Rozovian’s Music Log

www.ocremix.org/artist/4795/

Archive for February, 2012

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.

Posted in game design, video game industry | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

…on _my_ internet!?

Posted by Ad on February 22, 2012

I’ve been keeping an eye on Techdirt and a few other internet-centric news sources for a while now, ever since the whole SOPA/PIPA thing made the rounds a few months ago. Techdirt was recently blocked in Germany as it was deemed harmful to minors. It’s a site that discusses the internet and related stuff. Who would find that harmful to minors, if not an oppressive regime bordering on an example of Godwin’s Law just a few sentences into this post.

But no, fortunately, it seems it’s a machine that made this mistake, flagging a discussion of content on the internet, which includes pornography, as actual pornography. While it’s a good thing we’re not talking about outright suppression of dissent, we are talking about giving machines a bit too much power. Imagine if a global censorship machine decided an entire country was harmful to minors, and blocked the whole thing from the wider internet community.

Imagine if that country was the USA, with its media giants. The thought amuses me. Seriously, why doesn’t the EU just step up and tell the USA to clean its own figurative nose before sticking its fingers in other nations’s noses. Why doesn’t the EU say that it’ll block all media business with the USA until they’ve sorted out their corrupt government.

Okay, hard words. Really, tho, I think the US government, as a whole, is either inept or corrupt. During the SOPA/PIPA talks in US Congress and Senate, it became apparent that lawmakers are not denizens of the internet and have little to no understanding of how it works. The Daily Show hilariously and wonderfully pointed out that during the hearings, the representatives admitted to not being “nerds” and suggested “nerds” would be brought in. Stewart suggested they use the term “experts”, since they would be brought in for their expertise.

In lack of a clip of that, here’s one from The Alyona Show. Also amusing.

Either inept, or corrupt. Possibly both, given how easily copyright owners were given the keys to the bulldozer while the internet was represented by a handcuffed dude on a plastic tricycle. This changed when Wikipedia and numerous other sites went dark one January day, bringing attention to all of this.

Since then, I’ve learned that lawyers are trolls, lawmakers are tech-illiterate and gullible (or possibly play dumb while being paid by lobbyists), and media giants are trying to take over the world. It’s like a game of Illuminati!, only instead of having the power to control, neutralize, or destroy groups that threaten my Power Structure, I can at most raise the issue in my corner of the web. No MegaBucks to spend, no Transferable Power to offer anyone on my side, no alignment advantage… (yes, I’m using terms from a game)

It doesn’t help that China and Russia are making a play for control of the Internet as well. I don’t like the look of things.

TL;DR: Machines are stupid and should not run the internet. Old people are tech-illiterate and should not run the internet. Media giants are not a democracy and should not run the internet. I’ll leave you with this quote (by me, cuz I thought I wrote something good) on the difference between the lawmaker generation and the internet generation:

“I’d say it’s more a case of (the internet) being a mere communication and information tool for the older generation. Not in the sense that they use it more than we do for those purposes. It’s just that to them, it’s a telegraph and a library rolled into one, and nothing more.

To us, it’s a free theatre, and we can be both on stage and in the audience. To us, it’s a town square, with market booths for everyone with something to sell. To us, it’s watching tv and playing outdoors at the same time. To us, it’s a club where you can meet strangers and a community where you meet friends. To us, it’s a new frontier to explore, right in our own back yard. To us, it’s a world. To them, it’s a means they could do without.”

(wow, this blog used to be about music and games, and the overlap between the two.)

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Raising Gamers

Posted by Ad on February 22, 2012

Deseret News had two articles recently about boys and the problems with the way boys are raised in the US, and through osmosis of American ideals via American media throughout the western world.

Article 1, primarily concerning the importance of fathers. Article 2, primarily about sex and violence.

I took an issue with the second article. There’s a lot I agree with, but there’s one thing that the article seems to ignore: the impact of video games on society overall. As video games have become mainstream entertainment, violent crime has gone down significantly. Instead of forming gangs, skating around and spraying stylized text on walls, kids today sit at home, engaged in historical wars, political commentary on modern wars, and the imagined future… of warfare. Among other games, of course.

There’s a huge resource for tangential learning here, tho it must be said that not every boy will be playing the same games, to the same extent, or with the same level of interest. For that matter, games are rated depending on the age they’re deemed inappropriate for. Trying to teach WWII by use of violent video games may be a winning strategy for teenage boys, but would be foolish to attempt on younger students. But the points I’m making is that much like there are documentaries on a wide range of topics, there are games on a wide range of topics.

There’s a game called Osmos that I’ve played. It involves Newton’s Laws of Motion in gameplay modes resembling petri dishes and 2d representations of the solar system. It does all this without never really telling the player the science involved in the gameplay, instead it lets the player experience it himself.

