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Topics - Prime Mover

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Single-Player RPGs / Trails of Cold Steel III
« on: August 25, 2017, 06:31:48 PM »
I'm excited that this is finally going forward, as I loved I/II. But this is obviously a new chapter, I'm a little concerned that they're going to sideline a lot of the characters and relationships from the first two games. But if any of the Trails games are any indication, it should be superb!

I put together this demonstration video playing the violin and guitar solo parts on a Roli Seaboard.

Run Full Speed Ahead (Final Fantasy XIII-2) - Seaboard Cover

Single-Player RPGs / Yakuza 5 (need some help)
« on: March 28, 2016, 02:23:21 PM »
Hey, sorry to start a new thread like this, but I need some help. I started playing Yakuza 5 the other day, and it's the first game in the series I've played. I'm starting to piece together the events from the previous games and I'm REALLY loving the story and dialog, absolutely fascinating. HOWEVER, I can't for the life of me find frequent save points, and it's becoming a big problem. Supposedly, the manual says I can save at any telephone, however, I can't find any phones! Especially nothing on the street. I've only been able to save at Kiryu's apartment and the taxi company. Both those places are also lengthy cutscene triggers, which I wouldn't mind, but sometimes I just need to be able to save and quit! I'm guessing there are phone booths across the map, but I certainly haven't seen any.

Help a brother out?

General Discussions / A Shout-out to coop multiplayer gaming
« on: October 15, 2014, 08:50:36 PM »
Every since my girlfriend and I moved in together, both of us have been doing most of our gaming together, and really enjoying it. Both of us love games and have similar taste. Similarly, we both love story/adventure/rpgs and we're not big on competitive multiplayer. Unfortunately, there's a distinct lack of games that are coop multiplayer, and they are getting scarcer and scarcer. As far as I can remember, some of my favorite gaming experiences have been coop multiplayer. From blazing through Halo with a friend, to going night after night with the awesome coop mode of Twisted Metal Black, I had a lot of real bonding moments playing games together with friends. The problem with competitive multiplayer is that both parties must be at a similar level to really enjoy it, or one will always trounce the other and there will always be an awkward dichotomy. Many times, it's one person who owns the game, so they will obviously be far more adept, and competition just doesn't feel fair: "Come over to my house so I can kick your ass". Coop multiplayer always took the social stress and awkwardness out of multiplayer gaming.

In my case, I've been gaming a lot longer than my girlfriend, and have a lot more experience with action games (she's almost entirely played turn based RPGs and point-and-click adventure games), so it's really no fun for us to go head to head. Also, we appreciate long-term experiences: TV shows, epic games that take weeks for the story and gameplay to unfold, etc.

Yet a lot of this seems to be dying out. More games centered around the dudebro attitude of "Let's Fight!" Less and less offline coop multiplayer definitely erodes a growing demographic. However, we've been absolutely loving Borderlands, and it's a real breath of fresh air that a whole popular series has been created with multiplayer in mind. I've been thinking about picking up an old Xbox 360 (mine died a few years back) and replaying the Halo series with her. Unfortunately, we were really bummed to hear that Destiny shipped without offline coop multiplayer. And even though I've started her playing Smash Brawl: Subspace Emissary, it doesn't look like we'll have much reason to get Smash WiiU any time soon.

I'd love to hear a few awesome suggestions of coop games that we can play together.

The Soundroom / Planet Horizon covers
« on: October 24, 2013, 03:10:11 PM »




What'll be the theme next year?

General Discussions / Crazy Eel House music video!
« on: October 21, 2013, 05:10:06 AM »
Thought I'd share my latest work with everyone here. It's a music video I just finished producing with my band, Eel House, from a tune off our latest album. We shot it over a period of about 6 weeks with no small help from a number of local dancers and video assistants:

Eel House - Snakeskin

BTW: I'm the goofy dude at the piano. Oh, and don't ask how long it took me to create the player piano bit!

General Discussions / Leather Pants & Men's Fashion
« on: October 13, 2013, 04:43:40 PM »
Got mine in the mail yesterday, bought them for a music video shoot. Man do they feel comfortable and look awesome, not tight but not baggy. My girlfriend won't stop gushing over them, either. I'm all for leather, I think it's about time leather came back into men's fashion. Not the creepy shit from the 80s, though.

