).

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Flamestrike: Deal 4 damage to all enemy minions

But besides the everyday ranked games, daily challenges and solo adventures, there’s something that, sometimes, is incredible: the Tavern Brawls!

These consist of a weekly challenge that changes its rules every time and is only available for three days. You get games that go from cooperating with the other player in order to destroy a common enemy to using only one type of card to destroy your enemy—or even to using chess pieces.

Something that captured my attention was the cooperation game. In a question of seconds—and without the use of chat—strategies were made and put into action. Just by playing a certain card and maybe highlighting your partner’s hero power, you gave each other signals and you were in fact working towards a common goal from across the world. It seems something ridiculous, right? What’s so important about destroying an imaginary monster in a fantasy game?

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Co-op! Co-op!

Well, picture this: it’s not a random monster, it’s a problem that two people who have never met are joining forces to solve. Within seconds, tactics are created and acted upon.

This shows how we are more than capable of solving problems and collaborating. We just have to be on the same side—and that’s the tricky part of any conflict.

See how this quickly went from mere game to world cooperation? Ok, ok, I’m not preaching RPGs as a solution to World Peace—everyone knows that the answer to that is tickling; we are just afraid because it’s so obvious, as comedian T.J. Miller pointed out.

Anyway, back to Hearthstone!

I am now proud to say that I have conquered my good share of victories, currently trying to push myself beyond my comfort zone by playing with other characters. I know the difference between a Battlecry and a Deathrattle and more or less how to prioritize my mana spending and energy losses.

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Deathrattles and Battlecries: let’s mix it up!

I love that it is a game that needs more than sheer luck, that you have to actually think when playing if you want to create certain combos and get cool cards.

But there was another thing that helped me get addicted: the possibility of playing with friends from around the world! It’s fine to chat on a regular basis to keep tabs on how everyone’s doing, but it’s much cooler when you’re able to share these funny moments in an RPG. Challenging your friends for battles, arguing about what characters have the best powers and cards, giving tips and advice on how to improve your decks or what web pages to visit for extra news—it’s all part of a shareable experience. It’s something that takes the game to a new level and makes it less impersonal.

It’s almost like having that cosy boardgame night where you just goof around and have fun, using the game as an excuse.

The funny characters, the subtle humor on the card descriptions, and the whole sound and graphic landscape make Hearthstone an enjoyable experience for anyone wanting to give the digital RPG world a try. It’s free, so why not take a chance?

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Are you an avid player of online RPGs? Which ones would you recommend?

Let us know! I’ll be playing the ones you suggest and writing my impressions here. Yes, I’m a complete newbie but that’s why it’s going to be fun for you to hear the struggles and nonsenses of a rookie in worlds you’ve traveled so many times.

S.G.

Serial fiction: Not just for webcomics | by Alana Joli Abbott

Serial fiction: Not just for webcomics | by Alana Joli Abbott

After reading Susana’s confession about how she came to comics, I feel like I should have a confession of my own. Here it is: I think I’m addicted to serial fiction. Not series fiction—those ten or twelve or how-ever-long-Game of Thrones-will-be-when-GRRM-is-finished—although I love those, too. I mean serial fiction, the type of fiction you can take in at bite-sized. The kind of fiction you get in webcomics, which have been doing it brilliantly for years, stringing along a story one day at a time and keeping the readers hooked with little claws of awesomeness dug into our brains. The kind of fiction that’s easy for reading online or reading on your phone.

The kind of fiction that’s becoming ever so much more popular for prose stories these days, as well as webcomics and episodic television series. I keep an ongoing updated overview of “The Best Serial Fiction You Should Be Reading” where I write over at Den of Geek. But while I’m waxing eloquent over the prose tales I’m loving to read, and listen to when the audio versions are available, I haven’t gotten into something I’ve been considering for awhile: how much serial prose fiction is like the webcomics experience—and how much it isn’t.

