Updating Ariane: Poser vs DAZ Studio Again


Over the past month, I have been debating on updating Ariane for her next game. The above was an early draft which I am NOT going to use as I will explain.

Like many in the 3D People Rendering Community, I am still torn between the Poser vs Daz Studio rift, which I previously catalogued here, and here.

The last high quality DAZ figure with full Poser support was Victoria 4, which is now over a decade old.  Ancient by tech standards, and still widely supported with new clothes hair and accessories, because such things still sell well.

But Victoria 4 still has some flaws that make it less desirable to use…boat5
I picked this Victoria 4 image to point out the main flaws: 1.) The armpits are way too high up the arm. 2.) the hip to thigh bend looks unnatural, as does the thigh to shin bend.  Finally, 3.) while there are literally hundreds of skin textures available, most do not support the latest renderers like DAZ’s iRay and Poser’s Superfly.

The DAZ Studio solution is really easy: switch to G3 and G8 based figures (there are no G4 to G7 figures because: “reasons”) which DAZ is more than happy to sell you. Most of my fellow Dating Sim/Visual Novel makers have made the switch fairly successfully.

The Poser solution is not so easy. There are advanced models natively available to Poser, namely Dawn and Dusk by Hivewire3D, Paul and Pauline by Smith Micro that come with Poser 11.1, and Project Evolution by Erogenesis that is even more advanced than G8 as far as versatility goes.

The problem is that there is not a lot of support for these figures. Dawn has a fair amount, and Project Evolution may eventually, especially since it has backward compatibility with V4. But the majority of the support for new figures is not surprisingly for G3 and G8.

It is possible to convert G3 and G8 figures to be used in Poser, instructions can be found here.  But because it is not supported natively, you have to convert every accessory the same way, and that could get time consuming, and the resulting Poser figures are memory hogs.  I briefly considered creating a new Ariane based on Karen 7.


Attempts to make a Dawn version of Ariane

My initial idea was to try and make an “Ariane” using the Dawn figure. While the Dawn figure on the right has a more realistic body shape and curves, I could never get the face right. No matter what I did, the V4 face on the left is better looking and more realistic.


The truth is I ran into many of the same issues when I converted V3 Ariane to V4 Ariane, but ultimately V4 Ariane was a major improvement.

This time, I am sticking with V4. The three problems with V4 mentioned above can be addressed by new products: 1.) The shoulders and other model issues can be fixed with “Perfect V4” by XandM,  2.) The bending problems can be fixed with products like “Overhaul for V4” by ironman13.  I used these products extensively to create the graphics update of Date Ariane.

The rendering skins can be updated with a python script “D3D Perfect Skin SSS Lite” which will change a basic skin texture to simulate SSS effects in the Superfly renderer, and as a side bonus, the Superfly renderer renders even faster. (The only flaw is that it shows solid white skin in superfly preview mode, switch to firefly preview mode to see what the textures look like, then switch back to superfly mode before rendering.)

There is still the issue of the body shape looking better in Dawn than V4.  I solved that by using the rarely used Muscle Pack for V4. I originally got the muscle pack to make Wendy the Weightlifter look stronger, but adding a “toned” shape to Ariane at about 40%, I can give her the athletic curves I was looking for.


Now to create some new content with this improved Ariane…

Erotic Visual Novels Part 5

rov11About once a year I highlight some more erotic visual novels similar to Date Ariane. You can read all my posts on this topic here.  Today I’m doing my fifth post, adding to the collection with 3 more.


Story and Graphics by Mortze
Format: Javascript/HTML
Download link
Cost: Free

Mortze, the graphic artists who does the work for the last 4 Elsa-verse games (see last post), release his own story in two parts last year. It is now complete and available for download. It is not available as an online game.


The story is set on a science vessel called Pandora, hired to do underwater archaeology in a part of the ocean that is supposed to be where the legendary lost continent of Atlantis is.  You play a young male college student from Britain hired to do engineering work on the diving equipment.  The ship has a fairly large number of beautiful women on this voyage, too.

Despite the cliche premise, the story is pretty good, and it is pretty linear.  While there are some additional scenes to unlock, there are no extra story branches to explore.


My biggest concern is the illustration of the main love interest Maggie, the daughter of the ships captain.  They make it a point to say she is just out of high school, meaning she is most likely 17 or 18, therefore age appropriate, but the 3D model used to represent her (Teen Josie form Daz3D) makes her look around 13 or 14, which felt a little creepy at times.


