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 Issue 1   May 2001

  On deck

  dot calm space

  in the pipe

  fly soup

  the weekend

  deadbeats: forward


  guest book

  get your links



  Chapter One: Downward Mobility
 available May 4th, 2001

  Chapter Two: Concessions
 available June 1st, 2001

  Chapter Three: Conversations at the Convo'
 available July 6th, 2001

  Chapter Four: Straight Back Chairs and Belly Laughs
 available August 3rd, 2001

  Chapter Five: Drinks for Free
 available September 7th, 2001

  Chapter Six: Anything for a free meal
 avaialble October 5th, 2001

  Chapter Seven: Jukebox Jive
 available November 2nd, 2001

  Chapter Eight: Sunshine Daydream
 available December 7th, 2001

  Chapter Nine: Return to Paradise
 available January 4th, 2002

  Chapter Ten: Moving Day
 avaiable February 1st, 2002




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From-the-deck n., pl. (html) A hybrid of Video Game Reviews and straight Fiction. The novel is deadbeats, the reviews are from the hip. From the deck is an ethos of Twenty First Century Living.

On deck this month examines the video game industries surface tension.
From May 7th, 2001.

Dot calm spacegoes out to the theatre for a look at the stories being told on the stage.
From May 19th, 2001

In the pipe or on your headphones, it seems there can be no greater pleasure than knowing a band personaly.
From May 19th, 2001.

Fly soup, Jillian found something in the bowl and I had to pull it out.
From May 14th, 2001.

Over the weekend I'll be doing some smuggling, join me and the rest of the O'Gradys.
From May 14th, 2001.

Now a final word on E3 2001, the Electronic Entertainment Expo in it's seventh year and only getting stronger. I may never get a chance to go and experience it for myself but I still have an opinion.
From May 27th, 2001.
Read all about it...

On deck: The mini games of my life
Jack Cain
May 7th, 2001

     August 3rd 1999, any date prior to that would have presented you with a Jackson Cain who got nauseous every time he played a first person shooter (F.P.S). My first exposure to gaming (the Coleco vision) was short lived, and subsequently something I didn't return to until I could afford it. Like many things we may gravitate towards, I've made every excuse to follow an awkward path.
     In the early 90s while working on a series of screenplays, I borrowed my computer time at my gaming mentor, little Buddha had all the gear (certainly more than any minimum wage could afford).
     PCs are an investment in keeping up.
     The single console, the epitome of convergence may be over glorified but not to be underestimated. I'll be honest, before that August I never even knew that a first person shooter was referred to as a F.P.S. My pal little Buddha would play and I would sit a the next terminal stealing glances at Mech Warrior. What had begun when I was thirteen, a fascination with what I was seeing before me, had grown into a wonderment at how quickly things were progressing. Seven years passed from those days until I finally got my hands on that little grey deck, the Playstation.
     Yea, this is nearly two years ago, over that duration I have upgraded to the PS2. These two years, having a gaming system that refuge and at times muse, it all came about for but the promise of some simple things. News of what was coming (the PS2) lured me in to this world of gaming. The Playstation 2 promised unprecedented connectivity {For the best explanation of all the specks see} Despite the most reliable rumour and hear-say, we in North America have yet to be given any online option. Between the USB and Fire Wire ports the options seem endless but still undelivered. I am still waiting anxiously for some means by which to edit analog film on the Playstation 2.
     In the days that the PS2 has been on these shores it has proven it's incalculable value to me. The real satisfaction of course comes in knowing that for most people this little black deck will be their first experience with consoles. What a great introduction, not only a fantastic gaming system, the cd player is the best I have ever known, and of course I've lightened my electronic load by getting rid of my vcr. I have fallen in love with movies all over again, for as a dvd player it seems only to be fulfilling it's promise as a well rounded tool.
     Make no mistake though, I'm not particular to what system or console you pay homage to, just so long as you have a place for gaming in your heart then you are a friend of mine. Everybody else can go home. We are entering an age of enlightenment where it comes to how we consume entertainment. The rabid gamer has driven an economy though on the fringes with more power than modern film making.
     The best stories being told nowadays can be found in video games, both through actual game play and those with whom you share the experience. The view in the traditional media, that games are only violent, is as uninformed as it is myopic. Games use the most dramatic means to involve us, but as the acceptance of this artful medium grows so will the subtleties of how we interact through these next generation machines.

