Now that the game is out, I thought I’d write some commentaries on the game, throw some insights into my thinking. I’m doing this as a “Director’s Commentary” like you might have in a DVD if this was a movie. This post will contain spoilers! If you have not played story 1 yet, download the game now and play it first.
If you want to follow along, before you start the game, go to the “Options” menu, then “Prequel Menu”, then select “Did It All!”. The commentary will be based on that version of Ariane’s story, as I think it is the most fun. It is designed primarily for fans of the original Date Ariane game, as there are a lot of references to the first game. Also make sure transitions are on, and that the Auto Forward Time is slid all the way to the right so you can follow along.
This “Did It All!” version also has a different opening introduction, mentioning that Ariane is also a friend in town, and that you have been on a few dates, rather than one date.
“Your Alarm goes off at 7 AM…”
My original vision for this game was 6 stories. The first choice would be “Get Up” or “Sleep In”, then the next choice would be “Call Ariane”, “Go To The Gym”, or “Play Video Games” The original Get Up/Call Ariane is the current Story 1. Get Up/Go To The Gym is the story of Heidi and Wendy, Heidi’s story may be told in the future, Wendy’s story is in the game as “bonus” content in that it just magically shows up after a while. Get Up/Play Video Games is the current story 4. Sleep In/Call Ariane would have been a story about Lydia the Lead Singer, which I will be telling a short version in a new Ariane story I am writing for the 1.0 version. Sleep In/Go To Gym is the current story 2, and Sleep In/Play Video Games is the current story 3.
SITA is a story about how seemingly mundane choices lead to incredible outcomes. The simple choice of, “Do I get up?” or “Do I go back to bed?” can, in this universe, change the world. For now we are going to get up and call Ariane.
“You Have Been Out on a few dates…”
Originally, the first image of this game was the second image in Date Ariane. I originally rendered most of story 1 with the original Ariane model, before I decided that Ariane needed a major makeover. Ultimately there were about 5 different makeovers, and then I decided the old Ariane house set was way too outdated too, and so I upgraded her house to this. So on one hand, this image looks nothing like the second image from Date Ariane, but on the other hand it represents a preview of what the second image from Date Ariane will look like when I do an update in the future.
By the way, the original name of this story was “Second Date”, but because I made this special version, requiring there to be multiple dates with Ariane in the past, that the name was changed to “Another Date”.
“Some of these dates…”
Most of the time in the making of this game, I render using basic lighting that looks pretty decent, but the Poser 9 Renderer can use some very advanced lighting like “Sub Surface Scattering” which simulates real skin modeling and “Image Based Lighting” that gives a precise simulation of ambient lighting. This picture of Ariane nude in bed uses both of these advanced techniques. The majority of the images in this game do not use advanced techniques, mostly because they are extra time consuming to set up, test, and then render. A few key pictures in the game do use advanced rendering, another one is coming up soon.
Like most writers, I started writing the story before I started illustrating. When I got to the illustrating stage, and realized that illustrating a phone conversation from a first person point of view is boring (it can either be just a black screen with text or staring at a wall with text), I decided a imaginative approach would be much better. The rules are: 1. You are not seeing any of this literally, so you imagine talking to a naked Ariane, but that does not mean she is. 2. Images slide in and out of frame to give a surreal effect to the conversation. 3. You only envision something once Ariane mentions it. So when she mentions eating breakfast, you then imagine her in her kitchen. There are three other phone conversations in this game, and they all follow these rules.
There are no dead ends in this version of story 1, so it does not matter your choices, so we will skip ahead…
“You arrive at the restaurant…”
Here is another example of advanced lighting. The room is lit by 4 spotlights, and ray tracing uses 3 or 4 bounces. Notice the reflection of the glasses and the bottles on the bar counter, you will not see that kind of detail in any other image set in the bar. Primarily because the image took about 8 hours to render.
All four stories in “Something’s In The Air” have introductory sequences that have nothing to do with the plot of the particular story. Relevant choices in Ariane’s story do not happen until the theater, which is like the 6th scene in the story. All of these introductory scenes are designed to 1.) create a setting and introduce characters, and 2.) show how the various stories cross each other. This same bar scene happens in story 2, only you are there with Dave instead of Ariane. All of the main characters in the game, except Dave, show up somewhere in story 1.