Leanna: Breaking the Facade

Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Format: Javascript/HTML
Download or Play Online Link
Cost: Free

Chaotics games continue to go with a traditional plot: get the girl, but each game has gotten more and more sophisticated. Leanna is the latest and most sophisticated.

Leanna is the host of a local news show. On screen she is friendly and likeable.  Off screen she is arrogant and self centered, and hard to get along with. Your job is to make her likeable before you and her appear on a game show together as a couple.


The challenge is in what you say to her. Many times you are given responses. One of which will make her like you more, another make you like her less, and yet another (and these are the hard ones to figure out) will humble her and “break down the facade” she has built to push everyone away.  Advancement in the game requires you to both make her like you and lower her facade, which requires a balance to your responses.

There is a secondary story branch of trying to reunite Leanna with the original “friend” she was supposed to take on the game show before she abruptly quit.  I actually haven’t completed that one yet.


I love the graphics in this game, Chaotic’s usual humor is here, and the game proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Added benefit: The latest version of this game allows you to play as a male or female, with different gender appropriate sex scenes depending on your choice.


April and Violet

Story and Graphics by Chaotic
Format: Javascript/HTML
Available from members area of vdategames.com

April and Violet is a Members Only game. It is an indirect sequel to Betsy, a free game I reviewed before.  Betsy was a nice prim and proper conservative high school girl that wanted to be more open and confident. If you played that game, you met two other girls, the wild and crazy Violet, and the often mean but misunderstood April. The sub plot of that game (if you chose correctly) was for April and Violet to end up a couple (they are both bisexual).


The sequel involves you driving to California, and needing a place to stay, you end up in a crappy roadside motel that April and Violet have also managed to find themselves staying at.  Weird twilight zone stuff happens like all of the gas disappearing from your cars, and hiking into the next town reveals a ghost town that recently was filled with people.


The solution to these mysteries is silly, and involves a chainsaw, but then this whole adventure plays like a stoner comedy where weed is replaced by casual sex and booze.

Like many other Chaotic games, you can pick your gender, making it a crazy girl getaway, or play a male stuck in a hotel with three sex crazed girls.  Oddly, I found the female/female sex scenes to be better animated than the male/female ones.  There are also two skin tones to pick from.

What did you think of these games? Got any suggestions for me to review?

Saving Chloe: The “Elsa-verse” part 4


Fellow erotic visual novel writers Tlaero and Mortze continue to up the game with their latest release Saving Chloe, which I believe is probably the best game of the genre ever, and sets the bar for the rest of us who work in this genre.  The story is excellent, the artwork is excellent, the 9 possible “good” endings all contain great erotic scenes, and oddly one of the most erotic scenes is in a “bad” ending, of which there are many.  So, lots of choices and lots of endings.

Probably the only flaw of the game is that to really enjoy the story you need to have played 3 previous games Dreaming of Elsa, Redemption for Jessika, and Finding Miranda, all of which I reviewed previously.


There are other odd things in the game.  Some of the points where stories branch are not very obvious.  This is not necessarily a flaw, I like making seemingly meaningless choices turn out to have big consequences as well, but when you are trying to find those last two endings, and not sure how to get there it can be frustrating, but I made it to all 9 “good” endings without cheating and found about 5 bad ones, too.

Link to download Note: This downloadable game is played in a browser, and because of security issues it probably plays best in Firefox.
Online Link #1 (Playforce)
Online Link #2 (Mortze)


The Story So Far

So you don’t have to play (or replay) three other games, I thought I would give you a breakdown of the first three games and what we learned about what is going on.  This review contains major spoilers for the games Dreaming with Elsa, Redemption for Jessika and Finding Miranda, all of which you should play first, but if you just want to start with Saving Chloe, or if you already played those games and forgot the details, here are some things you should probably know first or be reminded about.


Dreaming With Elsa

In Dreaming with Elsa, you play Jason a delivery guy with a recurring dream of chasing a woman. One day your delivery route changes and you deliver a shipment of books to a bookstore whose owner looks exactly like the woman you have been chasing in your dreams. She has also had a recurring dream of being chased by a man. Are you in each others dreams?

