EA-Access

EA Announces Subscription Games Service [UPDATED]

Electronic Arts today announced EA Access, an exclusive gaming subscription service. The beta for this service is scheduled to launch “this summer” for the Xbox Live users on the Xbox One only. $4,99 per month or $29.99 per year gives users unlimited access to the Vault, EA’s repository of previously released titles.  The inaugural group of games will be Madden NFL 25FIFA 14Battlefield 4, and Peggle 2. Additionally EA Access membership also grants users early access to new Electronic Arts titles, up to 5 days early.  The amount of early access of each game will be dictated by the individual title. Additionally, all future digital purchases for new titles are 10% off! 

EA Access enrollment will initially be available via the EA Access Hub app on the Xbox One. It will also be available for purchase through GameStop and Game retail outlets sometime after it becomes available on the console. EA Access will be available only for Xbox One users who have Xbox Live Gold living in the following territories: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States with additional territories to follow.

Check out our very own Daniel Moore’s video walkthrough:

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Spawn On Me Episode 7: I is for Immersion

Episode 7 has the dubious distinction of being the first of our weekly shows.  In it we discuss how you can help us rename our news segment. We show that we’re literary geniuses, talk about what the difference between being a kickstarter backer and a real investor,  play another game of “Mad Tag” (this time Cicero is it), and much more!

Music Break: Quadir Lateef – The Quickening Arts

UPDATE: The Navel Strike DLC for Xbox One has been released but is still not available for PC.

OSU video games study

CONTACT US:

email us: feedback@thespawnpointblog.com

tweet us: SpawnOnMe, The Site, Kahlief, Cicero

Facebook us: Spawnpoint

 

 

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DLC Announcements Means Battlefield 4 is Officially Fixed!

“First, we want to thank the fans out there that are playing and supporting us with Battlefield 4. We know we still have a ways to go with fixing the game – it is absolutely our #1 priority. The team at DICE is working non-stop to update the game. Since Battlefield 4 China Rising expansion pack was already in the final stages of development by the time issues began with Battlefield 4, we decided to fulfill our promise to deliver it this week, but we’re not moving onto future projects or expansions until we sort out all the issues with Battlefield 4. We know many of our players are frustrated, and we feel your pain. We will not stop until this is right.” -Electronic Arts’ official statement 12/04/13

What a difference a couple of months make! Rejoice BF4 fans! According to EA, all is well in the BF4 universe. New content announcements are springing forth like a geyser! Last week was the announcement that the end of March will see the third expansion, Naval Strike, releasing to Battlefield 4 Premium members. Non-premium members will be able to purchase the content two weeks later. Naval Strike will include 4 maps, 5 new weapons, two new gadgets, an amphibious vehicle and a new game mode called Carrier Assault. More details will be made available about the game mode and maps closer to the release.

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Additionally, the timed Xbox One exclusivity for BF4’s second expansion, Second Assault, has ended and is now available for premium members on all consoles and PCs. Second Assault is a re-imagining of some of Battlefield 3’s favorite maps; Gulf of Oman, Caspian Border, Operation Firestorm and Operation Metro. Also making the jump is the Capture the Flag game mode along with 5 reimagined weapons and the dune buggy!

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If you were a BF3 player and have yet to experience Second Assault, you’re definitely in for a visual treat. The map layouts are identical to what you remember but there are lots of little touches, along with some new pathways, that really make playing these maps a new experience. Are you playing Second Assault already? Having fun? Can’t wait for Naval Assault? Do you think BF4 is REALLY fixed?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Everything’s Coming Up Beta

It’s been a very exciting week for wannabe early adopters in the next-gen console space. The opportunity to beta test new exclusive properties from both Sony & Microsoft were announced.

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Hot on the heels of their extremely well received closed alpha test, Electronic Arts’ developer Respawn confirmed the rumor that they will be releasing a beta test for Titanfall some time before its March 11th release. The PC and Microsoft console exclusive is easily the most anticipated game for the Xbox One thus far. The news came via their website but no specifics were given as to when the beta will be released or how interested parties can sign up.

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One of the hottest and most exciting pieces of news out of this year’s Consumer Electronic Show was Sony’s announcement of their Playstation Now service. The realization of their 2012 acquisition of cloud-based server company Gaikai, Playstation Now is a subscription service that will allow users to stream games from Sony’s extensive catalog. Initially the service will be available just on the Playstation 3 and the PS4 but Sony predicts that they’ll be able to integrate Playstation Now on more than just consoles, starting with Bravia televisions but eventually branching out to other devices. Earlier this month sign-ups for the Playstation Now beta began. The first series of invites to the closed beta began trickling in this week. Invitees must have a PS3 and are recommended to have a wired internet connection of at least 5 Mbps.

