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The Sound Shapers – Earl_LeeGrave

The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.

This week’s Shaper has shown a special ability to make a variety of levels that show off the versatility and nimbleness of both the editor and the creator. From intergalactic vistas to symmetrical playgrounds, he has an eye to make all of these ideas come to fruition.

This week’s Shaper is Earl_LeeGrave, and my favorites of his levels are:

“Fail_Jail…Bail? $1” – Reminds me of what working on a car assembly line must be like, in a good way. Every part of the level feels “made” for it. When I use the word “made,” I mean that the parts that make up each section don’t feel like they are made of separate pieces or come from the editor. They each feel whole and complete. Every small tunnel and elevator was concealed in such a way that it made everything feel very organic. I think this is a testament to how good a Shaper Earl is, and he should be applauded.

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“Tank_Trust” – Is a pretty quick level but is very well done. Again, Earl’s attention to detail helps to paint a weird otherworldly picture. From the beginning, the level starts with ominous visuals and tones. Cryptic messages fill the screen and propel you toward your first platforming stages. It makes you really wonder what is at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Having played so many Sound Shapes levels, Earl’s usage of some of the editor parts that I don’t see often implemented by other players is really appreciated and shows an “out of the box” mindset on how to make a level.

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“Lennut_Repus #ASYM” – I know that in the interview below Earl has given his opinion on which of his creations is his favorite, but I have to say this level is mine. What makes this level top notch is the great use of pacing. You are eased into the board by going through multiple desolate scenes with only haunting vocal chips in the background. It adds so much to the atmosphere in the level and really brings about a sense of anxiousness to get to the meat of the level. Once it kicks in, the melodies fit so perfectly with the visuals that it’s uncanny. The way it progresses shows there was lots of intent on making it this way. I really consider this one of the coolest levels in the community.

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Earl took some time out of his schedule to share some info about his background and how he makes his creations.

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.

Earl_LeeGrave: Earl_LeeGrave’s real name is Mike… 34 years old,  I live and have lived in Maine my whole life.  Outdoor enthusiast (mountain biking,  snowboarding,  etc),   have DJed house,  tech house,  drum & bass,  and trip hop for many years now.  I have a Bachelors in Graphic Design & Media Arts from Maine College of Art aka MECA.  I currently own a bicycle/backcountry ski shop in Portland, Maine which has continually grown in the 3 years I have co-owned it with my friend.  So far so good!  If you want to check the website and logo I designed it’s:  www.allspeed.com, also on Facebook under Allspeed Cyclery & Snow.

TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art)

Earl: Sometimes I dictate the style of music to the visual flow I’ve created. Sometimes it’s vice versa and sometimes I’ll make adjustments as I go. “2_POINT…OH?!” was all about the music when I started. I then based the design and story around sticky ball escaping a futuristic fortress of sorts into nature and then fighting a war between aliens and humans. “BRAINSPLOSION!” was more of a collaborative effort between the music and the design for me. After the new DLC came out, I made a point to utilize all the new elements. I intentionally left enough dead space within the level to be able to place the notes where I wanted to, so I could build the music as well as the design of the level. I had the most fun making “BRAINSPLOSION!”; however, being my first curve-dedicated level, “BRAINSPLOSION!” was an appropriate title; the new curves are not the easiest elements to work with, but are fun!

TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita? What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?

Earl: PS3… I’m so used to the controls of PS3 and the zoomed in bigger screen for MAD detail YO, plus I’m plugged into a few decent speakers that I can crank!   To be completely honest, I don’t have one of those little fancy gizmos… I think the rest of my life would be gone and dedicated to SS if I had a Vita!  Queasy… should I sell my business and head to Canada? haha

“BEEJOOLED! #GRAV” was one of my favorite levels to make. It started out as a shout out to some of the friends I’ve been making in the SS community (TheBeejAbides & jool2306) and also to incorporate the “Gravity” theme of the week. It allowed me to be extra creative rather than stick to my usual style. The engagement box was falling through the world, while egg man chased it to the altar. Another level that I’d say is a favorite of mine is the HCL inspired by Daftbomb, called “COFFIN_HOPPER – HCL”. It seemed like he wanted other HCL’s to come out and nobody was doing it. I almost considered it as a sort of theme of the week. It’s super hard to play and it was super hard to make, there are no resets, but I had a blast making it.

TSP: What is the favorite level you’ve played and why?

Earl: I’m assuming this question is loaded. There are too many, so I’ll try and pick levels that I’ve played most recently. “Center of the Earth” by TetraGenesis. It seems similar to my style (underground, tunnels) but done very well, with textures, shadows and composition. Really great. Music was clean and sharp and it was super fun to play. I also really liked “Face it and listen” by Gezouten. Great beats, awesome graphic design, precise detail, very modern/minimal delightfulness! “Space Monster” by sukakika: nuts! reminds me of the insanity of me, and so well designed, real organic but not flawless. It was a lot of fun to play. Beautiful title page that wasn’t involved in the game, weird good stuff.

TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?

Earl: Many times when I’m designing something very detailed after I’ve already laid out a lot of the level, I’ll step out into the white to work on it (such as text, or an egg man! :) then I’ll just copy and paste and drag it in. That way, while I’m designing it, I can see the image/text without all of the chaos of the level and since I’ve made a copy, I mess it up from alterations after I moved it into the level, I can always go back and make another copy and I won’t have to start from scratch with all that detail.

Also, when you’re designing a level and you make a screen or two, you have to play it over and over before you continue. It will help you figure out where you’re going, be it design, music, whatever. The flow of those two screens usually tells me if I want to keep designing to the left or to the right, up into the sky, or underground, how hard it is to play, etc.

