Tag: Nintendo

Where Will the PC Go? -- Part 4: SaaS

So, per the last couple of posts, I find it entirely possible that, as vendors develop tablets that double as PC's, they may replace traditional desktop and laptop computers. For the common end user who just needs a web browser and (maybe) an office suite, I don't think that's going to be a tough sell.

But there are markets that rely heavily on more powerful computing hardware.

One is PC gamers. Others are the various types of media creators: people who create images, music, movies.

I've already mentioned dumb terminals and software as a service (SaaS) as a major current trend, with programs like Google Docs running in a browser and working as an effective substitute for traditional locally-run programs like Microsoft Word.

Of course, a word processor is one thing; an enterprise-quality photo editor is another, and a game requiring split-second timing is something else again.

But developers are working on it.

Photoshop

Last year Adobe released a limited beta of a streaming version of Photoshop for ChromeOS. Photoshop itself doesn't run in the browser; the app is a Remote Desktop shell that interacts with an instance of the Windows version of Photoshop running on a remote server.

So, by definition, this is no replacement for the Windows version of Photoshop -- because it is the Windows version of Photoshop. But it demonstrates a potentially compelling alternative to buying expensive, high-end hardware just to run Photoshop: what if you could buy cheap hardware, and pay a subscription fee to run Photoshop on someone else's expensive hardware?

Reactions to the ChromeOS version of Photoshop seemed generally positive; I would expect it to have some latency issues, but I also bet it runs faster on a remote server than it did on the Core 2 I had to use at GoDaddy. (Hey, when I said the Core 2 Duo was the last chip most users ever needed, I said I wasn't including Photoshop.)

Adobe has already moved Photoshop's licensing to a subscription model instead of a purchase model. (A lot of people are very angry about this, but I haven't heard anything to suggest it's led to a drop in "sales"; that's the thing about monopolies.) It's not hard to envision a transition to a subscription model where you run the program remotely instead of locally. Hell, they could even charge more money to give you access to faster servers.

A/V Club

Other media development suites could, potentially, move to streaming services, but there are caveats. Uploading raw, uncompressed digital audio and video files takes a lot more time than uncompressed images. And what about storing your source files? My grandmother puts together home movies on her iMac, and she's got terabytes of data going back some 15 years. That's the kind of storage requirement an amateur filmmaker can rack up; now think of how much somebody who does it for a living might wind up with. If you're renting storage space on an external server, on a month-to-month basis, that could get pretty costly.

But it's technically feasible, at least, that audio and video editing could be performed on a remote server.

Recording audio is another story. Anything more complex than a simple, single-track voice recording is still going to require specialized mixing hardware. And transferring your recording to a remote server in real-time, without lossy compression? You'd better be sitting on fiber.

So I think we can put "recording studios" -- even the home-office variety, like mine -- into the category of Stuff That's Not Going Anywhere for Awhile.

Games

Moving games to a streaming system is a challenge -- but I'm not sure it's as big a challenge as recording studios. It's more or less the same requirement as Photoshop: take simple inputs from a human interface device, send them to a server, have the server run them and respond accordingly, stream the video output back to the client. The trick is managing to do that in real-time with minimal loss of audio and video quality. That's the challenge -- but engineers are working on it.

The OnLive streaming service was a failure, but Sony bought it out; it sees value there. nVidia's got its own streaming solution too, in GRID. One of these things is not like the other -- Sony sells consoles at a loss and would stand to benefit from selling cheaper hardware, while nVidia makes a ton of money selling expensive graphics cards to enthusiasts and surely doesn't want to cannibalize its own market -- but obviously there's more than one type of gamer, and the people who shell out over $300 for a graphics card are in the minority.

Now, as minorities go, high-end PC gamers are still a pretty sizable minority; it's still a multibillion-dollar industry. But it's a fraction of the console gaming business, and it's expected to be surpassed by mobile gaming by the end of this year. Like the PC industry as a whole, it's still big and it's still growing, but it's growing a lot slower than other sectors and could be facing a long-term threat from new platforms.

Switching to a streaming platform could have a lot of appeal to game publishers; it combines the simplicity of developing for consoles with the superior hardware capabilities of the PC. Think about the possibility of developing for the latest and greatest hardware, but only for a single specific hardware build.

It would also, at long last, produce a form of DRM that could actually work.

