Rozovian’s Music Log

www.ocremix.org/artist/4795/

Archive for January, 2012

The Lion Experience…

Posted by Ad on January 26, 2012

…is horrible.

I bought a new laptop. So far, I’ve found that my previous workflow with TextEdit won’t work, so I gotta find another light-weight editor to work with. I’ve found that my previous use of cmd-tab and cmd-> (default: cmd-tilde) to switch between applications and windows within them (respectively) won’t work. I can’t even leave TextEdit in the background without it disappearing from the cmd-tab menu.

I’ve also found that Logic 8 doesn’t work on Lion. That means I can’t work on music on my brand new laptop. Sure, there’s baby GarageBand, Reaper, and other DAWs around – but all my music is in Logic. My music workflow is in Logic. I can neither pay for Logic 9 with PayPal (because my Apple ID is registered in the wrong country) nor can I use Logic 8 on it. Buy Snow Leopard or don’t make music on the laptop.

I can handle the cosmetic differences, and I can appreciate much what’s changed under the hood, but when a machine I wanted as a portable music studio can’t do music anymore, it makes me mad. I have half a mind to write a message to Apple on the machine and throw it through the window of an Apple Store somewhere. I try to resist the urge of slamming the thing into the wall. This is not the ease of use that Apple promises its users.

In trying to find solutions to these problems, I’ve found that long-time Apple users all over the net despise Lion. If they want everyone to get an iPad instead, why create Lion at all, why not sell 27” iPads?

I’ve been spending the past day trying to figure out how to get Lion to behave, but it doesn’t let me. Perhaps I should just get Linux, it’s probably less trouble.

edit: I now got Logic 8 working, and I got rid of Lion’s TexEdit and replaced it with SL’s. Progress!

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Adventure and Wonder plz

Posted by Ad on January 26, 2012

Many games in the Zelda series and Seiken Densetsu 3 (only released in Japan) are among my favorite games ever. Been wondering why that is lately.

My introduction to Zelda was during the snes era, when a friend from school lent me ALttP. I made it all the way to Turtle Rock but couldn’t figure out how to get it. That was then. I found Seiken Densetsu 3 in the days of the internet before console game companies realized their games were just sitting there for random ppl to nab, before Nintendo started with Virtual Console. And it was awesome.

It’s not like I haven’t played other games along these lines, I have vague memories of Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma, the Lufias, Romancing SaGa, Bahamut Lagoon, Front Mission, Breath of Fire, EarthBound, Tales of Phantasia, Star Ocean II, Super Mario RPG, and of course I know the FFs and Chrono Trigger. Most of these I encountered during the wild wild net period of the console game scene.

But ALttP (and some of the more recent Zelda games) and sd3 stand out. Why? Link is a blank slate mute whereas the sd3 characters are all well characterized with their own stories in the game plot. sd3 goes all over its world to a plethora of friendly and unfriendly locations, while ALttP has essentially one friendly town in the entire game. ALttP is full of minigames. sd3 has tiered equipment. ALttP is an action-adventure puzzle game. sd3 is an action-jrpg. Zelda has block puzzles. sd3 has grinding and element spells. Zelda is single-player. sd3 could be played two-player, and has a three-member party. Many of the aforementioned games have some of these elements, but they didn’t appeal to me nearly as much.

Both games have nice music. Iconic, even. Angel’s Fear might not quite compare to the popularity of Zelda tracks, but it’s repeated and alluded to all over the sd3 soundtrack, cementing it as the central theme of the game. Most of the music is location-based, some belong to or has ties to characters (the Zelda theme we’ve heard ad nauseam was introduced in ALttP), keeping the flow of the game rather than breaking out a rocking battle track whenever a rabite appears and jumping forth and back between an overworld/dungeon and a battle scene. They don’t separate travel from combat the way using random encounters does. They don’t take control away from the player just because a minor enemy shows up.

