Tag Archives: music

NanoTone Synth 2.0 Update, How to Escape 2017

NanoTone Dev Notes

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NanoTone Synth got a lot of support on the first anniversary of its release in August, so I decided to continue updating it with more features. The biggest change is the addition of a keyboard, which allows you to play chords in any temperament. This allows you to compare which tunings are more consonant/dissonant than others.

I added a stat to show how much better/worse the tuning of each given temperament is, compared to 12-TET. It basically compares the perfect fourth (4:3), major third (5:4), minor third (6:5) and minor second (16:15) intervals of each temperament. Since the perfect fourth (4:3) and major second (9:8) are 3-limit or Pythagorean intervals, the major second’s tuning is closely tied to the perfect fourth. Therefore it was redundant to count both, as it gave less accurate calculations.

On that note, the approximator doesn’t really tell you how well a tuning handles 7-limit or higher harmonies, since they don’t occur in 12-TET music and therefore there’s no comparison to make. It can only tell you how well tuned the intervals we encounter in Western music are. If you want to find a tuning that works well for 7-limit or higher, it’s best to use the corresponding menu screens to check their accuracy.

I would like to add an alternate keyboard that allows you to play the 7 and 11-limit harmonies later. That would cost the second octave though, as I’d need those higher keys. It’s something to consider if more people start using the software.

I also added a menu for 13-limit harmonies. It’s a bit more tightly packed than the other menu screens – there are 18 ratios for 13-limit, versus 14 ratios for 7 or 11-limit. I highly doubt I will add a menu for 17-limit or anything higher. There would simply be too many ratios to fit on screen w/o dividing the menu into multiple pages. Some famous microtonal composers like Harry Partch found no reason to go beyond 11-limit, as that provides plenty of new harmonies.

I also updated the GUI to make it look prettier, and added a help page to show controls.

If you want a deeper explanation behind the mathematics and genesis of this project, refer to my first dev blog here.

 

How to Escape 2017: Delete Your Social Media

I’ve been withdrawing inward more and more lately. I deleted my Soundcloud, my Instagram, and now my Twitter as well. Yes, it’s a reaction to the way the world has been changing. Not just this insane year but the whole decade. Everything is a reaction to a reaction to a reaction now. All social media is centered around comment sections and reaction emojis so you can feed into the endless back-and-forth.

None of it is conducive to “stopping to think” before you reply. Or better yet, “stopping to research”. If you don’t correct misinformation at the source it spreads like wildfire. And most people aren’t willing to admit they’re misinformed when they’re being called out on it.

Some pictures from my now-deleted Instagram.

 

I had a lot of varied experiences with Twitter, both good and bad. The good part was getting to know some of my obscure heroes of the gaming world, and interacting with some of my favorite musicians. Those were small but important milestones for me. There were funny moments too.

On the other hand, I’ve learned too many artists become “de-mystified” when you see them up close. Certainly not all of them. But there were a few artists that I have a very different impression of after seeing them regularly on social media. Up close you see their flaws, you learn their routine, you learn too much of how they really are.

One interesting event was Kurt Travis (ex-Dance Gavin Dance singer) drunkenly losing his shit and saying he was going to quit music. Musicians can be really moody in general. But again this isn’t the case with everyone. Most people have been very cool and entertaining to interact with.

 

Russian Interference

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Russians playing a game of human chess in St. Petersburg, circa 1924. A fitting metaphor for our world right now.

 

The more I learn about how the Russians hacked the US elections and spread misinformation through Twitter and Facebook, the less comfortable I feel being on social media. My twitter feed used to be lit but not so much anymore. Too many users left or became inactive. At this point I just use it to keep in touch with old friends. The platform can change at the whim of some out-of-touch nerd in Silicon Valley, anyway.

The fact that they won’t delete Trump’s tweet threatening North Korea because of “newsworthiness” makes me sick all over. I don’t want to be using a service run by people who think like that. Trump’s deranged threats are putting the lives of American soldiers at risk, and Twitter is enabling him. It’s horrifying.