While the industry has tried many, many copy protection schemes over the years, all of them are, sooner or later (and usually sooner), crackable. And there's a simple, logical reason for this: no matter what you do to encrypt the data of your program, you have to give the computer the means to decrypt it, or it won't work. No matter where or how you hide the key, if you give it to your users sooner or later they're going to find it.

But that's only true if the software is running on their computer. If the binary data is never copied to their hard drive, never stored in their memory, if the program is actually stored and run on a remote server somewhere and all the client has access to is a program that takes inputs and streams audio and video? Well, then there's no way they can copy the game, unless they actually break into your servers.

(Which, given Sony's history with Internet security, might not actually be so hard.)

I am not saying this is a good thing; in fact, I consider it something of a nightmare scenario.

Consider every problem you've ever had with an online or digitally-distributed game. Now think of what it would look like if every game had those issues.

Not just latency, lag, server outages, and losing your progress every time your Internet connection goes out. Consider that if a game is no longer profitable, they'll pull the plug. If a developer loses a license, the game(s) associated with it will go away. (Was GoldenEye ever released on Virtual Console? I don't think it was.) If a game gets updated and you liked the old version better, too bad. And remember when Nintendo ended its partnership with GameSpy and killed all the online multiplayer features of every Wii and DS game ever made? Imagine an entire generation's worth of games not working at all anymore, online or otherwise. Even though you paid for them.

Now, there's recent evidence that a strategy like this would fail. The Xbox One is still reeling from customer backlash against early plans to restrict used-game sales and require an always-on Internet connection even for single-player games, even though those plans were never even implemented.

On the other hand, there's evidence that even a wildly unpopular strategy could still succeed. Have you ever heard anyone who doesn't work for EA praise the Origin distribution service (or whatever the fuck they're calling it now)? I know I haven't, but people still use it. Because if you want to play Mass Effect 3 or Dragon Age: Inquisition, your only choices are consoles, Origin, and piracy.

And then there are examples that could go either way: Ubisoft continued to use DRM that required an always-on Internet connection for about two years, from 2010 to 2012, before finally giving in to market backlash.

It's hard to say how existing high-end PC gamers would react if the major publishers tried to force a transition toward streaming games -- or whether high-end PC gamers will continue to be a big enough market for the major publishers to care what they think. But for the foreseeable future, I think PC gaming will continue on much the same as it has for the past 15 years. There could be major changes on the horizon, but I sure don't see them happening in the next 10 years.

Then again, five years ago I was saying there was no way that streaming video would outpace Blu-Ray because there was just no way to stream 1080p video over a home Internet connection. So keep that in mind before trusting any predictions I make.

More from Busiek on that Final Fantasy Comic

For those of you just joining us by way of a link from Kurt Busiek or CBR, welcome. I guess I should probably figure out something interesting to say so you'll feel like sticking around for a bit. For what it's worth, I've written quite a bit about Final Fantasy over the years, and three posts I wrote about FF7 back in 2011 (the first on mods for the PC version, the second on iconic images, and the third a general look back on the game) are pretty consistently the most popular thing on the site.

In lieu of me saying anything interesting, I'm going to quote a little bit more from Kurt Busiek on the unfinished Final Fantasy comic, in the comments section of the Robot 6 article on the subject.

I will also add that if the book came out, I don’t think that Final Fantasy fans would be particularly happy with it. It was 1991, and I was a workmanlike-but-not-particularly-noted writer. Dell Barras was a workmanlike artist, and, well, the covers were gorgeous.

But I don’t think I really started to make strides creatively as a writer until VAMPIRELLA: MORNING IN AMERICA (late that year) and the industry didn’t notice ’til MARVELS in 1993.

So, while I barely remember the details, I expect it was a workmanlike story that made sense but wasn’t particularly memorable, with workmanlike art and great covers.

And heresy upon heresies, I changed things (with Squaresoft’s permission). I thought it was so odd that the manly heroic lead was named Cecil and his loyal buddy was named Cain (really? You name the loyal guy Cain?) that I suggested maybe they needed Americanized names, and Squarest agreed. I don’t remember what I changed them to, but Squarest liked them enough that they asked if I’d be interested in a staff position making the games more American-appropriate. We never talked much about it, because I wanted to freelance. But I bet fans devoted to the game wouldn’t have liked the changes, especially not from a current POV, looking back.

