Monday, June 29, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #188 - UFO: Enemy Unknown - Geoscape 2




Soundtrack composed by: John Broomhall

This is one of the two tracks that plays when you're viewing the "Geoscape" which is a graphical representation of the globe, its major cities, your bases and any hostile UFOs that happen to be zipping by. Geoscape 2 happens to be my favourite of the two Geoscape tracks. It manages to sound menacing and badass at the same time, in a late 80s/early 90s kind of way. I mean just listen to 4:01 onwards when it starts to ramp up: It's time for X-COM to kick some arse. Also gotta love the funky groove that starts at 6:02.

Thanks to Fenyo for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 27 - 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 (29th June to the 5th July 2015), there aren't too many games that I'm keen on; in fact there's only one I'm interested in and it's an oldie (but a goodie):

Subspace Continuum

  • Release Date: 03/07/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Free, Direct - Free
Subspace Continuum is a game that's 20 years old if you read up its history. The game started off as a test program to determine how laggy a massively multiplayer game could get on a dial-up connection! This was back in 1995 and the game was called Sniper. Eventually the creators realised they could actually market Sniper as an actual game and it went into open beta in February 1996. I'm guessing this is about the same time my brother and I really got into the game and let me tell you it was a real blast. It was basically a top-down space arena with hundreds of players attempting to attack each other for points and to collect upgrades for their ships. So in a nutshell, one big free-for-all but in space, flying a variety of spaceships. The game became was released commercially in December 1997 and had a price of almost $30 USD.

The game flopped commercially and was heavily pirated. Eventually Virgin Interactive Entertainment, who owned the IP went bankrupt in 1998 and although much of Virgin was bought over by EA, Subspace was not. However, despite the official servers going down, several users hosted their own servers and this helped the game continue to survive to this day. It's been ages since I've played Subspace and considering it's been almost two decades, I daresay the game may have not aged too well, but with the special price of $0, I'm sure it's worth a shot :).



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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Elite: Dangerous OST Review

  • Name: Elite: Dangerous OST
  • Label: Frontier Developments
  • Composer(s): Erasmus Talbot
  • Number of Tracks: 86

I must admit when I first learned that Frontier Developments wouldn’t be re-hiring composer Dave Lowe to do the soundtrack for Elite: Dangerous I was rather disappointed. The Frontier: Elite II soundtrack which Lowe composed/arranged is one of my favourites especially its memorable intro theme (incidentally if you’re a fan of his work, as I type this review there’s a Kickstarter project where he plans to give the Frontier: Elite II theme a live orchestral treatment not to mention redo several of his other game compositions); anyone who was to replace him, in my eyes, had an uphill battle.

So enter Erasmus Talbot who is the composer for the latest game in the Elite franchise. Talbot has thankfully kept with the orchestral style that was adopted by previous games and the samples used sound awfully realistic at times too. While I did miss the music from Frontier: Elite II, Talbot’s music did grow on me, so much so that I just had to buy the album when it was finally available from the Elite: Dangerous store. I bought the digital copy of the album but you’re also able to get a physical version of it too if you prefer good ol’ Compact Discs to FLAC/MP3.

So what exactly do you get when you purchase the album? Well you get a whopping 86 tracks spanning 3 CDs broken up into where the music tends to be used in the game; CD1 is titled "Exploration", CD2 is titled "Frameshift & Starports" and CD3 is titled "Combat & Extras"

So CD1 contains a lot of the music that you hear while exploring space or just hanging about at outposts. It’s the kind of music you’d expect to hear while exploring space taking cues from hard sci-fi films and space documentaries meaning you’ll hear a lot of minimalist, dreamy, lonely, mysterious and peaceful tracks on this CD. While they definitely suit the game unfortunately most of the tracks here aren’t my favourites especially when you consider that many of the tracks are in fact passages of tracks you’ll find on CD2 (especially the Starport music). Favourites on this CD include the mysterious, yet beautiful Hoag's Object, the haunting Uszaa and Liaedin due to the clever mixing of Imperial and Federation styles (probably no coincidence that the Liaedin system in the game is an Imperial system surrounded by Federation space).

