Strange Trend

Multiplayer games seem to be an escalating form of competition, and fighting games can be some of the most intense multiplayer games, seeing as it's direct 1 on 1 conflict. Also, for the most part, the companies that are known as fighting game companies have revamped their games to an incredible degree, making them minimalist affairs in the face of their predecessors. That return to ease of use is what's causing the fighting game resurgence.


On the other hand, there's UFC Undisputed (currently my GotY) which is not only competative and has the air of sports, but it has a violence to it that is captured very well by how the game works. It's an excellent recreation of UFC in a video game, even if it is a little obtuse control-wise.

At the same time, I cannot help but feel that the return of markets for these older genres (fighting games, adventure games) has a lot to do with people getting burned out over usual console fare; the endless stream of racing, shooting, and sports games. Eventually, there has to be something else to do. So it's good that fighting games are back to fill that hole.
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An ICO review that was written for somewhere else.

(Backstory: At one point this year, I was going to start a website. A few of you knew, a few of you were asked to work on it, et cetera. Well, that collapsed. This was the first review that was going to go up on the website.)


Life is full and wonderful. There are things of all kinds; materials, distractions, ideas, people, animals, energy, light, shadows, and tools. Of course, the development of tools is a hallmark of the development of the bizarre happening that is humanity. It’s easy to take the amazing variety of everything for granted. To consider the scope of all that currently exists would probably take up a large amount of time, likely taken from other, comforting tasks. I’ve personally lost myself in the things that surround me many times, taking almost bizarre fascination in the number of objects that currently occupy my own room. Hours spent inspecting doorknobs, wheels, pencil lead, and anything else that I see as being interesting on that day.

It would be strange to say, on my first review for a website, that I used to take video games for granted. They were pastimes, hobbies, and many other things, but they had never really taken the time to show me they could be anything else. Although I invested time in the pursuit of the independent scene, they either served as good ideas, or good distractions. In all this time of searching, I never really had found a game that would take me into itself as books did in my youth, and music in my adolescence. It seemed almost impossible for the medium to grab me by the throat and pull me along instead of just gently pushing me where it intended me to go.

In November of 2008, I jokingly suggested to Jeremy that we should do the game “Shadow of the Colossus” in review form for our not-very-old podcast, the Broken Lampcast. Our previous experiences with it were less than ideal. He was frustrated by mechanics, and I by the barrenness of the terrain, even if it was supposed to prove a point. The point it was trying to prove didn’t prevent me from feeling as if I was wasting my time traversing between admittedly exhilarating gameplay.
I got it stuck in my head that, maybe, possibly, in order to understand “Shadow of the Colossus”, which is widely seen as the better game from Team ICO, I should play the prior, inferior title they made. Even my writing heroes at Action Button Dot Net have made this claim, including “Shadow of the Colossus” as their game from the Team ICO ‘series.’ My expectations were low, and I was ready to just play another video game.

It wasn’t.

It refused to be.

I’m not about to claim that ICO is transcendent of video games, because I do not believe the days of transcendent video games have yet arrived while they remain trapped in this loop of sequels, big budgets, and ‘awesome’ mindedness. But, whatever game ends up being the one to transcend what being a video game means, it will have taken a majority of its cues from ICO. Everything that is video game-like in ICO doesn’t come off as such. In fact, it takes extraordinary efforts to not remind you it is a video game.

I was trying to get perspective and I ended up with revelation. The more I played, the more I wanted to play. The more I saw, the more I wanted to see. Every single moment of this game consumed me, and at points left me wistful.

For the people who have never seen this game, the “goal” of the game is to escape this massive, gorgeously unsettling castle, and helping the single other person you’ve found in this desolate structure also make it out alive. The player controls a young boy who acts entirely how you play, and the girl is how storybooks make damsels in distress out to be.
The difference is both of these characters are genuinely pitiable. The boy is taken to this castle, left to be devoured because of circumstances he had no control over. It is by sheer luck that he is able to escape his tomb, and he is left to himself, and to his own devices, in this enormous maze, this building that was never meant to be something to escape from. The girl looks thin and wispy likely because she is malnourished and unfit; when the boy finds her, she is trapped inside of a cage. There’s no way for anyone to know just how long she has spent inside this chamber, or why she was there- at least, not at the beginning of the game.

