Anyone who is a fan of game music is probably familiar with game composer Austin Wintory. He’s written music for games including flOw, Monaco, Journey, and more recently The Banner Saga. The writing and recording of the The Banner Saga soundtrack in particular has sparked a fight between Wintory and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM).
The problem that the AFM has is that Wintory composed music for the game as a non-union job. Despite the fact that Wintory wrote and recorded the music in Texas, a state that has right-to-work laws that would allow even union musicians to do non-union work, the AFM is threatening to fine Wintory up to $50,000, claiming he violated union rules. Wintory and other composers have been unable to write game scores through the union due to the horribly written contract by the AFM for game music projects.
Wintory has gone public, criticizing the union’s contract on twitter and more recently in a Youtube video (seen below). In the video, he details the massive issues with the contract that the union heads created for working with game developers and publishers, as well as their recent action against him. The contract, titled the AFM Video Game/Interactive Media Agreement, was written back in 2012 and has been universally rejected by every game studio and criticized by many composers and musicians. As a result, this has forced any composers or musician looking to do work in games to do so outside of the union.
Because he has spoken out about the mess that the AFM has created for its own members, the union is retaliating by fining him. Wintory feels that the AFM is trying to use him as an example to keep other union members in line and frightened. It doesn’t look like Wintory will be backing down any time soon. In his own words, “I refuse to live in fear, and I especially refuse to live in fear of my own union.”
It’s unfortunate to see that there are so many talented musicians and composers being prevented from doing work in the games industry because of the AFM’s contract. Worse still is that instead of listening to the concerns and criticism from their own union members, the heads of the AFM have chosen to threaten and bully people, like Austin Wintory, who are speaking out. Personally, I think it’s great that Wintory has chosen to speak up about these issues. Hopefully this is a problem that can receive more attention and be resolved. Be sure to check out Wintory’s video and spread the word.
Scram Kitty and His Buddy On Rails is certainly an attention grabbing title. A Wii U digital exclusive, the game is an on rails arcade shooter developed by Dakko Dakko. You are tasked with rescuing cats scattered around various levels of a space lab, all while fighting mechanized mice themed enemies. The game has an old-school SNES aesthetic and draws some of its gameplay aspects from 2D shooters. It’s a unique indie title released on the small indie game market of the Wii U.
Scram Kitty takes place in a mechanical space setting, with lots of robots, conveyers, industrial hazards, and security lasers populating the levels. To help set the mood of the fast paced gameplay and levels, composer Samuel Baker was brought on to write the game’s music. So how does Baker go about creating the appropriate soundscape for this cat and mouse themed shoot’em up? Read on to find out. (more…)
A new Humble Bundle has launched and is focused on providing funding for music education. Money raised from the Music In Schools Bundle will all go to the Alameda Music Project to provide music classes to underserved communities in Alameda, California. The Alameda Music Project is a free after school program that provides music education in a community where there previously has been no existing music program. The project offers the tuition-free music program to any child in grades K – 5 who wishes to participate.
The bundle includes videogame soundtracks, movie soundtracks, and a handful of games. The tiers on this bundle are a bit higher than what you’ll be used to seeing on the Bundle Store, but what you’re getting is quite a massive collection of music. The first tier at $20 will get you 15 albums and 2 games, while the $50 tier will get you an additional 52 albums and 4 more games. That’s a grand total of 67 albums and 6 games! It’s probably more music than you’ll know what to do with and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Alameda Music Project.
There are several game music artists contributing to this bundle including Ben Prunty, Zircon, Chris Rockwood, Jessica Curry, and Disasterpeace, just to name a few. The collection features the videogame music of FEZ, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, FTL, Mass Effect 3, Spelunky, and many more. This is an incredible collection of music and it’s all for a great cause. Be sure to check the Music In Schools Bundle out and spread the word.
The people behind the web series Extra Credits have started a new weekly video series titled Extra Remix. For those of you unfamiliar with Extra Credits, it’s a weekly show, narrated by Dan Floyd and written by James Portnow, that covers topics on how videogames are designed and how they can be improved. Over the past several years they’ve covered a wide range of topics including Free to Play Games, Combining Game Genres, Graphics vs Aesthetics, and many others.
