What is there to say about Myst? It’s one of gaming’s first genuine hits with mainstream audiences. It was a pioneer of computer graphics and game visuals. It’s approach to storytelling and puzzle design have inspired modern games like The Room and Gone Home, and its sense of mystery and wonder was one of the big inspirations behind the TV series Lost. For me, it was one of the games that got me into wanting to learn computer graphics and make immersive worlds, alongside the original Doom.
While later games in the series released in the early 2000’s eventually lost the widespread appeal that the early games did, the series made a splash again when it was released on iOS in 2009. It was on the top sellers lists for a while, as people who owned the game back in the day but never finished it bought it again on their touch devices, and it found a new audience as well. It also was a pioneer of “serious” games on mobile, with its success at an (at the time) astonishing 727 MB download encouraged other developers to make bigger games on the platform.
In this light, Legendary’s recently announced partnership with Cyan to make a Myst television show alongside a transmedia game element makes a lot of sense.
I look at the comments sections of articles reporting the announcement, and I see a lot of reactions similar to this Penny Arcade joke. I’m not sure how much of this is the internet snark machine and how much of this is people not understanding how much potential there is in this idea, so I figured I’d talk about why I think it’s a good idea and talk about my theories about what it might look like.
I have a friend who says that people spend too much of their life idly consuming media, and fixate too much on it as a way of relating to other people. I think he’s right, but still certain pieces of media can be life-changing under the right circumstances, or at the very least evoke new insights or strong emotions that stick with you forever. As someone who got into the game/software industry to do just that, it’s something I think about a lot. I want to dedicate some space on this blog to sharing some of the bits of media that have stuck with me for a long time for one reason or another.
However, I’m starting this off with something that might be perhaps a little unexpected.
It’s an episode of the show “Hoarding : Buried Alive”, Season 4 Episode 1, titled “Tiny Monsters.” The show is another crappy reality tv show, the kind where every episode has the same plot, whether it’s Kitchen Nightmares, Hoarding, or whatever. In this show they find someone who has a hoarding problem, show how crazy they are, talk about how what they have is a compulsion or a mental illness, then eventually they have a dramatic turnaround for the camera where they resolve to change, clean out their place, and have some nice before/after shots to make you feel good at the end.
This episode of the show, however, is special.
It depicts the absolute nadir of the human experience.
Well, the first bit of news is that my startup has announced the release date for our first iOS app (December 22nd) and released the trailer!
I’m really proud of how the final app turned out and I’m also really pleased with the trailer. I’ve never edited a video before in my life and within a couple evenings I was able to capture all the footage with Quicktime and edit it with iMovie into what you see above.
I have a couple thoughts about this:
First, the song is stuck in my head after all the time editing the video, but it’s great and catchy so that’s not a bad thing. Jamendo is a great resource for this sort of thing. I even found some pretty excellent instrumental metal on there. A few years back I remember checking out all the creative commons music and thinking there was some decent stuff but nothing amazing. Times have changed.
Second, I want to slap the next person who claims that Apple machines are “toys” or “overpriced” or “fascist”. Programs like iMovie and Garage Band empower anyone to become content creators in a matter of hours. I have a <$750 notebook with a 10 hour battery life that can run games, let me make a polished trailer for my app, has a full office suite, and has presets in their music software that sound better than my physical guitar amp and effects pedal. As far as being a “toy”, I do more power user command line things on my Mac than I ever did on my Windows machines. Power of UNIX.
There are legitimate reasons to criticize Apple the company, their hardware, and their software, but there’s these tired memes that have no basis in fact (at least not anymore) that make up much of the criticism I hear online and in person. I feel like debunking these might merit its own post at some point in time.
