Rock Paper Shotgun has an interesting scoop this morning as it appears that the new game the Introversion submitted to IGF is a game called Pirson Architect.
Those of you who read the blog regularly will remember that it was only a couple days ago that our own Lewie Procter revealed that Introversion had submitted an entirely new game that wasn’t Subversion (which has been suspended).
Not much is yet known about the game, but that’s the first image up above.
Apparently, as one would expect, Prison Architect is a game in which you manage and build a maximum security prison. What this entails exactly we don’t quite know, I’m thinking it could be a tycoon/sim game of some sort, but really that’s left open for interpretation.
We’ve gone ahead and contacted Introversion for more information and assets so once we get em, we’ll update you guys.
Justine has now been repackaged for fans of Frictional Games’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent. For those of you just joining us, DIY’s Erik Johnson gave horror adventure Amnesia a glowing review last year. Turns out the judges of the 2011 Independent Games Festival felt the same way, handing out three awards: Audio, Technical, and Direct2Drive Vision.
It’s great to see the team hasn’t gotten slothy with its IP. This update includes a collection of five short-stories set in the world of Amnesia. Says the press release, “They are sure to answer some of your questions about our universe, but also have you come up with a few new ones.” Justine and the story collection will be available through the Amnesia v1.2 update, which became available this week. The update also includes some bug fixes and now includes Russian voice and subtitles.
With sounds great enough to win an IGF award, Amnesia‘s team is smart to release a soundtrack. This week also marks Mikko Tarmia’s soundtrack landing on Frictional Games’ Store.
Ready for that update? Grab it on the link below. Come back and let us know how scary these new stories are!
Second round of GDC Links. Indie interviews, journals, conversations and more going on at this year’s event.
GDC 2011: Interview – Mojang’s Jakob Porser on New Game Scrolls (Mike Rose/Gamasutra)
“With the enormous success of open-world sandbox title Minecraft, it’s clear that Sweden-based Mojang’s just-announced next game Scrolls is going to feel the “difficult second album” strain. Players are set to build decks of “scrolls,” and challenge opponents to one-on-one battles via a grid similar to the layout of a chess board.”
GDC 2011: What Brings You Here? (Wednesday) (Jeriaska/IndieGames)
“Today we continue our conversation with game designers, filmmakers and industry experts attending the 2011 Game Developers Conference. The question we’re asking for those who traveled across the city or across the globe to be at the event is “What Brings You Here?”"
GDC 2011: IGF Finalists Relate Futures, Fears and Football (Cassandra Khaw/IndieGames)
“Overwhelmed, awed, gobstruck – those are words that work surprisingly well with some of the IGF finalists. While huddled up in one corner of the convention centre, wires strewn everywhere, I had the unexpected fortune of almost literally being stumbled upon by one of the finalists for the IGF Nuovo category.”
GDC After Dusk, Indie Night (video) (Eurogamer)
“GDC After Dusk is a new online show tying in with this year’s Games Developers Conference, hosted by John Teti and Ellie Gibson. The first episode features Markus Persson (Minecraft), Chris Hecker (Spy Party), Kellee Santiago (thatgamecompany) and Andy Schatz (Monaco).”
A GDC Extravaganza (Radiangames)
“I’m still at GDC and have one more full day to go, then a red-eye flight to catch. So far it’s been a hectic and productive trip, I’ve met and reconnected with lots of great people, and I’m in a bit of a haze right now.”
GDC – Day 3 (Zeboyd Games)
“Iwata got up and gave an excellent speech full of insight and humor. He mostly used examples from Nintendo, but to be fair, what speaker at GDC hasn’t been mostly drawing from their own work? He did make some rather positive comments about a few of their competitors like Microsoft with XBox Live and the success of games like Call of Duty & Angry Birds. In short, an all around classy talk. However, about halfway through Iwata’s talk, something horrifying happened. Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils-Aims took the stage.”
