Rozovian’s Music Log

www.ocremix.org/artist/4795/

iT phone home

Posted by Ad on April 23, 2015

Wow, it’s been a while. I had stuff written, but never posted. So, let’s get some new thoughts online.

There are different ways of using stuff. Take matches. You can light things on fire with them. The orthodox way is to draw the match against the striking surface and the bring the burning match near paper or kindling. A non-standard method is to use matches to light another match on fire, making them stick together. This isn’t the standard way of lighting things on fire tho.

Another creative, non-standard use of matches is to build things out of them. You can build animals out of them and pinecones, you can build houses and things out of them… and optionally also light these on fire.

I can classify uses of things into three categories: intended use, non-standard use, and advanced use. Simple enough?

So there’s iTunes, and OSX. iTunes worked great when it was a music library and little else. It works ok as an mp3-player manager, altho the clunky way of throwing files forth and back could be improved by making it possible in the Finder (or Windows) instead. But iTunes really breaks down when connecting to the web.

I don’t use the iTunes store for much. All my iTunes gift cards have been used in the App Store instead. I don’t really listen to the stuff iTunes sells, except for the stuff friends of mine have already released elsewhere (so I don’t need to buy it from iTunes). So I’ve disabled the store. I mentioned in a post way back when that iTunes wanted to check, twice, that I was aware that I wasn’t logged into the store. That was annoying, but at least it only asked twice.

That’s not the case with the new problem I’ve found: on a computer-to-computer network, the kind that I use when I don’t have access to any other network, and I want to connect two devices; iTunes wants to connect to internet radio. It can’t. That’s fine. What’s not fine is that it tells me. Not once, or twice, but _indefinitely_.

So I was semi-DJ-ing at this event, and didn’t want to have to run forth and back to adjust volume levels with my hastily compiled playlist, so I started a computer-computer network and connected the iPhone to that. And iTunes kept telling me it couldn’t connect to internet radio.

SHUT UP, I KNOW, YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO!

Time to check out Songbird again. With any luck, it can do everything I actually use iTunes for.

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How to Handle Criticism

Posted by Ad on February 15, 2014

TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, has had one of his videos censored via the copyright flagging system. Not cool. The situation is still developing and unraveling, but the whole thing blew up not so much over the copyright abuse, but rather over how the devs of the game TB reviewed don’t seem to be able to handle criticism.

Rather than rant about copyright and add fuel to what the internet is already turning into a rather large firestorm against the devs, I’ll cover a different angle: how to handle criticism.

Your game, your music, your art, your work; whatever you do, you’ll likely take it personally when someone eviscerates your work, whether this is accurate criticism or hate/trolling. It’s not necessarily easy to ignore random disembodied voices on the internet, but the higher profile someone is, or the more you value their opinion, the worse it’ll sting.

The approach I have to criticism is to understand everything, and fix what you agree with.

Let’s say someone says an arrangement of mine is cookie-cuter, paint-by-numbers, blocky or newby. First, I have to understand what they mean. My arrangement might not have good transitions, might not differentiate parts with different rhythms, textures or dynamics, might have too little or too much variation between parts. It could be just one of these, but it’s more likely that it’s a bit of everything.

Then I have to agree. Theres two parts to this: I have to agree with their observation, and I have to agree that it’s a problem. My chiptune-y track sounds like cheap synths? Not a problem. My orchestral piece sounds like cheap synths? Problem… if it’s true.

Finally, I have to fix what I agree with, if possible. Cheap synth orchestra? Either go for it as a stylistic choice, embrace it, do it well; or make it sound more real; or scrap it. Cheap synth chiptune-y track? Not a problem, doesn’t need fixing.

But the thing is, just because I don’t agree with criticism doesn’t mean I’m right. If I do something, it should sound intentional. It doesn’t matter whether it actually _is_ intentional, it just has to sound that way. My cheap synth orchestra may be the sound I’m going for, but I’d have to make that obvious somehow. Easiest trick is to name it something like “Pocket Orchestra” or “Synthetic SYmphony” or something along those lines. But preferably, the music should be able to communicate this on its own. An exposed, really cheap synth solo early on, that highlights the cheapness and is still expressive should do the trick.

That’s doing it right. How can you do it wrong?

Ignoring. Arguably a better approach than some other wrong approaches. Ignore the trolls, but don’t ignore valid criticism. Dismissing it with a “well you don’t have to like it, other people will” isn’t going to help you make your work any better.

