Tag Archives: Sega Master System

Retro Gaming Goodness at DigitalPress

We are about to turn another gaming corner in a couple of months. The jump to the new next-gen consoles is upon us, and we will go into a future of prettier and more expansive games. Ones which will bring a new level of fidelity and give game makers more interesting ways to tell stories.

This past week I was taken to a place that relishes in not going forward, a place that believes honoring and showcasing old school games is its life’s meaning. Digital Press in Clifton, NJ is a magical place for retro game lovers, a non-assuming place where people wear many hats. A friendly store clerk will go seamlessly from “perfecting” you in Street Fighter 3 to ringing up your Sega Master System purchase. Patrons are just as impressive, I think people should visit this place sometimes just for the overheard conversations. Then can totally run the gamut from anecdotal musings of gaming greatness to encyclopedic breakdowns of retro lore and strategy. DigitalPress is both fascinating for the laymen and nerdgasm inducing for the fanboy.

I wanted just to share some of the sights from that awesome day with you all and hope that you check out their site http://www.digitpress.com/ and give their storefront a visit. Arcade cabinets, gaming tournaments, geekdom and possibly cake pops await!

A huge thanks goes out to my friends Marc and Berit for taking me retro gaming mecca. I can’t wait to return, next time with money.

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The Sound Shapers-TheBeejAbides

The “SoundShapers” are a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out our entries here.

 This week in our SoundShapers series we spotlight community member, TheBeejAbides.

beejprofilepic The Sound Shapers TheBeejAbides

 Beej was generous enough to share some of his time and grant us an interview. Here is how it all went down:

The Spawn Point (TSP): Give us a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.

TheBeejAbides: I guess you could say that I’ve been platforming ever since they made platforms, so SoundShapes was a natural path to take.  From Pitfall (ColecoVision) to WonderBoy (Sega Master System) and Mario Bros. (Nintendo) to Sonic (Sega Genesis), and beyond, I have been trying to avoid the inevitable video game platforming death for over two decades.  I’m old school, son!  When I found out I was able to create my own platforming levels, I jumped at the chance.  I downloaded SS on day 1 and have basically been profoundly hooked ever since.  The fact that the game combines three of my loves (Gaming, Art and Music) has made it so I really haven’t had to play anything else since I bought it.  Damn you Queasy!   It’s so good!

TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art)

Beej: I always create the musical composition first (unless it’s a 1SL, and then music is secondary).  I have found that a good song really adds a lot to your level.  The emotion or panic that it can evoke works with the color scheme and art to set a tone, and those tones dictate the experience that someone will have while playing the game.  You obviously want them to have a memorable experience when playing, so after the music, I start placing platforms in places that require the player to collect the notes in an order that makes sense for the music.  Sometimes I like to require the player to stay on a screen for a moment after all the notes are collected so they might hear the music for a couple of loops. After the rough platform ideas are in place, then come the dangerous red obstacles and moving parts (lasers, creatures, etc).  I basically play the level from start to finish after every screen I create, to see what the experience is like and how well it flows. This sometimes inspires vast overhauls or idea changes while I am creating, so I’ve learned to not rush a level to completion. I guess that’s where the artist in me takes over and I can obsess about the angle of a box or the placement of a vertical wall or sometimes even the tone of the music.  It’s rare my levels end up looking like what I had originally envisioned. I love the fact that you can go back and update your levels, too, because ideas never stop coming and sometimes you notice a third elbow on a screen that needs to be amputated. The surgery is relatively painless.

TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?

Beej: I am one of the few that create and play on the PS3.  Most of the other shapers that I communicate with via the PSN are rocking the Vita. Shaper “Daftbomb” has tried persuading me to get a Vita, and he’s lobbied quite well, but I have yet to pull the trigger.  I’m guessing that creating on the Vita is a bit easier, but I’ve come to feel quite comfortable with the PS3 controller as my ‘paint brush’.  Oh, and I can’t receive picture attachments that are sent from a Vita.  Yo Sony, what’s up with that?

TSP: What is your favorite level that you’ve made and why?

Beej: This is a difficult choice, but I’d say “Plug Me In” is my favorite so far. The concept is sort-of-kind-of like you are rolling around inside a microphone or an amp (or something musically electronic) and all the while you are experiencing a very tame Def-Poetry type of arrangement. I worked with the idea of revisiting sounds by having the player enter parallel screens to the ones that they had already collected notes from. Each screen has a word or words that are intended to be part of a long statement or ‘groove manifesto’ that is really, in essence, the way I feel about the game of SoundShapes.  It’s long and difficult in certain spots, but it is definitely emotive for being kind of simple in appearance.  In short, it’s saying: “Plug Me In to this game so I can get funky!”

TSP: What is your favorite level you’ve played and why?