This also brings me another point. I'm a dude, I'm straight, but I also dig fashion. It just about kills me to walk into the average clothing store and see their selection for women and men. The girls get all this huge experimental assortment of thousands of different styles of clothing. And men, a thousand types of plaid shirts and blue jeans. Men's fashion has just become a contest of trying to look as indifferent as possible. I can't fucking stand it! Why is it so bad to care about how you look and making an impact? Throughout history, men have typically had just as many interesting fashion selections as women, but that all stopped about 80 years ago. Now doubly so because everyone's worried about "looking gay". I think gay guys are being more honest with themselves about their fashion interest. I believe a lot of straight guys purposefully bury their interests in personal looks in attempt to distinguish themselves more from feminine culture. But since when did fashion become a female-centric thing? Not in other cultures, and not in other periods of western history. This is weird.

Sorry, </rant>

General Discussions / How do I kick out a bandmate?
« on: September 25, 2013, 05:20:02 AM »
I know this sounds really bad, but I'm at my whits end. I have this band, and I know we're really quite unique and solid. Every one of the players puts in a lot of work: practicing, writing, accounting, marketing. And everyone really can hold their own on their instrument (all of us have 25 years experience+). Except one person: the drummer. Not the typical drummer problems of banging on their instrument or not understanding the arrangement... no, she's timid, uncreative, always tries to tone down anything complex or aggressive. Furthermore, she's not a very skilled drummer, she'd only played a bit before we all got together, and she's improved the least out of all of us the 3 years we've been playing together. And lastly, she doesn't practice or put any outside effort into the group. The moment rehearsal or a gig ends, I can just see its, "well, that was fun... back to my real life."

I used to just go "oh well, I guess this band will have to rely on other instruments for creative interest," but now she's started demanding the final word on every decision, when she puts in so much less than anyone else. We used to have a part time singer who everyone else used to like (my girlfriend, actually), but our drummer forced us to kick her out because SHE wanted to sing more. At that point, myself and the fiddle player, who basically do the majority of the organization, composition, and business for the band, kinda lost all respect for her, and really don't feel the need to give in to her every demand. She's extremely passive aggressive, so we have no idea she has any problems till far after she's lost it, and we have to backtrack.

Respect is earned, and not only has she not earned it, but I think she's sorta lost a lot of it too.

Problem is, even though I tend to take the dominant roll: I produced the album, much of the compositions are mine, we don't have an official band leader, so I don't really have any authority. But I just feel worse and worse every day, like I'm putting in all this effort and having to compromise on a really subpar drummer. There's actually some great drummers around in this town, and I think we could find one easily.

I want people to be happy, I want to make things comfortable and everyone have a voice, but I also have standards, and dreams and goals for this group, and I just don't think we'll be able to achieve the high escellon we're going for without a better percussionist. I keep thinking that she's going to quit: she's threatened to before, and she seems more and more unhappy, and more and more paranoid, but she hangs on. I do think she eventually will, but this hanging on is excruciating, she just needs to leave.

I've never had to break up with a girl, I've never had to end any relationship or fire an employee... and what's worse, I'm not in any official position to do so. The rest of the band is either in agreement with me, or kind of indifferent, but we're all really nice people, and no one wants to really be the bad guys. How do I do this?

The Soundroom / Dream Theater
« on: September 24, 2013, 04:24:04 PM »
Got the new album this morning. Woah! I've only heard the first 3 tracks, but talk about a return to form! I really get a good vibe about this one.

I used to be a huge DT fan, but I haven't been particularly thrilled with any of their releases since after Six Degrees, though the last one was probably the best of the lot. But I'm really getting a 90s vibe from this. I always felt like they've been trying to put on a tough guy image since Train of Thought: lots of low 7-string work, simpler riffs, not as keyboard oriented rhythm arrangements, it just never suited them. I think they've been gradually pulling out of that, and I think they've finally done it. I was shocked to hear a "rock" song, "Looking Glass" for a change. They did some good ones back in the day, "Innocence Faded", "Solitary Shell", "Trial of Tears", "Surrounded" (though I hate the intro/outro)... maybe not the best of their work, but it helped to grow the diversity of their sound.

