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#1 Edited by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

Shooters have once again packed store shelves this year, and it was a great year for fans of the genre. 2K Games, EA, and of course Activison as it was a significant improvement from last year’s effort. Yes there were bad games, but they were very far between. The constant theme this year was story, and success was found. Borderlands 2 witty writing was still there that created many memorable moments, Black ops 2 surprising has a deep storyline with player choices built in was smartly designed, and Master Chief returned in Halo 4 marking beginning of the Reclaimer trilogy. Regardless of what you think of the genre, we had plenty of red targets to shoot at, experience points to gain, and plenty of people to shoot through our Internet connection. So lets recap the top five shooters of 2012.

Honorable Mention

Halo 4

It’s been since Halo 3 since the last time we have played as Master Chief, and finally the wait came to end. Under 343 studios development, they have brought back the first person shooter icon looking best yet, but I found the juggernaut stumbles a bit. The story just isn’t sharp compared previous efforts, and Halo 4 cliffhanger leaves me wanting more than I got. Multiplayer is back, but it’s mostly what you got before with little tweaks. I felt Halo 4 took zero chances and the game suffered.

5: PlanetSide 2

An MMO first person shooter? Sign me up! What makes PlanetSide 2 a great game is that is consistently ongoing. The combat controls are really tight, and there are to many things that I can recount. In PlanetSide 2 there isn’t any real objective unlike traditional first person shooters. Your goal is to not win a match, but to simply progress your army’s domination forcing players to work together.

4: Syndicate

Starting of with number five, Syndicate developed by Starbreeze Studios is by far one of the most underrated games of the year, and judging by the sales numbers it appears I was one of the few that played it. The storyline is actually real treat, as it tells a world controlled by corporations with use of tech-mind controlled powers. Even though that was a real treat, where I found most of my enjoyment was the online coop. The four-player mode mixed in with the powers you possess make it to hard to not have a great time.

3: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Ok I get it! There has been a yearly iteration of Call of Duty dating back to 2006, but you can’t nark how consistent this series has been. Black Ops 2 developed by Treyarch, might have made the biggest leap in the series since Modern Warfare 1, and what they have done is staggering. The player choice system kept things fresh and interested and actually allowed made me want to go back and replay the campaign. The online play removes many of the franchise, and simply just allows to players. The one thing you can’t say about Treyarch’s effort in Call of Duty: Black Ops effort is they didn’t hold anything back, and took every possible chance to make this the best Call of Duty game in the series.

2: Borderlands 2

I didn’t like the original borderlands when it first hit store shelves. I found the story to be nonexistent, and the game needed to cut a lot of fat in order to reach its potential. Luckily that is the case with Borderlands 2, as the game feels more complete with a hilarious storyline that has a beginning and an end, an actual boss, new abilities to wreak havoc with. However, what made Borderlands 2 a great game is the four-player coop and the addictive looting nature it inhabits. I probably had the most fun this year playing four-player coop over the Internet, and constantly getting supplied with downloadable content made me want to return to Pandora.

1: Max Payne 3

This was my anticipated game of the year when I made my predictions earlier in the year, and it didn’t disappoint. Rockstar games minus L.A Noire haven’t been known for telling a story, but Max Payne 3 told one of the darkest stories about a disgruntled out of shape cop that looks a lot like John Mcclane from Die Hard that video games have seen. Max Payne 3 is the slickest game that I have seen in a long time with the game’s presentation mimicking a comic book layout with flashing texts, and QuickTime cutscene design, which allowed this mature tale to speak volumes.

There has been a lot of fuss about the gunplay, and in my experience that wasn’t a deterrent. I enjoyed the challenge of slow mo diving to clear out a room. I was in control of my actions and felt rewarded whenever I decided to pull the trigger, and some of the negative attention is just nonsense.

It’s the total package! The excellent Health soundtrack that helped make one of this year’s best moments, when Max is in the airport lobby, and the music skyrockets to a new level as take on waves upon armed guards. It’s personally one of the few video game albums that I have bought and listened to because it helped create so many great solo songs. Yes there is online play, but what made Max Payne 3 so great was being able to revisit one of the darkest video game figures in his entire glory. This is one of the most polished shooters that I have ever played, and takes unbelievable risks to be our best shooter of 2012.

