All the footprints you've ever left and the fear expecting ahead (Ch I, part 1)

Chapter I, part 1 -[Awaken eyes]-

There are things that are widely regarded as being enjoyable. For example, spending a peaceful evening with someone you hold dear, drinking a cup of your favourite warm drink while looking at the falling snow through your window early in the morning or riding a bicycle in the summer breeze. Many people like these things around the world, and the girl that was pedaling on the small country road sure did.

Under a sky so blue it looked like it had been painted the day before, she was following a road that was slowly invaded by nature. Since the highway was build, and she was still a little kid at the time, no one seemed to use the old road, and the local authorities didn't see it as a priority, so here it was, slowly turning into a ruin, as if mankind had vanished and the Earth was removing all traces it had left. But she liked the peaceful atmosphere of the road, and used it to go from the small town where she lived to the high school she attended. Her friends didn't understand why she didn't take the bus like they were doing, but she didn't care. She preferred to use her bike to follow the abandonned road.

But, today, she didn't really care about the scenery. Her small backpack contained what her thoughts were fixed upon : a small box in which sat the various pieces of hardware that would let her connect to the Internet. Finally, after all these months, she had convinced her parents that it was a good idea, and now all they had to do was to connect their computer to the world wide web using what she had bought earlier in the town's computer store, then wait for the telecom company to activate their connection. They said it would probably take a week. At first, she thought it was nothing.

Now, she knew it would be the longest week she had ever known.

But at least she knew she wouldn't have to go to the public library to surf the web, and that feeling was making the art student smile. She was going quite fast, and with her long blond hair flying in the breeze and the bright smile on her face, she was a perfect personification of happiness. Jessie - that was her name - was oblivious to her surroundings. At last, to connect to the Internet...

But little did she know how much can Internet change one's life. She would learn that, in time, but for now her mind was singing, and the world seemed to sing with it.

Chapter I, part 1 -[End]-

Picture credit : alextakesphotos


Web2.0 - Read the terms of use, next time!

There's something bothering me more and more as time passes by with the "Web 2.0". Yet it's not something directly related to the websites or companies themselves, such as the stupid and intentionnaly-misspelled names.


What's bothering me is that an increasing number of persons seem to complain about the privacy of their data. I began to think about this when I saw that some friends joined a Facebook group that was meant as some kind of petition so that "Facebook respects the privacy of our data!!". After running a quick search, it turns out that there are dozens or groups like that one.

So what, exactly, are those people doing when they sign up on a website like Facebook ? If you're required to abide by the "Terms of Use", and don't take the time to read them (even though Facebook's are not that hard to read), you shouldn't complain. Or if you do, just do some research, and you'll see that, yes, you did agree to grant all rights over whatever you post.

That's the relevant part of the Facebook terms of use :

"By posting User Content to any part of the Site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part) and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing. You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content."

I really think that is explicit enough... But even if one doesn't read that before posting stuff, they should stop and think for a second. What is Facebook ? Right, it's a company. A company that provides a service in order to gain money!

So yeah, you're "free" to use Facebook, but it still has a cost. And like the vast majority of the Web 2.0 websites around, Facebook lives by using user-generated content. Facebook doesn't care about what photo you post, what your friends are or what you're doing right now. But, basically, you spend time on facebook filling in a small part of a huge database which they'll extract data from. It's the same with, who only cares about the enormous database it collects. Or even with google. Sure, those company use advertising to gain money, but that advertising wouldn't get them as much money if they didn't target it.

And take Google for example. Does anyone really thinks they're the best search engine around just because of their algorithms ? Well, of course those play an important role, but the sheer amount of data they collect from search queries also helps.

Well, I won't go on with this rant for much longer, so I'll conclude. To those wanting to be able to post your whole private life online free of charge and at the same time keep complete control over the data they voluntarily publish : please, either start your own company with that ethos (and good luck with that, it would be great), or realize it's like going to a restaurant and asking for free food. You won't get it.


All the footprints you've ever left and the fear expecting ahead (Prelude)

Prelude -[Tales]-

The sun was setting now, bathing the city in light as if it were burning. The skyscrappers soared to the sky as usual, and nothing seemed to disturb the fragile peace that moment of the day always brought to the landscape. On the top of one of the largest buildings, there was someone. A boy, who looked like millions of other boys of his age, the age at which one is not a teenager anymore, but still can't think of himself as an adult.

His hair was being toyed with by the wind, but he didn't seemed to care. Oblivious of everything around him, he was staring into the distance, lost in the sound coming out from the big pair of headphones he was wearing. The songs had gained meaning now, they were more than the sonic background of his life, like they were some weeks ago. Now, every note brought a memory to his mind, sometimes making him smile, sometimes almost bringing him to tears.

And he looked weary. If one was to watch him closely, his silhouette would have shown subtle signs of tiredness. Not only did the boy looked strangely tired, the eyes that were projecting his gaze far off into the distance were full of that experience you can usually find in those of older men.

But let us quietly leave the rooftop, and let him be. To know why this boy was looking at the cityscape with eyes that seemed to have seen far too much, there are other places that must be visited. Other tales that have to be told. Only then will you be able to fully understand.

