Category Archives: article

Gaming in a Bubble

It doesn’t look so bad, at first. Gamers start with structures and routines and improve our mental reflexes, test our psychological boundaries and have varying regard for the morality of life. Yes, the absolute morality of family and integrity upon which world culture was founded. Now that we understand that, there is a very real problem arising in gaming that is far more severe than an economic bubble.

Let’s not get lost in who is right, because where raising children is concerned, shaking off responsibility for them is never correct. The point here is to focus on the impact of confirmation culture in a more pervasive yet subtle medium. In no other media can you be confronted with a moral choice and then be enabled to perform an action that can form your response.

Even the capacity to affect a moral choice is determined by the game developer: Some games present choices as having no consequence. Even rooting through a stranger’s home for goodies has established itself as a trope in adventure role playing. Since, developers have taken the issue more seriously and introduced mechanics of voluntary assistance from Non-Player Characters in such games.

Invariably it is up to the developer to decide how they will portray the impact of the player’s actions in their reality. However, there is something deeper bubbling under the surface of all the achievements and accomplishments that gaming has to offer: Futility. What is the ultimate value of saving the world, even if you can express how much fun you had with the others who played the same title?

As with all media, the accepted fact that there is little ROI (Return On Investment) to be had in most games, as we want more than we can have, and appreciate what we acquire even less. Games are so easily had now that there is almost no satisfaction, so we must look to other things. Can we share the experience? Will YouTube, Twitch or Patreon make it possible for us to attain some buy klonopin measure of celebrity to passify our discomfort?

Therein lies the quandry. Having obtained an accomplishment, we want to put it to use. In that way, gaming is limited. Unless the skill we acquire translates to practical application, then we are bereft of purpose. What’s more is some of these activities only reinforce behavior that in some cases is actually criminal.

Understand that all game genres have their extremes, but do we play fast and loose with the acceptability of these things? To justify them, we often do. Violence in games is the most obvious example, but “cultural differences” that extend to the treatment of both sexes can quickly become questionable. The sexualization of children and victimization of others is never right. What is the extent of our awareness and involvement?

Some of the most powerful examples are “hidden” behind levels of difficulty and time requirements so that the general public is unaware of them. Mortal Kombat is a sensational of gore satisfaction, and does not carry with it the emotional investment of games like Bioshock, The Walking Dead and others. Visual novels, in particular, invest the player emotionally as a core mechanic by simulating dates and – in some cases, debasing – sexual encounters.

Harmless fun, to wit? Mass Effect’s romance options were seen at first as mind blowing, but are now looked back on as awkward and cringe worthy. Why carry on with someone who will never do more than follow a script? Is that not fit cause for jealously? If not, why not? Don’t you deserve every bit of the devotion you entered the relationship to share?

We’re playing in a dangerous bubble, friends, and is there not enough of an example of where that train will end up in the so called leader, who shall not be named? I know I’ve asked more questions than provided answers in this post, but I intend to follow this path to it’s logical conclusion. Let’s start with being honest about the things we participate in.

To Be Continued.

Comments Off on Gaming in a Bubble

Filed under article, gaming, my view, opinion

Chrono Trigger – The Underdog

This article was originally featured at HonestGamers.com

Where I Began
I have a vague recollection of the first time I picked up a Super Nintendo Entertainment System controller that vaulted me into Chrono’s distinctive reality. Memory can be vague, and I could imagine that it was in the company of a friend, or with a “Rental” sticker on the cartridge; perhaps it was the time I relived the adventure in retelling to another Role Playing Game fan who had yet to discover the ground breaking, time travelling tale.

That is perhaps part of the inspiration for Chrono Trigger, I could easily ascribe such, logically. However, my experience with the game was probably not much different than yours. I ran around, stole lunches, drank competitively, beat up a robot; checked on the girl I’d knock over first and definitely did not wait around for her to decide what candy she wanted.

Then I was judged summarily guilty as a subversive terrorist against the Kingdom and locked up in a tower. What a morning! To suggest I wasn’t have a great time would be a mistake, even though I learned, much to my chagrin, that the game was taking notes about my choices. That there were tangible consequences to my actions was a lesson I did not forget.

