Thursday, January 28, 2016
I truly do believe that music production is at an amazing place these days. Where once it would be fairly expected that you could find a guitar in a musically inclined person's bedroom, today you'll find a computer loaded with a digital audio workstation and a decent audio interface, and even that set up is comparatively high end when you look at the landscape of free stand alone ways to make a melody. The push now is either to perform music in a new way, bring analog sounds into the digital world, or make tried and true methods even more accessible. NAMM 2016 had all three on display. Korg's Minilogue finally found the holy trinity of being cheap, analog, and polyphonic. Arturia's Matrixbrute mixes the concepts of modular synthesis and presets. Roland's electric cajon breaks ground on acoustic performace versus digital reliability. Roli brought multitouch expression to the four octave realm, and Expressive E found a way to add the same to any rig out there. Hell, Zoom even found a way to make performance a fashion statement. The methods available to making music have never been more interesting or more accessible. So, of course, the old guard has never been more bitchy.
It never ceases to amaze me that as music production becomes more diverse and accessible, older musicians become more defensive over what they do. This probably most closely resembles the rise of Photoshop in terms of visual artists, or at least the way technology in general has affected the visual medium. As it stands though, with any new controller or synth, you'll get an immediate group of folks who will automatically tell you why that piece of equipment is inferior to everything they use and why you just aren't that good for being happy about it. Especially keyboard players. Find an elitist douchebag bitching about being a "real musician" and I'll bet you a dollar that they insist that everything needs to have a full set of 88 full weight black and whites in order to be considered an actual instrument.
Personally, I don't get this mindset. I enjoy learning to make music in new ways. I've been making music in some form since I was 8 years old. My mom and dad both originally graduated college with music degrees (neither of them found success with said degree). The first instrument I actually learned in and out was the trumpet. I didn't immediately decide then and there that everything I would ever play from then on needed three valves and a mouthpiece. I explored beyond that because I genuinely like finding new ways to make music. Over the years I've learned a number of new instruments: trombone, baritone, euphonium, french horn, tuba, flute, piccolo, clarinet, saxiphone, violin, cello, guitar, bass guitar, drum set, xylophone, piano, synthesizer, and now various midi instruments. I am aching to get my hands on some of the new tech that's out there now, and more importantly I'm aching to hear what other people manage to come up with using all these amazing things. Hell, just look at what happens when you get two of the best gear designers in history together or what happens when an elite player jams out in a new way.
I've made it a point in life to embrace new things when they come along. When my dayjob bought a machine that literally does my job I was the first to step up and learn how it works. Now, I'm in charge of my department and am pretty much the go to guy when it comes to running the computer controlled machines at my job. The same applies in music. Give me something new, and I'll be the first to say "Ok, what can we do with this?". So I just can't wrap my mind around the Luddites who insist that everything needs to cater to what they already know. And while I am talking about music makers here, you'll find these types of people every where. In Eve, at your job, on your Facebook, etc. People just fight change for some reason.
To which I say "Bring it on. I'll adapt." :)
Monday, January 25, 2016
That's not hyperbole, mind you. As cheesy as it sounds, "Keep Pounding" is something I'll tell myself for motivation when ever I need to remind myself to just keep pushing forward. I'll tell it to other people whenever it seems like they're at a low point and need a kind word (I usually have to explain what it means). To an outsider looking in, it's just a slogan for a football team. But for a guy who grew up with the team, it carries a lot of weight.
I was nine years old when the first rumblings of a professional football franchise coming to North Carolina started up. Before that, my mom and granddad were diehard Cowboys fans and I always liked the Redskins because they had an Indian logo (side note: it really pisses me off that people are trying to get rid of that). My dad took me down to Charlotte to watch them break ground on what would be Ericsson Stadium and I got to hear Jerry Richardson promise that the team would win a Super Bowl in their first 10 years in person. I got a baseball cap with a Panthers logo on it for Christmas that year. I watched them stun the Cowboys in the '96 playoffs, Rae Carruth come out of the trunk, Kerry Collins pickled his liver, lose 15 straight games in a season, X-Clown in overtime in St. Louis, Janet Jackson's non-nipple and John Kasay kicking out of bounds to lose Super Bowl 38, Steve Smith going down for the season, Steve Smith coming back and getting the Triple Crown, a war with Chicago in 2005 that destroyed the team heading into the NFCCG in Seattle, Double Trouble run rampant over the entire league only to have Jake Delhomme have five turnovers against Arizona in the playoffs, everyone getting released in the cap free year, Jimmy Clausen flopping the team along to a 2-14 record, and everyone predicting that Scam Newton would be the biggest bust in draft history.