If you check out the philosophy espoused by Serial Box Publishing, which produces most of the serials I’m reading right now, you’ll see that the inspiration behind these serials is the television writing process. Each serial has a team of writers who storyboard, work out the main thrust of the story’s season, and take the head writing assignments for different episodes. The result is that the serials feel like television, except with all the action going on inside your head. The pacing is very much what you’d expect of an hour-long TV drama (or, in the case of Whitehall, a bit more than an hour, especially in audio, which makes them feel a bit like a PBS-run British mini-series; it’s appropriate for that story).

But, of course, reading prose has very little else in common with television. As Susana pointed out in discussing the difference between novels and comics, with prose fiction, all of the world and character appearance come from the reader, and no two versions of that world are going to be the same, because of the different details readers will focus on, and because of their own frame of references. While I’ve got a cast list to pitch for Bookburners if that ever got optioned for a television series, my cast list is probably quite different from the one the writers would create themselves! (I’d love to find out, though…) More than that, there’s no need for a special effects budget in prose, because the imagination of the reader has a pretty unlimited budget.

So why does that have me thinking about webcomics? I’ve always thought that comics were sort of a middle ground medium. When I first started writing comics, I took a screen writing course to get a better idea of how to create a script. The big difference between film and comics, in my opinion, is that the action in a film is continual. The action in a comic happens between the panels. The action in prose can happen anywhere, but a prose writer has a cheat: the prose writer can tell you what’s going on in the heads of the characters. The action can be internal. Not so with comics! The art has to show you what’s going on in that character development. So if serial fiction and television are similar storytelling experiences, the webcomics, with the art-prose hybrid, could be the perfect middle medium between them.

Generally, though, webcomics are a very different reading experience, unless you’re binge reading. If you haven’t ever read a page of Schlock Mercenary, for example, (and if you haven’t, where have you been?) you could be reading online for hours on end, devouring storyline after storyline. The volume arcs in a long-running webcomic like Schlock do feel a lot like a television season.

But if you’re all caught up, a webcomic gives you a tiny, bite-sized morsel of story every day, every other day, or even once a week. The best of them are able to make that small bite enough to keep your interest, to keep you wondering what will happen in the next post. In an age of binge watching, that ability to sustain a story without the ability to binge read it is an impressive skill, and I admire the webcomics creators who can maintain the kind of loyal readership that so many inspire.

Webcomics and serials both draw on earlier, similar examples. Webcomics come out of a tradition of newspaper comics like Prince Valiant and Spiderman that would give readers four panels a day of an ongoing tale. I always wondered how those readers would manage if they ever missed a day of the paper! Serial prose has been around since Charles Dickens and his peers, though the recent resurgence is closer in many ways to television (or TV movies: some of the bite-sized books are full stories in a single reading). And while they don’t share many similarities in how readers experience them, both webcomics and the modern prose serials are, when done well, masters of the art of keeping their readers coming back for more. That’s a skill that’s valuable for any writer!

Novels vs. Graphic novels: Can they even be compared?

Novels vs. Graphic novels: Can they even be compared?

Ok. So it’s no news to anyone that the comic book world was something of a novelty for me when I arrived at Outland Entertainment. Yes, I was a comic book fan all along and I didn’t know, but being conscious and actively looking for out of the ordinary titles and cult classics to read was a long way coming.

Right now, I’ve finally started reading one that was on the top of my list: Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

Here’s the thing: I’m already a Gaiman fan. His collection of short stories Fragile Things grabbed my attention with its lyrically beautiful stories and completely wacky tales. It clearly shows the range of tone and narrative style this author has to offer.

I was enthralled by the radio version of Neverwhere. Yes, it had to do with the talented performances and the whole production value of the piece. However, the metaphorical London I was introduced to, the one where the streets I know and love get a whole new and mysterious meaning was mesmerizing.

But I digress.

With Gaiman, we have an author that writes novels, graphic novels and non-fiction essays. Let’s stick to the fiction so we can try and establish some comparisons.

