For those of us 30+ gamers video game music is embedded deep inside us. Having played the same levels over and over and over … and over again has left a mark on our memory that will likely last longer than our memory of our own offspring. The music is tied to our failures, our victories and new discoveries. When I first saw the track list for The String Arcade I immediately looked for game names that I recognized; Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Galaga and The Legend of Zelda. What I was surprised to discover is several modern games including some mobile games. I would be lying if I didn’t scoff and get a bit snobby about it, “Why would they pick those games? Who wants to listen to Plants Vs Zombie?!” I put my prejudice aside, put on my headphones, ignored my children and listened intently to The String Arcade.
Produced by composer Dren McDonald, The String Arcade is arranged and performed by a string quartet. The String Arcade goes far beyond simply recreating video game music, the arrangements are lush with complexity and depth. While each track is unique, the album is arranged as a cohesive unit. Thematically it sounds like a soundtrack complete with a beginning, middle, ending, and epilogue. Grasswalk kicks it off with a playful pace mixed with grade-school-Halloween spookiness complete with zombie moans. Engii evokes the sounds of a space opera complete with epic solitude. Echoes of Ecco, Sonic 2 Scherzo and Altered Beast Title Theme all have beautifully rich cello work that gives them a lot of edge that was indicative of those games back in the day. Also there are parts of Echoes of Ecco where it actually feels like you’re underwater complete with dolphin calls. Ferdinand Wanders Out for a Late Night Haircut and Medicated Cow Walks the Cobbled Streets with Disgruntled Goat were both big surprises to me because they were inspired by mobile games but are brilliantly done. Dance of the Space Bugs and The Legend of Zelda Title Theme both rely on the original songs’ melodies but are both more vibrant than any other recreations I’ve heard. Especially The Legend of Zelda Title Theme closes the album out that truly feels like the end of an epic adventure.
Having now listened to the album several dozen times: every time I hear something new. It begs to be listened to from beginning to end over and over. I actually feel a little uncomfortable if I have to stop listening to the album before I get to the end. I feel guilty having had reservations intially from reading the track list. Track numbers may break up The String Arcade but it should be listened to as a whole. It is a true joy to listen too and I plan to keep it in my rotation for a long time.
You can purchase the CD from:
With the type of numbers that League of Legends is putting up chances are you’ve heard of Riot Games free-to-play juggernaut already. Having grown from an active user base of 1.4 million in 2011 to 32.5 million in 2013 is the type of popularity even Justin Bieber would be jelly about."It’s hard to believe the game is free to play." Riot continues to invest heavily on iterating the game to keep in fresh and promoting the brand through events and tournaments. The popularity of the game is unparalleled and while doing research for this article I’ve found endless user strategy guides, gameplay videos, podcasts streamed matches and fan art. It’s hard to believe the game is free to play.
I know the term “Free-to-Play” has negative connotations for many gamers. In most cases games with this classification have very little to offer. Sure, they are free but you get what you pay for. They taste great when consuming them but they soon leave you feeling empty like having an ice cream cone for lunch. Then when you crave a bit more sustenance they charge you for the additional calories. Food references aside, these freemium games are specifically designed to entice you out of your money after you’ve sunk your time in up front. Make no mistake, Riot Games wants to make money but the items that players pay for do not affect gameplay.
League of Legends is a competitive team-based action/strategy RTS with RPG elements. No, you don’t have to cut down trees, mine stone or erect towers but you do have to manage resources, play strategically, and control the map, Summoners Rift. Summoners Rift is a balanced playing field which consists of 3 major lanes of attack that are protected by array of powerful AI turrets. Each of the lanes are patrolled by minions from both teams that are essentially are an offensive or defensive line depending upon their position in the lane. In between those lanes are “jungle”. The jungle is basically a collection of “sublanes” that criss-cross between the major lanes which are home to some neutral baddies that will only attack when provoked. Then there are Summoners, you and your teammates that take control of summoned Heroes. Teammates take to the field with a choice of 116 heroes. Each team consists of 5 heroes that all have unique abilities, fighting styles and roles. Within each match player goals and team goals build on one another for the ultimate goal of destroying the enemy’s Nexus that resides in their home base. Within the lanes of approach the early game is a tug of war. In this early stage it usually advised to avoid opposing heroes and just focus on grinding through waves of minions, gaining gold when “last hitting” (players only get credit for landing the death blow). Grinding and not dying are critical because players need to level abilities and purchase stat-boosting items with gold faster than the opposing team. Everytime you die your respawn is lengthen. As the game moves on, the teams that have players that avoided dying, leveled abilities, purchased powerful items and play together can start pressing the other team, getting large piles of gold for killing heroes, bring down turrets and overrun the enemy Nexus. "No need to spend one red cent… nothing but time"While the concepts of the game are relatively simple, the strategy employed is intricate and varied. Knowing when to play it safe, when to push and when to run headlong into the fray requires skill, communication and teamwork. Then there’s the meta game, when Summoners play well and win matches they receive XP (Experience Points) and IP (Influence Points). Achieving levels through gaining experience lets Summoners assign Mastery Points that can be used to improve offensive, defensive and utility attributes. Leveling also unlocks rune slots that can be filled with runes purchased with influence points that add buff to summoned heroes. Oh, also there are non-hero specific spells that are unlocked as the Summoner levels. Everything I’ve described in this paragraph is free to the player. No need to spend one red cent, a thin dime, a wooden nickel, a peso, riel, rupee… nothing but time.
As I said before LoL pay system doesn’t directly impact gameplay. You can buy “Riot Points” to purchase new Heroes (which can be purchased with IP as well), new skins or boosts for IP and XP gain. Skins for Heroes and Wards can only be purchased with Riot Points but they only alter appearance. The IP and XP boosts can be an enticing option if you have more money than time. But at the end of the day, Riot is making money not by artificially gimping experience but by making a game that is so good and popular that even if a small portion of the player base buys a few skins or boosts that they can still make a lot of dough.
So, is League of Legends the Best Value in Gaming? Based on my point of view it is. I’ve been playing video games for approx 27 years and I’ve never seen such a feature rich IP for free. "is League of Legends the Best Value in Gaming?"LoL provides an incredibly deep playing experience that is competitive and rewarding. Graphics, gameplay and systems are all top-shelf and you don’t need a supercomputer or business class broadband connection to play. I’ve been playing on my 2011 13” Macbook Pro over WiFi with no problems. Furthermore the community is huge and this provides value to the player in two ways. First, great players want to play with other great players so they are willing to teach n00bs how to play. You don’t need to purchase a strategy guide to learn how to play, just Google or type into Youtube “League of Legend Tutorial” and you can learn to play like a pro in no time. Second, large communities mean the developers will keep investing and supporting the game which provides even more value because the game won’t disappear while you are trying to master high level play.
I encourage you to try League of Legends play through the tutorial, play some bot matches and give yourself several competitive matches to get a feel for the game. If you need a friendly companion to fight alongside you, add me to your Friend’s List: JoEDigiTECH and I will be more than happy to share (what little) I know.