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Mmm, Polemics
February 18, 2002

In case you don't know (I didn't), polemics is another word for 'controversy'. Got it? Good.

Anyway, considering the bulk of today's update, I'll keep this short. As I mentioned last time, these are all the letters I got regarding the ever-popular musical debate started last month. To catch up, or get an idea of what's going on, read the 4th letter here, and the last here. I think, especially after today, this debate has run its course. If anyone wishes to continue it, especially in ultra-long form as we have here, I'd suggest making it an editorial instead.

I apologize in advance for the lengthy column today, unless you like them this long, then enjoy!

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The Big One

Dear "That asshole who mocked my music",

I'm one that has a broad taste in music. I do, unlike yourself, listen to everything from Mozart to Dr. Dre. I'm also a pre-music major at a University widely renowned for its music and music education programs. I've read both your letters to RPGFan's mailbag, and both times have come off with the impression that you're not much more than an idiot, but far be it from me to make such claims unsubstantiated.

I'm confused by exactly what you mean by "I do respect artist that actually struggle to get where they are. I find going to college to study music just to make music on a computer and get paid royally, wrong." Aside from several grammatical errors, the statements themselves seem contrary to fact. Is there something inherently better about bands that choose to forsake education and instead futily try to eke a living? Does going to school to learn theory and techniques for composing make one's music completely worthless? I heartily disagree.

First of all, as Chronologist already pointed out, they do not "make music on a computer". Composing music is composing music. Computers are merely used for notation, much as pen and manuscript paper were used in the days of Mozart. It's not as if composers of game music just have a huge collection of mp3s and do nothing but splice them together to get paid all day. The computer aids in the notation process, the editing process, and the conversion into the actual in-game music, but in no way are composers just sitting on their ass mixing pre-recorded sounds. I don't know where you came by this particularly heinous notion, I can only assume it's because most in-game music is represented by similar soundfonts, but, as Chronologist also pointed out, game music is pulling away from that trend to bring in more live recordings.

I found particularly amusing your claims that game music has no emotion, and is just repetetive, boring, and stupid. First of all, to call a form of music which you don't like, "Stupid," is the height of arrogance and ignorance. It is especially funny to me that your favorite band, the one you lift up as being "TRUE music", whatever the hell that means, uses repetetive song forms, shallow chord progressions, a bassline that rarely does more than play the root of the chord, with an occasional rhythmic jump to the fifth, and vocals which, more often than not, have no real melody, just an atonal, gravelly yell. For instance, in the song "Incetardis", even during sections with a vocal melody, tends more towards spoken word than actual singing. Furthermore, his enunciation is horrible, and the technique he utilizes for "singing" will probably render irreparable harm to his vocal cords within a decade or so, if not sooner.

I fail to see how one can consider this to have any more emotion than well-composed game music, unless one were to mistake a bunch of yelling and jumping around as true emotion rather than the shallow stage acting it is. As for true emotional expression through voice, I find a good example of it in Yoko Kanno's "Ave Maria". I'd ask that you not dismiss it solely because of the genre it is in, but instead listen to the shape of the phrasing, the very musical crescendos and decrescendos which follow the lyrics of the piece and convey the emotion behind them. There are certain advantages to going to college and studying music, and I find learning technique to portray emotion so accurately is one of them.

As far as game music goes, there are several pieces I'd recommend you listen to. Yasunori Mitsuda's "June Mermaid", as arranged on the Creid album, is exquisite, and although some might call it repetetive, the development of the accompaniment to the melody line throughout the piece leaves it anything but. Off the same album, "Lahan" stands in stark contrast. I find it impossible to think that this piece would convey no emotion. Finally, a piece I found only recently, Motoi Sakuraba's "Night to the Twilight of Everything" off of Valkyrie Profile Arranged. I think this piece conveys the mood of overwhelming sorrow far better than At the Drive In ever expressed whatever it was they were trying to express. I honestly couldn't tell, and not due to any deep-seeded loathing of the genre (which I don't have), or my personal dislike of you. I simply did not find them to musically portray emotion, and I have a feeling that all of my colleagues here would agree with me.

