I rolled on to my Facebook feed yesterday and to my surprise saw that PixelJunk was promoting a really cool contest for their game 4 A.M. If you haven’t heard of it, I posted a overview of the game some time back that had a great interview with Rowan Parker the lead designer of the game. Honestly I think this game’s existence is still the only reason to own a PS Move controller and is one of the best motion/music mash-ups games you can have with that peripheral. It is truly a one of a kind experience that you shouldn’t miss.
They are giving away a PixelJunk customized Sony Pulse Elite Headset and a Move controller signed by the whole 4 A. M. team!
Check their FB page for details: https://www.facebook.com/notes/pixeljunk/4am-spring-soundclash-win-pixeljunk-customized-sony-pulse-elite-headset/10151839761874972
After seeing this sweet swag I have to get my skills back on point. If you would like to see me perform check out and follow me on PSN under the name KAHJAH1
LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!!
The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.
This week’s Shaper has shown a special ability to make a variety of levels that show off the versatility and nimbleness of both the editor and the creator. From intergalactic vistas to symmetrical playgrounds, he has an eye to make all of these ideas come to fruition.
This week’s Shaper is Earl_LeeGrave, and my favorites of his levels are:
“Fail_Jail…Bail? $1” – Reminds me of what working on a car assembly line must be like, in a good way. Every part of the level feels “made” for it. When I use the word “made,” I mean that the parts that make up each section don’t feel like they are made of separate pieces or come from the editor. They each feel whole and complete. Every small tunnel and elevator was concealed in such a way that it made everything feel very organic. I think this is a testament to how good a Shaper Earl is, and he should be applauded.
“Tank_Trust” – Is a pretty quick level but is very well done. Again, Earl’s attention to detail helps to paint a weird otherworldly picture. From the beginning, the level starts with ominous visuals and tones. Cryptic messages fill the screen and propel you toward your first platforming stages. It makes you really wonder what is at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Having played so many Sound Shapes levels, Earl’s usage of some of the editor parts that I don’t see often implemented by other players is really appreciated and shows an “out of the box” mindset on how to make a level.
“Lennut_Repus #ASYM” – I know that in the interview below Earl has given his opinion on which of his creations is his favorite, but I have to say this level is mine. What makes this level top notch is the great use of pacing. You are eased into the board by going through multiple desolate scenes with only haunting vocal chips in the background. It adds so much to the atmosphere in the level and really brings about a sense of anxiousness to get to the meat of the level. Once it kicks in, the melodies fit so perfectly with the visuals that it’s uncanny. The way it progresses shows there was lots of intent on making it this way. I really consider this one of the coolest levels in the community.
Earl took some time out of his schedule to share some info about his background and how he makes his creations.
TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
Earl_LeeGrave: Earl_LeeGrave’s real name is Mike… 34 years old, I live and have lived in Maine my whole life. Outdoor enthusiast (mountain biking, snowboarding, etc), have DJed house, tech house, drum & bass, and trip hop for many years now. I have a Bachelors in Graphic Design & Media Arts from Maine College of Art aka MECA. I currently own a bicycle/backcountry ski shop in Portland, Maine which has continually grown in the 3 years I have co-owned it with my friend. So far so good! If you want to check the website and logo I designed it’s: www.allspeed.com, also on Facebook under Allspeed Cyclery & Snow.
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art)
Earl: Sometimes I dictate the style of music to the visual flow I’ve created. Sometimes it’s vice versa and sometimes I’ll make adjustments as I go. “2_POINT…OH?!” was all about the music when I started. I then based the design and story around sticky ball escaping a futuristic fortress of sorts into nature and then fighting a war between aliens and humans. “BRAINSPLOSION!” was more of a collaborative effort between the music and the design for me. After the new DLC came out, I made a point to utilize all the new elements. I intentionally left enough dead space within the level to be able to place the notes where I wanted to, so I could build the music as well as the design of the level. I had the most fun making “BRAINSPLOSION!”; however, being my first curve-dedicated level, “BRAINSPLOSION!” was an appropriate title; the new curves are not the easiest elements to work with, but are fun!
