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I recently had the chance to speak with composer Samuel Laflamme. The composer for such games as Outlast, offered insight into game music composition and game design. Have a read and enjoy.

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JB:  What are your biggest influences in music?

 

 

SL:  I’ve grow up listening so many soundtrack scores tha choosing one is a real challenge. But Danny Elfman’s Batman was the first score I really touched me. I’ve always been in love with all the John Williams Star Wars series and also the Steven Spielberg/John Williams collaborations. As a teenager, I discovered Hans Zimmer’s action scores from the 90s, and it was my king of “rock” period, while my friends at the time were listening to Nirvana and Guns & Roses…Nine Inch Nails, Bjork and Radiohead were, for me, my electro-rock-pop-industrial influences. I really liked other bands like Board of Canada. Or electronic musician like Amon Tobin.

More recently I love what Johann Johannsson brings to Hollywood movies. I’m also a profound lover of old Bernard Hermann scores. To me Vertigo is one of the best masterpieces in Hollywood history.

 

 

JB:  Who inspired you to go into music?

 

 

SL:  Again, Danny Elfman’s Batman score was really important. I listened in loop so many times Descent into mystery. While I’m writing those words, I’m listening to it on a youtube video, and it gives me the chills.

Also John Williams with all his 80s scores, from E.T. to Star Wars, by Indiana Jones… Some tracks at the end of Empire Strikes Back were in my top revealing music experience of all time! (including Darth Vader’s march and Escape from Cloud city).

 

 

JB:  What have been some of the challenges for composing music for video games?

 

 

SL: I’m not a hardcore gamer, nor an intense horror fan… So Outlast was my first video game score, and the reason why I was on this project is that Philippe Morin (co-founder of Red Barreld Games) and I shared the same vision on the role of a score in a movie or a video game. It adds something to the story, or the gaming experience, that you don’t see at the screen. I love to create a score that tells something else beyond the information given to us by images. For example, if you’re only walking in a quiet corridor, I would love to add a strange, uncomfortable score that make you imagine that anything could happen at any moments… Phil named it “free gameplay development” because they didn’t have to invent events to create fear. Another good example, is creating a quiet, soft score in middle of a gory scene. It makes you feel so weird that this amplifies the strangeness of the moment. The Cliché of it is childish music box score used to create something really scary from a music that is supposed to be a lullaby.

 

 

JB:  What styles do you like to experiment with in your work?

 

 

SL: I don’t have any preference on the style, but what’s important for me is to be creative. If I’m forced to compose music from temp tracks, or strongly loved references, I really don’t like it because I will struggle to be inventive with something so restrictive. The most important key is working with creative collaborators who aren’t afraid to let me try new things. I can always step back, but I prefer to try new things and push the limits than just stay within the references.

 

 

JB:  Related to the above, what styles would you like to bring in to your work?

 

 

SL:  Again, it’s all about how creative a score can be to tell the story of a movie, video game, etc. I’ve done so many styles in TV shows during the 10 years before doing Outlast. I had chance to explore all those styles but the greatest music I’ve done was when I was allowed to create something surprising and new. In music for image, you can use whatever kind of music for almost whatever image you’re scoring for. And that’s the beauty of it. The only important thing to consider is what story we want to tell. Do you remember “A Knight’s Tale” using rock music in a medieval movie? It worked well! Or whatever Tarantino movies using surf guitars… Or Hans Zimmer Joker’s theme… Or Bernard Hermann using only strings for Psycho (because of the monochrome aspect of the image) and at the time, strings made reference to love scenes… Now using high pitch staccati strings in cluster is a cliché. All of it is about being creative. How can I use music to tell the story.

Bernard Hermann used Brass in his Vertigo Ouverture to imitate the fog horns of San Francisco. How could I be creative in Outlast 2 compared to Outlast 1, by inspiring myself by the new locations, caracters, etc and then being conscient of all the elements that stay from Outlast 1 to Outlast 2 in the game.

 

 

JB:  What are some of your favourite video games soundtracks?

 

 

SL:  I’m a guy from the 80s. I still REALLY love the Zelda theme. It’s one of the classics I know, but still so, so, so good!! I really liked the Mortal Kombat music during the 90s. It’s might be funny but I do remember some good themes from Echo The dolphin on Sega Genesis.I really liked Joel McNeely’s Shadows of the Empire. To me, he’s the one who should be hired for the next Star Wars when John Williams won’t be able to continue. I do remember the excellent music of the first Warcraft and Starcraft.

 

 

JB:  What would you like to see done with video game music going forward?

 

 

SL:  I think we are in the golden age of video games right now. Movies aren’t as interesting as in the past, We have all those super hero movies, or all those really indie movies that employ more radio tunes then scores. Arrival was a revelation for me, but it is in a rare zone for film industry right now. I think tv shows are more originals than movies, and also some really good games. Because I’m a movie fan, I love great storytelling. I love so much the Paolo Sorrentino’s movies (La Grande Bellezza, Youth). But I know it’s marginal in this whole Hollywood world. I think more cinematic video games are fresh air in the freedom of writing and Outlast is right there. You wouldn’t see this kind of edginess in movies now… I don’t think so. I’m not talking about the goriness, but more about the freedom of the form. The freedom of creating something that good, without asking to the rest of the world their opinion like all those screen test and focus groups. I feel like games and TV shows take risks right now that are really interesting in new avenue of story telling and experiences.

 

 

JB:  Do you feel video game music is held back still by anything?

 

 

SL:  It always depends on the creative people who work on a project. I’ve been really lucky with Red Barrels, they let me try things, and I really appreciate this!

It’s fundamental for me to push out limits and find new way to express myself musically.

The only thing that could stop my ideas would be the small amount of music scoring knowledge a creative director, a game developper or a movie director could have. Then I have to educate what I try to do and it’s really daunting.

 

 

JB:  What are some of the challenges in composing for a horror game?

 

 

SL:  The first main challenge is to be new and original. There are so many clichés it’s so difficult to create something new especially in that genre. I have chance to work with collaborators who invite me to explore and push boundaries. This is the only way I can find something new. It so rare you wake up in the morning with the eureka idea! You have to struggle, explore pitch ideas, and see what’s still strong and stand out at the end.

The second is to be “musical”. It’s easy to just make chaotic music to create fear. The real challenge is to create something scary but hooky and memorable. I think you have to have a tune at the end. What makes the Joker’s theme in The Dark Knight so memorable? It’s a clear, bold and original idea. And it’s repeated a lot in the movie so you can associate it easily to the awesome character. I try to make a brilliant use of the most strong and memorable sounds I could find during the creative process, then I try to make you associate it to whatever I need to. For example, my cymbal sound from Outlast 1 was the icon for me, and I tried to push it at some important moment in Outlast 2.

 

 

 

JB:  What is the mindset that goes into composing for a horror game? How do you get the right ideas to put into your work?

 

 

SL:  I don’t know how the other composers work, but for me it’s a very personal and intimate journey into my deeper feelings. I have to refer and connect to my own fears and emotions. Like an actor probably. If I cannot connect to this, you won’t believe or be touched by what I try to tell. I don’t know why actually, but every time I composed too much using only my intellectual knowledge (analyzing my music), I didn’t keep those ideas at the end. Another good tester for me to see what works, or not, is the time. Because the creation of a game like Outlast 2 can take 2 years, it gives me the chance to see what’s still good after having listening it all this time.

 

 

JB:  Do you feel that horror game music is more intrinsically a part of the games?

 

 

SL:  Yes of course, but not because it’s horror, but because it’s a huge part of the gameplay. It’s part of the core, the DNA of the game. Any romantic movie without excellent score would look like cheesy. When the emotion is a key element of the story or gameplay, the presence of an excellent score or music is fundamental to complete the experience!

 

 

 

JB:  What are some of the ways you innovated with the soundtracks for your games?

