You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2009.

New Final Fantasy MMO coming from Square Enix?

New Final Fantasy MMO coming from Square Enix?

Accordingly to Massively, who got their information from Gameplayer, Square Enix is rumored to be announcing a new MMO for the Playstation 3 and PC  at E3 this week. It’s been known for a while that Square Enix is working on a new MMO, but the real question is whether or not it will be set in the Final Fantasy universe. From Massively:

While we’ve known of a new Square-Enix MMO that has been in the works for some time now, we’ve recently received information that Square might be showing off this unannounced title during a special press conference on Wednesday at E3.

The conference doesn’t have specific details as to what’s going to be presented, but fellow press site Gameplayer has made the claim that it will be this unannounced project, codenamed Rapture. Rapture will be a PC and PS3 only title, with Sony announcing the game during their own press conference, scheduled for Tuesday.

Square Enix, in my opinion, are the masters of the RPG. The Final Fantasy brand has had a long and very successful career in the gaming industry and with the rise of virtual worlds and MMOs, it’s about time they drop that universe into a multiplayer setting. Besides, who wouldn’t want to RP as a Moogle? At least they’re a step up from furries.

Moogles: still not cuter than baby pandas

Moogles: still not cuter than baby pandas

Advertisements

51BJ34AXFSL._SL500_AA240_

One of my favorite things about music is coming across old song I have in my library that I’ve either forgotten about or never gave the chance to listen. This afternoon, while thinking about what I would write for a badly needed blog update, I came across this little gem while my Itunes was on random.

The song is called “I’ve got it all (most)” off of Modest Mouse’s Float On EP. As soon as the song started playing it just completely hit me, touching me musically while the lyrics resonated with personal things in my life. The song ditches the usually quirkiness of a Modest Mouse offering, using a smooth, understated groove to deliver what I think is one of their best songs.

I’ve got it almost figured out…

Modest Mouse – I’ve got it all (most)

So, I came across a great blog post on the SL Revolution blog about Second Life’s indie scene and its author was kind enough to let me repost. One of the strongest elements that can be used to drive a virtual world is music and I thought her commentary was an important piece of information related to what my blog is trying to do. Without further ado, here is her post.

Posted in SecondLife® on May 22, 2009 by Daila Holder

When I blog, I try to give the reader a peek into my Second Life viewer and sometimes even a quick glimpse into the inner workings of Daila Holder. My Second Life, like most of yours, is made up of fashion, friendship and fun, but a key element of my time spent in world is music. I always have my stream on, and have been known to be snobby enough to not shop in a store if the music stream is unappealing.

Though unlike most musically motivated avatars, I am not a D.J. I am a connoisseur of others’ hand picked musical selections. I lean toward indie music, and two years ago I discovered my Second Life home away from home: The Velvet

In an environment where clubs can close as quickly as they open, The Velvet has endured. So what is the key to starting and ensuring success of a club in Second Life, and why in a virtual world where fashion, drama and relationships rule, do so many take the time to focus on music? I asked Jed Brimm, Second Life DJ and Jasper Haifisch, Manager and DJ at The Velvet to help me answer those questions.

First a little history about The Velvet from Jasper:

Jasper Haifisch: The Velvet opened its fake doors on October 18, 2006. The club was conceptualized and brought to life by Pushbutton Skolnick. You’ll see her there from time to time socializing and DJing on occasion. About a year after the Velvet opened, she handed the keys over to me so we could keep it going.

And his thoughts on why the club has been successful:

Jasper Haifisch: Pushbutton Skolnick and I joke (I think we’re joking, maybe we’re just kidding ourselves) that we refuse to die. When the club first started, we used a lot of contests and themes to bring people in. That can take a lot of time and work and it eventually fell by the wayside, along with patrons. It took a while, but we’ve built a following back up and it’s all because of the community here. The Velvet exists because of the patrons.

