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MAGFest XI Recap: Saturday & Sunday

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After a grueling night of playing challenges (check out the spoils above), I returned to my quarters only to wake up the next morning at 7am to go down and play some more.  In fact, Brandon was able to make his way down to play, as well, and he had stayed up even later than I did the night before—it was great to have a buddy to share the pain with so early in the morning.

Call us crazy, but those laptops are almost always occupied, and it has long been proven that going to the game room in the wee hours of the morning is the best thing to do if you’re looking to play a specific, popular attraction.  My first year, Jen and I woke up at 5am to go down and we were able to play whatever we wanted whenever we wanted.  That’s a Pro Tip for you there for next year, dear readers.

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At nine o’clock I went back to the room to wake up Jen and eat some breakfast, and together we wandered down to Kinuyo Yamashita’s panel.  Unfortunately for you all, my notes are sparse—she really didn’t say much outside of what I already knew from my biographical post about her.  However, one notable question asked was whether or not Yamashita ripped off a Guns and Roses song called “My Michelle” with her Mega Man X3 track “Neon Tiger.”  After some sleuthing, the Guns and Roses number was recorded in 1987, while X3 was released in 1995 (start at :20 for “Neon Tiger” and :26 for “My Michelle”).


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MAGFest XI Recap: Thursday & Friday

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Disclaimer: I apologize for much of the photography—I apparently have the least steady hand in the universe.

If you couldn’t tell by “MAGFest” being in the title of two of my last four blog posts, yes, it was that time of year again.

Having done a two-day, two-night stint for the past two years, Jen and I decided to extend our trip and come up on Thursday night.  We thought (I thought) we were being baller, but come to find out, the real ballers head up on Wednesday and get the place warmed up while the rest of us toil away at work.  Drat!

After getting, mmmm, “misdirected” on the drive to National Harbor from the other side of the water (National Harbor got sucked into a black hole, according to both Jen’s and our friend’s GPS), Jen and I made it to the Gaylord National and were greeted with a smooth check-in.  The place was alive already, but not nearly as much so as it would be over the next few days.

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After getting situated, we went to go get our badges and ran into a prime example why the MAGFest community is so cool.  While in line, this guy in front of us pulled out a binder of cards.  He was a brony, and he started talking about his collection of My Little Pony trading cards – of which he had a complete base set and a slew of special cards – to the guys next to him.  Jen loves MLP and got excited, so we checked them out as he flipped through he pages.  The guy asked if Jen was missing any of the cards, and we joked that she needed them all.  Well, he didn’t give Jen a set, but he flipped to the back of his binder and let her pick out a couple.  What a guy!  So Jen scored Pinky Pie and Gummy trading cards just by geeking out with another MAGFester.  That’s the name of the game!

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Know Your MAGFest Moguls: Yuzo Koshiro

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Crowned “arguably the greatest game-music composer of the 16-bit age” as recently as 2006 by the now-tragically deceased publication Nintendo Power, Yuzo Koshiro was born in the city of Hino in Tokyo, Japan, on December 12, 19671.  At the age of three, Koshiro’s mother started teaching him piano, and he went on to study with Mamoru Fujisawa – better known as Joe Hisaishi, composer for many Hayao Miyazaki films, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away – for three years when he was eight.  A multi-instrumentalist, Koshiro picked up the violin when he was five and later learned to play cello and guitar as well2, 3.

As a schoolboy, Koshiro would cut his classes and head to the arcades, where he would spend his time feeding Namco, Konami, and Sega machines2.  Although he really wanted to be a game programmer, he had a knack for creating music, and so he made mockups of the music that he heard in the games he played on a PC-8801 soundboard3.  Having been influenced by the sounds of Gradius, Space Harrier, and Tower of Druaga, one of his goals was to bring the high quality of arcade game music to the PC since, to that point, there wasn’t much in the way of great, inspirational PC game music4.  It was by sticking with that vision and producing high quality music on that soundboard that he caught the attention of those that worked at the game company Nihon Falcom.

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During summer vacation, at the age of eighteen, Koshiro spotted a job listing for an opening within Falcom in a PC magazine2.  Since the company was close by, he applied and scored the job.  In fact, Falcom loved the music demos that he sent so much that they even used some of those demo tunes in his first game project, Xanadu Scenario II (1985).  The rest of the soundtrack was pieced together similarly—instead of writing music off a visual, Koshiro wrote music that he liked and then applied that music to parts of the game that seemed a fit, giving the music an “unexpected quality” which, to him, “created the game’s unique worldview”3.  On composing this music, he states in an interview with Square Enix Music Online:

“… I was a mere beginner, so I composed blindly, as if in a trance. I didn’t have a special approach; I just wanted to create PC game music with the kind of drive that I liked in arcade game music, and that was my main motivation.”

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Know Your MAGFest Moguls: Kinuyo Yamashita

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It’s December, which means that the gaming event of the calendar year, MAGFest XI, is swiftly approaching. If you are unaware of MAGFest, I highly recommend you check out my three posts covering the event here, here, and here. Not only do I think my posts will satiate your curiosity, I want you to know why it’s awesome so that you’ll be there this year with me and the thousands of others who crave the coming of the following year’s event every waking day that they’re not at MAGFest.

