While this was going on, we chatted up Deepwise, who was providing the music for the event. He told us about his origin story, and how he learned MIDI programming by reproducing the Visitor’s Center theme from the Jurassic Park SNES game in Cubase. He had to run between his living room (where the SNES was set up) and his dad’s computer so that he could recreate the tone and melody of the song. That’s dedication right there. He says his major inspirations from the video gaming world came from Japanese composers like Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu, while much of his other musical influences arise from ’90s hip hop acts he listened to while he was growing up. He’s looking to branch out into composing scores for video games, and he even showed us a couple of tracks that easily could have been cut from Final Fantasy VII. You can download a lot of his older tracks on his website, so if you’re interested, give him a listen.
Finally, as virtually all of the exhibitors were breaking down their booths, we found Chris Rager playing DrumMania by himself in the back of the convention hall. We watched as the featured guest of Salt Fest pounded out re-hashed Japanese versions of popular rock and pop songs on a plastic drum set. There’s something kind of sad about that, especially since he was nice enough to sit down with us and give us a chance to ask him about his acting career.
“I’d like to have a hold on all characters named ‘Mister’,” he said with a laugh, referring to his roles as Mr. Torgue in Borderlands 2 and Hercule (Mr. Satan) in Dragon Ball Z. He also revealed that his love of DrumMania comes from a secret desire to become a drummer in real life. Rager’s 14-year acting career began with stand-up comedy and improv theater, but he was drawn into doing voice work when he auditioned for the part of Hercule. He came up with the voice by emulating wrestlers from his childhood like Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Although he does enjoy the “screaming” roles he gets, he hopes that he will get a chance to try another kind of character. “I’d like maybe a nice, softer role. A cool, calm, collected kinda guy. But typically, if he’s big, loud and obnoxious, I get a phone call.” Rager bid us farewell in his best Hercule voice, and then Matt and I wandered the mostly-empty halls for another hour or so.
After awhile, it was pretty obvious that we had squeezed every bit of fun out of Salt Fest 2014. It didn’t feel like a convention – more like a loose confederation of different gamer factions that happened to converge in the same disproportionately large play area. The people who got the worst of it were the exhibitors who had spent hours refining their booths and presentations, only to be let down by an incompetently managed event. It’s sad, honestly, as Utah’s indie game industry has been growing substantially over the last decade, and events like this could be a great way for them to reach out to a larger audience.
Ultimately, a lot more planning and promotion needs to go into Salt Fest 2015. If the organizers can get a solid schedule out ahead of time and learn from their mistakes this year, there’s no reason why Salt Fest couldn’t become a great convention that attracts attendees from across the state. Unless that happens, however, I think I’ll be sitting out next year.
See photos from both days of Salt Fest 2014 in our exclusive gallery.