The interaction between the two is entirely how the player chooses to make it. I felt a twinge of guilt every single time I ran too fast and ended up pulling her along as she ran as fast as she could. Every time I had to leave her alone, I felt dread about leaving her out of my sight, over not being able to make it back in time in case something happened. There were even points when, urging her along, I spoke to her; softly, but urgently. This didn’t seem weird to me until Jeremy pointed it out as such. And in that brief moment, I was drawn out of what spell ICO had cast.

Until that one moment, I was in that world. I was holding a sword I had found, that I had gone to great efforts to retrieve. Slowly but surely, the girl and I had worked towards escape, through obstacle after obstacle. When the nature of her imprisonment was revealed, I was left indignant and determined, but I knew I didn’t have a plan. She probably knew too. So, instead of discussing, we merely went looking for another way out.

Then I was back on the couch. I was gripping the controller, looking over at the world I was actually in, and the people in it. For a moment, my mind rejected it, pulling me back towards the screen. But instead, I took a break to take it all in. I still have to stop and take it all in, even months since I had last played. It has colored every single other experience I’ve had with video games, and it’s completely changed what I know video games to be. It renewed my love in video games, and my utter fascination with what they can be and what they are becoming.
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21st Birthday Playlist

Track#: "Song", band, album
#1: "Stardust Fanfare," Katamari Damacy Soundtrack
#2: "Race for the Prize," The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin
#3: "He Doesn't Know Why," Fleet Foxes, self titled
#4: "Van Helsing Boombox," Man Man, Six Demon Bag
#5: "Welfare Bread," King Khan & The Shrines
#6: "Smiley Faces," Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
#7: "Time To Get Away," LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
#8: "Humor Me," Pere Ubu, The Modern Dance
#9: "The Book I Read," Talking Heads, The Name of This Band is Talking Heads
#10: "Orange County Lumber Truck," Frank Zappa, Weasels Ripped My Flesh
#11: "Great Day Today," Madvillain, Madvillainy
#12: "Duchess & The Proverbial Mindspread," Primus, The Brown Album
#13: "Let's Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack," Liars, Drum's Not Dead
#14: "Arcarsenal," At The Drive-In, Relationship of Command
#15: "Reckoner," Radiohead, Live bootleg from Milano, Italy
#16: "Run To Your Grave," The Mae Shi, HLLLYH
#17: "Oh No," Gogol Bordello, Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike
#18: "Academy Fight Song," Mission of Burma, Signals, Calls & Marches
#19: "Nighttime Anytime (It's Alright)," The Constantines, Shine A Light
#20: "Breadcrumb Trail," Slint, Spiderland
#21: "Two Sisters," Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
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Why isn't music dangerous any more?

I've heard all these great stories about music and it's effects on people, of the urgency to make music, and the people who got attached to that music. The visceral, spiritual power that music had. I've listened to people like Henry Rollins telling stories about how the first time he saw The Ramones, how it changed the entire direction of his life, and how he and his friend Ian MacKaye, were in bands later that year. I've gotten a chance, thanks to the new existence of an External Intellect in Wikipedia- as if it intellect was a hard drive to begin with- to research all these groups and albums and all this music from a bygone era.

And now there are people that make music because they like making sounds and not because it's all they have left. Happy people who let on that they're into having fun and getting out in the world, "living life to the fullest." The kids who thought they were the lowest of the low because they weren't popular in high school got instruments, and vowed revenge through music, through something that promised some kind of fame and legacy past being able to run fast or catch a ball. Then they'll see! They'll all see!

Don't get me wrong, there are some benefits to music not sounding dangerous. There's room for tonal expansion and explorations; now more than ever, there are more musicians plying their craft with their own unique aesthetics and sounds, and those bands are making it. Kanye West can make Graduation and still be a superstar. Radiohead released Kid A and grew their fan base at the same time. And progressive music has swollen to a degree that musical talent can actually pay for itself instead of needing the ability to play a political game.

But I want it all to burn. Most of this great music that's enriched my life and informed me, and expanded? I would trade it for more music that felt dangerous, that felt like it was something other than sounds that I thought made me happy. I don't want to hear about some crazy other world where hypersexualized warrior kings slaughter their foes, be it set in fantasy or on the streets.

