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One Post, Two Things

14 Dec

Some days ago, I read a post on Dear Author about the pricing of ebooks. I actually don’t want to write anything about the stupidity to set a higher price on an ebook than on a mmp. It’s so self-evident that it’s a VERY BAD IDEA, I don’t know what to say further.

Just: I don’t have an ebook-reader and I won’t have one for a very long time if the prices don’t come down and the DRM business is solved. I’m much too scared of the possibility that I’ll have to flush my library of ebooks down the drain in a few years time because I can no longer read the books.

But the post made me think about two other, slightly connected things.

1. The price decides if I buy a book not exactly on my wish list

Examples? Recently, I bought Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave and Jo Beverley’s Christmas Angel because I could get them for much less than their usual price. Raybourn is a historical mystery and I seldom buy mysteries. I buy Jo Beverley’s books when the story sounds interesting. But with a Christmas-related title, I wasn’t so sure. Right or wrong, my impression of Christmas-related stories is that they tend to be too sugary and sweet for me.

I now have both books and I know I won’t regret buying them even if I end up not liking them. Heck, because of the price, I very nearly bought Nalini Singh’s Hostage to Pleasure even though I’m not a fan of this series. I appreciate and like the world Singh has created, but the first three books I read didn’t convince me to stay with the series.

The slight connection to the post on Dear Author?

The obvious conclusion is that pricing ebooks higher than the print editions will never get me to buy them even if I had an ebook reader. But that’s just me.

2. Reminder of a draft I wrote about DRM in games back in October

Angie’s comment (number 18) on that post reminded me of a draft I wrote in October about DRM in games. Until then, I thought I was a somewhat educated buyer of PC games. I knew about copy protection. I didn’t buy games I wanted because I knew of the heavy restrictions they came with. Spore, the game Angie wrote about in a post on her blog, is the most famous, I think.

So, I thought I was informed. I thought I did my duty by not buying games like BioShock, Mass Effect or Sacred 2. I’m not sure what I thought the copy protection on other games did, check for a not copied disk in the player probably. I never bothered to think about how they do that. I found out.

In October, I stumbled upon a blog post about DRM in Fallout 3 (sorry, no link). There I learned some interesting things about copy protection and SecuRom and followed a link to Reclaim your Game, a website informing about games with SecuRom.

SecuRom is basically a third program that comes with installing SecuRom protected games on your PC. There are different versions of it according to the restrictions imposed on the use of the game (see Spore) and I don’t pretend to understand it all, but:
I don’t want software installed on my PC WITHOUT ASKING ME before.
Which is exactly what SecuRom protected games do. Not all of them want to “call home,” but all install unwanted and sometimes even invasive software. ME DON’T WANT!

Currently, there are over 100 games listed on the website. Of course, my PC has SecuRom on it. It came with the very first game I installed on it when it was new: Jade Empire: Special Edition (which has a lesser version of SecuRom).

The slight connection to the post on Dear Author?

The advice on the website what to tell the publishers:

“I am a customer, not a pirate. Don’t treat me like one!”

About Grades

3 May

I wanted to write about grading for some time now. I wrote my first blog posts about novels and games without assigning some kind of grade. I tried to give my impressions about a book or a game, nothing more. To assign a numeric value to the books and games seemed to claim some kind of objectivity. And that’s not something I wanted to project.

But now I changed it (I even went back to edit the already posted ones). It’s not because I think my comments and ratings are objective. That’s pretty hard to claim anyway because I really believe that in commenting about “creative products” subjective elements are always combined with objective criteria. The subjective elements may vary from one to the other but they’re always there. The reason I changed it is because a numeric rating is a short way to express what I thought about a novel or a game.

