My Favorite Game Soundtracks

Hey do you like music? I got some records back at my place. You want to come by and check them out? You do?

THIS NEVER HAPPENS WITH VIDEO GAME MUSIC.

First, a lot of music doesn’t even have physical form because its a tracker file or some arcane format meant to be played on an old sound chip.

Second, lots of video game music is pretty damn nerdy. It doesn’t have the deep vocals of Marvin Gaye to weaken knees.

BUT! Some of the best music EVER is video game music. And why not shine a light in this little musical corner and give some love to these hard working people who make this amazing work? So in no particular order here are some of my faves. Got a fave yourself? Let me know in the comments!

Disasterpeace: FEZ

Probably one of the most amazing soundtracks period. I constantly come back to the warm fuzzy spaces it creates. The variety of melodies are evocative and constantly evolving. Each track shifts into the next effortlessly. An entrancing thing of beauty.

Additionally there are two remix albums available. FZ: Side F and FZ: Side Z. Both quality additions, but the original is still my favorite.

C418 : Minecraft Volume Beta

Probably my favorite remix of the Fez soundtrack is C418’s Kompass, which made me ask: What the heck is a C418?! Turns out this talented guy is responsible for the music in Minecraft. While I enjoy all C418’s work, Volume Beta is, similar to the Fez soundtrack, be an album I will never tire of.

Anamanaguchi: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Original Video Game Soundtrack)

When you think game music, you might think demo scene. You might think SID, and most of all you’ll think CHIP TUNE! Anamanaguchi does not disappoint with their unique tracker shenanigans. While the movie soundtrack is pretty good, THIS is the soundtrack I wanted, and keeps me coding all day.

Amon Tobin: Chaos Theory

Ok, so I’ve played the above games, but this is a soundtrack for a game I’ve never even seen a screenshot of. Just googled it: its a stealthy Metal Gear Solid affair. Meh, not my thing. Amon Tobin is one of the original Ninja Tune crew and that’s all I need to know. The soundtrack has his signature sound: atmospheric, dense, and big.

Bonus: It is a testament to the album that years later it was remixed by some great artists:

 

Daniel Olsén : Ilomilo

OMG, this soundtrack’s whimsy is almost too much. I love its playfulness and it fits the game to a T. A hidden gem among game and soundtrack alike. My favorite is the lighthearted recorder(?) of ‘Uke In The Grass’ played with the hesitation of a child learning a new piece. The music doesn’t take itself seriously and it lifts my heart.

Well that wraps up some of my favorite game music. This was getting a bit long, so I’ll leave it at that! I’m always looking for more, give me any suggestions in the comments!

Top Best Most Awesome of 2014: Strava

So far the Best Most Awesome has been games and movies. Because what else is there in life, right?! As I’ve already mentioned, friends are for people who don’t own video games. I do leave the house quite a fair bit tho. To do what?! Well…I ride my bike.

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Yep, I ride my bike and shit. Around the yard, and if my mom lets me I can go all the way to the park and back.

Ok, that’s all you need to know about my cycling habits. Back to games! Fun fact: in the history of the known universe there has never been a good video game about bicycling. The closest possible game was Paperboy, which also had chromed freaking handlebars.

paperboy_cropped

Most cycling ‘games’ are pretty stupid boring affairs, with a lot of talk about things like Functional Threshold Power, and video footage of some dude going up a mountain. While MAMILs may enjoy this stuff, everyone I know unanimously can’t stand it. It doesn’t stop tons of companies from making more boring training products thinking that maybe their shiny graph of power output will be cooler than that other company’s.

But then, there is Strava. Is Strava a game, a social network, or just a data tracker? Like many things, its what you want it to be. Keeping track of training data? Great. Want to conquer that KOM? Push for it! Want to meet people and socialize? I use Strava more than any social network.

What makes Strava so much better? I think because, unlike all these other companies, they’ve figured out that, sure, cyclists care about FTP and looking good in lycra, but that’s not the main reason we cycle. I ride my bike because…its fun. I use Strava because…it makes cycling more fun.

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That’s a run from someone I don’t really know, who always posts great one-liners for his rides/runs. This fine gentleman, who as you can see is quite popular, has inspired me to do the same. In fact, I keep a joke diary and take notes just to help me come up with good one-liners for Strava. This guy, who I have never met, has driven me to compete on Strava with one-liners.

terpstra

 

This is a ride from Niki Terpstra. He won the 2014 Paris-Roubaix, which was, for me, the best ride of the year. It was such an inspiring ride, I went and looked to see if he was on Strava (he was). And the actual Paris-Roubaix race that he recorded was up there!

So…games. I keep coming back to the gamification of cycling that Strava is/is not/could be. Gamification is generally a misguided attempt to manipulate people into working towards a goal they would otherwise not do. But Strava is gamification that works. I compete with others, with myself, and Strava enables me to level up, to engage more often, and ultimately have ‘player stories’.

And that last bit is key. Those stories up there? Player stories. Things that happened while I was using Strava  that were unique and interesting and I wanted to share them. Maybe player stories are the true secret to gamification? I’m not even sure these *are* player stories because I’m not sure Strava is a game. Regardless, if they are ‘just’ stories, Strava is still one of the Best Most Awesome of 2014.