I watched every bit of it. It's a short history compared to a Pittsburgh or a Green Bay, but I've gotten to be here for the whole thing so far. Through my own personal ups and downs, I've had "my team" to keep me company. For better or worse, me and the Panthers grew up together, and I just simply wouldn't have it any other way. And now that the Panthers are headed to Super Bowl 50 to square off against the Denver Broncos for their second shot at a Lombardi trophy, it's nice to sit back and reflect on everything that's happened up until now. As it stands, this Super Bowl run has been five years in the making, and they've been five years that have forced the team to live up to the motto Sam Mills gave us 12 years ago. As a fan, it feels good, both to see the team you cheer for succeed and to see an organization live up to it's own expectations. In case you're curious, it feels this good.
On to Santa Clara. Keep pounding.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Did you ever watch Mick Foley's professional wrestling character Mankind? It was the character Foley broke in to the World Wrestling Federation as after a successful stint on Japanese hardcore circuits, and later ECW, as his "Cactus Jack" persona. The idea behind Mankind was that he was an escaped mental patient who was abused as a child to the point of deformity. In terms of WWF characters, Mankind had an extremely complex backstory (compared to, say, Doink, whose entire existence can be summed up as "a clown that hits things"). But what really sold the character was Foley's delivery of his catch phrase "Have a nice day".
In interviews, Mankind would routinely talk about some screwed up things. As an example, he once have a particularly dark monologue about his mother breaking the two middle fingers on his right hand because he had failed to play a piano exercise correctly. At the end, Mankind signed off by telling the audience, in a broken and awkward cadence, to "Have a nice day...". The trick was, Foley could make you believe it. You honest-to-God believed that this crazy sonofabitch actually wanted your day to be ok, no matter how much pain he inflicted on others.
I'm reminded of that line every time I see Eve players talking about Real World troubles and triumphs. Like wrestling, Eve is a fake world full of characters played by real people. And Mankind's weird obsession with the dark and violent aspects of life makes him a good metaphor for the asthetic of New Eden. So it's not hard to see the parallel.
During an interview one time, Foley said that the "Have a nice day" line was aimed at his fellow wrestlers as a compliment and a well wish,
Outside of the game, a weird thing happens. We all turn into actual people. Gankers, pirates, spies, miners, carebears, explorers, and everything else. And while we might play Eve to escape the real world for a bit, at some point RL takes over. But I think that's something that works for us all: we have internet spaceships in common. We can talk about movies, music, comics, day jobs, families, and whatever else with each other because we've all got a single base line to work from.
The thing is, that base line is weirdly colored by the spectacle of "Sociopaths Online". To put it nicely, being some one who likes Eve just makes you plain weird to everyone else, and you're going to be viewed as dark and violent no matter what. To be more blunt, EvE is designed for players to screw each other over and anyone who can't hack it is someone to laugh at for the insiders. So when we go back out to the real world and talk about not-eve stuff, there's this weirdly honest quality to it. Anyone on the outside looking in won't get why a bunch of folks will spend so much time talking as video game characters. On the inside, we just talk about games, music, movies, toys, and other nerdery while trying to kill each other.
For my part, I really hope you've had nice day, and I would love to hear about it. Meanwhile, I'll be avoiding you in game because that just how I play. Its a weird dynamic, but one worth embracing.
Have a nice day :)
Today, CCP clarified and tweaked the original plan with a new Dev blog. The core concept remains the same. Players can take skill points that they have already trained and convert them into an item that can be sold for isk, and that item can be consumed by other players to recieve a certain amount of skillpoints, and that amount will be smaller depending on the consuming players total amount of skill points in game. The only major difference now is that the amount of skill points received has been increased for advanced players, but not significantly. I would imagine that the SP amounts will remain something that will be constantly tweaked about this system as CCP searches for a decent balance over time. More interestingly, the new blog confirms that the "skill extractor" item will be purchasable with AUR, meaning that actual money will need to be spent in order to scrape knowledge out of your head.