GDC 2011: Game Designers Confront, Learn From Failure (Kris Graft/Gamasutra)
“At GDC 2011 on Wednesday, notable game designers who have seen big successes talked about their games that weren’t so successful, giving attendees lessons so they might not make the same mistakes.”
If the twenty person wait to play Nidhogg was indicative of anything, it was that the competitive nature of Messhof’s Nidhogg is both a crowd pleaser and a genuinely compelling game.
What looks like the simple button mashing of two players is actually a complex mix of fencing, running, jumping and outsmarting your opponent. Played with NES controllers, the game is fantastic for two players. You subtly adjust the height of your blade with a tap of up and down, and from a distance you can even toss your blade to impale your opponent from afar.
The goal in the game is to reach the end of the level, in your assigned direction. One player is bright yellow and the other bright orange. Each player runs to either the right or left, and the opponent is tasked with stopping them. So whoever gains the upper hand in the starting battle gets the chance to run towards their goal. But the opposing player will always respawn in their way and try to regain the advantage and move the playing field in the opposite direction.
This tug-of-war is fantastic. From clever stabs to lucky tosses, every lethal action in Nidhogg is overflowing with excellent gameplay. When one player finally reaches the end of the game world, they’re devoured by a giant worm and declared the winner. But the game is balanced well enough that this is generally no easy feat and the back and forth slash fest can linger on and on.
The entire experience is painted in a simplistic style that ranges from hallucinogenic clouds racing across the sky to a giant chandelier dangling over the players. And the stark contrast of the bright character sprites makes the tasks all memorable.
Nidhogg took home the IGF Award in the Nuovo category and was also nominated for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize and the award for Excellence in Design.
The game is scheduled for release on PC and Mac…someday. I for one want to start stabbing my friends immediately.
The Independent Games Festival Awards were given away tonight and the final decisions made on who took away the prizes for each different category. So without further explanation, diversion, or words in between the who and what, here is the full list of winners:
Best Student Game:
Fract - University of Montreal
Amnesia: The Dark Descent - Frictional Games
Excellence in Design:
Desktop Dungeons – QFC Design
Best Mobile Game:
Helsing’s Fire – Ratloop
Excellence in Visual Art:
Bit.Trip Runner – Gaijin Games
Excellence in Audio:
Amnesia: The Dark Descent – Frictional Games
Nidhogg – Messhof
Seumas McNally Grand Prize:
Minecraft – Mojang
Minecraft - Mojang
Direct2Drive Vision Award:
Amnesia: The Dark Descent – Frictional Games
So altogether, Amnesia swept a lot of the categories netting a score for unsettling horror titles. This means that the new IGF banner is going to include Notch and the Mojang crew in full effect taking home the award.
In celebration of the Independent Games Festival at GDC 2011 (awards tonight, so check back later!), several indie titles have been reduced in price and/or launch on Steam and various other retailers. Note that not all games are IGF related, but a sale is a sale.
I’ve marked the short sales as best I could, but to be sure you get your deal make purchases quick if you’re interested in one or more of the following (unmarked sales run through the week):
So much going on this week in San Francisco. Peter and Geoff are diving in and getting good coverage to share with us, but there’s already been dozens of different announcements, reveals and other happenings in just the opening portion of the week. Here’s indie content from around the web coming straight out of GDC 2011.
GDC 2011: The Evolving Storyline of Indie Game: The Movie (jeriaska/IndieGames)
“In this interview, we hear some concrete details about the documentary’s narrative structure. Indie Game: The Movie will tell the development stories of Phil Fish of Fez, together with Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen of Super Meat Boy. These personal journeys will be complemented by a range of viewpoints from other designers and industry experts, including Jonathan Blow, Derek Yu, Brandon Boyer and Jason Rohrer.”
GDC Coverage Day 1 — Day 2 (Robert Boyd/Zeboyd Games)
“On my way driving to GDC from my motel, I pass a giant billboard advertising CityVille. “Wow, that’s an awfully big advertisement for a Facebook game,” I think to myself. A few minutes later, I see the Zynga offices. Aha, now it makes sense! I make sure my shields are up, check my secret smuggler hold, and drive quickly on by.”
