Roland D2 (Vintage) Review

I saw this box for sale cheap a few months ago and snapped it up. I had been looking for some kind of master clock sequencer, actually to replace my Mobius CV sequencer. Nothing wrong with that, except its only 1 voice, and take up 3 U. Would have like a Sequentix Circlon.. but.. way out of my price range Im afraid!

The Roland D2 came out over 10 years ago, and almost immediately died. I suspect because of it biggest flaw.
Its orange… ORANGE I TELL YA! What were they thinking?
d2
It being a low end Roland, they have gone with an annoying segment display, and therefore you have to get used to the fact that h is 4 and s is 5 etc.. and everything is shortened to 3 letters so ntr means metronome, and Ocr is Octave Range.

But.. the good side… its sounds great! masses of patches (256 user) and many many sounds, haven’t counted but maybe 1024?
Most (ok all) of the pre made patterns are horrible, as this is definitely meant as a dance oriented machine, and (again, being Roland) you must scroll thru them to get to the user editable patches… so you end up hearing the 1st, horrible patch many time.. YIKES!
Plus it has a Pre conceieved but useful External Midi config. In that the 7 tracks all send out midi on midi channels 1-7, and the rhythm track send out on channel 10 (as per the GM standard) Per track you can use sound from the internal G2 voice, the External sound module or both! The only stupid thing is that in order to program a part on an external sound module, you wil hear the internal sound, too WHILE you play. On playback, if you have the internal sound muted only the external will sound. This if obviously a bug.

Programming is a tad funky, they expect you to input notes by using the “D-field”, which is their attempt at a kaos pad type controller. Its not however, no feel at all and very unresponsive, often doesn’t trigger at all. However you can plug in a midi keyboard and suddenly it all becomes easy.

You have 2 ways, Real time and Step Time.
Realtime works for me, as you can play in from your external keyboard and delete by pressing the erase combo when you want to remove mistakes. Its fine.. There is quantise that you can apply on the way in, forcing your playing to 8th 16 32s etc.. or apply afterwards… Careful though.. NO UNDO!!!
The problem with this method is that its impossible to edit one note, say you hit a G instead of an F. Only way I have found is to delete that one note and try to drop it in again.
Step recording however, is a right old palaver, but probably no worse than most drum-machines. You know, you scan to the beat you want to add, press a button to audition the note you will add, change it till its correct and hit enter… more to new location for next note. Slow, but precise. The good thing is that all notes are shown on the LED display, so you can go back and edit them after they have been edited. No such luck with the notes you added via Real Time mode… no way to see them buggers.
So its strange that the 2 input methods are not really mix and match…

However, its in performance that this thing has so many amazing options. Things Ive never even thought of, and have NEVER seen on other sequencers, hardware OR software.
On the D2 you can: Drop the track to half speed or up to double speed. Instantly, you can drop the pitch of all instruments an octave, or up an octave, you can play it backwards.. Did you hear that? You can instantly mute all parts apart from the bass drum and bass instrument, You can use the D field to remove notes from a track, Just randomly… You can perform improv snare rolls, with kinda good control, and apply 3 levels of effects. Delay, Reverb and a multi effect (that is mostly distortion and modulation effects, but also has a cool reverse reverb and some ok filters.. These effects can be tweaked live,

There are some other things that I haven’t really gotten to the bottom of yet, more DJ style things, particularly the so called and DJ named “MEGAMIX” function.. Cant see myself using this, but still. Its where you can grab a track from other patterns and try them on the current pattern. I guess if you have lots of variations, you can switch between them. But I haven’t tried this yet.

I am using it to send clock to my analog sequencers (the Doepfer and the Mobius) Im using to sequence my ancient Proteus Orchestral and and my Korg MS2000. My parts on the upcoming Electricity Album are all being done from this.
Incidentally… We have a special PRE-ORDER offer on the new Album.
The album is going to be called PLANT, and as such we have an album on Bandcamp called SEED: This is Pre-mixes and experiments or the Plant album, and Purchase of this album will entitle you to the Plant Album absolutely free, when it is released on CD. (A vinyl version is also in the pipeline, but maybe subjected to a different deal for now)
Head over and get it from https://electricityplant.bandcamp.com/

