Category Archives: Art

[GW2] Panaroma Screenshots

“I see trees of green…….. red roses too
I see em bloom….. for me and for you
And I think to myself…. what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue….. clouds of white
Bright blessed days….dark sacred nights
And I think to myself …..what a wonderful world.”
Lion’s Arch – Full res version here


Queensdale – Full res version here
Godlost Swamp – Full res version here
Shiverpeaks Mountains – Full res version here
Snowden Drifts – Full res version here


ArenaNet really needs character designers!

You’ve probably heard that ArenaNet is hiring character artists, a most prestigious kind of job! After long consideration and making first contact via twitter (to which they still haven’t responded, I can’t quite figure out why), I decided to run for the job and create a first piece of art to illustrate my fitness. The examples given on their page were very helpful pointers in that undertaking…ArenaNet will of course want to find the right type of artists who grasp the art style and aesthetics of Guild Wars 2, keeping things coherent. Luckily all of this applies to me.

(click image to enlarge)

So, what’s your opinion – I believe I have captured ArenaNet’s basic idea for the races and characters in the game? Also, keep in mind this was only a very fast sketch really. I admit I’m not great with the whole environment kind of stuff, but then they’re not looking for landscape artists! ArenaNet pick me, pick me!

Tunes of Magic IV – Indie Edition

This is the fourth chapter of an ongoing series on amazing video-game soundtrack and tunes. 
Previous posts featured on MMO Gypsy:

Delving deeper into the world of indie games over the past couple of months, it struck me how much love and creative spirit can go into games that may never reach a wider audience. Granted, many indie games are worth forgetting (just like games in general) – but those we like to remember are rare and precious gems sticking out of the grey mass of average shelf-huggers and annual top titles from big labels.

In many ways, playing indie games reminds me of my early console days; sessions were as immersive as they were short. What games lacked in technical polish or scope, they made up for with heart, care for detail and memorable stories and characters. And then, the tunes….who could ever forget the tunes?

The multi-platform era, with digital stores and community portals such as Steam, presents video-gamers with an unprecedented opportunity to discover smaller projects doomed to lurk in the shadows before. Several have left a notable mark in my recent memory, boldly reaching across genre frontiers or celebrating the past in brilliant colors. They’ve also made it into my personal soundtrack lists, adding elaborate and amazing tunes to a unique experience. I highly encourage anyone to give such titles a shot sometime and to not miss out on their music of which you can find my six personal picks for today below.

Dear Esther – Twenty One
Fans of Journey might enjoy Dear Esther for its similar narrative focus while wandering a map with no sense of direction. After playing it multiple times I’d call it a visualized ghost story, as aerial as its brilliant soundtrack and dream vistas, but also eerie and oppressive while the player tries puzzling together snippets of memories told by mysterious narrators. This title is “more book than game” and will attract fans of unorthodox design concepts.
Bastion – Faith of Jevel
The entire soundtrack of Bastion reflects the diversity of this highly artistic action RPG, with its unforgettable narrator’s voice. The tracks go from more pensive and epic tunes to electric guitars and western/country inspired pieces. A definite must-have for all collectors!
Braid – Downstream
Whether you call it colorful 2D-platform game or puzzle adventure similar to Limbo, Braid’s soundtrack adds much to an in places confusing journey. The tracks are mostly on the quiet and dreamy side, with a folk guitar or violin/cello tuning in ever so often.
Trine 2 – Forlorn Wilderness
Both Trine titles feature the genuine, oldschool RPG music experience – from light fairy flutes to dark caves and spooky forest tunes. Lovers of the classic fantasy genre cannot go wrong here. Having only recently stumbled on Trine 2, I was blown away by its beautiful 2D/3D graphics style and backgrounds. Whether you like jumpy action and puzzles or not, I highly recommend playing the demo!
Super Meat Boy – The Battle of ‘Lil Slugger
Although not personally into excruciatingly difficult platformers and dark humor  with chainsaws, Super Meat Boy features one of the most accomplished, up-tempo soundtracks out there. A thrilling firework of industrial music meets classic meets retro, there are tracks aplenty to shake or headbang along.
To the Moon – Main Theme
A game of limited gameplay and visual attraction, To the Moon is all about profound storytelling, the minds and hearts of its characters and the struggle of life. The entire soundtrack is a stunning, achieved work of beauty while merry and up-lifting tracks are few and far between. However, anyone with a soft spot for slow piano tunes should absolutely love this soundtrack!

