Friday, June 2, 2017

Ep. 69: Just a Rune

A few weeks ago, Josh and Emily visited Ed and Mike of PixelTunes Radio to listen to some patron picks at PTR's place -- and they came home with a doggy bag of extra tracks! Join them on a quest to listen to those final three listener recommendations, and along the way ponder the mysteries of Stonehenge, the henchman probability in Gotham City, and that good good like whoa, bruh. When does childhood end? Does medieval fiction naturally beget tons of lore? And why was your character eating that sandwich, anyway? Look at the runes and do your best to meditate upon these questions... despite the sound effects in the background.

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This episode was made possible by:
Game Track Title Composer(s)
Baldur's Gate Main Theme Michael Hoenig
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals The Savior of Those on Earth Yasunori Shiono
Batman Returns Act 1 Platform Stage Dilapidated Building Spencer Nilsen
Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken Together, We Ride Yuka Tsujiyoko, Saki Haruyama
Secret of Mana The Second Truth
From the Left
Hiroki Kikuta
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar Shrines Kenneth W. Arnold

...and listeners like YOU.


  1. 3 words for you: Baldur's Morning Constitutional.

  2. A lot of interesting stuff in this episode! The Baldur's Gate music definitely reminded me of the Uruk-Hai theme from The Lord of the Rings score. I would have sworn it was a rip-off, had I not just read that Baldur's Gate actually preceded the Fellowship film by three years.

    Josh's contrasting of The Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones hinted at a very important point: Tolkien's books exposed a very strong sense of good versus evil. There was darkness and shade in his writings, but it was always a despised or pitied thing meant to be overcome. Although the films muddied the waters quite a bit, they still held on to a good portion of that ideology.

    Game of Thrones, as Josh pointed out, is centered around the idea that there is no such thing as good and evil. There's definitely a postmodern nihilism underpinning the show, which I guess is not much different from most of the edgy programming coming out these days. It's interesting that you two find Game of Thrones either distasteful and/or uninteresting; it's basically a fatalistic projection of relativism, which you've both espoused to varying degrees at one point or another.

    Also very interesting, Emily, is how much you're getting into Ultima IV. Could this be your Pokemon Go? The whole building character as a goal is fascinating, especially how the game has influenced your activities in the real world. I haven't played any of the Ultima games, but it sounds like IV is built around a Thomistic philosophy, except that Thomas posited that God is the fountainhead of all goodness. I suppose that the fountainhead of goodness in relativism is itself, but I'm not sure how that works exactly. In any case, it's still really cool. I don't know if I've ever played a game that made me examine my own actions in life.

    Lastly, I think the cartridge version of Ecco was composed by Csaba Gigor and Gábor Foltán. There's a tremendous double episode interview with Spencer Nilsen on VGMpire, where he talks about composing for Ecco CD. I can't remember the details, but I think he talks about what he did and didn't do. Check it out: http://www.vgmpire.com/2016/05/11/vgmpire-116-sega-cd-with-spencer-nilsen/

    Oh, and the second interview with Nilsen focuses exclusively on Sonic CD. Check them both out.

  3. I played Baldur's Gate soon after it came out. I agree with Cameron, it was an amazing game, only exeeded by Icewind Dale IMO. Sadly, I never really paid attention to the music. Time to revisit that.

    To answer some of the questions you brought up in the episode, Baldur's Gate was the main city featured in the game and Baldur (a god for which it was named) had nothing to do with the plot. The main bad guy was Sarevok. Baldur's Gate is a city in the Forgotton Realms, a popular D&D world and home of the famous Drizzt Do'Urden who makes a cameo appearance in the game. Also, the game was based on the older AD&D rules because it preceeded the release of 3rd edition D&D.

    You also talked about NPCs joining your party in RPGs. Baldur's Gate has quite a few NPCs who can join your party. If your party reputation (an in-game stat) became too low or too high, some of them would audibly complain (based upon their alignment) and if it went on long enough, they would actually leave your party taking with them all equipment you had given them.

    On the topic of your sign off, I really enjoyed it. I never felt like it was trite or pithy. It always felt sincere to me. So I'll say it, because I believe it. You mean so much to me, and you always will.

  4. Emily, the quote you liked so much from Ultima IV ("no one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another") is actually a Charles Dickens quote. In fact, the NPC from Ultima IV is named Dickens. I am sure it must be a nod to the original.

    1. Yes, it was Dickens! Would you believe me if I said I held back from saying so on the show because I thought it would be a little too weird to know the random NPCs by name? I think I'll try not to hesitate next time.

      Thanks for doing that research, by the way. I've been in such an Ultima whirlpool that I hadn't thought to look up whether that was an actual Charles Dickens quote!

