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Monday, May 28, 2012


For the past year or so I've been working with an independent game developer, Brad Carney, on a game called Wrack. I love working with indie developers. The music and sfx have been fun to work on, but they're not through. The game has been released with just three levels completed at this time. Those who support it now will get to watch it grow to 30 levels and will have input into further development. Brad included a user friendly map editor, and less than 12 hours after the game was released there were already some player made mods and maps.
 You can read/see/hear more about it at WrackGame.com.

Plugins Galore!

When the software I have works, I usually stick with it and don't take the time to look for something else. Lately, though, I've been trying out lots of new things just to see if I'm missing something, especially in regard to plugins.

Brain overload is what I got. That and a dislike for recommendations based upon some band/singer/musician/songwriter/composer using the product. That's not enough for me to jump on something unless the project it's used in is similar to what I am doing at the time.

One has to realize, too, that most recommendations are bought in one form or another. Either outright payment in money or payment in product. Back in the days that some of my projects were hot, I received a lot of software and some hardware with a request that I comment on it. I returned some of it because it was nothing to write home about. Of course I didn't let that fact be known because it was just my opinion.

There were also times that I was asked to look at a potential product and give my thoughts. One that stood out was a sound card with a truly wonderful synth on it. The problem was that it was very complicated to understand how to get usable sounds out of it. I think the eventual plan was to have people like me come up with sound banks to ship with the board (and maybe it was going to be a keyboard product too. I think the manufacturer was not very happy with my recommendation that they take the time to include a program that would create the MIDI data necessary to tweak the sounds. As I recall, they expected users to read a MIDI implementation chart and enter the MIDI data stream to make tweaks to the sounds. I told them I would not be one to take the time to do that, and I expected software to come with a product and not depend upon third parties to eventually come up with something that makes the product more user friendly. Suffice it to say, that manufacturer never again asked me to review another potential product.

So, I'm downloading demos of plugins, and I realized there are more than a few that are either poorly documented or not documented at all. This is when I am thankful for those users who have figured things out and taken the time to bring some light into the matter by posting on a forum or YouTube.

One such plugin that was intended for ProTools but was also released as a VST failed to ever mention that it should be installed as an instrument and not an effect. Exacting  documentation was included for ProTools. The docs for other DAW's was completely confusing to even long time "other" DAW users. I read lots of "WTF" posts before finding one that cleared the mud.

My advice to plugin developers is to include documentation that makes no assumptions as to the experience of the user. The docs can also have a quick setup section for experienced users.

So, what did I end up deciding to use? Well, I won't say until I get my free plugins :-) Just joking. I won't say though because what I find usable you may not. I would say to search for reviews of plugins. There are some good reviews out there. I would recommend kvraudio.com as an excellent starting point (and I have no relationship whatsoever with that site).

And, if you ever want to know how I got a particular sound, email me and I'll tell you personally if you promise not to quote me.

Finally, I do understand the stated need of software developers to copy protect products. But, I do not agree with it. It often gets in the way of my using the product. And often the explanation of how to install the software takes up more pages than the actual product use  documentation. Besides, the code crackers are geniuses at what they do.

The big question is how many "illegal" users of plugins would actually use the plugin in  a "for profit" product. I'd bet less than 1%. So for 1% greater sales, purchasers of the product have to jump through rings. It just doesn't make sense to me.