Monday, October 31, 2005

First Snow

This weekend we had both our first snow and some wonderful 'Indian Summer' weather. There isn't much to look at in the picture above, taken on our Cub Scout hike up Pack Monadnock mountain in Peterborough, NH yesterday - but the impact was there. The couple of inches that had fallen were melting fast in the 60+ degree temperatures, making the rocky climb muddy in spots and treacherous in others. The kids absolutely loved it - tehy could pick up the bits of snow and toss them around, but without being cold. Quite nice after several days of very cold temperatures.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Global Warming ... Or Not - Does It Matter?

There has been an uptick in the debate over whether or not the recent spate of massive natural disasters - hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes - are all indicators that not only is Global Warming real, these are indicators of the impact it is having on our environment.

The counter-arguments are all supported by some decent science as well, showing temperature trends and the cyclical of our world. They say that the Earth naturally warms and cools over many eons, and that whatever trends we are seeing is simply part of that. They further say that things like the hurricanes are simply a result of a confluence of events making the conditions more favorable, and that since we humans have been on this planet a short time and observing the conditions for even a shorter time, that we are not able to guage significance.

I say - what does it matter? Does the non-detectability of the leverage of a factor thought to have potential significance make that factor insignificant? Certainly not. I am an optical engineer with a focus on metrology and a statistician, so I deal with detectability and statistical significance every day. Too often who want to ignore something rant and rave about how they are paralyzed by measurement error - that because the measurement data cannot prove significance, they cannot act. I tell them the same thing I think now about the Global Warming issue. Baloney! If you think a parameter might be significant - even if you cannot measurem its' leverage on your output variable - control it!

Is there anyone who believes that the amount of pollution we generate can be neutral or even beneficial? Or that the clear-cutting and deforestation has no impact? Who thinks that the environment wouldn't be healthier and the atmosphere in better shape if we lived agrarian lifestyles?

So why should there be debate around semantics? Can't we accept that it is *likely* there is environmental impact of both short and long term nature based on man-made waste and that by reducing or eliminating them we can help preserve the planet for future use?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The 'In' Crowd

It seems that an increasing amount of games released recently are either based on or tied into a license of some sort. Whether it is a movie, TV show, or even just characters from other games, the amount of individually developed intellectual property in games seems to be shrinking. Sure, there is some - F.E.A.R. for the PC is a good example - but by and large the tendency seems to be to go with a known quantity.

There are a few ways in which this happens - tie-ins, sequels, and use of licensed material in original stories. All are represented in full-force this gaming season, so what is there on offer?

Movie Tie-Ins: Usually these are pretty bad, such as Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. But games for some recent movies - such as Chicken Little and Wallace & Gromit have received average review scores of ~70%, and the upcoming Harry Potter movie game might prove again to be an entertaining if unremarkable game.

Sequel Mania: these vary, but too many deteriorate in quality. Currently I'm playing Quake IV. This game is the sequel to Quake II (Quake III was a multiplayer game), but is very playable for those new to the series. Perhaps this is partly because id software games have pretty thin plots, or because Raven has made a point of including the original story interspersed with the action of the new game.

Licensed Property:
This is really what I want to focus on. Again, these vary in terms of quality - Star Wars games are a great example, as some are terribly great and others are just terrible. These are very interesting in a way, as they allow familiar characters to get new settings and stories. There are a couple I'm playing right now - Ultimate Spiderman for the DS and XMen Legends II for the PSP.

Ultimate Spiderman is an interesting game in that it presents some new and some old material in a very stylish format that allows you to take on the role of hero or villian at certain points in the game. Spiderman is a license I know something about - he was my second favorite superhero as a kid (behind Batman), but there is much new stuff, and I don't keep up with all of it, as my kids no longer have the time for Saturday morning cartoons very often. But lacking specific knowlesdge doesn't hamper enjoyment of the game - so long as you know the basic characters and background. The storytelling is direct and interesting, and the gameplay fast-paced and fun. I'm about half-way through and it is a very good game - not one of the greats we've seen recently, but very good. XMen Legends II is an ambitious direct port of the console game, in which the XMen and the Brotherhood join forces against a new evil named Apocalypse. I know the basics of the XMen and have seen a few of the cartoons, but many of the characters and references escape me. That really doesn't matter, however, as the story of the game seems well done so far.

And that is the important thing, right? That the story work, that the characters make sense, and that the gameplay is solid? So it shouldn't matter where the ideas come from, so long as they are good. Right?

To an extent.

