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The video game industry has an ongoing identity crisis. Mostly, I’m able to watch this from afar, keeping industry drama firmly at arm’s length. Unfortunately, one of the symptoms of this crisis is manifesting itself in video game soundtracks.

In recent years, as the industry has blossomed, some AAA games seem set on hiring famous film composers to write music. I feel this is a loss that compromises the identity of the enterprise.

For several reasons, the game industry struts around like the red-headed stepsister of entertainment. I often liken this film breaking away from theater in the early 1900s; over time, ideally, these feelings of inadequacy will fade. Yet, since video games make absurd amounts of money, above and far beyond the music and film worlds, I’ve struggled to understand the inferiority complex.

Hiring film composers hardly brings more respect or recognition to games. Consumers certainly buy soundtracks as a result of the composer, but how often will someone actually buy a game as a result? Who purchased Mass Effect 3 because of Clint Mansell? Who bought Halo 4 because of Neil Davidge? Who bought Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 because of Hans Zimmer?

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Did developers make back the exorbitant fees wrapped up in hiring these men (calling a spade a spade), purely from consumers buying soundtracks because of their music? That is so incredibly unlikely. Did they get bragging rights for hiring Zimmer? Yep. Good for them.

The most profound music in games was written by game composers. Or, quite simply, composers who aren’t famous for their films. They’re composers who are famous for their game music. They excel at writing game music. Film composers don’t.

A film composer can write a beautiful theme, but how often will they be the ones to innovate or improve game music? And let’s face it, when Mansell or Zimmer or Reznor get hired, they aren’t writing the bulk of the music. They might write a theme or two, and that’s it. The real game composers fill in the gaps, which is equally as tragic, scoring minutes upon minutes more than the film dude did. The game composers still write the bulk of the music, and get far less credit than they deserve.

Outside of bragging rights, there is no rhyme or reason for hiring outside the industry. There is plenty of talent within it. It’s not like I need to list names like Soule, Kyd, O’Donnell, Schyman… but there you go. Some of those insanely talented composers have been replaced by film composers.

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The message sent? We want real entertainment composers. Video game composers don’t have enough talent, or skill, or name recognition. I think that last part is key: the name recognition. Hiring someone like Zimmer sends conflicting messages. To the rest of the entertainment industry, it’s a “Look at us – we hired Trent Reznor because video games are a big deal.”

To the fans, however, the message is, “Hey, we’re gonna go ahead and hire someone from outside the industry so we can get attention from the film folks”.

Again, how often do consumers buy a game because of the famous dude (spade a spade) hired to do the music? Perhaps they buy the soundtrack, but it seems outrageous to assume that this will make a pub/dev enough additional money to warrant the decision.

Game music makes games special. It always has. Hiring huge names for millions of dollars means the industry loses one of its unique attributes: composers who’ve spent their lives playing and studying games and game music; composers who strive for the best interactive experience musically. Let’s keep those folks in the game, so to speak.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing Destiny over the past few weeks. My Hunter is level 26+, and if you’ve played it, you know it takes a tiny bit of devotion to level up your character.

I enjoy the soundtrack, and it nearly always hits the mark. My praise overshadows my criticism.

Additionally, I’m only addressing the soundtrack to the game, not the song Paul McCartney wrote for the credits.

Speaking generally, the audio team did an amazing job implementing the music. Never does the music stop or start suddenly. The loops always wrap up perfectly, and the transitions are flawless. I’m such a stickler for this, because there are some terrific soundtracks that are more or less ruined by how the music was put into the game, and that’s a crime.

Totally not the case with Destiny. It’s really, really well done.

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Destiny’s soundtrack runs the gamut of symphonic to electronic music, with the occasional choir used to great effect. That gamut will be evident in my favorite tracks, listed below. However, this is one of my complaints with these massive soundtracks: it’s clearly impossible for one human being to undertake the arduous task of writing so many hours of music for a giant game. The only solution is to bring in more composers. In Destiny’s case, and so very many other blockbuster games, the musical narrative gets lost.

Thing is, even when Destiny’s score wanders, I tend to enjoy where it goes.

Truth be told, and this is huge for me, Destiny’s combat music is outstanding. Some of the battle music is foreground music, not at all intended to serve as a backdrop. Instead, the music is present and obvious in the best possible way.

My favorite track, however, might be the simplest in its sound. It’s called “Deconstruction”, and I’m so incredibly happy that the person who made this exists.

Next favorite is called “The Great Unknown”. Tonality is a bit ambiguous here, which is the best part, but it sounds a lot like a mode called lydian-mixolydian to me, which is one of my favorites. You get that raised fourth scale degree with a flat seven and it sounds super neat. A band called Elbow does a great song in that mode, I think it’s called “Ribcage”. But regarding “The Great Unknown”, the choir is great and the atmosphere is awesome. Here’s a nice long loop for you.

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I pretty much love all the music you hear when you’re wandering around the tower.

Regarding combat tunes, there are some great ones. I love love love “The Temple of Crota”. I also enjoy “Dust Giants” and “End of the Line”. The dudes I play with online love “End of the Line” too. The best part of “End of the Line” is how it builds during the first big battle in the Sepiks Prime mission. It’s done SO well as the battle builds in intensity – it’s quite remarkable. Ooooh, and I love the “Sepiks Prime” tune too (it’s definitely one of my favorite missions).

On occasion, I feel like the score sounds too terrestrial. I recall the first time I heard guitar and drums, I was momentarily pulled away from the magic of Destiny’s universe. I liked the music though, even if it felt slightly anachronistic. In some ways, the overt acoustic sounds like brass, strings, electric guitars and drums serve as a tether to the human elements left in Destiny’s time. If all we heard were synthesizers, we’d lose that touch. When I consider it like that, I’m content.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

I had an interesting and, at times, heated discussion with two of my friends last night as we battled our way through a couple Strike missions in Destiny.

If you’ve not paid much attention to Bungie’s newest conversation starter, loot is incredibly difficult to acquire in Destiny, unless you farm for it. In Destiny, farming often involves standing with a bunch of random strangers, aiming at a cave in the distance and shooting anything that moves inside. At a certain point, everyone runs out of ammo, so you dart up to the cave, collect all the drops, run back to the standing spot and do this ad nauseam until you score a handful of interesting items. The longer you shoot at the cave, the more loot you’ll get.

It’s not a very fun way to play the game, but it’s effective if you don’t feel like playing the game the way Bungie intended.

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And that’s the sticking point, where my buddy, “Super”, got all fired up. He doesn’t think highly of grinding in a game to get loot. He thinks he gets loot the “straight” way – by playing levels and advancing accordingly.

The problem with his plan is this: Bungie doesn’t award you loot for playing well, at least not from what I’ve witnessed. If you play in the Crucible (PvP stuff), you’ll quickly note that the player with the most kills or the most impressive K/D rarely gets anything at all, let alone a legendary drop of some sort.

I farmed for a couple hours on and off yesterday, and I find it particularly boring in Destiny. A game like Diablo 3 or Skyrim is built on the presumption that players will farm until their eyes bleed. During the load screen, Diablo 3 even tells you that if you’re dying, go back and replay levels to gain XP and to find better loot. How can it be considered cheating, if the game actively recommends you do it?

Bungie, however, is most certainly not recommending that players farm for loot, which brings me to Super, and his soapbox tirade about earning loot the “right” way.

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Do you remember how you could trick Call of Duty 4 into landing in a 1v1 match with your buddy? I can’t remember exactly how, but my friend Ross and I spent hours in 1v1 together just so I could get all my headshots, and so I could prestige all the way to 50. It was much, much harder to prestige in CoD4 compared to, well, any other CoD since. I suppose I call that cheating.

