Martha Pinto
ILS 609
Multimedia CD-ROM Review
XPLORA1 Peter Gabriel's Secret World

Developed by Real World Multi Media
Distributed by Interplay Productions, Inc.

A Review

The Basics

The subject of this paper is XPLORA1 Peter Gabriel's Secret World. There was no trouble running this CD on the Macintosh I have at home, which is a good thing since I own it. The product comes with a small pamphlet which very briefly describes the various areas of content and activity offered on the CD and the clues for maneuvering between and within them. A larger full color booklet is also provided which includes further information about the people, music, processes, and causes which are the subject of the CD.

First Impressions

As I go about exploring this CD I can't help but feel I am getting a glimpse of the future. I'd like to say, an early look at the record album of the future, but not only is this an inadequate term, it dates me. Peter Gabriel refers to himself as an experience designer. I'm not sure that quite sums it up either, but I do feel this CD represents the early beginnings of a new art form.

As a kid, my friends and I could never get enough information on our favorite music groups (they were just about all groups as I recall). We would tend to pour over the album covers as we listened to the music. With the shift to cassettes and then CDs the album art and information was greatly reduced, both in size and quantity. The XPLORA1 CD exploits today's multimedia technology to provide video interviews and clips to supplement the traditional text based information. In earlier days, information was almost never provided on anyone but the named artist. XPLORA1 provides substantial information and interviews with the musicians, video directors, and technicians. There is an attempt to describe the artistic process and origins. This is information which makes you listen to the music and watch the videos differently.

What It Is and What It Isn't

The XPLORA1 CD combines elements of the music album, music video, television interview, educational software, and video game into a single experience. The combination of these media forms has created a new whole different from anything I have played around with before. However, as much as I enjoyed this new multimedia experience, I found each of the individual forms lacking.

The CD begins by asking you to piece together Peter Gabriel's face after which it describes extremely briefly the areas of the program each piece represents. The pieces are colored and appear at the top level of the program only. Throughout the CD, these same colors appear along the left hand side as a navigation aid. As you pass over them, the mouse icon changes in form with one, two or three horizontal lines over an arrow. As you pass from left to right across the top of the screen, these icons will also appear and serve the same purpose.

After piecing together the face, you can use the above described navigation aids to go immediately to some portion of the program or of selecting an explore or watch mode. If explore is selected, you are on your own. Watch will automatically visit each section of the program and play for you the full videos and music within each section. It should be noted, that full videos and music is not available for everything on the CD. This option is most enjoyable for me when in the US album section since I found it annoying to have to click to the next song.

In the interactive mode, video interviews with the songwriter, video director and Peter Gabriel are provided for each song. Lyrics are also provided. This aspect of a multimedia album cover I like alot. To me it combined the best of the music album, album cover and MTV into one package which I can control. Unfortunately, not all song titles include the full music or music video. In fact the short song clip can be very repetitive and annoying.

Another section of the program takes you on a studio tour with behind the scenes video footage. In one area of this section, you can play with a mixer to alter one song on the US album. It is possible to save this mixed version to disk. I liked this ability to play around and create my own version of the music, but it left me wanting to play with more songs.

There is considerable coverage of international artists who have performed with Peter Gabriel. A short sample of their music and text information is provided. There is also a section on instruments from around the world. A video of the instrument being played is provided. It is also possible for you to play the instrument by clicking on various places on the picture. I enjoyed this aspect of the program since I knew nothing of them previously. I found myself listening for their contributions in the songs.

There are sections covering all of Peter Gabriel's albums with a music snippet and brief text information. There is also a section on the albums of the international artists. I personally found these areas pretty boring from an entertainment perspective since not enough music and information is provided. In fact the music snippets are pretty annoying.

Also included is a section for touring WOMAD and a section containing a photo album of home videos. These were interesting the first time through. You can collect backstage passes (if you can find them) to events such as the Grammy Awards. This video game aspect was not much of a challenge and just made it take longer to revisit those sections of the program.

What I'd Like to See

The full album should be included with videos where they have been produced. Since I don't want to sit at my computer and be fully interactive everytime I want to hear the album, it would be great if it would work on my CD player as well. The sound quality would be much better and I'd make greater use of the CD. I can do something else while listening to music, but I can't with an interactive CD. One thing that would be very nice, is if I could opt for the watch mode of this CD to function with my screen saver programs. The Peter Gabriel music videos could then play instead of flying toasters or Star Trek images. Again this brings me back to being able to do something else while the CD is playing. I'd like to see the mixer aspect of the program expanded. Not only do I want more song options, but I'd also like to mix in the instruments highlighted in another section of the program or with those I generated outside of the program. I'd also like to see the mixer analogy extended to the music videos as well. It would be great if a program was added that allowed me to create my own Peter Gabriel Quicktime music videos out of clips provided on the CD or from my own creation.

In Summary

I liked this multimedia CD-ROM program a lot. It is visually interesting and the music is good. Most of all, it provided me with an expanded view of how this medium can develop in the future. From that perspective, I found XPLORA1 an exciting product. It is well worth checking out.

Note: Image reproduced without permission. Intended for educational purposes only.

Copyright 1995 Martha Pinto