Grand Theft Auto 5

I must say right out that I have yet to play this game, I probably will, maybe, one day, if I get around to it, but the controversy surrounding it, its violence, its treatment of women, not to mention its biggest USP being that “its the most expensive game ever made” has made already made it something that I as a part time (lets say “would-be”) game developer, cannot ignore.
I must also say, that the GTA franchise, previously has not interested me in the slightest. The setting of hard, US streets, rap music, drugs and prostitutes, is not the fantasy worlds that I prefer to play in. I’m more into surreal, weirder games, where anything can happen, where the whole world is an invention of Sci Fi, fantasy, and some cleverly played out horror.
I have read a bunch of stuff, both for and against GTA-5 and agree in part with some of what I have heard on both sides, but the degrees of importance in the arguments seem to sway so heavily on the side that the writers are obviously pushing for, that I can’t get a grip on who is right.
I think in writing this I want to figure out for myself what I think about these issues, as a game maker, a hopefully moral feminist(ic) man but also as a parent.

The Violence
I should say that I am NOT a fan of violence in games, not to say that there isn’t any in the games that i play, as the foremost feature in a game. Killing as much as possible, as the ONLY interactive device between non-playable storyline cutscenes, I think is boring and depressing. I like stories, but I also like some level of freedom to play as I choose, without HAVING to play one particular way.
Violence in game writing is of course easier. If the assumption (a wrong one IMHO) that all stories are about conflict, then the most basic of conflicts is killing one another, and so its pretty simple to come up with a plot that involves killing. We humans are pretty good at it too.
The arguments against the violence in GTA (not just this one but all previous GTA´s, indeed ALL VIDEO GAMES) is that exposure to the violence, indeed dealing the violence interactively, is corrupting to children, and ultimately sensitizes us to it and makes us more likely to commit similar acts in real life. Specific criticisms of GTA5 revolve around many grim and unpleasant acts one is called upon to complete, the most controversial of is a torture scene, where one HAS TOO (there no getting around it) be the torturer.
The arguments FOR the violence, are that, as a story, set in a violent environment of gangsters, criminals, prostitutes and drug addicts, its HAS to be there as that is what it is like to live in that environment. The people that the game is based on, in real life, ARE violent, horrible individuals and as such must be shown as such.

I think both sides seem flawed. To argue against the detractors for a moment, there are some quick responses. Firstly, its an adult game. Yes kids will play it, and it being a game, and games being a childs realm, they will consider it their RIGHT to play it, but, I’m sorry… those days are over. When computer games came out, they were aimed at kids, ME, to be precise. I was in the first EVER wave of kids to play computer games. Its replaces TV for us, no longer would out parents shout, “Turn that damn TV off!” It was, “Cant you do anything USEFUL on that computer?”. Well now we have all grown up (I’m nearly 50 goddammit!) I’ve been playing computer games for 35 years! And now, the budgets of computer games is EASILY up there with a big budget hollywood movie. And people are still surprised when a grown up game comes along? WHAT THE FUCK? Im grown up alright? I WANT some serious issues in my films, why not in my games. Ahh… but kids get to see them…
OK BUT THEY SHOULDN’T!!! Im sorry, but I think stores should be prosecuted for selling to minors (maybe they can be already) and I would be VERY happy if parents could be prosecuted for letting their kids play rated 18 games. All these fucking stupid parents lining up to buy a copy for little johnny.. do they let their kids watch violent films? I suppose so… disgusting! Idiots!
Thats it… the categories are there for a reason.
That they lead desensitize you to violence, or make you more likely to commit violence?. Hmm.. more tricky to discuss. There has been no conclusive proof that it does. I have checked for studies, and although there have been some, they all seem to be biased from the outset, based on the authors pre-conceptions, and they seem to have gone both ways. A quickie run down of the points seem to be: 1. Violent games relieve stress and make you less likely to commit violence. 2.Violent games increase stress due to heightened awareness and lack of motoric function while playing (apparently if you jog while playing you will be less stressed). 3. Violent games teach you explicitly that human life is worthless. 4. Violent games teach give you insight into the morals and problems of human existence, therefore increase your understanding of the worth of life.
As for leading to copy-cat killings… I dont know.. maybe.. but you know, if you are gonna kill someone, you might just use a method you have seen on TV, oh wait, no one watches TV anymore, its games now… so yes.. sure it happens, but… I can’t speak for any your you, but I’M not gonna kill anyone cos I just saw a game. Never gonna happen. I might if I go crazy one day, or maybe if my government puts me in a uniform and forces me too, of if I become a drug dealer and mix with the wrong crowd, or even if I lived the most un-loved and dejected and soulless life with terrible parents who beat/hit//rape/hate/torment me.. Oh yes.. then I might… but a game, make me… nah.. Im sorry… just don´t believe it… Juries out.. Ill read some evidence, but nahh… still don’t believe. it.. I admit its a tricky one though.
Hmmm…

