Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Game Review: Call of Cthulhu - Dark Corners of the Earth

The Welcoming Party
I'm extremely passionate about video games, and over the last few months I invested ~15 hours in one that I thought I'd really love. Here are my thoughts..

I wanted to like Dark Corners of the Earth but unimaginable horrors awaited me every time I returned to it... Horrors of poor programming to be specific. All of these crashes took place on a Fallout-4 Grade PC, and while there is a certain romance to retro horror games, unless you're a die-hard Dagon cultist who self-flagellates daily while waiting for darkness to overtake the world this game is not for you.

Cool Box Art!
Dark Corners of the Earth crashed on me every hour of gameplay, generally right as I was about to reach a save point. It left me with a new compulsive twitch and a feeling of dread every time I realized that I'd been playing for longer than 15 minutes and hadn't saved. It forced me into a sense of urgency which the game itself doesn't give (evidenced by the lack of a "run" button).

Despite a great story and premise set by Lovecraft, expanded on by a team that set off with good intentions, the writing was a sub-par. The voice acting was a mix of delightful talent paired with detestably unimaginative writing. Alas, I could not even experience all of this to its fullest as a glitch (which no amount of patching could counteract) cut off half the dialogue mid sentence! I swear at one point they said "We need to get to ---" (silence)

The varying volume level of the voices is easily overpowered by music or sound effects rather frequently, basically forcing you to use subtitles anyway. HOWEVER they forgot to subtitle large segments of the game involving more than 2 sentences of exposition. The game also crashed on almost every cinema (thankfully after the auto-save) and frequently froze. Alas, but if I could have only either READ or HEARD the plot-points while playing the game, as opposed to looking up what I missed online, would I have liked it more?

If only we knew where we were supposed to go
No.

The game's detailed story is poorly executed in all of its dialogues, though its 'journal entries' are enjoyable, and even still it somehow robs you of a real ending or sense of accomplishment. This abomination leaves you feeling entirely unresolved! It's like a sinister detached voice told the game's writers "explain the plot of the entire game in 5 minutes... Okay, that's the ending, roll credits... Oh, and don't give players the explanatory ending unless they win with 100% completion within a certain time limit; otherwise just skip to the credits after playing the intro video again."


Stealth is hit or miss... but generally miss, even if you know what you're doing.
The gameplay seemed vastly enjoyable at first, introducing exciting gameplay mechanics like insanity and addiction to pain killers, neither of which ever seemed to truly come into play. "Hallucinations, panic attacks, vertigo, paranoia, and more!" it reads on the box... Well yes, now that you mention it, the game did give me panic attacks and paranoia with all of its glitches, and vertigo the countless times that the motion-blur effect got stuck. The game's creators go really far out of their way to tell you how tenuous your grip on reality will be, and how it will unhinge your sanity... Only to heedlessly ignore their own warnings in favor of throwing a blur-filter over your field of vision, or slightly swaying the screen from side to side when something disturbing happens. These effects also frequently get stuck in the "on" position until you inevitably turn off the game, die, or a critical error causes the game to fail.

Dark Corners of the Earth could not be more linear, despite advertising investigative and exploration elements. Yet despite this there are a few ways to miss the 100% completion rate and be cheated of a "true" ending... Or (as in the case of various people I spoke to) you will like just get cheated of the "true" ending anyway because the game is a nightmarish abomination that seeks to unhinge the vestiges of your sanity. I suppose that much was advertised.


If you see this screen in your game... The enemies are invisible...
The glitches and bugs in this game are CRIPPLING. There's a moment where you need to use a scope to shoot at enemies (see above, no it's not a spoiler, it's a thing you NEED TO KNOW in order to complete the game)... However, due to a VERY COMMON PC glitch (look it up), which is still unresolved/unpatched despite the game being out for a decade, the enemies you need to shoot are completely invisible and impossible to see or interact with unless you know exactly where they are. You literally have to look up this segment of the game online to win. There are also numerous instances of poor level design AND poor lighting where a rational sane individual will not know what to do next without consulting a guide (like randomly jumping off a cliff to progress the story)... But I digress...

