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Member/Staff of the Month: February

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Two foxes. Oh boy.

This month's MOTM and SOTM are Reading and Supertails.


[SNN] First of all, what originally got you interested in hacking, and what do/did you find the most appealing about it?
[Reading] Well, the first video game I got was Super Mario 64. It was an absolutely amazing experience for me - I got to run and jump and collect stuff and explore the seemingly endless worlds within those paintings. Almost from the moment I started playing, I wanted to create my own games. When I discovered the Internet, I naturally wanted to learn more about the games I loved so much. So, by searching for information about Mario, I found a site called The Mushroom Kingdom. One place on that site linked to another called Acmlm's ROM Hack Domain. I think the page said something about "homemade levels", so that caught my eye right away. On Acmlm's ROM hack domain, I found modified versions of classic Mario games, and discovered that this could be the fullfilment (sp?) of my childhood dream. So, after playing around a bit with Mario Improvement 3, I eventually decided to use Lunar Magic since it was the most user-friendly of the editors and I could change the most stuff in it.
Hacking Super Mario World really gave me that feeling of being able to create a great game that other people would play and enjoy.

[SNN] Now you've created two hacks (SMI and SMI2) a few years ago, and you apparently have a third one in the go. Out of the two you have completed, what do you think is your strong and weak point in both (based off of your own thoughts and what others have said)?
[Reading] I would say the strongest point in my two hacks is the story. I've always liked reading, and I love good stories in video games. Back in 2006 when I first released SMI, I don't think many other hacks had a truly advanced story, and that's indeed been a focus of much of the feedback I've received. The weakest point, I think, is the accessibility. The hacks are both pretty difficult, especially SMI2, even though in the summer of 2008 I released an updated version of both hacks that fixed some of the more unfair difficulty. Also, there's a fair amount of gameplay mechanics that are never explained, such as how to swerve in mid-jump. I know most hacks don't explain anything like that, but I'm trying to move in a more "professional" direction and make my hacks feel like real games. That particular issue was brought to my attention when I let my cousin try out my new hack, and there was a location with two ? Blocks directly above two cement blocks. He hit one of the blocks to get a Fire Flower, and he asked "How do I get that?" I realized that was because there wasn't any ground on either side of the ? Blocks and you had to jump from the cement blocks and swerve in the other direction to get the Flower. Basically, someone who hasn't played a lot of Mario games in the past wouldn't know how to get past a lot of things in SMI and SMI2, which I'm aiming to fix with my new project.

[SNN] You've started another project now. Will this hack be following the same format as the previous two (focusing on story, generally difficult towards the end), or are you going to be doing things a bit differently this time around?
[Reading] It will still have a focus on the story - even more so than in my previous hacks, actually. In fact, I've talked with one of my friends, who also loves to write and is considering pursuing a career in the field, about possibly having them work with me on the story. She knows more about symbolism and allegory and rhetorical devices and all of that than I do, so I think her literary experience combined with my knowledge of Mario and stories in video games can work together to create a novel-like story more intricate and compelling than anything I've created in the past. This will be my last hack, and I really want to make sure my ROM hacking career goes out with a bang. Regarding the difficulty, no, that won't be the same as it was in the SMI series; as I implied in the last question, this new hack will be much easier and more accessible than my previous ones. It'll still get pretty challenging toward the end, but it won't come anywhere near trying to dodge Hammer Brothers on a myriad of tiny platforms that all have Munchers coming and going out of them...for those of you who've finished SMI2. :P

[SNN] Considering that this will be your final hack, what plans do you have for when you are finished this? Will you still be doing anything at all in the game development area, or are you going to take a different path?
[Reading] You know, I'm really not sure. I can't say for certain, but I probably won't be doing anything relating to game development for a while afterward. I imagine I'll probably use the interests I had in designing games - like making graphics and writing stories - and apply them in some other field. I'm still interested in the story I mentioned before, and I'm thinking about reworking it to be something completely original instead of fan fiction, so that's always an opportunity. Besides writing, I'm also into graphic design; in fact, I'm taking a special class at school right now called "Visual Technology" that involves working with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, moviemaking programs, and a few others to create multimedia pictures and it kind of hasn't been all I hoped it would be, though, so I don't know what to say regarding that. At this point, I'm just focusing on this new hack - my only goal is to finish it before I start college, which will be in the fall of 2011. I said earlier that it was the final creation of my ROM hacking career, but in a sense, it could also be the final creation of something much larger; it'll be my last "unofficial", fan-fiction based work, and after that it'll all be developing my skills, choosing a career, and all of that. I know I want to do something related to my interests - writing, graphic design, science, stuff like that - but not what exact path I'm going to take.

