Thoughts from a (girl) Gamer

Tara Voelker's thoughts. A lot about video games, a little about life

Tag Archives: games

No More Excuses, Your Guide to Accessible Design – SLIDES

Hi All!

I had a couple people ask me about my slides from my session SO HERE THEY ARE. Update: My talk is now on the vault for free so I’ve added a link to that!

Slides linked as a PDF here – Voelker_Tara_NoMoreExcuses

GDC Vault –

If you’re interested in the notes, you can also open the presentation via this link to view them via Google slides:

I do want to make it clear that I hadn’t ever intended for my notes to be public, so have fun looking at all of the typos.

The panel I was on was also added to the vault for free!

Thanks everyone!


Will You Wii U? Depends on the Price.

So yesterday was the Nintendo press release at E3 where they finally unveiled their new HD console, the Wii U. Now, I’m not going to go into how stupid I think the name is. I’m not going to go into the hard core gamer title line up it’s going to have. I’m not going to go all fan boy about an HD Zelda title on that platform.

I am however, going to talk about something else… the price. This is what interests me the most.

How much is Nintendo going to be selling this for? This thing is going to have to be crazy expensive unless they have some secret magic happening…. Let’s break down why.

1. The console.

Okay, so this is an HD Console. And I guess the first place to start would be by looking at the other HD consoles. When the 360 launched, you got the premium 360 for $399. When the PS3 launched the 20G memory version was $499.  As Sony and Microsoft both improved their systems and the demand lowered, the price has dropped over time. Now you can get  a 360 for $299 and a PS3 for the same. In addition to taking into consideration that the Wii shipped for $250… the Wii U is going to have to ship for more than $300. The current HD systems are selling for that much, this one supposedly has better specs… and it’s newer. It will have to be more expensive that the 360 and PS3 currently are. It just has to be.

2. That God Damn Controller.

Now, this is the part that really makes me feel like this thing is going to have a high price tag. Have you seen this controller?!

Wii U Controller


The controller is like some cross between a handheld system and a tablet computer! The controller includes a 6.2 inch touch screen, four triggers , microphone, gyroscope, inward facing camera, a Home button, and an accelerometer. In addition, it transfers content between the console and the controller, can be used for video chat, web browsing, can be used as a game device with out the TV… It’s insane.

So if you consider that… The 3DS prices at $250. And this has more functionality that that… Low end tablets (non-iPad) run at $150-@200… So the controller alone has to be like $200 worth of technology…

And what about multiplayer games? Do you need two of these things?

If you had the price of the controller to the price of the console… You’re looking at a minimum of  $500. $300 console + one $200 controller. That can’t be right?!?!? That’s before games or multiple controllers or anything? Are they really try to sell something that expensive? I’m just dumb founded.



Guess we will just have to wait and see.

Silent Hill Downpour: The Music

Warning – This is a very video heavy post.

So, Silent Hill:I’ve got a lot to say on this upcoming title,  so I’m breaking it up. So in this piece on Silent Hill: Downpour we’re going to talk about the preview of the game’s soundtrack.

So, Akira Yamaoka has been the composer for all Silent Hill soundtracks – and he’s done a great job and generated a giant fan base. He’s created music that has expressed both the pain and the fear that defined an entire game series. His songs have been memorable, and the industrial and melancholy undertones couldn’t have produced a better ambient music for game play. Let’s take a quick look back at some of the notable songs he has composed for the Silent Hill Series.  (There are a lot, and no, my feelings won’t be hurt if you don’t listen to them all.)

And yes, I did leave out the theme song for the original Silent Hill. I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard it by now.

Alright, the first 2 examples I have are “Witchcraft” from Homecoming and “Acceptance” from Shattered Memories. I think these two pieces were both highly memorable and were great during gameplay. The “Acceptance” video was actually taken while someone was playing- you can hear them picking up items and such during the video.

So, those were examples of just general gameplay. This next one is very much a “OMG, HARRY! RUN! RUN YOUR ASS OFF!” moment in the game, and I think you can hear that in this song- “Devil’s Laughter” from Shattered Memories.

The next two songs are simply fan favorites. You find find a MILLION fan made versions of both of these.

And finally,  this is just about one of my favorites. Skip half way through for the good stuff.

So, I did just posted a lot of videos. And I’m hoping that now you’ve gotten a feel for the Silent Hill music.

Now, I’ve talked about how great Akira is, and how much I like his music… now some of you probably already know this. Akira left Konami. So, yes, he isn’t doing the Silent Hill downpour soundtrack. So this is the first Silent Hill he hasn’t been a part of. So, who are they having replace him? Daniel Licht, the composer from the TV show Dexter. So, what does he have to contribute to Silent Hill? Well, they recently put this out –

Alright – and now what’ you’ve all been waiting for – the preview of his work on Downpour –

Or if you would rather see it mixed in with gameplay you can check out the trailer:

Now, before I go any further I’m going to offer this disclaimer:

1. I don’t watch Dexter, and honestly before writing this I hadn’t listen to any of Daniel’s work. So, I didn’t have an opinion of him going in.

2. I am a huge Akira fanboy and won’t try to act like that doesn’t make me somewhat biased.


So- I’m not really feeling this. I don’t hate it, and I’m not saying it’s not good. I’m saying I don’t feel it.

I guess the best place to start on this is the emotion from the song. When I’m listening to this I don’t feel sad, worried, afraid, terrifying, or distressed. To be honest, I feel like this song is “curious.” I can see someone exploring an area they don’t know, but they’re intrigued about it. Or maybe it’s a comical sort of afraid- in the same way Scooby and Shaggy are afraid while exploring a haunted mansion. I’m not convinced it has the right tone to really contribute to the Silent Hill feel. When you watch the trailer the music does get a little more epic near the end, but I’m not sure it’s enough.

Secondly, there are a few things about the song itself that I don’t like. Like, I don’t like the wood block in the song. I think it contributes to the “curious” feel that makes it hard for me to feel afraid or nervous during the song. Honestly, can you think of a time some one put a wood block in a song and your first inclination was to take it seriously? It just doesn’t seem to fit with the whole “creepy” vibe Silent Hill should have. There is also that drum “breakdown” … which I couldn’t place why I felt like it shouldn’t be there until my fiance commented that it sounded like it belonged in every ’80s pop song- which is totally true.

And lastly- the song isn’t memorable. Just stop- try to play the song back in your head. How did it start? I can’t remember. Honestly, I remember there was a woodblock, and an ’80s drum break down, and a mandolin. But I can’t tell you the tune. I doubt I could hum it if I tried. I think this piece lacks the power to really draw in big fans like a lot of Akira’s work because it doesn’t stick with you.  It’s not something that is going to get stuck in your head or that you want to listen to again. It’s just sort of “there.”

I’m not saying that Daniel’s work is all going to suck. I’m not saying that his work is ruining Silent Hill. I’m just saying, from this preview, I’m  not convinced he can step up and fill Akira’s shoes. Who knows- maybe I’m completely wrong and this fits with the game play great. Maybe the rest of his work is insanely awesome and I will regret ever doubting him. Maybe I’m just a crazy biased Yamaoka fan and I’m not giving his work a fair chance.


So, what’s my final call? I’m not all that impressed. It’s nothing special, but not horrible. It will get the job done, but I’m hoping to see some better work in the final game.