Friday, June 19, 2020

Mixtape Fire -- My Past Month in the Flames

Time flies and it's been a bit since I've posted on ye' ol' blog. Sorry about that.

Let's be honest though, I lost my drive to post about anything at all lately. Instead, I've been super fascinated with remixing songs from my past.

It all started about a month and a half ago when my friend and coworker Dennis Bestafka and his wife released their new EP for their band, Buona Sueno. I liked it so much that I remixed one of the songs that really spoke to me.

You can find the original song here: -- really the whole EP is great. Well worth your time.

I enjoyed making that remix . . . so much so that a couple weeks later I was listening to an old song I used to like while I was taking showers in the morning. It just kind of hit me that I needed to remix this song that meant so much to me.

Back in the early 90's I was driving to school in a light snowstorm after having a lucid dream involving a large cave with a waterfall shower. The heater was on in my mom's Geo Metro and "Fight Without a Reason" by Cetu Javu was playing from my tapedeck. It defined a very esoteric happy image in my mind.

This song probably doesn't mean much to many people, but to me, it's warm and beautiful.

Original song:

After that, one of my old friends from high school (and old band mates) said on Facebook: "Really good. Still waiting for a 2020 mix of Don’t Stop" Challenge accepted! Don't Stop was one of our songs we had written back in the day, so I crafted up a new remix of an old classic straight outta 1988. We called ourselves "Decussion Council," and here's our old pride and joy with new life:

Original song here:

By this time the remix theme was in full swing, and I just decided to keep going! Next up was a song that haunts me every once in a while. I've always been a big fan of The Cure. If I had the vocal stems for the song from Robert Smith, I would have used his voice instead of mine. It goes deep. It goes deeper still.

Original song:

Funny enough all the remixing was originally an idea I had hatched about a year ago, but after I started remixing the song Now My Heart is Full by Morrissey, I kinda just gave up.  It wasn't coming out right and so many people had already done the song and done it better than me.  Well.  I started to revisit the work I had already done, and it wasn't actually as bad as I was thinking.

As you've probably noticed by now, all the videos feature royalty-free stock footage. I stumbled upon some old commercial footage from the 70's and had an absolute blast putting this together. When the Shasta Rootbeer commercial synced up to the music, I was overjoyed.

Original song:

The next song is another song from my youth that I don't think many people remember. Back in 1987 Cabaret Voltaire released a record of mostly dance music that hailed to the styling of Kraftwerk: Funky, Glitchy, Great stuff. One particular track, Code, was always on the mix tapes I made for people. Because of that, I decided to do a Quarantined Remix of the song. It was more detailed and difficult than I originally thought. Enjoy!

Original song:

After this I just decided to end cap the whole remix project by redoing one of my old unfinished songs from the 80's. Back in 1989 I wrote a song called Bit by Bit. Only a handful of people had ever heard it. It was cute and full of love and longing and happiness.

I never did anything with the song, but it sat in my archives unfinished until last weekend. I managed to find the original lyrics I had written by hand in a folder in the closet. It only had ideas for the second verse, so I fleshed those out and finished it up. It always deserved to be given new life.

Original song: (It's on an old tape of mine and I haven't uploaded it)

So, what's next?  I've actually been looking into the costs of getting these tracks put on a vinyl record . . . maybe get like six copies made and send them to a few of my old friends. I'd love to surprise them with an actual record as a gift. :)

I don't know if the spark to keep remixing will stay with me, but it's certainly made being in quarantine a bit more bearable.

Happy Dueling

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Taking the Plunger into Paddles and Flippers

The very first electronic pinball game I think I played was the Wildfire handheld game.

Nice, right? I played that stupid thing for hours as a kid.  Later I turned to Video Pinball for the Atari.

I also played that thing for hours. So many hours. Now that I think about it, it's no wonder I can survive grinding in an MMO, but this post is neither about MMO grinding or old school pinball games, but rather a couple of games I've recently been playing that made me think about those wonderfully fun, old torture devices:
  1. Yoku's Island Express
  2. Pong Quest
Now I know, I know . . . Pong is not pinball, and if it is, I should have absolutely included Pong with the  above "pinball" examples, but look: PADDLES AND A BALL! IT WORKS, OK?!?!

