David Lloyd (djpretzel) & Larry Oji (Liontamer)

During last month's Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, David Lloyd and Larry Oji took part in two panels: on the subjects of videogame music influencing mainstream culture and the operation of their online game arrangement community OverClocked ReMix.

For more than ten years OCR has been posting submissions and organizing free compilations of game remixes. We caught up with the founder and head submissions evaluator to hear how more recently the website has become involved in publishing indie game soundtracks.

Return All Robots! "Robotastic Dub-o-Matic Genetic Lab" [Jamaican Cyberturtle] composed by Andrew Aversa, remixed by Kaliedoscope composer Mattias Häggström Gerdt

This year at the IGF, you both served as judges on the Excellence in Audio category of the awards. How would you describe your experience reviewing the entries?

Larry Oji: Love it. Danny B. put in a word for us with Brandon Boyer, the chairman of the IGF. We were really glad to lend our expertise, so we'd love to regularly be a part of it.

David Lloyd: One of the most interesting things to me was seeing how the other judges had a different set of metrics and ways of interpreting the submissions. If I wanted to be a little critical of the process, it should not all be done entirely by email. I was loving what the other judges were saying, and I think everyone could have contributed a lot more had it been through an online forum.

LO: Forums would help structuring things so that it encourages the maximum participation and critical discussion.

Reviewing so many games, would you have feedback for developers on what kinds of factors led to specific titles receiving nominations or honorable mentions?

DL: We all talked about Amnesia quite a bit.

LO: It was a small detail, but the demo instructed you to play with the lights off and headphones on. Frictional Games were very conscious of the mood they were trying to create. It made you think that much more about the way the audio was intended to be experienced.

OverClocked ReMix is known for posting compilations of game covers, but more recently your site has been branching out into publishing soundtracks for independently developed game titles. Can you tell us a little about your experience with the four indie game soundtracks OCR has released so far?

DL: Kaleidoscope was the first and was special in the sense that it was scored by one of our remixers and judges, Mattias Häggström Gerdt.

kaleidoscope-200.jpgI love platformers and the vibraphone chromatic percussion on the soundtrack. I asked if there would be a place where I could contribute something for free to the soundtrack. So I ended up doing the ending theme for Kaleidoscope.

Because all of my time is spent on OCR, that's the first piece of original music, not a remix, that I've done in two or three years.

LO: There's also Trenches on iOS by Kenneth Keyn, otherwise known as Abadoss. Return All Robots! on XBLIG is by zircon, Andrew Aversa. And we also have Missile Master, an iOS game, by Kunal Majmudar, also known as ktriton. Those are all of them, so far.

The invitation to publish soundtracks through OCR is there to benefit all indie games, including developers that have no established relationship with OCR?

LO: Yes, it's literally just for love of music.

DL: We want to fight that idea that you release the soundtrack and it's a disposable PR maneuver. There are great soundtracks out there. We'll take them, promote them, and they'll be preserved on the site forever.

OverClocked ReMix has an enormous fanbase, so an indie game having its soundtrack published there could be a unique promotional opportunity. Are there other benefits you feel OCR can provide indie developers?

DL: There's also the issue of preservation. Studios will release their soundtracks for free on their own website to drive traffic there. My concern is that if these studios restructure their website, or they close, the soundtrack is deleted or removed. The soundtracks on OC ReMix are hosted there in perpetuity.

Missile Master "Frozen Hotslug [Ice Theme]" composed by Kunal Majmudar, remixed by Mazedude

For a musician, I imagine a major incentive of releasing through your site would be that it invites the possibility of the soundtrack being remixed by the community. Has this been the case with your prior releases?

LO: On both Return All Robots! and Trenches, the composers organized remixes, knowing one another in the scene. On Missile Master, Joshua Morse and Mazedude both created great arrangements of Kunal's music.

Are there situations where partnering with indie devs might not necessarily work in their favor?

DL: During the IGF, we really liked what we were hearing with Bastion and were thinking of asking the composer [Darren Korb] to release the soundtrack through OCR. Well, we all know how that turned out. It's now DLC on Steam.

LO: And number one on Bandcamp.

DL: So that would have been a bad move for him. Sometimes it's hard to convince someone before the game is out that they shouldn't sell the soundtrack, and for the Bastions and the Super Meat Boys of the world, Amen. Sell it and make mad money. But there are many games that aren't in that situation and have great music.

At PAX you shared a panel with the composer of Super Meat Boy, Danny Baranowsky, who's an OverClocked ReMix alum. Chiptune artist A_Rival and nerdcore rapper Mega Ran were part of the same talk. Do you find it worthwhile to investigate these other game-inspired music scenes outside of game arrangement?

DL: Our mission statement for the site is intentionally broad. The focus has been and will remain the fan remixes, but I think the community has a lot more to offer. It's an interesting point in history now, where videogame music is evolving in eight different directions at once.

return-all-robots200.jpgThe way I described it during the panel, there's a Venn diagram that you could make where there's overlap between these communities, like videogame music and chiptunes. While some chiptune artists don't think about what they do as "videogame music," there's some shared history there.

LO: There have been mutations in the interests among hobbyists that have led to game arrangements, chiptunes and nerdcore. It's interesting to see the different ways people have branched out from that love of games they grew up playing or, in the case of chiptune artists, the sound quality of classic games. There's a lot of divergence.

Our thing is that we don't do much sampling of the original audio, but then you have guys like Mega Ran that rely heavily on that. Videogame music has reached so many people that we're getting to the point where people generally appreciate and respect it more.

Several remixers have gone on to be IGF-nominated game composers. Danny B.'s Super Meat Boy score has been a bestseller on Bandcamp, while Mattias Häggström Gerdt is co-composing for Mojang's upcoming title Scrolls. Seeing as having a background in remixing clearly doesn't hurt your chances of building a career as a game composer, would you be looking for indie developers to be more aware of your community?

LO: Not to toot our own horn, but I think the creativity standards that Dave set for OC ReMix from day one have definitely helped upcoming musicians. They provide an opportunity to think about notes in a serious way, personalize arrangements and get creative with instrumentation and mood. The list of OC ReMixers with both indie and AAA music credits under their belt just continues to grow, and I'm proud of everyone's success. No exaggeration, the talent pool is very diverse and very deep.

DL: A lot of remixers on OC ReMix want to become game composers and get their feet wet with indie games. The market is better for independent games than it ever has been in the past. An independent game developer could come to OverClocked ReMix, find remixes they like, and contact the remixer directly. I would like to think that we contribute to that relationship, but we're not out to take ownership of anyone's success. We're not the Borg. But we do want to do what we can to facilitate the initiatives of like-minded artists.

[For more information about OverClocked ReMix, visit the official website. Photo by Jeriaska. More images from PAX Prime 2011 are available on our flickr photo set.]