And Super has a point: the players that grind the caves in Destiny and then move on to the Crucible to kill everyone with their questionably acquired legendary fusion rifle really are cheating. But on the other side of the argument was Mazey, and Mazey doesn’t have all the time in the world to “play the game right”. Mazey, who IS the dude in the Crucible who kills the most people and has the highest K/D, got sick of getting stiffed out of loot. We played together for hours Saturday night, and Mazey got ONE item after about 9 rounds of Control. I got far more loot than that, and I’m routinely in the middle of the pack (I made my peace with that years ago).

A lot of this boils down to the American way of keeping up with the Joneses. We all want to have the best, and when we see others who have what we want, we often try to find the simplest and quickest way to get it.

Given that there are 8 billion games coming out this fall, we all need to get to level 30 as quickly as possible, so we can move onto grinding the hell out of the next game.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Seriously, Destiny is ruining my life, one short week after I welcomed it into my life. It’s not new for me to be consumed by a game, but I’m especially frustrated by Destiny’s hold on my soul while I face down week after week of new game releases. Over the course of the last few days, I’ve started dreading the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition, Sunset Overdrive, Fantasia: Music Evolved, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Far Cry 4 and LittleBigPlanet 3.

I feel like I’m cheating on Diablo 3. All I can do is Destiny. I keep looking at my character on the app and on Bungie.net. She looks amazing.

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I’ve only begun with a Hunter, and she’s up to 21 at this point. It’s no surprise to me that I’m hooked on a game that allows you to micromanage your inventory and obsess over your stats while away from the console.

I’m still not even really sure how to deck her out. I have no idea what to buy from whom, and I’m not entirely certain what types of salvage I should try to acquire. I have about 10,982 Spirit Blooms, or so.

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I wrote an entry here when I learned that Destiny cost $500-million to make. I was concerned that a high price tag would translate into too many people with too many visions and too many directions leading to too many errors. As of now, I’ve had zero connection issues, and I’ve never encountered a glitch. My complaint thus far is the ridiculously brief story, most of which I didn’t understand. Luckily, it’ll only take me about a half a day to storm through it again if I need help comprehending the lore.

I think it’s a beautiful game. There is a balance between colorless, lifeless terrain (like on the Moon) and lush, vibrant landscapes (like Venus). And yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, depending on how much grinding you’re willing to do. I have a particularly high threshold for grinding, that I believe corresponds directly with the amount of time I’m willing to spend interacting with other humans.

Speaking of which, I thoroughly enjoy interacting with strangers on a “whenever-the-hell-I-want” basis. Other players come and go, and I get to decide if I want to help them or keep doing my own thing.

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There are exceptions to this, though, like in the Strike missions. These are co-op missions with up to three players. They’re challenging battles with waves of enemies and incredibly tough bosses. As you move through these levels, Bungie eventually restricts respawning, and if all three players die without resurrecting each other before killing the final boss, that section resets and you begin the entire boss battle over again. When you’re facing bosses that take a solid 20 minutes to kill, it gets frustrating if all three players continue to die. Strategy becomes paramount, and I enjoy that quite a bit. Ammo isn’t necessarily abundant either, forcing you to consider ammo conservation and resource management.

In my opening moments of playing Destiny, it felt like Borderlands without the humor. I still have this opinion sometimes; however, I love the hell out of Borderlands so it’s hardly a criticism.

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Here’s the bottom line for me on Destiny: if you enjoy first-person shooters, get this game. Wait until the price is lower if you want, but get this game. There are plenty of enemies – in fact, after you clear an area, the enemies respawn so quickly it’s occasionally frustrating.

I need to spend a bit more time with Destiny’s music before I review that, but look for those comments next week.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

There are loads of Mass Effect and probably some Dragon Age spoilers up in here:

I wrote in defense of Morrigan from the Dragon Age series a few weeks ago. I’ve continued playing BioWare games lately, perhaps in a quest to find an artificial girlfriend so willingly offered up by their titles, or perhaps because I enjoy their stories. Maybe both.

I’ve failed miserably with regards to finding a BioWare mate. In Dragon Age: Origins, I attempted to romance Morrigan with my lady Grey Warden, only to find out Morrigan is straight and can’t be in a same-sex relationship. That’s cool because it’s like life where humans are a variety of bi, straight and/or gay.

However, even though Leliana’s romance meter was set to “LAND THE PLANE”, I forgot to consummate my relationship with her before starting the final mission. So my Grey Warden never experienced true bliss, as it were, before the final battle.

In Dragon Age II, I went for Isabela (every playthrough). All you need to do is be nice to her like once and she’ll spend some “quality time” with you.

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Hawke: “Hey Iz, new bandana?” Isabela: *focuses gaze, stares ravenously*

When I played through the Mass Effect series on the Xbox, I stuck with Liara the entire time. Liara is, hands down, the best romance option. Like, ever. In those early days of my Mass Effect life, I didn’t know that BioWare was all “equality” about their romances and such in games. I encountered a conversation in which my FemShep could flirt with Liara, or tell her I thought lady sex was gross. I chose to tell her I thought it was gross, because in my mind, I thought, this is a video game; they’ll never let me have a same-sex relationship, and they’ll mock me if I agree with her. So I turned her down and lost my chance. As the game progressed, my lack of BioWare know-how led me to accidentally romance Kaiden. The memory of that brings a small nugget of bile to the back of my throat.

Fast forward to now, when I’m all about Mass Effect. I’ve played all three enough times to know what’s what. Kind of.

I never played the first Mass Effect on PlayStation. Oh, dude, I tried. I tried so hard. But I got to the Citadel, and remembered how much walking around Shepard has to do, and how Shepard doesn’t have a run button, and I just. couldn’t. do it.

So I popped in Mass Effect 2 and started that. But surprise! You can’t romance Liara in Mass Effect 2 unless you did in the first one. I mean, you kind of can, but there’s no plane that lands. Liara leaves Shepard sitting on the end of her bed in the Captain’s Cabin, walking away while Shepard depressingly says something like, “Come back soon.”

It gets worse for the ladies who want to romance other ladies in Mass Effect 2. FemShep can romance Kelly, assuming you go save her as soon as the Collectors take her. Otherwise, Kelly dies.

If FemShep tries to romance Samara, it’s bleak. Samara is an Asari justicar who follows “The Code” and cannot be in a relationship. Even though Samara is intrigued by FemShep, Samara still turns her away. Truly heartbreaking, in a video game sense.

If you’re playing as FemShep and you want the romance trophy (aka the Paramour Achievement), you can’t romance a female at all. You must romance Thane, Garrus or Jacob. All of those choices suck, no matter how awesome Thane or Garrus are. Maybe if Thane or Garrus were blue, I’d be down?

Since Samara won’t seal the deal due to her Code, and Kelly may or may not die, the only other choice is Morinth, unless you kill her (which I did since I’m playing as Paragon).

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And choosing Morinth isn’t the most intelligent decision…

It’s a sad, sad state for a gay chick to play Mass Effect 2. After my failed BioWare relationships, I feel like the only true solution is to start over from scratch. Again. Force myself through the stupid Citadel, romance the hell out of Liara, and carry her along through ME2 into ME3.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Another PAX Prime is in the books, and this was a big one. So many people. So many games. So many lines.

Saturday, I hosted two panels. The first, at noon, was called Disney’s Fantasia: Music Evolved – From 8-Bit Soundtrack to Gameplay, and involved Chris Nicholls (Executive Producer of Fantasia: Music Evolved), Gwen Riley (Head of Business Affairs Music at Disney Interactive), Inon Zur (composer) and Eddie Kramer (producer/engineer).

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The panel was fabulous, but my favorite part was playing the game. Disney teamed up with Harmonix for this one, and Harmonix proved again that they have a handle on creating fantastic interactive music games.

I chose to try the game out by playing Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Much like the very first time I played Guitar Hero, I didn’t nail many notes, but all I wanted to do was try it again and again. It was addicting, fun, challenging, colorful and engaging.

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Composer Inon Zur channeling Wizard Mickey

The bummer of it is that it’s an Xbox One exclusive, but between Disney’s Fantasia: Music Evolved and Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive, I know at least one person who’s buying an Xbox One before October. (me)

I finally want an Xbox One! That’s good news for Microsoft, as I’m sure I’m not the only one excited by some of their upcoming exclusives.

The afternoon panel I hosted was called Maestros of Video Games, and included composers Martin O’Donnell, Darren Korb, Sascha Dikiciyan, Oleksa Lozowchuk, Jesper Kyd and Boris Salchow. All six of those composers are fabulous in their own right, and they were a delight on the panel. That panel ended at 5:30, followed by a 2-hour signing session from 7 PM – 9 PM.

All six have exciting projects – some are announced, some are not. Jesper’s newest music will be heard in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. You’ll hear Sascha’s music in The Long Dark, Boris’s in Sunset Overdrive, and Marty’s in Destiny. Darren’s newest tunes are in Transistor, and I highly encourage you to listen to every single note written by Oleksa, whether it’s from Dead Rising 3 or any number of amazing projects he’s scored.

Saturday was a lonnnnnng day, but easily one of the best days of my life.

The lines, as I mentioned, were as epic as ever. When I finally had the chance to walk the floor Sunday afternoon, every single line was capped and said “Please come back in 5-10 minutes, and no, you can’t make a line for the line”.

But there was no line for LittleBigPlanet 3, at least not at the instant I walked by it. I played it, loved it, I can’t wait to buy it. LBP3 was set up at Sony’s PlayStation exhibit. They happened to have a couple PS4s set up running Far Cry 4, so I played that without a wait also, standing not 50 feet away from the 2+-hour-long line at Ubisoft’s actual Far Cry 4 booth. I will buy that without hesitation as well.

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Sunday, I bumped into Peter McConnell. He was at PAX Prime to do a panel about Grim Fandango, which Double Fine is re-releasing. Such good news!!!

All in all, PAX Prime was fantastic. PAXtastic. Hard to believe it was my fourth PAX (2nd Prime)! I met some great people, fans and industry folk alike. I look forward to the next adventure!

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Saturday, August 30th, I’m moderating a discussion called “Maestros of Video Games” in Seattle at PAX Prime. As usual, I’m pretty frickin’ excited about this. Here’s a bit of background on each panelist, along with a couple of my favorite samples of their music.

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Sascha Dikiciyan

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Sascha’s Mass Effect 3 music hits me with such nostalgia that all I need to do is see the title of one of those tracks and I’m hit with a wave.

Here’s the character creation music. Sascha is great at creating the illusion of spacious landscapes in his tracks. He worked on both Borderlands games; here’s one of my favorites from Borderlands 2.

Lest we forget Dead Rising 3, a soundtrack with more than five hours of music on it. Sascha isn’t responsible for all five of those hours, as you’ll learn below. He contributed a lot of music, though, such as “Infected”, which you can check out on Sascha’s website.

Darren Korb

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Darren is the audio guy and composer for Supergiant Games. His soundtrack for Bastion pretty much blew everyone away. He came back with more amazing music for Transistor in 2014. Both games are all but unplayable without the soundtracks. Here’s a favorite track from each:

Slinger’s Song” – Bastion

Sandbox” – Transistor

Jesper Kyd

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Oh man I love this dude so much it hurts. I mean no disrespect to the other incredible talents on the panel. One of game music’s greatest tragedies was the separation of Assassin’s Creed and Jesper, although I tell myself this opened up opportunities for us to hear his music elsewhere.