Here we see Rachel Spahr, who is actually kind of the star of SITA, Stacy the Strip Club Manager, and Bonnie the Bartender. I should note that when I was laying down the story for SITA, and had to start coming up with names for the characters, I just started making names that start with the same letter as their job: Stacy the Strip Club Manager, Bonnie the Bartender, Heidi the Hairdresser, Wendy the Weight Trainer, Lydia the Lead Singer, Veronica the Vamp, Paula the Professor, etc.
The audio in this scene is an ambient crowded bar/restaurant sound I downloaded from Freesound.org. It is absolutely perfect for this scene, except that this is supposed to be an American restaurant, and it sounds like a bunch of British accents are heard. Could not find a better sound with American accents, so I stuck with the British voices. It’s summer after all, maybe they are visiting the States?
“The Restaurant Bar is getting crowded now.”
The background image is a separate render from the foreground. In the background is Lydia the Lead Singer, and the rest of the band. The basic story there is that the band is about to start their big tour, and they are doing a concert in front of the home crowd. Some record exec hears their sound check, and then invites band and crew (in the missing story you are part of the crew) to dinner, hence the overcrowded restaurant interfering with your date with Ariane (and Rachel in story 2).
Early versions of this picture had Bonnie the Bartender wiping down the table, thus body blocking your view of the restaurant patron on the far right who is not wearing pants. Putting clothing on every background character is sometimes an annoying chore, so there are a lot of nearly naked background characters in this game, though most are not this easy to spot.
Ariane asks, “So how has your day been?” This is a type of choice I use a lot in the game to try and cut down on boring background exposition. One choice explains what happened to Ariane during the day, the other explains what happened to you. If you talk about yourself, the conversation changes to baseball. References to the baseball game appear a few times later in the story, but are missing if you ask about Ariane’s day. If you ask about Ariane’s day, and you have already met Rebecca (which in the case of “Done It All!” you have), she will mention that Rebecca had asked out Ariane, too. Had you not called Ariane before she went to the gym, she would be out with Rebecca tonight. In story 2, Rebecca and Ariane are seen on their date in the background.
“What the hell did you do that for, Stacy?”
When you play this scene on the default setting, or any prequel setting not involving the strip club, Ariane does not call her by name, just some “blonde bitch”. So if you went to the strip club, and Ariane won the amateur night contest, then suddenly they know each other by first name, and it sounds like they see each other regularly. Does Ariane now work at the strip club? I don’t have an answer to that, and it does not matter. Ariane never mentions her career in either Date Ariane or SITA, and I imagined her career was “Video Game Character”, and if you ask Ariane what she does for a living she says, “I work as a model, video game actor, and I sell animations in Second Life.”, so that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
In this conversation, we learn a personality trait of Ariane’s that shows up once or twice in Date Ariane: When she is angry she gets brutally honest. If you play SITA with a prequel setting in which you slept with her on the first date, she will be a little bit mad at you during the first half of the date, because you waited over a week to call her. That brutal honesty comes out a couple of times. The original version of this story was that “angry” version of Ariane, and testers hated her. That’s when I came up with “excited Ariane” (the default version) and later “practically a girlfriend Ariane” which is the version we are playing now.
Incidentally, there is a third version of this conversation you can see if you go to prequel menu and select “Dance and Lost”. Stacy will start calling Ariane “Betty” which is the stage name Ariane used at the strip club.
“You go to the table, there are pictures you took of Ariane.”
Here is another scene that only shows up if you either “Did It All!!” or pick a prequel where you do a photo shoot in the mountains. In Date Ariane, there are multiple versions of that scene. These pics are the ones where you ask Ariane to take off her shirt then her pants. Another version are pants first. The pics on the table are a mix of old Ariane and new Ariane, which illustrates that they do look somewhat alike. I was too lazy to recreate all of these pictures with the new model for this game, especially considering how small they are, but after I do an updated Date Ariane, I will update this picture to show only new model Ariane pics.
“You know what, Stacy did us a favor…”
In Date Ariane, the text was always color coded to match the whatever the speaker was wearing. Doing that is very hard in RenPy, but coloring the name tags of the players is very easy. Every Ariane line prior to this line had Ariane’s name in pink. because she was wearing a pink gown. From this point forward, Ariane has a blue name tag, because she now has a blue shirt on.
