Sonic Chaos holds a special place in my heart as a long time Sonic the Hedgehog fan. However, it would be remiss of me to mention that this game is on the bottom end of my list of favourite Sonic games, especially when it’s stacked against some of the best the series has to offer. It doesn’t mean I think of this game any less, not by any means. In fact, Sonic Chaos marks the first time I had ever 100% completed a Sonic game.
The game itself is known as Sonic Chaos only here in the West. In Japan, it was released as Sonic and Tails. It’s notable for being the first original Sonic title for the Game Gear system and was released on November 23, 1993. In this game, Dr. Robotnik has found one of the six Chaos Emeralds and takes it with the hope of finding the other five. However, his actions cause the Emeralds to become unbalanced and they scatter all over South Island. Without the Emeralds, South Island begins to sink into the sea and so Sonic and Tails have to retrieve the missing five Emeralds and recover the final one from Robotnik at his new fortress.
Sonic Chaos was developed by Aspect, the same company that handled the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear. With the success of the 8-Bit Sonic 2 game, SEGA handed Aspect more responsibility for the Sonic brand for the Game Gear and Master System. All in all, they would release several more well-received Sonic titles; not bad for a small and relatively unknown company at the time!
Taking what they’ve learned from developing the Sonic 2 title, Aspect made many improvements. For one thing, they cleaned up the display to give more viewing room for players to see. Next, they implemented Sonic’s Spin Dash and Super Peel-Out moves – both seen in the Genesis version of Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles and in Sonic CD. Aspect even added in some exclusive moves that could only be found in the Game Gear titles, like the Rocket Shoes which allowed Sonic to zoom through the skies! And last but definitely not least, they even managed to work Tails into the game as a playable character who also could fly! All in all, Sonic Chaos was packed with lots of new features in a fun-sized cartridge.
I remember getting this game on my birthday in July of 1995. While I loved it, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear was frustrating me to no end as I couldn’t find the fifth Chaos Emerald to unlock the final zone! I had gotten pretty good at the game too; I could get through that dreaded first boss fight without too much trouble and Green Hill Zone 3 was a mere nuisance at that point. However, I got bored. I only had one other game for the Game Gear and that was World Series Baseball. So, my birthday rolled around and in one of the presents, I got both a Sonic the Hedgehog comic (by Archie Comics) and a brand new copy of Sonic Chaos.
First chance I got, I slapped the cartridge into my Game Gear and went right to town. I remember being wowed by the visuals – they were so much sharper and vibrant than Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was! When I raced through Turquoise Hill Zone and I first hit the monitor containing the Rocket Shoes, I don’t remember if I was able to contain my excitement at the time! I was flying through the air, collecting tens and tens of rings until suddenly, I was transported away to a Special Stage after I picked up my hundredth. In this new level, I had to use the Rocket Shoes to zoom across an endless sky filled with giant Rings while a timer ran down. In my excitement, I didn’t see the Chaos Emerald at the end of the stage as the time expired and I was sent to the next Act of the level.
It was here I started to realize that I could actually beat this one – I didn’t have to find the Chaos Emeralds within the levels, I could just enter the Special Stages and find them there instead. I never fully beat Sonic 2 for the Game Gear, and I hadn’t beaten Sonic 2 for the Genesis on my own either (my older cousin would do it for me). But Sonic Chaos was a game that I could finally beat on my own! And eventually, I did! I felt pretty proud of myself, overall.
In retrospect, Sonic Chaos was a much easier game than Sonic 2 was. It was also much more bland, with the level design being more simple than the previous game. What did set it apart was its music selection. Gigapolis Zone remains one of my favourite tracks from Sonic Chaos and there were a lot of familiar tunes that were repurposed from Sonic 2, like Metal Green Hills Zone for instance. The variety of items was also a big plus, with the Rocket Shoes being the coolest item ever featured in a Sonic game.
A vivid memory I had with this game was around mid summer 1995, shortly after my birthday. My grandmother was visiting from the States and she was keeping an eye on my brother and I while my parents worked. I remember that I was curled up on an old armchair in the corner of my small living room in the morning. The Game Gear was in my hand and I was playing Sonic Chaos while my grandmother was watching “The Price is Right.” It was simpler back then, when the only worries I had were “What was gonna be my next adventure?” and “Who am I gonna play with later today?”
Sonic Chaos reminds me of those times. And though it doesn’t crack my list of top ten Sonic games, it’s still a title that I remember fondly.
This post is part of a collaborative Sonic retrospective based around the games on Sonic Mega Collection Plus. To read more, please head over to the central post!
Hey, welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! I hope everyone had a great week!
It’s been a pretty productive time for me, post-Mobius VII Book 1. The worldbuilding for Book 2 has commenced, writing for the podcast series – Mobius VII Story Notes – is progressing fairly well and streaming has never been more fun than it has today. Today, however, I’ll be putting aside all talks about Sonic and Final Fantasy and I’ll be putting a spotlight on a third series that has had an enormous impact on my life.
That series is The Legend of Zelda, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.
In The Beginning…
My journey with Link started off with the old 1989 Zelda cartoon that would air on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. I was in kindergarten during that time and I remember (albeit, vaguely) coming home at lunchtime to watch this show and it was there that I first watched that Zelda cartoon. It was set in the magical land of Hyrule and starred an irascible, rascally hero, a sassy princess, a mischievous fairy and a villainous pig monster/wizard who tried to steal the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rule the land. The moment I saw that show intro, I was HOOKED.
I remember at one point back in kindergarten that I pretended to be Link and had magical adventures with friends… but I could be misremembering things? Memory works in strange ways, sometimes.
In fact, looking back now, I credit the Legend of Zelda cartoon as the first instance where I was exposed to High Fantasy, my favourite genre of fiction. I was always swept up in the fantastical worlds that existed within these stories, with their crafty characters, deep and introspective lores and zany, over-the-top adventures and I have to thank the series for introducing that into my life.
Anyway, we fast forward to around the summer of ‘94, when a neighbourhood friend introduced me to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. This was my first foray into the Zelda gaming universe and, in my eyes, it did not disappoint. Despite its status as the black sheep of the series, Zelda II was an incredible stroke of genius. With its focus on action and exploration instead of puzzle solving, the game has Link traversing the entirety of North Hyrule to place crystals in six palaces and unlock the Great Palace, said to hold the Triforce of Courage, the third piece of the Triforce. Before playing this title (and Dragon Warrior, which I played right after this one), I found that at a young age, games weren’t very immersive. They were simple affairs, like getting from one end of a level to the goal or beating a boss at the very end. With Zelda II, there was a story to be had, even though it was simple. Playing it made me feel as though I was a part of the adventure and my actions had an effect on whether or not Link succeeded in his quest to revive Princess Zelda from her eternal sleep.
Also, as I’ve mentioned several times before, Zelda II was also a test of patience. It’s not enough to just hack and slash at everything in sight, there’s strategy involved in this game. Ironkuckles can easily be defeated by aggressively advancing forward, jumping and stabbing at them. Daria’s (Axe-wielding monsters) can be defeated in several ways – orange ones are eliminated by crouch-stabbing while advancing forward while the red ones can be defeated by timing their axe throws and slashing at their heads when an opening presents itself.
By far, my favourite enemies to fight are the Lizalfos and they’re simple to beat once you nail the strategy. While advancing forward, jump up, hold down (as though you’re initiating the downstab) and then immediately stab forward. If done right, Link will look like he’s crouching in mid-air and almost 80% of the time, it catches the Lizalfos off guard, making for an easy kill. It also means easy experience, considering the orange ones give off 150 xp per kill.
If I haven’t mentioned it before (and if it wasn’t obvious from the above), Zelda II is by far my favourite game of the series. There was a point in time where I thought all Zelda games were like Zelda II, but I was sorely mistaken once I started delving deeper into the series.
From Side-Scrolling to Traditional
Christmas of 1998 was a special time for me, as it was the year that I picked up my very first Game Boy – a Game Boy Pocket in Electric Green. I’m actually kicking myself for selling that unit all those years ago as it was just a wonderful little thing, but alas, hindsight’s 20/20, right? Still, the first game that I got with the system was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, released in that same year to coincide with the release of the Game Boy Colour.
Compared to Zelda II, Link’s Awakening was a completely different beast. It was more puzzle based than the side-scrolling action adventure title. I struggled to wrap my mind around the mechanics around the different items. I remember on my first playthrough being stuck in the Mysterious Woods with the raccoon blocking my path forward. It took some time, but I realized that I needed to use the Magic Powder to proceed further. At the time, I thought the only source of the powder was through the Crane Game mechanic and I remember spending hours chopping grass over and over again in order to get the necessary Rupees needed to play the game and get the powder. I only realized years later that I could have gotten the Toadstool within the woods, hand it over to the Witch by the graveyard area and receive a free sack of powder instead!
