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As musical old-timers repeatedly sing the sad song of the supposed demise of the full-length album, a funny thing has happened. Lovers of games have taken up a growing passion for game music, and in particular the indie score for indie games. Independent game publishing and independent music composition – from truly unsigned, unknown artists – go hand in hand. Indeed, the download and purchase charts on Bandcamp are often dominated by game scores. Fueled by word-of-mouth, these go viral in enthusiast communities largely ignored by either music or game reportage.

Far from the big-budget blockbuster war game, these scores – like the games for which they’re composed – are quirky and eccentric. They reject the usual expectations of what game music might be, sometimes tending to the cinematic, sometimes to the retro, sometimes unapologetically embracing magical, sentimental, childlike worlds.

And now, defying music’s typical business models as well as its genre expectations, you can get a whole big bundle of games for almost no money. Pay what you want, and get hours of music. Pay more than $10, and get loads more. You just have to do it before the deal ends (five days from this posting), at which point the bundle is gone forever. In a sign of just how much love listeners of these records feel, there’s a competition to get into the top 20, top 10, and top-paying spots, which with days left in the contest is already pushing well into the hundreds of dollars. But for that rate or just the few-dollar rate, these are the true fans. You’ve heard about them in theory in trendy music business blogs and conferences, in theory. But here, someone’s doing something about it, and it’s not a fluke or a one-time novelty: it’s a real formula.

http://www.gamemusicbundle.com/

Game music itself is, of course, a funny thing. Game play itself tends to repetition, meaning you hear this music a lot. So it says something really extraordinary about the affection for these scores that gamers want to hear the music again and again. This gets the musical content well beyond the level of annoying wallpaper into something that, even more than a film score you hear just once or a few times, you want to make part of your life. That endless play gets us back to what inspired ownership in the first place, to buying stacks of records rather than just waiting for them on the radio. And in that sense, perhaps what motivates owning music versus treating it like a utility or water faucet hasn’t changed in the digital age at all. Maybe it’s gotten even stronger.

We’ve already sung the praises of Sword and Sworcery on this site; it’s notably in the bundle. But I want to highlight in particular one other score, the inventive and dream-like Machinarium. Impeccably recorded, boldly original, the work of Prague-based Tomáš Dvořák, Machinarium mirrors the whimsical constructed machines of the games. There’s a careful attention to timbre, and music that moves from film-like moments to song to beautiful washes of ambience, glitch set against warm rushes of landscape. For his part, Dvořák is a clarinetist, and his musical senstitivity never ceases to translate into the score. It’s just good music, even if you never play the game, and easily worth the price of admission for the bundle if you never listened to anything else (though you would truly be missing out). It’s simply one of the best game music scores in recent years.

And another look at Jim Guthrie’s score to Sword & Sworcery:

Game Meets Album: Behind the Music and Design of the iPad Indie Blockbuster Swords & Sworcery[Create Digital Music]

Game Meets Album: Behind the Music and Design of the iPad Indie Blockbuster Swords & Sworcery [Create Digital Motion]

Also in this collection: Aquaria, To the Moon, Jamestown, and a mash-up, plus a whole bunch of bonus games when you spend a bit more that feel heavily influenced by Japanese game music and chip music.

And some of the best gems are in the repeat of the last bundle, which you can (and should) add on for US$5 more:
Minecraft: Volume Alpha, Super Meat Boy: Digital Soundtrack, PPPPPP (soundtrack to VVVVVV), Impostor Nostalgia, Cobalt, Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion, A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda, Return All Robots!, Mighty Milky, Way / Mighty Flip Champs, Tree of Knowledge

I’ve sat at game conferences as composers working for so-called AAA titles lamented the limitations of the game music production pipeline. Quietly, indie game developers have shown that anything is possible, that the quality of a game score is limited only by a composer’s imagination.

More music to hear (and some behind-the-scenes footage), including a really promising Kickstarter-funded iPad music project from regular CDM reader Wiley Wiggins:

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Zanrai Interactive has released a brief gameplay snippet from its upcoming PC horizontal shoot-'em-up Heaven Variant, revealing a stylish futuristic aesthetic and some intriguing gameplay mechanics.

Inspired by Square's PSOne shooter Einhander, Heaven Variant is a fast-paced (but not bullet hell) shooter featuring a variety of weapons that can be claimed from defeated enemies. The twist is that players can adjust their secondary weapon's firing angle at any time via a twin-stick or keyboard-and-mouse setup, at the temporary expense of movement speed.

It's looking great so far -- the colorful backdrops are quite appealing! A release date has not been announced.

[via @shmups]

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Here the latest video footage of GTB, Positech Games' sort of follow up to Gratuitous Space Battles. Rather than a traditional trailer, Cliffski shows us a look behind the scenes, at the nuts and bolts of the debug tools he uses during development.

Gratuitous Tank Battles combines elements of Tower Defence games and Realtime strategies, let's you play on either the offensive or defensive side of any battle, has a built in map and unit editor, and features GIANT LASER MECHS.

There is a beta release coming soon, which will be made available to anyone who has preordered it. The final release will be available for PC and Mac sometime this year, more infomation can be found over at gratuitoustankbattles.com.