#2 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@galloughs: yikes fool

#3 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@Veektarius: thank you much appreciated !!!

#4 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

Please follow me on twitter for all of my latest articles: https://twitter.com/AlMartinet

Early this year, Bioware’s Mass Effect saga came to five year run. Rest aside the ending; the series is one of the most complete trilogies in video game history. There are two aspects that Mass Effect nails perfectly. The series was first to interweave choices all the way through the third and final installment captivating fans from start to finish. However, you can’t tell a great story if you forget to create the atmosphere for your game to breath in. The music in the game really doses shape Commander Shepard with it having one of the best scores in gaming, but do people notice? Do people look at soundtracks as a whole or as background noise?

It’s often in movies and television that soundtracks are ignored and not given credit for their role in a project. In our five part series, I got a chance to talk with composers and had them recall their pervious work and asked them how they think fans look at soundtracks. Our first roundtable discussion is with the minds behind the Mass Effect score: Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco and Sam Hulick. Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco wrote music for Mass Effect 2 Kasumi’s Stolen Memory and Arrival and scored many of the key scenes like Rannoch and Sanctuary. Sam Hulick has been with the series since the very beginning and his suddle work with ambient sounds helped form the Mass Effect galaxy.

GamerLive.TV: Just to start us off, what else have you worked on besides Mass Effect?

Sascha Dikiciyan and Cris Velasco: Some of the titles we’ve scored include the God of War series, Clive Barker’s Jericho, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Borderlands, TRON: Evolution and many more.

Sam Hulick: I got my start working on Maximo vs. Army of Zin, followed by a few indie titles. I also composed the orchestral score for Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. I was immediately drawn to the project as soon as the developer told me they were looking for a very intense and somber score, influenced by Russian and German classical music. It was a chance to veer in a very different direction from Mass Effect. Currently I’m very excited to be working on Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. I saw the mysterious baldursgate.com website earlier this year and I figured Trent Oster had to be behind it, so I sent him an email about it. He was rather mysterious in his response, but we wound up having a meeting at the Game Developer’s Conference about a week later, after which I was officially invited on board their project as composer.

GamerLive.TV: Growing up, what composers did you listen to and now influence your professional work?

Cris Velasco: I’ve always listened to (and been inspired by) John Williams. It wasn’t until my 20’s when I really started listening to orchestral composers though. Some of the most influential composers for me are Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Mozart. I’m also a big fan of John Powell, James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, and Edward Shearmur.

Sascha Dikiciyan: Growing up in a classical house, the likes of Beethoven and Mozart have left their mark, however when I was 14 I really got into electronic music. After that the works of Vangelis, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Devo, New Order and many others have influenced me. While I still enjoy these artists today, I also love some of the more modern electronic composers out there, Trent Reznor’s work on The Social Network, The Chemical Brothers’ work on Hanna and Massive Attack.

Sam Hulick: Early on, mostly John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Ray Lynch influenced me. At this point, I don't think I can pinpoint specific musical influences that have an active role in my work. I feel like I've reached the stage where I've discovered my own personal signature, or it could simply be that my various influences have been merged into my own style.

GamerLive.TV: Cris and Sascha, Your first experience with the Mass Effect Franchise was scoring Mass Effect 2: Kasumi's Stolen Memory, which is one of one of my favorite parts of the score because it stayed away from the Mass Effect that everyone is adjusted to hearing and gave us something new. Is it easier to work with established themes or do you prefer creative freedom when entering a project?

Cris Velasco: For myself, I prefer to work with a blank canvas. Creative freedom gives me the most satisfaction as a composer. Working with an existing theme can be fun too though. I’ve had my own themes worked on by other composers and it’s always interesting to hear a different interpretation of your own music. Usually, it’s something I never would have come up with on my own. So hopefully, if I have to work with an existing theme, the other composer feels the same way! Mass Effect was a unique situation in that we were allowed creative freedom to do our own thing, but we still worked within the confines of an established style.

Sascha Dikiciyan: While the sound of that DLC was indeed a bit different, we tried to still keep some of the familiar elements from the previous games. Coming onto an established AAA franchise like Mass Effect is never easy and while I prefer a fresh start, I think the original Mass Effect has this brilliant mix of 80’s influence meets orchestra, which we then applied again into our Mass Effect 3 score. So coming onto a new project, creative freedom is pretty much required for me to do great work. In the case of Mass Effect, we wanted to simply add to the universe that was already established.