Other glitches include being unable to walk, falling through the floor (literally falling far through the level and getting stuck in the space where great Cthulhu dwells: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!), suddenly flying (and thus unable to open doors), having enemies aware of your presence because when you died and loaded the game they didn't reset their awareness of your presence. That one in particular is infuriating during the game's many "stealth" segments. Also having enemies glitch into the wrong locations or stopping their patrol patterns randomly and indefinitely due to glitching into something, making traveling past them impossible without detection. These are just a few of the many issues I can remember, and reloading your game will not fix half of them, so you're forced to save often, and create multiple save files. I won't even get into the stupidity how of its supposedly "friendly" AI will go out of its way to make stealth segments impossible to stealth.

"Stealth"
There were many game mechanics that serve no true purpose. For instance, the STEALTH button doesn't actually do anything except fog up your screen... There's also a rail-grabbing mechanic that the game uses twice toward the end of the game that it never tells you about, and never uses again. No literally, it's a random segment of the game where you can extend your hand and grab onto a railing that no one tells you about. One time it's absolutely vital to your survival (and they don't tell you about it), and the other time it's actually just a useless aesthetic choice you can ignore. The supposedly "intelligent" puzzle mechanics were enjoyable half the time and mindbogglingly infuriating in the instances where they were unclear. There was one puzzle in specific, involving identifying and interacting with glyph pieces... only the game's creators drew one of the glyphs incorrectly. That could almost be a sort of in-game parallel to what happened to the production of this game. The creators had some really cool ideas but ultimately deviated from their intent.

Save your sanity, don't play this game...
TL;DR: AVOID THIS GAME. Great start, the first hour or two is very enjoyable. Everything after that is unforgivably glitchy, disjointed, and horrific in the bad way. Stop playing right the moment where you first get a gun and if you're still interested in the story just watch someone else play through it and save yourself the frustration. You can not beat this game unless you wish to sacrifice your sanity and make use of at least one walkthrough/guide to navigate the 'invisible enemy' section. It's literally impossible.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

10 Reasons You Should Support My Kickstarter (you won't believe #3!)

Here are 10 reasons why you should support my Kickstarter and help bring my dream to life! Though written tongue in cheek, I hope that these arguments will make you consider becoming a Backer of Liberty: Deception Volume 1.


#10. It's New - Maybe you don't typically read comic books, maybe you don't like long-winded and confusing stories. You're in luck! As my first graphic novel you don't need to have any previous knowledge of the characters, story, or world. There isn't a better point of entry than it's initial release!



#9. It Has Pretty Pictures - Maybe you don't care about the story, maybe you don't like reading, or (like me) you're a slow reader. The beauty of the graphic novels is that you have something tangible to look at on every page! So even without reading anything you can get an understanding of what's happening.



#8. Quality - Liberty: Deception is being created by a team of extremely talented artists across 6 continents and we've invested months of work to make sure that every page will look just as good as the last. We've crafted our own fonts, we make sure that every character has the same scars and tattoos on every page, and we will maintain this level of quality across the entire series.



#7. A Solid Story - Every person who's reviewed my book (each word is a link to a different review) has has had something positive to say about the story and how excited they are to see more of it. We have many unique characters and many different elements of our story to tell.



#6. Passion - Every person who's working on Liberty: Deception is passionate about it. Many of us are putting in upwards of 20 hours a week (or more) to create the best possible experience for our readers. You can see how that passion translates into every panel we create.




#5. Generosity (or "Supporting the Economy!") - By supporting the Liberty: Deception Kickstarter you're helping create jobs. No, really! This project regularly gives paying jobs (at fair rates) to a team of over 10 artists. The money from our Kickstarter goes directly into printing our book, so you're creating the vehicle through which we can succeed, which will allow us to create more content! It's sort of like the circle of life.



#4. You're Rooting For The Underdog - We are self-published, self-funded, and creator owned. In terms of simply trying to raise awareness for our comic book online or in a comic book shop we're competing with the Walking Dead, Batman, and the Avengers! Just like Rocky Balboa, all we're looking for is a fair shot!



#3. You've Spent Money on Sillier Things - Search your feelings, you know it to be true. Perhaps it's insurance for a starship in a video game, or a massive 40k army, foolishly expensive drinks at the bar (or the airport), or a blue ray copy of the Lord of the Rings movies you purchased knowing full-well that they'd release the extended editions a month or two later... Whatever the case this wouldn't be the strangest thing you've spent money on.