What can I say? I wasn’t particularly a Final Fantasy fan — I’d played their first US game a little, and the second wasn’t even done yet.

He adds, in a later comment, that the bible he'd been given didn't even mention that Kain spends half the game betraying Cecil, and talks a little bit more about the original (FF1-based) outline he wrote.

(If he had been involved in localizing the game, I'm willing to bet it would have been better than what we initially got. But he'd have still been contending with cartridge space limitations and weird Nintendo censorship.)

Handholding

I was in Target earlier this evening. The display 3DS had the new Mario and Luigi in it and I decided to give it a spin.

I got as far as the first screen, which displays a message that says "Use the circle pad to move Mario and Luigi."

Fuck you. I'm not going to play a game that starts out by immediately insulting my intelligence.

Burgled

So the main reason the blog's been kinda quiet this week is that my house was broken into on Monday. I don't really want to say anything more about it publicly at this point. Stuff was stolen, it sucks, we're okay but shaken-up and stressed-out, we'll get through this and things will be back to normal eventually.

It's been a pretty lousy week -- mainly due to the burglary but also because there's been some turnover on my team at work, and today I came home early with a headache. I've been getting headaches all my life, but they didn't used to happen every single fucking time it started to get cloudy out. If this is what happens when you turn 30, I can't wait for all the myriad health issues that will crop up at 40, 50, ...

Anyway. I'm bound to get back to more regular blogging and Zappa posts somewhere down the line, but I'm not quite there yet. Still got a lot else to do.

But for now, I think I'm going to take a break and play some DuckTales.

World of Balance

So my current replay of FF6 has sparked some discussion over on the forums, as you might expect.

My previous post, asserting that the Auction House is the worst thing in the game, met with some debate from TA and Brent, who contend that the Veldt is the worst thing in the game. From there, discussion ensued about Gau's utility, and I mentioned that I'm going out of my way to use characters on this playthrough who I don't normally use and how putting Strago, Relm, and Locke in my party made the Floating Continent a much more defensive affair.

Brent interjected that strategy is not a subject he associates with FF6 ("I always thought the RPG bits were just the glue holding together a pretty good steampunk fantasy novel"); Ocksi and I got to talking about the unlikely prospect of a remake in the style of 3 and 4 for DS -- and I bridged the two points, noting that while the best we're likely to get is a prettied-up-but-primitive port like on the PSP (and even that's not looking likely right now), FF6 is a game that could really use the sort of serious rebalancing that the DS remakes got. Brent suggested the following:

If I were redoing the game I'd just do away with the Fight command completely and let everyone have their own wholly unique attack mechanic. That'd mean a lot of new minigames and some changes to existing specials (Cyan shouldn't hold up the entire damn fight, Setzer shouldn't randomly end the game), but I don't think many people would complain.

and we went from there.

Most of this was originally posted on Brontoforumus, 2013-08-11, but I'm making some notes and revisions here as I go.


That'd be pretty tempting, yeah. Make Terra and Strago pure magic, say? And give them an FF12-style Charge move in case they run out of MP.

Further thoughts:

Give monsters AI. Make them only heal as needed, and not re-cast offensive/debuff/negative status spells on characters they have no effect on. Obviously you'd need to rebalance their attacks, because there would be absolutely no reason for a Stray Cat ever to use its standard attack instead of Cat Scratch. (Which I guess is the same problem with Edgar, Sabin, Cyan, and the Fight command.) Maybe add charge time to the more powerful attacks? I'll get back to charge time in a minute.

Either give Gau, Mog, and Umaro AI much like what I described above, or make them controllable. (Or, ooh, here's a thought: have them initially fight based on AI, but introduce a relic in the second half of the game that allows you to control them, like the FakeMustache turns randomized Sketch into Control.) Make your character controllable in the Coliseum, too.

(Mothra interjected that he liked not controlling his character in the Coliseum. I don't, at all, but if they were to keep it that way they'd definitely need to give it the same kind of AI upgrade that I suggested above -- Sabin should never, ever use Spiraler; if you know Firaga you shouldn't be casting Fire; and if you cast Scan I'd better see you using your next turn to exploit any elemental weaknesses it pulled up.)

