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Found 135 results

  1. Let's go back to the game that kickstarted the trend of weighty indie games relying on small kids in big, scary worlds. Limbo thrilled, chilled, and grilled players around the world when it launched. As a nameless young boy in a world weaved together of monochrome shadows and a vintage filter, players embark on a journey filled with death and symbolism. Playdead's indie darling received massive praise when it released in 2010, but has that charm remained intact over time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening 'Mysterious Gold Edition' by Rukunetsu, Anton Corazza, and Yusef Kelliebrew (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03738) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  2. Jack Gardner

    The Best Games Period - Episode 101 - Limbo

    Let's go back to the game that kickstarted the trend of weighty indie games relying on small kids in big, scary worlds. Limbo thrilled, chilled, and grilled players around the world when it launched. As a nameless young boy in a world weaved together of monochrome shadows and a vintage filter, players embark on a journey filled with death and symbolism. Playdead's indie darling received massive praise when it released in 2010, but has that charm remained intact over time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening 'Mysterious Gold Edition' by Rukunetsu, Anton Corazza, and Yusef Kelliebrew (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03738) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  3. In 2010, renowned RPG developer Level-5 released Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn for the Nintendo DS in Japan. The game received a huge wave of attention due to the unique collaboration between Level-5 and the famed film animation studio Ghibli. The game saw a worldwide release a year later for the PlayStation 3 under the title Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Though the two games had much in common, including storylines and cutscenes, the games were developed by different internal teams within Level-5 and played very differently. With the extra year of polish and additional content, the PS3 version wowed critics and audiences alike with smooth visuals, a fully orchestrated soundtrack, and an awful lot of heart. Is Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Super Mario Land 'Welcome Goombo Probably' by Suzumebachi (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03708) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  4. In 2010, renowned RPG developer Level-5 released Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn for the Nintendo DS in Japan. The game received a huge wave of attention due to the unique collaboration between Level-5 and the famed film animation studio Ghibli. The game saw a worldwide release a year later for the PlayStation 3 under the title Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Though the two games had much in common, including storylines and cutscenes, the games were developed by different internal teams within Level-5 and played very differently. With the extra year of polish and additional content, the PS3 version wowed critics and audiences alike with smooth visuals, a fully orchestrated soundtrack, and an awful lot of heart. Is Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Super Mario Land 'Welcome Goombo Probably' by Suzumebachi (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03708) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  5. The Mortal Kombat series has been one of the pillars of the fighting game scene since it rose to prominence in the arcades of the early 90s. By 2011, the series had been flagging after a series of mediocre spin-offs and main entries. With the dissolution of Midway, things were grim. However, series creator Ed Boon wasn't ready to be done with quite yet. He managed to create a game that encapsulated the entire series up until that point, bringing together characters and plots that had long become too convoluted for words and unifying them into one package with a modern shine that brought Mortal Kombat into a new era of prosperity and success. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Mortal Kombat 3 'Mortal Konfrontation' by The Dual Dragons (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02279) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod You can follow Marcus on Twitter @MarcusStewart7 where you can find his thoughts on Dragon Ball Super, wrestling, and video games! He also writes at Marcus Writes About Games, Extra Life (hey, that's here!), and hosts Carving Gaming Rushmores. New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  6. The Mortal Kombat series has been one of the pillars of the fighting game scene since it rose to prominence in the arcades of the early 90s. By 2011, the series had been flagging after a series of mediocre spin-offs and main entries. With the dissolution of Midway, things were grim. However, series creator Ed Boon wasn't ready to be done with quite yet. He managed to create a game that encapsulated the entire series up until that point, bringing together characters and plots that had long become too convoluted for words and unifying them into one package with a modern shine that brought Mortal Kombat into a new era of prosperity and success. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Mortal Kombat 3 'Mortal Konfrontation' by The Dual Dragons (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02279) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod You can follow Marcus on Twitter @MarcusStewart7 where you can find his thoughts on Dragon Ball Super, wrestling, and video games! He also writes at Marcus Writes About Games, Extra Life (hey, that's here!), and hosts Carving Gaming Rushmores. New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  7. Free games are going way for PlayStation 3 and Vita owners. Games for both systems will appear on a monthly basis as part of PlayStation Plus until March 8, 2019. After that time, the games already gained through PS+ will continue to be available so long as the user subscribes to PlayStation's online service, bot no new games will appear each month. After the cut off date, all PS+ titles will consist of PlayStation 4 games. No other aspects of the service are slated for obsolescence. The free games available for March include the following: PS4 Bloodborne Ratchet & Clank PS3 Legend of Kay Mighty No. 9 Vita Claire: Extended Cut Bombing Busters It will be interesting to see if PlayStation will up the number of PS+ titles offered for PlayStation 4 owners to compensate for the drastic reduction in monthly games for their subscribers. View full article
  8. Free games are going way for PlayStation 3 and Vita owners. Games for both systems will appear on a monthly basis as part of PlayStation Plus until March 8, 2019. After that time, the games already gained through PS+ will continue to be available so long as the user subscribes to PlayStation's online service, bot no new games will appear each month. After the cut off date, all PS+ titles will consist of PlayStation 4 games. No other aspects of the service are slated for obsolescence. The free games available for March include the following: PS4 Bloodborne Ratchet & Clank PS3 Legend of Kay Mighty No. 9 Vita Claire: Extended Cut Bombing Busters It will be interesting to see if PlayStation will up the number of PS+ titles offered for PlayStation 4 owners to compensate for the drastic reduction in monthly games for their subscribers.