Dot calm space: Culture doesn't have to be painful
Jack Cain
May 19th, 2001

    Two weeks ago I did something rare, I went out to a play. I'll be the first to admit that for the most part I like my entertainment interactive, but you can't fight with one of the longest running art forms. Theatre is one of those strange and wonderful experiences. A great play can draw you in so deep you loose all sight of yourself and can only experience the world before your eyes at that moment.
    Going to a play, being part of the audience, and then afterward visiting the online sight of the Centaur Theatre seemed only to round out the experience. The Centaur Theatre presents it's site as a precursor to what you get in the fuller experience of joining them for a play.
    It's refreshing to find a site that doesn't drown itself in flash and sparkle. Theatre tends now towards blockbuster spectacle, and even my films I prefer independent. I really appreciate "the word" and that's where either theatre can rise above all other mediums or fail more miserably than any. There is more at stake, and despite my preference to play a story, it's invigorating to see something performed before you.
    The Centaur Theatre's Web site has a lot to live up to, the site errs on the side of caution and presents an inviting easy to navigate world, now there is no means by which to transmit the depth of the productions they put on. The site does an amazing job of rising above so much of the flash that the internet proliferates, instead opting to give you the enticement to join them for the product that they really want you to buy. What they want is to fill seats, and they are right to.
    The auture, that brief moment where an artist or actor or what have you transcends their art and is for a moment more than what they started out as, it's something that shouldn't be emulated online. I love the digital domain but some things need to remain pure.
    The irony is this, the play that has brought this revelation to mind is filled with technical wizardry, a beauty of form that never over shadows the acting (a lesson we could all learn from).
    The play, Trick or Treat, is as provocative as it's title is evocative. Trick or Treat is making it's English language World premier at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal. The Centaur, housed in the Old Stock Exchange building, has a grandeur and sense of style that lends itself well to bringing theatre alive.
    Through a deft hand we are brought into an underworld with all it's seamy extensions. The play comes across as artfully as it is engrossing. Sections are broken by spoken word style pieces presented against a projection of words. The characters are presented in a way that allows them to become three dimensional beings. The story that involves the audience, and the characters is a world not so far removed from our own. A world of misunderstandings and misspoken words, threats and accusations, abandonments and desperation. The emotions that the actors must have toiled over never feel as if they are being acted. The moments of this play are edge of your seat experiences. Theatre at it's very best leaves you breathless and wanting to know what happens afterwards, while the world of film and video games are over run by sequels (some deserved, most not) with theatre it's an unlikely outcome. Trick or Treat will be one of those plays I'll relive in my own mind.

In the pipe: A touch of rain in the forecast.
Jack Cain
May 19th, 2001

    Let's get the nepotism out of the way from the start (so to speak). I want to lay down some time about some buddies of mine, the guys of Raindive. Here is my motivation, I don't involve myself with things that I either don't enjoy or am not inspired by, and these guys tunes are both. Their music has been inspiring me in all the various forms that the band members have taken for years. So let's put my personal association aside for a moment and take on the music, after all that's what we came here for today...
    Raindive is an "alt rock trio out of Montreal" and while their own site has but a few songs available a quick jaunt over to reveals nearly an ep's worth of tracks. These are the kind of tunes meant to be played in your car driving down the highway on a last minute road trip out of town. Now admittedly I use their music to write to. It's easier for me to listen to either purely instrumental music or stuff that I know like the back of my hand.
    What is so wonderfully refreshing about the guys of Raindive is their ability to write music that feels as if it's been around, and better still tracks like "Never will I know" are begging for regular air play. This day and age of the ether garage band means that we need never miss out on the next great group.
    Circulate your favourites, let others know, trade download, share. Raindive seems keenly aware of the new mediums and all the ironies that come along with it. They take on these issues with "Connected" (no explanation is needed once you really listen). The notion, that the cookie cutter arrangement that media corporations have made for audiences, doesn't have to mean that music must remain this way.
    Terms like "the new media" are arrogantly over stated, more often than not by people who only go online to check their email. Now while bands of the twenty first century will in all likelihood get their start and any really big break because of the net, it all has to start someplace. Music worth listening to more than once begins with musicians who can over come ego and get on with the act of involving an audience.
    Where Raindive shines is in the tightness of the group. The band presents as well live as they do off of any of the demos they have provided for your listening pleasure. Sure I am biased, I started by letting it all hang out, I won't get into technical aspects, but when I get up and need to get going I hit play on the tape deck and let a track rip, when I want something alternate for Gran Turismo 2 I turn off their music and put on my own. Sandwiched in between Cake, Bjork, Chemical Brothers, Propeller heads, the eels, Steely Dan, and a variety of others you've got to have something you can rely on. Raindive is that band for me. Take a sample and let me know if it works for you.