 

 

SL: By choosing different instruments for Outlast 2, I based my choice on the locations in this new game. I wanted to try something else. I’m a strong believer that I could tell whatever emotion with whatever instrument. It’s always depend on a good interpretation of the instrument. A good musician can tell the whole range of emotion with his instrument, or at least can try to be creative enough to interpret it. In the case of Outlast 2, I tried to get out of my comfort zone by using guitars and basses, and banjo. I know it can sound ridiculous, but for my, as a non guitar player, it’s a challenge to experiment those instruments and trying to find new original tones and sounds that are iconic and scary. I did use some iconic sounds from Outlast 1 at some key moments where I felt it was important to brand something associated to Outlast sound palette. Also, at one point, I thought I told everything I could with those instruments, my assistants and I had to think about how creating new sounds still familiar to the guitars, basses sound palette but adding something new. After a year and half using the guitars and basses samples, I got rid of them and wanted something new for the next levels… So we invented a simple instrument that we called “the Redneck bass”. A simple piece of wood, with metal string attached on it. And it was captured by a contact microphone. It allowed us to explore a new large variety of scary sounds using a bow. “11 bring back our messiah!” in the album is a good example of the use of this instrument.

 

JB:  What would you like to be able to do with your composing that you cannot do yet?

 

 

SL:  Good question!! There are so many things to do. I don’t think it leads to one specific idea. I hope I will continue to have original ideas though out my career. I only wish to work with tremendous talented people who have confidence in me and let me explore and discover new way to approach my music in storytelling . Again I’ve been lucky with Red Barrels so far, they are real genius and the most important thing is they let me explore ideas. One thing I would love is to explore more Sci-Fi projects or more dramatic stories projects. I’m a fan of great script, original ones like the movie “Arrival” and would love to work with people like the ones on the story driven projects from Naughty Dog or Quantic Dream.

 

 

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Thank you again to Samuel Laflamme for doing this interview. You can follow him on twitter at @Samuel_Laflamme    

By Jonathan Balofsky On 26 Apr, 2017 At 09:23 PM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarI had the chance to speak with Jason Lepine of Enthusiast Gaming and Indie Corner, and we discussed a number of topics. Please enjoy our conversation about Enthusiast gaming, Nintendo and the indie scene, and Indie Corner.

 

 

 

 

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JB:  How did you get involved with Nintendo Enthusiast?

 

 

JL: A few years ago I was looking to connect with other gaming enthusiasts. A friend of mine suggested I join a meet-up group called Nintendo Enthusiast in Toronto and that’s where I met the founder of the site.  He was looking at putting on a Nintendo themed convention together and I volunteered to help him out. One thing led to another and now 3 years later I’m fully employed by the company that now runs and operates Nintendo Enthusiast, Enthusiast Gaming.

 

 

JB:  What were some of your early responsibilities for Nintendo Enthusiast?

 

 

JL: My start at Nintendo Enthusiast was a little unconventional.  I first made a few episodes of Indie Corner as a pilot and tried to sell it to Nintendo Enthusiast, they turned down my offer stating they couldn’t afford it so instead I offered to run the series on their channel as long as I could keep all the ad revenue.  I thought I was making a smart move but those early episodes only made about $5-$10 so I guess they won that deal haha.

 

JB:  What led to the creation of Indie corner?

 

 

JL: The idea came from an article on Nintendo Enthusiast called “120+ Upcoming Wii U Indie Titles”. At the time the Wii U was in a major drought and indies weren’t really considered so the article made a big impact in showcasing just how much development was underway for Wii U games.  While the article was interesting, it was massive to get through. I didn’t want to read it and wished there was a video series that could go through all that info quickly, and so that’s where my inspiration came from to make the show.

 

JB:  What are some of your favourite indie games?

 

 

JL: My first indie game is still one of my favorites which is Electronic Super Joy.  I love the challenge, the platforming and of course its humor even though its a bit crassy.  Other than that, the metroidvania’s seem to leave a good impression on me such as Guacamelee, Xeodrifter, Axiom Verge.

JB: What are some indie games you feel are underrated or have fallen under the radar?

 

 

JL: I’m almost annoyed at myself for how much I tout this game but Has-Been Heroes.  It’s a very recent game but I’m just shocked at how poorly it was received by critics.  The game has an amazing amount of depth to it and has a very satisfying amount of challenge.  It’s a game you have to sit with and really take the time to dive into it, so that may be why it’s being looked over by so many. Another game which is a bit older now so may have fallen off the radar for some is Mark of the Ninja. It holds a 91 on metacritic and is just an amazing 2D stealth platformer with a solid story line.

 

JB:  What are some indie games that are coming up that you feel deserve attention?

 

 

JL: These days I don’t look too much to the future for indie games since so many projects will just vanish from existence before seeing the light of day. For example there were only about 1/3 of the titles on my original Indie Corner show that actually did come out.  That said I’m still very much looking forward to playing Cup Head, I hope we see that one come out sometime this year.

 

JB:  Nintendo Enthusiast expanded recently into Enthusiast Gaming. How did that come about?

 

 

JL:Nintendo Enthusiast started off as a simple blog for the founder, in fact it was called “The Nintendo Enthusiast” originally.  As the site nintendoenthusiast.com grew as well as our ambitions to bring gamers together, it was obvious we’d need a proper company name and so Enthusiast Gaming was founded.  Within Enthusiast Gaming we now have many brands including publications such as Nintendo Enthusiast, Xbox Enthusiast, PlayStation Enthusiast, PC Gaming Enthusiast, our live event known as EGLX (Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo) and we’ve even started acquiring new properties this year such as onlysp.com. To share the whole story of how all that happened would easily require a small novel.

 

JB:  Indie Corner also expanded into indie gaming enthusiast. How does it feel to see a project you started grow to that extent?

 

 

JL: It’s a little bittersweet.  I’ve always felt that Indie Corner and myself were one and the same and that you needed the host to go along with the brand.  I tried early on to branch out Indie Corner to other platforms with alternate hosts but that never got off the ground. When we started building communities on our new community site enthusiast.gg, it just felt like a natural fit to convert the Indie Corner socials into indie gaming enthusiast.  I felt it gave the brand more room for growth and let anyone contribute to covering the indie scene.  I still have the Indie Corner brand for myself which I play around with on the Hey Jay! and the Nintendo Enthusiast channel from time to time, so it’s not like it’s gone forever either.

 

JB:  What can indie games do to get more attention in your opinion?

 

 

JL: Support each other. The biggest challenges I see for an indie studio are their budgets and their size.  Saying “get more money!” is easier said than done but supporting each other to get more reach, more support, more opportunities, that’s within reach.  From what I’ve seen the indie community is already very supportive already so we just need more of that.  More people being vocal about the good indie games etc. I’m one guy who decided to put on a show which introduced maybe a few hundred viewers to some indie games, if each of those viewers share those games with 5 friends and so on eventually you can reach a large enough scale that moves enough units so a studio can hopefully make another game.

 

JB: Do you think the Switch will affect the perception of indie games and Nintendo systems?

 

 

JL: Absolutely.  I think we’ve crossed the point where mainstream gamers started taking indie games seriously a few years ago.  Major hits like Shovel Knight, Undertale, Ori and the Blind forest have shown the potential of what a small studio, or even a single individual can do.  I believe we have a lot more gamers now dabbling in the indie scene trying to uncover the next big hit before everyone else figures it out.  I find that really fun to do.

 

As for the Switch I like how it changes the conversation about modern games.  It’s no longer about having the next level of HD visuals or FPS, it’s about having good, fun games. When you stop being focused on a game’s visual power and start appreciating it for its gameplay, that’s when an indie game can thrive and can even go toe to toe with the high budget AAA experiences.  Of course that’s not the case for every indie game, just like anything you’ll find a wide range of games in terms of quality.  One thing I think the Wii U indie scene suffered from was that just about anyone could put out a game on the system and that really diluted the perceived quality of indie titles.  Nintendo seems to be getting a bit more strict in which indie games are allowed to publish on the Switch which I think will be great for both indie studios and gamers alike.