Personally, I don't really see a reason to sell any of my skills. Most will point to mining skills as an example of 500,000 SP they would rather turn into isk, but I enjoy getting out and about in my Prospect and digging into some wormhole rocks so that's not for me. I've got some corp management skills trained that I'll probably never use again, but why get rid of them? And God knows there's none of the ship, industry, trade, or exploration skills I would ever want to give up. I've already paid for the time it took to train these skill points and I just do not see a reason to pay again to remove them. If I need isk that badly, I'll just stick to plex.
That said though, I can see where the system has benefits. The ability for newer players to quickly turn some of their isk into making themselves more effective in fleets is a good thing. The limits on older players prevents the system from being the "pay to win" death spiral that many are lamenting. And giving players an extra level of control over the value of their characters is a good thing. To be clear, I have no problems with the idea of skill trading and do no think it will turn Eve into a game where you can just buy your way to an "I win" button. This is no more "pay to win" than a day old noob with a credit card dropping 12 plex on a fully maxed pvp toon in the character bazzar is now. It's just taking the idea of character trading and turning it into a microtransaction. Big fucking deal, this is Eve. HTFU.
As a seller, I don't think I'll be involved with this any time soon and I really don't see much motivation for anyone else to be either. I expect the market for these "skill injectors" to level out below the price of plex, and I just see plex as a better option for someone looking to turn real world cash into space bucks. As a buyer, I could absolutely see myself throwing down some of my own space bucks to speed up some of my training goals (I'd currently be getting 400,000 sp per injector), but I recognize that at some point the benefits wouldn't justify the cost. On the whole, I like the way that the system is structured and I look forward to watching the player base evolve and acclimate to the idea.
Or riot and shoot the monument. That'd be fun to watch too.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Something I'd like to start up is a periodic round up of where I'm at, gaming and creative wise. So without further ado...
Minecraft: just after Christmas I started up a new single player survival mode. So far this has managed to dominate my spare time over the last few weeks. Minecraft will do that to me, just grab my attention and not let go for a bit. Currently, I'm living inside a forest with a chicken and wheat farm going. I just took the time out to hunt down some sugar cane and tame some cattle. I've also found some sheep and a pumpkin patch nearby, but haven't set up the farms yet, and I haven't bothered with a tree farm yet due to there being plenty of wood nearby. At some point soon I'll get to work on a house, but for now I've just been digging and building up stockpiles.
EvE: I had ventured back into highsec (ewwww....) in order to have some one on one training time with a newer player, but that never seemed to pan out. At some point soon I'll need to make my way back Thera for whatever highjinks are being planned for Signal's first birthday (note to self: get in empty head first this time), plus I need to update my blueprints. I'm about halfway through training the medium weapons to T2, whether or not I plan on actually using those anytime soon. I haven't given the Endurance a proper round of testing yet, but I have taken one out to a lowsec ice belt and at least tried it out.
Other games: Thanks to Christmas, I've got copies of Fallout 4, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, and Super Mario Maker lying around. Like I mentioned earlier, I've been distracted by Minecraft, and I've been plugging away with some pretty long work weeks at the day job. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to start these three games up soon, but for now they are tragically dormant. Such is gamer life.
Music: I decided to throw a few of my older songs together and put them on Bandcamp as an EP. I'm hoping to make releasing EP's a more regular thing, and at some point I've got a full fleged album to finish. As per usual, my own ADD has been getting the better of me. I'm seriously considering saving up for a Novation Launch Control XL as a compainion for my Launchpad Pro, and that has me also seriously considering just giving in and switching to Ableton. We'll see how that plays out.
Writing: it's been forever since I actually sat down to write some fiction, but I've got an outline for a halfway decent piece of sci fi in the works. I keep flipping it back and forth in my head over whether to make it EvE themed or not. Otherwise, I'm still kicking around an idea for a Twine that I've had for awhile. Besides that, not much happening in writer world. I need to fix that.
That should wrap that up. Later, taters.
