Critical About Gaming: Where Do You Draw the Line?

I’ve never killed a man. Not once. Not even accidentally. I’ve hurt people, sometimes intentionally, physically, and emotionally. I make mistakes. I have no desire to hurt even a misogynistic misanthrope like Trump.

My Steam library approaches five hundred titles of which I will play only a portion, but some not ever. Certainly there isn’t enough time in the day to get to them all, even if I were employed gainfully to do so. No, when it comes down to I choose not to be part of certain scenarios and character behaviours.

In my youth I gave death no thought; in Doom demons were slain; in Duke Nukem, mutant cops and aliens; Quake, monsters, and notably, other players. Friends and associates. Capture the flag, shoot anyone who tries to stop you from running away with it. A fair description for a game? Continue reading

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New book listings … Bold Curves, Sector Bomb and A Thief at the Gala

Haven’t been at it for a while on the writing front, but I’m back again with a few updates, so … here we go:

Bold Curves (link) re-published with new content at the humble price of $1 (minimum).
Synopsis: Aaran has a problem with her other self, and overcoming this individual somehow results in her becoming entrusted with the lives of many who cannot otherwise protect themselves. In a post-apocalyptic world survived by a handful of cities and off-planet colonies, Aaran is beset by constant threats against her and her closest allies. She will not be put down, however … 

A Thief at the Gala (link) no change, now listed here. (Free.)
Synopsis: A mysterious crown claiming scrolls, a monster with a taste for ponies! How will Doctor Whooves and Forelock Holmes unearth the truth behind the threat? What is Vallade’s real target and why is he so fascinated with Ditzy Do? 

Every One Fight (link), updated to premium status on Smashwords. (Free.)
Synopsis: Masurani was set to run professionally when her father dies in a terrorist attack. Between puberty and grief she pursues the martial arts only to refuse a invitation to join the government backed KnightsMage. Entrapped by a devious street fighter and forced to turn professional, Petulant promises to reveal the nature of her father’s death, but can she survive this match and learn the truth?

Sector Bomb (link), no change, now listed here. (Free.)
Synopsis: Was it a bomb or magic? Sector 9 is levelled, hundreds dead, thousands injured and in dire need. While the Alliance of Courts decides how best to curtail costs, Representative Castlegar of Whitegraft charges ex-cop Aaran Coates and android associate Buddy Namiki to prevent another attack.

Join me on Twitter for more of this kinda thing.

Enjoy!

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Filed under digital publishing, fiction, freebies, novel, online services, promotional, publishing, short story, stories, writing

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, 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

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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 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.

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

Let it be “Drumpf”

So I jotted out a quick sketch of the energy Trump was giving off after the Republican debate on Thursday…and for some reason I didn’t have a name for it. That’s strange because I almost always do. Now that John Oliver has responded to Donald’s attacks formally those of us who saw his flaws finally have a voice.

Not to mention that someone finally did it. About time! Among his counterpoints is the fact that Trump’s family name was originally “Drumpf”. That’s all I needed! So let this piece be named “A Drumpf Abstract.”

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Troubleshot in the Wallet

Microsoft’s idea of help has always been questionable, but you can rely upon the focus of someone getting paid for something. That’s not inherently wrong, but it does come across as sneaky and underhanded, especially the way Microsoft presents it.

For instance: Adobe Photoshop, once worth $700-$1200 now ships under the guise of a service entitled “Creative Cloud”. For a nominal monthly fee you get access to the unfettered, full version of Photoshop, or any other single program they ship via this model.

Even $260 a year doesn’t sound that bad for a single program, unlimited support and handy extras like stock photos, cloud storage and a bunch of other stuff. Frankly it’s a good ideal and probably more than most people need.

Which brings me to the alternatives. You can pick up Paint.net for the glorious price of free, or grab Photoshop CS2 which grants you 90% of the greatness that otherwise costs so dang much. CS2 is free because its unsupported, so if you’re in need of a full, legit version of Photoshop, you can hardly go wrong with this.

(Adobe’s links are now behind an Adobe ID sign in blockade. They’re obviously not pleased with the adoption rate of Creative Cloud…) Adobe Suite CS2 was developed for use Windows XP and glitches a little on newer versions of Windows. The last patch brings it up to version 9.0.2 but doesn’t address any of these issues, and they have no plans to do so.

Microsoft knows this and has tailored the Compatibility Troubleshooter to pitch you the retail solution if you’re unsatisfied with the glitches, which are minor and entirely tolerable. Specifically, after roughly a half hour the floating menus begin to disappear, not to mention your photo windows. Clicking on them brings them back from … whereever it is they jaunted off to.