“May I take your order?”
This diner scene has the same funny trick used in Date Ariane in which there is no way to tell if the waitresses have tops on or not. From the pictures on the wall they apparently do not, but things keep getting in the way of your view. There is a scene buried in one of the Rachel stories that reveals the truth: The waitress is wearing a white top. In fact, the character model has the top on in every picture, but I used the top to help me with the blocking.
“So. here we are on another date…”
First picture of Paula, the main character from story 4. If you watch her in the background she is picking up an order of coffee and donuts to go, in story 4 you will find out why. All of the datable girls make a cameo in story 1. We saw Rachel, Stacy and Bonnie in the bar, here is Paula, Veronica is coming up, and Wendy makes a one pic cameo in a hot green dress in the “Celebrity Sightings” ending, which we will not do in this commentary.
“Well let’s see…”
Usually at this point, Ariane will describe all the things you did on your last date, depending on what you pick in the prequel menu or what you type in to your custom ending. The “Done It All!” setting has Ariane describing all that went on with somewhere between 8 and 10 previous dates. Since you apparently just arrived in town a month ago and this is the first time in over a week that you two have gone out. 10 dates in the span of 3 weeks seems pretty crazy. Many of the dates described cannot even be done in Date Ariane. Well the whole point is not to be realistic or accurate, the whole point of the very long dialogue is to give fans of Date Ariane a funny reminder of all the crazy stuff that went on in that game. Often in this dialogue you get Ariane’s version of the dates, which are different from the players point of view. I especially like Ariane’s take on the mountain photo shoot date.
“So we have been on many epic dates…”
Like I said, there are three versions of “Another Date”, and the post flashback scene is the most obvious divide. The default/no sex version has Ariane making light of you not calling her, and when you tell her she could call you, she does right there at the table. The “sex on the first date” version reminds Ariane that it took you a week to call and she gets mad again, but then the two of you come to a friendly understanding and she finally forgives you. The many dates version we are on has you and Ariane having the “What kind of relationship do we have?” talk, which Ariane hates, leading to a Muse and Spirit discussion. Later if you meet Rebecca, there is some hilarious exchanges. I had to completely rewrite the Rebecca ice cream scene on the “Done It All!” version as the two other versions made no sense in the “Done It All!” scenario. I’m mentioning this now because we are not going down that path either.
“The theater downtown has three different movies playing.”
Not only did I give the three movies titles that have never been used, I gave them titles so lame that they will never be used. If you don’t get the joke of “The Maguffin Job”, you should learn what a “MacGuffin” is. Basically, every action film ever made has had a “MacGuffin” as Hitchcock described it. “The Opposite Gender” does not roll off the tongue like “The Opposite Sex”, but the latter is a real movie, I just needed something that sounds like a romantic comedy. In Date Ariane, “The Opposite Gender” had not come out yet, and a movie called “Heartbroken” was playing. You can see this yourself if you scroll back to the flashback scene when you were eating at the fancy restaurant. That means “The Opposite Gender is the new film that opened up this weekend (and why it is so crowded). Finally, “Love, As Usual” is the drama film. The game does not use the titles, only the genres. We are going to Let Ariane Decide.
“You finally get in and the theater is packed.”
The theater model that I used here has an audience of simple stick figures occupying the seats. If you look at the arms you will notice. The round ball heads broke the illusion, so I used low rez hair figures and painstakingly put the hair on all the foreground audience figures so they look more real. You can still see the round head ones in the background. The movie preview has an A rating. I wanted to avoid trademark issues with the MPAA, so as a tribute to the late Roger Ebert I used an “A” rating which Roger wanted between R and X to separate legitimate adult films from porn. In response, the MPAA created NC-17 and then defeated the purpose of the rating by giving the NC-17 rating to porn movies, and now they can’t be advertised. Now all films between R and NC-17 go with “Unrated” to avoid the “porn” stigma of NC-17.