I went with a 5-point grade (similar to amazon’s 5-stars grade). The grade is my first answer / short answer when asked how I liked a book or game:

5 / 5: wow – there’s something that grabbed me
4 / 5: good
3 / 5: okay
2 / 5: some serious flaws
1 / 5: don’t bother

For example, I really liked the PS2 game Disgaea. I gave it a grade of 4,5 / 5. There’s a large part of subjectivity in this grade because I like games of this type (although the 1/2 reflects this a bit). I know other people will think 4,5 is too high (The Boyfriend would say so for example). So you could say that the grade 4,5 reflects more my enjoyment of the game than maybe an “objective” look at the game merits. I try to make this – is the grade heavily influenced by my enjoyment of the game/the novel – clear with the questions posted along with the grade at the end of a post about a game or a novel.

Another thing to remember is that a 4,5 / 5 for one novel and a 4 / 5 for another doesn’t mean that the first one (4,5 / 5) is better than the second one (4 / 5). The grade takes into consideration only the novel or game it is assigned to. There is no real comparative value to the grades.

To remember:

The grades are
– the short answer I give when asked about a book or a game (for example, “good” = 4 / 5)
– subjective
– not comparative amongst each other

Another important thing to remember about my comments is that I mention what bothers me. I don’t try to guess what bothers or probably even offends other readers.

So:

There will be no warning of common pet peeves (like adultery, for example) if I don’t have a problem with that in the novel (or game).

My comments are about my pet peeves, the things that bother me, and the things that delight me.

About "Final Fantasy VIII"

27 Mar

The last two days I was alone at home with nothing to do. I decided to play Final Fantasy 8 (official site, this one is better) and to eat lots of unhealthy food. And that’s all I did, nothing more.

Final Fantasy VIII is the first RPG I ever played, and it is the game that started my love for RPGs, and very probably my l ove for long endings in games. Before this game, I had played other games (Civilization II, Sim City 2000, the Indiana Jones adventures), but I think it’s Final Fantasy VIII that sent me to my doom (= being a gamer). This was around 2000, I think (PC version).

I still remember the opening FMV. It just blew me away. The combination of the music (“Liberi Fatali) and the story hints in this first sequence … I was impressed and intrigued. Later I learned that the text of Liberi Fatali is very appropriate to the story in the game, a story about orphaned children and their fate to save the world (the original text is in Latin):

Liberi Fatali

Fithos lusec wecos vinosec
Fithos lusec wecos vinosec
Fithos lusec wecos vinosec

Awaken yourselves from sleep, my children.
This is not a cradle.
Awaken yourselves from sleep, fated children
Sleep does not advance.

Rise up.
Seek in the garden of truth.

Burning with the fires of truth
Sear with flame the darkness of the world.
Burning with the fires of truth
Kindle to ash the evil of the spirit.

Be strong, children,
on that fated day.

Fithos lusec wecos vinosec
Fithos lusec wecos vinosec
Fithos lusec wecos vinosec
Fithos lusec wecos vinosec

I didn’t have a clue how to play this kind of game, and because of that it was really hard sometimes, but it also was a LOT of fun.

As you’ve probably already guessed, Final Fantasy VIII is my favourite game of the Final Fantasy series. I like the high-school feeling associated with it, I like the opening and ending, I like the final battle, I like the discussions about the nature of time and the mystery of Ultimecia, and maybe – but only maybe – I like it for sentimental reasons.

Needless to say, when we got a PS2, one of the first games I got was Final Fantasy VIII.

And now it’s really time I get back to playing.

Video Games As Art?

6 Dec

In my last “Week-in-Review” post I mentioned the current discussion about the question if video games are art (sparked by Roger Ebert here). The opinions are wide and varied, as it is to be expected with such a question, and there are some interesting points made.

My own thoughts are pretty rambling (what’s new?) but I think two important questions are:

How do you define art?
My point here is, to get somewhere with such a discussion you need a common base from where to start, in this case a definition of art all participants agree with more or less.

How are video games as a medium able to realize this definition of art?
My point here is, that you can’t just apply what makes the medium book or the medium movie art to the medium video game (and then find the medium video game lacking because it can’t realize art the same way and it therefore can’t be art.) The medium video game has its own unique combination of elements, that define it as a medium. Some of these elements are also relevant for books or movies, but there are also some elements which make video games a medium in its own right because they are not shared with other media. The way these elements are combined in a specific video game makes or breaks this video game’s art.