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…)
I think it needs to be said that I have not completed Rogue Legacy. Like Minecraft, it’s the type of game that I can easily dip into every now and then. I’ve only actually killed 2 bosses and it has been a while since I last played the game. So this review will be partly informed by my knowledge of the game and partly in the dark as to where the music was used.
Unlike the Super Mario 3D World OST, some thought has gone into the placement of each track on this album. This is made obvious by the fact the end credits music is the first track, and I think this works well. Like I said, I have not completed the game so I never got to the end credits, which is a shame, because the music is lovely. It starts out with a nice harp ostinato and an almost Japanese style riff on the guitar that repeats throughout the whole track, which is not a bad thing. I found myself humming along quite happily. At 00:34 the very distinctive marching percussion that A Shell in the Pit, the artist name of composer Gordon McGladdery, uses throughout the game comes in with rousing effect. (more…)
An indie game that seeks to capture the joy and excitement of exploring deep space? Okay, consider me interested. Rodina is an indie project created by Brendan Anthony, the founder and sole member of indie developer Elliptic. This science fiction game takes place in a procedurally generated world that allows you to seamlessly travel from one planet to the next. Players can travel through space, engage in space battles, discover planets, land on the planets, and explore them outside of the ship. While the game is still in a sort of early access or alpha state, it has the core concepts and gameplay well presented. Think of it as a project similar to Minecraft. Starting off small, but continuing to be built and improved with the support of a dedicated player base. That at least seems to be the hope of the developer.
While Brendan Anthony is programing and adding to this game as a solo gig, there is one other contributor to this game. This would be composer John Robert Matz, who has written an original score for Rodina. Matz has had previous experience on game soundtracks. You may recognize him for his collaborative work on the Gunpoint OST, an album which we recently reviewed here on OSV. He certainly has his work cut out for him in this ambitious game title. Does he manage to pull it off? Read on to find out. (more…)
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…)