CD2 is by far my favourite of the CDs even if it only has 11 tracks. It’s very much quality over quantity on this CD as many of the tracks here are the most recognisable when playing the game, probably because they have melodies. The Frameshift Suite, consisting of seven movements, is the music you’ll hear while flying around in supercruise and they’re all pretty good whether it be the John Williamsesque First Movement or the Mass Effect-like Third Movement, you'll no doubt find something to like in this suite. My favourite movement has to be the Fourth Movement though, a very dramatic piece with a lot of bass, robotic synths, violins and even what sounds like a clarinet. Perfect.

CD2 is also where the Starport music resides with each Starport having an intentionally different musical style. Frontier Developments Head of Audio, Jim Croft, describes what he and Talbot were trying to achieve in the album notes:

It made sense to me to divide exploration, arrival and starport music across factional lines and give each faction a distinct leitmotif and textural flavour.

We gave the Empire and Anarchic assets quite exotic sonic textures. The former infused with Byzantine and Oriental flavours, the latter with African and Middle Eastern ones.

For the Federation we chose to go with a subtle militaristic American mood, dominated by french horn and for the Alliance we chose more airy, romantic European classical elements.

Talbot delivers in spades. Imperial Starport has a lot of mandolins, choirs, violins and brass, the Alliance Starport is an optimistic, spacefaring tune and the Anarchic Starport piece sounds very Arabian, mystical and lonely. My favourite track on the whole album though is the Federal Starport music which definitely has a Star Trek Federation feel to it and manages to sound militaristic, optimistic yet with a hint of cynicism and menace too (probably hinting to the fact that not everyone is prosperous in the capitalistic Federation). It even happens to have the leitmotif or fanfare that plays whenever your ship enters a Federation system or approaches a Federation Starport, however I’m a bit disappointed the leitmotif wasn’t expanded on into a full blown Federation anthem or something similar. Likewise for the Empire and Alliance.

CD3 contains 30 tracks, most of them being combat tracks along with the Elite: Dangerous menu theme. The tracks are all very short (except for the Menu theme) as you would expect for combat music and while it all works very well in game it’s not very listenable on its own.

Score – 7/10

Overall the Elite: Dangerous soundtrack is a high quality one but most of the good stuff is to be found on CD2 with the Frameshift Suite and Starport music. The tracks on the rest of the album are too fleeting to garner any genuine interest which is a pity since some medleys dedicated to each faction could’ve worked quite well as additional music. The leitmotifs for each faction are what I really wanted to hear and you only really get to hear them on CD2 with a smattering of them on CD1.

If you’re interested in purchasing the digital version of the soundtrack you can grab it off the Elite: Dangerous store for £10 which is currently about $20 AUD. Alternatively, you can also get a physical copy of the soundtrack for £15 which is about $30 AUD.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Where are they now? - Tim Wright

Lemmings was one of the first commercial games Wright composed music for

Tonight I'd like to talk about a video game composer that has been interviewed several times which means there's no shortage of information on this fellow which is a far cry from most video game composers, believe you me. For tonight's "Where are they now?" post I'd like to give some insight into who Tim Wright (aka CoLD SToRAGE) is and what he's up to nowadays. If you ever played the games Shadow of the Beast II, Lemmings or Wipeout and really enjoyed the music, you've got this guy to thank.

Wright was born in Wales in 1967. He developed an early interest in music (as most composers do) and started taking piano lessons from the age of 7 until about 16. During the late 1970s and early 1980s he attended high school and did very well in computing, electronics and science which no doubt helped him with his Electronics and Communication Engineering degree at London Metropolitan University which he attended between 1985 - 1987. He got his first job as a VCR repair technician in 1987 but that only lasted 6 months before he joined a company called Littlewoods PLC as a trainee developer in 1988. Wright worked his way up over the next few years, becoming a senior developer and then eventually PC Systems Manager. Around this time, Wright started composing music for computer based demos. It was when he composed music for a demo called "Puggs in Space" that he got the attention of game development studio Psygnosis's Managing Director, Ian Hetherington. This eventually landed Wright a 4 year gig at Psygnosis from 1994-1998.



