13 March 2010

Weblogs, V-logs, A-logs?

this is reposted from my Gamespot weblog. I decided to post it here as well for two reasons: 1)It involves a weblog I found here on Blogger and 2)The topic actually harkens back to an entry I wrote all the way back on Yahoo!360 (archived on Multiply), where the awesome phenomena of Cryptomnesia struck me and caused me to re-discover podcasts (which I called "A-Logs" in my ignorance of the obvious).

I have my PSP.

I still have my PS2.

There's also my roommate's Gamecube and the XBox a friend of mine gave me.

The only next-gen console I have is my roommate's Wii, to which I've contributed over half the games.

Suffice to say, I'm a little behind.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Wii, but I'm not totally in love with the motion control scheme (though I can't wait to play Dead Space: Extraction). At the end of the day, I'm all about kicking back on the couch with a controller in my lap, an experience the Wii makes me feel guilty for indulging in, especially considering most of the games I play the most on it are available for other consoles like the XBox360.

My present financial situation prevents me from buying an XBox360 (The only thing that makes me interested in the PS3 are Linger in Shadow, The Last Guardian, and Valkyria Chronicles... and that last one's getting a sequel for PSP anyway). There's a shortlist of games I'd want for 360, but the more I find out about them, the less inclined I am to make that wanting justify indulging myself. It's not that I find the games disappointing (not in each case, at least) but I definitely look upon this new generation of game consoles and think, "what am I really missing out on?"

The worst part of the answer I get, really, is that what I'm missing out on isn't even all that innovative. In fact, it's incredibly primitive to such a point that I've experienced them before in PC games, Myst and Marathon to be precise. To be more precise, the "missing element" I'm referring to are audiologs. In Myst, they took the form of little holograms or pieces of correspondence left on desks or bookshelves. In Marathon, they took the form of the on-screen text of the computer terminals scattered throughout each level. Similarly, Final Fantasy X-2 had you gathering spheres, which showed little video clips of bygone times and places. Metal Gear Solid had Snake's video briefings (which made me fall in video static and grainy video images in a way I didn't think was possible). Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has you cataloging various alien species you encounter and collecting logbooks and journals from past explorers long since passed on, survived only by their... er, echoes.

Some time ago, on The Escapist, I thought I'd started the perfect forum thread: "What was your first gadget?" I shared my first gadget to get the ball rolling, an RCA microcassette recorder. I did all the typical things that kids do with tape recorders: sing silly songs, do interviews or impressions, divulge thoughts and rants, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't start at least one recording with "Captain's log, stardate..." and so on. Anyway, time went on, my little handheld studio faded from memory, and I ended up giving it to my parents to help them get some recordings for a little legal trouble they were having. Suddenly, a few years ago, I was in a computer store when I suddenly started to miss my little RCA and found myself buying a Sony IC Recorder (ICD-P320). Now, I've got a small collection of digital voice recorders, at least five. I keep them scattered about and in different pockets of different jackets. I use them for everything and anything imaginable from grocery lists to driving directions to rough drafts of stories that float around in my head.

More recently, after the release of Bioshock, and all its subsequent discussions and reminisces of System Shock, made me aware of these funny little things called Audiologs. I'd never heard this term before, even though the items themselves have existed since the beginning of gaming, right down to the books on library shelves in any a number of RPGs. At first, I thought it was just referring to audio recordings. Under that narrow definition, the only past-gen experience I'd had with the things were the various audio cassettes scattered about the house in Fatal Frame. Of course, now I've learned that audiolog need not refer specifically to audio recordings, though those do seem the most interesting, the most recent to fully develop, and, in a way, the easiest to produce. Obviously, written text is the easiest in technical terms, but given that CD-ROM technology got its start back in the early 1990s, it's surprising that only a scant few games released in that era (namely System Shock) employed audio recordings as part of the game's atmosphere. Sure, Myst had sound-based puzzles, but they didn't aid the narrative backstory in any way.

Audiologs also seem like they'd just be flat out fun to make. They don't need to be long, they can be fragmented, and they needn't even be of the highest fidelity as, even in the far future, crackly static gives that extra added layer of authenticity to the game's atmosphere.

Although my forum thread didn't get many replies, The Escapist did lead me to an article written by Graeme Virtue, who I found out is the author (and principal actor) of a series of "sketches" for the One Life Left podcast, entitled "Science Officer Logs." Taking a cue from Dave Hollins, Space Cadet (the Son of Cliche radio sketches by Red Dwarf's Rob Grant and Doug Naylor), the Science Officer's Logs parody not only the concept of an audiolog, but also several gaming conventions, from ice and lava levels, to even damned escort missions. They can be found here.

In addition to that, I've just spent the past few minutes watching YouTube videos of people collecting the audiologs from Halo: ODST. I stopped out of guilt, thinking, "No, no, I should play the game, or at least own it before I go cheating like this."

So, here I am, an audiolog junky with no real way to satisfy my habit. I really hope I can afford an XBox 360 soon.
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