Jed Brimm currently DJs at The Velvet, The Evening Room and others, and his sets are always worth catching. Check his SL profile for more details.

Some Evening Room DJs (Jed is top row, 3rd from left)

Some Evening Room DJs (Jed is top row, 3rd from left)

One of the questions I posed to Jed is:

In a virtual world where fashion, drama and relationships rule, why should someone take the time to focus on music?

Jed Brimm: I don’t think focusing on music excludes any of those things. In fact I would suggest that it complements them. Of course for many people, any or all of those things might be their sole focus. But in my experience music is a great catalyst for bringing people with similar tastes together. In many cases if you share an interest in particular music with someone, you might share other interests as well.
I also think, without getting too psychological, that it’s fair to say that virtual worlds are attractive to people who might be considered introverts. I have friends in SL who are shy even online. They just don’t wander up to people and start conversing. Musical venues are good places for people to come together. They hear something they like, maybe something they know about, they may want to share a story about a concert or a band or whetever. So in that sense, as a social medium, I think it is a good starting off point. Is that its sole purpose? I think most people who play music in SL love the music for its own sake. There might be others, I doubt many, who do it solely for the Lindens. I think there is also a bit of ego gratification involved. You like something, you want others to like it as well. But speaking for myself, the social interaction is the lure. Otherwise I could as easily play the music on my stereo.

Searching For Just the Right Song at Evening Room

Searching For Just the Right Song at Evening Room

So why do clubs like The Velvet and The Evening Room remain my favorite places to teleport into? The music baby, it’s all about the music. With 23 regular DJs, who, according to Jasper, “are given carte blanche for the most part”, you are sure to hear a set you enjoy. You can check out a current Velvet schedule here

Earthmine, a 3-dimensional mapping company, recently unveiled a new virtual graffiti application called Wild Style City. It’s modeled in the same fashion as Google’s street view, allowing artists to roam the streets of San Francisco and throw up a tag wherever they see fit.

“Wild Style City is an exploration into what people create when given the ability to freely express themselves and their ideas in specific places,” said Anthony Fassero, co-founder and co-CEO of earthmine. “Viewers can enjoy the images, add to them, erase them or even start over. It’s as close as you can get to the graffiti experience without the obvious real world consequences. But just like in the real world, no piece of graffiti is permanent and can be removed or replaced by the community.”

I spent some time exploring earthmine’s San Francisco and was pretty impressed with what I saw. It would appear that some serious graffiti enthusiasts have found their way into the world to bomb some sick spots. Unfortunately, for every good piece of graffiti art there’s a picture of a penis politely asking passerby’s to touch it innapropriately.

Touché...

Touché...

Earthmine’s innovation is an interesting take on socializing the street view product, letting it’s users “interact” through pieces of art with the rest of the community. Other wanderers and vote on pieces of art, but even the most lauded of designs can be taken down by anyone that feels it necessary to paint over. Thankfully, you can still access past pieces of art on any particular canvas.

As far as pure entertainment value, it’s a fun way to get around, explore San Francisco, view other’s art and maybe throw up something yourself. The community is entirely run by the art since you can’t see other people roaming in browser and there is no official message board or way to send information. But in that sense, it stays true to the graffiti community in real life. You’re just walking by, looking up at a great piece of art thinking “I wonder who did that?”

When I started this blog, one of the first things I mentioned was how amazing music has become in the way that we share it, listen to it and play with it. The internet has revolutionized the music industry, propelling the role of music in our lives to incredible heights. Ben Parr, a writer for Mashable, recently posted an article about the internet and its role in the rise of social music. He writes about its humble beginnings, the growth of MP3’s, illegal sharing, legitimized applications like iTunes, and the use of music social networks like Last.fm.

The last few years has also seen innovations in music-themed entertainment, namely the popularization of games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution. The idea has been around since about 1996 when PaRappa the Rapper was one of the first rhythm based video games of its time, but has since become a major force in the video game industry.

