||[Feb. 21st, 2008|01:14 am]
Suit up, son! You're going to Mars!
Everyone there knows the song is going to be "Still Alive," the ending song from Valve's game Portal, which has just swept the Game Developers' Choice Awards earlier in the evening. What quickly becomes apparant is that he's actually going to play the singing part of Rock Band, for which "Still Alive" has been created as a level. Various members of Harmonix join him on stage to play the guitar, bass and drum parts. So there I was at the Valve party at GDC. Jonathan Coulton—the featured entertainment—is ready to play the last song of his short set. |
The Rock Band-ized version of the song is received with cheers. The entire audience sings along. JoCo and his faux band earn five stars in the game, and cries of appreciation from their real life fans.
The set ends, and musicians real and fake alike start packing their gear. That's when I start thinking: "Still Alive" is an unpublished Rock Band song, stored on an XBox 360 on the stage. I've had a few beers on an empty stomach. And for various reasons (all nerdy), I am carrying around an XBox 360 memory unit (MU) on my keychain. I come to the obvious conclusion.
As I step onto the stage—it's only a foot or two high—I have a brief moment of awkward eye contact with Jonathan Coulton. He seems taken aback, perhaps because I am crashing the stage, or perhaps because I am walking past him, the obvious celebrity, to talk to Alex, the "drummer" who also happens to be CEO of Harmonix.
I ask Alex whether I can take a copy of the song, and after applying some convoluted beer-augmented logic to his answer, I decide I can. I put my MU into the Xbox and power it up. I'm just at the point of selecting "copy" when another Harmonix guy sees what I'm doing and yanks the controller out of my hand. There's a tense moment where it seems like he's going to confiscate my MU permanantly, and he doesn't give it back until he's had a chance to put it back in the console and check it for contraband. I leave the stage red-faced and red-handed. The party seems to have taken no notice of these events.
Later at that same party, I bump into that guy who busted me. Introducing myself, I apologize for being such a troublemaker, and thank him for giving me something more valuable than a Rock Band song: a good story. It turns out that the song wouldn't have worked on a retail kit anyway, and I suspect that a retail version will be available for purchase in the future.
Disclaimer: Don't try this at home, kids. The only reason I did is because I am an acquaintance of Alex as well as good friends with several Harmonix folks, and game industry friends give each other free swag all the time. Remember, making an unauthorized copy of copyrighted material is theft.
Yet later, I bump into Jonathan Coulton on his way out, apologize for crashing the stage, and amuse him with my Memory Unit story. I also compliment him for his recording of "Famous Blue Raincoat," and we briefly discuss our mutual admiration of that song.