Friday, 17 April 2015

First Reality XVIII

I had the pleasure of becoming involved in a 'stone soup' indie project, a JRPG parody First Reality by Brendan Bulfin

By the time I was introduced to the friend of a friend making this game, he had the basic story established as well as game play and exploration system established. I was summoned to lend a hand in an OTT ending credits song that our friend-in-common was secretly working on.

Since then I had a the pleasure of offering some electronic music to the project, and also editing the game's Sound Effects.

The game itself is a cornucopia of varying qualities, parody and humour. The backgrounds are drawn on paper with crayon/colouring pencil and the characters are fashioned out of, I presume, Microsoft Paint or Flash or something.

The Soundtrack is a mixture of pieces for various artists, Most of who were present during the creation and completion of the large scale end credits song.

The storyline is one of lowliness, alcoholism, and a life crumbling down around a middle aged man (Norman) who's just returned from war. The NPC's are blunt and nasty, and the various quests are fashioned as a series of doom laden and thankless resquests from 'the Duke' which Norman drinks and defibrillates his way through.

Like all the greatest RPGs, as the bittersweet conclusion to the game sets, your emotional connection to Norman matches that of all the great RPG characters of the past.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Propellorhead's Figure

So Propellorhead Software made a EDM "toy" for iPhones, iPod touches and I imagine, Android devices too.
A week or two worth of playing around has lead me to the conclusion that it is a fun programme that takes all the misery (and learning) out of making basic EDM sounding sounds.

The user has basic controls over three elements "Drum" Bass" and "Lead" All three of which are randomly selected pre-made patches, which the user is free to alter (along predefined effects) swap out completely, or just immediately begin messing around.

The setting for the track itself (key, tempo etc) is also randomly selected and can be found under "Song" tab. This section controls tempo, key and a master shuffle (called "Shuffle"). It also has a Tonality pad, which lets you change block harmony and a bar setting for increasing the amount of bars over which the track loops (max 8 bars).

The upside to the programme by a long way is how damn easy it is to use. You could give it to a 9 year old with no other instruction other then to "play" with it for for a few days which they will easily do with no help needed.
Just as importantly, in a couple of week they would have a practical understanding of several key EDM terms and a rough idea of how they work. It keeps strongly with propellorhead ethos of not only being user friendly, but also taking the misery out of learning proper entry level EDM. Once you outgrow the software, you're not marooned with a lexicon of cartoon, dumbed down terms.

The down side is, making a full piece of music with this programme is not just unlikely, it's physically impossible.
The longest "loop" you can set the programme to run is 8 bars and along those 8 bars it is capable only of playing what you have previously recorded live on loop mixed with what you are performing live now. The only other options are deleting or "clearing" a piece of performed data or turning down all of "drums" "bass" or "lead" in the mix window. There is no window for one-touch sequencing changes; switching from one recorded lick to another, or an individual piece of percussion off or on.
In other words it is an EDM loop pedal, with limited functionality.

It would be possible but cumbersome to record a live performance which you could then edit in separate software, but in reality the most you'll ever get from this programme is a 30 second long loop of generic EDM.

Exporting sounds showed evidence of over-thinking and "don't worry, we have it all figured out" on Propellorhead's part.
You may export (an automatically mastered version) of your loop directly to iTunes, Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Audiocopy and email but there seems to be no way to export a plain un-mastered audio file of your track. This seems to be an almost spitefully short sighted system for cutting this programme off from the rest of the music technology world.

In general it's an easy to use, absolutely self contained, EDM loop pedal.
Use it if you want a toy that effortlessly teaches you the ropes of EDM, but keep in mind that it isn't an EDM "instrument" and it goes out of it's way to NOT function as one.

As I walked down the street a few days ago a third, more curious function for 'Figure' became apparent.
The speed with which you can go from "New track" to "Music" is so quick that Figure can literally be used as a substitute for listening to your music collection. Why listen to your iTunes, when you can literally whip something up in less then 30 seconds and jam until your fed up, click new, new jam. It makes casual improvisation an option for personal entertainment on 5 minute train journey, which on such a small screen, is probably it's best trick.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Good game for an argument

Played this excellent little free game 

Don't worry It's a JRPG,
by the next story event he'll probably be fine. 
A charming, 4th wall breaking, short JRPG which parodies and ultimately rants against, the genre of JRPGs.

First off I highly recommend you play it through.
It's good fun, and is about as lengthy as a short TV programme.
I'd also like to counter some of the points raised in-game by mouthy, side-side-kick Tam McGleish (who like Socrates, as well as being a player in the story, occasionally serves as the Author's mouthpiece directly).

Development for development's sake is pointless and Tam never actually offers an argument as to why JRPG's need to move on.
Sure they "can/could" move on, but must they move on in order to not be "shit"?

Chess doesn't move on, it only moves on aesthetically; Simpsons Chess, fancy see-through glass Chess etc. They're not bringing out new pieces; Archers, Assassins, or changing the fundamental rules.
Does Chess need to move on, to not be shit?
Picture highlighting both chess and anime,
pity he wasn't also in mid triple jump ...

