Far From Final Fantasy
Sorry for my extended absence, which left us all prey to the never-ending Ninjas debate. I submitted my book proposals to 33 1/3 "yesterday," by which we mean in the middle of the night. Subject matters? Either Celine Dion or Pere Ubu, and I am so for serious. (Hmm, maybe I should do a joint book on them...)
In the course of other work, I discovered something I have to share with you, which is the first ever music that Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy, guest of the Arcade Fire, ex-Les Mouches) composed for public consumption. Owen was 13 and the pieces were part of the soundtrack of Traffic Department 2192, a video game designed by his older brother, John Pallett-Plowright. After Owen told me this, I did a little searching and discovered this MIDI page: Owen wrote "Menu", "Vulture", "Intro 2" and "Death." His brother, who played cello, wrote "Satair." The rest were written by the game's credited composer, Robert A. Allen. (When I showed him the page, Owen cautioned that "these MIDI files are 'updated' versions of the originals. The originals were much lower-fi and sounded, frankly, far better. MIDI will lose the little details and instrumentation.")
"My brother, John, at the tender age of 16, was signed on by a couple of university students to do artwork for the game Jill Of The Jungle, which became a small hit in the Shareware gaming industry. The company, known at the time as Potomac Computer Systems, had released a few successful (and great) games. Their most famous game up until that point was a game called ZZT, which allowed players to design their own worlds and adventures; something that was fairly innovative at the time.
"While John was working on Jill, I was using ZZT to design a game called The Golden Tiara (not realizing the obvious effeminacy of the title at the age of 12). The game had a lot of original music in it, as well as some classical music arranged for computer. I uploaded it to EXEC-PC, a large BBS at the time, and thought it would likely disappear forever.
"John's next project was Traffic Department 2192. He started it when he was 16 and finished it when he was 18. There was a composer for the game, Robert A. Allen, but John and I did some composing as well. This was prior to MIDI and MOD, very primitive composition for very primitive sound cards. John's composition was great, just great! I think he's only ever written four pieces of music in his life and they were all awesome. My stuff wasn't nearly as good, but I was only 13, so... I think John and I wrote four songs each, Robert did the rest.
"Anyway, the game tanked. Potomac Computer Systems didn't promote it well. They changed their name to Epic Megagames (later, Epic Games) and became one of the most celebrated PC game developers with their game Unreal... which pioneered the birth of the 'games as sports' movement. All my brother's friends from those years are now millionaires, no joke at all. [...]
"So, years later, John and I search on the internet to find that Traffic Department 2192 has a small fan base. One of John's hovership designs (the Hornet) was turned into a LEGO design. The game is difficult to get running on newer machines, but it's nice to know that some people are making the effort. John was heartbroken that the game never took off the way he had hoped.
"And The Golden Tiara, despite it's incredibly childish plot (it reads like it was written by Adrian Mole, with spelling mistakes, unending melancholy and a wretchedly sad ending), it was picked, years later, as the favourite game by the developer of MegaZeux, a ZZT offshoot. Small peanuts, but I was thrilled."
And the rest is history. If anybody finds an online archive of Owen's Ultimate Sissy Game, The Golden Tiara, I'd love to see it.