Art Where No-one’s Looking

My friends have on more than one occasion commented on my eccentric taste in music, and how I listen to bands none has heard of. I usually reply by claiming that most people like bands more than their music. But quite frankly, the people who compose stuff I listen to can’t always be characterised as “bands” (and I don’t mean that in just the commercial sense).

I have often wondered how great artistic merit emerges out of places where no-one is looking. Not the popular media, not the critics. And these are being generated at an enormous rate. How can you NOT FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS:

More pieces like these get rejected in monthly contests at deviant art and deleted than future archeologists will be able to uncover and catalogue.

How many literary critics have even heard of Planescape Torment?

How many short fiction enthusiasts are familiar with the art of quoting from fictitious books?

I have realised that most soundtracks on my playlists are ambient compositions meant for videogames. I think its high-time I published those that most frequently get listened to. So, here are the top 10 videogame tracks of all time (in no particular order):

  1. Underworld II (from the original UNREAL TOURNAMENT)
  2. Hell March 2 (from RED ALERT 2)
  3. Zerg Ambience 1 (from STARCRAFT)
  4. Rebel Base Theme 1 (from CRUSADER: NO REMORSE)
  5. Rain in the Night (from the original COMMAND AND CONQUER)
  6. At Doom’s Gate (from the original DOOM)
  7. Main Theme (from ADVENT RISING)
  8. Track 24 (from HALF-LIFE 2)
  9. Main Theme (from METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER)
  10. Main Theme (from TOMB RAIDER 4: THE LAST REVELATION)

So there you go. I have fulfilled my nonconformist quota for several lifetimes. Happy listening ^_,^

5 Responses to “Art Where No-one’s Looking”

  1. Lovely post!

    I’m surprised you left out many tracks from C&C: Tiberian Sun. I haven’t played it, but back when CHIP magazine carried the soundtracks, I was hooked!

    And Crusader:No Remorse – ahhh!! I got a free CD of Crusader:No Regret when my uncle bought me a Sound Blaster 16 multimedia kit. I was formerly playing Doom and Duke Nukem 3D (and discovering the pure joy of pressing spacebar in front of a stripper in Level 2), and I get hit by this. Gorgeous graphics, amazing music, awesome not-superhard game play, and videos! Real actors telling me what to do! I vividly remember the way the transition to text mode from 640×480 was smooth and like a fade-in, instead of the usual flicker and switch (and the inevitable Shareware notice). Heck, I even had a crush on Trina Jenkins, the cutemax news reporter! This was one of those games that inspired me to learn game programming, and from there to Mode 13h, and from there to DirectX, and from there to …

    Good days 🙂

    • I haven’t play T:Sun either. Heard T:Twilight is finally in the works. Although things haven’t been the same ever since EA acquired Westwood.

      I too played free CD version of No Regret first, before purchasing No Remorse as my first game CD from the top floor at Gangaram’s before I owned a computer. I’d play at a friend’s place. It had missions like:
      1> Infiltrate government building, without tripping alarms and spy in the board meeting using the security system.
      2> Steal this data before destroying this and that.
      3> Rescue prisoner from penal colony.
      4> Investigate what this mad scientist is upto in his clone lab.
      That clone lab mission was something. There are vats everywhere, and inside each was being grown another silencer. Another you! And you are tempted to shoot and spill them all!!! Now THAT is good plot design.
      It is interesting that the villains were called the “World Economic Consortium”. The whole zeitgeist thing has been around for a while! And we didn’t even know it then. As if the idea is being passed on encrypted in unpopular fiction in a Da Vinci-esque sense.
      And spider bombs were the Portal gun of the 90s’.
      If there were a quiz on gaming, this: followed by put “full” fundaes would be the best question.
      There was a pic of the dev team in the No Regret CD, and years later I could Identify one young programmer in the background as Warren Spector.

