Portal’s Influence on RAC’s “Let Go (feat. Kele & MNDR)

RAC on Song Exploder:

I actually used this application called Melodyne. It’s sort of like Auto-Tune but it’s all done manually, so it’s not really automatic in that sense. You can really mess with a vocal and kind of turn it into this mechanical thing. Really play with the formant. There’s all this stuff that you can do and I use that pretty extensively in this song.

There’s this trick with Melodyne; it’s basically when you remove all the variations, it creates this kind of robotic sound. That’s what I did a lot with Kele’s vocal, not in the verses but during these sections, which I actually got from the video game Portal.

I am a big fan of RAC. Strangers quickly became my go-to jogging album when I lived in San Francisco. As RAC puts it, “a pop album with substance.” RAC’s inspiration from Giacchino’s work on LOST and perspective on remixing versus original work are interesting. Great episode of an incredible podcast.

For those who come here for games industry commentary unfamiliar with his work, check out RAC’s Nintendo Vs Sega and Nintendo Vs Sega 2.

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IGN’s Top 125 Nintendo Games of All Time

To round out their 125th Nintendo Anniversary celebration, Nintendo has released their Top 125 Nintendo Games of All Time, complete with a Let’s Play video for each game (the same Let’s Plays I’ve been thoroughly enjoying for over a month).


Nintendo merely publishing a game that was developed by a third party does not make it eligible – for a game to be considered a “Nintendo game” in our eyes, Nintendo has to have had a hand in the development process itself. This excludes games like Golden Sun (developed by Camelot and published by Nintendo) and Meteos (developed by Q Entertainment and published by Nintendo).

The lack of third-party games published by Nintendo never crossed my mind. A truly impressive catalog from a truly revolutionary company. Again, a story I can believe in.

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Welcome to Warp Zone!

Producer, musician, and fashion designer Ken Nana has released his debut EP, Welcome to Warp Zone! As the name suggests, the 6-track instrumental EP was inspired by Super Mario levels (keep an ear out for Super Mario Bros. Super Show! samples) and is comprised of futuristic airy beats a la Radiohead, FKA twigs, and fellow future-beat-making, space-minded, skate-punks Infinity Shred. Download for free at NanaLifestyle.com. Support at the iTunes Store. Cover art by Curtis Parker.

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Stats v. Story

Love this.

John Gruber with Ben Thompson on The Talk Show:

JG: I have a good friend, Matt, who’s a fellow Yankee’s fan. His theory is that there’s two types of sports fans: Stats fans and story fans. Now, anytime you try to say there’s only two types of people, of course there’s a grey zone. Some stats guys are a little bit into the story side and some story guys are still interested in some of the stats. I’m a story guy though, in his telling. I just don’t get into the numbers that much. I believe in clutch hitting. I believe in clutch performance. I know that’s one of the stat’s guys’ things, like the baseball prospectus guys (Bill James, etc.), that there’s a theory they try to backup that there’s no such thing as clutch hitting.

You say there’s no such thing as clutch hitting, and I say Derek Jeter. I don’t see how you could deny it.

The whole Jeter “Farewell” thing is just chock-full of all sorts of statistics and stuff like that. But one of the most amazing ones is (and this is off the top of my head, I’m not going to look it up), he’s played 158 post-season games. A regular baseball season is 162 games and most guys would be lucky to play 158. Even players who aren’t insured take a game off here and there. So he’s played easily the equivalent of a full regular season, all post-season. Which by definition is only against the very best pitchers and opposing teams. Every post-season game is against a team who was good enough to make it to the post-season. And he’s got like a .320 career post-season batting average. Enough that it would win the batting title most years. And that’s in the post-season.

BT: That’s really impressive because batting averages drop significantly in the post-season.

JG: Right. Because the pitching is so much better. So much better. Really, that’s the way to win post-season baseball games, is to have amazing pitching.

Remember the White Sox, when they won in 2006? Whatever year it was. Whatever year the Chicago White Sox won a decade ago, they won the World Series in four games. Their four pitchers pitched four complete games. It was unbelievable. They had four pitchers who caught fire, were just unhittable, and they just went “one, two, three, four. The World Series is over.”

BT: It’s like having a hot goalie in hockey or something. You can just shutout everything else.

JG: And tech is exactly the same. There’s story guys and stats guys.

Reading it back, I am reminded of Jon Hamm’s brilliant opening monologue to the 2013 ESPYs.