Arguing. This isn’t about valid arguments to better explain your positions and understand where the other party is coming from. This is about questioning the other party’s qualifications, eg “who are you to say an orchestra doesn’t sound like this?” (an ad hominem attack). This is about undue defense, eg “well it’s a style choice to have a square synth in my historically correct baroque track”. This is about justifying things instead of re-evaluating them in light of the criticism. That’s wrong.

Flaming, raging, threatening. These are all pretty much the same, because they’re all about throwing a tantrum in some form. Legal threats count. Threats of violence count. Threats of reporting count. Personal threats certainly count. Ranting, as a form of venting, is a way to deal with frustration, but do that somewhere else.

Magic. I’m not talking forest rites and hexes and stuff, I mean trying to make the criticism go away. Flagging stuff as spam or copyright infringement, downvoting, deleting… Bribing? Whatever. It’s a form of ignoring, but offensively. And it’s offensive to anyone who values the craft.

These are in order of how bad they can backfire. Ignoring something generally doesn’t backfire, but you might not get a lot more good feedback that way. Less bug reports, less suggestions, less valid criticism. Arguing is likely to offend the person offering criticism, and is likely to drive them away or make them hostile towards you and your work… which isn’t a good thing.

Flaming, raging, and threatening tends to backfire spectacularly and become little wars on the internet where supporters of different causes start attacking each other on every medium and every platform they can get at. And worse, magic, when it gets out, tends to ruin whoever tried to censor someone else. The Streisand effect goes into full swing when this gets out. The bigger you and/or your critic are, the bigger the backlash. And any PR is _not_ good PR…

…as I’m sure certain devs have noticed by now.

Posted in the internet, video game industry | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

b0rked, b0rked is the Great Google

Posted by Ad on March 31, 2013

I recently updated some of my instruments, those from native Instruments at least. Not much problem there. Didn’t remember my password, so I asked for a new one and waiting in my gmail inbox. For a while. Then tried again. And again. Nothing. It wasn’t until I searched my inboxes that I found that everything from NI (and pretty much all other music sites) are automatically thrown into a separate music inbox for all those incessant promotional newslettery things they keep sending out. As if my inbox wasn’t getting enough junk already. Anyone, I found my temporary password and finally got to download the updates. And not much trouble there, although I do appreciate Steam’s internal updating of everything over having to download separate installers for every product. Where is Steam for audio software?

Anyway, I get back to my music, and didn’t think much about the update. I notice something sounding weird about some of my tracks. Not all the projects I’m working on, just a few. As if an instrument or two had reset to some weird new settings unlike what they were saved as. That couldn’t happen, could it? Yes it could.

Absynth, one of Native Instruments coolest, weirdest synths, has b0rked. My cool ambient sounds? b0rked. Complex leads? b0rked. Good thing it wasn’t FM8 that b0rked, since I use that way more than Absynth. Gotta love that FM sound. But this whole mess with Absynth bothered me enough to turn to teh internets for a solution. Here’s where stupid shines:

Google has b0rked.

I don’t mean that you can’t find the obvious things any moron can type into a search bar, I mean that if you search for something, anything remotely and tangentially related will crop up in the search. The other day, I was searching for a solution to a mouse/trackball-related problem. I tried limiting it to unix/terminal commands, but then I got stuff that had nothing to do with OSX despite both mac and osx being keywords. I tried using scrollball as a search word, but then I only get junk about Apple’s Mighty Mouse. Trackpad? Laptop results. Trackball? Some arcade golf game control schematic. After a while I just gave up and went to screw with the settings on Logitech’s own control panel instead. Far from ideal, but I can live with it.

For fun, I wanted to see the world as centered on different poles. What if the Mediterranean was the north pole? What if the pacific was a pole? I downloaded a map and started screwing around in Gimp, getting all kinds of fun distortions that approached what I wanted, except in the wrong way. So I turned to Google. There must be someone who’s done maps like that… but Google instead thinks I mean “any map of Earth, maybe centered on the north or south pole”. Other searches yield more perplexing and stupid results.