On the subject of the US elections, I’m anxiously awaiting Mueller’s investigation as I imagine most Americans are. In the meantime, this feels like a good time to be changing my focus. The state of the world has become too depressing to watch. So I don’t think people would blame me for thinking this is a good time to turning inward and reflect on my own life, rather than the outside world.

 

Sharing and Intimacy

I’ve had this notion that sharing has been cheapened by social media. You’re encouraged to share everything about your lives on social media.

Some pictures of home life, taken for a friend.

 

The act of sharing, I believe, has become cheapened to the point of losing its original meaning. In the past, “sharing” generally implied a small group of people. Now it implies sharing with the world. So my latest art projects try to get back in touch with that original meaning. They have been very intimate affairs that I only share with one person.

I am trying to keep older forms of art alive, as it were. Not sure how long I’ll keep doing this but I find it personally rewarding. More rewarding than releasing art to a group of strangers online.

You will have to become my patron to get access to my personal art now. 😉

 

What Next…?

I’m not working on a new game. I’m not writing new music. I’m not working on music software. So what am I doing? I’m mostly writing short stories, some of which you can find here.

I’m still exercising with innovative ways to tell a story to the reader, subverting traditional first or third-person storytelling with fictional documents, chat logs, etc. All while I wrestle with a few massive narratives that I’ve had in mind for years now, trying to figure out the best way to express them.

My collection of poetry is growing. You can read my old work here. Most pieces come in the form of song lyrics so I can set them to music, but I’ve also been experimenting with other forms (haiku, free verse, ballads, villanelles).

I still feel like song lyrics are the form I’m most comfortable writing in. Occasionally I have ideas that work well in free verse, like my old pieces Focus and Divine Intervention. Those work because they are written to be spoken aloud, like songs are meant to be sung aloud.

While I am fond of visual poetry and have used it before, it doesn’t hit me quite as viscerally. I’m not a huge fan of “book poems”, as it were. Sometimes I feel old poems look better than they sound.

Haiku is a lot of fun because there’s a wonderful challenge in saying a lot with very little. I’m also fascinated with jisei – the Japanese tradition of writing a “death poem” towards the end of one’s life. They often convey a disarming humor about the transience of life. Basho’s jisei is classic.

 

旅に病で
夢は枯野を
かけ廻る

tabi ni yande
yume wa kareno wo
kake meguru

On a journey, ill;
My dream goes wandering
Over withered fields.

 

That’s all for now. Till next time! 🙂

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+3 Hours of CC-BY-4.0 Music

Over 3 hours of free instrumental music for your projects. +60 tracks total. 🙂

These 3 albums encompass my early work from 2009 to 2015. Newer tracks are more suited for video games. Older tracks are more experimental. Moods range from upbeat, melancholy, ecstatic, mysterious, to anything in between.

Genres include: ambient/dark ambient, chiptune, downtempo, electronica, experimental, glitch, IDM, orchestral, techno, and trip hop.

The uncompressed WAV files can be found on bandcamp.

 

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My third album is wingsdyedblack, released September 7, 2015. This is a collection of instrumental pieces I wrote between 2012 and 2015. Many of the tracks were meant for video games, and are short and loopable. They range from bright piano pieces to dark synthesizer soundscapes.

Samples: Trauma DollVeiled HorrorThe Child Phantom

 

My second album is Mirrors for Princes, released November 7, 2012. These tracks experiment more with rhythm and tempo changes than the first album. The opening track, “Consumed With Desire”, is the first complete song I’ve produced with both singing and guitar solos.

This album continues in the psychedelic vein of my first album, while striving for a higher level of quality and accessibility.

Samples: Trying to Embrace a MemoryLegendary Pts 1 and 2Saffronbreathing

 

My first album is God is Alive and Well, released February 1, 2011. These tracks are calm electronica pieces, often in odd time signatures. They were composed in Ableton Live with VSTs, samples and synthesizers.

Samples: NakedAnkhGod is Alive and Well

 

This collection includes the Cosmic Zephyr + Eden’s Prison OSTs.

Samples: Ephemeron ThemeHypnotized (Remix)Ending Theme

 

The uncompressed WAV files can be found on bandcamp.