I hope you enjoy these picks and it’s definitely worth browsing on from there! As usual, further recommendations are much appreciated!

"Journey" – When online players have no words

As video gamers we are living in wonderful times. I guess few decades from now some child of the future will smirk at this as he waves away a hovering NPC hologram with a sweep of his hand. Still, we are privileged in this time, too – to witness the speed of progress, the giant leaps technology has taken since our first 8bit steps until today. Video games are beautiful and there are more and more special and weird gems surfacing as developers get bolder and the audiences grow.

Nonetheless, games or rather experiences such as Shadow of the Colossus, Limbo or Bastion are preciously rare. You really need to be on the lookout and it appears that we are actually in for another treat.

“Journey”, out this March 2012 on PS3 network, promises to be everything that can be expected of a true video game delicacy. Set in a strange desert world of soft pastels, its unique graphics and smooth effects are a sight for sore eyes. Like for Limbo, there is no music in Journey and the player is cast into a strange setting without preamble, without map, unaware of what the actual “goal” of his adventure might be. And so he starts traveling, ever forward, exploring and solving curious riddles on the way by aid of visual hints alone.

Maybe the most remarkable thing about Journey however, is that it’s actually played online – and there’s a real chance to meet other players in the middle of the desert. Strangers you will never know, strangers you cannot speak to and yet –

While traveling the player can encounter other players, one at a time, if they are playing online. Players cannot speak to each other, but can help each other in their journey or not as they wish. Players met online will not be identified with a username and voice or text communication will not be possible with the other player. According to designer Jenova Chen, “it’s about two strangers who meet online. They don’t know who they are or how old they are. All they know is, that is another human being. “The only way players can communicate audibly with each other is with a wordless shout. Players will have symbols on the front of their robes for identification, so that the player can tell whether they have met that traveler before or not”[..]

[…]The game is intended to make the player feel “small” and to give them a sense of awe about their surroundings. The co-op aspect of the game is intended to allow the players to feel a connection to other people through exploring with them, rather than talking to them or fighting them. [source]

With that bit of information, Journey has reached maximum appeal with me. It appears that for a while the folk at IGN struggled for words too trying to define what this game actually is, y’know definitions (the final IGN review is actually much better). No matter what you like to call it, an “acid trip” as suggested, a poetic experience, a mad ride – maybe the point about Journey is that there’s no “point”, other than that:

The journey is the point.

A title worthy of some attention, methinks. Now all I need is to borrow a PS3!

Tunes of Magic II – Fantastic Edition

When I started the “Tunes of Magic” series a while ago on this blog, I explained how hard it is for me to take soundtrack picks from my vast themes library. I have so many favorite game and movie tunes with such fond memories attached to them, that it’s hard to judge objectively how “good” or interesting a tune really is for others. Who would want to hear a track from the 32bit era today with no connection whatsoever? I know I wouldn’t.

Music is such a beautiful medium; it is not just a complex yet simple art form, a carrier of sound, melody and harmony that couldn’t be more accessible; the best of tunes convey a whole world of mental imagery, tell epic stories and, similar to smells and odors, carry memories with them that can hit you full force when you least expect them. It is music like this I try to hold on to.

In my introductory post I explained what “types” of tunes I adore most and I didn’t really make a selection in terms of genre or topic there. Since then, I have been attempting to order groups of tunes into their own sections though, so I can present some of them in more orderly fashion soon. For today though, indulge me with another pick of 6 random MMO/game- and movie-soundtracks that I’ve chosen over one common denominator: my “all-time top 3+”.

I present to you my three most beloved fantasy tunes and epic story-tellers, plus another three more random but no less beautiful songs to continue with a set of six. If I ever got asked the “deserted island question” for music, the first three pieces here presented would be my personal picks, no doubt. These are mostly quiet and pensive tunes that keep changing and truly come alive after a while (so you really want to listen to the whole thing). I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and that they bring some sparkle to your day!