  9. Returning guest Kazuma Hashimoto joins the show for a discussion regarding Catherine, the 2011 PS3 cult classic that's soon to receive a remaster with additional content titled Catherine: Full Body. Made by the team behind the Persona series, does Catherine hold up and are there interesting lessons to glean from a deep dive? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Persona 4 Arena 'Little Arena' by DarkeSword (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02580) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod You can follow Kazuma on Twitter @JusticeKazzy_ - He's super nice! You can also find his work on Nova Crystallis and RPG Site. New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  10. Returning guest Kazuma Hashimoto joins the show for a discussion regarding Catherine, the 2011 PS3 cult classic that's soon to receive a remaster with additional content titled Catherine: Full Body. Made by the team behind the Persona series, does Catherine hold up and are there interesting lessons to glean from a deep dive? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Persona 4 Arena 'Little Arena' by DarkeSword (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02580) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod You can follow Kazuma on Twitter @JusticeKazzy_ - He's super nice! You can also find his work on Nova Crystallis and RPG Site. New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  11. Jack Gardner

    Dragon's Crown Pro Slated for Spring 2018

    Atlus announced yesterday that Vanillaware's unique action-RPG Dragon's Crown would be making its way to the PlayStation 4 early next year with a grip of improvements over the original. Dragon's Crown takes place in the same fantasy world as Vanillaware's previous titles, GrimGrimoire and Odin Sphere. It stars a cast of six characters in a side-scrolling melee reminiscent of the Golden Axe arcade titles mixed with more modern RPG mechanics. Players had to face down a myriad of dungeons to uncover the secrets of the titular Dragon's Crown. It can be played solo or co-op with up to four players, Gauntlet style. It made a significant splash in the lead up to its PlayStation 3 and Vita release for its exaggerated, extreme art style. Dragon's Crown Pro will give the original a face-lift with 4K resolution and updated artwork compatible with that increased fidelity. The soundtrack has been remastered with a live orchestra to imbue the action with a more robust soundscape. It's really a boon to any gamers out there looking for a new co-op experience to enjoy with friends. Dragon's Crown Pro will be available for the PlayStation 4 sometime Spring 2018.
