TGP: Introduction

Introduction

     Welcome to The Goat Pen. It's a highly misleading name, I know. We don't have goats, nor do we write any of the site in pen! It's all done on computer! Can you believe it!? A website done entirely on computer! But enough joking around. The majority of the site is related to the Final Fantasy game series. It's a series I grew up with, starting in the 90s with Final Fantasy 6 (or Final Fantasy 3 as it was renamed in the States, but we're pretending that never happened).

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What About Bob?
My Video Game Origins
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     My first gaming system, ignoring my parents' Atari, was the Super Nintendo. I started playing when I was eight-years old and started with Super Mario World. I often rented games from either Blockbuster or a local store called Video City. Yeah, no Gamefly in the 90s. Back in the day, to rent a game you had to first convince your parents that they need a movie from the video store and perhaps groceries. And for your company to the grocery store, well heck, maybe while they're at the video store, they can rent you one of those damned-expensive video games.

     I rented a lot of games, but my Squaresoft addiction started pretty early. My first game, if I recall correctly, was Secret of Mana, or Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan. This was a great two-player game that I played all too many times with my older sister. I think we rented it once, then bought it. It was our first step into role-playing games, and a good one at that since it was a nice midpoint from action/platformer to RPG. It had active fighting, but level-ups and a decent story, basic as it may be.

     I then went based on creator and tried out Final Fantasy III, which I'll from this point refer to as Final Fantasy VI. If there was ever a game that piqued my interest, it was this one. What a game! This quickly shot up my list of games I wanted. I'd probably have sold my soul for this game (not anymore, sorry, Satan). Unfortunately, nobody sold this game! Nobody! For at least a couple years, whenever I wandered into a store with a video game section, I checked for this game. I wanted it so badly!

     I must've rented this game about ten times. I played the beginning so many times. I had time limits for how long I could play video games each day, and based on my restrictions, I found that it was typical to reach the Floating Continent in that 5-day rental period (Remember: SNES games save on the cartridge, not a memory card). Most games ended near the Floating Continent. Once I rented it back-to-back and continued further, possibly beating the game (I honestly can't remember, but I think I did...). I once rented a cartridge of FF6 that had this mega-glitch that wrecked the save system. You could save, but once you turned off the SNES, your game had a 90% chance of being erased... Do you know how many times I've played the beginning of this game!? Seriously, I didn't care! I still loved it, even if I could only get as far as the fight with Kefka in Narshe!

     Another game I was dying to own was Illusion of Gaia (Squaresoft? No, but Enix!), but Final Fantasy III was probably the biggest tragedy of my young life (yeah, not a lot happens to me). Even the guy cutting my hair one day that recommended Secret of Evermore (which I bought and am glad I did so) could not get me through these dark times. So dark... My soul forever stained...until! Angels decended and spoke to me.
     "The best game in the world is here," the angels said.
     "Somewhere has Final Fantasy 3!?" I reply with wide-eyed excitement.
     "No. Better. This, is Chrono Trigger."

     Now, keep in mind that my soul is still stained by the loss of Final Fantasy VI, but now I had Chrono Trigger! If you were to ask me what my favorite game of all time is, I'd point you to this game. I rented it, loved it, and "bought" it (kids don't buy things. They just hope a birthday or Christmas is on the way). If you are curious, Tyrannodome. That's about where most people get in a 5-day rental period. Anyway. If you'll notice a theme here. I was very in love with Squresoft. RPGs in general, too, but Secret of the Stars and Breath of Fire II (to name a couple) just weren't the same caliber as Squaresoft RPGs. Not to say there weren't flops along the way for Squaresoft, but I digress.

     From here, I probably took the course of the typical Final Fantasy fan. I loved FF6, so I had to put Final Fantasy VII on my Christmas list. My older sister and I were so psyched when we got this game. Mom pulled a psyche-out on us when we didn't get it for Christmas, but we got it a couple days later from my grandparents (who obviously let my mom do the shopping since they'd never think to buy us Final Fantasy VII and Mortal Kombat: Mythologies). And so, we played it. It. Was. Amazing. I still remember a bunch of our first-time thoughts of the game, like when we believed we would get Cait Sith in Wall Market because he was a big kitty-thing and was in the instruction booklet, and Wall Market has a statue of a cat! It must be him! It wasn't until we were a good ways into Shin-Ra HQ that I realized it just wasn't happening...

     And so, my Final Fantasy love continued on for years to come. Final Fantasy X was and still is one of my top favorites of the series, but after that, things went downhill. Enix came in and Square just hasn't been the same. For more insight on my life and how my website came to be, check the Background section.

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The Goat Pen
What It Holds (Hint: Not Goats)
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Features:

     With such a wonderful selection of games at my disposal, I introduce The Goat Pen. It is a collection of various works, though the majority of them are centered around the Final Fantasy video game franchise. The Final Fantasy games have such great characters and themes that are so dang fun to use in fan fiction. The site's original hit series was Bugging Sephiroth (2002). It is a humorous story about Sephiroth and his odd attachment to his mother, Jenova. It takes place after the events of Final Fantasy VII, though follows no continuity since characters are all revived for some unexplained reason. It ended in late 2008, only to be picked back up in 2009, now taking place after the events of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Again, it makes no sense. Good, mindless fun.

