Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas everyone!

We got some big stuff coming in with the new year and we plan on unloading it all in the span of a few months with posts averaging twice a week. In the meantime, check out some good Christmas albums and tracks.

Through Sand and Snow by Jillian Aversa
Big Giant Christmas EP by Big Giant Circles (Jimmy Hinson)
Tinsel and Baubles (An Ode to Christmas) by Dave Greening
We Wish You a Merry Christmas by myristica

Post a comment if you'd like to add your own suggestions as to what we should be listening to this Christmas.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Music I Must Promote

Novum Initium.

Thank you Big Giant Circles for retweeting this from Sam Hulick so I didn't have to look a few tweets below and see Tom Salta tweet about it :)

I'll be purchasing this album within the next 24 hours pretty much guaranteed. I cannot ignore this much talent in one place, especially for a good cause.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Friday, November 04, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 4

I had nowhere to be today. I woke up at eleven and started to write. I wrote a day's worth, which got me through yesterdays quota. Now I have another day's writing to do.

WHAT I DID INSTEAD OF WRITING
Destroyed every last fingernail.
Found out I could stuff my fist into my mouth.
Nearly choked while saying "Hey, I can stuff my entire fist into my mouth. Nifty!" with my entire fist in my mouth.
Looked up NaNoWriMo wallpaper.
Watched a lot of NaNoWriMo youtube videos.
Sang a lot of NaNoWriMo songs.
Wrote a blog post.

But then I did and everything got better.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Not Dead

Just gone.

I didn't really intend to come back at all. The blog had shifted, and I felt (and still feel, in some ways) a relic. Instead of a literature-y blog where Met did an occasional music thing, it seems we've now a music-y blog where I do an occasional literature thing. And this is working better.

I toyed with the idea of retiring. That didn't pan out.

It's November second now. At the moment, I have 1842 words written for my NaNo novel. I don't know if I like it yet, but I hope you would. I won't post it, of course, and it will starve any writing from me here, I bet. But I am writing. I don't have the entire picture, but I see bits clearly.

It's about Michael. Michael, Bekka, Gabe. The Angels I've written about before.

I think the Apocalypse is dead, and that's okay. I learned from it, and I think we all had fun. In the end, though, Red was too alone. I don't have the will to continue until that's ended, and as a character he's flat. Green had more character, and he was in all of four chapters.

I'm a novelist now. My real works are big (and too commercially minded) for this. Sorry. What I can offer are short stories, or my old "name" shorts, from which Michael was born. Maybe a poem or two. Thoughts, of course.

So let's try again, eh?

I posted this over Met's post. Read that too. And comment. We like comments.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

November Plans for 2011

I cannot begin to describe how hectic things have been recently. I've certainly had time to work on blogging and I have, but it's been all behind the scenes stuff. I feel like I owe an apology for the last few months of inactivity. We have stuff coming, we really do, we're just backlogged and trying to deal with a lot of things at once. Marim and I have been picking up our composition pace recently as we continue to produce music (I should be coming out with my first album within the next year for free and likely produced entirely with Nanostudio including my existing tracks on SoundCloud). I should be getting a new USB MIDI keyboard interface pretty soon and that'll be sure to occupy me for a bit as I adjust to working with computer based DAW technology (I have a feeling I'm really going to miss the touch screen). Anyway, here's what I got lined up for the blog within the next two months if we get work done.

Music
Song of the Day: We're currently working on a multi-album feature of the artist 12 Followers/Meteo Xavier focusing on his albums Espers and Meteocrity; this will probably be the first stream of posts once we complete our work. I recommend checking the albums out before we do reviews so familiarity is an advantage (and no, we're certainly not the first blogsite that has done coverage of this album, but the more the merrier).
Song of the Week: We have a lot of tracks we've been looking at in the past few months and quite a few that are independent of OCR entirely. I'll probably be contacting some artists on Soundcloud in the near future about having their stuff featured here.

Literature
Thursday Thoughts: I'm liking the idea of reviving these as soon as possible as they are easy to write and look good in most cases. The only issue here is finding topics that haven't already been used, are not purely inside jokes, and have either some philosophic meaning or comedic value.
Short Stories: Reogan has been doing a lot of writing recently, but I doubt he'll put it up here (if he does though, that'd be great). I recently went through all my old short story universe (tagged as story zero) and did some editing. Behind Closed Doors is pretty much discontinued due to massive plot holes, but I like the idea of continuing with Operational Catalyst as the character environment is much more static and it's easier to focus on detailed action. Right now this makes no sense if you just arrived because I removed all story zero posts from public view about a month ago when I did the editing. I may end up reposting them later or just hold on to them until my plot materializes to a fuller extent. Either way, music takes priority over writing for me so its unlikely you'll see me writing any short stories any time soon.

Video Games
Reviews: I love the idea of writing video game reviews, especially for some of the less recognized games on the market. However, music is the priority and it's unlikely you'll see me doing any formalized video game review until spring of 2012 (I may get other people to do it though).

Other
As I mentioned before, we've mostly been doing behind the scenes stuff for the past few months. Overall, I still don't feel like we've accomplished that much, but we're making strides in the right direction. If I had to guess right now, I'd say that we're looking at an average of 4-5 posts per month for the next year or so. This would be a historic low judging by previous standards, but I feel that we can let the existing posts speak for themselves as more people find their way to the site here. This should also free up some time for me to focus on more of that behind the scenes stuff that I've been so keen on doing recently.

Overall
We're not dead yet. The next few years look like a significant transition period so things are subject to change at a whim (although we'll try to maintain some sort of flexible posting schedule). Just enjoy what we have so far and look forward to the future.

-Met_OutSpoken/Reomet

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween

Hey, not that I celebrate it at all, but Happy Halloween! Seriously though, give this day back to the monsters... ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kangaskhan

You can't escape.


It will always find you.


It can come anywhere.


Any time.


Any situation.


What will you do then?


Greet it like an old friend?


Reject it and lose something precious to you?


A game isn't the only thing you'll lose.


You'll lose your sanity.


Your mind.


And yet,


You feel safe.


Secure.


Like you have the power to win.


However,


You're destroying yourself.


Your efforts are useless.


It eats away at others, but nothing stops it from consuming you.


You can't deny it.


It's here.


Nothing can stop a Kangaskhan.

Monday, September 19, 2011

RISK Mk. II

This is my shameless self promotion of a game that I'm working on. It's an in-dev table-top wargame that includes some RPG elements. I'm trying to get a good playtest or few, but I have very few people here and no traffic on the related blog. As a disclaimer, I only call it Risk Mk. II because it uses the Risk figurines, and I couldn't think of anything else to call it (that's another part of the playtesting). I'm trying to get enough intrest in it to write up the rules and really work on it more than just in my spare time, so if people are interested, please use the above link and leave some comments/suggestions.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Game Idea: RISK: Zombies

This is me noting that I am still alive and am trying to post, though with limited success.

I had this idea while playing RISK a couple of days ago, mostly from a POW joke my friend made (I realize that sounds bad, but it was about the pieces, I had a couple of someone else's).

All of this is subject to playtesting, in that I thought of it and wanted to write it up.

I'll start with the POW rule I thought of, which can be implemented with little trouble, and adds some depth to the game. I hope. Basically, when you are attacking another territory, for each 6 you roll, you may take one of the opposing territory's armies as your own, instead of killing it, if you would have killed it normally.

The Zombies version is a variation of the POW rule in which one player controls the Zombies, but the outbreak starts after everyone else has already placed their pieces, so there is no knowing where the Zombies will be. I'm thinking that the setup will be the same as the normal game, just excluding the Zombie player. The Zombie player will then take a random card and repopulate that territory with Zombies by replacing 2/3 (rounded up)((or maybe something else)) of the existing units. The Zombie player will then choose two adjacent territories and occupy those as well, using the same method as described above. This could also be redone as having the Zombie player choose 5 cards and using those. Gameplay would be as normal except in the case of the Zombies. The Zombies would attack and take over territories in the same way, but when attacked, they do not get the defender wins ties rule. also, when moving into a new territory, the zombie attack force would lose 1/4 or 1/3 of its members, regardless of the outcome of the previous encounters. However, when attacking or being attacked, the Zombies gain all of the opposing dead (not their own) for their own 'infantry' at the end of the turn (no matter whose it is). These spare 'infantry' must be placed on the disputed territory. The Zombies do not, however, receive reinforcements at the beginning of the turn, so they need to kill opponents to gain anything. The Zombies are not, however, required to do anything during their turn.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Please Vote

I've been very busy with lots of stuff going on. The stuff I'm supposed to be posting here is backlogged almost as far back as June so it'll take me a while to get stuff sorted. In the meantime, please vote for Russell Bell in this contest, and check out the rest of his music as well as his new project.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Song of the Week 41: 'Avien' by Theophany

Hey, I really do apologize for my laziness in posting. These are almost like "Song of the Month" posts instead of "Song of the Week". I feel like a hypocrite for saying that I'll post often. It's even more ironic that I'm posting this on one of the busiest weeks for me this summer. Anyway, the most recent post here at RPS talks about Metroid's 25th anniversary. That was a pretty exciting time, for Metroid remixes were being released everywhere. Just because of that I got over three hours of Metroid-based music that I listen to every day. So naturally, why shouldn't I review one of these songs? This track in particular comes from a non-OCR album, although every single track was created by OCR user and remixer Theophany. He created a six-track album known as Crystal Flash EP (which may I add, has probably the coolest cover art I have seen in a long time). You can find the OCR thread for the album here in case anyone wants to download it. (If you want to download it off of the original album site, you might have to pay to get it. Fortunately for me I got it there when it was still free. :D) The name of the track I'll be looking at is called 'Avien'. So far it's been the only track from the album to be posted on OCR (you can find the thread for the song here). What's special about this song is that it's a tribute piece to former OCR remixer Avien (a.k.a Christopher Powell), who had suddenly passed away back in 2004. So without further ado, let's check out the remix.