This isn’t even a new thing, but I’m getting sick of it. I made a remix of one of the newer Mana series games a while back, for one of the AOCC albums, but I forgot the game. No problem, I’ll search for my artist name on YouTube, someone must have uploaded it to YouTube. Minecraft videos. A gazillion Minecraft videos where my music may have been used as background music. Yay. -minecraft, then. All my other remixes. Okay, +mana, then. A gazillion of other people’s remixes of the mana games. No!

I’ve tried a few other search engines, but I’ve yet to find one I like enough. Any suggestions are welcome.

Also, if you’ve found a solution to the Absynth problem, link me up. Also, tell me what arcane magic you used to find it, cuz I refuse to believe Google did it.

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Apple “genius”

Posted by Ad on August 4, 2012

While on the topic of piracy, lemme tell you about the dumbest Apple App Store things I’ve seen so far. Totally hypothetically, I mean.

So this remixer friend of mine is collaborating with another remixer on a track, and this other remixer uses GarageBand. Which I, I mean, my friend; also has. It’s an older version on the music computer, but the Lion (have I mentioned Lion is horrendous to use when used to SL or previous Mac OSs?) laptop I got… for him… this year, has the new version of GB. The problem is that it’s still an older version, so it doesn’t open the other remixers .band files. So my friend goes to the App Store to check the price of the newest version. 12 euros. That’s too much. He also happens to live in a country that Apple apparently doesn’t trust to allow doing PayPal purchases, and he doesn’t have a credit card. I may have mentioned that I have had that problem, and the Apple Support folks brilliant solution was “get a credit card”. In a rudely robo-polite roundabout rude way of saying it.

But he notices the laptop displays only an update button instead of a price. He assume it’s a free update, which the error messages GB gave him alluded to. He tries it. It requires him to sign in with his Apple ID. He does that, reluctantly. An App Store license change dialog open up. Yes whatever. The license appeared in neither my friend’s native language nor English. He clicked some checkbox thing and then a button thing and was then sent back to the App Store and could download the update.

Success! I am so smart- I mean my friend is so smart. S – M – R – T.

Also, this update can open the other remixer’s .band files without a problem.

So where’s the dumb thing, besides Apple reluctance to let Finns use PayPal? Here:

Once installed, my friend casually throws it from one machine to the other. And double-clicks it on the main music machine. And it installs 1.6 gigs of GarageBand stuff, and works just fine.

This all leads me to a couple of possibilities:

1) Apple is watching us, waiting for us to circumvent their licenses.. and when we do, the lawyers pounce. Considering the legal climate these days, it wouldn’t surprise me. Nobody reads license agreements anyway, for good reason.

2) Apple are trying to milk the wallets of rich morons, while not inconveniencing less casual users too much. This seems unlikely, because Lion.

3) Plain old stupid.

I fear the first (for my friend, I mean), hope for the second, and suspect the third.

This is the stuff that – aside from the successful outcome in this particular anecdote – make me consider pirating stuff. And/or switching to Linux. Screw it, I’ll learn programming and make my own OS, and my own networking tools, and my own text editor. And my own DTP suite. And my own… music program stuff. Screw it, I’m stuck with Apple.

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Maybe I should pirate more?

Posted by Ad on August 4, 2012

So I grabbed a bunch of games during Steam’s Summer Sale. Games that were cheap enough for my atm meager funds, games that would work on mac. The problem is that this mac compatibility isn’t that great… and it surprises me that game devs don’t consider the obvious solution:

Don’t put graphics above gameplay!

Crusader Kings II looks like a pretty cool game from the screenshots. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on my machines. One machine can’t run it at all because it has the wrong graphics card, and the other runs it at a ridiculous frame rate, not to mention screws up the colors. Sure, a purple sea (tho it still looks like water) might not be the best creative choice despite that might work for a more moody scenario, but if the frame rate is horrible, the game is unplayable. As the game is really just a bunch of screens with stats on them, plus a map with random troops on it, the graphics can be at a FreeCiv level. FreeCiv is hardly the epitome of graphics, but the game works.

Anyway, I find that SimCity 4 has a bit of the same frame rate problem as well, plus some bizarre and amusing texture issues, but it’s far from unplayable. The problem there is that Steam didn’t offer a mac version, but I found ways around that problem.