Prior to working there full time though, Wright was working for Psygnosis as a freelance composer. His first official video game soundtrack was for 1990's Shadow of the Beast II but he also composed music for 1990's Powermonger and, my favourite, 1991's Lemmings. Wright was actually a latecomer to the Lemmings project since the producer noticed that the most recent build contained covers of famous tunes such as the theme from Batman. Wright was tasked to help them out of this pickle by creating cover versions of well-known folk tunes or remixes from other Psygnosis games - basically anything that wouldn't get them into trouble. Wright developed the soundtrack but unfortunately a few years later the copyright holder of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" complained about not receiving any royalties for the use of their melody in one of Wright's tracks. As Wright mentions in an interview by RetroGamer:

" Yes… the one thing I was told to avoid I fell foul of, and by the time this happened I was actually employed by Psygnosis too, so I was quite worried how they would take it."

Lucky for Wright the Managing Director was fine about it and they paid a modest fee for its use. Ironically, the song fell out of copyright a few years later.

Wright was also responsible for composing some music for the 1995 Playstation game Wipeout with famous electronica artists such as the Chemical Brothers, Orbital and Leftfield. While the style of music on Wipeout wasn't Wright's forte, he quickly adapted and the soundtrack is arguably the most popular amongst his fans.

Wright left Sony/Psygnosis in 1997 and formed a company called Jester Interactive to develop music creation software. He developed several programs such as MUSIC(TM), MUSIC 2000, MTV: Music Generator and MUSIC 3000 before he left to form Checkmate Solutions in 2003 with his brother which continued to develop music creation software but for the eJay brand. It was also in 2003 that Wright founded his own multimedia company called Tantrumedia based in Wirral, UK. The company does all things multimedia including website design, website hosting, software development, I.T. consultancy, sound effects, audio post-production, graphic design, 3D illustration, printing, stationery and, of course, music composition.

Checkmate Solutions closed in 2006 but the mid-2000s was a time where Wright started releasing his first albums - i.e. albums with original music not specifically created for games. He also continued to remix his old game music too which he still does to this day. Wright still composes music for games with the most recent games he's composed music for including Gravity Crash for the PS Vita and Dynablaster Revenge on PC, only last year. He is also very much active on the myriad of social media services that he has a presence on (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Tumblr - you name it, he's on it) so it's good to know he's easily contactable, something I'm sure his fans take solace in.

So where is Tim Wright now? Running a web/software/graphics/audio development company and creating game music on the side. Basically keeping himself busy!

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Tim Wright (musician) ]
[ RetroGamer Interview with Tim Wright dated April 2014 ]
[ MobyGames: Tim Wright ]
[ OCRemix Interview with Tim Wright dated May 2008 ]
[ Tim Wright's official website ]
[ Tantrumedia: Tim Wright's company website ]

Monday, June 22, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #187 - UFO: Enemy Unknown - Geoscape 1




Soundtrack composed by: John Broomhall

This is one of the two tracks that plays when you're viewing the "Geoscape" which is a graphical representation of the globe, its major cities, your bases and any hostile UFOs that happen to be zipping by. It's a pretty minimalist tune but I enjoy it all the same, perfect music while you're plotting your next move or while waiting for your scientists to make their next major breakthrough.

For ones with a keen ear you might recognise the chords that play at 4:01 are a lot similar to what you hear when selecting the Gollop Chamber in the most recent XCOM: Enemy Unknown game.

Thanks to Fenyo for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 26 - 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 (22nd June to the 28th June 2015), the Steam Summer Sale is coming to a close and it's probably not surprising that many games are starting to be released again. There's five games I think are worth taking a look at: all of them indie titles:

Interstellar Rift

  • Release Date: 23/06/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
This game is still in Early Access but it looks kind of interesting - more interesting than the game Space Engineers. While I've never been a big fan of Minecraft clones, science fiction ones tend to pique my interest, especially ones where you can get to design your own spaceships. Unlike Space Engineers which seems more similar to Minecraft, it seems you can design some pretty swish ship interiors in Interstellar Rift and the developers are promising heaps of features in the future. If only they'd allow you to apply some textures/paint to the ship exteriors to make them stand out a bit more.



