Sound System Sequels

I’m finally getting back to work on the next sound game I’ve been thinking about, imaginatively title… Sound System II. The first sound system (yes, that’s right, Sound System I) focused on using (box2d) physics to generate “natural” compositions – that is, the idea was that the game in some sense “sounded like physics” and thus sounded natural, in keeping with the underlying ideas related to John Cage’s “natural” chance composition techniques.

In the next iteration of trying to mess around with sound (as someone who has essentially no worthwhile training or aptitude) I’ve been wanted to think about it in a more “game-y” light. So I’m trying to make a composition tool that’s also a (minimal) game. That way, the music you make isn’t “natural” but rather is the sound of (simple) gameplay itself, which I like. (Here I think about things like David Kanaga’s musical scoring of gameplay, for instance, and of course Proteus itself etc.)

So you’d have a game that “sounds like” its gameplay. Which is a bit of a truism maybe? All game’s effectively sound like their gameplay. But here I’m thinking more about “scoring” the gameplay (as per David’s stuff) rather than having, I guess, diegetic music or “sound effects” etc. So that the elements of the game become instruments even more, perhaps, than they are themselves as enemies or objects or whatevers.

That’s where I’m at with this right now. The idea being that you play this game and produce music related to the instruments available (your avatar, say, and some “enemies”) and also related to your skill both at the game-qua-game (in which you try not to “die” etc., thus extending the composition) and your skill at playing-to-compose, by modulating your position and speed etc. in ways that change the music.

That’s the idea with Sound System II. It remains to be seen and heard how much of that actually exists in the thing I manage to put together. (That screenshot at the top is from an early prototype so, like, don’t get your hopes up, eh?)

 

What We Did

With Rilla Khaled.

They know what we did. What do we do now?

What We Did

What We Did was written in Haxe using the HaxeFlixel library. It was designed and built with Rilla Khaled in GameMaker over 48 hours for the 2015 Global Game Jam at the Institute of Digital Games site in Malta. The game contains various creative commons sound effects and pieces of music which are attributed in detail in its press kit.

You can read my writing about What We Did on my blog, or even read the What We Did press kit.

Play What We Did in your browser

 

Let’s Write About: Let’s Play: Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: Art Edition Edition

I don’t think I ever got around to writing a post about this game after releasing it a couple of weeks ago, so this is that post because I can’t think of anything else to write about this evening. Specifically, here is The Story of the Game.

Many moons (about three years) ago I made a game called Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment. That game was all about futility and the ability of a videogame to sort of represent infinity – or perhaps at least a genuine willingness to pursue infinity to the extent that as a player you could “feel” infinity. One of the “levels” of the game was based on the myth of Prometheus, the Titan doomed to have his liver pecked out by an eagle every day and grown back overnight. All for giving humans fire. A tough break.

That game was “successful” and was played by a lot of thousands of people, which was terrific. Then, last year there was a solo exhibition of one of my games, Safety Instructions, at the Andrew Baker gallery in Brisbane, Australia. Most of the show was made up of very good-lookin’ prints of screenshots from Safety Instructions, but there were also prints from a couple of other games, including the Prometheus scene from Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment.

Thus, when I went to the exhibition in December 2014 I had the very odd experience of confronting a game (such as the Prometheus scene) remediated as a screenshot remediated as an artwork framed and behind glass on a wall. That was interesting to me because it’s such a strange direction for a game to go in: from movement to stillness, from interactivity to passivity, from jokey meme to official art-on-wall, etc. I actually had a bit of difficulty thinking about the exhibition and my relationship to it, frankly, because of that odd remediation going on. (Although of course the games themselves were on display too.)

So an obvious way to react to this, in my book at least, was to re-remediate the game-as-painting back into a game. I’d taken photographs of the various prints in the show and chose to turn the photo of the Prometheus scene back into the Prometheus scene game. Such that it goes from static photograph of framed print back over to playable game. To complete the strange feeling of standing in front of an “art” I slaved over getting a webcam “reflection” of the player in the “glass” covering the game. So you end up with an attempt to meld the two ideas – it’s still framed and on a wall and “art”, but it’s also a weird playable game.

Plus, as a throwaway weirdness that I rather like, the player becomes in many ways the central “asset” of the game, the most important piece of imagery it shows. Not to mention how you could spin off into commentary about appearing as a good above Prometheus, determining not whether he should suffer, but whether he should even be permitted allowed to writhe. Dark stuff.

That’s a story, now’s it’s done.

 

The week in movies, 23–29 January 2015

2015-01-25/26 Senna
People say “even if you don’t like motorsport you’ll like this” and it’s true. Very involving documentary and an interesting figure, very tragic (though of course it plays that way moreso when you know they’ll die too young at the end). Would have appreciated more insight into F1 racing in general so we could have felt more educated about what was special and amazing about Senna, but they did a relatively good ‘basic’ job of it. The moment where the doctor says that he’d suggested that both he and Senna could quit and just go fishing was heartbreaking.

