Thursday, April 28, 2011

New apartment and PSN downtime woes

Well, I signed my lease this morning so I officially have a new apartment. :)

PSN is down but don't worry! The month of may I will work on brand new levels and of course GAMES! Games that will be playable on mobile phones and within web browsers! Stay tuned!

In LBP2 I will extend the madness series with new types of gameplay and action. It will still follow the story of our hapless LBP Federation Captain.

The gameplay will include a lot more action and 2D Side-scrolling segments, and the puzzle gameplay will be something unique entirely :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rush of Battle - LBP2 Song Guitar Tab

So now and then I figure I might as well share a bit about how to play some the more popular Foof Tunes in LBP2! (And otherwise!)

This is one of my favorites to play, I'll often play this for fans as I pop into their games. The Rush of Battle (at the end of Maximum Carnage - Level here , song here )

The two main riffs to the song are pretty simple to play. Tempo about 180 bpm, the beginning starts in E minor like so:

That goes twice and then it switches to A Minor like so: (just move up a string!)

Then it goes into my favorite riff in the song, starts on a D:
This plays 3 times and then:

And then we just start the whole thing off of an E!
This 3 times again, and then:

And those are the two basic riffs to the song!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Methods to the Madness - User Interface

Part 2 of the "Methods to the Madness" series of posts will deal with User Interface. A good user interface is essential to any good gaming experience. It must be clear and concise to fit the purpose of the game. Of course the first thing you should do is decide if your game even needs one - sometimes the best UI is none at all! But when you do, everything should be clear and non-distracting.

Creating text in LBP is a bit of a chore. In Essence of Madness I created an entirely new curvy font set to replace the pixelated letters in Corridors. But how? 

Hamster Tubes. Yes, Hamster tubes!

They align to the big grid perfectly, and I just shaped all my letters out of hamster tubes and then stenciled them out with cardboard - making for perfectly aligned curves. To do that just overlap the shape with any solid material and it will embed the letter. You can then subtract this stencil from another slab of material to create a character in any material you desire! Everyone has their own methods and there are plenty of fonts available in the community, but you know me - I like to do everything myself. :)

After text, the symbols and colors are very important.  It's usually best to stick to a tight theme of colors within each user interface.  You'll find in Essence I like to stick to shades of blue and silver to fit the cold depths of space motif, but use green and red for the health display.

In Corridors of Madness I used the game's Counter to give a visual cue for the health, but in Essence I felt I had to go a step beyond. The health display became an EKG.

To create the effect I used a series of timers set to "Start count down" hooked up to cross sections of an EKG line display. With these timers on a looping sequencer, it means it will just fade between cross sections giving the effect of the moving line. 

Once the health drops beyond a certain threshold, I activate a different series of these to turn the line red and flash the word DANGER.  The sequencer is also faster in this mode.

 One key thing to keep in mind when designing UIs is that holographic material works by adding its color to what's behind it.  That means if you put a black sticker on it, it will be invisble. This means you can create sprites by using the color black as a mask. All the cursor graphics use this in Essence. 

Another big element of a UI is being able to move through different gameplay and/or menu screen. I personally like to achieve this by using multiple controllinators and activating them on demand.

If you put a wireless controllinator on a microchip and then deactivate the chip the controllinator will not respond to input. So you can use to separate all your submenus and gameplay types instead of using millions of AND gates! I just wire the outputs of a selector into these.

I hope this helps give people some ideas for constructing the UIs in their LBP2 games!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Methods to the Madness - The Music

Welcome to the first part of the "Methods to the Madness" series - detailing every step along my journey of creating both "Madness" Levels. The first thing I created for both "Madness" levels was the soundtrack.  I have been playing and writing music for 10 years now. You can check out a collection of all my retail songs in this level - which will continually be updated -

I know a fair amount of music theory and there are some approaches I take in particular to writing music. It's best to go into this post with a rudimentary understanding of music theory.

First off, I think in big terms when first approaching a composition. Does the song have an ambient feel? Kind of sad? Does it have a driving rhythm?

Rhythm is the most important part of music. Most of the time I will lay out the drum track first since it gives the song life. Whether the drums are fast, slow, have a bounce... whether the drum hits are soft or hard, are all vital to the feel of a song. The music sequencer in the game fits well to even rhythms. Every 4 spaces on the piano roll is a beat, so if you're not sure what to do it's a safe bet to just start with a bass drum on each beat. Then shape the rhythm from there. Maybe you want to stress the backbeat? That's very common and I love doing that. I always think of songs in 4/4 time in the music sequencer, that means the beats count 1 - 2 - 3 - 4.  So you could stress the backbeat by putting a snare on every 2 and 4.