The thing is, these aren’t games that need all that much graphics. In fact, most games don’t need anything past what we were able to render a decade ago. A multiplayer FPS would need it to let players blend into the environment realistically, and any real-time game would need it to make sure players get to react as soon as something happens rather than suffer a second’s delay before they see what’s going on and having to work the interface for a few seconds before getting their troops/vehicle/dude/whatever to do what it’s supposed to do. Civ V doesn’t need the graphics it has, the gameplay doesn’t need those graphics. The Strategic View is unfortunately not the default view, nor are its symbols as easy to identify at a glance as the units in the standard view. CKII doesn’t need its 3d display and fancy window decor (and the decor would load faster if the 3d stuff wasn’t hogging the graphics processing). Many games of today are more for show than for gaming, and it’s shutting ppl out from getting to play them.

I wonder if it makes business sense. I mean, I get how it works for the marketing department; they get screenshots and videos and stuff that look good. It’s easier to market than game mechanics. “It looks great, lemme prove it with this non-interactive, print-friendly thing.” But with games like Civ and CK and SC and others, it’s the mechanics that are the game, the graphics are just packaging. They’re harder to market based on gameplay.

Not that I’d want the graphics reduced to the lowest common denominator, but a low-resource alternative graphics option would be nice to have, one that’s less picky about the graphics card and doesn’t require platform specific libraries or only runs on select graphics chipsets. Likewise, the option to not load all the resource-hogging stuff when you start the game (I may have mentioned this before). More graphics options would open up games to a variety of platforms, ultimately getting more players into the game.

Anyway, on a semi-related note…

Posted in video game industry | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Blog post will resume in 30 seconds…

Posted by Ad on June 4, 2012

I’m just gonna drop a little note here, nothing long. It’s just something that’s bothered me for a while now. Video ads.

Anyone who thinks a 30-second ad for a 3-minute vid isn’t gonna make ppl hate their product has to be making something as good as the Avengers, which they probably aren’t. Anyone putting 15-second video ads before vids should at least be making something new and interesting, but I get romantic comedy trailers and random car ads. Isn’t data mining supposed to show me more targeted ads, like games and albums and movies and shows and audio tech and other stuff I actually use?

This is the internet. ppl want to get their content right away. Even a 10-sec intro to a video can be enough to turn ppl away. Watching the Escapist’s various videos, I find that I nowadays just skip 10-15 seconds into the vid. On the other hand, the long intro is an appreciated break between unwanted and wanted content, so I have some margin for when I move from the other window back to the vid. Yeah and I mute during ads.

On that note, I thought we got away from terrible auto-play things, but Forbes (who otherwise seem to be smart enough to not put up paywalls) has one of those things playing whenever I hit their site. Their site consisting of mostly articles to be read. Some sites want to loads tons of little media players and flash things. It’s almost like the internet when I first got on it, except it was midi on ad-riddled geocities and angelfire pages back then.

And apparently, there’s 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. Quantity over quality. Makes me a little sad.

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Ninja Consumers

Posted by Ad on March 27, 2012

Finland’s allegedly trailing way behind our neighbor Sweden in consumption of streamed and downloaded music. I don’t believe that, I think it’s just a difference in behavior that accounts for the over 30% difference.

I may have mentioned having attempted to buy Logic 9 on the App Store, but was unable to actually pay. The store only accepts a bunch of credit cards, which I know better than to get. After some correspondence with Apple’s customer service (who politely/robotically suggested, repeatedly, that I should just get a credit card), I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. So far, Logic Express 8 serves me fine, and when that fails, I can move to a different DAW. I’ve heard good things about Digital Performer, I’ve been looking at Ableton Live for live performance reasons, there’s always the very affordable Reaper, and beyond those a myriad of other options.

What bothered me the most is the lack of a PayPal option in Apple’s stores, as it’s an option in the US but not here. That’s what I use to buy stuff on Steam and Bandcamp, it’s a very convenient payment options that Apple seems to allow in other countries. Having to get a credit card is a hoop I might jump through if there was no other option. But that’s not the case. There’s other software… and other means.

My theory on piracy is that there’s three types of pirates: pirates of convenience, pirates of economy, and pirates of ideals. Pirates of ideals are the free-culture hippies that think information shouldn’t be locked up and everything should be available for free. Not sure to what extent I agree with them, there’s freedom of information acts on one side, and indie artists’ earnings stolen by labels and royalty-collecting agencies on the other. Pirates of economy are the ones who can’t afford the stuff they pirate, or who just don’t want to pay. In the developing world, I support this attitude. Get stuff, use stuff, build business and education. In the developed world, there’s certainly a lower class that may not be able to afford to keep up with the music and movies their more affluent neighbors consume, but the majority population can afford the 10 bucks an album costs these days.