Still not digging LaBrie... never have. During the 90s, I hated his shrill, unenunciated screams. In the 00s they traded that for "chorus of LaBries" which I think always sounds kinda weak and cheesy. There was a time in there where he did neither, and that's probably my favorite period: FII - Six Degrees. Unfortunately, I'm not hearing a return to that and we're still getting loads of "1001 LaBries." I wish he would sit down and listen to some more Iron Maiden, even current Maiden (Bruce is even older than he is!), Dickensen knows how to write and sing a great lead line, and its that kind of stuff that always worked with DT.

The Soundroom / My new album: Eel House!
« on: September 13, 2013, 01:46:24 PM »
Hello folks! You may have noticed I haven't been around much for the past 6 months, and now I've been appearing back more.

That's because I've been recording and producing my latest album with my band, Eel House, which I'm very excited to announce the release of. It's actually been in the works for about 18 months, and finally wrapped up in July, followed by a southeast US tour, and local gigs. The music is a curious combination of Irish fiddle, progrock, and fusion jazz, with a lot of other tidbits thrown in the mix. Very dynamic and quirky. I play keyboards, brass, vocals, and drums on a few songs (while our drummer switched to guitar). We have about 1/3rd of the tracks on our website:

If you like what you hear, the album is $15 and you can order it through our website on PayPal.

PS: This weekend we're shooting a music video for our crazy dixieland track "Snakeskin", which should be a blast. I'll post that as soon as it's done.

General Discussions / Things players think are bad but really aren't
« on: August 08, 2013, 05:00:48 PM »
I was thinking about something while I was writing my post about "points of no return" in games, and how they can be a positive thing. I've noticed that there are a number of former conventions in games that players felt were bad in theory, but when they were changed/removed, actually don't make the games better, maybe not even for the players that spoke out against them. As the old adage says, "Be careful what you wish for." Many of the things I'm referring to deal with increased sense of freedom and control, either in the gameworld or the meta-gaming experience. There are many conventions that when defined, almost universally sound negative, and pretty much everyone would ask for their removal, but when they are removed, unbalance the experience in some way. Here are some of the items:

- Points of no return / permanent changes to the gameworld/characters
- Save points
- Overworld maps
- Random (unavoidable) battles

All of these things, if you had asked people back in the 90s whether they were good, would have gotten a universal "NO", but now that we've all experienced games without them, what do we really think about them?

- Points of no return look bad on paper because they take away something from the player... indeed, they may end up making the game stifled, and that certainly isn't good. But it also keeps settings from getting old, and really makes the earlier sections of the game special and not simply a "more constricted version of the endgame", it makes players want to come back and replay the game, because the beginning areas are lost to them.

- Save points, instead of "save anywhere", certainly look terrible on paper. I was among the many who thought they should be abandoned and never look back. In fact, I still have a love/hate relationship with save points, and think a hybrid system would be nice. They force the players to play each section in one sitting and make the players have to replay more when they die. But some of these negatives also have their positives: they give specific goals to work toward and increase the thrill of the experience. They also provide distinct structure to a dungeon/section and act as checkpoints along the way. And as much as I hate to admit it, the threat of having to replay a section keeps you on your toes more than "oh, I can just reset and do this again". I remember having to play a section of Metroid Prime a number of times, getting farther every time... the thrill of finally getting through it was wondrous! I still think there are ways of splitting the difference. Save anywhere systems that have "refresh points" that refresh HP and MP still provide the checkpoint effect. A few games have "Save points" but with temporary "Save Anywhere" systems where if you have to stop playing the game, you can stop there, but not use it as a crutch for getting through a difficult section, I've always found this to have ALL the positives of the "save point" system, plus the ability to stop playing. But sometimes a good old "save anywhere" is fine, depending upon the user experience the developers are going for.

