After hosting a rather wonderful Indie Connect festival in Berlin last month, A MAZE. now sets its sight upon Johannesburg, South Africa for A MAZE. Interact 2012. If you’ve got a game, especially an experimental one, and are from the sub Saharan region and/or South Africa then you should consider submitting it to the festival.
From August 28th to September 2nd, A MAZE, will be be taking over several locations in Braamfontein, Downtown Johannesburg for Interact 2012. This is a media art festival that will celebrate the convergence of games, art and society; as in the A MAZE. way. The location of Interact 2012 is very important as it aims to become an annual platform for African and European media artists and game developers.
“Creatives are encouraged to break down the conventional computer game and surpass established digital or analog concepts of play. A MAZE. Interact targets the collaboration between artists and the exchange on an artistic, academic and cultural level.”
A MAZE has partnered with a multitude of organizations for this event, including the Goethe Institute Johannesburg, Witwatersrand University, University of Johannesburg, Praekelt Foundation, VANSA, Trinity Session, Transmediale, CIANT and Coded Culture.
If you’d like to submit your game to be showcased at the festival then you should contact the festival director, Thorsten Wiedemann, at firstname.lastname@example.org before June 15th 2012.
More information on A MAZE. and their various efforts can be found over on the official website.
“I can’t stand Guitar Hero”, announced the ever-enthusiastic John Brodsky from Lucky Frame during his talk about Creative Music Games at Indie Connect. John brought a lot of energy and discussion to the festival on and off stage, so it was clear that he has a lot of passion for what he is doing. Before he divulged his stance on the more commercial side of rhythm/music games though, he exposed his roots. These were, not too surprisingly, planted in the punk rock scene – playing in a makeshift band and carrying the anti-establishment values that come as standard.
Of course, it’s not too much of a leap from that to the side of indie games, in which developers create their own games how they see fit and often do not conform to standard practices and teachings. That, when combined with being a kid of the modern age, made John all too eager to create his own games with a music core to drive them. The initial urge came from seeing what a friend and now colleague of his made – the Wii Loop Machine. Quite simply, this was a game in which the Wiimote could be used to chop up and rearrange music in an intuitive fashion. With the seeds sown, John took the plunge into programming so that he may move closer to that lifelong dream of creating his own game.
Thus, Musjik was born. This was a simple effort and mostly served as a seminal piece for what would become Lucky Frame’s later and more popular projects. One thing John realised he really wanted to achieve from this point onwards, was a simple and user-friendly interface for creating music. John remembers creating music on his Gameboy all those years ago and he grew very attached to that interface; the A and B buttons as well as the D-Pad. He claims that the majority of players get used to and rely on certain interfaces and refuse to let go of them. Therefore, he didn’t want something that would cause a barrier between the player and the act of creating music.
That is the most important thing for John and Lucky Frame, “creating music”, which is why he despises the franchises that allow players to play music – other people’s music, not the player’s own creations. Of course, there is some capacity for players to create their own music in those games but not to the degree that Lucky Frame look to achieve.
With all of this in mind, John showcased a prototype he made for his next game, Space Hero. What was clear from the start with this game is that John had made the act of creating music a recognisable game in itself. Imagine Space Invaders with falling shapes which, when shot, would emit a sound produced by a drum machine that loosely slotted in with the rhythm of the soundtrack.
Space Hero wasn’t a bad effort but it was inspiration from the Monome SHM Software that led up to his best creation so far. This electronic instrument is operated by a person pushing down on its grid interface which would cause several lights to come on in random places and emit corresponding sounds, eve more variation can be had if more than one square in the grid is pushed down. From this came a game jam creation in which the player could control the environment in a tower defense style game – the catch being that the player was trying to create music but the enemies would destroy it.
It’s not easy to adequately surmise what John was showing the audience but it clearly impressed the room for both its simplicity and originality. The latest work from John and Lucky Frame is, of course, Pugs Luv Beats – a take on the tower defense title from the jam with more polish and a whole lot more character. Still present was the grid-based interface though, which had different terrains spread across it as the titular pugs skipped across to different chimes collecting beetroot.