The beginning of the song starts out with a pure mesh of atmosphere. There are a ton of sounds that can be heard here; everything from light cymbal hits, layers of synth elements, and quiet vocals. You can mainly here the vocals starting at 0:10, and their addition in the song makes the track sound even more haunting. Starting at 0:15 the piano will begin playing an intro to the main melody, which is the theme for Maridia from Super Metroid. At 0:18 though the piano will leave, and another small section of ambient atmosphere will be heard. This time however, I feel that the various synth elements used here were brought out a little bit more. The entire thing brings chills up my spine. The piano will return and play the same pattern again at 0:30, and like before will leave for another fifteen seconds or so. For this next section of atmosphere the vocals were a little louder, and new elements are added in that make the song sound like static (great addition). Starting at 0:44 the piano will play the occasional note, with all of the ghostly atmosphere still playing (and it pretty much plays for the entire track). The difference here is that there is an increase in the number of vocals and their volumes. Starting at 0:56 the piano finally starts to play the main melody (Maridia). I like how the piano stands out beyond everything else here, and the only chords used are small. I noticed that at 1:03 the piano as well as the background effects are edited a little bit also to create a different sort of sound. The progression of the melody is very slow, making it all the more haunting and dramatic. Coming up at 1:24 has to be one of my favorite sections of the song. There's now some bass in the piano that comes in every measure to intertwine with the treble melody. The melody here is playing an extension of the sequences played at 0:15 and 0:30. The addition of the bass clef for the piano really adds depth to the song as a whole, in my opinion. At 1:36 some more vocals are added in. What I notice about the vocals here are that you can't understand a single one of them, making it all the more ghostly. There's a large, yet fast buildup at 1:48, leading into one of the stronger sections of the track. We have more of a beat developing here with some light bass and bass drum. The female vocal is probably the element here that stands out the most though, even bypassing the piano (which lost it's own bass). It really defines its trip-hop genre (although on the original album site one of the tags for that particular track said "ambient dubstep"). The only time in this section where the piano is the strongest would be from 1:58 to about 2:04. At 2:05 the sequence repeats itself. When the vocals leave again though at 2:11, I notice there's a pretty cool suspended cymbal roll added in right as they leave (and after listening to the song again, there's another one of those rolls back at 1:48). The same type of pattern happens again at 2:19, although there is a difference of instrumentation; the piano plays the main melody while a saxophone plays what the piano was originally playing. Plus the power of the vocals has been slightly diminished. The entire section seems rather repetitive, but blends together wonderfully. There's a little bit of a change at 2:39 when the vocals are cut rapidly and the piano starts to trill. 2:45 is really when the song starts to shift over in another direction. The atmosphere and melody remains the same, but the beat has changed to a more complex pace. Also, all of the elements including the piano have been edited to create more of a different feel. A light synth is also playing the pattern that the piano had been playing back at the beginning and throughout the song (an example is at 0:15). This section will continue until about 3:12, where there's another big suspended cymbal buildup. Here at 3:13 is another strong section in the song. The vocals hit a high note, and everything becomes much louder. There's even the addition of bells to play the main melody instead of the piano. Everything starts to die down though at 3:27, and for some reason I love the progression of how almost everything fades out. By 3:39, everything except the low sax playing and a few of the atmospheric elements remain. At 3:40 though, you hear a vocal say "drop" and instantly the a section very similar to the one at 1:48 starts up. The only differences are a more complex beat, and a couple minor differences in the vocals. At 4:06 there's another buildup, and a different section starts at 4:08. There isn't much of a change here, but the song-dominating piano complexes and syncopates the rhythm that it has been playing all this time. This will repeat itself again at 4:22. At 4:41 the beat drops out, making the background atmosphere a little more emphasized. At 4:50 I notice that the piano rhythm goes up an octave so now it's very, very high in pitch. There are still the vocals and all of the ambient stuff going on, and there's even the occasional bass drum hit every couple measures. At 5:00 there's a major slow-down with pretty much everything. The piano will drop soon after, and everything else will follow by slowly fading away...

Pros: Atmosphere is everything for this album, and Theophany nails it especially with this track. I liked how almost every element dominated during different points of the song. Every buildup and transition was near perfect, and I love the way that the melody was played. Maridia is a pretty haunting tune, and piano made it even more so. I also liked the eeriness of the various vocals, and I loved the ending. This song is absolutely spine-tingling.

Cons: I really wish that progression of the piano at 1:24 would've lasted a little longer. Also, I thought that the trip-hop elements added in didn't quite work out with the song as a whole, especially after hearing such an atmospheric beginning. Other than that there isn't much that I didn't like about the song.

Overall: This song is absolutely beautiful. It has a perfect atmosphere for the source tune, and I can't stop listening to this as well as the rest of the album. Theophany's style really impressed me with this album, so I recommend checking the entire thing out. This is a wonderful tribute to Avien and the 25th anniversary of Metroid. Awesome stuff here.

Rating: 9.5/10

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Metroid: 25 Years

No, I didn't completely forget about the 25th anniversary of the video game that started it all for me. I can't really say that I've been busy, just that I've been lazy in posting. There is a lot of stuff I plan to do with RPS in the future and I have a lot of posts I want to write, it's just not getting done. I'll step it up in the coming month, but in the meantime this is my "filler" seeing as the 25th anniversary of Metroid was about a week ago. The Metroid franchise has some great music (most of it by Kenji Yamamoto) and if I had never done a google search for Super Metroid music, I would've never found OverClocked ReMix. As a result of this event, there have been two albums that have come to my attention courtesy of OCR.

Harmony of a Hunter (OCR thread here): Harmony of a Hunter is a two disc album of about 2 and a half hours containing music from various artists and in different styles. Overall, I've been very impressed with the general quality of the music, although not strictly up to OCR standards, pretty darn close. There's about a 40% chance we'll feature something from this album as a SotW in the coming year, largely depends on Marim's reaction to the album as I currently have a large project in the works.

Crystal Flash EP (OCR thread here): One of the tracks in this album has already been posted on OCR and I must say I love the style. This is some refreshing stuff that I'll definitely be recommending to everyone interested. I can almost guarantee that this album will soon see action as a SotW (likely the track already on OCR). Personally, I have listened to this album 7 times in the last 3 days; very impressive for someone like me who's usually absorbed in soundtracks while working. Overall, this album comes with extremely high recommendation from myself. The piano, etheral, IDM style is absolutely perfect for a Metroid remix album and you gotta love the cover art.

Metroid Suite (OCR thread here): It's not an album, but it's an epic 10 minute or so tribute to the music of Metroid done by Shnabubula (Samuel Ascher-Weiss). Definitely worth watching the video on ign, but if you just want to download it, go here.

What you have here is a lot of music from a very good established video game franchise remixed by experienced musicians who've really put something together. Lot's of good stuff to listen to here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nuzlocke Challenge

I, Reogan, acknowledge that I tend to start things. I am very good at starting things. I am not adept at the finishing of things.

Having noted the above, I now begin a new thing.

Pokémon has always been perfect. However, one of its many flaws, that in no way impinge upon the aforementioned perfection, is the ease with which one can travel through the games. The Nuzlocke Challenge adds two simple rules to the game.

1. If your pokémon faints (is defeated in battle), it is dead. Release it. No exceptions.
2. When you enter a new area, you may try to catch the first pokémon you see. Whether you succeed or fail, you may catch nothing more in the area.

This makes you care about your pokémon, and adds more fluff to what quickly becomes a very meta game. I recently began a Ruby Nuzlocke. I added two more rules, both very common amongst Nuzlockers:

3. Every pokémon must be named. This makes them all the more precious.
4. Only one pokéball may be bought per mart. 

Now, in addition to the original Nuzlocke Comic (linked above), there are many Fan Comics. (You should stop reading this right now, click that link, and read all of Freddy's. They are easily my favorite.) So, in that spirit, I will make a comic of my own, ignoring entirely the fact that I cannot draw in the least and never made a comic before (discounting a two-page, lined-paper, stick figure, Spanish language wonder in which the subjects of sombreros, Taco Bell, and dead wives are explored).

Please don't laugh.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Song of the Week 40: 'A Link to the Piano' by Zylance

Hey there, I'm finally back. Due to a two-week vacation and various internet issues, I haven't been able to do much at all with RPS. So...I've come home, my internet is finally running properly again after over a month of problems, and I'm glad to be back. I have to thank Met for putting all of the links to our song reviews on OCR and also for him having many connections which will help promote RPS; I was shocked to see the dramatic rise in pageviews this month. So, this week's Song of the Week is a remix based of the game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: another great classic that I unfortunately have never played. I was really surprised that this hasn't been a Song of the Week before; it was probably one of the first (if not the first) remixes from OCR that I've ever heard back in 2009 when I first discovered the site. So here's Zylance's (he was Zoola at the time) only remix: 'A Link to the Piano'. Let's check it out now, shall we?