Final Fantasy X – Ending Theme
What to say about this tune…while FFX was not my favorite installment of Square’s popular series (despite featuring Lulu), famous house-composer Nobuo Uematsu has utterly out-done himself with this piece, taking up the no-less stunning piano intro of FFX once more. I love this tune with all my heart. I think it sums up the spirit of the beloved JRPG franchise beautifully.

Wrath of the Lich King: Mountains of Thunder
Exploring my way across Northrend after WotLK’s launch, this tune came up as I passed the first mountain range for Stormpeaks. I was spellbound and spent an entire hour or more sitting next to the minefield there, listening to the music under the light of the pale moon. I still get goosebumps hearing this – and so very mushy over memories past in WoW. Those were the times.

Conan the Barbarian – Orphans of Doom
Not exactly a huge fan of the Conan films and their aesthetic in general, I consider the soundtrack composed by Basil Poledouris in 1982 the finest, most stunning and achieved score of any fantasy film up to date. The whole album of the first Conan movie is a revelation, epic and beautifully capturing the soul of “high adventure”. Highly recommended listening!

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – “From Past to Present”
Having extensively praised the game in last week’s posts, I cannot possibly deny you a piece of its beautiful music either. The soundtrack is the perfect match for Skyrim’s vast world of adventure and adds immensely to its immersive atmosphere. Apologies should this link be down again soon (I have had to replace these several times now).

Lineage II – Call of Destiny
While I’ve never played either of the Lineage games for various reasons, both MMOs sport a large variety of exquisite soundtracks that can easily compete with more popular titles. It’s well worth browsing youtube sometime for Lineage music to see what other gems you might discover for yourself.

Chocolat – Main Title
Chocolat is a special little movie gem with gentle magic and a very french esprit. I remember hearing the opening in cinema for the very first time: I was so delighted that I hurried home to buy the soundtrack right away. I love the Elfman-esque first half as much as the merrier, up-lifting ending of this piece.

To be continued. And as always, do let me know your personal favorites and recommendations, no matter how old or new!

Tunes of Magic – I

For months and months I’ve wanted to publish an article on MMO soundtrack, pretty much ever since opening this blog. Somehow, this has proven to be a most difficult endeavor: whenever chancing on another blogger dedicating time to this beloved subject, I was reminded of that painfully pending topic in my inbox that I just couldn’t seem to finish. The truth is, I am such a huge sucker for themes and game OSTs that making a final choice of the countless songs I have cherished in my life just proves too great a challenge. I fail.

So, I’ve given up trying. I will never be able to link all the goodies or even my “ultimate cream of the crop” to you – things would get out of hand and the heavy wall of links would ultimately wear you down, undermining my entire intention (you know, candy overkill). Instead, I will consider this the first post of more to come, allowing me to return to the topic whenever that particular mood strikes. Wahey.

How I came to love game soundtrack

A while ago, I explained how I consider video games works of art. Where some just see playable content and entertainment, I see fantastic, inspiring settings and compositions for the finer senses; the design and aesthetic, the artwork and music that breathe life into our virtual worlds. Almost 2 years before WoW launched, I was among those obsessing over every little snippet of new concept art and sneak peek, things just looked that fantastic. And had they not – had Blizzard not always been so outstanding when it came to design, trailers and the full package, I might never have played WoW in the first place. Art is not everything to an MMO’s success; but I’m not the kind of player that can overlook plain ugly. If it’s offending to the eye or if the soundtrack is a careless, loveless excuse for music (or worse: missing) a game is off to a very rocky start with me. I want everything that way.

I’ve collected concept and artbooks, along with game (and some movie) OSTs for many years. I think my first tracks were SNES midis from this place and if Chrono Trigger or Castlevania mean anything to you, you know the kind of music I was particularly interested in. Long ago, Squaresoft was on console what Blizzard in many ways became on PC for me: a benchmark. An incredible smithy of musical and visual goodness (besides delivering awesome stories and near spotless technical realisation). My private RPG sound library ranges up to around 1998. After that, I gradually left the scene and got hooked to PC RPGs and online games.

