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E3 is the worst, and here’s why: it gets me excited for the end of summer. With all the terribleness we go through each non-summer in Minnesota, I expect to languish and linger in the long, warm days and forget about cold weather. Yet each summer, E3 pulls out its carrot on a stick and forces me to anticipate the Season Which Can’t Be Named.

So here’s a shout out to the games I’m looking forward to playing when the snow comes:

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I’m excited for that one…

Seriously, Fallout 3 is one of my favorite games ever. Never mind that my first playthrough was short because I didn’t realize I was ending the game. My second, third, fourth, fifth playthroughs were just fine. Holy s**t that game was amazing. I can’t wait for Fallout 4.

In fact, in the meantime, I’ve been playing the mobile/tablet game Fallout Shelter. If you’ve not picked it up yet, you must. It’s like a tower sim, only you’re the Overseer of a Vault (number is your choice). I have 42 dwellers at the moment, although several are dead following a pretty intense radroach infestation. I can revive them once I make enough caps. The graphics and audio are top notch, and someday, when my dwellers are successful enough, I can build a Nuka-Cola plant. WHO WOULDN’T WANT THAT?!

Next level of excitement: Destiny: The Taken King. I hate that I love Destiny. I really do. The initial DLC, with the Crota raid, was short and annoying. The next bout of DLC with Petra and the House of Wolves is amazing and I’ve had a great time getting back into the routine of the game. The upcoming DLC this fall, The Taken King, has received some well-deserved bad press, but looks amazing. I hope they fix that price point, or find a way demonstrate that they (might) care about those of us who’ve been there from the beginning… it remains to be seen.

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The introduction of three new classes? Yes. Sign me up. My favorite Destiny class is the Warlock, and I look forward to the new super power she’ll receive.

Believe it or not, I’m pumped about the new Call of Duty. Please don’t hate. Call of Duty: Black Ops III might be a good time. I was always more fond of the Treyarch iterations of CoD. I can’t say I’m too excited about doing multiplayer with 12 year olds who now have cyber abilities, but a four-player co-op campaign might be fun (if it’s longer than 8 hours or so).

I’m SUPER pumped about Housemarque’s new game, Alienation. The makers of Dead Nation and Resogun seem to always delight with their downloadable titles. Alienation is supposed to come out this year, but no date is set yet.

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I’ll pick up Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection so I can replay the first three Uncharteds before the 4th comes out in 2016. I feel like I was mostly alone in my overall dislike of the third game – I like the first 2 the best. It’ll be nice to get back into that series – it’s been a while since I climbed around as Nathan Drake.

My biggest surprise, however, comes in my excitement for Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence. I don’t know a single thing about this franchise, proving my disappointing ignorance in gaming firsts (it’s one of the first sims from thirty years ago) but this game looks amazing. Several years back, I went through a stint of sims when Civilization: Revolution came out for PlayStation. I think I’ll heartily enjoy Nobunaga.

Well, what are you excited for this <shudder> fall/winter?

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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.

My friend Holly was over the other night, and we were shopping around for games on the PlayStation store. Keeping an eye out for local co-op games, we stumbled across Beach Buggy Racing by Vector Unit. It’s a karting game, just like Mario Kart, and it’s soooooooooo worth the ten bucks (it’s on mobile devices too).

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There are multiple game modes, including split screen racing. Subsequent split-screen races have resulted in ridiculously close games, determined by whose bumper crossed the line at the most crucial instant, full of laughter, trash-talk, tears, anger and joy. I’ve experienced wins and losses determined by hundredths of a second.

The 25-plus power-ups do the usual; there’s dynamite (which only detonates if you hit or get hit by something), the “moon” power-up releases gravity so opponents fly up into the air, there’s a springboard you can drop, missiles you can fire, and a few varieties of boosts.

All the maps have shortcuts, of course. Some shortcuts live up to their name, others are amazing if you can pull them off, and the remainder are too risky to try depending on your speed. You can change out your character driver, each of which has his or her own special skill made to confuse, wreck or outrun opponents. You unlock each new driver by winning a boss race against him or her. These are tricky endeavors.

The cars range from lunar rovers to buggies to muscle cars and sports cars. I’m partial to the muscle car, although it’s not the fastest of the choices.

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Career mode takes you through a series of races, culminating with the boss fights at each stage, and as you upgrade your kart and win more difficult races, you earn more money, etc.

