How well did Horseshoe run in its debut year? Sanger says, "We expected a 7 out of 10, and could only envision at best a 10. We got a 12."

Attendee Dan Cook, on Lost Garden, said of Horseshoe, "Sparks were flying. And hay. Don't forget the hay. ... It gave me faith that if you just get the brightest people of our industry off their isolated islands and give them a chance to talk, amazing ideas are inevitable. Experience shared is multiplied, not diminished." And Raph Koster's Horseshoe talk, "Influences," attracted much post-conference comment.

Horseshoe had a more freewheeling, individualistic atmosphere than Bar-B-Q, Sanger says. "Nobody's anywhere near ready to sit down and follow a formula, let alone a guy they've only seen succeed as a musician in games for the past 24 years. So I found I was stepping aside more often than usual, and letting Linda, the speakers, the facilitators, the other attendees, common sense and the laws of physics convince people where to direct their energies."

Four workgroups organized at this year's conference are reporting on new design approaches, reduction of business risk, online game design and business practices, and ways to establish legitimacy in mainstream culture. Because Project Horseshoe is a think-tank and not an industry organization, the reports include action items to be handed off to organizations such as the International Game Developers Association.

***

Aside from his conferences, The Fat Man still maintains a hectic schedule. Team Fat just recorded the music for the demo of a new MMOG, as well as the latest installment of the Scene-It DVD trivia games. Sanger writes slot-machine tunes for Multimedia Games and supervises the design and installation of their sound systems. He has released three CDs of his early game music through Haight-Masonic Laboratories. Sanger also travels and lectures frequently, writes for MAKE and sits on the advisory board of the Full Sail media arts college in Winter Park, Florida. And, with other Austin gaming luminaries like Richard Garriott and Warren Spector, Sanger is helping the University of Texas Center for American History establish an archive of the history of gaming.

Meanwhile, his thinking about music keeps evolving. In the past, in his book and many articles, Sanger repeatedly called on composers to strive for innovation. Today, "I'm ready to back off from using the word 'innovation.' The word is overused, and the act of innovating is overrated. It's like wanting to 'change the world.' Well, anybody could and does change the world. But to what end? What are we going for?

"There will be plenty of innovations in future game audio. Almost all of them will be superficial - especially if they are marketed as 'innovations,' or worse, 'revolutions.' Anything, for example, that bills itself as 'movie-like' raises a caution flag to me. Since when is 'movie-like' a good thing? In the whole history of the world, nobody ever went to a movie because it was 'movie-like.'

"I guess the thing to strive for, with or without innovation, is to do something warm and helpful and all that, and not just trying to make a buck and/or sound like somebody else. What's needed is brave and beautiful sound that makes peoples' lives a little nicer."

Allen Varney designed the PARANOIA paper-and-dice roleplaying game (2004 edition) and has contributed to computer games from Sony Online, Origin, Interplay and Looking Glass.

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