Brief RL Updates:
My desktop computer Gavin stopped booting in January, so I haven't been able to get ahold of most of my music, comics, drawings, writing, etc. I've been meaning to fix it since then, but I just never got round to it. One thing I needed to do was do a quick swaparound to make sure the problem wasn't just bad RAM, although it seemed like it was probably a bad disk sector. Even though this is a relatively speedy and simple process and I fully meant to do it ASAP, I just never did. This is a common situation for me; I have a billion things I need or want to do, but I just never do them, no matter how important or crucial or interesting they may be.
Last night I just thought, dammit, I need to check that! So at 2AM I pulled my computer apart and verified that it's probably not the RAM. I feel happy about that! The computer is still broken, but that's nothing new; on the other hand, I actually did a thing I needed and wanted to do, and I felt quite proud of myself. I realize it's not a big deal or any sort of massive undertaking and you're all probably thinking, "so what?", but I was all excited that I suddenly had motivation to do something I'd been putting off. It was a tiny thing, but baby steps, eh? It gives me hope that I'll stop fucking up my life so badly. Ganbatte Ka-chan!
That's all, on to other stuff now.
RL update #2: tragically I was too poor to go see Filter Monday night, but J and I read in the Onion (local events/AV club) about a concert at tiny local venue, er, "Glob," featuring a number of tiny indie bands, including Bird Names and Sic Alps (from Chicago and San Francisco respectively). Glob (or whatever) is right next door to Rhinoceropolis, which similarly hosts tiny concerts and starving art shows and so on, although it is somewhat larger. Both of these occupy a building which clearly used to be a series of warehouses, meaning the acoustics are terrible, but I suppose there's nothing you can do about that sort of thing. Such is the life of the unknown musician, playing at venues with inferior sound!
Aside from being wankily obscure and supar-indie, the show also had the virtue of being free, so we decided to attend. I counted maybe 40-50 people total at this event, but approximately 15 of those were the various musicians, so I'm not sure they really count. Aside from the two headlining bands, there were also some other people; the first guy made pleasant droning buzzy reverby guitar noises (accompanied by rather poor singing which I could generously call "raw") and the second band was... uh... I dunno, more droning noises? I forget. It all kind of made me sleepy, but then I was kind of sleepy anyhow (I get up around 5:30-5:45 AM every morning for work so I tend to get tired early these days... sometimes it's hard to even stay up till midnight!! I'm getting old *weepweep*). I was surprised I found it tolerable, given that the artists were mostly of the noise orientation ("noise" is a genre, btw, in case y'all are wondering). I'm not much of a noise person; I enjoy rhythm and melody and such in my music, not random squeaks and thumps. I suffered through Wolf Eyes a few weeks ago, which essentially sounded like an hour of a band warming up really loudly, and only drinking and sketching the bartenders improved the experience (J, on the other hand, loves that sort of crap; I guess it takes all kinds).
Anyway, after the random (local?) people, Bird Names took the floor and were loud and quirky and playing freak-folk in 1/3 or 3/9 or 6/9 time or something (or so I was told by some music guy I chatted with). I danced a bit as I was feeling more lively (we'd had a drink or two by then, or rather I'd had a drink and J had had a 6-pack). I wouldn't say they were excitingly awesome, but their raucous noise was kind of infectiously fun and they had a good ending song, something to the effect of "Nobody Loves Me" which is a sentiment I can get behind. Probably the sort of band that is only good live though. After that was Sic Alps, which was two guys doing loud droning post-rockish noise stuff with lots of reverb and occasional screeching feedback; it wasn't bad, but again, not sure I'd want to listen to it outside the context of a live show. The last guy was one of the Rhinoceropolis guys (they live next door in the back of the warehouse as well as hosting random gigs, I believe), with a name of... er... Malcolm Mortimer Croissant or something nonsense like that (I forget), but his music (kind of shoegazey singer-songwriter rock) was probably the best of the night (I was surprised). J objected to him though, on the grounds that the guy "has an attitude" and doesn't like him. >_>
Somewhat related: next Monday, indie experimental/electronica/noise band Health will be playing at Rhinoceropolis, probably for a pittance (if they charge at all). Also playing will be the other guy who lives in the back of the warehouse. I have no idea what sort of music he does, but I met him and he seemed pretty nice (also v. skinny and stringy-haired), and he stated he'd be playing, so yeah.
Hotel Dusk Gameblog
When Albert visited last year, he lost my (white) Nintendo DS someplace in Denver. It was replaced at Christmas by a tragically pink one T_T, along with the game which had been inside the old one: Hotel Dusk: Room 215. This game was made by the same people who made Trace Memory, which was a charming (if short) little puzzle-novel type game. Hotel Dusk is pretty much more of the same -- you roam around a small location, slowly gaining entry to more and more areas as you solve puzzles and trigger plot events, until you reach the end of the story (and the game). They are very similar to the Phoenix Wright games -- that is, they are essentially interactive novels punctuated with silly logic puzzles with ridiculous solutions which woulld never work out IRL.
