I recently completed work on the XBLIG space shooter Honor in Vengeance II from MichaelArts, available from the Xbox Marketplace. The game has received some great press so far, and all credit is due to its creator, 18-year-old knee-high-to-a-grasshopper Michael Hicks. Michael has been interviewed by a number of sites, and has mentioned me in a few of them, which was very nice of him. Check out these sites for more information:
Clearance Bin Review (Don’t be put off by the name!)
The game was also featured on Dealspwn’s Indie Game Of The Week. Exciting stuff!
I bumped into Radiohead’s Thom Yorke in the corridor today as he was out looking for pencils, as he does from time to time. Naturally, I took him aside and let him have a go on one of my tracks - this, ladies and gentlemen, is the result.
You can find the rest of my stuff on SoundCloud here. Thanks for listening!
I’m currently exploring the idea of selling music to royalty-free library sites, and have spent many hours trawling the internet in the name of research (stopping off briefly to watch the 10 best Shooting Stars moments). In my travels I was fortunate enough to come across Scorecast Online’s Emmett Cooke’s blog post on this very topic. I have reproduced the salient points here, but recommend any aspiring composers go and read Emmett’s post to get the full effect.
The following are some of the sites that either Emmett or myself have highlighted as the ones that any aspiring composers would do well to get their music on:
- One of the top google sites
- 50% of track price (done on credits system – tracks assigned credit value) paid quarterly
- Selective library
- 50% of track price paid monthly
- Selective library
- Exclusive (50% +) or Non-exclusive (25%). Avg. track price is $10.
- Network of sites (Envato marketplaces)
- Selective library
- 35% of track price
- Owned by Getty images
- List of genres that are in demand (inc. instrumental rock, country)
- 50% of track price
- Normally lead to royalties
- Can manually check and apply for new deals
- Dearth of active deals at the moment…
- 45% of track price. Avg. track price is $10-15
- Require a demo to be accepted
- 65% of track price
- 50% of track price
- Uploaded music is reviewed prior to acceptance
- 50% of track price
- Submit demo
- 50% of track price
- Submit demo
- Must have minimum 30 tracks to qualify
- Set your own prices – free account costs 10c per track sold
Hopefully this list is of use to someone out there - feel free to email with any suggestions and I’ll add them. Credit to Emmett Cooke for the majority of these references.
My first full orchestral piece, this was inspired by Hans “The Zimdog” Zimmer’s work - or that of one of his numerous uncredited understudies - on Inception. The piece begins on piano, but is slowly overwhelmed by the orchestra until it finally breaks in the closing seconds.
This piece was written in reverence to Tomas Dvorak’s outstanding work on Amanita Design’s instant-classic Machinarium. The gentle, rhythm digital-analogue burbling of the soundtrack perfectly matched both the hand-made feel of the game and it’s “robots in love” theme. Hopefully I’ve recaptured some small part of the vibe in this tribute. Enjoy!
And so we return, wearily, to the “are videogames art?” argument. Worry not – I am not here to argue the case for either side, but merely to exposit why the two sides of the debate are, for the meantime, irreconcilable.
The problem lies in the dichotomy between “casual” and “core” gamers that has been artificially enforced upon gamers. Publishers and developers see these two markets as individual islands of revenue, with those who enjoy “traditional” games lumped in the core camp, and the new recruits of the Wii and Nintendo DS firmly in the casual. The games industry is damaging itself with this distinction, for two primary reasons.
Firstly, this split makes no consideration for the thousands of gamers who, like me, do not slot neatly into either camp. We enjoy a game or two, but aren’t willing to invest hours grinding through a repetitive RPG or having abuse shouted at us by spotty teens on Xbox Live. This is arguably the most important market for the progression of games as a valid artistic medium – these are people who are open to the experiences provided by games and yearn for something more than a shelf full of bowling and tennis minigames. It is these people that the industry should be targeting, and yet it is not.
The second reason is that the new “Casual” titles should barely be considered games at all. They are often little more than diversions, and do nothing to involve the players in anything more than a core mechanic. I’m not sure what the storyline to Wii Sports was, but I would hazard it’s no Godfather. Obviously this is a pedantic exaggeration – sports games don’t require a story – but the fact is that many peoples’ experiences of games are limited to these basic interactions. For the armies of “casual” Wii players out there, the idea of a story within their games has probably never even occurred to them as a missing element. While this focus on keeping players engaged through novel interactive design and plastic peripherals instead of an enticing story remains, these “casual” players will never progress to discovering the richness that is possible from the medium.
The issue is further complicated by the issue of accessibility. The esteemed movie critic, Roger Ebert, famously claimed that “videogames can never be art”. When a number of prominent games industry figures offered to educate him with some of the choicest cuts of gaming goodness, Ebert declined. Bull-headed close-mindedness? Maybe. But Ebert’s defence was that he didn’t have the time to learn the admittedly daunting control schemes necessary to master to enjoy gaming at its best. Think of the last time you watched a non-gamer attempt to negotiate the twin-stick movement of a modern shooter and you will understand that this is an entirely valid defence. We are trained from birth in the tools necessary for the appreciation of written, visual or cinematic art, but with games in their infancy the tools have to be learnt. This involves a conscious effort on the part of the player – training before they can even begin to appreciate the medium, the equivalent of learning German to truly appreciate Mozart’s operas.
Thankfully, the winds are changing. Even Ebert has backtracked on his comments, and gaming is becoming a far more acceptable pastime, both amongst adults and kids (although the proliferation of unbroken voices squeaking insults over Xbox Live on 18+ games such as Call of Duty is an issue for another time). Maybe soon we will see a generation who are as comfortable with games as our own is with films. With the right tools inherent, people will be able to overcome the obstacles of interaction and gain access to the rich, fulfilling experiences that wait beyond.