Yoku's Island Express is a refreshing platformer that is all about moving your character through the maze through the magic of flippers, bumpers, and plungers galore. I've played plenty of platformers in my day, but none quite like this.

You're an ant that works for the post office and you're tied to a pinball!

It can be a bit frustrating at times, however -- you can get stuck trying to aim a ball in a general direction with less-than-accurate flippers. It's tricky and can lead to you getting stuck just hitting a ball over and over just trying to get it to go in the perfect direction. That act kind of trumps and coincides simultaneously with the typical frustrations found in platformer games, which is, as one person brilliantly put it, "puzzle solving for your reflexes."

I've only put a couple hours into this game so far, but I'd like to get a bit deeper to see what more it has to offer.

As for Pong Quest, I was kind of floored when I saw this interesting beast pop up on my Twitter feed from Atari.  It's not every day you see a skinny rectangle sporting outfits and undertaking an RPG, but here it is.

I'm a rectangular blue demon with a nose ring and a skeleton suit. Sounds about right.

I suppose it's the natural evolution of all things from my childhood and Atari has definitely proven that you can dress up a skinny rectangle and give it charm all its own.

The gameplay is everything you'd expect it to be and more. It's pong, but with all kinds of different ball types that you pick up while questing in a Zelda Rogue-like crawl.  Your inventory is limited, so you have to pick and choose which ball powerups you grab along the way, and that's the main frustration I had as well . . . I want all the powerups!  It's kind of amazing how many choices they give you. There are 58 ball power-up choices and I've only run across about half of them so far.

So many different types of pong balls!

There's tons of charm here after several hours into it. It was kind of fun having my kids plop down and play this one as well. Kind of strange that my 10 year old had never even played a pong game before. He struggled a bit, but then again . . . so have I! Some of the twists and turns the pong game throws at you are truly unexpected.

I made my enemy little with a shrink ball . . . MUHAHAHA!

Happy Dueling

Friday, May 1, 2020

Nice Mice and Lots of Brawl Stars Spice


How's your quarantine going?  Lemme know in the comments.

As for us, we've been watching a lot of Netflix and Prime Video. My wife got sucked into Ozark, and man is that stuff dark. It's awful watching a family put family first while breaking every moral code known to man and slowly descending a stairway to hell. Netflix has also presented us with a few interesting movies I probably wouldn't have watched otherwise, like Dinner for Shmucks.

Lately I've just had a big pull to my phone and the PlayStation VR.  My PC hard drive dying might have also played a little part in my PC game absence.

Forever my family has been on the hunt for our copy of Moss that we got for Christmas. Yup, we've been looking for our copy of the game since it got put to the side in favor of Beat Saber and then "lost" in the shuffle of Christmas cleanup.  Eventually we decided to really clean the kids area upstairs and pecked through every corner. This whole time I've been looking for a CD case, but come to find out it was a simple piece of paper with a downloadable code on it.  In fact, I almost threw it out when my wife handed me a big wad of "looks like junk" papers. 

What is Moss?  Oh!  It's an adorable story-based 3D platform puzzle game where you go through a series of levels playing as an adventuring mouse named Quill.

The only problem, as said earlier in the post, I watched Dinner for Shmucks the night before I started playing the game. If you're not familiar with the movie, Steve Carell plays an idiot savant who makes taxidermized mice dioramas.

Now I can't help but think that I'm playing inside of one of these creations when I play the game, which is a great game, but now it just has this taxidermized mice diorama shadow over it. I'm going to need a bit of time to forget the movie so I can enjoy the game.

Don't get me wrong. I liked Dinner for Shmucks; it's a really funny brom-com flick and the mice dioramas are definitely adorable . . . I just can't get them out of my head when I play the game, so it's spoiling the experience.

As for mobile games, I'm still playing quite a bit of Brawl Stars. I'm up to 7242 trophies as of this morning and climbing (stops to play a couple games of Showdown with Bibi). I'm up to 7258 trophies as of this morning and climbing!