I didn’t care for a second that it was genius world building, mechanics-in-story seamlessly interwoven. This is a game that defined how time travel mechanics, world building and character design needed to work. No one aspect of its design received less attention than any other, and this is apparent even in detailed analysis.

Chrono Trigger is a masterwork of pixel art, eight channel orchestral character themes, strategic turn based combat and some of the most memorable characters you’re ever likely to meet. With character designs by Akira Toriyama, music by Yasanori Mitsuda and Nobou Uematsu, this is no doubt the console’s most ambitious title. Many of RPG gamings most familiar tropes got their start here, even if it did not originate them.

A Fantasy of Power
Chrono Trigger’s defining quality is its ability to allow you to become invested in your choices. Even if you don’t care, personally, for Marle, the rudderless princess you knock over, concern for her life and your impact upon it places you squarely in the middle of events. Your personal involvement with each of the characters not only dictates how much work you put into them, it also determines the outcome of the game.

To quote Nick Fury, “Ever been in a war, Councilman? Did you feel an over-abundance of control?” Each choice you make has an ever outward scaling knock-on effect that draws you to an apocalyptic conclusion seemingly beyond your control. You can escape death, rescue the princess, thwart the tyrant and even befriend the monster, but can you prevent the destruction of all humanity? Perhaps the ultimate answer we seek is addressed by Chrono Trigger: We can decide the outcome of the future.

Grandmastery
The heads of the creative team behind Trigger are considered grandmasters of their respective art. Their music, character design, pixel art and world design have inspired countless people to try their own hand at it. I submit there is no greater achievement than that. Let us not forget that the programmers also achieved an incredible feat on the aging console.

I remember being astounded that I could talk to someone and then run around the screen with the dialogue page still on screen. At the time I called it “multitasking”, though in truth it’s probably closer to task switching. Ever the techhead, I was impressed at the performance of that little grey box. Spell effects were impressive, many of which filled the screen in a showy fashion not before thought possible.

To say that these developers and creators were at the top of their craft is a fact, and they pushed the SNES to its limits and proved it still could awe the fans … without the use of any in-cart accelerators, I might add. There is no substitute for creative talent, and Chrono Trigger stands as a testament to that fact. So why is it so easily overlooked?

Progression and Heroism
I stared in heartbroken awe as Chrono’s sixteen pixel tall figure was disintegrated by Lavos’ vicious attack. Then, as Undertale would say, I was “filled with determination”. I had rescued Marle from death, and didn’t believe for a moment that he would succumb. I knew in advance that he was locked as the first party member for a reason.

It wasn’t cynical anticipation; I knew something terrible was going to happen. I’d watched games try new things and was curious what was next. Excitement may be a strange attribution to player death, but I trusted Chrono Trigger to continue to give me choices. When given the opportunity to restore the timeline, I got right to it. I know now I didn’t have to bring him back, but here’s the thing: ambien When I play Chrono Trigger, I can’t bring myself not to.

I feel obligated to bring order back, to restore what is ruined, to vanquish darkness and win the day. I know it stems from the deeply rooted sense of right I have within me, and here’s something else: I’ll never try to get any of the other endings. Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this.

Your Ending
There are thirteen distinct endings in Chrono Trigger, and each can be effortlessly pursued thanks to New Game+, which grants you all of your prior equipment. You can defeat Lavos at less than half of your party’s maximum strength. That is a clever hint; all of the game’s potential has not been exhausted, and neither has yours.

In 1995, no one was told Chrono Trigger had multiple endings. The Internet was slow and communication was sluggish and not centralized. Translation: We didn’t have Facebook, Skype, Discord or any social media forum of significance. I don’t know how long it took for word to get around about alternate endings, but our perception of the game as complete was transformed. I didn’t have access to Chrono Trigger to explore the other endings, so for me, it was, but I don’t recall wanting very much to pursue them.

Did I find the man in the spacesuit underwhelming? Mechanically, not at all. “Core Lavos” can still be a tough fight if you’re not on your toes or privy to its defenses. Akira’s designs have a tendency toward silliness, so I wasn’t exactly surprised. Defeating Lavos, though, isn’t the point of the game.

Cause Without Root
The emotional resonance we talk about as reviewers, players and critics, is a blustery way of saying “I felt that.” Determination to win was what the characters, quests, music and art gave me. I remember feeling joyous – happy-sad – when Marle was re-united with Chrono. It may be ironic that Chrono Trigger doesn’t have a lot of emotional resonance.

