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: 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.

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1000 copies and a new manuscript.

So it’s been two years since I self published Every One Fight, Bold Curves, A Thief at the Gala and Sector Bomb. How have my books fared?

Not too badly.

Between them all, just short of 1000 copies have moved across the digital storefronts through which Smashwords distributes my works. I probably avoided looking at those numbers because it’s not a comfortable thing to do. They’re not hundreds of thousands, not even tens. I’m not disappointed.

Consider that there’s been zero dollars spent on my ad campaigns for these books, which were short lived and social media fixated, er … centric. That’s actually a lot of books, and some of you actually keep them in your library. Thank you.

Anyone who follows me here, or on Twitter, may or may not know how much work I’ve been putting into Sliver of Light. I canned the blog “Cobalted” because I needed to rework it, and because I plan to sell it. That’s right, I’m fishing for an Editor. Those sales numbers confirm my suspicion: I’m good, but unrefined.

Like a piece of coal, you know, I need to be compressed … probably a lot … to bring out the inner gem. Oh, that’s … yeah, not inner gem. Lesse … I need to be put under pressure to bring out my best work. I won’t do that to myself; other writers might but I’m not one of those. That’s okay, because I’m also not clinical enough about my own work.

Editors play an important role in the writing world, and they will as long as we write. So, my submission goes out tomorrow to the first publisher on my submissions list (which admittedly is more in my head than it is recorded anywhere). I’ve been updating my Patreon page more than this blog, so be sure to check that out and consider supporting my work if you’re interested.

The numbers say you are, and I like that they are numbers.

While I’m here, I’ll pass along the word that I’ve been game reviews for HonestGamers.com for six months now. I’ll cross post an article about ChronoTrigger as evidence … it’s a nice community and the readership is respectable. What have I covered? Well…

Front Mission Evolved (PC) – Read
Dust: An Eylsian Tale (PC) – Read
Audiosurf (PC) – Read
Audiosurf 2 (PC) – Read
Chroma Squad (PC) – Read
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES) – Read
Final Fantasy IV (PC) – Read
Rogue Legacy (PC) – Read
The Ninja Warriors (SNES) – Read
Half Life 2 (PC) – Read
Skyborn (PC) – Read
Stardew Valley (PC) – Read
Black Mesa (PC) – Read
The Swapper (PC) – Read
Half Life 2: Episode Two (PC) – Read
Guacamelee! Super Tubro Championship Edition (Wii U/PC) – Read
Half Life 2: Episode One (PC) – Read
Front Mission 4 (PC) – Read
Mighty Switch Force! Hose It Down! (PC) – Read
Transistor (PC) – Read
Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed (PC) – Read
Monster Loves You! (PC) – Read
Chocobo Racing (PSX) – Read

Sorry for the backlog! It’s all for your interest, anyway. Enjoy, and take care of yourself.

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Filed under digital publishing, freebies, gaming, marketing, novel, personal growth, promotion, publishing, review

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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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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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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