So, here's my conclusion; this next decade is going to have the sound the world needs. Because we're inducing conditions that are going to drive desperation out into the open, because otherwise they would choke on it. Every big shift in music from the last century was born from terrible despair and desperation, and boy, there's an atmosphere of it. There are fields of discontent being sewn; the Iranian students, the internet generation in China, the return of the Iron Curtain, the destruction of Iraq, and many more situations. The political polarization of the USA doesn't even place.

The Blues needs no explanation, nor does Jazz; this wasn't music made by happy people, people who are content with life and live comfortable, people who have another way out. Soul music branches from the tradition of blistering hymnals and singing established from the days of slaves; music to make the work easier. Chuck Berry travels to gigs by car, and only takes his guitar and the clothes he wears; that didn't used to be by choice. The hippies didn't really have anywhere else to go and no one would accept how they saw the world, so they made music. The most recent example also needs no introduction; rap. 

People were raised in despair, smartened up too soon, and left to be who they were; unlucky. Some people handle that anger and disappointment differently; those who have hit rock bottom and made it back use a variety of things, but the most common seem to be family and creativity.
 I don't know what this necessary movement is going to sound like; I think it's too late for any of us to know what it'll be (and besides, if anyone really knew, they'd be making it instead of being on the internet screaming at no one) before it's already here. But it's not going to come from times of plenty.

I don't have a big finish for this. I was going to say something about Joy Division, but I lost it.

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60 Games I Like In No Order

  1. Sonic The Hedgehog 3

  2. King of Fighters 2003

  3. Street Fighter 2

  4. Gunstar Heroes

  5. Dynamite Headdy

  6. General Chaos

  7. Super Metroid

  8. Super Castlevania IV

  9. Phantasy Star IV

  10. Half-Life 2

  11. Portal

  12. Cave Story

  13. ICO

  14. Mark of Kri

  15. Time Crisis 2

  16. Pac Man: Championship Edition

  17. Audiosurf

  18. Rock Band

  19. Call of Duty 4

  20. Quake 2

  21. Braid

  22. Streets of Rage 2

  23. Final Fire Pro Wrestling

  24. WWF Wrestlefest

  25. NBA Jam

  26. NFL Blitz 2000

  27. Daytona USA

  28. Burnout Paradise

  29. Virtual Pro Wrestling 2

  30. Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution

  31. Grand Theft Auto 4

  32. Mega Man 9

  33. Alien Hominid

  34. Katamari Damacy

  35. Dawn of War: Dark Crusade

  36. Gears of War 2

  37. Soulcalibur

  38. Super Mario World

  39. Max Payne

  40. Chronicles of Riddick

  41. Peggle

  42. Passage

  43. Starsiege: Tribes

  44. Mutant League Football

  45. SSX Tricky

  46. Astro Boy: Omega Factor

  47. Everyday Shooter

  48. Mother 3

  49. The Secret of Monkey Island

  50. Team Fortress 2

  51. Guardian Heroes

  52. Garou: Mark of the Wolves

  53. Final Fantasy XII

  54. Killer7

  55. Tetris

  56. Mars Matrix

  57. Strider

  58. Forgotten Worlds

  59. Metal Slug

  60. Kuru Kuru Kururin


    This is going to be thinned out to 30 in order soon. Or maybe 25. I dunno.

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Broken Lampcast Feedback Drive

I am tired of trying to figure out what you guys want without talking to you, or figuring out what happens from errant bits of conversation I overhear. TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK, and be as frank as possible!

For those needing a link to the podcast, you can try on iTunes, or braving our terrible site here.

What is your overall impression of the show?

What parts of the show do you enjoy? Would you like to hear more stuff like this?

What complaints do you have about the show?

Do you prefer the game reviewing segments, or the more conceptual/overarching segments (see: the review of Civ 4 Vs. The discussion of setting goals)

Aside from a lack of content, how did our first show with a guest work out? What’s your impression on having guests on the show?

Do you think we should try to expand more? How?

What is one thing you, personally, would like to see changed about the show? (there's a website fix coming)

What is one thing you, personally, would like to hear on the show?

