Pong Music

15 01 2009


An aesthetic diversion today, BIT.TRIP BEAT is a Wiiware title taking Pong mechanics and turning them into a beautiful retro, pixel-art music game:

(via Offworld, CC image of ping pong balls by mknowles)

Aerosmith: GH Worth More Than Any Album

18 09 2008

Interesting and rather provocative quote on MTV Multiplayer, from CEO of Activision Bobby Kotick:

“[Their] version of ‘Guitar Hero’ generated far more in revenues than any Aerosmith album ever has,” said Kotick. “Merchandising, concert sales, their ability to sign a new contract [have] all been unbelievably influenced by their participation in ‘Guitar Hero.’”

An Aerosmith rep was not able to confirm Kotick’s statement by press time.

Obviously, this needs a pinch of salt.

Nonetheless, games are syncretic media, and ascending. As such, we can expect them not only to adopt practices from other media industries, but to start eating up parts of the industries themselves.

(CC image by justj0000lie)

GDC07:June debut for London Studio’s PS3 SingStar

8 03 2007

The PS3 version of SingStar will hit Europe in June and the US in the autumn.
The PS3 version of the game relies heavily on the PlayStation Network. The previous versions of the franchise, which were all purely disc-based, have already sold seven million worldwide with 30 songs on each disc, delivering a total of 200 million songs to players.

For PS3, SingStar is “all about extending the experience online – downloading content and uploading content,” explained Sony Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison.

Via the SingStore players can download tracks and preview music videos, purchasing tracks to build their own tracklist for a sing along session. Using a USB camera players can upload videos or pictures of themselves singing which can be rated and scored by other players. Users can also access wallpapers and other content to customise their version of SingStar.

“Where we are going with the integration of community and commerce blended together is a very compelling experience on PlayStation 3,” added Harrison.

“We’re are working very closely with the music industry to get a very wide variety of songs up on the network.”

Nine Inch Nails use ARG to promote new album

21 02 2007

By James Montgomery

A dystopian civilization in the throes of extinction. A government poisoning its own citizens through the drinking water. Military police raiding private residences. The end of civil liberties. The creation of a Church-State. Mind control.

The contents of some conspiracy theorist’s personal manifesto? The plot of a rote first-person shooter? The results of a quick jaunt through Snopes.com? Actually, it’s all part of the elaborate (and somewhat terrifying) concept behind Nine Inch Nails’ upcoming Year Zero album (due April 17), details of which are currently being disseminated through a series of increasingly spooky — and downright odd — Web sites.

Strangely enough, the story actually began on the back of a T-shirt sold on NIN’s current European tour. Dates and cities are listed, with certain letters highlighted. When those letters were arranged, they spelled out the phrase “I am trying to believe,” which most saw as just another statement of shattered hope from NIN mastermind Trent Reznor … that was, until one particularly, uh, “enterprising” individual decided to Google the phrase.

What was revealed was a rather unsettling site (IAmTryingToBelieve.com) dedicated to information on “Parepin,” a drug allegedly added to the water supply by the federal government at some unknown date to protect citizens from bioterror attacks. While all appears to be normal, the author of the site — who is not identified — paints a different picture, referring to Parepin as “bioterrorism” being waged on U.S. citizens without their knowledge, designed to placate them.

But in some cases, the opposite occurs. Dosage is not controlled and, according to the site, the more water that unknowing citizens drink, the harsher the side effects.

“Parepin affects brain chemistry — specifically dopamines. Dopaminergic overactivity is linked to schizophrenia. Parepin dosage is not controlled. It’s just in the water. The more water you drink, the more Parepin you ingest,” the author states. “Parepin may make some people more susceptible to visions and hypnagogic hallucinations (those very vivid dreams you have when you think you are awake.)”

The site also makes mention of citizens witnessing something called “The Presence,” which is shown in a series of blurry photographs as what appears to be a giant hand descending from the heavens.

“I used to dismiss conspiracy theories about the Administration’s ‘real reason’ for adding Parepin to our water,” the author writes. “Now, I’m not so sure.”

Hidden on the site is an e-mail address to contact the author, yet all correspondence to the address is answered with the following auto response, which indicates that he or she has changed (or, possibly, was forced to change) their opinion:

“Thank you for your interest. It is now clear to me that Parepin is a completely safe and effective agent developed to protect us from bio-terrorism. The Administration is acting purely in the best interests of its citizens; to suggest otherwise was irresponsible and I deeply regret it. I’m drinking the water. So should you.”

And things only grow more confusing — and unnerving — from there. Members on a NIN fan site, EchoingtheSound.org, soon began to uncover even more sites, all seemingly unrelated upon first glance. But through careful — and some may say obsessive — examination they all began to tie together, creating a rather Orwellian picture of the United States circa the year 2022.

AnotherVersionOfTheTruth.com is, on the surface, a site created by “the U.S. Bureau of Morality,” featuring a fluttering flag superimposed over a rippling cornfield and emblazoned with the motto “Zero Tolerance. Zero Fear.” But if users click and drag their mouse across the image, what is revealed is a black-and-white photo of a bombed-out wasteland. Visitors are then taken to a secret “messageboard” with topics like “End of the World?” and “Cops Murder Muslim Kid.”

On the board, members — or perhaps government agents — discuss Parepin and the Presence (sample entry: “Was it an angel? Devil? Alien? God? I don’t know. It was a Presence,”) the rise of a new drug called Opal — which, we’re told, was created by the U.S. Government after global warming destroyed coca leaves in South America — and a secret-police raid on a Muslim home in Saginaw, Michigan.