2015-01-26 Shame
A strange movie in its lack of “plot”, more of a character study, but a relatively engaging one. Strange subject matter, but treated seriously enough that it usually felt worthwhile. The moment of Fassbinder crouched over his sister, naked, his towel having fallen off, shaking her and shouting was disturbing and powerful. Discovered after watching that Steve McQueen is a black guy which probably shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was. I guess it’s mostly a dumb association with the white actor McQueen and also generic racism on my part.

2015-01-26 Gomorra
We didn’t finish this one. Got about 40 minutes in and were essentially bored and saw it had more than an hour and a half left, so no. That said it was interesting in its boringness. Specifically it opened with a “hit” scene with lots of gun shots to the head and action, but then the rest was kind of lethargic, which felt like a commentary on American gangster movies. The boring life of the mafia, especially the trivia of the guy going around giving ex-dons etc. their “pension” money and worrying about their plumbing. (I think this is what was happening?) The banality of evil?

2015-01-26/27 The Holy Mountain
What an amazing movie this was to watch. It’s kind of impossible to pull out any one particular standout scene because each one seemed more bizarre than the next – incredible visual design throughout. Really it was a big surprise to me to enjoy it as much as I did. Interesting how it seemed to “make sense” somehow, within its own frame. If I were picking out an image I’d say it was of a guy kneeling in front of a pile of severed arms with dead people lying crowded along a street in the background and a yellowish smoke rolling up the street and over everything. Whoa.

2015-01-27 Ouija
A paint-by-numbers horror movie ticking off the tropes. Scary figure seen through lens. Zombie-faces. Sewn-together lips. Person dragged by invisible force through dark doorway. Haunted house. Haunted object. Tragic family backstory with-a-twist. And so on. Not a shred of innovation in the piece. I maybe heard it was basically an ad for Ouija boards, so I guess it’s not so surprising.

2015-01-28 Tabloid
An Errol Morris documentary about a nutty woman who kidnaps a mormon and then goes on to be stalked by the paparazzi, gets attacked by one dog, clones a different dog, and on and on into her memoire. Very odd stuff. A real “personality”. Hard to know what to say about it though. Engaging throughout, but strange how the “plot” kind of snaked and jagged away from what I thought it was “about”, and how that irked me a bit, which is odd in itself. As if I’m owed a structured narrative in a documentary.

2015-01-28 – The Tree of Life
We’re slowly going through this. It’s kind of boring and the family-family stuff is leaving me mighty cold but I think I admire the poetry of image and the ambitions in visual aesthetic in terms of its sweep and presumed philosophical intent?

What We Did: Seen

Give UpI thought I would do a quick drawing for tonight but then I realised it would be even quicker to just post one of the images I drew for Rilla’s an my game jam game, What We Did, instead. So that’s it, up there, right? (Note that the cut out around the top is just a transparency thing – it would normally be solid black – but it looks kind of good like this too in fact.) I encourage you not to look for the game on the game jam website, as it’s a bit broken and we’re working on a port to Haxe (e.g. Flash) right now which should be done in a few days.

The style is another attempt to distance myself, or at least dabble away from, my predilection for pixel graphics. Along with Sound System I (filled circles and paintings) and Let’s Play: Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: Art Edition Edition (photography and webcams) it’s a step in a different direction. It’s produced by just using the polygonal lasso on top of photos and choosing four or five greys to fill with. Simple but effective.

The Gamechurch Podcast

Oh hi. I just wanted to write a brief post here to remind you to consider listening to the Gamechurch Podcast. It’s an interview-format podcast in which the hosts (Richard Clark and Drew Dixon) talk to a game developer about their life and work in relation to religion and religion-y things. “Full disclosure, actually”: I was on the podcast myself and listened to all the preceding episodes to “prepare” and then have listened to it… religiously… ever since, because it’s good.

The main important thing about the podcast, unlike every other games-related podcast I’ve attempted to listen to, is that it’s not just about games. Man, people talking endlessly about games is about the most boring thing the universe has to offer. I really have tried with other game podcasts, but they’re incredibly tiresome to me, just eternal noodlings about games and game balance and favourite games and important games and etc. No thanks.

With the Gamechurch Podcast you do have the obligatory discussion of games and game making, but it’s heavily contextualised with ideas about religion and philosophy, and that makes it work. So even when it comes time to talk about games (and especially now that the “what you playin'” segment seems to have been discontinued?) it’s really about the relationship between the games the developer has made and spirituality etc., connections that the hosts are generally quite good at drawing out, and that the developers themselves seem to constantly prove able to navigate with articulateness and verve. I love it.

Richard and Drew are both very forthright and committed Christians, but are terrific about accepting or at least grappling with alternative perspectives. In fact it feels like almost every guest they end up with is irreligious, which is kind of hilarious – but most of them have at least some sort of religious “backstory”, which never fails to interest. Anyway, the good humour which Richard and Drew bring to their conversations is deeply charming in a way I really appreciate – you’ll rightly end up listening to the podcast for them much more than for the guests, I think.

To sum up: subscribe to the Gamechurch Podcast. It is good. And this is coming from someone who listens to a lot of podcasts. So.