One of my favorite “elsewheres” is Darksiders II, which quite possibly will forever remain a favorite soundtrack of mine. Here’s that.

He’s done much since then, as he did much before AC with his Hitman music. Borderlands, Borderlands 2, State of Decay, and the TV series Metal Hurlant Chronicles. Here’s some awesome Borderlands 2 music.

Oleksa Lozochuk

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Oleksa joined the Dead Rising series for Dead Rising 2. Oleksa is a pretty great songwriter, for one. Check out “Halfway Dead”. It’s amazing.

I adore this track from Dead Rising 3 in so many ways, too. Yay Prince!

Not all his music has words, such as this.

Martin O’Donnell

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What honestly to say about Martin, the king of Halo, that hasn’t been said? My favorite soundtrack from the Halo series is from ODST. My favorite other Halo track is “Luck” from Halo 3.

I kinda can’t wait to hear more Destiny music, and I’m bummed that won’t happen until after the panel (Destiny releases September 9). Here’s a taste, though!

Boris Salchow

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Huge huge huge Boris fan. I loved his music for Resistance 3; he’s written amazing music for Ratchet & Clank, and I cannot wait to hear what’s up with Sunset Overdrive.

However, if you want to hear a hidden gem, I highly, highly recommend you listen to his score for a film called Germany from Above (Deutschland von Oben). It’s fantastic, and you can hear it on his website.

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

It’s time for another round of Emily’s pet peeves in gaming. Isn’t it? I think it is. I’ve been brewing up this list for a while.

Being Taunted

I’m not talking about being taunted by humans in multiplayer scenarios. I’m not talking about being chided by my friends while they watch me gloriously fail a poorly planned frontal assault in whatever game. I’m talking about being taunted by the game itself when I make a mistake or do poorly.

Here’s a simple example: I play a solitaire game called Fairway Solitaire by Big Fish Games. If I have more than five cards left over at the end of a round, this insipid little gopher pops into the middle of the screen and laughs at me. Occasionally, he’ll stick his tongue out. Sometimes, I have to set the phone down and walk away for fear I’ll chuck it into the wall.

Look, I know that fourteen-over-par is horrible. I don’t need you to laugh at me.

Is this because I got bullied as a child?

I remember Bastion’s narrator giving me crap for falling off the sidewalk a million times when I first started the game. That was annoying. Great game though. Awesome music. Made up for it.

Elaborate death screens sometimes feel like mockery. Some giant bleeding skull with gothic font saying “YOU DIED” or some such obvious language. Whatever. I hate being taunted.

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Mark Hamill: among the greatest of gaming’s offenders

Horde Mode

Wait, wait, wait. I actually love horde modes. I don’t always enjoy how horde modes are constructed.

Every once in a while, I’ll get home from a day – maybe it’s not even a bad day, relatively; it might be a great day. So every once in a while, I really enjoy just beasting on some bots, to feel like the queen of all games for a short amount of time, to feel… invincible.

Horde modes can let you feel this way for a short amount of time, until inevitably, you’re overwhelmed. In my opinion, this happens way too quickly.

I don’t always want a challenge. I don’t always want it to be hard. Sometimes, I just want to win all the things. I want the waves of enemies to stop when I want them to stop, not when they overwhelm me either by their rising armor and weapon levels or by their sheer numbers.

I want a game that gives me waves of the most moronic, incapable bots that gather in large groups ripe for predator missiles or acid bombs or energy beams or whatever my weapon of choice happens to be. I want those bots to keep coming, and I want my armor and weapon upgrades to keep coming, so I can continue to wreak endless havoc on the worthless, useless AI, until which time I decide I’ve had enough. Perhaps I’m driving a car over zombies, or shelling the opposition, or firing a mounted death beam.