The next most important part after drums is the accompaniment or the rhythm section. These would be the backing arpeggios, chords, and/or sounds that go behind the melody. Often in my "space" songs I will just use simple triad based arpeggios as backing. One of the trickiest things in writing chord progressions is leading the voices properly.  Chord triads form the same chord as long as the notes are the same - it doesn't matter what order they are in. For chord progressions to sound most melodic, you want each note to move the least amount it has to and keep as many common tones as you can the same.

For example, say we want to go from C Major to A minor. If we already have a C Major down, C - E - G (In any order), then we need to turn that into an A minor (A - C - E in any order).  C and E are common to both, so all we need to do is raise our G to become an A.  It is possible to copy and paste the notes and move them downwards until we land on the A to create A minor, but I guarantee short movement gives the best results.

After I have my feel to the song in place, I lay down the melody. My melodies are often improvised on guitar while the accompaniment plays. The mood I'm going for has the biggest impact on how the melody goes.  If I'm going for something space related, it's a pretty safe bet to stick to wide intervals for that "floaty" feel. I use a lot of min9 and min11 arpeggios. For example, the glockenspiel in the backing of "Lonely Galaxy" is just constantly jamming around a Bmin11 arpeggio.

One of the beauties of synthesized music is we can write things that are physically impossible to play otherwise. I have many runs cross over octaves quickly to give a reverb like ambience.

Beyond pure songwriting, the music sequencer has plenty of nuances to get used to. First off, the audio effects are VERY powerful. Playing with reverb and delay can really help give a full sound, but don't overuse it! Super saturated delay is no substitute for natural sounds and will only make the sound muddy!

There is also timbre. Timbre is the natural sound of an instrument, aside from dynamics from the player. Each instrument can vary the timbre quite a lot so use the right stick left/right to experiment with sounds. Sometimes I'll mix some timbres within a chord to give a very full dynamic range.

One of the coolest features is the ability to bend pitch. If you drag the end of a note up or down you'll actually be blending one note into another. You can also hit R1/L1 on this bend note to scale it more. This way you can bend to a note and sustain, or even bend - sustain - and bend again!.

The note ends can be independently scaled with the right stick for different volumes or timbres - this means you can gradually fade in and out, or even distort the timbre of a sustained note! There are quite a bunch of possibilities that I am only starting to touch on - I will make much more music in the future, I guarantee!

Stay tuned for the next installment - User Interfaces!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Essence of Madness

My latest LBP2 level has been published, and it includes 6 original music tracks! Plus a few short interludes . :) All available as prizes! This has a much bigger focus on the graphic adventure gameplay. Check it out on here : This is called "Essence of Madness" and is a direct sequel to Corridors of Madness.

I will publish a post detailing just about everything that went into this within the next week - "Method to the Madness"... stay tuned. :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The sequel to Corridors of Madness - and more!

To my LBP fans - I'm sure you've at least heard of my LBP2 level Corridors of Madness ( link)

Well within the next week or two I hope to have the sequel published! It will be bigger and feature more genre-bending action.

For a small preview, check out one of the songs from the new soundtrack: Insomnia

I write all the music myself that I use in my levels.

This sequel will follow the story of our brave LBP federation captain as you drift into space following his escape from his ship when it was overrun by aliens. Tumbling through space, both physical and metaphysical, you will encounter a strange world with many challenges for survival.

This will feature:

  • Enhanced pseudo-3D rendering engine
  • All original soundtrack
  • Multiple Endings
  • Multiple modes of gameplay

The woes of the computerless

I'm sorry I haven't been updating my blog or youtube channel lately, aside from just very hard times in general, I've been having lots of trouble repairing my computer - it looks like I'm going to have to pretty much replace it. Lesson?

Make sure the cables you use to interface hardware with your computer are good quality and in good condition - its possible to short circuit your motherboard otherwise. Trust me, I'd know. ;)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Broken Computers, world records, and LBP2

I haven't been so active lately since my computer died. :( I've also been snowed in constantly so couldn't drive it to the shop for repairs, but rest assured, I will be updating regularly again in no time.

If anyone was watching or attending the IGN gaming world record event at the sony styles store, you might have seen me there! IT was great meeting everyone there and awesome witnessing the records being shattered.

I'm also almost done with my first entry into retail LittleBigPlanet 2 ... it's going to be special. :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

So you want to be a vigilante?

If you want to fight bad guys sign up for the local police department. Then you actually get paid and won't be arrested.

That out of the way...

DISCLAIMER: This is meant for educational purposes only and the management does not accept responsibility for any actions taken with this information.

The problem with most bullet-proof vests is they will only stop handgun rounds. They won't stop knives, arrows, or any rifle rounds. I guess that's better than nothing, but still something to consider. They can be ordered online depending on where you live.