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita? What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
Earl: PS3… I’m so used to the controls of PS3 and the zoomed in bigger screen for MAD detail YO, plus I’m plugged into a few decent speakers that I can crank! To be completely honest, I don’t have one of those little fancy gizmos… I think the rest of my life would be gone and dedicated to SS if I had a Vita! Queasy… should I sell my business and head to Canada? haha
“BEEJOOLED! #GRAV” was one of my favorite levels to make. It started out as a shout out to some of the friends I’ve been making in the SS community (TheBeejAbides & jool2306) and also to incorporate the “Gravity” theme of the week. It allowed me to be extra creative rather than stick to my usual style. The engagement box was falling through the world, while egg man chased it to the altar. Another level that I’d say is a favorite of mine is the HCL inspired by Daftbomb, called “COFFIN_HOPPER – HCL”. It seemed like he wanted other HCL’s to come out and nobody was doing it. I almost considered it as a sort of theme of the week. It’s super hard to play and it was super hard to make, there are no resets, but I had a blast making it.
TSP: What is the favorite level you’ve played and why?
Earl: I’m assuming this question is loaded. There are too many, so I’ll try and pick levels that I’ve played most recently. “Center of the Earth” by TetraGenesis. It seems similar to my style (underground, tunnels) but done very well, with textures, shadows and composition. Really great. Music was clean and sharp and it was super fun to play. I also really liked “Face it and listen” by Gezouten. Great beats, awesome graphic design, precise detail, very modern/minimal delightfulness! “Space Monster” by sukakika: nuts! reminds me of the insanity of me, and so well designed, real organic but not flawless. It was a lot of fun to play. Beautiful title page that wasn’t involved in the game, weird good stuff.
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
Earl: Many times when I’m designing something very detailed after I’ve already laid out a lot of the level, I’ll step out into the white to work on it (such as text, or an egg man! then I’ll just copy and paste and drag it in. That way, while I’m designing it, I can see the image/text without all of the chaos of the level and since I’ve made a copy, I mess it up from alterations after I moved it into the level, I can always go back and make another copy and I won’t have to start from scratch with all that detail.
Also, when you’re designing a level and you make a screen or two, you have to play it over and over before you continue. It will help you figure out where you’re going, be it design, music, whatever. The flow of those two screens usually tells me if I want to keep designing to the left or to the right, up into the sky, or underground, how hard it is to play, etc.
TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better.
Earl: More unique, low-memory shapes and red evil goons, more bass line packages and wacky sounds!
BOOM… if you could, Spawn Point, a “few” other quick shouts out for those creators with sick design and sound that stick out in my brainsplosion at the moment! old_poptarts, redespair, tonytough, gasssst, sleeester, guycohen2, outtooman, mercuryant, gemuvan, threepwoodsin, sephiroth_brazil, bluebebleu, indoor_squid, dustinisgood, iwillforget, reinokid, oh-yeah ps, retrosteveuk, cloudtheknight, pikathon, flashquickster… and many more believe it or not!
Before I sign off, I want to thank each and every Shaper for being a part of this amazing series. I have been extremely fortunate to have made new friends and gaming buddies through this. I’ve spoken with people from all over the world from so many different walks of life. It’s been so fun to get a peek into the lives of so many wonderful gamers. A very special thank you to one of the most innovative and special gaming devs in gaming today Queasy Games. Your ability to create such a great game and bolster the community by giving them both the tools and a true voice for feedback is what makes this game and your company very special. I really appreciate everything you’ve done to help my share my blog and it’s meant the world to a budding blogger like me.
I am extremely sad that the #SoundShapers series ending but excited for what comes next and hope that all of you fine folks that have come back every week continue to check in on us and share the love. Without all of you we wouldn’t be here and are eternally grateful.
I follow many folks in the gaming community on social media. I appreciate what they bring not only to our favorite medium, but also what they do to help grow and expand the communities that we all inhabit.
What I don’t appreciate is the misogyny, sexism, and racism that has permeated online gaming within the past ten years. It is a cancer that is ruining gaming for everyone involved but shows no sign of slowing down. I bring this all up because during my usual nightly Instagram crawl I came across this photo from fighting game community member Sherry “SherryJenix” Nhan.
