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…)
With the popularity of indie games and their soundtracks growing, there has also been a surge in arrangements and remixes of these works. In fact there have been a few new arrangers who focus on indie soundtracks specifically. One of these emerging artists is Brent Kennedy. His previous albums include arrangements for Danny Baranowsky’s music for Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy. Kennedy’s specialty is solo piano arrangements. His writing style can be best described as impressionist (think Debussy or Ravel) with a small dose of minimalist writing thrown in the mix. The covered tracks can vary from energetic and climactic to calm and relaxing. In this latest album, he once again demonstrates a similar musical range.
Unlike his previous work, this newest arrange album, titled Indie Game Rhapsodies, takes a sampling of different indie game soundtracks. The composers covered include Big Giant Circles, Alec Holowka, Jeff Ball, and Austin Wintory. The soundtracks being drawn from are an eclectic selection. Some are chiptune soundtracks, while others are originally orchestral. Kennedy takes each of these selections and transforms them into relaxing and mesmerizing solo piano pieces. The result is a collection of tracks that showcases some excellent game music, while presenting a more classical take on the material. (more…)
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!
This week Penny Arcade announced its concert line-up for the upcoming PAX East 2014 convention. The event, as usual, will take place at the Boston Covention & Exhibit Center from April 11-13. Each of the concerts, the first on Friday and the other on Saturday, will feature performances by three different groups. A number of previous music guests will be returning to perform this year, including Metroid Metal, The Video Game Orchestra, and Anamanaguchi.
The PAX East 2014 concert roster is as follows:
-The Video Game Orchestra
It looks like it will be two nights of great music for PAX East attendees this year. A few of us from Original Sound Version will be checking out the concerts as well. Information on events, guests, and hotels can be found at the PAX East website. For those of you who were not able to grab tickets for the event, the concerts will be streamed live on the PAX Twitch stream. The event is less than two months away. Which bands are you looking forward to hearing?
Jimmy “Big Giant Circles” Hinson has released his soundtrack to Threes!, the hit iOS puzzle game. The album contains the original track,”Threes is the Bees Knees,” from the game, an alternate and unused version of the same track, and an extra unused piece that he wrote for the project. It’s a small set of music, but definitely a must have if you’re a fan of the game. To sweeten the deal, the soundtrack is currently available with a pay-what-you-want price tag. Not a bad deal for a 3 track album. If you enjoy the game’s music or enjoy some light and soothing jazz tunes, check out the album on the Big Giant Circles Bandcamp page.
In continuing our coverage of some of the notable soundtracks from 2013, we are taking a look at some of the indie soundtracks that slipped under the radar. There was one that caught my eye fairly early this past year. The game Legend of Dungeon is another indie title that started from a successful Kickstarter. Developed by Robot Loves Kitty, a team comprised of Alix Stolzer and Calvin Goble, the game is a rouge-like dungeon brawler that can be played by up to four players in local co-op. The gameplay is fairly straight forward. Like many rouge-likes, you explore a randomly generated set of dungeon floors which become increasingly difficult as you progress. Your actions are limited to jumping and using a selected item from your inventory. You pick up experience, currency, and items as you delve deeper into the depths of the dungeon. For this project they brought on composer David Dirig to help create an appropriate atmosphere for Legend of Dungeon.
What really grabbed my attention with this game was the way the music was handled. Much like the dungeon setup, the music is different every time you play. It’s more complex than having a random track that plays every time you start up. Each time the game is reset, a new set of instrument tracks are chosen. In other words, a different collection of looping instrument patterns are randomly selected and combined to create a new piece each time you start a game. For example you may have a game session where the music consists of a piano track, a synthesizer track, and a bass track which play in sync with each other. To take it a step further, each instrument responds according to your proximity to items, objects, and enemies in the game. This use of dynamic music (music that responds directly to the player’s actions) helps create a relatively new experience every time you play. (more…)
A new year has begun and with it another MAGFest down in National Harbor, Maryland. This was my second year attending the annual Music and Game Festival. There’s always a ton of things to do, from attending panels to rocking out at the concerts. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover from the trip and gather my thoughts, it’s time for a recap of some of what I experienced at MAGFest 12.
Most of the panels I attended were focused on music. The first of these was the “Write Your Own Nintendo Music,” hosted by Brendan “Inverse Phase” Becker. His talk focused on the tools that he uses for creating 8-bit/chiptune tracks for his music projects. He explained the methods in which music on the Gameboy and Nintendo Entertainment System was generated and what the musical and technological limitations for each were. Since this year’s MAGFest was Zelda themed, he included a demonstration of 8-bit music writing by reconstructing the “Dungeon Theme” from The Legend of Zelda.
Brenden “Inverse Phase” Becker
Two of the other music panels that I attended were hosted by game composer Tommy Tallarico. He’s probably best known for his soundtracks for Earthworm Jim and his work as the head of Video Games Live. The first panel “Video Games Live: Behind the Scenes” focused on his work with the orchestra program that he tours with around the world. Tallarico spent a majority of the time telling the audience stories about his experiences performing videogame music and revealed some of his upcoming arrangements for the orchestra. (more…)
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure … the World 1-2: Complete Collection album was promoted by Scarlet Moon Productions, founded by Jayson Napolitano. Below, OSV writer Michael Hoffmann gives his own opinion of the album.