GamerLive.TV: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced when you were creating the Mass Effect 3 soundtracks?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well, it was a good warm-up gig for us to compose DLCs for Mass Effect 2 before we were called onto Mass Effect 3. It gave me a lot of confidence that we could pull it off. I always like to do research for the projects before I start. Like what reverb sounds best, what synth would be best for this sound etc. Luckily that was already somewhat established on the DLCs so besides having to write good music very fast, the most important aspect was to keep that Mass Effect sound while still adding our own flavor to it. That was the biggest challenge, at least for me.

Cris Velasco: As I mentioned earlier, we were given our creative freedom but obviously within the confines of the established sound. The challenge for us was to work within those boundaries and still have our own voice heard. We definitely wanted to bring something fresh to the series if possible. One of the best quotes we’ve read online is, “it sounds like Mass Effect music, but new.”

Sam Hulick: Nailing just the right feel for some of the more emotionally charged scenes can be challenging. Particularly, composing "An End, Once and For All" took a few rounds of revising some elements to get just the right feel to it. It had to be very subtle in the right spots. Too much and it would have ruined the scene.

GamerLive.TV: What's your favorite piece you worked on in Mass Effect 3?

Cris Velasco: It’s impossible for me to choose one piece. I still like the “Reaper Chase” though because of its sheer epicenes. Not just the music, but also the scene it accompanies is so much fun! I also really like the track “The Scientists”. It’s another action track, but I think there’s a nice mixture of the orchestra combined with Sascha’s electronics.

Sascha Dikiciyan: I love “The Scientists” cue. There are a few others I love that you cannot find on the soundtrack unfortunately.

Sam Hulick: It's difficult for me to pick just one, but I'd have to say the romance theme, "I Was Lost Without You," is probably my favorite. It's just a really emotional piece of music, and I think the mix of different styles (piano, orchestral, and synth) make for a particularly interesting sound.

GamerLive.TV: What's the composing process for a video game, does inspiration come from visuals only or from written word?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well, for me most inspiration comes from the visual source material. That can be artwork, actual gameplay or cinematic. For example, For TRON: Evolution I had a ton of amazing artwork. Every piece had a certain color or mood to it. To me that color/mood translates into sound or music. It’s hard to explain but you start to get a ‘feel’ for something. For Mass Effect 3 we had not only artwork but also a detailed script and QuickTime movies of the levels themselves.

Sam Hulick: It comes from both. You have to have a pretty solid understanding of the storyline, characters and settings. Visuals serve to provide a face for these elements, and are usually a huge help for a composer trying to immerse him-or-herself in the world that the game takes place in.

Cris Velasco: It’s all about the visuals for me. Someone could describe one of the Reapers in extreme detail to me, and I’d be able to visualize it in my head and my imagination would make it seem amazing. However, it still wouldn’t get my creativity jump started like seeing a picture of them would. As soon as I saw that Mass Effect 3 trailer with the Reapers invading London, I already knew what I wanted to do with the music.

GamerLive.TV: Besides scoring a soundtrack, how much behind the scenes work (sound effects) goes into a soundtrack?

Sascha Dikiciyan: For music, I do a lot of what I like to call MSD or ‘musical sound design’. There are a lot of sounds that make up the musical soundscape of Mass Effect that you could call sound effects however they are used in a musical way. I usually do a lot of pre-production, creating a folder full of sounds before I would begin writing. However with our tight schedule for ME3, I pretty much had to do it all at the same time.

Sam Hulick: For a game like Mass Effect, quite a bit of work happens before actually jumping into composition. Picking out a synth sound palette can be challenging simply because of the way sounds are named. For orchestral works, it’s straightforward: composers see “oboe staccato” in their patch list and they know what that sounds like. But synth libraries often give more colorful and interesting names to their sounds, and while there are efforts to help categorize these sounds (and there are literally thousands upon thousands of them!) it’s still quite a task to sit down and figure out what to use and how to tweak it. Sometimes composers will actually hire other musicians or sound designers to create synth sound palettes for them because of how time-consuming it can be.

GamerLive.TV: Do you feel you get enough recognition for your work?