Both games have a fairly standard snes jrpg look. It’s an unrealistic, cute-ish look that still allows the characters to appear capable in combat. And on that topic, the combat isn’t menu-driven (aside from inventory/spell screens) – it’s action. Yes, there’s some cooldowns between attacks in sd3 – so is there in fighting games like Street Fighter, don’t tell me there’s not action in SF games.

Both games have unobtrusive characterization. In Link’s case, it’s because he doesn’t get much characterization. He’s not very emotive in this game. The characters in sd3 are quite emotive, tho mostly in cutscenes. They were used well imo, not detractingly, not breaking up the game into grinding to the next scene, not a lot of superfluous sprite films. Once you’re through the character intro section and in the game proper, the characterization is kept out of the way of the action, only brought out when needed (or funny).

Both games have friendly npcs that explain the world and offer some services or hints. Interestingly, both games have fortune tellers. Both games had important npc characters, be they Sahasrahla or the king of Forcena, or whatever. They also have prominent bad guy characters, like Jagan and Agahnim (…ish).

Both games have magic and mythology, be this the Triforce, the descendants of the seven sages, and the ruins all over Hyrule; or the Mana Tree, the mana god-beasts, and the ruins all over whatever that world is called. A lot of the world storytelling is done in the world design rather than long cutscenes and monologues (intros don’t count). They have a Mana Goddess in sd3, and later Zelda games established the games’ three creator goddesses.

Both games exist in a medieval-esque era, with peripheral anachronisms. They both feature convenient transportation over long distances. They both let you backtrack (most of the time), whether to grind against easier enemies or to look for treasures and rupees. Both games have a varied world with fairly easily defined or distinguished locations – be they thematically winter-y, mountain-y, desert-y, swamp-y, ruin-y, or whatever.

Storywise, the world is in peril and ONLY YOU CAN SAVE IT. And there’s a legendary sword. And you’re a teenager. As much as I loathe the idea of teenagers being the saviors of a world, for some reason this doesn’t bother me at all in these games. Why not? probably because they’re not as annoying as more recent teenage heroes, and their characterization doesn’t get in the way of _my_ saving the world.

You know, this is all well and good, but the formula for a good game according to this is just:
– great music, with leitmotifs
– no separation of travel and combat, player retains control
– cute-ish look
– action gameplay
– unobtrusive characterization
– friendly npcs
– fortune tellers
– bad guy characters
– magic and mythology
– ruins
– storytelling in world design
– medieval stasis
– anachronisms
– quick transportation
– lets you backtrack whenever
– patchwork map
– the world is at stake
– legendary sword
– you’re a teenager

I think the big thing about it is the feeling of adventure. These games maintain it better than many others. Chrono Trigger does quite well, as does FF6 – but their gameplay isn’t as action-y. Even if CT has a more active battle system than the FFs, it still amounts to standing around, waiting to get hit. Tales and the FFs take you off the map when fighting (random encounters are stupid).

In other words, the ideal Zelda/sd3-like game would be something that instills and maintains a sense of adventure and wonder (as someone somewhere else phrased it). The title screen from ALttP, the intro missions and opening credits of sd3 – they instill adventure and wonder, and then move on to exploration of the world. Xenoblade didn’t do that for me, despite my brother’s insistence that it gets better later in the game.

So I guess I’m asking for more wonder, less tedium, in future games. Can I have that?

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Gamification

Posted by Ad on January 24, 2012

I just noticed there’s a big scale on the side of my post (when I’m logged in), saying I have 2 more posts until I reach a goal of 50 posts. Yaaaaaaaaaay. <- notice the full stop rather than an exclamation mark.

This is gamification, the practice of using game-inspired elements, such as short-term goals and little rewards for meeting them (such as acknowledging that you’ve reached an arbitrary number of posts on your music/rant blog). There’s a few places where it’s a bad idea, there’s a few places where it’s a good idea, but it’s mostly just annoying. The fact that it works says something about ppl.

I guess I’m now one post from that magic number. Hooray.