The first thing everyone has to realize is that this is a solo piano piece. The song starts out with the piano creeping in slowly with a rhythm consisting of the notes G, C, and D. There are no complex chords at the moment, but even the simplicity of the notes are blended together to make it sound more complex. This repeating pattern of the rhythm grows broader at 0:08; not only is the rhythm increasing in speed, but the bass notes are getting deeper. The treble notes remain the same, but the bass adds depth and change to what's being played. At 0:22 the introduction to the piece starts to conclude, for the music starts to slow down and end with a shortly-held E note. After this note is released, there's a short pause that lasts for about three seconds (0:26-0:29). Starting at 0:30 there's a new section where the more complex "Zelda chords" are introduced. Although the rhythm played here resembles that of a waltz, it's in 4/4 time instead of 3/4. Each chord is similar in sound and the bass notes in each measure are almost identical. The highest note in each treble chord becomes higher, creating a sort of slow buildup. There's a slight change of pattern coming up at 0:37; instead of the three main notes/chords being played, every other measure includes a triplet. Not only that, but the volume increases with each measure as well. This sequence will happen twice, and then there's another brief pause. At 0:47 the first main sections of the song begins to play. The melody is played by the treble notes while the bass notes cover a more major interpretation of the sequence from 0:30-0:47. When I heard this section for the first time, I could instantly tell that this music was from a Zelda game (even though I already knew where it was from before listening to it). It wasn't because I knew it beforehand, but it had that feeling in the music that presented in almost every LoZ. While this melody is playing, I notice how the volume of the song fluctuates and gets louder to add emphasis (especially at the third note of each measure). At 1:04 the piano repeats the rhythm it was previously playing at 0:47, although there's a minor change of pitch. After that melody is played one more time, a new section begins at 1:20. This new section has the bass notes playing the usual rhythm (note, note, chord, repeat) and the treble notes play a new melody that's a little more major than the last. Also, this section changes key signatures; it's now 3/4 time, making it even more like a waltz. Like the previous melody, it repeats itself for a couple seconds starting at 1:31. This repetition doesn't last long, for everything starts to slow down at 1:38. The new section starts up at 1:44 after another held note. I've noticed throughout this piece that every transition to the next section is merely just a held note, a pause, and the next section jumping in. It's simple, but I like it. This new section is much quieter in volume and a little simpler chord-wise. The key sig has also turned back into a slower 4/4 time. The treble notes, blended with very low, slightly-syncopated bass chords, play three eighth notes for every two measures-after two measures the notes will repeat but go down in pitch. There are many occasions when the pattern will go up in pitch but go back down again. This section lasts for quite awhile in fact; it goes from 1:14 to about 2:19. There's another "ritardando, pause, new section" transition at 2:14, although this new section is extremely similar to the last. The biggest difference here has to be the dramatic rise in volume. Here you can tell that no more chords are being used; it isn't until 2:27 when a chord is used by the treble notes. At 2:34 is probably the most powerful part of the piece, or the climax. Coincidentally 2:34 is exactly half-way through the song. This here is a repetition of the section back at 1:44, but much, much louder. At 2:42 the notes speed up a little bit, going from eighth notes into stretched triplets that gradually slow and quiet down. At 2:49 the next small sequence is a group of large, familiar chords that are used in many Zelda games. These chords are also quite loud, which is a dramatic contrast to the quick, quiet, treble triplets (try saying that five times fast!) that are to follow. At 3:07 the triplets from before start off another new section, but it has the same feel as the almost silent section at 1:44. This time around it's much simpler rhythm-wise but much more complex in the chords. There's only one minor chord for each measure, making the piece sound very melancholy right here. There isn't any addition of notes until about 3:20 or so. It's a long section also, but thankfully it's not too repetitive with the notes. At 3:55 (yeah, this was almost a minute long section) things start to change a little bit. It's the same melody and rhythm, but each measure will accelerate just a little bit. I love how they do that there. It isn't until about 4:15 when the sequence of chords change and the tempo slows down a bit. After the song gets back up in volume and pitch, large, loud chords are played with a couple quarter notes in between. At 4:27 the chords are now becoming even longer to change (although the only thing changing at the moment are the low bass notes that are getting lower with each hit), and even three seconds pass before the final chord of the section is hit. Starting at 4:44 the song is now starting to conclude. There's probably about four chords being played in the last fifteen seconds of the song with a medium-high G note playing before each chord. At 5:00 the treble and the bass join again for the final time until nothing else can be heard.

Pros: Excellent piano work, I have to say. It's very soothing, deep, relaxing, and the notes blended very well. The amount of chords used throughout the song was great, since it's hard to get a good interpretation of the chords used in the LoZ games. Also, I liked how almost every section in the song was different or had a different feeling. Being a pianist myself, I'm very impressed.

Cons: The biggest problem that I had with the song was the sensitivity of the volume. There were times when the volume worked for what was going on, but I thought that the volume went up and down way too frequently. It was also too loud at some points as well (2:34 for example). The song also should be cleaned up and mastered a little bit so it sounds smoother.

Overall: I have always liked a good solo piano piece, but this particular one catches my eye. It's a great arrangement for a classic Zelda game that is not only powerful, but it includes some calm elements at the same time. While there are still a couple things to clean up with this song, Zylance brings us a great piano-centered remix.

Rating: 8.8/10

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Administrative Changes

We've been having a busy summer here at RPS, we've all got our own stuff going on, but we're also trying to post and keep our blog updated. I've promoted Marim to administrator due to Reogan's increased absence. You can definitely thank her for all her updates to every single Song of the Week and Song of the Day post by adding the title and artist. Also, I finally linked every single OCR track to the review thread on OCR. Due to this there may be an influx of readers from OCR. This brings me to the final administrative issue that we have yet to resolve: tagging. Right now the Song of the Week series should be sufficiently tagged so that you can simply find the OverClocked ReMix tag and find all of the content we've looked at coming out of OCR. However, there are plenty of fictional stories and other features we've done on RPS that have tags that need to be consolidated. Therefore, consolidating tags is definitely on our agenda, as long as at least getting a few posts up each month (once a day is no longer realistic). There should be a few posts coming your way in the future. Personally, I'm working on 2 drafts right now, both involving music (one's a SotW) and there are also several other related feature drafts that we've yet to post simply because we haven't had time to thoroughly proofread them. Overall, if you have any suggestions about the content you'd like to see here or some other administrative changes we can make to improve the site, please contact me.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A possibly problematic government bill

Bill S.978 might pose some problems to some of our readers and authors. Here is a good video explaining it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Game Review: Frozen Synapse

Today's review is on Frozen Synapse, a new game by Mode7, an indie game developer comprised of three people in the UK. Their previous game, Determinance was a third person, multiplayer, sword-fighting game. Frozen Synapse is almost completely different, the only similarities being that it's third person, and it's a game. (I haven't played Determinance (windows only), but that's what I got from what I've seen)

You assume the role of Tactics, a Shapeform. Your job (as indicated by your name) is to be a tactician. The Shape is basically a digital overlay of the "physical" world (in-game). The being that reside in the Shape are called Shapeforms. Most of the time, Shapeforms are usually named by their job or attribute (e.g. sniper, for someone using a sniper rifle), but you also meet some that aren't, like Belaqua.

In the campaign, you are recruited by an organization called Petrov's shard to help them bring down Enyo:Nomad, a super-corporation that is in control of a city called Markov Geist. I haven't played much of this yet, but what I have played is amazing. The levels are randomly generated, and if you lose on a mission, the map is regenerated for a new playing field, making your skill the only thing that actually matters, instead of, say, memorizing the map. My advice: READ EVERYTHING!!! This will give the game form and reason. It's not too much to read, but it increases your game experience immensely. Also, I reccomend playing at least some of the campaign first, for the above reasons.

The multiplayer integration is nearly flawless, but I would like to see some more integrated UI instructions. Things like: there is a small circle on the bottom left, but it never tells you that it's there and you have to mouse over it to find out what it's for. However, the game is still in beta and feels like a complete game with some add-ons, so I can't really complain. The gameplay is actually turn based, so it can effectively be "played by email," which is nice for those who have no time...

The gameplay is unlike any other game I have played. It's "simultaneous turn-based," which basically means that each player makes their move, then they're executed simultaneously. This makes you have to look at every possibility before committing your move. I will attempt to post a video of this soon. (If anyone knows of good software (Mac), that would be useful).

The soundtrack is amazing and I recommend everyone buy the soundtrack version of this game. It is completely original and includes electronic, symphonic and atmospheric elements. I'll leave the breakdown to someone else...

Mode7 only sells their games in two packs, so you can split the cost with a friend, or just give it to them. Mode7 can be found here.

Closing comments:
Frozen synapse is an amazing game, which everyone should try. I think you'll be hooked. The soundtrack is amazing and the multiplayer works well. The campaign is long and engaging, and explains what is actually happening. In short: A great game.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Their Story

"How did Grandma and Grandpa meet?" I asked my mom on that sunny summer afternoon.