GDC 2011: Derek Yu, Andy Hull Discuss Spelunky XBLA Move, Multiplayer (Brandon Sheffield/Gamasutra)
“Spelunky began as a freeware roguelike platformer for the PC, but has evolved into a larger-scale XBLA title due out this year. “When I think about how that happened, how I started with this tiny little game, and it became something much larger, I’m still pretty amazed,” said Derek Yu, the game’s creator.”
GDC 2011: Team Meat Discusses Super Meat Boy’s Nearly Lethal Development (Kyle Orland/Gamasutra)
“Playing the punishingly hard Super Meat Boy is a masochistic exercise for many players. But in a GDC 2011 presentation today, creators Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen – the two person Team Meat – laid out the many ways that the development process was equally masochistic, at times.”
First Footage Of Ms. Splosion Man (Gamerbytes)
“The second in Splosion history, this title will contain a ton of new mechanics, while still keeping to the “one button” gameplay of the original. Sliding rails, weighted see-saws, and more.”
GDC 2011: What Brings You Here? (jeriaska/IndieGames)
“Throughout the week we will be hearing from game designers, journalists and documentary filmmakers on what makes the Game Developers Conference worth the trip for them.”
GDC 2011: Indie Revelations From Experienced Developers (Christian Nutt/Gamasutra)
“Marketing? “You need to be merciless.” Passion? “I’d rather have a team player.” Inspiration? “It’s not all about creating the game you want.” Three surprising quotes from three prominent developers with studio backgrounds who went the indie route — Jake Kazdal of Haunted Temple, Daniel Cook of Spry Fox, and Ichiro Lambe of Dejobaan Games, respectively.”
DIY featured the first part of our interview with Anosou’s musical genius Mattias Gerdt here. This week, IGF will reveal if Cobalt wins the award for excellence in audio design. Award or not, Mattias is definitely building up a winning collection of tracks for Cobalt. And by winning, I mean the gamers win. And that’s really all that matters, right?
The conclusion features discussions about legal issues of using music, what makes a game’s sound IGF worthy, chiptunes, inspirations, and how everyone can do more to get gaming music more recognition.
DIY: From a a legal standpoint, when is a sound yours? When are you allowed to borrow sounds?
Mattias: I personally have bought quite a few sample libraries, i.e. collections of musical data that can be “played” as instruments. I particularly love the stuff from BitWord and LapJockey, both focusing on more synthetic sounds.
In all these cases you can use them commercially as soon as you buy them because you gain a “license” to use the sounds. But in the case of synthesizers, you build them from the ground up.
I think most composers have a ridiculous collection of samples and synths really: free or bought.
DIY: It’s neat you use visualizations to imagine and create a song. Do you start to imagine how that place “sounds” or how the game BGM should sound?
Mattias: I think I’m a bit too jaded. I primarily start thinking about how that place would sound if it was a video game and what it’s role would be. I think a lot in terms of it being actually a game to begin with.
I listen to tons of game music myself. Then after that I start thinking about it as an environment that’s just that, an environment, but that’s more to get an extra dimension. In a lot of scenarios it makes no sense thinking of how a place “sounds”. For example, if it’s an abstract environment with geometric shapes.
I’m quite the game music fan (I have a collection of 270+ game music CDs for example) and I’ve studied how game music has been used before in both old and modern games. It’s perhaps particularly good when you want to avoid repeating what’s been done. If you know everything that’s been done, it’s easier to stay away from it if the situation calls for that.
DIY: Tell me more about the Radio Chip track.
Mattias: There’s a funny story about that track. It was made for Cobalt’s in-game “radio system”. We have these little radios sprinkled around the world and the player can change the channel and listen to some music that would definitely not fit as background music.