I also remember getting stuck on the last three dungeons for the longest time. As a kid of 11 or 12, I found those to be particularly difficult. The final boss was also a nightmare (pun intended) to deal with, but eventually I persevered. Link’s Awakening would be the first Zelda game that I would finish – I hadn’t beaten Zelda II until I was in my mid-teens and that was with save states and cheats and such! The message within the game, in that the whole island and its inhabitants are nought but illusions, flew over my head at the time, but I started to understand what it meant as I got older. The fact that your existence may be nothing more than a conjuring within someone’s dream and that it can be erased as soon as that individual awakens… that’s pretty terrifying to realize haha.
Transitioning to 3D
At around the same time I was struggling through Link’s Awakening, I also got to play the next evolution of the Zelda series with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, thanks to an older cousin of mine who had an Nintendo 64. He and I would journey through the vast lands of Hyrule together, fighting off monsters, solving problems for folks and trying to stop a madman from conquering the kingdom. The time travel twist was so awesome to behold and I remember sitting with my cousin and my brother watching all our efforts go to waste once we picked up the Master Sword and thinking, “Wow, we just got played.”
The dungeon difficulty went up several notches at that point, as each of the Temples had tons of tricky sections that really threw me for a loop. The most infamous of them all was the Water Temple, and I remember that we were stuck in that particular area for a good couple of weeks!
Ultimately, this was a game that we didn’t get to finish together as a group. School and life got in the way and my cousin ended up finishing the game without me. He had also picked up Majora’s Mask – the sequel to Ocarina of Time and we spent a fair deal of time playing that one until his system and games got stolen during one of his baseball practices… Meanwhile, I didn’t get a proper chance to finish OoT until I picked up the Collector’s Edition for the GameCube for Christmas of 2003. I admit, I used walkthroughs to get through the rest of the game, particularly for the bloody Water Temple, which I still detest to this day haha.
The final battle between Link and Ganondorf – transformed into the demon Ganon – was one of the most iconic and memorable fights that I experienced within gaming. The music, the atmosphere and the backdrop of the ultimate fight between good and evil, it was something that could only come from an epic High Fantasy tale. In this case, it was better because I could control the action, I could feel the tension between these two forces. I remember my hands gripping the controller tightly as I felt each blow of Ganon’s twin, forked swords. I remember gritting my teeth as I sought a way to hit the Demon King’s weak point on his tail. And I remember the jubilation I felt when I landed the final blow to his head and his subsequent sealing into the Sacred Realm. That moment solidified The Legend of Zelda’s place as one of my favourite gaming series of all time, ranking up there with both Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy.
After Ocarina of Time though, things just got better and better. Majora’s Mask – while not within my top ten Zelda games – was still an awesome and dark entry to the series. Wind Waker’s cel-shaded graphics didn’t deter me from experiencing a fantastic and compelling story set in a waterlogged Hyrule. Twilight Princess was, at one point, my favourite 3D Zelda game, because it combined everything that made Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker great into one complete and dense package. My only complaint was that it started off a bit slow, but once the first scenes were passed, the enormous world of Hyrule really opened up and it was what I’ve always imagined it to be. A land full of fantasy and mystery and wonder.
The Rest of the Series
I played the original Legend of Zelda game for the first time around the same moment that I got the Collector’s Edition. Seeing where it all started from gave me both a better appreciation for the games that came after it and a sense of gratitude that the series even existed and improved so much over the years. I followed that up with A Link to the Past – arguably the most talked about Zelda title prior to Ocarina of Time – and I understood why it was so highly regarded.
Oracles of Ages and Seasons, a pair of GBC Zelda games, marked the first games in which the events of one game would affect those in the second. My brother and I owned both copies of this game (Ages was his, while Seasons was mine) and the two of us would work together to figure out each game’s puzzles, unlock the mysteries of Holodrum and Labrynna and ultimately defeat Ganon once more.
The Minish Cap was styled in the same way as Wind Waker and featured a fantastic shrinking mechanic that allowed players to explore Hyrule in completely new ways. Speaking of Wind Waker, I’ve also played the two DS sequels to the game: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. I adored Spirit Tracks’ iteration of Zelda – she is my second favourite version in the series thus far. Plus, you can’t go wrong with trains!
There are some titles I haven’t touched yet, notably Skyward Sword, which is coming out this year, and Link Between Worlds for the 3DS. There’s also the Four Swords series, both for the GameCube and the GBA, as well as the Triforce Heroes games. I dare not mention the CDi games though haha. I don’t know if I’ll ever play those…
What I appreciated about the Zelda series was that it never stopped trying to improve itself in every way. Each and every game built up from the previous ones, while introducing new and innovative mechanics to keep things from going stale. And while the timeline ended up being a confusing mess, all the events eventually coalesced into one, singular stream and transported players 10,000 years into the future…
Breath of the Wild and the Future of Zelda
From the moment Breath of the Wild and the Nintendo Switch were announced, I knew I had to get both. Due to shortages in both supply and in cash, I wasn’t able to get a system on launch, but I did end up getting a Switch and a copy of Breath of the Wild around my birthday. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience that I was about to undertake the moment I inserted the cartridge and turned on the system.
The stories of previous games had faded into near obscurity and the current game takes place after Ganon, now known as Calamity Ganon – more a force of nature than an individual – was unleashed and devastated the world. Link, the final hope of the land, had awoken 100 years after its release and now must free the Divine Beasts from Ganon’s control and defeat the monster with Zelda’s help. Zelda herself was trapped in Hyrule Castle, holding the beast at bay using the Triforce. As he was now, Link wouldn’t stand a chance, but by going to shrines, offering Spirit Orbs to the Goddess in exchange for power and exploring the land for new weapons, armour and techniques, he’d be more than ready to stand toe-to-toe with the creature of Malice.
I mentioned before how Twilight Princess had an enormous version of Hyrule to explore. Breath of the Wild makes Twilight Princess’ version look like a speck in comparison. The moment Link awoke from the Spring of Resurrection and walked out towards that grand, sweeping vista overlooking Hyrule Castle, I knew for a fact that this was the Hyrule I’ve always dreamed of. A world filled with mystery and magic and even some ancient technology thrown in to deepen the intrigue.
The introduction of the Champions, coupled with a deeper focus on Zelda and her conflicts between her responsibilities as the Princess of Destiny and her desires to be a scholar, really made this game memorable. The only other game that made me feel so invested in the story in the series was Twilight Princess.
The release of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity years later filled in many gaps within Breath of the Wild, while also providing a satisfying twist to the story and opening the series up to new interpretations. The Dynasty Warriors-styled gameplay was a perfect match to showcase what the war against Ganon was like before everything went south. Here, you got a sense of how truly powerful Link was before his defeat at Fort Hateno. I also enjoyed how the story focused on Zelda herself and how she had to battle back her doubts and low self-esteem in order to be the leader everyone knew she could be.
Now, with the sequel to Breath of the Wild in development (and hopefully we can hear more about it in the summer!), I’m excited to see what the future lies within the Legend of Zelda series. There is so much to talk about, from its characters, to its settings and its lore that I could just go on and on if I wanted to! Alas, I’ve drawn out this post long enough, I suppose haha.
With that, we’ll call this edition here. What’s your favourite Zelda game? What is it about the series that makes it so special to you? Let me know in the comments below?
Also, I’ve been working my way through numerous Zelda games on my Twitch channel. I’m currently on a playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If your Tuesday nights are open, drop by and say hi! I start up every Tuesdays at 9:30pm EST.
Until next week, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Live with No Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase the Impossible. See you next time!
Welcome everyone to another edition of Games with Coffee! It’s the end of yet another productive week! For us up here, we’re in the midst of yet another lockdown as cases surge. I hope that wherever you are, you’re staying safe, following the rules and keeping healthy.
Today is an extension of the previous post: I’ll demonstrate how I set up my capture card. This will include how I adjusted my audio/visual settings to compliment my card and the testing methods I employed to ensure I get a near-perfect synchronization between game audio, microphone audio and camera. Let’s get to it.
So, You Picked Up A Capture Card…
Congratulations first of all! You now have a doohicky that can capture your gameplay from your gaming console and transmit it to your computer. As far as the instructions go, it’s simple. First, insert the HDMI cable from your console to the input side of the card. Second, connect the output to your TV. Finally, connect the data cable (typically a USB 2.0 or 3.0) from the card to your PC.
Once that’s in place, you can begin streaming! There are several ways that you can do so:
Use The Capture Card’s Software
If you have an Elgato Capture Card, you can download the Game Capture software from their website. Once installed and opened, you’ll see this interface:
From here, you can modify the settings of your card depending on what you’re playing, including your microphone settings, game audio and titles. You can also link your streaming account to the software so that you can stream directly from it and record your gameplay. Now, to be perfectly frank, I’ve only used this software a few times. What I usually do is:
OBS integrates fairly well with most capture cards, especially with Elgato cards. While they work right out of the box, in order to utilize the card to the fullest extent within your stream, you’ll have to do a few modifications to your setup.