 

These tracks are released under a Creative Commons Attribution only license. You may use them in any works, including commercial, as long as you credit me as the original composer. More info here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

If you use my music in one of your projects, let me know!


Algorithm for Angel Wings (Seraphim Automata 2)

Algorithm for Angel Wings

(10/9/17 Note: This game was originally titled Algorithm for Angel Wings. It has since been renamed Seraphim Automata 2.)

Play it in your browser here (or download it for Windows).

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I decided to make a more user-friendly version of Seraphim Automata, after I finally got it to stop running at 1 frame per second in HTML5. I started this on January 30th, and most of the work was done by the next day.

I went back on February 3rd and added an autoplay feature for the start menu – something I haven’t done since Cosmic Zephyr in 2013. The next day I fixed glitches in the menu, and added a save function for high scores and combos. I also made some new touchscreen buttons in Photoshop. Then I released the game for feedback.

I went back the next day and fixed a few bugs that were pointed out to me. Specifically, you could break the GUI by racking up a massive combo. (I’m still surprised someone got a 44 hit combo on the first day of its release. My own record is 19.)

The very last thing I added was the glove sprite for the mouse, which gives it one little human element.

The touchscreen controls allow this to be played on a mobile device, as well as in a desktop browser. Which is nice. The only reason I haven’t uploaded an Android version is because the export module is currently broken in GMS. I’m hoping this will be fixed in GMS2.

You can select from 12 scales, 12 keys, 10 time signatures, and 13 different instruments. The time signatures are the real key to getting different patterns – it’s automatically set to 12/8 while the scale, key and instrument are randomly chosen. 10/8, 7/8 and 4/4 produce my favorite patterns. 4/4 in particular can create very jovial rhythmic patterns.

 

Flashbacks, From 2010 to Now

When designing a game (or any project, really), you have to decide early on who you are making this for. Are you making it for yourself or for other people? That decision between “passion project” vs “product” will lead you down two very different roads.

I would say my games were passion projects until about 2010. That includes my two oldest surviving games, A Starspangled Zephyr and Deadman’s Dark Scenery Court. I felt no pressure making my early games since I was mostly doing it for myself.

When my cocaine addict of a father was finally removed from the picture in November 2010, mom and I shifted pretty quickly to survival mode. I found myself selling most of my belongings to keep us from going broke. One major reason I abandoned songwriting is because I had to sell almost all my musical instruments. That miserable era lasted for about 19 months.

By the time we lost our home in March 2012, I had shifted to a more workaholic attitude about game design. I wanted to make a polished product I could sell and hopefully get out of poverty. That never really worked, but it definitely affected how I approached the games I made in that era, Cosmic Zephyr and Eden’s Prison.

One major event was being raided by the police in December 2013. Which happened to be four weeks into development on Eden’s Prison. The fall out from that led to a period of inactivity through 2014 and 2015. Another factor was injuring my right arm in August 2014 – it’s still recovering and I’ve only recently begun feeling “normal” again.

I finally returned to game development after leaving a toxic group of old programmers in early 2016. There is no coincidence that I had the best year of my life after leaving them (2016, that is). The new games – Seraphim Automata, Zephyr 3, Iridescent Crown – still suffer a bit from the “product” mentality, but I’m slowly moving back to making strictly passion projects for myself.

My ongoing experiments with music generation are one indication of this. Now that Algorithm for Angel Wings fleshes out the Seraphim engine into something very easily accessible, I feel comfortable moving on from those experiments.

Zephyr 3 also tries to atone for its previous games by offering the source code for free.

It feels bittersweet to release Iridescent Crown over 6 years after I started it (just look at the 640×480 resolution if you need proof of how old it is). The mainstream roguelike genre (or ‘roguelite’ if you prefer) completely blew up and died in that timeframe. Now similar games like Terraria and Spelunky are gathering dust, and there aren’t as many fans around looking for another roguelike or exploration based platformer.

The resulting game is both old and young at the same time – with the former compromising the latter. I’m thinking about revisiting it and releasing a “deluxe” version with a bigger window and other features that the HTML5 version couldn’t handle.