The chip track started out as a joke because at the time I were seeing all these indie games with chiptune soundtracks. It was kind of a “look, I can do it too!” thing. Then it evolved into something that doesn’t really share the “chiptune aesthetic” if there is such a thing. It’s not super melodic, and I mix in non-chip sounds, a TR-909 drum machine.
DIY: What does it mean to strictly adhere to creating chiptune or any other similar “concept”?
Mattias: Well there’s a whole world of that. I even wrote my bachelor’s thesis in musicology on Game Boy music and realized both how different yet strict it were.
It kind of varies, though. American chiptune tends to mix in more “non-chip” sounds in my experience, while the Swedish music for example, especially Game Boy-based, are almost only Game Boy and nothing else.
I used a Game Boy (DMG-01) and LittleSoundDJ primarily for the Radio Chip track but processed it externally in Propellerhead Record and added the drums just to make it a bit beefier really. While I do admire people who strictly follow the limitations of the original hardware, it’s not something I think is better or worse really.
DIY: Outside of the Bladerunner reference, do you have any influences or inspirations that led to any of cobalt’s soundtrack?
Mattias: Influences always fluctuate; sometimes I’m really into this one band but the other day I’m completely obsessed with an old soundtrack.
For Cobalt, I think Steve Reich and Kimitaka Matsumae were important. While I got inspired by Reich, I can’t say I’m writing in any similar style like he is, but I love the thought of minimalism in general. I think it was there in the back of my head.
Regarding Kimitaka Matsumae, I had been listening a lot to his soundtrack for KILEAK, THE BLOOD. He personally sent me the soundtrack release, a re-recorded version, and it’s utter genius. It has this dark atmosphere with pulsating sounds, lush pads and repeating patterns that create an amazing mood. I can listen to that CD for hours!
Otherwise I get influenced by everything I see/read/hear/talk about in one way or the other. It’s hard to pinpoint something. Most of all I got inspired by the Oxeye theme and their game.
DIY: What about the team inspired you?
Mattias: Well, the three guys that are Oxeye are utterly amazing people. I was quite humbled by how nice and intelligent they were when I first joined their IRC channel to talk before I got the gig.
It’s a delightful mix of deep philosophical thought and a bunch of guys drinking beer and cracking jokes. They’re all really good at what they do too.
DIY: Have you listened to the other IGF audio finalists? What do you think earns a finalist nomination for IGF?
Mattias: That’s a really tricky question. I don’t think it’s innovation. Retro City Rampage is straight up NES, for example. Interactivity is perhaps a key point but then again RCR is a black sheep and Cobalt isn’t impressively interactive. It can’t just be music because Amnesia is a lot about SFX.
I think the key is how well the audio works with the game. If that’s interactive music like in Bit.Trip Beat or an innovative narrator like in Bastion, that’s up to the judges.
I think Cobalt was nominated because everything really worked together. The atmosphere is incredibly dense for a 2D platform/shooter/adventure. It’s innovative in that manner but I don’t know if that’s what people mean with “innovation”.
DIY: Are there more good games than there are good game soundtracks?
Mattias: That’s a filthy lie! Start with these. There are plenty of really bad games with great soundtracks, just look at Cheetahmen II!
I guess there might be some truth in your statement though but then again “good” is so personal, what’s a good game and what’s good music? Something I love as a game you might hate and vice versa.
DIY: Then let’s call it “critically acclaimed”.
Mattias: That’s just because critics don’t care about the music.
DIY: Good games seem to make more news headlines than good game music, sadly.
Mattias: It’s hardly ever mentioned in reviews, like ever.
DIY: So, how do we get OSTs to headline more articles?
Mattias: Good question, no easy answer either. I’m not sure you can force that because game music is made to enhance the game after all. Do SFX or controls get headlines? Art books?
I think it’s up to the gamers. If they do like the music and want to hear more about game music-related news and such, they need to make their voices heard. Sites like OCR really help promote and raise awareness of game music through arrangements. That’s very easy to write about for journalists. Making notes about soundtrack releases is probably news worthy, but that’s such a specialized interest.
