March 2010

I read this rant over at i09 on why all vampire fiction is completely lame now. I have to agree with pretty much all of it. I find it interesting that the author never even once mentions Twilight, although she does mention sparkly vampires. It’s more of the entire genre (and yes, there is enough of it now that it can be called a genre, in my opinion) of post-Twilight vampire fiction: everyone is beautiful and handsome and all-around awesome, and they are sad about being vampires even though there is not a single detriment to being a vampire anymore.

To review, let’s look at the pros and cons of the traditional vampire (which I define as the most commonly accepted traits of vampires in various pre-Twilight fiction):
Never grow old
Live forever
Superhuman strength, speed, etc.

Never see the sun or sunlight again
Have to drink the blood of humans in order to survive
Killed by a stake in the heart
Slowly become more and more detached from human emotion and the cares of mortals and their world
Having to avoid or kill vampire hunters or other groups that consider your very existence an abomination
Weakness to garlic (this has been steadily relaxed in more recent vampire mythoi, even before Twilight)
Weakness to crosses/holy symbols/faith (also steadily relaxed, although I thought that White Wolf’s World of Darkness dealt with this one well. It depended on the faith of the wielder of the holy symbol vs. the strength of will of the vampire.)

So you see there was a real serious price to pay for immortality, hence all vampires being crippled by some combination of guilt and ennui.

Now lets take the post-Twilight vampire:
Never grow old
Live Forever
Superhuman strength, speed, etc.
Always be handsome and youthful
You sparkle!

Have to drink the blood of humans in order to survive Not anymore! Now most mythoi have them either be vegetarians (i.e. drink animal blood), vampire researchers have developed an artificial ‘blood substitute’, or vampires run the blood bank.

And that’s it. There are really no cons to being a vampire anymore. So as the author of the rant points out, if there are no cons to being a vampire anymore, why are they all so angtsy and mopey! It just becomes poor fiction when characters have no motivation to act the way they do.

You may or may not recall the PC game Stunts back from the early 90’s. It was a fairly basic driving game, but the fun part was it had a track editor that allowed you to make your own tracks that you could share and race on. I remember being stuck in the back of a suburban on long family vacations, playing Stunts on my father’s borrowed-from-work laptop.

According to the Wikipedia article there still is an active community on the internet on Stunts. They make unofficial patches to keep it working on newer OSes, and have hacked the code to enable putting in new car models. There are also 2 free clones of the game currently being produced.

However, there is a much newer game that I am calling the spiritual successor to Stunts. Like Stunts, it is a free racing game with a track editor. However, it is much newer and very awesome. It’s called Trackmania, and since I started playing it a few weeks ago I have spent far too much time on it. There are several versions available, the free one being Trackmania Nations. As far as I can tell, the only thing that you get by purchasing the paid version is customizable cars and paint jobs. Otherwise it seems to have the exact same functionality.

For solo play the game has several dozen tracks for you to try out. Many of them have to be unlocked though: you have to score certain times on previous tracks to unlock subsequent ones. It seems to be a pretty good system, because by forcing you to improve your times on the previous tracks, it prepares you for the more difficult tracks ahead. And I must say, some of them are unbelievably difficult.

There is a large online presence to the game, and there are many servers across the world that you can connect to and race against others. One interesting thing that the developers have chosen is to make collisions nonexistent: essentially every other car on the track is a ghost: you can see it, but cannot interact with it in any way. Of course the track itself is a different story, and collisions there are all too frequent. At first I thought this system was a little strange, but then I saw the wisdom in it: without collisions, it means that it doesn’t matter what your ping time or lag is. Basically the server uploads the track to everyone connected to it, everyone races at (about) the same time, and then the server compares times at the end to declare the rankings. The only thing a fast connection with the server changes is how often your position is updated on everyone else’s screens. Also due to this lack of direct interaction, cheating is extremely rare, as is trash-talking.

Since the game also has a track editor, you can go here and download literally thousands of fan-made tracks or of course make your own.

Finally, here is an example track in a youtube video: