Saturday, August 2, 2014

Drum party in the tomb

Random thoughts over the (loooooong) closing weekend.

We had another sub in the pit, and a couple of technical issues, and this underlines: there is something systemically wrong about how music is done in music theater. Our Music Director calls it a problem of musician culture.

Musicians are called for a "service," which works out to pretty much the length of a performance, plus whatever bare minimum to get their butts into their seats and unpack their instruments. This is why it took three weeks to get the musical to start sounding like a musical instead of a bunch of uncoordinated noises. There's no time; no time for rehearsal, no time for brush-up or warm-up, no time for sound check -- not even enough time for notes. I don't even see the orchestra until five minutes before the house is opened. It took us two days just to add a ukulele to the pit, and it would have taken a week more to get it integrated into the score.

With these sorts of time constraints, reinforcing a pit orchestra is not like sound check for a band. It is more like working at an open mic. The band walks in and they start playing, and if the mics and monitors aren't right, then oh well. And the audience suffers along with everyone else, because there's no time available to fix it. Not in tech, and not during the run.

Drummers. I think I know where our current drummer is. He's got a good balance when he tries; between the different elements of his kit, and between him and the rest of the band. But I think he is feeling constrained, if not put upon, while doing this. It isn't easy to play with control and play softly, not without practice, and since most music directors have simply given up on even asking they don't get that practice.

(After many, many poor experiences, I don't bother telling drummers they are too loud. Telling them never fixes it, and often makes things worse).

So since this is unnatural (in his mind) he's welcomes the moments -- louder songs -- where (again, in his mind, and only in his mind) he can relax and play the way he is used to.

Which sounds like shit, by the way. Not just too loud for the mix, and too loud for the space, but poorly balanced internally. His cymbals overwhelm everything else, and don't even sound like they are in time. So it is just a wash of white noise with very little musical content, and practically none of the good tone his kit has available.

I suspect to him, these are the moment when he is actually "allowed to play drums" and the rest of the show, he is putting up with something he considers wrong and awkward because he doesn't want to lose the gig.

Which means there is no hope in hell of him internalizing the necessary lesson, and no point in anyone trying to educate him. And the pity is, over three quarters of the drummers out there get the same free ride borne of the people around them just plain giving up. Leaving only a few rare ones who see themselves as members of a band.

(I really, really expected him to cut loose on closing night, because I've had that happen before. He didn't. Oh, he came up a little overall, but he was already playing close to peak in other moments, so the impact wasn't bad. And I made it a point to break my rule and thank him after the show for not going there as so many have before.)

Another cast get-together at night, at a noisy ice-cream place. And, sure, I'm missing the networking by being there. People hire people they know. Having your face out there, being seen out at the parties and opening nights and so forth, that's a job skill. But it is one I'm poor at, and I suspect a lot of techies are poor at.

Because conversation in a crowded room is a specific skill. It requires wit. You need to be able to adjust quickly, think on the fly. It is social skills, not language skills. And techies don't cultivate grooming skills. They cultivate knowledge, and knowledge can't be communicated in tweets. When techies size each other up, it isn't done with a couple of words and looking each other in the eye. It is done with a flurry of challenges and concepts and thought problems. Techies socialize over blueprints.

Different skill set. Different interests. Different comfort level. I should probably still do it, but there's an equal chance all I'd communicate to possible employers is, "Uncomfortable around others." If not an absolute bore (the kind of talk a techie likes, is the kind of talk that at a party is the guy who corners you to talk about their bird feeder for twenty minutes.)

Yes, I'm ragging on Tomb Raider 2013. And, yes, I'm in a sister industry and I understand how a lot of design decisions are not carefully weighted, carefully discussed, deliberately taken options. I understand how history can weigh on a project ("This isn't right, but we spent half our budget on it and there's not enough time before opening to re-do it.") And similar sorts of extraneous and often invisible forces that caused certain choices to be made.

I've also studied enough game design (was a Gamasutra member, read the trade mags for a year or two, and a handful of books on design as well) to understand there are subtle trade-offs being made. And, yes, what I think I'd want to play, may not be what the good and careful marketing research and playtest groups showed is what the larger customer base wants to play.

That said, more ragging.

I've been doing some skulking on my "Role Playing" pass through the game. The one where I try not to game it, but try to react as I think Lara should be reacting at every moment. Which includes running pell-mell into tight situations when Sam is in immediate danger, rather than take proper care.

But anyhow. I've been making an effort to bypass, or to talk to, the random encounters with smaller groups of Solarii. I've also been listening to their conversations more. I've yet to find a group I can actually bypass completely. The developer who said you aren't forced to fight them -- he was a total liar. They WILL spot you, and if you try to run past, they will shoot you right off your zip line.

And as for listening...

It's great that they have all these little stories. I can't fault the variety of the NPCs, especially given that they are specifically a limited selection pool; fit and physically tough, amoral and brutal men who were picked out by Mathias (and could survive his selection process). There is a surprising variety in voices and models despite this.

However. About half of the conversations end with them moving to where they have you in sight, if not surrounded. If you insist on listening to the entire conversation, you are much more likely to get killed. Once again, the gameplay is at odds with the story-telling. From a story-telling point of view, what they have to say is important. From a gaming point of view, you should kill them the moment they are in range.

No comments:

Post a Comment