Archive for November, 2008

Echoes of War: The Review

November 30th, 2008

Not too long ago, I wrote a little piece about Echoes of War, a huge music release from the Eminence Symphony Orchestra. I just recently received "Echoes of War" in the mail.

It quite literally is the soundtrack for the entire universe of games Blizzard has released upon the world. If you are unfamiliar, Blizzard's 3 major game IP's are the Warcraft series, Diablo series, and Starcraft series.

Read on for the full breakdown.

At first I was a bit worried that I had payed too much on what for me was an impulse buy($62 counting shipping). I saw the videos, listened to the sample tracks, read the Kotaku article, and was convinced. I'm a sucker for extras, so I paid extra for the Legendary edition.

So you know, there are 2 editions of "Echoes of War"- the Standard edition and the Legendary Edition. One big difference is that the Legendary edition comes with some beautiful art from Diablo III, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, and StarCraft 2. The other big difference is the Standard edition doesn't come with the behind the scenes documentary DVD- but are the extras worth it? The extras in the Legendary edition are an extra $20.

As I stated before, I ordered the Legendary edition. It took about 2 weeks to arrive since it was being shipped from Japan. My unboxing of it looked something like this(thanks, Kotaku)-

The packaging, as expected, was of the highest quality and in my opinion Eminence succeeded in everything they tried to accomplish. Even the packaging seemed very much like something Blizzard would do. Nothing was out of order or damaged.

Not being very patient, I dove right into the reason I ordered it: the music. They faced a particular challenge: adapting the music from Blizzard's games to standalone music pieces. Hiroaki Yura, the director of Eminence, makes the point that music in a game is really meant to evoke certain emotions brought on by the visuals, and changing them to be standalone music pieces is not an easy thing. I'm not going to transcribe the whole "making of" featurette, but I will say that the music was FANTASTIC. Yes, caps was needed for that. The composition, the melody, the quality, everything.

The attention to detail and just general quality of the whole thing has made me a big fan of Eminence. If you are unaware, they are composing the music for Diablo III. I don't think anything like this has ever come out, nor will for some time. The amount of people involved is staggering. They had great guest composers/arrangers for this production, like Kow Otani, who is basically the John Williams of Japan.

Their aim with this was definitely a labor of fan love, and it shows. The other thing that shines through is their close relationship with Blizzard- they had influence over a lot of Echoes of War, anything from the packaging to the artwork. Russell Brower, the Director of Audio at Blizzard, had quite a hand in the production of Echoes of War. The extent of his involvement is quite clear in the "making-of" DVD in the Legendary Edition.

The making-of DVD is what really makes the Legendary Edition totally worth buying. It contains a main documentary, and 2 bonus videos worth a watch. The main documentary focuses on the challenges of this undertaking, the team involved, and ultimately the journey of "Echoes of War" from idea to reality. It's a solid and well done documentary, around an hour long.

The 2nd video on the disc is a featurette on Kow Otani, who is taking on the task of Diablo III music. It's interesting to hear of his respect for games as a storytelling medium, and his approach to how his music fits into and enhances that medium.

The 3rd video is simply a long slideshow of pictures from the production of Echoes of War- not as compelling as the other DVD content, but still a good watch.

Overall, I would have to rate my satisfaction with my purchase as quite high. I've listened to the music of Echoes of War at least 5 times now, and I love it. Games and film are what really got me into listening to classical music, and I love it when classical music and gaming collide- we get fantastic things like this.

Eminence hopes one day to take this music on the road- I hope it comes near me, because I will definitely be buying a ticket. You can view their website here.

Halo Wars – starting up a new genre?

November 30th, 2008
TheGameReviews.com has posted a substantial interview with Dave Pottinger, Lead Designer for Halo Wars. There's a lot of info there - some of it has been covered before, some has not. Go read!(Louis Wu 18:28:02 UTC)

Rare figures for sale – with some proceeds to charity

November 30th, 2008
PFG has tossed up some rare action figures on eBay, and is donating a chunk of the proceeds to Hollywood Arts - go check 'em out!(Louis Wu 18:08:44 UTC)

Covie stroll

November 30th, 2008
Rockslider has moved away from huge battles... and is now studying Covenant social interactions. Check out 'Covie Stroll' for a way to see a large contingent of Covenant fighters... not fighting.(Louis Wu 18:05:04 UTC)

Sometimes Ze Ranking System, She Ween

November 30th, 2008
Hawty McBloggy had a pair of decent back-to-back games in the Lone Wolves playlist recently... and her rank jumped from 22 to 26 from one game to the next. Have you seen jumps bigger than this?(Louis Wu 18:00:35 UTC)

RT: History Lesson (Part One)

November 30th, 2008
Stay tuned Tuesday for part two of the stunning conclusion to...Thanksgiving. dggeoff

Gears of War 2 News Roundup

November 30th, 2008

In case you missed it, the official site for Epic Games' recent release, Gears of War 2, has some exciting news. For one, the soundtrack is now for sale via the guys at Sumthing Else, or in normal CD format on shelves everywhere. I'm not quite sure whether or not to get it, but knowing my weakness for game music I'll probably cave pretty soon.

The merchandise section is brimming with plenty of, well, merchandise for any of you who wish to fully express your love of GoW, though I think a Gears shoe is taking it a bit far.