 

JB: What future do you see for Indie games and Nintendo?

 

 

JL: Nintendo and Indie studios share a lot in common.  For example they’re both obsessed with being innovative and creating fun games.  With so much in common, it only makes sense for them to have a strong future together.  We’re already seeing a very strong start to the Nintendo Switch’s software release with a first party Nintendo title nearly every month padded with high quality indie games in between.  Within 1 month of having the Switch I already have half a dozen games on my system all offering really fun gaming experiences.

 

JB:  Do you have anything you would like to say to the readers of Real Otaku Gamer?

 

 

JL: Just wanted to say thanks everyone for taking the time to read this interview and if there’s an indie game you’ve discovered that you really enjoy, be vocal about it. Share it on your social media and with your friends, it can really go a long way to helping those developers out.

By Jonathan Balofsky On 25 Apr, 2017 At 10:03 PM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, Otaku Music, ROG News, ROG Tech | With 0 Comments

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I recently had the chance to interview video game composer Stephen Cox.  His most recent work is the upcoming VR game Farpoint .We discussed his influences, and how composing for a VR game changes things. Please enjoy.

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JB: What are your biggest influences in music?

SC: They are all over the place. In the early years it was definitely all things classical including film music – Bach, Beethoven, Mozart especially John Williams. But Stevie Wonder was also in the background growing up, so I love groove oriented anything. Then Steve Vai, Mr. Bungle and most 90’s rock/metal/grunge pushed me through the high school years.

 

Once I was in college, my influences became totally schizophrenic… Coltrane, Mike Patton, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Erik Korngold, Aphex Twin, Stravinski… One of my new film scoring favorites is Jóhann Jóhannsson. His score for Arrival was outstanding. Can’t wait to hear what he does in the new Blade Runner! I love anything John Powell does and there are so many modern pop, rock, hip hop and R&B artists I’ve left out. I honestly listen to everything (even Country music) and sometimes study the hell out of it, depending on the gig.

 

JB: Who inspired you to go into music?

SC: It’s hard to say when that seed was planted and who planted it. Music was always part of my life growing up. However, there is one instance that stands out back in the early 90s… I was in the middle school concert band (playing trumpet at the time) and heavily into rock music, especially Steve Vai and his genius guitar playing. So this guest speaker comes in to do a talk about his music career and maybe selling Berklee College of Music, where he studied. I’m not sure who this guy was and I wasn’t really paying attention to anything he was saying… until he mentioned Steve Vai. He started talking about life at Berklee and the famous alumni who were there in his day. I don’t remember this speaker’s name, but I think what he said stuck with me in a big way. Years later I ended up at Berklee totally focused on doing music from then on out.

 

JB: What have been some of the challenges for composing music for video games?

SC: The fact that you aren’t scoring to a locked picture, like a film or show, can be tough initially, yet so much more freeing! I found myself really loving the nonlinear process. Also writing chunks of music or overlays that can be triggered at any time while fitting into an underlying loop was a fun challenge. But again, I love that part of it as well.

 

Deliverables are more complex in a game compared to TV or Film. Handing off organized sessions and countless files to give the engineers as much flexibility as possible (while still retaining your sonic vision) requires a certain degree of technical skill and planning. You always have to think about the guy down the production pipeline, making sure you are not making more work for the implementers and engineers. If they’re happy, we’re all happy.

 

JB: What styles do you like to experiment with for your work?

 

SC: I love having the chance to pick up a guitar and rock out. My ongoing work with CBS Sports usually fills that need, but there is not a lot of room for experimentation. If I ever get the opportunity to experiment, like we did in Farpoint, it would be the process of crafting new sounds from organic sources, textures… stuff no one has heard before. Being a part of that ‘world building’ process sonically was such a thrill.

 

JB: Related to the above, what styles would you like to bring into your work?
SC: Being able to mix up styles in new and interesting ways is something I always try to do when given the chance. It seems like our work with trailer music usually gives us opportunities for mashing up orchestral writing with sound design, synthesis and even rock. Music for trailers is usually bombastic, shock and awe, but they are a lot of fun. I look forward to any opportunity to do some modern composition, experimentation with rhythms and microtonality. Film and games are usually the best fit for this style. I can’t wait for the next one!

 

JB: What are some of your favourite video games soundtracks?

SC: My all time favorite is Grim Fandango composed by Pete McConnell. I know it’s old, but the music was the primary reason I was hooked on that game for years. I still play it with my kid on PS4. The score to The Last of Us composed by Gustavo Santaolalla was a big inspiration for Farpoint. Aside from his amazing theme music, some of the in-game music was so lush and rich with organic sound design… he is a true craftsman. The most recent game I can think of is Sarah Schachner’s work on Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which was killer! Her work with modular synthesis is super impressive… and it makes me want to go out and buy a bunch of toys. I know I’m leaving someone out…

 

JB: What would you like to see done with video game music going forward?

SC: I would love to see a “choose you own ensemble” scenario. Complete user control over the music engine itself. With VR, you might have the flexibility to place your chosen instruments in the world, add effects, who knows! The act of listening to music can be so much more with this technology. I know for a fact record labels are working on similar ideas for albums and artists currently. These next few years will be very exciting in the world of music and game music within VR.

 

JB: Do you feel video game music is held back still by anything?

SC: Only our imaginations. At this point I see no difference between the production quality of the biggest games compared to the biggest films. My kid and I just finished Uncharted 4 last night and Henry Jackman’s score totally knocked me out, Niagara Falls. I forgot to mention Uncharted 4 in the previous question. The emotional content and gameplay was supported perfectly by the music, just like his best film scores. If anything, film music is held back because of the static medium. Game music can be ever changing, evolving with the action taking place and there’s no longer a limit on how ‘big’ the music can be for a game. Kudos to Sony and Naughty Dog for the most amazing implementation of game music I’ve ever seen or heard.

 

JB: What are the challenges of composing for a game that is in VR?

SC: The biggest challenge is immersion, or keeping the player immersed in the VR world. There seems to be two schools of thought in terms of sound and music within VR: The first is Full Immersion, where the space and reality is represented as accurately as possible using sound effects only. And if there is music, it is source music, meaning it is coming from within the world itself. The other approach treats audio and music closer to a cinematic experience or even hyper-cinematic, almost like a theme park ride. We were always walking that fine line. When my writing partner, Danny McIntyre, and I realized that VR experiences (including Farpoint) are closer to a theme park attraction than a standard game, we found our stride and the music cues started clicking into place.

 

JB: Does the game being in VR change the way you go about composing?

 

SC: In terms of writing themes and cues, not so much. In terms of the sound palette and instrumentation, very much so. The way the instruments interacted with the space is very important. We tried to keep the score very wide and reverberant as if it was a part of the background ambience, which it almost is at times. We found that less could be more in terms of ensemble size even though some of the cues are very thick.

 

JB: Do you feel that VR offers new ways to experience the music?

 

SC: Absolutely. Mainly because of the space. The use of reverb and panning is so much more important in VR than it is in any other medium. Things can be focused or spread in a way that wouldn’t make sense if it were played back on speakers. Because the VR experience is inextricably tied to headphones, we ended up doing a lot of testing using them. I worked closely with Sony Interactive’s music team under Senior Music Manager Jonathan Mayer (along with music engineer/implementer Anthony Caruso and Rob Goodson) to figure out the right balance of instrumentation, reverb and placement. Those guys did amazing work.

 

JB: What are some of the innovations VR brings to game music?

SC: Because the experience is so immersive, I think it may change the way we approach sound design and scoring music entirely. Using music in a way that increases that feeling of immersion is an innovation in and of itself. I think we did very well with that in Farpoint, but we are all trying to reinvent the wheel together.

 

JB: What would you like to be able to do differently with music that cannot be done yet?