“As you take your seat…”
So here is the Veronica cameo. My original draft of Ariane’s date was to have one bad thing after another happen. As the 6 people who saw my alpha version can attest, the date was REALLY bad, bordering on miserable and unfun. Veronica’s phone exchange was twice as long as it is here, and people hated it. In order to make it more playable it got edited down. When you do finally meet Veronica in story 3, she is not quite as unlikeable as she is here. Also, she eventually pays dearly for leaving her ringer on in a theater. A lesson to all theater goers, turn your cell phones off!
When writing the game, I was very sensitive to timeline issue (only to screw it up later when I dropped some stories). Restaurant was at 7 PM, diner was around 7:20 to 7:45, theater is 8:05. At this point Veronica leaves and goes to the bar. In story 3, the baseball game ends around 8:10, and you get to the bar at around 8:20, and you may leave to the convention with Veronica at 8:30. The part of the Veronica phone dialogue that I cut out is Tanner telling Veronica that she needs to find a guy to bring with her to keep his significant other from finding out about their affair, which is why you get dragged to the convention in the first place. It was way too much dialogue, and there are enough clues for you to figure this out on your own.
“The movie is starting…”
Most of the music I use in the game is from a collection of royalty free music I purchased from the composer Marc Riedinger. He did a romantic comedy song, but I used it in the Ariane flashback scene as well as the Rachel dinner scene. Here I used a piece called “Radio Martini” by Kevin McLeod, one of four non Riedinger compositions, and the only one not in a dance or club scene.
I created vignettes of the three movie genres to portray the movies. “The Opposite Gender” opens with the typical “meet cute” scene, then pic 2 is the inevitable fight, and pic three is the final make up. Every Romantic Comedy movie since Charles Chaplin has followed this formula. The background pictures are pictures I took while visiting family in Manhattan. The first is Rockefeller Center. The second is a view of the Empire State Building as seen from the top floor of 30 Rockefeller Center. The third is Times Square, which is purposely blurry to avoid any copyright complaints from advertisers in Times Square.
Funny fact about all three movies: The main actor and actress models are the same in all 3 movies. I just changed the hair and clothing. In fact not very well, the actor in the romantic comedy is wearing the same thing as the actor in the action film, I only changed the hair color and the shirt color.
“So what did you think?”
Here is another place that I significantly changed the dialogue from the first draft, Ariane originally HATES the movie with a passion, giving a verbose bad review, only making the date seem more miserable. Now she makes a funny joke about how forgettable it was. Much better!
I originally had a street sound loop that had both talking and traffic in it, but it also had a bus noise that was really annoying every 20 seconds of the loop. To replace it I took two ambient loops, one with traffic and one with talking, and mixed them together. The talking is soft and barely audible, and is in Ukranian rather than English, but it gets the job done. Once again we have a choice, we are going to pick Let her decide what to do.
In the original version, which you can get a taste of if you pick a last date where you slept together, Ariane complains that you made all the decisions on the last date (which is true, because that was the whole point of the game). Ariane insisted that she make all the decisions this time, and all her decisions turn out to bad ones. I toned this down quite a bit, even on the version where you slept together on the first date, but because of that original concept of the second date, the best choice always turns out to be to let her decide, which is why we did it twice in a row.
“Ariane heads out of town driving into the mountains.”
This picture should look familiar to players of Date Ariane. I just rerendered it to 1280×720 size and turned the orange colored dirt to green grass. Apparently grass grows really fast in this universe. I also changed perspective from driver to passenger since Ariane is driving this time. The music here is a rocking version of the same music you hear in the bar when Ariane gets wine dumped on her, a third version can be heard in the “blackout fun” thread. This is three variants of a theme called “dancing mice”. I sort of made it Ariane’s unofficial theme song. The second picture is also a rerender from Date Ariane with grass and some giant boulders.
“Well here we are…”
The orange glow on the right is coming from the city, which is visible in Date Ariane, but due to copyleft attribution requirements, I did not use here. That’s OK, you do not need to leave the car. A regular convention in Date Ariane was to show Ariane making kissing face whenever you kiss. I rarely use it in SITA, as it kind of looks dumb, but since it is foreplay leading up to sex, I use it here. (I use it again in a foreplay moment with Rachel).
