Thursday, January 13, 2011

Overthinking for the User

Upon watching Tron: Legacy for the third time today (different days with different people) it dawned on me again that I wanted to blog about it, so now I am.

I was talking with Jason about the the movie the first time I watched it and I said, “You know what this is right? It’s freeware, open-source. Like with wikipedia, Google Chrome, torrents and the like.” “They’ve been doing that for years, it was called Linux.” “You realize we’re watching a movie about communists, right?”

Kevin Flynn is essentially a Jimmy Wales that somehow ran a giant profitable corporation that was worth millions of dollars and yet at the same time wanted all information to be open and free. Right.

While talking about the movie with Gwen she brought up that there were a lot of plot holes that she hopes they address in the third installment of the series. Though we never got around to discussing what those plot holes she had qualms with exactly, I think that most of those holes are mostly things that could be explained away with slight assumptions. Although nagging questions did pursue me throughout the film. Dinner time? Did they really have to eat? Are there cleanly lit and streamlined toilets? What is that blue stuff they’re drinking? Why can’t CLU just design light-bikes that can go off-grid, Flynn’s sure can. And was it really so hard to find Flynn’s little Zen hideaway? He has a goddamn balcony and lights there are clearly visible from a bird’s eye view which the Tron Recognizers (the big Torii shaped things) can fly up to which was shown in the movie! And as Tycho of Penny Arcade addressed in his one-panel rant on the film, the portal, which is supposed to be difficult to get to has a goddamn train that goes straight to it! Why did CLU have to kill Zeus? Is he insane? I think that whole business was really just an attempt to make him seem more “evil.” Where does the power come from in the world? Do they have power plants? Is there infinite power? How old was Quorra when he found her? How many cycles ago was that? How many cycles in a year? Do isos age?

I liked the film a good bit. I think of it as a visceral experience. Many of the complaints that other reviewers had regarding the movie involved the simplistic nature of the characters and plotline. I didn’t mind it so much since I wasn’t exactly expecting my mind to be blown. Where I think it functions well is as your basic popcorn action-adventure film although I would agree that there was much more potential for exploration of a deeper plot and characters with struggles greater than an overarching escape plot. Sam Flynn’s character is about as deep as tidepool. Although he played the dumb-struck everyman fairly well, but his seemingly permanent forehead wrinkle was definitely distracting. Olivia Wilde was gorgeous as usual, her asymmetrical bangs and skin-tight outfit definitely made her more mouthwateringly-noticable than as 13 in House.

The CG world crafted is exceptionally beautiful and the highly digitized soundtrack that was done by Daft Punk is extremely fitting for the film with Derezzed, End of Line, and Closing Credits being my favorite tracks.

A definite caveat I have about the film is that the entire conflict hinged upon one thing. Bad design. If Kevin Flynn was such a genius computer software designer and amazing corporate mogul than you would think he would have the sense to design things so that they were “idiot proof.” A real Kevin Flynn would probably consider Moore’s Law every step of the way. So think about it. I’m going to enter/create this digital world. The portal into this digital world is only open for a limited time. Why? Apparently it costs a lot of power to keep open. ::SHAWOMP:: (That’s the sound of plot-holes closing). Notice that he is extremely vague about where all this power comes from. Is it from the “real world”? Is it from the Grid? If it costs so much power it probably wouldn’t make sense to leave it on at all. It should be run on as needed basis. Maybe you would have enough power if you didn’t redundantly light up EVERYTHING (although it is very cool and futurist.) Furthermore it can only be opened from the outside, like a safe. ::SHAWOMP:: This is the single biggest design flaw I’ve ever heard. That’s like making it so that someone were to sign into World of Warcraft, but they can only play for a limited time, and if they go over that limit they are stuck in there FOREVER (which would be a genius ploy by Blizzard if they were paying by a credit card although I suppose they would probably default on their credit card bill because they’re stuck in the Grid, I mean Azeroth.) In addition to these side-stepped issues, why didn’t Kevin Flynn tell Alan Bradley what he was doing in the Grid so he would have someone to get him out of the Grid in case he was, I dunno, STUCK IN THERE FOREVER BECAUSE THE PORTAL CLOSED ON HIM.

Despite all this. There is one thing about the film that really does make me upset. Everything else can be explained away by not having enough time to address it or making some base assumptions about the world. However this one was simply a bad choice by the creators, writers, director, etc. a huge missed-opportunity. Kevin Flynn’s Lightcycle. It had all the makings for an epic action-adventure and chase sequence. Nerds (which are the only ones to really sink their teeth into this film, like myself) fucking love Lightcycles. Quorra literally says the words “. . .still the fastest thing on the Grid.” So as the audience you must be thinking, “Oh I guess we’re going to find out how fast.” AND on top of that there is implied danger upon getting back to the Grid that he’ll face resistance “if you can get to Zeus he can get you anywhere” or something like that. And then what happens after all this expectation is placed on Kevin Flynn’s Lightcycle? Sam leisurely rides it into town with NO RESISTENCE AT ALL, not even a damn toll booth! Then he gives THE FASTEST THING ON THE GRID to some bum. WHAT?! Most wasted opportunity for epic race/chase/battle that I can remember.

I still recommend people to see the movie. Although it doesn’t lend itself well to plot-interpretation or “logic” at all times it’s still a fun movie. And I know, I know while people are reading this they’re going to, at some point think, “It’s just a movie.” And I would agree, yes, movies, that is of the fictional variety do require a suspension of disbelief. However I think a good film manages to earn the respect of the viewer. I feel like I shouldn’t have to suspend my own disbelief that a proper film should lend itself to that feeling naturally (unless the whole point of the film is the unbelievable or the nonsensical).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

State of the Art

As far as current technology goes, I am amazed by what has been achieved in home theater technology. That is, televisions. High Definition TV in the past decade has become spectacular in quality rivaling even the best theater quality screens.