--Sean Michael

Chronologist:
I don't think I could say much more after that, or after last update. Next!
 
Eh...

Hey Franch_fuck or whatever your name is, I'm a ninetten years old vilonist from Quebec. I'm just tired of reading your darn letters and critics of rpg music. Have you heard Chrono Cross' soundtrack you fucking asshole? Even I can't play such good violin you geek. And what about Xenogears? We are not in 1990 when games were done with a synthetiser, but maybe you just like to talk without knowing the subject you're babbling about. So you know what? Keep your mouth shut and just don't bother us with your stupid opinion, we don't care anyway. Oh yeah, call us nerds if you want, I don't really care, unless you call a 6'4 black belt a "nerd" just cause he likes rpg music.

M_Bison

P.S: Final fantasy X soundtrack is wonderful...hey Chrono, I heard that Arc the lad collection will have 4 game cds with 3 arc the lads games on them( 1, 2 and 3 I suppose......I was wondering if those games are any good, not one of those "quantity over quality games". Keep up the great work RPGfans!!!

Chronologist:
This is just the kind of letter I did *not* want. You're complaining about the guy insulting you (and others) who like game music, and while I don't agree with that either, all you managed to do is insult back. I asked for intelligent replies and debates, not petty insults. Oh, and karate? Who's the bigger nerd here, really? :P

FFX OST owns you. Arc the Lad... I've not played. I've heard from various sources they're good, mainly 2 and 3 (or was it 2 and 1...). In either case, I can't justify spending $75 plus tax for 3 (or 4, but that fourth thing doesn't count to me) really really old-school games. So I guess I won't ever know. Ah well.

 
Much better.

I just wanted to write in and say "Right on" to Parn's response to the amusing troglodyte who trashed game music. The egotistic attitude that one's "taste" (and I feel justified in saying that this individual clearly lacks any of it) is inarguably superior to anyone else's and the concomitant need to blindly and publicly disparage other parties' interests is invariably the province of the ignorant, boorish and close-minded, and a feeble ploy to enhance his own self-image. It's also of course one of the most obvious signs that you are, in fact, a nerd. And not just any ordinary nerd, but the apotheosis, the very entelechy of the Nerd so socially dysfunctional and so desperate for attention and reassurance of self-worth that small children and attractive women either run in horror from your specter or gleefully point you out on the street to friends and passersby for a cathartic fit of hysterics at your expense. So welcome to the club's inner circle, little man. It's not just for Magic card collectors. While all his "criticisms" of game music are tiring knee-jerk espousals of ill-informed stereotypes or incoherent bleats of good old fashioned stupidity and don't warrant response, it is very funny how his letter demonstrates complete incomprehension of the mechanics of music making (as if there's no such thing as an electronic band, and acoustic bands still use digital processing and multitracking to produce their songs) and also reveals his taste for musical junk, if his band list is anything to go on. He calls AFI "true music" and *we're* the nerds. No thanks man, you can have that crack all to yourself. But of course none of this will change his mind, nor could it, and he's free to wallow in the stench of his own cultural miasma. I hear pigs enjoy wallowing in a similar substance. Oh yeah, you guys have a really great site btw. Good work :)

Ongakusei

Chronologist:
Well, mostly better anyway... this one's more intelligent insulting in a way. Maybe a bit much, but it made for a more interesting read than certain other letters.
 
Oh right...there's another big one.

While reading the mailbag the other day, I stumbled upon some letters which I would like to intelligently respond to:

I had this question, it has been bugging the hell out of me for quite a while, and I am finally bored enough to take out the time to ask it. Well, where I am from, the only people that really play RPG's are the goths, punks, and emo kids (me, I'm somewhere in between the punk and emo scene).

It doesn't matter what scene you belong to, because like Chrono said, if you're here than you're probably a geek (assuming you didn't stumble onto this site by accident) [note: Actually... Parn said that one]

All of us obviously don't really consider Nobuo Uematsu and Mitsuda (Whatever the hell their first name is) are as great as you people on these boards say they are. I honestly HATE videogame soundtracks.