I think the key is to get reviewers and media in general to just mention the music in games, how well it works etc. The more attention music gets as an integral part, the more people will realize that it IS an integral part. To be completely honest though, people are free to play games without music. I sure as hell listen to game music without having played the games.
It’s like movies. The best scores just complements the movie in some way (gives it more depth, enhances feelings, and mood). If they take too much attention, the viewer loses focus on the movie. That’s dangerous. The same goes for games many times, even though my opinion might be controversial.
Oxeye Game Studio’s action platformer Cobalt has received honorable mentions in the technical and visual arts categories for the 2011 Independent Games Festival. It is also a finalist for excellence in sound design. IGF’s judges had this to say about Cobalt:
“The soundscape in Oxeye’s Cobalt was also praised for “giving it the amount of life it has”, with “immersive sound effect work that absolutely sells the atmosphere,” and a soundtrack that “stays away from melodic motifs to let the overall ambiance take center stage.”
DIYgamer had a chance to speak with Mattias Gerdt of Anosou Music. Some of the highlights of this first part are sound effects, looping music, and an awesome extended cooking metaphor.
DIY: Is it common to have another person work just on sound effects (SFX)?
Mattias: It ultimately depends. In some cases a programmer or graphics guy does SFX too. Many times the musician and sometimes a guy do “just SFX”. The latter is, in my experience, least common.
DIY: That brings up a possibly interesting point. Outside of music games, do you feel SFX “fits the atmosphere” of a game or are they just functional?
Mattias: I dunno.. again this very much depends on the developer, but I think there is some thought behind what’s used.
DIY: Do you ever work on SFX?
Mattias: Pretty much never. I sometimes do more “musical” effects like small jingles when you pick up items and little bleeps that go with the music or just atmospheres that are less musical and more ambience, but hardly ever SFX.
DIY: Do people ever talk about the importance of looping tracks? The first generation of CD based gaming on consoles sometimes didn’t have loops.
Mattias: Looping is pretty much mandatory; it was in the 80s and it is today. Interesting, though, I haven’t thought about that. How horrible to have awkward silence all the time!
DIY: I like the “club on demand” inside and outside tracks. Was it just a simple filter or effect applied to make the second version?
Mattias: To be quite blunt, yes, yes it was! There was some additional use of EQ to make it just distant enough but nothing more spectacular than that. It’s kind of the throbbing heart of Trunkopolis, the City in the Cobalt IGF demo. You couldn’t actually venture inside the club in the demo, so nobody playing that heard the “inside” version.
DIY: Does the filtering have a specific name?
Mattias: The outside version just has a simple low-pass filter, staple of all synths ever. The track was actually quite different first, this version is based on talking to my fellow Oxeye colleagues. I specifically got some amazing descriptions of what Daniel “thewreck” Brynolf imagined it sounding, and I found some references in Jens “jeb” Bergensten’s musical taste, EBM/synth music. (Jens is one of the developers at Oxeye Games who’s developing Cobalt. Nowadays he’s also an employee at Mojang, makers of Minecraft.)
DIY: Did you intentionally avoid “melodic motifs”?
Mattias: Well, yes and no. I naturally wrote more ambient, mood-building music for Cobalt because I think it really fits the mood. It’s kind of Bladerunner-ish at times. I did write a “main theme” of Cobalt though, a really short little theme. I think it’s not instantly memorable but it gives many tracks a sense of unity because you can spot it appearing everywhere.
DIY: Was the idea or “thesis” behind Cobalt’s main theme yours?
Mattias: There was no real collaboration when it came to the theme itself, though I do tend to show a lot of “work in progress” versions and similar to my colleagues. The actual melody I call the “main theme” just kind of happened when I composed the menu track. Then, I grew so fond of it. I re-visited a few tracks that I considered finished and added this little melody. Later, I also based the elevator music around the theme, which was the last track I did for the demo before IGF.