What truly astounds me is that the video of a 240hz 1080p HDTV playing some kind of high-speed camera-shot slow-motion video (ironically) like the Discovery Channel’s “Life” will seem archaic and outdated ten years from now.

Images filmed in HD on an HDTV look fantastically clear and realistic. So what is the next step?Television that appears so real that your eyes, or perhaps your mind cannot decipher that it is only a projected image. When broken down to bare mechanics 3D video is simply a cheap optical illusion. Two images are juxtaposed in a fashion whereby polarized lenses bring them into focus as two separate images for each eye giving the illusion of depth. 3D video will advance, as will the quality which video and displays are able to fool the viewer into what is reality. My prediction is that we will eventually have imagery that appears so real that the mind will have a difficult time deciphering whether something is a display and whether it is a window to another room with someone cooking, firing guns in a battle-scene, or feeling the cool breeze of a beach scene in a romantic drama. That old standby joke of “smellovision” will become a reality, not because of some ridiculous release of olfactory effecting chemicals but by tricking the mind into thinking that an image is so real that other senses will react in kind. The blast from an explosion in a film will result in a warm flushed feeling in the face much like during supposed “4D” performances in theme parks and the ocean breeze of a film will remind audiences of their own time at beaches prompting the smell of the the salt-water and sand cooling them in their theater seats.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rambling about RPGs, no not the rocket launchers

I had the unfortunate experience of having a game fail on me recently.

All three of my save games for Fallout New Vegas had incurred some error involving DLC that made it impossible for me to load my saved games on my 360. This is very disappoint.

I was quite excited to play New Vegas as I had heard it was basically brand new content running on the exact same engine that Fallout 3 ran on. Which some found disappointing as the ideal sequel grows and expands on a franchise rather then copying it in a rudimentary manner. However the 1950’s bubblegum iconography mixed with the post-apocalyptic mad maxian world made for one of my most memorable gaming experiences I can remember. Any game that allows you to kill giant super mutants (which are just orcs with automatic weapons, let’s be honest) with a flaming sword that’s retrofitted from a lawn mower blade, a motorcycle gas tank and a motorcycle hand-brake, while listening to an underground radio station that broadcasts out of the top of the dilapidated ruins of the Washington Monument is most acceptable in my book

Alas, Fallout New Vegas did not live up to expectations. As if the corrupted save data files (which I discovered on forums is a problem that has occurred with several other players) weren’t enough it seemed as though the game ran buggy from the start, dropped frame-rates regularly, and was highly prone to freezing. It simply lacked the polish that Fallout 3 and the its Bethesda predecessor Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion had. I did enjoy the game, the twenty hours or so I had in before the DLC error occured (though it says it is a DLC error there is no actual DLC out for the game further compounding my frustration). Some of the new perks, weapons, and characters were enticing enough. However the story really seemed to lack the grandeur and flow Fallout 3.

On the other hand I have been playing a game recently which is a breath of fresh air by comparison to New Vegas and that game is Bioware’s Mass Effect. To be honest I hadn’t much cared for it when I initially began playing it a year ago (I was late to the party). The combat system seemed too simplistic, though that could be because I took the soldier class. However, as I continued to play the game I became much more engrossed in the various features. The simplistic combat was satisfying and rewarding. And even the soldier class became quite engaging upon earning the requisite abilities. As a huge fan of Bioware’s biggest hit from ten years ago, Star Wars Knight’s of the Old Republic, I suppose it’s no wonder that Mass Effect intrigues me so.

To be fair it wouldn’t be Bethesda’s fault that the sequel to their hit failed to live up to my expectations as was the case with Bioware’s sequel to their KOTOR. Both New Vegas and KOTOR 2 were developed by Obsidian entertainment rather than Bethesda or Bioware directly. It would appear that Obsidian seldom creates great work of their own but expands on the work of others, which would be fine if it was done well. In the case of KOTOR 2 they did a marginal job, keeping some of the original while bringing in enough of the new. For that matter in New Vegas I really did love a lot of the new content but I cannot recommend the game from a technical standpoint as many people have reported it as broken. This ends my rambling.

Monday, June 22, 2009





Wednesday, June 17, 2009


ロードバイクのジオメトリー の方がスピードのために作ったので、道で早く行きやすい。


An Attempt to Avoid Atrophy

I decided that everyday (if possible) I will write a blog post in Japanese of ten sentences or more in order to upkeep what little skill I have. This will be the first. Japanese people and people who are better at Japanese than I, please correct me if necessary. Cheerio.



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Silence, air sucking like a vacuum in space.  All eyes on you, you try not to notice, but you can't help it.  

Going through the motions just as rehearsed, hearing every little cough and chuckle.  Yet the heartbeat deafening, a bass techno drum signaling the rushing adrenaline, that bell-alarm-clock jittery feeling.      

Motions swift, sweep here, step there, stop on the beat, step over their line, cheat out.  Stay confident, words loud and unabashed.  Don't choke.   Don't let yourself choke.  

Your favorite move comes and you hold a freeze, milk it, and you can almost feel the jaws drop, the sound of the wind sucked in at the awe.  I did it, I'm amazing.  Now I'm validated, they want me, they love me, they need me because of this amazing thing I can do.  I'm a one trick pony of the minute and this is my 15th minute.  They have to love it, I hit that part so perfect, I remembered to be strong here, to hold myself with poise here, to recede here, to project here.  I did everything I was supposed to do.

Though I did stumble there, hiccups.  Uncontrollable, too excited about being excited.  I tripped up there.  Oh no.  I deluded myself into thinking I could be great.

I stand ready for the expected silence which speaks of a crowd's indifference and their applause is validation.