     If you're looking for my devotion to old Squaresoft (Square-Enix) games, look no further than The Amazing Final Fantasy Race. This is a cross-over putting Final Fantasy characters in teams of two to race through different Square worlds and compete for one-million gil. I love CBS's The Amazing Race and thought it would make a great format for a fan fiction series. It originally started as a spoof of the show using the Final Fantasy characters, but quickly turned into a thrilling and epic race, despite being centered around humor. It has had four regular seasons: Season 1 (2005 to 2007), Season 2 (2008 to 2010), Season 3 (2010 to 2011), and Season 4 (2012 to 2014), as well as the special seasons: Fallen-Stars (2016?), which featured teams from the first four seasons that were eliminated early, and All-Stars (2016?), which featured teams that placed in the top six of the first four seasons.

     The Squall Online Experiment (2005) started as a quirky storytelling through false e-mails to the completely anti-social Squall from various Final Fantasy VIII characters. I eventually realized it was a golden opportunity to open my site up to some guest participation. This, in conjunction with the site's Forum started turning The Goat Pen into a more interactive experience; not just your average fan fiction site (or is it?).

     Because of the successes and failures of The Squall Online Experiment, I decided to open up a new concept for the readers and contributors of my site with a livejournal-based role-playing game. It became too time-consuming for me to update every Squall Online e-mail that was submitted individually, so I created the world of Mallboro (2005-2012) where different players could maintain in-character journals that could be posted with zero involvement from yours truly, so no more "waiting for Bob to post my e-mail." In this world, all Final Fantasy worlds intersect, all characters are live and well (I guess), and since all of the worlds are saved, the characters of those worlds have moved on and are now living in a world where the only jobs available are in a shopping mall owned and maintained by FF8's NORG. It's a kooky premise, but it's been great fun and even though the number of players is limited, it has a lot of mini-games and interesting things to read and write about.

Opinions:

     As somebody who has grown up with video games, I have developed strong opinions about stories and video games. As such, I have created an Opinions section to my website that shows my opinions about video games. The first section is my Reviews (2003), which have been around for quite awhile. Long enough, in fact, that I have scrapped a lot of my original reviews and written new ones because my viewpoints have changed with age.

     A section that gained popularity quickly was True Cast (2010). In this, I analyze video game casts (generally RPGs) to decide which characters played an important role (True Cast), were beneficial but not required (Secondary Cast), or had no place in the story at all (Unnecessary Cast). It's a fun analysis because I love character-driven stories and good character development, so it is fun to see which games really cared about their characters and which ones featured your typical copy/paste characters that really didn't matter at all. Check it out.

     I have always been a fan of Top X Anythings lists, so I created my own section for Top 10 Lists (2012). This section of my site exists so that others may see my personal opinions. I will never claim that these are the end-all best lists ever because they're all based on my own personal experiences, not mass decision, but I've always loved an individual's Top X List because we all know how great certain games are, but maybe somebody else had a different experience. And hey, if you agree with eight out of ten of my top games, but have never heard of the other two, then maybe that'd be a good game to check out because we might have similar tastes! Never know!

The Forum:

     Finally, I'd like to mention The Goat Pen Forums (2004). These were originally created as a way to work with fans of the site, but now it has become a place where we all discuss things we like, dislike, and generally have a good time. We are even playing a game together based on Final Fantasy X's Blitzball, wherein we create players, build teams, then simulate games using a program I have written. It's incredibly fun and I welcome more people to play this game, play any future games I develop, or even just hang around and chat.

     And that's the extent of the site. I still actively work on the site, though I lose a lot of time to real life. I truly appologize if a series you want more of takes me long periods of time to update, but I've just run out of time anymore. I got married in 2009 and have been working hard to make a living. I have a lot going on, including a child on the way! Between taking care of my home and family and working a full-time teaching job, I do not have as much time to work on the site as I used to, but I do love working on the site and update whenever I can.

TGP Evolution: Screenshots of the past

TGP: Early 2005

TGP: Late 2005

TGP: 2006

TGP: Early 2007

TGP: Late 2007

TGP: 2008

TGP: 2009

TGP: 2011

TGP: 2013

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The Future
Now Featuring the Past and Present!
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     I enjoy writing all this Final Fantasy fan fiction for two reasons. For one, I love putting my work out there and finding people with common interests. Not only Final Fantasy, but my sense of humor, too. I highly enjoy situational humor, sarcasm, and self-mockery, which isn't common for fan fiction on the whole (or at least wasn't when I started).

     My favorite thing about fan fiction (this is reason number two) is that it's a great platform to learn how to write. My writing skills aren't top notch, but if you read through something like Bugging Sephiroth or compare The Amazing Final Fantasy Race's Season 1 to Season 2, you'll see that my writing has gotten better. Some is just because of the practice, and some is the response I get from readers who are helping me to perfect my writing abilities. With this, I eventually plan to write some of my own works some day. Will they get published? I'm not sure. Probably not. But I love making up stories and writing fan fiction is great practice. Squaresoft/Square/Square-Enix has given us some great characters and settings, and by using them instead of my own work, I can get past my shortcomings with descriptions and use existing characters and worlds to practice writing.

     Having the criticism and help has been wonderful and hopefully this site will one day be my springboard into something else. My skills in writing, website design, and computer graphics are so much more than they were. With all of this, I hope to someday write my own original stories and even hope to design my own video games. Thanks for visiting, sorry you had to read so much, and I hope you enjoy the site!

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