Monday, March 30, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #175 - Frontier: Elite II - Frontier Second Theme

Composed by: Dave Lowe

This is the second piece of original music that plays in the 1993 space trading sim Fronter: Elite II. While Dave Lowe composed and arranged the music for the game - most of the music in the game are actually popular pieces of "classical" music (I say "classical" since they're not from the "Classical" period - probably more Romantic/Modern) with only two being originally composed by Lowe. Last week we had the main theme from the game (that plays during the introduction) and today we have the creatively titled "Frontier Second Theme". But here's an interesting bit of trivia for you: apparently this theme was actually the first piece of music submitted for use in the game. Holly Jazz Lowe, Dave's daughter, explains:

He'd already written the second theme and had sent this to David Braben, but although Braben really liked that theme and it was used inside the game, he wanted something more strident and battle-y for the main intro scene.

Oh and where did I get the music? I recorded it directly from the game audio (using the Adlib/Sound Blaster option) while running the game through DOSBox. I did find MIDI files of the DOS version's music online but they just weren't the same as how I remembered. So there you have it :)

Thanks to Dave Lowe for composing such a memorable soundtrack!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 14 - 2015

Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (30th Mar to the 5th Apr 2015) there's a few games I think are worth checking out - a couple of them are sci-fi and the other is an expansion:

The Spatials

  • Release Date: 30/03/2015
  • Availability: Steam (pre-order not available), Direct $9.99
My first impressions of this game was that it seemed to be a game inspired by the likes of Space Colony (which I talked about last week) or Startopia - both quite old games. Basically you run a space station by designing which rooms are built and then generating income from visitors that stop by your station. Apparently there are some hostile lifeforms that you can battle with too but what is especially nice is that the galaxy you can explore is apparently randomly generated with over 100+ planets - which will no doubt help with the game's replay value.

Out There: Omega Edition

  • Release Date: 02/04/2015
  • Availability: Steam (pre-order not available), Direct $9.99
The game's description on Steam says that "Out There is an award-winning space exploration game blending roguelike, resource management and gamebook mechanics." When you first look at the screenshots you're probably thinking the game looks a lot like FTL (not that that's a bad thing) and this is probably where the "roguelike" and "resource management" elements come into play. But what I'm really interested in is the fact it has "gamebook mechanics" meaning it'll probably be more story focused. The game apparently has "350+ unique text adventures with multiple choices" which sounds pretty neat as well as "4 different endings" so these are the aspects that get me excited. Also the game's soundtrack is composed by Siddartha Barnhoom - the same chap behind the soundtracks for The Stanley Parable and Antichamber.

The Sims 4: Get to Work

  • Release Date: 02/04/2015
  • Availability: Origin $49.99, EB Games $49.95
Get to Work is the first actual expansion pack for The Sims 4 considering that up to now there's only been one DLC (Outdoor Retreat) and a few free content updates too. The functionality added in this expansion pack though are things that were taken for granted in previous iterations of The Sims. It seems they've taken one of issues I raised in my First Impressions article in that they didn't introduce very realistic jobs in the initial release of the game; thankfully in Get to Work you can finally pursue the law enforcement, science or medicine career tracks. One of the more interesting aspects of this expansion though (and I'm not sure if this was present in an earlier expansion - but probably was, most likely The Sims 2's Open for Business) is that you can run retail businesses now. Apparently there are a lot of store types to choose from and of course, decisions to be made with respect to designing the store itself.

So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Where are they now? - Bruce Campbell Shelley

Bruce Shelley - Designer of Age of Empires

For today's "Where are they now?" I will fill you in on a guy that actually worked with that famous Sid Meier character I talked about last week. While he seems to have disappeared off the radar a bit in recent years it doesn't mean he's out of the game (of making games) just yet. This week we're going to talk about Bruce Campbell Shelley, a man who is most famous for developing one of the most beloved Real-Time Strategy game series of all time, Age of Empires.

Judging by when Shelley went to university (late 1960s and graduating in 1970 with a forest biology degree) I'm guessing he was born in the late 1940s. He was always interested in making games from a young age and a couple of his favourite board games while growing up was Stratego and Risk. He got to realise this dream in 1980 when he and some of his friends formed a role-playing game company called Iron Crown Enterprises which acquired the license to make games based off J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. In 1981 Strategy & Tactics Magazine published Shelley's first game that he collaborated on, a game that was based on the American Civil War.

