Yes, you are reading the title of this review correctly. This is a review of an entire game, rather than just the soundtrack. It seems like an unusual move for Original Sound Version, but this game proves to be an interesting exception. FRACT OSC is a game that is focused on the creation of music as its primary gameplay mechanic. It goes far beyond the usual use of interactive music in a game setting. While we could do a simple review of the soundtrack itself, it’s almost impossible to discuss the music without going into detail how the music is generated in the game. That said, it seems more appropriate to actually discuss the game, as well as the music. So consider this a review an analysis of both the game and the soundtrack.
As mentioned in our PAX East preview, FRACT OSC is a first-person exploration game that revolves around the creation of music. The game was created by Richard E Flanagan, Quynh Nguyen, and Henk Boom of Phosfiend Systems. The gameplay is similar to exploration games like Myst or Riven. It’s all about the puzzles and exploration, with your progress only limited by your ability to solve problems. Originally the game was set to have multiple worlds with each world focusing on different music elements. One world, for example, would be centered around drums and rhythm. Eventually realizing that this approach might be a little too ambitious, the creators scaled it down to one world focusing on synthesizers and oscillation. Hence the subtitle OSC, short for oscillator, in the game’s name. An oscillator, in this case, is referring to the electric circuit that is used to generate electronic sound waves. So does the final product live up to its original premise? Read on to find out. (more…)
Our second PAX East 2014 preview looks at the indie game FRACT OSC. The game was developed by Phosfiend Systems, a team comprising of Richard E Flanagan, Quynh Nguyen, and Henk Boom. FRACT OSC is a first-person music exploration game. While it has exploration elements similar to games like Myst and Riven, the puzzles in this game all center around music. Not only do the puzzles require you to use your listening abilities to help you solve them, the puzzles themselves also generate the game’s soundtrack.
When I started up a game in FRACT OSC, I was dropped into a mysterious, cavernous environment. In this section, the game’s simple controls and interactions were explained. By right clicking with the mouse I entered a mode that allowed me to analyze and manipulate elements of the environment. Outside of this mode, I could just walk around and explore the area. Most of these interactions involved moving slide bars, pushing switches, or dialing frequencies. Each push of a switch or activation of a device caused a pattern of music to start playing. As more puzzles in the area were solved and activated, the individual music elements began to combine and change to form a complete piece of music. (more…)
While there were many games presented on the PAX East 2014 show floor, there were only a handful that featured music as their central gameplay mechanic. Since OSV is a site which focuses on game music, we thought it would be nice to give some previews of games that featured music as their core element. The first of these is a game titled Crypt of the NecroDancer.
For those of you have not heard of it, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a roguelike dungeon crawler, created by Brace Yourself Games, that requires you to time your movements and attacks to the game’s soundtrack. Your movement, attacks, and other abilities are all triggered with the four direction buttons. In order to successfully move, attack, or use an ability, you need to enter the command on the beat. A beat meter on the bottom of the screen helps indicate when you can take action. When I spoke with the developers at the show, they emphasized that they wanted to make a rogelike that relied a little more heavily on player skill, rather than luck of what the dungeon will throw at you on a particular run. Theoretically, if you have good rhythm and timing, you can make it through most situations in one piece. (more…)
During this past week’s Game Developer’s Conference the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.) held the 12th annual G.A.N.G. Awards. These awards focus on the audio and music produced in games during the previous year. The guild also takes this time to honor and recognize important figures in the game audio industry. This year’s 12th annual awards were recorded and will be broadcast on the Video Games Live Twitch channel at a later date. For those of you who can’t wait, the winners have been announced. Read on to find out who this year’s winners were. (more…)
Castlevania has gone through the gauntlet of interpretations and variations throughout its near-30 year tenure, and its music has always been a huge part of that diversity. From the upbeat catchy 8-bit bleeps of the NES titles to the haunting atmosphere of Super Castlevania 4; from the pop-oriented tunes of Rondo of Blood/Dracula X to the orchestral and symphonic tones used in Symphony of the Night and Lament of Innocence. To say the series had a menagerie of different styles of music would be an understatement, but somehow the music always seemed to work for the game it was composed for.
The first Lords of Shadow game took a different approach with its style of music. Mercurysteam and director Dave Cox had put Oscar Araujo (Animated film Ed Cid) at the helm of incorporating a different kind of soundtrack for the different kind of Castlevania game they were making. As Jayson summed up in his review of the first game’s soundtrack, the new direction being taken was fresh and some tracks were interesting, but in the end it was too big a departure from previous series titles to make it feel like it was really a Castlevania game and was instead simply its own stand-alone Lords of Shadow soundtrack. Indeed, it was a subject of much debate in the Castlevania fan community whether the music of the game helped or hindered its attempt at being both a Castlevania title and also its own creature. The sub-series’ interquel, Mirror of Fate, didn’t do much to quell the arguments.
With this kind of contention as well as Mercurysteam’s assurance that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 would have many of the shortcomings of the first game tweaked, does this third game in the series manage to capture the old feel of past Castlevanias? Or does it again fall short of its potential?
Every so often a game concept comes along that grabs our attention. A new music game called Circuits has done just that. Developed by the studio Digital Tentacle, Circuits is a puzzle game that asks you to reconstruct a piece of music. In the gameplay video shown below, composer David Garcia walks the viewer through an early level of the game. Different nodes of the circuits represent patterns, rhythms, and instrument melodies that make up the piece of music. Essentially, each node is a piece of the puzzle. The task of the player is to assemble each node in the correct spot on the circuit board to reproduce the full and finished piece. You not only have to worry about the order of the music’s individual elements, you must also make sure you repeat the nodes the correct number of times.
