Electronic music is easier than I thought

Busy times at school. (Granted, I’ve spent way too much time in City of Heroes lately leveling up a Robotics/Traps Mastermind.) Lately, I got to play with Ableton Live and put together a little clip for my project. This is entirely sequencing existing samples.

Bear in mind it gets kinda overwhelming deliberately because the theme is information overload. I since discovered it’s a bit too long (there’s a 3 minute limit) so I probably won’t be using this.

Music: “Overload”

Losing The Story: The CRPG Flaw.

There was another good reason to write stories that I forgot to mention before: It’s game punditry at its best and most illustrative. To look at each of my stories about gaming, they’re seem to me to be more exciting than the game itself. Yet, that does not make sense because the average Computer Role Playing Game is attempting to tell a story. Why is that? In answering this, we can see my gaming stories are also a form of punditry.

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I think the real reason why the story seems more exciting than the game is because game developers lose touch with the storytelling potential of a game. It happens in the same way players devolve from enjoying fantasy adventure to instead merely optimizing their character sheets to improve their chance at winning. They, affected player and developer both, have forgotten that RPGs are about telling a story first and a game second.

My gaming stories can illustrate a point. For example, in The Rat Trap, Bruxx can be found sitting about a tavern tilting back an ale. Suddenly, he’s ambushed by bounty hunters from Freeport, and a tricky battle of wits and agility results in a surprise ending. This could never happen in EverQuest 2, and the differences between the game and the story outline the weakness in this and perhaps every MMORPG when it comes to being a a storytelling device.

Bruxx would not be found tilting back an ale in the inns of EverQuest 2 because the functionality simply isn’t there. There’s no reason to carouse within the game. This is a relatively minor thing, but it should be pointed out that same games such as Star Wars Galaxies have simply added reasons to frequent places for the characters to unwind. In doing so, those games have supported this kind of storytelling.

Bruxx, an accomplished Swashbuckler, does have a number of mechanisms in EverQuest 2 to engage in a “tricky battle of wits and agility.” However, the execution is limited by technical aspects. There is no catapulting arresting Barbarians into tables in EverQuest 2. Some First Person Shooters, such as Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, have gone far in simulating this. However, all an RPG has to do is symbolize it, and that this has not been done in most MMORPGs can be found as a weakness in that kind of storytelling.

Perhaps the most severe limitation of the MMORPG as a storytelling device is exposed is when Bruxx was ambushed by bounty hunters from Freeport, the definitively evil city in which he was once a member and defected from. That never happens in EverQuest 2 because players would complain that their gameplay experience has been interrupted. However, if the players will not allow the developers go over that line, something major is lost.

I would argue that, without the possibility existing that you can be even minorly inconvenienced by something, it’s impossible to participate in a story. This is because fundamental required elements of a story go missing. Many elements are commonly found in CRPGs, such as: setting, plot, characters, point of view, and time. However, what of the most important elements: Conflict and Resolution? When everything in a virtual world exists as a non-conflict, in order to not inconvenience the player, then there is nothing to resolve. There is no true conflict in this story, and so there can also be no real resolution.

In catering to the players’ dislike of inconvenience, the storytelling potential has broken. Thus, without even realizing it, players who have insisted it’s simply not enjoyable to endure things such as “impeded trading services” (the local inn burns down because they were unable to slay a dragon) or “death penalties” (facing some consequence for being defeated in battle) have effectively goaded MMORPG developers into creating games that are unable to tell a story.

Just once, I would like to see a MMORPG ballsy enough to force players to deal with meaningful consequences for their actions or inaction. To these ends, I created a certain City of Heroes thread. It should be interesting to see how the playerbase responds. I’m predicting that most of them are too afraid of negative gameplay impact to permit anything of meaningful consequence to occur. Some people would say that this means games don’t need meaningful consequence, but I’m arguing the other side right now, which is that players have lost something extremely important and don’t realize it.

In the future, I’ll continue to write stories not only for the enjoyment of the reader and writer but also because stories demonstrate the fundamental flaws behind CRPGs without even trying. Is it punditry or entertainment? It’s both.

We Can Rebuild

It was an unusual operating room, but then, these were not the usual surgeons. They stood around the metal operating table containing the “patient” in the way they had been trained back when they were considered legitimate doctors. However, this operating room was strange in that it contained all the butchery tools and maniacal electric machines suitable of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. It was almost enough to overlook the operating “room” was merely a raised stone platform in a still-operating section of the Paragon City sewer system.

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The head surgeon indicated to his assistants that he was ready to begin, and began to monologue for the records of the operation.

“Subject: ‘The Nanites.’ Cause of death: poisoned crossbow bolt fired by… well, me.”