All of its storytelling force comes from its ability to make you want to complete the goals that you own. They aren’t your goals; they’re preset, and can be broken down into a flow chart of relatively simple cause and effect events. We know that doesn’t lessen their meaning, because we make simple choices all the time. The difference is we get to see the resolution, or conflict, that comes of those choices in a short time frame.

Stories struggle with multi-universe scenarios. Chrono Trigger’s successor, though not direct sequel, Chrono Cross, is a branch of that narrative root. Players, when presented with forty characters to chose from, would chose not to play the game. Would a direct sequel have worked better? Would it even have been possible? I doubt it; other games have tried to recapture the magic and been panned in the attempt by critics and fans alike.

Chrono Trigger speaks to the power of our choices, and the uncertainty of consequence. Perhaps if it had just one ending, it would be more favourably regarded. It does not pretend that your choices do not matter; that there is only one possible outcome. It takes a risk and entrusts you with the fate of everyone within its world.

Why do I call this an underdog? Chrono Trigger changed how RPGs played and our expectations. It is easily glossed over as one of the best RPGs of all time, possibly because of its signature art style and narrative themes. When the world had moved on to Final Fantasy Tactics, critics still recognized Chrono Trigger’s deeper influence.

Is it preservation that has caused Squaresoft, and now Square Enix, to shut down every reinterpretation of its work? Three dimensional worlds do not suffice, novels of great respect, nor even a modest upscaling or remastering of the original assets behoove. Their narrow path of marketing does seem puzzling in the face of so many remasters of their other franchises. Let’s wrap this up.

Conclusion: Infinite Inventory
Chrono Trigger is a seminal classic. It has a novel presentation that relates the power and powerlessness of choice. Its music is some of the industry’s finest, and extolled strong female characters well before it became an industry focus, thanks to Lara Croft (also released in 1995). It continues to sell in a largely unmodified form, ported to many platforms.

It’s greatest weaknesses are indeed simple: Akira’s particular art style may just rub you the wrong way; the main storyline is uncharacteristically short. Some music themes can overstay their welcome, rarely exceeding a minute in length as was typical of the SNES. Multiple endings can be a chore to pursue.

Nonetheless, this is widely regarded as a must play, and is available on mobile for Android and iOS. If you’re retro-curious, it was also ported to PlayStation One and Nintendo DS with additional features including animated cutscenes, additional endings and more. ‘Nuff said.

Comments Off on Chrono Trigger – The Underdog

Filed under article, gaming, good things, history, my view, opinion

Pre-Post Trump

Trump is the first pure entertainer candidate for President of the United States of America. Building on the lessons learned as owner and participant in World Wrestling Entertainment (National Review, Apr. 4th 2016), he zoned in on how to play the crowd and draw all of the attention to himself. In other, public and private arenas, he would test his theories and formulate his plans (NYMag, Apr. 3rd, 2016).

Meanwhile, in 2014 Trump Stadium filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Does that sound like a man concerned primarily with success? He let it fail and avoided fiscal responsibility. A good man takes the losses with the wins and relies upon experience to be the teacher.

Trump continues to defy convention because he employs his own. The pillar concepts of ‘best’, ‘winning’ and ‘losers’ form a storytelling structure that tell us ‘I’m the best, winning against the losers.’ To understand how he uses them, we need to define them according to his paradigm.

Trump’s Pillar(s)
To determine what is ‘best’ we have only to look at his actions: Avoiding confrontation, positioning himself as the champion and always saying he will do what others cannot. He’s known for headstrong choices lacking savvy and tact, hence his string of business failures that pockmark an otherwise unremarkable career. ‘Best’ is getting what Trump wants.

Politically_Awkward_Donald-Discinclined-400px‘Winning’ has subtleties that reflect the structure of Trump’s thoughts more than they do reality. You see, winning is not accomplishment oriented but praise oriented. Trump had cold parents, and remembers ratings more than any affection on their part. Ratings are double edged but readily available, and having never been scolded effectively, he will do anything for them. ‘Winning’ is attaining praise with very little worry about cultural values and morals.