 

Top Best Most Awesome 2014: The Lego Movie

Christopher Nolan’s doesn’t write movies. He writes the ‘beginnings’ of movies. All that stuff that happens at the end? Pft, DETAILS. Because of this, I’ve been sorely wishing for a quality Batman movie. Who would’ve guessed that 2014 would have the BEST Batman movie…EVER?

Yes, the Lego Movie, a toy-driven franchise, could have easily turned out to be one long stupid ad for injection molded bricks. But instead they took the time to look deeper. Lego fully understand the importance those bricks stand for: imagination, critical thinking, deep play. There are few toys that shape minds with the power of Lego.

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So when they finally made a movie, they molded it(seewhatididthere) around conformity vs. imagination, and how conformity sometimes wins. The imagination is unadulterated, raw, and liberated. The conformity is a surprisingly adult view on corporate culture and how people can spend their lives as interchangeable automatons living an unremarkable existence. All this comes together with amazing animation, superb acting, and an emotionally powerful and unique ending.

I love seeing great people at work. It shows through in the movie, and also in the voice acting:

I cannot complete this without mentioning Ben, my favorite 1980-something Space Guy.

busted_tees_spaceship

Benny is a big spaceship nerd. He loves them. He knows that everything can be fixed with them. To him, they are the Golden Hammer of vehicles. And thankfully for our heroes it is the Deus Ex Machina of the movie, saving the day.  He’s also a bit on the outside looking in. He wants to help, he’s got some ideas, but he doesn’t have the social capital to make it happen. He bides his time and he gets his payoff in all its 80s glory.

Lego made a very smart movie because it was not afraid to be dumb. Micromanagement In Progress. Double-decker couches. Everything Is Awesome. Morgan Freeman simply existing in this movie. It took the time to explore and be imaginative, and find things that were beautiful and amazing. And then they made a movie that embodied those ideas and was also about them.

So are you listening, Nolan? You set up something in the beginning, and then you pay it off later. This technique provides the characters with growth. They persevere, and learn, and at the end there’s an interesting outcome called a ‘denoument‘. All those old movies that suddenly and abruptly end? Those movies didn’t have a denoument.

For example, at the beginning of this article, I said Christopher Nolan can’t figure out how to finish his movies. I made a connection to the Lego Movie using Batman. Then at the end I explained how you finish a movie. I even used a self-referential loop, without requiring sticking Leonardo DiCaprio in limbo for 50 years.

SETUP

PAYOFF

OMG, MIND BLOWN!!

 

The Top Best Most Awesome of 2014: The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth

My ‘Top Most Awesome’ series is not in any order, mainly because I don’t know if there is one. BUT one thing stands out for me at the top of my list: Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth.

isaac_pixely

The original BOI was a truly fantastic game with one major flaw: it barely worked. I would get to a certain point in the game, and the frame rate made it unplayable. Rebirth is a complete rewrite, fixing all the issues I had, and giving the game even more features.

2014 is the Year of the Roguelike. That word is thrown around a lot lately. There is a big difference between making a game that is procedural and random, and a roguelike. A roguelike provides a game experience where each playthrough provides a completely unique combination of game mechanics that needs to be mastered. If you are simply randomizing mechanics, levels, layouts, or other items, but not making these interactions interesting, it is not a roguelike, its just random.

This is where Binding of Isaac shines. The combinations of items means each run is unique. And with 400 items, you never know what insanity might await you. Lets watch Mike and Jack from Pre-Rec (Red Letter Media’s video game channel)  play some BOI:

And here’s the sad/wonderful thing about the game: I still haven’t beaten Mom. I’m not even close (I am playing solely on hard). But somehow I love playing it anyway.

The art and concept are crazy over-the-top, adding to its uniqueness. I don’t think there will be a game like it ever again. This game will become a classic, played for years.

PS: Check out this amazing box art for BOI created by none other than Sam Kieth! Phenomenal stuff.

The Top Best Most Awesome of 2014: Red Letter Media

Some people might say ‘what the fuck is wrong with movies nowadays?’. This is the wrong question. I would prefer to ask ‘what the fuck is wrong with movieGOERS nowadays?’ Why do people invest nine god-damn hours into the Hobbit? Why do people think Inception or Prometheus are good movies? Why do people allow JJ Abrams, Chris Nolan, or Zack Snyder to direct movies? Has it simply become cheaper to make triple-A special effect than a triple-A story?

It is soothing to me that Mike, Jay and the crew from Red Letter Media share my frustrations.

They are people who are passionate about movies but aren’t fanboys. They dissect movies in their own profound, poignant and drunk style . We don’t always agree on movies but I take comfort knowing they agree that Prometheus made no fucking sense.

2014 has been a huge year for RLM because of Patreon. Their content just gets better, but also something that I can rely on. Probably because now their work is something that puts beer on the table. As a Patreon backer, I get my $2 worth out of RLM, but also glad that there is a way that I can support directly artists I enjoy. Watch some RLM, and if you like ’em, back ’em!