 

SC: I hear music, intervals, rhythms and pitches everywhere when I walk outside, wash the dishes or just sitting in my studio writing this. It’s kind of a sickness for most composers and audio pros. I want to create an experience for the listener that takes that to a new level. Where the pitches and rhythms of normal, everyday ambience can be compiled and processed in a way to make true music… in real time. Maybe I’ll get cracking on that right now, unless someone has already beaten me to it 😉

 

Also being able to craft and compose music in a VR space as if you were using the interface from Minority Report. VR could be the bridge to creating and composing music in entirely new ways and Farpoint is a very important first step in the world of VR innovation. I can’t wait for you all to experience it!

 

Thank you again Stephen for taking the time to talk to ROG!

By Jonathan Balofsky On 19 Apr, 2017 At 07:26 PM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, News, NINTENDO, Old School Otaku, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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I recently took the time to talk with Shawn Long of Nintendo Enthusiast, aka Youtube’s RGT 85. RGT 85 is one of the best retro gaming channels on YouTube and we talked about the retro scene and how his channel came to be and works. Have a read below.

 

JB: How did you get into retro game collecting?

 

SL: Retro game collecting was kind of a natural thing for me. I was born in 85 so I got to experience the golden age (in my opinion) of gaming as it was happening, but like most people my family couldn’t always afford to buy me the newest games and systems. So a lot of it is now I’m in a position where I can get the games or systems I always wanted to play when I was younger but never could, so it’s cool.

 

JB: What are some of the challenges with retro game collecting?

 

SL: The biggest challenge with retro collecting is by far the price. It used to be dirt cheap but as more and more people get into it the playing field is much more crowded. That pisses some people off, but it doesn’t really bother me too much. I like the challenge of trying to find a good deal or something you know? It’s a rush.

 

JB: You are a part of the Nintendo Enthusiast/Enthusiast gaming team and put videos up for them. What made you decide to start RGT 85 as a separate project?

 

SL: RGT 85 is a pretty interesting story. I used to do retro stuff on the Nintendo Enthusiast channel but it never got good views like most of my other projects so I kind of realized people didn’t really care that much about them that were subbed. I pitched an idea to Jason to kind of do more retro stuff anyways though, but we realized it wouldn’t make much sense to do stuff on like SEGA you know? Everyone else on the video team had a side project so I was just like “hey let me try one myself.” And the rest is history.

 

 

JB:  What goes into the planning process for your videos? Do you have a step by step plan for each one? Do you wing them?

 

SL: As far as making a video goes it just depends on the project. Most of the time when it’s a discussion or whatnot I’m just winging it, all one take. Feels more natural and organic and I think that’s why people like me, because I can talk forever and not lose my train of thought or need to do splices. Bigger projects like Hidden Gems or Reviews are more of a planned out process for sure though.

 

JB:  Your channel has grown significantly since you launched it. How has the experience of growing your channel been?

 

SL:  Growing the channel has been pretty interesting to be honest. Since I had done vids with Nintendo Enthusiast Jason and I kind of learned what works and what doesn’t, and I’m friends with a lot of other YouTube people who have been kind enough to help me along the way with tips about like SEO and Tags and stuff. People don’t realize how hard it is to “make a name” for yourself or whatever in the community, because I’d say making the video is only 25% of the equation. Your tags, title, and marketing are far more important.

 

JB: Is there any game you have wanted to talk about, but felt for whatever reason, you couldn’t?

 

SL: One thing I don’t like to do is talk about things I don’t know. So if I’m not well versed in a topic or game, I’ll either study it and make myself privy to it or just skip it. Luckily my brain is like 95% random video game stuff, so it works out. Haha.

 

JB:  What are some games that you feel are underrated 16 bit gems?

 

SL: There’s a ton of 16-Bit Hidden Gems. I’m actually doing a video on that right now for the Genesis, but I’ll mention one that no one ever talks about: Garfield – Caught in the Act. It was a later Genesis release, like 1995 I want to say, but the animation is some of the best on the system.

 

JB: Since you are a retro gaming fan, I must ask, at what point does a game system become retro?

 

SL:  When something becomes “retro” is an interesting question. To me, I think if a system is over 10 years old, that’s retro. I mean it’s certainly not modern right? I know some people have the cutoff around the Dreamcast or whatever but I just feel like 10 years is an insane amount of time when you think of it in terms of gaming trends and games, so that’s good enough for me.

 

 

JB:  What do you feel should be done to preserve classic games that are at risk of being lost forever?

 

SL: Emulation. There’s nothing wrong with it, you aren’t screwing over the people who made the game 20 years ago, so emulation is key. Thankfully though the theory that carts would stop working after 30 years seems to be a myth, and I think that “disc rot” is a bunch of BS too as long as you keep things nice and clean.

 

JB:  What do you think of the trend of modern revivals of classic genres and games?

 

SL: I like the “new retro” stuff. Some of my favorite recent games have been of that variety. It just shows that all these “AAA” graphic intensive titles aren’t really what everyone wants.

 

JB:  What are some retro series you would like to see revived?

SL: I’d love to see a vast majority of SEGA franchises like Shining, Streets of Rage, Landstalker/Timestalker, Phantasy Star (RPG style), Virtua Fighter, Vectorman, I mean there’s so many franchises SEGA just sits on and it’s like “What are you doing!?”
JB: Do you have anything you want to say to the readers of Real Otaku Gamer?

 

SL: Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks for talking to me! You can find me on YouTube at RGT 85!

 

 

 

 

Shawn Long

Editor in Chief at Nintendo Enthusiast

www.nintendoenthusiast.com

http://www.metacritic.com/publication/nintendo-enthusiast?filter=games

 

Thank you again for doing this Shawn. You can follow Shawn on twitter at @ShawnLong85   

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Recently I had the chance to have a discussion with Brian Diamond and Stephen Froeber of the Materia Collective, regarding their upcoming project ZODIAC: Final Fantasy Tactics Remixed. We talked about how the project came about and what was involved. Have a read below.

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JB: This is a very interesting project, how did it come about?

Brian Diamond (BD): Stephen can probably answer this question more fully than me as a life long fan of the Tactics franchise. I came onto the project as an assistant producer a few weeks after it started, to help with organisational grunt work, though I quickly took on more responsibility as the project took shape. Tactics is a very popular game among members of The Materia Collective, with many chomping at the bit to put their musical mark on the world of Ivalice.

Stephen Froeber (SF): Final Fantasy Tactics was actually the second game that I played in the franchise. I was one of the “late bloomers” that caught the FF series starting with VII and the PlayStation era. I later went back and played all the originals.

Tactics was special to me because of how much more mature it was. The storyline was much darker and more serious, and the gameplay itself was more cerebral.What ultimately grabbed me, of course, was the music. It was so atmospheric and really fit the world so well.

When Materia Collective started with the first album covering VII, I knew it was only a matter of time before Tactics had to be done. I was thrilled to be able to produce the album with Brian. 

JB:  How has the response been for the project so far?

SF: We’ve had a lot really positive feedback, to include a nice comment from Yasumi Matsuno himself, which was a huge, unexpected honor! 

BD: The response has been extremely positive, with many praising the size of the album, its eclectic mix of styles and high quality of arrangers remixes. Everyone has a different favorite and I think that’s a testament to the all the talented individuals who poured their hearts into this project. We even had Tactics Creator Yasumi Matsuno retweet and buy a copy of the album.

JB: Was there any special selection of the musicians for the project?

SF: Many of the arrangers are veterans of the Materia Collective’s previous albums, but we always have new people with each project that request to join. We are continually impressed with the quality of work that arrangers put into each piece.

Each arranger has discretion on using their own musicians for their song, and many times, that is how many people end up getting involved long term.  

BD: Not really, the process of the majority of our projects involves our would be arrangers pitching proposals for the tracks they want to remix. We often ask that they pitch multiple tracks in case they don’t get their first preference. As with all soundtracks there are really popular tracks and hidden gems, and sometimes we have 7 proposals for one track. In that situation we might allow 2-3 versions of a track but we give priority to the first to submit and make sure the multiple submissions are stylistically different enough e.g. (a) Dubstep Remix, (b) Solo Piano and (c) Full Orchestral. It’s important for us to try and cover as much of the original soundtrack as possible, so we try and keep the number of repeated tracks to a minimum.