‘Losers’ is a generic reference for anyone who deserves Trump disapproval for reasons temporary and circumstantial. A valued ally one moment becomes a belittled foe if doing so will improve his notion of ‘best’ or chances of ‘winning’ praise for being who he is. Trump does not present concrete facts about his opponents, but invents them just as a schoolyard bully might. Hard facts would distract from the main event: Trump.

Working Effortlessly
All of his language fixate upon these because that’s how you pitch a concept, it’s how you sell a show. You keep it simple so that it will have broad appeal. You use small words, bold language and exaggerated caricatures. You get personal with the fans and invite them in with largess. They aren’t voters any more, they’re fans, this is zeitgeist. So possessed are they that the impossible is within reach.

Why not? Abraham Lincoln ultimately unified America over slavery, though it took a war to hash things out. Trump has provided all of the stage presence of a man who’s going to war against the government, buy meridia that he’ll reclaim it and champion his cause by … well, the trouble is he doesn’t have any plans. Just statements.

Wile-E-Coyote-Blueprint-The-Anvil-Drop-Trap_art

This is gonna work.

A real plan is very much a blueprint, unmistakable and believable when read. When broken down – by others, I add – Trump’s ‘plans’ are financially unfeasible, legally irresponsible and are at the minimum unprofessional.

For so much of his campaign, Trump has functioned as one who desires attention and knows how to do very little work to get it. Now that he appears to need to do real work and set aside the bluster, posturing and outright hatred, he has passed off the labour to others.

Make no mistake, Trump understands the Art of the Delegation (not delegates), but even when tasked with the most basic task of learning how the electoral process functions, he has demonstrated zero interest. Rience Priebus has got to be shaking his head. The GOP have been kicking themselves for weeks, mostly into gear, so that they can oppose him in fear of the Republican Apocalypse. Would he destroy the Republican Party? To take them so lightly after a mistake of this caliber is understandable, but also pure folly.

They have not survived worse, but they also would have had to do nothing in order to accept responsibility for Trump’s existence. The divide in the electorate will do more damage than Trump could ever comprehend, which brings me to my point: What does Trump want?

Coming To A Head
We’ve established that he wants attention, and this is the biggest Trumpfiesta of his life, with billions of dollars in free advertizing; I mean, listen to me, will ya? But after that, when the party is over, what will we see that his show has wrought?

Understand that when a man leads he signals to others and asks them to join him. Either you do, or you don’t, based on your assessment of his value to your goals. Trump’s celebrity depends upon this abusive ‘persona’ which he positions as threatening the establishment. ‘Threatening’ is the key word, here.

It’s easy to say he doesn’t care about anyone, that he’s unbalanced and unhinged, but that is far from accurate. Donald J. Trump has decided to put his wants before anyone and tell them they are the most important. POTUS is – in theory and practice – the one who sees the needs of the many and does everything they can do to see them met.

Donald Trump is the sad case for the ruination of the greatest nation on Earth. It is his wake to be dreaded, not the strangely animated features of his coloured face. So help us if his brand of violence sends someone to the hospital, or worse.

So let us respond,

#ForeverHope

#ChooseTheRight

#NotTheMight

Comments Off on Pre-Post Trump

Filed under article, celebrity, news media, opinion, politics

Tracking the Past (Part 5)

Part 5: Trackerfixing, Self-Addressing

The 604 Crew made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, one summer. While my participation in various Vantari and VCVGC parties garnered some attention, and the respect of people who fascinated me, I was hungry for recognition. Roger Earl provided some of that, sharing his endless enthusiasm and incisive analytic talent to the table.

He was the cool geek, and he made me feel cool. I didn’t understand what it was to be cool then, and it would be another ten years before I began to figure it out. He was that guy, you know, the one who didn’t just own an Amiga, but grokked it. He was into the underbelly of technology and always had a fascinating story about his work to tell.

Banks are every bit as fallible as the rest of us, don’t forget that.

Roger’s legitimizing of my hobby increased my hunger for more of the same. Then, The 604 Crew, more of an idea than a group, extended us an invitation to participate in a competition they called “Trackerfix”. A compo! An honest to goodness compo! In Canada!

Awesome!