What else? I ended up having to install Windows 8 (upgrading from 7) on my desktop for various reasons. My first impression was that it was the most beautiful OS I’d ever seen. The colors and typography are tailor made to look amazing in commercials. The welcome screen alone was seriously enough to amaze. My second impression was “Oh my God, they’ve ruined everything.” It’s overall maybe more stable and more efficient than 7, but every interface decision they made is objectively wrong. Hiding basic functionality behind unintuitive gestures, defying 20 years of user conditioning and muscle memory by getting rid of the start menu, adding layers and layers of steps to the workflow for no real reason… I’m actually kind of astonished they broke it this much. This is itself worthy of another dedicated writeup sometime. If Windows 10 makes the mobile interface more intuitive and makes a dedicated and better interface for desktop while keeping the under-the-hood improvements (nay, expanding on them) I’ll be happy I guess.
Finally, Gear VR Innovator edition and public Mantle SDK announcements. As a graphics programmer, I can’t wait to start playing around with Mantle and see what I can do to max out my desktop GPU, and what sorts of new engine architectures will be enabled. The Gear VR might be enough to get me to upgrade to a Note 4 instead of an iPhone 6+ when I’m eligible for a phone upgrade. It’s just an early adopter device but it’s going to be really exciting to see what happens with it. I expect much of the content (but not all, I’ve seen some “real” games in development for it) is going to be video/multimedia/“experience” software though, since mobile at high framerates and resolutions is really demanding. I should do a writeup comparing this eventuality to the 90s CD-ROM boom and why this is and isn’t a good thing.
I’ve been thinking about microconsoles. When the Ouya, Gamestick, etc were first announced I thought it was a really interesting phenomenon coinciding with the emergence of mobile gaming, mobile graphics, streaming, app stores, and the indie games boom. I’ve also insisted for a long time that there’s a ton of untapped potential for these sorts of devices in terms of local multiplayer using both the tv and everyone’s phones and tablets. I still do think that there’s some things inherently more interesting about this sort of platform.
All I’ve really wanted from the “big players” in consoles for a while is just for one of them to steal the app store model and allow a more democratic form of development on their platform. PC and mobile have been getting tons of interesting content using the app store model that the barriers to entry on consoles simply don’t allow. To top it off, in theory, the microconsoles themselves are lower cost devices to begin with, reducing barriers to entry for the mainstream gamers that mostly know gaming through their phone, to start gaming with a controller in front of their TV.
In practice however, it seems like there are several problems with this, stopping microconsoles from really taking off.
I recently had the privilege of testing out an Oculus Rift. I felt compelled to write up my first impressions. I’ve been meaning to start a personal blog to write about whatever for a while, and this is as good a place to start as any. Feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you want to skip the intro stuff. My name is Chris, and I’m a graphics programmer. I will use this space to write about whatever I’m thinking about that I feel merits sharing and discussion, regardless of topic, but there will be a bias towards computers/programming, music/metal, and fictional media since that’s what occupies a lot of my headspace. I’ll probably write up a proper intro at some point, but for now, on to the Rift!
I got to try a demo setup of the Rift Dev Kit 2 at work two weeks ago. This first demo had some issues; certain demos had some kind of weird flickering when you moved your head, and some had some kind of RGB color separation. Later on I got to demo the Rift again on a setup without these issues and it was an even more amazing experience, but even with these issues I was still impressed.
The first demo I tried was the Oculus World Tuscany demo. It’s basically a Unity Engine test demo where you walk around and look at some okay art assets. Normally it’s something I wouldn’t even bother to download, but with the rift, it’s fuckin’ cool.
The first thing I noticed was the head tracking. The word I would use for it is “immaculate”. Every other virtual reality type experience I’ve tried was missing this. I played some sword fighting game at Disney Quest something like a decade ago between the weight of the headset and the touch of lag, it felt like I was playing a virtual reality video game. While I’m hoping that the consumer headsets are a bit lighter, the Rift doesn’t really have this problem; it’s like being transported to a place. I felt like I’d become a ghost when, seconds after putting the Rift on, I held my hand in front of my face and saw nothing.