Never-Ending Games Sound Good, Hard to Finish

When I’m thinking about buying a game, one of the things I usually pay attention to in reviews is how many hours it will probably take me to beat a game’s single-player adventure mode. My criteria used to be, “the longer the better,” but now I’m starting to reconsider.

Video games, of course,  have to last longer than movies. I mean, you’re paying $40 more for a game than a DVD, and most of the time you’re not going to play the single-player component of the game more than once.

But let’s take a game like Tales of Vesperia, a Japanese role-playing game for the Xbox 360, which I finally beat the other day. According to my save file, I clocked in 61+ hours playing the game. Sure, some might say that means the game takes 2-3 days, a week tops. But let’s be serious, anyone who can play 61 hours in less than a week doesn’t have a job, and actually might be undead, considering they don’t require sleep. For real humans with other things happening in their lives, 61 hours could mean 9 months to a year, assuming they don’t lose interest. You could make an entire baby in that amount of time!

Sure, a year of gameplay seems like a great value. But the problem with video games is they’re released all the f***ing time! About a month or two after buying Tales, I made the mistake of picking up Fallout 3. Not a mistake because Fallout 3 is a bad game. On the contrary, it’s probably one of the best titles this generation of consoles. But it is also really really long if you take the time to explore the world and do all the side quests. And they actually release EXPANSIONS for this game. If only I had the time! I finally beat Tales this week due to guilt inflicted from ordering Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Not more monsters!
Not more monsters!

So is the solution shorter games? Yes and no. As a writer, I would never tell a game developer to put a cap on their creativity. But there is something to say for smart editing. In many of the super-long games I’ve played, there have been sections of repetitive battling and/or boring  treasure hunts. These are the parts where the gamer starts to lose interest.  Why not chop the 25 hours of fat and keep the 35 hours of meat?

Personally, I like to be left wanting more. Not so much more that I feel ripped off. But when the credits roll, I want to feel hungry for the sequel, not glad it’s finally over.

Can You Hear Me Now?

I wrote an article last week in Communications Daily about the prospects of a new technology called HD voice.  As the name implies, HD voice doubles the clarity of audio on phone calls. What’s not clear, however, is if people actually want it. Cellphones and VoIP actually provide a tinnier-sounding call then your mom’s old landline, but a lot of people don’t seem to mind.

Check out my article, which is featured here on Jeff Pulver’s blog (he co-founded Vonage, for those unfamiliar).

Do you want a clearer phone call? Sound off in the comments section!

American Songsmith

With memories of Independence Day still lingering, now seemed like a good time to highlight a new album from one of my favorite American singer-songwriters. If nothing else, Pete Yorn proves that good things do sometimes come from New Jersey.  For what it’s worth, I was born in Princeton.

backandfourth Pete Yorn – Back & Fourth

I’ve read a few reviews describing this CD as a mellow, more acoustic turn for Mr. Yorn, but I don’t think that’s  quite accurate. This CD is not nearly as folky/acoustic as say, Jakob Dylan’s “Seeing Things.” On the contrary, electric is a critical element to several of the tracks, and “Last Summer” is a bona fide rocker.

Perhaps what the critics really mean by “mellow” is that Yorn sounds a little upset.  Regret and anger over lost love is a theme that runs through the album, moreso than any of his previous releases. But Yorn’s sincerity and penchant for stick-in-your-head hooks keeps Back and Fourth from feeling like a downer. He also keeps things concise with 10 tracks and a 42 minute running time. That’s a good thing, because as much as  I liked previous, hour-long efforts “MusicForTheMorningAfter” and “Nightcrawler,” I couldn’t help but feel the guy could have saved a couple tracks for B-Sides.

Check out “Last Summer” and “Social Development Dance” at Pete’s MySpace page.

Are You Watched?

book_cover_22_largeFor those of you who don’t know, I wrote a novel. You can’t find it at Borders, but it is free to download on this newfangled thing they call the “Information Super Highway.”

I released all 22 chapters on a weekly basis last year as individual PDF files. Today, I’m happy to announce the complete novel is now available in a single, easy-to-read file! If you haven’t read the book already, or want to read it again, please check it out.  Please feel free to print the file, or share the PDF with friends and family.

A quick synopsis:

This modern Orwellian tale imagines a nation in which the people have come to accept government privacy intrusions and forced uniformity as necessary for keeping the homeland strong. Opposition is heresy—and punishable by death. Seven, a 20-something male, wakes up without memory or the learned self-compromise that comes with it. He makes strides toward getting his life back together, but the fresh perspective granted by his rebirth soon proves to be more a curse than a gift.

For more details, please visit
Click here for a direct link to the complete PDF.

Oh, and yes, I’m already hard at work on a followup novel.

Silversun Pickups: Alt Rock Ain’t Dead

Periodically, I like to highlight a few of my favorite new rock albums. In previous posts this year, I’ve exalted fresh discs by Glasvegas and The Rakes. Today I’d like to swoon (you’ll get the pun in a second) over the latest work by Silversun Pickups.

For those of you born in the ’80s, I have some news for you: alt rock ain’t dead.

After scoring a few years ago with hypnotic single “Lazy Eye,” Silversun Pickups come out guns-a-blazing on their second full-length, Swoon. The band missed a few times on their debut, but show on the followup they know how to go heavy with the rock while still maintaining a fine sense of melody and atmosphere.

It’s easy to draw comparisons to the acronym-sharing Smashing Pumpkins, a group which similarly spends a lot of time “working the layers” in distortion-heavy meloncholia. But whereas that band flourished in negativity, there’s something undeniably hopeful in the Pickups’ sound.

As good as Swoon is, not all tracks are created equal. Single “Panic Switch” is clearly the best of the bunch, incorporating a compelling mix of chords and instrumentation.  Other highlights include the bouncy “Substitution,” the string-laden “The Royal We” and high-tension “Surrounded (Or Spiraling).”  But a couple tracks, like the repetitive “It’s Nice to Know You Work Alone,” lack the same freshness.  Still, it’s overall a solid CD that’s certain to reassure ’90s alternative rock fans there’s still some creativity left in the genre.