Monday, April 1, 2019

Star Control II: First Contacts

Exactly two mineral deposits with Class 7 tectonics?! Hell, yeah, Planet IV!
         
This was a fun session. My first priority was to upgrade my ship, so I decided to start close to home and mine the rest of the planets in the Sol system. This led to a couple of interesting lessons and encounters.

When you approach a planet and scan it, the game gives you some important variables. The ones that matter most (at least, right now) are gravity, weather, and tectonics. Gravity determines how much fuel it will take for your rover to land and blast off. (And, unlike Starflight, the game won't let you try to land on gas giants.) Weather and tectonics determine how dangerous it will be for your rover while on the surface. Planets with high weather ratings often have lightning bolts scouring the planets' surfaces and anything in their path. Planets with high tectonic activity will have a lot of earthquakes.

These perils do not damage the landing vehicle precisely. But they do kill crewmembers, who in this game are a kind of measure of hit points for their associated vehicles. I've found that if the class of either weather or tectonics is greater than about 3, I won't be able to effectively dodge the associated hazards, and I'll probably lose a lot of crew. But even on comparatively mild planets, I can't dodge storms and earthquakes 100% of the time, and invariably someone dies here or there. My two major expeditions this session both returned with about a dozen fewer crewmembers (out of 50).
         
Lightning destroys my lander as I stop for a screenshot.
         
Landing on Venus was a bad idea, therefore. My landing vehicle was destroyed in seconds, and I decided to reload (I only have two). Mars was more stable. Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune you can't land on, but you can land on some of their moons. This is true of gas giants in most systems.

(As an aside, I was recently re-reading Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, and he reminded me how misleading the typical "solar system models" are. Jupiter, for instance, is about 2.5 times as far from Mars as Mars is from the sun. Jupiter and Saturn are relatively close, but Uranus is way the hell out there--further from Saturn than Saturn is from the sun--and the gap between Uranus and Neptune is even larger. If the left edge of any of these screen shots was the sun and the right edge was Earth, Neptune would be 30 screen shots to the right. He also noted that if you were standing on Neptune, you wouldn't be able to tell what star in the sky was the sun. That scares me for some reason.)
           
Not to scale.
         
The planets and moons had a modest amount of resources, but I ran into an interesting encounter on Pluto. After you check out the metrics, what you want to do is scan the planet for minerals, energy, and biological signatures. Energy scans show structures and cities, while biological scans show roaming life forms. Pluto had only one mineral deposit but also had an energy signature.

I sent the rover to investigate and soon found a weird multi-colored blob. As I trucked up to it, the crew of the lander sent a mayday to the ship indicating that the blob had fired upon them. "They killed Kowalski, Fritz, Chin, O'Donnell, Luigi, and all three of the Libermann triplets!" the officer in charge reported, as if my crewmembers are discrete individuals and not just interchangeable hit points.
          
The crew is decimated by a weird alien spacecraft.
       
The rover returned to the ship and the alien vessel made radio contact. I found myself talking with a creature that called itself a "Spathi" and named itself "Captain Fwiffo." He begged my forgiveness and immediately gave me the coordinates to his homeworld. Since he was afraid already despite his superior technology, I adopted a haughty-but-not-hostile approach.

Fwiffo related what I already knew about the history of the system--that humans had chosen to live under a force field on Earth rather than serve as Ur-Quan battle thralls. After that, the Ur-Quan chose some Ilwrath and Spathi ships to station themselves on the moon and make sure Earth kept its promise. The Ilwrath later took off, "not long after the last Ur-Quan dreadnought vanished from this region of space." Fwiffo grew scared on the moon and relocated repeatedly to locations farther and farther from Earth until he ended up on Pluto. It was apparently he that set the bulldozers on the moon running around just to make it look like there was some kind of activity. He also imparted information about some allies. The Yehat joined the hierarchy as battle thralls, but the Syreen chose the shield. The Shofixti made their own sun go supernova, destroying dozens of Ur-Quan dreadnoughts, rather than submit. 
         
We enlist a self-identified coward.
        
The Spathi at first claimed that he had a lot of crewmembers with him, but under interrogation admitted that he was alone. He joined his ship to my fleet when I suggested it. His ship apparently has a weak laser attack but a hard-hitting rear missile attack.

I returned to starbase and bought some upgrades, including additional thrusters and turning jets, fuel, and another cargo storage pod. Then I went out to explore other systems.
          
Adding modules to my ship at the starbase.
         
