Press "Enter" to skip to content

Tag: music – arrange

PAX Pix 2011, Part Two: The Panels

Actually, there aren’t too many pix for this installment, since many of them came out blurry. Besides, although the panels we went to were great, there isn’t anything really exciting about a photo of group of people sitting along a draped table—”you had to be there” really applies in such cases. Anyway, here’s a rundown of the panels and other scheduled events we attended (unless otherwise noted, each event lasted for an hour).


What They’re Saying About You: How Marketing Segments and Targets Gamers (10:30 AM, Raven Theater) – The title pretty much says what it was about. Marketing ideas, trends in research gathering, the peculiarities of marketing to the PAX crowd, and so forth were discussed for an hour in front of a small but interested audience. The stories and insight from Pete Hines, the don’t-call-him-a-marketer from Bethesda, was the highlight of the panel.

Omegathon Round 1 (2:00 PM, Wolfman Theater) – The first round of PAX’s ultimate gamer competition consisted of some madcap rounds of Mario Kart: Double Dash! An extra bit of chaos was added when it was revealed that the players wouldn’t know which of the five screens they would be playing from, and even this was switched up on each new track. At the end, four Omeganauts were eliminated, but for two of them, their fate was only determined after a tie for last place and a sudden death round. The PAX crew stuck to random maps for this round, though the audience really wanted to see them duke it out on the game’s version of the infamous Rainbow Road.

Retrogame Roadshow: Are Your Old Games Buried Treasure? (5:00 PM, Unicorn Theater) – A panel tailor-made for collectors, with the audience bringing up various rarities to show off while the panelists debated their value. Among the highlights were an NES obscurity titled Panic Restaurant and an extraordinarily rare port of M.U.L.E. (I believe it was the IBM PCjr version).

Friday Night Concerts (8:30 PM ~ 1:00 AM, Main Theater) – This was our biggest must-see of PAX, mainly due to favorites the Video Game Orchestra (see PAX East 2010, Part Two) and the Minibosses (who we had never seen live before). Sandwiched in between were MC Frontalot and Metroid Metal. The entire concert was awesome, and a lot of fun. I especially liked the inflatable metroids that Metroid Metal tossed out to the crowd for them to bounce around in the air (though said metroids wound up on stage more than a few times). Most unexpected moment: the VGO playing tunes from Plants vs. Zombies and Angry Birds!


Infinite Respawn: How Gaming Can Keep & Save Your Relationship (10:30 AM, Serpent Theater) – Now here was a topic very near and dear to our hearts: love and gaming. Though many of the panelists’ experiences didn’t quite match up with ours—in part since neither of us are inclined toward multiplayer or co-op—there was a lot else that was the same, and it was comforting to know that our experiences aren’t unique.

Discover the Forgotten Masters (12:00 PM, Serpent Theater) – This panel, which opened with two very amusing Fist of the North Star clips, was presented by the two guys behind GeekNights. Although some of the info presented wasn’t as obscure as they had perhaps thought it was (such as who David Crane is, or what the NES game Spy vs. Spy is like), I still learned a few things and was introduced to some fascinating retrogames, ranging from a gunslinger game (Outlaw for the 2600) to a multiplayer airline management sim (Aerobiz Supersonic for the SNES). I also agree with the point of the panel: that there’s a lot of old ideas in gaming that are ripe for revisiting.

Game Development Secrets Exposed: Everything You Wanted To Know But PR Won (3:00 PM, Raven Theater) – I have no idea what this panel was like… or rather, what it would’ve been like, since it was cancelled at the last minute! Moving on…

You Call That Fun?! (6:30 PM, Wolfman Theater) – This was a lively panel where four friends and game industry colleagues came together to discuss that most intangible of game qualities, “fun”. One of the most interesting parts of this panel was the discussion of difficulty and how it needs to be optimized for the player’s needs; for instance, a bunch of developers who have become experts at the game they’re making are hardly the best judges of difficulty.