JB: What kind of future projects do you anticipate?

SF: We anticipate many future projects. 😉 

If you take a look at our current discography, you can probably take some good guesses as to things that are in the pipeline. 

BD: I can’t go into details yet (mainly because I don’t know myself), but would love to do more Final Fantasy albums, maybe some remix albums of Indie Games, I’m really looking forward to Materia Collectives Kickstarted Hero of Time orchestral album – the art work and vinyl design for it looks gorgeous and the work that Producer Eric Buchholz has done with Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses is stellar.

JB: What kind of approval process was there for the songs recorded?

SF: We have a pretty wide variety of skillsets and experience levels within the Collective. It’s always a delicate balance between being inclusive, and keeping our quality level consistently high. 

We have periodic check-ins throughout the production process for us to give feedback on demos and mixes. By the time the final tracks were submitted, they were pretty polished. 

BD: Outside of the initial proposal process, we try and get our arrangers to check in periodically with updates on how their tracks are doing, whether they’re having any problems, making sure they submit stuff on time. The most important thing we strive for is making sure that everyone involved give the best that they can give and that they can look back on the project with pride.

JB: There are a lot of tribute albums to video game soundtracks, how will this one stand out?

SF: One thing that makes all of the Materia Collective albums unique is that you really don’t know what you’re going to get from one track to the next. We have such a diverse range of musical influences, and you can hear that front and center in the music…. and yet, in spite of that, the album stays surprisingly unified and consistent. There’s something musically for everyone. 

BD: One thing about Materia releases that I have always enjoyed has been the sheer size of them and eclectic mix of styles – ZODIAC: Final Fantasy Tactics Remixed has 63 tracks and 4 hours long. And that isn’t even the largest one – our Undertale tribute album FALLEN that we released last September was 97 tracks 

JB: Have there been any difficulties in the making of Final Fantasy Tactics remixed?

SF: All large projects have challenges, and this was no exception. Life still happens even when you’re making awesome music. 

We had some artists that had to drop out of the project, as well as some growing pains with project management tools.

We try to take each problem as a point of learning to bring into the next album.

BD: I found it surprising how smoothly it went considering Stephen and I were dealing with 60 odd arrangers and by extension 100+ musicians throughout the process. Sometimes working with musicians can be like herding cats (speaking from past experience) however I’m delighted that we had very few issues on this album and all the musicians and vocalists were wonderful to work with.

JB: What is it about the music of Final Fantasy Tactics that stands out the most to you?

SF: Tactics, more so than the other FF series, was much more focused on atmosphere. There are several ambient, dissonant, haunting tracks all throughout, as well as some large orchestral pieces. 

I initially thought that would make this a challenging album to cover…. but when I started hearing the renditions of each track, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It breathes new life into an already amazing soundtrack. Many times, it put a unique spin on a piece that gives it a whole new meaning.

BD: For me it’s the rich and luscious scores of Sakimoto and Iwata, the interweaving themes, the tapestry of storytelling conveyed through their music. My first experience of Sakimotos wonderful composition style was with the music of FFXII – I grew up on Uematsu sans gorgeous arrangements from the mainline Final Fantasy entries of the 90s and early 2000s. I came late to Final Fantasy Tactics playing it more recently on Android devices, but I had heard the soundtrack long before playing the game, and it’s unique style has stayed with my ‘til this day.

JB: Do you have anything you would like to say to the readers of Real Otaku Gamer?

SF: The one thing that I really enjoy about the VGM cover scene is the deep passion for the source material. 

These albums give us a chance to connect with fellow fans of these amazing games, and (hopefully) add something personal to the conversation of how we experienced the music that other people can connect with.

BD: Even though we’ve just released ZODIAC: Final Fantasy Tactics Remixed – Materia Collective has got a lot of cool projects coming out this year; so if you want to keep up with all our goings on – follow Materia Collective on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Bandcamp for updates on all our releases and general VGM goodness.

 

JB: Thank you again for doing this.

No GravatarRecently I had the chance to talk with Edward Di Geronimo of Saturnine Games and discuss the upcoming game Antipole DX. Take a look below

antipole 1

JB: Antipole was originally a game on the DS, the Xbox and PC marketplace. What made you decide to remake the game?

EG: I always loved the gameplay of the original, and it seemed to resonate well with the people that played the original. Unfortunately the original never looked as good as I would’ve liked, and I think that prevented a lot of people from giving the game a chance.

JB: The Nintendo eshop has been a very interesting place for indie games, some succeed and some do not. How have your experiences been with the eshop so far?

EG: The eShop isn’t that different from every other digital store front. Some games do well, while many games don’t. Making games is a tough business, no matter what market you’re looking at. If you’re a big developer, you can release everywhere and find your audience that way. If you’re a small developer, that’s not really a practical approach, so you have to pick your spots more carefully. My game design senses are heavily inspired by Nintendo, and I think it shows in the games I make. As a result, I’ve seen better results when I release games on Nintendo platforms than elsewhere.

antipole 2

JB: What do you think of miiverse as a means for developers to promote their indie games on Nintendo systems?

EG: I’ve been a big fan of Miiverse. Developer posts get very good visibility, and everyone reading the posts have either a Wii U or a 3DS. It’s a much more effective way of getting word out to my target audience than general social media is. I try to post a screenshot every week or two along with a short development update. The reception has been very positive. I think I’ve been able to build a good following on Miiverse.

JB: What made you decide to make the Wii U one of the target platforms for Antipole DX?  What do you think of the audience on Nintendo systems for this type of game? Do you feel they are particularly receptive?

EG: Nintendo has been developing high quality platformer games for decades. I think their audience is highly receptive to them. They also have a core audience that’s been gaming on their systems for decades. This crowd grew up playing pixel art platformers. I think the audience is going to be very receptive toward games like Antipole DX.

antipole 4

JB: Can you tell us a few of the new things and changes we will see in Antipole DX that are different from the original?

EG: There’s not a lot left that’s the same! The code is largely the same, but we’ve replaced all the assets. The graphics are all new, with a pixel art style that feels like a 16-bit era game. Last time around the audio side of the game suffered due to the tight space restrictions of DSiWare. The music and sound effects are all new this time around, and are much higher quality now that we don’t have to worry about space restrictions. Players familiar with the original game will still find plenty of surprises in the DX version. The levels have all been recreated from scratch. I usually tried to stay faithful to the original designs, but there are plenty of cases where I removed or changed sections that I wasn’t happy with. I made sure to add new sections to every level, and also included several all new levels. The DX version is on track to have about 50% more rooms than the original game did.

antipole 5

JB: Who are some of your biggest influences as a game developer?

EG: Nintendo is definitely the biggest influence on my design senses, with Mario, Zelda, and Metroid being the games I look at the most. NES/SNES era Capcom is another big influence, with games like Mega Man and Duck Tales standing out. In general I tend to look toward the 8/16 bit era for the basics of gameplay, and look at more modern games for ideas on how to create a nicer experience.

JB: What are some of the biggest influences and inspirations for Antipole DX in particular?

EG: The core gameplay is heavily Mega Man inspired, although you’ll certainly find some hints of Metroid in there. The speed run challenges are inspired by Metroid’s rewards for beating the game faster. The fast speed of the character was originally a nod to Sonic. I was never as big a fan of Sonic as the rest of the team though, so that aspect of it got downplayed over time. I found that Sonic style wide open levels didn’t work well with the gravity mechanic.

antipole 3

JB: What are some of your biggest concerns for this game?

EG: I don’t think my concerns are any different than they are with other games. I worry about how much time I put into the game, and if it’s worth it. The industry is always changing, so I wonder if the assumptions I made about the market are right. I think everyone gets afraid that other people won’t like the game.

