Wednesday 12 March 2008

Zoso has left the building

As you might have noticed, the Musings here have been getting rather less MMOG-y. I was thinking of changing the title or setting up another blog or something, and chatting to Melmoth it turned out he'd been contemplating a move too, so he's put a vast amount of effort into getting Killed in a smiling accident going, and I've pitched up on the doorstep to aimlessly burble around a bit. Expect a more diverse array of post subjects, until I get utterly caught up in some game and in a fierce turn of irony blog exclusively about MMOs again there (and post about flower arranging here).

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Charlie don't surf

In between sorting out inventory in Hellgate (I'm not sure what gives the greatest pleasure, shooting a bunch of zombies or arranging weapon modifications in order of rarity, type and effect and deciding which 18 to keep in the stash) and Guitar Heroism (Before I Forget cracked, now trying to work out how the hell to do the second solo of Cult of Personality) I've been getting more into Audiosurf, and have developed a few techniques for maximum fun-having-ness.

Firstly, I've given up on the colour-matching characters, and almost entirely play mono. The representation of the music tends to pick up broad themes, and works best when you step back and look at the whole sweep of the thing. The colour matching aspect forces you into looking very narrowly at what's immediately ahead in relation to what you've previously picked up, and I still can't see the representation of the music in the colours most of the time. If, say, red blocks tended to correspond to vocals I think it would work better, but that's expecting rather a lot from the song-to-track algorithms. My Advanced Brane Science Theory is that the trying-to-work-out-which-colour-to-place-where part of the brain needs so much processing power that it doesn't leave any for the listening-to-the-nice-music-and-going-ooooh-isn't-it-pretty part, though experimental analysis is inconclusive so far (the research consists of shouting "ARE YOU LIKING THE MUSIC? HOW PRETTY IS THE TRACK ON A SCALE OF ONE TO SEVEN? WHY AREN'T YOU COLLECTING THOSE RED BLOCKS? OOH, I LOVE THIS BIT OF THE SONG HOW ABOUT YOU? WHAT COLOURS ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW? DID YOU NOTICE THAT SWITCH TO D FLAT MINOR JUST THEN?", and the only subject I could find is my hamster, who bit me on the finger then went back to eating sunflower seeds). I kept playing the colour-matching characters for a while, as mono felt like a cop-out, like "easy mode" for people who can't handle uber-chrominence, but then I told myself to snap out of it, it's not like there's any peer pressure (aside from the aforementioned hamster, and the derisive squeak was probably more to do with running out of sunflower seeds than me selecting Mono Pro as a character). Plus it's not wussing out at all, it's a perfectly rational action based on Advanced Brane Science.

Actually, a hideous, terrifying vision just floated across my mind of Audiosurf message boards, where a ferocious war rages between the Colour Matchers and the Mono Players over the Right Way to play. Each character doubtless has its own adherents, pleading for buffs to their favoured class and calling for the absurdly overpowered (insert other character here) to be nerfed and there's way too much gold spam and raiding needs too much time plus since pvp got all the best items there's no point and the devs hate me it is a SLAP IN THE FACE AND... erm. Sorry about that. I haven't visited the official forums, I don't know if they're anything like that, but I don't think I'll take the risk.

Secondly, I've chilled out the music I've been playing. I'd been tending towards up-tempo rhythm beat combos; Scum-era Napalm Death, the Prodigy and their titular safety-film-based tune, Slayer, Atari Teenage Riot, Pennywise, Lawnmower Deth etc. After all, faster music, more traffic, more points! And what do points make? A sense of accomplishment as there aren't any actual prizes, per se! Plus there's the mandatory online machismo associated with... well, anything really. Caffeine consumption ("I like a couple of cups of coffee", "A couple? Ha! I have thirty cups A DAY!", "Thirty? Pah. I have fifty cups of SUPER EXTRA HIGH CAFFEINE BLEND!" "Yeah? Well I make SUPER EXTRA HIGH CAFFEINE BLEND in the filter machine then I add three spoons of instant coffee to it and then NINE SHOTS OF ESPRESSO!"), chilli tolerence ("I made chilli con carne last night with a few jalapeƱos, man it had a kick to it", "JalapeƱos, pah, I used nine Scotch Bonnets in mine plus a bottle of Tabasco sauce", "Tabasco? Pfff, I only use Dave's Insanity Sauce", "HA! I drank SEVENTEEN GALLONS of NEVILLE'S EVEN MORE INSANE REALLY YOU'D HAVE TO BE STARK RAVING MAD EVEN TO LOOK AT THE BOTTLE SAUCE for BREAKFAST!"), and, of course, speed of Audiosurf tracks ("I only play TEN BILLION BPM death-techno-hard-bass tracks FROM MARS"). The more congested the traffic, though, the more you have to focus closely, exacerbating the previously outlined Advanced Brane Science Theory. Colour matching at very high speed is madness, mono slightly better but still not optimal for musical appreciation. Instead, I've been delving around my collection for ambient, trance, dub, psychedelia, krautrock and similar (and also realising that since starting to use iTunes to organise my music, the physical folder structures are a right mess). Notable successes I've really enjoyed have included UNKLE, The Olivia Tremor Control and Can; it's a lottery, though. Dylan doesn't work too well, unfortunately, but then much of his genius is in the words and it'll probably be a while before a program can turn lyrical symbolism into playable visuals. Some dEUS songs that I thought would make nice tracks aren't too interesting either. Still, it's a fun journey of discovery; next stop, maybe some late 60s Pink Floyd jams and any Doors song over ten minutes...