“I have been wanting this…”
Since depending on your choice of prequel, this is either your first time, second time, or tenth time having sex with Ariane. It would seem logical to have three different dialogues here, but for some reason this scene feels right no matter if it is the first or tenth. Ariane’s odd choice of vehicle (which was actually decided because it was the only free vehicle model I found online when I was first making Date Ariane) now presents a privacy problem which Ariane solves by using your shirt as drapes.
“She then gets on your lap…”
I will assume you played this scene before, and all your attention was focused on the foreground, especially when Ariane unbuttons her top. This time pay attention to the background, which in the first picture is perfectly black. Second picture is identical, except clouds appear on the left. As you move through the scene the clouds are moving farther and farther from left to right. By the time she shows you her tits, the background sky is very gray even through the tree branches…leading to “BOOM!”
In Date Ariane, I establish that the mountains are fairly close to the lake, and I establish in SITA that the lightning strikes twice near the lake. That’s why the thunder is a bit louder here than in other paths, and also that it corresponds so quickly to the lightning. On other paths you see the lightning flash, then a thunder rumble demonstrating it is a ways away.
“Maybe we should get out of here…”
Here are four nearly identical pictures in a row with different lighting. First has the orange glow of the city. Second is animated lightning, two images flipping back and forth in an uneven pattern to simulate lightning. Third is darkness, which is probably too bright considering reality. Date Ariane had a nearly full moon which made he night sky bright, SITA which takes place over a week later would have a half moon that rises around midnight, and the storm hits at around 11:00 PM in all timelines, hence there is no moon in this game. That’s how much detail I added to the game: I even get the astronomy right. Finally we get some reflected headlights to brighten things up.
“So how does tonight rank…”
The drive home dialogue is different in “Done It All!”. In all other scenarios, Ariane complains about how bad the date has been so far, in this one there is comparisons between the other 8 to 10 dates.
The “rainfall” is made up of two rainfall png files that are animated back and forth giving a decent low memory illusion of rain. Every time rain shows up in the game I use the exact same technique and pictures.
“She goes into her bedroom…”
The sexy black sheer robe, first seen in Date Ariane, makes another appearance, though it has pockets now. The hall pic and the cocoa pic make Ariane look different as if I used different models. All I did was move her bangs out of her left eye and change her smile slightly. Funny how making such a small change can give a different look. Ariane’s recipe of cocoa is one I use all the time. Growing up, whenever we had soggy rainy days, my mom would make real cocoa, the kind you can only get in the fanciest restaurants these days. That put me off instant cocoa for life as it tastes disgusting in comparison. However, Nesquik mixed with microwaved whole milk tastes surprisingly close. Memories of cocoa on rainy days, made me add this scene.
“Why don’t you spend the night?”
It took a lot of trial and error to get that dropping the robe effect exactly right.
“Let’s get back to where we left off…”
Normally, I don’t post nude pics of Ariane in the blog, but this one is important. The one in the beta version of the game is wrong. It has a cheap looking picture on the wall. The picture above is what it should look like, the picture is a Monet’s Water Lillys at Sunset. If you want to correct your beta copy, right click the picture and “Save Link As…” to the “Somethings In The Air-beta2-win/game” directory keeping the aribedroom1.jpg name so that the game uses it. You will have to save game then restart the game to see it. This is the new bedroom introduced 3 posts ago. The trophy to the right of her head I imagine being a gymnastics trophy. In other pictures, you may see some medals as well.
Ariane’s new house still has bay windows, though now they have Venetian blinds, and there are still tract houses across the street, though I updated their look too. The game ends with another Muse/Spirit exchange reminiscent of the diner conversation.
And that’s the end of story 1. At some point in the future I’ll do stories 2, 3, and 4. I might have a hard time with 2 as I am going to have a hard time deciding which path to choose with Rachel, there are at least 3 really good ones.
After more than two years in development, Something’s In The Air is now available for download at ArianeB.com/sita. There is a lot of downloading going on , so it may take a while to load the 180MB file, but I have not heard any complaints that the download is not working.
I’m calling this an “open beta” version, but it should not be too different from the eventual “official 1.0″ version I plan to finish later this summer.
I got a lot to say about it now that it is officially out. I’m planning some rather verbose “director’s commentaries” in future posts. But in the mean time, play it, have some fun. On average, people are taking about 8 hours to hit all 40 endings, so there is a lot of content there.
