Something strange happened today. Indie sensation Axiom Verge just got a release date for its physical release… on Wii U. Nintendo’s last gen console has been dead and buried for some time now, so why is this game just coming out now? As it turns out, Limited Run Games and Axiom Verge developer Tom Happ have been locked in a legal battle with BadLand Games that potentially involves the latter stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Following the immense success of Axiom Verge as a digital-only title, Tom Happ was approached by multiple publishers looking to bring the game to retail. The retail release would be bundled with extra goodies, including a documentary about the game’s development and an art book. Happ considered various offers and eventually chose BadLand Games.
Happ made this choice due to the fact that the CEO of BadLand presented himself as “very sympathetic to Tom’s son’s health condition.” Alastair Happ, Tom’s son, suffers from Kernicterus. When doctors failed to treat a routine case of jaundice during Alastair’s first few days alive, he suffered severe neurological damage that permanently impeded his motor skills and ability to hear. BadLand claimed to be so moved by his story that they would donate 75% of their profits from the publishing deal to Alastair’s medical bills. It was too good to be true.
After the deal was agreed upon, Limited Run Games stepped forward to get a piece of the action. Limited Run wanted to acquire the rights to distribute the Wii U physical release of the game in North America. Under the agreement, Limited Run would pay BadLand $78,000. In return, BadLand would supply Limited Run with 6,000 physical copies, which Limited Run would then distribute. The physical release was set for November 2017.
The planned release date came and went, and BadLand failed to supply the 6,000 copies they promised. The release date was pushed back to January 2018, then pushed back again when Nintendo had concerns over the game’s rating. The issue was quickly resolved, but BadLand still hadn’t provided the physical copies—and worse yet, they stopped answering messages from Limited Run.
At this point Limited Run issued an ultimatum: Either BadLand refund the money in full or supply them with enough copies of Axiom Verge on other platforms to match the value. Limited Run would have then distributed these copies (in a partnership with Happ) instead to recoup at least some of their losses. BadLand continued to ignore Limited Run. After a few more warning emails, BadLand finally agreed to work things out over a phone call that Monday. The call never happened, and BadLand went back to ignoring Limited Run for months.
Limited Run’s patience finally ran out, and they filed a lawsuit. They intended to acquire repayment of the money plus interest and attorney’s fees. BadLand finally responded after this, stating that the publishing rights had gone back to Tom Happ… because BadLand Games no longer existed. The company had folded, but many of its employees simply moved over to “BadLand Publishing” (which had been set up in 2017 to keep the company’s distribution and publishing branches separate) and continued business.
According to BadLand Games / BadLand Publishing CEO Luis Quintans, the company ran into financial trouble due to a banking error that caused their credit lines to be canceled. Essentially, he claims that BadLand was blacklisted by banks by accident and the mistake wasn’t corrected for two months. This allegedly occurred in September of 2017 and sent the company down a financially troubled path that led to it officially closing (and then simply shifting over to the other label) by October of 2018.
Quintans claims that BadLand Publishing has now paid off 90% of BadLand Games’ debts, but Limited Run hasn’t seen a penny. The court case was meant to open on December 4th, but despite multiple attempts to reach BadLand, they never showed up. The judge ordered BadLand to pay $78,000 plus $3,675.63 in interest and legal fees. Quintan claims he has every intention of repaying Limited Run, and blames the delay on them, claiming they haven’t communicated enough.
“In short, this resolution says that we have to pay to Limited Run, which is what we are willing to do from the beginning. But for that Limited Run has to want to talk to us and keep in mind that it is not possible to face all the payments at once.” — Luis Quintans
As Limited Run CEO Josh Fairhurst points out, BadLand has continued publishing games throughout this struggle, including in recent months.
“BadLand Publishing has released several physical retail products since we sent them our money, some within the last few months. Through my knowledge of minimum order requirements with the major platforms and the associated costs, I know that BadLand has spent more than $100,000 (at least) on recent physical product releases. So, they’ve had more than enough money to pay us back, yet they’ve been content to keep our money. ” — Josh Fairhurst
Unfortunately, this already frustrating story doesn’t stop here. Remember little Alastair and Tom Happ’s agreement with BadLand? As you might have guessed by now, that hasn’t gone as planned either. Dan Adelman (a former Nintendo executive who worked closely with Happ on publishing and marketing Axiom Verge) followed today’s news with a Twitter thread accusing BadLand of much, much worse.
According to Adelman, BadLand “kept stalling” when the deadline for manufacturing the game’s physical release approached. Eventually, BadLand broke down and told Adelman and Happ that they didn’t have the money to follow through with their agreement. They proposed that Happ personally pay for the game to be manufactured. They promised they’d pay him back after the game hit shelves. Adelman claims that never happened.
“When it came time to pay Tom Happ his share for EU sales & contribute to Alastair’s health care fund (which Tom had to pay a lawyer to establish), Badland went dark on us. We didn’t even really know how much they owed us, though we have reason to believe it’s about $200k. We’ve filed a lawsuit against them, but because of the international nature of the suit, it’s proving hard to make headway.”
“It’s frustrating to see @BadLand_Publish tweet about new games they’re releasing, no doubt funded with the money they owe LRG and Tom Happ. Badland has literally stolen money from a disabled toddler.” — Dan Adelman
Between the $80,000 owed to Limited Run and the estimated $200,000 owed to Adelman, Happ, and Alastair’s fund, BadLand has stolen nearly $300,000 according to their accusers. All parties involved are suing, but it’s likely to be a long and challenging process with no guarantee of payment.
While the Mario Party series has been defining the party game genre for over two decades, even the most famous games can lose themselves to sequelitis. It’s probably for this reason that Nintendo decided to shed the previous numbered installments and rebrand the series as Super Mario Party on Nintendo Switch. And boy does it deliver.
A traditional Mario Party pits one to four players against each other in a digital board game, rolling a single die to move around the board collecting stars, coins, and new in Super Mario Party, ally characters. If you land on an Ally Space, a character is chosen at random from the playable roster, lends you their unique character die to use at any time, and supplements your die roll with rolls of their own. These specialized dice are one of Super Mario Party’s greatest new features; players can weigh the risks and rewards of rolling a standard six-sided die, in addition to their own and their allies’ dice, each of which come with distinct advantages and disadvantages, like the risk of losing coins for the reward of higher rolls.
Every turn of the board game is ended with one of eighty minigames chosen at random, where players compete for coins and bragging rights. It’s what makes Mario Party so much fun, and it’s where the friendly (and not-so-friendly) competition come alive. Players might punch each other in front for the camera, shake gems out of a jar, and pilot planes through an obstacle course.
It’s here that Super Mario Party not only insures itself as intuitive fun for everyone, but locks in Nintendo Switch is a must-own for gamers and casual players alike. Every minigame uses the Switch’s detachable Joy-Con controllers, either in a horizontal position for traditional buttons, or veritcal for Wii-like motion control minigames. No matter the use case, it just works—usually easy enough for Grandma to join in.
Super Mario Party does include a single-player mode called Challenge Road, though it only unlocks after you’ve unlocked every minigame in the multiplayer modes. Besides a fun run through the minigames with a sparse few extra challenges thrown in the mix, it’s little else.
Super Mario Party features perhaps the series’ widest variety of alternate modes. The aforementioned Classic Mode is supplemented by a co-op called Partner Party, where players team up for a two-on-two competition. Both players on each team roll a die, which are then combined into a shared total dice roll. Players are then free to move around the board as an open grid, rather than sticking to Classic Mode’s preset paths. It’s a really great way to play without ruining all your friendships,
If two-player cooperation isn’t enough, everyone can team up in River Survival, a new mode that sends four players careening down a river in an inflatable raft. Players move the controllers to control your oars, working together to steer the boat into balloons that activate unique team-based minigames. While it’s true that most modes are better with human players (and optional drinking game rules), it’s especially apparent in River Survival. WIth friends you can communicate and work together, but when you play with CPUs, it’s easy to feel like you’re carrying the team.
Mariothon pits players against each other in a tournament-style marathon of back-to-back minigames at home or online. Unfortunately its fun is short-lived, as the tournament only lasts five games. This is unfortunately the only mode available to play online.
Other modes include Square-Off, another minigame-based game; Sound Stage, a delightful mode of rhythm-based minigames; and Toad’s Rec Room, a collection of toys and games showing off technical elements of the Switch. The most impressive game you’ll find here use two Nintendo Switches in conjuction with each other to play games that spread across one Switch’s touchscreen to the other’s. They’re fun diversions and great tech demonstrations for concepts to use in future party games, but not much else.
While Super Mario Party’s sheer variety makes it undoubtedly the series’ best in a decade, longtime fans may find each of these modes just a little undercooked. Sound Stage, Toad’s Rec Room, and River Survival only have three, five, and fifteen minigames respectively. Mariothon and the two board game modes share a much larger pool of eighty minigames, but Super Mario Party only has four boards to choose from. They’re all good, reliable fun, but none of them quite satisfied the creative itch of the series’ most memorable locales.
Super Mario Party sheds the series’ last few rounds of sequelitis to deliver a game well worth of the Mario Party name. Whether you’re buying for your kids, throwing a college kickback, or gathering the parents and grandparents around the living room for the Holidays, Super Mario Party is a game you won’t want to forget.
No 8 Our Verdict Super Mario Party Great minigames, intuitive fun for everyone, and more gameplay variety than ever. Most game modes could be fleshed out a little further Top
While The Settlers—as a series of strategy games that originated in the ’90s—never reached the critical acclamation of Warcraft or Heroes of Might and Magic, it remains dear to many gamers. At this year’s Gamescom, the story about starting your own medieval colony and fighting other settlers returned, as Ubisoft announced not one but two games: The History Collection, which includes the first seven Settlers games, and a brand new game that reboots the franchise. Gamnesia recently had a chance to talk to Volker Wertich, the man behind the series and Creative Director for the upcoming reboot, about the past and future of Settlers.
I started playing Settlers 1 when I was a little kid, and I think a lot of people are very nostalgic about the first two or three games. And since they’re fairly old games, you can’t play them unless you have old hardware lying around. Have you seen a demand from fans wanting to play these old games again?
Absolutely. For the Settlers, there are fans of each. Some are fans of the older ones, some are fans of the newer ones, and some are fans of all of them. And you know, the series is very old now. I created the first one when I was only 21 years old, 25 years ago. And of course, those games don’t run on modern PCs, so we wanted to bring those games back on Windows 10.
Have you done any modifications to the older games?
Yes. The modifications will vary from game to game, but one thing we’ve implemented is multiplayer, both local and online. In Settlers 1, for instance, you can play local split screen by connecting two mice to your PC, so it’s really nostalgic. Now, I have to say that I’m not as involved with the History Collection as with the new Settlers, so I’m not sure of all the features. But I know that in Settlers 2 and 3 there is also 4K and multi-monitor support, which should help on larger maps.
Do you know if the changes made are done to improve the original games? Or is your goal more so to preserve the original as much as possible, while—as you mentioned—giving players some new tools such as online multiplayer and dual-monitor support?
The first priority is to make them work on modern PCs, but for the very first game we’ve improved the controls a bit to work a bit more like a modern RTS. We didn’t want to change too much, because this is really a celebration of the series and it’s also an opportunity to show people where the series began and where it’s going with the new game.
How does it feel for you personally to look back on the History Collection going as far back as Settlers 1 and then to the newest titles? Do you feel like you’ve constantly improved the series since then, or have there been mistakes along the way? And of course, how does that factor into the making of the next Settlers game?
Before we started developing the new Settlers game, we took a step back and looked at what’s been done in the past with Settlers. As I’m the original inventor of the series, I can say that there’s a DNA to the series that describes what the game is about and what elements a Settlers game should have. For instance, The Settlers has a strong sense of “What you see is what you get.” Ideally, every process of the game—every transportation process or production process—should be visualized. You should be able to see as many game variables as possible. It should not be like in Civilization [where you might have one farm providing one food but you never see the one unit of food visualized other than in the food counter]. You give commands to your minions, which will go execute those commands. This makes it nice to just watch the game, not just interesting. We call that the Aquarium effect.
Other examples of the DNA is that you also have a lot of freedom in the game and also having a relaxing click rate. Settlers is not about handling your mouse with perfect speed and click rate. And I think that for some of the past games, all that has been well executed, and with others we might have gotten a bit lost in the direction that they went. With the new one, we tried to focus on what makes Settlers unique. We think this is the best way to attract fans of the series as well as new players.
So, that was a long answer. *laughs*
It was a good answer, so it’s okay. Do you think that you will be able to appease both fans of the new Settlers game and the old Settlers games? Because they are quite different.
Absolutely. I think there must be some people who think it must be impossible to make everyone happy. But what I can say is that with an earlier build of the game—six months older than the build we are presenting here—we did a play test, and we invited people who have never played Settlers before. We invited fans of the older games and fans of the newer ones and we asked them if they felt like it was an experience of two kinds of Settlers. They then agreed or disagreed, and out of a score of 5, the average was 4.8. So I think we really have managed to find a balance.
What is the single biggest new feature in the game that you think people will enjoy?
Well, of course we have a systems that have appeared in previous games that we have renewed or redesigned. But there are also new features, and one of the biggest ones is different winning methods. There are ways besides combat to win the game, and it’s not just going to be collecting a score, something more deeply implemented into the game.
So the game is releasing in the fall of 2019. What are you going to do between today and 2019?
I can hardly foresee the future completely. We are currently at pre-alpha stage, so we have a lot of work ahead of us, and we also want time to polish the game.
There is a bit of a trend in the gaming industry to release a game quickly and then patch it post-release. Is that something you want to avoid?
That’s of course what we plan to do. This is a reboot of the franchise. So it’s crucial that we do a good job.
So is “The Settlers” the final title?
Okay, thank you so much for your time, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing more of The Settlers in the future.
In a world of countless RPGs, you might be worried that the genre is becoming stale over time. Unfortunately, many developers are too afraid to shake up the formula out of fear their games may not sell well. So while the big names play it safe, we turn to independent developers for innovation. Enter Quincy Pringle, a young developer who is ready to liven up the RPG scene with his new game OTHER: Her Loving Embrace. The game takes traditional turn-based battles and turns each one into an interactive experience. To see it in action, check out the short clip below.
I had a chance to talk to Quincy about his upcoming game, and he had a lot to share, including details about the game’s story, characters, additional gameplay mechanics, and much more. Quincy went into detail about his passion for game development, some of his greatest inspirations, and even some hardships he’s faced when working on projects in the past.
OTHER: Her Loving Embrace takes the classic turn-based RPG battle system and flips it on its head by turning each fight into an interactive platforming experience. How did you come up with this idea?
Early in 2017, I started making a small rougelike game that was intended to be a prequel of sorts to my other game project, Super Pretentious Underground Dungeon (SPUD), while also being a programming exercise. It was very by-the-books, with tiled movement, turn based combat, the usual for a good Rouge clone. I showed it to some friends, and while they liked it, they felt it was too derivative. So I knew I had to do something different.
Eventually, I had the idea of turning it into a turn-based RPG. I love RPGs; I’ve always wanted to make one but I also wanted to make something that felt fresh. The battle system evolved over several iterations and brainstorming sessions. It all started out with the question of, “How do I make the battles more interactive?” Some of my favorite games are RPGs with an interesting and interactive battle system, such as Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, or Paper Mario. I thought about making it a real-time action-RPG instead, but I felt like that would be a cop-out from the unique challenges that turn-based combat presents from a design perspective. Besides, I wanted to pay homage to old classics like Dragon Warrior and Mother 1.