Elsa is a shy introvert who lives above the store. She has one employee Chloe who coincidentally has an interest in dream interpretation. Chloe went to the store looking for a rare book called Morpheus which is a legendary book on dreams. Elsa said she did not have a copy, but in their discussion of the book, Chloe talked herself into working for Elsa.


Elsa and Jason experiment and find that they are indeed sharing dreams together, their dreams get more intimate with each passing night.  Eventually Chloe suggest that they go out on a real date. Elsa who hasn’t gone outside her store/home in months finally goes out on a date.  Out at a restaurant named “Delfino’s”, they meet a waitress named Theresa who plays a role later.


Upon returning from the restaurant, Elsa invites Jason up to her room where she discovered, someone has been in her apartment. Elsa quickly checks her wall safe, and the only completely intact copy of Morpheus (which she had all along) is still there.

The volume has been in her family for generations, and she was told never to read it, but she reads it to find out why everyone wants it so bad. It is a guidebook of “dream masters”. In it, Elsa learns to put people together in dreams, see into other’s dreams, and control dreams. With these powers she learns who it was who broke into her apartment: It was Chloe. Chloe, who also gained some dream powers from a few pages of a very incomplete copy, has been manipulating everything the entire way in order to get her hands on the full book.  Elsa fires her, and promising that if she catches Chloe in anyone else’s dreams, she will give Chloe nightmares for life.

In the end credit scene of the latest version, we see a strange woman named Xara show up in a dream and ask Elsa if she is the new Dream Master, and that she needs someone with her abilities.

Unanswered questions:

  • What was Chloe’s end game? Why did she need to be a dream master so bad?
  • What is so special about Elsa and Chloe that they would have these powers to begin with?


Finding Miranda

This and Redemption for Jessika take place at the same time, even ending the same way, but parts of FM take place before RfJ, so I’m reversing them here.  Finding Miranda‘s main plot is an office romance between a systems engineer named Lucas (which you play), who recently lost his wife, and a beautiful and brilliant “problem solver” named Miranda.  For the purposes of backstory for Saving Chloe, the romance is immaterial, it’s the “b” story that is of interest.


We meet Xara again, this time outside Elsa’s dream world.  She a short blind woman looking for revenge on a former boss named Morland.  He is rich and powerful, and like Elsa, seems to have a superpower, but we do not know what. Morland is protected by a goth female bodyguard named Crow who is a deadly killer with powers of illusion.

Xara isn’t helpless, she is trained in combat before she was blinded, and is basically a female version of Daredevil.  She earns a living teaching self defense courses at a local gym.

Xara can’t touch Morland, but starts recruiting “gifted” people that might be able to. Her first recruit is Miranda, who can solve complex problems in her head and come up with the best strategy rather quickly.  Miranda is also the childhood friend of Chloe, Morland’s daughter!


Miranda and Chloe fell out about a year and a half ago, when Chloe caused an accident that left Miranda in a coma for a year. Chloe felt sorry and visited her old friend every day of the coma, but upon waking up Miranda refused to forgive her. Since the coma, Miranda has not been able to sleep again for the last 6 months.

Xara also recruits dream master Elsa, of course, and manages a secret contact inside Morland’s operation who goes by the code name “YellowFever”.  This contact leaks information about Morland’s operation to shut down another super-powered woman named Jessica.


Redemption for Jessika

Jessica’s super power is that she can affect people’s emotions by singing.  Sing fun songs, everyone has fun, sing sad songs, everyone is sad, etc.  Jessica is the lead singer in a rock band that is gaining popularity, mostly because she sings fun songs.

Xara and Miranda work out that Morland plans to disable Jessica by getting her to sing angry by making her angry before a concert, then start a riot at the concert. Unfortunately, Xara is too late to stop it from happening.  Five people are killed in the ensuing riot.


This is where Redemption for Jessika starts (her real name is Jessica Springfield, but “Jessika with a K” is her stage name).  You play Marc (with a “c”), a court stenographer who, being a big fan of Mayhem (Jessica’s band) was at the concert when the riot started, by happenstance you were also in the court during the hearing to determine if Jessica might have been at fault for the riot.  Jessica has become a drunk mess ever since the incident that left 5 people dead.  The plot of the game is to get Jessica to wake up from her drunken stupor and go back to singing again. Standing in your way is Chloe, who attempts to sabotage your efforts at every step.