    2. Not only do I believe that you already knew his name, I expected it.

  5. Australia.

    So, in Fire Emblem when you recruit enemies, they are specific, named foes. Usually a cut-scene has presented a hint that this enemy has some history with that member of your party, or some reason that they don't want to be fighting the fight. In battle you have to get to the foe, or lure them to you without killing them, and talk to them with the right member of your team to use the magic of Together, We Ride to recruit them.

    And in some cases, Fire Emblem games play with that formula; for instance, there is a character you have to talk to multiple times across different maps before your leader convinces her your cause is worth it, or a character who seems like he should be recruitable, with whom you can have a heartfelt conversation, but who decides to go down fighting rather than switch sides.

    I think Fire Emblem Fates, a recent instalment, has a system for recruiting generic enemies but I couldn't tell you the details.


    My favourite depiction of magic in a fantasy game is of the warp songs in Ocarina of Time, (I've mentioned one before) precisely because it's the magic of music, strong memories, and associations with places.


    Ultima IV sounds fascinating; a lot of what was said really resonated with me. I’m interested in ways that games help people or do some good. It sounds like Richard Garriott designed a game to encourage players to think about how to become better.

    The thing is that, as much as I like the idea of games you have to map out or otherwise work on in a way that is outside the game, I don’t actually play them – I suppose I haven’t maxed out the hidden, prerequisite virtue of diligence yet. So, I play games vicariously. Keep us posted, KeyRune.


    If you are reading this comment in 2047 (or later) and you enjoyed the episode, this message is for you:
    You should contact the hosts and let them know you liked their work.

  6. Oh, man. Baldur's Gate, Ultima, Secret of Mana!? As an RPG scholar, this episode was consistently a reminder of how much homework I have to do!

  7. These casino spambots just wont quit! (BTW, Anonymous commenters still have to use CAPTCHAs)

  8. That Hammer Bros. skit at the beginning was so freaking hilarious! I kept picturing Josh wearing a hastily hand-sewn Hammer Bro costume, happily hammering away on a hunk of hickory like only a True Tuxedo Boy would. For some reason, the tempo of the hammers made it all the more funny. If only Emily could have kept from revealing the truth of the reflooring....but trying to keep that gag going until the first track (without dying from laughter) would have been an impossible task, to be sure.

    Also Josh’s hypothesis about the type of person who would want to move to Gotham was similarly hilarious. ALL THE DECORATIVE SCONCES

    I totally identify with your collective disinterest in amoral characters, and especially Emily’s story about hating to play as Vampire. When she talked about the stress that she felt from having to be manipulative and backstabbing, I had an intense empathetic reaction. Some of my friends love board games, and Avalon is one of their favorites. In case you’re not familiar with the game, it plays thusly: You’re randomly assigned a good or evil designation at the beginning. If you’re a loyal servant of Arthur, your job is to complete missions. If you’re secretly a servant of Morgana, your job is to secretly thwart the missions without being discovered.

    I played the game exactly twice. The first time, I was on the side of good. In spite of our side performing poorly, I won the game on the last move by correctly identifying Merlin(a player no one else had suspected).

    We immediately played a second game, and this time, I happened to be placed on the side of evil. It was TERRIBLE. Not only was I a terrible liar, but it was so stressful having to use deceit as a play mechanic. I did not enjoy it, and the mere possibility of having to play the game as one of the bad guys has been enough to keep me from playing it since.

    1. Hah! That skit was extremely special. So much of the setup was coincidental -- we'd written the whole script, including the specific callback to a Hammer Bros. suit, long before we knew there would be construction happening on recording day -- and then we ad-libbed changes and filler entirely in the moment to fold in the noise factor. The result was one of my favorite intros of all time.

      This made me go back and look at our original skit, which we'd apparently never changed in written form. Here's exactly what we were looking at while we took it off the rails:

      J: Hey Emily, whatcha doin?
      E: Oh hey Josh! Nothing much. Just scrolling through our inventory here.
      J: Ah, let me handle that! Last time you rifled through a bunch of menus, you lost all your XP. What if you hit the wrong button and lose all our track submissions?!
      E: Oh, right right, good point. Here.
      J: Man, there’s so much good stuff in here. Woah, another Hammer Suit?! Nice!!
      E: Oh look! It’s those three tunes we brought home from our crossover with PixelTunes Radio.
      J: You mean the three tracks Haju couldn’t fit into Mike and Ed’s Fan Favorites Episode 88?
      E: Yup, that’s them! You feel like playing them today at the top of the show?
      J: Sure! Let me get them all lined up…

      [Select noise]

      J: Ah crap! I used the Hammer Suit by accident!
      E: Nah, that’s okay. It looks good on you.
      J: Well, if you say so.

      One last bit of trivia about this: what you hear in this episode was actually our second try at the intro. There is a blooper clip of our first attempt, in which I barely get a few words into before laughing, and which includes brief concern over how we were going to handle the situation before inspiration struck and we dove back in.