I really love this little mobile game battler. I'm also pleasantly surprised by how vibrant the creative community is for this game. I mean, it is a Supercell game, so it's to be expected that it's a quality game and would have a following, but if you haven't checked out their "maker" website for the game, you're missing half of the fun. Their current campaign is titled Bibi and Bae: Hero or Villian? The request is that those artists who can make 3DMax skins for the game choose to make a model that represents either character as a hero or villain, and there are some super cool skins being made here.

MikeblueG has created a skin that re-envisions Bibi as a futuristic gladiator that definitely got my vote.

The good news for me is that I ordered a new PC hard drive and have a couple games I'm eyeing for future blogposts! 

Happy Dueling!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Taking a VR Vacation From a Quarantined Reality

Something that's been rolling around in my head since I was "all-in" on Project Gorgon is that I really just want to play some games with quality graphics. It really does feel like I was living in graphical hell for several months, and now I think I'm naturally craving a bit more quality.

Last Christmas brought my kids the joys of the Playstation 4 and the Playstation 4 VR. For them the biggest hit, and all they really wanted to play, was Beat Saber. I couldn't even get in time on the PS4 because they were constantly on it or the wand controllers needed recharging when it was "my turn," and to be honest, all I was thinking about game-wise on my spare time was P:G.

Fast forward to today, we're all in quarantine from the Covid-19 pandemic, and I've been going a little crazy being cooped up inside the house all day. The kids lost interest in Beat Saber months ago, and so finally I was able to sneak on to the PS4 and play a bit myself.

It's so incredibly cool to play this game, and not only that . . . putting on the VR headset completely separates you from what you typically see with your eyes. You're in the videogame world at that point. You look around and all you see is space and the floating cubes that demand they be lightsaber-ed in half by the funky beats dropping in your ears.

After getting a pretty good workout from Beat Saber, I moved on to another VR game that my kids had hardly touched: AstroBot.

I love this little guy so much

I guess what I most wasn't prepared for was the absolute visual vacation I was about to undertake with this game. No longer was I trapped inside the quarantined walls of my home staring at screens. Now the frame of the world around me was gone, and I was living inside what felt like a Disneyland ride.

After playing one level of AstroBot, I ran downstairs to my family and was like, "Why didn't anyone tell me about how amazing this game is?" They looked at my like I was insane, and yes, I was kind of freaked out. Honestly . . . freaked . . . out.

My family loves Mario-eque platformer puzzle games as it is, but AstroBot feels and plays so incredibly well. I paused several times to just sit back and enjoy the world I was now vacationing in inside my own home. I think I actually started to tear up a bit from smiling so much while playing this game. AstroBot was exactly what I needed.

Dance little man, dance!

The spot pictured above was one of those points where I just laid back in my chair and watched the waves rolling, the sky scrolling, and the palm trees animating rhythmically in the distance.

This is now something I've been putting an hour toward every day this week, and so far I've been high up in the sky walking through canyon rock trails, inside the belly of a whale, and, yes, even down to a dark cave full of bats and traps. Last night I was trapped in a spike ceiling room where I had to throw ninja stars at buttons before the spikes impaled me. It felt awesome to finally experience that. HAHA!

That's another thing about this game, you really get to use the touch pad sensitivity of the PS4 controller.  At points during the game, your controller is used to throw ninja stars, squirt water, shoot out a grappling hook, and even launch your little astro-bot buddy into the sky.

This game just has so much going for it. It's so much fun that I actually can't wait to play it again and continue on my vacation from a quarantined reality. It really feels like the perfect time for this kind of game to enter my life.  What a treat.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Not Six Fan Arts, but Six Fan Songs!

Last week I decided to do the #SixFanArts challenge on Twitter. At first, I was serious about trying to draw some fan art, but after spending about 20 minutes trying to draw a simple mander, I was like . . . yeah, I'm not an artist, but then it hit me, you know what . . . I AM an artist, just not that kind of artist.

So I decided to do #SixFanSongs instead!

My followers on Twitter had some interesting tastes! Being that most of my followers like Wizard101, about half of the characters were from Wizard101, but even those choices were a little esoteric. Officer McRuff? LOL!