The Top Best Most Awesome of 2014: Hearthstone

Oh btw, have you heard of a game called Hearthstone? What? That’s not from 2014? WHATEVS, its my post. And while the game may have been around since March 2013, it is still an impressive force in games. Not only did they release the Naxxramus single player campaign they also released an entire expansion before the end of 2014.

But beyond the work put into the game is how Hearthstone’s community has emerged. There are Twitch players like Trump who play Hearthstone daily as their job. Firebat won $100,000 at the Blizzcon championships (which he mentioned on Twitch he simply put into a long-term retirement account). Hearth Trolden has hilarious and well edited videos as part of his Funny And Lucky Moments series:

I have enjoyed not only playing the game, but also being a part of its vibrant community.

The Top Best Most Awesome of 2014: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Hey speaking of movies, did you go see Guardians of the Galaxy? I sure as fuck hope so. While many were hesitant, wondering what the hell this movie was about, I had faith in James Gunn. Why? Simple.

 

in_gunn_we_trust

Not only did he deliver, but he showed that he’s got the chops to build a completely new universe inside the Marvel multiverse based upon the comics. He’s got the power to take on Whedon as a writer who knows how to write characters, set it up, pay it off, and send you on a roller coaster ride all the while. 2014 was Gunn’s breakout year.

But don’t forget about the comics! Specifically the 2008 run from Abnett and Lanning. Marvel Unlimited is currently the best place to read the series. Alternately you can buy the collected novels on Comixology (or paper versions!) at a more pricey price. The comic has less characterization and more mythos, with a large pantheon of characters and races. Its very different, this doesn’t make it less enjoyable. In fact there are many interesting side notes, such as Knowhere in the movie is an ‘ancient celestial’ while in the comic it is the head of an Ultron.

The Top Best Most Awesome of 2014: Alamo Drafthouse

Ok, so everyone and his brother are putting out their Top 10s of 2014. So it got me thinking: can I stop being a curmudgeony dick and actually find some things I actually enjoyed in 2014? Probably not. But what the hell, here goes. I’ll be posting these as I make ’em over the course of the next couple weeks!

The Alamo Drafthouse

I didn’t go to movies in the theaters for a while. I got tired of idiots OCD-ing on their phones, chatty cathies, and, worst of all (shudder) children. But guess what? It turns out I can go to the Alamo Drafthouse, drink a beer and watch a movie in peace without clueless loudmouths damaging my calm.

Keep upping the price of those tickets, Alamo! Keep those lowly plebes and their inferior Android phablets out of my theater!

Because its ‘Fuck You, Its January’ January, there is little to go see. BUT we are excited to watch the Yankovician classic UHF soon enough!

UHF

Review: Getting Ready For A Career As A Video Game Designer

As I was strolling through the kitchen at work today, I saw something amazing. Some commendable soul had brought in for the good of mankind this insightful book:

cover

Not only was it a deal at only 99 cents, I could see that the Jefferson County Public Library endorsed it by keeping a copy on its hallowed shelves.

library_and_price

This book came out in 1998, using stock photos from the 80s to prep kids on how to make video games. This sounds like a perfect excuse you can feed the parental units about how your gaming addiction is actually a viable career option! If only I had this book 20 years ago!

many_people_own_video_game_systems

Ah…the 80s. In the 80s I was a kid in Chicago. For a brief and wonderful time I had the entire basement to myself. All I did was play my Atari 2600 and ride my big wheel around the stairwell all day. According to this book, I am not alone! Many other people own video game consoles in their wood-paneled basements! But…what is a console?

definition_console

Ah ha! But what if my parents won’t get me the new console because games rot your brain? Is there anything that looks like I could do serious work on it, but instead I can devote solely to games?

people_play_on_computers

Perfect! “Sure dad, just finishing up my science homework! *cough*”

Any other sources for games I should know about?

definition_arcade

arcade

If the fam catches on, I can at least get my fix at this…’arcade’ place. Even make some friends with some older men!. But screw that, friends are for people who don’t have video games.

You might be wondering, are there any technical aspects to video game development? I’m assuming that if I’m really good at playing games, that I must also be very good at making them. This should be SUPER easy.

debugging_is_hard

debugging_quote

Uhhh…

“New games often have mistakes in their programs. For example, a computer might not understand part of a code. Or the code might be wrong. Mistakes in a program are called bugs. Designers work to fix the bugs. This is called debugging. Debugging game programs is not easy. Sometimes it takes designers weeks or months to debug programs.”

So there MIGHT be some details here to work out later. But the important thing RIGHT NOW is to get good at playing games because you have to be able to beat your own games. Also I know a guy who can Scravajipt in Game Maker so I’ll get him to ‘make the computer understand’.

Lastly, are there any important advances in games I should be looking out for?

games_are_in_3d_now

 

OMG

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 Summary

Would I recommend GRFACAAGD (pronounced GRFACAAGD)? Absolutely! If only I had this ammunition when I was a kid, I could have flim-flammed my parents into buying me expensive electronics!