So what happens when you introduce a social aspect into the world of music based video gaming? You get Loudcrowd, a “music community for people who want to do more than just listen.” Loudcrowd is a DDR type gaming site where users complete dances and challenges to unlock clothes, music tracks (that come with additional challenges) and more.

Players have two options for building up their battery meter to unlock items, either sending dances to other users or completing solo challenges. It can be pretty addicting, and I’m not the only one who has spent quite some time playing around with the dance challenges. Loudcrowd has made a good attempt and mixing social networking, video gaming and music discovery. Although I’m a fan of what the site is trying to do I’d like to offer my observations and a few suggestions as to how the site can improve and fulfill its objective.

Social Networking

Loudcrowd has taken rhythm based video gaming and infused a social aspect to it. Players hang out in a lobby together where they perform dances for one another and complete challenges. Dances can be sent to other user along with a short message after the DDR-type minigame is completed.

For some reason there is no local chat feature, communication is limited to one on one conversations with other players. In order for there to be a healthy music community, there has to be an open discourse where users can share information with each other and contribute to the dialogue as a whole. Even if they didn’t want to have open chat, at least make forums available. Especially since the site is in beta, users should be able to look at each other’s ideas and be able to expound off of them.

It’s also slightly frustrating that the messages are limited to 60 characters (And you thought Twitter forced you to be concise!). I think it’s a brilliant idea that users can keep up a conversation by means of sending dances to each other, but it’s difficult to have any kind of meaningful discussion other than flat “Hey, what’s up – Not a whole lot, you?” kind of talking. Users can take the discussion to straight up instant messaging, but you have to choose between the two as the game can move pretty fast. Loudcrowd should up the character limit to dance messages, letting users engage in complex discussions without sacrificing the fun of doing it through video gaming.

I had asked a few regulars (all of whom had reached the level limit on the site) how many friends they had made in Loudcrowd and only one or two responded with a number more than 3. In a site that is trying to promote a community, users should be able to develop a bigger network.

Video Gaming

Player's complete challenges to send dances to other users

Player's complete challenges to send dances to other users

It appears that the primary function of Loudcrowd‘s site is video gaming, and for something that’s offered for free on the internet, its a lot of fun. Players can select up to four difficulty levels on different challenges in the game. There’s the rhythm based dancing mini game, a fill-in-the-blank survival minigame and a turntable mini game. The three different challenges help mix it up and give users options on what they want to participate in, but they can get stale after a while. Anyone I talked to on the site thats been there more than a week has said they’ve gotten bored with the gameplay.

This is fine if they’re trying to offer a casual gaming site for people to spend a few minutes on every day to kill some time, but fails if they are attempting to create a solid destination for players to immerse themselves in. The revenue model is based around buying upgrades for storage space on the items you can unlock, but when the site isn’t offering a continuously entertaining video game challenge, or items that affect and improve the experience, then it’s hard to see how people are going to stay on the site. Loudcrowd says they are introducing new games every two months, and I wonder if that’s too long a time span to keep players constantly engaged. It’s a great idea to keep expanding its gaming options, but it’s also important to build upon the mini games already in place.

Players can level up through accumulating points and ideally it’s supposed to unlock better items through the challenges, but players level out at 50 and most level 50 players I met said they did it in less than a week. I’m at level 10 after an estimated total of 5 hours on the site, and haven’t noticed any increase in the variety of options. The reason why a game like World of Warcraft is successful is because there is something to continoulsy strive for, the experience expands and improves with every challenge completed. Even though Loudcrowd is operating on a much smaller scale than WOW, it has to give players an incentive to keep playing. Expand the clothing options, offer items that actually affect the game play like power ups that can be used in challenges, and either up the level max or make it harder to level out. No game should be TOO easy.