 

Beginning of the End

I’ve boiled my new ideas down to two main projects, plus an extra passion project.

  1. The first idea is of course a horror game. I haven’t made once since 2010, back when I was a very different person. This one will be a 2d platformer, but beyond that I haven’t decided on much. There are multiple concepts and stories I keep bouncing around for this one. I surround myself with horror influences so this idea never really leaves me, it’s just a matter of execution.
  2. The second idea is a sequel to Iridescent Crown, with better graphics and more RPG elements, and hopefully a better name. I would actually argue that in 2017, procedural generation is going out of style for now. Especially after the debacle over No Man’s Sky. So while I want to release a more polished sequel, I’m not sure if it’s really the best time to be working on something like that.
    I could of course scrap the procedural generation and go with … level design. The argument for procedural generation increasing replayability goes out the window when you use it so much that nothing sticks. That’s one problem with Iridescent Crown in its current form. Since all 16 levels are using the same “room”, none of them can be saved and revisited later.
    The other problem is that there is no reason to revisit levels right now. So it needs more collectibles, an EXP system, and perhaps other things.
  3. The last idea is a Sonic fangame, which would be a complete passion project. But it would be a lot more fun to make than my original games, simply because it’s something I always wanted to do. I am looking forward to seeing how Sonic Mania turns out before diving too deep into this one, as I wouldn’t want it to be too similar.

Trailers for My New Games!

Trailers

I made a few trailers for my newest projects! First, here’s some gameplay footage of Iridescent Crown. I’m waiting until the next update before I record another trailer (though I don’t have much left to change/add).

 

Here’s some footage of Seraphim Automata generating ambient piano music. My computer unfortunately slows down too much when the drums kick in. But the game is generally more pleasant to the ear without drums (as much as I like the random drum code), which is something I’m keeping in mind for the sequel.

Since this game covers jazz music, the sequel will cover a different genre – ambient or perhaps post-rock.

 

This video is shorter, but is also less chaotic and contains a repeating melody.

 

Here’s a video of Celody Life generating some melodies. Again, my computer lags if too much is playing while recording, so the clips are pretty short. I did catch two gliders in this video though.  🙂 It’s cool to see how they can play complex melodies on their own.

 

I also created a trailer for my old horror game, Deadman’s Dark Scenery Court. OBS didn’t completely cooperate with me on this one but I managed to fix it in Videopad.  😛

 

Updates

Planning to update Iridescent Crown sometime next month. I’ve also been working on music, which I hope to share soon.  🙂


The 5 Worst Albums of 2016

This was partially inspired by Jim Sterling’s Shittiest Games Awards, which is an annual event I enjoy. These reviews are of course to be taken with a grain of salt, since these are all bands that have impressed me at some point. But these albums may not be the best examples of that.

If you like these bands, you probably won’t like this blog post! You have been warned.  🙂

 

5. Neurosis – Fires Within Fires

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I’ve tried to find something positive to say about this album. So far, all I’ve got is “at least Neurosis haven’t changed much”. Because they definitely haven’t strayed from their formula for sludge metal: simple riffs, slow beats and raw screams.

However, these tracks really lack the energy of their early albums. The slow, quiet parts detract more than they add. The singer’s gravelly, aged voice, along with the slow tempo of their songs, leads to the band sounding physically tired at times.  The short album length doesn’t help either (just under 41 minutes).

Their attempt at a slow burning, post-rock buildup on the closer “Reach” is particularly weak.

The mix is a major part of the problem – there simply isn’t enough bass. The mix isn’t viscerally heavy enough to hit you the way metal should. Meanwhile, the screamed vocals are mixed too loud and can get pretty annoying. And that’s unfortunate, because there are some decent moments here between the quiet parts.

If you want to hear Neurosis in their prime, I’d recommend their album Through Silver in Blood. Or Souls at Zero. Or any of their albums from the 90s, really.

 

4. Frost* – Falling Satellites

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This is the first Frost* album in 8 years, and it’s sad how underwhelmed I am at their new music. Frost* exist in this weird place between pop music and progressive rock, with elements of the former often limiting their emotional impact.