When you get beyond the confines of a solar system, the game automatically puts you in "hyperspace"--a sort of fog with dazzling lights and sparkles. Exits to solar systems appear as windows. There's a cute animation when you go through a window and spin out of hyperspace.
          
About to come out of hyperspace.
        
The closest system to Earth, Sirius, had one feeble planet--rich in minerals but extremely volatile. I moved on to Alpha Lyrae and Beta Lyrae, which between them had 7 planets and a few moons. Around this time I printed the game map (the clean one that Harland provided) and started annotating planets I'd already visited, including a mark to indicate if I left minerals behind because the planets were too rough--just in case I get an upgrade to my rover later.

Alpha Centauri had 9 planets to visit, plus some kind of small ship going between them. I made contact with the ship (which you do by flying into it) and was greeted by Trade Master Greenish of the Melnorme starship. He seemed to know everything about us but refused to share anything of his race, including "our history, psychology and mental powers, our unique physiology, the exact locations of our homeworlds, or our potentially ominous long-range plans." He went on that the entire basis of the Melnorme economy is trading information, and that he had some information right there in front of him, on his screen, that would be of tremendous value to us. Unfortunately, we had nothing he wanted. He was looking for the "coordinates of certain strange worlds whose radiant energies defy all scanners, producing a rainbow-like image" plus biological data.
           
The Melnorme are a very free-market species.
          
My hold was full after Alpha Centauri, so I stopped back at starbase and used my resource units for some more upgrades, including a "Dynamo" to upgrade our weapons. While at the base, Commander Hayes told us some radiation was being broadcast their way from the nearby Rigel system.
           
Replacing crewmembers.
          
My last expedition of this session took me to Wolf, Rigel, Saurus, and Canopus--all nearby systems. In one of the systems, I finally found a world with life signs. On the surface, I encountered all kinds of odd species, and I used my stunners to knock them out and collect data on them.
          
It was tough to get a screenshot of the alien life forms. Here I am running into one.
          
In the Rigel system, I encountered another spaceship and approached. I was contacted by a species--or, rather, three species from the same planet--called Zoq-Fot-Pik. The Zoq and the Fot (or maybe it was the Zoq and the Pik) did all of the talking, sometimes at odds with each other. The Pik just sat in the back and looked back and forth between them, which was kind of funny. The gist was that they came from a peaceful planet, but their colonies have all recently been destroyed in the crossfire between "huge green battleships" on one side and "ships as black as space" on the other. When we said that we'd try to help, they praised us as the chosen ones promised by the Great Crystal One (the Chenjesu?) and gave us the coordinates to their home planet so we could meet with their leaders.
        
I hope the "great crystal ones" didn't promise much.
         
Based on the plot threads so far, I'm piecing together a hypothesis. I think the Ur-Quan had just conquered Earth when some new threat, flying black ships (the same that attacked the Tobermoon in the introduction) appeared in their space. Thus, they abandoned Earth and have been waging war against this new threat.

Miscellaneous comments:
           
  • The lander window is criminally small. I can see why the remake would have "fixed" that.
  • The appeal of the music is lost on me, I'm afraid. I don't play games with the music on even when there are multiple compositions fine-tuned to the player's actions at the time. I couldn't enjoy a game for more than 30 seconds with a relentless rock composition playing endlessly in the background. 
  • There's a "starmap" that lets you see how far it is to systems and how much fuel you'll use getting there. I wish it also allowed you to jump directly. Slowly building up speed and cruising out of the various local map scales is the most annoying part of exploration.
                  
Alpha Centauri had a lot of planets.
         
It's impossible to play this game and not think of Starflight, and while Star Control II seems to get more superlatives, I think maybe Starflight was better. It was a little more of an RPG, for one thing, as your ship was staffed by a small number of named crewmembers who had different skills. There were more ship stations to make use of those skills. (Star Control II notably doesn't have a medical bay; crewmembers are either perfectly healthy or dead.) Mining planets was a little more of a challenge. The planets were a lot bigger, so you needed more than just the planetary coordinates to find key items.

I want to like the dialogue system in Star Control II, but the options so far have been unsatisfying. The "best" one is usually quite obvious. I think I liked Starflight's "stances" better. On the other hand, I think I'll ultimately like Star Control II's combat better, and there's otherwise plenty of time for it to change my mind. It'll still rank high even if I don't think it's as good as Starflight. I'm having a lot of fun with the open world approach.
         