In 1982 Shelley joined the famous board game company Avalon Hill and worked there for a few years designing wargames and board games. Designing board games helped teach him the value of "prototyping" and "designing-by-playing". When Shelley played Sid Meier's Pirates! however, he decided that he wanted to get into computer game development and joined local company Microprose.

Shelley is credited with doing some development work on 1987's F-19 Stealth Fighter and 1989's F-15 Strike Eagle II but the games that followed would be the ones he's probably most remembered by (at least while he was at Microprose). I'm talking about 1990's Railroad Tycoon, 1990's Covert Action and 1991's Sid Meier's Civilization. Shelley was a designer and project leader for Railroad Tycoon, and did the research and documentation for Covert Action. Probably his biggest achievement at Microprose though is working alongside Sid Meier in the development of Meier's most famous game, Sid Meier's Civilization. Meier would be responsible for coding any changes while Shelley would playtest the changes every morning and then provide feedback to Meier later each day. Using this iterative development process they were able to create one of the true classics of PC gaming.

In 1995, Shelley left Microprose to work with a friend of his called Tony Goodman in Dallas, Texas. They formed a new company called Ensemble Studios and this is where Shelley did what I believe is his best work, designing the classic historical RTS Age of Empires which was released in 1997. He would also help design its sequels, 1999's Age of Empires II (which was an even bigger success) and 2005's Age of Empires III.

Ensemble Studios was acquired by Microsoft in 2001 and was eventually closed down in 2009 after the release of Halo Wars. Shelley then did a variety of consulting jobs over the next few years with companies like Ubisoft, Blue Byte, Zynga, the Shenandoah Studio and InnoGames. Since 2013, Shelley has been working as Chief Designer at a Texan mobile games developer called Bonusxp and while they sadly don't make games for the PC it's good to see that the next game they're planning to release is an RTS called Servo. That should keep Shelley happy. Although I wouldn't mind another RTS for the PC though...

[ Wikipedia: Bruce Shelley ]
[ Wikipedia: Ensemble Studios ]
[ MobyGames: Bruce Campbell Shelley ]
[ BonusXP Official Website ]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #174 - Frontier: Elite II - Introduction

Composed by: Dave Lowe

We take a break from our usual programming (i.e. the Wing Commander: Privateer soundtrack) to examine the soundtrack from another space trading game: Frontier: Elite II. This is no coincidence as some of you are aware as there is currently a Kickstarter project running by the composer of the Frontier: Elite II soundtrack, Dave Lowe. One of the main goals of the project is to turn the main theme to Frontier: Elite II, which I assume is the one presented here, into one performed by a live orchestra! While admittedly the track might sound a bit lo-fi by today's standards you have to realise this track was composed well over 20 years ago (using 1990s technology) - not only that but the music on Frontier: Elite II and the game itself fit on one floppy disk - now that's efficiency! Also, it goes so much better while watching the intro to the game too while you watch an Imperial Courier take out a couple of Eagles.... yeah.

Oh and where did I get the music? I recorded it directly from the game audio (using the Adlib/Sound Blaster option) while running the game through DOSBox. I did find MIDI files of the DOS version's music online but they just weren't the same as how I remembered. So there you have it :)

Thanks to Dave Lowe for composing such a memorable soundtrack!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 13 - 2015

Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

The regular readers to this blog may have noticed that I missed the last Spotlight Sunday meaning I didn't go through all the PC games that Week 12 of this year had to offer. Sorry about that! Anyway, at least I remembered to do it this time and for this week (23rd Mar to the 29th Mar 2015) there's a couple of games I think are worth checking out (despite no concrete release dates yet, save for the fact they should be released next week):

Space Colony: Steam Edition

  • Release Date: Next week
  • Availability: Steam (pre-order not available)
I remember playing the original game Space Colony as if it were yesterday... except yesterday happens to be 12 years ago (2003). Yikes! Anyway back then I fondly remember the game as a decent blend of The Sims with real-time strategy: which was great, since one problem with The Sims was that those of us that felt like playing a campaign with a set of goals and objectives weren't going to get it in a sandbox dollhouse simulator. Games like The Sims Medieval would realise this but before that we had games like Space Colony to play with. As the name suggests, you get to run a space colony where you mine resources, build structures and defend your base against aliens. However, you'll have to contend with your crew getting along with each other in order to complete your objectives. Each character has different likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses - the challenge is consequently two-fold in that you have manage your crew's feelings as well as actually manage the base proper.