DIY: Can you walk me through your creation of the theme?
Mattias: Well, it’s hard for me to elaborate how the actual theme came to be.. especially since it’s in different settings each time it appears.
For the creative process in Cobalt, we have a private IRC channel and a dropbox which are my main channels of communication with Oxeye. I personally really like hearing what the developers are expecting and thinking about the music, so we had a lot of long talks about that. I got pretty much free hands though, even though they had personal preferences that I could either adopt or ignore.
For a level track, I basically start by pinpointing its function in the game, the back story. Simple things like “jungle or city?” and when in the game it appears. Then if there is concept art, I usually have that as my desktop background for inspiration while working on the track. I love having a reference picture around like that. I even set up a big whiteboard behind my desk for that specific purpose!
When the background is relatively clear to me (including things about the game like speed and genre etc.) I just sit down by the computer, find a sound I want as a starting point and start improvising on my MIDI keyboard.
DIY: Sounds mythical!
Mattias: From here, it’s pretty much like cooking. Once you’ve decided the main ingredient, you can try with different complementary ingredients until it’s just about right. But in the case of music, you can actually remove ingredients that don’t fit.
I tend to really focus more on finding a good sound than writing a kick-ass riff though, especially in the case of Cobalt.While game music has a history of being very melodic and catchy I’m not sure that’s always the best approach, it really depends on the game. In any case though, when we have these amazing tools and crystal clear audio, why not spend the extra time to work on the soundscape?
DIY: When you say complementary ingredients, that to me almost seems prescriptive. How do you innovate?
Mattias: A certain instrument or synth sound might give just as much to the game’s mood as to a melody. In keeping with the cooking analogy: if you go ALL over the world, how many dishes with chicken are there? I would bet there are quite a few. And perhaps more interesting there are chicken nuggets and “chicken” dishes that hardly have any chicken, just synthetic flavors. Even if you approach it from a “recipe” stand-point, you can endlessly vary it because the ingredients available in modern music production are so many it’s nearly impossible to understand.
Innovation is a word that’s often very positively looked at; everything needs to innovate. Then look at the chiptune renaissance. That’s basically innovating backwards, still chiptune soundtracks are extremely popular.
DIY: With all these ingredients, are people making any new sounds or just borrowing from the cupboard?
Mattias: Well, that’s the fun part. It’s a combination of the two! You can grow your own mutated vegetables or buy a plastic-wrapped head of lettuce.
I tend to search through a lot of pre-made sounds but then alter them to really make them fit what I’m going for. Then I might also use some sounds I’ve made myself using, for example, the Thor synthesizer in Reason.
But again, the desire for innovation might be overstated. Compare it to the orchestra, which has retained a similar shape for ages and the previously mentioned chiptunes. Just using a not-well-known sample library will give you a pallet of sounds nobody has ever heard. But even if they had, I don’t think it would matter that much if it worked great in context of the game.
DIY: Do you ever have game development ideas for Cobalt or any other games you’ve worked on?
Mattias: I’ve played quite a few games, and I like thinking about how they’re built. I pretty much always have opinions and thoughts about game design, level design, systems, and story, if developers want to hear me out. I’ve even mocked up a few design documents myself but I’m not confident enough to contact a programmer about anything.
[Check back tomorrow to see the conclusion of our interview with Anosou Music's Mattias Gerdt.]
Nevercenter Games released on February 20, 2011 a free trial of their hit iOS puzzle game, Shibuya. Shibuya LE features a fully-functional 1:30 game mode which isn’t in the full version, three of five speed classes, some of the game’s achievements, and two awesome tracks from Millionyoung.
The free demo worked well in an iPhone 3G model. The gameplay is incredibly addicting; the 1:30 trial ends all too quickly. Players have to think several moves ahead to plan how to clear the colored tiles in succession. The game assigns a letter grade to the demo stage, which beckons players to improve their game by trying again and again. The slick presentation and audio further entrances players, as well. Check out Nevercenter’s demo of the game below: