Anniversary; Video Games

Well I didn’t post anything yesterday. A quick check of my site stats shows that about three people actually know that. I assume that those are the same three people who are reading this now, so I apologize to the two of you, I am one of the three and don’t deserve an apology.

As I type this it is still April 13th, but by the time most of you will read it, it will be the 14th. Being that it is the 14th of April, that means that 139 years ago today President Lincoln was assassinated. 92 years ago today, the Titanic hit a glacier in the middle of the ocean and sank, killing some 1,500 people. Also, three years ago today I married my beautiful wife, happy anniversary!

Let that be a lesson to all of you to do a little research into the date that you choose to get married. The only saving grace about the day that we chose is that Lincoln didn’t die until a bit after 7a.m. on the fifteenth, and the Titanic didn’t actually go down until about 2a.m. on the fifteenth. All the more fitting that the fifteenth is also tax day. Still having the other things happen of the fourteenth just means that they will be on the news on our anniversary, so better just to not watch the news. Besides, we should be out having a romantic dinner, instead we both have to work, and vastly different hours, so we won’t even see each other much. Life sucks, let’s move on, shall we?

The reason that I didn’t write anything yesterday was because of a game that I bought. It is a year or so old, it is called “Schizm: Mysterious Journey”. It is another one of those Dream Catcher games. I enjoy to play them from time to time, they are trying really hard to copy the original Myst with every title that they release, and doing a pretty good job of it for the most part. You can pick up any one of their titles, except for the brand new ones, on their website for ten or fifteen bucks.

Anyway, I was saying that they try to rip off the original Myst and by that I mean that there is no character interaction, only a few scattered holographic clues. -This is why I assume that their games are so inexpensive, it is pretty obvious that they have simply recycled the same game engine for every one of their games. The user interface changes just a little bit with each one, but it is so close to identical that you know they didn’t actually have to pay anyone to go in and code a new engine.- The artwork in them is beautiful, well at least it was, they have been using the 640×480 display since their first release. They still use that resolution, despite the fact that almost no one has a computer that can display images properly in that resolution anymore. That means that what would/should be beautiful artwork is more like artwork that you can kind of count the pixels in on a monitor any larger than 13 inches.

Just for fun, I just shut down and plugged in the tiny little monitor that I have as a back up (which is right here because I was using it to try to troubleshoot problems I was having with the pc that I bought for my mom and have already discussed way too much to link back to it) and restarted. I loaded one of the saved games, just to look at the artwork on a smaller monitor, and as suspected it really was quite impressive. The animations still looked a little bit bad, like maybe they were rendered in 256 colors to save on disk space, the game has 5 cds and takes over three gigs of hard disk space -at maximum- for a game that will only take you a few hours to complete.

The familiarity of the Dream Catcher games is kind of the reason that I enjoy them, once in a while anyway. Here is every one of them ever made in less than a paragraph. Game starts, short intro with voice-over. Start in unfamiliar territory, must look at everything. There are strange symbols all over the place, you have to write them all down. Somewhere you will find something that shows how the number system works (usually in the form of a pictogram or a measuring device). There will be 15 or 20 puzzles that you must complete, never very difficult, but enough to make you think. Then, after playing it for four hours or so, you complete the game and throw away your notes, ’cause there is ZERO replay value. That is it, every game they have ever made.

I have left out all of the detail, of course, but the games remain the same. It is the formula that Myst used and the formula that every company from here to hell and back has ripped off. I mostly enjoy them for the puzzles. The way that I look at it is that you are basically watching a cgi movie from a first person vantage and have to occasionally solve a puzzle to make the movie keep going. The stories are never really that compelling, or maybe they are and you just don’t think so anymore after having played so many titles that you can’t remember which story line goes with which game.

There is one thing in this game that was a bit irritating though. You have two characters that are there, but who can not see each other or touch each other, but often have to be in the same place at the same time to make an action happen. The game expains this away by saying that each person on the planet is somehow living in a different dimension? but all still there. Yet, when you put something down with one character, the other one can pick it up. That just didn’t make much sense. Some of the actions required that one person hold down a lever, then you switch to the other person to switch another lever. Just weird stuff. Especially when you have to make them both go through 15 or 20 screens and a couple of animations to get to the same place once you know what they need to do.

