I feel that I must get one thing very clear before you continue to read this review. My speciality is piano music. I am a pianist, I listen to a lot of piano music, from Mozart to Debussy, and I go to piano concerts in London. I’m also as close to an expert on the use of the piano in games as you might get, from the triumphant fanfare like riff from Halo 3 to the myriad of Final Fantasy Piano albums. As a result, my standards may be unrealistically high. I also have a confession to make: I’ve never played Journey! I know I know, it’s on my to-do list. This is particularly heinous of me as not only is the game supposed to be amazing, but the soundtrack is said to be excellent as well. However, this might not be a bad thing for this review, as I will not be influence by the game or the original soundtrack. I will take the music at face value, in its own right, separate from its related media.
It’s interesting to note that the composer, Austin Wintory, seems to have had little to do with this album. Transfiguration has been arranged by the Laura Intravia, the singer in the last track, and performed by Robert Thies. In general I think this is a good thing because, as a composer myself, I know how hard it can be to separate myself from my own compositions. I prefer to arrange for other people so I can focus on the advantages and disadvantages of the instrument, rather than being influenced by my own work. So with that said, let’s take a look at Transfiguration. (more…)
The creators of MAGFest, the Music and Gaming Festival, have launched another event that will take place from September 12-14 at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Unlike the regular MAGFest event, which takes place in National Harbor, Maryland every January, this event is taking place at the original MAGFest venue this fall. A few years ago, the main MAGFest event was moved to the National Harbor location, when the festival got bigger and required a larger venue. This new event aims to bring back the vibe of the early MAGFest days to current day festival attendees. Essentially a smaller and more intimate setting for game and music fans. MAGFest 8.5 will be happening in addition to MAGFest 13, the latter of which is set for late January.
For those of you not familiar with MAGFest, it’s a festival, as the name implies, dedicated to games and music. The event features tons of concerts from videogame cover/remix bands and guest appearances by some of the top videogame composers in the world. Past composer guests have included Nobuo Uematsu, Yuzo Koshiro, Chris Huelsbeck, and Tommy Tallarico.
Because of the smaller venue size for MAGFest 8.5, the tickets are going to be limited to only 2000 attendees. If you’re interested in getting out to this event, grab tickets and hotel reservations while you still can. Guests and music performers have yet to be announced. Information on hotels and tickets can be found at the MAGFest 8.5 website.
If you frequent videogame news sites like Destructoid, the name Dale North is probably familiar to you. He’s been a contributor and editor for many news sites across the web. Currently he is the Editor-In-Chief at Destructoid.com, providing readers with insight on games and gaming events. But did you know that Dale North is also a talented musician and composer? Recently he was tasked with writing the music to the game Dragon Fantasy: Book II. North has done some work with music remixes, including work on Overclocked Remix, but this is his first time writing and releasing an official videogame soundtrack.
The game Dragon Fantasy: Book II is an indie title that pays homage to old-school RPGs. Everything from the combat system down to the SNES era pixel art is meant to evoke the games of the earlier console generations. For this project, North is tasked with producing original music that can engage the players and at the same time contribute to the sense of nostalgia that the game is aiming for. A complicated composition task to undertake. So does Mr. North rise to the challenge? Read on to find out. (more…)
Are you a fan of symphonic game music? If so, you should check out the recently announced rePLAY game music concert tour. This concert series, titled rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes, features music from Halo, Guild Wars 2, Journey, Final Fantasy, Shadow of the Colossus, and many other great games. This program will be touring the US, Canada, Mexico, and England. The concerts will begin early next month in Houston, TX, followed by a concert in Los Angeles, CA.
The rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes concerts follow a format similar to shows like Video Games Live and Distant Worlds. A full symphony orchestra performing game music while footage of the games are shown on an overhead screen. This tour’s theme will be based around the hero’s journey, the monomyth narrative structure identified by Joseph Campbell. Each selection of game music will represent a chapter in the hero’s journey. The concert will also feature narration by Nigel Carrington, the narrator of the game Dear Esther.
The concert dates and locations are as follows:
Houston, TX (July 5, 2014)
Los Angeles, CA (July 6, 2014)
Toronto, Ontario (September 6, 2014)
London, England (September 26, 2014)
Montreal, Quebec (October 4, 2014)
Austin, TX (October 19, 2014)
Monterrey, Mexico (October 24, 2014)
Mexico City, Mexico (October 26, 2014)
Boston, MA (November 21, 2014)
Atlanta, GA (January 17, 2015)
Grand Rapids, MI (February 7, 2015)
Portland, OR (March 6, 2015)
Phoenix, AZ (June 5, 2015)
Tickets are currently on sale for most of the concert locations and dates. If you’re a lover of game music and symphonic performances, definitely give this concert series a look. More information on the rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes concerts can be found on the rePLAY website.
Source: rePlay Symphony
On June 26th the new indie platformer game Shovel Knight will be released across multiple platforms. On that same day, Noise Channel will be hosting a listening party for the game’s soundtrack. The music for Shovel Knight has been composed primarily by Jake “Virt” Kaufman. A handful of tracks for the game were written by Mega Man composer Manami Matsumae. The digital copy of the soundtrack is set to be released on the same day at ‘pay what you want’ on Kaufman’s Bandcamp site.
To celebrate the release of the game and the soundtrack, the listening party will feature Jake Kaufman and possibly some of the members of the Shovel Knight development team, Yacht Club Games, talking about the game and its music. This is a good opportunity to listen to the soundtrack in its entirety and hear about its development from the main composer. The show will be hosted on Arecibo Radio and starts at 7:00 PDT, on June 26th. Noise Channel has created a Facebook event for the show to keep everyone updated. Be sure to mark your calendars and tune in for the event next Thursday.
Back in 2010, Terry Cavanagh released a game titled VVVVVV, usually just pronounced “Vee”, for PC and Mac. The game is a 2D puzzle platformer that uses gravity reversal as its primary platforming mechanic. The game has seen release on several other platforms since and has earned a large following from the indie game fan base. Not only is the game engaging in its central mechanic, it’s also fairly difficult. The music of VVVVVV was composed by chiptune artist Magnus Pålsson, aka Souleye. If you’ve never heard the original soundtrack, fix that immediately. It’s easily some of the best indie chiptune music that’s been written in the past few years. Pålsson has also written music for a number of projects including Extreme Roadtrip, Drop Sort, and has even written an intro theme for Twitch caster MANvsGAME.
The original soundtrack, titled PPPPPP, has already received an arrange album in the form of PPPPPPowerup!, which featured arrangements by several indie composers and remix artists. This new album, titled MMMMMM, is a power metal re-imagining of the original soundtrack. This new work features a collaboration between Magnus Pålsson and music remix artist and composer Jules “FamilyJules7x” Conroy. As we covered recently on OSV, Conroy has been creating some impressive metal covers of videogame music for a few years on Youtube. His talent seems to have caught the attention of Pålsson, which has led to the creation of this new album. So how does this metal re-imagining of the music stack up against the original soundtrack? Read on to find out. (more…)
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…)