Her Story

  • Release Date: 24/06/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order, Direct - $4.99 USD
It's a rarity to find games that use Full Motion Video (FMV) nowadays, at least not in the sense it was used during the mid-1990s, but here we find a game that is all about reviewing videos - police interviews with a woman to be precise. Apparently you're meant to perform your own background checks based on clues you'll come across while watching the videos, which is definitely a unique experience when it comes to video games but the big "if" is if there is anything more to the game or if it's just a bunch of videos with some limited interactivity that barely meets the requirement of a game. I guess we'll know next week!



Pizza Express

  • Release Date: 25/06/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Before I go any further, if you're turned off by retro games, then stop reading! Otherwise, Pizza Express might be a game you want to check out, especially if you want to play a game about restaurant management but with a bit of "dynamic and unpredictable story, featuring subplots and alternate endings" on the side.

As an extra bonus for those wanting to know what you can develop with game creation software, this game was developed using Game Maker Studio by one man!



Lethis: Path of Progress

  • Release Date: 25/06/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Ah the City Builder genre! No, I'm not talking about the likes of SimCity/Anno/Tropico but does anybody remember those games by Impressions (now known as Tilted Mill) like Caesar, Pharaoh or Zeus? Well Lethis: Path of Progress reminds me of these classic games and that's not a bad thing! If you're looking for an old school City Builder with a Steampunk setting then this game might be right up your alley.



Reflections

  • Release Date: 26/06/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order, Direct - $9.99 USD
At first glance this looks like another "walking simulator" (and as you know, I'm not too big a fan of them) but this Early Access game seems to be a bit different. The game's "powerful Storyteller engine watches everything you do and changes the experience to suit" and various moments of your life will "differ radically based on what you choose to do". One of the most striking features though is that the game's stark black and white environments will slowly be filled in with colour depending on your actions, which I can't say I've ever seen done in a game before. Definitely one to keep an eye out for in terms of something completely different.




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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Where are they now? - Robert "Bobby" Prince

Blake Stone - one of the games Robert "Bobby" Prince composed the music for

Today's Where are they now? post is about a veteran game music composer who is most famous for the soundtrack composed for DOOM which is so popular that fans are still making covers and remixes to this day. In fact, it's one of the most popular soundtracks on game music remix website, OCRemix. Robert "Bobby" Prince is the man I'll talk a little bit about today.

Before Prince became a video game music composer, he did a whole bunch of other things. I'm guessing he was born in the 1940s as he is said to have graduated from the University of Georgia in 1966 with a Bachelor of Psychology. He also attended Emory University for graduate school but left early to join the army apparently serving in Vietnam during 1969-1970. In 1972 he returned to school and earned a Masters of Education in Counselling. He then studied law enforcement which in turn piqued his interest in studying Law. In 1980 he became a lawyer when he passed the State Bar of Georgia.

In the early 1990s, Prince became interested in finding work developing music for games. He eventually managed to get in touch with John Romero at id Software and his first work there included composing the soundtracks for 1991's Rescue Rover 2 and Commander Keen 4. He composed music and sound effects for some of id's most iconic titles such as 1992's Wolfenstein 3D, 1993's DOOM, and 1994's DOOM II. For the DOOM soundtrack, John Romero instructed that Prince create a soundtrack with a "Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath" sound and consequently this is why a lot of music in DOOM sounds similar to music by Metallica, Pantera, Alice in Chains, Slayer and, of course, Black Sabbath . He also composed music and sound effects for games published by Apogee such as 1993's Blake Stone and 1996's Duke Nukem 3D.

Prince continued to compose game music over the years and most recently developed the soundtrack for the 2012 indie FPS game Wrack. Since then there hasn't been much word on his whereabouts or what he's been up to but he still regularly posts to his personal blog with his recent posts talking about music technology recommendations, sound design and the Wrack soundtrack which was released at the end of last year (and is now available on Steam).

I sincerely hope Prince continues to compose music for games and I'll be keeping an eye out for any news concerning future projects :). Thanks for composing the music to some of the most iconic PC games of the 90s Mr. Prince! As a tribute, here's one of my favourite covers of the E1M1 music from DOOM.