The championship mode consists of four stages of rally races for each car, but you need to have each car leveled up as you progress through the stages. It’s expensive, and there’s grinding involved. Players can earn money in races, however it’s not much unless you win, and even then, it’s slow-moving in the beginning.

Once I got my muscle car leveled up enough and learned the tracks, I discovered the best way to earn cash: Quick Race mode. My muscle car can race at the highest difficulty, and if I win (or shall I say, when I win), I receive 500 bucks to invest back into whichever car I choose.

Aside from already getting hours of split-screen mayhem in with my pals, I’ve played the heck out of this game on my own too. Best part – when Holly got home that night, she bought it. Her scores show up next to mine, and I keep finding all the races where she beat me so I can beat her back, even when we’re not playing together. It’s pure, innocent bliss to beat your friends, isn’t it?

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For some reason, LittleBigPlanet Karting didn’t do it for me when it came out. I can’t say why at this point, it’s been so long since I played it, but I guarantee it didn’t grab me like Beach Buggy Racing has. I’ve been longing for a game like this, and Vector Unit delivered.

The music is clever and fun, although I turned it off. It’s not unusual for me to turn off music in a game if the music serves no other purpose than to exist. The music in BBR doesn’t tip me off to any events, so it’s unnecessary to my success as a player (haha! But true). Therefore, I’ve been enjoying the viola da gamba suites by J.S. Bach – a suitable soundtrack for racing!

Or listen to whatever music you’d like. As far as Beach Buggy Racing goes, buy it. Play it. Love it!

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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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Brian Trifon and Brian Lee White are a composing duo called Finishing Move Inc. These two weren’t on my radar until early this year, when I learned they were writing the soundtrack for Double Fine’s Massive Chalice.

If you’ve not heard their music for the game, take the opportunity to do so now. Massive Chalice is a turn-based strategy game (which means I’d be terrible at it). The narrative takes place over generations of heroes and warriors and such that you breed together, hoping that genetics will help you create more powerful characters and such.

The game happens over the course of years and years, which presents an issue musically. The issue isn’t necessarily a problem, per se, but consider this: how music does represent a time and/or place in your own life?

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. I had an interesting conversation recently with Paul Ruskay, the Homeworld composer, and he pointed out two varieties of soundtracks for sci-fi: the John Williams Star Wars orchestral approach, and the Vangelis Blade Runner synthetic approach.

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Massive Chalice isn’t sci-fi, however Finishing Move (the Brians) still needed to figure out a way to write a timeless-sounding score with elements that reflect the narrative itself. As a player, you’re controlling characters like alchemists and hunters in a game with “chalice” in the title. All signs point to medieval-ish castle-y type settings, right?

Finishing Move accomplished this through a blend of acoustic plucked things (like guitars, mandolins, etc), piano, drums, synths and many others.

In the Thick of It” is a great example, because you get both right off the bat. For my ears, the drums alone can make the connection to that fantasy-type setting. The plucked instruments are icing on the cake.

The Main title track, “Timeworn”, defies a lot of this logic (if you want to call it that), containing mostly electric guitar. Still with the drums, though. I love the heavy (use of) electric guitars here, and I like the tonality with the lowered 6th scale degree and the major third in there – good stuff.

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The People’s View is super. First of all, the interval of an ascending fifth is a recurring theme throughout the soundtrack, and you hear the deeply human sound of string instruments like violin and cello, playing that ascending fifth over and over again. It’s a mournful sound, but sheesh it’s lovely.

Here’s a super nerdy thing I enjoy: I like the modulations, you know, how they change keys sometimes and stay in a different key for a while before heading back to the main key for the loop. It happens in a couple tracks, and I’m not kidding, this is something you don’t often hear in video game music. Wanna know why? I’ll tell you! So video game music loops, right? And it takes a certain amount of time to establish a key, which we as listeners like – we want to know, oh, we’re in a major key or a minor key and this is home. Given that it takes this “amount” of time to convey to listeners that a piece of music is in a specific key, it takes a certain amount of time to move to another key. And after you hear that new key, the composer has to make it back to the original key to make the loop work. w00t!

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Anyway, as I said, Finishing Move employs this technique in a couple tracks, and here’s one: “To Battle!

