James M. Potter

writings on music, games, and culture

Tag: Jeremy Soule

Jedi Outcast, or, Why Licensed Music Isn’t Always a Good Idea

Jedi Outcast (or to give it its full, ponderous title, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast) is enjoying a little nostalgic attention this week, with the sad news that publisher LucasArts is closing its doors, causing magnanimous developers Raven to release the source code for the game. People have been rightly praising how much Raven got right with JK2 – the lightsaber combat was satisfying (not an easy thing to achieve), the level design was pretty good, and the storyline didn’t jump the shark. Being a product of that golden sequence of Quake III-engine games, it was endlessly mod-able to boot. I and many others were tinkering with it for a long time after it came out (and with the source code now floating around, it might be here a while longer). It wasn’t perfect though, and what this week’s news also reminded me of was one of the first things I did to the game when I got my hands on Pakscape – I changed the music.  Read the rest of this entry »

Try Again? – on being a prodigal gamer (oh, and Skyrim)

I played games as a kid. Nintendo’s consoles were my bread and butter, and you can probably estimate my age with considerable accuracy when I say that they were the Super Nintendo, the Nintendo 64, and latterly the GameCube. I varied my diet with the Playstation 2 and the PC, and refreshed my palate with Game Boys of various types. My tastes were not elite, nor were they especially refined, but I had a lot of fun in my virtual worlds of choice – Hyrule, Spira, Lylat, the various monochrome worlds inhabited by the Pokemon, and countless others. I exhausted them, turning over every stone, using them as playgrounds, sometimes regardless of the way the game was meant to be played. I spent far longer than was probably intended by the makers of Mario Kart 64 off-piste in ‘Royal Raceway’, exploring the grounds of the castle (though somehow never discovering this). As my ideas of success expanded to include exam grades in the real world instead of high scores in the virtual world, the former began to take precedence. I got my place; I went to university.

For a lot of people – dare I say the majority? – that’s where this virtual side of life ends. Technological playgrounds become limited to social networking websites, which are deemed for some reason an acceptable waste of time, quite unlike childish immersion in video games. Avatars become profile pictures. I can haz job, let alone cheezburger. ‘Real life’ takes over. Read the rest of this entry »

Case Study: the music of Star Wars games

We all know what to expect at the start of a Star Wars game: ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’; that iconic John Williams theme, blaring from speakers that will never be large enough to do it full justice; receding yellow text updating you to pertinent events in the universe like some sort of post-apocalyptic news ticker.

But it’s what happens immediately after that has reviewers reaching for their notepads. The text recedes into nothing, the camera pans down from a star-filled sky…and the developer takes over responsibility. Now comes their first opportunity to show that they’ve carefully dovetailed their concept into the vast history of a very well-established universe. But accomplishing this is not just the task of the visual department, which needs to capture the drab Imperial greys and expansive planetary vistas; and it’s not just the character design, which needs to populate the game with improbably humanoid aliens with silly names. Nor does the responsibility fall squarely on the story writers, who must craft an involving and fitting narrative with frequent recourse to moral absolutism – not to mention authentically clunky dialogue. Read the rest of this entry »