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 Are you excited about either of these betas? Have you been selected to participate in the Playstation Now beta?  Excited about the Titanfall beta? Were you one of the few selected for the Titanfall alpha? Let us know in the comments!

 

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IndieCade East Spotlight – Rainbow Bacon Interview

So I walk across the conference floor and see a tall, young man with a crowd around him. I also see a blinking ball of light that resembles a Playstation Move controller. Anytime I see a Move controller it automatically gets me excited and upset at the lack of cool games or ways to interact with one. I move a little closer to the crowd right in time to hear Shawn Pierre say, “Does anyone want to play my game, Rainbow Bacon?”

First of all, I love bacon. And to see how excited the folks in the crowd were upped my interest level tenfold.

Six people emerge from the crowd and split into two teams of three. Pierre plays the role of both ringmaster and participant while he puts the Move controller in the middle of the teams and belts out instructions on how to play the game. “Now remember your color, and remember: two-hand touch is what counts.”

The game starts and the Move controller shines orange. A player from each team runs into the middle and circles the opponent before one of them tries to “steal the bacon” and bring it back to their side without being tagged. Watching grown men and women play this classic schoolyard game brought back so many of my own childhood memories. I had to go and find out what and where the inspiration for this new twist on this old school game came from.

Shawn Pierre, creator of Rainbow Bacon, tells us a little more about it:

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D_MISE

The Sound Shapers-D_Mise

Speed runs have been a part of gaming for as long as I can remember. Playing through a speedrun to challenge yourself to get the best time tests both your motor skills and patience. This week’s Sound Shaper has figured a way to make his levels some of the most played and enjoyed ones in the community by applying a deft touch when creating his soundscapes. Many of his levels have the flow and feel of some of our favorite platformers but with, in my opinion, better music.

This week’s shaper is D_Mise.

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“When We Were Stars” – With over 1000+ plays this level is an easy level to complete. I really liked the way the super chill music comes together in the level. Some well-placed catapults, tractor beams, and a diverse art style make up most of this level. I can see why it would be so popular because it lends to speed runs and is pretty straightforward. It’s a great palette cleansing level.

WHEN WE WERE STARS

“Prepare to Launch” – D_Mise created a very cool aesthetic, in this level with all of its intricate ornate details. I don’t know why I love the “Space Invader” catapults so much but they are really awesome in this particular level. I would say though the star in this space-themed level is the music. With each note it opens up into this really dope almost R&B track. I loved the music in this one and appreciate the level of detail D_Mise put into it. I can tell that he really cherishes the experiences he wants his players to have in his levels. I appreciate that greatly.

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“Hurricane Refugee” – Again, attention to detail is the key in this level, not only in the platforming but the care D takes with the music and art – it’s beautiful to behold.  The level sounds like something from the climatic end scenes of a Tron movie. Little flourishes here and there that mash up multiple types of games and a heroic soundtrack make this a delight to play. I like the fact that D_Mise makes pretty short concise levels. The fact that they are so full of character is a testament to him and his creativity.

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After playing through some of his levels I asked D_Mise to hangout and speak with us.