  12. Atlus announced yesterday that Vanillaware's unique action-RPG Dragon's Crown would be making its way to the PlayStation 4 early next year with a grip of improvements over the original. Dragon's Crown takes place in the same fantasy world as Vanillaware's previous titles, GrimGrimoire and Odin Sphere. It stars a cast of six characters in a side-scrolling melee reminiscent of the Golden Axe arcade titles mixed with more modern RPG mechanics. Players had to face down a myriad of dungeons to uncover the secrets of the titular Dragon's Crown. It can be played solo or co-op with up to four players, Gauntlet style. It made a significant splash in the lead up to its PlayStation 3 and Vita release for its exaggerated, extreme art style. Dragon's Crown Pro will give the original a face-lift with 4K resolution and updated artwork compatible with that increased fidelity. The soundtrack has been remastered with a live orchestra to imbue the action with a more robust soundscape. It's really a boon to any gamers out there looking for a new co-op experience to enjoy with friends. Dragon's Crown Pro will be available for the PlayStation 4 sometime Spring 2018. View full article
  13. Jack Gardner

    The Best Games Period - Episode 77 - Journey

    Thatgamecompany had a deal with Sony in the late 2000s. The studio, founded by Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago, would make three games for the PlayStation 3's fledgling PSN service. The deal began with a remake of Chen's Flash title Flow which was then followed by Flower. The final part of Thatgamecompany's Sony trilogy was known as Journey and stands as perhaps the most well known art-house game on the planet. The title garnered a staggering number of awards for its visuals, unique, emotional gameplay, and player interaction, even earning the coveted game of the year spot from numerous publications. Austin Wintory's soundtrack catapulted the game into the mainstream consciousness as the only video game soundtrack ever to be nominated for a Grammy. Though it released five years ago and the game industry has covered a lot of ground since 2012, we now look back and ask: Is Journey one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro: Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal 'Journey's End' by pu_freak (http://missingno.ocremix.org/music.html) And while you're listening to our closing track this week, why not head over to check out Austin Wintory's discography? We promise you won't be disappointed! You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  14. Thatgamecompany had a deal with Sony in the late 2000s. The studio, founded by Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago, would make three games for the PlayStation 3's fledgling PSN service. The deal began with a remake of Chen's Flash title Flow which was then followed by Flower. The final part of Thatgamecompany's Sony trilogy was known as Journey and stands as perhaps the most well known art-house game on the planet. The title garnered a staggering number of awards for its visuals, unique, emotional gameplay, and player interaction, even earning the coveted game of the year spot from numerous publications. Austin Wintory's soundtrack catapulted the game into the mainstream consciousness as the only video game soundtrack ever to be nominated for a Grammy. Though it released five years ago and the game industry has covered a lot of ground since 2012, we now look back and ask: Is Journey one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro: Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal 'Journey's End' by pu_freak (http://missingno.ocremix.org/music.html) And while you're listening to our closing track this week, why not head over to check out Austin Wintory's discography? We promise you won't be disappointed! You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  15. Nobody at Queasy Games wanted to work with Beck. Well, almost nobody. The alt-rock musician can be a divisive figure, for sure, but that wasn’t really why the team working on 2012’s Sound Shapes had misgivings about his involvement in its game. Prior to this, the game’s development possessed a distinctly “indie” feel, and the publisher, Sony, had kept red tape to a minimum. Throwing a Grammy winning rock star into the mix would surely overcomplicate things, as far as they were concerned. Yet the partnership ended up producing what many fans consider to be the highlight of the Sound Shapes experience. “Cities,” the first of three Beck-soundtracked levels in the game, is all gloom and groove, presenting a strange dichotomy between the song and the visuals on screen. It’s set against the backdrop of a war-torn metropolis and a dance-able beat. Beck sings of a dead city as the refrain “You weren’t made for this place/ It’s not your fault,” billows from smoke stacks, while missiles, bulldozers, and other instruments of destruction strut along to the beat. It’s at once distressing, relaxing, beautiful, and sad. It’s Sound Shapes at its best. Originally, Sound Shapes wasn’t even conceived as a video game, but rather as a music visualizer. Shaw-Han Liem is a Toronto based musician known by the stage name I Am Robot and Proud. After a show in his home town, Liem met Queasy Games founder, and fellow Toronto native, Jonathan Mak. The two began hanging out and playing around with the concept of fusing interactive art with sound. “At first,” says Liem, “our intention wasn’t to create a game, we just wanted to explore, in general, music and visuals.” Though Sound Shapes would grow into a multi-studio production, involving major label musicians, according to Liem, “it literally started out with two people in