I don't see why you wouldn't, since I the second letter you sent in, you listed Dashboard Confessional, which is basically made up of a person with an acoustic guitar and maybe some drums.

If I had a synthesizer, I could easily write a soundtrack to a game...

I bet you couldn't do nearly as well as most game composers. You may think it easy to write music, but writing diverse music that conveys a certain emotion is harder than you think. If you're so musically talented, I would like to hear some songs that you've written. Perhaps you can upload them up on mp3.com or somewhere else, and let other people judge your music.

I can't help but think of "NERD" whenever I hear someone say they buy soundtracks to games. How can anyone spend 30 bucks (or more) on soundtracks when the music is half-assed and horrible?

That is really your opinion, and does not apply to everyone else. Just as you may not share the musical tastes of others, others also do not have the same tastes as you do, so the trick is to agree to disagree and not to insult others' tastes in music. I also bet that you're a nerd as well, but since I have no evidence, I won't go further into that issue.

Well, anyhow, I drown out my TV with At the Drive-In, A.F.I, and many other bands because I hate game music.

Like I said before, some people do not have the same taste in music. For example, I have a friend that cannot stand AFI and is intent on not listening to their music, but as a musician, he still respects their simple guitar and bass parts.

What REALLY got on my nerves was the fact that I HAD to listen to FFX...

Once again, not everyone has the same tastes. I also doubt that you really gave the music in FFX a chance in the first place, so I bet it is more your fault than the composers fault that you disliked the music in FFX.

One ******* pissed off reader.

I really don't understand what you're pissed about. I think most would agree the music is an integral part in RPGs and maybe nearly important as the story, so if you don't enjoy the whole package, maybe RPGs aren't the game for you. It's interesting, I always thought that RPGs were just a niche genre for geeks, intelligent people, but with the mass popularity of the FF series and all, I guess there was bound to be people like him trickling on the scene sooner or latter.

Here is a section of the other letter:

Actually, you're way off. I do have a rather "diverisified" taste in music, while it's not like I listen from Mozart to Dr. Dre...

That is wrong as well. These composers get paid because they are good at what they are doing, which is creating interesting and diverse moody music. If you actually paid some attention to RPG soundtracks, you'll find much diversity and emotion. Do you guys also find it sad that porno music "composers" do the same exact thing as video game "composers" except that the people that work for porno companies put their music into porn, and videogame "composers" put their "music" in games. Nobuo Uematsu was probably going for working at a porn company, but was too terrible he resulted to videogame soundtracks.

The difference in porno music and game music is that...

Even though this has been mentioned may times, I would like to stress that we should all respect each others opinions, since we are all geeks here

-Andrew Wang

Chronologist:
...geez. Very very long, this one. Good points though.
 
Almost done...

Hey, my man Chrono,

I was going to remain quiet about the topic on game music, but I can't any longer. In his original letter, he mentions that the only people who play RPGs where he lives are goths, punks, and emos. I'll start by asking what is an "emo"? Anyway, I hate that people who play games are associated with people like this. I don't say that I'm anything, and other people's lifestyle is of no concern to me, but I personally don't like people like this. But, getting back to the topic, RPGs would be completely inappropriate if they had music like that. I don't listen to much music, mostly Oldies and Jazz. The most modern thing that I like is Dave Matthews Band, and I listen to a lot of game music. I don't listen to what he was talking about, but I've heard enough of it that I can deduce that it's nothing but loud guitars and screaming. I can think of one moment when it was appropriate, and that was when "Other World" played in Final Fantasy X, and I really didn't like having it there, either. Imagine, for an example, if someone was screaming or some overpowering guitar was playing in Aerith's death scene. The mood would be ruined.

Game music obviously appeals to plenty of people. If not soundtracks wouldn't sell well. I'll end it with saying this: Believe that Nobou Uematsu is so bad if you want, but look at what his "bad music" has done for him. What have you accomplished from your being able to play guitar?

P.S. He is unquestionably a nerd, I'd say.