Setting Up For Success
In order to get the most out of your capture card, it’s important to understand one main thing: external cards have a slight delay on them, due to their reliance on wired connections. That means that if you’re playing live, the card will be capturing a few seconds behind you. Chances are, your microphone and webcam are set to pick up audio/visual in real-time. What that means is that you could be broadcasting your reactions about gameplay events a few seconds ahead of your capture, which is what your audience will see. If that doesn’t bother you too much, then that’s perfectly OK! You have to stream the way you want to, after all.
If it does bother you though, you have a few options. The first is to replace the external card with an internal card that can be mounted into a PCI slot. Because it’s internally mounted, you wouldn’t suffer from latency issues and would be able to capture and broadcast content in real-time without making any adjustments to your camera and microphone. The two main drawbacks here are that these cards are first and foremost expensive to purchase, sometimes ranging over $200. Secondly, their use is limited to PCs only – laptops can only use external capture cards (to my knowledge – if you know otherwise, please share!).
The second option – which is what I’ve used and will discuss in detail – is to modify the delay on both your microphone and webcam to match the in-built delay on the capture card.
First off, connect your capture card to your console of choice and to your PC/laptop and then boot up OBS. I’ll be using Streamlabs OBS for demonstration purposes, but these methods will also work on base OBS.
Next, we’re going to play around with some delay settings on your microphone and webcam to sync it up to the captured gameplay. By doing this, you’ll be giving off the illusion that you’re playing and commenting on the game in real-time, despite being a couple of seconds ahead of your audience. That’s the main goal here!
Now, looking at this delay issue up on Elgato’s help site, it states that you’ll want to set your microphone and webcam delay to 650ms as the default. We’ll start with setting the delay to the microphone.
On the Audio Mixer panel, click on the gear icon on the top right-hand side of the panel. This will open the master mixing settings for all your audio inputs/outputs.
Go to where your microphone input is and under Sync Offset, set the value to 650. What this does is delay your microphone output to your audience by 650 milliseconds.
Next, under your sources, go to your webcam, right-click and select Filters.
In the Filters window, hit the + button and select ASync Delay. Then, set the delay to 650ms.
Once applied, you can visually notice a delay on your webcam broadcast, which is what your audience will see as well.
Optimizing The Settings
With these in effect, your mic and webcam should be roughly close to your captured gameplay. One way to test out if your mic and webcam have synched to your gameplay is to put on a platformer and record yourself saying “Jump” every time you press the jump button. Then, view the recording and see if your character (Mario, Sonic, whomever) jumps when you say “Jump” out loud.
If you’re using the base values above, chances are that synchronization is close but not quite there yet. Not to worry, as we can optimize the delay values to achieve total (or near-total) sync!
Now, adjusting the delay values depends on several factors. The first and foremost is the port that your capture card is connected to your laptop/PC. In my case, I have it hooked up to a USB expansion adaptor located at the front of my PC. The next factor is the cable that you’re using to connect the capture card to the PC. My Elgato is an older model and so, it utilizes USB 2.0 tech. That means that it’s quite slow compared to the newer models that use USB 3.0. The final factor is the HDMI cables that you’re using to connect between your TV, your console and your capture card. You don’t need the best of the best, just make sure you have a decent, undamaged cable.
Once you’ve got that confirmed, next comes the fun part: doing multiple audio and video tests and iterating your delay times after each test! Generally speaking, your audio and webcam delays should match one another, so after each recording, go to the mixer and filter settings respectively and adjust.
When it comes to narrowing down the best offset numbers, I found that the optimal way to do so is by trying to match the delay to the game’s audio. What I mean is, I muted my PC audio, hit record and then hummed or whistled along to the game audio from my TV, making sure my microphone captures my humming or whistling. Then, I reviewed the recording, adjusted the delays and re-recorded until my humming and the game’s audio matched perfectly! It’ll take about half an hour or so to narrow down the delay to a single millisecond, but the results are totally worth it! In my case, my current offset values are at 515ms. What’s great about this method is that it doesn’t require you to be musically inclined – all one has to do is make sure the humming (however off-key it sounds) syncs up to the game’s audio. If you’re having trouble with it, enlist a friend or a family member to help out!
And there you have it! A (hopefully) easy-to-understand guide on setting up an Elgato Capture Card. Note, I haven’t tried other cards, however, I’m pretty sure that the above steps would work with them just as well!
Do you own a capture card for streaming? Got it to work to your specifications? Let me know in the comments below! Well, that’s it for this post. With that, this has been Ryan, reminding you to Live with No Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase the Impossible! See ya next time!
Welcome everyone to another edition of Games with Coffee! I hope everyone’s had a great week and is looking forward to the weekend!
As promised in my last post, today I’ll be talking about my streaming experience over the past year and share a few lessons I learned during that time.
Having A Proper Set Up Matters
Honestly, this can make or break a stream. When I first got into streaming back in 2018 or so, I had a budget-friendly refurbished laptop (that I later had to repair because the hard drive failed spectacularly…), a lapel microphone, some basic headphones and an Elgato HD60 Capture Card. I did one, maybe two streams using this setup before setting it aside for a year or so because I felt so intimidated by the whole process.
I revisited this back in 2019 and looked up specifics on what one needs to stream and this is what I found to work: A computer with mid-range specs on power and graphics, a monitor, a microphone and a pair of headphones. One could also get a webcam, but that’s really an optional piece of equipment – there are plenty of successful streamers who stream without ever showing their faces.
As for what software to use for streaming, there are several options. The most popular of them is OBS, which literally means “Open-source Broadcasting Software.” OBS is a robust and fairly simple software to use and there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to help with the learning process. On top of that, there are several flavours of OBS. The one I use specifically is Streamlabs OBS. It has a clean UI and links your live stream site account (Twitch, YouTube, etc.) with your Streamlabs account. From there, you can add things like animated images for alerts, banners, track donations and follows and a whole bunch of other things.
I used GIMP to develop my overlays and logos. I designed my overlays using sprite backgrounds that you can find all through the internet that I tweaked to suit my preferences. My current overlay for my Sunday stream is based on the large level screen display thingy in Knuckles’ Chaotix, while my Tuesday stream uses classic text boxes from RPGs to emulate a menu screen.
In terms of my equipment, I have a fairly powerful PC with an AMD processor and an older model Nvidia graphics card. I mentioned that this was given to me by my cousin Lee, who is freakin’ awesome by the way! I’ll never stop saying that haha. I use two monitors: an ASUS one which is my main and an old 22” Samsung LCD TV as my secondary monitor. The TV is what I use to connect my older consoles on since it has dedicated A/V, composite and HDMI inputs as well as a separate headphone jack.
I still retained the Elgato HD60 capture card, however, I didn’t use it when I started out; I was still too intimidated by it. I only started using it fully this year to great success and I’ll present a tutorial on how I configured mine in a future post.
Plan On What You Want To Stream
Having a good setup is nothing without having something to play! I honestly found this to be the fun part of streaming – planning what to play during your streams. When 2020 was around the corner, I knew immediately that the first games I wanted to stream were Sonic games, since I officially dubbed it the “Year of Sonic the Hedgehog,” due to my involvement with the “Characters That Define Us” collaboration. So, during the winter break, I compiled a list of Sonic games I planned on playing between February and June and I stuck with it (with deviations from time to time). After I got my list, I then picked a day that worked with my schedule. During a typical week in 2020, I had split my time between writing Mobius VII and spending time with my family. Saturdays were extremely busy but Sundays were not, so I chose Sunday nights to stream. Later in the year, I added a Tuesday stream where I played mainly retro action-adventure titles, like Alundra, Mega Man, Castlevania and Zelda, to name a few.
This habit of planning out what to play helped me be consistent with my streams while also giving me something to look forward to on the days I was streaming.
Run Plenty Of Tests
Retro Game Brews, a good, good friend of mine and fellow streamer, shared this extremely valuable piece of wisdom with me when I first started: Dealing with sound and video issues is a rite of passage within Twitch. Just as it’s important to have a good setup for streaming, it’s also important to test out your stream and adjust settings to suit your audience. With OBS and Streamlabs OBS, you have the option of recording yourself, which is vital for testing your setup. What I did was record myself playing and talking for about 30 seconds to a minute each time and then watching and listening afterwards to see both how the game and I sound. I also took the time to review my visual assets, like layouts and alerts and make sure they were coming out crisp and clear.
I then got into the habit of running tests and checking my stream settings prior to my broadcast. I did this because every game is different; the sound of some games comes out loud while other games are quiet. Sometimes my voice overpowers the game audio while sometimes I’m too quiet for my audience to hear. Bottom line is, it’s worth it to continue testing your setup prior to streaming.
Play What You Want To Play
The title speaks for itself. Don’t be so worried about consistently playing the most popular games around unless you’re really gunning for that Partner status. If you enjoy playing what you want to play, your enthusiasm will show and your audience will recognize that. In my case, playing Sonic games on Sundays helped me grow my audience base since those were the games I loved playing. Things would probably be different if I played a game that I wasn’t wholly interested in, despite its popularity.