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Xsyntax Studio has released its tower defense action-strategy title Uberzombie USA for Windows platforms, with an Xbox Live Indie Games version set to launch soon.

Uberzombie USA's gameplay is divided into phases; during the daytime phase, players can set landmines and fortify their central defenses. When the undead onslaught arrives at night, gameplay transforms into an action-packed twin-stick shooter. The game also features a multiplayer component in which up to four players can team up to fend off the undead armies.

Uberzombie USA is priced at $2.99. A trial version is also available via Desura.

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Veteran programmer Byron Atkinson-Jones, having in the past worked for the likes of Introversion, Lionhead and Sega, is currently working on an indie project, and has just put out a trailer based on the current work in progress build. Cyberstream is a retro FPS arena shooter, and whilst you can't talk to the monsters, it looks like the monsters can talk to you.

It's a collaboration between Byron, Dugan Jackson (Stealth Bastard/Tikipod) and then music by Gavin Harrison, who's previously done music for loads of games.

If you like your games fast paced, pixelly, and full of ones and zeros flying all over the place, this is going to be one to watch. As far as a release date. Byron says "I'm aiming for a March release date, but this is indie games - something always comes up".

[Xiotex Studios]

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Russian middleware developer Unigine Corp has released Oil Rush, its first independently produced game title for PC, Mac, and Linux platforms.

Unigine describes the game as "a real-time naval strategy game that combines the strategic challenge of a classic RTS with the sheer fun of Tower Defence." It's also quite pretty -- the game's detailed visuals are powered by Unigine's own graphics engine. Included with the game are 16 single-player campaign missions and 15 multiplayer maps.

Oil Rush is priced at $19.99, and includes activation keys for Steam and Desura. A PlayStation 3 edition is set for release later this year.

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Evoking the style of classic first person dungeon crawler RPGs from the 80s (like Might & Magic, The Bard's Tale & Wizardry), Verlies is a bit of a throwback to days long gone. With randomly generated maps, player stats, enemy stats and object placement, there's a large focus on making it never quite the same game twice.

It uses a job system for player customisation and development, where you pick between 12 different character classes with varying abilities. You'll also want to keep an eye out for valuable treasure, since you can always flog it to a merchant if you survive long enough.

It's available now for €4.99 straight from the developer. They're planning for the current version of Verlies to be "a base for regular free updates, providing brand new content", and are keen to hear player feedback over on their indiedb forum.

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Long have game developers toiled to create the definitive elevator simulator. Taito's Elevator Action is perhaps the genre's most famous effort, though it unfortunately suffered for its inclusion of gunplay, gameplay objectives, and escalators. At long last, however, nature's ideal people-moving device is finally done justice in PixelTail Games' Elevator: Source, a unique effort created using Valve's Source engine and the Garry's Mod toolkit.

"Elevator: Source is a single(-player) or co-op elevator experience that is different each time you play," the game's creators note. "What floor will you stop on next? What will happen? Who knows! We don't even know! And we made the game. It's THAT EXCITING."

There are a randomized assortment of 28 different floors that players can experience during a playthrough ("with DLC packs possible in the future!" the developer teases). During the ride, players can pass the time by listening to elevator music, and can make the simulation more convincing by making characters cough or check their watches.

As the (spoiler-filled) video series above demonstrates, Elevator: Source also features its share of surprises, including a collection of AI characters that board and depart at various points. Where will The Elevator take you on your journey? Take a ride and find out!

Elevator: Source is available as a free download, but requires an installation of Valve's Half Life 2: Episode 2.

[via RPS]

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Nothing says a good afternoon like pop-culture references, satire and dungeon crawling, right? If that sounds like your idea of a good time, rejoice in a moderate fashion! On the off-chance that you've grown bored with Dungeons of Dredmor and Frayed Knights, here's something to look forward to.

Created by Ayopa Games and Drowning Monkeys, the appropriately titled Dungeon Crawlers is, well, exactly what it sounds like: a game about dungeon crawling heroes. To be precise, it's the story of four dysfunctional adventurers and their quest for 'loot, women and monsters to crush'. The game will apparently feature tactical turn-based combat, four chapters to investigate, four characters, Saturday Morning Cartoon-esque visuals, a ton of loot and even the dreaded Death Knight Shyamalan. Most importantly, however, Dungeon Crawlers will be available for the Android, iOS, PC and Mac.

The game is scheduled to launch on January 26, 2012. You can find out more here.

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Finnish developers Eboshidori and eebrozgi have released a two-and-a-half level trial version of their in-progress vertically scrolling shoot-'em-up Final Boss: 2nd Apocalypse.

Described by the development team as "our love letter to the shmup genre," Final Boss is a traditional scrolling shooter that features numerous cameos from classic shoot-em-ups. The title screen is a direct Ketsui reference, for one thing, and the multi-layer gameplay shown in the trailer recalls Taito's Galactic Attack, among other games.

While Final Boss is incomplete and features some placeholder elements (the borrowed soundtrack included), Ebbo is accepting criticism and bug reports in a Shmups Forum thread, which documents the game's progress over the last two years.

[via @shmups]

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