Take a game like Star Trek Elite Force II - this a pretty solid shooter in its' own right, averaging ~75-80% in review scores. To me, it really illustrated what I call an 80% game - very good without major flaws, but not truly excellent, but with a particular hook that keeps it from being a 70% game. But what really makes it shine above other 70-80% games is the level of Star Trek love. Taking time on the Holodeck to try a new weapon, being particularly successful and getting the praise "almost as good as a Klingon!" was great ... for me. Perhaps for you. But for someone with no knowledge or love of Star Trek?

That is what has struck me during XMen - I'm not a huge fan, and probably wouldn't know as much as I do without my son - to an extent that is true with Spiderman ... well, at least in terms of Venom. So these games are marketed to the 'in crowd' - those who know the territory, and can get maximum enjoyment based on using that knowledge.

And shouldn't we also expect innovation in terms of creative story development? Stepping outside the endless franchise-spawns and retreads and yearly sports updates and so on? I think we should - but not for its' own sake. The risk in making a new property is that it will sell like No One Lives Forever rather than F.E.A.R.; that it will turn out like Dungeon Lords rather than Dungeon Siege.

So keep producing good games based on known entities, and carefully select new properties to bring to market successfully - spend the marketing dollars to help a game like Gothic 3 succeed where the first two games have only achieved 'cult classic' status. Take the time to develop properties we'll care about, instead of always just tapping the familiar for new games.
Painkiller vs. Sacred ... gaming like it's 1997!?!

Something I posted on a forum about a year and a half ago:

I've been playing Sacred for many hours, and just got Painkiller last week. While playing the two games (Sacred one night, Painkiller next day) I was struck by something ...

Picture the scene - you are strafing into hordes of undead, killing all of them is your only goal, your only option, since the doors don't unlock until they're all dead, heavy metal thrashes as you frag one after the next ... later, in a different game, you are in a dungeon, click-attacking skeletons, liches, and so on ... picking up gold and items hoping for the next level to click-kill some more ... or just get bored and stop playing ?!?

Is it 1997 and the games are Quake and Diablo? Or 2004, and the games are Painkiller and Sacred? Who knows ...

I think I finally quit on Sacred ... I just don't remember when I stopped caring and just kept on playing because I'm a dedicated gamer. Unlike in 1997 when I had too many other things (baby and pregnant wife ) to stick to a game I didn't love.

Painkiller is like one of those Quake games - loads of fun and frustration relief, just don't look for any more than that.

Sorry for the non-sequitor .... it just struck me ...
Playing Nice With The Sam

At first there was disappointment. Then resignation. Bargaining. Acceptance. Installation. Realization. And Despair. Now I'm trying to ...



Yep. Installation of Serious Sam II. The game I railed about not getting in this space just a week or so ago is now on my hard drive, and has seen a couple of hours of gameplay. And all I can do is sit back and chide myself that I was supposed to be doing better about not getting things unless they were on my 'must have' list.

So how did it happen?

I went into my local EBGames to pick up XMen Legends II for the PSP, and had two realizations - one that I only had $35 and not $60 in my pocket because we had taken a scientist who was leaving the company out to lunch, and that the rest of my 'October gaming cash' was at home. The other realization was that despite indicating 'in stock', they didn't have any copies, so the fleeting thought of paying with my debit card was squashed. So no XMen for me that day.

Then I saw it sitting on the shelf - Serious Sam II. I had liked the demo, and knew that I would be done with F.E.A.R. well before Quake IV was available, so I grabbed a copy and bought it. Just like that.

But it isn't that bad ... is it?

No - it isn't a bad game at all. It is pretty average, nothing outstanding in any area I've seen so far, but certainly better than many games released recently. My problem was that I put a stake out there for myself - said I wouldn't do it based on an appraisal of the demo and my current wish list of games and the amount of money I have to spend on them.

And everything about this game tells me that not buying it would have been the right decision for me. Not for everyone, but for me. Some people have a blast with this type of game, and I did enjoy the 'Second Encounter', and I have had some fun with this one.

But I should not have bought it, but I did. Do I regret buying it? Yes. Will I play it and enjoy it? Certainly.