To shut down systemreactor (or anyone else who thinks s/he is smrt) before he can say anything, no, a normal novel is not interactive. You don't "interact" with the content. The story itself is words and concepts; the only thing you interact with at all (in a very broad and very literal sense) is paper, which is not the story. Interaction involves your actions having some reaction; a story in novel form doesn't wait for you to solve a puzzle, explore an area, or choose an option in order to progress. When you read a novel, you cannot affect its progress or direction in any way, nor does it require anything more of you than to turn pages, an act that becomes as mindless as breathing when one is reading. These game-novels are "interactive" by virtue of requiring the reader (player) to do something requiring real mental effort in order to progress. In some games, your choices can affect the outcome of events, change the way things happened, or even change the ending of the story. This is what makes it interactive, not the act of tapping on a screen instead of turning pages. It can be somewhat compared to a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but those are a very specific type of book and certainly not the normal way that a novel is written or progresses.
As a further difference, the actual gameplay in these games is usually made up largely of logic puzzles. Generally not realistic logic puzzles; more like the old "Goat, Cabbage, and Wolf" logic puzzle: given a situation with very specific parameters, you solve the puzzle. You don't ask why the guy doesn't just put a muzzle on the wolf, buy some animal cages, find a bridge, etc. You just figure out the answer. To me, logic puzzles are games, so I see no problem with considering Phoenix Wright or Hotel Dusk as "real games." Anyone who disagrees can FOAD.
Hotel Dusk Gameblog
Anyway, getting back to Hotel Dusk: after playing it for like a month at work between calls, plus at home and such, I finished the game a few weeks ago. Those of you who have played this game may be saying, "How the hell could it possibly have taken you so long to finish it?" Well, anyone who's played the game must also be familiar with its lovely flickery black and white artwork; I myself was very taken with it, and the range of character types and facial expressions, so I spent a significant percentage of my game clock drawing with various people as references. Surprisingly I found Hyde really, really hard to draw (I still can't do it to my satisfaction). Something about his character design is apparently inimical to my brain, because I just couldn't copy it to save my life. I actually wound up really having fun drawing Louie. This is probably partially due to the fact that when I did sketches of Louie I didn't try very hard to make them look like him (and they don't, although if you had played the game and saw my sketchbook you might recognize them).
The result is that the Louie sketches look good and have lots of animation (so to speak) and the Kyle sketches are mostly fail, fail, fail. I might scan the pages. They’re sort of fun to look at, even if they’re just copies of someone else’s work. The art’s been very influential on me, if only because I spent so much time copying it (or trying unsuccessfully to copy it, whichever). The 1979 setting was interesting in that the clothes and technology and areas were designed with the time period in mind. One area in which I did feel the chara design suffered was the clothes. Might be too much Jojo or too many JRPGs, but I want some style in my games! Everyone in Hotel Dusk is wearing chronologically appropriate but boring outfits… come on, people! The late 70s were a style explosion! Can’t we do better than featureless turtlenecks and bland menswear? Only the stylishness of the art saves the chara designs from looking deadly dull.
Of the lot I thought Rachel (Ed’s secretary) was most stylish; her pretty girl-suit with the wide collar was appealing to me. I did like Kyle’s loose tie, but that’s just because I like disheveled men in dress shirts and not because it was particularly unique or stylish. I felt either Mila or whatsherface, the bitchy chick, were the most maligned, since they were both pretty but cursed with fugly outfits.
Anyhow! I enjoyed the game, since I like these sorts of puzzles; I only got stuck and needed a FAQ like… uhhh…well there was probably some time. I did check a FAQ to make sure I hadn’t missed anything a few times (tragically I did miss getting change so even though I collected all the stars, I couldn’t get the vending machine prize), and also for the bit where you crowbar the cabinet off the floor, because I dropped the damn thing and ended my game so many times I thought I must be missing something (but it turned out I just suck with the crowbar). Oh and I didn’t trigger the brick wall thing at the end of the game because I wasn’t walking near enough to it, so I wandered the whole hotel before coming back and getting it, but I consider that not my fault. I also died a bunch of times in the locked room but it was mainly because there were so many bits of the puzzle and I kept running out of air.