If you've neglected to browse the photos section of the Gears 2 official website, you may have been missing out. It certainly has some nice features to be sure. You can browse everyones pictures, or just your own. There is also a nice handy dandy tab for just viewing the cool pictures you and your friends have uploaded- quite nice.

The MLG Gears of War 2 Film Festival is still on- record and upload your frag videos!

Epic also recently released a matchmaking fix update, something many Gears players like myself are definitely ecstatic about. Rod Fergusson's post I just linked to is a definite must-read if you experience any more problems.

Some interesting stats for your pleasure(not least of which GoW2 is #1 on XBL right now):
* Almost 3 million multiplayer matches (excluding Private) have been played.
* Almost 1 million screenshot photos have been uploaded to gearsofwar.com
* The most popular multiplayer mode is Horde.
* The most popular multiplayer map across all modes is River.
* The most lethal weapon is the Gnasher shotgun with almost 29% of all kills.

Happy Halodays from Halobabies

November 29th, 2008
HaloBabies is kicking off a 4-week screenshot contest, with one winner each week, and one grand-prize winner at the end. Weekly winners get 1600 MS Points, GP winner gets a 360 game of your choice plus a t-shirt. Check out the details and rules at HBN!(Louis Wu 16:16:28 UTC)

Matchmaking Season 2: The Horn of Nanu

November 29th, 2008
Master Ph0bia pointed out that Matchmaking Season 2, Episode 1 is now available on YouTube (and in HD via Darkspire's website). Revisit the world of Vince, John, and Travis as they navigate the treacherous shoals of the Realm of the Banned. Darkspire continues to impress! (Louis Wu 12:20:27 UTC)

Mythbusters Episode 7

November 29th, 2008
RandomSauce let us know that Mythbusters Episode 7 is out - they look at everything from how many bodies can a sniper bullet go through to the mobility of the floating platform on Epitaph. Go watch!(Louis Wu 12:18:11 UTC)

Top 25 Evil Masterminds of All Time

November 29th, 2008
GameDaily has posted their 'Top 25 Evil Masterminds of All Time' - I was rather surprised by the Halo-related entry at #15. (The rest of the list isn't much better, though.) Thanks, NickLee808.(Louis Wu 12:17:45 UTC)

Halo Trek

November 29th, 2008
BlueNinja let us know about Halo Trek, a trailer he made with Halo footage and audio from a trailer for the latest Star Trek movie. I thought the composition was quite well-done... go watch!(Louis Wu 12:17:18 UTC)

Podtacular 170: Around The Ring – Left 4 Dead

November 29th, 2008
podcat170art.jpg

Download | Shownotes

Hey everyone! This week Around The Ring makes it's debut on the new Podtacular with a Left 4 Dead special, all about Valve's latest zombiefest. We also set an all time record for submissions! ...we got three. As well Painkilla05 from the Podtacular community guest hosts, and Dust Storm forgets his Steam password. Special thanks to me for the awesome album art. Enjoy!

Nine Games They Really Don’t Want This Christmas

November 28th, 2008
Ouch - GameCyte has taken it upon themselves to warn you against buying some mistakes this year... and on their 'Anti-Game Guilde 2008, you'll find the Halo Interactive Strategy Game. In fact, their advice goes further:

[S]imply avoid buying your kids anything with the word "Halo" on it — if your child likes Halo, chances are he already owns the games, and that's all he needs/wants. Warn those grandparents!

I'm not sure I'd go that far... but the guide's pretty interesting, anyway!(Louis Wu 19:19:12 UTC)

Revival

November 28th, 2008
Interesting - there was no notice on our forum, but Reclaimer 117 is now online - and the Reclaimer is awake again. I don't think Viper's gonna be too happy...(Louis Wu 19:07:56 UTC)

Willey2Gr8’s Halo 2/Halo 3 Montage

November 28th, 2008
Z let us know about Willey2Gr8's Halo 2/Halo 3 Montage by Phurion - it's a monster, 276 mb and twelve and a half minutes long... but the gameplay is really good, and the editing's exciting. The fast-cut style wears after a while, but the Killtrocities and Killamanjaros will revive you.) Check it out at Halo3Forum.com!(Louis Wu 18:59:30 UTC)

Sarge Scares Me

November 28th, 2008
Rooster Teeth has posted a new Thanksgiving PSA for your enjoyment... though I must say it's more disturbing than most of their announcements. In a bunch of ways. Not really NSFW... but definitely disturbing. Looks like elpolloguapo was first with the news. (Louis Wu 17:49:08 UTC)

Thank Goodness for Spandex Mjolnir

November 28th, 2008
Hawty McBloggy has posted another round of Friday Caption Fun - there are some great ones for last week's risqué pic, and a new pic that is sure to bring some interesting captions. Go see what you can do!(Louis Wu 17:48:15 UTC)

Friday’s Fan Fiction

November 28th, 2008
Just four new pieces in the Fan Fiction section this week - writers are still going easy! Ah, well, it's a holiday week.(Louis Wu 17:46:57 UTC)

Buckell Back in the Hospital

November 28th, 2008
Gah - Tobias Buckell is BACK in the hospital, this time with a pulmonary embolism. (This is basically a blood clot in the artery that brings blood to his lungs.) Best wishes to the man - his Halo novel is now out everywhere, but he's in. Several people sent this in - thanks to Aaron Spuler, and to General Battuta for starting a thread on our forum. (Louis Wu 17:44:52 UTC)