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
D_Mise: I’m a 25 year old college student from New York City, and I grew up in the 8-bit era, full of bloops and bleeps. I create a lot of abstract art in my spare time, usually while listening to music, so Sound Shapes is a natural fit for me. I’ve never tried my hand at making music (unless you count the 3-ish years of trumpet/drum lessons when I was younger), and music has been my main focus in this game.
I bought Sound Shapes with the intent of playing it on a flight over the summer. I tried it the night before, and by the time I hit the airport, I was up to Beat School and Death Mode challenges. The flight took 3 hours, but it seemed like 15 minutes!
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
D_Mise: Like most have said, music first. When I make a level, I tend to wrap it onto itself, joining two separate music sequences that fit together. I often start a new level and create audio, save it, and forget about it until week later (I have published 6 actual levels, and I have audio for 6 others). When I finally get around to starting, I try to imagine what the music reminds me of, and jump off from there. I sometimes sketch out design possibilities during my classes, since it’s usually on my mind all day.
Because audio is the primary focus of my levels, I tend to make them less challenging, with emphasis on flow of movement. I try to make them speed-run friendly, with lenient checkpoints and ample opportunity to hold the run button!
The art comes last, and I try to make nice looking stuff, especially in the rooms that are more challenging. The way I see it, if you’re gonna die 10 times, you might as well do it to some nice tunes and with some visual encouragement. Sometimes, my stuff turns abstract, and makes sense only to me. I’ll explain one of them later.
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
D_Mise: Vita, for a lot of reasons. When I made my first level (“It’s Not Godzilla”), I made it on the PS3. Then, I uploaded it and later played it on the Vita, only to find that there were inconsistencies with audio and framerate. It’s almost unplayable toward the end! I never went back to try and fix it for the Vita, but it was a lesson nonetheless. Also, I’m rarely home (full time student, full time job), and I commute a lot, so the Vita is far more convenient, and Sound Shapes is my bread and butter.
TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
D_Mise: “When We Were Stars” – This was my first “real” level. I wanted to tell an abstract story of a fallen star finding its way back. It starts out in the wreckage of collapsed stars, and then goes on to five dudes trying to recreate a star, then to a colder environment, and eventually ends on a collapsing frozen throne, before joining the stars. It ended up with a lot of plays in a short time, and I was flattered that the community liked it so much. So then I got cracking on a new level, and I released “Permission to Launch”. Both managed to break 1000 plays each, which I didn’t expect at all!
“Hurricane Refugee” – Was first called Hurricane Refuge (one letter makes a big difference to me). I had a lot of time on my hands during Hurricane Sandy, so I figured what better way to commemorate the occasion than to release a new level. I decided that the best way to make it through the actual storm was sleep (and Sound Shapes), and so, I mirrored that. You start in the clouds, enter a pipe into the night, and then enter another pipe into a dream. I used the deadmau5 orbit creatures to give it a hurricaney/cycloney feel, and there are 3 instances where you get hurled through the air. I like it because it’s a bit personal to me; it marks a natural disaster that kept me indoors for way too long, during a time where I felt I needed a break from the whole work and school grind. Creating became my outlet.
“Buggin’” – Man, this level was my first attempt to participate in the Theme-A-Week, and I chose #CRES, but I was nowhere near done by the next Theme-A-Week’s reveal. I suck! I decided to release it anyway, two weeks later without a fancy hashtag. While creating the track, I felt it reminded me of skittering sounds, so I chose some insects as a theme. Then, I made a spider, and called the level “Insectinoids.” Then, I realized that spiders aren’t insects, so after a grueling renaming process, I called it “Buggin.” The music ramps up toward the end, since the theme was #CRES. There’s no plot, no real continuity between segments; just some bees and earthworms and fire ants. I thought the music buildup was cool, especially the honeycomb room.
“Save The Princess! #ASYM (Symmetrical)” – I wanted to participate in a Theme-A-Week before the end of the world, and so I finally did with this level! My plan was to make a boss battle of some sort, along with a retro homage on the final screen. Once these ideas fell into place, the level and music created itself. I added a layer of urgency and tension through chat bubbles and sphincter moments. I’m strongly considering making a princess saga.
TSP: What is the favorite level you’ve played and why?
D_Mise: The very first level that floored me was the notorious “And I To Fire” by Jordanbuster. There’s a lot of depth to it, and I remember thinking to myself, “How much time did this take to make?” The more levels I create, the more I appreciate it. If there were a Sound Shapes vinyl, this would be track 1.
Also, there’s this way cool Metroidvania stage I remember playing that felt less like Sound Shapes and more like a Super Metroid 2 demo.
There are lots of others that I’ve played (I try to keep up with the Greatest Hits and levels on recent activity board), but I mainly watch my girlfriend play through the community levels. I help here and there, but there’s still a lot of rage quitting!
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
D_Mise: A basic level making tip: make a blueprint. Lay out your sounds, and then put up giant sticky shapes to see how your level could progress. Toy with the BPM and scale, and if something interesting just isn’t working for your level, don’t be too proud to remove it! You can reuse ideas for future work, where it might just fall into place. A piece of advice I was given: if something is good, you can use it more than once. If something isn’t good, don’t use it ever again. Do what you want to do, and have fun!
After you have your blueprint, save and quit. Play your level and figure out if the audio/framerate dips and why. The answer is usually a clashing of two audio tracks that might play smoothly while editing, but for a freshly loaded playthrough causes lag. Another cause is the timing of getting certain notes, and the triggering of memory-heavy creatures and stuff.
Also, play test as often as possible! Force your friends, co-workers or whomever to play through it. Lure them with candy, beer, whatever it takes. I would get feedback like “I liked the other one better” from one person, with another saying the complete opposite. Take criticism well and often!
One trick: If you place a note and then place a duplicate note on top of it, it sounds louder for that slot (note: it can effectively stack ~4 times). You can use this for added emphasis on desired sounds within a loop or sequence. It’s very situational, but can bring something soft to the forefront in a major way.
TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?
D_Mise: I’d love for more artists to lend more audio to play with. Maybe some Flying Lotus, Grimes (go Canada!), Anamanaguchi, or even Ronald Jenkees (awesome YouTube pianist) and Module (the guy who did the Shatter OST). Make it happen!
In addition to what a few others suggested (collaborative options, group rotating, screen by screen BPM editing, etc.), one update I’d like is a sort of chain trigger, which would hold off on playing a note/sequence until the entire chain is complete. I’m a fan of games that have some sort of huge payload, like getting a bajillion points at once, or massive critical hits. Perhaps this can lead to a scoring mechanic?
I’m just nitpicking though. I appreciate the simplicity (complexity?) of the creation engine, and the limitations encourage more original work.
Thank you for this way cool opportunity to talk about all this!