Rowan turned out to be a pretty cool guy too. He actually knew music theory, whereas I’ve – until recently – flown by the seat of my pants. Very little theory, except for what my Dad taught me. Valuable things like – in solos you can go where ever you want, as long as you come back. Question and answer, and be an avid listener.

It wasn’t a coincidence I used Yes samples in my music, but I digress.

Rowan told us we had a half hour to compose something with the chip samples we were given, so I did what I do best: Immediate response. It’s something I learned from watching Emily Carr art courses on PBS that applies to creativity of all kinds. You don’t think – you just take it in and create.

1 Gig Per Byte had a good bassline and not much else, but I could be proud of it. After this we were invited to contribute to The 604 Crew’s music disk, so I submitted a few tracks that were buy zovirax admittedly repetitious in nature. I was pretty upset by this, and it is possible to find some of that vitriol in my sampletexts, if you look.

Not my more gracious moments. I composed songs to combat this view and … frankly, aspect of myself. I had no musical education to lean on, so I had to find it in external influences. Those in my immediate vicinity worth mentioning are Derek who expected higher quality samples from me, and Ryan who was never satisfied with my first effort. Dave selflessly hosted out music, and without him – well, I’ve been over that, haven’t I?

I was growing as a musician in leaps and bounds. Yet, it was those who I never met who contributed significantly to my development. Where to start? Moby, of course, because anyone who says they don’t know Moby, just doesn’t know it. Jogier Liljedahl, u4ia (Jim Young), Count Zero (gotta love some bombastic YM2149 drumlines!), EuphoniX and so many more.

The Atari demoscene was my bread and butter.

Even now my most ‘popular’ downloads online are my simpler, less technically advanced tracks. Theme of Light, for instance, was my response to Robert Miles’ Children. Songs like that prove I wasn’t a good judge of how my music will be received. The sample quality is simply atrocious, but it does have a good beat, and under the right circumstances, might be rave or dance material.

Who knows?

Dave and Ryan believed in my music, and me, enough to help me progress to a higher form of music. Well, enter the multi-channel era. Whilst they tinkered with ScreamTracker and FastTracker, Dave provided me with an Atari STe, which I used to produce my 8-channel works.

While audio fidelity suffered with doubtful mixing quality, my skills flourished. 1997 and 1998 were banner years for me, with 1998: Sailor Rifts my magnum opus. Filling a single disk to the brim and stacking samples together to make it all fit into a single module, I composed until Octalyzer STe couldn’t possibly manage another pattern. 830K not once, but twice.

It wasn’t long before I was going to need a new machine.

Continued next week.

Comments Off on Tracking the Past (Part 5)

Filed under article, challenge, contest, creative process, digital publishing, good things, history, immediate response

Tracking the Past (Part 3)

Part 3: Honing and Honed

PCCFA Fair, where I was asked to turn down my music. Me? A disturber of the peace? How about thrilled to be noticed? My early techno did not impress, but it was on that day I met Admiral Skuttlebutt, who played 280-JOKE for me, a mod I’ve carefully sheltered over the last twenty some odd years. It is a nostalgic song, clumsy in execution, off beat in humour. It still holds deep meaning to me.

We would be back to the fair later, too.

It was the beginning of my education about what I mean to other people. In high school I was the six foot ghost, striding deliberately through the halls to avoid confrontation. In the computer lab Ryan and I were nobles, blessed with access to Foolproof and knowledge of Mac OS’ inner workings. Resource forks, oh, how I miss you.

HyperCard was too easy, too functional. Too good. Modules didn’t have that flaw, and we waited a long time to be able to share our music with friends on Mac LC II, LC III and LC 520 with their caddy loading CD-drives. We (mostly me at first) could impress with four channel audio when most programs managed just two. It was our music, and opened many doors. Ryan would not only compose the music for his graduation, but he also produced a “multi-media video” on the Centris 660AV (with badass AT&T 55Mhz DSP and lightning fast 68040 CPU@25/50Mhz. What a beast!).

PlayerPRO (still kicking?!) and Soundtracker entertained in different ways. The former tried too hard to be a studio with every toy in the box, always failing to play essential mod commands and loops. We’d amuse ourselves by seeing what the programmer’d figured out since the last version. Which of our mods played right? Soundtracker was slow, even on fast buy provigil machines, but far more accurate.