I just hope I learn something from all of this.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Game is Dead ... Long Live the Game

If you spend any time on the 'official forums' of any game with a multiplayer component, it is inevitible that within months or perhaps weeks of release you will see posts along the lines of "the game is dying!" I was thinking about this as I looked at the playlist numbers below:

Looking at the stats on GameSpy as of October 24th ...
1. Half Life 30437 servers, 76271 players
2. Half Life 2 18512 servers, 59279 players
3. Battlefield 2 6359 servers, 40604 players
4. Call of Duty 6294 servers, 15528 players
5. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory 3280 servers, 11617 players
6. Americas Army: Special Forces 1835 servers, 8663 players
7. Unreal Tournament 2004 2543 servers, 7310 players
8. Neverwinter Nights 1317 servers, 5833 players
9. Medal of Honor Allied Assault 2115 servers, 4622 players
10. Quake 3: Arena 1999 servers, 3821 players
11. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Spearhead 1294 servers, 3766 players
12. Soldier of Fortune 2 1245 servers, 3485 players

13. Unreal Tournament 2157 servers, 3437 players
14. Battlefield 1942 811 servers, 2812 players
15. Halo: Combat Evolved 758 servers, 2579 players
16. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy 700 servers, 1767 players
17. Battlefield 2 Demo 83 servers, 1342 players
18. SWAT 4 230 servers, 1101 players
19. Battlefield: Vietnam 252 servers, 922 players
20. Vietcong 284 servers, 817 players
21. Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle-Earth 218 servers, 754 players
22. Halo Demo 175 servers, 706 players
23. Return to Castle Wolfenstein 255 servers, 657 players
24. FEAR: First Encounter Assault Recon 222 servers, 615 players
25. FEAR: First Encounter Assault Recon Demo108 servers, 547 players

One game in particular I recall that sentiment being expressed strongly about was Jedi Academy. The supposed release (delayed to 14 months later) of HL2 eclipsed the release and drove down review scores, but the game sold fairly well, and has maintained an active community of modders and players for over 2 years.

Other 'old' games on there include Soldier of Fortune II, Medal of Honor Allied Assault and Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The bottom line is that so long as you can find a game you like and that has some players online (if you happen to like that thing), the game is alive and well.

The problem is that games that include both 'single player' (SP) and 'multiplayer' (MP)content run the gamut from SP-focused games with 'tacked on' MP to MP focused games with a 'bot match' mode masquerading as SP. So the expectations you have for a game might not match the reality of the market. Take Jedi Academy, for instance - it is a story-driven, SP focused game with some decent MP modes, but nobody seriously thought it would challenge 'Counter-Strike' - or even the WWII shooters like Medal of Honor Allied Assault.

I have been thinking about this since the release of F.E.A.R. - a game dominated by a tense and excellent SP mode, with some available MP modes. I have spent a bit playing the MP mode, and it does a pretty good job of translating the tight gameplay into some fun action. Deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, elimination - all are enjoyable, and there are games around that are lively and challenging. Yet on the official forums, two of the most active topics are declaring "FEAR MP is Dead!" Here is a game that has been out less than one week, has several hundred players, requires a hefty computer to run, yet it is dead?!?!

If this is what a 'dead game' looks like ... kill more games!
What's that in the Sky? It's the GamerDad Signal

Andrew Bub launched a new column at GamerDad called the GamerDad Signal, in which he says "GamerDad is recognized by mainstream newspapers as a source for accurate information about videogames and children. And GamerDad is respected industry wide by the people – especially the parents – who make these games."

He makes the case for GamerDad, which is a site that immediately meant something to me 2.5 years ago ... so much so that I pretty quickly registered, started participating in the frank and intelligent discussions, and have now become a part of through reviews, articles, news and now a weekly column.

As my own kids age and we deal more with video games at ratings above 'E' and movies other than G or PG, the mission of GamerDad rings true more than ever in my home. Maybe it should be in your home as well - check out the article and the site.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The iPod Frenzy

PSP Forum switchboards all over the world are lighting up today following the announcement of Apple's new iPod with video capability. Apple has done something with the iPod for video that they have already done for music - make it legal, accessible and easy. And that is putting the PSP fanboy network on high alert!

You see - they need to know that they have the "#1 Sexy Gadget in the World". But they don't nor have they ever - that mantle has belonged to the iPod since 2001.

So great is the draw of the iPod that people defy logic in how the respond to them. Recently in a frontpage blurb on GamerDad Andrew Bub stated how much he wanted a new iPod Nano despite already having another iPod - even though he is a member of the media and should be immune to such things. Personally, I got my first iPod right after they came out, and now have a '3rd gen' 40GB - the one with the different button arrangement. It works great, and there is absolutely no need for me to have another - yet I want a Nano ... or a video iPod ... they are both so alluring. Indeed, I was getting my wife an iPod for her 40th birthday recently and was all settled on the Mini (which I could get in pink with matching leather case), when the Nano came out - and for some reason I was thinking about getting her one of those. I have no idea why ... it would have cost more, messed up the accessories we have, and been less convenient ... but if they had a 4GB while model, I'm not sure I could have resisted.