I did a close beta test with a couple of people I know. They both indicated (and the truth is I agree) that the Bonnie the Bartender story was the weakest. Since none of you have seen the game, you don’t know what I am talking about. Basically, she is a bartender you pick up at the end of her shift, you go shoot some pool, some funny stuff happens, and then a totally expected twist ending happens, and then it ends abruptly. The main reason it ends there is that I could not think of an appropriate GOOD ending that I already didn’t use with one of the other characters.
The sentiment of one of my testers is: 1.) She is not very interesting looking, 2.) We know very little about her, and what she says does not even seem honest, is she supposed to be good or bad? The truth is I never spent much time on the Bonnie model, explaining problem 1, and maybe my writing skills aren’t that great explaining problem 2.
So as usual I gave it some thought, and decided: 1.) I need a new model, and 2.) I will use the badly defined nature of her character to my advantage. The new model is shown above. She used to look like this. Gone is her undefined ethnicity and too simple and modest dress. In its place is a pretty but stereotypical American. None of the major characters are blonde, so I went with that.
I left the not very revealing dialogue in. It is up to the reader to decide if she is good or bad, and in the pictures I did, there are signs of both.
This is all because of the brilliant idea I had: I may not be able to come up with an appropriate good ending, but I can think of a lot of appropriate BAD endings. So there are now 10 endings to Bonnie’s story, some of which show her as a good girl, some as a bad girl, and the endings purposely contradict one another. (I’ll probably never return to this character, so it really does not matter which ending is the real one.) Breaking the rules of the visual novel format; you have no choice which ending you are going to get.
With about 30 re-renders, and 20 new pictures, I believe I have added a whole new fun dimension to the story.
I thought I’d take time out from working on Something’s In The Air, to show some changes to Ariane. If I get around to updating Date Ariane, I will be using these models. So this is more of a preview of the prequel remake, I think.
Ariane’s looks have changed once again. This time I changed the shape of her face slightly. Not only is she a little cuter, she looks a little more like the Date Ariane version. She was originally supposed to look like Audrey Hepburn, but now she looks more like another British actress, though I’m not sure if it is Gemma Arterton, Michelle Dockery, or Jenna-Louise Coleman. Dockery is probably the closest, but if you put Coleman’s eyes on Arterton’s head you would get a closer match. (OK, you got me, Kim Kardashian’s eyes on Arterton’s head would be closer, I just happen to be a Doctor Who fan.) If you want to see more pics, I rerendered all the portfolio pics with the new face. Eventually, the whole website will use the new look.
Anyways, enough about that, lets check out the house. Above is the living room couch, now white cloth with blue throw pillows instead of the old black vinyl and no throw pillows. Behind her is the dining area, and that orange section in back is the kitchen.
Yes the kitchen is a bright orange, with black counters and appliances and dark brown wood cabinets. A nice change from the apricot color kitchen that looked a little too 70′s retro for me.
If you turn around and look back towards the living room, you will see that the bay windows have moved to the side. In its place is a TV and a bookshelf filled with great works of literature. OK, the first shelf are great works of literature the rest are trashy romance novels. The old “boom box” is still there, because there is an area in front for dancing.
Last but not least is the bedroom. Goodbye pink painted stucco, hello beige yellow wallpaper. I moved my computer in here. I have some gymnastics memorabilia on the shelves, and a print of Monet’s Water Lillys at Sunset. Behind you unseen are some glass doors opening to the patio and pool area.
And that’s the five cent tour. There is also a gray colored bathroom and a second bedroom you will probably never see, as well as a garage. Now back to work.
As I have said many times before, most of my artwork is done in Poser. In fact it is the very latest version: Poser Pro 2012. Now as anyone who does 3D rendering knows, the renders rarely come out perfect. In order to make them look better, you have to use a photo processing program, most famously being Adobe Photoshop.
Here’s a little secret I hate to admit: for the last 15 years, all of my post render photo processing has been done in Corel Photo-Paint 7 copyright 1996! That’s right, while every other 3D artist out there is using the very latest high end very expensive software, I’m using a program written for windows 95 that was slapped together as a tool for Corel Draw users to convert their vector art to pixel formats.