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Moving AND Shaking.

So, to make up for being a big pot of fail for teh whole album endeavor, I've been productive today!

-I got "House of Leaves" by Mark Z Danielewski and I'm really enjoying it. It's a novel about... well, it's odd.
-I also posted the rules for the Street Fighter 4 Tournament I've been loudly planning in the IRC for a month now. Go and check it out, and maybe sign up! You've got like two weeks!
-I did a week's worth of homework this morning!
-I'm editing the latest episode of the Broken Lampcast as we speak, and considering writing an "Introduction to the Broken Lampcast" post to put on the forums and try to spread the good word again.

Yeah. Today rules.
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Day FAIL -- CoR: EfNHAA

I give up.

I spent yesterday songwriting, but my schedule has gotten exponentially busier in the coming week. Getting sick derailed this entire thing from the start. There's no way I can record, keep up with my school, and honor my social obligations. It's utterly impossible.

I'm really fucking pissed at myself for getting sick- and I am still sick, just less so- as I work very hard to avoid getting sick from people around me. I just messed up this time. I medicated for the wrong thing at first, and by then it was too late.

As per the terms of my challenge, Rowr now has the right to change my statuses (Here, AIM, Facebook), avatars (same three plus other message boards), and signatures to respect my epic failure in my own task. I don't know how long it'll last, so I guess we'll talk about it. Stay tuned!

Sorry,
~MST
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Day 4 -- Chronicles of Recording: Escape from Not Having An Album

DAY 4

Okay so it’s not really the fourth day. I took days off to recover. Of course, what this has now resulted in is I have to work WAY harder, since I’m meeting a friend on Saturday/Sunday, going to class Monday and Wednesday, and seeing Brian Wilson in concert on Thursday. The deadline is Friday. This will be rough.

I’m currently considering replacing “Of Empathy As A Male Trait.” It’s overtly bitter and hostile, and, I don’t have a song written with it. I do have one in the can ready to go, but I’m still considering it’s potential as a replacement, at least thematically. In all honesty, all I have of “Of Empathy” is the chorus. I’m going to try repurposing it during my free time today, but I’m skeptical as to how that’ll go.

Still no lung capacity, so still no singing.

Still working on Speak Lightly. Very unhappy about how long this is taking. Bassline is secure, drone is as well. One of the more interesting things I worked on while I was sick was trying to replicate the drone part in the Korg DS-10, in case this ever spirals out of control to the point where I need to perform it with other people.

The bridge came to me while I was writing this, so I should have a complete song by now. We’ll go find out.

UPDATE 2

Man, today is busy. I have to clean my house, edit my podcast, and get this recording done. If I have any hope of staying ahead of the stuff, I have to get Speak Lightly 90% done (still can’t sing because I can’t hold a note thanks to the final stages of this disease) and same for Right Hand Drive, but Right Hand Drive is going to be super easy.

For inspiration, I’m listening to a lot of straight forward stuff recently. I’ve discovered Be Your Own Pet, and how massively awesome they are, and it’s given me confidence in my own song structure. They write their songs similarly, punchy and bridge proofed. Of course, there’s a huge difference in tone: I have an album about nightmares to work on, and they have one about fun and being insane. I’m also still buried in my post punk fetishism, with stuff like Pop Group (I am in love with their rhythm section), Joy Division, Black Flag, and Velvet Underground (I heard “VU&N” for the first time recently). I maybe should consider more electronic stuff, since my album has a large electronic component, or playing guitars like synths.

That’s the other thing. The recording process is doing very strange things to the way I play. It’s come to my attention that it’s very… mechanical, very unfeeling, in contrast to the emotions I have for the music itself. It does feel often like I could just set up an arpeggiator and accomplish the same things, but I enjoy the feel of a guitar too much. My bass style is a little better, but right now, for ease of use, I’m just matching roots of chords since more of my songwriting effort is invested in the guitar lines. Maybe if I had more time, I would write out detailed basslines.

I’ve lost patience with Speak Lightly for now, since I’m still having trouble with what I want to do for the chorus, so I’m just going to move on to Right Hand Drive and slam that out.