"Why don't you ask her? She's sitting ten feet away from you," Mom replied.

I shrugged, feeling awkward. The truth was, Grandma had been confused lately. More than day-of-the week confused, too. I didn't want to upset her, or complicate her thoughts even further. And I didn't want to feel those emotions, either. I felt them enough around Grandma as it was. Still, I really wanted to hear their story...

Suck it up and do it, I told the wimpy part of my inner self. I walked over and stood in front of Grandma's wheelchair. "Grandma, how did you and Grandpa meet?"

Immediately, a smile spread across her face. Without preamble, she began: "Our churches were playing dartball against each other. Grandpa was playing for his church, and I had come with some friends to watch. Grandpa and I started talking at the food and drink table and just kept talking the whole night, until the game was over. When it was time for everyone to leave, he told me, 'Bernice, I'd really like to drive you home, but I drove the pastor to the game tonight. I can't just leave him here.'"


"But then," Grandma recalled with a laugh, "Walter Winther came up to him and said, 'I'll take the pastor home, Victor. You go drive Bernice home.' He could only take me so far, though, because I had my truck parked at a friend's house, so he followed me the rest of the way so he'd know where I lived."

I grinned, ready to sit down again, but Grandma continued. "He asked me out on a date, and when he came to the house to pick me up, he had flowers for me. Then he said, 'You know, I wanted to get you some flowers, Bernice, but I couldn't afford any. I finished closing up a grave earlier today,'" (I knew that Grandpa had been the church's gravedigger for years) "and I figured no one was using the flowers on that grave, so --'" Grandma thrust her hand out, as though she held flowers, "--here you go!'"

Everyone around us laughed heartily. Looking at my mom and her brothers and sisters, I could tell that they had heard the graveyard flowers story many times before. But no matter how many times they heard it, this telling - which turned out to be the last one - was just as dear to them as the very first time they had heard it.

"You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she's left. Your heart can be empty because you can't see her, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on." David Harkins.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Song of the Week 39: 'Super Effective' by Fishy, Andy Jayne

So...it's been a while. I'm going to post here just for my enjoyment and pleasure, and because after this week I'll be away for quite some time. Also, my internet has been screwed up for weeks, so the likeliness of another post drops even lower. This Song of the Week is based on a song from a classic franchise: Pokemon. The games in particular are Pokemon Gold and Silver. The inspiration to review this particular track came from time sitting at home, hearing this theme all over the house since two of my siblings have a tendency to play the newer games set in Johto, Heart Gold and Soul Silver. I always mention when I hear this theme that there's this awesome remix for the theme that a person hears whenever they battle a trainer from Johto. Oddly enough, this song has not yet been posted on OCR, but it is a part of an OCR album called Pokemon: The Missingno Tracks (which is why OCR is tagged in this post). Anyway, enough of this babbling! The album link will have a list of songs; the one I'll be reviewing is 'Super Effective' by Fishy and Andy Jayne (Look at the track list and click on the title of the track to bring up downloading and song info, along with what the artist's input of the track). Click on one of the mirror links on the page to listen to it/download it, and let's get this review started.

The beginning of the song starts out with a duet of strings and piano. The strings repeatedly play a low E, and the piano plays a simple melody (at about the same pitch as the strings). The whole thing blends together quite well. At 0:10 the strings play that E up an octave, and this time that rhythm from them is faster. Added to the higher pitched strings are some light high-hat hits, which are heard every other beat. At 0:18 there's a percussion crash, and the real melody starts to play at 0:19. This melody is an electric guitar. Now the beat has picked up even more, the strings and the piano have dropped out, and now it's just pure guitar. However, one guitar just isn't enough for this track. Right now, I can hear not one, not two, but three guitars. The first one plays the Johto battle theme, the second plays the harmony, and the third plays the bass. While listening to the song, I notice that my attention is not on the melody that millions have heard, but what really has me hooked onto this song is the harmony. Not only is is slightly louder than the melody, but it's lower and faster. Harmony is a must for this song, and right now the harmony here is absolutely sick. At 0:31 the melody from the higher guitar can be heard a little easier, especially when it hits those high notes. At 0:40 the song continues, but the melody is very briefly taken over by a synth that plays one of the more "recognizable" parts of this theme. At 0:45 a new section starts up, which has to be one of my favorite parts of this track. The three guitars are back, this time all in synch. The melody and harmony guitars are playing very fast eighth notes at the same time, and the lower electric guitar (note: this is not a bass guitar; it just acts like one by playing the longer, lower notes. It still has that electric guitar sound) plays once every other beat. I absolutely love the harmony here; it almost sound like one guitar and one voice. At 0:56 this section repeats itself after the lead guitars finish that rhythm. The guitar parts were recorded by Fishy and placed on this track, so I can even hear that sound the guitar strings make in the recording while changing notes. At 1:06 a solo guitar comes in for a brief interlude of the Johto battle theme while the harmony guitar drops out for a couple seconds. After this the song goes into a new section. At 1:12 the melody slows down for a little bit, although the incredibly fast tempo stays the same. The harmony is still completely in synch with the melody, although the percussion/melody has changed their rhythms into a more laid-back style. At 1:21 the upper guitars just go crazy, and the low guitar plays a melody of its own. At 1:24 there's a new section that starts back up. For this part of the song, there are two things going on right now. The first thing I'll focus on is the catchy melody from a single guitar. The melody is high in pitch and also slightly repetitve. What I really want to focus on though is the lower guitar. At first I didn't even notice this, but the lower guitar is playing the real melody, which is another part of the Johto battle theme. If you continue listening through 1:34, the low guitar and high guitar suddenly connect. Now the lead guitar is playing the melody heard at 1:24, and the low guitar is back to being the bass. To start up a new section at 1:41, the guitars quiet down while the strings come back for a mere three seconds. At 1:46 the section starts up, and the two main guitars return to play an all new melody. However, this time around the low guitar is actually playing with the other two. So now all three guitars are completely in synch. This melody doesn't last long though, for yet another new section starts back up at 1:56. The main melody is still the battle theme, but the harmony is different and strings join in to play the melody with the other guitar. At 2:05 there's another minor section which has the melody from one guitar, the harmony from another guitar, and wait, another harmony from the third. At 2:15, there's a guitar solo which picks up to a section that is exactly the same as the beginning section at 0:19. This section will continue for a while, so if the readers have already forgotten what it sounds like, please see the beginning of this review. At 2:39 everything that was in this section dips down in pitch and fades out. At 2:41 there's now more of an electronic section here, consisting of an electric-guitar like synth with a rather hollow sound to it (it's sort of hard to describe). It may be a different sound compared to what we've been hearing, but it still keeps that crazy, rock feel. Anyway, this melody is pretty crazy while the low guitar continues to back everything up with the percussion. At 2:56 this section starts to conclude with the synth going up and down in pitch repeatedly. At 3:01 the synth and the beat goes faster, and then the section ends with a very fast note run. At 3:06 there's another section repeats itself; this time it's the one back at 1:12. The rest of the song here is now pretty repetitive; starting at 3:19, the entire section from 1:24 to 1:56 repeats itself. I don't believe there are any differences between this and the sections in the past. At 3:44 the section is almost exactly the same as the one starting at 1:56, but instead of the strings playing the melody, it's just the guitar alone. Also there are a couple differences with the melody, for the rhythm has a little more flair and added notes placed. The notes of the guitar continue to get higher and higher until 4:00. At this point the guitar reaches a boiling point, and the guitar is going extremely fast. Plus, this moment of craziness lasts for a whole ten seconds! After that the same section just repeats itself. At 4:30, the song is starting to die down a little bit. The guitars have dropped, and the percussion has dropped as well. The strings now play in the background, and the piano now plays the battle theme in a more relaxing way. The rhythm from the piano is pretty repetitive, although it always sounds different because of the various harmonies from the strings. It's a nice, soothing way to end such a crazy piece. In the end one last note is played, and the song fades away.

Pros: This has absolutely awesome guitar recordings, and a great tempo that always stays consistent. I loved the harmonies that were everywhere throughout this track. I liked how everything that was in the song would change roles once in a while; I'm mainly thinking of the sections at 1:24 and 3:19 when the low electric guitar acting like the bass played the melody. I used to hate this particular theme from Pokemon, but it's because of this piece that I learned to love it. Also, I loved the ending and how this song concluded.

Cons: Alright, let's face some reality here. While the song is pretty cool altogether, it's so repetitive. It repeated almost the entire first half of the song during the second half, and there wasn't much happening that actually made this any different than what we've already heard. Also, I thought that the strings that joined in at 1:56 were a little unnecessary. Plus, the song was basically a repeat of the original theme. There wasn't much other than the instruments that contributed to making this arrangement unique to the real thing.

Overall: Usually an electric guitar remix doesn't stand out much to me, but I'm making an exception for this one. Excellent guitar work from Fishy, and this is a great arrangement of one of the classic Pokemon themes that we all know and love. Although it may be repetitive, it's a great blast into the past that takes you back to the time where the Gameboy Color was the latest video game system. Anyway, pokemon fans would love it. Awesome work.

