Monthly Archives: June 2015

Mission: Mainframe RPG category

Title screen from Mission: Mainframe

If the pen is mightier than the sword, why not use it in armed conflict? The 1983 role-playing game Mission: Mainframe certainly tried to.

Mission: Mainframe substitutes BICs for battleaxes, bringing the venerated dungeon crawler structure out of the catacombs and into an office park. Beneath the enjoyably atypical setting, this is a standard if slipshod RPG, and its surface-level changes to the genre formula are its most jarring. Those accustomed to swords and sorcery will pick it up quickly, but they might have trouble adapting to its confusing new lexicon. Mission: Mainframe » Read more

Welcome to The Obscuritory 3.0! Blog category

You might notice that things look a little different around here. Say hi to the newly redesigned Obscuritory!

This is the third theme the blog has used since 2008. I’ve been tinkering on this for a while now, and I’m especially happy with the results. Everything looks roughly similar – mostly because I love the Windows 3.1 setup motif – but the blog is now cleaner, easier to navigate, mobile-friendly, and compliant with HTML 5 standards. In comparison, the previous layout was heavily modified from a broken template that briefly had adware and couldn’t run Javascript. Whoops!

There are other little tweaks throughout too, like the improved menu which links to articles tagged as “recommended.”

The theme isn’t 100% finished yet (a few of the header images are broken, and assorted bits and bobs need tweaking), but I wanted to get this version out anyway. It looks really pretty, and I’m glad to give the look a refresh!

(For the record, the theme is named Orbital Library, after an area from one of my favorite games…)

Music Highlight: Electronic Arts 3D Atlas Music Highlights category

Music Highlight

The one-two punch of multimedia-capable computers and the CD-ROM medium allowed for content of unprecedented size and richness. Reference work publishers benefited from this in particular: when you can fit an encyclopedia on a single disc with room to spare, enhancing that content with interactive media is the next logical step. This led to the pre-Internet, decade-long reference CD-ROM boom, responsible in collective memory mostly for Microsoft Encarta 95‘s MindMaze game.

At their best, these enhancements brought out the greater educational mission of reference CD-ROMs. More than collections of facts, they were about applying information in service of ideas. Look to Electronic Arts 3D Atlas to see how that could work – and how music anchored the experience.

EA 3D Atlas is, on its surface, an interactive globe. But much of the content within the program (especially its video tours) deals the political and environmental instability that threatens the planet’s future. Those are heady themes, and the program’s ambient soundtrack plays to that seriousness.

These two pieces composed by Martin Seager accompany the Environmental World and Physical World screens. Neither section is especially charged, but the music elevates them from simple maps to Pale Blue Dot-esque reflections on the Earth’s fragility. Even though you’re not looking at maps that show great consequence – those are elsewhere – Seager’s ethereal flutes and sloshing ambiance evoke the planet’s delicateness and the scarcity of its resources. When those are your auditory cues, it’s difficult to look at a nature-covered globe with anything but knowing dread.

Other multimedia additions to EA 3D Atlas address these concerns more directly, as with its micro-documentaries about climate change and human conflict, but Seager’s music draws on that message in places that otherwise lack it. This program unmistakably has more on its plate than showing you where to find capital cities, even when just displaying a map.