You can point out how the tone is similar. How Gaiman intertwines complex and bizarre characters and intricately woven narratives the same way, be it in novel or graphic novels.

You get the same satirical incisive critic over the human pettiness. The whole impact is there.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to deny that the format dominates, I won’t go as far as to say the outcome of the story, but definitely the way it progresses and the freedom you have to imagine those worlds.

Let’s get Sandman’s example back on the table. You can’t avoid the way each character is seared into your brain with each stroke of the artwork that has breathed life into them. The illustrations, the way the panels are laid out on each single page… it all boils down to a specific experience—not too different from, say, watching a movie. You have a visual presence that guides you and influences the way you perceive the story. For better or worse, it has the power to limit your imagination.

When reading a novel, you are forced to construct that unique world on your mind. You devour the descriptions, the actions, the little details about each character or setting and build your own vision of what the narrative is. For even the more detailed and thoroughly descriptive author cannot control the mind of every single reader. The result:
intrinsically unique versions of each narrative.

Graphic novels give you visual inspiration, while novels give you more freedom to reinvent that world written in front of you.

Does that make one better than the other? You decide. For me, they are different experiences. Pure and simple, they’re alternative ways to consume a story.

Maybe there are stories that benefit more or are more adequate to one specific format than others. Even though I think that the potential in both formats is pretty much interchangeable.

Going back to my personal experience of reading Neil Gaiman’s tales, I like to be able to fabricate the look of the characters, the overall settings—maybe even add my personal details into the mix. However, it’s an enriching experience to devour the illustrations with all their colours and characteristic design traits of each artist. Yes, it’s the artist’s vision, not mine. But isn’t it remarkable how you can be deeply moved by the sheer beauty of a simple panel? Having said that, this can also happen with a plain sentence in the midst of a sea of letters.

So as you can see, I have yet to be converted to only one type of format. Better yet, I don’t want to! I do not want to be confined to one way of consuming stories. Give me freedom to create my own visions, yes, but also share your beautifully crafted ones.

We’re talking about sharing, about experiences, about taking the most out of a story. Milk a novel till it’s dry. Create all you can in your head. But don’t forget the pleaser it is to be guided panel after panel by streaks of colour, insightful lettering and overall awe worth layouts.

There. Novels vs. Graphic novels: you can compare them, you can have a favorite format, but you shouldn’t confine yourself to only one.

S.G.

P.S.: Check out the previous posts of this series: I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know, How OE changed my perception of Comic BooksDiversity of Graphic Novel Genres: From Biographies to Philosophical Essays and Couture & High Fashion in Comics.

How Fiction can help you grieve

How Fiction can help you grieve

You may think it’s heartless. Someone turning on the TV just a day after losing a loved one. Don’t judge so easily. Take a moment.

You lose someone and everyone has some advice, a kind word, a gesture. After the initial shock you might be able to be at home, maybe with people suffering along with you. And if you see one of them turning the TV on for a slapstick sitcom, what is your reaction? Shout at the absurdity of that? Think they’re heartless? Don’t be so hard on them.

Each person grieves in their own intrinsic way and fiction universes are often the exact company they crave on that moment:

– Background noise: people talking about something else than the huge lump in their hearts;

– Evasion/Escapism: obviously, seeing what some random character is facing distracts you.

But there is a more important effect:

It might help you process your grief.

By watching the characters face similar problems or even mundane ones you relive certain moments. It may hurt. It is not a fail proof help, but while watching the characters walking around moving on with their lives, suffering, avenging, simply mourning or even if they’re far from any problem of that sort you manage to have let yourself ease a bit.

While you care for their silly fictional problems, your brain will be back processing your own emotions so you’re dealing with them but in a more…indirect way.

 

This may not work for you. And sometimes crying for a character will surely not be enough to bring you peace. But for some, those minutes of passive consuming a narrative are the only ones that allow them to slowly gather the strength to move forward.