I am also reminded why I remain focused on the games industry. I have been fortunate enough to grow along side a budding industry from its toddlerhood (1985) to the behemoth it has become. The video game industry has yet to shake it’s growing pains but its effect on pop-culture at large has been breathtaking to watch. (While writing this, Pharrell released the video game inspired music video for “It Girl”, (and it may be a good indication of what is wrong with the culture).)

Over the course of the next-gen launch, the focus has been on story. None more so than Nintendo. Focus all you want on stats, Nintendo’s story is still one to believe in.

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Digital Amnesia

A must see 50 minute documentary on digital record keeping and our history.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Digital Amnesia:

We’re going to want archives of every form, of all of the different generations: Physical form, the micro-film form, when they lived on CD-ROMs, when they’re on hard drives, when they’re on the next optical polygraphic whatever. We’re going to want to keep each one of these generations to make sure that we have a way of knowing what really happened and not make it so that people can go and change the past.

I am all for digital goods and less physical clutter, but there is something so fleeting about it. I recently wrote about my theory of technological rubber-banding; a craving for analog technologies in an increasingly digital world.

I’m not sure if I’ve brought up my practice of buying physical (preferably hardback) books once I complete the ePub version. Why not start with the physical version? Reading books has always been a personal challenge. I find it less daunting to visualize and feel one page at a time on a static tablet rather than see exactly how much more I have to read in physical space. Then why the physical version? I use it as a trophy and physical memento of the book. Too quickly do I forget the contents of books. Seeing one that I have completed on my shelf is a positive reminder that I have not only finished reading the book but that I had actually read it at all.

Over the past few years, I have grown deeply concerned over the preservation of digital history, beginning with early software including video games and code printed in the backs of magazines. It became even more alarming when I heard the following quote from Blake J. Harris, author of Console Wars, on the HarperAudio Presents podcast:

When you’re a kid, you’re not always conscience of how you choose your interests. I always felt like it wasn’t a choice to play video games. It was part of your lifestyle.

Getting a Genesis for my birthday a few years ago reminded me of all of that. I hooked it up, thinking it would be sort of nice and nostalgic to play these games again, but I found that not only was it that, but these games were still very enjoyable and very challenging.

Knowing that this was such a big part of my life and that there were so many hours spent and so many entertaining games and aspects to the culture, I went to Barnes & Noble on 86th Street. It’s an enormous Barnes & Noble. I asked where the video game history section was, assuming it would be near the film history or music history sections. The woman pretty much laughed at me. That it was pretty amazing. For an industry that’s bigger than music and film, there was not only a video game history section but when I asked for one of the books on Sega and Nintendo, the woman told me there was no such book that they could even order. The only thing they had on video games in the entire store was walkthrough guides.

That was kind of shocking to me. It wasn’t like a light went off and I thought, “I will fill this need!” But I did.

Even more shocking is the vanishing of historical online events in MMOs and the like; events that are completely digital yet full of human, communal interaction. This is one of the most re-listenable podcast episodes I have found. I still have a hard time not tearing up during the close:

Stanford University gaming curator Henry Lowood on the Library of Congress commissioned “Preserving Virtual Worlds” project, as heard in A Life Well Wasted: “Gotta Catch ‘em All”:

In terms of practical projects, there are basically two things:

One is preservation of games. We have, for example, the Cabrinety Collection. We have roughly 25,000 games from before the early 1990’s.

Also, a lot of work that we are doing is on how the heck we’re going to be able to make sure people have access to games and especially the multiplayer networked games and things that happen in those games 50, 100, 200 years from now. How are we going to save that history knowing that for other media such early film much of that early history of was lost?

Jason Scott, digital historian, Digital Amnesia:

The half-life of software is insane. The fact that we go from “this working” to “this not working” in not just the span of a lifetime but in the span of less than a generation. And I mean unreadable. Like unreadable, physically unreadable because the signal is gone. Or physically unreadable because there’s no device to read it or the documentation is gone.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine and I rounded up as much audio content from our time playing in bands in the early 2000s that we could find and launched the Altamont Archives. (Written article here.) While we were able to scrounge together a majority of the content, much of it was lost to bad CDs, no backups, no access to master recordings, and low-kbps audio rips. It’s gut wrenching to remember that there were songs you loved that you will never hear again. Complete memories lost.