Anyway, the Steam Edition I think is a repackaged version of a HD edition of the game that was released a couple of years back (and is available on GOG); it apparently upped the graphics to high resolution and also added several more bonus campaigns. The Steam Edition seems to offer similar except you get the whole Steam shebang with respect to Trading Cards, Achievements along with Steam Cloud and Steam Workshop support. Anyway it was a fun game from what I remember so definitely one to look forward to.


  • Release Date: Next week
  • Availability: Steam (pre-order not available)
Here's another of those games I never realised started off like as a Kickstarter project. Ironcast apparently managed to exceed the modest goal of £10,000 in October last year, and only a few months later we're seeing the game coming to Steam. The game has a lot of promise since it seems to be adopting the Puzzle Quest formula of incorporating match-3 puzzle gameplay to another genre, in this case strategy and role-playing. The game is set in a steampunk version of Victorian England where you pilot mechs called "Ironcasts" against enemy Ironcasts in the defence of the British Empire. It actually looks like a really good concept and I'm a big fan of games with steampunk settings so provided the price is right, this could be one to look out for.

So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Want to Hear the Frontier: Elite II Theme Performed by a Live Orchestra?

Dave and Holly Jazz Lowe

Well then check out the latest Kickstarter project by Dave Lowe and his daughter Holly Jazz Lowe. You may be thinking that I already mentioned about this Kickstarter a few days ago but that project has since been cancelled due to the unfortunate news that many tracks are unrecoverable due to faulty hardware. Consequently, the pair have started a new Kickstarter which has a different aim: instead of producing two CDs worth of music like the original Kickstarter (one with the original music and one with the remakes), the new CD will have just the remakes. However, unlike the previous Kickstarter the Frontier: Elite II theme will be performed by a live orchestra by default! This is no longer a stretch goal and the new funding target of £33,000 instead of £20,000 reflects this. I'm pretty excited by the news since it's the main reason I backed the project in the first place (since I'm probably not old enough to have that nostalgia hit when listening to Amiga, C64 or Atari ST game soundtracks).

The live orchestra version of the theme is going to be performed by the Chamber Orchestra of London but there are still a couple of stretch goals, with one involving a larger 50-piece orchestra to perform the Frontier: Elite II score.

Other games that will have their music remade include:

  • Frontier: First Encounters
  • Starglider 1 and 2
  • Afterburner
  • Carrier Command
  • Street Fighter 2 (Amiga version)
  • International Karate+
  • Beneath a Steel Sky (another one I'm looking forward to)
  • Microprose Formula One Grand Prix
  • Incredible Shrinking Sphere (ISS)

[ Kickstarter: Uncle Art: Elite II Orchestral & Retrogaming Music Remakes ]

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Where are they now? - Sid Meier

While Sid Meier wasn't one of the designers of Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, it's got his name on it.

The man that I'm about to talk about in today's "Where are they now?" post needs no introduction as he's one of PC gaming's greatest developers. He actually made #2 on my Top 10 PC Developers list only beaten by Will Wright and it's all thanks to the many strategy games he developed (or at least lent his name to). Today I'm going to talk a little bit about Sid Meier, a man who has won several awards including the Guinness Book of World Records title of "Most Videogame Awards ever received", a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Game Developer's Conference, a star on the Walk of Game, a Governor's Citation for contributions to the development of the Video Game Industry in Maryland, a.... well the list goes on and on as you can imagine, so let me just get into the article proper...

Meier was born in 1954 in Canada but studied history and computer science at the University of Michigan in the 1970s (I'm guessing). He graduated with a degree in computer science and in 1982 formed the legendary game development company Microprose with retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Bill Stealey. It's important that I mention Stealey used to be in the USAF since I think that influenced the direction that most of Microprose's earlier games went - i.e. the military simulator/strategy game route. Most of Microprose's games in the 1980s were like that such as 1983's strategy game NATO Commander, 1984's flight sim F-15 Strike Eagle and 1985's sub sim Silent Service (to name a few). Meier programmed and designed many of these games but he did try his hand at something different when he released the adventure/role-playing game Sid Meier's Pirates! in 1987. This was also the first game to include Meier's name in it because Stealey thought it would improve the company's branding and even claims that he got the idea from the late comedian Robin Williams during a Software Publishers Association dinner. Williams suggested Stealey put Meier's name on a couple of the boxes and promote him as a star.