There’s Civilization, a game my cousins introduced me to during the time of the year when soccer and super soaker wars weren’t feasible. Snapshot details of the development of technology and science, the wonders of the world, a simple version of world politics… It’s a game where you run your own empire from the dawn of civilization to 2050 or so.

These cousins also introduced me to problem-solving games by letting me play Monkey Island, a old point-and-click adventure game with one of the most humorous writing in gaming so far. They also introduced me to racing games. We also built castles out of legos and sent hundreds of small plastic men to their calculated deaths. We also ran around in small teams, armed with super soakers, seeking to “kill” the other team.

The Left 4 Dead games, favorites of mine, feature a similar cooperative gameplay as those wars of water. There’s just more things to shoot, more often, and rather than merely seeking to kill the other team, one of the teams seeks to get through what essentially amounts to an obstacle course… while trying to not die. These games are rated 18 and above, so I’d like to see a take on the same cooperative gameplay that the L4D games _requires_ against moderate opposition, in games that younger gamers could play.

Games are a great tool for learning, it’s just a question of finding the right games with the right lessons, without taking the fun out of it. Men want challenges, and I’m sure boys do too. For me and my friends, it’s a challenge to get through a game of L4D at the highest difficulty, a challenge that requires strategy, planning and teamwork. How can’t something similar already have been devised for kids in school? Give the boys a challenge that requires research, planning, trial-and-error, teamwork, building, and a spectacular show. Yes, turn them into Mythbusters.

Games are also competitive. Whether this is SimCity 2000 where you can open a window seeing the size of neighboring cities and seek to surpass them, Left 4 Dead where failure to cooperate can lead to a swift death at the hands of grotesquely deformed formerly human monsters, or board games where learning how the game works is the key to winning; games are competitive. You can even play single-player games competitively, just play against your own high score. Perhaps the failure to engage boys in school is that school isn’t a challenge. Make it a challenge. Give them high scores, let them seek to surpass their own high scores and that of others. Even if they end up with the lowest score in the class, they’ll likely be more engaged than by textbooks. Just make sure to give them diverse and inter-discipline challenges, including such that the less academically inclined can excel in.

My take on the role of games in society and education is that games offer a harmless catharsis, the right games can provide great training for life (eg in co-op games), and that games encourage competition. There are games children should not play, there are games that shouldn’t be played without parental supervision, and there are games that are safe for all game-capable ages.

Of course, not all boys will be engaged by games. Not all children are the same. No two persons are the same. But with games being more and more of a mainstream thing, and with gamification being used to engage people in pretty much everything, kids need to be engaged in learning, both the school stuff and the life stuff. Games are a great tool for this.

Long post. I blame video game writing. It’s often needlessly long (I’m looking at you, stupid Zelda owl).

Posted in education, me, video games | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why I Buy Movies

Posted by Ad on February 4, 2012

In light of recent multilateral agreements/conspiracies, I thought I’d comment on my media purchasing habits. Idunno, maybe it’ll shed some light on how someone on internet is thinking, for the luddites with all the lobbying money – which quite frankly could be better spent, as could the litigation budget.

I like movies. I like quality effects, I like quality storytelling, I like quality stuff. I wish there was more good movies out there, rather than committees-designed mainstream hooks. Just compare Attack the Block and Transformers. Guess which one I prefer. A hint: I like it despite my general aversion to almost every form of British English.

But when I walk through the movie store – and I still prefer to buy movies that way – what I want isn’t just the movie. The movie I can find on the net if I want to, and I’d have a way better experience of it if I could see it in the movie theatre. In 2d. So what I’m looking for in the store are movies that I’ve heard good things about and want to see, but haven’t bothered to go looking for them; they’re movies I’ve seen and want to see again; they’re movies I think need my support; and they’re movies I can learn from.

I hate coming across DVDs – yes I still use DVDs – with no special features. No commentaries, no making-of, no cast and crew interviews. The film itself I can experience just fine in the theatre, and I’m fine with doing that just once (unless it’s actually a good movie).

I think this could be the future of commercial media. You can get the basic version for free, but if you want an HD version, bonus materials, associated materials, codes for streaming services – you buy the thing. The film’s extended cut, score and making-of, the game’s music and art, karaoke and DJ versions of every song on the album…

And while we’re at it, it’d be nice to get a data track to go along with any film or tv show, one that maps out the overall levels. Having a TV show play loud sounds ridiculous during the silent parts, and trying to hear the soft parts of a movie without turning up the entire film isn’t convenient. Volume automation, on or off.

I also want a helicopter.

Posted in me, television/movies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »