The Sounds of Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Lorne Balfe’s score for Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves dropped this morning, and I bought it immediately (on iTunes) and am already on my second play-through.

On its own merits, outside the movie, it sounds good. It’s not a Remote Control Production-sounding post-Crimson Tide style wall of noise as has been the outcome of many of Zimmer’s students. It’s very much a score that fits the visuals on screen, and, if I am correct, is the entire score, what with it being:

1. 49 tracks in length. Yes. 49. This is a big album.

2. The first of two albums

The run-time of the album is 1 hour, 30 minutes, 45 seconds, which for a movie that’s reportedly 2 hours and 14 minutes long, suggests to me that it’s likely all the music shown on-screen.

But what about the second album, you ask? Well, as Balfe said:

“[We’re] writing the score but then also writing more which doesn’t feature in the film, so we’re going to do an extra album, which is going to be music to play with.” He explained. “It’s for gaming sessions, and it’s for those when they’re gaming to be able to have their own soundtrack when playing.”

Radiotimes interview with composer Lorne Balfe

You can expect to hear lutes, guitars, harps, strings, woodwinds, drums, and bagpipes in Balfe’s score. It’s been a delightful surprise for me, as he’s an insanely prolific composer, but nothing he’s ever composed has spoken to me. He’s managed to definitely accomplish that with this score.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is now in general release in cinemas across Australia – and presumably the rest of the planet.

The State of Blade Runner Enhanced Edition in 2023

I’ve seen things you really wouldn’t believe…

In June 2022 Nightdive Studios, a videogame developer known for publishing remasters and ports of classic PC games such as System Shock, Doom 64, and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, released an Enhanced Edition of the classic Westwood adventure game Blade Runner to disastrous results.

It’s been suggested by some that the game’s release date was set to coincide with the 40th anniversary release date of the 1982 classic – and that the game was not ready for release by that point in time. Despite some well-received trailers depicting upscaled cutscenes and full compatibility with modern operating systems, what players received in June 2022 fell quite short of expectations.

Lacking access to the game’s source code, Nightdive Studios utilised a remastering process that was designed to remove compression artefacts from the game’s pixels and textures, but instead resulted in numerous details being removed or looking smeared – be it posters hung on walls, carpets, or even the city’s perpetual rainfall. A further outcry was had over a highly simplified UI that removed the game’s original KIA interface.

Runciter’s Animals: Original Edition
Runciter’s Animals: Enhanced Edition

A few days after the game hit digital storefronts, Nightdive Studios organised to have the original version of the game included alongside the enhanced edition for free, with the original being playable through the use of a SCUMMVM DOS shell.

But by then, the harm had already been done, with thousands of players requesting reimbursements across both Steam and Good Old Games (GOG). To date, the enhanced edition has sold an estimated 5,700 units and earned the studio nearly $45,000 in revenue, no doubt far less than initially hoped.

Runciter’s Animals: Original
Runciter’s Animals: Enhanced

In the months that followed, Nightdive Studios knuckled down and produced several patches, which resolved numerous bugs and issues flagged by players. Even the most recent patch, Update 1.2.1075, released on 11 February 2023, which introduced many significant quality of life updates, has not been enough to fix the game.

In part, this is due to the limitations of what can be done when a studio lacks access to a game’s source code, and in part due to the “voxel plus” technology utilised by Westwood Studios back in 1997. In theory, a reshade patch could tweak the contrast and vibrancy levels, but barring a full-blown remake of the original game, there’s simply no getting around the limitations of the game’s engine.

Nightdive Studios has managed to earn back some good will over the course of the last year through its patches and the free inclusion of the original, unenhanced game, alongside visually compelling previews for their upcoming System Shock remake.

But one can’t help but wonder if the woes they experienced following last year’s debacle is what led to the current Atari acquisition, which, as stated by Yahoo Finance, will involve “an initial consideration of US$10 million,” with “an earn-out of up to US$10 million, payable in cash over the next three years based on the future performance of Nightdive”.

Blade Runner Enhanced Edition is currently available on Steam for AU$14.50 and GOG for AU$7.29.

Do You Wanna Taste It?

He’s made for this shit.

dusts off blog

It’s been one hell of a hot minute, hasn’t it? The blog went a bit quiet in the middle of Covid, and now that we’re on the other side of it over here in Kangaroostan, it’s time to start the machine again.

I’ve had a few hours over the past week to catch up on a show that my best friend back in Boston has been recommending since the moment it dropped: Peacemaker. It’s everything I’d been promised and more, and is a wild, colourful, zany, and profoundly empathetic ride. It’s some of the best live-action comic book material since the early seasons of Arrow and Flash and Phase 1 of the MCU.

Which leads us to the DCEU, which has been going through some interesting changes of late. I recently fell down the rabbit hole of DCU announcements, and have some thoughts:

  1. I like that James Gunn talks about the writing aspect of not just being beholden to dates – this is a good thing. And sad that it even needs to be stated.
  2. Having different aesthetic visions for each project is a definite good, as I am tired of the bland color grading used in MCU films. (As Joe Cornish recently noted in a playlist interview, “Marvel…had this universe where the movies had to integrate.”) Integration of course resulting in a unified and uninteresting color grading rule across seemingly everything they pump out.
  3. It looks like they’re digging into DC lore a bit more than has been done in the past, which is certainly a good thing.
  4. The first ten years seems to be divided into two chapters, with the first chapter being subtitled Gods and Monsters.
  5. Gunn and Safran have made it clear that they do have an endgame in mind. Quoting Gunn (courtesy of io9):

“We’re not making it up as we go along… The 8-10 year plan is two chapters and there’s an ending to our basic story that we tell there, but it’s not the ending of the universe. So, now, will Peter and I be here beyond that time? [Laughs] I’m already tired. It’s been two months. But those first two chapters are worked out, and then it can go on from there.”

  1. Batman and Robin. Finally. And it’s someone other than Dick Greyson. Every live action film since Batman Begins has struggled to know what to do with Robin (I can’t speak for animated projects, which remain unseen by me). It’ll be nice to see how that dynamic plays out, given that Damien is apparently, as Gunn calls him, “a little son of a bitch,” an “assassin”, and a “murderer”.
  2. The writers room is an interesting collection of people: James Gunn, Drew Goddard, Christina Hodson, Jeremy Carver, Christal Henry, and Tom King.
  3. It looks like they understand that not everything has to appeal to everyone, and are making projects with diverse tones, and not making everything necessarily mandatory viewing.
  4. The Flash will be the lynchpin that gets everything into motion, as it looks like we’re getting Flashpoint, which will help reset the DCU timeline or…something. (As long as it’s better executed than it was on season 3 of The Flash, I’ll be happy. Gods love them for trying, but I didn’t feel like they did the source material justice.)