Just cut some slack and let the TV be on.

S.G.

P.S.: For more (cheerful) articles check out our extensive archive.

The Holiday Season Begins: The Thanksgiving Paradox

The Holiday Season Begins: The Thanksgiving Paradox

Holiday Season is upon us. Stop trying to kid yourself by saying “It was just Thanksgiving, there’s nearly a whole month till Christmas. There’s plenty of time to get in the mood.”. December is here. You’ve already been engulfed by the holiday lights, carols, flyers with perfect gifts for your loved ones and yourself.

Maybe what’s missing is the actual “Holiday Spirit”.

You know? Hanging out with your family, whispering about what the kids are getting from Santa this year. Is [insert correct relative here] going to fall asleep before supper as usual?

 

Thanksgiving was your thermometer: maybe you got the chance to be with relatives who come from afar – they might be working or living away from you and these occasions are always a nice moment to catch up – or you just had a quite dinner with your immediate family, savoring the turkey and watching the game.

 

But then you had the List of all the things you absolutely needed to get on Black Friday and then, of course, Cyber Monday rolled in. So instead of still having that warm and fuzzy feeling inside from being with the ones you love, playing dull charades, watching cheesy movies, eating the last piece of pie with your kid sleeping on your lap (and your stomach bursting…), you are angry because you forgot the website that had that deal for that webinar and the toaster you wanted was grabbed by that stuffy old woman who stumped on your right foot.

 

So first holiday aftermath for many: headaches, sore feet, too many extra pounds to count and only half of the things you wanted to buy.

Not that “warm and fuzzy” after all, is it?

There are exceptions! And if you’re one of the lucky ones who didn’t get swayed by the “buy,buy,buy” urges of this past weekend, I salute you.

 

Yes, the perfect present is important (let’s not kid ourselves, your wife has been repeatedly saying the name of that perfume and pointing to it in every department store for a reason) BUT don’t forget that the memories from these days, being that uncle who always drinks a tad too much or the crazy baby cousin who just doesn’t stop crying, they will be your best gift. No, you can’t exchange them for another item or ask for a refund, but that’s the beauty of it!

So, turn on that radio, blast some “Jingle Bell Rock” and make sure that you don’t let the Holiday season go to waste.

S.G.

Perfectionism: the perfect path to creative blocks

Perfectionism: the perfect path to creative blocks

There is always that small flaw that only you see. There is always that tiny glitch that everyone assumes originates on their end, but that you know that it was something you didn’t deal with properly before launch. There is always that sentence that is way too long to be in the middle of that paragraph on that specific chapter. There is always the possibility of overusing the repetition technique for emphasis in a blog post.

 

What I am saying is that we make mistakes. We strive for perfection, but there always seems to be a bump on the road that keeps us from getting there.

 

Does this seem too trivial? Perhaps. Nonetheless, have you ever thought how many artists (no matter what their field is) may be keeping their work under wraps, away from anyone, preventing it from being seen/enjoyed/experienced just because it isn’t “perfect”?

Perfectionism taken to the extreme can be a debilitating trait. Instead of making you work harder and harder to make something to the best of your abilities and leaving you comforted that it is indeed your best (at least at that precise moment), it can lead to a creative block.

More than the dreaded white canvas, the pressure of getting it all the way to pure perfection will stop you from doing anything at all. So embrace mistakes. Welcome the unwanted streak of color that fell right when you were finishing up your illustration. Appreciate the fact that you know you can draw it/ write it/ record it better next time. But if you don’t start, there is no way you can improve “next time”.

I’m not saying to mess up your work for a client, I’m just trying to state that you have to own your mistakes with the certainty that they won’t be there next time. But only because you made them now!

 

Have you ever encounter yourself at the “it must be perfect or I won’t do it” crossroad?

Any epic fail that proved to be actually helpful?

Share your stories in the comments or on our social media pages (FB, Twitter even Pinterest,…)!

 

S.G.