Why would I use a 15 year old program when much more advanced software exists? Mostly because it worked, and I knew how to use it. Photo-Paint has some really good color correcting tools that are especially helpful when the lighting used in the Poser render turns out badly (too light, too dark, too red, etc.) and I would rather not re-render. The Masks and Objects model in Photo-Paint is much more intuitive to me than Photoshop layers model. Over the years I tried to upgrade to Photoshop Essentials, Paint Shop Pro, and Gimp, but kept on returning to good old reliable and easy (for me) to use Photo-Paint 7.
Another advantage is that because it was such an old program, designed for old computers, it loaded amazingly fast. Back on the Windows 98 days, I often had to wait 20-30 seconds for it to load. Today it loads in 2 seconds flat, and takes up very little memory. But it did have its odd quirks, like it insisted that all file names be capitalized. This was cool back in the pre-internet days, but the internet insists on all lower case, which meant having to manually change the first letter of the saved file to lower case.
Finding other programs learning curve to be too daunting, I decided it was time to upgrade to Corel Photo-Paint X6 (copyright 2012). Since there have been 10 upgrade releases since the version I was used to, I was expecting to have some trouble converting to X6, but with only a couple of annoying exceptions, it has worked out OK.
Annoyances aside, I have figured out how to do everything I used to do in the old program using the new program, so no going back.
Anyone else out there using really old software on a regular basis because it is familiar to you?
Whatever Happened To The Internet Dream? (Part 3)
In part 1, I complained how the internet has ruined culture, and in part 2 how it is ruining politics and religion. Today I delve into an area that is a little more personal: movies and TV.
1999: The Year That Didn’t Change Movies
1999, is a year I consider the year movies peaked in my lifetime. The list of great movies that came out in 1999 is amazingly long. There was Fight Club, The Matrix, Office Space, Three Kings, Being John Malkovitch, Mumford, Galaxy Quest, Go, Run Lola Run, The Sixth Sense, Eyes Wide Shut, Dogma, The Iron Giant, Toy Story 2, South Park, edTV, Notting Hill, American Pie, Boys Don’t Cry, Cruel Intentions, The Limey, Forces of Nature, Mansfield Park, October Sky, Pushing Tin, Stir of Echoes, Entrapment, eXistenZ, The Thirteenth Floor, Magnolia, and The Blair Witch Project. Not all are great films, but they were at least creative and inventive. I haven’t even mentioned the biggest movie Star Wars The Phantom Menace, or the film that swept all the awards that year American Beauty. Entertainment Weekly even touted 1999 as the year that changed movies forever!
You can stop waiting for the future of movies. It’s already here. Someday, 1999 will be etched on a microchip as the first real year of 21st-century filmmaking. The year when all the old, boring rules about cinema started to crumble. The year when a new generation of directors—weaned on cyberspace and Cops, Pac-Man and Public Enemy—snatched the flickering torch from the aging rebels of the 1970s. The year when the whole concept of ”making a movie” got turned on its head.
Except that it didn’t. Instead it was apparently the year that studios dropped the ball and let the creative people take over, and today the studios have a new stranglehold on film making. Most movies I see today are good in concept, formulaic in delivery. The other thing that happened in 1999 is that the Internet started taking over entertainment and it forced a change on how Hollywood does everything.
It was around 1999 when movies went from making a small fraction of their over all box office on the opening weekend to eventually making more than half. It is easy to see that the internet is to blame. It used to be a few people would go to a movie on opening weekend and then tell their friends, family, and co-workers about the movie they saw. If the movie was good, often the second weekend would be better than the first weekend.
The internet changed the rules. Now a few people go see a movie on friday night, then post online their opinion so all their friends, family and co-workers see it by the next morning. This helps Saturday’s box office take, instead of next weekend. Buzz spreads shockingly fast now, and the marketing opportunities disappear after that first weekend.
This changed the priority of movie studios completely. Throughout the decade of the 2000′s, the priority of movie studios in making movies is not whether a movie will be good or not, but whether a movie is marketable enough to generate enough buzz to get the big opening weekend. Notice my list of films from 1999, the list has one sequel and one prequel, and one based off a TV show (there were others in 1999, but they are not worth mentioning). The rest are fresh new titles, some of which spawned sequels of their own. Today it is all sequels, remakes, ties to popular TV, comics, and books, all of which are much easier to market. There are still good movies every year, but there are fewer in number than there used to be.