I thought about how one would engage an enemy in real-life. There would be a lot of give and take, attack and defense. You wouldn’t just stand there and let someone stab you, and the neither would the enemy. I decided to try and toss in some code from SPUD to quickly get a platforming environment up and running during a turn-based battle, and it was like magic. It had all the hallmarks of a traditional turn-based battle scheme with a fun, refreshing way to engage enemies. I showed it to my friends again, and they agreed that it was an idea worth pursuing.
I think a lot of people find your take on the genre refreshing. You recently shared some clips of gameplay and it caught the attention of so many people. How did you feel about the initial response from the gaming community?
It’s been incredible. The exposure itself was amazing, but what really moved me were the vocal responses from all over the world. People have been sending me comments nonstop, and while it’s a lot to take in, it’s very motivating.
The combat system is obviously a huge draw to your game. Are there other mechanics or features you want players to get excited about that they may not have noticed yet?
Something I’m really excited to show later on is how the magic system works. Inspired by games like Superstar Saga and the Legend of Zelda series, any spell or ability you learn has applications both on and off the battlefield. Players obtain most of these in dungeons, which are then used to solve puzzles, unlock new areas in the overworld, and find all sorts of secrets. In the context of a battle, some of these are passive, permanent upgrades, while others must be cast manually within their own unique minigame-like interfaces.
Overall, I am very much inspired by the Devil May Cry series, traditional fighting games, and other favorites like Super Smash Bros. Melee. My design philosophy takes the “low skill floor, high skill ceiling” approach, so players dedicated to learning the ins-and-outs of the combat system will be greatly rewarded. If you’ve ever craved a turn-based RPG where you can wavedash, you might like OTHER.
I’m also very happy with the story and characters, and I think players will enjoy them very much.
I’m really curious since you mentioned it. Is there anything you’re willing to share regarding the story and characters of OTHER?
Supernatural occurrences and manifestations have begun to pop up all over the great kingdom of Golden. While initially viewed as little more than nuisances, these spirits have become increasingly malevolent around the humble village of Chestertown, terrorizing it to a standstill. With Chestertown’s way of life utterly dismantled, the townsfolk are desperate for anything, or anyone, that could save them.
Gershom, a child working as a servant for the Duchess of Chestertown, is a quiet, gentle kid with a growing discontent for his way of life. After getting into trouble, he finds himself investigating the mystery of the spirits alongside a mysterious young man, who (despite barely having any magical power) insists on being referred to as a “wizard”. Realizing the town will pay any price for a solution to their troubles, he “befriends” Gershom and hatches his own scheme.
Players will investigate Chestertown and the surrounding countryside in an attempt to investigate and solve the supernatural threat. OTHER’s story is very character-driven, so expect lots of development and interactions.
I’m intrigued! Can you say how the title of the game ties into the story, or is that cutting too deep into spoiler territory?
The title “OTHER” is connected to the game in several ways. It ties into the spiritual themes, in which otherworldly, foreign beings act towards their own unknowable purposes. But it runs much deeper than that, and players will have to discover the true meaning behind the title on their own.
I’ve listened to some of the music for the game, and every track is incredible! Are you working on the soundtrack by yourself, or do you have other people helping you?
Thanks a lot Adam, I really appreciate that! It’s just me. I’ve been tinkering with music for the past ten years or so (I’m 22 now). The soundtrack in OTHER is inspired by the sounds of early game consoles and home computers, particularly the NES with extra FM channels (akin to Konami’s VRC7 mapper). It’s written in FL Studio with mostly free assets (various Genesis/Mega Drive samples for percussion, 3xOsc, Medusa 2, and Genny for those interested). I’ve always had a fondness for early audio hardware, and the soundtrack for OTHER is a great place to express my passion.
That’s incredible! I look forward to hearing more. What kind of theme or tone are you aiming for with the music in OTHER?
Well, my favorite game soundtracks/series tend to have music that’s either melody-driven and/or places a lot of emphasis on atmosphere. Shining Force, Castlevania Bloodlines, Cave Story, Mother 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Donkey Kong Country… the list of inspirations is too long. The gist is that I’m trying to get a nice balance of high energy and atmosphere to match the various intensities and emotions the game’s events call for. Sometimes the music invokes joy, other times sadness, or even pure rage. But overall, expect rousing tunes that make you want to explore a mysterious world and invoke a thirst for adventure.
So is there anybody else helping you in the creation of OTHER? I noticed you gave a few shoutouts to some people for the game’s visual design.
There are essentially four key people working on the project:
A very close and very old of friend of mine, Evan Butler, is my producer/supervisor for this one. Sometimes I don’t do stuff, so he screams and throws blunt objects at me until I do said stuff. It’s a very rewarding relationship and this project would definitely not be possible without him. We worked together on a documentary about game collecting, localization, and the history of Mother 1 called “Mother to Earth”. It’s due out this winter, you should check it out. There’s a really cool interview we did with Keiichi Suzuki in it that you have to see to believe. And that definitely would not have been possible without Evan. He makes things happen.
My girlfriend Kelly Kirsch is doing a lot of the character and enemy designs for the game. She’s in her senior year the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. She’s an exceptionally talented illustrator and animator, and she has been knocking it out of the proverbial park for this project. I am not biased at all.
There’s Pik, a really swell guy who’s doing a lot of the pixel art for this game. Right now, the bulk of what he’s done is realize Kelly’s artwork into sprites. You guys are going to love how expressive the monster designs and dialog portraits are. He’s worked on other great projects in the past, such as Mother 4 and Project M. This guy is an absolute beast and I’m thrilled to have him on board.
Then there’s me. I do the programming, design, music, writing, and a bit of the art.
The other artists I mentioned on Twitter are DragonDePlatino and surt. They’ve uploaded some amazing environmental art and assets onto OpenGameArt which are being used in OTHER. They aren’t part of the game’s core staff, but I wanted to thank them regardless for their amazing contributions.
It sounds like you have a solid crew helping you out. I can’t wait to see the final product of what the four of you create together! You mentioned earlier that OTHER started as a prequel to another game you’reworking on called SPUD. How strong is the connection between the two games? Will players be able to enjoy them as separate experiences, or should they check out both games to get the full experience?
SPUD takes place approximately twenty years after the events of OTHER, and features many of the same characters and locations. The connection between the two is very strong, and I definitely recommend playing both to get the full story, but they are still enjoyable and perfectly understandable on their own.
Unfortunately, SPUD is essentially on hold until OTHER is completed, since I realized I would need more money and time than I currently have to finish it accordance with my vision. Making games is my dream job, but sometimes you have pay the rent! Seeing as my next goal is to complete SPUD though, you’ll definitely be seeing more of it in the future.
SPUD is a game that seems to combine the best features of the Run and Gun genre. How different is it to work on a fast-paced game like SPUD compared to a turn-based RPG like OTHER?
Very different! SPUD is a much harder game to make than OTHER, for a few reasons.
One: an RPG battle system is basically a series of flags and checks, while SPUD’s combat is made up of a bunch of moving characters, projectiles, and enemy patterns on complex landscapes dealing with gravity and other factors. The way everything moves and interacts has to be carefully controlled in order for it to feel just right.
Two: SPUD’s in-game art direction is significantly more detailed than OTHER’s, with bigger sprites, more frames of animation, and more shading/detail on them. When you account for all the characters, enemies, and environments that require that extra attention to detail, the amount of time and costs involved rises exponentially.
Three: SPUD’s actual levels require a lot more work that OTHER’s overworld. From my experience, it’s a lot harder to make a fast-paced, intelligently designed platformer level that takes a large moveset into account than it is to make a Zelda-style dungeon. It also ties back into the art issue: in order for the higher-fidelity art style to not feel empty and bland, you need lots of props and decorations for each level type.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely love working on SPUD. But it’s a whole different beast than OTHER that requires more time and effort to get just right, at least for me. One thing that is really great about working on SPUD though is that every time the gameplay starts to feel a bit old, it’s not too hard to come up with new concepts to freshen things up. The first time I implemented the game’s strafe-lock system, I got so excited that I didn’t do anything but work for a week.
It’s good to hear you’re at least having fun with it! On a similar note, what has been the most challenging thing so far when developing a game, whether it’s OTHER, SPUD, or one of your other projects?
It definitely was working on mobile support for Super Coffee ‘n Donuts, a game I made recently that was published by Life Teen Inc. I had never made a mobile game prior to this, so I spent a decent chunk of time learning the various eccentricities of Android and iOS. While developing for Android turned out to be pretty easy, getting iOS stuff set up was a nightmare. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been for their deadline, since they wanted it ready for a Catholic youth ministry training convention. While total development time was around two months, I underestimated the amount of time that I would need during the final stretch and ended up working some serious crunch to get it done on time. It was totally my fault though, and taught me a valuable lesson about time management. I’m very happy with how the game came out regardless, and so was Life Teen.
I see you plan to launch a Kickstarter for OTHER at some point. What’s the best way to stay updated when that goes live?
Is there anything else you would like to say about either of your upcoming games?
I just want to thank everybody for their support and enthusiasm, it really means a lot. If any readers are further interested in what I work on, there’s links to my various social media outlets on my main website, https://www.chimeralabs.io/. I’ll do my best to make OTHER a game worthy of your expectations!
I would like to thank Quincy for taking the time to talk to me about his upcoming projects. I’m greatly looking forward to both of these games. If you’re interested at all, make sure to keep an eye out for OTHER‘s Kickstarter when it goes live.
Brotad is one of many music composers who has used his interest in gaming as a source of creative inspiration. This young man from Ohio has carved out a niche for himself despite the competition. With the recent release of his Animal Crossing-inspired album Solace, he has collected some of the coolest and calmest songs from the franchise and added his signature twist to them. With his style added to the artistry of everyone from fictional guitar-playing dog K.K. Slider to Animal Crossing: New Leaf composer Manaka Kataoka, this series’ music becomes even smoother.
When did you start making video game music remixes and what sparked your interest to get started?
I started with the whole video game remix thing back in 2013 but didn’t move into electronic music until fall 2016. My number one major influence was Emdasche back in 2012-13. He’s constantly changing the game up and still inspires me to this day.
What inspired you to make an album completely dedicated to Animal Crossing?
The music and atmosphere. I’ve grown up with Animal Crossing games being in and out of the forefront, and the music still brings me back to this day. There are so many amazing qualities about the series that go so unnoticed.
Furthermore, why did you title the album: “Solace”?
To represent the kind of game Animal Crossing is, but also because of the style of music I show off in the album. To me, the things in Animal Crossing — the rain, the night skies, the beautiful atmosphere — are all things that help me achieve solace. I hope to give someone their solace through this album.
Is Brotad a character who represents you in the world of Animal Crossing like on your cover art? Or is he merely a clever Pokémon Lotad pun regarding a brotherly archetype of the derpiest pocket monster around?
Both! Another one of my musician friends called me that as a play on words of my previous alias, and I liked it so much that it fit!
You collaborated with some other notable musicians on “Solace” such as NoteBlock, InsaneintheRain, and Kamex. What was that experience like for you?
It was really cool! Kamex and I are good friends, and NoteBlock and I are buds as well, so it was really interesting to see everything come together! InsaneintheRain is someone I don’t know personally very well, but our connection was cool because it was a combination of raw love for music, and the Animal Crossing games.
If you had to describe this album to someone who had not yet listened to it, how would you describe the music and what you brought to the series’ iconic tunes?
I would describe it as soul-soothing. That was my goal, at least.
Your album is incredibly relaxing to listen to, much like Animal Crossing music originally is to begin with. But in my opinion, you’ve taken it to the next level. Was it your goal to get people to relax when listening to “Solace”? What else have you envisioned people feeling or doing while listening to your album?
Thank you so much; that means the world! It was exactly my goal to help people relax. When creating “Solace,” I envisioned people around a campfire, or inside watching the rain fall down — cozy things like that!
“11PM” from Animal Crossing: New Leaf might just be my favorite song in the series. I’m so glad you created an even chiller version of it in the form of the song “Static Leaves” on your album. What was the process like for changing that specific song and others like it?
Lots of connecting and imagery! I took some of the actual source on Static Leaves and used it (for example, the intro) to help convey my ideas. Each piece has a specific image to it, whether it be a whole scene or just a simple color (i.e Light Blue).
Speaking of favorite songs, what is your favorite song you created for “Solace”?
It has to be, well, Solace. I was feeling unsatisfied with the rest of the tracks (when I started Solace, it was my fifth track I had started to work on) in the album, and got very discouraged with my musical ability and motivation. I got inspired to create a different type of style, with less percussion, and went for it. When Solace was finished, I had this sense of euphoria, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is the kind of music I want to make.’ From there, I finished the album.
What is your favorite original Animal Crossing song?
I simply cannot choose. It’s why I had to create a whole album! I’m personally attracted to the evening/night themes, but the daytime themes are iconic as well.
An Animal Crossing game is likely headed to the Nintendo Switch sooner or later. Musically, what would you like to see them do in that game that hasn’t already been done?
I. Would. Freak. Out. Honestly, I’m not sure! It would be cool to carry the same style, but also adding a twist at the same time.
For a music producer, you are quite young. What advice do you have for fellow aspiring musicians and producers?
My biggest piece of advice is to never stop experimenting. A lot of young artists (myself included) become overwhelmed easily with DAWs [digital audio workstations] and such, and it can ruin a creative flow. Even when you’re in a low, still continue to create. I was in an eight-month break where I didn’t release anything, but the whole time I was creating still. It helps so much. A second piece of advice I have is to not worry! Of course, it’s easier said than done, but worrying will only destroy the creative flow and mindset.
In what ways can they get people to listen to their craft?
There are a few ways you can get people to listen! The first one, is to, well, put it out there! YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Clyp, anywhere! You can’t get out of the house if you stay on the floor, ya know? Another HUGE tip is to get active in communities. Join a Discord, get a Twitter, Facebook, network! I’ve made so many friends just from this. Lastly, it’s cliche, but never give up!
What do you have in mind for future projects?
I’m not really sure! I know I wouldn’t mind creating another lofi album (maybe an original lofi album even!), or something like that. I know I have a few ideas for remixes until the rest of the year, but who knows the kind of excitement 2018 will bring?!
Where can people pick up “Solace” and listen to your music otherwise?
When Super Mario Maker released in September of 2015 for the Wii U, it launched with a sense of community-driven excitement as well. I don’t mean the kind of frothing-at-the-mouth hype something like Super Smash Bros. generates, but rather, Super Mario Maker teased platformer fans with the promise that players would be able to create and share their own Mario levels. Of course, that means people would get to play those levels as well. And it was around that time that one man with a following on YouTube decided to play Mario Maker levels every weekday at 6:00 AM EST from thereon out.
Stephen Georg from StephenPlays recently hit the 500th episode milestone in his let’s play series “Morning Mario.” The 40-plus-minutelong 500th episode actually featured Stephen playing the 100 Mario Challenge on expert, but when he’s not celebrating a milestone, he plays viewer-submitted levels that are highly rated from his very own website for the series.
Not only can fans of the morning programming submit levels they have either created or played and want to see Stephen take on, but they can also rate levels after picking from randomly selected level codes to play. Stephen first started playing levels in the order they were submitted in 2015, but later he switched to playing viewer-submitted levels that were the highest rated from his legion of fans and Super Mario gamers. Through all the changes, Morning Mario has been a source of community-driven fun and entertainment for nearly two years.
“It’s been a journey.” — Stephen Georg, YouTuber and creator of Morning Mario
It all started in mid-September 2015 with a space-themed Super Mario Bros. level featuring Fox McCloud called “Away Mission.” Now, Stephen is playing levels numbering beyond 500, with the new addition of a facecam to spice up the series. Stephen decided to incorporate this new element after so many episodes because of how many times he had experienced something awesome or shocking in a level and wished his expression had been seen by viewers. This factor is unique to the Morning Mario series and little else on Stephen’s gaming channel, so he thought it would be a good fit for the continuation of Morning Mario.