Several audio samples are also available on the site, including one taken from the cell phone of a girl in the Michigan home, and an “angry sniper” who opens fire (what he calls an act of “violent resistance”) during a baseball game.

The messageboard also contains a link to BeTheHammer.org, the site belonging the “angry sniper,” and makes mention of “Consolidated Mail Systems,” both of which are important clues to advancing the story.

On BeTheHammer, the sniper says he worked for the secret police, raiding homes of Muslim-Americans, torturing and in some cases murdering them. He also makes mention of time spent in the 105th Airborne Crusaders.

And, of course, a quick Google search of “105th Airborne Crusaders” turns up a site dedicated to a special-forces group formed “as part of our nation’s swift answer to the atrocities in Los Angeles,” and made up of “men and women who kept a personal relationship with our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ and allowed the Holy Ghost to guide their rifles true.” According to posts from former members of the 105th, the Crusaders launched campaigns in Iran (even mentioning the detonation of a nuclear device in Tehran), Yemen, Chad, Turkey, Syria and the Kashmir Region.

There are also mentions on that site of a New Evangelical Church, which donated land to the 105th. Somehow — and we’re not entirely sure how — this led NIN fans to the discovery of another site, ChurchOfPlano.com, run by a fictitious New Evangelical outfit that practices “Neighborhood Cleansing” and holds sermons about the Presence.

And finally, as if all of that wasn’t mind-bending enough, a Google search of Consolidated Mail Systems turns up a purported e-mail in-box owned by someone with the handle “NoOneImportant,” which contains a police-manual definition of Opal that suggests it causes users to suffer the same hallucinations as those who ingest too much Parepin.

Are we to believe, then, that in the future the government has really been drugging its citizens? Will we engage in a Holy War with Muslim nations? Will secret police groups creep in the shadows at night? We’re led to believe that the answer to all of these questions is “Yes.”

And it all brings up a couple of new questions: Just who is behind all these Web-related shenanigans in the first place? And what do they have to do with Nine Inch Nails?

Well, in relation to the former: all of the sites are registered through Domains by Proxy, an Arizona-based company that protects the identities of site owners (when reached for comment, a spokesperson for DBP would not reveal exactly who registered any of the sites as it would “violate the terms of service provided by the company.”) But according to reports published on the Web site of the U.K.’s Digit magazine and elsewhere, the sites are part of an alternate reality game, created by 42 Entertainment, a marketing company responsible for one of the most famously ambitious ARGs in history: “I Love Bees,” an effort that combined Web sites, banks of public telephones and vials of honey sent through the mail to create, well, “buzz” for the fall 2004 release of “Halo 2” (see ” Want To Live Like Neo? Alternate Reality Games Might Be Your White Rabbit”).

When contacted by MTV News, a spokesperson for 42 had no comment on the company’s involvement with NIN.

And about the latter: When the band’s label, Interscope Records, was contacted they too had no comment, though they did release a statement by Reznor which seemed to put the whole project — and the concept behind Year Zero — into focus.

“This record began as an experiment with noise on a laptop in a bus on tour somewhere. That sound led to a daydream about the end of the world. That daydream stuck with me and over time revealed itself to be much more,” Reznor said in the statement. “I believe sometimes you have a choice in what inspiration you choose to follow and other times you really don’t. This record is the latter. Once I tuned into it, everything fell into place … as if it were meant to be. … The record turned out to be more than a just a record in scale, as you will see over time.

“Part one is Year Zero. Concept record. Sixteen tracks. What’s it about? Well, it takes place about 15 years in the future. Things are not good. If you imagine a world where greed and power continue to run their likely course, you’ll have an idea of the backdrop,” he continued. “The world has reached the breaking point — politically, spiritually and ecologically. Written from various perspectives of people in this world, Year Zero examines various viewpoints set against an impending moment of truth.”

EA Acquires Music Community, Networking Site SingShot

13 02 2007

EA Acquires Music Community, Networking Site SingShot Electronic Arts has announced the acquisition of San Francisco-based online karaoke community SingShot Media, which the company says will “accelerate EA’s efforts in community-building and promoting user-generated content.”

The web-based social networking platform, the product of a year of work between CEO Ranah Edelin and CTO Niranjan Nagar, allowed SingShot members to “record their own renditions of famous songs, share their recordings with friends, rate and comment on other members’ tracks, customize recordings with photos and videos, and compete in a variety of contests.”

Though EA’s plans for the SingShot technology and platform were not immediately made clear, company officials said the five person SingShot team would be brought in to EA’s Sims division, suggesting that franchise of games would be the first to see the fruits of the merger.

Under the terms of the agreement, Edelin and Nagar, who formerly were core members of the Listen.com team that completed what is now RealNetworks’ Rhapsody music subscription service, will join EA as vice presidents.

Said EA executive vice president and group general manager Nancy Smith, “We are thrilled to bring the SingShot team into EA. They are tremendously talented, technically adept and true experts in developing user-generated communities through music. We see a bright future for the technology and each of these individuals within EA.”


17 01 2007

Music, on a crowded bus, coming from the speaker on a mobile phone. Sodcasters are terrified of not being noticed, so they spray their audio wee around the place like tom cats. But who wants to be associated with the sound of a pair of twigs having it off on a bed of rice?