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!