[SNN] Finally, do you feel that hacking has in any way, shape, or form, helped develop your skills? I'm sure the obvious answer here would be your writing skills, but do you feel it has helped in any other ways besides that?
[Reading] It's certainly helped my graphic skills; I made some pretty decent graphics on my own in SMI, but I'd definitely improved by the time of Reading and the Spy Invasion, and I think the graphics I've made in my new hack are better still. I wanted to use completely original graphics in the hack to give it a more authentic feel. I would say it's helped me improve my music skills as well; I used to write little pieces of music that were, obvious. The first tune I composed on my own for SMW was "Infinity", the theme used on the title screen of the new versions of SMI and SMI2, and after that came "It's Either Ambience or Emotion" and "Stranded", songs I created for RatSI and my new hack respectively. Since then, I've composed most of the main level themes for my hack, and I've been improving and learning how to use notes and rhythms to capture the feeling I want. Lastly, and this one may be a surprise, I would say hacking might even have helped my social skills. In the third grade, I grew to intensely dislike school due to a feeling that the system didn't care about students like me who liked to learn and discover things on their own (I was pretty arrogant back then!), and slumped into a period of relative anti-socialness. It wasn't until 9th grade that I realized what a fool I'd been back then and decided to start being active in school again, talking to people and expanding beyond my little group of friends who played video games. Since I'd basically thrown six years of my social life down the toilet, it wasn't always easy to readjust and know what to say in what circumstances. This school year, though, my hack actually brought me two opportunities to improve my skills. I planned on making a certain something for the Fall 2009 C3 - you'll see what it is in Spring 2010, but the basic story is that I needed one of my friends to help me with a certain part of it. Since she's probably never heard of hacking video games and everything, I explained that the project was for an event on a website I went to and some basic stuff. I didn't try to explain every little thing like I'd done prior to 9th grade ("So, there's this video game that came out in 1991 called Super Mario World, and using a program called Lunar Magic, it is possible to edit the game into a new one, a process called 'ROM Hacking', which..."); I just got to the point and informed her of what I wanted her help with. It was a great way to gain some experience with telling people from "outside" about things I do regarding my hacks. And, of course, there's the other friend who I asked about helping write the hack's story. My hack has provided some unique ways to get more involved with the new friends I've made in these two years, and I'm sure they'd like to really see it and play it. I'm doing this not only for SMW Central, but for my personal friends as well.


[SNN] When did you start hacking, and what drove you to join the scene?
[Supertails] I first began hacking in January 2007. Before then, my family only had Macs, and I had just received a laptop. I forget where it was, but a few months before, I heard about Lunar Magic and SMW hacking, which I couldn't have done at the time. Once I got the laptop though, I downloaded Lunar Magic on FuSoYa's website and later discovered SMWC, where it all began.

[SNN] Tell us a bit about all of the hacks you have created, and your thoughts on each of them (pros and cons).
[Supertails] My very first hack was called "Super Mario World Remix!" and was centered around new, tougher levels, though most of them were blatant edits and the hack wasn't fun overall. Still, it helped me get started with SMW hacking and helped me understand what all Lunar Magic could do. Afterwards, I made Paper Mario World, which was a step forward with brand new levels, but they were on the bland side. I'd say the first "major" hack I made was Mario Ware: Mega Microlevel$, which ended up being over 60 levels long. Granted, each level was very small, and went with some rather bland themes, but I was proud to have completely finished a hack, and was proud of some of the level designs, especially later on. Afterwards, I went on to The Tale of Elementia, which actually began as one of my earlier hacks, which I pushed further. I felt like I really hit my groove with this hack: I was going for fun and clever level designs, and ended up drawing graphics for it as well. I was proud of the hack overall, but felt like some parts, such as the difficulty curve and story could've been improved upon a bit. Now though, I'm currently working on A Severed Freedom and Final Destination. My goal with ASF is to not just have gameplay, graphics, and music come together well, but to also encompass it with a deeper story, one I hope many will enjoy. With FD, I'm working with SNN and Foursword4 to create a very unique, fun experience unlike any other.

[SNN] In regards to A Severed Freedom, you want it to be a hack which is basically "the works" - it covers everything. do you feel you have developed a close affinity with this new creation, either with the characters, level design, etc.? If so, what do you think will set it apart from other hacks?
[Supertails] I'd say that I feel closer toward ASF than any hack I worked on prior to it. There's a lot I have planned, and I've spent a long time coming up with and thinking about parts of the story. What I'm really going for are some interesting, dynamic characters. Unlike previous hacks, I've been able to create an entirely new world with nothing lingering from Mario and other games. I realize this may be a turn off to some, but it's allowed me to create an entirely new world I feel really close to, and as a result one where I'm able to come up with many ideas. I would say that I also feel tied to each level I create: making everything "click" and providing a really unique experience for each one.

[SNN] You have been hacking for three years now. do you feel that this knowledge has strengthened your skills, or hindered you?
[Supertails] SMW hacking is one of those things where you can get great at using Lunar Magic, then feel totally lost once you try something like Game Maker of MMF2. Still though, through SMW hacking, I've gained a lot of skill in areas that can extend past it, especially graphics and music. If I ever end up working on things outside of hacks, I'll know how to make some decent graphics and even compose music. I would also say that SMW hacking has overall helped me with understanding just the level of dedication and work projects like these can take. It isn't somethng you can just slap together in half an hour. It really takes a lot of time, and once you're able to make that kind of commitment, you see just how impressive your own results can be.