King of Chinatown (10:00 PM – 11:30 PM, Serpent Theater) – Thanks to some technical difficulties, this screening was delayed for over half an hour. Anyway, King of Chinatown follows Street Fighter IV player Justin Wong and his rise as a pro-gamer, but that’s only half the story. The other concerns the group Justin was a part of, Empire Arcadia, and its founder, Isaiah Triforce Johnson. Triforce was already known to me as a fixture in the NYC gaming scene—I first became aware of him at the Wii launch, where he was at the head of the line, several feet away from our group—but I had no idea of his role in the pro gaming scene. Without giving too much away, this film is fairly even-handed, but does not paint Triforce in a favorable light. Despite some muddy sound, it’s a good indie documentary, and worth checking out.


Making Art from Art (12:00 PM, Raven Theater) – A panel by a bunch of nerdcore rappers and one fanfic writer about all fan-made derivative works might seem somewhat imbalanced, but despite the lack of discussion about the (admittedly enormous) realm of ROM hacking, fan mods, and fan/doujin games, they handled the topic well enough. During the Q&A, an audience member brought up the topic of female fanworks makers twice. The first time, the all-male panel addressed it well enough, I thought; the second time was redundancy defined, though it was clear then where her tastes lay (mentioning Pixiv but not deviantART was a sure sign), and I could swear she referenced Vocaloid fandom without saying the word once. There’s one at every con, I guess.

Insider Insight: Awesome Video Game Data (2:30 PM, Kraken Theater) – This was probably my favorite panel of the show. Presented by EEDAR President Geoffrey Zatkin, it served as a brief glimpse into the world of video game research and data. Lots of statistics were presented, ranging from trends in the music game genre to the likelihood of games with ninjas showing up on the Wii, painting a fascinating picture of what the video game marketplace is really like. If this talk is repeated in some form for a future PAX, I highly recommend it.

Omegathon Final Round (5:30 PM, Main Theater) – And at last, as “The Final Countdown” came over the sound system, the remaining two Omeganauts took to the stage. Each finalist chose a “spirit animal” from the group of disqualified Omeganauts, and Tycho and Gabe teased the game as one having space marines, racecars, and gazelles. Of course, it was no such game. Instead, much to everyone’s surprise, it was The Legend of Zelda! The goal was to be the first to obtain the first Triforce piece, and their helpers’ role would be to guide them along with the help of an FAQ. It was a really exciting match to watch, and once a winner was declared, the show was wrapped up and officially ended, and we headed out to the Console Freeplay area for some last-minute Child of Eden and eventually dinner.

And now that I’m back at home, guess what I started recently. Yep, The Legend of Zelda. This is the first time I’ve ever played a Zelda game, by the way; as of this writing, I’m up to three Triforce pieces and am currently after the fourth.

Such is the hold that PAX has on me, I suppose.

In our next installment: WORF WORF WORF.

PAX Pix 2011, Part Zero: Swaggalicious

Got in from Seattle yesterday afternoon, and have been recovering ever since from that most awesome of festivals known as the Penny Arcade Expo. It was our first time going to “Prime”, which was much bigger than the inaugural edition of PAX East we attended last year.

This time around, I took a lot of photos, and now I have to sort through them all. In the meantime, though, check out all the swag and assorted promotional stuff I picked up over the weekend. This pic doesn’t include a few small items I was unable to locate at the time (such as an Angel Slime pin), nor any duplicates. Still, it’s a lot of stuff, and save for the Covenant Grunt plush, the UNSC bumper sticker, and the Video Game Orchestra CD (and the PAX and Halo Fest passes, of course), all of it was free. The League of Legends code is going to a friend, and some of the other items might be recycled or sold, but otherwise, I think I’ll hang on to much of it.