Have you played Massive Chalice? Sadly, I have not. This music makes me want to, though, even though I really would be horrible at it. Spend some time today and listen to Finishing Move’s music for Massive Chalice!

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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 been drawn into this game called Hohokum. It came out last year (forget that I’m late to the party, celebrate that I showed up), and it’s free for PS Plus users this month.

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There isn’t a tutorial, and the only sense I get that I’ve progressed is by collecting little eyeball-snake friends. I think I’ve collected four or five of them. The music is chill and responsive to objects you touch, although it’s not even the music that draws me to the game.

Hohokum is a gorgeous playground of randomness. You play as a long thin snakelike being with an eyeball at one end, making it look a ton like a giant sperm. While I found this distracting and odd at first, the beauty and exploration of the game make it a non-issue.

If you check out the work of artist Richard Hogg, you’ll get a good sense for what the game looks like. There are bright colors with simple shapes, and Hohokum is your playground within that art. Of all the games that tout some sort of meditative vibe, this takes the cake for me.

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thatgamecompany gives a strong showing in this “chillax” gaming category with titles like Flower and Journey, but even these games have semi-stressful levels with enemies to avoid. I’ve not encountered any sense of danger in Hohokum whatsoever. Sure, there are objects you’d better not touch, but it won’t kill you.

Even in Dear Esther, where the entire point of the game is to walk around and look at things, there was always this sense of wanting more – of wanting to be able to interact with items – of wanting to feel some sense of accomplishment.

This is absent in Hohokum.

I’ve put several hours into the game, and I still don’t quite understand the home world, or how you travel between areas. Sometimes, you’ll enter a portal from one world to the next, and then go back to that portal assuming you’ll return from whence you came, and this isn’t always the case. Now, if you’re in a fantasy MMO of some sort, and you expect to return, this is an issue. Not in Hohokum. It just doesn’t seem to matter. In some ways, it’s the perfect metaphor for life: Everything will be fine.

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In my mind, Hohokum is brilliant. You might ask yourself, or me, “What’s the point?”

I have no idea. I have no clue. I don’t know how many levels there are (I don’t want to look it up). At one point, I did a Google search for something along the lines of “red elephant bird hohokum” to see what I should do with a being described as such, but I never could come up with an answer. I carried the bird-elephant around until it hopped off on its own, purportedly to where it wanted to go.

This seriously is the first time in my life where I do not care what the end game is. I don’t care how to get to the end, and I don’t care if I collect all my eyeball sperm friends, because once you collect them, they don’t appear to do anything (I refuse to look that up too).

In many ways, and I’m certain the developer of Hohokum understands this carefree attitude to the game; it’s the perfect antidote to every other game I’m playing (right now, that includes Awesomenauts, Dungeon Hunter Alliance, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Ether One, and a word game on my iPhone).

Of course, once I pick up The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I might forget all about Hohokum and how calm it makes me feel to play. I’ll check in with you 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.

Did you ever play Black on PS2 or Xbox? EA Games released it in 2006. My cousin and I spent hours amounting to days trading off levels in Black. I waited years for Black 2 before I realized it would never come. In this time, I’m unsure what Black 2 would look like, other than another overly masculine first-person shooter. I’m content with my memories of Black the first, but I’d probably play the hell out of some kind of port.

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Black has a fabulous soundtrack, written by Chris Tilton and recorded at Newman Scoring Sound stage. Michael Giacchino co-wrote the theme, and Chris wrote the rest.

Listen to Tunnel Trouble. Listen for the muted trumpets (sounds a bit like this sort of). There are bassoons honking around underneath, then this great flute solo. The flutist is using a “flutter-tongue” technique – think of how you roll your Rs – it’s like that. It’s a neat section of acoustic music.

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I like Ambush as well, with its bits showing off French horns and the occasional cello. The tracks titled Bunker Buster and Bunker Buster #2 are variations on the motive that opens each cue. In effect, the first 12 notes you hear come back in various ways throughout the piece. If you drew a line in the shape of those first 12 notes, it would be an angular line. And even though the opening has six beats to the measure, it’s not long before Tilton starts mixing up the meters and we, as listeners, tend to lose our footing a bit. It’s an effective way to create anxiety for players.