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[Editor's Note] I’m just gonna leave this heeeere…

Timers

I hate being timed, largely in puzzle games. My whole life revolves around time, at a radio station. That is fine. It is my job. Parameters have benefits in this line of work. When I’m not at my job, please don’t time me. If your game has a stupid timer, please give me an untimed mode.

I understand timers on powers and such, and the occasional “get through here as fast as possible” board. I still mourn the loss of Zen mode in Bejeweled 3 since that mobile game got ruined by ads. Speaking of puzzle games:

Puzzle Games

I’m so bad at them. So, so bad. Often, when I play puzzle games, I’m left feeling like the kid in the corner wearing the dunce cap. I have to put in a game with shooting or driving just to feel in command again.

On the bright side, I feel like a genius when I solve one without a walkthrough. I’ve played many, many puzzle games. Too many to list. Games like Thomas Was Alone or Braid or Fez or The Unfinished Swan or whatever omgggggggg I get so frustrated. Even Uncharted puts me over the edge sometimes.

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Ugh.

Did I mention I like to win?

I make myself play them though. I can feel my brain work. Kind of like in quick time events.

Interestingly enough, I heart Portal to death. I love the Portal games so very much, and enjoy playing them. Most of the time.

Lockpicking

I spoke about this recently, so no need to go into too much detail. All I’ll say is, anyone should be able to learn how to pick a frickin’ lock. If a character has hands with opposable thumbs, that character should be able to learn that stupid skill.

Stationary Maps

In Dragon Age, the mini-map on the HUD doesn’t rotate. I think it forces my brain to use a different area that never gets used, like maybe the math or reason area. I struggle mightily with stationary mini-maps. I get up and down and left and right all mixed up, I get dizzy going in circles, and I get that brain whiplash you get when something comes into focus quickly.

How about you? What are your gaming pet peeves?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Yes, more Dragon Age. <spoilers for Dragon Age (all of it, really) follow>

I had a startling revelation over the weekend as I wrapped up the Witch Hunt DLC. It occurred to me that the only reason I romanced Leliana is because I couldn’t romance Morrigan. She’s a hetero-only romance (I have no issue with that). So I straight up used Leliana as a result.

As I approached Morrigan at the end of Witch Hunt, I was thrilled to see her. And in Morrigan’s way, she was happy to see me as well. I felt myself drawn to Morrigan as a result of her character; she’s sharp-tongued, agenda-ridden and difficult. None of those things sound pleasing, in terms of having a relationship with someone with those characteristics. Nothing about that screams, “Let’s spend all our time together,” does it?

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Doesn’t play well with others

Morrigan has a plan. You learn of the plan right before fighting the archdemon in Origins. As I’m wont to do, I was thrown into a tailspin trying to make a decision about her plan. After way too much deliberation and forum-scouting, I chose to do as she asked, talking Alistair into impregnating her so she could conceive the OGB (old god baby, duh).

However, Morrigan forgot to include “friendship” in her plan. She grew attached to me; to us. Morrigan didn’t want to leave, but she knew her “plan” didn’t care about that.

Morrigan is always clear with you: she doesn’t feel comfortable around people, she doesn’t understand friendship, she’ll leave your party at the end of the fight with the archdemon. When Witch Hunt starts, the presumption is that she’s gone, and you’re on a path to track her down.

She wasn’t that excited that I found her. She’d explicitly told me not to look for her. Witch Hunt opens with her saying, “’Do not follow me,’ I said. Harder words I have never spoken.” But find her I did (as the game asked me to). She eventually says, “How was I to know the battle with the archdemon would come so soon? And when it did, I came to you. I needed you, yes, but I also did not want to see you die.

More truth from Morrigan – yes, she used me, but she’d hoped to spend more time with me (or us), and she certainly didn’t want me to die when I killed the archdemon. Morrigan does not choose her words lightly.

“I also did not want to see you die,” she says. It’s one of the kindest things she says throughout Origins.