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JB: Is there anything you wanted to do differently with Antipole DX that you have not been able to?

EG: Coming into this project, I had a list of things I wanted to add to the original but wasn’t able to. I made sure to get those things in. While there’s always room to add more, I don’t think there’s anything I didn’t get in that I felt strongly about. I do have a list of things that would be a better fit for a sequel though!

antipole 6 antipole 7

JB: Do you have anything you would like to say to the readership of Real Otaku Gamer?

EG: We went all out to include as much as we could in this game, and make it as great as we could. We’re extremely proud of how it’s turning out. I hope you give it a shot and enjoy it!

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You can see a trailer for the game below

You can follow Saturnine Games on twitter here and you can follow Edward on twitter here.

Thank you again to Edward and Saturnine Games for the interview

By Jonathan Balofsky On 19 Jul, 2016 At 02:13 AM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Indie Spotlight, Interviews, News, NINTENDO, Previews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarI recently had the chance to talk with Ezekiel Rage, developer of Citidale: Gate of Souls, and discuss the upcoming indie game. Please have a look at our conversation

 Citadale01

JB: Where/How did you get the idea to make your game Citadale – Gate of Souls?

ER: It actually started as a Castlevania fangame. I wanted to do a remake of Castlevania Legends. It was my first time using the engine I use and as such I figured creating a remake would teach me a lot about the program. And as development kept getting more complex and different from the original, I decided to make it its own thing instead of a remake.

JB: Obviously Citadale takes influence from the Castlevania series, but are there any other game series that Citadale was influenced by?

ER: There is a rather obscure NES game called Faxanadu that inspired me greatly. Another influence was the SNES game Demon’s Crest.

JB: Konami’s reputation has taken a beating over the last while. Do you think that will help you with promoting a game that is essentially a spiritual sequel to the classic Castlevania games?

ER: To be honest, I have no particular thoughts on that subject. I hope that the game will be doing well but whether the success of the game is influenced by Konami’s decisions or not is not something I am concerned about. I suppose this discussion would probably be worth having after the game has been released.

JB: You have some interesting ideas for this game, such as it being primarily played on the gamepad, while the TV screen shows a bigger map. What made you decide to do that?

ER: When I decided to port it to Wii U, which was in 2014, I thought that it would be an interesting way to play the game. Of course you can switch views at any given time or not use the GamePad at all, and we do support most input devices on Wii U. The main idea I had was a boss fight that would take up more vertical space than the TV can give you. I realized this boss fight in Stage 3, by the way.

Citadale03

JB: Besides Castlevania, what were some of your favourite games growing up?

ER: I am a HUGE Zelda nerd. I have a Zelda shrine, so to speak. I own all the games with packages and manuals, lots of merchandise, and I even have a Zelda tattoo. There was also game on Super Nintendo (and Sega Genesis, but the SNES version was better) called Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow – I love this game. Terranigma and Lufia are among my favorite games, along with the aforementioned Faxanadu, the classic Mega Man series and of course the Metroid series.

JB: What Castlevania games influenced this game the most? That is, besides Legends, what other games inspired the design and gameplay?

ER: Well the very first NES Castlevania was not only hugely influential on this game, but also on my younger gaming self. I also took some inspiration from Dracula X on SNES (yes, I know, Rondo is better), in that you can’t upgrade your main weapon for example.

Citadale02

JB: What were your favourite Castlevania games to play?

ER: Obviously I love Symphony of the Night. I am also very partial to Legacy of Darkness and Simon’s Quest. Super Castlevania 4 and Portrait of Ruin also rank among my favorites.

JB: With regards to the last question, what were some of your favourite game genres growing up?

ER: I love action adventure games, really. I like to explore interesting settings – be it old castles or intricate dungeons.

JB: Making this game focused on the Wii U could be considered risky at this time. What led you to that decision?

ER: I have been a huge Nintendo fan growing up. I always wanted to create a game for a Nintendo system so this was really an easy decision to make.

JB: What do you think of the indie scene on the Wii U?

ER: It is far bigger than most people think, and from what I can tell quite popular. Of course there are positive and negative examples but overall most Nindies are actually very good games.

JB: Do you have any plans to integrate Miiverse into this game?

ER: We actually do support Miiverse. We also have stamps in the game.

JB: What are your hopes for this game? Would you want to make a sequel if this does well?

ER: My hopes are that it does well enough to warrant a release of story DLC. I could do a sequel but I’d much rather release the continuation of the story as DLC – a sequel would use the same graphics and graphical style anyway, because I am a one man development team (well, one and a half, I have an amazingly talented programmer/publisher friend) and creating complex graphics is simply not within my field of expertise.

Citadale04

JB: Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of Real Otaku Gamer?

ER: Well, obviously I hope you check out my game and my upcoming projects. I would also like to thank you for taking the time for me and I wish you all the best 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview and good luck with the game.

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You can follow Ezekiel Rage on twitter here and check out his website here

No Gravatar1920_ScrewAttack

 

I recently had the chance to speak with Austin Harper of ScrewAttack Games and Sam Beddoes of FreakZone Games. We discussed how some of their projects came to be, what the future holds and more. Please take a read below.

JB: ScrewAttack is best known as a gaming website. What led to you guys deciding to make your own games?

AH: We are all gamers at heart and we’re really passionate about video games; we decided to take that passion for games and apply that to design. I think all of us at some point in time have daydreamed about being able to make a video game. It’s kind of a childhood dream, you know? We were just very fortunate in having a platform and a great community to support us in trying to fulfill that dream.

JB:  ScrewAttack came out with a rather interesting mobile game a few years ago called Texting of the Bread. What was the inspiration behind that?

AH: Haha, it was very much inspired by the Dreamcast game Typing of the Dead. Essentially we were sitting around talking about how cool Typing of the Dead was, and wondering why nothing like that had been done in the mobile market. We really liked the punny name we came up with, so we decided to take the theme and run with it — hence the main character with a cow strapped to her back and the hordes of gingerbread men.

JB:  What lead to the Nerd being a character in the game? Was it a test run to see how he would be in his own game?

AH: Honestly, we were just really happy that we got to make a game, a real game, with our name on it and wanted to share it with our friends.?

JB:  How was the reception to Texting of The Bread? I understand that one mobile version of the game itself was cancelled?.

AH: The reception was actually pretty good, and we wanted to bring the game to Android, but at the time the ShiVa Engine we built the game in just didn’t have Android support. Our developer made a few test builds anyway, all of them had really ridiculous bugs, like not being able to close the application without removing your battery… Long story short, we parted ways with the developers before we ever got the build completed. Though, you may hear something about our mobile titles in the near future.

JB:  Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is probably the most well known of the games ScrewAttack has produced. How did it come about?

AH: We were talking about making a new game, specifically considering the Angry Video Game Nerd franchise, but we didn’t have a developer in mind. Around that time, Sam Beddoes of FreakZone Games reached out to us, asking us to do a review of his game, Manos: The Hands of Fate. We really liked the game and got along with Sam pretty well, and he happened to mention he was a big fan of the AVGN series. The rest just kind of clicked.

JB: Sam, how did you come to be the developer that worked on AVGN adventures? Did ScrewAttack reach out to you? What was the experience like to work on an officially licensed game based of a reviewer of crappy games? Was it intimidating?

SB: A few years back I made a similar project “MANOS: The Hands of Fate” – A retro-style adaptation of the infamously bad movie of the same name. It was a pet project which did pretty well. The idea was to adapt the movie in the way movies were adapted to games back in the 80s on the NES, and a lot of my research involved binge-watching AVGN, who I had been a big fan of for quite some time, to try and capture that “LJN” feel. Also being a big fan of ScrewAttack, I approached them to try and get MANOS some coverage, and the retro style impressed them, at which point they allowed me to pitch a collaboration to them – that pitch was AVGN Adventures, a game I’d dreamed of making since before I even started MANOS. They liked the pitch, and my life was changed!