#2. It's Actually Pretty Good - Don't believe me? Check out the first 20 pages for free right now!




#1. You can "Pre Order" it NOW for less $$ and get more things - While you're probably thinking that you can buy it later for less money, you're incorrect. For $25 you're getting the physical book, signed and shipped to your door, plus a digital copy, your name will appear in our special thanks, and you'll also get to influence future elements of the story! By ordering our book at a later date you're losing out on bonus goodies and there's a stronger chance that our book won't be printed. For a bit more you can even make a cameo and be a part of the story you're bringing to life!
In short, thank you for taking the time to read this list and for thank you supporting my project.

Here's the link to the Kickstater pagehttps://www.kickstarter.com/projects/randomencounter/liberty-deception-vol-1-a-sci-fi-comic-adventure

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Comic Book Creator’s Struggle

The Comic Book Creator’s Struggle

(The Road Less Taken)
[Written for the magazine Mir Fantastiki, copied here with permission]


Comic Page for Liberty: Deception.
Art by Raymund Bermudez & Joana Lafuente
Anyone thinking about creating a comic book should know that it is a difficult road. Many abandon the path after the first few paces, petrified after catching only a glimpse of what lies ahead. You will almost certainly not make money. You will almost certainly spend far too much of your own time and money. At every possible turn of the creation process you will battle against a hoard of invisible pitfalls, trials, and psychological struggles that will make Frodo’s adventures in the Lord of the Rings look like a holiday picnic. You will encounter problems you did not think could even exist! You will lose days, months, and probably years off your life (if you take yourself too seriously), like in the machine from the Princess Bride, learning about distribution chains, ISBN numbers,  grammar, file formats, fonts, and the differences between RGB vs CMYK. You will gain experience, learn to multi-class, become a jack of all trades, or you will undoubtedly give up.




Even Vulcans have bad days...
In the miraculous event that you are able to complete your first book, you will experience firsthand what H.P. Lovecraft meant when he spoke of depression, as you try to find individuals who might simply read your book. You will embrace rejection time and time again with a smile. You will likely spy on your critics, become close with the harsh criticisms that you’ll receive, and possibly grow from them. You must suppress your emotions using the ancient Vulcan rituals as the potential readers insist that five dollars US is too much to pay for your book, the sum of years of your life. However, above all else you must remember that you are only in this situation because you truly care about what you are creating.



Frodo knows a thing or two about struggles
The life of a comic book creator is one of passion and struggles. You are passionate about your story, but it takes time to create. The little victories each week will one day lead to a moment of personal triumph where you’ve fought the world, fought nature, and fought against your very psyche and won! No one is obligated to like your work, or even give it glance, and as a project of passion you have to be accepting of this and not take personal offense. There are many many mistakes to make as a comic book creator. I know because I’ve made most of them over the last decade. The creation of a comic book is a very slow and time consuming process and it is always important to remember that you should not expect fame, success, or money. Create something because you find it enjoyable.


Stabbity Bunny: A delightful
independent comic book series!
I am an American comic book writer/creator who has attended over 50 fan conventions, expos, and festivals. I was always intimidated by the amount of information needed to really understand the plots of the X-Men, The Green Lantern, or many other mainstream comic books, and as a result I’ve always been drawn to independent comics. I’ve supported and read dozens of books ranging from extremely low quality (in both art and story), to the most captivating of adventures and I found that I’m personally drawn to dynamic interior artwork, pretty cover art, and stories that seem genuinely interesting. I have a habit of taking notes on what I like about the things I read, and when you switch hats and suddenly become a “comic book creator” the first thing many people forget is to focus on creating something that they themselves would appreciate.




A panel from my first comic book
My first venture into comics sought to explain a comic book world I’d created in 18 pages or less. However, it didn’t really have that much of a story, and I honestly didn’t put too much effort into truly developing the world. The art was created by the first artist I bumped into, and the cover was as dull as an 18th century legal document. It took me almost a year to realize that I wouldn’t be selling the other 5000 copies I’d printed, and it took a few more years to realize that perhaps I’d created the very type of exposition-heavy comic that I myself didn’t enjoy.