a basement.” In the beginning, Liem was the only musician on the project and thus, he set the groundwork for how the design teams would work with the other musicians. “I was working with the team every day so I was the closest one,” explains Liem, “so with the levels I did, we tried to have the musical aspect of the game involved at a much earlier stage for the level.” That would require the music itself to be fluid and moldable. If an object needed to make a different sound, Liem could easily make that change in his song. As Liem describes it, “The levels and music were written as one process.” When the alt-folk songwriter Jim Guthrie became involved, the process didn’t need to change too much. “He’s also in Toronto and he’s a friend of ours, so it was easier for him to be more involved and do more iterations and revisions,” says Liem. The team of designers that worked with Guthrie to make four levels based on his songs, was the same team that would go on to work with Beck’s music, though the process would prove to be very different. When it came to Beck, the team simply didn’t enjoy the same collaborative benefits it had experienced with Guthrie and Liem. “With me and Jim,” says Liem, “you could do that, but obviously you can’t call up Beck and be like, ‘can you try this drum beat 10 BPMs slower? Because the level’s too hard.’ It was an experiment for us to see – does this concept scale? Does it allow us to take an already completed song and turn it into visuals or gameplay in a way that feels organic?” Beck’s lack of involvement was a big sticking point for the team at Queasy Games, but Sony’s marketing department saw it as a worthwhile trade-off. Level designer Danny Vader and producer Mathew Kumar – both on loan from Capy Games – were handed what was, at that time, the unenviable task of translating Beck’s songs into the Sound Shapes format. Vader was the only Beck fan on staff and remembers the initial hesitation. “The other artists,” he says, referring to Beck and Deadmau5, “were secured by Sony corporate as like, ‘here, we paid these guys some money to use these songs.’ That’s totally fine, it’s just different from how we did all the other stuff.” As Vader explains, “Beck has singing and lyrics and nothing else in the game had done that. So that was a huge challenge.” Every object in Sound Shapes visually represents a part of the song that accompanies each stage. A kick drum might be represented by a hopping enemy that always lands on the beat, or a dancing blob might represent a song’s buoyant bass line. Lyrics required a completely different approach; they needed a physical, on-screen representation. However, whereas instrumentals left room for interpretation, the lyrics told a story that somewhat dictated what the designers could do. “We can’t just do whatever we want with this “Cities” level because it’s sort of saying something and we had to discern what was being said,” explains Vader, “I remember all of us sitting around listening to this song over and over again, not just trying to figure out what he’s saying, but figuring out what we are going to do with these lyrics in terms of conveying the meaning of the song.” At one point, the team even considered cutting the lyrics altogether. “I think we were pretty beaten down trying to figure it out,” recalls Vader, “it was even floated, ‘F___ it, let’s just cut the lyrics. Let’s cut the singing and just use the instrumentals. I was pretty adamant and maybe even a jerk about keeping them… We have Beck, we gotta have Beck singing. You can’t call it Beck if it’s just some beats and s___. We gotta have his voice.” They devised a few clever solutions to the problem. At one point in the song, the words “move a little/ shake a little/ hurt a little/ break a little” are personified by a platform that does exactly as the words say. When Beck says move, it moves, and when he says hurt, the platform turns red and hurts the player’s little avatar. The lyrics end up providing context and warn the player of coming danger. It’s a clever little solution to the problem, and “Cities” is full of examples just like that. Originally, however, when Queasy received the “Cities” track from Beck, it was only instrumental. Without the lyrics, the song does possess a more uplifting vibe. The original instrumental track that the developers received from Beck’s team was even titled “Happy Africa”, which caused a bit of a mix-up. Vader and Kumar worked with Pyramid Attack, a Toronto based art studio, to develop the level based on the “Happy Africa” theme. Kumar recalls the confusion. “When we got more feedback from Beck’s people, we were like, ‘oh we need to throw all of that away.’ We’d actually gotten it all wrong.” “There was all this sort of African mask stuff. We went heavily in that direction,” adds Vader. “I think the file we got from Beck – he probably just… had made the beat first and just named it Happy Africa as a file name. We got that file, and then [his people said], no no here’s the song. And we hear the lyrics and we’re like, ‘oh f___, this has nothing to do with Africa at all. He’s just using a kalimba and calling it that.” Meanwhile at Pyramid Attack, Steven Wilson, the artist working on the Beck stages, needed to redo all of the artwork he had originally conceived for the “Happy Africa” version of the level. Every time Vader and Kumar had to change an asset – which was often – they asked Wilson for a different take on something he’d already given them. “He was a trooper,” jokes Kumar, “we got back five versions of everything we asked for, until we could drill down exactly how the level looked.” In the final version, none of the African themes made the cut. “It ended up