Ryan was focused on audio fidelity, as ever, learning MIDI and the Roland MT-32 synthesizer our school lent him for the summer. I couldn’t afford to step up, but I did happen into a 20MB SCSI hard drive thanks to him, so I gave it my all, musically, and somewhere we met in the middle. Perhaps because I was blindly persistent. It’s a valuable quality worth cultivating at times.

The Mod format was still in development in those days, with new commands being added from the Amiga side of the scene. So was I, incidentally. Untrained as a musician, I found my own way to enjoyable melodies. Perhaps a paradigm would have improved my development, yet in place of it I gained something else: Confidence.

It was always a struggle, and I admit to deleting mods because of disapproval – gone forever, limited storage, remember? Bygones, naturally, as I was persistent. I didn’t know it then but experience was for me the better part of my musical education. Valour? Probably not.

‘E-Tempral Society’, ‘Power of Emotion’, ‘Faded Thrill’ and most of all ‘Sudden Swiftness’ were my formative tracks in the first four years of involvement with DT. By sheer passion I proved a capable, if unpredictable, musician. Oh yes, and ‘1995’. It was that summer we discovered the Internet, and that our group name was in use by a German industrial company of some variety.

Newly dubbed Trideja, we quickly added Derek Warren to the roster just to destroy the symbolism of the name. What’s done was done, and we laughed about it. Derek’s enthusiasm was infectious.

We had already designed a new logo with my skills in ClarisWorks Draw and Ryan’s with Photoshop and web design. We had our own website before we quite new what to do with it.

Continues next week.

Comments Off on Tracking the Past (Part 3)

Filed under article, creative process, personal growth, trideja, unvarnished, writing

Tracking the Past (Part 2)

Part 2: Quality vs Fidelity

We played our own computers as instruments and each wrote our own whole songs. In retrospect I only see now the high demands we had placed on ourselves. At the time I had the time, energy and talent to do that, but certainly without the support of the group it would have been futile.

Ryan had The Phone Call, which had some lewd humour, until we changed that and he released it on Total Eclipse II, Dave Toews BBS. Dave was tinkering with Mega Jammer and the quality of his samples was impressive, and drove me to raise the fidelity of my own work. Incidentally, it is humbling to realize that his sole track ranks higher in downloads than the showy mix I made of his samples many years later. That speaks well of the integrity of the song, arguably simplistic, but memorable. That’s worthwhile, and there’s gratitude owed there. So thank you, Dave.

At the time I had no sense of competition, which was best. I floundered along with heavy criticism from the then-founder of our group. It was his sampler that made my first track possible, but later my acquisition of samples from favored modules that set the tone and pace for all of my continuing works.

Oh, to name a few; xenical no prescription 1991, Piano Plinker, After the Rain, Cortouchka!, anyone remember Batmeat? I’ve always liked that track, when I could tolerate it. Mods do require some tolerance. It was Burton’s flair for the dramatic that got everyone’s attention.

Meanwhile, I forged onward through tracks like ‘The Fire of my Soul’, which exhibited some of the teachings of my Dad, who saw the possibilities, and did try to learn. I later used some sampled riffs, somewhat ill-fated and perhaps unfocused. A valuable learning experience, nonetheless with its own impact on the gaming community at large.

In 1994 there was much pressure to improve, to be the equal of those Ryan and I listened to, and usually that was fine. What was I expected to write? We weren’t a demo crew, though we wanted to be. I was a budding artist and writer, and took to embedding short stories into the last sample of many of my early tracks. Load them out and they’re quite readable.

But if you know anything about me, it’s that I’m passive aggressive. That meant I wasn’t going to be content with my progress or position for too long. For a while, though, I was pleased to grow as a musician, discovering that I had talent and local impact.

Comments Off on Tracking the Past (Part 2)

Filed under article, creative process, personal growth

Tracking the Past (Part 1)

Part 1: A Boy and His Mod, or the Days in Which I Learned How to Make Noise

It was a moderate summer when I obtained my Atari ST 1040, which as I recall was paid for by my Dad. Ryan Goolevitch and I had for many after school nights watched demos and listened to the latest experimentations in Protracker.