Not to say it hasn’t worked for them in the past. “No Me No You”, from their debut album, is one of my favorite progressive rock songs and remains intoxicatingly catchy to me.

They’ve definitely been influenced by Tesseract in both musical style and visual art. I feel like a great opportunity to add to the djent metal genre is being missed here.

Only a few songs stand out, like “Towerblock”, which has a great fusion of Venetian Snares-style electronica and prog rock in the middle. And while their vocals are often their weakest element, it sort of works at the climax. But for the most part, these songs are tragically unmemorable.

The keyboards give each song the same texture. For every Towerblock, there’s a filler track like First Day or Hypoventilate, or a terrible piano ballad like Last Day or Lantern.

I think the instrumental parts of this album are generally much more bearable than the vocal parts. The biggest saving grace is the abundance of virtuoistic guitar solos scattered through almost every song.

 

3. Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

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What the fuck happened to Mark Kozelek?

Mark Kozelek seems to have abandoned his excellent songwriting skills in favor of incoherent rambling over simple guitar arpeggios. It’s been … quite strange to watch. This trend started with his solo album Among the Leaves in 2012, but he took the style a step further with Benji in 2014 and shows no sign of stopping.

These songs are amazingly bad at times. The Shaggs come to mind, thanks to Kozelek’s utter disregard for rhythm in his vocal delivery. Jesu doesn’t provide much in terms of variety. He brings the same grinding layer of guitar distortion to almost every song. The tracks that use electronic beats just don’t work at all.

Aside from “Fragile”, which is sparse enough to belong on a Kozelek solo album, the first seven of these ten tracks are aimless and unbearable.

But the truly weird part is a few times, this unconventional songwriting works. And when it does, it sounds pretty brilliant. The monologue in “America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek and John Dillinger” has an unusual magnetism, and the recitation of a fan’s letter at the end is extremely moving.

It feels like a retrospective look at Kozelek’s entire life work – his personal attempt to narrate a new chapter in his own life story as a songwriter. At best, that’s what these songs are capable of. They view songwriting from above rather than within, in a self-aware, self-referential, “meta” way that only a seasoned musician can pull off.

A strangely appealing diamond in the dirt.

Jesu reigns in the noise in this song and the closer “Beautiful You”, which are the two best tracks on the album. The songwriting approach benefits more from space and ambience rather than noise and static drum beats.

The songs still drift into self-parody at times, particularly when Kozelek tries reciting lines in a fast sing-song voice.

This is definitely a conflicting batch of songs. “America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek” is amazing, but many of these tracks are deeply flawed. I think Mark Kozelek either has ADHD, or a serious case of not giving a fuck anymore.

 

2. Thank You Scientist – Stranger Heads Prevail

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Thank You Scientist is best described as a metal band with a Soft Machine obsession. I thought they would grow on me, but my reaction seems to be the opposite. A lot of bands successfully incorporate jazz elements into metal, and I’ve struggled to put my finger on where they’ve failed.

They have a great vocalist. They have a great guitar riffs, and blistering solos. Heavy drums with double bass. They even have a few great violin solos, reminiscent of Mahavishnu Orchestra. Then they have weird horn sections that throw everything off. It’s a weird collision of genres that sometimes works but mostly doesn’t.

The singing and song structures seem very modern, while the horns sound like they’re playing in the 1950s. One moment a song feels very jazzy from the horns, then a guitar solo throws the vibe into a complete 180. Then the guitar solo ends and the horns come back in. The band isn’t really blending genres so much as jumping between two styles separated by 60 years. It’s absolutely disorienting.

Plenty of other bands make this combination work. But the horns remind me too much of Mr. Bungle and not enough of The Mars Volta. Or King Crimson. Or Pink Floyd. Or any other band that successfully manages to incorporate horns. Here, they undermine otherwise good moments.

It might work if they were confined to sections of the song, but the horns are fucking omnipresent.

The worst part about this album is there are some legitimately good hooks in between the awkward fusion of jazz and metal. Mr. Invisible is a very good song, horns and length aside. The guitar solos are amazing, but everything before and after kills the mood.