“Having a facecam there for the sake of a facecam doesn’t jive well with me.”— Stephen Georg
Adding elements to the show like the facecam and evolving the viewer experience through rating levels on the Morning Mario website are not the only changes over the years. Stephen mentioned that, thanks in large part to the input from fans on the site, levels have consistently gotten better throughout the past couple hundred episodes.
When Morning Mario started, Stephen even filmed a batch of about two dozen episodes that were “not up to par” for the standards of good entertainment, so they never aired.
“Levels themselves have gotten so much more complex.” — Stephen Georg
As far as let’s plays go, surprise is prevalent and paramount in Morning Mario. The series is successful and has been for so long largely because each weekday brings something new to the computer screens of thousands of Stephen’s subscribers. The levels are brand new to Stephen as well; for the most part, he only ever fires up Mario Maker to create new episodes. If one level features Donkey Kong Country-esque barrel blasting with Shaun the Sheep and another trolls Stephen with collectibles, these levels are just as much roller coasters freshly welded up to the audience as they are to Stephen himself.
“The only thing I know is that several people really liked [a level].”— Stephen Georg
The variety in Morning Mario is remarkable. Creators in the Mario Maker community have created their own sub-genres out of the malleable 2D platforming gameplay of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U.
Levels have gotten harder for Stephen to beat (although he usually always finishes, sometimes pushing himself to set new records), especially in the past couple hundred episodes. He rarely opens up a level that has a completion rate of over 25% now.
“Sometimes I spend an embarrassingly long amount of time on a level.” — Stephen Georg
He says if it taunts him, he is going to go for it, sometimes spending lots of off-camera time trying to accomplish the sweet release of sliding down a particular flagpole as Mario. Some of the funniest and most impressive Morning Mario moments involve Stephen editing deaths together in post-production until he finally shows off a successful run on a difficult level.
“My pride is sometimes more valuable than my time.”— Stephen Georg
That being said (at least partly in jest), Stephen feels he has definitely gotten better at playing 2D Mario. He actually wonders though if going back to the original Mario games would be difficult since Mario Maker features the original gameplay of 2D Mario, just “on steroids” instead.
Very rarely does a level sneak through Stephen’s system that doesn’t deserve it. Troll levels have largely been filtered out of the Morning Mario playlist, but one notably appeared at the end of Stephen’s 100 Mario Challenge run during his 500th episode of the series. This particular level (which can be watched below) was seemingly unbeatable and ended his 100 Mario Challenge run. Unbeknownst to Stephen at the time, there was a secret, unseen warp pipe that led to a propeller mushroom that would equip Mario with enough flight to finish the level. Stephen actually only found out about the way to beat the level from fans who showed him the way on Twitter.
Infrequent poorly made levels aside, nothing seems to be slowing down the success of Morning Mario. However, one potential downer in a couple months from now could be the shutdown of Miiverse, the Wii U/3DS social media platform that has allowed players to comment within levels and share level IDs in Mario Maker.
“There’s been times at the end of a level where I picked funny comments out. It will be kind of sad to see it go.”— Stephen Georg
One thing Stephen thinks could jumpstart the series in the future would be a Nintendo Switch sequel or, more likely, a port of the original game. New features including being able to categorize levels further and rating levels within the game beyond giving them a star could put more exciting levels on the fast track to being played by Stephen and enjoyed by his viewers.
At points, Stephen thought it might be time to transition to another game that would allow for player-created and viewer-submitted levels for his 6:00 AM EST slot for weekdays. That being said, he never thought of another potential game that would allow for such ease of creating and sharing levels. Also, no single game series is as popular as Super Mario.
“In the realm of games that support level creation and sharing, there has never been a game like Mario Maker. ” — Stephen Georg
Fans of Morning Mario have a lot to like. They may like the game itself; they may enjoy watching Stephen play video games; or perhaps they enjoy the level design aspect and seeing something new every day Monday through Friday. Stephen also has a theory that a large chunk of his audience for the show is kids who grew up playing and building with LEGOs.
“[Morning Mario] is actually a really good source of inspiration for people who want to design levels. I think the channel and [Morning Mario] has become a haven for people who like Super Mario Maker.” — Stephen Georg
Stephen’s content seems to be a haven for a lot of people to unwind with some of their favorite games, not just Mario. On StephenPlays, he and his wife Mallory Georg play video games ranging from Telltale’s The Walking Dead to Halo, just to name a couple. He also vlogs daily on his secondary channel StephenVlog, and Mal uses her artistic talent to create video game-inspired paintings on her channel MalMakes. A power couple with a lot of work on their minds at all times, Stephen and Mal are glad what they do is a source of fun for both themselves and the communities their channels have created.
Stephen said the goal of the house is to “make good things and make lots of them.” That certainly seems to have been the objective of Morning Mario, and after hundreds of episodes, thousands of levels submitted, tens of thousands of comments of praise or gratitude, and hundreds of thousands of views, a huge part of the Mario Maker community is alive and well in the hands of Stephen Georg.
At E3, Gamnesia had the opportunity to sit down and discuss Total War: Warhammer 2 (or as fans rightly call it, “Total Warhammer 2”) with Game Director Ian Roxburgh. Following the success of the first Total War: Warhammer game, which merged the Total War gameplay with Games Workshop’s popular (and also dead) Warhammer Fantasy universe, what will Creative Assembly do to make the sequel even better, and what role does things like fan feedback and DLC play in that process?
Note: This interview contains many references to the first game, as well as the Warhammer Fantasy miniature game.
Two years ago I had an interview with Al Bickham at Gamescom, and back then there was talk of a trilogy: You’ve already done the Old World with four starting races and a bunch more that got added, and now there’s the second game taking place in the New World with four more races, only three that have been revealed so far...
I think it’ll remain that way, I can assure you.
So is there still gonna be a third game?
Then, if we do the maths, you’re running out of races for the third game. If we count the DLC races and assuming there’s going to be four in Warhammer 2—you only have three races left: You have Ogres, Tomb Kings and Daemons. Am I forgetting any?
From the official army books… yeah, I can’t think of any others, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all going to be official races.
So are we gonna be seeing perhaps minor factions or…
*laughs* He’s a genius this man, isn’t he? Sucked me right into this one, hasn’t he? Carry on.
Or are we going to see factions that have never received an army book such as Araby or Nippon…factions that we know exist because they’re in the fluff but have never been playable on tabletop? Or could we be looking at minor factions like Kislev? If you’re not gonna do major army book things, what’s it gonna be? Now that I ask the question, I realize that you’re probably not gonna give me an answer.
Haha yeah, we’re not here to talk about the third game yet, but you’re right. There are main army book race, and we will definitely cover all of them throughout the trilogy. And there are other races that aren’t necessarily full army books in 8th edition of Warhammer that we will use in the full playable sense. As to what they will be, obviously that’s not something we’re going to talk about yet. But right from the beginning we designed the series to be a trilogy. So we always had this blueprint of how we’d distribute the content and while we could be a bit flexible as we go along, ultimately we had this plan of how it’d work and what would fit sensibly into each game.
That is very exciting. Now, a question about the blueprint: I first imagined that it would be three games with roughly five races in each. But you released a bunch of DLC races for the first game (Bretonnia, Wood Elves, Beastmen, Warriors of Chaos). Was that always the plan to release that much content?
Yes. As I said, the blueprint was laid out before we really did any detailed design on Warhammer 1. We haven’t narrowed down exactly how we’re going to do Warhammer 3, but there’s been a plan that’s always existed that we haven’t deviated from yet. Now, at the moment we’re focusing on Warhammer 2 and we haven’t felt the need to re-examine that blueprint because everything that we’ve done so far, the fans have really responded well to. For example, we knew that we wanted to do Bretonnia as a Free-LC. That was something that was always in the plans.
I’m not saying we won’t deviate from that blueprint in the future for whatever reason, but so far it’s been working out according to plan and it’s been great, and we really had to plan out the the entire scope of the project very thoroughly, way ahead of time. So… so far it’s been going according to plan and I’m not going to tell you what’s coming out next, haha.
*laughs* Fair enough. I want to ask you about the community and the feedback that you’ve been getting. What sort of feedback have you gotten from the first game that you’ve taken into account for the second game and what areas have you improved on from the first game due to community feedback?
To be honest, we respond to all of the feedback we get. Whether it’s vocally out to the community or not, we are always aware of what’s going on and we have a community team that feed into the dev team, and the dev team put themselves out there as well; so we’re always acknowledging what the fans are saying because the fans are essential to us, for obvious reasons. We never want to feel separated from our fan base because we’re making games for our fans to play. One high-profile example is the Warriors of Chaos DLC that we announced. It was received really badly and we didn’t expect that, and because of how that was received we realized that this was a mistake and that’s not something that we’re going to do again.
We also look at features. For example, some positive feedback we received not just from fans, but from the press as well, was something that was kind of a risk in Warhammer 1, which is the difference between the races. For instance, Vampire Counts don’t have any missile weapons. In a Total War history game we would have delved deeper into history books to find some examples of this faction using bowmen or whatever, because in the game they needed some archers for balancing purposes. But that’s not what the Warhammer IP is. We want to embrace that, but then we knew that we had to put a lot more time and effort into those systems because that will be harder to balance. It paid off, though, because universally that was one of the most popular parts of Warhammer 1, and that will be felt even more so in Warhammer 2, where we really go to town with the differences between these races, way beyond the unit rosters and how they play on the battlefield. Campaign mechanics that determine how you play the campaign will be different for each race so that separation of races is something that Warhammer 2 has in spadeloads.
We also have some longer-term feedback that’s not necessarily something specific to Warhammer 1, but something that’s more of a general issue for a turn-based Empire building game and it’s this situation where you’re halfway through a campaign, you own most of the map… and you think: I’m not even going to bother finishing. I’m going to start a new campaign where it’s more fun and challenging. And we just wanted to hit that on the head and do something about this. So in Warhammer 2 we brought in the Vortex that you have seen in the trailers and heard of in other interviews, and the idea here is that even if you own half of the map and you have massive armies, you’re still going to feel challenged; you’re still going to feel an itch that says, “hey, I could still lose this if I’m not careful.” And visually, you see all the other races of the game pushing towards controlling the Vortex and while you can ignore it and just win the normal way…
It’s going to be a factor.
It is going to be a factor.
I don’t want to give too much away about how the Vortex works exactly, but the gist of it is that you have five stages to it, five rituals that you have to cast. You don’t have to do them all at once. How you engage with the Vortex is up to you. We did some early focus tests with fans, and they would get to the point where they play the campaign and then they said, “actually, as much as we love the Warhammer 1 campaign, we kind of don’t want to go back to that now” because the existence of the vortex gives that extra feeling in your head while you’re playing that I mentioned before. It’s better for the longer-term goal as well as it’s feeding into a more comprehensive narrative for each race. So we’ve done all these things with Warhammer 2 because it was so well received from our focus tests and from Warhammer 1. I’m trying to think of a feature that wasn’t received very well but…
For me, personally, the biggest flaw of the first game was something pretty small but very important: end campaign cutscenes. In the beginning when you start up the campaign you got a cool cutscene with the old man who’s going to see Carl Franz or maybe he’s going to the Orcs, feeling a bit uncomfortable, etc. Those cutscenes were pretty cool. Then you have the mid-game cutscene with the big invasion of chaos with Archaon standing there, menacingly — that was really cool. But then when I beat the campaign after all the hard work I get a little… information box; it doesn’t even say “congratulations”…Of the previous games, the one I remember most fondly was Medieval 2 where at the end I’m sitting there on my throne and I’m the king of the world, and there’s a parade in my honor and you really get the feeling of accomplishment. That was missing for me, and I feel that’s also part of the issue you mentioned before where you get into this mode of owning half of the game and you’re steamrolling everyone, and at that point you’re thinking, “Okay, I could beat the Dwarfs for the long campaign victory, but am I going to see some cool cutscene of Manfred drinking someone’s blood, ruling the Empire and relishing in his ego? Well, no. So what’s the point?”
So that’s another reason you wouldn’t bother finishing a campaign?
Exactly! Like you said, then I might as well go back and start a new campaign. For me, that was a big one. I would like to know what the Warhammer world would like if the Orcs smashed the Empire to bits or the Wood Elves conquered all of the Old World. It’d be very interesting to see, especially if you’re interested in the fluff.
Yes, I know. When you are looking across a project like this and the massive undertaking of it all, you always have to marry up how much effort you can put into the gameplay and balancing the mechanics and all of that, and at some point you can’t do everything; and for Warhammer 1, one of the things that was cut was the end movies and yes, we would have loved to do them. We would have loved to do millions of things. But we do have those in Warhammer 2.
That is excellent news. And I hear you about the undertaking of the project. I think that everyone can see the effort that you have put into the first game. For instance, as the Orcs I hated fighting against the dwarfs. Because they never flee! So they have like two guys remaining in their units and I’m surrounding them with 100 black orcs and they’re just like “nah, we’ve got this, guys.”
But it fits, and out of that almost frustration, if you like it makes you think differently about how to deal with it.
Yes, it’s frustrating, but it’s positive frustration; it doesn’t feel unfair.
And it makes you think about an alternative way to deal with them and that’s something that’s going to be even moreso present in Warhammer 2. So you might have an army that you’ve made and that you’re happy with. One that works well against one type of army but then suddenly you have to fight a High Elf Army—for instance—and it’s not working the same way. You don’t usually get that in Total War, where you usually have your army that can beat everyone up. With Warhammer—in particular Warhammer 2—the races are so different, and that normal tactic you used before doesn’t work anymore, and you might have to rethink your tactics and you might even have to create another style of army to deal with a particular race. As long as you can see that it has a role and that you can see a possible solution, that’s a very positive thing.
I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the first game, and the second one has the Lizardmen in particular that, from the demo, seem to play very differently from others races. I mean, elves… they’re almost human...
In terms that they have similar army composure. They have their infantry blocks, war machines, cavalry etc. But the Lizardmen are quite different because some of their infantry are almost on par with cavalry: they can run pretty fast, they can hit pretty hard… and they’re terrifying also.
Oh yes. I’ve seen some of the animations you’ve put out and it looks like you’ve had a lot of fun putting those together.
It’s been very fun, but it’s also been challenging for the whole team. The art department and animators in particular. Sometimes they come in and say, “I’ve worked on Total War for 11 years and I’ve been drawing a variety of humans with swords or spears, and suddenly they’re doing a dragon and other creatures with crazy animations”. There’s a spring in the step of everyone in the office where they have all loved making history games, but suddenly they’re doing something different that challenges them and inspires them and it’s been an absolute pleasure to us. Games Workshop has been absolutely brilliant as well. They are very passionate about their IP so they’re similar in a way to us as a company (and they’re based in England as well). We have a lot of respect for what they do so we’ve all been on the same page from the beginning. We want to do their cool IP in our game and we want to do the IP justice. And they said that they want their IP to be a Total War game, so there’s been no friction or anything like that. Everyone’s been on the same page in order to make [it so] Warhammer world come to life in a Total War game. It’s been real good fun as well as hard work.
Have you seen that pay off both in terms of fan feedback and in terms of sales?
Yes, fan feedback has been very positive. Even the hardcore history fans that we kind of thought some of them might hate this game have come onboard a lot more than we thought they would, because they appreciate the mechanics and it still plays like a Total War game. You just have more tools to play with. And financially, it’s been the most successful Total War game ever made, so obviously a commercial success and the DLC has been successful as well. There’s always gonna be a bit of backlash from people who dislike DLC… and you, as someone who writes for the fans, understand that, and we at Creative Assembly understand that as well. But the sentiment from the fanbase was: “Please make more DLC beacause we want it.” That is what enables us to do as much we are doing for the next game and the whole trilogy. We released Bretonnia for free, and that was at massive cost, but we can give back. Likewise, the combined campaign map that we are releasing after Warhammer 2 is completely free, and imagine the amount of work that goes into combining two games and all the content. But we can give back to fans and we want to.