Lastly, I’d like to see a larger focus on competition. With a DDR model in the dances, players need to be able to compete against one another and not just themselves. Some of the mini games and track challenges offer score charts where you can compete on the scoreboard, but players want to be able to compete directly against each other. The whole winner/loser dynamic may not be the biggest self esteem booster, but it’s usually why people play engage in multiplayer games in the first place.

Music Discovery

To start off, I have to say that the music on the site is great. It’s all mostly independent electro (a scene that has been really taking off the last couple years in the music community) bands from partnerships they’ve secured with record labels like Beggars Group, DFA, Domino, Downtown Records, and Modular. This makes sense with the type of gaming that’s offered, but it’s not the only genre of music that has a beat that works in the system. From the feedback I’ve gotten it seems that most of the users aren’t necessarily electro heads, and some have said they just turn off the music after a while. Targeting a specific genre is all well and good when you are appealing to one area of the music community, but when your audience has varied musical tastes I think it’s important to cater to that.

I would also like to see a larger selection of music offered, even if they stick with a pure electro theme. The playlist changes every week but the songs come from a selection of about 4 or 5 artists, and I’ve heard repeat songs during 30 minute gaming sessions. It would be cool to see a comprehensive playlist, one that emphasizes the new tracks that are debuting that week but still give attention to ones in the past. Over time, the site can offer a large music library that still introduces good music to those who may not have been lucky enough to be signed in when the track first came to the site.

Good start with a lot of potential

Despite some of my observations, Loudcrowd really is an innovative, refreshingly fun site and you can count me as a fan. The artistic side is very well done and very stylish. The site is a great example of taking a browser-based system and making the most out of it with the aesthetic quality. The art and music fit seamlessly together, complimenting each other and creating a solid, congruent environment.

One of the cool feature in Loudcrowd's player profiles

One of the cool features in Loudcrowd's player profiles (Not my profile)

I’m also a big fan of the user profiles, they’re unique to the site in a way I haven’t seen in other virtual worlds or social networking sites. Not only can they list their favorite bands, but there is a space for favorite lyrics, most influential band and things of that nature. There is also a bar graph on each user’s page detailing the times the user is usually on the site. I haven’t even been able to hit all of the features associated with player profiles and I think that speaks to the potential in depth of experience.

As a music lover, I’m very excited to see what else the creators have in store for Loudcrowd. The way the site blends music and video gaming only enhances each of those aspects. I spend a lot of time on the internet searching for new music, scouring sites like Hype Machine for new tunes. When you’re on the computer though, music usually serves as the background function. While I listen to new tracks on Hype Machine, I’m usually doing something else that takes away being able to fully appreciate and be a part of the music that’s playing. Loudcrowd offers a way to stay entertained and engaged with music, interacting with the beat while you discover new music.

I wouldn’t normally take the time to sit down and analyze the bits and pieces but the site really speaks to me, and I’d like to see them improve on the great features they already have in place. If Loudcrowd succeeds, we can be sure to see more innovations like this in the future.

Logan Walter's Wu Tang album art project

I’m trying to keep my straight music posts to a minimum as this isn’t an mp3 blog, but damn, the new venture by El Michels Affair is just too sick, too off the charts to ignore. El Michels Affair is a musical outfit on Truth and Soul Records creating a sound that would be known as “cinematic soul.” From the Truth and Soul Records website:

Taking influence from all types of music, Leon Michels and Nick Movshon began to create new type of soul music that blended the cinematic quality of soundtrack records with the recording aesthetic of early reggae, and the rawness of 60’s rock.

So naturally they ended up teaming up with the masters of rugged and raw, the mother fuckin’ Wu Tang Clan. They went on to play four live shows with the clan and a national tour with Raekwon the Chef. This collaboration led to their latest project, the brilliant Enter the 37th Chamber, a full record of re-imagined Wu-Tang instrumentals from some of their earliest tracks. OMGWTFBBQ, this record is straight from the slums of Shaolin. Gritty but infused with enough soul to make Al Green weep, these tracks are what the RZA must hear in his head when he goes to sleep at night.