In the late 80s, Meier started to focus on strategy games resulting in many classic strategy games in the 1990s including 1990's Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon, 1990's Sid Meier's Covert Action and the game he's most famous for, Sid Meier's Civilization which was released in 1991. This would actually be the first and last Civilization game where he was directly involved with as future Civilization games would all have different designers - yet his name remains for branding purposes and to pay tribute to the original.

Meier worked on 1993's Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon Deluxe and 1994's Sid Meier's Colonization (as a designer) before eventually leaving Microprose to form a new company in 1996 called Firaxis with Jeff Briggs and Brian Reynolds. Meier remains at Firaxis to this day as Director of Creative Development.

But that's not where our story ends, Meier has worked on heaps of classic games while at Firaxis, including programming and designing 1997's Sid Meier's Gettysburg! (my favourite American Civil War game of all time) and 1999's Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, a cult classic science fiction strategy game.

2002's Sid Meier's SimGolf is the last game Meier is credited with programming. Since then Meier has mainly focused on either the design of games or managing projects. Firaxis would go on to release many more classic games including four more sequels to the original Civilization, a 2004 remake of Sid Meier's Pirates!, a 2006 remake of Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon called Sid Meier's Railroads!, a 2012 remake of Microprose's UFO: Enemy Unknown called XCOM: Enemy Unknown and 2014's spiritual successor to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (although it plays more like a Civ V mod - doesn't mean it's not good though!).

Anyway, Firaxis just released a new game recently called Sid Meier's Starships which I'm sure has kept Meier quite busy but where to from here? Firaxis seem to be focusing more and more on mobile and console games in the past few years which obviously grates the nerves of the Glorious PC Master Race so let's hope he veers Firaxis back to its PC gaming roots. It's generally been 4-5 years between each release of Civilization so surely we're due for another soon if Civilization V was released in 2010? Also, Civilization: Beyond Earth could do with some DLC or expansion packs so hopefully there's some love for that game over the horizon too.

[ MobyGames: Sid Meier ]
[ Wikipedia: Sid Meier ]
[ Firaxis: Sid's Legacy ]

Monday, March 16, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #173 - Wing Commander: Privateer - Agricultural Base

Soundtrack composed by: Laura Barratt, Marc Schaefgen and Nenad Vugrinec

As promised here is the music that plays for the other base type that is present in the Troy System - the music that plays while you're visiting an Agricultural Base (in this case it's called Helen).

I was half-expecting some Dueling Banjos playing when you visited an agricultural world but instead you get this serene, peaceful music that reminds me of a tropical paradise - only to have some wailing guitar solos cut in further into the song. It's actually pretty good - for a MIDI track.

Thanks to C75 and WCNEWS for providing these memorable tracks.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Frontier: Elite II composer starts Kickstarter project

David and Holly Jazz Lowe at work

I rarely contribute to Kickstarter projects nowadays - mainly because I've already backed 26 successful funding campaigns (8 failed) over the past few years and I'm still waiting on many of them to be delivered (I think 8 out of the projects I've backed have actually been delivered). So I've definitely reigned in my spending when it comes to new Kickstarters, (not to mention my financial situation is no longer as good as it was back then): however I do make exceptions and this project is one of them.

David Lowe is a video game composer from way back who is fairly well known for composing soundtracks for many old PC games (mainly on the Amiga) in the 80s and 90s such as Starglider, Carrier Command, Altered Beast, Railroad Tycoon, Pinball Dreams, Street Fighter II, Frontier: Elite II and Beneath a Steel Sky. Well a lot of his fans have been asking whether he'd ever redo his music or release the originals, so he and one of his daughters, Holly Jazz Lowe (who is also a musician), have gone to Kickstarter to seek funds for a double-disc album called "A Temporal Shift": one of the discs will contain the original music played and recorded from the original hardware and the second disc will have totally remade music based on the original themes. Apparently there will be 12-14 tracks per disc so there'll be plenty to listen to but the most exciting prospect with this whole project is the stretch goal they are suggesting. Details haven't been finalised yet but the Lowes plan to have the Elite Frontier themes performed by a live orchestra! Now that would really make my day!