The dialogue system always offers a few options that are somewhat stupid.
         
The alien races are a little cartoonish. I wish the game had taken them a little more seriously. However, I recognize that broad characterizations are probably necessary for brevity's sake, so I'll give the game a pass unless it gets completely out of hand.

For my next move, I can try to visit the Zoq-Fot-Pik, see what's up at the worlds of our old allies, explore systematically outward, or roll the dice and pick a random location. I'm leaning towards the latter just because I can.

Time so far: 6 hours


60 comments:

  1. Some unsolicited combat advice, ROT13'd: Gung Fcnguv fuvc vf yvxryl gb or lbhe rneyl-tnzr pbzong pehgpu. Syl njnl sebz rarzvrf juvyr fcnzzvat zvffvyrf bhg gur onpx raq.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. V erzrzore vg jnf cnegvphyneyl rssrpgvir ntnvafg gur Xbuenu.

      Delete
  2. stepped pyramidsApril 1, 2019 at 1:14 AM

    The game has no shortage of cartoonishness (I'm now extremely glad you're playing without voice acting), but there are definitely parts of the game that the writers took more seriously. I personally find it to be a richer and more interesting universe than Starflight.

    As far as dialogue goes... well, I'm pretty firmly in the camp that likes choose-your-response systems versus disposition/attitude systems or keyword systems. And chuckling at some of the dumb options is fun, but not half as fun as actually choosing them!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "There's a "starmap" that lets you see how far it is to systems and how much fuel you'll use getting there. I wish it also allowed you to jump directly."

    You can't jump directly, but you can use the autopilot to simplify space flight. Select the target star from the map, and press either Enter or Space (I don't recall which). Your ship will automatically chart a course out of the system and through hyperspace to the new system.

    Pressing any direction key will abort the autopilot and return control to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I checked the original game: Use the ENTER key to select the target system from the starmap, then press SPACE to engage the auto-pilot. Pressing any arrow key will return control of the ship to the player.

      (You can also use the INSERT and DELETE keys to zoom in/out of the starmap)

      Delete
    2. Thanks. I would have missed that.

      Delete
  4. I’m also playing this game for the first time (using the fan version) and the sound and voices are what’s making it cool for me.

    We’re all different.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, the game rarely ever takes itself seriously, but perhaps that's part of its charm. For example, the missile weapon of the Spathi craft is called Backwards Utilizing Tracking Torpedoes, or BUTT. But there's also a fair amount of Nightmare Fuel in it when it does.

    The music, while it is mostly good and fits the species' personality, also has its fair share of stinkers. I never liked the Zoq-Fot-Pik piece -- it's just 50 seconds of someone incessantly wailing on a gong, hammering out the same six notes ad nauseam. The music file even notes that the composer was "still working on it!" Yeah, that would've been a good idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like more of the funkyness than I do in most games that mix serious and silly. That said, the way the Ur-Quan are thought out is really up there with the best-conceived stories.
      Gurl ner, V guvax, bar bs gur orfg ivqrb tnzr ivyynvaf. Gur perngbef znantrq gb onpx hc gur guerng bs n trabpvqny mbzovr ncbpnylcfr jvgu rzbgvbaf naq engvbanyr gung znxrf lbh haqrefgnaq naq srry gurve zbgvirf, greevoyr nf gurl ner.

      Delete
  6. I'm finding it very hard to talk about this game without mentioning a bunch of spoilers, but I think it will be really interesting watching you playing it organically, and probably not doing a bunch of things "the right way" but having fun and still winning anyhow. That's one of the beauties of true open world games like this, half the fun is in just going somewhere and trying something.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "He also noted that if you were standing on Neptune, you wouldn't be able to tell what star in the sky was the sun."

    Mr Bryson would be wrong. Much smaller yeah, but bright enough still that staring at it would suck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Regarding the great distances in the solar system, this was my favorite illustration:

      http://joshworth.com/dev/pixelspace/pixelspace_solarsystem.html

      Delete
    2. Oh, I've seen that before, it's a fantastic illustration! Especially the light speed button.

      Delete
    3. The sun is visible in the Voyager 1 family portrait, taken from a distance of 40 AU, which is about the average distance from Pluto to the sun. The sun is small but still clearly larger than even big stars in the sky.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_Portrait_(Voyager)#/media/File:Family_portrait_(Voyager_1).png

      But he's not entirely wrong since, instant death aside, I don't think you can see any stars from the surface of neptune.