Alternatively, you can just skip reading those posts and take your chances with my recommendation by going straight to the MAGFest website to buy tickets and book a hotel room. Nothing wrong with that!

I’ll be doing a few posts between now and January 3rd covering some of the headliners. These crash courses will give you enough fodder to prepare some questions for the guests and/or just simply enjoy their presence more since you’ll know who they are and what they’ve done.

First up is VGM composer Kinuyo Yamashita, who is most well known for composing the soundtrack to the original Castlevania.


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Yamashita was born on December 31, 1965, in Amagasaki, a city that is located in the Hyogo prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan1, 2, 3. Growing up, Yamashita studied piano as a child, but aside from that received no formal musical training4. It seems, however, that music had left its mark on her life, as, despite having graduated with a degree in Electronic Engineering from the Osaka Electro-Communication University, she had a desire to base her career in working on musical instrument hardware5. In turn, despite there being a limited job market for women in that line of work, upon graduating she scored her first job, which was with Konami, in 1986.

Inspiration struck early—Castlevania was Yamashita’s first video game soundtrack. When coming up with musical ideas for the game, she “aimed to create music suitable for the image,” citing both “the gothic images of the background” and – intriguingly – “the dynamicism with which the player moves” as influences6. Having absorbed those elements, a rock-tinged flavor usurped any influence that came from her musical idols – the likes of Nat King Cole, Chopin, and Beethoven. This direction “came naturally” and “gradually”—she had no specific plan as to what the vibe should be.

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Interview: Darren Korb (‘Bastion’ OST)

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Less than a week ago I decided to get in touch with Darren Korb, composer of the VGA-winning soundtrack Bastion, to try and get an interview.  Thankfully, Darren responded immediately and I was able to speak with him for almost 40 minutes a few days later (Sunday) regarding, among other things, some specific questions I had regarding his work after having reviewed it in December.

Below I have posted the audio file and even further down I have posted a few highlights that I found interesting in case you are strapped for time.  However, the listener will be heavily rewarded, as Darren does most of the talking and doesn’t skirt around specifics.  Plus, he shows a lot of personality, which makes the interview both fun and quick-moving.

Thanks again for the billionth time, Darren!  And, I must say, from one lover of the burns to another: nice chops!

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MAGFest X Recap, Part III: The Dessert

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In case you missed them:
Part I: The Appetizer
Part II: The Meat

Nobuo Uematsu and the Earthbound Papas were set to perform at 10:30pm on Saturday.  After a long number of hours at panels and gaming, a bunch of us stood in line at Elevation Burger for a long time only to be told that they no longer had milkshakes.  That was the worst.  However, we quickly devoured what we got and headed to meet our friends at the show.

When we got there, The Year 200X, one of the many bands named after something Mega Man-related, was playing.  I think we arrived 45 minutes early, and that was time enough for us to get optimally positioned for the Earthbound Papas.  We were slightly left of center-stage, 5-10 people back, I’d guess.  After some moshing and a rendition of “Dancing Mad” that was highly praised the next morning by Uematsu and his band themselves, the stage crew immediately started getting ready for the headliner amidst a sea of Colossus roars.

As you can see in the picture, the crowd for the Earthbound Papas was, as you’d expect, enormous.  That wasn’t even the whole crowd, either—I took that well before they came out, if I remember correctly.  Of course, everyone was going wild the whole time, and the crowd got especially pumped when Uematsu came out during soundcheck for a couple of minutes.
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MAGFest X Recap, Part II: The Meat

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(in case you missed Part I)

Before I get into the panels and whatnot, there’s one thing that I forgot to share in the last post regarding the Gaylord: because it’s so fancy, the Gaylord is host to a lot of fancy parties, including weddings.  One of my favorite moments at MAGFest X was seeing a wedding party and then seeing a full-fledged Zora walk past them.  Furthermore, could you imagine taking wedding photos and having the Colossus mutant power sound roared randomly by twenty different people all around you?  If that kind of stuff excites you, you should make it to MAGFest next year.

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The first panel that Jen and I went to at MAGFest was called “Orchestral Game Music and Society.”  It was hosted by members of the Gamers Symphony Orchestra, which is a group based out of the University of Maryland that plays orchestral arrangements of video game music as well as original game-influenced compositions by their members.  Their members also do many of the arrangements that they perform.

The panelists essentially just talked about who they are, what they do, and what their goals are.  If you live in area surrounding the UMD, you might be able to join them provided you can make their rehearsals and, more importantly, if they have space.  As you can imagine, there’s a high demand to join and, naturally, a limited amount of space.  There’s good news for all of you who play things other than the piano or flute, though: they do accept people of any instrument, though they can’t guarantee that you’ll play since their make-up is slave to the demands of the arrangements that they play.  Who knows, though—maybe someone will write in a part for contrabass saxophone.

The conductor, Kira Levitzsky (four from the left), mentioned a project that she has a vision for that involves the GSO releasing a CD of the works of “future game composers” on iTunes to help raise money for their organization.  I thought this was a pretty neat idea, so I contacted her after MAGFest—hopefully one of my tunes will be tracked!  Just have to prepare one in time…

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