Simplicity. Tilton’s soundtrack for Black is an excellent example of how to write a great score for a first-person shooter that uses an orchestra. Just an orchestra. It’s aural simplicity. I like it when composers to more with less. I’m a big fan of that. Hey, let’s see if we can get a port of Black for next-gen, huh?

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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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I participated in the Elder Scrolls Online beta on PS4 over the weekend. Overall, I enjoyed it. It’s a beautiful game, and it worked better than Skyrim did on PS3 at launch. That’s positive. I chose a Khajiit and named her Jün (all my characters in all games are named after my cat, June Bug. I’m that lady). In both Skyrim and Oblivion, I liked being an archer, so I got Jün a bow.

Playing an Elder Scrolls game on this new generation of console was certainly a dream come true. Jeremy Soule wrote the main theme for Elder Scrolls Online, which is darker than the previous two iterations (here’s Oblivion, and here’s Skyrim). The theme is in here, but it appears toward the end of the track.

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That’s all Jeremy wrote for ESO, though. Composer Brad Derrick wrote the rest, and from the hours I spent roaming around Auridon, he captured the mood I’ve come to expect from the Elder Scrolls. Here’s Auridon Sunrise. By the way, the sounds I expect from Elder Scrolls include lots of reverb, solo instruments with accompaniment, the instruments tend to be orchestral (things like English horn, violin) clear melodies that are memorable, location-specific and sing-able after I shut the game off.

One of my favorite parts about Oblivion and Skyrim: roaming around the landscape, seeing things I probably could see in real life if I could afford to travel anywhere, getting lost in the music and the view. I think there is room to do that in ESO, but I wasn’t keen on the idea of doing missions that require three friends to complete. I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever thought, Wow, I wish I could play Elder Scrolls with other people. It’s always been one of my favorite places to get lost, not to pal up.

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Oblivion was one of the first games I bought for PS3. It was the first time I’d ever played an RPG, in my entire life. I’d never played anything remotely similar to it. It took me until my second play-through to discover I could use magic to heal myself. Seriously.

I played it so many times, and none of them required another human being. It never occurred to me that that would improve my experience with Elder Scrolls. Thankfully, ESO includes missions you’re required to complete alone, so it’s not all social all the time. But it’s the ones that do require friends that bug me.

I’ve yet to meet a gamer who enjoys being told how to play the game.

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My other concern: in Oblivion and Skyrim, I could take full advantage of saving multiple times to replay sections if I killed the wrong person, or accidentally stole from a barrel or gave the wrong answer to a question.

This is not an option in ESO, not that I could figure. Maybe I’m not millennial enough to know how to work it.

Did you happen to play the beta this past weekend? Or have you played on PC for the last year?

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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.

First of all, if you’ve not played Awesomenauts, you have no excuse, because it’s on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux (whatever that is).

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Nauts is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), so each team has a series of turrets to defend and a home base to prevent enemies from destroying. MOBAs like Dota 2 and League of Legends have a top-down view, but ‘Nauts is a side-scroller. Rather than a left, right and middle lane, the game has a top and bottom lane.

Four composers, who call themselves Sonic Picnic, wrote the music for ‘Nauts. That’s about as much as I know about them, other than they write great music and they’re from the Netherlands.

Nauts has 16 characters (plus four you can purchase – more on that in a moment). Once you choose to start a game, you have 60 seconds to choose one of those 16 characters. Each character has two individual themes. For instance, “Leon Chameleon” is apparently French, so his character theme is this hysterical French slow rock tune. If you choose to play Leon, you’ll hear his special character theme until the game begins. Once the battle gets going, if Leon happens to be on a killing spree, everyone in the game hears this music.

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“Leon Chameleon”

I recommend you check out all 16 character themes and all 16 killing spree tunes, but I’ll share some of my favorites! They’re all so good.

“Raelynn” is a sniper type, and might have my favorite character theme. My pal Josiah is a beast with Raelynn, although I’m useless. He picks her a lot, and we couch co-op this game (another great reason to own! couch co-op!), so I hear her themes often. Her killing spree song is virtually the same as her theme.

“Coco Nebulon” has a hoverboard she rides around on, so her music reminds me of surf rock. “Skølldir” is a big, Norse tank who can throw enemies long distances. Given his name and appearance, it’s fitting he has a Scandinavian death metal theme, and here’s his killing spree.