UPDATE 3

Right Hand Drive is almost done, minus vocals. It is maybe a minute long. It took about an hour for the guitar take, and will probably take that long for the bass take. Drums are so simple that I imagine it wont take long at all.

Man, I love punk rock.

UPDATE 4

Right Hand Drive is done. 1:20. Probably the fastest/most rock and roll song on the album.

It was formed after watching a documentary about conspiracy theories, called Zeitgeist. I was incensed by the segment of the documentary on the Federal Reserve, and it was bouncing in my head all the while. The day after, on the walk home from class, I saw a car at a stoplight that looked like no one was inside it but the passenger. And the imagery in the song suddenly hit me. I went home, wrote it, and let it sit until I stumbled upon the chords on accident. Everything came together fascinatingly quickly.

UPDATE 5

After a large room cleaning break which netted moderate progress, and a bit of time reading “Venus in Furs”, I went back to my musical tasks for quite a while. I had a lot of thinking to do and I have made an important decision.

 I feel that “Of Empathy As A Male Trait” is the weakest song on the album, thematically and tonally, and there are quite a few songs like it on the album in its current state. So, I’m announcing that I’m replacing it on the track list.

The song replacing it is currently untitled, and incomplete, but it will be more accessible and active, as far as rhythm is concerned. The production will be on track regardless of this change. It’s closer to stability and completion than Of Empathy ever was.

Currently, my plans for songwriting are to knock out easy parts of all the songs within the next three days, and spend the last five days singing. I came to the decision that because my songs do not have percussion as part of the songwriting, they will not have percussion as part of the whole. After all, a guitar is a percussion instrument with tones. Vocal melodies, guitar harmonies. Only the first and last tracks, and “Right Hand Drive” will have obvious, driving percussion. 

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Day 3 -- Chronicles of Recording: Escape from Not Having An Album

START OF DAY 3

I’ve been up for about an hour, thinking about yesterday. As I went back to work, I made some discoveries about what I wanted to do with the piece “Speak Lightly.” My attempts at percussion initially failed, so I’m trying another approach. What caused this was listening to the work in progress when it was halfway done, and not really liking what I had at the moment. The amount of instruments in the song is slowly increasing, up to three including percussion. I found something I want to use in place of a bass even if I intend to make it essentially do the same thing with effects. But that’s trade secrets right there.

So here’s what’s left for “Speak Lightly:” Drums, bassline, a retake on the melodic component to lower it, a small bridge that I’m not entirely sure what to do with (current idea stands at heavy drumming, mild feedback being distorted, and an expansion on the melody (I’m rough enough with melody that this is a big deal)), and singing. I’m going to have to put singing off as I have some kind of sore throat/cough thing and I don’t want to strain my voice. So right now, the goal will be to get as many instrumental tracks done as possible and save the singing for the last half of this process.

After that, it’s “Right Hand Drive”, which will be easy as hell. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

CHECK UP PART 2

My… whatever this is has gotten worse basically immediately. I’m yet to get anything done but spitting up big plugs of phlegm into my toilet. How lovely that I get sick at this time of the year. This is gonna be a hell of a year, between the music I have (I do have other stuff I could record. The only reason I am recording this selection of songs is because they have been made more… immediate.

I got into an argument about advertising while waiting for my chest to stop feeling like it’s on fire, so, instead of reiterate my points, I’m just going to link this: http://braid-game.com/news/?p=337

I started shopping for an Octaver pedal to try to turn one of my guitars into a bass that has actual, solid chords. $30, though. Which I don’t have.

Fuck this fucking chest thing. It makes it impossible to work.

CHECK UP PART 3

So this is an allergy thing. It’s starting to drive me crazy. Should I start yelling “you will kill me if you put cheese on my food” at the Mexicans? Is that it? Is that the solution? Asking doesn’t work.

I got a tiny amount of work done. I locked everything into a click track, and started equalizing and mixing the instruments I have. I still can’t think/stop coughing long enough to get anything recorded. Hard to keep rhythm when you’re going “HUAARGH” for minutes on end. Medication seems to be failing me today.

If I try it again, I’ll just try to flesh out the two minutes I have. Retakes and basslines and such.

Right now, I'm gonna lay down and be sick.

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