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Thursday December 18th 2014

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The Importance of Game Music

I listen to game music. A lot. This is a recent trend circa 1995 with Chrono Trigger on the Super Nintendo. Well, it’s even earlier if you count the one time I finished Karateka in 1985 and let the music at the end of the game (scored by Jordan’s Dad, Francis) loop for hours as I recorded it on a tape player. But CD quality audio-wise, Chrono Trigger was the first game that demanded more attention. It was Yasunori Mitsuda’s first game composing job and it was pure magic. I still listen to that soundtrack today, interspersed with the thousands of other game songs I’ve collected.

When you play a game you are experiencing a combination of story/design, interaction and audio. The audio is a very important part of the gaming experience and I always listen to the music and sound effects because it was carefully designed into the game and frames the entire piece. After the game is over and you listen to the music outside the game, if you bother to get the soundtrack, you will remember what was happening during the game as you listen to the songs.

This is what I like about game music: it lets me remember playing the game without me having to actually pull out my SNES and find the cartridge and spend time replaying it. Listening to the full soundtrack lets you remember the whole game, not just one part of it. With a library of thousands of songs, I’m reliving many of the games I’ve played.

I also have a lot of music from games I’ve never played and after listening to them for so long, I feel as if I know the games without having played them. For example, I’ve played Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2) and listen to all its music and remember the parts I played and it’s great. I also have the soundtrack to Seiken Densetsu 3, never released in the USA, and the music is similar in a way, but very different. And through the music I get a very good sense of the kind of game that it is.

Remixes take game music to a whole new level. The Zelda, Super Mario, Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger series have some of the most remixed songs. The styles these songs are remixed in vary from 70’s disco to jazz to orchestral to just plain crazy and creative. Best of all, you can get most game remixes for free from OCREMIX.ORG. Remixers have gotten so good at remaking these songs that they also create their own originals and recently have been scoring the soundtracks to new games such as Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD. The industry is waking up to a whole new world of talent – game music remixers. Back in 2005 when I started working on my MMO, I wanted to have remixers as composers for my game. Quinn Fox has already delivered some great stuff.
Illinois Afterglow – Quinn Fox

It’s true, game music doesn’t sound like anything you would hear on the radio or MTV and most people don’t recognize it when they hear it. They think it’s electronic music usually. But it’s not – it’s a special musical form that not only sounds great, but helps you to remember.

I like remembering.

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Tidiness Theory

There is a theory that posits when most people are confronted with a mess, the natural instinct is to clean it up. This propensity toward cleanliness, or “solving” the mess, is what I believe is one of the two most powerful fundamental elements of game design.

In Pac-Man, the mess is the maze full of dots. You need to clean them up to achieve your goal of cleanliness. In Space Invaders, the aliens are the mess. Clean them up and you reach your goal. In Bejeweled you are presented with a messy screen of jewels. Arrange them in groups of matching 3’s and you clean it up, one match at a time. Chess? Clean the board of your opponent’s pieces, specifically his King. The ancient game of Go? Same mechanic.

The other powerful mechanic in game design is that of Building. Most great games combine these two mechanics such as any successful RTS like Age of Empires. Build your empire one unit at a time until you need to clean up your enemy’s mess of units. In Katamari Damacy, you are cleaning and building yourself constantly. RPGs are all about building and cleaning up the messy landscape of enemies.

Sometimes this mechanic exists at multiple levels within a game. Looking at the meta-design, you know that Resident Evil 4 is all about cleaning up the game world of zombies. Within this game you need to keep your inventory briefcase clean and optimized as well. And all the while you are building your arsenal to make all the cleaning easier and more fun.

World of Warcraft is the epitome of these two mechanics and both are executed at multiple levels in the game. Your character, you are building. The world, you are cleaning, so you can build more. Professions are building so you can make items that help with the cleaning….which feed into more building. The cyclical nature of the design is what all designers hope to achieve.

This tidiness theory, this instinct toward Order rather than Chaos, may be evolutionary and part of our DNA. My question is: if a person, when presented with a mess in any kind of medium, chooses not to clean it up, are they in danger of failing evolution? And are games, as a form of teaching how to build and clean various abstracted messes, helping us evolve?

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Surprise

I just randomly found this site while searching for a different one, LOL. Also, someone alerted me to this website that lists my site as #10 of the top English language sites in the .ro domain.

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A Visit to id Software, 1993


A Visit to id Software from john romero on Vimeo.

Joe Siegler IM’d me a couple weeks ago and said he found a VHS tape that had some DOOM footage on it before its release and if I didn’t want it he was gonna throw it out.

I said, “Send it to me immediately.”

So now I finally got it, ripped it to digital and then used iMovie to present it to anyone with an interest in DOOM history. Here’s what I wrote up about the video:

In 1993, Dan Linton, owner of a hugely successful BBS called Software Creations, visited Texas and made his way to id Software. This is the footage he recorded one night in November 1993. Shown are several of id’s employees at the time: Jay Wilbur, Shawn Green, John Romero, Dave Taylor, Sandy Petersen and Adrian Carmack. Bobby Prince was visiting to finish the music and create the sound effects. This video has 21 minutes of me playing DOOM before the sound effects were put in as well as some early deathmatching with Shawn Green.

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I'm on a Boat!

on a boatIf you thought “Jizz In My Pants” and “Dick In A Box” were great, you simply must watch the video “I’m On A Boat” on YouTube – it’s hilarious and awesome all at the same time. I’m not a fan of hip-hop at all but, boy, T-Pain does a really great job on the song and in the video. Now i have to check out his stuff.

If you like all the SNL songs you should get the album Incredibad – they’re all on there. Go to iTunes and grab it and you will get all the videos too. Great deal!

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Random IM Friday

random IM

random IM

you know what’s funny? random IMs from people i don’t know – they always entertain. I figured it would be fun to share some of these with you.

At the end of this one the person says “Have fun” which, unbeknownst to him, is a game i made up and a lot of us here at Slipgate Ironworks play it everyday. So i say “good one” because he “won” the Have Fun game.

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Razer Copperhead FTW

Razer Copperhead

Razer Copperhead

So, yeah, the razer copperhead mouse just absolutely rules. I’ve been using the copperhead for a couple years now and started using the new Lachesis mouse on my iMac about 8 months ago. I got tired of the feel of the mouse and the cursor skipping around randomly sometimes.

I put my copperhead on the iMac and it’s like night and day, it’s that amazing. The copperhead feels like a BMW compared to the Lachesis which is more like a PT Cruiser and the prices should be swapped. The copperhead is a way better mouse IMO. It feels better not just in using the computer but also in games.

I’m left-handed so Razer’s mice are really great for me. If i was right-handed, though, i would have to pick between using the copperhead or the logitech G5. They’re both absolutely the best.

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