Cris Velasco: I actually feel that recognition for game music has taken some very positive steps forward over the years. For example, I’ve had my own music performed at numerous video game music concerts over four continents! We may not always feel the love when a new game comes out that we’ve put so much work into, but there are in fact tons of people that do appreciate what we’ve contributed to the industry.

Sascha Dikiciyan: I think there’s still this misconception that video game music is inferior to its movie counterparts. Which in a lot of ways is ironic since there is a ton of music that's at least equal in quality to movie scores, if not better. When you listen to our Space Marine soundtrack, it could easily be a movie score. I think we need to gain more recognition via award shows. The Grammys, for example, include video games in their awards but we get lumped together with other media. I think video games deserve their own category now. I mean, they have a category for Best Album Notes so why not Best Video Game Score?

Sam Hulick: For sure. There are many awards that recognize video game music, such as the Canadian Videogame Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Games Awards, G.A.N.G. Awards, the list goes on. Not all of these are what you may consider “mainstream” but video game music has gained much traction in recent years, and will continue to do so, I’m sure.

GamerLive.TV: Do you think people discount your work?

Sascha Dikiciyan: Well the real fans love what we do of course. But as composers it’s tough getting the same level of respect as rock stars. This goes back to what I said earlier. We need to have more opportunities for our work to be taken seriously. Winning a prestigious award would obviously help to get the word out. However, for me, the most important appreciation factor is the fans. They know how much work goes into a score for a video game these days and in the case of Mass Effect 3 it has been really rewarding so far.

Sam Hulick: Just as there are people who are highly enthusiastic about film scores and collect soundtracks, there are legions of gamers who really get into the music for games, buy their favorite soundtracks, collect autographs from composers, etc. So no, I’ve never really felt like my work was discounted or seen as irrelevant. In fact, quite the opposite!

Cris Velasco: Back when I first started composing for games (around 2004 or so) it was a lot different than it is now. When I told people that I was writing music for video games, they would get a sheepish look in their eyes and tell me to “hang in there” and “I’m sure something better will come around soon”. So back then, yes, our work was definitely discounted. Now though, I get a stack of emails every week from fans or other aspiring composers looking for a little help. I think that game music is making great headway and is really starting to be recognized for the legitimate art that it is.

#5 Edited by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@believer258 said:

He said that gamers are more concern about what gameplay features are presented to them rather admiring artwork the setting. While he might be correct

He is correct. Gameplay features are to video games what good camerawork is to movies and what good writing is to books and what good brushstrokes are to paintings. Gameplay features are integral to video games and are part of the art form of video games.

You are correct, but not everyone thinks that way. I look at video game as art form and I am sure others do also ( I hope). It's like the movie industry, for every five action movies there is always one that is stylistic and is made for a certain demographic ( the artist).

#6 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@Cloudenvy said:

Nononononono.

Your doing it wrong ...

#7 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@CatsAkimbo said:

Good post for those who haven't kept up with some of the latest legal shenanigans going on. It should have mentioned that the ESRB is a self-regulated organization and is not, as the post alludes, an organization run by the government.

I agree with the post, but some would argue that comparing video games to movies and books is unfair, because movies and books are passive experiences, whereas you're directing the actions of the character in a video game, possibly (as they would argue) making it easier to identify with the violent protagonist.

The post also could've gone a little deeper with the statistics. If you look at the US Bureau of Justice stats on violent crimes, you see that in 2009, violent crimes are a third of what they were in 1994, and if you post in some screenshots comparing a violent game in 1994 with a violent game in 2009, it would clearly illustrate that despite games becoming far more graphic and realistic, crime has dramatically fallen. stats: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/tables/viortrdtab.cfm

Thanks for the comment and I will probably make the change when i'm done with finals.

#8 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

Throughout the history of video games, the oldest stereotype surrounding the industry has always been do violent video games affect player behavior and personality. It is a known fact that people who play games are exposed to more violence than the average consumer. From nuking entire civilization to obliterating players online, it’s has become more and more common now that games are more focus on squarely providing violent action. For this reason alone, parents have long held an underlining negative attitude towards the industry and those who stand by it, but is this criticism injustice or have developers gone to far? Should government step in?