At some point I asked Ryan if it was possible to compose music on the ST as well, and he explained that it was, with limitations, naturally. No stereo sound, lower fidelity output; just a tender 22Khz without interpolation of any sort. Playing mods on an ST is a clever trick of code, anyway.

I was thrilled. More than thrilled; enrapt. At first I played some games, because a colour computer was so much superior to the Macintosh Plus machines at school. My small television, connected by RF at first; an old dongle recovered from a Atari 2600 VCS long past its prime.

Static-laden audio and video with no headphone jack, and for the first two years no hard drive. In 1991 you could get away without one. So, untrained and unskilled, how did I learn to compose Protracker Modules?

The Atari ST made it easy, at least, it did for me. Protracker used 128KB (roughly) of RAM, and this is important because it limited the size and thereby quality of the thirty two samples I could load into the 1024KB of memory I had access to. 960KB of which 880KB would fill a standard double density cialis no prescription floppy disk, remember those? I never had to swap disks, to load program resources, not like the Macintosh OS did because TOS was on ROM.

So that was a bit of sanity saved. While it was fast, upgrading was a tinkerer’s job, and beyond my skills. I just wanted the dern thing to work, which it did. Even a hard drive was a trick, with drivers loaded from disk as they weren’t in ROM in any version of TOS I owned, but I wouldn’t get one of those until years later.

Protracker has no player/editor barriers. While the ST version I used for nearly a decade lacked support for some commands, like E9X – when implementing it I had no immediate feedback, no idea how it would sound. Usually the fact that I merely knew the commands was enough, and instinct covered my guesses, anyway.

How did I track? I put some notes into an editor, then I learned what hexidecimal was. I didn’t know the difference between a basskick and a snare, though Ryan was happy to teach me. Levels of Insanity was – you could say – the first collaboration of what would become Digitronic. With Dave Toews we formed a small music production crew.

Levels was obnoxious, repetitive and real! When we formed Digitronic exactly, I don’t quite remember. It was probably about the time I knew I had something and wanted to hang onto it.

Next week I’ll dive more into Digitronic and our efforts to produce music of any kind.

Comments Off on Tracking the Past (Part 1)

Filed under article, history, personal growth, tracking

Audiosurf 2 – “Width of a Pixel”

Vitals
Developed/Published by: Dylan Fitterer
Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac
Available via: Steam ($16.99) -|- Direct from Publisher ($14.99 USD)
Consider also: Audiosurf ($10 CDN)

We’ve been down this road before, but it was bumpier, a little jittery, and underpowered. Acceleration was poor and the brakes squealed, but it was our first ride. We’d paid for it with our own money and no one could tell us where we could go or what we allowed to listen to. Continue reading

Comments Off on Audiosurf 2 – “Width of a Pixel”

Filed under article, critique, gaming, indie, marketing, review, viewpoint

Chroma Squad – “Little, Pixely, Fun”

Vitals
Published/Developed by Behold Studios
Platform(s): Windows, Linux & Mac. To Be Announced for XBox One, Playstation 3/4 and Vita
Steam for $14.99 CDN -|- GOG.com for $14.99 USD (DRM Free)
Consider also: Chroma Squad Soundtrack on Steam or Bandcamp

Power Rangers, Saban’s imitation of the sentai hero genre in Japan, is a formative experience for most of us in the 1990s and have continued to this very day. Over a dozen variants of the rainbow spectrum suited warriors have left an indelible mark on western culture. Chroma Squad captures that nostalgia with an imperfect experience, but memorable gameplay and undeniable warmth of heart. Continue reading

Comments Off on Chroma Squad – “Little, Pixely, Fun”

Filed under article, critique, gaming, good things, indie

Gaining Experience: The Pursuit

PC gamers have it rough. Not only must we build and maintain our hardware, cover all of the associated costs of ownership, we’ve got to wade through what is – in 2015-16 – an endless sea of game bundles, remakes and remasters, demakes and community made mods. Sometimes the game we want isn’t even on our preferred platform, and we need turn to a console, be it the Wii U, PS3/4 or XBox 360/One.

Where does the best experience live, and how do you find it?

As always, if you’re in a rush, you can skip right to my list of the best game vendors in the industry. Continue reading

Comments Off on Gaining Experience: The Pursuit

Filed under article, economics, gaming, good help, good things, guide, minecraft, online services, practical challenges