Prelude -[End]-

Picture credit : taishi


The World Ends With You

I have some kind of a bad habit. Once in a while, I'll go into a store selling books, video games or CDs, and there I'll look through the available items to finally end up buying something I know nothing about. That is, a good cover art and an unusual title can be enough to make me buy something. In this day and age, many would consider that a little dumb. Surely enough would it be better to write down the title of the interesting discovery, then check on the internet to see if it's really good or if it's just a cool package with a boring content.

But I only rarely do that, and when I do that doesn't mean I make the right choice: I researched before buying Electroplankton, and that was a quite expensive mistake. On the other hand, random buying introduced me to After Forever, Ayreon, the "His Dark Material" trilogy from Philip Pullman, and countless other great stuff.

So, not long ago, I walked into one of the video game stores I regularly go to, and browsed through the DS games they had for sale. I was almost done when one of them caught my eyes. Its title was rather unusual, and the art on the box looked classy enough. Only after I was out of the store did I take the time to read what was written on the back of the box, and find out that what I got myself was a new game by the RPG giant Square Enix : The World Ends With You.

I skimmed through the instruction booklet on my way home, and the more I read, the more it intrigued me. Square Enix, a company best known for their classic fantasy-styled RPGs, seemed to have come up with something really fresh, set in an urban setting.

The World Ends With You is about Neku Sakuraba, a teenager which is your typical angsty protagonist, unwilling to get to know those who are around him, in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of FFVII's Cloud or FFVIII's Squall at the start of their respective games. But at the beginning of his story, Neku wakes up lying in the middle of one of the world's most famous crossroads in the middle of Tokyo's Shibuya. Quickly, Neku gets attacked by strange frogs, and runs into Shiki Misaki, a girl with who he has to make a "pact" in order to be able to defeat those weird frogs. As the battle dust settles, things get explained a little : he's part of a game run by people called the "Reapers", and must complete a mission each day. And if he fails, he'll be "erased".

That's the basic plot of this modern tale, and believe me when I say there is a lot more : the story will twist and turn in many ways, some of them you can see coming, some not quite. But the plot, great as it is, isn't the first thing that'll grab your attention.

First is the overall "look and feel" of the game. Everything, from the characters' designs to the environment, including the in-game menus, are made to make the game feel "urban", or "in". And that works extremely well. Even if you didn't like Tetsuya Nomura's work for Final Fantasy X or Kingdom Hearts, here it really fits well, giving the various protagonists a trendy look fitting for the game. As for the places you'll visit, they're pretty close transposition of the real Shibuya landmarks (you could find some of the places on a real map after playing the game), albeit with slightly changed names - the 109 building is 104 in the game, HMV becomes AMX, etc.

Your ears won't be left alone either. The game's soundtrack really compliments the visuals, with a great variety of style represented. Takeharu Ishimoto, a really talented up-and-coming Square Enix composer that worked on FFVII Crisis Core for example, put together a score composed of rock, electronica, pop and hip-hop, with around half of the songs having vocals performed by various artists. And that choice was really a good one, as it help you get immersed in the lively Shibuya.

And lively the game's Shibuya certainly is: dozens of sprites walk around the screen, making you feel like you're really making your way around a busy retail district.

As you progress through the game, the overall design continue to be spot-on, and fun, but what'll keep you playing are the countless great ideas that Square Enix put into their title. It is so full of neat gameplay elements that it's difficult to know where to start...

For one, the game's designers have succeeded in using two modern crazes to add to the experience : mobile phones and pins, or badges. The former is used as your menu, and is integrated nicely into the plot, so that you constantly use it, as would any other japanese teenager. The latter are one of the core aspects of the gameplay. Because to find the monsters (called the "Noise"), you'll need to use psychic powers contained in collectible pins. There are more than 300, so you'll have quite a bit of choice, from bullet-firing badges to healing pins.

And those pins are activated by doing various moves on the DS touchscreen. Drawing lines, slashing across enemies, tapping a spot repeatedly, shouting or blowing into the microphone, you'll have to do all that, and more. And even if that alone would make for a fun battle system, you'll also have to control your partner, who'll be fighting on the top screen.

I could go on and on about the myriad of things that make The World Ends With You an atypical yet awesome game. Like how brands and trends are important (you'll have to dress with the right attire if you want to be at the top of your abilities), how you can eat to raise your stat, but with a real-life time limit, how you gain experience by not playing the game (I'm serious ^^), how you can make the game as hard or easy as you like, or the huge replay value.

So if you want to test something fresh, with great concepts and with the careful attention to details that Square Enix can put into their games, do yourself a favor and buy The World Ends With You, you won't be disappointed. Even if you don't own a DS, I think this game alone would be a good enough reason to get one.

Shall we go ?

If you found your way here, chances are that either you know me, or you don't really care. So I won't bother with a lenghty personal intro.

I'll just let you know that I thank you for coming, and I hope you'll enjoy the time you'll spend travelling along with me, be it short or long.