You need to work out. A lot.

There's a ton of running and jumping involved, and fighting. Make sure you're in shape and can hold your own in a brawl.

The most important part of your crime-fighting outfit is the SHOES. Most people focus on the aesthetics like the mask or the cape, but no, the SHOES are the most important. Think of all the running you'll do! You need to make sure your shoes and pants are comfortable and form fitting enough that you can comfortably run and jump over obstacles. Also speaking of capes, capes are actually counterproductive because it has a very high chance to snag on something, and not to mention gives the enemy something very easy to grab onto. Not good.

If you are going to wear a mask, make sure it's something that doesn't obscure your vision in any way. Soft rubber-like masks are probably best, as plastic might splinter and cause injuries to your face and eyes if someone hits you in the face. Again, avoid things that stick out. I am very sad that I had to omit my lengthy bunny ears from my costume, but otherwise it'd make it too easy for a bad guy to grapple me down.

The problem with being a vigilante is that you don't have the same legal freedoms a cop does; that means you need to restrict your arsenal to the least lethal means to avoid legal complications. It's a very unsettling thought to imagine people shooting you and you not being able to shoot back, but there are still options:
  • Short and Long range stun guns/tasers - this will be one of your best friends. The incapacitation lasts only as long as the device is on, so use it and quickly subdue the criminal. I advise using rope or handcuffs, the police will handle the rest.
  • Tranquilizer guns - An effect that lasts longer than a taser, however since it is harpooning a syringe at your target, you need to be very careful where you aim. Always aim center mass/torso, the sedative will quickly find its way through the blood stream.
  • "Tear Gas" - Useful as a distraction for either your entrance or your getaway

Do NOT use any blunt or sharp weapons such as: Baseball bats, knives, swords, chainsaws, sledgehammers, etc. These all inflict trauma that is potentially lethal, which would look bad for you legally. Plus they're cumbersome and leave a mess.

Do not use ANY firearms - even if it's loaded with beanbag or rubber bullets, within 20-50 yards or so, which will be your most common range of engagement vs the badguys, they still carry enough kinetic force to be lethal.

Tasers may not be legal everywhere, so you may have to improvise on finding one.

Make sure you have good health and personal item insurance.

Chances are, you'll get your hiney kicked now and then, maybe your car blown up, your house burned down, etc. Get it all insured! Shop around for the best rates, remember, don't reveal that you are a vigilante! Your monthly payments will skyrocket.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

LittleBigPlanet 2 Beta servers are now offline. Bring on retail!

Well, that's it. That was pretty long for a pre-release, server stress test beta! So what did I do in the last hour? ... Well...

I've done my share to push the beta and squash bugs and I must say, I'm royally impressed with the game. The tools have so much more potential over the previous game. The first game warmed my heart instantly with its playful approach. It was very child-like in its approach and I felt some of this would be lost in LittleBigPlanet 2.  Not at all!

Although the new logic tools imply a sense of mechanical cerebrality, that couldn't be further from the truth. It is rare that a sequal absolutely improves on an original, especially when the original is something as unique as LittleBigPlanet, but this seems like it will be an astounding success.

I have been posting plenty of things on my blog about the game and will continue to, as well as discuss what I plan to do in retail.

I WILL make a full fledged version of my dungeon crawler, "Corridors of Madness" ... It will have better and more varied graphics, as well as much more varied gameplay.

I will continue the top down shooting series with improvements, since I've learned much since I made them.

Bunnies will make a return but in a way you might not expect. :)

The graphics are also greatly improved, the lighting engine is very welcome and easy on the eyes. I think my favorite features are the new logic tools and the holographic material. That of course includes the impact sensor.

Impact sensor + invisible hologram = super win!

I also promise a very in depth tutorial on creating the dungeon crawler after I create it in release. I promise - the techniques have been perfected and I'm saving it as a treat for you all. :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More 3D android stuff - animated models

Ok I have barely been home in the past couple of weeks so couldn't work on this little android 3D engine side project much, but here's an example of my animation class so far:

Uses Hierarchy type animation, as opposed to the skeletal animation in the PC 3D stuff I've been doing. Imagine each section of the model being devoted to one and only one bone instead of 4 bone weights per vertex, I figure this is the lowest cost on the hardware since I'm not sure how much I can push the android. The next step I guess would be to either use softskinning via direct vertex pos interpolation between keyframes, or bones with 1 or 2 weights per vertex.

This is all done with OpenGL in Java.

Each little section of the model can also have a unique material property which I guess I'll have to showcase next, but I need to get my hands on a real android so I can take video that isn't so choppy. Emulation sucks.