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kind of high-speed camera-shot slow-motion video (ironically) like the Discovery Channel’s “Life” will seem archaic and outdated ten years from now.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.