I am less concerned about changing the past and more concerned about forgetting the story of the Information Age. I recently had a nostalgic back-and-forth with game designer Pete Vigeant about hearing our first MP3. Until then, we were convinced computers would only ever be capable of MIDI output and unable to deliver high-quality organic sound. It was a blip in time that will likely be forgotten or at the very least delivered as a footnote in a grade school history textbook. But to our generation, it was (to use Vigeant’s words) “sorcery.”

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‘There and Back Again: A History of The Lord of the Rings in Video Games’

Alexa Ray Corriea, Polygon:

The Tolkien Estate still firmly holds the score of books and snippets that fill out the world of Arda beyond The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit — called Tolkien’s legendarium — close to its chest. Christopher Tolkien upholds his position as keeper of the keys to Middle-earth; the IP remains split; and The Silmarillion is still locked away, out of reach from those who might adapt Tolkien’s deeper mythology.

But after more than 30 years of video game adaptations, things don’t seem to be slowing for developers like Turbine and Monolith Productions. With The Lord of the Rings Online still bringing in players and Shadow of Mordor poised up against other major franchises like Dragon Age and Assassin’s Creed, it looks like the industry will still be talking Tolkien for years to come.

A fascinating dive into The Tolkien Estate. Tremendous piece by Corriea.

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Anamanaguchi Pops It

Today Anamanaguchi released their new single “Pop It.” It’s a bit of a departure from chip-tune pop-punk but I can’t argue with the hooks. This band is too good. Really wish I had enrolled in the School of Chip-Tune.

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Sacrifice in the name of quality: Blizzard cancels Titan

Blizzard co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime, as quoted by Polygon:

It’s always really, really hard to make those kind of decisions. It was hard when we canceled Warcraft Adventures. It was hard when we canceled StarCraft Ghost. But it has always resulted in better-quality work.

I have a new found appreciation for calling it quits on high-stakes, heavily invested projects. Apple, Nintendo, Pixar — companies I deeply admire — share a singular characteristic: Sacrifice in the name of quality. The iPod OS came from Pixo, a company founded by two ex-Apple Newton developers. The history of the Animal Crossing franchise is rooted in the short-lived Nintendo 64DD. Even Pixar knows a thing or two about canceling huge investments.

Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc., on the cancellation of Newt:

There are some who will read this and conclude that putting this film into production in the first place was a mistake. An untested director, an unfinished script—it’s easy to look back, after the shutdown, and say that those factors alone should have dissuaded us at the outset. But I disagree. While it cost us time and money to pursue, to my mind it was worth the investment. We learned better how to balance new ideas with old ideas, and we learned that we had made a mistake in not getting very explicit buy-in from all of Pixar’s leaders about the nature of what we were trying to do. These are lessons that would serve us very well later as we adopted new software and changed some of our technical processes. While experimentation is scary to many, I would argue that we should be far more terrified of the opposite approach. Being too risk-averse causes many companies to stop innovating and to reject new ideas, which is the first step on the path to irrelevance. Probably more companies hit the skids for this reason than because they dared to push boundaries and take risks—and, yes, to fail.

To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail.

While Titan is (sadly) added to the list of cancelled Blizzard projects (it still pains me to think of StarCraft: Ghost), I commend the company for sacrificing in the name of quality. I have always deeply admired Blizzard.

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The Internet Rage Machine

Peter Cohen, iMore:

These days the Internet Rage Machine swings into overdrive at the drop of a hat. Everyone uses almost every excuse to get angry about whatever they can. Because rage drives traffic, and traffic can drive revenue when you run a web site that’s dependent on page impressions and unique visits to generate traffic for advertisers. For some people, it’s all about going viral and getting eyes on your pages.

And for others, it’s just about venting your spleen because it’s the Internet, and that’s what people do because they’re angry all the damn time or they just want to be heard and acknowledged.

Context aside, Cohen crushes Internet rage. If you’re going to offer feedback, positive or negative, make it specific and constructive. If you’re going to vomit nonsensical ignorance/hate/rage, don’t. I’m done listening.

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‘Everything is going to be OK. <3′

Mojang.com, regarding Microsoft’s Minecraft acquisition:

It was reassuring to see how many of your opinions mirrored those of the Mojangstas when we heard the news. Change is scary, and this is a big change for all of us. It’s going to be good though. Everything is going to be OK. <3

If I were a Minecraft player, these words would not bode well with me.

John Gruber after Apple’s September 2014 Special Event (iPhone 6, Apple Watch):

Believe it or not, this might be the biggest tech news of the day in the Gruber household.

I believe it.

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