So what does this have to do with the PSP? Well, Sony is selling it as 'ATTAP' - all things to all people. Touting the multimedia features at least as prominently as the gaming capabilities. There is no doubt that it is the most technically advanced handheld game system yet, with some very nice multimedia and other capabilities. But is it really 'ATTAP'? That is what Sony is selling, and that the fanboys are pushing.

But what about reality? Reality tells a different tale:

  • A tale of a game system littered with mostly mediocre games, except for a few decent console-ports and stripped down console releases ... and Lumines. Basically nothing 'system selling'.
  • A tale in which David is played by the DS, when it should have been the other way around. Sony so effectively pushed the technological superiority angle that the DS became the underdog, despite Nintendo having ~100% market share before the PSP release.
  • A tale in which things look great for David - in terms of awesome, system selling games like Nintendogs, Advance Wars and Castlevania. Games that make no apologies for being on a handheld, that feel like nobody's 'little brother' - these are just plain great games.
  • A tale in which the touted music capabilities are really rather rudimentary. They compare pretty well to those of the Pocket PC PDA from 2000 - manual transfers, rudimentary playlist controls, and so on. So far behind where the iPod was even at launch that it is not even worth comparing.
  • A tale in which another touted multimedia capability - displaying photos - is again a manual cumbersome process, while the iPod has a strange (through iTunes) but easy to use automated process.
  • A tale in which another secondary use - as a PDA - is accomplished on the PSP through another strange and manual method, whereas the iPod will synchronize directly to the Mac address book and calendar or Windows Outlook.
  • And finally, a tale of proprietary video disks that cost more than DVD's in many cases, which are playable only through the PSP, whereas the Video iPod has a huge hard disk for video, which loads from iTunes, and features licensed TV shows for $1.99 the day after.

Can the video display quality of the iPod match the PSP? No, but that isn't the point. Apple has once again changed the discussion from technoology of delivery to content - much as Nintendo has done with the DS. Sony and the PSP are left with impressive technology that has yet to demonstrate much value, and the fanboys are left defending their platform of choice.

Me? I love my PSP - and I'm hoping that some of the upcoming releases will finally break the trend of mediocre to crappy console Jr. games. Buy I will never mistake the PSP for something it is not. If I want to play music I'll use my iPod; need a PDA I'll pull out my HP Jornada; and if I need games ... well, right now that means the Nintendo DS for me.
No, I will NOT 'Get Serious'!

'Get Serious!' It is one of those expressions many of us have heard while growing up and into young adulthood, and perhaps some of us have used as our own kids begin to grow up.

'Serious' Sam is a video game franchise based around a simple premise - shooting lots of stuff. Frenetic action is the order of the day. Wave after wave of enemy came rolling at the player - there was no AI, it was kill of be plowed through. When it arrived in 2002, it was laughed at - a 'old school' shooter at a budget price! Then something happened - people started buying it and playing it like crazy! The follow-up 'Second Encounter' did even better commercially, and both games got reasonable reviews. It was only a matter of time before a true sequel was made.

The developers at Croteam focused on producing an engine that would be graphically advanced while allowing for a virtually unlimited amount of on-screen enemies. The goal was to take the Serious Sam experience to a whole new level of intensity. The demo for Serious Sam II shows how they have succeeded - it is an end to end, over the top killing spree that is a load of fun, and looks pretty good too. The visuals aren't up to 'next gen' snuff, but they are nice in the same stylized sci-fi fashion as the original games.

So what's the problem? Seems like the perfect sort of game - hours of mindless action and fun! Possibly - and I have no doubt that a year or two ago I'd have been at EBGames on the day of release buying Serious Sam II and plauing the heck out of it. I blame the Nintendo DS, and to a much lesser extent the Sony PSP. Basically, I would rather be playing interesting and innovative games for the handhelds - even relatively mediocre games like 'Lost In Blue' - than 'yet another shooter' on the PC. Truth is, if I want that experience, why not just play the original games again - I really thrilled at playing 'Second Encounter', and then bought the first encounter ... but never actually finished. Nor have I gone back and played again.