Still, the most interesting type are the pirates of convenience. These include brats with a runaway sense of entitlement as well as lazy ppl who just want stuff in the most convenient way possible, and probably further still in… some direction. I use Steam because it’s convenient. It’s the ultimate combination of store, personal library and networking tool. I’ve used other means of getting the stuff I wanted… because it was convenient.

The thing is, pirates of convenience may well pay for their stuff (even to the point where they aren’t pirates anymore) if they get it without jumping through hoops. Bandcamp does this well. With a clean interface and a few clicks, I buy music and support the artist. I typically listen to music by my friends, released on Bandcamp (or ocremix), but if I wanted something else, Apple’s iTunes Store is among the last places I’d buy from. No credit card, no PayPal option, no way of paying short of buying a dozen of those iTunes Store cards from Apple Stores irl. Considering there are music stores out there that attempt to sell stuff released for free (eg free releases from Bandcamp, ocremix albums et al), I feel safer getting music from a place where I know the wrong ppl aren’t profiting from the artists’ work.

Despite speaking from a very limited experience with music stores, I think the main reason Finland’s trailing in music downloading/streaming is in measuring the wrong thing: only purchases and streaming services that are being tracked by the music… tracking… ppl. There’s YouTube (-to-mp3), there’s torrents, there’s a lot of ways to get music besides iTunes, Spotify, and whatever else was tracked.

It’s not like Finns are tech-illiterates. It may actually be the opposite. That’s why I don’t think my ISP blocking The Pirate Bay is gonna stop ppl.

Two more things, mostly unrelated: I’ve got a plan/idea/design for a movie/tv-show site, one that includes a way to make money from the site. There’s just the problems of convincing advertisers, and to consolidate shows and movies into a single service rather than have each studio and network demand special treatment/jack up prices for their catalogues or otherwise make their own services… thus driving ppl to the quasi-legal link sites and torrent searches instead. Tho for a single-network service it might work, too. Maybe I should just patent my idea and sit on it, then sue anyone that came up with it independently if they get big. That’s apparently how the big tech companies do it. If only game devs could do the same with to get CloneVille (as in Zynga) off the map.

The other thing is my new album plan: my old music as a free album… or album series. We’ll see. I think I have four tracks being worked on atm that fits my old methods, so they’re candidates for this album. Any proper album would be a later concern, now I’ll just focus on finishing random tracks and giving some extra attention to my few thousands of old tracks.

Posted in music industry, the internet | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Apple Doesn’t Work on This Anymore

Posted by Ad on March 9, 2012

Remember AppleWorks? I remember it from back when it was called ClarisWorks. I like it. Sure, it wasn’t Photoshop, it wasn’t Office, it wasn’t even Word, but over the years, it became a useful wrench in my workflow. While the database and spreadsheet functionality saw some use towards the latter years, the painting functionality barely any use at all, those are fairly easily replaced. Now if only I could get LibreOffice spreadsheets to convert a text-based field to boolean while keeping the information…

The drawing functionality, however, is difficult to replace. Any DTP layout program should suffice, but it’s hard to find something affordable and stable. Especially now that I’m out of a job and don’t have spare hundreds to spend on software. Vector graphics and layout programs are sort’a in the right direction, but not quite. EazyDraw, developed as a replacement for the drawing tools in AW and capable of reading most of the information in AW drawing documents would be great, if not for a clunky interface.

That’s probably what irks me the most: interfaces. X11’s interface puts two rows of redundant stuff on the screen, and Inkscape looks ridiculous with 5-6 rows of menus and margins before I actually get to the document itself. I kind’a feel the same about OSX sometimes – the dock is useful and looks nice, but it takes up precious real estate on a laptop screen.

Anyway, I spend some of my spare time trying to design board games, card games, games of whatever type I can. Before I do any prototyping and testing, I sketch it out on the computer. I mean, I did. Now I have to rely on TextEdit – which works ok when it’s just notes and card lists, but it doesn’t let me put text blocks, lines, and images wherever I want. That’s what I did in AppleWorks.