El Michels Affair -Shimmy Shimmy Ya

El Michels Affair – Can it All Be So Simple

The loung style, jazzy interpretations of the Wu Tang Clan’s music are also being taken to an artistic level with Logan Walters‘ Wu Tang album cover project. Walters has been redesigning the Wu’s album art in the Blue Note Records style, nicely complimentating what the El Michels Affair has been doing. You can find all of his artwork on his flickr page, and thanks to So Much Silence for the find.

And remember kids, the Wu Tang Clan is FOREVER.

So I’m reading this article in Business Week about the future of gaming on Apple consoles, and by consoles I mean the iPhone. Apple has long neglected the poor Mac, leaving me playing Roller Coaster Tycoon to satisfy my computer gaming needs (Purposely leaving WOW on the shelf for fear of giving my soul away to Blizzard). Well, it looks like they have some pretty cool things in store for gaming applications on the Iphone.

The most exciting part of this news is the inclusion of multiplayer capabilities on the iPhone as a handheld gaming device. This idea has been attempted with the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP but it was too difficult to connect to other players in any sort of fun gaming environment. You basically have to know who you want to play with in order to set anything up. Hopefully the iPhone applications will have some sort of lobby function, or even an auto connect with other random players trying to set up games.

In a world where connectivity is expanding at a lightning speed rate, gamers want to pit their skills against other live human beings. Artificial intelligence, for the time being, pales in comparison to what the human brain offers. Instead of giving a single player a world to operate in, pitting themselves against scripts and AI, multiplayer offers an environment in which multiple brains can interact, create and compete.

Working together towards a common cause

Working together toward a common cause

People want to share their experiences with others. Ever since one of the first video games, Pong, it has always been more fun to play with another person than it was to play against the computer. Even when the game was strictly one player, like the original Mario, sharing the experience with another person, trading controllers, was ultimately more fulfilling than playing by yourself.

The fact that these features are just starting to come to iPhone applications is a little surprising. I guess it can be chalked up to limitations of a developing technology because I doubt application designers have failed to see the promise of multiplayer capabilities. However, the brilliant minds at Apple have shown questionable logic with their direction of iPhone utilities in the past. Regardless, multiplayer is coming to the iPhone and it is going to make its use as a gaming device compete on a very high level. The iPhone will succeed on this level for the same reason that social media has become such a hit and why other developers will continue to use human connectivity in their pursuits: human beings want to interact with other human beings.

The majority of what I’m blogging about can all be tied together into a congruent motif. Music, entertainment, virtual worlds and social media… They all exist in seperate spheres, but like an overly complicated Venn diagram they’re intrinsically linked. Each with an endless amount of complexities that play off one and other and contribute to making life better and more entertaining. So that in mind, the hell is up with pandas? For one, I love them. Pandas are the most adorable creatures on Earth and I challenge anyone to a duel who dares disagree with me.

Don't be mistaken, I will destroy you

Don't be mistaken, I will destroy you

I know, my blog already comes across as random enough. Throwing pandas into the mix seems like an “F you” to all notions of rhyme or reason but I swear to you, it’s an absolute necessity.

Let me share a few facts about pandas with you:

1) Although the panda is technically a carnivore, it’s diet consists of 99% bamboo.

2) Bamboo is not very nutritious, making them lazy as balls. They even avoid steeply sloping hills to limit energy expenditures.

3) They limit social interactions and will kill humans out of irritation.

4) Pandas are cuter than anything you’ve ever seen in your life and would make phenomenal cuddle buddies had they been wired differently.

This is hard science, folks. It’s not fair either, because not only do the Chinese have a powerful industry that makes us look like a bunch of stoners, they also have to be the proud owners of the greatest animal on Earth. It’s my job as an American blogger to share as many panda related things as I possibly can as part of our courageous fight against communism. Now, for those of you who are still skeptical, consider this…

Need I say more?