Taking a pick

In order to acquire new MMO soundtrack, I usually keep my eyes open for collector’s editions. Youtube has also become a great source for me to discover music I might otherwise never come to know, because I clearly can’t play or even try out every MMO in existence. I am still also collecting tunes from the odd console RPG (there ain’t that many these days) or classic PC game which is why I have included one in my list of picks for you, too.

I have thought about breaking things down into typological sub-sections, like “battle themes”, “ambiance”, “sad themes” and so forth, but then I decided to pick 6 random favorites for a start that I currently listen to and that might not been so well-known as others. Were you to ask me about my personal preferences in general, I’d have to say that my tastes are quite diverse, but there’s definitely a red thread for what delights me the most:

  • When I’m in the right mood, I enjoy very epic, bombastic tunes of grandeur and a bit of pathos. Not too much pathos mind, and certainly not all the time. If it sounds like another Hans Zimmer spin-off, it’s not for me.
  • I love pretty much any spooky, creepy or fairy tale-esque tune you can think of. Needles to say Danny Elfman is my hero here.
  • I love sad, melancholic and quiet tunes that usually blend into the background. The sort of song that fits your mood perfectly some days, but is too painful to listen to on others.
  • I love merry, bouncy tunes that make me want to grab a walking stick in Bilbo Baggins fashion. It’s a rare kind of music that makes you feel like sailing out to distant adventure.

For any type of music, I appreciate tracks that change often and are more like the arrangements you find in classic music or opera, rather than repetitive “verse and chorus”-patterns. I like songs to tell an evolving story (which is also why Bohemian Rhapsody will always remain the greatest “pop song” ever written!). Basil Poledouris was hands down the greatest (fantasy) film composer of all times for this reason.

If you ever come across a great tune fitting any of these descriptions, think of me and send me a note! I would LOVE to hear about it! And now finally, I will shut up and hope you enjoy my picks! =)

Allods Online – Main Theme
My first choice is brought to you by Allods Online which I still consider the most underrated MMO presently out there. So much potential, such bad timing. This track will greet you right at the menu screen and is what I consider a grand, yet interesting and evolving piece. After 0:50 secs latest, you will know what I mean. God, I love this song!

Age of Conan – Memories of Cimmeria
The reason why I spent most of my time in AoC in Cimmeria, that rough and snowy landscape of the north. Riding down Conall’s Valley for the very first time as the sun was just about to set over the mountains, this song crept up on me like a clear, fine rain. The Norwegian singer could not have been cast better with her voice of crystal bells.

World of Warcraft – the Shaping of the World
I could easily dedicate an entire article on the music of WoW, so taking just the one pick is hard. Yet, people always seem to know about “A Call to Arms” or “Legends of Azeroth” for the classic era, not necessarily about this track here which is my personal favorite of the first album. This is goosebump material and encompasses everything WoW ever was for me.

Granado Espada – Main Theme
Also known as “Sword of the New World”, GE is a remarkably unique MMO in many ways, with its Baroque European setting and unorthodox battle system. In terms of music, there is a very unhappy, grotesque mix of beautiful classic piano and horrid techno trance going on. Yet there are several gems to be found here for those who still look for them.

Final Fantasy XI – The Rebublic of Bastok
Tunes like this one are so much what Square games have been about for decades – merry, playful, adventurous and exotic. The uplifting theme of Bastok holds a special place in my heart, having finally arrived in that city with my companions after a long and tedious travel by foot, after countless corpseruns and great laughs on the way. Long live our noob days!

Fable II – Oakvale
As promised, my non-MMO pick. There is nothing I can possibly say about this song that would make it any better. Danny Elfman is not from this world.
I can see Winona Ryder dancing in the snow while listening to this – can you hear it too?

I did it! I chose 6 tracks only!!! *exhale*

And with this, a very happy, bombastic, spooky, ponderous and merry weekend to you all!