Along the way, you learn that Charles, Jessica’s former boyfriend, is the one that made her angry, and that he purposely started the riot. The story ends with you and Jessica stopping a bombing at a political rally that was set by Charles.

Later, back in Finding Miranda, Xara, Elsa, and Miranda learn that Chloe is planning on attacking Jessica again at a concert to prevent her from stopping the bombing, but Miranda kidnaps Chloe to stop her and keeps her drugged for three days until Lucas convinces Miranda it is wrong to keep her that way. Chloe wakes up and she and Miranda have a fierce argument.  Ultimately Miranda feels sorry for the way Chloe is abused by her father Morland, and lets her go.


In the epilogue of Redemption for Jessika, Jessica is meeting with Xara at “Delfino’s” to be recruited.  Xara informs her that Charles is a pawn of Morland, the man she is trying to take down.  Xara wants her help in recruiting other powered people starting with the waitress Theresa.


In the epilogue of Finding Miranda, Chloe goes into hiding from her father.  After failing in both operation Elsa and Jessika, she is likely to be severely punished, maybe even killed. In a secret safe house, she grabs her laptop, signs into a secret message board as “YellowFever” and posts that she can no longer help from the inside anymore.

Unanswered Questions:

  • What is Xara’s beef with Morland?
  • What is Morland really up to?
  • What power does Morland have?
  • What power does Theresa have?
  • Where do all these powers come from anyways?
  • Can Chloe be persuaded to switch sides?
  • Can Miranda ever forgive Chloe for the coma?
  • Will anyone figure out Chloe has been working for the good guys the whole time?
  • Can Xara and her allies stop Morland? or Crow? or Charles?
  • Will Miranda ever get a good nights rest?

The above descriptions leave out big chunks of all 3 games, but should give you enough information to start “Saving Chloe”.


If you play the game and are missing an ending or two, I wrote a guide to how to reach the 10 endings (9 good, 1 major bad). Here is a link to my chart. This is not a complete guide, there are some bad choice traps you will have to avoid yourself. These are just to point you in the right direction.

Virtual Reality vs. Virtual Currency

The tech battle no one is discussing, because in the end, neither will win.


In 2015, Oculus Rift was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t. In 2016, Samsung Gear VR was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t. In 2017, Playstation VR was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t.

With hundreds of VR games available, VR ready social and building platforms like Sansar and High Fidelity ready for open beta use, and billions of dollars invested in what everyone calls the next big thing, it is rather disappointing that it is not happening. Thanks to a likely big blockbuster in Ready Player One coming to theaters in March, maybe 2018 will finally be the year.

ready player1

Or not! There are plenty of reasons why VR has not become mainstream. The biggest is the bulky helmets you have to wear, and that most people experience dizzyness or nausea after only about 20 minutes of use. There is a great fix for this last issue that hasn’t been implemented enough: Virtual noses.

But, the biggest challenge to VR mainstream continues to be cost. You can spend $900 for a Samsung Galaxy 8 and Samsung VR headset, or you can spend about the same amount for a Playstation 4 and a Playstation VR bundle. If you want to do VR on your PC, you need around $1400.  That’s $400 for recently reduced price the Oculus Rift, and a $1000 required video card.


When did it cost $1000 for a video card?

Why are video cards so expensive? One word: “Bitcoin”.  Virtual currencies like Bitcoin have skyrocketed in price over the last year, so much that it is worth building your own computer to “mine” number combinations that fit the fairly simple formula required to create a new Bitcoin (and if you find a combo, you get to keep it). Regular PC processors are not powerful enough to efficiently “mine”, but graphics cards are.

According to sources, one graphics card can “mine” around $5 to $10 worth of virtual currency a day, though the best strategy is concentrate on the small lesser known currencies, as too many other resources are being used to mine the expensive ones. This means your $1000 graphics card will pay for itself in about 4 months, assuming prices stay high enough. But before you invest, consider that you will need a 500W power supply that has to run 24 hours a day, so expect to lose on your electricity bills, too.

The recent trend is that virtual currencies are declining in value, losing half their value in the last two months. If it continues to decline, you won’t make enough to pay for the electricity. Maybe then video cards will come down in price.

My prediction: Both will fail

Despite being friends with both VR pioneers and crypto currency advocates, I have to take the rational position that they are both doomed to fail.  VR is the next Kinect, WiiU, 3D TV, or many other trendy “cool” techs that ultimately failed.  Crypto-currencies are riding a bubble like “Tulip Mania”.