Chronologist:
An emo is a large Ostrich-like bird of course. Oh, wait...that's an emu. Anyway, while I listen to more kinds of music than you, I think you made some good points as well. I can't picture loud guitars as Aeris dies.....

.....

wait, yes I can. And it's not pretty.

 
But Loonahr rawks j00

Well, I'm not going to sling insults back and forth. I'm not going to say anyone is wrong because that is their opinion. I'm just going to defend video game music. I know what it feels like to have people bash you one way or the other. (my friend told me I was stupid because I didn't like Lunar) Video Game Music is more than just something slapped onto a game to occupy your brain like elevator music. It really pulls you into a scene or place depending on what you are doing or where you are. Think of Aeris's death scene. It wouldn't have been the same without the sad music that accompanied it. Or Celes's opera. The words weren't actually being said but I personally think it was better that way. And the music to Skies of Arcadia rivaled any music that I have heard off of any movie soundtrack. It isn't just us slackjawed teenagers that go out and happily put down money for an OST. Time Magazine did an article on Nobuo Umetsu(did I spell it right?) and compared him to the composer of Star Wars. Pretty good for someone who has never had any formal lessons and taught himself everything. Video Game Music is an art and deserves to be treated like one.

Sorry for the long letter.
Thanks,
Krystle

Chronologist:
Long letter? Where? You have one of the shortest letters on this whole thing, actually. Again, I agree, good points, etc etc.
 
And now for something completely different.

Hi!

I'm a big distant Sakura Taisen fan (the kind that loves every bit of it, despite having never played the games, etc.), and I've been hearing rumors flowing right and left all over my mailing list (the ST mailing list) that SEGA/RED planned to move or release the ST series of games on the PC or PS2. Is there any truth to said rumors?

Thanks!
Joshua Tolentino

Chronologist:
You're a big fan... but you've never played ANY of the games? I think you might want to rethink that, since it makes little to no sense...

Anywho, ST1 and 2 were already released on PC, and while it hasn't happened yet, ST3 is still a possibility. Sega announced the series would be ported to PS2, though no date's been given. Also, part 4 is Dreamcast-exclusive (apparently), so don't expect that on PC or PS2. And though 4 is apparently the end of the series, if, hypothetically, there was to be an ST5, it'd probably be on PS2, considering the DC is... well, way past dead.

Of course, I doubt any of the games will see the light of day outside Japan anyway, so hopefully you're aware to play them, it's all imports. Big thanks to RPGFan's Feena and Sumire for some (ie, most) of the info here.

 
Yay, Apple!

Hey guys, nice to know that you'll be around for a long time. As I've told you guys before. I KNOW you are the best source for rpg news and opinion!

I am an "old-time" gamer who has been playing paper rpgs, console rpgs and computer rpgs since... well let's just say I remember back when text based "graphics" were the rage on ye old Apple ][e. Ever since that time I've had the pleasure of observing rpg gaming evolve at an incredible rate in the visual department, although not as fast in the field of gameplay mechanics. I've also noticed a distinct divergence between the evolution of console rpgs and pc rpgs. Now, I'll save you from the rhetoric of my own view, and simply ask for yours:

With the advent of this generation of consoles (i.e. PS2, Xbox, Cube), do you see the line(s) between console and pc rpg "styles" blurring? Do you see Square, Konami, Atlus etc... trying to make dynamic, perpetual worlds akin to those found in games such as Morrowind and Ascension (and perhaps to a degree, the Forgotten Realms series published by Interplay)? Thanks for your commentary!

-Scott

Chronologist:
Well, we HOPE to be around for a long time. Help us out to make it more likely. :P

For your question... I think we might see some similarities. Square has their Final Fantasy XI, Atlus has Shin Megami Tensei Nine, etc. Though I'd think things will probably still be kinda different between the console and PC world. We have those games, and we have PC games being ported, but I don't think we'll see a big convergence or anything. But, that's my opinion, I could be wrong.

 
Oh yeah, that...

Heya Mr. Big daddy Chrono!