having what I think is an unexpected visual vocabulary,” says Wilson. “The concept of this level doesn’t fit the song at all, but somehow it works. The song has a sense of space and place that I really liked. I pictured an African savannah at sunset with baobab trees, swooping insects looping in the air, friendly-looking animals, huts, campfires, dancing musical instruments, etc.” Though he tends to have a fondness for the Happy Africa version of the level, Wilson appreciates that the final design helped distinguish “Cities” from the pep and color of other levels in the game. Another point of contention between Vader and Kumar and the rest of the design team, was the giant red sun that slowly envelopes the screen several times in the song. Some of the team leads were afraid that the sun wouldn’t be pliable enough for player creators in the user generated content. Player created content was the number one priority for Queasy Games – if something wasn’t useful in the level editor, it wasn’t worth putting in the game. But the designers fought to keep the sun in there. “I remember there being a lot of discussion on that,” says Kumar, “because it was such an overpowering entity in the game. But to me, that’s one of the Beck moments that we wanted. We kinda had to fight about that.” Vader and Kumar had to convince the project leads that the sun was worth keeping in the level. “I think there was a lot of discussion about, ‘ok, that is an important sound in the song,” says Vader, “but how are we going to make an entity out of that? So let’s just make that into notes, or let’s cut that sound.’ But that is such an important sound. For that not to have a gameplay component just seemed like it was going to be such a glaring omission.” The legacy of Sound Shapes is one of collaboration; players are not only listening to a song, but actually engaging with it, contorting it, and taking some ownership of it. “It speaks so much to how music is different things to different people,” says Kumar, reflecting on the game’s legacy. “We were able to create this thing that people could bring themselves to by playing the level and seeing what we have to say about it, or by taking those pieces and making their own stories with it.” Despite the challenges of working with a major artist like Beck, the team found that his involvement was well worth the added complications. “With this, we were sort of changing the idea of what authorship means - what does it mean to have a completed piece of music? So Beck was a great match because just before we had talked to him he had released an album that was just sheet music,” says Liem, referring to Beck’s sheet music album, Song Reader, which encouraged listeners to record their own versions of his songs for YouTube, just as so many Sound Shapes players have remixed the pieces from “Cities” into thousands of creative levels. Liem continues, “so he’s obviously interested in experimenting with ways of releasing music that aren’t an album on CD.” Beck has never released “Cities” or any of his Sound Shapes tracks in any other form. They exist today, only as interactive songs inside the game. “Cities” lives almost exclusively inside that context, and the team is proud of that fact. “We’re the only people to hear those songs the way he recorded them,” recalls Kumar, “We were basically told that as far as he’s concerned, the versions in the game are the versions that should be out there. That’s something I appreciate and I think Beck understood that when he gave it to us.” View full article
  16. Nobody at Queasy Games wanted to work with Beck. Well, almost nobody. The alt-rock musician can be a divisive figure, for sure, but that wasn’t really why the team working on 2012’s Sound Shapes had misgivings about his involvement in its game. Prior to this, the game’s development possessed a distinctly “indie” feel, and the publisher, Sony, had kept red tape to a minimum. Throwing a Grammy winning rock star into the mix would surely overcomplicate things, as far as they were concerned. Yet the partnership ended up producing what many fans consider to be the highlight of the Sound Shapes experience. “Cities,” the first of three Beck-soundtracked levels in the game, is all gloom and groove, presenting a strange dichotomy between the song and the visuals on screen. It’s set against the backdrop of a war-torn metropolis and a dance-able beat. Beck sings of a dead city as the refrain “You weren’t made for this place/ It’s not your fault,” billows from smoke stacks, while missiles, bulldozers, and other instruments of destruction strut along to the beat. It’s at once distressing, relaxing, beautiful, and sad. It’s Sound Shapes at its best. Originally, Sound Shapes wasn’t even conceived as a video game, but rather as a music visualizer. Shaw-Han Liem is a Toronto based musician known by the stage name I Am Robot and Proud. After a show in his home town, Liem met Queasy Games founder, and fellow Toronto native, Jonathan Mak. The two began hanging out and playing around with the concept of fusing interactive art with sound. “At first,” says Liem, “our intention wasn’t to create a game, we just wanted to explore, in general, music and visuals.” Though Sound Shapes would grow into a multi-studio production, involving major label musicians, according to Liem, “it literally started out with two people in a basement.” In the beginning, Liem was the only musician on the project and thus, he set the groundwork for how the design teams would work with the other musicians. “I was working with the team every day so I was the closest one,” explains Liem, “so with the levels I did, we tried to have the musical aspect of the game involved at a