LINKS:
[ VGMPF: Bobby Prince ]
[ Wikipedia: Robert Prince (video game composer) ]
[ Doom Wiki: Robert Prince ]
[ MobyGames: Robert Prince ]
[ Bobby Prince's Personal Blog ]

Monday, June 15, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #186 - UFO: Enemy Unknown - Introduction




Soundtrack composed by: John Broomhall

We once again take a break from the Wing Commander: Privateer soundtrack to feature music from a game that was released around the same era (the early 1990s). It's also apt that we feature some of this music as many of you now know that there's going to be a sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown coming out this year! Yay! Can't get enough of that alien busting ("Bustin' makes me feel good!")! Anyway, the music we're featuring here isn't from the more recent reboot of the series but from the 1994 original developed by Mythos Games and published by Microprose. The music's definitely got an 80s/90s action music feel to it and the introduction music is no exception with wailing guitars. I know I could've used the better MT-32 version of the music but there's something about the Adlib/Sound Blaster version that just feels right, I just can't put my finger on it (especially when we eventually listen to Geoscape 2).

For an awesome remix to this intro be sure to check out the track I picked for the letter "X" in my A-Z of PC Game Music Remixes and Covers ;).

Thanks to Fenyo for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 25 - 2015


Where have all the game releases gone?

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 (15th June to the 21st June 2015), there's only a few games that are being released which just goes to show how ridiculously influential the Steam Summer Sale is in dictating when you release a game (nobody wants to release their game when people are too busy filling their backlogs with what they perceive as great deals). So since the spotlight is very much on Steam, I've decided to compile a list of games that have rated well on Choicest Games (8/10 or above) and that are under $10 AUD (which means games under about $7.00 USD)

140: $1.99 USD
Battlefield: Bad Company 2: $4.39 USD
Cook, Serve, Delicious!: $2.49 USD
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West - Premium Edition: $6.79 USD
Fallout 3: $4.99 USD
FTL: Faster than Light: $4.99 USD
Gray Matter: $2.49 USD
Gunpoint: $4.99 USD
Hotline Miami: $2.49 USD
Left 4 Dead: $3.99 USD
Monaco: $6.74 USD
The Secret of Monkey Island - Special Edition: $6.69 USD
Monkey Island 2 - Special Edition: $6.69 USD
Papers, Please: $4.99 USD
Portal 2: $4.99 USD
Resonance: $2.99 USD
Shelter: $4.99 USD
The Shivah: $2.99 USD
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery: $3.19 USD
Tomb Raider: $3.99 USD
The Wolf Among Us: $6.24 USD

Alternatively, you could always check out my Steam Curator page.

So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to? Or planning to get any choicest deals during the Steam sale?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

CMDR Mark Goodwin's Diamondback Review

The Diamondback Explorer. One of the new ships to be introduced in the 1.3 Powerplay Update for Elite: Dangerous

For this review, I've recruited the help of another Choicest Games contributor. Luke (CMDR REDCON1) passes on his insights on the Diamondback Explorer.

CMDR MARK GOODWIN:
As every player of Elite: Dangerous knows the new version 1.3 Powerplay update came out recently and besides adding a whole new layer of content as well as bug fixes, the game also introduced three new ships: the Imperial Courier, the Diamondback Scout and the Diamondback Explorer. I've been flying around the Imperial Courier quite a bit now and besides the nostalgia value (I loved Frontier: Elite II and the ship features quite prominently in the intro) it's definitely a sleek looking ship which manages to handle quite well as a mid-tier fighter. It's not going to be beating the Vulture by no means but it's half the price though.

But anyway, you're not here to learn about the Imperial Courier, how about the two Diamondbacks from Lakon? Well the smaller version known as the Scout is just over half a million credits so it sits between the Cobra Mk III and the Type-6 in terms of price. Its big brother, the Explorer (not to be confused with the Asp Explorer), is just under 2 million Cr, making it more expensive than the Type-6 Transporter but cheaper than an Imperial Courier (and indeed the Vulture and Asp).