As a sad addendum Raindive broke up at the end of May 2001.

Fly soup: Gripes & Accolades
Jack Cain
May 14th, 2001

   Dear Jack
   I meant to tell you last time that I was unable to open the site for the first address you sent. Anyway, I opened this one, I am truly impressed but I'm not sure I know how to use the site. Since I am at work I don't have an abundance of time to explore but I clicked on some of the links but each time I arrived at the home page. Regardless of any technical or comprehensional difficulties I might be having, this is super cool...
   Can you tell me more about how it's designed to be used? Keep in mind, as I said I didn't get a chance to read everything that was already posted on the site.

   Jack responds...
    I received this email from a buddy of mine earlier this week, almost immediately I began taking stock of the work I had done on the From the deck site. Much to my own chagrin I had to admit that yes the site though pleasing to the eye, it lacked an ease of navigation that I admire in so many other sites.
    I began with something I thought would be simple.
    When it comes to technology however the simpler the idea the more likely it will end up being a weeks worth of headaches. I began rethinking the site from the perspective of buttons, it bothered me that the first set I had worked on left the typeset somewhat blurry. I chose a new font and implemented it right away. On the computer at home everything worked fine. The next step was a bit of insight provided by Webmonkey. Their HTML cheat sheet showed me where I had gone wrong before with linking within the site.
   Finally I had a single Front page, easy to update and maintain. I reasoned that the site would make more sense within an issue based context, particularly when it comes time for people to access the archives. It will be much easier to catalogue all the articles if everything stays in one place. With all these changes made I uploaded back to my server, only to find that only a select few buttons worked.
   A couple of days of bashing my head against the wall, still nothing.
    The state of my internet providers router problems wasn't helping matters. After a week of struggling trying in vain to fix the problem on the server or in my coding I started fresh. All that to say, things now work.
    What is the site about though? Jillian isn't a video game fan, maybe you aren't either, but don't leave it's never to late to learn something new. From the deck is more about the kinds of media that we consume, and in particualar how we access that information. Someday I hope that I might access my web pages and write them using my Playstation 2. The fact is that even my Two eighty six P.C. given a few minor upgrades could do the job of writing web pages.
    There is only one reason I took the time to learn how to do all these crazy things, I have content up the wazoo.

The weekend: Driving off the beaten track
Jack Cain
May 14th, 2001

   My anticipation for Smugglers Run had been pretty high, in fact if it had been available on day one where I picked up my PS2 I likely would have bought it. I made due by instead renting it, for six weeks. The premise of Smugglers Run is blistering to your thumbs simplicity. Really the game is a replay of your youth, the age old favourite tag.
    Now you might think it would get boring, or at the very least that the one player mode wouldn't be worthy of your time. Ha, it's all in the artificial intelligence friends. In this case the developers have laid out so many paths for the competitions AI to draw from, that at times it is hard to distinguish as to how artificial a reality we are dealing with here.
    The thing about simple games are this, it is as much about outer beauty as inner. The guts of the game is in great, consistent, and replay able game play. The AI seems to learn from your every move, each time you think you've found the ultimate short cut repeating that move again and again, the game is watching your every move, and then adding your moves to it's repertoire.
    Playing this kind of thing in a group is not only what this variety of game play is all about, I'll go that extra step and say without this type of core game play consoles would die a quick death. Smugglers Run is the perfect application for the PS2 at this opening stage of the game.
    Before GT2 I never would have given racing games a second glance. Eight months into that game I had read every faq and found myself six license tests short of a super license. Smugglers run has that perfect combination of GT2 tight intuitive controls, and the arcade forgiveness of now modern classics like San Francisco RUSH. The cinematic effect, looking out over a mountain top over a frozen town, the town and county you can drive through for five square miles. A perfect clarity is always maintained, not a blip.
    The only fault I can find lays in how some of the better secrets may be revealed. Sources on the net seem to point towards having to play the mediocre predecessor Midnight Club.
    Midnight Club and Smugglers Run share publisher Rockstar Games. I appreciate the notion of carrying cars from one game to another by simply having opened the appropriate cars in one game and accessing the save through the other game. I will say this though, I am intrigued by the notion of driving the buggy through the streets of London. Where Smugglers Run's theme of carrying contraband from one check point to another was highly addictive, Midnight Club's idea of racing in a city to win the pink slips of your opponents and move up the rungs of the Midnight Club seemed pointless. Look I raced my butt off in GT2 and have bought and rebuilt over sixty cars, so I've seen variety, right now I want to do my best driving by smashing stuff.
    That's something I would never dream of doing in the real world.