The same character, now in my newest book.
Illustrated by Casey Bailey!
The lesson to be learned in this is the most important reminder a comic book creator, or a creative mind in any other field, can have: To create what you enjoy and to enjoy what you create. Otherwise you might as well be getting paid for your time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Exhibitor's Guide: Animate Miami

An Exhibitor's Guide

Animate Miami!



In wake of a shooting at a Zombie-themed convention in south Florida the previous weekend it could be expected that there would be some reluctance for people to attend a convention the following weekend. However all the vendors I spoke with agreed that Animate Miami felt even more sparse than expected. While some insisted that attendance numbers had risen with each subsequent year, I'd place attendance closer to 3,000 (a generous estimation) than the 10,000 reported. Numbers aside, here's what I experienced.

Accommodations:  (Four Stars)
The staff at the convention, and the hotel staff were both top notch. Professional, courteous, literally checking in with every vendor to make sure everything was okay a few times a day, helping vendors with any minor inconvenience. Well staffed and offering free lemonade and donuts each morning, this was among the best customer service I've ever seen at a convention. I feel bad for having anything negative to say about the weekend because it was easy to feel that the people working the convention really put their hearts into making it a success. Internet was free, phone reception was fair (though I saw some booths struggling my immediate neighbors had no issues with Square), and a few free power drops were even provided to help us recharge phones. They also enforced their convention bylaws and booted a vendor nearby that was selling vaping products and having customers ride segway-like boards, which was fairly dangerous given the proximity to their neighbors, that also took up the bulk of the aisle space in front of any booth around them. (the enforcement was a very good thing) Being a Hilton Honors member also really paid off for a hotel which was literally connected to the convention. Parking was easy, loading in and out was extremely easy, and beyond one egotistical artist who told my booth that we were in the wrong venue, everyone (artists, exhibitors, staff, volunteers) I spoke with was extremely friendly.

Attendance: (One Star)
Animate Miami was well under capacity. I would describe my row, a corner booth near the middle edge of the dealer's room, as being very sparse 60% of the time, half-full 8% of the time, full 2% of the time (generally due to a cosplay group), and completely barren 30% of the time. It was disheartening, and one of my immediately neighbors left mid-Saturday... A fair number of other artists and vendors also abandoned their booths on Saturday I was told, which I'm led to believe was true based on what I saw. Cosplayers at Animate Miami were generally good, with a few dozen really outstanding costumes. It's worth noting that being able to speak even a little bit of Spanish was extremely helpful for maybe 5% of the people I interacted with. There were a lot of families, but I'd say the bulk of the people there were teens and early 20's, 50/50 male female ratio, generally anime and gamer enthusiasts. Various VIP's and Special Guests also roamed the halls, and the original visual reference for Disney's Tinkerbell stopped by briefly to chat with us. She is exactly as friendly as you might imagine, and still looks very recognizable as Tinkerbell's body reference. Though generally new faces I hadn't met at previous conventions, perhaps 5% of people I spoke with were people I'd met before, and one older gentleman knew me as "the 72 Hours guy", which brought a huge smile to my face. Most attendees seemed interested in retail wares over art, and sales were generally low for everyone I spoke with.


Conclusion:
All in all I felt like Animate Miami was enjoyable, but not worth the booth price. While the service was truly top tier and the pricing reflected this, the attendance and fanbase were more on par with a 1k-1.5k attendance convention, with most of the attendees on a tight budget. If you sell anime, manga, or general retail goods this is probably a fair venture, but if you're an artist or unique goods vendor it's a rough gamble. If the prices lower I'll return, otherwise I'll probably sit Animate out for a few years because it's too difficult to make back your money.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Album Review: OC Remix's Final Fantasy 2: Rebellion


Final Fantasy 2: Rebellion
A Final Fantasy 2 OC Remix Album

Written by Careless


From the first haunting notes to its impressive jazzy conclusion Rebellion is a professional, hard hitting wave of nostalgia and quality music. Paying homage to arguably one of the most obscure chapters in the Final Fantasy series (FF2 premiering in the US for the first time in 2003!), each of the 21 tracks is a different artist’s interpretation of Nobuo Uematsu’s early work. If you have never heard the Original soundtrack it’s certainly worth a listen and contains some of Uematsu’s best pre-SNES work.