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“Coco Nebulon”

I love playing as “Froggy G”, and yeah, he’s a hip hop frog. Here’s his awesome theme. Froggy G, in my opinion, is deceptively dangerous, mostly because he’s very fast. What do I know, though, I die constantly when I’m playing real people online. The only time I ever hear killing spree music is when I’m practicing against the bots (on 20% difficulty). MOBAs are hard, man.

Anyway, the absolute best part of Froggy G is his killing spree music. Make sure you listen for the “ribbit”. Ayla’s theme consists of someone singing “Ayla” over and over again. That rules.” Admiral Swiggins”, well, wouldn’t you write a sea shanty for someone named Admiral Swiggins? Yup.

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“Froggy G”

It’s creative and adorable and fun. Well, maybe not always fun, unless you’re playing the bots on 20%. That can be fun.

‘Nauts was a part of the PS4 Flash sale this weekend, for $2.50. It won’t break the bank, by any means. I paid the full price, ten bucks, and I’ve not bought anything else for the game. There are micro-transactions, however they aren’t essential to the game in any way. If you want all 20 characters, yes, you need to buy the other four. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve encountered these other characters during online gameplay. The sixteen characters the game already has are so enjoyable that I’ve concluded most of us are satisfied with those. Other transactions include special character skins. Some of these skins cost more than SEVEN DOLLARS, and I paid ten for the game.

Play this game. Do custom rounds or practice rounds with bots on a low difficulty setting. You can do these custom rounds with or without friends (no strangers in the custom rounds!). If nothing else, listen to the soundtrack, and enjoy a musical tour around the Awesomenauts globe.

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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.

One of my favorite soundtracks I rarely discuss comes from Portal 2. I figure I forget about it because it’s so completely not orchestral music. But my, my… it has delicious counterpoint!

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Mike Morasky wrote it, and if you don’t know much about Mike, I imagine he’ll be your hero before the end of the day. I dunno, just a hunch. Here’s a taste from Valve’s website:

“Teenage guitar player in a bar band in Montana; award-winning experimental composer in Tokyo; audio hardware programmer in Silicon Valley; underground art rocker touring the world; 3D animator and director for television; electronic audio collage artist in France and Japan; visual fx artist on The Lord of the Rings and Matrix trilogies; AI animation instructor at an art college.”

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Yup.

There’s an overarching theme to this soundtrack worth mentioning, and forgive me for diving into the music theory waters for a moment. Major and minor scales are built from a series of half-steps and whole-steps. The scales aren’t symmetrical. For instance, the major scale consists of the following series of steps: whole whole half, whole whole whole half.

In the 20th century, composers started using symmetrical scales like the diminished scale (also called the octatonic scale, because it has eight notes instead of seven). The diminished scale can start with a whole step or a half step, but then it alternates until you get to the top. So, whole half whole half whole half, etc.

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The whole tone scale is symmetrical too, and is constructed only of whole steps, no half steps. This scale only has six notes, and all the chords you can build from it are augmented chords. It has an otherworldly sound. To me, an augmented chord (or a whole tone scale) sounds very open and wide, compared to a more crunchy, compact diminished chord or scale.

Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was into all of these scales, as were Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, and a ton of the Russian composers. Bartok supplies some pretty amazing, concise examples. Here’s an example of the octatonic scale from Bartok.

And here’s an example of the whole tone scale, also written by Bartok. To my ears, whole tone sounds open, and the octatonic scale sounds closed.

In any event, with that sound of the whole tone scale in your ears, listen to Technical Difficulties by Mike Morasky for Portal 2. In fact, listen to the full soundtrack with that in mind (you can, to this day, download the entire thing for free on their site here). Morasky expertly chose that sound to weave throughout the game. It’s brilliant, and I love it.

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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.

The two best pieces of music from Dragon Age: Inquisition aren’t on the soundtrack. I find it odd that they’re my two favorites, because they’re both combat tracks. I personally find myself worn down after a lot of combat music (unless Jesper Kyd wrote it), but fighting to this music was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

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Do you hear that? The best gaming experiences I’ve ever had!

Exhibit A: We’ll just call this one “Extended Combat” music by Trevor Morris. It’s fast, in 7/8 (meaning there are seven beats to a measure, rather than any other number divisible by 2 or 3). You hear this music during a couple select fights, one being the Haven fight. The music, through its harmonies, instrumentation, meter, and everything else it is – it’s weighty and sad, with that tinge of hope. The sorrowful melody epitomizes the battle at hand: you’re losing friends, allies, and resources, and you must fight to save everything that’s left. And if you don’t hurry, or try to help, more people will die; people who helped you build what the Inquisition has become to that point in the game. “Key” NPCs can die (although no one on your team).