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Apple are Morons, RIAA worse

Posted by Ad on January 24, 2012

Lately, iTunes has been asking me to sign in a few seconds after starting the app. I get it, it’s a music store that I persist in using as the music library it used to be. But you’d expect the program to let me opt out of logging in every time. What’s more annoying is that it asks twice, with some delay in between. This even happens when the iTunes Store is disabled in the Parental options.

I had a similar problem with an old version of Photoshop Elements, where every so often after I’ve started it, it “couldn’t get info” from… somewhere. Didn’t matter if I was in the middle of tweaking an adjustment layer or effect, it just dropped everything to let me know that it couldn’t get info from wherever. I’m tolerating that because once it’s tried a few times, it stops. Besides, I don’t use PS for much anyway, and that old version will be retired along with my old laptoip once I get a new one.

But when Apple does this to me, it’s worse. It’s not a glitch, it’s something that someone decided was a good idea. I don’t like the idea of logging in to do stuff on my own computer. I don’t use the iTunes store, and I’ve only bought a handful or Apps via the App Store. While it never actually requires me to log in, asking – twice – is annoying.

Speaking of which, I’m not likely to purchase much of anything from either store anyway. I don’t have a credit card, and I can’t get either store to accept PayPal, which I use for my online purchases. I’ve heard there was an issue with the App Store charging as much as 4000USD for Lion through some glitch, but that’s no reason to pull support for it… especially as so many other parts of the internet use PayPal without any apparent problems. I mean, every game I’ve bought on Steam I’ve bought via PayPal. IIRC, all the music software I’ve bought over the net I’ve bought with PayPal.

And segueing from iTunes, the fallout from the rightfully rejected SOPA/PIPA has shown the true colors of the MPAA and the RIAA. The way I see it, we could do without those two. The less power they have, the more they’ll have to focus on good music, not just metrics and a bland copy of the next hot thing. Maybe they’ll support real artist instead of manufacturing their own?

The way I understand it, Spotify has to deal with whatever they demand for their music, and if Spotify doesn’t make enough dough to keep up, they lose their contracts with the big music companies. That might actually be a good thing. If I knew my money was going to the ppl that make the music I listen to, I’d happily pay for a subscription to Spotify. Currently, I wouldn’t.

If the big labels pull their stuff, Spotify could survive as a transparent, independent music platform, delivering great music, supporting the artists that make the music, promoting new and interesting indie artists. Last I used Spotify, it was a search engine for names of songs and artists, with a “featured” page with the “hottest” music. I don’t care. I’m apparently too hipster to like most modern pop music. What if I wanna find some new, cool, underappreciated artist, or discover the unknowns hits of some niche genre, or catch up on jazz history or video game releases?

The movie industry could do better too. While stuff like Attack the Block and other gold does appear from time to time, we’re still getting huge budgets on mediocre films. Sure, Inception was cool, but Avatar was predictable and gimmicky, like the entire, color-ruining, still not focus-altering 3d thing. Granted, you need money to make movies, so why not spend more money on movies and less on bribes?

While big, spectacular films, good or not, will always draw ppl in for the things that money can buy on screen, the record industry is in a terrible position where music is all over the place and the value of any given album or song has dropped dramatically.

While Apple tries to remedy this with a convenient means of buying music, and Spotify paying big money to use the big names on its service, I’m hoping someone’s gonna come up with a, big new music service that’s better than both of those. Something that doesn’t ask you repeatedly to log in to your own music, and that actually pays the artists.

In the mean time, I’ll use PayPal to buy my music from artists’ bandcamp pages or from cdbaby or something. As for my own music, I’m still on Logic Express 8, and while I’ve been meaning to upgrade, Apple doesn’t make it easy for me to hand them my money…

PS. I’m still displeased with wordpress’ new interface. I can see one or two paragraphs of text in the New Post text box, and the resize thing doesn’t work. Navigating through the site to get to the Add New Post page thatactually works is troublesome because the whole thing defaults to the wrong blog. I have two. This belongs on the music one. Dear webmasters, stop “fixing” things by b0rking them!

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