If you like rock or metal covers there is no shortage. Rebellion boasts tracks like Dr. Manhattan’s arrangement of The Last March, Bonker’s Rebel Dream, Kidd Cabbage’s Battle, Viking Guitar’s Torchlit, IanFitC’s Imperial Rapture, and Tuberz McGee’s Personification of Evil. As an OC Remix compilation album Rebellion also delves into other genres of music like dubstep, flamenco-folk, and some that are more difficult to classify. On the whole Rebellion is a very satisfying listen and there’s so much diversity from one track to the next that you’ll never feel stagnant. My only personal distaste stems from the talking elements which take place on top of some tracks which I otherwise found enjoyable. It’s worth noting that some of the arrangements also delve into other works by Uematsu, and that many of them are over 6 minutes in length. My personal favorite tracks are a FF 1-3 solo piano arrangement by PacificPoem titled Dawn of Heroes, Brandon Strader’s Castellum Infernum, some1namedjeff’s Preluematsude, and Bonker’s Rebel Dream.

In conclusion:

If you’re looking for new music Rebellion definitely worth checking out! Even if you think OC Remix might not be your thing, there are some really dynamic songs on here that you’ll want in your collection.


Final Fantasy 2: Rebellion will be available on June 8th at: http://rebellion.ocremix.org/ 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

EU Tour: Madrid, Spain

--Madrid, Spain--

Though the rest of the band has no memory of this we had a brief layover in Berlin, Germany, and since we flew on Air Berlin we all got chocolate hearts and mints upon arrival! It was pretty awesome. We actually walked a few hundred feet on German soil from the airplane to the bus and in honor of this event I spoke only in German for the duration of our stay... Loosely 20 minutes. I'd been listening to Pimsler's Speak and Read German course and was able to say things like "Excuse me, I'm from America," and a comical expansion on JFK's speech, "WE are all jelly donuts." That one earned me a smile from the German family we shared the brief bus ride from plane to plane with.

Moments before passing out
The National Auditorium
The flight to Madrid was uneventful and once again we slept through the entire flight and woke up during the landing. Once in Madrid we picked up our luggage, Rook and I busted out our Spanish, and we all took a public bus to a stop near our venue. From there we walked the final half mile to the National Auditorium of Spain. It's at this juncture that i'm going to point out how utterly amazing it was and how excited we all were to be playing on the same stage as the Spanish National Orchestra in the National Auditorium!!! The members of the orchestra that we were able to speak with (the drummer, flutist, and a few string players) were super cool. When there wasn't enough room on the stage for Moose's drum set, the orchestra drummer said it was alright for him to play the Spanish National Drum set. When I mentioned to the flutist that I might be playing a duet with him for Time's Scar he told me that HE was honored to be playing with me... 0_0
Their kindness helped us feel significantly less nervous about performing with them.



Exploring Madrid
Since we would be the last to sound check, Konami and I walked the mile or so to the hotel and checked in. On the walk there we got to experience a little bit of Madrid. It felt almost exactly how Spain is often portrayed in films. It was laid back, the cars were extremely pedestrian friendly, almost everyone has a dog, and there are people who just stand outside and chat, not smoking but just enjoying being outside on a beautiful day. Our hotel, much to our surprise, was a four star accommodation for less than half the price of our two star hotel in London! The lobby was large, well lit, clean, the staff was friendly, the rooms were HUGE (the equivalent of one bedroom apartments!) and the beds were ridiculously comfortable. Konami and I spent a few minutes just admiring the rooms before we reluctantly left. Once back with the band we did our sound check and bumped into Tommy on our way out. Being the super friendly guy he is, he gave us Euros enough for a small feast and told us to go fourth and enjoy the cuisine of Espania! We thanked him thoroughly, departed, and did just that!

A great feast was had!
This was the night that we had our first group dinner of the tour (which included every single person in the band). We ate at a place we didn't get the name of but we entered because the window showed that it had won awards for best local food from 2010-present. The inside was bull-fighter themed and we ordered an array of delicious foods. I ordered the salmon and was surprised when my plate came out with not only a salmon sandwich, with the other half of the sandwich (which they didn't combine for some reason) that was topped with tomato slices and large chunks of extremely delicious mozzarella cheese! The entire band ate and drank Spanish beer/coffee, save for Kit, who's meal never seemed to have arrived... It was only as he described what he'd ordered, a mozzarella and tomato sandwich, that I turned ghost white, figured out what had happened, and apologized profusely. While everyone else's food had come on separate plates I guess Kit and my food came on one. He ordered something else (despite me telling him how amazing what he ordered was) and the band declined sharing in my teramasu dessert. I've long since learned, having been with the band for nine years, that if you acquire a taste for cuisine most people do not enjoy, no one else will want any of it.