In terms of speed and agility the Diamondback Scout is pretty good with comparable stats to the Viper and Cobra. It has as agility rating of 8 compared to the Cobra's 6 but is around the same hull mass. On the other hand, the Explorer seems to be (at least on paper) less agile than just about everything (except dedicated trading ships and much larger ships). Its speed is okay (around the same as a Sidewinder's) but it's nothing special.

In terms of shielding the Explorer does have slightly more than the Viper with the Scout sitting between the Cobra and Viper. The Scout has similar hardpoints to the Viper and Cobra with the Explorer rocking 2 medium and 1 large hardpoint.

Both of them seem to shine as exploration vessels though – both having large fuel tanks for their hull mass. The Diamondback Scout has got a 16t fuel tank but is slightly lighter than the Cobra at 170t and the Explorer is slightly heavier than the Asp (298t) but has a 32t fuel tank (like the Asp) – but it’s 1/3 the cost.

So as exploration vessels I think they're a good interim measure between the Hauler and the Asp (if exploration is all you're interested in). They also have some teeth as well but while the Scout is still pretty agile, the Explorer is not (and seems like the Asp is better in every department to be honest but has the price to show for it too). Otherwise, if you're looking for a multirole ship/combat ship/trading ship, there are better options.

What are your thoughts CMDR REDCON1? You've been flying a Diamondback Explorer recently right?

CMDR REDCON1:
That's correct and that fits with what I've experienced in the Explorer so far.

The shields feel a little underpowered for both the hull mass overhead and the armour. To my thinking the lack of manoeuvrability can not be overstated, even in comparison with the Asp, although one thing I've noticed is in a straight line it maintains its boost speed for an eternity, presumably lending to the high inertia.

I think the Explorer fits a multirole though, at least for Powerplay. It's a ship that can jump far, interdict/chase down ships of enemy factions and subdue most of them (except dedicated combat ships), carry a bit of cargo and all on a fuel tank.

Any prolonged fight is doomed though and the second they're behind I've found I either need to turn Flight Assist off or boost and jump away.

In a pre-1.3 sense though it's pretty ordinary. It doesn't bounty hunt well because of a shitty distributor, it doesn't trade well because of the modest cargo space. Dedicated exploration might be okay but I'd still take the Asp over it.

I'm yet to try the Scout though.

CMDR MARK GOODWIN:
It's enough as a Powerplay multirole, as you say but I think the cargo space is too small for a true multirole (at least from my weird definition of one) – I think the Cobra is actually a slightly better multirole than the Diamondback Explorer and the next step up would be the Asp.

CMDR REDCON1:
Agreed.

CMDR MARK GOODWIN:
Interesting about the boost speed – so maybe it's got relatively high class components that can compensate for its huge mass?

So did you end up getting rid of the Diamondback Explorer or are you still holding onto it? Are you going to use the cash towards a Fer-de-Lance?

CMDR REDCON1:
I'll hold onto it until I at least get a little closer to the FDL.

So what do you think of the Diamondbacks? Do you think they are worth getting?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Where are they now? - Barry Leitch


Barry Leitch is composing music for retro racing game Horizon Chase

For today's Where are they now? post I'd like to talk a bit about a video game composer that's probably one of the most prolific having composed music for over 100 games in his career (that's a lot of music)! Today I'd like to talk a little about Scottish composer Barry Leitch.

Leitch was born in 1970 and at the young age of 16 started composing music on his Commodore 64. It wasn't long before he was composing music for commercial games such as 1987's Xenophobe and Gemini Wing. During the late 80s and early 90s, he composed music for many games mainly for UK publishers/developers such as Gremlin Graphics and Ocean Software.

Leitch was responsible for composing one of my favourite soundtracks from a computer game ever: 1991's Utopia: Creation of a Nation. There's a reason people are still remixing this soundtrack to this day; even the man himself has given it a go:



Leitch also composed the sensational soundtrack to 1993's T.F.X., one of the earliest games I remember playing that had Red Book Audio (i.e. CD-quality audio that meant you could play the music in your CD player - Track 1 was the game data). It really got the adrenaline pumping as you dispatched bogies in your Eurofighter 2000 (or F-22 or F-117A for that matter).

