Archive for November, 2008


Grim Preservation

grimLegendary adventure game designer Tim Schafer and his company Doublefine Productions has released the original puzzle design document for Grim Fandango.

Grim Fandango was truly a one of a kind game, and I know I wasn’t the only one who cried the first time I played it.

We need more of this sort of thing. With the short lived nature of digital media, it is all the more important to actively preserve it, and video games are no exception.
The UK have started to preserve computer and video games as a heritage of our times, alongside movies and music albums. It’s great to see such recognition for our beloved industry. But we need more of what Schafer just did: more of the making of videogames, the actual work being done. Concept art, design documents, drafts, meeting protocols. More more more!

So, a call to developers and publishers: got any files or documents from old releases lying around? Release them into the public domain. We won’t pay you, but you’ll be remembered as Good Guys and a company that Helped Preserve Our Times.

All we need to do now is convince the Long Now Foundation to make a video game that will still be playable in a thousand years.


Clever (And Cheap) Marketing

During Kian’s seminar at the SGA kick-off, he mentioned something interesting. While the presentation consisted of brief summaries of indie gaming, games as a new form of entertainment, and a quick playthrough of YHTBTR, he briefly touched on a very interesting subject: cheap and sneaky marketing.

You Have to Burn the Rope

That FAQ and Youtube walkthrough for the game?
Yeah, that was done by Kian himself.

By posting links to them on his site and giving the impression that he merely linked to someone else’s work, he encouraged other people to contribute as well. And it worked. He started receiving fan art; someone wrote a German walkthrough; Rock, Paper Shotgun wrote another (very funny) walkthrough; someone made a text-based adventure game; a novelization was written; and more. Check it out.

And, let’s not forget Henrik‘s fantastic song Now You’re a Hero, the end credit theme that’s longer than the average playthrough of the game. It’s a funny and clever song, and I have no doubt that it contributed quite a bit to the popularity of YHTBTR.

Wolfire Studios

Wolfire Games, whom I’ve mentioned before, is doing something different as well.
Thanks to their previous game, Lugaru, they have a small but dedicated fan base. And they’re using it to it’s full potential.

They recently started the Overt Ops. Basically, if you promote the game enough, you’ll get a free copy of the game and some other goodies.
A virtual street team. Clever.

And they recently started a Facebook group, with the promise of starting alpha testing as soon as it reached 500 members. That didn’t take very long.
The alpha is now released, but only to those who preordered. This wasn’t made clear when they started the Facebook group, so I can imagine there are a few dissapointed people out there. Still, over all it’s a good idea.

And: they keep their developer blog regularly updated, constantly showing the progress of the game. This is something more developers should do.

They’re good guys; and I don’t mind spreading the word, though I think I prefer to pay for my copy either way. After all, cash (or virtual cyberspace monies) is king.

Know of any other clever (and cheap) marketing tricks that small developers can use?


Snow Hard

I am now the official composer and sound designer for Team REEP, working on the game Snow Hard. No homepage yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
We’re planning on entering (and winning!) the Swedish Game Awards, come May.

And now, off to research snow and sound!


The Different Sound

Game music should do everything it can to enhance the gaming experience, but like any other industry, the concept of trends still apply.
Some composers seem to defy trends and thoughts of what a certain genre should sound like, at least for a specific project.

Here’s a short list of different yet fitting soundtracks:

  • American McGee’s Alice – Chris Vrenna. You either love it or hate it, and this seems to apply to both the game and the soundtrack. The twisted fairy-tale style fits the overall feel perfectly, and is only weakened by the occasional bad production (which is surprising, given Vrenna’s work through the years). Apparently, the majority of the sounds were recorded by Vrenna himself, using tinker toys and anything he could get his hands on. Soundtrack available from Amazon and the like.
  • Arcanum – Ben Houge. This magic- and steampunk rpg set in a Victorian-inspired world is accompanied mainly by a string quartet. Compared to the big orchestral scores, this feels stripped down, giving an intimate, slower feel that really suits Troika’s unique world.
    The soundtack is freely available, and as an extra bonus, you can also download the actual sheet music for the instruments. Download here.
  • Fallout 1 & 2 – Mark Morgan. Morgan really did a unique job on these games, capturing the weirdness and unease that was present in these titles. There were a surprising amount of ambient soundscapes in these games, nowadays unusual outside of the horror genre.
  • Deus Ex 2 – Alex Brandon. Brandon took a decidently risky departure from the first game’s cathy melodies, opting instead for abstract, ambient soundscapes for a big part of the game. And it worked. Being an avid ambient and soundscape fan, I think this is a brilliant and unique direction.

These games have another thing in common: unusual settings and worlds. Perhaps the unique vision of the design teams allowed the musicians to go beyond the conventional sounds of game music.

Then we have people like Jack Wall, who seem to be able to conjure up the most unique music for every project he aproaches, always managing to perfectly match and enhance the feel of the game. But let’s save the Jack Wall worshipping for another post.


The Wolfire guys shure are staying busy, constantly keeping us updated on their developer blog. While still pretty early in development, their editor is allready looking impressive. Check out the real time shader/texture updates.

Also, a good interview.