Advocates of both will insist that they have heard these criticisms before, and my answer is “because they are valid”.

I might invest in VR gear if the price comes down to a decent level. In the mean time, I’m using my graphics card for gaming and 3D rendering.


The Rachel and Ariane Story is Complete (for now)


It was over two years ago when I released a story involving “Date Ariane” star Ariane meeting “Something’s In The Air” star Rachel meeting each other by chance at a Halloween party.  Parts 2, 3, and the first draft of part 4 were released last winter when I had a lot of time on my hands. After today, I am finished with part 5.


You might want to read the whole story or at least the ending before scrolling down and reading spoilers.


Last chance…


OK, Spoilers.

So Ariane really isn’t gay, and Rachel is asexual.  I more or less already revealed this a year ago in the badly written draft of part 4 I released last February.  I had some anonymous bartender break the news in a very awkwardly written scene that might exist somewhere, but I removed it from my web sites.

I spent the good part of this last year trying to rewrite part 4, and failing miserably.  My second approach was to make a game of this story and have the part 4 top club divide into three paths: one with the ending as it currently exists, one where Rachel and Ariane have sex, and one with the “Rachel is Asexual” reveal, but before I could illustrate it, I made a valiant attempt at writing it and completely failing.


The problem is that a perfect stranger they meet at a sex club should not be breaking the news, even though it makes sense that there would be a lot of sex experts at a sex club.

The fix I came up with is 1.) for the three branches at the sex club to be one long branch, and 2.) to have Lydia make the reveal. It is much better with someone they know breaking the news.  There is a bonus reason 3.) The story comes full circle as part 5 chapter 3 feels like a repeat of part 2.  The last few pictures are even the same except the different hair styles.

At the end of part 2, Ariane reveals she sucks at relationships, and Rachel reveals that she has an odd fetish when it comes to sex — she can’t be herself, she role plays. Part 5 closes both of those story arcs with Ariane finally finding a successful relationship, and Rachel finally being herself in an intimate moment.


When I first designed the Rachel character I wanted her to be different than Ariane.  Two traits I originally imagined for Ariane, being a science geek and a secret supermodel, never came to fruition, so I gave those traits to Rachel.  I also got a comment once from a vegetarian player of Date Ariane, wondering why she was such a big meat eater, the comment inspired me to make Rachel a vegetarian.

But the biggest trait of Ariane is that she is really into sex, often on the first date.

So my original formulation of Rachel was to make her not really into sex, especially on the first date.  So the stories I came up with in Something’s In The Air didn’t involve sex. There was nudity at the dress shop and at her private photo studio, and at the house party though she didn’t get naked herself.

The problem, as all my beta testers informed me, is that erotic visual novels should have erotic scenes with the main characters. So I came up with this weird but geeky work around that Rachel will have sex when she pretends to be someone else. So I wrote two sex scenes with Rachel involving this quirk.


I later found out in my research on sexual fetishes, that there are people that fantasize about sex not involving themselves, and it is called autochorissexuality, and it is a sub category of asexuality.  Asexuals are not sexually attracted to anyone, but still may have a sex drive that can be triggered with the right stimulus. That is a pretty good description of Rachel’s quirk.  So Rachel has been asexual since I created her.

Part of the reason I needed to reveal this fact in this story is because asexual representation is rare in the media. It is estimated that Asexuals represent somewhere between 1% to 2% of the population, which makes them a pretty small minority. GLAAD points out that there are literally only 2 asexuals on TV.  Todd on Bojack Horseman is the most prominent, Raphael on Shadowhunters is a minor recurring asexual vampire. That’s it.


Is this really The End for this story?

There is an epilogue to the story that I attempted to include in the last part, but it interrupted the tone of the story so I dropped it:

On January 2nd, Ariane goes back to work after her week vacation to face a stack of new bug reports to sort and file, while Rachel has a morning meeting with her agent to discuss the new contacts and job offers she got on New Years Eve.  Rachel is super busy with jobs and online classes for the next several months.  The two of them rarely see much of each other after the new year.

This could set up a “Part 6” in the future, or it could set up a future game. I really haven’t decided yet.