So let’s clarify the general sentiment that you probably heard before when it comes to preorders and DLC (and you mentioned the Chaos DLC that wasn’t received). I think that over the past five years or so, a lot of gamers have preordered the games that they look forward to just to get really disappointed on release day. And I know that Creative Assembly has had some trouble with releases in the past. There’s a bunch of glitches, there’s people dying on the stairs and when this becomes commonplace in the industry, people feel like they don’t have the confidence to preorder games anymore because they know that half of them are going to be the broken or subpar or they’re going to be patched on day one.
Then, couple that with day one DLC. Then you get the feeling that’s it a gamble, almost. “Should I put in money for a pre-order and save money for the DLC? But what if the game is unplayable on release?” And it comes across as a cheap way of selling. People who are generally interested in games are prepared to pay for good content. It’s just that they have to feel that sense of security and trust. They need to know what they’re getting, that’s really important.
And a big part of the whole project was, from the beginning, to make a fundamental project pillar to actually guarantee that we release solid and stable games that we don’t have to patch. You might have followed that whole Rome 2 thing. That hurt. It hurts us as developers but also as a company. Because we want to release high-quality content on day one because that’s what we live for, that’s what we’re passionate about, and obviously for Warhammer 1 it was not only the case of just realizing the Warhammer IP. It was also to reestablish with our fans that we are committed to releasing quality on day one, and it was very relieving that it was accepted as such that it was a solid game on release. Having said that, even beyond with our DLC, we’re still evolving our game and putting new content in, so it’s not a fire and forget kind of thing. The trilogy means we can keep that up.
I think a lot of people are forgiving and they like to be addressed. You mention Rome 2 for example. Just coming out and acknowledging that you hear the concerns and you’re going to work on it—that builds confidence.
It’s important to note that there might be times where we see a thread that’s raising a complaint about something and people wonder, “Do they even care?” We do. We have a community of eight people that report back every week. We may not all post but we are always aware of what’s going on. That doesn’t mean we do what the people in that forum think is the best solution, but we do listen. We always ask people internally what they think. We ask the forums what they think and we also look at metrics. It all feeds into the decision-making process, and it’s important that we don’t lose track of the fact that we make games for other people to enjoy, not just ourselves. Luckily, a lot of us are fans, so we’re kind of one of you guys as well and we’re playing the game at home, and when we see something, we’re thinking ,”this is something I have to change.”
I wanted to jump back to something you said earlier about the Vortex. You have the Vortex that adds some more story in the campaign, but then you also have the combined campaign map. Is the Vortex going to play a role in the combined campaign?
No, the campaign will be an absolute sandbox. It will have all the other new features other than the Vortex. So you will get the armies, their individual mechanics, the characters, the treasure hunting, etc. And we will have a brush up on all the existing races from Warhammer 1 as well, but the Vortex is very much about the Warhammer 2 campaign. It should also be said that the combined campaign is not exactly A+B, it’s a morphing of the two. It is bigger and it combines two land masses, but technically it’s a separate map. So it doesn’t have every little region, but overall it has way more regions than any other map. And like I said, apart from the Vortex, all the content is present in that combined campaign.
For new players, strategy games can be a bit difficult to jump into. Is that something you’ve looked at?
It’s a big part of what we started with Warhammer 1 and we’re doing it even more with Warhammer 2. We understand that there are a lot of people out there that are coming in new to the franchise through Warhammer because of the fancy content, so to speak. It’s a difficult issue to tackle because ultimately the essence of Total War is, what the people like you will appreciate—and what most of our hardcore fans look forward to—is the breadth and the complexity—not complication because that’s a bad thing, but complexity—of a Total War game is a big part of what makes it great to play, and it’s what makes people like me who’ve played the series for 15 years still play it till two in the morning even though I should be fed up with it (and sleeping) because there’s so much you can do. But to get people to that stage from not knowing anything is a really hard thing to do because we don’t want to dumb down what it is that makes Total War awesome. So what we’re doing in Warhammer 2 is trying to improve how we explain how you’re engaging with the units and what they do. This also goes for the campaign map, explaining what your goals are and what the features mean. So that whole onboarding process is refined. So in the campaign, your first few battles will be a lot more introductional. And you’ll go in there and they’ll lay it all out for you. That is, if you choose the main lords with their own story. We tried doing something a bit more with Warhammer 1 where we instruct you but also leave you to sandbox as you choose which worked well with focus testing. But when people choose that prelude mode—just for the first bit—we need to be a bit more hand-holdy, exactly because we realize now just how difficult it is for people who haven’t played these games before. I mean, for someone who’s played Total War before—even though Warhammer is a very unique Total War game in the series—you know the basics and you know what to expect out of the fundamental gameplay.
So would you say that for someone who’s played perhaps historical Total War games and looked at Warhammer 1 and said, “Hey, it looks cool but it looks a bit crazy and maybe not my thing“… is the sequel gonna be the game to jump into?
Yes. That’s what we’re aiming for, and that’s something we identified within the project. Like I said, we did focus group testing and you’ll certainly see a lot of changes from Warhammer 1, and that’s our attempt to do that. No one’s ever going to pretend that that’s gonna be perfect, because it’s very hard in a game like Total War because you jump into the campaign map and there’s a lot of concepts to talk about. But we put a lot of effort into it and we’re aware that it’s something we’re gonna have to keep refining. So yes, I’d say—definitely—Warhammer 2 is the best one to jump into and is more user friendly and newbie-friendly than any total war game we’ve ever made. But at the same time we will always continue to evolve that side of it. We appreciate that it’s a deep game and there’s a lot of meaty goodness in there but there’s a steep learning curve and we’ll keep reducing that as we go along.
Well, thanks a lot for your time and we hope to see you again at Gamescom this August.
Yep, we’ll be there.
And I heard that you might be announcing some cool stuff around that time…
Ooh… we might be… Haha, well I can’t say anything. I’ve had a lot of people trying to drag information out of me but you’ve been closer than anyone to getting it, I think.
*laughs* I’ll take that as a compliment. And thank you once again.
And thank you for reading our interviews! We’ll do our best to get a follow-up interview with Creative Assembly in August. If you have any questions you’d like to see asked by then, be sure to leave a comment below.
We’re only on the cusp of summer, but if you’re anything like me, you’re already over this heat. You can always go to a pool to cool off, but I’ve always thought that water gun battles were more fun. It seems like XSEED Games is thinking along those same lines, as it’s bringing a new Senran Kagura game to the West this summer.
Entitled Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash, the game features a cast of 33 of the Senran Kagura girls as they team up in a 5-on-5 “third person splasher.” Using a variety of water guns and abilities, you and your team must take your aim to squirt your competition with water, all the while staying dry yourself. Do enough damage to your enemies and they’ll fall to the ground, at which point you can pull out a rubber duck and fire on them with precision aim. Target a specific area enough and their swimsuit might even fall off (this is a Senran Kagura game, after all).
I recently had an opportunity to sit down with series producer Kenichiro Takaki at E3 to discuss the Senran Kagura franchise, Peach Beach Splash, and more:
For our readers, would you mind introducing yourself?
“My name is [Kenichiro] Takaki. I’m a producer at Marvelous. I made various series from Senran Kagura to Valkyrie Drive. I’ve also done Half Minute Hero as well.”
Talking about Senran Kagura, the franchise as a whole is known for its busty female characters and copious amounts of fanservice, which tends to be a sensitive subject for a lot of people. What led you to design a game around this idea?
“I always love games that have a lot of fanservice and there are a ton of games that are pervy, but I also wanted a game that’s fun to play. That’s why I wanted to create a game like Senran Kagura.”
Have you faced any specific challenges over the years as a result of having this content in the Kagura franchise?
“Japan wasn’t that much of an issue but as it progressed out of Japan, there are some that say ‘This might be a little too much,’ or ‘You can’t do that.’ At first, we were wondering if we should keep going, but thanks to the Kagura fans overseas, I think they might have saved us.”
Often games will have a specific aspect to them that makes them special and helps them stand out. For instance, Call of Duty is known for its multiplayer, Persona has really strong, relatable characters, etc. Do you think it’s the fanservice of Senran Kagura that keeps fan coming back, or is there something else in there that really makes it unique?
“For every character, there’s also fanservice, but we try to make every character charming. We make sure that we take care of that, that we don’t break that. Also, we want to make a game that’s not hard to play and that’s as easy as possible to understand.”
About your upcoming game, Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash, it’s a massive shift for the series in terms of genre. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to do something different, and why did you choose to go with a shooter over something else?
“I always wanted to make a game that involved girls shooting each other with water guns. Since we shifted from the Vita to the PS4, I decided to do so. Also, the market is increasing; the overseas market for Senran Kagura has increased, the fans have increased… so I decided on a shooter because it’s such a popular genre—the TPS [third-person shooter] genre—overseas.”
When I first saw Peach Beach Splash, and when I was playing on the show floor, I personally got a major Splatoon vibe from it. Were there any particular games you had in mind when designing it?
“Splatoon is more about painting the ground and the walls, not each other, so I would say I was drawing from Star Wars Battlefront. I also enjoy playing Overwatch.”
We talked a little earlier about the differing markets and how the sexual content of these games could turn people off. Were there any particular difficulties in localizing Peach Beach Splash?
“When it comes to localizing, we try to be careful about cleavage and other sexual content because it’s getting more strict overseas. I’m only doing the translation and I’m not super into the marketing part, so I can’t really say too much about it. I write the script and my editors will fix the content to fit the Western market as much as possible.”
Switching gears here a little bit, a few months ago, you announced Shinobi Refle for the Nintendo Switch. What has it been like working with Nintendo again to create this project?
“Nintendo of Japan actually came to me and said that they wanted something like my title to be on there and also, I wanted to put something on Switch as well, so we both agreed to do it. I’m also curious about the HD Rumble feature, so I’m happily making it.”
How are you taking advantage of the features of the Switch? You mentioned HD Rumble, and I know that was a large part of the presentation. Are there any other features that you’re really trying to take full advantage of?
“I can’t say too much as it’s a secret, but I wanted to showcase the softness with the HD Rumble as well as some of the other things that can be done within the Senran Kagura series.”
What ideas do you have for the future of the series that you haven’t been able to incorporate into the games yet? What can we expect from you in the next few years?
“One concept is when you’re running and sometimes your underwear gets creased, I’d like to showcase that in a game one day. [Outside of Senran Kagura,] I would like to make more titles that aren’t all fanservice, that are more serious.”
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
“Even though it [Peach Beach Splash] is a different genre, I’d like everyone to play it. Even if you know Senran Kagura, but never played it, it’s a third-person shooter, so at least give it a try. My team tried to make a game that’s polished and fun to play, so if you can give it a try and get a hold of it, we’d be greatly grateful.”
I also got a chance to play Peach Beach Splash on the show floor and I had a blast with it, silly as it is. It’s fun and fast-paced with a touch of strategy and a ton of customization. I certainly can’t wait to cool off with Peach Beach Splash when it launches for the PlayStation 4 later this summer.
Just about anyone who is familiar with developer Rare’s music knows the name David Wise. He is the prolific composer who has crafted famous tracks such as Aquatic Ambience and Stickerbrush Symphony for the Donkey Kong Country series and sprinkled his unique flair for a variety of styles in subsequent Rare games including Diddy Kong Racing and Star Fox Adventures.
I was able to chat over email with David about some of his inspirations and how he worked on his most recent project: Snake Pass for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
You’re usually known for working with Nintendo and its affiliated parties such as Retro Studios, Rare, and many of the same developers from that company at Playtonic Games. So how did you get in touch with Sumo Digital to make the music for Snake Pass? Did they come to you? And if so, did you have to work on Yooka-Laylee and Snake Pass simultaneously?
I only had a few tracks to do for Yooka-Laylee, so the bulk of my work was finished around a year before [its] release. It was Sumo who originally got in touch with me. Seb Liese, the main programmer who came up with the concept for [Snake Pass], happened to be a fan of the Donkey Kong Country series and, fortunately, the music that accompanies it.
What has been your inspiration for your music recently? I ask this because I sense a lot of the Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze kind of vibe in Snake Pass‘s soundtrack, especially with the flutes and breezy sounds of each world.
The brief for Snake Pass was for an Aztec/Native American feel. This involves a lot of organic instruments. So I directed most of my composition to use flutes, bamboo marimbas and shakers along with acoustic guitar. I also gave a nod to a previous Rare title called Snake Rattle and Roll, which was based on 50s rock and roll. However, when it came to the final production phase, I also had Richard Lewis work alongside me to arrange and mix the tracks. He also played some of the guitar parts for me too.
Did Cyn Derr’s Realm [from Snake Pass] recall flashbacks of Scorch ‘N’ Torch [from Tropical Freeze] for you? And in the same sense, did Aquatic Ambience and other underwater tracks of yours come to mind to influence the soundtrack for Sog-Gee’s Realm [Snake Pass]? Even Bloh Wee’s Realm makes me think of your more ethereal work, including Stickerbrush Symphony.
You’ll have to excuse my ignorance, but the track names are usually given after I’ve finished the compositions. This has always been the case. I think there are certain elements and styles, as composers, we bring to our work to evoke the feel we are trying to achieve.
What is your personal favorite song you composed for Snake Pass and why?
I think my favorite is the earth level [Bol-Dor’s Realm] – as this was the original inspiration for the game – using the organic instruments made from wood, bamboo and [animal] skin.
What was your process for making a song for the game? Did they allow you to play with Noodle and explore areas, or did music come first? Do you visit different places to brainstorm or do you tinker in the studio until something feels right?
I played the game to get a feel for the rhythm of the movement. After that, I like to have videos of the gameplay running as I’m making the music.
What is your favorite song you have ever composed? Do you have a favorite total soundtrack?
My favorite changes all of the time, and in all honesty, it is usually the soundtrack I’m working on at that particular time.
How does it feel to be seen as somewhat of a legend in the gaming community? Your name is often one of the first to come up when people talk about fantastic video game music.
The gaming community as a whole are a great bunch of people who are incredibly passionate about their art and their gaming. I feel very blessed to work alongside many talented artists and to be held in high regard, which in turn, gives me the opportunity to carry on making music for such great products. I’m very thankful to be able to do what I love.
You probably can’t say, but can you give us any hints as to what your next project[s] may be? If there were to be a sixth Donkey Kong Country game, would you want to compose the music for it?
You’re right; I can’t say what I’m working on. I wouldn’t want to dilute the element of surprise for when a game is announced, which I still find are very magical moments for developers and gamers alike.
What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music? Is it a range of emotions no matter what, or is your focus having the gamer feel more connected to the game they’re playing?
In all honesty, I really don’t overthink things. As music and gaming are such personal experiences, I’m happy to enjoy the experience of developing music I think should work with a game, and hopefully this will translate to the player’s experience.
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians or other artists?
My advice would be to listen and learn and present your music in a very presentable and polished format. At that point, you need to connect and communicate with game developers, designers and artists. I would try and find a young company who are at a similar level who could really benefit from your skill set.
We at Gamnesia thank David Wise for the interview! You can learn more about David’s work at his website, and you can grab Snake Pass on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Yooka-Laylee is also out for those the majority of those platforms, and it is also slated for release on the Nintendo Switch.
Super Smash Bros. is a series of games that were made with the local couch competitor or party game scene in mind, but over time, it has largely been played by more competitive players. The newest title, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, has had a competitive community since its release in late 2014. There are many resources out there for competitive players and spectators alike, but getting to your desired resources can require the user to manually sort through players, characters, and stages. This can be a tedious process.