JB:  You brought to AVGN Adventures some elements from your game Manos the Hands of Fate, based off that infamous movie. I’m curious how that game came about, being based on a notorious film from decades ago.

SB: MANOS is an interesting one. I’ve been fond of watching terrible movies with friends for as far back as I can remember, and when I caught Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie on TV I ended up obsessively watching that show on the internet (we didn’t have the show here in England, only the movie, which was essentially just a higher budget episode!), and through MST3K I discovered the film MANOS. Since I’d been making games as a hobby since the late 90s, my “bad movie buddy” Chris and I always joked about making a game of MANOS, how it’d be adapted, how it’d play. We joked around with the idea of a point and click adventure, for example. Whilst reading about the history of that film one day I found out that the film and everything in it was in the public domain due to the director’s failure to take all the necessary steps to copyright a work back in the time it came out (similar to what happened with George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”, thus giving birth to the entire zombie genre), and I was amused to think that I actually COULD make MANOS due to this! I believe I was thinking about AVGN when I realized how much fun it’d be to adapt MANOS the way game developers adapted movies on the NES in the 80s, and so I went for it – The main idea would be to “celebrate badness with something good”; to include all of the tropes of bad game adaptations and bad movies alike, but without making the game itself bad! Not long after the release of the game, I was befriended by most of the remaining cast of the original film, so I suppose you could even say it’s the “official” video game adaptation at this point.

JB:  What is your philosophy to game design and what are some of your biggest influences and inspirations in gaming? I’m talking about both games and game developers.

 SB: I like to keep things simple, challenging, fun and exciting! My greatest influences on my platformers are Yoshi’s Island, Mega Man X and the original Sonic games, but I also find myself inspired by some modern indie developers like Edmund McMillan and the guys at WayForward. Of course not forgetting the masters themselves, Miyamoto, Inafune, Igarashi. There’s so much more, though. Games have been an enormous part of my life and they’ve never not been inspiring me, so it’s a tough question to ask!

JB:  What do you personally hope to Accomplish with AVGN adventures II? Will it come to consoles like the first game did?

SB: Regarding Consoles, that’s up to ScrewAttack to talk about, but obviously that’s something I really hope to see happen. As for the game itself, we’ve learned a lot since the first, so I hope not just to make fans of the original happy, but perhaps win over some people who weren’t too smitten with the first game as well!

JB: Austin, Disorder is an interesting game. How did that one come about and how has the reception been?

AH: Chad and Craig were walking the floor and checking out indie games down at SXSW Gaming when they came across Disorder. Both of the guys thought it was a really awesome game and spent the weekend hanging out with the Swagabyte Games team. After a night of playing games together and drinking, we decided to take on the project as the publisher. Disorder is a different tone than our other titles, it’s bit more serious in subject matter, but most everyone who has played it has responded pretty positively.

JB:  Jump ‘N’ Shoot is an awesome throwback to classic games but I have to ask, why is it on mobile devices only?

AH: Jump’N’Shoot Attack is kind of Sam’s passion project to try and bring a real platforming game experience to the mobile phone that gamers will enjoy.

JB:  Is there any chance there may one day be a Death Battle game? I understand it would be a licensing nightmare but you could use stand ins/obvious parodies for the real characters and even include Wiz and Boomstick (and Jocelyn).

AH: It has definitely been talked about, but at this point I can’t really say much either way.

JB:  Do you see ScrewAttack continuing to pursue video game production? If so, what are some genres that you would like to see tackled?

AH: I think, like with most things, we’ll continue doing it as long as it makes sense and people enjoy it. Being a super small publishing team, we try to focus on a limited number of projects so we can give proper attention to them all. I can say that I’m busy for the foreseeable future. I think one of the hardest genres to do well is horror.

JB:  Do you have any regrets about how things were done in any of the games ScrewAttack produced?

AH: Looking back, if we could do it over again we would have launched Texting of the Bread with a Free to play model.

JB: Have there been any games that ScrewAttack was producing that have ended up being cancelled along the way that people are not aware of?

AH: There have been a few publishing opportunities that didn’t pan out. One example was a small development team that disbanded before the contract was finalized. It’s a bummer, because it was an awesome game that will never see the light of day. I hope one day they reconnect and continue work on the game.

JB:  Do you have anything that you would like to say to the audience of Teal Otaku Gamer?

AH: Thanks so much for reading the interview! If you’re a fan of retro inspired games, we hope you’ll check out our stuff!

Thank you again for doing this.

 

You can follow ScrewAttack on Twitter at @ScrewAttack, Austin can be followed at @PotatoHound and Sam at @FreakZoneGames

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 18 Feb, 2016 At 02:32 AM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, Interviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No Gravatarlogo_500x500_transWelcome everyone to Indie Game Spotlight. Today we speak with Warren Smith, developer of Dark Flame. You can read the interview below.

JB: Obviously your game takes a lot of inspiration from Castlevania symphony of the night. What else inspires your game and what is it that sets your game apart and gives it uniqueness? As well, how do you deal with the criticism that Dark Flame looks too similar to SoTN?

WS: Dark Flame comes from a natural blend of my favorite games. There are quite a few inspirations, but some of the big ones are Castlevania for the art style and “metroidvania” playstyle, Dark Souls for the theme and difficult gameplay, and Diablo for stat allocation and cosmetic effects from equipment. This game has many cool features that sets it apart from its competitors. Some of them are the dialogue choices to affect storyline, magic creation and equipment system, weapon/armor equipment and enhancements, various NPC interactions, secrets, treasures and much more

Honestly, I don’t get much criticism anymore for how the game looks. I believe that when I first introduced Dark Flame publicly, the game’s theme and playstyle wasn’t as profound. I personally would like to think that the game’s art style is comparable to that of a larger company – as that is what I’m striving for. As far as the comparison between the two games – one is inspired from the other but they are both different… Anyways, to answer your question, I would read the criticism, shrug my shoulders, and keep working on Dark Flame.

JB: How did you get into game development? That is what made you interested in and pursue a career in the field?

WS: I don’t think there was an exact defining point when I ‘got into game development’. This project initially started as many different learning tutorials and exercises that were self-motivated. I’ve always been interested in video games and have played them since I can remember. I’ve always thought it would be great to make my own so I just dove into it. Dark Flame is my first project. I’ve been working at it for about three years now and I love everything about it!

JB: What were some of your favorite games growing up?

WS: Well, the first game I ever owned to my name was Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis. I played other games on the NES before that, but I was really into the Sonic series growing up. My absolute favorite game is Final Fantasy VII, as it was the first RPG I’ve ever played and I got totally sucked into the story. I’m also a big sucker for the Souls games and anything with a great story.

 

ScreenShot 2016Jan25 11-39-05

 

JB: What is your main goal with Dark Flame?

WS: Initially, it was a learning experience for me. Now that I am where I am – I want to make the best possible game I can make. Something that is enjoyable and memorable. I want people who play it to have an experience than to just run through another game…

JB: Do you feel there is a healthy market for a game like yours in the industry today?

WS: I do. Then again, I’m incredibly biased towards metroidvanias. I’m not a marketing expert, but I do believe that if a game is good enough, then people will want to play it (as long as they know about it).

JB: What are some challenges you have faced as an indie dev?

WS: Ha! This question should be more like “What are some experiences you’ve had that were NOT a challenge?” Every day is a challenge. On top of just designing the game, I have to deal with multiple failures and struggles with stress on a daily basis. Though, this game wouldn’t be where it is right now if it weren’t for those failures. I have to have these failures to keep me working hard.

JB: The music in Dark Flame’s trailers have been amazing, who is the composer of the music?

WS: Bryan Delerson is the music composer for Dark Flame. He’s created some wonderful pieces for the playable demo that is out now. I’ve also heard some of the stuff that he has in mind for the future of production and it sounds completely wonderful!