    • I couldn’t resist adding more (You’ve got me thinking).
      I think what made Crusader click, despite it being linear is the sense of freedom it created. Like that clone lab thing I mentioned for instance. What you do to the vats has no bearing on the game’s progression. Its just that you’ve found yourself running through a HUGH complex with vats everywhere, having just realised what the mad scientist is up to, and your primary weapon has unlimited ammo (and you are tempted to use bombs and shit just because it felt cool). You got so involved with the story that killing premature vat zombies gave you a sense of relief, that these guys won’t wake in the future and wreck havoc on the resistance. In another mission, you encounter a place full of secret dead-end sections with missiles and weapon stashes. You could just bypass them, but you can’t resist entering every room and destroying every war-head if that will cripple the governments war efforts. So you HAVE to destroy all droid vetrons in this level, you HAVE to kill business suited civilians, you HAVE to spare blue colour civilians, even though the game requires none of it. I found myself lending an unforced personality to the character and behaving consistently till endgame.

      Another feature was the SwatKat type world entity definitions. Not only where the mission objectives just plane cool (break into landing pad control tower and shoot the government craft carrying enforcer reinforcements before they land. A TIME-LIMIT in a game that didn’t need an excuse!! Hell the first mission in No Remorse was a TEST to prove your change of heart to the rebels), but we loved the whole concept of silencer suits and Lunar mining colonies, and orbital weapon sabotage ambitions. We loved the way the suit’s electronics malfunctions when close to corrosive chemicals or iridium deposits. We loved that when we shoot certain hazardous looking things, there is a small distant explosion, but a brilliant flash of light, and we are killed because of radiation poisoning. We loved the fact that our batteries got zapped when our gravity shields were on, and we moved through a radiation contaminated area (and the areas looked clean. They didn’t litter it with green goo. How awesome is that! They got it!!), and had to rush through that section, whatever we had to do there. We loved how the alarm system made certain doors and elevators inactive and raised certain barriers, and we had to find a wave to turn it off, or prevent the guy we are shooting at, from running and turning it on. We loved security cameras and remote controlled droids and turrets. I could go on.

      And of course, there were the live actors. “If you are looking for a friendly drink, you’ve come to the wrong table” says the guy when you first enter the bar at the rebel base, and no-one trusts a silencer.
      “Why am I doing this?! I’m a scientist!!” says the sympathiser who reluctantly keeps helping you with key cards and access.
      “No files, no home tin-man” says the wizard when you attempt to run to the teleporter to prevent getting killed, even though you didn’t successfully steal the files, and the guy at the other end of the teleporter denies you passage since you haven’t completed the mission.
      You try the key combination 122 at a key pad for the nth time and it doesn’t work. And you get a datalink call. The guy says, “heh, having trouble with a keypad eh? (types something) the combo is (squints and reads) 1..2…2 …… no wait! Scratch that… its…….(types something, squints and reads again)… its the temperature at which paper burns”.
      In the first level of No Regret, the game convinces you of a ship under high-alert because of some commotion caused by an intruder. And then you find another rebel with a gun pointed at you, and he says, “You better be that silencer everybody is talking about, or one of us is going to have a really bad day.” Classic scripting.

      This was the first game I played that took itself more seriously than a game. The first time I died in No Regret, I kept waiting for the next life to be used, or the game automatically sending me to the main screen or load-game section. Nothing happened! The world and the sounds just went about their business! Learning key combinations from employee emails, amazing plot-twists pitting you at the end against someone you rescued from a prison in the second level and worked with subsequently, returning to the rebel base after learning of the great betrayal and find the place trashed and crawling with droids and finding people missing or dead, and sgt. Brooks hiding in the communications room with bruises and stuff…..
      I think I’ll write a review soon.

  2. On the nonconformist quota: Your interests reside in the l o o o ng tail of popular (and not so popular) media.

    That’s not very surprising, if you ask me. What piques my interest is the realization that it’s a pretty long tail, and you (and by extension, I, since it goes without saying that I nodded my head off reading your post) are bemoaning the non-visibility of a very narrow interval along the abscissa. We have no way of knowing how much more art we’re missing.

    Nice picks, although I’ve found the Starcraft tracks very forgettable. I’d add tracks from Crysis, BG&E, Republic Commando, the Elder Scrolls and KOTOR series.

    And… no tracks (3,4,5,13!) from Deus Ex?

  3. Fascinating. May I add your blog to my link exchange directory?

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