Sometimes What’s Popular Isn’t Quite Popular
On the other hand, even playing the most popular games might not garner enough attention from your audience. I did a stint of playing Final Fantasy VII Remake over the summer of 2020 and I noticed that my viewership dropped. It could be that the Remake just wasn’t interesting enough for my core audience, or it could be due to me using my PS4 as an alternate stream setup to play it, but I wasn’t drawing in people like I used to. Though it wasn’t a bad thing because I was able to make a great friend during the FFVII Remake journey and now he’s one of my favourite regulars!
As I mentioned above, I used my PS4 to stream my Remake game session. Looking back, I think I would have had better success if I utilized my capture card. This leads to my next lesson:
Capture Cards are a Godsend (Once Configured Properly)
Now, for most people, capture cards are quite intimidating. On the surface, they’re easy to operate – connect your console to the input side, connect your display to the output side, insert the data cable to your computer and voila! The capture card is connected and Ret-2-Go! (Sorry, I’ve been on a Shantae fix lately…)
Except that’s only half the battle. While the plug-and-play setup lets one instantly stream console games, I found that the Elgato capture card has an in-built latency delay due to the USB cable. That means that if I make a jump in real-time, my viewers will see that same jump about a couple seconds later. If you combine that with a webcam and mic set up that’s configured to pick up streamer audio/visual in real-time, viewers will see a synchronization delay which doesn’t look super professional. I figured out how to solve this sync problem (not without some issues) and so, I’ll be sharing a detailed post in the following week on how I synched up the audio/visual stuff to the capture card. I know this would be a big help for any up-and-coming streamers who are able to secure such a card!
So, the rig is ready, the mic and webcam are ready, the games are ready and the capture devices are ready. Now comes one of the biggest lessons I learned:
Consistency Is Key!
After figuring out the above, this lesson here is the most important – not only for streaming but also for anything in life.
Having a consistent and predictable schedule will help grow your audience. Period. Plan for it and let people know however you can. Share your schedule on social media, put it on your group chats, wave banners, shout it out from the rooftops if possible; it doesn’t matter, just get the word out! I found for myself that initially letting family and friends know that I’m streaming on x day at x hour ensured that I’d get at least a few viewers on my channel. Those views and interactions really helped when I started out!
Sometimes, life does get in the way of your consistent schedule, but that’s OK! If you can fit in a make-up day, go for it! If not, then delay until the following week. Don’t work for the stream, make the stream work for you.
Finally, there will be days where you’ll get a TON of viewers in your stream and there will be days when maybe one or two people show up. It doesn’t matter – just keep at it! Take every stream like you’re expecting a crowd to show up. Little by little, growth will happen!
Speaking of streaming growth, there are plenty of ways to do just that and my personal favourite is:
Seriously, never underestimate the power of a good network.
It does require a bit of legwork, perseverance and goodwill, but it pays off in dividends once it gets going. Networking with others can be as simple as visiting another streamer’s channel and just having conversations with them. Don’t be rude though and be like “Yo, go check out my stream, bruh!” Be genuine and be patient. If the streamer does ask if you stream yourself, then it’s fair game! Share what you play, what you’re about and what days and times you stream and go from there. Sometimes, viewers of that very stream may end up following you, giving you more opportunities to draw an audience.
Two of the many ways I’ve networked were from my work as a games writer/blogger and through participating in streaming competitions. As you know, I’ve worked on a fair deal of collaboration projects with various writing groups. Along with reading some way past cool stuff, I also made a ton of great friends, some of which visit me on stream from time to time to partake in my adventures! To those great people who do so, thank you so much by the way!
I was also fortunate to participate in a few streaming competitions hosted by none other than Retro Game Brews. The first contest I was in was a Sonic 2 speed race within Emerald Hill Zone and it was a riot! Though I didn’t make it to the next rounds, I still had a blast and cheered on the other competitors who were all great sports! I’ve since played other great games such as Kung Fu (NES), Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Outrun (Genesis) and Super Punch-Out (SNES). My run on that last game was beyond epic because I finally beat the crud out of Super Macho Man, my nemesis from the original Punch-Out. Beyond finishing him off, I almost beat the game too! It was exciting!
Super Punch-Out ended up being my most memorable competition as it was the push I needed to reach Affiliate status. As I mentioned before in my last post, it was the best birthday gift I’ve ever received!
However, the best competition I had a blast with was the RGB High Score Castlevania Speed Run contest that occurred last year during Halloween. Though I love Castlevania, I was always intimidated with the first game – I’ve never finished it before and I was nervous about it. As I practiced and shared my progress with the competitors though (who all gave great speedrunning advice by the way!), I felt my confidence build up until I could beat it for the first time. And then I beat it in half an hour, which is pretty impressive when I think about it.
When it came to the actual run, I was gunning for sub 25 minutes as my overall goal. In the end, my best time ended up at just over 16 minutes! Here were my splits for that night:
During that time, I gained followers, earned bits from wonderful streamers and made some great, great friends who stop by either for a chat or initiate a raid from time to time. Bottom line is, networking works! Engage with your fellows in the community and you’ll see results. But networking is only half of the battle.
It Takes A Lot Of Work To Succeed
I may be waxing on about how easy streaming is, but I’ll be honest, it does take a lot of work. I built a lot of my own assets on my own, such as logos, overlays and BRB/Commercial screens. You also always have to be promoting your stream. Even though I’m doing this for fun, for some streamers, this is a way of life for them and so they’re grinding every day to get people to tune into their feed. That grind is something that I respect.
One of the most challenging things I feel that I need to work on more is to be more engaging. Streams live or die by how engaging the streamer is with the audience. I started off by sharing my wealth of Sonic trivia during my Sonic Sunday shows. I then did commentary explaining how I went through certain sections of the game I was playing, starting with Alundra on my Tuesday streams. There were times where I was distracted by the game that I couldn’t respond properly to chat or get my facts out straight without going with long pauses. It’s something I’m working on though.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to make this work is to be genuine with others. It’s difficult to engage with your audience if you can’t muster up some authenticity within yourself. People are perceptive and they tune out if they can’t connect with you. So, talk with your audience! Laugh, cry, celebrate their victories, empathize with their anguish. Connect with them. The way I see it, every stream should feel like a couch session with your good friends and you all talk about everything under the sun while enjoying some good quality games. At least, that’s the impression I try to present whenever I stream.
The last lesson here is to, well, have fun! Enjoy what you play, ignore worrying about what’s popular or not and above all, have a good time with it. I guarantee that people will come to check you out and stay if you’re engaging, relaxed and having a good time with the games you’re playing.
Continuing on the subject, don’t be afraid to be silly on stream! This isn’t some overly professional setting like work (unless you treat it as such), so go nuts! Myself, I wear certain hats during my streams: Sundays I wear my Sonic hat and Tuesdays I wear a Legend of Zelda hat, in celebration of the series’ 35th anniversary.
And those are some of the things I learned during my first year of streaming. I hope this helps you out, whether you’re just starting or if you’ve been in the game for quite some time! Next week, I’ll share how I configured my capture card.
Are you streaming? What have you been playing? Do you have any further tips or lessons to share? If so, drop ‘em in the comments below!
If you want to see me live, be sure to tune in on Sundays and Tuesdays at 9:30pm EST!
That’s it for this post. With that, this has been Ryan, reminding you to Live with no Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase the Impossible! See ya next time!
(It’s been a while since we had a normal post, huh?)
Welcome everyone to the return of Games with Coffee! Mobius VII is done for now, but if you read the previous acknowledgements post, you’ll see that we’re not done yet! We’ve only just started on our journey through this fantastic world! AND I’ve even begun writing notes for the next edition! It’s more worldbuilding than anything else, but it’s a start.
So, while we’re now in 2021 and way past the four year anniversary of the site, I wanted to take some time to recap a few things that happened in that dreaded 2020. Honestly… It’s been readers like you that have been keeping me going through that tough phase, so again, thank you all so much for your support. It means a lot to me that you’re willing to take time out of your busy schedules to come down and check out my content. Much love to all of you!
Anyways, let’s not delay further, shall we?
The Real Pandemic Blues
2020. What a year it has been… And it was honestly one that didn’t start off on the right foot for me especially.
Three days into the new year, I was unceremoniously let go from my field inspection job. After two and a quarter years, the company I worked for at the time decided it was time to downsize the inspection department, which led to my job’s elimination. Luckily though, I bounced right back onto my feet and landed a job at my current place of employment. Here, I’m doing sales of all things, and strangely enough, I’m doing fairly well in it.
Who knew, right?
Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with too much work stuff, except for the fact that 2020 was the first and only year where I’ve worked inside of an office for a grand total of 14 days. The rest of the year was spent home – either searching for jobs during the first two months of the year and then working from home for the remainder. In fact, I’m still working from home now, but it hasn’t been to my detriment, thankfully.
Working from home has brought its own challenges, though. Balancing work with personal stuff was hard. Add in a toddler to the mix and you get a perfect storm of busyness. In a way, I appreciated that – that storm prevented me from getting too bored and lethargic and… well, it kept me sane.