Rating: 8.7/10

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Song of the Week 38.5: 'A Hero's Legacy' by Evan Pattison (redo)

For this week's .5 edition, I'll be reviewing the song talked about in Song of the Week Reogan Style. Actually Reogan doesn't talk about the piece itself, but he adds visuals that go along with what he heard. I'll try to keep those visuals in mind while I'm reviewing this. This is Evan Pattison's second OCR piece titled 'A Hero's Legacy'. Huh, I think this is one of the first (if not the first) Legend of Zelda franchise remixes I've ever reviewed. Anyway, I'm not going to go off topic, so let's get down to business.

The song starts out with a gradual entry by a group of strings. These strings are what is mainly heard throughout this song. The group of strings had a wide range of pitches; approximately two or three octaves are used. At 0:09 a small woodwind instrument (most likely an oboe) is heard playing a rhythm while the strings are harmonizing against it. At 0:19 there's a large cymbal crash and the beginning of the song is repeated, this time much louder and dramatic. The only difference hear is the volume and the entry of some low brass to help out the lower-pitched strings. The harmony with the strings as the oboe plays this time is even stronger as well. At 0:35 another crash is heard and a new section begins. After this crash, what's heard is all of the sounds holding a note while slowly fading from the song. 0:41 is the real transition to the next major section, for the piano comes in and plays a solemn melody. The piano solo consists of the high melody without much bass to back it up. There are times throughout this section where the notes from the piano are accented, which makes the whole thing seem a little louder. After the solo ends at 1:08, all of the orchestral elements heard before as well as another cymbal crash will come back in the song. There are lots of harmonies heard here, although the four-measure-long melody is repeated the entire time. At least the harmonies aren't as repetitive. At 1:32 there's one more crash, and another break similar to the one at 0:35 starts up again. After this at 1:40, the piano will come back in once again. It plays a melody very similar, if not the same, as the piano solo back at 0:41. The difference here is that there's a small amount of flute backing the piano up as it plays. At 2:05 the strings slowly come back in. At 2:06 the oboe will now play the melody while the strings play a rather simple harmony. The melody is none other than the well-known LoZ melody that a huge majority of gamers have heard. However, this arrangement of the melody is much sadder, depressing, and slow. The strings create a very dramatic feel along with the melody. This is where I can see those visuals that Reogan described, and they actually make sense with what I'm hearing. At 2:33 snare drums come in, as well as a church bell. The melody now repeats, this time louder with a whole lot more elements added. There's now timpani, louder strings, low brass to back things us, and various cymbal crashes. At 3:02 some of the elements are slowing starting to drop out. The melody continues to play, with strong strings and great bass. At 3:16 though, the song comes to an end...

Pros: There were a lot of great orchestral elements here that made the song shine. I thought that the harmonies went very well with the melody, and I liked the dramatic feeling that it gave off. This type of music fits well with a Legend of Zelda game.

Cons: The piano solos at 0:41 and 1:40 were accented too much. The song was a little simple and repetitive; there was hardly anything new heard as the song progressed. Also, I hated the ending. There was hardly any fading (the song pretty much just stopped), and the song sounded a little weird ending right in the middle of the melody.

Overall: This song is good, although I feel that it does need some tweaking. It's a very calm piece with a lot of dramatic orchestra, yet it lacks the complexity to really make me go "Wow, that was an amazing piece". Still, this is pretty good stuff here.

Rating: 7.8/10

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Song of the Week 38: 'Dear Death' by The Opensky

So it's been a little while since I've put up a SotW. Marim does just fine without me, but I do like to pitch in once and a while. I find that I tend to enjoy examining atmospheric tracks so I can point out all the little things that really pull it together. Ironically, this atmospheric stuff is what I'm bad at when I compose music, so hopefully I'm learning a few things. Anyway, this week's track comes courtesy of The Opensky a.k.a. Joe Byun who's been producing a lot of high quality music... especially for someone who is 15 years of age. The Opensky isn't OCR related, but I found him through following Stargame on soundcloud (however, even if I didn't notice a Stargame comment, I would've soon noticed that he took a crack at the Weeping Clouds remix contest held by Hollidayrain and Flexstyle, two OCR and Protagonist Records contributers). This particular track is titled Dear Death. I've had it on my mind for a while to review an Opensky track, but I couldn't get myself to choose. I went for Dear Death because of the wandering atmosphere that this track has, featuring plenty of ambient sounds, strings, and piano. Going back to the comments on this track on soundcloud, this is Mr. Byun's first attempt to create something orchestral. I'd say it went off rather well otherwise I don't think I'd be taking a look at it here. Anyway, let's get down to business...

The first three seconds of this track immediately remind me of Last Man Standing by Hybrid although I can also tell this is going to be a lot more relaxed sounding (the tracks aren't really that similar, it's probably just because Last Man Standing is frequently listened to). Different beeping tones fade in and out as a ambient tapping/scratching noise with added effects enters in at 0:05. Pretty good atmosphere establishment that sets the tone for the first true note to be played at 0:18 as a simple two note string/synth bass rotation. The ambiance is slowly building during all of this and hits a good volume at 0:36 when the piano is introduced. The piano does a good job of containing two parts that split to create an interesting melody. All the while the "beepy" ambiance starts to remind me a bit of Pink Floyd (although nowadays there are tons of things that remind me of how Pink Floyd originally sounded). The piano goes through four "series" of melody lines interconnected by well placed pickups to measures. After the fourth "series" a brief string section comes in for four notes down a chord. This lightly played "dun dun dun dun" (just had to type that out) becomes one of my favorite parts of the track as you just learn to anticipate it and it forms a big part of this track. After the "dun dun dun dun" a higher string melody is added to the mix as it plays slow, drawn out notes to help create some interplay with the piano. At 1:02 the ambient tapping/scratching with effects is subtly removed in order to avoid damaging the melody. This leaves the remaining elements to slowly increase in volume with another casual "dun dun dun dun" coming in at 1:11-1:12 this time followed by a bass drum at 1:13 (albeit a very ambient bass drum in keeping with the elements of the track). Once again this "dun dun dun dun" (which isn't very loud at all) introduces new elements to the track. A subtle synth fluctuation (similar to the one heard in Under Mars by The Opensky) emerges buried deep underneath the bass elements. At this time the strings get a new bass section added to the two note rotation, adding some more variety to the mix. Now with these elements in play The Opensky runs with this setup, as the sounds seem to drift in a dreamy sense with no distinctive elements (in fact, what makes the "dun dun dun dun" so pronounced in this track is the fact that it is a short, consistent series of notes repeatedly played). Speaking of which, 1:48-1:50 brings this "section" to a subtle transition with the "dun dun dun dun" followed by the ambient bass drum. It really isn't much of a transition except in the following section the piano plays a little less low notes relying on melody more and the atmospheric elements don't seem as prominent, leaving the listener to follow the notes of the string and piano interplay. 2:43-2:44 is another "dun dun dun dun" transition followed by the bass drum. This transition is definitely more pronounced than the last, yet none of the transitions are truly pronounced by my standards other than the distinctive "dun dun dun dun". The ambient tapping/scratching noise with its effects reenters here. The strings make a very subtle exit amidst the newly found atmosphere. The piano also becomes a little more recognizable as running through a melody instead of wandering. This section transitions with another "dun dun dun dun" at 3:38 at which time the string section is reintroduced again by switching out the tapping/scratching ambiance. Once again we're left with piano string interplay with an ambient bass drum entering on its own at 4:15-4:16 (this reintroduces some of the atmospheric synth fluctuation that was going on in the previous section). This is transitioned at 4:51-4:53 with another "dun dun dun dun" and the ambient bass drum the listener has come to expect. This section removes the piano entirely, letting us enjoy the drawn out notes of the soft strings and the mixing of the atmosphere. The tapping/scratching ambiance comes back as well, but more subtle than when it has been reintroduced in the past (around 5 minutes is when it starts to reenter). The ambiance seems to slowly build in this section with another "dun dun dun dun" coming at 5:09-5:10 (this time it isn't followed by the bass drum). The change fades without the bass drum to introduce it, the tapping/scratching ambiance builds and the string/synth bass drops out entirely at 5:20 (good example of a soft element influencing the entire track). Now the ambient elements slowly exit with the soft "beeping" tones going first, leaving the tapping/scratching ambiance as the only thing still creating music. This is also given a good exit as it is slowly run under a low pass filter until it is faded out. Good stuff.

Pros: Unlike the last track I did for SotW, this will not leave you shaking in your boots. This is very good ambient layering and atmospheric setup that makes a hard track to create sound easy. I have to love how each new "section" was subtly introduced yet at the same time it wasn't because there was always the "dun dun dun dun" (which is played a total of 7 times by the way) or the ambient bass drum to cue us in to the change. The piano and strings worked well together and the "beepy" (that word is not as "subtle" as I would like) ambiance really put things together. Dynamics are also fantastic.

Cons: The melody does a lot of wandering that makes it too easy to loose interest sometimes. The piano is also a little sharp and I'm sort of disappointed the melody interplaying with the strings wasn't another synth tone or at least a piano with effects added on. I think the piano's initial entrance stood out after hearing the rest of the song.

Overall: Atmosphere wins. I still feel like I missed some sort of sine waveish synth pad that was used in the ambiance. The landscape of ambient sounds is really something to admire. While the title "Dear Death" brings to mind something a little more emotional, I think this track has put a new meaning on the words for me and I can see how it works. Good stuff.