SSBWorld, a website created by a team of two, aims to make it easier to connect all of these elements into an easy-to-use interface for finding videos of competitive Super Smash Bros. matches. Today, I got the opportunity to speak with Anthony Nelson, the face of SSBWorld, about how the website works and what sets it apart from the rest.
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I live in Fargo, ND. I work as a Digital Marketing Consultant and have been a huge Nintendo fan my whole life. I bought Smash 4 when it was first released. It was my first time playing any game in the Smash series. I absolutely fell in love with the game. After playing around on For Glory mode online, I realized I was really bad at the game. I figured out that there has been people playing this game competitively for 10+ years and that I had a ton of catching up to do. I became a fan of watching tournaments on Twitch and following the top players.
In my attempts to become good, I realized I wasn’t happy with the existing Smash resources on the web. There was YouTube videos, reddit threads, random Google Docs, tweeted out images, etc. Everything was scattered.
Is that where your inspiration to make SSBWorld began?
Yeah, exactly. I definitely built the site that I wanted to exist. I felt like the site would appeal to the more casual fan or player that wanted to get better as well as the top level players as well.
I want to clarify when I say “I built” that it wasn’t just me. It was a team of two people, me and my buddy Alex. Alex handles all coding and development. I make all the plans and basically tell him what to do. I handle all marketing as well.
Oh, I see. That’s still impressive for a two-man job, though.
Thank you. Since it’s a side project type of thing, it definitely took us a long time. We worked on it for about 7 or 8 months I think before we finally decided to “launch” it to the public.
Can you tell me a little about what the website offers for those who might not be familiar with competitive Smash?
Yes, absolutely. Right now, the site primarily functions as a database for Smash players and matchups. We want to make it very easy for someone to find videos that feature their favorite character (example: Donkey Kong) or their favorite competitive player (example: ZeRo) or their favorite matchup (example: Donkey Kong vs Mario). We accomplish this by requiring all the information in each YouTube video to be manually entered on our site. Users can submit a video, and then they have to label the players, stages fought on, characters used and the winner of each game. This manual process is what allows us to provide unique data and advanced search functionality that a site like YouTube cannot.
Every competitive Smash player can have their own profile on our site. It’s a spot to showcase all of their tourney videos as well as the characters they use, links to their social media profiles and some stats on their game records.
This helps players out because typically your videos will be scattered across multiple YouTube channels, dependent on who hosted and streamed each tournament. A big goal of our site is to bring things together in a way that is easy to find and navigate.
That’s really cool. I imagine this will be very useful for competitive players and watchers alike. Is there already a community built, or is it still too early?
In order to show potential of the platform, we uploaded and recorded the data for about 2,800 videos. Sort of “pre-loaded” the database to make the site look interesting and valuable at the time of launch. We revealed the site publicly on February 10th. Since that time, we have had over 2,500 users create accounts on our site and these users have uploaded nearly 12,000 videos to our site. We’ve had amazing feedback from top players as well as Smash coaches who help top players out.
Our users are primarily comprised of these competitive Smash players, with many of the top ranked Smash players in the world already having joined our site. When a big tournament’s bracket comes out, these players can use our site to look up the players in their side of the bracket. Learn what characters these players use and then watch some videos of their games.
I asked Anthony if that was a good way for players to get an edge on their competition and he showed me a tweet from one of the competitors that uses his site.
When a player invests their time and money to travel to a tournament, it makes sense to prepare as much as possible in hopes to get an edge against their competition. A Smash set can come down to a single good read or hit. Every bit of preparation can help.
With that, I wrapped up the interview by asking him about the future of SSBWorld.
I’ve seen how intense these matches can get, so that seems like an invaluable resource. What plans do you have for the future of the site?
Right now we are pretty much just a video database, but ultimately we plan on making it a bit more of a community site. We have many top players on the site, and we want to give them the ability to make content that lives on their profiles. We want to allow users to follow other players and get notified when they are tagged in a new video or publish a piece of content. Our entire site is user generated content and we plan on keeping it that way.
Society loves a scapegoat, and all too often it’s gaming that cops the blame. The violent nature of video games comes under scrutiny in the wake of tragic shootings, while the rise in mental health issues is, at times, attributed to the increased prevalence of gaming. The concern is for an alleged generation of isolated and introverted youth, lacking in social development due to hours spent in virtual worlds.
Some argue that in many cases gaming is responsible for common mental health conditions including social anxiety and depression, born out of dissatisfaction with the real world in comparison to the virtual space. A similar phenomenon, termed “Pandoran Depression,” followed the immensely popular James Cameron film Avatar in 2009, when mundane daily life fell short of how viewers perceived the idyllic fantasy world of the film.
As a means to see how gaming and mental illness correlate in reality, I spoke with four self-professed “gamers” who have also been diagnosed with mental health disorders. Despite their fears of stigma, Lucy, David, Paul, and Erin* bravely opened up to me about how gaming has impacted their struggle with mental illness, for better and for worse.
Now a young woman, Lucy has struggled with social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder since her teenage years. Her life is drastically limited by her apprehension of social encounters and her fear of crowds. Over the past few months, however, the worldwide craze of Pokémon GO has had a big impact on her social life.
“Other than work I don’t really go out much and I definitely don’t speak to people unless I have to. At first I started playing Pokémon Go just along the creek by my house, and at a nature reserve. But it wasn’t long before I started going to more crowded PokéStops or Gyms. Without even thinking about it, let alone stressing about it, I found myself in conversation with a complete stranger, laughing like we were old buddies as we showed each other our Pokédexes and gave advice on where to find ones the other hadn’t found yet.”
When I told Lucy that I hoped her newfound friendship lasted beyond having her iPhone in-hand, she smiled: “I’ve gotten a phone number and we’ve organised to go catch Pokémon together on the weekend … That said, the whole ‘Gotta catch ’em all’ thing hasn’t been good for my OCD. Or Pokémon GO-C-D, I should say.” Lucy left with a laugh.
David struggles with a relatively unknown, although dangerously under-diagnosed, condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Similarly to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, where slim people believe they are overweight, BDD is a distortion of body-image where people who appear normal to others believe that some aspect of their appearance, like a freckle or thinning hairline, is disfiguringly ugly and causes them much distress, coupled with obsessive mirror-checking behaviour.
“I’m a big fan of The Legend of Zelda, so, of course, I got Tri Force Heroes back when it came out. Understand, I was in a pretty bad frame of mind at the time. I was too disgusted by myself to even leave my house at all. I was suicidal, you know, pretty serious. When I got Tri Force Heroes, it left me in tears! It was like they were mocking me. Like they were trivialising my struggle, undermining it and turning it into one big joke.”
In Tri Force Heroes Link travels to the fashion obsessed Kingdom of Hytopia, where Princess Styla is cursed by Lady Maud to wear an irremovable plain brown jumpsuit. Distraught and in tears, Styla locks herself in her room and doesn’t leave until Link frees her from the ugly garb. To most players, the narrative of Tri Force Heroes is little more than a ridiculous afterthought woven around the core three-player gameplay concept. To David, it was emotionally disturbing.
“I know that it’s not like they made the game with malicious intent, but a little less carelessness and more thought in the story would’ve been nice! . . . Once I was over that though, then I had to keep being reminded I was ultimately playing a three-player game all by myself [sigh].”
Akin to David, Paul had been going through a rough patch of mental health, and had lost any semblance of a social circle. Gaming became Paul’s way to take his mind “off all the s**t and just get through the day,” he said. “Getting home to play Mario Kart was sometimes all I had in my life, but, it got me through.” For Paul, what became increasingly frustrating to him was just how social gaming had become, emphasizing how isolated he was.
“I was playing Bravely Default, and every time I’d boot it up there was this screen, ‘everything’s better with friends’ or something like that, promoting all the StreetPass stuff. To me it was like a daily reminder: ‘you’re a loner!’ I was like, ‘Thanks, I knew that, can I just do some grinding now in peace?'”
Yet even Paul’s story has a silver lining.
“There was a while there when I was so angry, because all these games have voice-chat or Miiverse, or some social network feature you can’t escape. I just wanted to be alone… In a twist of events though, seen I couldn’t avoid the social stuff, I eventually embraced Miiverse, and you know what, I did feel a bit better once I was talking to people online instead of avoiding everyone. It was a step forward.”
Erin is a 17-year-old student who, in recent years, has found herself feeling overwhelmingly apprehensive, fearing teachers might ask her to answer questions in class, or even worse, to give an oral report in front of everyone. “I just like blending into the background, you know? … Sometimes I’ve even pretended to be sick so I don’t have to go to school.” It’s thanks to playing the recent Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE that Erin has been able to address her social anxiety.
“I honestly didn’t know anything about anxiety or depression before playing the game. It’s not something that’s talked about. I compared myself to my friends and other people and just thought I was weird for being so shy and nervous, anti-social even. Then, in the game, there’s Tsubasa freaking out over having to shake-hands at a meet-and-great, because she had a thing called ‘social anxiety’. It was a ‘huzzuh’ moment, like ‘wow, this is actually a thing that people go through.’ I wasn’t alone.”
In Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, there’s a side-story where the protagonist Itsuki helps his friend Tsubasa overcome her social anxiety by encouraging her to approach strangers on the street and give them a flyer which invites them to attend her meet-and-greet event. This is what’s known as immersion therapy, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), where one faces the situation that causes them distress until they acclimate to it, realizing their feelings of excessive worry are unfounded, and over time they become increasingly less apprehensive.
“Seeing all of this in a game, like, the next time I was at my local doctor for something, I mentioned that I thought I might have anxiety, and from there I’ve been able to get help!”
Because of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Erin not only learned about mental health, but was diagnosed with anxiety and introduced to the therapy techniques used to combat it.
While certain aspects of Tri Force Heroes and Bravely Default were harmful blows to David and Paul’s vulnerable emotional states, the social aspects of gaming also helped Paul get back on his feet and Lucy overcome her perpetual social phobia. Without video games, Erin would likely still be suffering in silence, thinking her anxiety was just her “weirdness,” and Paul might not have had a release to take his mind off his woes.
What the stories of these four individuals reveal clearest is that nothing is as simple as black or white. There is no straight-forward correlation where situation ‘X’ always causes outcome ‘Y’, but rather, a whole plethora of biological and environmental facets in everyone’s life feeding into the state of their mental health. Gaming is merely a medium, one that can be both social and solitary, just as it can both cause harm or be a great deal of help, depending on your circumstances.
*Please note that the people interviewed for this article elected to remain anonymous and so pseudonyms were used. All stories were published with permission. Thank you again to all contributors for sharing your experiences.
When one thinks of Final Fantasy music, the first name that comes to mind is typically Nobuo Uematsu. While Uematsu certainly played an important part in bringing the music to life, there have been a handful of people who have spent years keeping this music in the spotlight. One such person is Arnie Roth, the music director and conductor for the Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy concert series. Mr. Roth has a storied history with the music of Final Fantasy, reaching back to 2005 when he conducted Dear Friends: music from Final Fantasy—the first Final Fantasy concert to take place outside of Japan. Since then, he has been working closely with Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu and Square Enix to continue this long heritage of musical performances. In 2007, Distant Worlds made its debut in Stockholm, Sweden and has continued to delight fans to this day, having been performed over 100 times across five different continents.
In addition to his work with Distant Worlds, Mr. Roth is a Grammy award-winning artist, composer, and conductor. He has conducted countless symphonies across the globe and performed with many internationally known artists including Diana Ross and Andrea Bocelli. Outside of Distant Worlds, you can also find him playing with the Mannheim Steamroller Orchestra.
I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago event on December 26th, where I was able to sit down with Mr. Roth to discuss his career and the development of the Distant Worlds concert series.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. Could you please introduce yourself and briefly discuss your roles with the concerts for our readers?
I am Arnie Roth and I’m the music director and conductor for Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy and we’re here in the lower dressing room area of the Chicago Symphony Center, where tonight, we will be performing many new scores at the Distant Worlds performance. We’re very excited about the new scores.
When did you first decide that you wanted to make a career out of music?
This is funny, because it’s kind of a long organic process that the only conscious point that I made a decision was probably at the end of high school. Before that point, people have asked me why did I start studying an instrument or music at all, and I have no idea. Somebody once said when I was seven or eight years old, there was a neighbor in our neighborhood that played violin, and that somehow that’s why I chose violin originally. I just remember starting violin and it took for whatever reason. There’s nobody in my family that’s been in music prior to me, so it just came out of the blue.
But by the time I got to the end of high school, I was, at that point, pretty serious as a concert violinist and had to make a decision between an academic career or a music career. I don’t think my mother was very happy about it, but I made a decision a couple of weeks into my senior year, saying, “You know what? I’m dropping all my AP Chemistry and Physics and Calculus and whatever.” I kinda didn’t look back after that point. I think I was both lucky and fortunate and put in a lot of hard work that I was able to make it in that career.
How did you come to be involved with Distant Worlds?
There were lots of concerts of video game music in Japan. I was music director and conductor of the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra and we were looking at programming for the following year, when a colleague of mine mentioned these video game music concerts. But there had never been any one in the States yet, and I started researching it and decided with our orchestra that we would take a chance on Dear Friends. It was February of 2005 and that was the first public concert of the music of Final Fantasy.
It was the first one and it was huge. I mean, it was sold out! It started with Dear Friends and I conducted the rest of that tour which was very short—maybe four or five other concerts around the U.S. After Dear Friends, I did More Friends, a single concert. And then they invited me to Japan to conduct Voices: more music from Final Fantasy, and that was heavily centered on vocal material and soloists. It was after that, that we entered into discussions with Square Enix and Nobuo Uematsu about the idea of a world tour where we could really bring the music of Final Fantasy to many, many areas of the world. Not just North America, of course, but Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, all kinds of areas that the music had never been performed in. That was the foundation—the idea—of Distant Worlds.
In recent years, a number of video game concerts have sprung up with great success. Performances such as Symphony of the Goddesses and Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions have done for fans of their respective franchises what Distant Worlds has done for Final Fantasy fans. One look at any of these concerts and you can’t help but notice the similarities to the other two. It’s quite possible that Distant Worlds, or even the earlier concerts, had some impact on the development of these newer concerts, according to Roth:
Well, I think initially, a lot of these concerts were based on the success of the Final Fantasy concerts—not just what we were doing, but the original series of them in Japan. The ones that launched at that point, just after us, were Video Games Live—Zelda didn’t come about until quite a bit later, kind of in conjunction with 25th anniversary festivites. But the Zelda project, or the Pokémon project, are different kinds of animals, in that these are arrangers’ fantasies based on themes by [the composers]. In Distant Worlds, we have decided to stay dedicated to the original format that Uematsu and Hamaguchi started—specific pieces that are as close as possible to the way fans heard them in the game.
So in it’s less of an arranger’s fantasy and more about the way fans heard this music. We’ve really worked hard at trying to stay in that format. And I think that some of the other ones are going the other route, which I’ve done many concerts like that—and they’re a lot of fun to do. But I have to make the main distinction, which is—these are very much, at least equal doses here, about the mind of the arranger as well as the compositions.
Final Fantasy is undoubtedly one of the best-known franchises in gaming, and the music is certainly a huge part of that. It’s one of the few cases where people who haven’t played the games still recognize a number of the songs. We don’t typically think a lot about why these songs are so popular, though there are a number of explanations for it. I believe Roth’s theory hits the nail on the head.
Now see, I think that’s one of the very unique, amazing things about the Final Fantasy franchise. If you look at a lot of the other games, there are very few where the fans are as dedicated to the music of the game as Final Fantasy—very few others. Some very big single, shooter type games, World of Warcraft, Halo, and things like that, have beautiful, heroic main themes but a lot of the gameplay music is not as distinctive all the time. It might be percussion loops and things like that that are happening.