£10 or about $20 AUD will get you a digital copy of the album but if you want physical copies you'll have to fork out some more.

Anyway some fans have already posted their reinterpretations of the Frontier: Elite II theme and intro - I think this is one of the better ones (although the pedant in me is pretty sure the original intro was set on Mars not Earth :)). Hopefully we'll get music like this out of the project!

[ Kickstarter: UNCLE ART: Amiga / Atari / C64 Game Music Original & Remade ]

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jagged Alliance Flashback Team Disbanded

That's one small pool

In the most recent backer update for the Kickstarter-backed game Jagged Alliance Flashback (JAF), Thomas Lund of Danish developer Full Control has brought everyone bad news. In an attempt to explain why communication has been slow between the JAF team and its fans, Lund states that there’s simply no one left (besides himself) to answer queries:

Big part of the slow communication and lack of progress is, that the JAF team is no more. Everyone is gone and there is me left to handle it all.

Lund clarified that when he mentioned the team was gone, they hadn't simply moved to another project but that they were actually laid off:

And people have not just been moved over to other projects as some people say. They are gone gone, not to return. Very sad, but that’s just the financial reality of JAF.

A previous backer update mentioned that in terms of sales, the game wasn't doing so well and it was attributed to the negative reviews on Steam giving the game a "Mixed" rating. Full Control appealed to the fans to write positive reviews and for those who wrote negative ones to try the game out again and edit their reviews to cast the game in a more positive light. Many fans were insulted by the recommendations made and voiced their disapproval in the comments.

Ultimately though, the plan seems to have worked as a flood of positive reviews came in shortly after the Kickstarter update and while the game is still in the "Mixed" category, it’s no longer in danger of being in the “Negative” category. Unfortunately, it seems that it wasn't enough though in light of the recent news.
As there is no longer any team, Lund stated that “there is also no further development on the game”. After implementing two further bug fixes Lund plans on sending modding tools and assets to the Jagged Alliance modding community in the hope they could use the current game as the basis for new content.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Where are they now? - Brian Moriarty

Brian Moriarty. Designer of many Infocom titles and Lucasfilm's "Loom"

For this week's "Where are they now?" we cross over to the designer of one of my favourite Lucasarts adventure games of all time: Loom. I've talked quite a bit about Loom in my review and while fans might baulk at the fact I only gave the game a rating of 7/10, you have to realise that I rate games, even 25 year old games like Loom, as if it were released today. So considering the game's age, that's actually a pretty damn good score. The designer I'm of course talking about is Brian Moriarty who is incidentally also mentioned by a pirate in The Secret of Monkey Island when you ask him about Loom. So how did Moriarty get into the games industry and what is he up to nowadays?

Moriarty was born in 1956 and built his first computer towards the end of primary school. Consequently, he already had a fascination with computers at a young age. However, he wouldn't study anything programming-related at university and in 1978 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English at the South Massachusetts University. Moriarty got a job that same year selling TRS-80 computers at Radio Shack in Worcester, Massachusetts.

At some point, Moriarty spent several years as a Technical Writer for the Bose Corporation but I suppose he got sick of writing manuals and wanted to tap into the creative part of his mind. Consequently he became a Technical Editor for ANALOG Computing magazine in the early 1980s (apparently the first and largest magazine dedicated to the Atari home computer system). His first published games would appear on the magazine and were Adventure in the 5th Dimension (released in 1983) and Crash Dive! (released in 1984). Both games were examples of interactive fiction which is important to note since Moriarty would join arguably the most famous interactive fiction developer in 1984, a little company known as Infocom.

Moriarty developed a further three interactive fiction titles while at Infocom: 1985's Wishbringer, 1986's Trinity, and 1987's Beyond Zork. He also contributed to a comedy interactive fiction game called Bureaucracy which was released in 1987 (which late sci-fi author Douglas Adams wrote).

At some point in the late 1980s, Moriarty joined forces with Lucasfilm games and developed his first graphical adventure game called Loom which was released in 1990. Despite the game's short length and relatively easy puzzles, the game was a huge success. Moriarty mentions that he intentionally made the game easy to complete since he found that during his time at Infocom most gamers never finished their games. Loom was also the first Lucasarts adventure game where you could not die - a philosophy they would adopt for the rest of their adventure games that they developed during the 1990s. Besides Loom, Moriarty also collaborated with Ron Cobb on 1994's Loadstar and worked on an early version of what would become Steven Spielberg's 1995 graphical adventure The Dig.