All this time spent at home has helped me tremendously in finishing Book 1 of Mobius VII. By the time you read this, all 42 chapters will have been posted to the blog. It’s been a heck of a ride and I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have. As of this time, we’ll get back to a normal-ish schedule of things with new posts releasing every Friday. I found a system that works (relatively speaking), so we won’t see blackouts as we did through all of 2019 haha.
What this year has taught me, overall, is that reflection is good for the soul. No matter what job you have or what situation you’re in, if you don’t give yourself time to process how you feel about things, it can be hard to move on. A good example from gaming I can think of is Shadow from Sonic Adventure 2. Shadow initially wanted revenge on humanity for killing his best friend, Maria. However, after a conversation with Amy on Space Station ARK, Shadow reflected on it and finally remembered Maria’s wish – for him to help save humanity. Which he did at the end of the Final Story at the apparent cost of his life.
In my case, before I started my new job, I wrote a letter to myself to reflect on my feelings during the ten years since I started my career. I poured all the inadequacies, failures and disappointments I felt into words and then sealed it and all the objects and things that reminded me of how much I hated the last decade of my career into a box that I promised I wouldn’t open again for ten more years. I don’t exactly recall what I wrote in that letter now, but I know that I made a declaration on that piece of paper to never let those failures and disappointments affect me again.
Meanwhile, work wasn’t the only thing keeping me busy this year.
Becoming a Streamer
2020 was the year that I decided to start streaming. Back at the end of 2019, my cousin Lee gifted me a wonderful PC rig to use for streaming and gaming. This thing was much more powerful and robust than anything I’ve ever owned. With this in hand, coupled with my contribution to “The Characters That Define Us” collaboration by Normal Happenings, I decided to celebrate my love for Sonic the Hedgehog by streaming a whole bunch of Sonic games every Sunday starting in February. I took all of December and January to tweak my setup, get my equipment in order and create my layouts and heck, it paid off in spades! My consistency with my streams, coupled with participating in a few tournaments and networking with a bunch of great streamers allowed me to reach Affiliate status by July 13th – my birthday! Honestly, that was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received!
Now, streaming has become one of my favourite things to do besides writing and I’ve learned so much from the practice. The next post after this one will go into details about those lessons.
As I mentioned in the last section, I participated in a little collab called “The Characters that Define Us.” And by little, I mean over 50 amazing writers baring their souls about the characters that have helped them through thick and thin. Sometimes, these characters helped in small, minute ways. Others have impacted a writer’s life so much that they couldn’t imagine where they would be without them. My piece was about Sonic, of course. Writing about him helped me realize just how wonderful this life really is, even if I complain here and there about certain little things.
I was also a part of the Super Mario Multiverse collaboration set up by The Well-Red Mage in commemoration of Mario’s 35th anniversary. You can find my entry here.
I also participated in a charity stream for Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C), run by Andy AKA ProducerBTW. It was a great charity for a great cause. I learned a lot about fundraising and I’m hoping to do more charitable streaming this year. SU2C will be one of those that I’ll be working with for sure!
I bit the bullet and became a Patron for Story Mode: The Video Game Podcast. Starring my three good friends: Red (The Well-Red Mage), Blue (Wrytersview) and Ryebread (Retro Game Brews/Beer Ryan), they discuss the gaming news of the week and provide some colourful takes on various topics. They bring up some really interesting stuff and I highly encourage you to listen when you get a chance. The three hosts are hilarious and informative and they may hold differing opinions about certain things, but at the end of the day, they always Agree to Disagree. They are hosted on Buzzsprout, but you can also find them anywhere you find podcasts.
Some Personal Stuff
In spite of the pandemic, 2020 was not a bed of roses around the internet and within the gaming sphere. Toxicity within gaming had reached an all-time high and with people being completely burnt out from all the lockdowns, elections and uncertainty, I saw plenty of falling outs happen among good friends.
Speaking of which, despite being a homebody, I found this past year to be difficult in terms of talking with friends and family. I mean, I’ve been taking this thing seriously. I followed the rules and I’m trying to keep my family safe, but still, I see so many people not taking this seriously and it makes me wonder, are we even doing the right thing here? I dunno. People flaunting the rules, getting together, risking their lives and the lives they impact around them… man, it bothers me a little bit. I get the feeling though that things’ll get better soon. And they better – my mental health needs a bit of relief haha.
Also, right as this pandemic started, Mrs. Coffee had to go to surgery for gallbladder removal. Prior to that, she hadn’t eaten a solid meal in weeks and I was super worried about her… Thankfully, the issue has been fixed and she’s all better now!
If all that wasn’t enough, the calibre of games that were released this year were… mediocre at best? Well, save for a few good and unexpected ones, that is!
Games, Games, Games
Final Fantasy VII Remake released in March and of course, I had to get it! I didn’t start playing it until the summer though after I completed Book 1. The game started out really strong for me, but the plot direction at the end really threw me off. I’m thinking about giving the game another chance, perhaps when I get a PS5 for the Intergrade upgrade, but I’m flip-flopping about it. I’ll admit, there were a LOT of great things that happened in Remake. The combat system was just flippin’ fantastic and the voice acting was pretty good. While I mained Cloud in most battles, I really enjoyed playing as Tifa. Her techniques are so fluid and powerful and she moves so gracefully!
On the flip side, there were a lot of things wrong with it too. The Whispers being my biggest complaint. They were so in-your-face about the fact that “OOOOO you’re ch—-anging the fu——–ture! That’s not allo—-wed!” Honestly, it was really annoying. There were also several awkward moments that, while funny, didn’t really jive well with me. I mean, a dance number? Seriously, I know Cloud is pretty good at most things, but getting up on stage and Bollywood dancing with Andres was not one of those things I was expecting! Especially after the incredibly awkward high-five moment. Despite the alterations, I’m happy that they kept the cross-dressing sequence.
The moment I was looking forward to the most was the Shinra Tower infiltration… and it was so-so? I liked some of the newer elements, like the detailed break room, but getting through The Drum on the 68th was just weird. Plus, the whole prison break sequence was completely removed and I was a bit disappointed with that. Sneaking around the blood-soaked corridors of the upper floors after being mysteriously released in the original was both terrifying and exciting the first time around. Speaking of blood, the absence of it from JENOVA’s release threw me way off. The purple goop made things interesting, but the blood would have been better.
Besides Remake, I played the Sega Ages version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, released the same week as the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and it was awesome! I wrote a review on both the game and the movie. At this current moment, the game review is unavailable, but give it a few months and you’ll see it up again soon.
On top of that, I played Sonic Lost World for the very first time and I honestly don’t get why it’s so disliked? Sure, the writing was a bit subpar and there were some questionable level design decisions, but the introduction of parkour mechanics felt like a natural evolution on how Sonic is supposed to move. I’m currently writing a review on that game which will be released in a couple of month’s time (due to restructuring on the site that I write for).
In fact, since I dedicated 2020 to be the “Year of Sonic,” I’ve been playing several other Sonic games that I’ve never played before! Some examples include Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing, All-Star Racing Transformed and Tails Adventure.
I also played Final Fantasy XII – The Zodiac Age and Dragon Quest XI – two RPG’s that were phenomenal! I never finished the original FFXII (which I still own for PS2), but the quality of life changes within the TZA edition made it much easier to complete. As for Dragon Quest XI… I love that game! It’s so dense and epic and it pretty much rivals my love for DQ VIII – my all-time favourite entry of the series. I still haven’t finished all of XI just yet – I need to do some grinding and prepare my characters for the ultimate final battle against Calasmos.
In the tail end of the year, I picked up Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. I only recently started playing them, but oh man, are they a ROMP! Both games have hilarious dialogue and tight gameplay. Half-Genie Hero has tons of alternate game modes to play after the main story, and even includes increased difficulty modes.
One game that I really wanted to play after hearing about it so much was Ghosts of Tsushima. The game itself looks breathtaking – you can visit locales and compose haiku, take photos of beautiful environments, do battle honourably as a samurai or even use less-than-honourable methods to take out the invading Mongol forces. It looks like a treat to play and I definitely need to make it a priority to get this one.
Despite the rest of 2020’s offerings being controversial (The Last of Us 2, Cyberpunk 2077) or just OK (Final Fantasy VII Remake), the standout game for this year, in my opinion, was Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. The story takes place a hundred years before the events of Breath of the Wild and honestly, this era was perfect for a Dynasty Warriors-style game. I’ve only started playing it and I’m having so much fun revisiting the characters and environments that it honestly makes me want to go back and explore the corners of Hyrule once more. What’s more, the combat is exhilarating and mindless! Mowing down hundreds of Bokoblins never felt so good!
So, What’s Next?
2021 is turning out to be a huge year so far. There are so many gaming milestones being celebrated this year alone. Among those include Pokemon, Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil, which celebrate their 25th anniversaries. Street Fighter II and Battletoads celebrate their 30th. Finally, Metroid and Dragon Quest celebrate their 35th!