Around the same time T.F.X. was released, Leitch moved to the U.S.A. and worked at Origin for a couple of years, composing music for games such as the expansion pack to Wing Commander: Privateer, 1994's Righteous Fire.

Leitch continued to compose music for games as well as children's toys. Famous companies he's composed music for include Midway Games, Atari, Psygnosis, Ubisoft, PopCap Games and Eidos. Only last year he composed the soundtrack to a modern reinterpretation of Capcom's arcade classic Strider.

To this day, Leitch is still composing music in his trademark retro style and is scoring the music for the upcoming retro racing game Horizon Chase by Brazilian game developer Aquiris Game Studio. It's sounding pretty choice.



I'm glad that video game composers such as Barry Leitch are still in the business. After almost 30 years he still knows how to pump out a groovy tune. Thanks for all the great video game music Mr Leitch and I'm sure the best is yet to come!

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Barry Leitch ]
[ MobyGames: Barry Leitch ]
[ Facebook: Barry Leitch Audio Studios ]

Monday, June 8, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #185 - Wing Commander: Privateer - Panic




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

DON'T PANIC! Well that's what the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would recommend, although it's hard not to with this tense track that plays whenever you're in a bit of strife in Wing Commander: Privateer. It does happen to have a somewhat heroic fanfare at around the 0:59 mark which has a certain comedic appeal if your ship is being ripped to shreds right about that time.

Thanks to C75 and WCNEWS for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 24 - 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 (8th June to the 14th June 2015), there's only really one game that's worthy of the Choicest Games spotlight, mainly because there aren't many games being released next week (another hunt that the big Steam Summer Sale is coming soon perhaps?):

Streets of Fury EX

  • Release Date: 18/06/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Think video captured fighters, original Mortal Kombat style mixed with a side-scrolling beat 'em up like Streets of Rage and that's what Streets of Fury EX is; in fact, thanks to the name being so similar, it's hard not to come across the classic 1990s beat 'em up from SEGA in the search results instead of the more recent title. It's basically a tribute to games of the 1990s and I like that. The game does go one step further than the games of yesteryear by featuring 15 unlockable characters compared to the usual handful you would get, so that's pretty choice.


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

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Elite: Dangerous Powerplay Trailer released

Diamaondback Explorers engage a Majestic Class Interdictor (an Imperial battlecruiser)

While the new trailer looks pretty flashy and exciting at least this time it's using in-game footage unlike the Elite: Dangerous launch trailer. You can even get a glimpse of the new Diamondback Explorer towards the end of the trailer which I assume are fighting for the Federation's Zachary Hudson.

The leaders of the 10 powers being introduced in Powerplay

At the end of the trailer you also get to see the faces of the 10 powers that are being introduced with Powerplay. I'm assuming that they correspond to the following individuals:

  • Senator Zemina Torval (Empire)
  • Prime Minister Edmund Mahon (Alliance)
  • Archon Delaine (Kumo Crew Pirates)
  • Pranav Antal (Utopia Cult?)
  • Senator Arissa Lavigny-Duval (Empire)
  • President Zachary Hudson (Federation)
  • Senator Denton Patreus (Empire)
  • CEO Li Yong-Rui (Sirius Corporation)
  • Shadow President Felicia Winters (Federation)
  • Princess Aisling Duval (Empire)

(Anyone think that Zachary Hudson looks a bit like Robert Patrick?)

TRAILER:

Friday, June 5, 2015

First look at Civ Beyond Earth expansion faction Al Falah

One of the four new factions to be introduced in Rising Tide

Firaxis has given us a first glimpse at the leader of one of the new factions to be introduced in the upcoming Civilization: Beyond Earth expansion pack, Rising Tide. The faction is called "Al Falah" (which means "success, happiness and wellbeing" in Arabic, especially from self-improvement) and their citizens hail from resilient, wealthy Middle Eastern states. It seems that the faction's leader is a woman called Arshia Kishk and the little morsels of information we can read about her and her faction come in the form of a personal letter between her and her daughter, shortly before planetfall.

The letter tells a story of how princes and princesses lived in hotels (no not castles), perhaps a bit like the Burj Al-Arab?