Does Anime? or the triple jump?

You can't claim "X has stayed the same for the past X years, and is therefore bad"

A JRPG is a JRPG and as a genre it has found an identity and equilibrium (just like many other games, sports, genres as well as forms of literature), that doesn't means they are all "now shit".  

A fugue is a fugue, you can write a rock song if you wish, or just do an "out there" no rules composition if you wish.
...but you can also write a fugue.

The game is of course an ideally built straw man (self referenced intentionally I hope, but if not, then accidentally at least by the very talented creator) but even still this game was fun and good, as was A Bard's Tale (Hack 'n' Slash) and the Disgaea series (Tactics);
two RPGs that use the same forth-wall-breaking, self-depreciating humour this does.

The parts I truly disagreed with

A: I believe the lecture was self righteous and wrong (for the reasons outline above).

B: while Mass Effect is a great Role Playing action game, it is not a JRPG.

"If this were Grand Theft Auto V
I could just run him over"
If this was a 'Side Scrolling Beat-em-up' parodying Side Scrolling Beat-em-ups, an in-game smartarse asking "why can't you just throw the knife diagonally" would be funny.
But if Blaze and Axel then side scrolled into a 16 bit interpretation of Grand Theft Auto V to listen to a rant about their game genre, the suggestion becomes "Kill Side Scrolling for 3rd Person "
Tam's main point seemed to be "Kill JRPG, for action RPG".

He continues on to described the practice of leaving the genre in it's form, but adding newer and finer artistic development as they become available (e.g., better graphics, and finer gameplay) as "turd polishing".

In which case one of my favorite games of recent times was the very well polished turd 'Scot Pilgrim vs The World'; an unashamedly 2D Side-scroller with elements of RPG character development. But it doesn't end there. In music, literature and art among my favorite works ever would be, by Tam's definition, polished turds. 

P.S. the sleep spell is depressingly accurate; you get it for about one fight and it doesn't work. Why do they put sleep spells in turn based combat if they miss?
Or worse, only hit monsters once your level difference means you can one-hit-kill them anyways?

Either leave the spell out and save the poor artist from animating something that'll never be a tactically sound use of a turn, or, have it cost "a billion MP" but definitely work when you use it.
Perhaps be creative; have it cost more depending on how difficult the monster is to 'put to sleep' (magic def, size, level, boss status). The spell then fails only if that difficultly exceeds your max available MP.
I'm not spending my turn (and MP/PP/AP/ZP/$P) on a 0~25% chance the enemy won't-do-a-move-until-after-next-I-hit-it-and-providing-it-survives-that-hit, not when I could spend the same amount of turns (one) and MP (a small amount) on killing it with fire.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The devil makes email conversations...
(for people who don't have day jobs)

It's not really a phrase that rolls of the tongue. 

To CD Baby 

I want to release a Double A single.
i.e., a single with two tracks.
your single is only letting me upload one track.

I though it would be common sense to have package for two or three track releases, but my only two options seem to be an 'album', for 50 quid or a 'single song' for 13.

A Standard Single, which is usually seen in pop is the single itself plus 1 or more remixes/dubs of that single thus, 2~3 tracks.

A double A side (AA single) which is usually seen in dance music, is two individual tracks released at once (for example either side of a vinyl record) thus, 2 tracks.

Do I need to choose "Album" then and pay for a full album just to release a "standard" single? (standard for the rest of the world)
You're a good company, but don't lose touch with what people actually might want as a service.

To me 

Hello James,
Thanks for reaching out.  Unfortunately we currently only offer one-track singles, so if your release is going to include 2 or more tracks you would need to purchase an album submission in that case.  Sorry for any inconvenience, and please let us know if you have any further questions.

Best Regards,

To CD 

Well... etc

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Random acts of Music

So I found a recently developed, free Futuristic Racer , made by these chaps at Big Robot.
(the guy's who did "Sir, You Are Being Hunted")

It seemed like the perfect excuse to test myself.
I decided I would write a suitable 1 minute or so demo, of a track for the game.

And I did this;

BTW, play the game, It's good.

...and Happy New Year.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Game Audio Network Guild held a grand Student/Apprentice contest.

Compose an original 1 minute (60 second) loopable (i.e. seamless loop) musical piece for a new game. The game is called 'Hillbilly Robot Mafia" where hillbillies have converted their farms to robot factories!! It's a player versus player RTS, and as players overtake other hillbilly robot factories across the countryside, they wield greater influence over the local authorities on their way to COUNTY DOMINATION!This music will be used for the Player vs Player battle! The artwork is cartoony, and similar to art styles found on Cartoon Network (Regular Show, Adventure Time etc). That is your spec...GO!

this was my entry

It did not win, but the winning one is the one I would've chosen too. 

Onward and upwards. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Compose a background score for the following intro. 

Okie dokie.
I went for a slightly industrial "how it's made" sound for the constructing at the start and swept myself along from there.
The 'voice acting' is me too (oscars to P.O. box Soundmod). It was included more as a place holder for whomever gets the job, also, how weird would it be not having the character say something during such strong visual cues?

(very, that's how!)