I had to double take for a moment because besides being a great player, Jenix is pretty well-known in the fighting game scene for breaking down some of the barriers that have befallen many of the women combatants in a super male-dominated field. She has gone to all the tournaments, performed extremely well, and has gotten enough exposure that she was even asked to help debut Street Fighter Cross Tekken in Capcom’s Cross Assault “reality show” earlier this year.
It has become more and more difficult for gamers of color, women, and members of the LGBT community to game without the need to cordon themselves off in muted match limbo or party chats because the rest of the world hasn’t grown up. We’ve gotten to the point that even the good guys are being attacked by other members of the community for speaking out against bigotry. A couple of recent examples include Anita Sarkeesian getting trolled while trying to address some of the video game stereotypes that involve women, and the Gamers Against Bigotry pledge site getting hacked and all petition signatures erased.
What I wonder is, why did she feel like this was ok? It’s not funny for many reasons and does nothing to further the push to make the FGC more inclusive or help remove the societal stereotypes that come along with being part of a specific group.
Knowing how hard I and others root for women like her is what makes this incident so upsetting. We all know where the word that she used derives from, and at this point no one needs to use it or any remixed version of it. The Hip-Hop’s community’s co-opting of this word has enabled people to use a historical epithet like it’s an ok thing. I don’t agree with its use in either case; I would like to start the process of removing it from everyone’s lexicon.
I’m sure Sherry thought this was supposed to be a joke, one that you can just flippantly post on the web and think that people don’t care. Maybe next time she will use her stature and platform to promote something we can all get behind and not this kind of ignorance.
Tell us what you think in the comments below.
So after some initial blowback in the comments section of the above photo Nhan issued a Twitter post that initially defends her “joke” by stating that people need to “get a sense of humor”
Which lead some folks in the community to jump on the “well a black dude started it” bandwagon:
“To those who got offended, I apologize”.
Not that she actually felt any remorse for what she said or repeated, not that she took responsibility for posting racially insensitive things but she is sorry that you didn’t get the joke.
The thing that I find most problematic is the co-signing to things that really shouldn’t be co-signed. We as gamers need to use our words in ways that aren’t destructive. We need to tell our fellow gamers when they step out of line and need to educate them on why.
Although she took the photo down, blocked folks who were offended and made her Instagram account private it doesn’t change the fact that she and other people still feel like this is an ok thing to do, you can see some of this even in the comments below.
People need to understand that great power carries great responsibility. Let her know what you think @sherryjenix
In an effort to both get away from the 24-hour news cycle and prove my superior knowledge of random trivia, I downloaded the new iOS/Android game from Comedy Central and 2KPlay called “Indecision”.
The game starts with the three factions (Republicans, Democrats and Independents) on rising bars to show whose group is leading the race. This is determined by how many users have won their games based on which party they’ve chosen. You then choose your lovely avatar and customize them with all the adornments you have at your disposal. As you can see below my faux me looks amazing with his smart bowler hat and 500˚ suntan.
Once your frankenyou is done, jumping into a game is super easy. You can play random people or, if you’ve connected your Facebook account, snagging a willing friend to play is a snap as well. Unlike many FB-connected games, this one is way less intrusive than most and will not bug you asking you multiple times for help. (Thank you 2K.)
The goal of the game is to answer questions so that you can collect “voters” to place upon a map of the United States. Each state has a number attributed to it, and the first person to 100 wins the game and helps their political party overall.
What I really like and appreciate about the game is that the questions aren’t just about recent politics. There have been questions that have gone as far back as the 60′s. This feels like it gives everyone a pretty fair playing field to work with when answering questions. I am no history buff but have done pretty well with trivia from the B.K. Era (Before Kahlief).
If you are having trouble figuring out which Vice President couldn’t spell “potato”, you have the option of using the game’s version of “life-lines”. Politically and aptly named the “Investigative Committee” and “Ballot Peek”.
You can use these as many times as you want as long as you have the money to spend on them. You can use money for life-lines and to purchase new wares for your avatar. You can earn in-game money by leveling up.
The best tactics you can use in your quest for continental domination are your “Political Aides”
These tools can be implemented to give your side a quick boost or turn the tide if you are down big.
The Filibuster: slows your opponent down when they are answering a question. This is super helpful in case of ties — the tie breaker is determined by who answered their questions the fastest.