Gau/Veldt: Make Gau automatically learn rages from every monster he defeats, whether he's on the Veldt or not.
Veldt can still serve a purpose as the place where you can re-fight monsters from earlier in the game -- but needs a few tweaks.
First of all, get rid of the current arrangement of monsters (where you fight a random group from an ordered list). Split the Veldt up by region -- maybe arrange it so that it resembles the world map in miniature. Go to an area on the miniature map and you'll fight monsters from that part of the world map. (Obviously this would be a little trickier to implement in the WoR -- do you have a mix of WoB and WoR monsters in each region, or find some way to split it up into two miniature world maps?)
And no more missable Veldt monsters. If you've been to a region, monsters from that region will show up on the Veldt, whether you've encountered them or not. (The exceptions would be the two bosses, provided you even keep them as Veldt monsters; that was always kinda weird.)

Oh, and no missable dances, either. Create some persistent location where you can learn the Water Dance in the WoR. Maybe make the Serpent Trench, Ebot's Rock, anywhere else that was underwater in the WoB into a marshland that counts as water.

Celes: While Terra and Strago make sense as pure mages from a plot perspective, Celes doesn't. She's been raised as a warrior from infancy; you'd have to expect she'd at least know how to handle a sword when MP runs out. I say make her an FF5-style Mage Knight; give her the ability to enchant weapons with elements or effects. You could keep Runic, but if so you'd want to make it useful late in the game by, for example, making it only draw enemy magic (maybe have this be another ability that gets upgraded by a Relic), or you could drop it entirely in favor of Magic Sword.

Magic: The four natural mages (Terra, Celes, Strago, Relm) should have visibly better magical aptitude than everybody else. I think everybody else's magic stats (Magic, MP, M Evade, M Def) should be nerfed -- not to the point where magic is useless, but to the point where it's noticeably less effective than when the natural mages do it. (Gogo's actually a pretty good example of a character who can still use any ability in the game but is visibly worse at it than its natural practitioner.) I'm thinking you could also add charge times for the non-natural magic users to cast their spells.

And speaking of charge times, that's what you do with Cyan. Have him pick his attack from a menu and then initiate the counter; if you want to do, say, #7, it'll still take just as long to prepare, but everybody else in the party can keep doing their thing while he's preparing it.
Also, either eliminate his intermediate attacks or make them useful.

Similar goes for Edgar -- there's not really much reason to use any of his tools except Autocrossbow and Chainsaw.
I say nerf Chainsaw a bit. (Make the difference between it and Drill more striking -- make it useless against monsters with high def, for example, so that Drill is clearly a better choice there.) Make monsters more susceptible to Bioblaster and Noiseblaster (and maybe add some more tools that cause different status ailments) -- here's a thought, maybe even make monsters that would normally repel a Bio or Confuse spell susceptible to the Tool version.
Introduce Debilitator way earlier in the game -- say, before the Magitek Research Facility. (Technically it's possible to steal one from the crane boss, but it's rare and that still means you get it immediately after the part of the game where it would be most useful.)

Auction House: Easily fixable. FF9 had an Auction House that actually behaved like an auction house; do it like that. Make players bid; place them up against simple AI behavior from townspeople; reward good betting strategies while keeping the results somewhat unpredictable. Maybe even have an online component to it, let players trade items -- you can put restrictions on it (like one purchase a day) if you really want to, but I wouldn't worry that much about people gaming it, really.

The joke events could still happen I guess, but limit them to once each.

And keep a high probability that the important items -- the two Espers and, provided we keep Gilgamesh, Excalipoor as well, shouldn't be too hard to get ahold of. It's okay to have some rare stuff in there -- maybe a very low probability of super-powerful, super-rare items like Economizers and Offerings showing up -- but I don't think any unique items should be such a bastard to get.

And while we're talking about rare items, having the Excalibur and other high-end equipment not show up until the very end of the game is dumb. It should be obtainable earlier.

(Making the player choose between Ragnarok the Esper and Ragnarok the Sword, while still allowing you to steal the sword from one of the Goddesses, is okay by me, though. ...but maybe make it not such a pain in the ass to get rare steals. Maybe do like the more recent games have done and allow monsters to carry multiple items so if you keep stealing for long enough you'll eventually get the rare one?)

I think Celes's theme should actually play for more than three seconds of the game, too. Like, for starters, why not play it when she's introduced, like nearly every other playable character?

The Auction House is the Worst Thing in Final Fantasy 6

It really, really is.