Rating: 8.7/10

Monday, May 23, 2011

Video Games: Galaxy on Fire 2

Update 8/25/2012
I notice a lot of people arrive at this page searching for help with certain situations in Galaxy on Fire 2 (especially since the game is now available for PC on Steam). I have beaten the main story as well as the expansion DLC and would be willing to answer any specific questions related to certain instances in the game. Just post a comment below and I will respond in kind. I played the game on a 3rd generation iPod Touch so my help may not be specific to your platform. 
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I've always been a big fan of mobile games since the dawn of the cell phone. I miss the old Nokia phones that played snake. iOS has proved to be one of the most versatile gaming platforms of the last few years and I've been consistently impressed by the capability for many good games. Galaxy on Fire 2 is a space trading, dogfighting, adventure game developed by Fishlabs for iOS as a sequel to Galaxy on Fire. I've played Galaxy on Fire (I got it for free when GoF 2 came out), but I could never get into it as GoF 2 proved so much better that I couldn't couldn't go back to the old version. GoF 2 now has a story expansion available as DLC, but I have yet to purchase it. Perhaps I'll release a review of that once I've completed it.

Gameplay:

Combat
Combat is merely an accessory to Galaxy on Fire 2, but it's still a very important part of the game. Most of the story objectives (it's been a while since I've played the story) do involve combat, but it isn't emphasized. All of GoF 2's movement takes place through the third person perspective of a fighter sized space ship (although comparing the size to some of the passing cruisers reveals it is actually comparable to the Normandy from Mass Effect). This also proves a good venue for combat as a large portion of it is spent maneuvering your ship into position and unleashing fire at the location where the enemy ship will be. It's essential to have a good scanner when using lock-on weapons and tractor beams as this will greatly improve your ability to freely move and dodge fire while inflicting damage on enemies. Abilities such as the speed boost items and cloaking also greatly enhance combat. Cloaking is invaluable to survive some of the game's more longer and grueling fights (such as the final battle and the DLC fight to take Kaamo from multiple pirate bases). Turrets are also an interesting addition, however, I find that they're practically useless and overpriced as they require your ship to fly in a straight line and cease all weapons activity other than the turret. The turret must also be controlled manually, and while it has a very good range, even the best turrets suffer from slow rates of fire and lack of maneuverability. GoF 2's combat is fairly well rounded with the only issue being the difficulty of taking evasive action. Overall, it's better to eliminate as many enemies as you can before they damage you; cloaking is essential.

Exploration
Exploration is by far the most appealing feature of Galaxy on Fire 2. With the graphics on maximum for any iOS device (particularly iPad), the game is absolutely beautiful as your ship soars through space across multiple planets in multiple systems. The full galaxy map (once you have access to it after the beginning story events) presents a massive amount of systems and planets (each planet has an orbital space station which you visit). I believe I've visited at least 100 stations during my playing time and the new DLC should add even more. The game allows you to travel within a system by locking onto planets and flying to them quickly, but travel between systems involves reaching a station with a "jumpgate" that accelerates you to the planet of your choosing in another adjacent system.

Story Mechanics
From the very beginning Galaxy on Fire 2 is a very beautiful game. However, the initial story leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. The voice acting is average for an iOS game (which by my standards is not very good). The on-board ship computer, while only heard in the very beginning of the game was so cheesy that I almost stopped playing. Luckily GoF 2's amazing graphics and mechanics kept me playing. The rest of the voice acting in the game, including Keith T. Maxwell (the PC) is not half bad. The opening dialog (after the hyperspace incident that transports your character to another part of the galaxy plus a few years) is also odd in the impression that it leaves. However, the rest of the story seems to flow fairly smoothly without too many quirks. Many of the story objectives simply involve flying from one place to another in attempts to contact different people or gather different items needed to create something. The story is easily left alone for quite a bit while your character gathers the necessary equipment to tackle some of the tougher combat sequences. Sidequests are also an important part of the game as they provide you with much needed finances to fuel your quest for better ships and weapons.

Logistics
The trading system in Galaxy on Fire 2 is well managed, although it's not as prominent once your ship has been upgraded more substantially. The mining "minigame" is fairy well designed and I like the way it's incorporated into the story. The big part of the logistics system for GoF 2 is the factions system. There are 4 factions in GoF 2, Terrans (humans), Vossk, Nivelians, and Midorians. The Terrans are at odds with the Vossk and the Niverlians are at odds with the Midorians. The game has an "affiliation meter" in which doing certain quests for certain factions can result in anything from slight to major shifts in your allies. For instance, accepting a quest from a Terran that involves destroying a convoy carrying illegal goods may result in the destruction of several Vossk ships. This usually results in a major shift on the meter from Vossk to Terran (the Vossk and Terran meter is completely separate from the Midorian Nivelian meter). With the new update, signatures are now available that can be found by destroying ships from different factions (pirates are a nonfaction). When equipped, these signatures alter your allies to that of the affiliation of the signature (for instance, equipping a Nivelian signature puts you at war with the Midorians and highly in favor of the Terrans over the Vossk). The only thing I don't like about this meter is the fact that it means nothing within the story and only means that certain ships will attack you or you'll have to pay a bribe to dock at an enemy station. Your status may be shifted to "not at war" by representatives who will offer you to erase your record in exchange for money.

Other:

Music
Galaxy on Fire 2 is complimented by a fairly good mix of orchestral and electronic score; certainly more than I would expect from an iOS game. There is music for the four different factions for both noncombatant space exploration and when docked at a station. There is 3 variations on the combat theme that vary in intensity based on the number of enemies. The music may get a little repetitive sometimes, but it is overall very enjoyable.

Themes
Each faction has unique ship, station, and jumpgate design making for an overall better exploration experience.

Overall:
If it's on sale, buy it. Ten bucks is a lot, but it's a fantastic game, especially for iPad.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Keep Watch and Keep Running

Run.

There is
a great

mystery

to be solved.


Watch

all things
decay.


Watch

time unravel.


Watch

your life.

Keep
running,

time

is almost up.


What does
it

mean?


Everything?
or
Nothing.


Does it
matter?


Meaningless.


Keep watch

and

keep running.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Song of the Week 37: 'Ochre Threads' by Oliver Sadie

Hey, it's time for another Song of the Week. The song this time for this week isn't OCR related; it's from Soundcloud. So with that in mind, this song is titled 'Ochre Threads' by Oliver Sadie. He has two versions of this song, but I'll be reviewing the original today. The piano version of the song will probably be reviewed for the next .5 post. So, without further delay, let's get this started.

The song starts out with two different synths. The lower of the two acts like a bass while the other is a little higher in pitch. The bass synth plays the first note, while the other plays and holds the last two beats. I'm pretty sure that the song is in 3/8 time. At 0:13 a much higher synth comes in to start off the main melody. The synth here is clean, yet it rings after playing, giving a bell-like tone to it. In addition to this synth, a string section joins in to play the rhythm the first two synths were playing at the beginning. However, it will only play the role of the second synth that plays. While the melody continues to play, it gives off a very peaceful atmosphere. The part so far where the melody is the strongest would be at 0:40. This strong buildup with the melody will die back down again at 0:46. At 0:52, the strings and the melody drop out for a while, leaving the two original synths that played at the beginning continuing it's light and calm rhythm. At 0:58 a new section starts up, and the melody changes. It still uses the synth with the bell-like tone, but it's now at least an octave lower. The strings this time do a little more than just playing a note each measure; it now harmonizes slightly with the rest of the track, while still keeping a nice, slow pace. There's another strong point with the melody at 1:10, and it's great that hardly anything in the melody has been repeated yet. After 1:10, the melody will die down again and eventually drop, leaving everything else. At 1:25 everything breaks off for a brief moment, and then the song will come back in very strong. Not only is the melody coming back in strong, but the strings as well. Not only until 1:32 is when the strings die down more, with the melody soon to follow. By 1:38, you can now hardly hear the melody. At 1:45 the song builds up once again, with probably the strings being the loudest here (the melody is still pretty close to it in volume though). 1:51 is a place where the harmony from the strings is heard very clearly; it's not until about 1:56 where the melody becomes a little more dominant. At 2:03 the strings crescendo one more time in a nice harmony, but then fade away. Now starting at 2:07 the original synths are now heard clearly with the melody still playing. The melody continues to play its charming melody while the strings come in for a final time at 2:19. At 2:26 the strings become stronger and then play the last note. The song will then fade away...

Pros: This is relaxing, peaceful, and completely calm. There was hardly any repetitiveness in the song except for the background rhythm that played for the entire time. The strong buildups that were used occasionally were dramatic, flowing, and always had good timing. I also really liked the break-off at 1:25.

Cons: The background rhythm after a while did bother me slightly. I wouldn't mind if there was a slight change in that rhythm. Perhaps the strings could've had a little larger of a role also?

Overall: This song is short, sweet, and straight-to-the-point. It's a great song to listen to when relaxing. I recommend listening to it. Stay tuned, because Ochre Threads (Piano version) will be reviewed this Saturday!