 

1. Kayo Dot – Plastic House on Base of Sky

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Toby Driver used to write decent songs – back when he was in maudlin of the Well. But you wouldn’t believe that listening to his latest music. Kayo Dot’s last decent album was probably Coyote (2010). Or Gamma Knife (2012) if I’m forgiving to its terribly lo-fi recording quality.

Plastic House on Base of Sky marks the third straight cataclysm in their catalog, starting with the awkward concept double album Hubardo in 2013. There is nothing redeemable here. If anything, at least this album is only 38 minutes of weak “avant-garde” noodling, compared to Hubardo‘s torturous 98 minutes.

This album incorporates a lot of synthesizers, as it unsuccessfully tries to fill in the void left by their former violinist Mia Matsumiya. It sounds like if Joy Division stole Tangerine Dream’s music equipment. Toby has a nice bass guitar tone, but he never plays any memorable lines with it.

The opening track “Amalia’s Theme” is bearable – it reminds me of their song “Stained Glass”. But it suffers from poor recording and an ambiguous song structure, like everything else here.

The vibe is far removed from where they started in 2003. The only feature consistent with their early work is Toby’s wailing. Even their signature tempo changes and unstable rhythms are mostly gone now. I would dare say these songs are fairly conventional, despite trying to sound weird.

A truly ironic title.

Kayo Dot are trash now. It’s especially disappointing to see when I’m so fond of their first two albums. Kayo Dot and maudlin of the Well used to capture a kind of sacred energy I’ve never heard in other people’s music (Toby Driver once claimed to write his music in lucid dreams).

It baffles me as to why they’d turn away from the experimental post-rock of their early albums for this off-putting flavor of techno-goth rock. It reminds me of when The Mars Volta released several bad albums before accepting they had lost their touch. You know how that ended? They broke up. And moved on to better projects.

Kayo Dot. Not even once.

 

End

My next blog will be covering the 5 best albums of the year. That one will have a much more positive tone. Thanks for reading.  🙂


NanoTone Synth, Celody Life

NanoTone Synth

NanoToneSynthSmall

Download it here!

This has been my big project for the summer – my first music making tool for HTML5 and Android. This software allows you to play music in any temperament up to 240-TET. You can use this to tune a guitar in 24-TET to play quarter tones, for example. You can compare any temperament to 12-TET, to see which has more accurate perfect fifths, major thirds, etc. You can also use this to compare the accuracy of 7 and 11-limit harmonies.

I want to add more features but since microtonality is such a niche in the music realm, it’ll depend on what feedback I get. I’m really just glad to see that it works on a touchscreen. I’m sure the next tool I make will be more universally applicable for musicians. It may involve guitar.

 

Celody Life

celodysmall

Download it here!

I spliced together the keyboard code from Seraphim Automata and the code for the Game of Life. The result was this tool that lets you generate music with cellular automata. I was disappointed that the program doesn’t run in HTML5, but I’m glad the idea works. I don’t have anything else to add to it, but I do plan to use the Game of Life again in the future. 🙂

 

The Death of Serious Journalism

John Oliver’s video on the changing landscape of journalism really resonated with me. This is been a really depressing year for serious news, starting with the end of Al Jazeera America back in April. They were the only major news outlet that would open with the civil war in Syria, every day. They covered human trafficking, global hunger, climate change, so many important topics that aren’t discussed enough.

The fact that seems shocking just shows how little “news” we really expect from news organizations these days. I tried to replace Al Jazeera with CNN and MSNBC, but that just doesn’t work. This entire election year has turned into Maleficent vs. Voldemort.

I really hope Larry Wilmore and his crew move on to better places now that the Nightly Show is being cancelled. Mike Yard, Ricky Velez, Holly Walker, Rory Albanese, Robin Thede, Grace Parra, Jordan Carlos, Francesca Ramsey – all great comedians. The Nightly Show have gone out of their way to cover #BlackLivesMatter, Flint Michigan, and so many other issues being ignored by major news outlets (including The Daily Show). And Comedy Central are replacing their most serious news show with @midnight, which is a total insult.