Videogames are beautiful

My old friend Cyrille is quite possibly the most dedicated, passionate retro-gamer I will ever know. Before he made his ultimate dream come true – moving to Japan, that mother of artsy videogames, manga and anime, and falling desperately in love with a girl there who is now mother of his son – we grew up together for a time. Cy was a PC Engine (aka Turbo Duo) worshipper down to the bone, with presently 688 out of a total of 735 games owned, and I don’t think he ever eyed any game past the 32bit era with anything but disdain, which made for both entertaining and infuriating discussions sometime. “Video games are works of art” he used to tell me, anything less was not worth his time. He wanted to see love and great care put into them by developers, love for a synthesis between story, graphics, soundtrack and theme, care for the little details that stick in our minds forever. We would watch game intros in solemn awe together or listen to wacky game midis as if they were Beethoven’s Fifth. Truth be told, my cellphone’s ringtone and sounds are still SNES midis – there’s a lot of nostalgia involved.

Why do people play video games? Plenty of reasons there: entertainment, challenge, competition, winding down, the social / cooperative factor, escapism, yadda yadda. Most of these things can also be found while having drinks in a bar or playing poker with friends though. Being into video games goes a bit deeper in my mind, although I am aware not everyone shares the same interest as me. But it’s always annoyed me how anyone into literature, painting or music is automatically a fine “art and culture” lover, while being a gamer gets little to no such credit. Video games are two steps away from movies and TV, with a big fat label saying “passive and unproductive” on the package. Being into teh arts however, is enough to make you seem distinguished and productive. You might not play any instrument yourself or ever have held a brush in your life, still: you = creative!

Well, I have some news: video games are works of art. Video games are beautiful. They’re not just moving pictures stirring behavioural principles to enslave people into passivity forever; they’re the joint product of a hundred art departments come together. Years of meticulous planning and execution, a delightful composition of graphic, music, story, coding and heart. The work of outstanding artists, visionaries and dreamers, appealing to several of our senses simultaneously. If you have a good look at some MMO and general game sites, forums and blog discussions these days, you get the impression that many gamers have forgotten what  they are dealing with. Debates on subscription models and numbers, launch dates, developer vs. publisher wars, playtime, class balances, server and credit card crashes, bargains on collector’s editions. Very little on the art that is games. Very little delight about the concept art, story or music involved.

Has the audience gone numb, deaf and blind or are today’s games simply such cheap creations off the same careless, fast-producing clay, that no appreciation for more artistic aspects is possible? Or is there an ongoing trend in the videogame industry to get closer and closer to movie making, as this author states in his lenghty but interesting article?

When games are works of art

On my recent search for more old-school adventure games, I’ve stumbled into a world that I had not visited for a long time. I’ve asked around for recommendations quite a bit, not just on my blog, but some game forums where I have been resident for many years and people know my tastes quite well. I knew Monkey Island and Siberia were a good starting point – point&click and puzzle adventures in general, as long as they emphasize story and setting over tedious, endless riddle guessing (which I hate) and jumpy acrobatics. I excluded MUDs because I am still looking for the video in game (still, thanks to Jaedia for this recommendation!).

What do you know, I got a lot more feedback than expected. And not just that: I got my finer senses back for what I truly appreciate in games – the scary, the hilarious, the atmosphere. It’s true, a lot of today’s videogames have dropped off the same bandwagon and they are not meant to last; but there are the daring and different still.

One such game that I need to highlight is Limbo (XBOX live arcade, 2010) which has been the biggest surprise to me of the suggested lot – being completely without music (there are sounds though) and text. It is the most unsettling, creepy yet beautiful game I have encountered in years. A boy lost in an deep forest where death is as imminent as the sky and yet as quiet as the wind whispering among the trees. If you hold any love for dark fairy tales and a fascination for the subtly macabre (hello Neil Gaiman readers), Limbo is an absolute delicacy on grounds of imagery and atmosphere alone. It is such a breath of fresh air to find such indie projects still being produced, but judge for yourself.

Videogames are an art form made up of visuals, sound, and a mysterious little something we call gameplay. Limbo is the perfect example of these three crafts working together in harmony to create something astounding. With no text, no dialogue, and no explanation, it manages to communicate circumstance and causality to the player more simply than most games. This 2D puzzle platformer in a film noir style is one of the best games you’ll play this year on any platform. (

Often compared to Braid, I’ve not found the second, very jumpy puzzle game nearly as compelling in terms of atmosphere or gameplay (also, I find the protagonist Tim annoying). Braid has won awards for beautiful artwork and innovative design though and is clearly another pearl in that corner of the genre.