Then there’s Leliana. Unlike Morrigan, Leliana does not always tell the truth. She greatly embellishes her stories, and lies to you about her visions, even after she’s confronted with this by the Guardian of the Urn of Sacred Ashes. Following her companion quest, she becomes slightly more reasonable, but has only a shred of conviction compared to Morrigan.

Morrigan will follow through with her plan at great personal expense. This isn’t to say Leliana isn’t jumping from the frying pan into the fire when she joins the Warden’s party, but Leliana chooses her own route out of a selfish necessity to get away from the path she’d previously chosen in the Chantry. Morrigan is sprinting through life while Leliana meanders.

I feel for BioWare. I really do. I felt like they got a raw deal out of the ending of Mass Effect 3. On one hand, I understand why fans were upset with the ending. Fans wanted their choices to matter at the conclusion of ME3, and when it became clear that very few of those choices did matter, folks got upset. I wasn’t upset. I was confused initially, but not upset. If that’s how the writers wanted ME3 to end, so be it. It really irked me that BioWare wrote a new ending. I never played it. I don’t imagine I ever will.

BioWare created such broad universes in Dragon Age and Mass Effect. It is impossible to wrap up every single thread of story. I do hope they’ll wrap this one up, and with Morrigan appearing in Dragon Age Inquition, it seems likely we’ll hear more from her and OGB.

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She’s baaaack!

In fact, I’m fairly certain I should get a Morrigan tattoo. Maybe I will, if this post gets one hundred unique comments from a hundred different individuals. A heart, with “Morrigan” in it? Whaddya think?

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

Forgive me, my friends, for writing more about Dragon Age. Let it be known there might be spoilers below for Origins.

Origins is pretty much over once you slay the archdemon. I slayed that beast the other day, despite the fact I had several unfinished quests.

I mentioned to a friend that it was the worst playthrough I’ve ever done in an RPG, including my first playthrough of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, during which I never knew I could heal myself with magic.

My Origins playthrough was worse than that. However, the game still let me “complete” it.

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I only finished two companion quests. There are eight. I left two quests in the Korcari Wilds undone right in the beginning of the game. I left several Denerim missions undone, and completely botched the illegal missions you acquire from the bartender in the Gnawed Noble Tavern.

Also, I forgot to “fully” romance my love interest. Therefore, I missed out on the squirm-in-your-seat awkwardness that comes along with viewing a “full” romance scene in a video game (we’re not there yet, everyone).

I say this with love in my heart: Origins isn’t exactly the easiest game to play. It runs horribly on the PS3 – I’m pretty sure the frame rate is about 2FPS. Every single battle lags, sometimes for several seconds. The load times are obnoxious, saving is a pain, fast-traveling isn’t always convenient (or very fast).

It’s an “old” game, right (2009)? I won’t be doing another playthrough to correct my errors. There are sections of Origins that are downright painful to experience, no matter how much I adore the game or its story.

I remember the first time I played Fallout 3 (a moment of silence to remember how awesome that game is). I completely ended the game on accident. I had noooooo idea what I was doing, but I got sucked into that final mission and ended the game. So. Much. Undone. I had no idea the game would, I don’t know, end there.

How can something incomplete be complete?

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I’m not looking for 100% completion, as in Platinum Trophy / Gold Achievement. But I’d sure love to finish the quests. Games like Fallout 3 and Origins have such fantastic lore, such compelling storytelling with sometimes riveting choices to make as a player.

What do you think about this? Do I blame BioWare for the clumsy codex/journal system? Should Bethesda have put a warning on the final Fallout quest, or is that discovery part of the “game” at large? Should I be more proactive about searching Wikis for lists of quests to finish before moving onto “X”?

You might ask, “Emily. Why did you go kill the archdemon if you weren’t done?”

I might reply, “I just didn’t. Why couldn’t I go finish my companion quests after I killed it? The blight ended, but what harm would there be in that? How can a game be done if it’s NOT DONE?”

Thoughts??

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Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

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