This discussion all stems from last years U.S Supreme Court hearings that brought the amount of violence in video games into the spotlight. The case centered around making the sale of violent video games to children without parental consent. The bill originated in 2005 from California Senator Leland Yee who believe there was connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior in children. Finally after years in delay and stoppage the bill made it’s way to Capital Hill in 2011 titled, Brown vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association. What was the outcome?

The Supreme Court voted down the bill with a resounding 7-2 result. Most importantly, the Supreme Court Justices saw video games as an art form and followed it under the first amendment. Justice Antonin Scalia was credited being the biggest voice during the case and after the trials, Scalia was quoted saying, “like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas--and even social messages--through many familiar literary devices and through features distinctive to the medium. That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”

I couldn’t agree more and was happy that Justice Antonin Scalia saw both sides and wasn’t setting an unparallel president. Far too often, people ignore violence seen in phases in our mass media society. To finding light porn in HBO’s True Blood to violent and un-appropriate behavior violence seen in Robot Chicken. It would be wrong to prosecute one form of entertainment when Movies and TV use it as an key attention grabber.

The most important thing to come out of the Supreme Court hearings was the looming future surrounding this issue. Other states like, Rhode Island, Arkansas, Georgia, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Washington have attempted to legislate bills that would make it illegal for minors to purchase mature rated products, but have all miss fired. The most recent attempt came last month when California Senator Joe Baca proposed that video games should carry a cigarette – stylized warning label that says “ Warning: Exposure to violent video games have linked to aggressive behavior.” We are a long ways away from this discussion and it’s for that reason alone that I believe both parties need to finally change for the better good.

First things first, video games have long had a rating system that restricts minors for purchasing matured rated content. As video games were evolving from the 8-bit era to the 16-bit era, the industry was becoming increasable violent with titles like Mortal Kombat and Doom. Established in 1994 by the Congress, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has rated every video game to hit the market since then. Ranging from kid friendly games like Super Mario that are rated ‘E’ for everyone, to ‘T’ for teen friendly games like the Need For Speed franchise series and where the highly controversial games like Halo and GTA are given the mature ‘M’ rating are found.

Even though the industry has a rating system, it is still very much overlooked by parents and media personal a like. The concept that video games spark youth violence is still in their minds, but evidence has proved other wise. According to the federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in 2008 in the United States was at a 30-year low. Now this is my biggest argument because video games have skyrocket to new heights and now have become a billion dollar industry (PBS), but we haven’t seen effects on the youth like people have proclaimed. Through more investigation, ages 9 – 14 used video games as a well to relive stress rather than choosing a violent path. Now if this were true we would have already seen the results decades ago. We really need to drop this notion that Violence in games causes kids to be mass murders. If that was true, I would have became a master guitarist from all the Guitar Hero I played in high school.

Currently the industry is in its golden era and messing that up will be catastrophic for many developers who depend on it’s current state. A label of any sorts decimating video games from our mass media society would be the death nail that many have wanted to nail for the longest time. Developers and publishers would lose jobs and have to obey entirely to government’s harsh restrictions or choose a brand new career path. So where should government step in? How much should they regulate?.

Up to now, government has the ESRB rating system, which has been working well with the youth, but how far should they go? I believe we need to let the current system work and not interfere with a proven method. As games are getting more and more realistic, this subject will always be brought up with us always over looking the artistic aspect of the industry.

Wildly known movie critic, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times spoke out how video games can never be seen as art. He said that gamers are more concern about what gameplay features are presented to them rather admiring artwork the setting. While he might be correct, I can’t help go back to Edgar Degas, a famous French artist who said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”. That’s exactly what art has always been about from the very beginning. We have always allowed ourselves to fill in the blanks and let us interpret art in our way and that will never change.

Follow me on Twitter to read my latest articles !

https://twitter.com/#!/LightForceJedi

#9 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -

@Tim_the_Corsair said:

Nice piece, much more professional in tone and presentation. Should have done your research on his other work before asking that question though lol

to be far, I think most see Mark Meer as Commander Shepard, but only as Commander Shepard. Sometimes walking into a interview naked is the best way to deliver or get info to your audience.

#10 Posted by LightForceJedi (40 posts) -
@scnj

I'm disappointed that they didn't think to ask if he plays Male or FemShep.

Did the interview over email, didn't Skype it this time. Would have been a funny question
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