At the end of the day, my line up of characters looked like this:

- Mander
- Bartleby
- Quirrel
- Yubel
- Officer McRuff
- Zenyatta

Whew . . . it took a few days of downtime to put them all together, but I hope you enjoy the results.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Brawl Stars' Small Spars Gives Great Memoirs

I've been playing a ton of a great PvP-based mobile game by Supercell. You know Supercell, don't you? You should if you don't. They are the legendary mobile gaming company behind mega million making games like Hay Day, Clash of Clans, Clash Royale . . . and this particular game I've been playing, Brawl Stars!

It's certain death for Stingy.:(

Brawl Stars is epic! To sum it up, you collect heroes who have unique weapons and power moves, and you play with them in various PvP modes to earn coins, leveling tokens, and trophies.

The 30+ heroes in the game are cute and cartoonish, which immediately makes the gunfire, explosions, and chemical warfare seem much more fun and less in the realistic vein of Call of Duty.

Still feeling excited from pulling this epic brawler in a mega box last night.

The variety of modes keeps it interesting (I think there's about 9 different modes) and you'll be playing everything from a battle royale between 10 players to a co-operative boss hunt mode. You unlock these modes as you play the game and earn trophies.

That's another interesting thing about Brawl Stars, there's the regular currencies (including loot boxes), but there's also a nice "battle-pass" like progression system for earning rank that unlocks new characters, lootboxes, event tickets, and more. I'm calling it a currency, but really trophies are a progression system that tracks your rank and awards you goodies based on how far along you are in "trophy road."

At 2099 trophies, I'm only just starting my journey on Trophy Road.

The quick 3-5 minute matches keep you discovering how to play the game in new ways with new heroes. Honestly, I'll say for me it's the leader of the pack when it comes to this kind of pvp mobile game.  For me it's like Overwatch lite on my phone. I mean, they even had an e-sports broadcast over this past weekend.

That chat stream was too fast to read.

My recent goal in Brawl was to get all my characters to rank 10 . . . DONE! My next goal is to hit rank 15 (Diamond rating). Things apparently get a lot harder at higher ranks and eventually losses in Brawl Stars become more punishing.

If you haven't given it a shot, it's well worth the space on your phone.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

I'm a Smack Talking Bear in Wizard101

So, about a year ago or so, my work buddy Mike Sears let me know that there was a spot in the new Sinbad and the Iron Sultan gauntlet that needed a touch of ambient voiceover. Granted most people are gonna just skip past this spot in Wizard101 as they hurry on their way through the dungeon, but if you're an explorer type of person, you might just take the time to slow down and wander just a bit to the left and over to this shady group of characters.

A Grizzleheim Pirate, an Aquilan Warrior, and a Valencian Rogue walk into a bar . . .

Mike wrote several funny lines and sent them over for me to take a look at . . . done.  About a week later, thee one and only Mr. TJ O'Leary had set up a meeting with me and Mike in his office where the door was closed and the mic was turned on, and the only internal monologue I could hear was, "OMG IT'S HAPPENING!"

Now ya' gotta understand. For seven years I had been bugging TJ, Mike, and anybody else in the creative and sound teams to find a way to put me in the game. I think I even begged for it to happen a couple times on KI Live. In fact, when the Avalon expansion was released, I actually tried my hand at auditioning for a vocal part, but I didn't make the cut. So, this was a pretty big deal for me. LOL!

When I was doing the voiceover, I kind of transformed my whole body to become "the braggadocios bear."

He's got jokes for days . . . or at least 15 minutes . . .

When I did my voiceover lines, I held my hands like they were big bear paws, I cocked my head back like a cocky piece of work, and I let the bullcrap talkin' bear loose from inside me. I had an absolute blast recording those lines.

When the gauntlet finally hit the streets, I logged in, redeemed my gauntlet, and recorded a couple of the voice over lines, grinning ear to ear.

I ain't one for braggin', see? ;)

The Entrance to the Sinbad Gauntlet beckons you!

So, if you happen to have this gauntlet or see this little spot in someone's player housing. Come meander over to the bear . . . I'm sure this Grizzleheim outlaw would love for you to overhear his conversation between an Aquilian and a Valencian.

Happy Dueling!