But there are two anniversaries that are the most important to me. They are The Legend of Zelda, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary and Sonic the Hedgehog, which turns the big 30 this June! To commemorate those milestones, I’ve been playing a plethora of Sonic and Zelda games on my Sunday and Tuesday streams respectively.
Writing-wise, I’ve done at least one collaboration for The Legend of Zelda – I wrote a piece about Zelda II, my favourite in the series. I’ll also be collaborating with a bunch of other writers about the Sonic series and those entries will be coming later this year, post-Sonic’s birthday.
I’m going to update the site a bit to include links to all my collaborations. I was supposed to do that from time, but I just never got around to it.
Meanwhile, I’m in the planning stages for the next installment of Mobius VII. I’ve started worldbuilding and layout of the plot with the hope that I can start writing the first chapters by around the end of summer. Continuing on the subject of Mobius VII, I’m producing a podcast series on how I wrote the first book. This will be an in-depth discussion on how I framed the plot of FFVII around the Sonic the Hedgehog universe and will include references to various Sonic media and other things. The plan is to have the first ten episodes ready by summer, look forward to more news and progress in the coming months!
There’s also another story here that I need to finish and that is The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – a fanfiction I started on a whim three years ago. It’s a shorter series, with ten or twelve chapters total, so it shouldn’t take too long to finish that one. The layout for it is done, all that’s left is to write the rest of the story out.
As for ongoing posts, I’ll be putting out content every Friday or so. Fridays seem to be the most popular and easiest of days to post, so that’ll be the schedule from now on. Next up will be what I’ve learned from streaming, as I mentioned above.
Finally, in personal news, I’ve been more physically active lately. I felt like my health has been sliding as of late, so I got back into a workout routine and eating right and it’s been a big help so far! I feel a big difference two months in compared to how I started 2021. I’ve also been analyzing and taking notes on several books I’ve read so far this year in hopes to improve my writing. I may be decent right now, but I want to be a better writer for the future! Currently, I’m reading Atomic Habits in the hopes that I can find a way to make writing practise a daily habit. Spur of the moment things are great, but I need to put out stuff consistently while keeping up with other projects.
And with that, we come to the end of this very long update! I promise these posts’ll be shorter haha. How has 2020 treated you? Have you become stronger in spite of the challenges faced over the past year? Let me know in the comments below.
With that, this has been Ryan reminding you not only to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing, but to Live With No Regrets, Believe In Yourself and Chase After The Impossible! See you all next time!
Happy Mar10 Day everyone and welcome to a special edition of Games with Coffee!
Finally, after much waiting, the day has come! It’s the Super Mario Multiverse collaboration, brought to you by my good friend: The Well Red Mage!
Picture this: A hundred Mario games and a hundred writers talking about said Mario games. That’s what this collaboration is all about: celebrating the iconic plumber and his numerous appearances in over a hundred video games!
Mario has touched the lives of all of us at one point, even those who are fervent Sonic the Hedgehog fans (like myself!). Then again, it could be said that without Mario, Sonic wouldn’t even exist! Alas, I digress.
Without further ado, here’s a story I’d like to share with you all as a part of the Super Mario Multiverse. Enjoy.
Homer’s epic, the Odyssey, tells the tale of Odysseus and his ten year long journey to return to his family after the Trojan war. Since then, the word has been used to refer to voyages most epic and grand in nature. Therefore, the use of the word “Odyssey” in Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch pertains to the epic worldwide journey Mario and Cappy undertake in order to rescue Peach from Bowser’s latest scheme: to marry her. Cappy’s sister, Tiara, was also held hostage to be used as a wedding prop and thus spurred the sentient hat spirit-thing to team up with the plumber.
Super Mario Odyssey was a truly vast adventure and possibly the best Mario platforming game I’ve played since Super Mario 64. I received a copy of my own as an anniversary gift from my wife, who was seven months pregnant at the time. The game featured various locales filled to the brim with colorful characters, awe-inspiring scenery and plenty of challenges and collectibles to keep one busy for quite a long time.
What made this game memorable for me however, was the calm and steady reassurance it provided my wife and I during the start of a great and life-changing odyssey of our own.
Friday January 12, 2018 is a day I consider to be one of the most important in my life.
The weather that day was the most variable and chaotic it had ever been. It went from warm in the morning, to freezing cold in the evening. It went from light rain to freezing rain and then finally to thick, heavy snow at the end of the night.
I returned home early that day just as the weather started turning. I was in the kitchen with my wife, observing the weather and mentioned offhand to my unborn child, “I wish you were out here to see this crazy weather we’re having.”
You know that saying, “one shouldn’t tempt fate?” Yeah, well, turns out that kid listened very closely to Dad that day. Not even an hour after I said that, my wife went into labour.
It started off as minor contractions, but they ramped up in intensity very quickly. Outside, the weather got worse: going from freezing rain to a full on blizzard.
At the three hour mark, we finally grabbed our stuff and headed to the hospital. I packed my Switch with Super Mario Odyssey on deck in a small travel bag along with all the necessities we would need to take the little one home. The game was in the furthest corner of my mind at the moment; I had to concentrate both on navigating the snow and ice covered roads and on the excruciating pain in my hand as my wife gripped it for dear life.
After an hour’s drive, we made it to the hospital that we booked a private room for. The snow was roughly four inches deep at that point and the storm was still raging. We dashed to the maternity ward, checked in and my wife got examined and prepped for delivery.
Four hours into labour and she was already three quarters of the way dilated. This kid wanted out. Now. If that wasn’t enough, when the doctor delivering our child did a secondary examination he discovered (to our collective surprise) that he was breach. He freaking flipped between the first and second examinations!
The doctor gave us our options on how to proceed and we both decided on a Caesarian. Half an hour later at 8:02 pm, January 12th, my son, Arjun, was born. I held him in my arms as my wife rested from the surgery. He was skin and bones and weighed no more than four and a half pounds.
Because of his low weight and blood sugar levels, he had to be placed into the NICU. Being separated from our child was the scariest moment we as a couple have ever faced. The minutes felt like hours as we awaited status updates about his condition. We barely slept as we constantly worried about the little guy. Remembering that I packed my Switch, I took it out and passed the time playing Super Mario Odyssey. The sight of the portly, jump-happy plumber travelling the vast worlds with his hat-shaped companion helped me to keep things in perspective as we awaited the news of our son.
Eighteen hours later, we got the OK that everything was going to be fine. The OB let us stay another night at the hospital to get some further rest before being discharged the following day.
Relieved of our collective constant state of fear and worry, I pulled out my Switch, turned it on and started playing some more Odyssey while my wife was napping. Some time later, she called out to me and asked me to sit on the bed with her. System in hand, I reclined next to her. She cuddled into my shoulder and watched me play through New Donk City and then Bowser’s Castle, looking for more Power Moons, completing side quests and picking up costumes to wear.
It was that moment, with our son resting nearby and my wife and I sitting side by side, playing Super Mario Odyssey, that I knew that everything was going to be alright. We were parents now, yes, but Mario’s calm demeanor and unwavering, unflappable resolve helped to make that realization feel less scary. And though I’m a Sonic the Hedgehog fan at heart, I still have to thank Mario and Cappy for getting my family through such a frantic and stressful time.
Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more:
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another edition of Games with Coffee!
Folks, as I’m sure you’re all aware, I love RPG’s. Specifically, those created by Square-Enix (formerly Squaresoft), developers of the timeless Final Fantasy series. And while the series and developer are venerated as one of the most popular and well-known, some of the latest entries in the last few years have fallen short in my opinion.
Today’s edition analyzes my disappointment with two specific titles: Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III. While I initially enjoyed both games and thought they were well worth the wait, as I played through and got deeper into them, I found myself feeling disappointed at the final product. More often than not, the story lines had started off fairly strong before tapering into an incoherent mess. The combat and gameplay was interesting until it turned tedious and monotonous. There were some interesting side quests, like the rare hunts in FFXV and the Gummi Ship treasure collecting in KHIII, but I found myself wishing that the developers took more time to focus on tightening up the story rather than packing more content.
With FFXV, the last few chapters of the story felt rushed. The pacing was off and I found that I didn’t enjoy it as much as the base game. And then there was the additional DLC, implemented long after the story had been completed. While I enjoyed the focus on the other characters, what I didn’t like was that the director (Tetsuya Nomura) shoehorned these additional parts. It’s as if he and his team showed precisely that their original product was rushed and not ready for the mainstream. I’ll admit, the original ending did tug at my heartstrings. Saving the world requires sacrifices and it’s a theme that I enjoy exploring in stories.
Kingdom Hearts III felt short and unfinished compared with Kingdom Hearts II. Every time I finished a world, I thought to myself “Is that it?” I always felt that there was more story to glean from each world, like in Thebes, where Pete and Maleficent accidentally unearth Pandora’s Box. Speaking of those two, I didn’t like how they were regulated to the sidelines. And what is up with that box?! I swear, I’m kind of tired of getting more questions instead of answers.