Between this and claiming Stephen Colbert’s alter ego as their intellectual property, I’m pretty much done with Comedy Central. I’ve watched The Daily Show since the early 2000s, but now it’s a shell of its former self.

The Paley Center For Media Presents: "Keepin' It 100: An Evening With The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore"

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 14:Rory Albanese, Ricky Velez, Holly Walker, Larry Wilmore, Robin Thede, Jordan Carlos, Grace Parra and Neil deGrasse Tyson attend The Paley Center for Media Presents: “Keepin’ It 100: an evening with The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” at Paley Center For Media on November 14, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)

On a brighter note, I’ve been enjoying watching the Rio Olympics. Men and women’s basketball have been really fun to watch. On the men’s side, Serbia vs France was pretty interesting. Serbia had a big lead for most of the game, and the French didn’t seem to care. Then they came back with a one-point lead with 33 seconds on the clock. It was just so very… French. I felt bad for Serbia.

Women’s basketball is more exciting. The most exciting match I’ve seen so far was Turkey vs. Brazil, which went into double overtime before Turkey finally won. Isil Alben and Lara Sanders were both great to watch.

They met their match in the quarterfinals with Spain though. With Spain ahead 62-60 and 20 seconds on the clock, most teams would go for a foul. But Lara Sanders managed to steal the ball and scored for Turkey, tying the game at 62-62 with 4.3 seconds left on the clock. Then Anna Cruz got the ball, took a long shot with less than a second on the clock, and scored for Spain. Spain won 64-62. It was an insane victory for Spain, and a blistering performance from both teams.

Even though Japan lost to Australia in the fourth quarter after a 16-point lead, they definitely left the strongest impression on me in terms of being a fast and well-coordinated team. The USA vs Japan match was really entertaining to watch. So was Serbia vs Australia.

I can’t wait to see France vs United States, and Spain vs Serbia on Thursday! And the finals!

 

The Great Time Limit

Since the rise of smaller mobile games and the recent market saturation of popular genres, I’ve slowly lost the desire to make a large scale, story-driven, character-driven game, like the ones I grew up on (Sonic, Kingdom Hearts, Silent Hill, Zelda, etc). It makes more sense now to make smaller procedurally generated games with higher replayability.

Story-driven games are difficult for indie developers to translate into other languages, unless you have a strong fan base already built. Typical subject matter also varies greatly across the world. As more of the world becomes modernized, I fear we will share less common ground because of geographic and cultural differences. This is why I feel the best stories for games are archetypal myths – ones that can potentially be told through symbology instead of words.

This one guy wrote a great article about Sonic 3 & Knuckles and the Monomyth concept from John Campbell’s The Hero of a Thousand Faces (a spectacular book). Sonic 3 & Knuckles is one of the best examples of a game that tells a complete story without any dialogue.

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Here is a more in-depth breakdown of the game.

There’s also another issue that ties with market saturation, and that is the “great time limit” of our mortality. This occurred to me while binging on movies last year, that I could never see all the movies in the world, even if I devoted my whole life to it. So I’m selective about which genre, era, actors, etc that I watch. I can run into a fellow movie lover who’s never seen any of the films I have, and vice versa. It’s the same with gamers.

I think one thing that GamerGate exposed by questioning the identity of “gamers”, is that we really have very little in common. We may all be playing different games for entirely different reasons.

One person wants to explore, another wants to collect, another wants to build, another wants to micromanage. Another wants to role-play a specific fantasy, another like branching storylines, another wants to race, another wants to fight. Some prefer casual games, while others only respect “hardcore” gaming. Single vs multiplayer. Console vs PC. Controller vs keyboard and mouse. Do we even belong under the same umbrella term as “gamer”? Hardly. At that point we need to start breaking off into groups.

So as a game developer, how can you make everyone happy? You can’t. Not with a single video game. Your best that is to spend time with people who have people with common tastes as you. Try to figure out what you both like and why. Then focus on that.

