Archive for September, 2006
I’ve noticed that I’m becoming much more critical of writing. In the last few years, books that I thought were brilliantly written have lost some of their lustre and are now only mediocre. Books I’d loved and re-read dozens of times are now nearly unreadable. I used to like almost everything I read. Now, I find some books embarrassingly bad, and just can’t finish them. I’m not sure if I’m getting a better grip on what makes writing good, or if I’m just becoming grumpy and cynical.
One thing that I keep seeing is “Proper Noun Syndrome.” It may have been Ken Levine of Irrational Games (he was at Looking Glass at the time, I think) who coined that phrase in an essay about writing for the once great game mag Computer Games Strategy Plus. I may have misquoted it, because Google can’t find it, but the essay was a brilliant rant about the lack of quality writing in games.
Anyway, you may not know it by that phrase, but you probably know the problem, which I will now demonstrate with a delightful demonstrative example.
One thousand years ago, when King Jerrious Billswag the Thirteenth still ruled over the Kingdom of Gigglesgensenton, there was a terrible calamity known as The Terrible Calamity. Igglewing the evil Dark Templar Demon King stole the mysterious Obelisk of Right Triangles and started the destruction of the Well of Eternal Power that the god of the wells, Puddlejumper, had left to protect the people of Omgwtf.
In the rant that I’ve attributed to Mr. Levine in my memory, he mentioned how tired he was of seeing things like this. I’m sure you can think of at least one game that has an introduction cut-scene with almost real looking CG people and a deep voice-over providing a Proper Name Syndrome filled narration. (He had another rant about cut-scenes, by the way. Ken Levine is smart.) It didn’t bug me as much then, but now anything that reads like that bores me in just a few paragraphs.
I want to read about the events in more detail. I want to know why they happened, not just that they happened. I want to understand the reasons behind the character’s decisions. I don’t want to read pages filled with lists of summarized deeds.
I find it even more annoying when I read a long detailed world history of summarized events, filled with facts that were either made up by an in-game historian, or were channeled right from the minds of the game developers to the page. Well, that part isn’t annoying. The part that is annoying is the part, pages in, where I find something like this: “Somehow, the terrible thingamabob was stolen from the all powerful god by Bill the Terrible.” Somehow? What a cop out. Surely the in-game historian or channellee (channelized?) would know the details behind a turning point event like this.
Perhaps the writers were trying to fill in backstory after the fact. They have this event (a “wouldn’t it be cool if?” event) to which they are welded, and then they need a sequel a few years later, so they get someone (maybe even a Famous Author) to fill in some story before it and, on getting to the event, discover it doesn’t really fit so well with what they planned for the backstory and the sequel. So it happens Somehow. This really rips me out of the story.
First, it has to make sense to keep me in the story. How did Bill get this powerful item away from an all powerful god? Why did it exist in the first place? Second, instead of just saying “somehow,” wouldn’t the story of this daring theft make for a more interesting story than paragraphs of Names doing deeds?
The reason for this rant? I read something recently written and published by a very large and successful company full of both of these problems. And what is really interesting is that the story is good enough that it was still readable. I can only imagine how good it would be if it was reworked.
For some reason, I’ve been feeling the urge to give World of Warcraft another try. As I still have the game installed on the Windows PC, it tempts me from time to time.
I’ve quit twice after playing a short time each instance. I just couldn’t get into it. But with Jerry Pournelle mentioning it all the time, and that damned icon on the gaming machine, it is just so tempting.
Oh well. It only costs 15 dollars to see if anything has changed that will capture my fancy. Now that I’ve finished justifying it to myself, I guess I’ll reactivate my account.
Oh and by the way, did I mention I got a nice new MacBook? I was offered one for a price I couldn’t refuse. I guess I’ll be sending back the Dell that replaced my iBook for a few days. It wasn’t a bad machine, but I sure missed OS X.
The bug is old news, but folks have started to actively exploit it.
You really should unregister that DLL or switch to Opera or Firefox. Or just get a Mac.
It isn’t panic time yet, but this could get really nasty.
Monday. Oh, how I hate thee. Rotten to the crunchy center art thou.