And on that grandiose statement, Jonny Out.
* This title makes complete mathematical sense.
Today I fought my way through the drizzle, crowds and lunacy of London to be one of what appeared to be several million attendees at the Eurogamer Expo (“E2”?) in Earls Court. Here was gathered the cream of the world’s gaming enterprises showing off their shiny new wares – and shiny indeed they were.
Crammed into a cavernous exhibition chamber, my first impression was that of entering an arcade - hundreds of people milling around consoles; awkward teenagers to every side; the constant, humming threat of violence in the air. My initial experience was of walking along the queue to attempt entry to Peter Molyneux’s presentation of Fable III – I gave up when I realised the queue stretched right across the diameter of the hall and seemingly off into infinity (or at least well into the café). Sadly, queuing was very much the order of the day and I spent the vast majority of my time impatiently tapping my feet behind a succession of sweaty, long-haired, fluffy-moustachioed teenagers who had settled in for the long haul on my chosen game.
Still, this isn’t intended to be a rant (at least, not all of it) so without further ado I present my Eurogamer Expo Highlights:
Gears of War 3
Undoubtedly to many people the “Game of the Show”, GoW3 was present with a fully playable multiplayer demo of the new “Beast” mode. Here, players take on the role of the Locust Horde attacking firmly-entrenched COG soldiers, in a neat inversion of Epic’s oft-plagiarised “Horde” mode. All the traditional Gears stalwarts were firmly in place – a chunky cover system, fantastic visuals and gushing, excessive gore. One of the new takedown moves involves ripping off your foe’s arm and bludgeoning them to death with it. One to watch.
Fallout: New Vegas
“War Never Changes”, begins Ron Perlman’s narration to the epic Fallout 3. It seems that Obsidian have taken a rather literal interpretation of this and changed almost nothing to the formula set down by its predecessor. VATS, the Pip-Boy, and awkward, wooden character models are still present, albeit under a new coat of gloss. It’s difficult to tell from such a short dip into New Vegas whether the changes Obsidian have made under the hood, and to the overarching story, will be enough to overcome the use of an engine that was already showing its age two years ago. As a huge proponent of Bethesda’s masterwork, I truly hope so.
Dead Space 2
Visceral’s 2008 Sci-fi horror is one of the few truly terrifying games on the Xbox, and its sequel certainly looks to be upping its game. The original was a stunningly beautiful and unique horror experience, with external spacewalks a particular highlight, and Dead Space 2 builds on this with some incredibly cinematic set-pieces. Such is the fidelity of the graphics that initially these battles appeared to be pre-rendered cutscenes – it wasn’t until Isaac Clarke, the game’s protagonist, is lopped in half by a necromorph tendril that you realise you are actually in control. The days until Dead Space 2’s January 25th release date cannot pass quickly enough.
Love it or hate it, motion control is unavoidable. Seen, perhaps fallaciously, as the gateway to the mystical realm of the “Casual Gamer”, motion controllers such as Kinect, the Playstation Move and the older Wii are being touted as the saviours of the industry as a whole. Whether or not you believe this, know one thing – Kinect is damned good fun. From the moment you step up to the screen and wave to confirm your presence, control feels intuitive, engaging and enjoyable. Seeing your avatar react to your actions is a child-like pleasure, and controlling a car using just your hands awakens your inner six-year old. Hopefully Kinect’s potential can be extended beyond a Mario Kart clone and a minigame collection – if it survives the initial period while developers get to grips with the technology we could see some truly exciting titles in the coming year.
The culmination of Lionhead’s attempt to rejuvenate the RPG, Fable III also sees the development team refine the formula used throughout the series to make it the most accessible game yet. Unfortunately, from a brief playthrough, this seems to have manifested in shallow combat, teeth-gratingly dire voice acting and overuse of slow motion to highlight special kills. The comedy of Fables I and II, never their strong point, has been pushed to the fore here, with one section of the quest seeing you face off against fire-breathing, demonic chickens. Yes. Combined with the blocky, outdated graphics and excruciating “comedy” accents, it seems Peter Molyneux’s opus is in danger of a serious mis-step. However, the scale and dynamism of Fable III cannot be judged from such a brief time with the game, so with luck these initial worries will be mollified come the October 29th release date.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
In a world where “multiplayer” is a byword for M16s and team deathmatch, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood provides a fresh new look at the concept. The premise is simple – you are given a picture of another player’s character to track down and assassinate in a map full of identikit avatars. You are given your target’s vague location, and have to watch for anyone acting strangely in order to close in on your quarry. The twist is that, all the while, another player is silently hunting you. Evading your pursuer whilst simultaneously tracking your target is a skilful, tense balancing act, which threatens to break out into a full-blown chase at any moment should you bodge the assassination and alert your target to your presence. Each player can have up to four others on their tail, ensuring that matches are never dominated by a single experienced assassin. This looks to be shaping up to be an interesting and refreshing new take on the multiplayer experience.
Formerly the darling of the PC gaming world, widespread piracy has seen Crytek move their flagship IP onto consoles for the first time. The new CryEngine 3 certainly looks the part, and helps elevate a fairly standard Modern Warfare-style shooter through some spectacular near-future visuals. Basic gunplay is solid and enjoyable, with variation added via your character’s abilities, which include invisibility and super-strength. Easily activated via the left and right bumpers, these abilities slowly drain your energy gauge, discouraging overuse but enabling some interesting tactics. With this, CoD: Black Ops and Medal of Honor all on the horizon, FPS fans will be spoilt for choice.