I mean, the Fanatics' Tower is downright sadistic -- it's a huge, nasty, difficult slog, with no save points, ending in a boss who will almost certainly kill your entire party when you defeat him, and then, if you survive (which requires either Reraise or an extremely high-level party), makes you walk all the way down again, and not only that, but it offers no experience, so if you die you lose everything you've gained.

But, it's pretty easily gamed. You're not going to fall for that wipe-out-your-entire-party thing a second time, and players who know what they're doing can actually get in and out painlessly with a Moogle Charm and the Berserk and Reraise spells.

The Auction House, on the other hand, is bullshit.

The first thing wrong with it is that it is not a fucking auction house. It is a store with a randomized inventory where it takes an inordinate amount of time to buy things. Items go for the same price, every fucking time; you just have to sit through a goddamn cutscene before you can agree to buy them.

And the second thing wrong with it, of course, is the goddamn Talking Chocobo and 1/1200 Scale Airship.

Not only is it a store with a randomized inventory that makes you sit through a cutscene to buy things, but a very large percentage of the time (I'm going to say "majority", though people who've paid more attention to FF6's RNG can correct me) it hits you with a gag item that you can't actually buy.

This is, possibly, mildly amusing the very first time it happens.

For some reason, it is possible for it to happen a second time after that.

And a third, fourth, fifth, and seven hundredth fucking time.

And if you want to get two particular espers, or certain rare relics early in the game, you either have to study the game's random number generator to figure out how to get the things you actually want, save-spam until you get lucky, cheat, or actually sit through every one of the auctions.

Nice thing about emulation is that it makes it a lot less obnoxious, what with the ability to use a save state right outside the door and fast-forward to nudge the RNG. (On my last playthrough I was convinced that the item up for auction was seeded by your number of steps; this time I'm more inclined to believe it's time-based. I'm sure somebody out there has written an exhaustive guide, though I must admit I'd be more interested in just finding a hack that turns the damn thing into a store and lets you buy the things you want from it.)

Auctions -- actual auctions -- make a lot more sense in MMORPG's, where you're interacting with other players. So do extremely rare drops, for that matter. FF6 is less guilty of the latter than FF4, with its rare summons, Pink Tails, and such (though I've only ever seen one Economizer drop in all the times I've played 6 top-to-bottom and side-to-side), but there's slim damn reason for there to be an auction house in the game in the first place, and no reason at all for an irritating goddamn barely-functional store that pretends it's an auction house.

Part II begins now!

If I've a gripe about Act 2 of FF6, it's that it's one of those bits that gives you flexibility to choose your party but where the plot clearly defines a correct party.

It's Edgar, Sabin, Locke, and Celes.

If you've got Edgar and Sabin, you'll get their cutscene in Figaro that tells the story of their father's death, the coin toss, and Sabin's departure.

And if you've got Locke, you'll see his cutscenes in Kohlingen about Rachel, her fall and amnesia, and her current state of suspended animation.

While it's true that Celes only gets one line of dialogue to react to all this, I think it's still valid to say she's a "correct" party member here, given that she becomes mandatory after Zozo.

Speaking of after Zozo, yes, you do get to choose half your party there -- but Locke and Celes are mandatory, and Sabin and Edgar are still the two remaining party members who contribute most to the plot if you pick them -- because then you get the punchline to the coin toss story.

Sure, you can get Shadow during this stretch -- but it's not really worth it. You might catch one of his dreams if you stay at an inn, but other than that, he doesn't do much except potentially run away at an awkward moment and leave you stranded. Plus, if it's your first time playing the game, you won't know he's coming and will leave Narshe with a full party and not be able to get him (without backtracking to Narshe and leaving somebody behind), and if it's not your first time, you'll know the correct party is Edgar, Sabin, Locke, and Celes.

Anyway. That aside? This is one of the great sequences of the game. Zozo is one of the most memorable locations, and the Opera House represents everything I love about Final Fantasy in general and this game in particular. And in the version I'm playing, with the music restoration patch, it's an actual recording, complete with real voices. Singing in Italian. Seriously, it is the crown jewel of an excellent game hack and you owe it to yourself to check this version of the game out.

And then the occupied cities of Albrook, Maranda, and Tzen -- if I've a gripe about them, it's that they're a little too samey, but that was a pretty common problem in 8- and 16-bit JRPG's and FF6 provides more variety than most.

And then Vector. Vector is marvelous. The slight sheen of fire and metal over everything, the soldiers everywhere and robbers in the inn, the oppressive music.