But then, those IN FAVOUR of the violence in GTA, say that its parodic, ironic and that by forcing you to feel uncomfortable about torturing this poor fellow, you come to learn something about yourself, and understand that THIS IS BAD! Oh and they LOVE to point out, that immediately after this scene, you as the torturer HELPS the torture (?) to escape, and gives him a long speech as to the pointlessness of torture as a method of information extraction.
Well excuse me, but I just HAD to rush to YouTube upon reading this, and sure enough, the said torture scene is there, together with this long denunciation of torture. So, yes.. it WAS uncomfortable to watch, and I suspect MORE so when you are pressing those little plastic buttons (“Press X to extract tooth” for example). However, it wasn’t as bad as ANY TORTURE SCENE IN ANY MOVIE. (Marathon man for example – to name the most famous Dental scene in history, with messrs Hoffman and Olivier no less) BUT.. this speech afterwards.. What tosh!!! It made no sense whatsoever that THE SAME GUY who was being so mean 2 minutes before (an loving every minute I might add) should be expounding such guff about how naughty torture is to his new found (and toothless) friend as he took a lovely scenic ride to the airport to a new life of anonymity and freedom. What rubbish!
A fucking excuse for a gratuitous bit of nastiness. Keep the fucking character IN character PLEASE!
Having said that, I think.. actually I’m sure of it, that the makers genuinely believed in this vehicle. Imagine WHEN this game was written, 5.. maybe 6 years ago (they say 5 years in the making, but ideas come first right?).. Guantanamo still all over the place… the shock, from the outside world of what the US was doing, and the relative NON event in America. To me I couldn’t understand why people, fuck PRESIDENTS weren’t on trial?.. There wasn’t even a “hush-up” much… they just did it, made lame excuse, strung out a few scapegoats, and got on with it… AN THIS IS REAL STUFF; REAL TORTURE!!! So I DO think that some people at Rockstar games, MEANT that this could say something, make some point, force us to be in a position like those stupid soldiers that “just followed orders”. They couldnt NOT do it, and neither can we.. but… sorry… it didnt work… it came across as gratuitous filth, followed by a lame excuse.
They should have cut that scene… unless…
Its just Rockstars way of getting GREAT publicity… and thats it right?… thats the truth.
Shame…
Sad…
Pointless…

Misogyny
Yes, Girls. Nasty stupid slutty whores, filthy crack addicted ugly old women and stupid big titted bimbos.. Thats it for women in GTA 5.
I dont have much to say about this, many of the arguments for and againts a the same as for violence.
You know… Our kids (specifically boys) will learn to treat women with the same scorn and misogyny and you know… Thats how it is, in the valley, Men treat women badly, there are hookers and crack whores and gold diggers, so we are just being truthful. Oh, and remember..
ITS NOT FOR KIDS… we told you.. PEGI 18 remember?

This one is so obvious its stupid. The game is aimed at men right.. men like porn and are a bit afraid of clever girls, so we’ll put some porn into the game and won’t scare them with clever women? Well.. I dont think games HAVE TO cater for women too, I guess if you think porn is ok, it SHOULD be ok putting it into an ADULT game, right?
Sorry… no. Its ok to DEPICT these issues, comment on them, even allow the player to go to a strip club as a backdrop to a scene in a story, but to allow them to actually have sex with them, THAT IS PORN…
Im not going to complain about Leisure Suit Larry style, stupid sexist fun, with a nice little CENSORED box that come up just when you dont want it too.. course not.. BUT this is like going to see a big blockbuster film, oh I don’t know, something with a love scene.. lets say “Titanic”, then just when Leonado D´Caprio finally gets it on with Kate Winslet on the car deck, instead of the steamy window, we suddenly HAVE TO WATCH him flip her over, do her in the ass, and come all over her face! I DONT WANT THAT!!!! UUUGHHH!! Not in Titanic!! Not Kate!!! Not Leo!! OMG NO!!!!
Again gratuitous.. stupid and catering for teenagers (who aren’t supposed to be able to see it.. ADULTS REMEMBER!!!!) OK 18 to 30 year old boys might want it… but I dont want it OK?
Im not going to go into the obvious feminist argument here… Its silly, of course we shouldn’t treat women like this, its horrible, but again, in this world… there are prostitutes and I think thats OK..
BUT THERE ONE THING THAT ISNT!
Why no STRONG women?
Why no female playable character?
Thats not on!
Really… really not on!
But it all goes back to them WANTING to put porn into it… If they put a character that girls could play, you know, sleek and sexy super killer, or tough, seen it all, ex girl marine gone bad.. or.. I dont know.. Lara Croft? THEN It would have catered (maybe) a bit to women, BUT THEN THEY REALLY COULDN’T PUT THE PORN IN!!! But they wanted the porn, so the ruled out women players, took a risk that their $256,000,000 investment could still earn then a few bob despite excluding the fairer sex, and.. that way… THEY COULD HAVE PORN!! YAY!!

