Game Music

From Blood To Sweat: How OverClocked ReMix Scored Its First Gig

December 23, 2008 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook From Blood To Sweat: How OverClocked ReMix Scored Its First Gigon Twitter

There is no shortage of success stories in the video game music arrangement community. Just a few weeks ago we reviewed Beatdrop’s Burn Out EP, the title track of which is featured in Dance Dance Revolution Universe 3, following his success with “Until Forever” in Dance Dance Revolution Suprnova 2. Jill Goldin, aka “pixietricks,” worked with Christopher Tin to record solo and ensemble vocals for the Civilization IV expansion Beyond the Sword. Jake Kaufman, better known as “virt” to the community, has been a professional composer for years, with high-profile titles like Contra 4 in his extensive portfolio. And this is to name only a few.

However, even in light of all that, with 66 tracks and featuring the work of 21 individual artists, the Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix Official Soundtrack constitutes the single largest and most diverse contribution by the fan community to a commercial video game ever.

Curious about how it all happened? Find out after the jump.

It all began one day in May 2005 when community celebrity Shael Riley announced that he and Stephen Malcolm-Dowell (aka “Malcos“) were coordinating an official OverClocked ReMix album project for Super Street Fighter II Turbo, called Blood on the Asphalt. After its 2006 release, Rey Jimenez, an associate producer at Capcom, took notice of the project and contacted Shael Riley thinking that he had created all the tracks himself. After clearing up the misunderstanding and explaining that it comprised the work of over 20 musicians, Shael referred him to OCR founder David Lloyd (“djpretzel“), who had more resources at his disposal for contacting and organizing all the people originally involved.

After ensuring it wasn’t some sort of elaborate prank, they tentatively went forward with the collaboration, making efforts to keep it a secret to the public and even the remixers themselves. However, a few months later a fan noticed suspiciously familiar-sounding music in official preview gameplay videos for the upcoming Super Street Fighter II HD Remix. Fearing plagiarism, he made a thread pointing this out and asking if the staff was aware of this. At that point, djpretzel officially revealed OCR’s involvement and the rest, they say, is history.

There are actually several official Street Fighter II arrangement albums, including remade soundtracks for the various console and PC ports over the years, and some might wonder why Capcom didn’t just re-use their own work. For the US-based development team, the accessibility of the OCR arrangers was a major factor, since the language barrier would become an issue if they recruited the Japanese composers responsible for those soundtracks. Availability also came into play, since most of the remixers’ schedules were more flexible than those of the professional composers they could have contacted.

With the permission of OCR, it would have been an easy matter for Capcom to take the path of least resistance and just use Blood on the Asphalt wholesale as the soundtrack of the game (they weren’t the first ones with the idea), but fortunately they opted to work closely with OCR to shape the project into an actual game soundtrack. In the process, several tracks that didn’t fit the feel of a fighting game were cut, and other tracks were added to replace the ones that were let go. Three of these replacement tracks were taken from existing classic arrangements from the main site, namely “Sagat’s Moonbike” by Mazedude, “Sexy Trunks” by Neostorm, and “RyuInterpretation” by Malcos. In Malcos’s particular case though, since the source files for the seven-year-old arrangement were long gone, the appropriately-renamed “Reinterpretation” is a full remake of his original ReMix, rebuilt from scratch.

After the selections were made, Capcom and the arrangers began the back-and-forth process of editing the previously-arranged tracks, with djpretzel using his role as soundtrack director to act as a liaison and make communication as transparent as possible. Most of the edits were minor, such as cutting down the track length, removing endings to make the songs loop properly, or replacing an instrument here and there, but some tracks underwent more significant changes. For example, José the Bronx Rican‘s two tracks from Blood on the Asphalt, “Spittin’ Narcissism” and “Thank You, Dee Jay,” originally featured rap vocals which, while well-done and appropriate in the stand-alone arrangements, were deemed too obtrusive in the context of the game. As a result, the lyrics were cut and instrumental versions were used in their place. The vocals in Vurez’s “New Mexican Thunderbird” and Shael Riley’s “Blood on the Asphalt” received similar treatment.

Even with so much material to choose from though, several gaps remained in the soundtrack-in-progress. This was due to the fact that either none of the existing OCR arrangements fit what Capcom was looking for, or because those particular tracks had never even been arranged before. Several character themes (Akuma, Guile, Chun Li, Blanka, E. Honda, and Zangief to be exact) and various interstitial jingles fell into this category, so new music needed to be commissioned and arranged exclusively for the soundtrack.

Fortunately, OverClocked ReMix was more than willing to rise to the challenge in creating these new tracks. In many cases the OCR team actually offered several versions for consideration for a track and Capcom made the final judgment as to which one to use. For example, “Red Cyclone,” a garage-rock interpretation of Zangief’s theme by Shael’s band The Grammar Club, was selected over a candidate track submitted by Big Giant Circles, who ended up getting his own spot in the limelight with his Guile stage remix “Combat and Service.” Even djpretzel himself was forced to rethink his approach to E. Honda’s stage music after his initial idea was rejected.

One name in particular might stand out in this album, both because he tackled the three remaining character themes and also because he wasn’t on the original Blood on the Asphalt project. This name is that of remixing veteran AE (aka A_Rival), short for (Luke) Alex Esquivel. Being an avid fighting game fan and long-standing member in both the video game arrangement and competitive fighting game communities, Esquivel actually independently requested to participate in HD Remix by contacting Capcom directly, only later learning of OCR’s involvement.

Also needed were arrangements of the ending themes for each character in the game (some with multiple endings), of which only two had previously been covered in Blood on the Asphalt. José the Bronx Rican decided to remedy this deficit by single-handedly arranging every single one of them with the exception of Akuma’s ending, which was handled by OCR favorite McVaffe.

The majority of the remaining tracks were covered by Malcos, one of the soundtrack’s assistant directors, along with contributions from OCR judges Another Soundscape and Palpable. An interesting bit of trivia to note is that more than half of the site’s panel, including djpretzel, is represented in the HD Remix soundtrack.

Something many people tend to forget, though, is that producing the music needed is not the only thing involved in an official soundtrack release. The devil, after all, is in the details, and assistant director Larry Oji (“Liontamer” to his adoring fans) did everything in his power to keep the proverbial horned one at bay. From contacting remixers, to giving feedback, to obtaining track titles, to assembling the credits, Larry made sure every part of the soundtrack was polished to a spit-shine before release.

And that’s how a group of fans ended up with their first professional video game credit (not to mention two free Capcom games on the side!). Do you think SSF2 HD Remix represents a triumph for fans, and would like to see more involvement from the community in commercial games? Or do you feel the soundtrack is merely a travesty of amateur fanservice and say companies should leave the music to the pros? Or did you just think the article was TL;DR? Speak your mind and leave a comment!

[Photo via GeneralJehy]

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