The streets of Madrid
Anarchy in these streets?
Not on Kit's watch!
We got back to the hotel, took our first real showers in a few days, and instantly fell asleep on the most comfortable beds of the whole tour after nearly four days of nonstop transit. Somehow at 11:45pm (EST) I woke up, listened to Brandon Strader's final mix of our Super VG Christmas collaboration, told him it was perfect, and submitted it to the project coordinator with 5 minutes to spare! We had been discussing revisions over the previous day or two and I honestly can't remember when they happened. The next morning we got pastries and arrived at the venue for the pre-show festivities. I saw the couple we'd met in Manchester again, we learned that the show was completely sold out, and we prepared for our final show of the tour. About five minutes before getting on stage there was a silly technical issue whereby someone it was discovered that our gear had no electrical power running to it but it was miraculously fixed in the final moments before we took the stage (sweating with nervousness, wondering if all of our instruments would be powered).

Product Placement ad for Coke
This is how Random Encounter sits in terror before shows...
These are the faces of terror...
There were some oddities about the Madrid show. For one, as being pantsless is a sign of disrespect in most countries, Moose was asked to wear pants while drumming. Additionally, because there was no room for his set, he was playing the national orchestra's set, located on the opposite side of the stage from us. Without our monitors (which were working perfectly thanks to our sound check the previous day) we could literally hear the sounds bouncing off the room before the sound from the drum set itself reached us. Lastly, we were surprisingly cramped on the stage between the edge of the stage and the orchestra itself. It wasn't nearly as difficult a challenge as the TEDx event we performed/spoke at, but it was a case where we had to essentially "rock in place" without moving our feet.

Kit found a certain location from Earthbound
Well, while this is true for the rest of the band it was partly self imposed and did not apply to me as much. Being wireless, I wasn't afraid of knocking things over and had specifically asked the rest of the band to give me a bit more space to do as many foolish things as I could. They politely obliged and were a bit more bunched up as a result of my goofiness. In an effort to give them some space, I jumped into the crowd at one point. Somewhere, deep out there I also fell on my back while doing something stupid that fortunately wasn't caught on video, but it was okay because I kept playing and somehow jumped up from the what the others refer to as "the turtle on his back" position feared by most accordionists.

The mind blowing view from the stage
Person for person, the audience in Madrid was absolutely the most energetic crowd we've played to in a very very long time. As a collective they probably are the most energetic we've played to, or are tied with the folks from Will's Pub and our Album Release show for LMTYAS. The folks in Madrid have amazing spirit/energy, their clapping is like a heavy rain, their stomping is like thunder, and since there were literally two thousand of them their clapping overpowered Moose in volume! Even after experiencing this we still look back on this in wonder. 

Ultros was at the show! Vwe he he!
The people of Spain are also very accepting of accordions, and after the show I was stunned with how many accordion-based questions people had. After we got home I was told that one person at the show was so inspired that they went to the store and bought an accordion that same day! While in America my instrument is seen as a sort of gimmick ("You guys have an accordion in your band? How weird!") it's really close to the hearts of many Europeans who claim the instrument as part of their own national identity (Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Finland). I don't think I'm describing the feeling very well, but in short it's emotionally moving when someone tells you that your performance on an instrument they feel is a part of their heritage made them happy. It makes you feel as if the whole performance you gave was extremely personal to them, which makes it even more personal to me.

The daycare I kept thinking was a bakery
The meet and greet came and went quickly, and before we knew it we were saying our goodbyes to the VGL crew we'd come to be friends with over the last week and a half. We had planned to have a dinner with them, but our inability to find the place, and the fact that we were told (by locals) that the place was closed encouraged us to turn in early. 