Censorship
So, should we be able to censor games with too much violence and sex? How is that gauged? In this country (Norway) we have a film censor, do we have a video game censor? I honestly dont know? Is it one and the same body? Is an interactive experience MORE engaging therefore MORE damaging?
I certainly think that if we believe in film censorship, we should also have a game censor, certainly to gauge age groupings for titles. I do think its dangerous to take it too far though. Who is going to decide for me, what I watch, play or read?
But lets face it, the violence in games is MUCH MUCH worse than in films. A horrible scene in a film will stay with you for the rest of your life (I’ll never forget the American History X scene or the Casino Scene(s)) But decapitations, blood splatters and dismemberments are ten a penny in games, and now they are getting to look more and more like real people… (remember the people in films are NOT real either however… its called acting darling!)
However, after all the engagement and interactivity of a game, I have yet to cry while playing one, whereas any old film can have me blubbing.
Why is that?

Taste
For me, I think it all comes down to taste.
Good Taste.
Gaming companies, in my not so humble opinion, need NOT be the purveyors of good family values, morals or messages, no, they shouldn’t HAVE to be. But I kind of wish that they would not stoop SO low as to drag the bottom of the barrel for any bit of crass crap that will sell a few more copies, either to too young, sperm dribbling spotty pale boys, or lonely geeks, who want to feel important as they wield biggest fucking gun in the game.
I do think its ok to tackle hard issues, and I think we are long past (in films also) the time when all villains have to have their come-uppance, proving once again, that Crime doesn’t pay.
No… but there has to be some understanding of the moral argument, and IF (as they say it is) GTA-5 is an ironic view of a world where bad is good, and that the moral message is a subtle one, where as the player you slowly learn and become horrified with the world that you are playing in, so that your reality is to NOT be in that world and live good and law-abiding lives, then the game has to BE CONSISTENT. You cannot tell a moral message about women, and what tough lives they lead, and at the same time, revel in their abuse.

Final thoughts

I played GTA 3 for a while, and it really bored me, I hated the music, the idiotic American Street language, and I hated the one dimensional storyline, where failure only meant HAVING to replay the mission. Im sure I play 4 hours MAX, before giving it up.

GTA, 5 However, despite the criticism I have levelled at it, seems like a different game altogether, and I am almost certain to buy it sometime. (I have not focussed ONE iota on the positive aspects and what an achievement it is visually) I will be playing it, as an interested party, and not a core audience player… I will be playing it, with my tongue firmly in my cheek, I’ll be playing it, late at night with NO KIDS around.
AND I WILL remember, the whole time, as if I can forget it, that this game is for BOYS, and MEN!
And as such its all about. Guns, Girls, Cars, Girls, Guns, and Cars… of and apparently golf.. you can even play golf in this game…

GOLF I ASK YOU?????

GOLF!!!!!!!

Cos thats what US MEN like!!!!

Korg Monotribe Review

korg_monotribe_top_1_2
Just a quickie review of the wonderful Korg Monotribe that has been in my hands for a month now.
I LOVE IT!
I got rid of the heavyweight Korg Electribe ESX six months ago, and have been missing SOME kind of drum-machine. Where the Electribe was a STUFFED FULL of features, FX, loads of samples, sounds and lots of tweaking possibilities, I found it slow to use, annoying with menus and some serious irritating lack of functionality (having to stop to enter certain menus, sample start points being impossible to tweak..)the Monotribe is the opposite. Its fun iand intuative from the moment you turn it on.