On a related note, I use Snow Leopard’s TextEdit because Lion’s doesn’t fit my workflow, and didn’t give me any working options to change its behavior. For that matter, lots of apps in Lion don’t even understand command-Q because they don’t have a quit option, only “quit with windows” or “quit, close windows”. Apple, Y U NO keep it simple, stupid?

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My Web TV Ideal

Posted by Ad on February 28, 2012

It’s the future. I sit down in the living room and turn on a fast-starting computer hooked up to a big screen and speaker system. I go to a library of the shows I usually watch. A few shows are locked behind a password-protected menu so kids can’t get to them.

I select a show, old or new. The computer remembers which episode I watched last, and even if I had to stop watching mid-episode. By default, I get the standard audio, but if I want a more cinematic experience, I can select a more dynamic audio track, or if I’m watching late at night and the rest of the house is asleep, I can select a less dynamic track. I can just as well select a commentary, official or fan-made, or a different language dub, or opt to have speech, music or sound effects muted or solo.

I’m on my work computer, writing emails or something. I have a show playing in another window. I have subtitles on so I can multitask and at a glance get what any given line of dialogue is about. I need to listen to a some audio a friend and/or coworker sent me, for a music project. I pause the video, listen to the audio.

The film/TV library lists my top films and shows. I can order these on physical media if I want to. They contain more special features, like behind-the-scenes material, a copy of the script, the soundtrack… Upon ordering this, those special features also become available in the library.

I’m abroad. The connection isn’t great. I select lower quality video and audio. I’m watching it with my new friends, and as they might not speak English well, we have subtitles in their language as well as in English.

A new movie is coming out. I have a premium account, so I get to watch the movie without ads, on the day of the release, wherever I am. I have a professional reviewer account. I get to watch movies before their release. Anyone can write a review, and it can be formal or just a thank you or “f u” to the director. There’s some moderation of the reviews, so ugly language isn’t visible to minors, and amazon-bombing events can be filtered out.

The school I teach at has an education account. My students get to remix any film or show online through the library – and to associate their trailer with their own user accounts.¬†Regular users can do the same, except they to buy the show or film. They can, for a slight further cost, make a fandub. Each time someone watches a fan-made trailer, or listens to a fandub, reviewer commentary, or anything else that’s user-generated, the users involved in making this additional material are also paid. Several songs from my album have music videos based on shows and movies. The music comes from Spotify or a similar service partnering with the video service. When one of those vids are watched, I get paid slightly, the music video editor get paid slightly, and the ppl who made the original video get paid slightly. I don’t know the exact amount of money, I just know I get money when ppl watch it.

I watch the news. I don’t know what’s going on so I’m not looking for a specific story. I don’t care about celebrity deaths and scandals, so I skip to the next news story. I watch a tech news show made/sponsored by Toyota. Naturally, it has a lot of Toyota products. I can skip to any individual story in the episode. The show still gives me a positive idea about Toyota, so they don’t mind me skipping through.

If I didn’t have a premium account, I could still watch stuff… ad-supported. These aren’t intrusive pop-up ads, they’re more subtly colored and fit right into the design of the library application, each library skin has it’s own ad color coding. Imagine the choice between white on black, or black on white. That can do a lot to make an ad less intrusive. Likewise, some weeks, select shows are sponsored (ie otherwise ad-free) by select companies. This week, General Motors wants me to watch the timeless classic Transformers. Then I log in and the ads disappear.

I look at my account balance. I’ve seen all of Stargate SG-1 before with this service, so all those episodes are free to me. I’ve bought all of Babylon 5, so those episodes are free to me. This month, I’ve been watching old Mythbusters, and am billed for them, a small fee for each episode I’ve watched. Once I’ve watched 75% of episodes in a season, the rest becomes free. My subscription to the service is split between the service and the shows I already own. Just because I’ve seen Firefly a few times doesn’t mean there isn’t a slight amount of money going to its owners at the end of each month when views and payment are calculated.

Holidays are approaching. I can gift movies or seasons of shows to friends and family. I have some gift credits available. This is how the services lures more users to it – credits for each purchase, that I can only use on other ppl. There are always collections available for purchase, whether r not you want the physical media for it. During the dark months of fall, they were cheap for me. Now they’re cheaper still, as gifts.

My wife and kids are associated with my account, and I can watch any of their purchases/gifts from my account, and they can watch mine. There’s a limit to how many accounts can be associated to one another, tho a friend of mine has loads of kids, most of them in their teens, so they had to request a few more association slots for their accounts. The service likes these association things, it tells them what families watch. A single episode can be watched a dozen times in a week, simply because multiple users watch the same show.