What really set me off was the ending for KHIII. I foresaw this game to be the conclusion of Sora’s story, but instead, it turns out to be another “To Be Continued.” No happy endings for both Sora and Kairi. This, among other things, is what really disappointed me; those two have been through the ringer since this journey started and once again they are separated. Sora, once again looks to be embroiled in another master plan hatched by a guy named The Master of Masters. All I’m asking for, is when will we get a complete and definitive ending?
When will it end??? T_T
Now, don’t get me wrong, these are still pretty good games. The level of detail put into them was stellar. Again, I just wished that Square-Enix and the director put as much effort into the stories for each game as they did with the gimmicks, mini-games and other little things they put into these titles. I hope that they learn from these two games and keep the focus on the story this time with the Final Fantasy VII Remake, but I have my doubts that they would. We’ll see, come April.
What are your thoughts on these two games years after their release? Do you think they did a good job with the story or do you share my opinions that they could have polished the story more? Do you think FFVII: Remake will suffer the same fate? Let me know in the comments below or on social media.
This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, always reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.
Did you enjoy this and other content on Games with Coffee? If so, please consider lending your support by buying me a cuppa! You can click that blue “Buy me a Coffee” button on the sidebar, or click here to be taken to my Ko-Fi page. All funds go directly towards maintaining and upgrading this site for a more reader-friendly experience.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!
This is a bit of a delayed post, but I am excited to announce the start of my stint in streaming. I’ve always wanted to go this route, but I felt that I never had the proper resources to do so. That is, until last November when my dear cousin (and sponsor for this endeavor) decided to gift me a gaming rig composed of parts he no longer needed.
Suffice to say, I totally appreciated the gesture!
Long before I received the rig though, I was thinking about jumping into the streaming game. Back in Christmas of 2018, I picked up a capture card with the goal of starting up a channel. I hadn’t realized however, just how difficult it was to take up streaming. I needed a space and time to play and a proper audio/visual set up and I just never had those things at the time. I streamed maybe twice in 2019 and both times were not that great. I was awkward. My mic was terrible and I couldn’t get into the groove. I shelved the idea of streaming and moved on.
So, what changed? Sonic, that’s who. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to talk about how the speedy blue hedgehog made a difference in my life in “The Characters That Define Us,” the massive collaboration effort brought to life by Matt and Nikki of the blog, Normal Happenings. I poured my heart out into my piece and as I did so, I remembered all the things that Sonic did for me throughout my life and continues to do for me still in the present. My contribution has not been released at this time, but it will be publicized sometime this year.
Meanwhile, I decided that 2020 was going to be a banner year for me. Besides my contribution to Matt’s epic collab, I also was ready to complete, edit and publish my longstanding fanfiction, which I talked about in my first post of this year. I still wanted to do more to celebrate the character and the franchise that has given me so much. And so I decided.
I wanted to return to streaming and focus solely on playing Sonic the Hedgehog games. So without further ado:
Introducing The #SonicSunday Power Hour!
The premise is simple: between February and June, I’ll be playing one title from Sonic’s illustrious history for one hour every Sunday at 9:30 pm EST. It’s my way of showing how much I love Sonic.
There will be 21 episodes and each game has been hand-selected by me. Some games will be the first time’s I’ve every played them and some games will come with challenges. Excitement abounds.
If you want to see what game is coming up for the week, either check my events timeline on the sidebar or follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
I’ll eventually put each episode up on YouTube, but for now, you can catch Episode 1, featuring Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear) on my Twitch channel. Episode 2 will come this Sunday!
Edit: The first episode is now up on YouTube! Episodes will be uploaded every week on Mondays.
Hope to see you on my stream! And as I always say, remember to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!
Did you enjoy this and other content on Games with Coffee? If so, please consider lending your support by buying me a cuppa! You can click that blue “Buy me a Coffee” button on the sidebar, or click here to be taken to my Ko-Fi page. All funds go directly towards maintaining and upgrading this site for a more reader-friendly experience.
Hello and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!
This is Part 2 of The Guide on Being a Mature Distinguished Gamer! In our previous edition, I discussed about priorities. If you’ve missed Part 1, please check it out here.
Today, I’m going to share some thoughts on success, failure, the importance of maintaining a gaming mindset and the value experience of any kind brings. I spoke about something similar in an earlier post when I started a brand new position a year and a half ago. Now, I feel that I can expand and elaborate on this further. You can read the original post here.
Finally, I’ll speak of a philosophy that I’ve recently embraced; the notion that the majority of people around you remember the starting point and the end of your journey, not the journey itself. It basically means that only the journeyer will recognize and appreciate the path one takes from start to finish, no one else. It’s highly relevant to this discussion, so I’ll cover that here.
Without further ado, let’s start the second part of The Guide on Being a Mature, Distinguished Gamer.
Failure and success. Those two words are associated with strong feelings, actions and messages for all kinds of people. Growing up, we are told repeatedly that success is what matters and failure is something to be avoided altogether. This messaging is so prevalent, parents are literally doing whatever they can to prevent their children from feeling any sort of failure whatsoever, with dire consequences as a result.
It’s not a scary word people!
The thing is, we need to take risks and feel failure from time to time. Sure, it’s hard to deal with when it happens, but it’s important because failure is how we get better. It’s how we as people grow and learn. Continued success is both unsustainable and impractical to happen consistently. Furthermore, if you’re constantly successful, you’re missing out on opportunities to learn and grow as a person; success creates stagnation, but failure can provide a new path forward.
Accepting the cyclical nature of success and failure comes down to the mindset. And a mindset I’ve adopted and made my own is the Gaming Mindset.
Success, Failure and The Gaming Mindset
Level 1-1. Super Mario Bros. This iconic level showcases just how accessible video games can really be. As my good friend, The Well Red Mage, discussed in his #magecrit of the legendary title, Level 1-1 was designed in a way to teach players how the game and its mechanics work. It also actively encouraged players to experiment and make mistakes. With each drop into a pit or strike from a Goomba or Koopa Troopa came one more opportunity to learn and adjust for the next time. At the end of the level, players should be familiar with the basics of the game and also should have the confidence to tackle the challenges ahead of them.
Do-do doo do-do DOO do…
What if I told you that that specific level can act as a metaphor for teaching the importance of the cyclical nature of success and failure?
Playing video games allows for individuals to make risky decisions and actively learn from their mistakes in order to win. Gamers play the game, they fail at something, re-evaluate what went wrong and try again, repeating until they pass the challenge, all while never giving up. To me, that sums up what a gaming mindset is.
The Mature, Distinguished Gamer (MDG) adapts this mindset to everyday life.
Let’s say you work in an industry where you engage directly with clients and one day you make a mistake that damages your relations with one of them. The MDG should be able to recognize where they went wrong, apologize for the transgression and adjust for the next time. Recognizing and learning from your failures, like adjusting the timing to jump and land on that tricky platform, helps you to become better for the next time.
The gaming mindset can also be expanded to new things, like learning a skill or starting a new opportunity. If you think about it, when a game introduces a new mechanic, you’re treated to a tutorial on how to use it. It’ll take some time, but eventually you will master it and adapt it to a numerous amount of situations. The same can be said about learning new skills in the real world: one only needs to learn and master the basics before applying them in a myriad number of ways.
Quite possibly the best examples of the above in gaming has to be the moment when Link receives the Runes in Breath of the Wild. The major runes are introduced in the first four shrines that rise out of the Great Plateau. In each of these shrines, Link obtains the rune and is then presented with different scenarios in which he must learn and master the basics of how the rune works to progress. Along the journey however, the game subtly hints that these runes can be used in completely unorthodox ways, like using Magnesis on metal boxes to use as a makeshift weapon, or using Stasis to launch yourself across vast distances. What Breath of the Wild teaches is that, by mastering the basics, any skill or tool can be used to achieve greater heights.
And by “achieve greater heights” I mean doing silly stuff like this!
Or cool stuff like this!
And in the below case, I mean literally achieving greater heights:
What the gaming mindset also does is give the chance to take catastrophe and turn it into a learning opportunity. Because as the saying goes:
What Doesn’t Kill You, Gives You EXP
Before we continue, I have to give credit where its due: I got this header from a post by the venerable Kim from Later Levels! She’s written a great series on older gamers that can practically be a complement to this series: a lot of what she and others in the WordPress Gaming comunity have said in these two posts espouse the attitudes and beliefs an MDG should hold. Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
With any success or failure comes experience that can be used when a similar situation emerges later on. As demonstrated by every RPG in existence, experience is only obtained after something happens, whether it’s good or bad (or from a random encounter). It’s up to the MDG to analyze, interpret and meditate on the experience they’ve obtained in order to grow, learn and ultimately level up.
Ah, good ol’ stat growth. It’s what experience gives you.