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Revolutions, Chapter One

The building was small and modest. Innocuous. Built hardly a year before, it's timbers still smelt of pine; John suspected that some of the mortar trapped between the bricks had yet to cure. Made for carpenters, nothing more, nothing less.
John sighed, and wiped the rain from his eyes, peering out over the balcony rail. It was impossible to see anything in this storm. There was the Hall behind him, the rail before him, and beyond that only gray. The torrent from above was, in its roar, somehow silent, and its silence managed to blot out the arguments that surely continued inside.
It was Thomas, of course, who started it. He always did, playing the fool and clinging to his impossible beliefs.
Of course we want to strive for ideals, Jefferson, but what happens when something goes wrong? We need to be realistic. 
There was only one man of whom John knew who could make the radical see sense. A man who had worked with their oppressors, and knew exactly what self-governance would cost the colonies. The most anticipated member of the Congress, and he was nowhere to be seen.
John raised his hand to the storm lantern that hung above him, and flipped its shutter three times. After a short pause, two answering flashes shown from somewhere in the tempest.
A faint smile. At least Philadelphia remains untouched.
(But for how long?)
He sighed, and turned to return to the hall. As he passed through the doors, Galloway passed by him. The two men exchanged a brief nod of the head, and Galloway whispered in passing, "If there ever comes a point where reason is again welcome in these walls, have me alerted."
Before he could even begin to wonder what sort of situation could have prompted such a solid man as Joseph Galloway to take his leave of the Congress, John passed into the main room. Without a pause in his ranting, Thomas pointed a finger at John while raging at his cousin. "And you side with him, Samuel? With a man who would defend the Redcoats for the cost of a pair of shoes?"
Instantly, the chamber erupted into a roar of accusation and counterpoint. No semblance of organized debate remained. The few men who crowded around Samuel Adams could hardly speak with the weight of the rhetoric that Jefferson's disciples had almost certainly learned by rote. Others of the man's mob had broken away to abuse John similarly. Samuel himself gave him an accusatory look. 
You know I didn't get you into this, dear cousin.
 Above it all, though, was Jefferson, standing on a chair with his smug grin boring into John. He knew exactly what he was doing. For a man of such weak character, Jefferson had a remarkable way with words. He had given his followers - supposedly learned delegates - their instructions, and they obeyed them unfailingly. Alone, he was nothing, and he knew it. But now, with forty heads to repeat his views, eighty hands to do his work, he was strong. Your turn, his grin said.
My turn indeed. I may not have your popularity, but I do have one thing.
"The truth," John said. His words were surely lost in the crowd, but someone saw his mouth move. He fell silent. John met the eyes of the man next to the first, and soon he did as well. Soon, a slow ripple of silence resonated out. When there was no sound, John took a breath. Samuel and Jefferson were both watching him, waiting. Neither pair of eyes was friendly.
"The truth," he said again. ""Facts are stubborn things. They persist whatever our wishes. They endure despite your eloquence, Jefferson. And the fact remains that not a single soldier fired on a colonist that day."
An outraged mutter from someone in the crowd.
"The fact remains that while their acts may be intolerable, Britain remains sovereign over us. We have but to remind her of exactly how far that sovereignty extends."
A murmur now rose in the crowd, building like a wave.
"And the fact remains that you all see only what you want to. May I remind you that politics are not our concern. May I remind you, that Britain is not our enemy. May I remind you that we convene in Philadelphia not for convenience or secrecy, but for safety? May I have the audacity to suggest that our Congress could potentially save or destroy the lives of every man, woman, and child in these colonies?"
His last note hung in the air for a moment. Then Jefferson smiled.
"So you propose we fall to our knees and crawl back to our Mother King?"
John opened his mouth to protest, but the crowd was already warming up again. Jefferson remained smiling, but his eyes burned with resentment even at John's very temporary success in stealing away the attentions of his supplicants. Samuel didn't even look at him.
I know all the facts. I say all the right words. But they never listen. They prattle on with their politics while hell itself rises to devour us. We need another Jesus. We need a leader of hearts, another prophet, another pillar to support us.
Where are you, Washington?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Random Thoughts Revival

I wonder who was the 52nd person to own a lightbulb...

I wonder how we wonder...

Speaking of wondering, I wonder what it would be like if it were impossible to wonder...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Song of the Week 36.5: 'Swingin' With Death' by Nase (redo)

.5 SotW's have returned! So, this is a remake of Met's Song of the Week 13-which could hardly be considered much of a "review" (mainly because I was nonexistent on this blog back then). This song is Nase's debut remix: 'Swingin' With Death' from the game Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. Without further delay, let's get to the remix.

The song starts out with a cymbal roll and an orchestral sequence. It mainly consists of strings increasing in volume and pitch, making a pretty epic sounding intro. The brass section here can be heard making numerous buildups until one of the instruments, a french horn I believe, has a very small solo at 0:10. After the french horn plays there's a minor buildup at 0:13, and then a new section begins. This next part of the song has now flipped genres-going from what appears to be a powerful, orchestral piece of music to a funky swing. Here the piano now controls the melody, jazzing up the entire track. The percussion is now displaying your basic swing beat, and the bass plays a tune of its own while backing up the piano. At 0:24 the piano drops and is replaced by the trumpet (which is apparently a brass sample). I figured it was just a sample since it doesn't really sound like a real trumpet. At 0:33 the piano comes back in with a funky trill and continues the jazzy melody that has been going on so far. There's a little more piano here, for a lower octave will come in occasionally to back it up. At 0:42 the brass will come to buildup the song even more. After the brass comes in the melody switches instruments again, and the piano is now replaced by a flute. I like the fact that there's a good variety of instrumentation used throughout the song. At 0:49 the brass will come back in to buildup the song alongside the flute, mainly to add a little more beef I think. At 0:54 a different section starts to be played. The piano has the melody again, although this time the rhythm is a little more straight than the jazz ensemble previously heard. The percussion now has the addition of a cowbell, which is pretty cool. The brass play more buildups while the melody is being played. At 1:04 the melody switches again to the brass-mainly the trumpet. At 1:12 the piano comes in to help transition the song again. At 1:14 there are really only two main instruments being played here: the percussion and the clav (which has the melody). The clav here plays a funky tune while low brass back it up occasionally. At roughly 1:24 the clav is going wild in its soli (pretty cool stuff here). At 1:32 the soli stops with the bass and the clav doing a two-part soli which transitions the song again into a new section. At 1:36 the first melody is repeated (the one from 0:13). Instead of the piano playing the melody though, the clav, one octave higher, plays it. The piano instead plays some chords backing everything up. At 1:46 the melody switches not to the piano, but to the bass. Yes, bass solo time! The bass already sounded pretty sweet when it was playing its "normal" role, but now it's playing a crazy, jazzy melody that rampages through this section. At 1:56 the bass goes back to what it was previously doing, and the melody now is played by a smooth synth. At 2:06 another section is repeated; this time it's the section from 1:04. Instead of the trumpet this time, it's more of a low brass instrument (most likely trombone) that plays the melody here. At 2:13 the trumpet joins in and now harmonizes with the trombone. The clav also joins in occasionally to play a note or two. 2:24 sounds pretty interesting; everything became muffled, gritty, and intentionally messed up (in a good way). At 2:31 the song cools down a lot by having the percussion leave and a high synth play the melody. There are a lot of synth buildups while this is going on, as well as piano playing a couple chords. After 2:41, the song echoes and then slowly dies away.

Pros: The song was fun and upbeat. It always kept that swing beat, never stopping or remotely slowing down. The bass was absolutely awesome here, I love the fact that it served as melody, harmony, as well as the bass. The variety of instruments used here was great considering how short the song was. The clav dominated section from 1:14 to 1:32 was pretty awesome as well.

Cons: It was perhaps a little too short; this has to be one of the shortest songs I've reviewed so far. Also, I thought that the brass samples could have sounded more...realistic? I know they were samples that were used very well throughout the piece, but I'm not really in favor of them.

Overall: This is a short, catchy, swing that probably make people appreciate jazz a little more. I'm neutral when it comes to jazz; I neither like it nor dislike it. This song is pretty fun to listen to though, so people should take three minutes of their time to hear it.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Video Game Idea: Gods & Glocks

NOTE: All religious ideas expressed in the idea for a video game are strictly for the video game idea and do not represent the beliefs of the the author or any other members, followers, and/or viewers of this blog.


Okay, the title sounds weird, but you can't say that there haven't been games based on mythology out there. Here goes... The game would probably run on an Xbox system. It would be a shooter (as depicted from the title [in case you didn't know, a Glock is a handgun that comes in many varieties]). Whether it is first or third person I don't really care (customizable camera view, anyone?).

The basic plot (for career mode) would be that a team of scientists had (somehow) built a device that proved that the Gods existed. This caused the scientists to go berserk and wonder if they could become as powerful as them, but then one guy came up with the idea of making the Gods only as powerful as the scientists. They then went straightforward in creating a device that, when activated, made the Gods and any other magical creatures mortal. Eventually they finish and activate the machine, causing the Gods to wonder what happened. Chaos ensues soon after as the Gods and many mythical creatures are released unto the world. All of these mythical figures are now buying guns to defend themselves. This is where you choose which storyline to start pursuing (you can switch between storylines without losing progress).

There is the scientist's storyline, this is the defense one, where you play as a scientist on the team who discovered how to make the myths mortal, in which you have to defend the laboratory (and, specifically, the machine) from waves of oncoming immortals (who are now mortal) who are trying to destroy the machine to regain their immortality.