Four Videos on Nostalgia You Need To Watch Today! (or you can wait 10 years)


I have lately been digging around in You Tube watching video essays about art and science and learning a lot of really cool stuff along the way. Four of my favorite channels have all recently taken a swing at the topic of nostalgia in a way that is very thought provoking and worth watching. I tackled the topic a while back myself here.

I’m starting with “Nostalgia Chick” herself Lindsey Ellis:

This video is a very good introduction to nostalgia themes, both good and bad.  When we look back at the past we tend to remember the good and forget the bad.

The second video by Nerdwriter1 has become rather famous in art circles, though should be watched by mainstream audiences. It introduces a couple of new phrases “intertextuality” referring to emotional currency created by nostalgic moments, and “weaponized intertextuality” which is an overblown version that when it shows up it a good sign you are watching a bad movie.

The third video by Just Write is a response to this second video, which combines the ideas of both of these previous videos.  Just write is a channel devoted to writing and I think just watching these videos has improved my writing a bit.

In this video, he takes the idea that “everything has already been done before” and shows how originality can still exist by mixing ideas from the past in new ways, using Stranger Things as a perfect example.

So it is possible for nostalgia to be original when it is done right, when it is done in original ways. To quote the last two videos:

A lot of Hollywood sequels, remakes and reboots use references to their own history as a frequent, but unsatisfying, replacement for actual drama.

It is very tempting to replace the term “a lot of” and just say “all”, because it is practically a given that any sequel remake or reboot is not going to be as good as we often falsely nostalgically remember the original to be.  For every successful remake/reboot like Battlestar Galactica, there are way more awful remakes/reboots like Ghostbusters 2016 that don’t deserve our attention and we are better off going back and rewatching the original, often realizing, like the original Ghostbusters 1985, it wasn’t as good as we remember it being.

For this reason a lot of creators are very reluctant to revisit their popular past projects. Joss Whedon has been asked if he would like to go back and do more episodes of Firefly, the show cancelled way too soon.  His answer is “No”.

Simply put, both Whedon and Fillion know that bringing Firefly back would be a terrible idea. We’re in love with the possibility of more story, the promise of fulfilling answers to the show’s questions. Reality would be a disappointment. Firefly feels perfect because it never had the chance to fail.

If we were to bring back Firefly, it could suffer the same fate as Mr. Robot, one of my favorite shows on the air. Mr. Robot had a near-perfect first season. Everything about it, from the writing and the show’s photography to Rami Malek’s award-winning portrayal of solitary hacker Elliot Alderson, was immaculate.

So much so, in fact, that there were concerns from a variety of critics and reporters that the show wouldn’t be able to sustain that level of quality in its second season. They were right.  If Mr. Robot had just existed as a 10-episode season, it would be remembered as one of the greatest series of television’s modern age. There wouldn’t have been time for the series to be screwed up.

The fact that Firefly only had one season was the best thing that could have ever happened for the show’s integrity, even if that reality stings a bit. Cancellation can be a gift to your legacy.

Sometimes being cancelled before your time is a good thing for legacy.  Returning with weak new episodes is a good way to kill that legacy, for example Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, X-Files, Full House and Will & Grace to name some recent examples.

However, there is at least one series that has returned from the long dead past and purposely avoided those pitfalls by recognizing those mistakes and reinventing itself as a critique of nostalgia: Twin Peaks, which is what the final video essay by Screen Prism is about.

I believe that these four videos combined really give us a “big picture” of the age of nostalgia we seem to be buried in these days.

Within these videos is the explanation of why returning to the past is largely unsatisfactory, versions of good and bad nostalgia, and how to recognize them, but at the same time offers glimpses into how we can use the past to create original satisfying content in the present.

Culture in Decline


I try to write something once a month and haven’t gotten around to it this month, so here are some random thoughts.

I have been really tempted to write about the steep decline happening in politics, not just in America, but everywhere these days, but there is way too much material to go through, and most of it is from Russian hackers. So no politics.

Instead, since we are nearing the end of 2017, I thought about writing a year in review piece, and since I’m leaving politics out, I have to limit myself to arts and media so far in 2017.

Bottom line: It Sucks!

Part 1: Music Sucks! Especially American Music.

How much does American Music suck these days? The #1 song for most of the year was in Spanish, by a Puerto Rican, and got 4 and a half billion views. Yes, this one. OK, yes it is a pretty good song. It’s just that songs in Spanish rarely hit the top of the charts, let alone stay on top of the charts for 16 weeks.