Starting back in April, the Extra Credits team has been adding new types of content to their weekly rotation, including Extra Remix, James Recommends, and the just recently announced Design Club. Extra Remix is focused on discussing and promoting the work of videogame remix artists. Host Dan Floyd introduces viewers to a new artist each week, giving some background information on the artist and playing some examples of their work. Each episode ends with a full remix track to showcase the artist’s abilities. So far they’ve dedicated episodes to artists like Big Giant Circles, Zircon, and CarboHydroM. They even dedicated an entire episode to the site Overclocked ReMix (seen below).
It’s an interesting web series that highlights the work of some very talented remix artists. This is a great way to get introduced to some new music remixers, or to become more familiar with the people behind some of your favorite VGM remixes. A new episode of Extra Remix goes up every Tuesday. Be sure to check this web series out.
If you have read my review of Minecraft – Volume Alpha, click here if you haven’t, then you will know that I liked it a lot. It’s an unusual soundtrack filled with quirky instrumentation, melodies, and harmonies that, I felt, was instrumental to the unique style of the game. Minecraft has had the same music for most of the game’s lifespan, and only recently has C418 (Daniel Rosenfeld) added more music to the game, to flesh out the somewhat limited array of tracks used before.
With my last review I had difficulty separating my affection for the game from the music. This time around I had difficulty accepting a new soundtrack into a game whose music made up such an integral part of my playing experience. Adding new tracks, in my mind, runs the risk of changing the style of the game, a game I have come to love as it is. True, the game is constantly updated and changed, but the visual essence and play style still remains. Having played the game with the new music, and listening to the new soundtrack, I’m not convinced that Minecraft – Volume Beta is a worthy addition. (more…)
A bullet hell arcade shooter set in a fictional post-WWII era world. There’s not one part of Luftrausers, as a game and a concept, that doesn’t make me smile. The game has an old-school Game Boy aesthetic, it can be played in brief sessions, and is both enjoyably fast paced and difficult. In this game, you play as a lone pilot fighting and destroying as many enemy combatants as possible. As you play, you unlock more parts that you can use to customize your vehicle. Each part has its special attributes that drastically change how you play. It’s the very type of game that we’ve come to expect from a developer like Vlambeer. Anyone familiar with their previous games, like Ridiculous Fishing and Super Crate Box, knows that they have a knack for making some excellent arcade style games. Luftrausers is no exception.
The soundtrack for Luftrausers was composed by electro-house artist KOZILEK, aka Jukio Kallio. Luftrausers is actually a sequel to the original Luftrauser game, a smaller scale version of the game that Rami Ismail ended up releasing for free. Luftrausers is a sequel in much the same way that Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy is a sequel to the original Meat Boy. The same basic concepts, but with the production value and complexity cranked up to eleven. KOZILEK wrote the soundtrack for the original Luftrauser, so he returns to bring his composing talents to this newer game. (more…)
I have a major problem with the Minecraft – Volume Alpha album, and it’s this: I think this has to be one of the most difficult albums I have ever had the pleasure to review. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful achievement, but the music is so tied up with my memories of the game, and a general feeling of nostalgia, that it’s hard to separate the music from the game itself. I’ve spent far too much time sitting at my desk, wondering if the music is good because the game is so amazing, or if the music is good in its own right. Each time I listen to a track I remember an amazing moment in the game: That bit when I discovered an abandon mine, the bit when I almost died after discovering a skeleton dungeon . . . and loved it, or the immense pleasure of building my own home. This album evokes very strong emotions that few games manage to master, or even hint at, and it is for this reason that I’ve had such difficulty with the review. However, after much soul searching, I think I’ve managed to separate the game and its music.
So, how do you represent the vast world of Minecraft in music form? The answer, I think, is that you don’t. Technically you could have had an American pioneer style of music, or maybe completely 8-bit, to match the retro art style. But that’s not what German composer Daniel Rosenfeld (AKA C418) has gone for. He has gone, strangely enough, for lullabies. Simple yet beautiful melodies and harmonies that are almost childlike in their simplicity and execution. And it works! I’m not sure why, but somehow his music perfectly complements the game in such a way that without it the game would be seriously disadvantaged. Though the game is mostly music free, I literally couldn’t imagine the game without the soft music drifting in and out as I play. (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…)
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…)