That music makes me want to save them. The meter (the 7/8 part, where there are seven beats to a measure, and yeah, they go by fast), the meter is uneven, right? Seven is an uneven number, divisible by none. So it almost feels as though the musicians are skipping a heartbeat, and this creates anxiety in the listener. It almost had to be in 7/8, really. It’s quite common to hear battle music in 7/8, to be honest.

I’m crushed this isn’t on the soundtrack. We have YouTube, thankfully, and folks out there willing to loop stuff like this for people like me. On to the next…

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Exhibit B: Calling it “Vinsomer Battle Theme” by Trevor Morris. Even more crushed about this one, this is so unfortunate. It’s also unfortunate I couldn’t find a video with better audio, but alas, this was the best I could do.

This is not in seven, but a nice normal four. The tempo here is much, much slower, but the pulse gains its momentum from the percussion and the ostinato (repeated pattern) in the strings. The horns are so effing amazing in this song. They don’t sound real to me, sadly, but a girl can dream.

Interesting how Trevor Morris creates the same sense of urgency, of hope and of sorrow in this piece, even as different as it is from the previous track.

You hear this particular cue so rarely in the game, although it’s the soundtrack for several of the dragon fights. P.S. Those dragon fights are so amazing omg.

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I’m glad I found these on YouTube, because I love this music so very much. The Vinsomer theme has been in my head for about two weeks straight. I hope you enjoy them both!

Do you have examples of songs you couldn’t find on a soundtrack?

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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’m gonna throw you a bone today, and encourage you to download a game that’s been out since 2010, and then get its sequel that just came out four months ago. Your enjoyment of these games depends largely on whether or not you enjoy co-op gaming, particularly couch co-op.

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Crystal Dynamics released Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light in 2010. It’s a little puzzle game with an isometric view. You and your friend choose to play either Lara or Totec, her partner throughout the experience (plus, “Totec” is fun to say randomly while you play together).

Lara and Totec have different skills – Lara’s grapple helps her, and Totec, get to hard-to-reach spots; Totec has a spear Lara can jump on to climb, and he’s blessed with a shield. Simple skills, but Crystal Dynamics implements them creatively, requiring players to work together to solve puzzles.

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My best friend of all best friends, Josiah, is my special gaming buddy. We adore couch co-op (he doesn’t have a console), and we’ve dumped hundreds of hours into games like Diablo 3, Dead Nation, Call of Duty split-screen chaos, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance (such an amazing game), and we’ve recently started Helldivers (not far enough to give you a review, but it seems promising!).

When we discovered these Lara Croft games, we instantly fell in love. We finished both games fairly quickly, but the replay value is ridiculously high because of all of the challenges (I think I’ve spoken to you about how much I adore silly challenges). There are points challenges, speed challenges, and various tests like “make it through this hectic falling bridge section without dying”.

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Bring it on. I love it.

Josiah and I are working our way through the challenges in the Guardian of Light before we return to the newer title, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.

Osiris just came out in December, a downloadable game with several hours of gameplay. It goes quickly, but again, there are challenges and worthwhile rewards for completing the challenges, so we know we’ll get another dozen or so hours out of it.

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It’s comforting when a developer can find that balance between repetition and reward – how many times will we need to repeat a level to “win” whatever that ultimate reward is, and is it even worth the trouble? This is a question facing millions of Destiny players since September.

Josiah and I were searching for games exactly like these Lara Croft titles, and we’ve not regretted a single moment playing them. He doesn’t like the second game, Osiris, as much as I do. I found it to be a satisfying sequel, but he thinks Guardian of Light is better (I suspect he doesn’t like it as much because Totec isn’t in it).

The bonus to Osiris? This game is up to four-player couch co-op, so you can play with even more of your friends. I’m a huge fan of this type of gameplay, and with studios like Crystal Dynamics, Blizzard and Arrowhead (who made Helldivers) making successful co-op titles, I can only imagine more on the horizon.

So, grab a buddy and start with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. I promise you’ll enjoy it!

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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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