The combination with Final Fantasy of an RPG game plus the composition style that Uematsu started when he first began, giving a separate unique theme to every character and every battle and every environment and maybe every quest, every love relationship—each one of these has its own themes. Those themes develop throughout the game and sometimes are brought back on subsequent games, so you have a new version of the same music theme. It’s that kind of concentration and tight synchronization of music with characters and with storylines and plots and things, that I think make Final Fantasy unique.
The real reason that fans are so into the music of Final Fantasy is that it took all of those factors to make it that way. You had to have a composer writing in the style. You had to have an RPG, where each of these characters have distinct characters and a plot that would embrace that kind of thing, so that each different world and environment and prong on the plot could develop musically as well.
You mentioned earlier that one of the big elements of this show is the premiere of two new songs: “Dragonsong” and “Cosmo Canyon.” What went into getting those ready?
“Dragonsong,” which is the main theme of Heavensward, the next version of Final Fantasy XIV—Nobuo Uematsu wrote this theme, and he actually wrote it with this particular vocalist in mind, Susan Calloway, who had done the original main theme, “Answers.” So when he made that decision to do this, he specifically asked that we co-produce the vocal recording session with Susan at our studio, while we were on a satellite link-up with Japan—with Nobuo—and we actually recorded the vocal that way. We decided it would be most fitting to premiere it in Chicago, when Nobuo would be there with us, and Susan was here, so it’s scheduled for tonight. So we were very involved with that one.
The other one was “Cosmo Canyon,” from Final Fantasy VII. I think that when we looked at Chicago, and had announced that we were going to try to do some special focus on the music of Final Fantasy VII, all of us—Nobuo, myself, Square Enix—we were all searching for what would be the best world premiere. It was actually Nobuo’s choice to do “Cosmo Canyon.” His team actually did this arrangement out of Japan, so it’s exciting to be able to play it tonight.
In addition to Distant Worlds, Arnie Roth has also been performing and developing another concert series, A New World: intimate music from Final Fantasy. Though it has already become quite a success in its own right, A New World has only been around for a couple of years. There are a number of differences in these concerts, allowing A New World to stand on its own.
We started [A New World] in February of 2014. The concept was that, with Distant Worlds, we have well over 100 musicians on stage. A gigantic orchestra, a big chorus, a video screen—that kind of large production cannot go into all venues and formats. First of all, it’s expensive. Second of all, it involves having enough resources, good orchestras, that can handle this music and correct venues for this. So it’s more inflexible in terms of scheduling.
We knew there were so many other locations of the world that wanted the music of Final Fantasy that have big fan bases, but we couldn’t bring the large production in all the time. We wanted to bring it down into an intimate situation where the average audience size is between, say, 450 to 900 seats. At that level, in an acoustically designed concert hall, we play chamber versions of the music of Final Fantasy for just eleven instrumentalists. You’re able to focus in on the music in a different way than the huge production, where you’re listening to groups of instruments and large mixes of voices and instruments. Here, you can focus in on the individual.
Also, we decided that the repertoire had to be—should be—as different as possible from the Distant Worlds repertoire. This is an ongoing challenge, because we have 125 scores now for Distant Worlds and we can just keep going. But choosing which pieces work well in the chamber music setting is always a challenge, so we had a fantastic time doing that.
What are your goals for the future of Distant Worlds?
I think the most amazing thing is how many years this tour is able to sustain itself and clearly, it can go on. Right now, we’re working on plans for the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy. We’re working first on the cities around the world that we want to do this at, so that we make sure we have the right venues. The next step will be starting to work on new repertoire for that.
Before you go, is there anything that I didn’t mention that you’d like to discuss?
I just want to let all the fans know how excited I am for the concert tonight. Even though Nobuo just suddenly took ill, and is not going to be physically with us, he’s waiting for my report immediately after the concert. I want fans to know how much he’s invested in the concert and he’ll be there in spirit certainly. I’m very excited. These are always the greatest concerts, the ones we do in Chicago and a couple of other key cities. These are a lot of fun for us. Basically, I want to thank the fans for all their support.
I’m sure the fans would like to thank you as well. You and your staff have been very instrumental in keeping this music alive and bringing it to the public. Final Fantasy, in some way, has had some impact on all of us as fans, and for you to be able to do this is a massive undertaking, I’m sure. We certainly appreciate it though. Thank you for your time!
If you want to learn more about either Distant Worlds or A New World, or to check and see if they’re coming to a city near you, be sure to check out their websites.
Liam Robertson, a researcher known under the name “Tamaki” for uncovering information on cancelled games, joined our latest episode of the Nintendo Week Podcast to discuss some of the many discoveries he’s made in his time investigating Nintendo. One of the subjects that came up was the rumor he broke a few months ago that Shovel Knight is joining Super Smash Bros. as a DLC fighter, and while he couldn’t say whether he personally knows whether it’s true, he did explain part of the reason he believes it’s more likely than not.
Based on information that he’s heard from sources within Nintendo and other prominent companies in the industry, he speculates that Nintendo’s Japanese headquarters is really quite fond of Shovel Knight. As he explains:
I think one of the reasons I can hold onto the Shovel Knight rumor is because it is evident that NCL does like Shovel Knight quite a lot. They pursued Yacht Club Games and said to them, ‘we want you to be the first third-party to independently produce an Amiibo.’
Colin: Did NCL approach them and say that? That was not Yacht Club’s decision?
No, [Nintendo] came after them, I believe.
I later contacted Robertson for clarification, and he said he’s heard from a source within Nintendo that Nintendo did not directly propose the Amiibo, but rather they invited Yacht Club Games to propose ways to make Shovel Knight‘s Wii U and 3DS versions stand out from Sony and Microsoft’s. One of many ideas Yacht Club proposed was a Shovel Knight Amiibo, and while Nintendo rejected a few of their early pitches for the product, they eventually settled on game features and a figurine that made everyone happy.
You can find his full thoughts from our discussion in the video above.
For more fascinating news from our time with Tamaki, you can check out the full episode, which you can find either on iTunes, or embedded directly below—this discussion begins around the 42-minute mark. You could also or subscribe to our YouTube channel, where we’ll be posting more of these discussion snippets throughout the coming week. And do be sure to stay tuned here on the site for more.
There are tons of gaming enthusiast podcasts out in the wild, but almost none of the top-tier podcasts are made specifically for Nintendo fans. That’s where we come in! We here at Gamnesia are bringing you a new episode of “Nintendo Week,” a podcast made for Nintendo fans by Nintendo fans.
This week, Alex, Ben, and Colin are joined by Liam Robertson, also known as Tamaki from Unseen64, to discuss a whole slew of subjects. Our news segment includes some recent reports about a powerful NX console, as well as Tri Force Heroes impressions, Chibi-Robo, and more. After the break we’ll touch on the rumor Tamaki reported that Shovel Knight is coming to Smash, who the Fighter Ballot characters could be, Retro Studios’ next project, and what’s happening behind-the-scenes with Metroid, Kirby, and more. This is a jam-packed episode you won’t want to miss! You can check out the episode below—or if you’d like to save it to listen later, you can check the latest episode out on iTunes, available now.
Nintendo Week is currently available on iTunes, YouTube, Podbean, and right here at Gamnesia, you have plenty of ways to access what we hope will become one of your most trusted ways to absorb information on all things Nintendo. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes for the earliest possible access to new episodes, or subscribe to our channel on YouTube for totally neato visuals. But if you’d rather not subscribe, be sure to check back here every week for your new episode!
If you’d like to give us feedback, please email me at [email protected], and we’ll do our best to improve our show! We want to give you guys the best podcast we can, so please don’t be afraid to leave suggestions. And if you have questions about Nintendo that you’d like some insight on, please send those in as well! When we have a good number of fan questions, we’ll be answering them in one big block, so we’d love to hear some of your thoughts.
At Gamescom this year, Gamnesia had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Creative Assembly Communications Manager Al Bickham about the upcoming Total War: Warhammer. The reactions from the fans have been many, and the questions have been many more. How will a series like Total War, which has previously engaged in historical campaigns, tackle a fictional realm of not only humans but Orcs, Dwarfs, Trolls and Dragons? There are many new elements to this game such as monsters, flying units, and magic. Will Creative Assembly make an amazing new kind of Total War or will this end up being a buggy cash grab? Going into this interview, my mindset was that this game really looks amazing… but so did Rome 2. So I wanted to ask the kind of questions that might answer the previous question. How much effort and enthusiasm does Creative Assembly put into this project?
Before the interview we watched a scripted demo of the game, which you can watch here. And with that out of the way, here’s the entire interview:
So Al, we just saw the presentation for Total Warhammer… and I’m gonna call it that.
The whole world wants to call it that so knock yourself out. *laughs*
From what I saw, the game is looking really good and I have a lot of questions. You talked a bit about collisions in the presentations – cavalry collisions to be precise – and how you wanted to work on them more… Now, this game uses the engine from Rome 2, right?
Well, every total war game we make is a modification of the previous one. We had a big engine re-write so after Empire for we got a nice modular system where we can plug in new graphical effects or animation systems or things like that. So it’s modular and with every total war we can develop aspects of that game relevant for that time periods or in this case we had to develop entirely new systems for spellcasting, flying creatures and also huge monstrous single units that aren’t a cluster of guys which is what we’ve had before. So we’ve had to figure out how combat plays out between say two monsters, multiple monsters or many regular units vs one monster.
So I assume for singular unit such as the spider or wyvern a lot of guys can attack them simultaneously but they have a lot of HP.
Yeah they have a shedload of hit points. The ideal situation is if you defend of one of those and – you know those kinds of beasts are terrifying creatures that cause fear or terror and will have an impact on your morale… The ideal when you’re being attacked by one of those units would be to hit them with many smaller units, counter attack with larger units or hit them with a nasty spell.
After Rome 2 you got a lot of criticism about the engine. I’ve seen some good videos highlighting for instance poor collision where soldiers don’t stick to formation and just blob up. Have you been looking at these videos and taken feedback and what are you doing to improve on combat and collision?
There’s a lot in there… Such as mass and speed affects an impact… We look at a lot of such things carefully with Warhammer. It’s also about how animations play out between individual models (individual soldiers). In Shogun II we focused a lot on matched combat animation because we wanted to get across the sense of samurai warfare between two honourable warriors, a single combat in amongst the throng. So one samurai would look around for another samurai that wasn’t engaged and almost challenge him to a duel. And then you’d see those guys play out these beautiful motion captured combat animations. With Warhammer we want to create more of a sense of a throng so we rely a lot less on matched animations but we still have them such as the Wyvern or the Giant. We have one for the Giant which we didn’t get to see unfortunately where the Giant just yells at them and the sound and breath of the Giant knocks soldiers over.
But to answer your question a bit more in details, we have a what we call a synced animation system.
Yeah, so one guy sees another guy so he just finishes his attack and the other guy takes some damage and that’s it, so the front line will be more animated and kinetic. Also with cavalry we want to work more with impact because they’re coming in as heavy units with speed and as you saw in the demo – even with infantry – how spectacular some of these charges look where Orcs will jump into the fray with axes swinging down. And on the other side you’ll see Imperial soldiers with spears brace for impact or even try to get the first slice so it’s much more animated.
Yes, there was one scene in the cinematic trailer where two halberds were stepping out of line to take out incoming orcs before falling back into line and it looks great. I really hope that what we’re seeing here with collision is actual gameplay.
Well, you saw the game engine running and of course we have the usual caveats: that’s pre-alpha and the game is still in development but we wanted to show a bit of how units interact with each other on the battlefield and while we still have a while to go and a lot of work to do I think that we’re heading in the right direction and we’re doing not just total war fans justice but also the Warhammer IP justice.
Right, and on that I really have to compliment you because as a Warhammer fan I can see that you’ve stuck close to the source material and paying attention to details. The way that units move, say how the Orcs run vs how humans run.
That’s actually one of the really big challenges for us. In previous total war games we’ve had maybe five or six different human body types. Then we can map motion captured animation to those models, so we’d do sword vs spear, sword vs sword, spear vs spear, horse vs guy… With this game we’ve had to hand craft so many of them. You know… you can’t get a dragon into a motion capture studio *laughs*
So the way we’ve had to approach that is to hand-craft and create the animations ourselves rather than resorting to motion capture. So the wyvern for instance… there’s no wyvern in the real world to study. We can look at the miniatures and they give you a sense of how they moved based on the pose they have but that can only get you so far. So we looked at it and thought “well it has two legs, it’s not a dragon, dragons have four legs… so how does it move on the land?”. We figured it’s have to crawl on its wings and the only animal that does that in the real world is a bat so we modelled its animations based on a bat. And the same with the demi-gryphs, they’re a mix between a lion and an eagle so we looked at the way lions move to capture the grace of these creatures when we animated the demi-gryphs. So we’ve had to devote much, much more of our own resources to the animations than we’ve ever had before and it’s really bringing the units to life. Sometimes the guys from Games Workshop will come in to look at the project and you can feel their excitement seeing these models that they’ve made come to life… it’s awesome.
Now characters, they move around similar to agents on the campaign maps, yes?
But they’re also playable on the battlefield.
So are they their own individual units that can move around independently with a unit card or are they stuck in a unit?
They’re individual units. So if you take a warrior priest, for example… on the campaign maps they are effectively agents like in previous total war games. Agents have skill trees and unlock abilities and get better at those abilities, so a character in Warhammer might have access to sabotage skills or assassination skills or those kinds of general skill sets you’re used to seeing in Total War. But in addition to that they might have a combat or magic skill tree. So if they’re a magic-based hero they’ll have a specific magical lore and as you level up you’ll unlock new spells.
So you attach them to an army and they’ll become a unit in the army and then appear in battle and that’s a big difference to previous total war games where… we’ve had warrior type agents but they have simply given your army stats boosts. With this game you’ll have that as well but now they’ll actually appear in the battle.
And I guess if they die in battle they’ll also die on the campaign map
Exactly, so you’ve got this elastic tension of really wanting to get them into combat because they are powerful warriors in their own right that can make a difference but you also don’t want to get them killed.
Also, you also have different types of characters in this game. You have the heroes, like your wizards and warrior priests. Then you have your Lords which are general-type characters. Like in previous total war games you have a call for a general, you select one and build an army around that character but of course you’ll have a much deeper skill tree than generals in previous Total War games with their own combat abilities and mounts. Finally you have the Legendary Lords. These are named characters from the Warhammer universe, like Karl Franz or Grimgor Ironhide.
Can Legendary Lords die?
No. What happens is they get taken out for a bit, lick their wounds for a bit and then return to the fray.
Like Napoleon (from Napoleon: Total War).
Exactly. In that way the legends of these characters go on.
The way you level up characters… I assume you get something like experience with things like taking parts in battles. Are there other smaller missions like sabotaging?
Yes, you’ll get experience for everything that characters is designed to do. So it’s the same as in for instance Shogun II where – if you had a ninja, he could sabotage a gate and get experience for that.
Another thing that’s really interesting when it comes to these characters is that… unlike the historical games where we deal with the years 430 BC to 300 AD, this games takes place in a set time in the Warhammer world so characters don’t age in Warhammer.
So it’s kind of like… time passes but not really?
Yeah, exactly. You can only die by falling in battle so that will allow you to build really powerful characters with the expanded skill trees.
So right now you’re based on the 8th edition of Warhammer Fantasy. Do you plan on sticking to that or are you looking at units or characters that might have been around before but no more? For instance, there was a Kislev faction that was around temporarily for 6th edition. Is that something you’re looking at at all or are you just sticking to the standard in 8th edition?
At the moment we’re focusing on the core stuff so it’s just 8th edition for now but who knows what’s gonna happen in the future?