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    5. Regarding space and its massive distances, Chet (and everyone who's reading) should check out Space Engine for a bit. It's not an RPG, it's not even a game really. It's just a space simulation that takes most of the astronomical data we have to portray the universe as accurately as possible. Planets and stars we don't have any data for were generated with realistic astronomical calculations to be as believable as possible.

      Essentially, Space Engine is a program that lets you freely explore the universe. The real one, not a fantasy galaxy, which makes the impression even greater. Starting out on earth, then exploring in random directions until you get lost completely and would never be able to find the way back home again is a truly humbling experience.

      I've heard some people describe Space Engine as the scariest game they ever played, because it portrays our real universe in its massive scale and makes you realize how big it all is. And it's so easy to get lost in space.

      Personally, I find it fascinating and relaxing. Tje fact that it's our real universe (or as close as we can get with our current astronomical data) just makes it all the more fascinating.

      Delete
    6. Gotta check that out! I love the way you said scary. Another great candidate, which is limited to the Solar System (but as we know, that thing is already unconceivably huge) is Orbiter Space Flight Simulator. That was my wonderful horror movie. It's beautiful, and actually experiencing celestial mechanics can be really humbling and emotional (wish there was a way to experience the accelerations too.) I have learned so much about dynamics in space from that game. It's also free. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in how it really works.

      Delete
    7. I came across a YouTube video that comments on the existential horror of Space Engine.

      https://youtu.be/oca8BnDMin4

      I found it fascinating.

      Delete
  8. games like this are right up there with space opera novels. To any sci fi reader, if you haven´t yet, you must read one!

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's really refreshing to read someone playing this for the first time. The exploration is so organic, I feel like you are going in a kind of spiral.

    I will say that Fwiffo is easily my favorite in this game and I have practiced flying the Spathi Eluder vehicle so much over the years that I'm pretty good using it against most other ships. Your mileage will likely vary, of course.

    Definitely enjoying this and looking forward to further entries.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Using Fwiffo every time is playing the game on easy mode. I remember in SuperMelee one of my buddies tried to always pick the Spathi. I'm was like, are you even going to play the game? I'm not going to chase you and get missile after missile in the face. If I didn't chase him, he would never engage. Obviously I'm not going to play to my opponent's strengths, but apparently that's what he expected me to do. "Make a moving target so I can have the fun of shooting you" seemed to be the idea.

      The other ships are much more fun to play. I think Fwiffo is just there as a crutch for people who aren't any good at the combat system.

      Delete
    2. Yes, the Spathi Eluder is very easy to use, and I prefer to ensure that it lasts the whole game if I can help it. To be honest, I'm not that good with most other ships, and when playing this game, I prefer to use those ships that I know I can win with.

      I understand if you are playing against other people in Super Melee, but I have nobody to do that with, so I'm not sorry for using a ship I'm really good at using...

      Delete
    3. The spathi is a robust ship, but there are plenty of cheaper counters to it available to a super melee opponent. That's the beauty of the "rock, scissors, vapor", every ship has at least one (and usually multiple) that will cakewalk it.

      Delete
  10. "The appeal of the music is lost on me, I'm afraid. I don't play games with the music on ..."

    Oh jeez, at least tell me you kept it on long enough to notice that every since species has its own theme music.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Inevitably successful in all circumstances!

    (Also, the music is great - but maybe it somewhat depends on the version and platform?)

    ReplyDelete
  12. There was a project some when in the early 2000s to remix a lot of the music in the game. Quite a few pieces came out really well, even though it was an amateur effort.

    It seems that the way hyperspace is presented in the game is a small but notable piece of the lawsuit going on around the franchise. At least one claim is that the way it's portrayed in Star Control Origins (which might make it onto your blog in about 40 years) is so close to StarCon 2 that it's unlawfully derivative.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like switching between the three main soundtracks for variety, though the 3DO version's my favorite overall.

      Delete
  13. Sirius is closer to earth than Alpha Centauri? Excuse me, SC2?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Sirius is about twice as far from us as Alpha Centauri.

      Delete
    2. The color map intended to be used with the game (Korath linked to it last entry) explains that the HyperSpace coordinates of stars are different and "may be unsettling to some students of TrueSpace astronomy."

      Delete
    3. It's also a convenient explanation why space is two-dimensional.

      Delete
    4. Well, okay, if you map star locations to a 2D plane, Sirius could well seem closer if its angle is high off the plane.

      Delete
  14. Take good care of the spathi ship, it can carry you through all the game (it did for me).