Meanwhile, I believe TV has actually gotten better since the internet got big, at least from a certain perspective. While priorities changed in the movies from “good” to “bankable”, TV has gone from “bankable” to “buzz worthy”.
The goal of TV in the internet age is to make TV that will stir a lot of discussion online. Lots of discussion means lots of people tuning in each week. The result are three trends in TV: 1. Every drama is a soap opera. Regardless of the type of show it is, there is always dramatic interplay between the regulars. Think back to the ’80s: TV dramas that weren’t night time soaps, was there a lot of sleeping around?, or dramatic tension between the characters? If there was, it was over by the end of the episode. Today most shows have large ensemble casts, and while there are weekly plots, there are scenes between characters that make up larger arcs, over the season or even series. 2. Every sitcom pushes the limits of outrageous behavior. The only successful comedies are “water cooler” worthy shows as the old standard, today it is blog worthy or tweetable. Who had the most hits on Get Glue? 3. The ultimate in buzz worthy shows are of course the elimination style reality shows, which is why there are so damn many of them. Advertisers love them, because people actually watch them live, which means networks love them. If reality shows generated syndication deals and DVD sales, there would be nothing on TV but reality shows. Luckily, syndication and DVD sales matter, which is why they still make dramas and sitcoms.
Personally, I don’t watch reality TV, and very few sitcoms (outrageousness is not my kind of humor), but dramas suck me in all the time. I usually have between 8 to 10 going every year, and there are lots of good ones. The TV Drama has been experiencing a “Golden Age” thanks to the internet.
I can probably pin point the first show that lived off the internet: Babylon 5. Sure there were genre shows (X-Files) and space dramas (Star Trek) that preceded it, but the risky genius J. Michael Strazinsky actually had a planned out 5 year cycle for the show ahead of time. This made the show buzz worthy as the audience saw plots develop over many episodes, incidences in season 1 pay off in season 4. No one in the history of TV had ever plotted out a whole series in advance before. These days it happens all the time. But the other history making advance that “JMS” did was to regularly get online and discuss the show with fans. Fans appreciated it, and it increased the shows loyalty even more.
While Babylon 5 was never a huge success, it had a loyal fan base, and TV producers took notice. Almost every “genre” show today, from Once Upon A Time to Game of Thrones follows a similar formula of long story arcs, and developing loyalty online. Fringe probably lasted two more seasons than it should have thanks to a loyal online fan base. Even though it means a lot more work, TV writers are loving the myriad of story telling opportunities they have. It shows in better written TV over all.
The danger is that if TV imitates what was success too much, it gets formulaic. I believe that is already true of reality shows and sitcoms, which is why I don’t bother. It is also true of certain TV tropes like the “procedural” or the “legal drama” or the “medical drama”. In these types of shows, I generally watch for the character interplay of the cast. The episode plot or mystery rarely matters. Luckily every season there are shows that do not follow these tropes, and those are the ones I usually enjoy the most.
If TV is getting better, how come the ratings keep falling?
How bad are TV ratings today? Lets go back to 1999 again. The top scripted TV show that year was ER with an average 18.6 rating. In 2012, the top scripted show was Modern Family with an average 5.8 rating. Had Modern Family been released in 1999 with the same rating, it would have been ranked 82nd, and probably cancelled.
The internet provides a smorgasbord of viewing options to choose from. Families don’t sit down in front of the big screen and watch the big 4 networks anymore. Today the average viewer has 300 channels to choose from, plus Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.
And that is if they watch TV. Video games, or just web surfing in general eats a big chunk of the TV audience away as well. How long will the erosion of ratings go on before TV networks no longer consider scripted shows to be cost effective? The death of TV will be when TV stops producing dramas and comedies all together. I doubt that will happen very soon, but the trend is pointing that way.
TV will never disappear, just as radio still continues to exist. However radio, especially the AM dial, exists as nothing but talk shows: news talk, sports talk, political talk, religious talk, paid advertisers talking about their products — every station, all the time. I see all of this on TV these days, especially during the daytime hours. Scripted TV is becoming the exception to the rule. TV is turning into AM radio with video.
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