I've written before but I'm not sure if it was to the right e-mail address. Here is my question again...(please please tell me or i'll burst) You had under your release dates "FFX side story" I boasted about that happy that there is an explanation to such a poopie ending. Next time I look, its totally gone! What happened? Any change in status? Love the site though, I always go to it when I want to buy a new game. hey, your site saved me from Tales of Eternia.... ty ty!

Kako

Chronologist:
Well...seems the silly Release Dates guy got a little mixed up in exactly what Final Fantasy X International was. Of course, there likely WILL be, from what I see, a continuation of FFX's story, after what goes on in FFX, and FFX I's epilogue. But until it's announced, we pulled it.
 
Yay, last one.

Hello!

(Takes a look at the guy's letter about VG music, laughs his you-know-what off, and wisely decides NOT to comment...)

I've been a regular attender to RPGfan for quite awhile, and always enjoyed the site, especially back when you had tons of .mpgs and .avis for download. Of course, on knowing what I know now about how you guys operate your site (out of you own pocket), it's hard to believe how could maintain all that server space for so long as it was... But, it was enjoyable while it was there, and the site is still quite excellent, despite what other morons may say. Keep up the good work!

That being said, I'd be more than happy, as a loyal RPGfan person, to click on any banners or fill out any surveys to keep ya goin'. Just say the word!

Now, as for topics, I might have one. With Square's talk of remakes, I was wondering about one game that could definitely benefit with a remake: Final Fantasy Tactics. I know the team that made the game is no longer with Square, so if a remake was going to be made, could Square do it by themselves? Or would they have to get permission from the team that made it?

I'm not talking real grand changes, but maybe fixing all the awkward translation and spelling errors would be great for a start. Also, adding the ability to save between those multi-battle scenarios. I know you can save already, but only BEFORE you make changes on the formation screen. Plenty of times I would beat the first battle, save, make changes and edits on all my characters only to enter the next battle and lose, then have to reload and make all those changes over again! Also, the ability to take back a move after you do it. Little things like this I think could be easily fixed by Square, but then again, what do I know?

How about you? What do you think should be fixed or changed about this game if they do a remake? What extras whould they add? I'd definitely buy a remade FFT, even though I own the orginial (got it when it came out, and no I'm not selling it! :p)

The only other thing I'd like to ask, is about an RPG that someone(Bandai?) is making about the Inuyasha series. Any word or information about this? I tend to get conflicting reports that it's already out in Japan, or that it's still in development. I'm really hoping for a translation and an American release (since I love the anime and manga), but I also know that it's not too likely, given the rarity of translated anime-games in the States.

Course, that could be another topic. I know anime-based games usually don't come off too well, but to us fans of anime, we don't much care as long as we're playing a game based on our favorite show. I think it'd be cool if a company took several of these types of games, translated them, and released them in a set package, like the upcoming Arc Trilogy. Probably not gonna happen, but one can hope and dream, ne?

Ne!? Great, my otaku-ness is starting to come out, so maybe I should end this letter here...

Kai, anime and RPG fan

Chronologist:
Well, first thing, no, Square wouldn't need permission. Part of the team may have left, but when they made the game, they worked for Square... and Square does own the FF name, so...

Personally, I'd just like to see it translated better. As a side note, like you, I got it when it came out too. I then laughed at everyone who didn't and paid insane amounts on eBay for it.

Inuyasha... the PlayStation one came out in December, and a WonderSwan version was released even earlier. I wouldn't count on a US release, but then, I didn't expect a US release of .hack, either, so who knows.

 
Closing Thoughts

Okay, if that wasn't the longest column ever. Again, I'll state that the music thing has run its course. So, no more letters. MOVE ON PEOPLE. Thank you. Below is a repost from Friday about this week's topic. Most letters on topics will be posted on Friday, though if I get a big response, you might see some on Wednesday too.

This week's topic:
Thanks to a reader known only as 'RPGFan Fan', here's the theme for the coming week. I want to know what games you'd want to see a prequel for. I think asking about potential sequels is a tired concept, so here's something different. Pick a game, anything you like, where you'd like to see the story BEFORE the story. Come on, you can do it.

That's it, I'm outta here. Peace.

Chronologist (chronologist@rpgfan.com)



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