The head surgeon smiled. The other surgeons chuckled at his little joke. The head surgeon gestured and was given a wicked looking curved saw from the table. He began to cut into the abdomen of the corpse, a humanoid that appeared to be wearing full-body grey tights with a bright neon circuitry pattern. The head surgeon continued his monologue

“Initially the hero appeared to be biological composition but further investigation reveals a… quasi-metallic lattice. It seems quite incompatible with our existing creations. Perhaps we can reanimate the corpse under our control instead. As I dig deeper… hmm…”

The surgeon withdrew his saw and furrowed his brow. He placed the saw he was using aside and gestured to be given a small electric slicer. He dug into the wound again.

“The… metallic flesh of this hero seems to have some regenerative properties that have proved resistant to the standard probing saw. I’ve switched to a powered blade and am making some progress now, but the incision appears to be regrowing almost… no, faster than I am cutting and…”

The electric slicer suddenly stopped. The surgeon’s eyes widened in surprise as he withdrew it from the wound. As he turned the slicer over in his hand, wondering where the malfunction was, he noticed the blade seemed to be disintegrating rapidly. The blade was gone entirely in the space of a few seconds and now the machine base of the electric unit seemed to be dissolving. The surgeon passed a look of amusement to his assistants and tossed the destroyed device off the platform and into the sewer water.

“Right then. Hand me the Rikti blade. We’ll see if this cadaver is any match for a monomolecular energy field. I’m now reinserting the… what?!”

The body of the hero on the began to melt and pour off the sides of the operating table. The surgeons stepped back and watched as it formed a small river that drained off the concrete platform and into the sewer water below. In moments, there was nothing left. The head surgeon frowned and put the rikti blade on the now bare operating table.

“Well, it seems the subject has lost molecular cohesion. This salvage operation has concluded unsuccessfully. Lets try to find some heroes that are not so useless next time, shall we?”

The surgeons put down their operating tools and picked up the hacksaws and crossbows they used when fighting heroes on the streets of Paragon City. There was often unusual things encountered when operating on mutants, aliens, or other freaks of nature that were the heroes of Paragon City. Nothing really surprised them anymore… in fact, they looked forward to it. As Dr. Vahzilok had promised when he convinced them to join his crusade, they really were making some incredible medical discoveries now that petty morality had been cast aside.

As they turned towards the sewer grating leading over water that was sole exit from the room, they noticed the green slime that was the sewer water was bubbling furiously. It suddenly spewed upwards in a fountain and, as it fell, a humanoid creature was found standing there, blocking the exit. It was instantly recognized by its grey tights and the green circuitry pattern – the hero was back, and apparently alive. Then there was something new: suddenly it had red glowing eyes and a series of large wicked spikes burst strategically from every section of its body.

Before battle was joined anew, the creature said one thing in a voice that sounded like it was made up of millions of smaller ones.


Message Transmitted

It was a world-class political pep rally. The auditorium was filled with millions of people, and cameras were arrayed in regular positions to capture the action up on the stage. The candidates sat in two elite groups on the stage, people worth millions of dollars, the object of attention of the nation and the world, dressed in finery and beaming reassuring smiles for appearance. There was only one person out of place, a dark-skinned carpenter meekly reinforcing the podium nearby, doing his best to assure that nothing went wrong on the stage he built.

But something did go wrong that day. There was the matter of testing the cluster of microphones at the podium, and neither candidate wanted the other to be the first to address the mass of people. Behind their smiles there was much silent bickering between the two as they tried to find somebody harmless enough to perform this important task.

They finally agreed that the person to do it was the carpenter, who appeared to them to be little more than a hard-working fool, and not sly politicians like themselves. “Just be sure to say something significant,” they joked, “after all, it’s not every day you get to address the world.” The candidates set back with mischievous smirks on their faces, curious how this would turn out.

The carpenter put down his hammer and nails and thought to himself a moment. Finally, he stepped up to the podium, cleared his throat, and said:

“A lot of us have belief structures that place a great deal of importance on the afterlife. Maybe it is pretty important. However, I want everybody out there to realize just how amazing it is that cosmic dust, which we all are made up of, has sat up and gained awareness. Life, which we’re all a part of, is a miracle in itself. It may be the only genuine miracle in which we ever see. Yet, every time we’re depressed, every time we’re worried about our financial situation, every time we say a hurtful word to another, and every time we go to war – these and other things – we have forgotten just how miraculous life is. Each and every one of us, when someday we’re only moments from death, will probably only have one wish on our minds, and that is that we would again have the opportunity to be a part of this miracle we’re experiencing right now. We should probably live accordingly.”

Spent, the carpenter stepped back from the microphone, and smiled a wistful smile to himself. He knew what was coming next, but had decided it didn’t particularly matter, the result would be the same for him in the long run. The candidates were outraged, not only because what he said trivialized what they were planning on discussing, but also because war was on the agenda. It was a relatively easy matter to see that the carpenter was captured and tried as a terrorist and, in the end, he was hung by rope from a cross of wood.