On that note, since you say nothing is really final… Of course with a game like Warhammer, there are going to be fans with a ton of requests and wishes…
… What kind of feedback, ideas or general input are you taking from the fanbase?
At this stage we feel like we’re going to satisfy everybody over time. Everybody who’s into Warhammer in some regard has a favourite faction, a faction they associate with in the way they play or that fits their style… I think we’re aiming to please as many people as possible, without going into specifics at the moment. [Creative Assembly has previously stated that they will release two standalone expansion]
Can you catch them all?
*laughs* And can you kill them all?
Through the demo you talked about how the different races are different on the campaign map. So you have humans that deal with more traditional Total War elements like tax collection and politics while the Orcs for instance probably aren’t gonna build grand schools of magic…
Well… They won’t build schools of magic in that sense. Their magic is kind of shamanistic.
But yeah, the way we’re building it is that every race is quite different from the others because that’s how they are in Warhammer.So they won’t only differ on the battlefield, the types of units they have or the way they fight but also in the campaign game. So a good example is Empire versus Greenskins. So like you said, the Empire is going to be more of a traditional Total War faction. When you start with Karl Franz as your Emperor, you’re gonna be dealing with a lot of diplomacy within your own race because there are other elector counts in provinces all around you and there’s intrigue and backstabbing that goes on all the time. So if you want to expand the empire, you’ll want to do good diplomacy to get everyone on your side, or perhaps go and take over territory somewhere else away from those provinces.
The Greenskins are much less about that kind of expansion. They’re more about building up momentum. There’s a concept in Warhammer called the Waaagh! which embodies everything about the Orcs philosophically, if you can apply that term to the Orcs. They’re all about just charging into battle and whacking things, they’re very Alpha, so to speak. The way that works in the campaign game is the Waagh! is like a resource. So the more you engage in and win combat the more your Waaagh! meter goes up and you’ll get other Orc generals and armies popping up to support you and you’ll find yourself in a situation where you can start steamrolling. Now, you have to keep that momentum going or your forces are going to start suffering attrition from infighting because the Orcs are not like anyone else: they need to fight so they turn on each other. So they’re very different from the Empire, there’s no tax mechanics and the Orcs don’t deal with population management the same way, they just want to get as many Boyz as possible into battle.
And we saw that too in the battle where… the Empire has properly organized rank and file units whereas the Orcs just rush in without any regard for unit formation.
Yeah, exactly, they’re just really messy and noisy.
So that about the Orcs… When can we expect some more details about the Dwarfs and Vampire Counts?
Very well *laughs*. So to finish off, what’s your favourite Warhammer faction?
Firstly, I’m an Ogre player. I have an Ogre army. I find them fun because they’re really expensive and powerful so they’re kind of an all-or-nothing army. You have small, compact and hard hitting units. And we actually have… Games Workshop supplied our artists with one of every model in the Warhammer 8th edition range and that’s what we’ve been working from when building our 3D models. And the idea with that is also that so we in the studio can play the tabletop game. So I got all the Ogre models after the artists were done with them and if anyone wants to play an army it’s their responsibility to paint and assemble them.
That’s actually a genius idea.
Yeah, it’s great! Especially because you have people in the studio who might not focus on the lore, they might work with some technical things, so it’s a great way for everybody to getting used to seeing those armies and all their backstories and such. If you want to play a game of Warhammer, you have to read the army book which contains the history of that race and so on. So it generates people who are fiercely into one particular army and you also get some animosity towards other armies. So I play Ogres who are low on Initiative and a colleague of mine – Joss, the User Interface guy – plays Tomb Kings, so he has a spell that slaughters guys with low Initiative and it’s great because it really gets you into Warhammer on an emotional level. At Lunch time we have two Warhammer tables and there’s usually one or two games playing most days.
Cool! Did you have a tournament yet?
No, we planned on having a league but what we have instead is army lists printed that people can borrow so if you wanted to try a new army you just get the list and the models and give it a go.
Alright, well I have to thank you so much for your time.
I was very impressed with the enthusiasm Al showed for this project, and I hope that’s something many more at Creative Assembly shares. I have high hopes for this title, and I’m confident they can pull it off so long as they get enough time to work on it. What’s your take on this game? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Recently, I got the chance to talk to pianist and composer Kyle Landry, one of the biggest up-and-coming musicians on the Internet.
Kyle Landry is most famous for his YouTube channel, which reached 400,000 subscribers just last week. Since March of 2006, when he was just a teenager, Kyle has uploaded hundreds upon hundreds of videos of himself playing the piano, mostly improvisations of various pieces from video games, movies, and anime. His piano arrangements for these songs are some of the most popular in the world, and he has become one of the most famous musicians on the site. Some of his most viewed videos are his arrangements of “Passion” and “Dearly Beloved” from Kingdom Hearts, and “Time” from the movie Inception. His videos have gained over 110 million views and have inspired thousands of young musicians around the world to follow his lead.
Kyle has also started to work as a composer for the game Bacon Man, a fast-paced, cinematic platformer from indie company Skymap Games. Kyle has written a huge soundtrack for the game, which has been made into an orchestral score by Braxton Burks from Pokémon Reorchestrated. Bacon Man will release for the Xbox One and PC later this year, and it has kicked off Kyle’s career as a video game composer.
These days, Kyle spends most of his time teaching students from all around the world, and performing at events like weddings and birthday parties. He also streams live on Twitch three times a week, improvising massive medleys of different songs from games and movies at the request of his viewers.
Hey Kyle! To get started, could you please introduce yourself a little bit to our readers? Tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got started in music.
Hello Gamnesia! I am a YouTuber, pianist, composer, arranger, and piano teacher. My musical journey began on July 28th, 1998 when I had my first piano lesson at the age of 8. It took me months and months of begging, but in the end, my mother and father finally agreed to sign me up for lessons. Back then (and now), I was a bit ADD, and high energy, and both my parents believed I was not fit for piano lessons. Even my piano teacher told me many years later that when she initially agreed to take me in as a student, she believed I wouldn’t last very long. The funny thing was, after she told me that, she also mentioned I turned out to be the best student she had ever had in her 40+ years of teaching.
How did you start your life as a gamer? Could you tell us about some of the games and experiences that led you to love video games like you do today?
My parents used to play a few games on their SNES, and I of course was intrigued, and watched them play all the time. Eventually, my sister and I began playing the SNES, and the N64 that we got the Christmas it was released. My best experiences in games would have to be playing through Ocarina of Time, Banjo Kazooie, and Super Mario RPG. I tend to love games with long adventures, and with some story to them.
What are your favorite video game soundtracks and composers?
My most treasured game soundtracks in no particular order:
Final Fantasy Series
Elder Scrolls Series
Kingdom Hearts Series
As you may have gathered, my favorite video game composers include:
You have been uploading videos to YouTube since July of 2006, back when you were just a teenager. Why did you first start uploading your videos to YouTube? Did you ever expect it would take you this far?
Actually, I started uploading back in March of 2006, on my first channel, kyle556, which was banned for copyright infringement during the year of 2007. That was the year large corporations were cracking down on YouTube, forcing them to remove many many videos. Back when YouTube first started getting a little buzz and hype, I decided to see what all the fuss was about, so I decided to post a video of myself improvising. From there, after reading the comments I received, I was hooked ever since. I would have never expected my internet video career would have taken me this far, but it sure has been fun so far!
What is your process for making a YouTube video? How long does it take you to record and edit a typical video? Where do you get your inspiration for what songs to cover?
My process is almost entirely focused around the music. As you may notice, I don’t invest, or spend much time on making the video look pretty, it’s more about how it sounds. A typical production would consist of me printing out sheet music to a basic arrangement of the piece I’m recording, and doing a run through or two. After that, the camera is rolling, and I simply do as many takes that is necessary to get a recording that I feel is good enough. This may take anywhere from 5 minutes to over a year. It all depends what I’m recording! Sometimes I will be able to record a video in one take, but often times it takes about an hour or two. In extreme cases, it may take me many hours worth of takes, spanned through different recording sessions, sometimes taking a year or so to finally get a recording I’m happy with. An example of that would be my video for Fighting, the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII, or my video for the opening song of Shingeki no Kyojin. Editing a video takes no longer than 5 minutes.
In order to choose what music to record, I either pick what I truly love, or I will seek inspiration from my fans, as they always seem to know the best new music in games, movies, and anime!
Well, after almost nine years, you’ve reached over 400,000 subscribers on YouTube, making you one of the most successful musicians on the site. Congratulations! What has been your favorite part of this journey so far? Will you keep uploading videos in the future?
Thank you so much! My absolute favorite part of the journey so far is how much joy it brings me, and my viewers. Without my channel, I wouldn’t be making a living doing what I love, and I wouldn’t be able to inspire thousands of kids to never give up, and to play their hearts out. Of course I will keep uploading videos! It keeps me going :).
Recently, you’ve been working as the composer for the soundtrack of the game Bacon Man, which will release later this year. How has this experience been for you? Do you think you would like to continue writing music for other video games in the coming years?
The experience has been lovely so far! It is so much fun working along side composer and orchestrator Braxton Burks, who orchestrates all of the music I have been writing for Bacon Man, and I love watching the game together piece by piece! I would love to continue writing video game music in the future.
How does writing original music for a video game feel different to writing music for your albums or for your YouTube channel? Is it a challenge to try to write songs to fit the different scenarios in Bacon Man?
It is quite different. There are way more restrictions. A lot of times I have to stay within a certain style, or genre, and some tracks take up to 5 different concepts before the team accepts the composition for the game. It is definitely more challenging than I imagined, yes!
Obviously, you’ve shown the world that you’re a huge fan of video game music, and you owe a lot of your success to your beautiful arrangements of songs from The Legend of Zelda and Kingdom Hearts. As a classically trained musician, how do you think that video game music compares to classical music, with composers like Chopin and Beethoven? Which do you prefer to play or listen to?
They are truly two different animals, and I could never really put one over the other. Let’s talk about game music first. Video game music tends to focus most of its energy to the melodic content of the piece, which is definitely not a bad thing! That is what I love about video game music, it catches your interest with beautiful melodies that stay with you for years to come. Every time I hear Zelda’s Lullaby, for example, I cannot help but imagine meeting Zelda for the first time in Hyrule, while playing Ocarina of Time in my basement as a child, lol. However, in general, video game music tends to be much less complex than classical music, including the arrangements for piano. That’s where I come in! Taking a basic arrangement of a video game track, and turning it into a difficult piece of music to play, is one of my greatest hobbies!
As for Classical music, the subject is so broad it’s hard to begin. I’ve always been more inclined to enjoy the Romantic period, most notably, Chopin. His music speaks to me more than any other composer in the world. That being said, that doesn’t mean I would prefer to play or listen to Chopin over video game music. I’m the open-minded type, and I would never say something as arrogant as “Classical music is just better than video game music, I would never listen to video game music.” Heh, and there are people out there like that, scary isn’t it? Basically, what I’m saying is, I LOVE BOTH GENRES. I can’t choose, sorry Gamnesia.
Final Question: Do you have any advice for any young musicians reading this? What would you like to tell music students worldwide, who aspire to play like you someday?
My number one advice is to play the music that makes you happy. I find that I get the most practice done, and excel the fastest at improvement when I’m studying music that I truly wanted to learn. It wasn’t until I discovered Chopin and Nobuo Uematsu until I really started investing countless hours into my practice. I will warn you, I learned the most when studying classical music. There tends to me more educational value to it, such as proper fingering, common technical patterns, and the sheer difficulty which truly challenges your hands.
If you want to be the best you be at anything in this world, you need to put your mind to it, and never give up. You need to practice everyday at least 3 hours. You can’t miss a day, and you can’t stop thinking about music. You need to listen to as much music as possible, and you need to sight read every day. Find a composer that speaks to you, latch on, and never let go. Learn everything they’ve ever written, and I’m sure it will take you somewhere. I wish you all the best of luck 🙂
It’s been a pleasure to talk to you, Kyle, and thank you so much for taking time to be with us today.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. It has been my pleasure!!
If you want to see more of Kyle, remember to check out his YouTube channel and visit his website. If you’re an aspiring pianist like myself, I seriously recommend joining his forums to have access to sheet music for all his videos and be surrounded by a really helpful community of musicians.
Also, you should check out Kyle’s original albums on iTunes and Loudr. He has released six albums for the piano: five albums consisting of original compositions, entitled Works for Piano I through V, and Storytale Soundscapes, a beautiful, hour-long concerto of music from all sorts of movies and animation.
If you can, you can also go help out Kyle on his Steinway Fund, a Patreon fund that he has set up to raise money to buy a grand piano. He has raised more than $6,000 so far, over the course of the past three months, after generous donations from hundreds of patrons. Any donation, no matter how small, would be a big help.
What do you guys think? Have you heard of Kyle Landry or watched any of his videos? Are you a big fan of his arrangements? What do you think about the views he expressed here, about the differences and advantages that video game music has over other genres?
Justin Wong’s name resonates over people’s minds when they think of “professional gaming” and/or “e-sport.” He has been involved with professional gaming for over 10 years and has over 40 champion titles under his belt. He’s known for making remarkable comebacks and is renowned (and feared) in various fighting game circuits. The titles for Marvel vs Capcom 3 Champion at EVO 2014, Mortal Kombat 9 Champion, and the Major League Gaming Killer Instinct Champion are only some of the recent titles he holds. You would think Wong would be an intimidating guy, but I had to opportunity to sit down and ask him a few questions at Momocon 2015. What I found it is that he is a laid-back individual who, at the core, is just all about having a good time doing what he does.
Are you excited to be at Momocon this year? What do you have planned to do? What do you hope to do?
I am definitely excited to be at Momocon just because I’m really into like the anime culture and because I’m also a gamer, so it kinda like goes two in two together. But I do enjoy Atlanta, because there’s a lot of tournaments and all that, so I’ve been here before. So I know a lot of friends, so it’s really cool to just like kick in, and it’s less stress because obviously when I do come to Atlanta it’s big tournaments with a lot of big prizes, but this time I’m here to talk about a panel or about e-sports so it’s pretty cool.
So how did you start your career in e-sports? How did it all start?
I pretty much started as like a fifteen year old playing like video games in an arcade, and eventually my friends took me to a tournament and I did really, really good. From there I just got really addicted doing it, just because I was able to travel so much and just meet new people that have like the same passion. And sooner or later I just got picked up by a sponsor called “Evil Geniuses” and I’m pretty much living the dream at the moment.
Do you feel like that is the best method for someone to still get into e-sports? At least for fighting games? Or has it changed since?
I think the best method, if you like wanted to pursue a career in e-sports, is first: just have fun with it. I can’t just like wake up one day and be like, “I’m going to grow up and be a professional gamer.” If you don’t have any passion to it, then you’re pretty much not going to have fun and then you’re just going to hate it. But if you’re having fun with it, and you get really good because you’re having fun, it will come to you.
Was there like a definitive moment you were like, “I want to become a professional gamer!” Or you decided you were going to become a professional gamer?
I really never had that thought process of, “I wanna be a professional gamer.” Even when I was winning a lot. It was just one of those things that, “Ok, I represented like my hometown, my coast, my sponsor.” Then, it was just time to go back home and do real life stuff like jobs, school, etc. But right now it’s just getting to that point where there’s so many events, the prizes are actually huge now and you can actually make a living off of this if you’re really, really good.
Let’s talk about some other stuff that is big in e-sports right now. MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) are probably the biggest thing in e-sports right now. How do you feel about that rise of popularity? Do you think it’s good? Or do you think it’s damaging as many people only associate that image with e-sports even though you still have like fighting games and shooters being a big part of it?