I tried explaining the concept of the Council of Stellar Management to one of my non-Eve friends once, and his response basically boiled down to "Are you seriously telling me there are space nerd elections?". I've always been a bit in disbelief myself over the fact that Eve is so self aware that we actually have an elected focus group representing the entire player base to the developers. But, that's the way it is and all things considered I think the Council does an exceptionally important job in keeping our day to day space lives going.
That said, the next CSM is shaping up to deal with an enormous amount of drama. Consider everything that we know will go on in the next year. Valkyrie and Gunjack will be released, and if they're successful there will be endless cries that CCP is taking too much focus from Eve and the CSM will bear a brunt of that (God help us if those games fail). The ongoing null sec revamp is only going to intensify as the quest for the perfect set of mechanics continues. Capital ships are slated for a massive reworking, meaning that a large number of the older and more invested players are going to have their worlds rocked. The upcoming Citadel expansion will start the long slog through a much needed revision to structure mechanics. The advent of "social corps" looms on the horizon, bringing with them untold questions over various aspects of gameplay, most notably war decs. Optimistically, this year will also open up new actual space to play around in once the Jesus feature of player built stargates becomes a reality (side note: this is pretty much my reaction when I saw the words "stargate blueprint" in the latest round of Sisi leaks). I could go on, but I think it's pretty clear that the next CSM is going to have a lot on it's plate, and that's to say nothing of the regular amount of drama that comes up over the course of a year in New Eden.
Taking into account the amount of damage done to the reputation of the CSM over the past year, the next session of the council is going to have a tough row to hoe. I think it's commendable to see new candidates stepping up (or even old candidates returning) in spite of all this, and I'm actually looking forward to hearing the variety of opinions and viewpoints in the upcoming campaigns (yes, even Xenuria's). Once the field is set, I'll whip up an actual endorsement list because my endorsements matter. Beforehand, though, I just wanted to point out what a tall order our elected focus group has before it and wanted to start the campaign season by saying I think all of you who are running are insane. Admirable, but insane.
Good luck :)
Monday, January 11, 2016
For a while now I've been toying with the idea of setting up a live Twitch stream of my gaming habits and, alternately, my music screw-aroundary. This is mostly inspired by Eve streamers, and was kind of solidified when CCP ran a live stream of one of their sound artists composing in real time. I've just kind of been trying to get out of my own way since then.
Truth be told, I've always had massive stage fright. When I was doing vocals in death metal bands, before every show you could find me paying homage to the porcelain throne. My band mates all knew the closer it was to stage time, the more I just needed to be left alone. Once I actually got on stage and the music hit, I'd be fine, but until then I was an absolute wreck. I've never understood why it happens to me. It's not that I'm worried about things like criticism or embarassment. And I legitimately don't like this aspect of myself. But for whatever reason, I just get terrified by the idea of people watching me.
Like I said, I don't like that about me, and I've gone out of my way to push that boundry. I originally tried being a frontman to get over it. I tried my hand at acting a few times because I wanted to prove I could. I've done open mic nights in comedy clubs (and bombed, miserably). I ran for political office. Shit, I've even sunk so low as to do karaoke. Every single time, I was just a shivering little ball of fear beforehand. Comparatively, you'd think streaming would be less nerveracking, but it's kind of bringing the stage fright home. Everything I've done before has been something I've gone OUT and done. Home has been "safe", you know? So I guess that's probably the challenge here, and probably the reason I'm drawn to it.
I know everyone has their own mental crap that they have to deal with, and most gamers play in order to relax or escape their normal stress and anxieties. I just kind of wanted to point out that using things you enjoy to confront things you don't can work out in unexpected ways. I never thought of using video games to take on stage fright before, but this post is me telling myself that I'm going to do it. And yes, the idea is giving me fits and I can't stop worrying about it. But I'm going to get over it.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Oculus announced the price for their Rift VR headset today, and turns out the price of admission is going to be just shy of $600. Add in the fact that a good number of folks will be needing to upgrade their PC in order to run the thing, with most estimates saying that a scratch build will run in the neighborhood of $1000. So all told, a charming $1600 at most in order to video game wrapped around your head. Is it worth it? I haven't the slightest idea.
