There are normally two parts which make a game’s atmosphere and sense of immersion truly memorable; the gameplay and the soundtrack. With the leaps and bounds of progress driving forward graphical innovation at a rate that many struggle to keep up with, it is all too easy to forget how involved we felt in the games of yesteryear before HD and 3D graphics. In the same way that we remember a game with fantastic gameplay, a good soundtrack is will always accentuate our love for a good game. But how do you put together a soundtrack for a game? I recently met up with Matthew Chastney, a freelance Composer and Sound Designer who has worked on a number of gaming titles to find out how you go about making a game’s soundtrack and sound effects memorable
In the wake of the Xbox One reveal, there’s been a lot of talk about the emphasis Microsoft are putting on the console’s TV capabilities. To put it bluntly, it’s gone down about as well as ham sandwich at a vegan dinner party. However, before people get caught up in the internet hate-train (stopping at a forum near you), I think it’s important to look at what the Xbox One really is, the context in which it sits, and where the future of consoles really lies.
As cloud gaming, mobile gaming, social gaming web-based gaming and smart TV’s all become more prominent, more powerful, more profitable, and closer to the AAA games we’re used to, they will necessarily take a larger market share. For an elegant and concise explanation, watch this episode of Extra Credits entitled, Consoles are the New Coin-Op.
So it’s completely possible that in a few years, the console as a means of accessing our games will cease to be relevant, or at the very least, be far less relevant than it used to be, and this is a process which you can already see happening. So, when you look back at the console shelf life of the most recent generation, Xbox 360 and PS3, they’ve been around since 2005/6, if we assume the PS4 and Xbox One are to have a similar lifespan, they’ll be with us until 2021.
It might be that by putting the emphasis on the Xbox One as a multimedia device, the one set-top box to rule them all, as it were, they are simply covering their own bases. And considering that they are designing a product which is intended to remain relevant in a rapidly shifting market for the next decade, it’s not surprising that some elements don’t specifically fit today’s market.
One of the aspects of the reveal which worried a lot of gamers, and really set the hate-wagon in motion, wasn’t the prominence of TV, it was that it has been taken to be at the expense of games. Gamers are worried that the console is taking more of a focus on TV than it is on games, which is a reasonable thing to worry about, but Microsoft has given reassurances that there will be plenty of content for gamers, casual and hardcore alike, when Xbox One launches.
This seems to be the wisest choice, as the early adopters of Xbox One, will likely be gamers, rather than people wanting to use it for its TV integration. This is especially relevant outside the US, where the TV functionality is not available at launch.
Microsoft is pushing the depth of the integration between your Xbox One and your TV, but I’m not sure how revolutionary it really is. To quote Yusuf Mehdi from the Xbox One reveal “[watching TV] sounds simple and obvious, and it should be, but today it isn’t, because of the need to change inputs to get to live TV.” I’m sorry, but having to change an input has never stymied any of my attempts to watch TV. Even my technophobic flatmate can manage it.
What the Xbox One really does with TV is bring the social elements of the Xbox to the TV. You can see when your friends come online and when they start playing games, you can get recommendations from the shows they watch and Skype with them while you watch live TV. And while I can see the benefit in Skyping with your friends while you watch the same sports (or eSports) event (if you can’t get the same physical location) I have to question whether I really want to Skype with someone while I watch Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.
The social aspect of the new Xbox and its TV integration is very smart technology, it even seems vaguely useful. But it all feels like so much fluff, it’s nice, but I wouldn’t want to pay £400 for it.
However, the really worrying part of Microsoft’s vision for the Xbox One is that the ultimate multimedia device in the evolving games and media market, the real winner of the one box to rule them all, is really the Smart TV, and they’re already available. Microsoft seems to be committed to a vision of the living room where the TV as a device really is just a screen, but we’ve already moved past that.
And in just a few short years, as streaming technology improves more and more, it will be a trivial matter to play the latest games right on our TV’s, with no physical console required.
In conclusion, Microsoft are committed to a course in which there is always a market for the piece of plastic and circuitry underneath your TV, for obvious reasons, and for them, diversifying the capabilities of the aforementioned plastic is the best way to ensure its survival. Whether this proves to be the case is something which we as consumers get to decide. If we all rush out and buy a Smart TV then there’s the chance that maybe there will never be another console generation.
The TV capabilities of the Xbox One are interesting, they seem useful, but not integral, and hardcore need to have faith and wait for E3 to see what Microsoft can present to them to reassure them that their favourite games will still be present and correct on the Xbox One.