Well, MOBAs are definitely the biggest for e-sports. I don’t think it’s bad, it definitely actually helps all the other genres, because people are noticing that video games are like something people can actually do for a living, to make money, and it’s also really fun at the same time. But the reason why people enjoy MOBAs is because it’s like a team effort, you get to play with friends, and it’s also free to play most of the time. Any time it’s free to play, people love it. And especially when you can turn that “something” that is free to play into something that can actually earn an income; that’s pretty good and actually helps a lot because more people wonder like, “Hm, I wonder if this game has a competitive scene or if this game has a following?” People get curious.
Another thing that is becoming big again in e-sports is Super Smash Bros. It’s going to have a really big presence at EVO this year; I think it’s the biggest Melee tournament ever. How do you feel about Smash? Do you like it? Have you ever considered competing in it?
When it comes to Smash, I’m like one of the hugest spectators in the world. I love watching Smash tournaments, especially Melee. I’m a very big fan of Melee. One of my teammates on Evil Geniuses, PPMD, he’s like one of the top five Smash players in the world, so I really enjoy watching him play. I also love watching Mango and Leffen. I really appreciate how it grew, especially when like the tournament stopped supporting it but then the community stuck together and said, “We’re going to keep playing our game because we love it!” And because of that they got a second chance and now everyone wants to see Smash, Smash, Smash, and they deserve it; they really do deserve it.
You brought this up earlier, but I just want to elaborate on it. You’ve been involved with professional gaming for about over ten years now, right?
Do you have any other source of income now? Do you think maybe in the near future we could see people making a living off professional gaming alone?
Beside playing in tournaments to make money, I also stream a lot on Twitch. And that’s actually something that is becoming a very stable income. Also, I’ve been getting into like gaming industries. Like trying to understand how to get a job in the game industry, what can I do? Pretty much, internally, after I stop playing professionally.
Lately you’ve been streaming a lot of Mortal Kombat X, so are you digging that one?
“Mortal Kombat X is actually a very, very fun game. I’m obviously known as a Capcom player: Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, but when it come to Mortal Kombat X I can just literally play it like everyday just because it’s so fun and the movement of the game it really makes me appreciate like, ‘Damn, NetherRealms actually really, really made this as like probably the best fighting game of 2015.’”
They just added Jason Vorhees, and I saw you kind of messing around with him on YouTube, you like him as a character?
I mean who doesn’t want to play Jason, right? It’s like a dream. Like when Freddy Kruger came out for MK9, who did not touch Freddy Kruger, right? So now when you have Jason, you’re definitely going to play Jason, because you grew up with him.
Who would probably be like your dream Mortal Kombat fighter?
Probably like, The Ring. The girl from The Ring. I think she would be pretty cool. But there is actually a character very similar to her in Killer Instinct for Xbox One. Her name is Hisako. She carries like a giant staff, more like a spear, and her hair looks like The Ring and stuff like that and that’s kind of cool. It makes me want to play her too.
What else have you been playing lately and enjoying? Both, fighting and non-fighting?
Well, right now it’s that time of the year where I should only focus on fighting games. Whatever game I’m entering in EVO, that’s the game I should play until EVO. But after EVO I want to play some single player games, some puzzle games. I know Witcher just came out, and I tweeted recently that I want to play Witcher, and then last week I won a raffle and I got Witcher, so I’m like, “It must be fate. The dream has come true.”
Is that the only one on your list?
At the moment, it’s like Witcher, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and like pretty much games that the stream wants me to play. They like to see me play these little spooky games, because I get scared very easily.
This is kind of a loaded question but: what is your favorite game of all time? And why?
Probably my favorite game of all time is probably Marvel vs. Capcom 2, just because that’s that one game where I literally sat down and started from not knowing how to play into like 100% knowing everything about the game. I could literally play for hours. Even like now I will sit down and play it. Just for hours or just with friends, because it is very, very fun and competitive and it also got me to where I’m at right now too.
So where can everyone expect to see you? Like upcoming tournaments? Where can they catch you online and follow you at?
The next tournament I will be at will be CEO (Community Effort Orlando) which is in Orlando, Florida. It’s a really, really big tournament. It’s pretty much the biggest tournament right before EVO, so everyone is going to be there. I’ll be at E3 if you guys are going to be there. But you guys can follow me on Twitter @JWonggg or twitch.tv/eg_jwong.
You can go follow Justin on Twitter here and see what he has to say about upcoming tournaments, when he will be streaming, e-sports, and games in general. Be sure to watch him on his Twitch and YouTube channels playing games ranging from fighting to horror. If you want to go experience him dominating live near the end of June you can find out information about CEO here.
Unless you’ve been completely out of the gaming sphere in the past year, chances are you’ve heard something about indie platformer sensation Shovel Knight. Started as a Kickstarter project a couple of years ago, the game has since grown to garner the love of gamers all over, gathering enough critical acclaim to win over 70 Game of the Year awards in 2014 and enough fan favoritism to elevate the eponymous knight to Smash character contender status – in some fans’ minds, that is. It is set to release on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PS Vita later this year alongside the brand new free DLC pack, Plague of Shadows — among other surprises. The love for this new wave retro platformer is sure to grow over the next year.
In between working on the aforementioned expansions and debuting footage of the highly-anticipated DLC at PAX East, Yacht Club Games, the studio behind Shovel Knight, kindly took the time to answer some of our questions about what the future holds for the title, and the franchise:
Could you introduce yourself and your role to our readers here at Gamnesia?
I’m David D’Angelo, one of the creators of Shovel Knight. We all take on hundreds of roles throughout development. We’re just a few people! But my main task is handling gameplay and engine programming for the team.
How long has Plague of Shadows been in development? Plague Knight obviously won your poll, but was this the character on whom you wanted to focus first?
We’ve been working on it since before the game even released! It’s been a long process to figure out how we wanted to fit in the other character campaigns. Out of the 3 that were chosen, we definitely wanted to focus on Plague Knight first. We didn’t really think about doing the other knights!
Did the success of Shovel Knight shape the plans for this first stretch goal DLC release?
Possibly? It’s hard to know! We increased the scope of what we were creating to try to make it surprising and more than a simple character swap like you’d see in a game like Symphony of the Night. We are probably being extra careful with everything we create too. We don’t want to adversely affect people’s opinions of Shovel Knight’s campaign.
The feats in the original Shovel Knight provided plenty of challenge for players. Will these gamers be able to adapt quickly and meet the challenges of Plague of Shadows?
We’re not quite finished with the campaign yet so it’s tough to say. But we imagine the difficulty lining up similarly with Shovel Knight’s campaign. It’ll be tricky enough for players to handle the new mobility!
Shovel Knight has been an exclusive on Nintendo’s consoles up to this point, finally coming to the PlayStation family of consoles in a little under two months. Besides a clash with Kratos himself, has the adventure changed to fit the taste of PlayStation gamers?
Not significantly. We’re doing our best to add PlayStation specific features like cross-save, PS4 lightbar, etc. Beyond that, the game will have the same core experience.
Will any more crossovers, console exclusive or otherwise, be coming to Shovel Knight as more DLC comes out?
(Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted before the announcement regarding the inclusion of console-specific characters in the Xbox One version of Shovel Knight)
We’re always open to doing more crossovers, console exclusives, etc., but it’s all about finding what makes sense for the world of Shovel Knight. We want to make Shovel Knight feel at home on each platform, and we’re excited about anything that makes that possible.
Will all future playable boss packs be free like Plague of Shadows?
One of the most unexpected elements of Plague of Shadows is the addition of a brand-new story mode. How has this helped to flesh out the colorful cast of Shovel Knight? Will Shovel Knight ever become a secondary character?
Yes, it will definitely flesh out the world of Shovel Knight a tad more. For more details, you’ll have to play the game!
Shovel Knight boasts a huge number of cheat codes, originally made backer-exclusive, but now widely available to players. Will all of these be maintained in Plague of Shadows? If so, does this include the infamous “butt mode”?
All of the cheat codes will be maintained in Plague of Shadows. We may even add a few more!
While it will probably be a long while until all the planned DLC packs for Shovel Knight are released, do you have plans once they are all finished? Could we see a “Super Shovel Knight,” or some other kind of follow-up title?
Who knows! We’d love to continue the Shovel Knight series. But at that point we may need to take a break. It really comes down to everyone’s mood when the content is complete.
Many thanks to D’Angelo for taking the time to answer our questions. We’re certainly excited to play as the oddball Plague Knight, as well as fellow boss knights, King Knight and Spector Knight: the other winners of the “Dig the Vote” poll, used to select the boss knights that would be playable, back during the original campaign. For more news about Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows, make sure to keep it here at Gamnesia.
Yesterday on our Nintendo Week podcast, we sat down with ArtsyOmni, the extremely talented artist behind the recent Rayman in Smash Bros. hoax, to discuss the hoax: why he made it, why the internet was so captivated, and what he plans to do in the future. He’s beginning a new series on YouTube called “Smashified,” where viewers can choose which video game characters he should draw in the Super Smash Bros. art style, so that we can see what all of our favorite gaming icons would look like if they were a part of Smash.
In our interview, he tells us what some of the most popular fan requests are, who he’s thinking of drawing first, and how you can get involved! To watch it, just check out the video above!
The video is embedded to start where our interview takes place, but if you’d like to watch this week’s whole news recap, be our guest to scroll that timer to the start and watch it from the beginning. We won’t stop you.
After the end of the era of iconic gaming magazine Nintendo Power, a new publication stepped up, not to take its place, but continue its legacy. Over two years later, this brave new periodical is going more strongly than ever into its third year. The mastermind behind this endeavor, Lucas M. Thomas (former editor-at-large of IGN’s Nintendo Team), was kind of enough to answer some of the burning questions the Nintendo and Nintendo Power fans here at Gamnesia have, and he delved into the inner working of Nintendo Force, the opportunities it provides to fans, its relationship to Nintendo, and more.
Hello, and thank you so much for taking the time to do this with us! Before we move on, how would you describe Nintendo Force to our readers who aren’t yet familiar?
Absolutely! You all remember Nintendo Power magazine, right? It was the go-to source for Nintendo news, previews and features in print for over two decades – from the height of the popularity of the NES in the late ’80s until December 2012, when it was abruptly cancelled just short of reaching its 25th anniversary. Well, that didn’t sit right with me and several other long-time NP fans. I’d had an active subscription since I was eight years old, for goodness sakes! So I got in touch with several of the most prominent Nintendo-focused game journalists around the Internet and pitched them the idea of keeping the NP legacy alive by launching a new magazine. We called ourselves “the Nintendo Force,” and the first issue of NF Magazine went on sale on January 11, 2013 – exactly one month after the final Nintendo Power had hit newsstands on December 11, 2012.
NF carries NP’s torch by trying to preserve its same tone and quirky sense of humor; we’ve even reached back into past NP eras to bring back long-gone elements of that magazine like comic pages, Classified Information and Counselor’s Corner. But we’ve grown well beyond just paying homage to Nintendo Power over the past two years, as NF is now entirely its own beast!
Would you mind introducing yourself and what you do as part of the Nintendo Force team?
I’m Lucas M. Thomas, the Editor-in-Chief of the NF team, and the jack of all trades when it comes to responsibilities – I plan out each issue’s page structure, make all the writing and art assignments, design all the pages and run the behind-the-scenes business stuff too. I even cleaned up and put on my best suit to host our new Kickstarter video, to talk to all of our fans and any of you new potential fans “Directly.”
How is the relationship between Nintendo and the NF team different from the Nintendo Power team’s relationship with the company?
Depends on what era you’re considering, as at the beginning Nintendo Power was run as an in-house publication at NOA. A “first-party” magazine, you might say. Then, for its last half-decade or so, it was outsourced to a different publishing team at Future Publishing – they still had very close ties to the company, but it was a different dynamic and you could see the change in tone and direction happening around 2007. We’re an entirely outside team that works with Nintendo in the same manner as any game journalism website might, like IGN, GoNintendo or Destructoid (each of which has representatives on our team).
There are many younger Nintendo fans out there who have never truly experienced Nintendo Power. How can you see these readers coming to enjoy what Nintendo Force has to offer?
A huge number of our young readers never experienced Nintendo Power, and for them, the nostalgia connection hasn’t seemed necessary. They just love the modern era of Mario, Zelda, Pokémon and other current-gen Nintendo games and like getting a magazine in the mail that’s packed with new information about them!
What about Nintendo Force as a print publication sets it apart from gaming websites? Is there anything in particular that might drive people to subscribe?
Gaming websites aren’t going to send you free posters to hang up on your wall, but we do. The tangibility is critical – having a physical object to own and hold on to. We’re not going to beat the instant-news-now pace of breaking stories on the Internet most of the time (though we do have exclusive reveals only found in our pages), but we’re not trying to compete on speed — let all the online sites fight each other over who’s going to win the clicks on the latest Amiibo availability announcements. We’re seeking to make something that’s more lasting, more permanent than a browser window that’s gone and forgotten after you’ve closed it. Those who’ve been with us since Issue #1 have a full two years of tangible, lasting Nintendo history that they now own, forming a natural continuation from the end of Nintendo Power’s run – and for long-time NP subscribers like me, it’s an unbroken collection of magazines chronicling the entire Nintendo story for over a quarter-century now!
What new and exclusive content can we expect from Nintendo Force in the coming year? Are there any particular titles that you’re looking forward to covering?
The one I’m personally most excited about is next month’s Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., which will be a gift from me to me after our current Kickstarter’s finished (since it goes on sale three days later). Hopefully I’ll have time to play it while dealing with collecting information from Backer Surveys! As for new and exclusive content, we’re pursuing our goal of including fold-out posters in every single new issue throughout the rest of this year, and we’re always working behind the scenes to try to score new exclusives for our readers. In our most recent issue, we got to be the ones to reveal the existence of the new Mutant Mudds Super Challenge to the world!
Many members of the NF team also work, or have worked, for online gaming publications. What are some of the differences between working in print and working online? Has working for both changed how you view either distribution method?
Physical space constraints make writing for print a big shift from writing online – if you want to blog about a new video game, you can write and write as much as you want. That browser window will keep on scrolling. Printed pages have only so much area to fill, though, so each one of our writing assignments has a strict word count that everyone has to adhere to. It’s a totally unique experience, and one that makes each one of our article more focused and thoughtful.
Nintendo Force has historically been funded through Kickstarter for each year of coverage. Are you planning to eventually move the magazine to a more self-sustained model, or is Kickstarter the best choice for the foreseeable future?
Kickstarter’s been good to us two years in a row – it’s set up well to support print publications like ours, and helps with keeping everything organized. We’ll likely stick with it for the forseeable future; though I am keeping an eye on Patreon, as it seems like a potential future alternative. You never know!
Nintendo Power often interacted with its fans, which helped make them feel like a part of the larger fan community. Given the amount of influence backers tend to have on Kickstarter projects, how has this reader-to-staff dynamic changed or expanded with Nintendo Force?
Our community’s growing every day, and we’ve even worked with fans to create content for our issues. If you’ve got fan art, jokes about Waluigi or want to show off your skills with giving a Zelda Amiibo a custom paint job, get in touch with us! We print reader submissions in every new issue, and even give full article coverage to fans doing particularly cool Nintendo-related work in our Community section.
Are you considering making Nintendo Force available digitally on Wii U and 3DS at any time in the future?
We looked into it – we’ve been in touch with Nintendo about creating a magazine-reading app that would be sold in the Wii U eShop. It’s probably not going to materialize in the current era, though. The company’s more focused on getting new game content into the eShop, and not so much other kinds of apps. Still, it’s a possibility for the future.
Any final words?
Thanks for the interview opportunity, Jeff! NF Magazine’s 2015 Renewals and New Subscriptions are available through Kickstarter right now, right here! Sign up today and you’ll get a Majora’s Mask 3D poster included with your first issue, along with any other bonuses we’re able to unlock as Stretch Goals before the campaign concludes on March 10. MAR10 Day!