Konami - The Quintessential Tourist
While the others slept, Konami and I went on an amazing adventure, seeking the finest food (and drink) in Madrid... within walking distance. We had beer in a place that took too long to get our food order, asked some local girls about the policy on tipping at restaurants, departed, walk to a gambling arcade place, departed immediately when we noticed the same girls from before (we did not want to seem like we were following them and/or being creepy), went to a convenience store, got Kinder Eggs, and stopped at a truly amazing restaurant. At the restaurant we ordered fried squid with lemon, another odd entre we could not identify but that the waiter said was "muy bueno" (he spoke no English and my Spanish is only conversational, despite taking 8 years of Spanish one). Lastly we ordered the best cake I can remember eating, one that rivals the Movenpeak of Jordan, and headed back to the hotel. Post tour shenanigans ensued that Kit will undoubtedly include in his videos of the tour and when I went back to my room to sleep, Moose turned on a Spanish opera (the cast was Spanish but they sang in English) stage production of Brokeback Mountain, turned the volume up, and inexplicably departed the hotel to go on a walk. Unable to sleep through a baritone call of "why can't I quit you" and unable to unplug or otherwise disable the television I watched the whole production and was fairly impressed. After this I sat through a soap opera about a woman who was in an abusive relationship. The show took an unexpected turn when she murdered her husband/boyfriend and it became all about getting away with the murder. I think she was also a shapeshifter.

Goodbyes to Spain
We woke up the next morning, late, barely caught the bus to the airport, and arrived at our terminal with an hour to spare, despite every last one of us getting randomly selected at one point or another by security to be searched. We flew into Belgium, had some chocolate, and took another flight to Manchester. I'll say again here that England really doesn't like letting me in their country and even with tickets showing that I'd be leaving in under 24 hours they were still skeptical that I'd do something weird. After an hour of interrogation I was reunited with the band, and in honor of my admittance to the country we booked a hotel. Because the taxi could only fit three of us, Kit and Rook walked the three miles from the airport to the hotel, which Kit's map had said was only half a mile. They seemed to have no problems with the walk, once they got their bearings, and were surprisingly chipper about it. Moose and I were really in no condition to walk very far and Konami carried most of Rook and Kit's luggage.

We're getting good at awkward photos
Once we were all at the hotel (which was also surprisingly inexpensive and awesome) we walked to a tavern nearby that was supposed to have excellent food. It was there that I finally got the meat pie I'd wanted since the tour started, that Kit got the drinks he'd wanted, that Moose got the hamburger he'd wanted. I didn't mention this but for lunch in Madrid Moose had ordered a hamburger off a menu that showed a massive and sizzling grilled hamburger. He was sincerely let down by the small and poorly cooked food he'd received from the airport cafe. It was a good victory meal. We chatted about the tour, how we all felt it had gone amazingly and that there was no one else we'd have rather done it with. This was a sincere feeling. We gave a toast to Tommy Tallarico, Emmanuel, and the VGL crew and in a blink (well, more like 24 hours of nonstop travel) we were all back home, due for work the next morning, and wondering what new adventures would be in store for us. Random Encounter has grown so much as a band, as individuals, and while we all collectively agree that we've neither "earned" or deserved this amazing tour we are utterly appreciative that we were able to do it. We've just undergone a truly amazing adventure.

Back in Florida
On the tour friendships were forged, new and exciting places were explored, we got lost, we went on adventures, we met some really interesting people, and we went where no video game cover band has gone before!
We started some new games (Dragon's Lair, Tie Fighter, Monkey Island), beat a few others (Rogue Legacy, Binding of Isaac), mixed an LP, made a colab song, and enjoyed amazing food and company. We met some extremely talented composers, musicians, had deep conversations into the odd hours of the morning, and enjoyed the performances of four amazing orchestras. True to our rock roots we slept in airports, hotel lobbies, a few pretty nice hotels, and I think Konami overdosed on coffee. Most importantly we took part in what I feel is the most amazing show in the world and we got a taste of the rock star life that will remain with us as we continue our 8 to 5 every-day lives.