- Overworld Maps. From the beginning, I've always liked them, and I've found their detractors to be completely theoretical and never bad in practice. There are two alternatives which provide opposite but worse problems. The dot map is one alternative, allowing the player to hop back and forth, completely avoiding the in-between sections. Some say this "cuts out the fat," and concentrates the player on only the important locales. But interest is all relative. If you have ONLY interesting or exciting locales, then everything becomes kind of bland. It also destroys spacial continuity, as the player doesn't really get the feeling of going from one place to another, just hopping around. The other alternative is the polar opposite: make the player walk everywhere! Aside from "cutting out the fat", it fills the game with endless amounts of boring forests and plains fields. Certainly the developers aren't going to put much effort into it, so they rarely provide any real interest, and you're always left wishing you could just skip it. The argument for this is that it really gives the player a sense of the journey and the relative distance between locales. But it causes so many problems. Either it makes the world feel incredibly small and ridiculous (you can walk from one town to the other in 2 minutes at normal scale... Star Ocean 3, you can literally see the entrance of one town from the next), adds a whole lot of long boring walking that no one enjoys, or when too realistic it just stifles the setting and makes everything homogenous, "You couldn't possibly walk from a desert to a rain forest, so we'll just not have a rain forest area in this game." It's strange that we live in an era of these two extremes, where the good old Overworld provides a happy medium. You spend some time experiencing the journey between locales, but it's greatly sped up, and allows for large distances to be covered quickly. I worry that the biggest argument against the overworld is, "Boo! It's not to scale! The character is 1000 feet high!" which is a ridiculously small price to pay for the benefits it provides.

- Random Battles. Wow, was I against these. When I first saw some games with on-screen enemies, I immediately thought, "never again". But you know what? There's even some downsides to on-screen enemies. I think the biggest one is the feeling of guilt that builds up from constant avoidance, or the OCD feeling of having to do each one (depending upon what mood you're in). I find it very hard to pace myself with how many to engage and how many to avoid. If I feel like "I don't want to battle right now", and avoid all of them I feel like I'm being a coward and I worry that I should be getting more experience. But when I feel like I have to fight them all, I get bored and the game grinds to a halt. At least with random battles, you're not left feeling guilty or OCD, you never finish a dungeon feeling like you've cheated your way through it. But on the flip side, I love puzzle dungeons and navigational puzzles, and I HATE having random battles pop up in the middle, so I'm not a huge fan of random battles either. I really don't know what the solution is, but on-screen enemies certainly haven't solved the basic problem: that players hate battling enemies. Funny since the whole concept of a video game is based around battling enemies. I think the only real solution is to make the battle system as engaging and non-repetitive as possible, while keeping the endless cinematics and power moves to an absolute minimum. Whether the battle initiation is random or up to the player, the feeling should be one of "Alright, here we go!" not "I guess I have to... here we go again". It's possible to create a game with random battles that is engaging and interesting. But also, if you make the battle system interesting enough, players will actively seek out on-screen battles and not feel guilty for avoiding them, too. So the key is just really interesting battles. Very very few games achieve this. I think the other thing that games don't tend to do well is change the frequency of battles depending upon the interest of the dungeon. If it's a puzzle or maze dungeon, or something that's just really cool to explore, battles just get in the way. If it's a boring dungeon, battles can become more frequent. I think the only time I think this was dealt with was Skies of Arcadia, in which puzzle ROOMS were suddenly void of random battles (ironic for a game whose biggest detractor is its ridiculously high frequency of random battles).

Anyway, just food for thought on those concepts that may look good on paper, but have their problems in practice. Maybe the most unfortunate thing is the whole scale change and abandonment of various practices all at the same time. Suddenly world maps were completely gone from games, suddenly all games had on-screen enemies, suddenly points of no return were evil. I understand that any arts/entertainment medium has it's phases, but its a shame that everyone seems to always go the same direction. Maybe the key with these elements is to mix them up, instead of developers deciding "We don't do overworlds anymore" (Square-Enix), approach every game as a unique experience with its own unique set of elements. Instead of always thinking of the current game as "Everything the previous game(s) was and then some!" Realize that every title is a unique experience and not just an upgrade. For instance, I don't think anyone would look at the history of Final Fantasy and say that it's been a "general improvement throughout the years". There are all different kinds of experiences in a series or genre, some are better, some are worse, and everyone's going to feel differently.