Have I lost my love for first person shooters? Far from it - I have replayed several shooters recently, and played the demos for Call of Duty 2 and F.E.A.R. as well as Serious Sam 2. I plan to get F.E.A.R., and have pre-ordered it to get the bonus items. I may also get Quake 4, but the early reviews don't look very good. What has changed is that I am also looking forward to several upcoming handheld games - Star Wars Battlefront II, XMen Legends II, Lord of the Rings Tactics, all for the PSP, as well as some DS games such as Mario Kart.

What has also changed is that I am trying to be better with my 'gaming resolutions' - particularly regarding "keeping a tight 'must have' list" and "finishing what I already have" and "replaying is never bad". So I figure that if Serious Sam II didn't make me reload and replay either Serious Sam 1st or 2nd Encounter, it must not really be a 'must have'.

So no, I won't get Serious ...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

If it's such a great game ...

... then why has it taken you long to replay it?

That's a question that was asked of me in the wake of the recent release of the 'media upgrade' for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords (aka KotOR2). Isn't that a strange question? With longer games, don't people often only play once, or at least wait a while in between playing? Perhaps 'people' do that, but not me. For me, a great game is one that I launch into replaying immediately after finishing it. Usually I play all the way through, but occasionally I only get part way ... but if I love a game, I always get some significant portion of the game replayed.

I gave KotOR2 a 90% review, based on what I described as "The first 20 or so hours of KotOR 2 are some of the best gaming experiences I've ever seen. We have PlaneScape Torment levels of dialogue, plot weaving and intrigue, Baldur's Gate 2 levels of party interaction and banter, and action right out of KotOR."

And I played the heck out of the game the first time - I was fully immersed in the story and characters and continued right through the end. But then I started a new game, and never got even as far as Atton on Peragus. As I embark on another attempt to replay the game I am left wondering why ...

And the only thing I can come up with is that the 'end ruined the means' to paraphrase a cliche. By that I mean that the obviously unfinished and rushed-out feel to the end of the game was such a let down after the glory described above that it killed the incentive to work through the game again.

Also, the tutorial does not replay very well. That is acceptable, as it is short, can be skipped, and has no impact on the items or experience gained. However, It is somewhat surprising that the opening area of the game is not as enjoyable to replay. Whether or not this is also related to the end-game is not clear. Normally, the beginning of a game is when we get familiar with everything and everyone, so it is typically slow and usually linear. I don't think that KotOR2 is any worse in this regard, yet for me it seemed to drag worse than any of my many replays through Taris in the original KotOR. It is not until you leave Peragus that things get good.

So what does this mean? Is the game worse than I originally reviewed? I honestly don't think so - once on Telos I found the game became immersive and quite engaging once again, and the excellent work of Obsidian began to shine through. I think that there were more pacing problems than I could pick up in a single playthrough. Whereas games like Baldur's Gate and the original KotOR also started slowly, they reached such tremendous heights by their conclusion that you were swept through the openings each time you played by the promise of the glory to come. Which brings us back to 'the end ruins the means' ... since the promise of ultimate glory at the end of the game is gone, there is much less to carry you through the slow opening.

So why did it take me so long to replay KotOR 2? Because I had no desire to be disappointed again at the failed promise of such an excellent beginning.
So they didn't die before they got old ...

I was listening to some 60's rock on my iPod (specifically some Yardbirds), which then triggered me for some reason to listen to The Who's Tommy. So far so good. But then that night, we were watching some TV, and heard a couple of Who songs - one as part of a commercial, the other as part of one of the various CSI shows. And recently the Rolling Stones tour has been all the rage, and summer festival shows were full of old groups whose stints in the spotlight ended many years ago.

So what is it that these 60-ish rockers have to offer? Nostalgia, mainly - a reminder of a time past that many of us preferred because we think of it as a simpler, happier time. But that is a fallacy, as always - it was just that we were younger and things were simpler, and these songs remind us of a happier time.

So what is the harm? The harm is that with the ever-increasing productization of music, there is little space for innovation or risk-taking. When you add revival shows like the Rolling Stones, you further diminish the airplay, shelf space and mind-space for new artists. That is not to say there is no value in these artists - 'oldies' and nostalgia have always been forces in music. It is just that the value of these (largely) stagnant self-caricatures to bring audiences and sell CD's comes at the direct expense of new artists.

