New Header

•September 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Oh man… you don’t have to tell me that header is terrible, ok? I just had to change it from the default template header… ūüėõ

I promise to remove my sin against web design and simple good taste as soon as humanly possible.

DJCXL.com version 3.0

•May 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Well, we launched the newer, sparse version of CXL’s blog a while back but we’re gearing up now to get things rolling on a regular again (check out www.djcxl.com).

CXL has been busy – hence the slow-down on the blog front – as he’s released his first single, My Love, and, just recently, the remix featuring Scribe and Illegal Musik’s new rapper, K One. I directed the video for My Love and was hoping to get a chance to catch Scribe laying his verse but due to camera issues… >_< … I've been out of commission for a while on the video front!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting more action happening with CXL's blog – more behind the scenes video content, etc. – and should have more to blog about in the near future!

The role of music in games

•January 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Some games understand the importance of dynamics, subtlety and just plain rightness when it comes to music.

My early experience of a deft touch of minimalism in game music occurred with the very first Tomb Raider game. My friend and I were caught up in a virtual world, staring at his projector screen in awe as Lara wandered through ancient ruins with nothing but the crunch crunch of gravel or clop clop of stone beneath her feet. The occasional brief musical stings as Lara entered a new area and a gorgeous vista opened up beneath her feet, were perfectly placed and brought a swell of anticipation whenever they appeared.

Other games have a George Lucas approach to music: there is always a soundtrack playing. The japanese seem to love this style. Many’s the game where one finds oneself wandering through a picturesque village with jaunty music plunking away on endless repeat. The music becomes part of the background atmosphere after a while, then when you enter the next area – e.g. the vast, uncharted wilderness – a stirring anthem of adventure bursts forth and your expectation of new encounters, excitement and danger suddenly kicks in to gear.

There’s obviously something appealing about the approach above (constant music) but I’m more of a fan of dynamics, personally.

A great example of soundtrack dynamics from film is in Peter Jackson’s “The Fellowship of the Ring”, during the sequence in Balin’s tomb, in the mines of Moria. When the orcs finally burst through the door and the battle is joined, the soundtrack that had been gradually building the tension of their approach drops out completely and all we hear is the thwack and whump of swords and arrows, interspersed with the occasional grunt and cry.

Peter Jackson (or the editor ; ) uses the music to bring us into the mindspace of the heroes of the Fellowship: before the battle, when they can hear the howls of the orcs outside and the hacking of axes at the door, the music escalates along with the tension they are feeling; then, as the fray begins in earnest, the heroes’ focus turns from their imagination – from anticipation – to their immediate predicament; to the urgency of life and death and the simple act of keeping their enemy’s sword from entering their body. They hear no ‘mind music’ of escalating dread and anticipation – they are in the moment: a frantic and uncluttered zone of conflict (and, by extension and musical cue, so are we).

After a time, and at a significant moment in the narrative of the battle choreography, Jackson reintroduces Howard Shore’s score and we are figuratively ushered back in, as an audience, to witness the spectacle of our heroes in action.

~ * ~

Those sorts of dynamics, when applied to games, interest me the most. The music in a game is one part of a multi-faceted whole that includes the visuals and the gameplay experience – and just like an individual instrument in an orchestral score it should be employed at a specific time of the creator’s choosing. In musical scores an instrument is introduced at points where its particular contribution is most perfectly suited to the emotion or feeling the creator is trying to express at that time. At other times, it suits the score for that particular instrument to be silent.

As I said, I can’t understand the benefits or artistry involved in the decision to have a soundtrack constantly playing throughout a story experience (please enlighten me below!) – but it seems to me to be the difference between being enveloped in a holistic, engaging experience or simply playing a game where the music is a convention, like the health bar and the opening menu – something that, if missing, would be sorely noticed but when present, seems simply to fade into the background like so much wallpaper.

Some would say, “George Lucas had a constant soundtrack and we still experienced a great emotional journey from his films”, but I would point out that the music was often composed specifically for the images and action on-screen and was thus dynamic in its makeup – a dynamism that game music often can’t emulate (as the Player could take ten seconds to walk across the screen to the next area or they could take thirty minutes – by which point the music has had to loop a number of times).

What do you think? Is a dynamic, nuanced soundtrack more likely to engage the Player on a deeper emotional level than a soundtrack that plays constantly throughout the game?

(Reposted from my original PlayMaker personal blog)

NZ Indie Community Building

•December 31, 2009 • 1 Comment

Our indie game developer community site – PlayMaker – is gradually coming together.

We still have some work to do around building the community but we’re confident that we’ll soon have a base of ¬†great content to build an engaged and interested network.

The latest thread of interest in our forums is the current Art Challenge: “Current Gen Characters Reimagined in 16-bit Pixel Art”. Be keen to hear what people think of some of the great art in NZ’s talent pool : ).

My favourites at the moment are this reimagining of a character from “Borderlands”, drawn by user Harbadakus:

… and this pic of Dragon Age character Morrigan by Paul Catling:

Hunting dragons

•December 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Dragon Hunters is a great movie. The concept of the floating worlds and their local gravity is nicely realised in little (and big) details throughout the film –¬†especially in the clip below. The art is beautiful in a very french way (imo) and the character and creature design is fantastic (the little electrical predators and the red bats were well designed and well realised, to name just a couple).

I found the little girl as annoying as Gwizdo did and the ending left me more bemused than surprised but overall it was a great little movie!

J William’s “Young Love” Re-release Promo

•December 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

On Sunday I went to Illegal Musik’s photoshoot for the re-release of J Williams’ “Young Love” album.

Besides shooting a promo for Illegal (embedded below) I also intended to shoot the first item of our video magazine show, thinkdotreset.

Our presenter, Teri Pope¬†fronted an¬†item¬†on Illegal Musik and the grind that goes into maintaining a career in the industry, from¬†managing artists to¬†managing an¬†indie label. Mark – Illegal’s CEO – gave us a great interview and filled us in on the history of Illegal Musik¬†but we had major technical issues with sound so we’ve had to put that item aside for now.

I constructed the Illegal Musik¬†promo around Mark’s breakdown of Illegal’s approach – which is to¬†make best use of¬†the experience of creating and pushing Ill Semantics¬†so they can¬†provide support to their newer, younger artists. In that light I¬†picked an old favourite Ills track of¬†mine: “Outta Control”. It’s an awesome track with a great MPC constructed beat from CXL and a silky, groove-heavy hook from Patriarch (Mark’s MC alias).

If anyone cares, tell me what you think of the track – I think it’s great! : ).

Making a music video

•December 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’m working on the music video treatment for DJCXL’s debut single “My Love” featuring J Williams.

It’s an interesting juggling act: being a “new” artist launch coming from the genre of hip hop and featuring an established R&B label-mate means the video has to stay true to its overriding creative force (DJCXL – hip hop Producer) and yet maintain enough of the image and character of its major guest star (J Williams – R&B artist). J comes from a smooth, younger, female-demographic, R&B angle while CXL’s style is an older, rawer, rootsier hip hop aesthetic – in other words, the concept can’t be too polished, overly-commercial and “youthful” (like J) but it can’t be so raw, “real” and “mature” that J’s vibe doesn’t work with it.

As always, though, it’s about the music at the end of the day and fortunately the track is great and breezes by without any inkling of the aforementioned juggling act even raising its head – that “concern” is purely my own consideration to work through. Ultimately, my job is about finding the essence of both artists in the music and taking it from there.

Fingers crossed.