Beej: This is also a difficult choice because I just logged my 1,000 level played, so there are a lot to choose from.  I’m not super discriminate with the “like” button when assessing someone else’s level because if there is even one single aspect that I like about it, be it the music, the art, the play-ability… heck sometimes I just like the title… I will give it a “like”.  But when it comes to levels that are just plain awesome or memorable, these stand out:

     1. “Triptych” by Daftbomb – This level is super tough; it looks great, and has no checkpoints. It’s pretty typical of what you can expect from a Daftbomb level:  It’s a sharp as a knife but you want to take a bite out of it because it looks like a birthday cake. It combines all the skills of movement, and the sounds create an environment that puts the pressure on you to make no mistakes. Daft has been a driving force behind a lot of stuff going on in the SoundShapes online community.  He put together a discussion group of some of the most active creators and we’ve all been communicating and bouncing ideas off of each other such as the  1SLs (Daftbomb), the ESCs (Escape Levels) (gezouten), and maybe a new project yet to come (TheBeejAbides)? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…  but with over 500 fans following him, it’s no surprise that Daftbomb continuously cranks out awesomely challenging and aesthetically beautiful levels. He’s even created playable levels to explain some of these niche ideas, which are also pretty great. He’s a true master of Shaping. {I also suggest “Deathcom” by Daftbomb…. it’s long and difficult and oh so rewarding to finish!}

    2. “A Nightmare on Church Street” by TonyTough – It’s another great narrative from an original artistic mind. He creates depth very well and uses background objects to create landscapes unlike anyone else in the SoundShapes community. The slow and low music places you in a setting that is creepy and dangerous, and you aren’t sure what perils will come next. He’s really good at using objects in a non-literal way to create his scenes, like an ice sheet for a fireplace mantle and other such cool twists on platforming.  There’s also a kind of puzzle aspect to the level with clues to finding the ending, which are not immediately evident.  All of TonyTough’s levels are awesome and take a nice chunk of time to play.  They all have a replay value because the art and stories are pretty awesome.  I’m super excited for his new saga called “The Ninja”, because I have an affinity towards ninjas and he is experimenting with a new way to tell the story.  It’s pretty fricken sweet.

    3.  “Life is Too Short” by jool2306 - You don’t really “play” this one as much as you “watch it”, but it delivers in all the right ways.  jool2306 has an aesthetic that I love, which is kind of a child-like “cartoonishness” that goes along great with his storytelling ability.  He goes a little further in “The 8th Wonder of the World”, where he recreates iconic world landmarks that you tour while unlocking the portal to the final world wonder… I wonder what it is?  Hehehe. He is fast becoming my favorite creator and it’s worth paying attention to his “Egg” series, which is very creative and, so far, boundless in its aim.  I like when I am wowed by a level, and jool2306 certainly does that.

     4. “FATAL PROGRESS” by ANOY337 – Death is good? In this level, it is. You have to die in a certain sequence in order to make forward progress in this level, and it is fricken’ awesome! Very fun, frustrating, rewarding, and time consuming, but all the while you are totally engaged and determined. The platforming is creative, varied and challenging; just don’t accidentally trigger an unwanted checkpoint, because you will have to start all over again.   ANOY337′s other levels are great too; he will sometimes use giant-sized forms to create a miniature perspective in a macro world.

     5. “Escape From Guantanamo Bay” by Old_PopTarts -  This level isn’t overly difficult or even super artistic, but it just works very well as an environment and is fun to navigate as a platformer.  It’s arranged well and you certainly feel the coldness of the prison before you make your way out.  Unfortunately, Old_PopTarts has had some internet trouble as of late, but hopefully he gets it sorted out because I’d like to see a new level from him.  He’s one of the fiercest players (along with Milkmaniac) and his times are always some of the best on almost every level.  Tenacious is an apt description of both PopTarts and the Milkster, they can just flat-out get it done.

     Honorable mention:  Check out these users for more totally awesome levels-  Gannon767, gezouten, DUSTINISGOOD, TheFrostE, reinokid, VengefulTorture, pikathon, and yodalex.

TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?

Beej: The more time that you take with your creation, the better it will be.  The more you play your levels while creating them, the better the platforming movement will be.  And remember people, it’s: “SOUNDshapes”. Make it sound good!  (Also, try to limit the amount of objects on a screen [especially creatures or moving parts] and try not to move around the start and finish markers while creating… this will help you avoid the dreaded “Script Error” for overmaxing… this is the primary problem with the game and I hope they can fix it with a patch or with DLC or with a SoundShapes2… I’m already salivating at the thought of it.)

TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better.

Beej: I’d like to see the kinks and bugs ironed out of the game (as mentioned above) and I’d like to see a more diverse instrument set.  I’m not crazy about using the loops so I’d rather have more tones and single-note noises that I can play with. I’d like the ability to overlay colors or shapes in whatever manner I’d like to, instead of the fact that my sticky substance always has to be on top of the red or on top of the non-sticky platforms.  Also, I’d eliminate the vocal tracks.  I’ve only used it one time on one screen, but some people just abuse the use of them.  I think even Beck would say that.

Before we wrap this article up, I wanted to take a quick stroll through some of my favorite Beej levels and have the artist himself share some of the inspiration behind them.