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm surprised you haven't told us about Frungy yet. I bet right now your readers are wondering "What is this wonderful sport, Frungy?".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think he's got to that point yet.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, that went right over my head.

      Delete
    3. Is it not the sport of kings?

      Delete
    4. Sorry for the confusion. I was certain it was mentioned during the first encounter with the Zoq-Fot-Pik (how can it not be mentioned!). In my defense, it's easy to get confused when all members of an alien species look the same.

      Delete
  16. "as if my crewmembers are discrete individuals and not just interchangeable hit points"

    Because I play games like a beta tester, I endeavoured to whittle down my crew until I had fewer members onboard the lander than are named in the blurb to see if the list would be truncated with less than a complete complement, but unsurprisingly no.

    "The Shofixti made their own sun go supernova, destroying dozens of Ur-Quan dreadnoughts, rather than submit."

    A strategy that is of course entirely in keeping with the species' battle tactics, based on what we already know of their scout ships' special attacks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was actually curious about that myself--if the text was altered with fewer crew in the lander--so thanks for reporting on that mystery.

      Delete
  17. As for the music, while its crowdsourced eclecticism was a breath of fresh air, there is no way to hear the music that can compare to the digital tracker music being pumped, counter to everything that prior experience had taught you to expect, out of a PC speaker. Which is to say that its context is important to get a visceral understanding of its significance.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I kinda feel sorry for people who cannot play games with music on, or have a very small magnitude of acceptable music genres to listen to.

    They are missing so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is the DEAL with all the people bitching and moaning about the music in this game? I've played it. The music is nice, it changes with each race. But it's not THAT great. The real fun is playing the game. If the music were off the game would be exactly the same.

      I just don't get how you people listen to the same little clips over and over and over over and over and over over and over and over over and over and over over and over and over over and over and over again and never have it grate on your nerves?

      Delete
    2. Harsher than I would have put it, but I'm glad at least someone gets my view. Then again, we are "missing so much."

      Delete
    3. People like the game so much that everything in it must be great.
      I love the game as a flawed jewel myself :).

      I like the music, I love the voices - but many people hates the VO, so to each his own.

      Delete
    4. "If the music were off the game would be exactly the same."

      Guess we'll have to disagree here. For me the various leitmotifs are an integral part of the gaming experience. Though I wouldn't go as far as calling it "missing so much". It's just how I prefer games.

      "I just don't get how you people listen to the same little clips over and over again and never have it grate on your nerves?"

      It's a skill perfected by playing decades of JRPGs. /s

      And I never understood how people can get tired of listening to a piece. Sure, if it's not very good or I don't like the genre, but my favorites can still get my blood pumping after hundreds of listens. I'm just weird like that.

      Delete
    5. Look, I love Star Control II's music, but we all need to appreciate that different people's brains work differently, and how we perceive and interact things isn't how others do - not necessarily because they're not as cultured, but because their brains literally work differently.

      Chet's literally colourblind, for example. It would be dumbass to tell him that he just doesn't have an appreciation for the full colour spectrum. It's not a failing of taste, it's a physical condition.

      Likewise, people have different neurological reactions to sound and noise. Repetitive music is disproportionately soothing to some people and disproportionately irritating to others. For some people, music of any sort literally interferes with their ability to concentrate, make decisions, or absorb other information - and that's not being sensitive, it's a neurological trait.

      So I'm sad that Chet doesn't have the same opinion on the SC2 music as us, but it's not like he hasn't tried a LOT of videogames, with a LOT of sounds, and he's pretty clear that this isn't something that works for him. Let him go.

      Delete
    6. >They are missing so much.

      But are they?

      "Try this Gruyere."

      "I hate cheese."

      "But you are missing so much!"

      *tries it*

      "Ok, tried it. *Blech*"

      "But...it's so great!!!"

      "No. It isn't."




      Experiences are subjective. There's nothing to miss if you don't experience the same way.

      (And that's coming from someone going full Jim Kirk mode just on hearing a few seconds of the FTL soundtrack. :) )

      Delete
    7. Compulsory reference with our French SMBC (now translated in English) :
      http://english.bouletcorp.com/2012/05/

      Delete
    8. That was an interesting, if somewhat endless, comic. I am both the victim of such attitudes and the perpetrator of them, as I harbor a prejudice that anyone who prefers modern "pop" music over the jazz classics of the early 1900s simply has not taken the time to listen to the latter.