Indaba Music is featuring Vinyl Life‘s Phil Moffa as their new “Artist in Residence” to educate potential music makers on production methods. He’s already got to work, even making an interesting post in the studio blog about the continued importance of vinyl in electronic music (His group is called “Vinyl Life” after all, so no surprise there).

From the Website:

In an age when most electronic musicians and DJs rely on computers to do the work for them, Phil Moffa believes that the best sounds are created through the use of physical hardware and analogue signal paths. Based out of his own Butcha Sound Studios, Phil Moffa uses a growing arsenal of hardware equipment to craft the unique electronic sounds for his group Vinyl Life. In addition to his work with Vinyl Life, Phil teaches at The Conservatory of Music at Purchase College and is a regular writer for DJ Times and Club World Magazine. As Indaba’s very first Artist In Residence, Phil will be sharing his vast knowledge of sound design, synthesis, and electronic music.

Indaba Music is a social network and web application launched in 2007 to let artists from all over the world to find each other and collaborate on projects. The site boasts 125,000 registered users in over 170 countries and has at the very least spawned a few minor record deals from resulting collaborations on the site. Indaba Music has been successful in hosting remix contests where users remix tracks from major label artists and have the songs judged by the artists themselves for prizes.

Now, that’s a lot of information to get to my main point about this: do not underestimate what a great move this is for Indaba. From the outset, Indaba has set out to create a platform that serves artists beyond the usual means of production and distribution, encouraging collaboration and the exchange of ideas. In the time they’ve made their site they’ve created a very powerful engine (although the flash program used for production is subpar to even GarageBand), and users have been creating a plethora of remixes from their collaborations.

But the internet is already LITTERED with remix after remix of just about every song ever published. Now, it’s not a bad thing that people are using Indaba to make remixes, the site has responded in kind with weekly remix contests featuring (and judged by) major label artists like Alkaline Trio, Kanye West and the Derek Trucks Band. The establishment of an Artists In Residence program however, is a step towards seperating Indaba from remix sites like Splice and Jamglue.

The website states:

The Indaba “Artist in Residence” program is designed for experts in a particular field of music to share their unique knowledge with the Indaba community.

Although the site hasn’t announced any plans yet for other artists, the language suggests that they’ll be partnering with more than just DJ’s in the future. Indaba has already generated a lot of interest from musicians while it’s in beta, but bringing in artists to be participating members of the community is going to strengthen it’s dialogue and creative exploration.


Nina Gordon is an American rock singer best known for being the co-founder of the famous 90’s pop rock outfit Veruca Salt. Channeling iconic 80’s bands like the Bangles, she helped bring back fun melodies into a rock movement that was dominated by grunge.

Laura Marling is an English folk/indie singer from Hampshire who released a gorgeous solo debut last year. A former member of Noah and the Whale, her debut was produced by NATW frontman Charlie Fink.

So what do these talented crooners have in common? Well, they both like gettin dat skrilla and pimpin hos, of course!

Laura Marling: The long lost twin of Marshall Mathers

Laura Marling: The long lost twin of Marshall Mathers

Nothing beats a good cover song, but there’s never any sense in trying to mimic what the original artist was trying to do. The best covers are genre-hopping, imaginative revisitations. Sure, Nina Gordon’s cover of NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” is all over the blogosphere, but hell, if you haven’t heard it elsewhere you need to hear it here. Laura Marling teamed up with Jeffrey Lewis to do a folky rendition of Eminem’s “Brain Damage” for the UK paper The Guardian. It just goes to show that music is music, and a good tune should be appreciated no matter what “scene” you’re affiliated with.

Nina Gordon – Straight Out Of Compton (NWA cover)

Jeffrey Lewis & Laura Marling – Brain Damage (Eminem Cover)

Pages

Tweet this!

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Categories