First things first, go HERE and support Spellirium.
Today is a big announcement for Untold Entertainment and for me, too! After five years of development, their new game Spellirium is available for preorder today. If you support for the project, not only do you get a release copy when it’s finished, but you can play the alpha version of the game today (sorry, if you watched the video I guess that was a bit repetitive).
So I’ve partnered with Untold on this – I worked with Ryan to film and edit the video you see above, and I wrote the music you hear when he’s speaking (after the Blackbird Raum song / trailer).
Here is the track I wrote, available on Soundcloud:
The game still needs music, sound effects and voice overs… not to mention some animations and a few other details! So there is a long road ahead, but I’m looking forward to seeing the final product released sometime in the next few months!
A Day in the (Studio) Life
I spent a day at The Vine Studio in Mississauga to record the 5 minute track I linked above. Kyle Reid came along with me to play piano and to engineer for me, and Jordan Cabral came in to track violin parts (or Ryan would call them “fiddle” parts I suppose).
Ryan gave me a list of youtube videos as reference for what he was looking for (probably 10-12 tracks), and since the video was more or less edited at that point I had a really good guideline to work with. Some composers really like having free rein to be creative, but there’s something to be said about working with restrictions.
When you look at the video, you can break it into 3 parts: introduction (Ryan sitting in front of concept art), exposition (Ryan standing by the red shelf), and call to action (close up of Ryan on the couch). Because of that, I decided to break the music up into 3 parts as well – this was made easy by the vast amount of reference I’d been provided with. The three tracks that I mostly based the parts on were 1) Sad Wind Sighs – Flatt Lonesome 2) Fire on Fire – Heavy D, 3) Yellow Bird – Akeboshi. It’s a bit embarrassing to list them like that because it feels really obvious to me, and I don’t want you to think I flat-out copied them either. Music reference can be a lot like Art reference and I wanted to show a little bit behind the work that went into this.
I set up a scratch track with a click and a rough guitar part to direct the chords and transitions in the studio, which helped quite a bit. Once we got into the studio it was basically just a matter of recording the different instruments one by one.
Including the voiceover, scratch track and some unused takes, I had around 36 channels to deal with. In terms of instrumentation: I played acoustic guitar(x5), banjo(x2), snare, bass drum, guitarkelele (it’s a real thing I swear), shaker, tambourine and accordion. Kyle played piano, organ and glockenspiel (glock didn’t make the final mix). Jordan played violin, as per usual.
We tracked the whole thing in one day and I spent the next day editing it to be the music you’re hearing today. SO THERE YOU GO! informed.
Stay tuned for more Spellirium updates. I’ll keep you posted.
If you’ve been keeping up with my updates here, you’ll recall back in October-November I announced that I would be working on a collaboration with Thadeus Maximus Artworks. The day is finally here and I can announce it:
It’s an animated children’s story where Jimmy goes to the zoo with his parents.
I wrote all the music and did the sound effects as well. My wife and I spent a day at the zoo together in the summer and I walked around like a creeper with a microphone (and my wife pretended not to know me). It was a good time.
You can look forward to seeing more of Jimmy Jimbo’s adventures in the future… So check it out!
I’m going to Make it Count
I am happy to announce that Nick Ng-A-Fook‘s game Make It Count is now available, free for a limited time, on iTunes. You can check it out here. You tap on number tiles adjacent to each other in sequence to make as long of a chain as possible, with level challenges and an expiring time meter at the top.
This happens to be my jam
As you might have guessed, I did the music and SFX for it. In creating these, I wanted to keep it simple and bouncy. The marimba sounds when you tap tiles emphasize both the 8-set combos, and that your score goes up with each extra tile (in the same way that you hear it go up the major scale).
I wanted to avoid any kind of dissonance and make it as “normal” as possible. The music is at 60bpm, which is to keep pace with the second hand of a clock. I wanted it to be in the back of people’s minds when they were looking for combos that the clock is still ticking.
Give it a try, and please HAVE FUN!
Recently I wrote a chiptune hair metal track (yes, that’s a real thing) for a new Youtube series called NextEstroGEN… and that series has now launched!
It’s a let’s play series BY GIRLS! Real girls playing games, you guys. Join Rosemary and Leisha in episode one of NextEstroGEN as they take on Nintendoland. You can check it out by clicking HERE. You can look forward to seeing a lot more content from them in the future, my understanding is that they play a lot of games. Just a heads up!