Now, the whole point of John’s talk on Creative Music Games was to inspire the many developers present in the room to start thinking about designing games with music in mind, as it clearly leads to some very interesting game designs. Not entirely self-indulgent, John pointed out a few examples of games that allowed the player to create their own music and to an impressive result. These were Tambour, FRACT OSC and Proteus, which we’ll now quickly outline.
Tambour is showcased as a drumming game primarily in a versus mode style attack-defend scenario. However, it can be played with just about anything as long as rhythms can be played. Mostly, it’s a strategy game with timing being the crucial factor as you would imagine. Players can deploy shields and fire cannons and hope for high scoring combos – the game’s 1.0 version is due to be released on May 8th.
FRACT OSC is no stranger to this publication. A puzzle game mostly, FRACT OSC has the player wondering around figuring out the music-based environment as they go. They’ll come across ancient machines that are in-game synthesizers that can be used to create custom music and with such an incredible range too.
Proteus is markedly different to the previous two examples in that the player doesn’t create the music so actively, but it is created around them, reacting to their movements. The game is best surmised by the idea that the developers a re conducting an electronic orchestra around the player as they explore. Animals, the elements and plant life are the instruments in this magical land.
John is clearly very experimental and ambitious with what he does and he’s been part of some brilliant game designs. Hopefully, upon sharing his creations and techniques we’ll start to see more of these creative music games emerge, not only because music is important to all of us and computer games, but also because it brings fresh approach to game design and leads to some exciting discoveries.
It’s been a great couple of days here at the first A MAZE. Indie Connect in Berlin with many workshops, development talks and presentations and it’s been great meeting the many faces of the European indie development scene. We’ll have plenty of articles on the way covering as much of the event as possible, but for now we’ll tell you the big news – that being the winner of The Most Amazing Game Award at the festival.
There were 10 finalists selected from the many entrants for the festival’s most prestigious award and ones that our very own Chris Adkins and the rest of the jury here had to select a winner from. After hours of contemplation they got the decision down to just two games – Where is my Heart? and Proteus. Both of these are impressive games, the former being a complex tile puzzler with a quirky and inviting world and the latter being a relaxing, zen-like environment exploration title. Those are both bad descriptions in all honesty, you should watch gameplay and play them where possible for a better idea.
So after each judge fought for their choice of the two, it came down to Proteus being the winner and Ed Key (David Kanaga wasn’t present) picking up the award and the €5000. So congratulations to the winners – a well-deserved title and one I was personally routing for. Now, we must party by playing games, listening to electronic music and drinking beverages of some kind.
More information on Proteus can be found on the game’s official website.
The many entries for the A MAZE. Indie Games Award 2012 have been revealed for your pleasure, with the winner being announced during the Indie Connect Festival in Berlin later in April.
If you’re a game developer you may have entered your game to be in the running for the A MAZE. Indie Games Award 2012 which will be presented across April 26-27th in Berlin during the Indie Connect Festival. If so, then you should be going frantic right now because the entries for the award have been revealed over on the official website.
If your game is up there then you stand a chance of being chosen as a finalist and then exhibited at the Indie Connect Festival where it will be judged by the prestigious panel, where Chris Adkins of IGM will be sitting of course. If your game is selected as the festival’s Most Amazing Game then you’ll be rewarded with €5000 and all the publicity that comes with it!
For those who aren’t a hopeful developer then it’s definitely worth checking out the line up over on the official website as there are some rather promising games in there and of course all of them deserve all of the attention they get.
If you’re attending the A MAZE. Indie Connect festival then be sure to look out for IGM, hop over and have a chat – we’ll love it! More information on the festival can be found on the official website.
Casual Connect’s Innovation Showcase RoundupBackFebruary 23rd, 2012 | By Chris PriestmanTagged in: anomaly warzone earth | big evil robots | cardboard box assembler | casual conect | groove coaster | high tea | hungry sumo | innovation showcase | monsters ate my condo | mos speedrun | pixel ranger | soul brother | this is a work of fiction | to-fu 2 This is the first year of Casual Connect’s Innovation Showcase. The CCIS is designed to promote innovation in casual games, showing off interesting and unique concepts and mechanics created by all levels of talent. Unlike the IGF there are no winners, so each developer is simply awarded by the attention and praise their products receive.