The puzzles in this one weren’t all that good. I was able to do the whole thing without looking to a walkthrough, with the exception of having to look at one when I had made a stupid math mistake that left me one click away from the right naviagational coordinates in one of the flying machines. I always check the walkthroughs later, just in case I missed any easter eggs also.

Now to really get bitching about it. All of these games that are supposedly set on other worlds have all of this advanced technology that is basically made out of sticks and tree trunks. Yet, there are generally only a couple of houses in the places that you explore. Am I to believe that somehow this civilization continues to survive with a population of like ten people? How do they procreate? How did they make all of the devices in the first place? What is the source of power for the flying machines, what is the source of power for the ones that can go up and down the rails without engines? Why are some of the devices made out of tree trunks and the like when others are made of obvious metal and plastics? If they can make a lens (there is always a lens, trust me) out of glass, why can’t they make windows to put into their houses? If they alone know how to run all of these systems, why didn’t they use them to get away before whatever catastrophic event took place?

I suppose that all of the last paragraph was pretty much retorical, you play the game to play the game. If you start to analyze the game too much (hell, at all really) you are gonna find things that just don’t make a damn bit of sense. The games are pretty fun to play once in a while, when you are really bored and even watching reruns of Jerry Springer doesn’t sate the boredom.

• Now the real question. How is it possible that I can buy this brand new game, five cd’s worth of it, for 10 bucks (it is a year old) while all of the music companies are still charging more for a cd than for a cassette? In a failed business venture a couple of years ago, I found that you can make a cd complete with a jewel case and front and back cards for about fifty cents. Well, that wasn’t counting the ink in the printer so I will bump that up to say fifty-two cents. If I can do it myself for that price I would think that any major music company would be able to get a much better deal by buying hundreds of thousands of the items, as opposed to the hundreds that I bought. I really believe that, at this point, it is probably more expensive to make a cassette tape than a cd/dvd because so few people are actually buying that type of media now.

The whole point of being a music star is to make your money on ticket sales. If you can not generate enough ticket sales to make you wealthy then you are not a very good musician/group. Of course, the publishers of the music are the ones that make the money, and also the ones that set the price, and also the ones who are pissed off about people sharing files over the internet (with the exception of Lars Ulrich from Metallica, who mistakenly thought that since Metallica’s music has sucked for the last decade people were downloading it instead of paying for it. No. Lars. No one is listening to that shit.)

The grand humor of that is that bands that are struggling to make it really want their music to be shared over the internet, while the bands that made it, then lost it, are pissed off that they don’t seem to have the power they did back in the ’80s. I bet that if a band like “Quiet Riot” got a song downloaded over the internet enough that it got some requests on local radio stations, thus leading to actual air-play, and resulted in a tour with their name back in the lights, “Quiet Riot” would endorse whatever file-swapping software had made that all possible. I can’t speak for “Quiet Riot” though, and I know from first-hand experience that their singer is just a total asshole who still thinks it is 1983 and he owns the world. (side note, I had no idea that Randy Rhoads was ever in that band, thank your stars that he did a couple of albums with OZZY later or his memory would be just as dead as he is.)

I did a bit of Roadie work for the now defunct band EisenBlakk (Roadie work being that Dwight let me go to the shows for free, even drove me there, and in exchange I just helped him unload all of the band’s equipment; a pretty good trade off). His band was totally cool, as were the guys in the band ‘Dirty Rhythm’, whom I met at a venue in Eugene, OR. at an Eisenblakk show.

Shortly after that brief arrangement, I had the opportunity to meet the guys from “Quiet Riot” in about 1991, bunch of assholes. On the other side of the equation, I also got to meet the guys in “Blue Oyster Cult” who were jovial, and just happy that they were still able to make a living by playing music.

This one went a bit weird, that is all for today.

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