much earlier stage for the level.” That would require the music itself to be fluid and moldable. If an object needed to make a different sound, Liem could easily make that change in his song. As Liem describes it, “The levels and music were written as one process.” When the alt-folk songwriter Jim Guthrie became involved, the process didn’t need to change too much. “He’s also in Toronto and he’s a friend of ours, so it was easier for him to be more involved and do more iterations and revisions,” says Liem. The team of designers that worked with Guthrie to make four levels based on his songs, was the same team that would go on to work with Beck’s music, though the process would prove to be very different. When it came to Beck, the team simply didn’t enjoy the same collaborative benefits it had experienced with Guthrie and Liem. “With me and Jim,” says Liem, “you could do that, but obviously you can’t call up Beck and be like, ‘can you try this drum beat 10 BPMs slower? Because the level’s too hard.’ It was an experiment for us to see – does this concept scale? Does it allow us to take an already completed song and turn it into visuals or gameplay in a way that feels organic?” Beck’s lack of involvement was a big sticking point for the team at Queasy Games, but Sony’s marketing department saw it as a worthwhile trade-off. Level designer Danny Vader and producer Mathew Kumar – both on loan from Capy Games – were handed what was, at that time, the unenviable task of translating Beck’s songs into the Sound Shapes format. Vader was the only Beck fan on staff and remembers the initial hesitation. “The other artists,” he says, referring to Beck and Deadmau5, “were secured by Sony corporate as like, ‘here, we paid these guys some money to use these songs.’ That’s totally fine, it’s just different from how we did all the other stuff.” As Vader explains, “Beck has singing and lyrics and nothing else in the game had done that. So that was a huge challenge.” Every object in Sound Shapes visually represents a part of the song that accompanies each stage. A kick drum might be represented by a hopping enemy that always lands on the beat, or a dancing blob might represent a song’s buoyant bass line. Lyrics required a completely different approach; they needed a physical, on-screen representation. However, whereas instrumentals left room for interpretation, the lyrics told a story that somewhat dictated what the designers could do. “We can’t just do whatever we want with this “Cities” level because it’s sort of saying something and we had to discern what was being said,” explains Vader, “I remember all of us sitting around listening to this song over and over again, not just trying to figure out what he’s saying, but figuring out what we are going to do with these lyrics in terms of conveying the meaning of the song.” At one point, the team even considered cutting the lyrics altogether. “I think we were pretty beaten down trying to figure it out,” recalls Vader, “it was even floated, ‘F___ it, let’s just cut the lyrics. Let’s cut the singing and just use the instrumentals. I was pretty adamant and maybe even a jerk about keeping them… We have Beck, we gotta have Beck singing. You can’t call it Beck if it’s just some beats and s___. We gotta have his voice.” They devised a few clever solutions to the problem. At one point in the song, the words “move a little/ shake a little/ hurt a little/ break a little” are personified by a platform that does exactly as the words say. When Beck says move, it moves, and when he says hurt, the platform turns red and hurts the player’s little avatar. The lyrics end up providing context and warn the player of coming danger. It’s a clever little solution to the problem, and “Cities” is full of examples just like that. Originally, however, when Queasy received the “Cities” track from Beck, it was only instrumental. Without the lyrics, the song does possess a more uplifting vibe. The original instrumental track that the developers received from Beck’s team was even titled “Happy Africa”, which caused a bit of a mix-up. Vader and Kumar worked with Pyramid Attack, a Toronto based art studio, to develop the level based on the “Happy Africa” theme. Kumar recalls the confusion. “When we got more feedback from Beck’s people, we were like, ‘oh we need to throw all of that away.’ We’d actually gotten it all wrong.” “There was all this sort of African mask stuff. We went heavily in that direction,” adds Vader. “I think the file we got from Beck – he probably just… had made the beat first and just named it Happy Africa as a file name. We got that file, and then [his people said], no no here’s the song. And we hear the lyrics and we’re like, ‘oh f___, this has nothing to do with Africa at all. He’s just using a kalimba and calling it that.” Meanwhile at Pyramid Attack, Steven Wilson, the artist working on the Beck stages, needed to redo all of the artwork he had originally conceived for the “Happy Africa” version of the level. Every time Vader and Kumar had to change an asset – which was often – they asked Wilson for a different take on something he’d already given them. “He was a trooper,” jokes Kumar, “we got back five versions of everything we asked for, until we could drill down exactly how the level looked.” In the final version, none of the African themes made the cut. “It ended up having what I think is an unexpected visual vocabulary,” says Wilson. “The concept of this level doesn’t fit the song at all, but somehow it works. The song has a sense of space and place that I really liked. I pictured an African savannah at sunset with baobab trees, swooping insects looping in the air, friendly-looking animals, huts, campfires, dancing musical instruments, etc.” Though he tends to have a fondness for the Happy Africa version of the level, Wilson appreciates that the final design helped distinguish “Cities” from the pep and color of other levels in the game. Another point of contention between Vader and Kumar and the rest of the design team, was the giant red sun that slowly envelopes the screen several times in the song. Some of the team leads were afraid that the sun wouldn’t be pliable enough for player creators in the user generated content. Player created content was the number one priority for Queasy Games – if something wasn’t useful in the level editor, it wasn’t worth putting in the game. But the designers fought to keep the sun in there. “I remember there being a lot of discussion on that,” says Kumar, “because it was such an overpowering entity in the game. But to me, that’s one of the Beck moments that we wanted. We kinda had to fight about that.” Vader and Kumar had to convince the project leads that the sun was worth keeping in the level. “I think there was a lot of discussion about, ‘ok, that is an important sound in the song,” says Vader, “but how are we going to make an entity out of that? So let’s just make that into notes, or let’s cut that sound.’ But that is such an important sound. For that not to have a gameplay component just seemed like it was going to be such a glaring omission.” The legacy of Sound Shapes is one of collaboration; players are not only listening to a song, but actually engaging with it, contorting it, and taking some ownership of it. “It speaks so much to how music is different things to different people,” says Kumar, reflecting on the game’s legacy. “We were able to create this thing that people could bring themselves to by playing the level and seeing what we have to say about it, or by taking those pieces and making their own stories with it.” Despite the challenges of working with a major artist like Beck, the team found that his involvement was well worth the added complications. “With this, we were sort of changing the idea of what authorship means - what does it mean to have a completed piece of music? So Beck was a great match because just before we had talked to him he had released an album that was just sheet music,” says Liem, referring to Beck’s sheet music album, Song Reader, which encouraged listeners to record their own versions of his songs for YouTube, just as so many Sound Shapes players have remixed the pieces from “Cities” into thousands of creative levels. Liem continues, “so he’s obviously interested in experimenting with ways of releasing music that aren’t an album on CD.” Beck has never released “Cities” or any of his Sound Shapes tracks in any other form. They exist today, only as interactive songs inside the game. “Cities” lives almost exclusively inside that context, and the team is proud of that fact. “We’re the only people to hear those songs the way he recorded them,” recalls Kumar, “We were basically told that as far as he’s concerned, the versions in the game are the versions that should be out there. That’s something I appreciate and I think Beck understood that when he gave it to us.”
  17. BioWare has created some of the most beloved moments in gaming history. The Mass Effect series stands as one of the greatest gaming trilogies of all time. However, many people point toward the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 as something that undid all of the goodwill the series had fostered up until that point. For all of their talent, BioWare also created one of the single most divisive and negatively received moments in gaming history. In Part One of our Mass Effect 3 discussion, we talked about the larger game leading up to the final minutes that threw the Mass Effect fan base into chaos. Part Two covers the ending and touches on some aspects of the DLC. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Myst III: Exile 'American Wheels of Wonder' by Mazedude (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01749) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  18. BioWare has created some of the most beloved moments in gaming history. The Mass Effect series stands as one of the greatest gaming trilogies of all time. However, many people point toward the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 as something that undid all of the goodwill the series had fostered up until that point. For all of their talent, BioWare also created one of the single most divisive and negatively received moments in gaming history. In Part One of our Mass Effect 3 discussion, we talked about the larger game leading up to the final minutes that threw the Mass Effect fan base into chaos. Part Two covers the ending and touches on some aspects of the DLC. Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Myst III: Exile 'American Wheels of Wonder' by Mazedude (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01749) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  19. Oblivion released in 2006 bringing a massive open-world geared toward a mainstream audience to PC and console gamers alike. Players were able to explore Cyrodiil, a fantasy land full of kings and gods while experiencing a myriad of stories ranging from becoming the greatest thief in the land to stopping a full-blown demonic invasion. Does Oblivion stand on its own as one of the best games period or is it overshadowed by the likes of Morrowind and Skyrim? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 'Beyond the Imperial Prison' by HyperDuck SoundWorks (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03522) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  20. Oblivion released in 2006 bringing a massive open-world geared toward a mainstream audience to PC and console gamers alike. Players were able to explore Cyrodiil, a fantasy land full of kings and gods while experiencing a myriad of stories ranging from becoming the greatest thief in the land to stopping a full-blown demonic invasion. Does Oblivion stand on its own as one of the best games period or is it overshadowed by the likes of Morrowind and Skyrim? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 'Beyond the Imperial Prison' by HyperDuck SoundWorks (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03522) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  21. Telltale followed up their first entry into the world of The Walking Dead with a second season that did a number of risky things in the world of video games. Players took on the role of Clementine, a young girl who has been burdened with the onerous task of growing up during the apocalypse. The brutality, the cruelty of life under those desperate circumstances permeate Season 2. Tough decisions allow players to shape what kind of a person our hero may become and the haunting prompts from the previous season, "Clementine will remember that," are now left unsaid, but hang heavy in every facial expression. As a sequel to an episodic game that some claimed was the greatest adventure game of all time, does The Walking Dead: Season Two stand up on its own merits as one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Walking Dead: Season Two 'In the Pines - Credits Theme' by Jared Emerson-Johnson & Janel Drewis (https://telltalegames.bandcamp.com/) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  22. Telltale followed up their first entry into the world of The Walking Dead with a second season that did a number of risky things in the world of video games. Players took on the role of Clementine, a young girl who has been burdened with the onerous task of growing up during the apocalypse. The brutality, the cruelty of life under those desperate circumstances permeate Season 2. Tough decisions allow players to shape what kind of a person our hero may become and the haunting prompts from the previous season, "Clementine will remember that," are now left unsaid, but hang heavy in every facial expression. As a sequel to an episodic game that some claimed was the greatest adventure game of all time, does The Walking Dead: Season Two stand up on its own merits as one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Walking Dead: Season Two 'In the Pines - Credits Theme' by Jared Emerson-Johnson & Janel Drewis (https://telltalegames.bandcamp.com/) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  23. Minority Media made a huge splash in 2012 with the release of their intensely personal project titled Papo y Yo. The game took players on a journey into the imagination of a young boy from a Brazilian favela whose father is a raging alcoholic. The young protagonist escapes into an imaginary dreamworld where he can exert some control over his surroundings and embarks on a journey to cure Monster, the embodiment of his father. Back in 2012, Papo y Yo tackling such subject matter was seen as radical. It placed the game at the forefront of the emerging empathy game genre. It also faced many technical hiccups upon release. Does Papo y Yo's gameplay and bold approach to weighty topics hold up five years later? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Ilomilo 'Iso ilo' by Birgitta Susi and Eino Keskitalo (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03380) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  24. Jack Gardner

    The Best Games Period - Episode 64 - Papo y Yo

    Minority Media made a huge splash in 2012 with the release of their intensely personal project titled Papo y Yo. The game took players on a journey into the imagination of a young boy from a Brazilian favela whose father is a raging alcoholic. The young protagonist escapes into an imaginary dreamworld where he can exert some control over his surroundings and embarks on a journey to cure Monster, the embodiment of his father. Back in 2012, Papo y Yo tackling such subject matter was seen as radical. It placed the game at the forefront of the emerging empathy game genre. It also faced many technical hiccups upon release. Does Papo y Yo's gameplay and bold approach to weighty topics hold up five years later? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Ilomilo 'Iso ilo' by Birgitta Susi and Eino Keskitalo (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03380) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  25. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was born from the vision of filmmaker Josef Fares. Fares, a Lebanese refugee, managed to escape the country's civil war in 1987 and relocate to Sweden with his family. He became a prolific director in the Swedish film world and made Jalla! Jalla!, one of the most popular films in the country. Released by Starbreeze Studios in 2013, Brothers adopted a highly unconventional dual joystick control scheme for its isometric adventure game. It became an instant critical darling, but what did it do right to earn that praise? Perhaps things are different when revisiting the game from a 2017 perspective. Is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons worthy of the praise it received for its cinematic vision and unique control scheme? Is it one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 'Love and Loss' by Sebastien Skaf (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03484) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
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