I can speak of the many, many failures I’ve endured in my near decade as a design engineer. The position itself requires one to be vigilant on the littlest of details and I struggled mightily with that as I’ve been more of a big picture kind of person. However, what I learned and what experience I gained as a designer has helped me in my current role as a field inspector. I’m able to point out fine details on a job site that would have otherwise been overlooked by contractors constructing the space. I wouldn’t have had that unless I failed consistently and learned from the experience that these failures gave me. Which brings me to my final point:
The Journey Itself
“The only person who will appreciate the journey itself, is the one taking the journey in the first place. Most others remember only the beginning of your journey and the end of it.”
So what exactly am I talking about here? Well, it’s more of a philosophy I’ve recently embraced. I’ll give you an example of how it works:
In Final Fantasy I, at the start of the game, four characters with Orbs/Crystals of the elements approach the King of Cornelia. He requests that you rescue his daughter to prove yourself as the Warriors of Light.
At the end, when the princess is rescued, the King and his subjects are overjoyed and they reward you by rebuilding the bridge to the next land.
However, neither the King nor his subjects would have seen the work the four Warriors put in to accomplish the feat. No one but them would appreciate the effort they put into arming themselves, stockpiling provisions and training against Goblins, Crazy Horses and sometimes Wolves until they were strong enough to defeat Garland.
Yeah, right buddy.
In fact, these Light Warriors endure many difficulties throughout their journey and the people of the world reap the rewards that they sow without truly seeing just what it took for them to accomplish what they did. The most they would recall would be when they arrived in their bleakest moment and when their town or castle was liberated from the forces of evil. The same can be said for the MDG working in their choice of trade.
Whether it’s a design for a very important client, a program or an app to better lives, a service to be provided to help those in need or even something like preparing for post-secondary education, it’s the experiences you take away during the journey that you’ll truly cherish. It’s also something that many people would not notice unless they were paying close attention. Working hard, making mistakes and failing and sometimes even disappointing others only helps to make you stronger and that much better for the next time. Nobody else can or will really see that but you, except in very specific circumstances. So appreciate the journey, accept the highs and lows that come with it and ultimately, don’t worry about what people on the sidelines say. They won’t be able to fathom the amount of work you put in every day without actually being there for the ride.
And here ends Part 2. What do you think? What kinds of successes or failures have helped you grow as a person? What games have you played that made you think about how you process success and failure? And what sorts of journeys have you gone through that no one else but you would have appreciated? Discuss in the comments below, or on Twitter!
See you all in Part 3: Respect, Empathy and Kindness! This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, always reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.
Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee.
So, I’ve kinda slipped up on the blog here, in regards to updates and what not. The busyness of life has kept me away from maintaining a strict schedule (or any schedule at all, really). However, I’m not treating it as a bad thing to be honest; rather, the time off has allowed me to really think about the direction of this site and the direction where I’m currently heading in as a person.
Oh, now don’t be alarmed: This site and I aren’t going anywhere! However, I realized I had to make some decisions about the quality and quantity of the writing I produce here on Games with Coffee.
A Mature, Distinguished Gamer recognizes that sometimes, you can’t get everything you want done, no matter how hard you try. Time, unfortunately, is limited and one can only stretch themselves so thinly on many things to the point where progress on said things grinds to a complete halt. The example being the mini-series I promised to write about.
Three years now, I’ve been trying to define what makes a Mature, Distinguished Gamer. Almost three years now, I failed. Partially because I was embarrassed – Who’d listen to a guy wax on about being a responsible adult who plays video games? Partially because of lack of motivation – it is super hard to summon the energy at the end of the day to write when all you want to do is plop down on the couch and play some Moonlighter or God of War or even some retro games. And partially because I feel overwhelmed with so much to do and so many experiences to behold. I’ve found it hard to fit the time in to do this series justice.
So here I am, trying once again to define the tagline for this very site. We’ll start this series on an issue that should be on the top of the Mature Distinguished Gamer’s mind (and is certainly on mine for most of the time): Prioritization.
And now, without further ado, this is The Guide on Being a Mature Distinguished Gamer.
One aspect of being a Mature Distinguished Gamer (Abbreviated to MDG for the remainder of the series) is the importance of prioritization. There are always times when one just wants to play video games, but responsibility – whether it’s to your job, your family or some other commitment you’ve made – always takes precedent before that fact. And even then, sometimes one takes on more responsibilities that one can handle – a thing all too common with our current generation of hustlers spouting tags like #HustleCulture, #AlwaysBusy and #TeamNoSleep.
Let’s face facts: When you’re over-prioritized with several things that need to be addressed right this second, mistakes may happen, people may be let down, promises may be broken and nobody ends up winning at the end of the day, regardless of if you make those priorities or not. In a sense, you’re not only hurting others, you’re also hurting yourself.
I’m guilty of over-prioritizing a bunch of things, only to find them falling off the wayside when I eventually cannot make those tight deadlines. However, I’ve started to learn and master the subtle art of deflection and delegation and the difference an objective list can make in tackling the backlog monster.
Deflect and Delegate
In the same way that Fox’s Reflector Shield in Super Smash Bros. deflects projectiles aimed at him and delegates it back to the attacking party, so too can you deflect and delegate tasks to others when possible in order to maintain your priorities.
The visual equivalent to “I’m sorry, I have enough on my plate right now. Could you please try someone else?”
Obviously, this predicates on the fact that you’ll need to be in an environment that fosters an amicable level of teamwork, whether it’s at home, work or wherever. Nevertheless, the MDG should recognize when they can do it alone or when they can delegate some tasks to that backup mage or warrior in their party. That isn’t to say that one should throw all of their tasks at others entirely, but to recognize that when you’re in over your head and the priority items keep piling up, you just have to ask for assistance. As I always say: “All you can do is all you can do. When you need to do more, ask for help!”
As for the deflecting part of the equation, the MDG is not adverse in assisting others. However, when assistance is preventing you from getting your own stuff done, then it becomes a big problem. In any case, it’s perfectly and reasonably acceptable to say no and deflect the request back to the requester. Chances are, they’ll delegate it to another person or do it themselves. There are also chances that the person may guilt you into doing so. Unless it’s your direct supervisor asking you to place this at the top of your priority list, do not back down and be firm in your denial. Cave once, and you’ll be doing others’ bidding for a long time while neglecting your own duties. I’m serious about this because I speak from experience.
Priorities: Breaking Them Down & Checking Them Off
Well, asking for help and delegating tasks are great things to do, but you will still have tasks for yourself remaining to do at the end of the day, and those things are on a priority sequence. So what does one do in this situation? How would you get it done?
My solution: Checklists. But there’s more to it than that.
In every modern RPG or open world adventure, you are given a quest either as a part of the story or as a sidequest from an NPC that you must accomplish. But have you ever noticed that the quest itself is broken down into small, measurable chunks and gave you clear direction on what you need to accomplish in order to complete the quest?
Did you know you could apply that to your current situation, whether its a critical report, a ton of housework or some other huge task to accomplish? Well, you can! In fact, breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks helps to overcome that overwhelming feeling you get when you are faced with a daunting task. It’s especially helpful for those who have ADHD (like myself), where any task seems monumental, regardless of the size.
So, how is this accomplished, you ask? It’s as simple as taking a task that you normally do, breaking it down to its primary components and then writing each of those components on a sheet of paper or on an app to track. Make sure that the components are clearly defined and easy to follow. From there, start with the first small task and go down the list. Before you know it, you’ll have finished your quest and can tackle the next one that’s on the priority sequence. Once you get the hang of it, it become much easier to plan out your approach when you’re under the gun. Plus, drawing and marking off the little check boxes are both fun and satisfying to accomplish.
Here’s an example! Checking off those boxes feels so satisfying!
One Other Thing
A final thing to recognize is the importance of consequences. In a video game, there are no major consequences to delay a side quest for a long period of time. Even when you fail, the most that happens is a conciliatory statement from the requester and an opportunity to replay the quest. In the real world, it’s a different story. Consequences can include losing opportunities due to being unreliable, loss of trust in your ability to accomplish tasks and, most significantly, doubt as to your convictions to your chosen craft or to the people most important to you. These things are some of the most daunting obstacles to overcome and are why prioritization is a skill paramount for the MDG to learn. After all, while we can escape the real world at times by delving into the worlds we love, we can and should use the mechanics within them to make our lives in the real world much more easier.
And there’s Part 1 of our series. Part 2 delves into success, failure and managing a beginner’s mindset, a topic I broached in a post nearly two years ago. (You can check it out here). I’ll talk a bit more about how to keep having a beginner’s mindset even when you’re at your lowest point. Part 3 will go in depth into kindness, empathy and respect for others and finally, Part 4 will touch upon goals. At the end of it all, I have some important announcements to make, so I hope you’ll stay tuned until then.
With that said, how did you like the first part of this series? Are these strategies helpful in any way? What strategies do you have when it comes to setting priorities? I’d really like to know as I’m always looking for new things to try. Drop a line in the comments or on Twitter to discuss!
So, to you fellow Mature, Distinguished Gamers, I bid you farewell and I’ll hopefully see you at Part 2 of our series! This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.