Firstly the sounds, the drum section is just hi hat bass drum and snare, as it should be in an analog kit the snare is VERY SIMILAR to the hi hat, and the bass drum is punchy and cool.

The Synth is fantastic, with the ms20 filter and various LFO shapes (including the slightly hidden S+H that came in the version 2.0 update) Its sounds totally fantastic! The Q peaks as it should with no distortion as you go into oscillation, the square wave is my favorite, but with the saw you can really WANG it out with a dubsteppy wobble.

Construction
TANK.. Metal.. hear me? METAL!!!!

Cool hidden features:
The flux thing is interesting, turning the keyboard into a continuous slide, for theremin effects.
The fact that there are “in between notes” resulting in a double resolution effectively 16 steps.
Audio in to the filter.
A nifty shortcut to half speed the whole machine. (nice when you are sending clock to it from a looper and don’t know what speed the drums will come out)
And the killer… ALL sounds can have beats removed… not just muted, but SKIPPED, so you can start a track with totally poly rhythmic mayhem, making no sense.. but then add back in the beats you are skipping, till suddenly it all gels. fantastic. Plus being able to make really long sequences, by skipping ONE beat, on the synth, it effectively only comes BACK INTO sync with the drums once every 4 bars, which gives a really cool and lazy feel.
Rolls.. not VERY realistic, but can be cool, but tends to be good by accident, so an UNDO feature here would have been nice, as you have potential to fuck up your cool groove.
Gate time on the synth can be adjusted by a weird key combo and sliding on the keyboard.

Programming is real simple, just add in notes on the grid. plus they can be “played” on the keyboard.

Slight Gripes:

Whereas the Electribe have MASSES of programs where you could save stuff (but almost never did) The Monotribe is NOT meant to be a “programming tool” its a live tool. BUT I would have liked a way to save (you can save ONE rhythm, that it wil start-up with) not many, maybe 16 or 32 spaces… but something.
No Midi, was fine for me, cos I have a midi to trigger box that I dug out. Plus there are some add-ons available that are highly recommended. I MAY get that later.
No separate outputs for the drums and synth. COME ON.. thsi ones basic.. HAVE to be able to process the drums and synth separately!!! Luckily there is a simple circuit bend I may attempt. Just to take outs from the volume pots of the two sections. YOu gotta have delay on the synth (maybe distortion too for the techno thing).
But my MAIN gripe is… THE 9VOLT ADAPTOR MUST BE A KORG ONE!!!! Doesnt come supplied, BUT even though it takes completely regular 9v DC. They have a socket on the back that is not the standard Boss style Center negative. So I ordered an adaptor from Diago, I thin Center Positive, but that didnt fit either. Nowhere in Norwat can I just BUY a korg PSU. There is absolutely NO NEED to have a special PSU, so why they do that I HAVE NO IDEA. On the upside, the thing goes to sleep after 15 mins on inactivity and I have only changed the batteries once, so they last quite well.

The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design

Im reading this book, to help me in the writing of “Aunty”. Its not that I´m stuck, quite the reverse, but I was interested in finding out techniques for what form to write in, and how to keep track, or display all the threads of an interactive story. This book didnt really teach me what I needed. But they are very open about what kind of games they are talking about from the outset. They assume all games have weapons, are about killing stuff, and have levels and bosses… etc. Not only is that very narrow, but its also not true that all games are like this.
However, everything that they DO write about, is brilliant, and is almost a shame that its directed at Video Games only, as what they write could fit into almost ANY creative team. How to pitch an idea, solve problems, even how to back out of a project that you realise is a bummer… I also see some insights into the industry, and far from feeling that its something I could never do, I realise that I could do it rather well. There is a quite wonderful potted history of video games at the start, that made me sigh at the fond memories of Space Invader bar tables, and Donkey Kong. The exercises are interesting and well thought out, with even some twists, like where they say write a short sequence about a girl that can fly, then a few pages later the next exercise is to say, Oh… tech has reported they cant do flying, so RE-write without the flying…

I have ONE major gripe… and the authors should too. THE ERRORS! This book is SO FULL of typographical errors, spelling errors, and even a couple of printing errors, that I wouldn’t trust them to write a thank-you letter, let alone a computer game… Its not enough just to run the spell checker guys! Sometimes the incorrect spelling is IN the dictionary, meaning something else!!!