I tried setting the compatibility setting to Windows XP Service Pack 2, and this solved the issue of the floating windows going away, but upon exiting Photoshop I was greeted with a question. You know the one: “Did this program run correctly?” Auotmatically I selected no, because I wanted to try another setting. Instead it popped up this window:Troubleshot_in_the_back

A what is who now? Excuse me? How does it know? Oh wait … I mean, I turned off Siri—um, Cortana. All of those advertising options and sharing nonsense are also switched off.

I don’t trust Microsoft, that’s all. Ultimately this isn’t hard to understand, Adobe’s a big company and have a vested interest in making sure depreciated versions of their software are broken… I mean, that new software runs great on the latest Operating Systems.

Am I suggesting sabotage? Perhaps by inaction. Adobe isn’t required to patch their old software, but it would encourage me to invest in the Creative Cloud for new features that overshadowed the old software. Except of course that none of the CC “apps” do that. We’re talking about a value proposition that can be difficult to substantiate when so many other pieces of software give you a high percentage of the functionality for free.

Yes, I can use Gimp, and it does more, but it also turns filters into a ridiculous guessing game. Anyone determined to become proficient with Gimp has too much time on their hands, and that doesn’t represent most of us.  Photoshop just works and is still more user friendly than Gimp.

I know that’s like saying building a house is easier than baking a cake.

The strangeness didn’t end with Microsoft’s retail pitch. Curious, I clicked on the link to take me to the “paid software upgrade”. Here’s where I landed:

Er_What-Adobe_in_Spanish

Er … um. Hey, what? In Canada our national languages are English and Canadian French. Not … Spanish. I think that’s Spanish. Truly impressive. Why do I think that this was something simple they should have gotten right but still managed to screw up?

Because I know Microsoft. This is what they’ve been doing for over thirty years.

Stay on your toes folks, because I don’t expect that to change.

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Tracking the Past (Part 4)

Part 4: Mostly Infamous

Trideja was formed before Derek joined the group and in a way returned to three key creative talents. Dave was more confident in his pursuit of Total Eclipse II BBS, for many years the only release site of Trideja tunes to the world. It would lay the foundation for his current job as a system administrator for Rockstar Games. We had hopes of taking our music to the next level, turning professional.

Attending computer conferences, submitting music tapes. Answering responses to requests for game music which never turned out. The most compelling to me was a Asteroid inspired beta that needed some atmospheric aural backing. My infamous claim would come well after I had neglected my trideja.com email.

Meteor 2. James Bunting needed music, and through email I brashly gave him permission. These days its a charming throw back to top down shooters with a Paint.exe style aesthetic. I swallowed the pill of having a game that fit in some ways but not in others. I hadn’t tailored my tracks to first, they were just energetic and the visuals were underwhelming.

The community ate it up, however, and it’s something I’m known for. “You’re that guy from Trideja, right?” It might even make it on Greenlight, and I am grateful. Little successes uncounted are meaningless, but when noticed weave a fabric that can form a safety net for some of life’s more challenging times.

For instance: Betas. These were snippets of ideas, half realized patterns sometimes amounting to half-complete songs. Derek began to amass these, and would ask about ideas he was interested in. There are some that would never have been finished without his relentlessness.

We collaborated very well and somehow never realized our own potential, but not for a moment do I regret the time spent and fun had. Perhaps there’s room for another collaboration the future. If there’s something I can think to say now, it’s not to frown on a style of music but to look to the purity of its expression. Techno never stopped Bowie from advancing his mastery, nor did it fail to communicate his messages.

Yet down the road, after spending some time with DJs, having songs played in clubs, I became aware that my betas were a ball and chain. Can you imagine recording every jam session just to have the memory of every melody haunt you as wasted potential?

What a waste of time, but nothing is, when practice results in a performance greater than the last. Improvement comes from many quarters and can go unnoticed. My attitude of trusting the flow meant some songs bloomed and others busted, but I always put my best effort into them. The value in that is the lesson learned; don’t be dragged down by could-be.

Continues next week.

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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 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.

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

6 Free Games from Sega

Make Love Not War features 6 top-rated titles on Steam! Hop on over now and click “Install Games” to add the lot to your account! Included are:

  • Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
  • Hell Yeah! Virtual Rabbit Missions (DLC)
  • Hell Yeah! Pimp My Rabbit (DLC)
  • Jet Set Radio
  • Sega Classics: Golden Axe, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic 3 and knuckles, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball

Of course check out the sales on Total War: Attila, Company of Heros 2, Warhammer Dawn of War II, Total War Master Collection 2014, Company of Heros 2 Master Collection and associated DLC.

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Transistor Gallery

Enjoy these drop-dead gorgeous screenshots of SuperGiant’s art deco masterpiece, Transistor!

2016-02-02_00002
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