And check out the cool intro! It’s a collaboration between myself (music) and Adam Hines from Guys With Pencils. While you’re at it you can check out their podcast, which recently released their 100th episode. It’s a huge milestone and they just keep on getting better. We’ve collaborated before and I’m looking forward to doing some more with them in the near future.
Writing Process for the NextEstroGEN Chiptune/Hairmetal
Just a bit more about the actual track – I sequenced it in MIDI, and the original version is actually more than twice as long as what exists in the intro now. With MIDI it’s really easy to speed up, slow down, move around sections and tweak it to line up with whatever I’m working on. I used Plogue’s Chipsounds in Logic to get that really classic NES sound, as well as sounds from an old Casio keyboard. I rocked out and tried to come up with as much of a face-melter as I could manage. I think it didn’t turn out too bad in the end! Sometimes it’s hard to think as a guitarist while playing a piano keyboard, but the advantage of being able to play at half-speed was a huge help.
I’d like to tell you a story about a friend of mine named David. He’s an indie game developer in Toronto, Canada. He’s been making cool, free online games (mostly in Flash) now for around a couple years, while working in a government call centre to pay the bills. I relate to his situation quite closely, as I was in the same position myself a few years ago, answering phones in a different government office.
For those of you not familiar with the Ludum Dare, in a nutshell it’s a recurring challenge to game developers with varying themes, lengths, goals, etc. One of the Ludum Dares was a challenge to make your first $1 selling a game, and the time range was over the course of October 2012. David took on the challenge and decided to make a game that simulated one of the repeated un-winnable conversations he often had at work. He called it “I Get This Call Every Day,” and decided to sell it from his personal website.
It ended up taking him until December 21st, but he released it as a pay-what-you-want (minimum $2), downloadable game. Last I had heard (around January 25th 2013), he had sold around 300 copies, very impressive considering the game is not a “fun” experience, nor was it intended to be.
Here is where today’s story really begins, though. David was contacted by a reporter at the Toronto Star, and he completed a phone interview with her.
He found out through the Star the next day that he was under investigation from the National Minister of Revenue and the Commissioner of Revenue Canada.
Somehow, without naming or slighting his employer in any way (the game only contains an interface with one difficult caller), the article named him, the office he works at, and pushed concerns of confidential taxpayer information being released and statements of being highly offensive (and if they mean the swearing, trust me – that’s really how many people talk when they call in). I’m no journalist, but I can plainly see some terrible spin there.
David got fired today. And now the fallout.
This has sparked a flood of support in the indie games community and internet commenters (good and bad) are out in full swing. At the time of writing this, the comments section of Toronto Star article have been closed and hidden. From what I’ve heard, it wasn’t pretty.
Ryan Henson Creighton, of Untold Entertainment wrote this blog post, comparing David’s experience to his own and offering a positive conclusion.
The Toronto Game Jam website changed their front page to this article written by Jim McGuinley, calling foul on the part of the Toronto Star reporter and making a good point that he wouldn’t have been fired for any other art form.
David has now been featured on Kotaku for the second time, hopefully this will give his story more reach.
Zoe Quinn posted this article to Pixels or Death.
Here’s the best news I’ve seen: Mike Bithell (who made Thomas Was Alone) wrote this post, announcing that this weekend is going to be CRA jam.
And you can confirm that by seeing it on the Ludum Dare Website, too.
You can support David directly by:
Buying his game from his website,
Voting “YES” to his game on Steam Greenlight (free!),
And if you’re local you can contact your MP, the reporter, and/or the Toronto Star.
UPDATE JAN 30TH, 5:00PM:
There has been a great outpouring of support for David – Thank you all! Here are some more links to what has happened in the past 24 hours:
1. Another article in the Toronto Star, confirming that now he’s been fired (and at least they basically take credit for it).
2. An awesome and supportive article from Post Arcade
3. Metro News picked up the story and posted this article, originally titled “Revenue Canada worker fired for his online rant” (which has since been fixed).
4. The support continues – even to the point of cool “fan-art” like this (I say fan-art, but they’re actually friends who have worked on games together before…)
I had the pleasure of working once again with Jonathan Levstein, and another 9story artist friend of ours, Pablo Nilo. Much like our previous game AdventureWare, this game was put together in Construct2, exporting for the web in HTML5. Here’s the story behind our Knife Fight Game.