      Delete
    9. To an extent, POSTING the Comic was the same behavior from me :)
      I had forgotten Boulet rarely has the brevity of SMBC.

      Delete
    10. >>They are missing so much.

      >But are they?
      >[...]
      >Experiences are subjective. There's nothing to >miss if you don't experience the same way.

      I think what people mean by "they are missing so much" - is not "they are missing out on this good experience easily available to them", but, rather, "they are missing out on BEING someone who can enjoy this experience AND doing this enjoying as well". Not all of the pplz realize that pplz are different, that our experiences are hermetically shut-off from each other and the sharing of them is possible only up to a point: some fun stuff is "only for us and for us ALONE", despite all our social instincts and wanting to share the joy.

      It's kinda like if a gay person would try to advertise the joys of gay sexuality to their straight friend... or vice versa, which could be even more common... but the point is, yeah, every one is alone, every one is born alone, dies alone, and does enjoy some individual forms of joy alone, too.

      Delete
  19. The game does have a light-hearted and cartoony vibe. But I hope that doesn't take anything away from the game for you. It is not what you like, but it is not without its merits.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I see you're covering Darkwood soon! I grew up with the sequel, Siege of Darkwood, which pretty unique, although still simple. I see its changes disqualified it from your RPG list, which is understandable. It's an unusual "Defence/RPG" hybrid, especially considering the Defence genre didn't solidify until nearly a decade later. I recommend anyone interested in Mac classic gaming give it a look (I'd have waited until the Darkwood post was up to talk about it, but I don't trust myself to be around to catch the update!).

    Can't say I'm a huge fan of the original, and I only ever bothered to beat it the once. The design decisions are very weak, and the graphics look like they were done up in ten minutes in Claris Draw, the vector art portion of the ubiquitous Macintosh office suite, Claris Works.

    ReplyDelete
  21. You must be quite left-brained, Chet. To not like the music? Insane.

    Anyone who dislikes StarCon 2 is a heretic and should be chopped into thousands of bits, coated upon many discarded syreen penetration devices and cast into dozens of drudge furnaces while praying to the Pkunk God of resurrection, only to endure finality again and again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the music just fine. I simply don't like any music as "background" music. I only like music when I'm actively listening to music.

      The only game where I've been able to leave the music on (so far) is Quest for Glory. You arrive in a location or meet an NPC, the game plays a little tune, and then SHUTS UP. I do not want music on a continuous loop and never will, no matter how good it is.

      Delete
    2. In some sense that does mean that you actually love music more, not less, no?
      If you enjoy it so seriously and thoroughly that it's impossible without lending the music your full concentration?

      Delete
    3. This makes me think of a comment of Brian Eno's that basically became a working definition of ambient music:

      "...a kind of music that existed on the cusp between melody and texture, and whose musical logic was elusive enough to reward attention, but not so strict as to demand it."

      Of course, a lot of video game music basically is ambient music, crossed with a kind of non-diegetic film music.

      I suppose if someone dislikes one or both of those genres -- and especially, if the inherently background function they serve is something that person rejects out of hand -- then, yeah, it makes sense to me that they wouldn't like VGM, whether for aesthetic reasons or because musical stimuli demand their attention so completely (involuntarily?) that music has to have high information density and tight narrative structure to justify that attention.

      (I'd probably guess that a person with those tastes or distastes also wouldn't like Indian ragas, or long Coltrane solos over modal structures, or other forms of expression where the temporal bounds and structure of the music are unclear, open-ended, or deliberately vague.)

      (In other words -- and pun intended -- I'd expect them to dislike quite a few of my favorite things.)

      Delete
    4. You know, PK Thunder, what you said my shed some more light on the matter: there ARE kinds of video game music that have just enough melodic narrative so that it is not as bland and tasteless as "ambient" - and still it does repeat after enough of phrases have passed and cycles to the start; but, done correctly, it does not anger some people because it, well, resembles a traditional song structure - verse after verse differs in words, but is the same in melody. If crafted just the right way (not only melody, but instruments and everything else, too), it may be completely acceptable for some people to listen over and over and over, especially if structure is as simple as, yes, not to DEMAND attention.

      It is the middle-ground between "THE Music music", which is savoured slowly - and ambient "nothing happens" melody-less stuff which may irritate some.

      Delete
    5. @ Unknown:
      Ambient can have wonderful melody. Check out Jean Michel Jarre's Equinoxe or Oxygene albums from the 70s.

      Delete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.