An interesting statistic is that only 10 or the 100 best selling recordings of all time were released in the last 10 years. How much of this is due to the comparitive quality of music on those recordings? I don't know, but I am sure there is also a contribution of the saturation of 'product' artists, the tendency towards nostalgia in older generations, which has surprisingly intersected with the desire to do non-mainstream things in our youth. The longevity of popularity of rock music has allowed this, but it seems that in some way the music is continuing to eat itself. It has become increasingly hard for new voices to be heard because radio is increasingly controlled by a smaller group of corporate interests which push very specific playlists. These stations are dominated, not surprisingly, by 'product' music and 'oldies' or 'classics' (depending on your viewpoint) - leading many to claim that piracy may actually have a positive impact in allowing new artists to catch the ears of listeners. But this is a limited opportunity - how will people hear about these bands to know that they should be listening to them?

The problem remains exposure, and so long as we have 'dino rock' sharing space with 'productized pop', there is little mind, shelf or radio space to introduce new music ... unless the music industry tells us that it is what we should be listening to.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

All Tragedy is Local

That adaptation of Tip O'Neil's famous line "All politics is local" is what I thought of this weekend. While the Gulf Coast is still reeling and recovering from the recent hurricane disasters, Central America is still counting its' dead from the recent hurricane in that region, and even as we learned of the horrific earthquake in northern Pakistan killing tens of thousands, all eyes in upstate New York remained fixed on Lake George.

The tragic boating accident, for those who don't know, involved a relatively small tour boat which had 48 mostly elderly passengers. The boat hit a wake and rocked, and the passengers were sent to one side, which resulted in the boat capsizing and sinking. There were a host of failures - the boat was short a crew member (meaning one, rather than two), nobody was wearing life jackets, the boat was modified considerably from original design which made it quite top-heavy, and so on. Of course, many of these things are basic problems with lake tours - people want a nice view with shade, and don't want to wear lifejackets. Nonetheless, the tragic image of 20 eldery people, many in wheelchairs, drowning helplessly is tragic and heartbreaking.

My wife is from Glens Falls, which is a small city about 15 minutes south of Lake George. Her retired parents still live there, and we go to visit to help them out whenever we can. While her parents don't know any of the victims, they know many in the area and are naturally drawn by age and similar fragility to those who suffered losses. So for the weekend we went through many discussions about the tragedy, turning to the earthquake only as we left New York.

As we returned home, we learned that much of our own region had undergone many inches of rain, and that a large area in southwestern New Hampshire had massive flooding. We were lucky that we hadn't had such problems in our area, but due to the proximity felt great empathy for those who had lost homes and been injured.

So when the week began, we gave most of our charitable support ... to the people in New Hampshire. Sure, we did what we could for those suffering from the massive earthquake, but as the old saying goes, all tragedy is local.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Yardbirds - Shapes of Things

Interesting story ... we had bought my son the Green Day 'American Idiot' CD for his birthday, but a friend gave him that at his party so we needed to change plans. So I had returned the CD, and was going to get him The Killers 'Hot Fuss'. I was in the mall, and wandered into the music store (the type where you almost never buy stuff because it is usually $17+), and on my way out saw the name 'Yardbirds' in the bargain bin. So I looked, and found three CD's - 'BBC Sessions', 'Roger the Engineer' and '25 Greatest Hits 1964-1966'. There was definite overlap, but at $5 each, I just grabbed all three.

The Yardbirds were a group I loved, largely for Jeff Beck. I always found him preferable and more innovative than Clapton, and never had much use for Page (not saying he isn't a fine guitarist, just that he never rose above the 'hey, he's a really talented guitarist' level for me). But my exposure to them was happening while I was also beginning to explore fusion, so I only ever got a single recording - a double-album collection called 'Shapes of Things', which had stuff featuring all three guitarists. I recorded it to tape (which broke) and digitized then downsampled to 64kbps WMA format (early days of MP2, on a Pocket PC when Compact Flash was expensive) ... and so by today the only decent song I still had from that group was 'Shapes of Things'.

So I dumped all three into iTunes, and combined them to get rid of duplicates, then did some listening. I found the BBC sessions to be interesting, but more of a curiosity. I decided that it would be one of those CD's I'd have on the shelf for occasional use, and so deleted it from iTunes, as my Powerbook laptop is filling up (something about using it for digital photos, music AND video!). Then I made a single playlist and got rid of everything I didn't care to keep, which left me with 16 songs. That would have been $16 if I could have done it by-song in iTunes, so I came out about even.

Some of my faves:
- Heartful of Soul
- Evil Hearted You
- I Ain't Got You
- Train Kept a'Rollin'
- Over, Under, Sideways, Down
- I'm a Man
- Mister You're a Better Man than I
- and my fave is still Shapes of Things