The Recount: instantly gives you an extra three markers to place on the map.
The Smear Campaign: randomly will take a state away from your opponent.
I’ve come from behind a couple of rounds by using one or a combination of these. You have to choose wisely though because once you do they will not be available to you for a couple of rounds.
Indecision is really fun — asynchronous games like this are perfect for mobile devices. You will at some point find that you are running into repeat questions but at the end of the day you get an awesome experience that is totally free.
There aren’t many games that will let you dress up as a priest to strategically hunt down and whack an enemy in the forehead with an axe, but if that is your cup of tea, Square Enix has the game for you!!
Hitman Absolution’s PR took a bit of a hit pre-E3 this year due to some unfortunate marketing that involved some sexy nuns and extreme violence upon said nuns. It looks as if the folks behind the game have gotten things under control and put out an AWESOME developer gameplay video earlier today.
Eighteen minutes later, I sit at my desk with my mouth agape and an urge to both spend money and wear a mechanic’s outfit. I marvel at the sheer number of options you have at your disposal when it comes to killing enemies. They range from uber-simplistic run-and-gun shooting, to living Rube Goldberg-esque mouse traps that will take multiple play-throughs to explore.
I jokingly say that I would love to see the wireframes and decision trees that comprise all of this madness. These guys must be amazing chess players.
Take a look at the video and tell us what you think in the comments below or on the social networks.
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We want to give a huge thanks to Rowan Parker, Lead Designer of 4AM. He was super awesome and took some time out to give us an interview about the game. Check it out below and then take a peek at our review.
Over the years I’ve collected numerous games, spent hours traversing levels and killing bosses. Many of those games have gone by the wayside and into either the trade pile or the digital scrap heap. The few games I have kept are there because they are either artistically compelling, socially interactive or sensory feasts. 4AM from Pixeljunk hits all these notes beautifully. Powered by DJ Baiyon’s eclectic mix of trance and house music, the game puts you in the seat of virtual DJ. Using the Playstation Move as your only tool, you are able to mix and remix the tracks in the game with both precision and style.
4AM is both music creation tool and audio visualizer. You can play tracks from your PS3′s hard drive and delight in the gorgeous art the team put together, or you can go into the creator and get down to the nitty gritty. The aforementioned gritty takes place on what Lead Designer Rowan Parker calls the “Virtual Audio Canvas”. This canvas is represented on screen by different “tapestries” that move in sync with both the music and your motions. Each of the move’s four buttons correspond with each instrument of the different tracks. The square button might be a baseline while the circle might be a synth. Adding in solos and loops by holding a button or dragging in a instrument from the corners of your virtual space adds to the complexity or simplicity of the song you are performing.
Everytime you launch into the create space your routine is being broadcast live to anyone who might be using the live viewer at that time. This is one of the reasons why I like this game so much: the ability to have what you are doing be heard by others in real-time adds a level of both excitement and a small bit of anxiety to the mix. People can follow you and also give you feedback in the form of “Kudos”. If viewers are digging what you are doing a set of equalizer type bars will rise from the bottom of the screen. The instant feedback gave me an idea if a specific drum loop or one-hit loop was connecting with the crowd. I think I would have made Girl Talk or Tiesto proud.
You can download the free viewer if you are curious or just want to be a voyeur, but if you want to gain international fame a price of $10 USD will get you a lot for your money: 10 tracks that you can manipulate, Twitter and Facebook integration so you can promote your performances, and a really sweet interactive audio visualizer that is way better than the vanilla one pre-installed with the PS3. I believe this should be a pack-in game with every PS Move. It showcases the precision you can get with the device, has lots of physical and visual feedback and great music. Let’s hope that Pixeljunk continues to support games like this via DLC and other extensions of the social media hooks that work so well within the game.
4AM is a game that hits all the right beats and is something that any music lover should own. Bravo, Pixeljunk, bravo.
- 4 A.M. Is When Everything Gets Interesting. (thespawnpointblog.com)
- 4 A.M. Is When Everything Gets Interesting (nerdgasmnoire.wordpress.com)
- PlayStation 3 Music Maker PixelJunk 4am Enters Beta (wired.com)