Obviously we didn’t follow the jam theme of “Heartbeats” – but that’s didn’t really matter to us. We felt it was more important to come together and make the cool project that WE wanted to make, regardless.
The idea started with Jonathan talking about a Juggernaut style match, he shared that idea with us in a coffee shop a couple nights before the jam. We got to talking about how being the Juggernaut is “like bringing a gun to a knife fight” – and it stuck. Pablo said it would be great to make them like 40′s gangsters, and he came up with these great, top-heavy Dick Tracy-looking guys.
I ran with that old-timey 40′s theme, and recorded all of the instruments analog, even tracking drums with a friend of mine who is a jazz drummer (Paul Hyesung Cho, who has no website to link to unfortunately). I even used the Izotope Vinyl plugin to make the main track output sound as old-timey and crackley as I could manage. My apologies to the people in room C at George Brown during the jam who had to put up with my loud trumpet playing…
So on the downside, doing a multiplayer game, whether in-browser or for desktop – it’s really difficult to manage multiple inputs. Most keyboards don’t register more than 3 or 4 key inputs at the same time. It’s also really hard to crowd 4 people around one keyboard anyway. We decided to go with xbox controllers – but even then you can’t map those keys easily without 3rd party software. WE GOT IT GOIN THOUGH
After seeing the project in a playable state and considering the inconvenience of keymapping, I’ve been thinking we should consider porting Knife Fight to XNA and release on XBLIG, because I feel it would work well there, especially since you are forced to used controllers. If you have any interest in this or comments on the game or porting process, please contact me via email or on twitter.
Gamercamp is a conference held each year in Toronto, bringing together a wide range of game creators, collaborators and supporters for two days of sessions. The sessions vary from talks, to panels, interactive workshops, free play times, early game demos and test sessions. It’s really great to see interaction between different disciplines – I saw talks by programmers, audio specialists, experimental game designers even the lead writer from Deus Ex:Human Revolution.
It was really great to see everyone who was there. It’s not every day that I get to hang out with people like Nathan Vella (CAPY) and Jonathan Mak (Sound Shapes). The social was a great time, but I completely lost my voice by the end of the night…
You can check out details for yourself, over here. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!
adventure, adventure time, arcade, bentomiso, canada, community, creative, digifest, digital, digital media, feel, Game, gaming, hack, interactive, jonathan levstein, news, october, pen ward, play, stephen daymond, toronto, video game
If you’re at all involved in the professional interactive media industry in Toronto, chances are you’ve at least heard of Toronto Digifest. This year it’s running October 18-20 at the Corus building. The conference is a hub for media developers that is divided into three streams:
feel – feeling the interaction
hack – hacking how we live
play – playing with design
As much as I want to get into details about the “play” category, the part I’m most excited about is that our Adventure Time AdventureWare game is being featured at the BentoMiso Community Arcade (click for a full list of the games being featured)! For those of you who are not familiar, AdventureWare is a game I composed and did sound design for, with a rockstar team of Jonathan Levstein (design/code) and Stephen Daymond (art).
There is a major update to the game build, even including a new stage (Featuring Lumpy Space Princess)!
The game will be featured all 3 days, with the arcade being open to the public this Saturday 12-5. See you there!
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Or, alternate title: AdventureWare Postmortem!?
A couple days after the Adventure Time Game Jam, I got an email from Wired Magazine contributor Ryan Rigney asking me for my impressions or some stories on how the jam went. I consulted with my AdventureWare teammates Jonathan Levstein (design/code) and Stephen Daymond, and wrote an email back.
Little did we know we would be featured in an article, even “top-billed” so to speak!
NOT TO BE OUTDONE…
Jonathan and I also appeared on the bi-weekly, bi-monthly indie game podcast SECRET TWINS CLUB. They are based out of Bento Miso and I usually record their podcast, but it was nice to be featured as a guest this time. We show up around 3/5 of the way… around the point where they start talking about Spadina bus.
There is more news to come, and more game updates are on the way in the next few weeks – so stay tuned!
On a related sidenote, here is a playlist of the music I wrote for the game:
Here is a new chiptune track I wrote shortly after buying ChipSounds.
I wanted to compose a sad/cool ‘Game Over’ theme that had the sound of an old NES game, but at the same time using the unlimited layering and effects of the modern day.
Cool sidenote, the company that made the VST is called Plogue, and they’re from Montreal. I work there from time to time, but I currently live in Toronto. It’s really great to see some Canadian representation in the digital music scene!