Interview with Gaming Composer James Hannigan

Last month, I was playing Kris Steele’s Centipede tribute Bad Caterpillar.  It was very impressive.  It felt like an authentic lost chapter in the series.  There was only one problem: the music.  Centipede’s music is iconic.  Replacing it with a generic heavy metal soundtrack that is as far disconnected from the source material as you can get was just plain stupid in my opinion.  And it got me thinking about how music is an often overlooked aspect on the scene.  I’m guilty of this too.  I rarely comment on music here at Indie Gamer Chick.  It wasn’t until Bad Caterpillar that I realized that the wrong music really can take away from the game experience.

So I put out a call on Twitter asking if anyone wanted to do a Tales from the Dev Side on marrying the right music to the right game.  I had a few takers, but the most interesting one came from a gentleman by the name of Joshua Dennison.  His story was a unique one.  He has written hours of music for seven games.  Not one of those games ever got completed, and the music is stuck in purgatory.  Despite my tin ear, I had a listen, and I immediately recognized that the dude has talent.  Just to confirm that, I had my boyfriend Brian and my buddy Alan of Indie Ocean have a listen.  They agreed, the guy has “it.”  And his struggles to land a job with someone who actually will finish a game is a story that ought to be told.

Around the same time, I had another response to the request.  This one came from a man by the name of James Hannigan.  James is not part of the indie scene.  Quite the opposite.  His credits include games in the Command & Conquer series, the Harry Potter game series, and the Lord of the Rings game series.  He’s been nominated for five BAFTA awards and won in 2000 for his work on Sim Theme Park.  Best of all: he’s a fan of the indie scene.  He was open to doing an interview on gaming music, and I figured he might have some words of inspiration for the next generation of game composers.  The problem is, I don’t know shit about music.  Then I remembered Joshua, and decided he would be the right person to conduct this interview.  My hunch was right.  This was a perfect match.  Joshua, the floor is yours!

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Kairi on E3 2012: Sony Edition

Tell me I’m the first one to say “J.K. Rowling cast the Avada Kedavra Killing Curse on Sony’s E3 press conference.”  I’m sure I’m not, but I just thought of it all on my own, and that counts!  Actually, it really is kind of funny how Sony can have such a well done press conference, but you have one little brain fart like a ten minute session of J.K. Rowling sitting oblivious to the fact that we would have rather seen J.K. Simmons and suddenly everything is less than hunky dory.  By time the conference was over, nobody was talking about all the fucking awesome videos of games.  They were making Harry Potter jokes.  Smooth, Sony.

I thought it was a good conference.  Besides WonderBook, they hit all the right notes.  No 3D bullshit (maybe the billion dollar bath they just took on 3D televisions had something to do with that), not a whole lot of Move, minimal talk about non-gaming applications, and a whole lot of major titles with actual game footage.  Not all of them interested me, and I’m sure not all of them interested you.  But there really was something for everybody here. Especially if you’re eight-years-old or stupid, because that’s all WonderBook can appeal to.

Either he’s playing WonderBook or he got into the medicine cabinet.

WonderBook was bad.  Like “why are they showing a tech demo for the PlayStation 2 Eye Toy like it’s 2003?” bad.  Just to point out how off base Sony is, they spend ten minutes pimping the game like it’s a child’s toy, complete with footage of elementary school kids hoping like hell Sony wasn’t lying about giving them free games for taking part in this ad.  And then what other game besides Book of Spells did they talk about, albeit very briefly?  A game called Digg’s Nightcrawler that has a Film Noir theme to it.  Way to nail down that target demographic, Sony!  Why, not a day goes by where a six-year-old doesn’t ask me if I’m a fan of the Maltese Falcon.

Otherwise, the conference was swell.  God of War is targeting other creatures of myth, which I assume means the Last Guardian will be one of the bosses in it.  Sure, it pretty much is the same old shit that we’ve had shoveled at us since 2005, but hey, God of War!  Look, Kratos killed some dudes by dismembering them!  Haven’t seen that before!  Actually, Kratos does have a new gift: he can rewind time to create platforms to hop on.  So you guys are grifting from Lego Star Wars now?  If  you had to do that, you should have just made this Lego God of War.  At least that would have been funny.

The highlight of the show was The Last of Us.  Like everything else shown at E3, the game’s pitch boils down to “It’s Uncharted, but..”  Resident Evil 6 was Uncharted, but with zombies.  Tomb Raider was Uncharted, but with boobies.  In this case, it’s Uncharted, but set in post-apocalyptic America.  It actually looked decent though.  Ironically, it had more stealth stuff in its footage than stealth-series Splinter Cell’s trailer did.  Of course, there were still moments of mind-numbing stupidity of design.  After all, we can’t venture too far away from Uncharted.  The scene that sunk the trailer for me involved a shoot out where people were using couches as cover.  Couches.  Things made of foam, cotton, and tiny little springs.  I kept thinking “shoot the fucking couch!”  Maybe the dude thought he would accidentally shoot the tag off and get arrested.

At least it looked like a game I wanted to play.  I can’t say the same thing about Beyond: Two Souls by Quantic Dream.  I thought their previous effort, Heavy Rain, was a boring piece of shit.  I think most people probably feel the same way as me about it, but won’t admit it because then they become “anti-video games as art” people.  I feel no shame when I say that I want to be a gamer, not an art connoisseur.  I also don’t feel I should have to volunteer to be bored for hours while waiting for the quote “good stuff.”  Yet, that’s what the argument for Heavy Rain is.  It starts slow, but a few hours in it gets better, so just wait for it.  Why should I?  Unless the good stuff will undoubtedly be the greatest thing EVER, wouldn’t that time spent being bored be better spent not being bored?  I know, crazy talk.

“Quick, before you die, where are the fire extinguishers again?”

Hold on though, they got Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page.  Great!  And then they showed it off by cutting to a cinematic where her character didn’t speak a word for five minutes.  When you actually got to hear her, she wasn’t really any better than 90% of all game voice overs.  Which is to say she totally phones in every line of dialog.  Money well spent, Sony.  Next time, do what Capcom does and just hire Sally from accounting to do the acting.

And no, I have nothing to say about the Vita.  I’m just like Sony!

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