From the looks of it, a lot of the game will rely on the player’s listening abilities, in addition to their puzzle solving skills. The game was recently Greenlit by members of the Steam community and will hopefully make progress to an eventual release on the platform. The game was also released recently on the iPad. It’s definitely an interesting game concept. Hopefully it can find an audience in the puzzle and music game crowd.
With the help of Kickstarter, another chiptune album has been brought into existence. Most people probably know Jimmy Hinson (a.k.a Big Giant Circles) and his music from games like Mass Effect 2 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2. It might surprise some people that in addition to the game music he writes, he also composes chiptunes. This latest album, The Glory Days, is a new collection of original pieces written by Hinson. The Glory Days was funded through a very successful Kickstarter campaign that far exceeded its original goal. Not only did the Kickstarter hit the goal of $5,000, but every single stretch goal was met as well. The Kickstarter receiving over $60,000 in pledges, allowing Big Giant Circles to hire several remixers and fellow game composers to help construct an extra remix album for release at a later date.
The Glory Days is a sequel to Hinson’s first album of original music, Impostor Nostalgia. This original album was a collection of music written by Hinson and featured several music remixers and composers. The concept behind Impostor Nostalgia was that while the music mimicked the sound and energy of chiptunes from older videogames, the music itself was original work that was never featured in any game, past or present. It was a cool experiment and generated some excellent new tunes. This time around, Hinson is flying solo with this sequel album, The Glory Days. Like the first album, this one aims to celebrate the sound of older game tunes while enhancing it with modern synth and electronic sounds that weren’t available years ago. Does Big Giant Circles pull this off on this second solo album? Read more to find out. (more…)
At this year’s D.I.C.E. Summit, composer Austin Wintory gave a talk titled “Music’s Rising Tides”. In his presentation, Wintory discusses the emergence of technology that has allowed for the democratization of music writing and distribution. He strikes a very optimistic tone about the ability of creators to put their work out onto the internet and have it recognized. Among examples, he cites his own positive experience with releasing the soundtrack to Journey and his interactions with people who shared the album on Youtube.
Part of what he is encouraged by is the lowering of financial barriers for writing music. To help illustrate his point, he composes a piece of music on stage, using only a laptop computer and a midi keyboard. Making music that is commercially viable is something that has become accessible to more people in recent years, and Wintory sees this as a positive development for the art.
It’s an excellent talk from an experienced member of the videogame and music world. What do you think of the presentation? Do you agree that the ease of access to music making is a positive thing, or is it causing the market to be over-saturated with too much noise?
There are plenty of chip music makers out there these days. I have respect for all of them — it’s difficult work, to be sure. But one person I especially admire is Chipzel. She broke onto the scene when she wrote the three-track OST for Super Hexagon. But she has plenty of original works out there too.
The latest among them is Spectra, released in September 2013. This full-length album was created entirely in LSDJ, so it’s pure Game Boy goodness. The nature of this album? I think the headline gives it away, but if you want a detailed report, as well as where you can pick up the album, keep reading!
After a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and a very long wait, Stoic Studios has released their debut title The Banner Saga. The dev team was largely made up of ex-Bioware employees, but they knew exactly whom they needed to craft the music for their Norse-set RPG: Austin Wintory.
Yes, the man who blazed a trail, setting new standards for VGM with his incredible soundtrack to Journey (which we gave our top award to in 2012), agreed to write a full soundtrack for this ambitious project. Now the game is out on Steam, and Kickstarter backers such as myself got the game and its soundtrack a few weeks early.
MAGfest has once again come and gone from our lives for another year. For the 12th year in a row, the music and gaming festival has managed to bring a variety of people, bands, and cultures all together in one place and blown the roof off the Gaylord National Harbor. New faces graced the stages, huge surprises were unveiled, and an excited energy permeated the halls of the convention center and hotel alike. Now that it’s over and things like PMD (post-MAG depression) and MAGPlague have settled into the hearts (and lungs) of many ‘fest-goers, it’s time to remember some of that excitement and good feelings that MAGFest always seems to create.
Some more “Know Your MAG” before the big shindig itself starts getting underway. We have to give our resident non-VG band some loving spotlight! Here’s what you need to know about Love Canon and why you should be in attendance for their debut at MAGFest 12.
Based out of Charlotteville Virginia, Love Canon is probably one of the most unique bands to grace the MAG venue in its 12 years. Firstly, they’re not video game related in any way, shape or form. The four-man ensemble of Jesse Harper (guitar/vocals), Adam Larrabee (banjo), Andy Thacker (mandolin) and Darrell Muller (bass/backing vocals) instead perform covers of 1980s pop songs. Songs like “Africa” by Toto and “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby are their bread and butter. Secondly, if you didn’t notice in the band lineup, they perform said classic ’80s in bluegrass style.
That’s right; ’80s bluegrass. Because why the heck not?
You can probably guess now why, despite not being VG-oriented like most of MAGFest’s other performers, Love Canon has the exception. This unconventional-yet-interesting style mashup lends to a rather unique listening experience, and the band has gained a following for their blend of music and overall ability to generate a lot of fun energy. This should prove to be perfect when they perform at this year’s first ever MAGProm. Ever try dancing to ’80s bluegrass, because I’m sure you won’t be alone. They’ve released two full-length albums of their music and have toured around the country playing, so you may want to check out the rest of their discography in order to not let yourself get caught off-guard. Believe me, it’s worth a couple minutes-worth of listening at least.
Will this be the first of a new wave of non-VG music bands to grace the MAGFest stages in years to come? I guess we’ll have to wait and see! Love Canon will debut at MAGFest 12 at MAGProm on Thursday at midnight after the main stage concerts.