 

Sonic Mania

The new Sonic game is being developed by game programmers from the fan community. It looks really promising, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. 🙂


Songwriting and Seraphim Notes

Inspirations

I decided to write a short biography about my life, titled “Inspirations”, mainly focused on the different kinds of art that influenced me growing up. You can find it under “About Me” on the menu at the top. I often find it difficult to talk about my personal life, so I’m happy with the way it turned out. It has some nice family pictures too. 🙂

I’ve also decided to share my poetry by posting it here, currently under my “Writing” section. I’ve split them into three collections – my early writings evolved from poems into songs between 2007 and 2011. By late 2011, most of my writing came in the form of verse-chorus songs. My life got a bit off track when I lost my home in March 2012, which is why I refer to pieces from this time as Lamentations. I still intend to record most of these, but I’m not sure what form or genre they will take.

Finally, there are the new songs. My spark didn’t really reignite until I wrote “The Fruit of Human Heads” in early 2015, and especially after I won the songwriting contest with “Angels Have Further to Fall” later that October. Adam Schweitzer’s version of the song is very good, especially given he’s only using one guitar and his voice. I fear any version I record may sound inferior. Which is an odd position to be put in.

 

Seraphim Automata (Dev Blog)

I spent about 5 weeks making Seraphim Automata, which is the shortest development time of any game I’ve made so far. I was able to speed up the process by recycling code for certain features from previous games. I began working on the game on May 16th, and posted the first screenshot on May 23rd after adding color.

seraphim1I still plan to use that fretboard for something…

The biggest challenge at this time was getting the cells to play the corresponding notes on the keyboard. Then I added a player object with health, attacks and death. I added a pause menu, an intro screen and the retry message. Now it played more like a game than a music program.

I took a break before picking it back up on June 2nd, adding power-ups and the rhythm generator. I polished the graphics up and added more samples the next day, then took another break.

On June 10th I added different time signatures. On June 14th I added level progression, a proper menu and options screen. On June 17th I began adding music genres. The next day I added the start menu, where you can select key, scale, music genre, and difficulty.

At this point the game was playable, and just needed a bit more polish. On June 21st I borrowed the timer, brightness and resolution code from Cosmic Zephyr, as well as the save/load system. These weren’t particularly large chunks of code, but they saved me a tremendous amount of time nonetheless. I added an ending message for winning the final level, and fixed any bugs I could find.

The game had 60 levels, ending on a 6/4 beat. The next day I decided to add more 20 levels to raise the difficulty and variety. That was the final change I made before releasing version 1.0 on June 22nd.

seraphim_7-16-16

I was originally thinking of selling the game for a few dollars, but the closer I got to the finished product (and the highly-anticipated Steam summer sale) the less feasible it seemed. It’s hard to know when your game has enough polish and content for others to consider it worth buying.

I can definitely see adding more music genres and more rhythms for variety. Maybe if I also added better graphics, more fluid gameplay, and maybe a story, I could justify selling a sequel to this game.

 

Marketing Indie Games

This could easily become a tangent on how rare people pay for video games outside of sales. If you manage to get a game through Steam Greenlight, it can end up on over a thousand wishlists while only getting a few purchases. That’s undeniably discouraging. But on the other hand, this year’s Steam summer sale went a lot better than the last one, with no daily deals and a discount average of 50% rather than 66.67%.

A lot of games these days are trying to build their communities as the games are being finished, which makes sense but also can set you up for a lot of backlash. Especially if your game gets money from Kickstarter but fails to deliver on its promises, like Mighty No 9. I get annoyed when game companies leave out features after they’ve become hyped. No female Link in the next Legend of Zelda is a timely example.

link2
I do like what they’ve done with Link’s hair though.

Speaking of which, the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does look great. Do I want to buy a Wii U or an NX in order to play it though? Not really. I’m still having fun with Wind Waker on the GameCube.

This is a great article I read recently. The author list eight bottlenecks that limit the amount of people your game can ultimately reach.

I think the main takeaways are:

  • Know your game’s genre(s), your audience and how to appeal to them.
  • Know which platforms it runs on best and take advantage of it.
  • If you’re selling your game, decide early which market to target and how you’ll advertise.

I was going to post some more Steam reviews, but since they’re not ready I guess they can wait for the next blog.