As a side bar it should be mentioned that eight months after I first penned this article I finally bought the game. At this point there are better looking games, we are after all only a mere matter of weeks away from Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec invading store shelves. Smugglers Run is in my mind only second to one other Playstation application, MTV Music Generator, but I'll tell you more about that in Issue Two of From the deck

A final word: E3 Frenzy and me...
Jack Cain
May 27th, 2001

    The coverage and prominence of the Electronic Entertainment Expo/E3, seems to grow in direct proportion to the insane 15% growth annually of the gaming industry itself. Now while I haven't been to one yet, I expect that before too long it will be much like the lauded car show of my youth.
    When we were kids my parents took the whole family to see the car show, every year without fail we went, and then the late seventies and rolled in with a gas crisis, we stopped going and I have yet to go back. It may have taken twenty years but in truth the love affair we once had with cars might finally be ready to step aside and allow the new most profitable obsession to step in.
    The video game industry expects to reap nearly 16.9 billion dollars (American) by 2003. Facts like this are bantered about at the E3 official site, the sheer volume of press releases seemed to spawn like a virus. Of all the news that came out of the show it was the things that weren't being addressed that I find the most interesting.
    I felt the frenzy and obsession for information that I am sure show participants were only to caught up in to notice. I've already made my decisions where it concerns my next video game system purchase, and I must admit it was made not only through researching the facts. The media savvy of the companies involved is sometimes overstated.
    We should expect that Sony, with such a vast amount of resources, would recognise that providing information at this stage of the game could only help them. Much to my own amazement and dismay I haven't been able to find a large volume of screen shots or video footage of their new line of games. The news coming out of the Sony camp, that we can expect in to be online with our PS2 by late 2001 with AOL as the provider (media support from Real Player 8 and a Flash Player) seems like more unrealised promises. I'm feeling a touch bitter and abandoned here in North America. My European counterparts have YABasic with their PS2, Japanese PS2 owners have access to Artdinks Playstation 2 Basic Program. The Playstation 2 was supposed to usher in an era of video game console that was so much more, instead things are starting to sound like so many promises.
    XBox was only too eager to make some of their own pronouncements. The pricing being the most interesting announcement, XBox will launch on November 8th with a price tag of $299 (American). The rest of the announcements concerned game releases and exclusive line ups like the Bruce Lee licenses and an alliance with Hip Interactive in Canada to be the sole rental distributor of XBox products.
    I would talk more about the fantastic graphics and any anticipation I might have for XBox games only I have a problem, they like Sony seem to think that the average consumer doesn't actually want to see footage of their products. Both Microsoft and Sony should hang their heads in shame, what happened, both have decent web presence and yet they seem only to happy to allow large video game review sites like IGN, or Happy Puppy display poor quality representations of some stellar games.
    The surprise for me is Nintendo.
    I am sure that I am like most 30 somethings and think of Nintendo as a company geared more towards the younger set. I am finding that while that may be true at this very moment, that ability to think young is their true advantage. The Official Nintendo Web site has such an array of information on the upcoming Gameboy Advanced and the Game Cube, the screen shots and videos will keep you busy for an hour or two. By the time your done only one thing should be racing through your mind...when can I test drive this stuff.
    E3 is about hype, particularly just who can make the most of those all too short couple of days. Nintendo seems to me the hands down winner. They themselves are only to happy to say they don't have the fastest or most advanced machine on the block.They go on to say that they are only concerned with one thing, good games and great game play.
    For once I am going to put my cynicism aside and believe some of the hype.


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