The Soundroom / Does jazz really make people think of cocaine?
« on: July 01, 2012, 02:57:04 PM »
I was at the checkout at Safeway yesterday, when I get into a conversation with my old jazz piano teacher, we're both talking about the gigs we've been doing, and he's telling me about various jazz groups he thinks I should listen to. We're so into it, that even after I've finished paying, I stand there for a minute or two behind the checkout (not blocking it or anything). Just then, the little shit behind me in line says, "can I get some cocaine, too?" and walks away. WTF? I don't even get it. As far as I know, the drug of choice for old boppers was heroine. Needless to say, I wouldn't even think of doing either one. It was obvious that this little man-bitch was trying to insult me, but it just didn't make any sense! Insults are one thing, but random comments attempting to be insults are just plain weird.

We all know that keytars look universally rediculous. Maybe it's the cheap plastic, or the pittiful "I wanted to be a badass guitar god, but my mommy forced me to take piano lessons instead" image it portrays. But unless your Herby Handcock, you're going to look silly. Except if you're female. Somehow, women are able to pull it off, where-as men can't. This isn't even about sex appeal, I just think women escape the whole "wannabe machismo" image that guys exude the minute they strap one on.

Just look at this google image search. Suddenly it all makes sense!

Look, I'd love to have a keytar... I like to move around while I'm playing, and keyboards are so stationary. But I once mentioned to my girlfriend that I'd like to get a keytar, and she threatened to break up with me! I UNDERSTAND! I'd break up with me too if I saw myself playing one! ;)

The Soundroom / R.I.P. Jim Marshall
« on: April 05, 2012, 09:16:08 PM »
Wow... heaven just got a little louder. I don't think anything has symbolized hard rock more thoroughly than the Marshall amp. As a keyboardist, I remember when Bob Moog passed away a few years back. So I can imagine what this means for guitarists. He will be missed.

The Soundroom / Final Fantasy XIII-2 OST
« on: February 02, 2012, 08:17:41 PM »
Surprised noone's started a topic on this yet.

I think it's really top-notch. I'm kind of dazed though, because I thought it would be Hamauzu and Hamauzu alone that would save the FF franchise from musical duldrums. But then I learn that Hamauzu only did about 1/4 of the tracks in the game, and honestly, they're probably the least interesting bits. The orchestral themes aren't nearly as inspired as they were in FF13. However, much of the stuff done by the other two comprosers is absolutely ASTOUNDING. "Run" marks a new favorite in the series: driving fusion jazz with a killer violin improv solo. WOW! Still quite a bit of jazz on this album, like with FF13, "Win or Loose" is a great cool bop track with really juicy upright bass.

But one thing stands out about this soundtrack like never before: the drumming. Who played the drums on this stuff? I really like his style and sound. The drum production is also some of the best I've ever heard, very organic, yet still punchy. The ride cymbal he's using is absolutely humungus... like a really old-school jazz ride, just a SWEET sound.

In-game, I noticed a real improvement over FF13... they finally used ducking to get the music to balance correctly with the other sounds! FF13 had a huge problem with the music from a technical standpoint... it was WAY TOO QUIET. They seemed to be worried about it getting in the way of the other sounds to such an extent that it got turned down to a whisper. But on FF13-2 they've gotten wise and used some real-time ducking techniques to push the volume of the music down while sound effects and voices are playing, so you can hear everything when it needs to be heard without sacrificing music volume. I'm really thankful for this.

Also, for the first time, I'm not turned off by all the vocal tracks. New Bodhum is just beautiful... wonderful track. The "death techno" track for boss battles is also killer. The vocalist REALLY reminds me of the singer for Paradise Lost. And overall, I'd just say that the vocal tracks are quite listenable. The Brescha Rap is still absolute crap though. Thank god they had the sense of removing the lyrics from the US version. I'm sure Japanese kids who have no idea what's being said will think it sounds cool, but it's painful for english speakers to listen to.

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