Jarhead

Finally got around to viewing The Phantom Menace, just to help out a struggling indie film — not any worse than the other three movies, really. And no, Jar-Jar was fine; ignore the slashdot crowd.

Maul was a puppet. He worked well in his role as a puppet, but he didn’t appear quite enough and in important enough ways to act as an effective red herring. Lucas should have used him more — though keeping him basically mute was a good decision. The emperor — jeez. I think Lucus intended the theater chairs to see through him from his first scenes. Ditto with “Padame” — “The Queen wants to investigate!” Ahem.

The anti-intellectuality of the series continues to grate on me.

The parting between Anakin and his mother has been pounded for being overly unemotional. The people reporting this certainly aren’t very perceptive or comprehensive. Given the situation they were in as slaves, the relationship they had, the attitudes she seemed to have as a mother toward the boy, the opportunity presented, and the sheer suddenness of the whole business, the Skywalkers were more than adequately emotional; any more and the whole business would have been melodramatic and boring. Anakin’s mother basically seemed in a bit of shock throughout the whole thing. She appeared to intentionally withhold any strong impulses from processing fully until Anakin left; she knew to escape slavery and find a real outlet for his skills would be in his best interest, and she didn’t want to overly worry him, possibly scarring his future. She simply wasn’t that selfish; the boy needed strength and comfort, not paranoia that he was hurting her. While the movie didn’t show it, it’s evident that it would be hitting her any ol’ time what had just happened. The scene cut a bit too quickly, however. I was expecting a huge change of countenance to pour over her as the jedi walked away.

The special effects bugged me — I expected a lot more, from how Lucas had been describing things. They were mostly pretty obvious, despite what everyone else seems to think. Why is it nobody can seem to either correctly texture-map a wireframe, no matter how high-res the source image, or to remember to blur and de-res digital images enough that they look analogue and real? In addition, what on earth were they doing with the lighting? The photograhy and rendered light rarely seemed to synch correctly. I’ve seen Win95-based games with better integration of elements. I’m not being hyperbolic here, either.

I welcomed the return of the Jawas.

The Buck Rogers outfits the queen and the pilots had were kind of keen, too, as a bit of an allusion to the series’ original inspiratory material.

The beginning part of the movie, involving the Bela Lugosi-ish aliens, reminded me strongly of The Last Starfighter (which was, in turn, heavilly influenced by Star Wars).

This keyboard is annoyingly layed-out. I don’t feel the keys’ locations correctly. The key sizes are molded differently, I think. I prefer my own…

Not very interesting prose today (article blah; article blah; article blah). Sorry.

Trilobyte

The 11th Hour is all of the worst aspects of The 7th Guest, amplified. Where Myst and, more so, Riven create a logically-balanced world to comprehend and explore, these games give you lots of bad FMV, very arbitrary riddles (suddenly throwing in an anagram in the center of the second riddle you’re given, right near the beginning, for instance), and random puzzles which impede progress, not even a hint of context, half the time, provided as to what the point/goal is (that is, no context even within the puzzle itself, after careful and lengthy analysis) — the only way to solve several puzzles is to whack around, hoping to crack them by force. The end result of the expended effort is to, again, allow the player to, say, examine a table or open an otherwise-unblocked — or even partially open — door in a hallway on the other end of the house. Right.

I really hate this type of game design. It’s unimaginative, shallow, lazy, and just plain poor. Myst had a few “puzzles” in it, but, with only very few exceptions, the game effectively told you what to do if you merely read everything carefully and added up, analytically, everything you experienced, interrelating as much as possible. Riven was a vast step up in that it didn’t contain any of those sort of artificial roadblocks. Every difficulty in the game was based in the structure of the place. If the player couldn’t get past something or if he couldn’t figure out what the purpose was of a certain device or item or bit of architecture or writing, there was a completely rational, logical reason why not — he was an outsider, stepping into someone else’s world, filled with a culture he didn’t recognize, devices he had never used, and geography alien to him. Given enough study of his surroundings and a bit of insight, it was perfectly simple to deduce how things were, why they logically were the way they were, and, by relation, how to manage that which was encountered.

The 11th Hour is not like this in any respect. It is not for the thinker; it is for the sadomasochist and the game designers’ egos. “Hah — see anybody figure THIS out. Aren’t we clever?” It’s not clever to simply withhold every speck of information and player control within normal gameplay.

I suppose that’s the real difference between the serieses — Myst/Riven (with, as stated, a few exceptions in the first game) is based upon giving the player as much information as possible but no overt connecting threads. The player is mostly set free to explore, as the point is to internalize and interweave information until an overall comprehension is achieved. Guided understanding is more important than precise methodology. 7/11 is based upon almost the opposite concept; that series gives nothing but connecting threads. All information has to be conjured up in speculation, based upon these often completely baseless clues. The player is mostly confined, in fear that he encounter too much information and spoil the puzzles. Method is more important than comprehension.

I find this general kind of mindset to, frankly, be a combination of sad and injust. It masquerades as a test of brain power, when it more accurately a test of obedience. (I’ll not bother meticulating why this is — I’ve provided the data.) Whereas Myst and Riven compell the question “why,” The 7th Guest and 11th Hour compell the question “what?” It’s shallow and manipulative. Never trust he who actively hides his intentions.

101010

okay, now tell me — what do you get when you multiply six by nine in a base-thirteen system?

Now, what does this say? Actually, taken metaphorically, it synchronizes very well with the universe-view proposed in that particular reality. Base-thirteen is a very awkward number system; 13 is just an uncomfortable integer, for various reasons you can determine on your own. Assuming this is a suggestion that thirteen is the natural root of everything in the universe, mathematically, this would explain a lot of the awkwardness and unease and, to stretch and extrapolate, bureaucratic nonsense inherent to the process of existance. And there is an awful lot of it in the universal exhibition of the trilogy.

[Later note: This appears to be very common knowledge. Well. I had to figure it out on my own…]