Thank you.
If you're reading this, thank you for your support!
See You Next Mission

-Careless
Random Encounter

Friday, December 19, 2014

EU Tour: Stockholm, Sweden

--Stockholm, Sweden--

We again woke up to an airplane landing and now found ourselves in Sweden, which was less cold than Helsinki and less wet. The VGL crew had rented a van that was larger than they needed so instead of taking a series of trains we got to simply ride with them to the venue, the Annexet. We arrived at the venue early (a first) and sat back, napping as the crew (made up of extremely attractive men and women who dwarfed Kit and were capable of lifting objects ten times their own body weight!) put the stage together. The crew gave me an idea for a song about Valkyries, which I wrote the lyrics to the following flight.

The Annexet
The stage being built
All color drained from the room
Somehow, despite being in a warmer environment than Finland, the Annexet in Sweden was the coldest part of our journey. It was so cold in there that it pulled the color out of the room (just look at the pictures)! We had a warm breakfast with the crew, and spoke with the owner/manager of the Stockholm Concert Orchestra, who happened to be an old school punk rocker from the 80's who utterly loved hearing that we were living the rock life and touring Europe! He was friendly, extremely candid, and I wish we could have talked with him more. During the sound check one of the crew asked me personally if I could play random VG songs I happened to know on accordion, and I was able to deliver seamlessly, making a friend in the process.

Kit taking a double take on his guitar for the night
Henrik is not without humor!
Fun times in Sweden!
It was about that time that Henrik, aka Motherpluckin' B, aka Killed by Koopa arrived! He'd admittedly gotten a bit lost and I had to ask the security guard (who was extremely friendly and reminded me of the Jarl of Whiterun from Skyrim) for directions to help Henrik get to the right building. Henrik showed up and it was as if we had been friends in real life for a very long time (as opposed to internet acquaintances). Seriously, Henrik is a cool guy and he looks like a total undercover rock star. He drove a few hours to hang out and lend us his guitars for the night and we did our best to make him feel at home and hung out with him during the down moments of the sound check.

The door guy from the Annexet was a badass
Kit making final preparations on his guitar
Toward the end of the sound check there was a second treat as my friend from Moscow, Sergey arrived! I've been good friends and pen pals with Sergey for a few years and it was fun getting to meet him in person for the first time. I helped him get in touch with Tommy, who he had a scheduled interview with, and after the sound check we all went out to get a bite to eat at a Swedish pizza place, which apparently was the least Swedish restaurant we could have possibly eaten at besides McDonald's. When questioned about life in Sweden, Henrik or one of his friends (who joined us for dinner) informed us "it's horrible. Every day I am surrounded by beautiful women and none of them will talk with me." It's apparently not easy being handsome in Sweden.

Sergey, so stoic!
Drinks and pizza with friends in Sweden
Fantastic show that night
Between having friends in the audience (including a genuine Random Encounter fan we met during the intermission who had no idea we were going to be at the VGL show and who got really excited when he noticed our flyers on the seats), being wireless again, being in one of my favorite places of all time (Sweden), and knowing this was our last performance between us and sleep in a bed, we put on a solid performance. It was my personal best for the tour as I was literally able to jump off the stage, run 1000 feet into the room and rock out with folks in the audience. The meet and greet after the show was fun too! We signed a guy's back, met some interesting folks, and eventually said our goodbyes. 

We signed a baaaack!
Our view from the stage
Just like that we found ourselves in a hotel lobby-bar at 1AM, trying not to get ourselves kicked out, with the promise of a ride to the airport when the sun came up. In retrospect, I'm pretty positive that the VGL staff arranged for their extra van to be there just for us, though they didn't mention it because we'd have felt bad inconveniencing them. They're pretty awesome like that. In the early hours of the morning we drank coffee, chatted with the VGL crew who didn't want to sleep, avoided a creepy but silent guy who we were pretty sure was on some pretty intense drugs, we drank beer, and we enjoyed the 8bitX album premiere Listening Party for our good friends: the Returners, until about 4am. We caught a ride back to the airport and Emmanuel, Konami and I chatted at length about music theory, theorized how left handedness might affect musicians, and philosophized over a slew of really deep music-related topics you wouldn't expect to come coherently from such sleep deprived people. To give you an idea of how sleepy we were, Kit literally fell asleep sitting up and very nearly fell on the person next to him. That's how utterly beat we were. At the airport I bought as many coffee and soy hot chocolates as I could hold to keep us awake for the final sound check of the tour.

Album Listening Party or Ring Wraith listening party?
Hotel Airport