And the Magitek Research Facility is a whole other vibe: pure mad science.

The whole sequence is so fantastic that I hate to point out the places where the seams show, but what the hell, here they are.

First: it's stated in dialogue that Gestahl has known about Magicite for 20 years and that Celes's magical talents came at the expense of an Esper's life.

But Kefka and Cid are both quite clearly surprised by the revelation that the best way to obtain an Esper's power is by killing it.

I can understand Gestahl not telling Kefka -- I mean, would you? -- but Cid? That doesn't make a lick of sense. Cid is the guy in charge of extracting power from Espers. The entire purpose of this giant facility you're in is rendered moot if Gestahl knows magic is derived from dead Espers rather than Espers in giant fishtanks. Not to mention that Cid is the person who gave Celes her magic infusion when she was a child, so if it involved dead Espers he should presumably have known about it.

(And speaking of children, the Slattery and Woolsey translations both have Terra say "I was raised on the Esper world." and then immediately tell the story of how she left the Esper world at the age of two. That's more of a nitpick over a single word choice, but it still grates.)

Also very very silly: Locke seems to immediately buy Kefka and Cid's -- that would be, to those of you keeping score, the villain and a guy he just met -- allegation that Celes is a spy.

This is, of course, completely fucking ludicrous.

It relies on what Roger Ebert called the Fallacy of the Predictable Tree (after the scene in First Blood where Rambo drops out of a tree on top of a cop -- they are in a forest; how did he know a cop was going to stand under that exact tree before he climbed it?) and TV Tropes calls Gambit Roulette.

Let's paint a picture here.

Let's say Celes was a spy seeking to infiltrate the Returners.

When Locke meets her, she is chained up in a basement. (Or, in the GBA version, just kinda hanging out in a basement.)

So okay. She wanted to infiltrate the Returners.

So she...hid out chained up in a basement, and just waited for one of them to come into South Figaro, sneak past the armed guards by stealing clothes from people, bribe an old man with cider to be allowed use of his secret passageway, and just happen to look through the door into the smallest room in the biggest house in town and see her chained up there?

Locke believes this is a plausible scenario. Because Locke is a character in a video game. And in a video game, a plan like that is perfectly logical.

This is a medium where mad scientists regularly attempt to take over the world by sticking thematic robots into little rooms where they can hang out and wait until somebody walks in so they can shoot at him. Where dragons won't attack you until after you've talked to exactly the right villagers in precisely the correct order. And, lest you think these particular abuses of Video Game Logic are confined to classic games, I point you to my thoughts on Metroid: Other M, a game where a monster does not attack you until you notice a trail of bugs on the ground, and a woman will stand at a window for ten minutes while you look around and then act surprised and run away when you finally spot her.

So, all things considered? I guess Locke's got a point.

I'm the darkness, you're the starlight, and I'm burnin' up in here

So here's what I've been listening to:

That's Balance and Ruin, a 5-disc collection of Final Fantasy 6 cover songs from OCRemix.

Now, I think it's still fair to say that Final Fantasy 6 is one of my two favorite games, though I suppose it probably needs an asterisk at this point.

Digression: While FF6 is a great game, it hasn't aged as well as some of its 16-bit contemporaries. Super Mario World, Mega Man X, and Super Metroid, for example, still stand as the pinnacles of their respective series and respective niches of the side-scrolling platformer genre; they're as close to perfection as a game's ever gotten, and, as years of remakes, sequels, and knockoffs have shown, are pretty damn difficult to improve on and shockingly easy to fuck up. In the Square family, I've always preferred FF6 to Chrono Trigger, but I think it's undeniable that CT's graphics and gameplay hold up better even if it's a shorter game with less-developed characters. And as for A Link to the Past -- well, that would be the other of my two favorite games, and it needs no asterisk.

The other thing that needs no asterisk? Final Fantasy 6 has my favorite video game soundtrack. Its depth and breadth are stunning; it's Uematsu at the top of his chiptune game. It's the only video game soundtrack I've ever bought, and if you name any of the 12 primary playable characters, Kefka or Gestahl, either of the airships, or for that matter most of the locations in the game, I could hum the tune off the top of my head. (And I could probably get either Gogo or Umaro, too, but I admit I might not be able to come up with both of them right away.)