Just like a family can be associated with one another, so can roommates. With a fixed number of slots, and some tracking to make sure ppl who live together are more closely associated than random friends, you don’t get to game the system and create a link of ppl who all watch each other’s purchases for free. However, the system is by design slow to react. I spend a few weeks in the US, my family remains in FInland, but we all have access to my shows and films.

Some time in the future, when I die, my purchases are transferred to my kids’ accounts. probably not everything, but perhaps the most viewed half. If they didn’t have those items listed, they do now. If they do, lower-rung items are added. This may work with a tracker for the kinds of shows and films they like, so that my fantasy ¬†geek daughter gets more fantasy films, and my documentary geek son gets more documentaries.

It’s the present. Illegal streaming and downloading is illegal, and commercial services aren’t convenient. Audio is overcompressed, or has too much dynamics to sound good on low listening levels. Movies are available on disc half a year after they come out in local cinemas, which is a few months after their US release. Sales are arbitrary and I am not informed about them. My DVD collection is sizable, but DVD is getting old. I haven’t found Pitch Black anywhere. Where’s Steam for video?

Posted in television/movies, the internet | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Pros and Cons of Game Writers

Posted by Ad on February 23, 2012

I’d much rather give this a lengthier and more applicable title, but it’d be too long for Twitter, I’m afraid. Id’ call it something along the lines of: “The Pros and Cons of Game Development Using Writers Who Do Not Appreciate Games” or something like that. At least I’m not talking about how ppl are ruining the internet again.

Yes, there’s a shitstorm concerning BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler‘s ill-conceived idea that games should let players skip the gameplay, much akin to having an audience skip the destruction, violence, and stunts in action movies, the songs in a musical, or the reading in a book. Seems to me like Hepler is in the wrong industry. If you want to write stories but don’t like having a lot of words, you should write write comic books, or children’s books, not epic fantasy tomes. In the same sense, if you don’t like the interactive aspect of games, find a different medium to write for.

That said, I may be misrepresenting her position of several years back. I think the ability to skip combat is ridiculous (grinding, on the other hand…), but there are some merits to having writers that aren’t pleased with or familiar with the medium.

An obvious pro of having non-game writers write for games is that the outside perspective and outside experiences can bring in fresh new ideas. Voice acting in games is something that can be used badly in so many ways, so having someone with experience with voice acting would certainly alleviate some of those issues. At the same time, gamers play to _do_, not to watch and listen, so a counter-balancing perspective is obviously also needed to avoid turning games into movies with chores between scenes.

Another pro is similar, but rather concerns storytelling itself. Unskilled or inexperienced writers or non-writers can look at the writing side of storytelling in games and think of it as needing to _tell_ the story, leading to excessively wordy stories, story scene upon story scene, dialogue line upon dialogue line repeating ad nauseam what the players figured out a few minutes into the game. A skilled writer, gamer writer or non-game writer, would understand the story elements that need to be told, the ones that can be shown, and hopefully what can be experienced rather than shown or told. Let me re-iterate my position on interactive mediums: they’re the only art that within a work lets you experience regret.

The obvious con is that non-game writers might not write for the strengths of the medium. A non-game writer wouldn’t necessarily make the scenes between Guybrush and Elaine in Monkey Island 1 interactive (to the limited, hilarious extent they were). A non-game writer wouldn’t necessarily understand that gamers play to act, to do, to have agency in that world and influence over the characters they play. There are linear stories in linear games with linear characters, but not all games can be like that, nor should they.

Still, for whatever past failures to understand the medium and its audience, Hepler does not deserve the response she’s been getting. Those that say they want no part in an industry she’s part of should stick to their word and stay out of video games. Don’t play them, don’t talk about them, don’t get a job that involves them in any way.

On a related topic, the rules (especially the Swedish rules) for Antoine Bauda’s 7 Wonders, a board game, are terribly written, and the version I got my hands on didn’t have an English rulebook included. I know ppl around here are expected to be able to read one of the local languages, but when the rulebook is a wordy mess, I’d prefer to have an English version available, one with a little more effort put into clarifying the rules and not leaving portions of other languages (plural) in it. Whoever wrote the rules is a bad writer. The game is good, tho.

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