I'm certainly no expert when it comes to price points for consumer electronics. My only experience with the subject would be that I frequently consume electronics and electronic accessories. Objectively speaking, it seems like an ok price for the technology, and we'll see how it stacks up once the competition heats up between Rift, Samsung's Gear VR, and Sony's Playstation VR. Comparing it to other technologies, the Rift is pricier than a Playstation 4 or Xbox One when they originally released, less expensive than current prices for most augmented reality headsets, and I think that's a fair place for it. The real kicker is whatever you'll be spending on a new computer or upgrades. Let's face facts though. If you're enough of a techie that you want to be an early adopter in this wave of virtuositical goodness, then having a top flight computer was probably already on your to-do list anyway.
Personally, I'll have to be a late adopter, but that's pretty par for the course for me. Bleeding edge technology is a bit above my pay grade and I'm ok with that. Not to mention doctors and dentists won't usually accept the "but it looked cool" excuse when you try to explain why you can't pay them (the heartless bastards). I do hope the tech sticks though, and I hope CCP has a hit with Valkyrie. More money in CCP's wallet means more space goodies for me, and I do enjoy my space goodies.
Of course, if I keep pulling 70+ hour work weeks, I might save up some spare change quicker than I realize ;)
So now that 2015 is behind us, I just wanted to point out something that the casual music consumer might have missed. There was actually a major evolution in the way music is made last year, and you may never notice it. Behold, the advent of multidimensional expression control!
The basic idea is the ability to play notes between notes. Think of the sonic difference between the notes C and C sharp. That difference is what's known as a "semi-tone", and if you break a semi-tone down into 100 equal parts you get what is referred to as "cents". Next time you see a synthesizer with knobs labeled "Semi" and "Fine/Corse/Cent" you'll know what they mean if you didn't already. If you need some fancy italian words to throw around at your next cocktail party and/or want to explore this idea a little more in depth, here's some handy dandy wiki articles: Glissando, Portamento, and Vibrato (each of those would make an awesome name for a breakfast cereal).
In any event, microtonal performance isn't a new thing. The trombone would be an example of a microtonal instrument, as would any fretless string instrument, and as I mentioned synthesizers have always had the ability to be tuned on the fly while being played. Hell, the human voice is a microtonal instrument if you really want to think about it, and God only knows how long we've been using that to make music. The point here though is that in 2015, the concept of microtonal performance was emphasized in several new ways and that trend looks to continue in 2016. Additionally, the idea of performing the movement between two different states has been more heavily applied to MIDI controls, which opens up a whole new universe of audio wankery.
Two instruments that really exemplify and embrace the potential of this concept are ROLI's Seaboard and Roger Linn's LinnStrument. Each of these are vast departures from the functions of traditional keyboard and pad controlers and open up performance capabilities that simply didn't exist beforehand. Throw in something like Artiphon's Instrument 1 to change up how we view stringed instruments, and let's not forget breath controlers while we're at it. Now add in the fact that software developers are embracing the idea of multiexpresion control more and more and you can see just how music production can really change over the next year or so. It might not be readily noticeable, but as this continues to expand and evolve you'll more and more be listening to music that simply wasn't possible to make at any other point in human history. Or, at the very least, it was extremely unlikely to be made.
Personally, I can't wait to hear it :)
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
My loving collection of space nerds turns one year old in a couple weeks, which has me feeling a bit nostalgic.
Ok, so they aren't my collection, per se. I don't have them all rounded up and caged in my own private zoo and in all technicality the group exists strictly because of the efforts of Johnny Splunk, G8keeper, and Mynxee. But, they're the nerds I claim as my own, and for whatever reason they all admit I am one of them in return.
Eve blogs are in no small part to blame for my current existence in Signal Cartel. One of the last things Ripard Teg (who really needs to get back to blogging) talked about on Jester's Trek was the return of Mynxee. That was the first I had heard of our future fearless leader, and probably would have been the last I had paid attention had it not been for the advent of Thera. The gigantic and weird wormhole system caught my attention the moment it was announced and I couldn't wait to visit it. At the time, I was living with a small wormhole group who were loosely working with a high sec carebear corp. I had already heard of Eve Scout so I knew finding Thera wouldn't be all that difficult. A few days after it went live, I decided to seek it out and soon found myself in need of a scout in.