I liked the story; it was an interesting investigation into why people do things, especially the wrong things for all the right reasons. There is some moralism here, I think; it may or may not have been intentional, but it seemed like everyone who committed some crime or sin, no matter what the reason, had a bad outcome. Bradley and Robert whatsis both wound up on the run from Nile, Danny got killed, Grace is missing. There’s definitely a thread of family and the things people will do for their families; you can even consider Louie and Danny as having been "family" to one another.
Most random bits: Summer and Helen Parker. What did they have to do with the main plot? It was like an entirely separate story. Then there was Jeff and his barely-connected story. Both bits definitely followed the family theme, but the Alan Parker thread especially seemed sort of random. Jeff amused me. He reminded me of my roommate J. At one point, I showed J my NDS and was all, "Look at this, this guy reminds me of you! See, his hair is kind of like yours, and he looks all grouchy, and he’s yelling at me to get out of his room!" Surprisingly, J actually found this funny. >_>
I liked Kyle a lot, even though his "badass with a heart of gold" character is nothing excitingly original and his hunt for his bestest friend is a bit questionable (well, that’s probably just the fangirl in me). I liked his dry and slightly sarcastic sense of humor and it was amusing to read his commentary on everything. I am the sort of person who has to investigate every single investigatable thing (multiple times) so I was happy to see fun commentary on things like random boxes ("My keen detective skills tell me it's a cardboard box. I'm glad I became a cop for this.") His random tragic life story with his dad was kind of over the top to me, but I was touched by Louie’s reaction to it. I’m not sure I quite bought the "everyone wants to spill out their life’s secrets to a grumpy salesman" angle, but obviously such things had to occur for the game to go on. I said the wrong thing a few times for the fun of it, which might be why I didn’t get the good ending… I read in the FAQ that if you have a perfect(?) game you get a scene at the end with Jenny returning. I’ll have to try it again sometime.
I did feel that the game left too many unanswered questions; when the game ended, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, "wait, shouldn’t there be a lot more?" It’s like the developers just ran out of time and were like "welp some major revelations just got made, I guess we can stop here." Aside from what happened to Jenny (which I guess is answered if you get the "good" ending although I doubt they actually explain what’s been going on all this time or how she returned), I wanted to know more; what happened to Grace? What happened to Alan? Whence Mila’s dad? And why the hell do I get saddled with Mila at the end of the game! I want to get with Rachel dammit, not some teenaged girl with the mind of a 10-year-old. Bah. I wanted her to stay with Louie. I actually liked him a lot more than I thought I would when we first met. I must say his chara design didn’t seem Italian to me so much as some kind of stoner with a caucasiafro.
So how does this game compare with Trace Memory? Well, the story was more complicated, and I liked the more urban feel and rougher characters; Trace Memory’s child characters were cute and lent the game its feel of charming exploration, but it was pretty awesome to play as (and with) characters who are adults. As an old lady myself, I really like seeing adult characters in games, and I don’t just mean "over the age of 21" but rather, you know, mature people who have seen a lot in life, have real jobs, have responsibilities aside from feeding the dog and saving the world, etc. Characters who are actually older than me are a super-bonus! (Argh I am older than Suou-nii now! D: WGW!! Well at least Baofu is still older than me. >_>)
The puzzles here felt a bit easier than Trace Memory’s puzzles, which were at times somewhat… not intuitive. I think Hotel Dusk was also longer (but it’s hard to tell). I do think Trace Memory wrapped up a lot more satisfyingly and with fewer gaping holes in the conclusion. Also I got the good ending when I played Trace Memory, so that’s a point in its favor. Anyhow, in summary, Hotel Dusk is a cool game, but unless you're the sort of person who either really likes these type of games or can read novels over and over, it's probably better to rent or borrow than to buy, since like all of these type games, there's not a ton of replay once you've seen the story and solved all the puzzles.
I've run out of NDS games (feel free to send such to me for my birthday!!) so currently I'm playing Golden Sun for the GBA, which I never did get round to finishing. Currently tromping round Venus Lighthouse. Gameblog forthcoming.
Links of teh day:
*** The art of Banksy. Apparently Banksy is some sort of UK artist, specializing in graffiti. His work is very cool, and often takes advantage of its surroundings or existing features, which integrates it into its environment more than most graf art.
*** lol Doogie Howser MD. Best Old Spice commercial evar. Even better than the basketball one with Will Ferrell. (Well, that one was funny if you saw "Semi-Pro," anyhow.) I guess it might not be funny if you're too young to recall Doogie Howser, but in that case you are an insolent whippersnapper and need a beating.
*** The Sad and Twisted Saga of a Political Consultant's Battle With Nintendo's Kirby. Would you enjoy reading a bizarre politically-related story from the sticky, questionable depths of Second Life? Sure you would! Also: Kirby hates our troops!! D: D: D:
Later. "I will be calmer than cream, making maps out of your dreams..."