For some reason, I feel like I didn’t get any sleep last night. I know I did though. I even had some bizarre dreams. I don’t usually get those on weekdays. My theory is that I don’t sleep long enough to allow REM sleep on weekdays.
My subconscious refuses to be ignored even in those cases. I get all the wacky dreams come the weekend. Saturday morning is always wacky and adventure filled. I wonder if this is common for folks who don’t get enough sleep during the week.
Once, I dreamed that I was dreaming that I was dreaming. I woke up twice into a complete reality that was my own, only it wasn’t. In that way that only dreams can. I’ve only had that happen once, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It may be the oddest and most lucid dream I’ve had thus far.
In geeky news, I discovered rsync.net over the weekend. We’ve been looking for offsite backup at the dayjob, and this looks to be a good fit. The price is a bargain, and I get to use rsync. Together with one of the FUSE encrypted filesystems, I should be able to use all the power of rsync and have a nice safe encrypted offsite backup.
Geez, I love this music.
One of these days I really ought to try the game.
(Well okay, I tried the beta, and it wasn’t all that much fun.)
If you are interested, there are very high quality samples on Bill Brown’s website. If you have any love for orchestral game music, you really must hear this.
So tomorrow I’ll be 28. I’ve been out of school and in the workforce for TEN YEARS.
When I was young, I was told to expect time to go faster as I aged. I couldn’t believe it was possible. A month was a very long time. A year, nearly forever. A decade? Unfathomable. And here my folks were telling me that a year would be nothing when I was “their age.”
Well it has happened. I still feel like I just got out of high school. Where have these ten years gone? I sure don’t know what happened to them. Maybe I dreamed them?
Hell, I can’t even remember how old I am without doing the math in my head. Birthdays used to be so important, and now I don’t even think about them. When I was very young, I measured my age in half-years. That half year was so important. It meant I wasn’t just six, or eight. I was better. Those who were just eight were little kids. I was eight-and-a-half!
Now I can’t remember my age. I don’t count it at all. My internal measurement of time has become unreliable. If I lived to be two hundred, would years feel like weeks? Does this time distortion continue to grow as I age? If so, does that mean that more of my perceived life is over than my age leads me to believe?
I feel like I’ve not accomplished anywhere near what I’d intended in what is, given the averages, three sevenths of my life. But do I have even less time now than it appears to accomplish these things?
If so, then I suppose I’d better get my ass in gear, right now.
I’m always game for a good serial, and I had high hopes for Jericho. The previews looked pretty good, and the premise was intriguing and looked as though it would make for a good developing plot arc thingie.
Alas, it was crap. The writing was soapy and featured truly horrendous dialog, littered with cliches and stupid moments. The acting was embarrassingly bad, particularly the supporting roles. But the worst aspect was definitely the music.
As is becoming typical with crap TV shows, we got to hear several Famous Pop Songs that made sure to let the audience know what the expected emotional response should be. While the songs really weren’t that awful, one in particular was so badly placed I thought for a moment I was watching a commercial for some kind of homemade $FOOD and had stopped fast forwarding my DVR too early. I have no idea what the song was, but it featured an emo male lead who wheezed along while the Long Lost Son returned to his Long Lost Home to see his Long Lost Family.
The underscore was just awful. Crappy synth and derivative, uninspired composition that sounds just like every other crap TV score that makes my ears bleed. Am I overusing crap? Well crap, I swear these guys have an algorithmic process that allows quick and painless generation of totally boring, crap TV music.
With so many shows these days getting well composed orchestral scores, it was disappointing to hear such a highly hyped show with 1990s quality synth without even decent composition to make it less irritating. This is CBS, so I guess I should have expected it.
Anyhow, the only positive aspect is the slowly developing and pretty interesting plot. The idea behind it is promising, I really hope it gets better. I may give it one more try, just because I like the premise so much. It was a pilot after-all. They mostly do suck. Mostly.
Crazy day so far, including a nice whack on the head while replacing a UPS battery at o-way-too-early. At least nearly everything worked after replacing the battery. Except the tape drive in the big important SQL server. Rebooting seems to have helped, for now. I hate to see anything backup related become unreliable.