With most remix albums you usually have some idea of what to expect. There are going to be several covers of the usual old-school vidogames, with genres of music that will vary from classical/orchestral to rock and dance remixes. While that is certainly true of World 1-2: Complete Collection, the album does much more. This isn’t just a straight forward remix album. Not only are there remixes of familiar game tunes, but this album also features several original pieces written by game composers including Chipzel (Super Hexagon), Austin Wintory (Journey), Manami Matsumae (Mega Man), Keiji Yamagishi (Ninja Gaiden) and Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill). World 1-2: Complete Collection is an album that seeks to create a pairing of newer artists remixing older pieces, and in some cases providing original content of their own, with veteran composers from the earlier gaming generations. It’s an ambitious concept and the result is quite impressive. The original World 1-2 album contained 20 tracks that were a mix of original music and remixes. The World 1-2: Encore tracks add another 14 remix tracks to form the World 1-2: Complete Collection. There’s a whole lot to cover, so let’s dive in. (more…)
With the advent of sites like RocketHub and Kickstarter we’ve started to see more and more Indie game studios seek funding for their projects. A number of them have managed to reach their goals and even get their games onto platforms like Steam. One such studio called Geeta Games recently released their game Lilly Looking Through, a short point-and-click adventure game for PC and Mac. The game itself has a very calm and relaxed pacing similar to games like Myst, which shouldn’t be surprising since the lead game designer, Steve Hoogendyk, has previously worked on the Myst series. The game focuses on a girl named Lilly who must find and rescue her younger brother after he is kidnapped by mysterious forces. As a genre that relies on having a calm and contemplative atmosphere, it’s important to have a score that can enhance that experience. The composer asked to meet this challenge is Chris Beazer, who has done some previous work in both films and games.
Much like the game, the orchestral score is mysterious and melancholic. The first piece on the album “Allure” sets the mood perfectly for what you can expect from the game and the rest of the soundtrack. This opening piece features the celesta (the instrument with the resonant bell-like sound) and the flute, with harmonic accompaniment from the strings and choir. The celesta and choir in particular gives the game a sense of wonder and foreboding as Lilly sets off to explore new and strange places. Like most adventure games, there isn’t a whole lot of dramatic or fast paced action. As a result, the music remains calm and relaxing, providing the perfect background for players to sit back and think as they solve the game’s many puzzles. A majority of this is accomplished by focusing on instrumental solos, often a woodwind instrument or the celesta, which are harmonically supported by a handful of other instruments, often the strings and slow synth pads. (more…)
Recently the Bandcamp Weekly, a podcast hosted by Andrew Jervis, had a special show featuring interviews with various videogame music composers. During the podcast, Jervis spoke with Danny Baranowsky, Laura Shigihara, Austin Wintory, Jim Guthrie, Disasterpeace, and Big Giant Circles about their careers, the nature of game music, and their approaches to writing music. The show of course featured music by the composers themselves, as well as some selections from other videogame music albums.
It’s a great 90 minutes of discussion about various aspects of the game industry and how composers and their music are involved. For those of you looking to learn about some of the artists in the game music world, especially the indie games, it’s a great introduction and you may just find yourself checking out some new tunes to add to your library. Definitely give this podcast a listen.
On September 14, the MIT campus hosted the second annual Boston Festival Indie Games. The one-day event featured games by local independent developers, talks by people from the game industry, and viewings of gaming documentaries. To end the event, a concert was held at the Middle East Downstairs, a small music venue just a few blocks away from the MIT campus. This concert, titled Boston Plays Indies, featured music by Deadbeatblast, Control Group, DJ Cutman, and the Video Game Orchestra. I had the chance to see the VGO (Video Game Orchestra) perform before and I was also familiar with the work of DJ Cutman, but I was not as familiar with either Deadbeatblast or Control Group. Having some idea of what to expect, I entered the club and took my seat for what ended up being a great evening of music.
Starting up the show was solo artist Deadbeatblast, a chiptune DJ from Toronto, Canada who’s setup consisted of two Nintendo Game Boys and a set of devices to mix and manage the audio being generated by the two handheld devices. All of the music was original work by the artist. No covers or remixes, but all of it created with the 8-bit sounds available to him on the Nintendo hardware. To describe the music as simply chiptune or 8-bit is too inaccurate and vague. Many of the pieces he performed had an aggressive and experimental sound, similar to what you would hear in industrial genre music. Even with this experimental vibe, Deadbeatblast’s tunes maintained a good steady dance beat that the audience could rock out too. A particular favorite of mine was “Hyperspace”, a piece that started with a simple pattern and steadily built up as he continued to stack more and more music elements into the mix. Pieces took sudden but brief shifts in tempo, incorporated improvised interruptions, and always kept me guessing as to where the music would go next. The performance was full of great rhythms, memorable moments, and some great chiptune sounds. He has definitely made a fan out of me. (more…)
It seems that if you have the talent and the drive, game developers are able to go it alone these days. Jonathan Blow (Braid), Daisuke Amaya (Cave Story) and now Tom Francis with Gunpoint are all single developers that have made it to the top. The opposite almost seems to be true for game soundtracks. Famously, Jonathan Blow selected several tracks from the website Magnatune, all from different artists, and the final fantasy series has several composers on hand to write music. Tom Francis seems to have gone for the multi composer route by choosing 3 artists to write the soundtrack for his game, Gunpoint.
(Amaya is the exception, as he wrote all his own music for Cave Story.)
After the jump, I’ll let you in on who all wrote the soundtrack for this riveting new indie game, and what I thought of each composer’s work respectively. (more…)