Thursday, April 03, 2008

Are you kidding me?

In a not-so-celebratory style, April Fool's Day came and went. And with it, all the jokes are done with and we get back to normal routines, or at least as routine and normal as it can get.

As Guild Wars approach its 3rd year, many are speculating on what will be year 3's set of miniatures. I still have a few characters that have yet to be deleted and I am wanting to see what kind of miniatures I am going to get this time around. But before that day comes, a small party is being held in-game in honor of Gaile Gray, who has been one of the most active contact from ArenaNet, and serves as a link between the online community and the developers. It seems that because of this small event that some special items will be made available, along with opportunities to hasten certain title progression. It will be interesting to see what this party have in store for the players. Until the event starts, I am rushing to stock up on certain items which I am hoping will be one of the things needed to trade in for festival items. Yet either way, it will not bother me one bit. Should my stock turn out to be not the one, then it's as easy and simple as selling it to the game's merchant for cash.

I never did mention it here but I will do so now. Some time ago a package arrived and inside it is the soundtrack that I have been waiting for -- Final Fantasy IV Original Soundtrack. I had it preordered through CD Japan and had it shipped via SAL, the cheapest but has the slowest shipping speed. It took a few weeks for it to arrive and when it arrived, it was packed nicely, as to be expected of them with a very good reputation for handling their goods for international shipment. After carefully unpacking the CDs, I immedately set forth to rip the audio and have it encoded into 2 formats: MP3 and FLAC. FLAC will be used to archive while MP3 will go into my iPod (which needs to be replaced, sadly).

The FF4 OST I mentioned is by no means the soundtrack to the old game, which was called "Original Sound Version." This soundtrack is for the Nintendo DS remake of Final Fantasy IV. In order to bring the game up to date with the new hardware, the music was rearranged by Junya Nakano and Kenichiro Fukui while keeping the original composition by Nobuo Uematsu. As expected, much of the new version is a vast improvement over the old, which had the SNES (Super Famicom) synthesized quality to it. I was quite satisfied with the purchase, and can only hope that the game will be brought out to America. I also hope that Final Fantasy VI will receive the same kind of remake treatment, as I cannot imagine how it can be improved beyond what it stood before.

While on the topic, my search for two elusive tracks came to an end, as I was able to get a hold of two particular musical melodies that have haunted me for weeks. The first is a joint production between BT and Nick Phoenix: Iron Fisted Mutha. Yes, that is the track name and the album that it is found on cannot be purchase by normal means. It is a special audio track that is intended for use in various theatrical trailers and promotional video. Yet it has been used here and there, most recently in the live-action Speed Racer movie trailer. Finally, I was able to secure a mp3 copy of the track and got it downloaded. The other track is from the online game called Mabinogi. The track, named "Hold My Hand" is used in the introduction video which sports a nice popsy fantasy style theme. Finding it is just as difficult, as no web site has a clean copy of the track. Eventually I tracked down a single package that contained the soundtrack to the game and proceeded to give it a test. Sure enough, after the download and unpacking, the track is real and I can finally listen to the song without the hindrance of sound effects from the movie video.

This next piece has me shaking my head in disgust. Having owned several Creative audio cards from the Sound Blaster 16 to the AWE64 to Live!, Audigy, and lastly the current X-Fi, I have tolerated whatever crap that has spewed forth from Creative themselves. Granted, I jumped to get a X-Fi in order to hear the sound effects in Battlefield 2 and 2142 better. And it did made a difference. However, over the time, things just doesn't seem to feel right when it comes to hardware support. When Vista was released, I tracked the progress of various hardwares that I currently use to see if support is there or will be there. Sure enough, Creative says that they are going to support Windows Vista for their X-Fi series of product. What little did I know is that older products are getting the shaft, intentionally.

Modifying drivers is nothing new, as it has been done on nVIDIA and ATi/AMD drivers. Distribution of the modified drivers is also nothing new. Yet neither companies have ever bothered to say anything in regards to this. That left me with the impression that they are okay with the modification and distribution of their own drivers, even if it means that the hackers themselves are adding features or improving it to perform better. So on the Creative side of things, a hacker going by the forum name Daniel_K took the Creative drivers and started modifying them, which he later found that these modifications enabled the sound card he owns to do everything that it was designed to do, only now it can be done in Vista. Features that were missing were added back in and bugs were fixed, and later found to be bugs implemented by Creative themselves. All this caught the eyes of Creative...

So while all of that was being done without my knowledge, a new article surfaced at Slashdot, mentioning how Creative is going after driver modder, it caught my attention and I started reading the details. "You have got to be kidding me..." The forum thread exploded into a fury of complete anger and outlashes at the company and at a particular individual. The sheer wrath of these users who relied on Creative to provide proper driver support for their hardware were posted and the news spread like wildfire across the internet, garnering attention from gaming sites to tech sites. Added to the fact that there are so many visitors to Slashdot, what started out as a statement from a Creative PR exec turned into a complete disaster and breakdown of trust.

I was appalled. Knowing that eventually the thread will be closed or somehow modified, I started composing a reply. There were so much hate and anger now that it's unbelievable. I was severely disappointed in the company. It was known beforehand that the company was in hard times due to declining sales and profits. But they cannot seem to keep up due to intense competition. Hardly anyone needed a sound card for their system when most motherboards provide audio support. MP3 players have flooded the market and Apple has a strong hold on that segment. Poor driver support does not help the company either. How can they make such a huge mistake in letting such a post be published, and in public?

At this time, Creative is trying to quiet things down and remedy the situation. But there still seem to be a lot of anger and hate towards them at this time. Many share the same sentiment that drastic changes are needed, and fast. A lot are calling for that one individual to be removed from the company. And those who simply want Creative to turn to ashes. I support the idea that changes are needed. And there are those who have big visions, such as the immediate support of Linux and/or open source. All I want are better quality drivers. I just want the drivers to be lean, robust, and stable. The features can always be added on in some shape, form, or method. But unfortunately, I fear that nothing will be done and that ultimately, we will continue to see the same thing happening as before, with drivers becoming less and less supportive and the hardware phased out in order to force people to purchase new ones. If that's the case, then all I can do is simply watch from the sidelines. And when the time comes to get new audio hardware, I will simply look elsewhere and never consider a Creative product again.

To leave on a lighter note, I found this amazing video, which lead me to reading the story, and the follow-ups. Hell has no fury like the Internet's wrath.

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