Parallel to Limbo, I have engaged in Monkey Island, re-mastered. After only the first chapters (and some awkward sparring rounds at the weapon master), I noticed my saved gamedata at 40%. I had to smile at this: yes, games used to be this short. Of a great adventure like Monkey Island, you could expect a run of 5 hours max. Today, you can hear people complain if a videogame “only offers 30 hours of gameplay”. But on to some more pearls…

As I hadn’t specified platform, only excluding handhelds (mostly because I have played all the good ones on DS already), I was surprised to get some flash-/browser games on my list. They’re full of love for detail, featuring beautiful tunes and engaging gameplay:

If Samorost’s style rings any bells for you, the games are in fact by Amanita Design, the studio behind the delightful Machinarium for PC, PS3 and Wii. A demo for the game can be found here.

Realizing I am now completely leaving the world of adventures, I still like to mention an old, secret fandom of mine, the Orisinal mini-games by Ferry Halim. The page has been there forever and is not being updated very often, but each game is a little wonder of its own (I particularly like the star girl and dragon flies).

Further Reading

Shinies and oddballs aside, my list of more classic text adventures has grown too. To name a few that I intend to look into: Indiana Jones, Broken Sword (1-3), Discworld, the King’s Quest series, Lost Horizon, Zak McKracken and Gray Matter. For some reason I couldn’t help but feel reminded of the upcoming MMO, the Secret World, when checking out that last title.

I have also been informed that there’s a rather in-depth guide to classic adventure games available on Amazon; I’m sure that to sworn genre cracks such an encyclopaedia provides a great read. Also, unrelated to the topic of adventures, I found this article on artful videogames well worth reading. I can only second the sentiment on Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

I shall be entertained by this list of adventure games for some time to come, methinks – enjoying their stories, music and world. I dare say, it’s quite the rest and relaxation compared to what’s going on in other corners of the world of games right now.

Boundless inspiration

Derived from good old latin, the word inspiration goes back on the verb inspirare which means “to breathe / blow into” or “infuse”. So if a person is being inspired, he is actually that: being “breathed into”, being animated by some greater spirit, idea or being (whatever you prefer to call it) to do certain things. It’s a beautiful allegory on man’s creativity. Using thousands of words every day, or a million in my case, we often don’t realize the deeper meaning and origin of the words we use.

Of all the games I’ve played in my life, I’ve never encountered any that has inspired so many people around the globe so greatly to all sorts of works of their own, like World of Warcraft has. WoW does obviously have a far greater player base than any other online game, but the impact it’s having in the creative field is quite remarkable and a testimony to the coherence of the fantastic world Blizzard created. The results of WoW’s inspirational potential are nothing short of baffling at times.
The most well-known examples are obviously the masses of people out there writing about WoW, the fanfiction and fanart created, the stunning machinima, the fun community events and regular contests run by Blizzard on their official page; I wonder if there’s going to be more WoW Halloween Pumpkins again this year.

As this is a perfect Frivolous Friday topic, I do want to share the following 3 remarkable examples of fired imagination with the rest of you. I’ve only recently come across them myself – what do you know! The inspiration people can get from WoW knows no limits!

If you’re desperately bored of the game at the moment, it’s time to check this page out. It’s basically Origami for WoW and some of the paper models are just baffling! There’s also a lot of plans available for download, so grab your scissors and glue and get started!

I love cooking and browsing food blogs – well, here’s your dedicated WoW cooking site! The folks over at Nourish got plenty of Azerothian recipes ready for you to test your culinary skills on, nomnom!

It’s no big secret that I love the shinies and I’ve always wondered a little about the lack of WoW merchandise, especially in this particular bracket – after all, which self-respecting WoW priest wouldn’t love to have a silver Benediction necklace dangling from their neck?
In any case, there’s some remarkable craftsmanship to be found on that page, so whether you’re into jewelry or not, it’s worth checking out!

So many ideas, so little time – enjoy your weekend everybody and stay inspired!
Also, if you feel particularly loaded on ideas, head over to Deuwowlity and help Gronthe out with suggestions, because he’s planning a WoW musical!