 

ScreenShot 2016Jan16 17-30-07

JB: The story of Dark Flame that you have revealed so far is very intriguing. What was your inspiration for it?

WS: The inspiration behind the Story of Dark Flame comes from a number of different games. As I said earlier, I love a game with a great story. I also like the dark themes of the Souls games. I’m not the best writer so I’ve sought out Brian Lee and Tom King to do much of the legwork in it. The story will be a great decision-based immersion that will cause you to think about your choices pretty hard… if you like dark stories, then you’ll love what Dark Flame will bring you!

JB: What advice do you have for other indie devs out there who are just getting into game development?

WS: Be prepared to be let down and put way too many hours into something in hopes that people will like it. Game development is something that you need to be absolutely passionate about to pursue. If it is, then listen to feedback from players and don’t give up!

JB: Do you have anything you would like to say to the readership of Real Otaku Gamer?

WS: Yeah – thanks for reading this! I’m really just making Dark Flame because I want to give you a fun and enjoyable game. If you think that Dark Flame might interest you and you love Castlevania and Dark Souls games, then you should play the demo for yourself! Also, I love to hear feedback on this project as well. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see what’s missing because I’m working on the same thing all day every day.

Here is the Kickstarter trailer.

I hope you all enjoyed this. You can visit the website for Dark Flame here and you can follow Warren on twitter @BorishDugdum.

 

By Jonathan Balofsky On 4 Feb, 2016 At 01:25 AM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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going indie

1. You are well known now as an indie game advocate. How did you start down this path, that is, what led to your interest in the indie gaming scene?

I needed a hobby, and my boyfriend and family said I should get into blogging. This was June, 2011, when the annual summer gaming release drought was kicking off. Originally, the plan was to talk about movies, but we were going through my Xbox 360 library and stumbled upon a couple Xbox Live Indie Games I had previously bought. I was like “oh yea, I forgot there was an indie section in the Xbox market.” We went through the recent releases and tried to look up reviews for them, only to find all the sites covering them gave overwhelmingly positive reviews to every single game, regardless of its quality. Brian said “There you go, that’s what you should blog about.” We bought a few dozen XBLIGs, and I opened Indie Gamer Chick on July 1, 2011. By August, it was the most popular XBLIG site in the world.

2. You are quite the caustic critic when you need to be and frequently call others out, including me on occasion. Has this ever caused any major issues between you and developers? 

I don’t feel I “call people out.” I do challenge developers to challenge themselves. Indie devs will get  hundreds, or thousands, of people who tell them “good job, your game is perfect!” I say “good job, but here’s where you have room to grow.” That’s what developers want. The ones who only want praise and are too thin-skinned to accept feedback don’t last. But the stereotype of the thin-skinned, egotistical indie dev is greatly exaggerated. I’ve been doing IGC for almost five years and I can count on one hand the amount of developers who I would say were problematic. That’s after 550+ reviews. Most developers can be disappointed by my reviews, but almost all of them use them to get better. Game reviews are ultimately resources, whether you make games or buy them. The most common response a developer has to a negative review since the day I started is “I wish someone had brought this stuff up during development.”

 

3. There is some discussion that the industry in general is in a state of growing pains now, that change is happening. What direction do you see the video game industry and in particular indie games going in?

When I started IGC, only Microsoft was putting significant stock in the potential indies had as a revenue stream. They had created promotions like Summer of Arcade that featured indies such as Limbo or Braid in prominent roles, and they had opened XBLIG which allowed anyone of any skill level to make and publish games for a subscription fee and a 30% royalty on the games sold. Here we are, five years later, and indies are a major part of the console manufacturers’ business model. By supporting indies, they assure quality titles year-round, especially out of peak retail seasons, and that they have titles across more genres, assuring content for everyone. That’s not to mention that indies have changed the definition of what a budget-release is and the quality you can expect for a relatively inexpensive game. While this has lead to over-saturation, the really high-talent studios are gaining a foothold. In the near future, you’ll see more indie studios outright acquired to produce exclusive content for manufacturers, since the cost of acquisition will be much less than a studio that’s been around twenty years.

4. You have helped bring awareness of epilepsy and seizures to many in the gaming community, do you feel you have helped accomplish change for the better?

It’s amazing how far awareness for conditions like epilepsy as it relates to gaming have come in such a short amount of time. I’ve hardly been alone in advocacy for issues like epilepsy, but that I get so many developers approach me or Ian Hamilton asking about it and what they can do with their games to make it less risky (though risk will always exist no matter what) has been genuinely touching.

5. With regards to the last question, how does it feel to be held as an advocate for people with epilepsy and seizures?

It’s actually really flattering that I’ve been able to accomplish a lot with the issue. I’m really proud of it. It’s quite a legacy.

6. All 3 console makers have embraced the indie community in recent years, I’d like to know your thoughts on what the 3 console makers have done for the indies.

Well, they’ve made indies part of their business model. Saying you’re part of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate’s business model might not sound sexy or prestigious, but I can’t think of any better indicator that indies have made it. More over, the really great ones can go on to be so much more. Look at what Shovel Knight is for Nintendo now. They’ve included it in their Amiibo line. Microsoft bought the studio and IP to Minecraft for 2.5 *BILLION* dollars. That’s over half of what Disney paid for all ownership to everything Star Wars. The ceiling is so high on indies now that it stretches the boundaries of reality and crosses over into imagination. In today’s market place, the sky is the limit for indies.

7. You have made your views on Kickstarters well known and with the recent debacle of Ant Simulator, do you see crowd sourcing as becoming a major issue with indie devs?
I’m way in favor of crowd sourcing for indies. But there has to be merit to seeking funding. You have to have the talent and ability to pull it off. Making a game, especially a good game, takes patience and self-awareness. Your first games will seldom come out the way you envisioned them. So I don’t like to see too many first time developers seek funding. They should treat it as a hobby until they have the ability to make it something more. When used right, it’s a remarkable resource. When used wrong, it could set you up to be a pariah for life.


8. With regards again to crowd sourcing, how do you feel the process can be improved upon to actually get a positive outcome?

As unintuitive as this sounds, a campaign is about you, not your game. Developers using Kickstarter have to remember that. Games sell themselves. Make sure you put what makes your game unique, and then just leave it there for would-be backers to digest. You don’t have to oversell a game. A campaign is about your ability to deliver the game you’re pitching. Showing off your talent, your skills, your drive, your determination, and your resolve to finish what you promise. Developers using Kickstarter need to remember that and take the pitches more seriously. Less non-stop sarcasm, less wacky biographies that tell you nothing about their experience or talent, less wacky pictures of the staff. Have fun, but take it seriously. Treat it like a business. Because, if you’re asking strangers for money, you are a business whether you like it or not.

9. What are some of your favorite indie games? both in general and specifically for each console.

As it so happens, I have a list on my site. But for each console, it’s Axiom Verge for PS4 and Steam, Shovel Knight for Wii U, and although I couldn’t finish the game due to epilepsy concerns, Ori and the Blind Forest seemed like it was on track to be one of my favorite indies on Xbox One.

10. In your opinion what makes an indie game stand out?

I think it comes down to the amount of joy you have making your games transfers over to your work. So if you have fun making a game,
people will have fun playing it. Make the kind of games you want to play yourself. With stuff like Shovel Knight or Axiom Verge, you can immediately tell these are the games the developers dreamed of making since they were kids.

11. What do you see as the biggest game changer for the indie gaming scene?

In the not to distant future, indies will be targeted for acquisition by the console manufacturers, and all three manufacturers I’m told have big plans to put more money and resources towards landing top-tier indie devs exclusively on their platforms. We’re maybe months away from seeing an honest-to-God bidding war for the services of relatively modest indie studios. When that starts to happen, I hope the community at large takes a moment to smile and realize that they’ve arrived at the grown-ups table.

Thank you again for doing this interview.
Check out Indie Gamer Chick’s Leaderboard of Indie Games here and her editorial about epilepsy here.
Image courtesy of the book Going Indie.