Now, I love what OCRemix is but the truth is that in the past I've found their work hit-or-miss-but-mostly-miss for my tastes. The artists there, understandably, lean toward the techno/electronica style, and that's not my cuppa -- which I guess may be ironic coming from somebody who's checking out cover tunes of old video game songs in the first place.

Anyway, there's a good bit of that stuff on Balance and Ruin, but there's a whole lot else, too. There are plenty of orchestral arrangements here, and the soundtrack runs the gamut from faithful homage -- A Fistful of Nickels, by zircon, XPRTNovice, Jillian Aversa, and Jeff Ball, takes Shadow's Ennio Morricone influence to its logical conclusion with whistling, vocals, harmonica, violin, guitar, trumpet, and Jew's harp -- to riotous reinvention -- The Impresario, by Jake Kaufman and Tommy Pedrini, reimagines the Opera scene by way of Bohemian Rhapsody with a quick stop at West Side Story on the way -- to impressively effective minimalism -- Shnabubula and Gabe Terracciano cover the entire Ending Suite with nothing but a piano and violin.

At any rate, it's delightful, and the whole thing's a free download. Go to ff6.ocremix.org and you can grab a nice legal free torrent of the entire album in FLAC -- or MP3, if all this talk about SNES games has left you nostalgic for inferior 1990's technology.

You know what it makes me wanna do? Replay FF6. Random encounters and all.

But which version? The new Woolsey Uncensored Edition looks promising. On the other hand, I liked Slattery's translation quite a bit too; maybe I'll give FF6 Advance another shot. With the music patch, of course.

I should probably finish Last Story first. You know, the soundtrack's no FF6, but Uematsu's still got it.

Summer

Well, it's officially summer now. As opposed to three weeks ago when it wasn't summer, just a 113-degree spring.

Mostly indoors in the air conditioning lately, and catching up on TV and video games. Didn't realize I was so close to finishing Mario Galaxy when I quit playing it like 5 years ago.

Course, if it weren't for the backlog and money being a little tight at the moment, I'd be perusing the various Internet game sales on right now. GOG's got a big one, Steam has plenty of deals, the Humble Bundle has both a weekly bundle and an Android-themed bundle going right now, and Amazon has a bunch of stuff for cheap too. (That last one's an affiliate link; if you buy something through it I get a small kickback.)

I don't have the time to play the games I already have. But I picked up the free download of Torchlight and maybe I'll get to it one of these days. And I've had al little more time this past week, anyway.

The Zappas on Video Games

The benefits of being a pack rat:

Sharkey posted this on his blog in...according to the date stamp, November of 2002.

I remembered it a couple days ago and I thought, you know what? I bet I don't even have to dig through old hard drives to find it. I bet my obsessive process of backing up data and copying it over from old computer to new has survived two new computers, four different Linux distributions, and I don't even know how the hell many hard drives. (I am, after all, the guy who corrupted his hard drive when he installed Windows 98 and recovered the data in 2008.)

Anyhow, I was right. Sitting right here on my current computer, after all those moves.

(And then I get to thinking, "Wait...I've only gotten two new computers in the last decade?" But then I remember no, there's also the Mac Mini I used to have hooked up to my TV and now use as a backup server, the Win7 desktop I currently have hooked up to my TV, my laptop, my phone, my tablet, and assorted old towers that have managed to pile up in my office and get used occasionally for various purposes. Plus my wife's desktop and two laptops.)

You know, just the other day my coworkers were talking about Hoarders, and I commented that the nice thing about being a digital packrat is that the data I've been holding on to for decades doesn't take up a hell of a lot of space. My comic collection, on the other hand...

Anyhow, not the point. The point is, here's Innerview: The Zappas on Video Games, by Merl H Reagle, JoyStik, January 1983. Scanned by, and from the personal collection of, Scott Sharkey, and preserved through over a decade's worth of computer migrations by packrat Thaddeus R R Boyd.

Innerview, Page 1Innerview, Page 2

Interesting, but not altogether surprising, that games were already being scapegoated by politicians and the media for juvenile delinquency as far back as 1983.

I also love the story of Frank recording the noise in an airport arcade and then listening to it on the plane. I think he also tells the story in The Real Frank Zappa Book -- that or I've been misremembering where I read it for the past decade.

(Christ. An interview from 30 years ago which I've been copying from hard drive to hard drive for one-third of that time...)