While kicking around in the Eve Scout public channel, I struck up a quick conversation with Mynxee. Even in a few short sentences, it was remarkably clear just how enthusiastic she was about the new developments in the game. As someone graciously helped me get my Hound in (cannot remember who!) I wished them all farewell and made a note that everyone in the channel seemed to be having fun and genuinely enjoyed the game. I took my look around Thera, loved the feeling of being there, and then decided to leave. I had been growing distant from the high sec lifestyle for a while, and the Thera visit was the final straw. I knew I needed to move on.
After dropping corp, I poked around a bit in different places, looking for a new fit. I knew I wanted to stay mainly in wormhole space, and my primary activity was exploration. I wasn't against the idea of PvP, but it was something I more prefered to avoid. At some point, I noticed a blog post talking about the newly formed Signal Cartel. After looking into it, I knew it was the place for me. And aside from a brief stint in Stay Frosty, I haven't looked back since joining.
I think Eve needs a place like Signal. To paraphrase Robin Williams from the movie "Toys", there needs to be a place where we can fight fire with marshmallows. And I'm happy to help keep such a place going in my own small way. I think we're proof of the statement of "you can play Eve in any way you choose".
With a year in the rear view, I have to say that I can't think of a better way to play Eve. You can all have your PvP and crap, I'll take fleeting up to throw fireworks and snowballs any day. That's just who I am.
Can't stop the Signal, baby.
I was dubbed "Ned" in high school. My best friend was over at my house one day and happened to see an email from the drummer for the band I was in at the time. Fatefully, said drummer's name was also Adam, and his email happened to be email@example.com. To which my best friend immediately said "Who the hell is Adam Ned?" and then immediately decided that was my new name. Over the course of time, the "Adam" part dropped off and everyone just referred to me as Ned. Hell, in the liner notes for every album I've done vocals on I've only been credited as Ned. I'm even thinking it'll need to go on my tombstone/urn if I want people to actually know it's me in there.
Meanwhile, the "Thomas" comes from my granddad. He grew up in a one room shack in the North Carolina mountains too poor to afford the spare time to go to school. He joined the navy before he actually knew how to read and the day after he married my grandmother (who was the one who later taught him how to read). 40 years of service later he retired having been through everything from building houses in the Philippines to loading bombs during the Cuban missile crisis to being a lead mechanic for Air Force One. I have a Chinese to English dictionary that supposedly belonged to Richard Nixon from that last bit. He settled the family back down in good ole' NC where he built their house and spent the rest of his working years building housing developments. He was married to my grandmother for over 50 years (I forget exactly how long) until she died. Roughly nine years after that, he passed away after putting up a long fight with Parkinson's disease. For my entire life, I've looked up to him and considered him a hero, and I've always been proud as hell that my middle name was his first and I like to show it off.
The name "Ned Thomas" was born long before I ever undocked in New Eden for the first time. I first used it as a pseudonym for sending short stories in to sci-fi rags. Anytime I've ever needed to come up with a handle for myself it's the first thing I've turned to. The name represents two very important things to me, namely friends and family (see what I did there?). So when I first logged into Eve and needed a name, Ned Thomas was just the obvious choice to use. It probably has a lot to do with why I've never started an actual alt account. And also a big reason why I just have no interest in trying to split the real life me from the me that throws snowballs in space.
So there ya go. I yam what I yam and I sweet potato what I sweet potato.
....that last line was terrible. Pretend I ended it with a witty dick joke.
Originally, this was going to just be an Eve blog. But while the idea of writing about internet spaceships was kicking around in my head, it got a bit dented and misshapen. Oddly enough, it bent into just the right shape to wedge itself permanently between every one of my interests and now I can't seem to pry it loose. So I'm afraid that, much like my other social media presences, I'm going to be unable to seperate the Eve player from the music lover or the sci-fi fan or the Disney geek (hail Mickey) or the comic reader or the guy married to my wife or any other thing that I enjoy talking to people about. I will make one promise though. I'll keep my religion and my politics to myself. If you're desperate to hear my opinions on either of those subjects, hit me up elsewhere.
That should keep it short and sweet. Now....where to?