Over the next few days, I’ll post impressions of the show and games, and even more pics—including ones taken during panels, of the Expo Hall, of Halo Fest, and of the best Gordon Freeman cosplay ever. Stay tuned…

PAX East 2010, Part Three: The Final Countdown

And here’s the conclusion! This one was delayed since I was waiting for namatamiku to get his box of Cool Stuff. He should’ve received it by now, but I haven’t heard from him personally yet. Anyway, I have other posts I want to write and can’t wait any longer, so here’s Part Three in all its glory. Also, nama, if you haven’t done so already, open the box and check out the Cool Stuff before reading this post; not everything I sent you is mentioned here, but I would like to keep it all a surprise 😉

The Final Fantasy VIII OST Appreciation Society

My friends, we are gathered here today to pay tribute to one of the most underrated soundtracks in a video game series famous for its music. While Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy soundtracks are a gateway drug for many a budding game music fan, lost in the shuffle somewhere between “One Winged Angel” and the opera sequence from FFVI is one of the composer’s most consistent, accessible scores. I speak to you of the one, the only, Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack.

Almost as sexy as his soundtrack.
Almost as sexy as his soundtrack.

Final Fantasy VIII is one of the black sheep of the main FF series, as it contains many significant and drastic alterations to the traditional formula. Sure, many of the familiar Final Fantasy tropes are there, but the act of drawing spells from enemies, coupled with the Junction system, earning gil via a salary, upgrading weapons, and other quirks—not the least of which is a sometimes nonsensical and bewildering story of romantic dreams and time compression—didn’t earn it many fans. I myself disliked it a good deal until I played it a second time, in it strictly for the gameplay and armed with a greater awareness of Junction’s nuances. During that second go-round, not only did I have more fun, but I also noticed that the music was pretty damned awesome just about all the time.

Which brings me to today’s meeting. Final Fantasy VIII’s OST is one that, for me and likewise many of you, marks the pinnacle of Nobuo’s work on the series. FFIX, though enjoyable, was largely homage, like the game itself, and Uematsu-san hasn’t composed a full Final Fantasy score since then. The sheer depth of variety on the four-disk soundtrack is astounding, and remarkably, it’s all held together quite well by variations on a few key themes, notably the epic “Liberi Fatali”, the lovely “Eyes on Me”, and the melodic “Fragments of Memory” and “Ami”. The battle themes are wonderful, with Nobuo’s signature touches all over them blended with the types of sounds that one would be hard-pressed to find in any other FF game—the techno-informed “The Man With the Machine Gun” is a fine example of this, as is “Force Your Way”, which features a driving electric organ-led intro.

Outside of the incredible battle themes, there are many other things to enjoy about FFVIII’s music. Take “Roses and Wine”, a soft, dreamy piece with the type of repetitive melody that Nobuo does so well. Or how about “The Spy”, which wouldn’t sound out of place in FFVII… save for the 70’s-style funk coursing throughout. There’s also “Slide Show Part 2”, a better and more polished take on ragtime than FFVI’s “Spinach Rag”, and the snare drum-heavy “SeeD” and “Overture”, which serve FFVIII’s military academy settings very well.

Of course, I’m sure you’ll all agree that any discussion about FFVIII’s music is incomplete without talk of “Eyes on Me”, the award-winning song famously performed by Chinese superstar Faye Wong. While the likes of “Aria di Mezzo Caraterre” and the severely overperformed “One Winged Angel” may be more favored in the eyes of certain fans, “Eyes on Me” reigns over them in my opinion. Not only can I never get sick of it, but it is also remarkably easy (and fun) to sing along to. I’ve heard that this song, unlike the rest of the OST, isn’t available on iTunes, which is why the Society recommends purchase of an authentic hard disk copy from your favorite Japanese import shop.

While we’re at it, I hope everyone in the Society has by now heard Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec, simply one of the finest game music arrange albums available? Many of the best FFVIII tracks are performed by an orchestra on this album, lending an even greater aural depth to what were already amazing pieces (however, as with the OST, “Eyes on Me” is noticeably absent in this album’s iTunes iteration). And let’s not forget what Nobuo’s rock band, the Black Mages, have done with FFVIII’s battle themes. Their versions of “Force Your Way”, “The Man With the Machine Gun”, “The Extreme”, and especially “Maybe I’m a Lion” come highly recommended.

Okay, so I’m a little biased; “Maybe I’m a Lion” is one of my personal faves.