MY TAKE:

“Diamond Elephunk Factory” – This is the first level I ever played from TheBeejAbides. Its screenshot gave off the notion of airiness and light, an awesome level of asymmetrical detail, and great use of the embedded color themes SS has to offer. I had to play it, and once I did, I soon became a fan of his work. Although one of his earliest levels, Elephunk had a really cool style and a beautiful musical arrangement. There is a really distinct balance in this level that seems to always be at play. The platforming, which–although not super hard–is difficult enough to keep you on your toes, and the lovely Oriental zen garden-esque soundtrack is fun to listen to. Towards the end Beej drops perfectly placed drums to push you towards your goal. I appreciate this level and think it’s a must-play for folks.

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“LazerDogAccident-1SL” – This level is a part of Beej’s “LazerDog” series in which LD is put in harrowing circumstances and has to make a way through. The first thing that has to be said is that this level is HARD, and as you will see from our interview, Beej made it that way for a reason. The pulsating lasers and bounce targets are one thing but the screw missiles and breakaway floor are another. Your dexterity and patience will be tested, but as a survivor of the level I can say there is a method to the madness. If you don’t go mad first, that is. I really think Beej should start giving out “I survived the LazerDog level” t-shirts upon completion. It’s only right.

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“Clusterfunk Spelunking” – The Clusterfunk level pays homage to classic horror movie tropes as signage foreshadowing your doom. Along with suspenseful imagery, ominous musical tones provide a great background for a really well-thought-out level. Lots of jumps that seem just out of your reach, smart uses of the geometry and nice flourishes of style all around make the level great to play. I loved his “Beej Presents” text towards the beginning of his level, it brings that feeling like something cool is about to happen.

2012 10 17 1443471 The Sound Shapers TheBeejAbides

  BEEJ’S TAKE:

“Clusterfunk Spelunking” – I kept the song very simple with one loop (until the end where I bring a new loop in) and add one guitar tone at a very low tempo.  It felt dark and dank and a perfect way to emote the underground feeling. The part above ground part was added at the end of the creation to really help create that feeling of going somewhere nasty and scary. The colors darken as you move from screen to screen, then it gets dark and scary and lots of stuff tries to kill you. I got more into the manipulating of the rhythms of lasers and stuff on this one which was super fun and makes for a really tough level.  You really have to pay attention to the rhythm to advance without harm.  There’s a killer ice sheet platform screen that will test anyone’s skill and patience, and of course, rabbit flowers grow down in that dank hole.  Heh.

 “Diamond Elephunk Factory” – This was the first level I created, but not the first one I published.  After I published a couple “test” type levels I went back and reworked the whole factory, but the song is awesome so it stayed exactly the same. The platforms were essentially in place, but I didn’t really know how to work the editor that well at first, so the rework was key. I added all the red and cleaned up the platforms so that a gifted player could move fast through the whole level. No enemies or lasers on this one, just plenty of red design waiting for you to slip, fall, or jump a little too far.  I think it’s the level that got most of the attention for me early on, so it is very close to my heart.  I was shocked when people were finishing with better times than mine… I was like, “But I created it!  How could they beat me?”…. heh.  Needless to say it inspired me to make harder and harder levels. If you go to the soundshapesgame.com you will see that most of my levels are up at the top of the “Deadliest Levels” list.  I couldn’t be more proud of that.  icon smile The Sound Shapers TheBeejAbides

 “LazerDogAccident – 1SL” – This is the fourth 1SL out of five in the LazerDog Series, and we can thank Daftbomb for this monster.  He had been poking me to make a single screen level for a while, but at the time I was working on “Ninja Seizure Fun Times Commotion”, so I finally finished that level and made my first 1SL.  I basically wanted to break people’s spirit with my 1SLs, or basically make them so hard that people might throw their controller or turn off their Vita, but do it in a way that was kind of endearing.  Enter: the LazerDog.  She (that’s right ya’ll, LazerDog is a ‘she’) is a feisty pup that won’t take no for an answer.  In “Accident”, the idea is that LazerDog is playing in traffic and the ensuing madness causes a bus accident, which you then must weave through to get back home.  Close calls occur and quick reactions are required, as in all of the LazerDogs. It’s no surprise that these levels are seldom finished, people just give up I suppose.  And that’s fricken hilarious to me.  I give respect to anyone who can finish all five, but so far no one has.  I’m looking in your direction, Milkmaniac, CrunchKupo, redespair, Old_PopTarts, and DUSTINISGOOD.  I know you guys can do it!  Tame the LazerDog!

 -TheBeejAbides says: “SOUND SHAPES LIFE”.  So start making music! Thanks to everyone who plays and likes my levels…. and hey, Queasy, “HIRE ME!”

I want to thank TheBeejAbides so much for all of his help with this article. The response to this series has been AMAZING, not only from our readers but also from the Sound Shapes community. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and also follow us at @spawnpointblog on Twitter or TheSpawnPointBlog on Facebook or Google+.

We also have great news! After seeing our initial article, the fine folks over at Queasy Games asked if we could do some collaborative work on this front. We will be working together to showcase even more community members until the end of the year. If you aren’t doing so already, follow @soundshapes and the hashtag #SoundShapers. Look out for these stories to drop on our site and the Sound Shapes blog every Wednesday.