I know it’s not exactly original coming from me, but this week has ignited quite a few of my may anger glands towards “mainstream” gaming. I mean this in two ways: for starters, it seems like every week I’m drafting up a new article about how Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo are doing things wrong. Secondly, with the dismally disappointing Xbox One launch conference, I’m certainly not the only one espousing these sorts of opinions.
It was Eons ago that I lost interest in League of Legends. There were a number of reasons why and they were all personal ones. I had finally decided to try ranked matches and after winning my first 4 games in a row as Jungle Nunu anxiety got the better of me and I retired from Ranked undefeated. A fact that I still to this day bring up mockingly so my friends can call me an idiot and laugh at me. Also my win/loss ratio for regular matches was up by 20 thanks to several great matches and a few riding the coattails of a friends skills at playing Poppy. But it wasn’t all good times and I was getting a bit tired of the usual cocky BS that would always come from the opposing teams and my attempts at learning new heroes met with jeers from whatever team was unfortunate enough to be with me as I learned the basics. People needlessly being dicks for to their teams in online games isn’t new but I needed a break. We probably would have won the matches like that if we put half the energy from fighting each other into fighting the enemy team. But despite all this I still enjoyed LoL and since all my friends play it I knew I’d return some day, and that day has come. And my oh my have things changed.
I’ve got to hand it to the good people at Riot for being extremely proactive in trying to make players behave better and improve the overall online experience. This is a welcome change from something like any given Halo match on Xbox Live where people call you a faggot or a racial slur constantly, often times said by someone far younger than what the ERSB rating says the game is intended for. Thanks mom! But the PC crowd isn’t the same as Xbox Live and just like back in the days of DoTA 1 on Battle.net you don’t run into bigoted 8 year olds, you run into foul-mouthed and foul-tempered Russians and Brazilians! At least I think the Russians are angry, it’s hard to tell with them sometimes. Anyway I’m getting off point. LoL started by bringing in the Tribunal system where people were made judges to decide weather or not a reported play should be punished or excused. I thought it was a great idea but it seemed like 90% of the time I judged someone guilty and voted for them to be punished. Riot made us all Kira from Death Note. Since I left they also added a system to REWARD people for being nice and helpful in games with those little badges. I’ve managed to get a bunch of props for teamwork but very little for sportsmanship, I’m a bad person. Also I’ve noticed they turned off all chat by default. I’ve yet to feel a strong urge to hear what the opposing team has to say.
So it’s been nice coming back after all this time to see a lot of things changed and the overall gaming experience has been made significantly more pleasant. Now all the problems are with you people and your choices of who are the popular champs. Gross fat blob monster Urgot is the most unpopular champ? Unacceptable! Not every champ needs to be a super sexy girl with big hooters, that what you did to comics and that’s why everything’s so samey and uninteresting. I will yield that former ugly unpopular champ Trundle the Troll looks a lot better now with his redesign and his old skins look great now. But why is a little variety so unpopular? Leagues got a lot of champs now and still manage to do a good job with both them and the skins. And on that note they do manage to do micro-transactions right; the things you can only buy with real money aren’t things that are required to win and don’t give you an advantage over other people. It is interesting though that things like runes, which are almost required to be better at the game, can ONLY be bought with the fake currency you can only earn by playing. So good on that. Honestly my biggest complaint about the game is it doesn’t really teach you how to be better. I don’t know how they’d do this and someone as dumb as me requires things to be watered down to be pretty obvious to get through my thick skull. So far the majority of advice I experience on my own during game play is from my teammates insulting me for building something wrong or too early. I wish I could remember what they were mad about be doing wrong instead of just remembering that that person was a jerk and thus would spend the remainder of the match screwing with. Again, I’m a terrible person. The recommended items for characters now does a pretty good job of informing you of what to do if its a champion you’ve never played before by giving you a plan to follow, but doesn’t quite teach you what the champ is built around or how to do it your own way. And again, there is only so much hand holding Riot can and should do, I don’t want the game to go full on Cooking Mama style endless tutorial of course, but I’m very dumb with numbers and stats.
A lot of this you guys probably already knew, after all LoL is apparently the most popular game in the world. And really thank god for that because I was afraid it was Call of Duty or some equally bland military shooter game played primarily by jerks. Leagues probably going to be around for a while and it’ll be interesting to see how it goes, and perhaps even more interesting what will be next for Riot. I like what they are doing and have high hopes for them in the future. Hopefully they won’t let me down like so many other developers have.
Host Paul Izod is joined by guests Emma ‘Hawkeye’ Picknell and new writer Tom Seymour for a special look at Microsoft’s reveal of their new console, the Xbox One.
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