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Originally published in Exeposé – University of Exeter Student Newspaper

Before Facebook became the owner of our persistent online identity and before Zynga created their ‘-ville’ empire, Habbo Hotel (a glorified chatroom) was where tweens went to get their fill of browser based social gaming.

I was about 11 years old when I first started frequenting this free-to-play virtual world, which makes my last visit to the hotel around 2003. The features that stick in my mind are public rooms filled with chat-bots and people trying to block exits (an early form of trolling), and private rooms decorated with pixelated furniture (‘furni’ essentially formed the economy of the virtual hotel) where users would exchange niceties such as ‘hi qt u lk soooo hot’, and generally play a big game of pretend while trading ‘furni’ with each other.

It wasn’t long before this wore thin for me, and I looked for ways to exploit the game (making clones of myself to flood rooms was particularly entertaining) before finally hanging up my Habbo hat.  Today I check back in to Habbo Hotel, to see what has changed.

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Originally published in Exeposé – University of Exeter Student Newspaper

Marcus Beard tells the story of industry underdogs Double Fine

Double Fine, the development company behind Psychonauts and Brütal Legend raised over $1,000,000 in under 24 hours directly from the community to fund their new project; a point-and-click adventure. No publishers, no executives giving orders to ‘widen our demographic’ or ‘appeal to the Gears of War crowd’. Just Tim Schafer – the king of adventure games – heading up a brand new IP. Yet, Schafer and Double Fine have not always secured funding so easily. Let’s have a quick history lesson.

Before the release of the Star Wars prequels, George Lucas’ LucasArts developed and published games that weren’t exclusively Star Wars tie-ins as it does today. LucasArts pioneered the point-and-click adventure game – a genre that relied on developers creating clever puzzles, witty and creative storytelling. A far cry from the ‘point gun at man’ gameplay we see today.

In 1990, a team of young developers including Tim Schafer designed and co-wrote LucasArts’ The Secret of Monkey Island. It is widely regarded as one of the best and well-written games of all time, pioneering the adventure genre. A number of sequels spawned from this, and Schafer was given the responsibility of lead developer for a number of projects. 1998’s Grim Fandango, a black comedy noire-film-esque adventure game set in the Aztec-style Land of The Dead was universally praised for its inventive world and artistic design.

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