[SNN] As an administrator on SMWC, you see most of what goes on. In your time as staff, what have you enjoyed the most about the site, and what have you enjoyed the least?
[Supertails] What immediately jumps to mind for me is the creativity on the part of the users. Whether it's a vanilla hack, an interesting new sprite, or a new ExGFX submissions, the members here have many great ideas that really shine overall and add a lot to the community. I'd also say that one of the things I've really enjoyed seeing is improvement in users overall. Sure, we all start as newbies, but the ones who have geniuenly improved, both in their behavior and their skills in SMW hacking really earn my respect. Of course, there's been more than a few not so great things I've seen. Probably the worst of it was in the site attacks we've previously had, and while they're irrelevant at this point, at the time, they've been rather stressful for the users. At the same time, seeing users decline, seeing generally good people I used to really enjoy being around suddenly take a nose dive hasn't been fun to go through. Overall though, I'd say that while I moreorless see internet conflicts as silly, pointless, and not worth getting upset about, I remain optimistic about the community. SMWC's a really unique place with some great people, and with the low points, it can be easy to lose sight of that and forget a lot of the good things that have come from the site.

[SNN] Finally, what are your plans after finishing A Severed Freedom? Do you plan to attempt to hack a different game, or are you going to be moving on to something else?
[Supertails] Unless I'm involved with a team project such as FD, (which would be out by the time ASF's done anyway) I'll be ready to move on from SMW hacking. Keep in mind though, that ASF won't be done until about two years from now, and even then, I'll still be here. Even if I'm not actively working on a hack, I still plan to stay with this community, and perhaps continue to submit content such as music for others to use. With each hack I've created, it's let me take a step further. Going from regular edits, to new levels, to levels with all new graphics, music, and characters. I'm ready to put together a completely original project, one that doesn't lean on any exisiting engine or characters, and plan to use a program, like, as I mentioned, Game Maker of MMF2. I still enjoy SMW hacking and still respect the people that work tirelessly to produce hacks, but I'll personally be ready to try something new.

[SNN] If i start drawing arousing fan art of your main character, Ama, will you get angry at me?
[Supertails] That's not why I created Ama, but if you really want to, I'm not going to stop you ;D.

Cool. Congratulations to Reading and Supertails.
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Awesome, congratulations Reading and Supertails. You both have deserved it!

Congrats Reading and Supertails. You both definitely earned it.
Congrats guys. You deserve it. :)
Well congratulations guys! You 2 are both great members here and you deserve it! :D
I expected Supertails and SNN to throw lame puns at each other :<

Anyways, congrats to Reading and Supertails! I'm sure everyone thinks you guys earned this.


Originally posted by SNN
Two foxes. Oh boy.

Originally posted by Ladida
I expected Supertails and ST to throw lame puns at each other :<

Supertails and ST?
Originally posted by xman0444
Originally posted by Ladida
I expected Supertails and ST to throw lame puns at each other :<

Supertails and ST?

Yeah. Supertails sits in a corner and mutters lame puns to himself.

Man, I always love MoTM, it's great to get to know people here better, though I kind of skimmed over a lot of this, but plan to read it fully in the morning.
Also, congrats both of you.
I really can't think of two more deserving Foxes. Probably because their aren't many foxes on the site to begin with.

Oh, and I was expecting something funny from the ST interview before I even read it... I was right, I guess.
I wouldn't worry Supertails, I doubt SNN can draw that well.
IRC Quotes (March 20th update!)

/MKICK 4: Flantastic Puns
Congrats to the both of them.
Heheh, I knew Reading would win this some day, Comgrats to both you and Supertails. As always, this has helped me to know you a bit better, but with Reading, there really is no shortage in personal information to read about you, and to learn about you. Both, an interesting read. (I'm shocked though at what SNN asked XD I look forward to seeing it :P)

(I see you there Ladida... It was the first thing I thought of >_< <3)

World Community Grid: Thread | Team
I have no idea who Reading is, but now I'll get to know of him a little more thanks to this. congrats.

Congrats on getting MotM, Reading. You're a cool member and you definitely deserved it. :)
Bah, you guys know I meant Supertails and SNN. I'm sorry Supertails :(

Well, congrats again anyways :)
Congrats guys. As always, it was fun reading the interviews :3
Congrats Reading and Supertails! You both deserve it :)Free counters!
Reading, my man, I really like that you won the MotM. And congratulations to Supertails too!
Yes, Reading! I see you helping out and being nice to loads of people. Oh! Supertails too. Congrats guys!

yay for you guys! you deserved it :)

I might put some sort of signature here once. I guess.
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