After Lucasarts, Moriarty worked on several other games and gaming-related software before he returned to Worcester, Massachusetts where he was appointed as Professor of Practice in Game Design in the Interactive Media and Game Development Program at Worcester Polytech. Moriarty continues to teach there to this day but when he's not teaching he's usually giving talks at events like the Game Developers Conference (GDC) or publishing articles in newspapers, like he did with the Guardian in 2013.

It's a bit of a coincidence that I decided to talk about Brian Moriarty this year because it just so happens (as you may have noticed earlier in the post) that 2015 marks the 25th anniversary for the game Loom. Moriarty actually talked about the game only a few days ago during this year's GDC and one of the most exciting bit of news to come from his talk is that he's interested in making sequels. Loom was originally meant to be a trilogy with two more games following the Guild of Blacksmiths (Forge) and the Guild of Shepherds (The Fold) so it's definitely not a new idea - far from it. It's just only now that Moriarty feels passionate enough to suggest the idea - and only now, with the recent revival in adventure games, that he would entrust their development to one of three developers. As he mentioned during the conference:

... there are now three studios whom I would trust with the sequels. Telltale, Double Fine, and Wadjet Eye. Talk to me. I’m on the make.

So if the folks at Telltale, Tim Schafer or Dave Gilbert are reading this, contact Brian Moriarty already! I want to play those sequels! :D

[ MobyGames: Brian Moriarty ]
[ Brian Moriarty's Bio at Worcester Polytechnic ]
[ PC Gamer: Loom postmortem... (Mar 7 2015) ]

Monday, March 9, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #172 - Wing Commander: Privateer - Mining Base

Soundtrack composed by: Laura Barratt, Marc Schaefgen and Nenad Vugrinec

Okay so if I recall correctly, not only is the introduction to the game set in the Troy System but that's actually where you start the game proper in the Gemini Sector. The Troy system (according to handy maps courtesy of Privateer fans floating around the interwebs) suggest that the Troy system has an agricultural base and a mining base but I somehow always remember the mining base so that's what I'm going to feature next on Choicest VGM.

This music is usually something that would be a bit too ambient for my tastes but dat nostalgia. It's got a suitably lonely feel to it as you'd probably feel that way holed up in an asteroid light years from civilization.

Thanks to C75 and WCNEWS for providing these memorable tracks.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 11 - 2015

Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

So which games do I think are worth checking out next week (9th Mar to the 15th Mar 2015)? There's only one this week and it's pretty much come out of the blue:

Sid Meier's Starships

  • Release Date: 12 March 2015
  • Availability: Steam $14.99 USD
There wasn't much hype or marketing to this release and its release date on Steam was only announced a week or so ago. Anyway, the game is a sci-fi turn-based strategy game that continues the story of Civilization: Beyond Earth and even has "cross-connectivity" with the title (whatever that means). When I had a look at the game it seems to be a mix of Sid Meier's Ace Patrol, Sid Meier's Pirates!, Master of Orion and Wing Commander Armada. It seems to be targeted for the same market as Sid Meier's Ace Patrol since it has low-specs which allows it to be run as an iOS game and is also well suited for touch-screen play. It also has elements of Sid Meier's Pirates! in that you visit various locations across the map with your fleet of ships with some limited role-playing opportunities. The game's ability to design your ships reminds me of Master of Orion and the colony management mixed with combat reminds me of Wing Commander Armada. Overall, it looks quite promising and since I'm a fan of Beyond Earth it will hopefully be an added bonus. The only downside is that it seems to be single-player only, so no ability to play with your friends I'm afraid.

So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Where are they now? - David Govett

David Govett composed music for both Wing Commander and its sequel

I unfortunately don't have too much information on the next person to feature on Where are they now? although if you haven't heard of him you've probably heard his music at the very least. This week I'd like to talk a little bit about David Govett who in the gaming world is probably best known for his game soundtracks from the early 90s (usually in collaboration with Team Fat, a group led by George "The Fat Man" Sanger that was formed in 1983).

