This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

It's a Myst-ery. (Sorry.)

Posted by: James Lileks under Architecture, Technology Updated: September 25, 2013 - 12:47 PM

Grantland has a great piece on the 20th anniversary of Myst - what it accomplished, how it changed gaming, and what happened next.  Emily Yoshida's piece is full of tidbits like this:

Both Rand and Robyn were resistant to the idea of in-game music, until their publisher, Brøderbund, suggested they try it out — the result was Robyn's simple, yet perfectly atmospheric original soundtrack.

Saved the game, I think. Or at least turned it from an interesting puzzler into a completely immersive experience. It’s hard for a 20-something to look at Myst and think it could possibly be as immersive as modern games, but as the article notes, it changed the way people thought about their computers, and how they realized the pleasures of getting utterly lost in another world. I used to turn all the lights off and play with headphones.

I knew this part was coming:

The Book of Atrus, the first of the three Myst novels, was released in 1995, primarily as a way to build a connection between the first two games and dispense with the volumes of backstory the brothers had constructed. Despite mixed reviews, it still landed on USA Today's best seller list.

Reviews might have been better if they’d gone with the original author of the book, who was halfway into the project before he was swapped out for another author. That manuscript - lost forever, alas - was based on the Miller brother’s original novelization, but added innumerable details that lit up every mystery in the game without explaining too much, and set the stage for an broad, deep mythology. Too bad the chatterbox author was full of himself and made some intemperate remarks to the Star-Tribune, and was replaced with another writer.

Or they just didn’t like my manuscript. Man, that stung. It was like being the world’s biggest Star Wars fan and being invited to help write “The Empire Strikes Back.” I still remember looking at the huge drawings for the sequel game in their studio, feeling part of the project - and then nothing. Closed doors.

Well, that’s the way it goes. I still looked forward to the sequel, but I never finished it. Something about swapping out CDs to ride the tram from island to island completely took me out of the game, and the spell the original cast was lost. The puzzles were maddening, not fascinating. The ability to show actual actors instead of tiny faces peering at you from the books dampened the personal involvement somehow; you felt like a spectator instead of a participant.

Something else had happened between the two games: Doom. Id’s game changed things more than Myst, because you could move through spaces, not lurch from one exquisitely-rendered picture to the next. (Myst was done in Hypercard, of all things; you were just moving between cards in a big beautiful stack.) But you’re still going from point A to point Z, shooting and ducking. Rand Miller says:

Why can't we just explore? Why do we always have to shoot things?' So, maybe the time is right again to try that. That's exciting. I still think there's plenty of room for something really cool in this genre out there. And I don't think we've done it yet.

Exactly. There’s GTA V, which has a huge world but ends up making you feel utterly trapped, if you agree with this excellent review. I’ve longed for a game that lets you get behind the wheel and explore town after town along a rural highway, with no missions or objectives at all, just possibilities. You don’t need a mythology. You don’t need a backstory beyond the American culture that’s already in place, and I don’t mean the tiresome Tarantino bad-guy tropes. Or just build ancient Rome and let someone live there. No “Second Life” nonsense where you can be a bodybuilder furry if you want.

It’ll happen. Just don’t ask me to novelize it. Once is enough.

1:13 LOL Big changes coming to YouTube’s comments, but unfortunately they do not include sterilizing the worst offenders. Still, it’s a start:

When it comes to the conversations happening on YouTube, recent does not necessarily mean relevant. So, comments will soon become conversations that matter to you. In the coming months, comments from people you care about will rise up where you can see them, while new tools will help video creators moderate conversations for welcome and unwelcome voices.

Starting this week, you’ll see the new YouTube comments powered by Google+ on your channel discussion tab.

That’s awesome LOL and did you know you can make $926.37 a week from home using this weird trick I tried it go to http://ioednskekusnfddfd.com

A more detailed explanation from The Verge, here. They note: “YouTube risks alienating some users by requiring them to use their Google+ identity to comment on the site.” Boo and/or hoo. It’s not as if commenting will be more difficult, although if they threw in some huge roadblock, like asking people to add 2 plus 2, they might weed out half the idiots who barf bile for the lulz.

SCIENCE! I figured there would be debunking about the alien bugs found in the atmosphere. Debunk away, Slate!

Um, yeah. Except really not so much.

You know, science writing was different when I was a young man. But this is Bad Astronomer, who’s always a good read. Go enjoy his debunkery.

As long as we’re on the Slate site: should the nation's capital get skyscrapers?  I’m all for skyscrapers, and wish we had more of them. I’ve been watching the Nic on 5th go up for a while, and it’s okay so far; I think it’ll be good when it’s full, and it’s 8:15 PM on a summer night, and it’s recently rained - in other words, like the pictures in the promotional material. Matthew Yglesias wants more skyscrapers in DC, and thinks it would be a good idea because they belong downtown, and DC has a downtown, ergo: stack ‘em high, boys. But DC is a unique city, and the height limits have produced clear clean visual heirarchy that sets it apart from any other American urban center. You want tall buildings, go across the river.

Guaranteed: if they built a 40-story tower in DC is will be hated in 20 years. They’d probably get Gehry to design it, and it would be something that looked like a Venusian moth cocoon.

By the way, the Nic on 5th has an interesting approach to selling the building. Not the first thing that comes to mind when the subject of downtown living arises. 

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