Big thanks to D_Mise and the Sound Shapes community for taking part in the series. The support has been really awesome especially from so many places around the world. Sound Shapes is truly an international phenomena and is bringing people together to create beautiful art. I’m happy to be a part of it and you should be, too.

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Let The Music Play

I read an awesome article from a friend on his new site nxistence.net (stop by and check it out) that pertained to his dislike of how gaming music has evolved from a well thought-out meaningful struggle, both through hardware constraints and composition, to a semi-homogeneous hodgepodge of like-sounding tunes. I understand exactly where he is coming from with his stance. There are very few beats or tracks that, when I think back on the game they were in, will evoke specific emotions like they did back in the day. So I sat down and thought to myself, “What games did I play last year that had great or memorable music?”

Here is my list:

Skyrim:

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This song lets you know from the moment you hit “Start” that you are ready to get yourself into something epic and massively badass. Orchestral and big, it gives the you the feeling that you are about to do battle even before you pick up your first weapon. I loved it and understand why they used it in most of the advertising that preceded its launch.

Portal 2:

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Portal 2’s ending was awesome–I think the fact that I thought I was going to die by turret helped make this song so memorable. The whimsical notes along with the visuals added so much to the ending that it had to be one my favorites of the year. Who knew that being serenaded by hundreds of faceless killing machines would wind up being so endearing. Although I don’t think this or the ending credits song was as good as “Still Alive“, it left me both wanting more of the game and happy to see its creators put such nice finishing touches on what was a wonderful ride.

Infamous 2:

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The Infamous series is about being a reluctant superhero, a real person put into extraordinary circumstances who has to make tough decisions about right and wrong. I think this song has elements of all these themes in it. I appreciate songs that you would want to be your “walking music” on the commute to work. Songs that would be your entrance music if you were a wrestler, or in my case an IT guy. I want this song to play when I fix your broken shortcuts or printers; I don’t want this just to play in my head, but in small speakers that I’ve strategically placed on my belt so that you know I’m awesome when I leave your cubicle. It just makes you feel like you made it through something tough and came out better on the other side. Plus violins are AWESOME!

El Shaddai:

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I heard about this game from Shane Bettenhausen, a former 1up writer who then went on the work for the company who put this game out. I have massive respect for Shane and his gaming views so I rented a copy from Gamefly. I was blown away by the whole package it provided. A breathtaking graphic style, simple but engaging gameplay and really cool music. The theme above is reminiscent of the old school gaming music I loved when I grew up: airy and powerful with pulsating drums that push you on your adventure. I have to say this and the next game I list would go under my “Most slept on games of 2011.”

Shadows of the Damned:

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As an older gamer, my music tastes have changed substantially during this part of my life. Shadow’s soundtrack was pretty eye-opening. The game is brash and sexy, spooky and eclectic. It mixes small tinges of mariachi and  throws downbeat atmospheric licks just for shits and giggles. It had to be my favorite gaming soundtrack just for those reasons. The tracks fit so well with the game, and that’s because Akira Yamaoaka just knows how to do gaming music. If you’ve played a Silent Hill game you know what I’m talking about. There is also an amazing song titled “Justine For All” that plays during the side-scrolling stages; it reminds me of something that would play in a demented carnival. You must check it out.

All in all I would say 2011 had some very interesting and exciting  music additions, and I am really excited to see what can be done in the next-gen music wise. The ability to not be constrained to small midi files, bleeps and crackles will only help to make our memories and gaming experiences fuller and more meaningful. It will give composers and artists the ability match the standards they want their music to reach and will hopefully give us something to tap our feet and bang our heads to while we rescue our newest prince or princess.

Thank you to all the folks that took the time to find and post such great music on Youtube. When clicking on the links give them a shout as well and say thanks.

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