Govett got into composing music at a young age and it was all thanks to the awesomeness of Star Wars. He learned music theory at school and college and eventually in 1987 is credited for composing music for the legendary Lucasfilm adventure game, Maniac Mansion. According to Mazedude (a prominent VGM remixer), Govett composed Bernard's Theme in Maniac Mansion which happens to be a pretty funky tune - but then again, a lot of the soundtrack was pretty damn funky.

Then there was a gap of a couple of years before there was a flurry of game soundtracks that he composed music for, over 30 in the 1990s by MobyGames' count! Govett composed music for epic space sims Wing Commander and its sequel Wing Commander II, strategy games Castles and Castles II, classic dungeon crawler Ultima Underworld, sci-fi turn-based strategy game Master of Orion and the horror puzzle game The 7th Guest (just to name a few).

It was awhile before Govett composed music again for a game which would occur in 2003 when he composed music for Disney's Piglet's Big Game. Since that time, there hasn't been much word about Govett although, again, according to Mazedude, he's been serving as a police officer in recent years because he found it to be less stressful than composing game music.

So we really don't have any idea unfortunately of what David Govett is up to nowadays and if the last comment is true, it's unlikely we'll see him ever composing music for games again - although he seems to have a knack for scoring epic soundtracks no doubt thanks to being influenced by great film composers such as Alan Silvestri and John Williams. Here's hoping he gets back into it someday!

EDIT (12/06/2015): Apparently David Govett is going to be composing music for the next Master of Orion game! Thanks for the heads-up Gabrien!

[ American Pixels - David Govett ]
[ A 2003 Interview with David Govett (VI Control Forum) ]
[ MobyGames: David Govett ]
[ The Fat Man: Official Website ]

Monday, March 2, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #171 - Wing Commander: Privateer - Main Title Theme

Soundtrack composed by: Laura Barratt, Marc Schaefgen and Nenad Vugrinec

2669, Gemini Sector, Troy System...
The Terran Frontier...
Between the Kilrathi Empire...
And the Unknown.

This is how one of my favourite games of all time starts - the space trading sim Wing Commander: Privateer. In the intro, your character, a nameless trader, is ambushed by three pirates but you actually manage to handle the pirates quite well, eliminating all of them despite flying an obsolete Tarsus trading ship (the ship has CRT monitors obscuring your view for chrissakes!).

Accompanying the intro is the music you can hear in the video. It has a mixture of mystery and adventure all rolled up into what has become (for me) a very memorable intro theme. The themes you hear in the intro are also often played in the rest of the game, so keep an ear out for them over the following weeks as we explore this gem of a soundtrack (despite the fact the original basically consisted of just MIDI).

Thanks to C75 and WCNEWS for providing these memorable tracks.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 10 - 2015

Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

So which games do I think are worth checking out next week (2nd Mar to the 8th Mar 2015)? There's only two this week and there's a bit of a historical theme going on for next week's picks :) :

Pre-Civilization Marble Age

  • Release Date: 4 March 2015
  • Availability: Steam (Not available for pre-order), Direct for $13.30
This seems to be a mobile game that is now coming to Steam and while the interface looks rather bright and colourful, it's apparently a historical strategy game set between 4000BC to 1000AD. The game seems to be primarily menu-driven with a lot of sliders and numbers, so it'll probably be more like an advanced game of Hamurabi.BAS than anything else, which will most likely put a lot of people off this game but if the developers are true to their promise of needing to survive through 100 historical events, it could be interesting. It all depends on how much it's going to cost too and considering it's $13.30 AUD on the developer website, I'm guessing it'll be $10 USD on Steam.

Vietnam '65

  • Release Date: 5 March 2015
  • Availability: Steam (Not available for pre-order)
And here we are with yet another historical game and this one happens to be a turn-based strategy game which uses the good ol' hexes. Set during the Vietnam War, your goal is to fight a counter-insurgency campaign to secure the Drang Valley. You'll be going up against the Vietcong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Besides the usual military units you'd expect to command in a game about the Vietnam War apparently you also have to worry about a "Hearts and Minds" campaign too - i.e. winning the local populace to your side, which you rarely see in these kind of war games - well at least I think it's rare, I'm by no means an expert :).

Like Pre-Civilization Marble Age, this game seems to also be a mobile game (or at least a tablet game) so keep in mind there may be questions as to how much depth there will be, but it might have just the right amount for players like me.

So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?