The story is obviously a fable and thanks to oral tradition has become more sensational over several generations, claiming that the princes and princesses used to own llamas instead of camels (but there's apparently some kind of phage that caused them to grow humps). It basically serves as a cautionary tale to Arshia's daughter that other people aren't to be trusted even if they claim they're here to help suggesting that Al Falah will adopt an isolationist approach.

What is pretty neat though is the mention of a certain unit from the main Civilization series: namely the Giant Death Robot!

LINKS:
[ Official Civilization Beyond Earth Website: A LETTER FROM ARSHIA KISHK, LEADER OF AL FALAH ]

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Where are they now? - Chris Roberts

The game that made Chris Roberts famous: Wing Commander

Those of you who tuned in to last week's "Where are they now?" post will know I encountered some technical difficulties since I was unable to access MobyGames, a treasure trove of game developer history. You'll also know I wanted to talk about a game developer just about everyone has heard of but mainly for the many space simulator games he developed for the PC in the 1990s and early 2000s. Today we talk about Chris Roberts.

Roberts was born in 1964 in Redwood City, California, but spent most of his childhood in the city of Manchester, England. During the early 1980s some of the first games he developed which would eventually be published included Wizadore and Stryker's Run. He eventually moved back to the U.S. in 1986 and soon after got a job working for the legendary game development studio, Origin (keep in mind Roberts was still in his late teens). Roberts's first big responsibility at Origin was the development of 1988's Times of Lore where he was responsible for almost everything: writing, directing, designing, programming, testing and just managing the project in general.

In the early 1990s, Roberts became very busy thanks to the success of his 1990 space combat hit Wing Commander (which he programmed, directed and produced). He would be the designer and producer for three more Wing Commander sequels as well as the producer for 1993's Wing Commander: Privateer and Strike Commander.

In 1996, Roberts left Origin to form Digital Anvil where he produced games such as 2000's Starlancer, 2001's Conquest: Frontier Wars and 2003's Freelancer. Digital Anvil while primarily a game development company was also a special effects company and ended up being the first game development studio to produce a movie based on a game franchise, namely 1999's Wing Commander which Roberts wrote and directed. He even had a cameo as a Rescue and Recovery pilot:



Roberts eventually left the game industry in 2003 to form a movie production company called Ascendant Pictures due to a combination of factors; he claims that in the early 2000s it became increasingly apparent that development cycles were becoming longer and big publishers were the only ones that had enough money to fund ambitious projects yet they were unwilling to take risks. Also most publishers were focusing on console game development not to mention game development technology wasn't keeping pace with Roberts's vision for his ultimate game - one he hoped Freelancer would become but it didn't quite make it.

Roberts went on to work as a producer on quite a few movies during the 2000s including 2004's The Punisher, 2005's Lord of War and 2008's Outlander. 2009's Black Water Transit is the last film he produced (according to IMDB) before he formed a new game development company in 2011 called Cloud Imperium Games. The following year, Roberts started a Kickstarter project to raise funds for an ambitious new space sim MMO game called Star Citizen which managed to raise over $2 million USD via Kickstarter and over $6 million USD total when website contributions were included.

While Star Citizen's development schedule has been pushed back the game is expected to be released sometime later this year or early next year. Today, Cloud Imperium Games has managed to raise in excess of $80 million USD and shows no sign of stopping. Roberts is a very wealthy man at the moment but the more money invested in the project the greater the expectations of its fans. Will Star Citizen finally realise Roberts's vision of the ultimate game? Fingers crossed it does.

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: Chris Roberts ]
[ MobyGames: Chris Roberts ]
[ IMDB: Chris Roberts ]
[ GOG Interview in 2012 with Chris Roberts ]

Monday, June 1, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #184 - Wing Commander: Privateer - Combat II




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

Today we feature another piece of combat music from the classic space trading simulator Wing Commander: Privateer. I seemed to always hear this particular track shortly after winning a battle so I'm not sure why it's labelled "Combat II" but I suppose my memory doesn't serve me as well as it used to. It's definitely one track that I wouldn't mind hearing a live orchestra perform.

Thanks to C75 and WCNEWS for providing these memorable tracks.