OK, there is more music than this one song, and most of it came from all the pop divas who topped the charts the rest of the weeks: Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Ariane Grande, Katy Perry, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Rhianna, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, P!nk, and of course Taylor Swift all had new singles or new albums out in the past year.  The overwhelming trend of songs coming from this group of females is an “angry” edge.  It’s not a very good trend, in fact in my opinion nobody is doing their best work.

Let’s start with Taylor Swift who released a huge selling album “Reputation” as a follow up to 2014’s “1989”.  I listened to both albums, and if I were to pick the best songs over all, I’d mostly pick songs from “1989”.  The overall feel of Reputation is dark: angry songs, depressing songs, sad songs. The most lighthearted track is probably “New Years Day” which is more melancholy.

Certainly it is OK for music to be dark, some of the best music ever is dark, but pop is supposed to be fun and exciting. Maybe that is why “Despacito” was so popular. Ironically, the most “fun” song in English this year was a new track by Paramore (welcome back guys), with the not so fun title “Hard Times”.

Anyways, it is not just my opinion that music is getting worse and worse. There are actually legitimate provable reason why pop music is getting worse, and here they are:

These trends are primarily focused on American music. If you want more upbeat pop like we used to have, look elsewhere.  Like Japan, who have produced two of my favorite music videos of the year, namely this one and this one.

Part 2: The Golden Age of TV is Over!

For the last 20 years or so, we have been living in a golden age of TV.  For those who don’t remember TV before Buffy The Vampire Slayer, well it wasn’t very good.  There was the occasional classic like Twin Peaks, X-Files, Babylon 5, and the first 8 seasons of The Simpsons, but most of the TV before 1997 is crap by today’s standards.

The desire for networks to have shows that people would talk about drove them to dump a lot of money into creative peoples laps and create some great TV. The best of which came from Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Ronald Moore, and Bryan Fuller, but others were doing some great work, too. The network golden age died in 2007 with a devastating writers strike, which killed a lot of the better shows, but it continued on with cable and streaming thanks to the TV-MA rating which allowed swearing and nudity and a bit more violence and gore.

2017 seems to be killing that trend as well. Yes, there is still some great TV like Handmaids Tale and Stranger Things 2 being released but it is getting rarer, and the older shows like Game of Thrones, aren’t as good as they used to be.

Part 3: If you are not a “franchise” film, no one will watch you

Part of the problem with the golden age of TV is that we were mostly satisfied with binging series instead of going to movies.  In fact, the only films that are really doing well are “franchise” films. As I write this, 9 of the Top 10 films of the year are franchises or remakes, and I’m pretty sure Dunkirk will be taken off the list by either Justice League or Star Wars 8 by the end of the year.

I don’t see any end to this trend. There are at least 6 more “comic book” films scheduled for 2018.

Part 4: Star Wars Battlefront 2 has done serious damage to the gaming industry

There are two things that game players despise: random number generators, and the “pay to win” model of gaming.  We are kind of OK when this shit shows up in so called “freemium” mobile games, because we just play for free for a while until it becomes obvious that we need to break out the credit card to continue, and then we uninstall.

But when this junk shows up in premium video games that we already paid at least $60 for, it is definitely not OK. That is what EA attempted to pull off with Star Wars Battlefront 2, and the gaming community went ballistic. It resulted in: 1) way lower sales than expected, 2) a call from Disney execs to EA execs to get rid of microtransactions as it is giving the Star Wars name a bad reputation, 3) politicians announcing that the RNG “loot box” model amounts to gambling, and as these games are supposed to be for kids, there may need to be restrictions.

I have to believe that this kind of backlash has every single game developer suddenly rethinking strategy in all of their current and future games.  Just this same month, my favorite game Guild Wars 2 had its own backlash against RNG type products in their store, and this was just for pure cosmetic stuff, not “play to win”.

The gaming community is getting sick of this crap, and I suspect that they will be voting with their wallet on future purchases. While “gaming” continues to be a growing market, pretty much all the growth is in mobile games. PC and console gaming is actually stagnating, while costs for producing these big “triple A” games go up.

In Summary,

Is the decline in politics somehow causing the decline in the arts? Or is the decline in arts (which has been happening for a while now) causing the decline in politics? Maybe they are just reinforcing each other.

Either way, I wonder if we are witnessing the decline of civilization as a whole.