There is the Roman/Greek God's storyline, here's your one-man-army mode, where you play as Hercules in a solo effort to take the advantage of mortality to destroy evil Gods and mythical creatures.

There is also the mythical army storyline, this is the team tactical storyline (even though the allies will be AI), where you take control of a Kitsune (spirit fox) in an army of mythical creatures bent on world conquering. Why a Kitsune? They seem to be the most human-like. I'm not doing very much research for this (it's just an idea!).

Lastly, there is the captive storyline. This is (surprise!) the stealth storyline. You play as a human captive captured by the mythical creature army. They take you to their base (who knows where?) and you need to escape. Early on, when you escape your cell, you find a guard's gun. Poor guard, he's probably going to be beaten (maybe even eaten) later for his laziness.

Of coarse, as with my The Legend of Zombies video game idea, the storylines will intertwine. You will NEVER see your character through the eyes of another character, at least, not outside of a cutscene.

What would be a shooter like this without multiplayer? In the multiplayer mode, you would have a few options. First of all, before any match would begin, you would choose your form, which would consist of a few selections, including a scientist, a captive, a kitsune, hercules, a few Gods, and maybe some others. The real meat, of coarse, is in the gameplay. There will be a few modes.

The first is an all out firefight, where you choose a map and it is every man for himself. The winner would be determined simply by kills minus deaths. So if someone kills 10 people, but dies 8 times, and another kills 3 people, but plays safe enough to never die, the winner (between the two) would be the person who killed 3. This may not work as a good system, but it's an idea.

The next would be team battle. As the name suggests, the players would devide into a specified number of teams. If some teams have less players, the team votes on accepting a normal AI player or not. Why not? It may end up as extra kills for the enemy.

Last would be special fight, where it is either a firefight or a team battle with special rules (E.G. rocket launchers for everyone, handguns only, low health). This would probably be local only, just due to the variety, but maybe if online were added the special rule would be randomly chosen.

Now for some Extras (yay!). This would consist of a few goodies for players to unlock, some only purchasable (through in-game currency, collectable in many modes), including a stage creator (unlocked right away, but purchasable content available). A stage select would be available for going back to your favorite career levels. Also a few "cheats" that are unlocked through defeating the storylines, and a few more for defeating them all. When activated, however, they will only work on stage select and maybe a few local multiplayer modes. If used, they will not allow for money to be earned.

I would like it very much if you commented and/or critiqued this uber-long list of babble that is a video game idea.

This concludes my horrendously long video game idea #2. I hope you find it interesting and at least a bit feasible.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Kingdom of Spades

THE KINGDOM OF SPADES

A long time ago, when the land was not new, but not modern, there were many kingdoms. One such kingdom was the Kingdom of Spades. This was a prosperous and friendly kingdom. Everyone was friends, well, at least not enemies. They all liked their ruler, too. His name was Hugh. Because of the age and kingdom, the people of Spades called their ruler their Ace. Therefore, Hugh was Spades' Ace. However, due to fear of a revolt (which never happened in the history of the Kingdom of Spades), Hugh ruled under the name of Goght (that is a silent "gh" in case you didn't know). No one but Hugh's family knew that Hugh was Goght. Hugh lived a normal life as well as the life of Goght. Things went like this ever since he was crowned king. Hugh would always enter the castle just before sun up when no one was up. One day, however, one man spotted Hugh entering the castle before it was publicly open. The man figured that it was just an emergency that needed to be attended to by Goght. He was a bit suspicious, so he got up early the next day, too. Sure enough, Hugh entered the castle at the same time. This made the man think. Finally, he put two and two together: Hugh was Goght. He kept this to himself for a while. Another day, though, a while after the man's discovery, "Goght" held a town meeting. Everyone attended. Hugh posed as Goght. People were wondering where Hugh and the man were. They were mumbling to each other. Arriving late, the man burst into the door and shouted "Hugh's Goght the Ace of Spades!"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Decay of Hope

The

black
is everywhere.

You can
crouch,

make yourself

smaller,
but

it doesn't change
a thing.

It only
seeps in

around you.

You can be

alert;

you can
fight it,

but it doesn't

do any good.

Confusion is

its ally,
you

cannot escape.

What more is there
to worry

about

now?



You're lost
and


alone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Song of the Week 36: 'Damn Those Turks!' by Daniel Baranowsky

Hey, it's time for another Song of the Week. This song is another from Final Fantasy VII and is titled 'Damn Those Turks!'. Also, this is from the same FF7 album that had the song reviewed for SotW 35. It was remixed by the artist Daniel Baranowsky. I really don't have anything else to say, and I'm already writing this at the last second, so let's get this started...

The beginning starts out with three notes hit by an acoustic guitar, and then the song will play a slow, western-like rhythm (to define "western, I mean the "wild west"). At 0:08 the guitar Linkcomes back in, although this time it's an electric guitar. This plays a twangy, little melody that ends at about 0:15. There's a buildup that happens at 0:17, and at 0:19 the track will burst with some strong percussion hits and a very twangy, electric, western guitar-like synth. I can't exactly describe it. At 0:28 the normal acoustic guitar gets the pickup into the leading melody. Here the melody is controlled by the guitar (with possibly some harpsichord), and the electric guitar plays as the bass. The percussion plays rather slow here, and throughout the entire song (it plays the rhythm that everything played at 0:19). At 0:37 the acoustic drops back a little bit, and the electric guitar will take over as the melody. The twangy guitar synth...thing that I really couldn't describe in words plays that same rhythm from 0:19 as the electric guitar jams out. At 0:46 the acoustic takes over the melody again, and it goes back to the way it was at 0:28 except for the "twangy guitar" (which is what I'm going to call that sound from here on). At 0:55 the song will go back into that western groove it had going on back at the beginning of the song. The acoustic will play the melody here, which is simply it playing various arpeggios. At 1:01 a synth can be heard slowly stretching it's pitch up one level. At 1:11 you can hear some bass playing a small counter melody, and at 1:13 the percussion will play a couple times each second. The bass will also quicken to the speed of eighth notes (which isn't all that fast considering how slow the tempo is). At 1:19 that synth from 1:01 will come back again and repeat the cool, sliding sound it made from when it played earlier. At 1:28 there's a quick buildup, and at 1:30 there's a new section. Here, everything that had played before dropped out, and new stuff will take over. A male vocal will now rise and sing the notes in the melody. No words are spoken, just voice. A bunch of synths are added to harmonize with the voices, and play fast sixteenth notes. At 1:40 the rhythm from 0:19 will come back in to back up the melody even more. This section will continue to play and repeat itself for about twenty more seconds. At 1:57 the piano is now added to counter the vocal and the percussion/twangy guitar, which plays a light rhythm. The bass for the piano is also muffled out a little bit, so the treble is mainly heard here above everything else. At 2:07 the choir completely drops out, and the piano starts to get a little more flashy. It plays at a medium-high pitch, and there's hardly any bass with it. At 2:10 a buildup is beginning, continuously getting louder and louder. At 2:16 everything drops out, except for a light, percussion-like synth, the stretched note last played by the guitar, and the piano to play the melody. At 2:22 is where the piano really starts to speed up in terms of melody, and 2:26 starts with low piano at the pickup (same notes as the guitar at 0:28). Unlike 0:28, there's no guitar, and the melody previously played by the piano continues. The piano does a great job here in keeping the melody moving and not being too repetitive. At 2:42 the song now becomes a pure piano solo with nothing to stand in its way. However, at 2:51 the guitar comes back in and plays almost the exact same thing back at 0:28 except for the quiet piano continuing its melody. Then, after repeating itself a little bit, the song fades away...

Pros: The various guitars used here in the song were pretty sick. The percussion hits, starting at 0:19, were clean, strong, and powerful. What I like the most about this song though is the piano dominated section from the second half of the track. I know that I speak of my love for piano too much, but for this track I do prefer the piano over the guitars.

Cons: The song, even for its very short length of 3:11, was a little too repetitive. I got sort of sick of the sections that just played over and over again (mainly the section at 0:28). Also, the section where the vocals came in bothered me. They sounded good, but they didn't sound right with the rest of the song. To me they came in at a pretty bad place. The ending could have been better also. It would have sounded better if they did something new for the ending instead of just repeating the section that was playing all the time.

Overall: The song sounds pretty cool, but it's not one of my favorites. It's also very short, although the length is fine considering the few changes in the song altogether. Very western, very clean, and it's pretty cool to listen to.

Rating: 7/10

Note: Probably some are thinking why I placed such a low rating on this song. Well, I'm trying to change some things in terms of my rating system. I've noticed, and other people have noticed, that I rate these songs way too high. I may even fix the ratings on the other songs I've looked at or even create some .5 SotW's for the first reviews I ended up doing since I started writing on this blog. I want to limit the ratings to only whole numbers or a number with a .5. This is no longer "on a scale of 9 to 10..." No, this is on a scale of 1 to 10, which means the lowest rating I can put a song would be 0.5 or maybe a 0 if the song is a complete disgrace to music everywhere. I would only use numbers with other decimals when comparing a song with others reviewed in terms of their ratings. I'll try not to do that too much though. Now, I probably won't rate anything lower than a 5 right now, but hey, at least I'm trying to turn things around. Who knows, as I continue writing these I may change the way I write the entire review. That probably won't happen for a while; I'm just trying to take things one step at a time...