TSP:  What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better.

Earl: More unique, low-memory shapes and red evil goons, more bass line packages and wacky sounds!

BOOM… if you could, Spawn Point, a “few” other quick shouts out for those creators with sick design and sound that stick out in my brainsplosion at the moment!  old_poptarts, redespair, tonytough, gasssst, sleeester, guycohen2, outtooman, mercuryant, gemuvan, threepwoodsin, sephiroth_brazil, bluebebleu, indoor_squid, dustinisgood, iwillforget, reinokid, oh-yeah ps, retrosteveuk, cloudtheknight, pikathon, flashquickster… and many more believe it or not!

Before I sign off, I want to thank each and every Shaper for being a part of this amazing series. I have been extremely fortunate to have made new friends and gaming buddies through this. I’ve spoken with people from all over the world from so many different walks of life. It’s been so fun to get a peek into the lives of so many wonderful gamers. A very special thank you to one of the most innovative and special gaming devs in gaming today Queasy Games. Your ability to create such a great game and bolster the community by giving them both the tools and a true voice for feedback is what makes this game and your company very special. I really appreciate everything you’ve done to help my share my blog and it’s meant the world to a budding blogger like me.

I am extremely sad that the #SoundShapers series ending but excited for what comes next and hope that all of you fine folks that have come back every week continue to check in on us and share the love. Without all of you we wouldn’t be here and are eternally grateful.

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The Sound Shapers – Old_PopTarts

The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.

 This week’s shaper is a mainstay of the community and has made some pretty cool levels. I was attracted to some of his creations because I really like symmetrical levels. Many of this shaper’s levels are great because they are, in the words of Tart himself: short, sweet and to the point. They offer a challenge to both novice and veteran players and show that he has firm grasp of the platforming genre.

 This week’s Shaper is Old_PopTarts

My two favorite levels from Tarts were “Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and “Say CHEESE!!”(1sl).

“Escape from Guantanamo Bay” – was really fun to play because of how the red elements are placed in the level. The “kick box” enemies were placed in such a way that it reminded me of the game “Plinko” from “The Price is Right” TV show. You have to time out both your jump to avoid the boxes and where you land on the safe areas. It was a small part of the level but stuck with me after playing it.

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“Say CHEESE!!” – is a level that resembles what you would see through a camera’s viewfinder. You can see this from the level’s community screenshot but it looks even cooler when you play it. The level is pretty straightforward: dodge all the red dotted lines on the periphery while trying to gauge your jumps on and off the circular treadmill. It’s simplistic in its design, but challenging to finish. It took me more time than I thought it would to complete, but I felt like I accomplished something once I was done.

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After playing Tart’s levels I reached out to him for a quick interview:

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.

TART: State-side born in a town called Peoria in Illinois. You may have heard “If it plays in Peoria, it’ll play anywhere.” I’ve been a gamer since the first Nintendo system all the way to the Vita. I’ve always been into platformers and who doesn’t love music? A game that mashes them both intrigued me. I’m familiar with Jonathon Mak from the game Everyday Shooter so this game definitely caught my eye. It’s a very interesting concept and works very well in action. It’s a gem that I hope everyone has a chance to play!!

TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)

TART: I like plan out my music first and get the basic layout of each screen before I start to shape my level. I find it’s much easier to start with symmetrical shapes for the whole screen and tweak from there. If you rush and just place notes randomly, there’s a chance your level won’t be as polished. You can have a whole song done but as you progress you replace certain sounds with entities from the game to compliment or replace without compromising the integrity of your song.

TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?

TART: I had an unwanted visitor in my home back in May, so unfortunately I don’t have access to a PS3 at this moment. Soo I do all my Shaping on the PS Vita, which is extremely intuitive and very well thought out. I favor the touchscreen/pad in tandem. It really makes shaping and positioning a breeze.

TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?

TART: I would say my favorite level I’ve made is “Escape from Guantanamo Bay”. It was my first fully fledged level, albeit short, sweet and to the point, I believe it’s a well rounded level. I’m currently working on my next Sound Shapes level and it’s a bit more ambitious than “Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and I am having a blast making it. I really can’t wait to release it and see what others think of it!!

TSP: What is your favorite level you’ve played and why?

TART: Picking a favorite level I’ve played is an extremely tough choice. There are many works I am fond of by creators such as: Daftbomb, TheBeejAbides and TonyTough among countless others. Favorite levels from each would be “Cheer-up Buttercup” by Daftbomb, and “A Nightmare on Church Street” by TonyTough each respectively and in no particular order. If I missed you I am terribly sorry!!

TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?

TART: Save and save often! I’ve heard of hours lost on projects due to nasty bug that is to be resolved soon. I have fortunately not had this issue (knock on wood.) I am still learning as I go, so I may not be that helpful. I gladly pass that on to Daftbomb and his instructional levels for just this! I will point out that you must take your time and try not to rush if you want your level to be polished and fun.

TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?

TART: It has been mentioned before, but I would love an option to set the tempo for screens individually to set the right tone and send the right message. I would also love to see new Sound Shapes entities and new color palettes. An option to cue strings of levels and play them back to back would also be welcome. I would have loved to have a “ghost” mode as well but have been told Queasy Games would need a fully deterministic engine to do so :/

I would like to first thank Queasy Games and John Mak for this lovely gem. Everyone who even remotely likes platformers and music should give this game a go. I would also like to thank Kahlief for this opportunity to share my thoughts. Lastly I would like to thank the all the creators for giving me tons of content to obsess over! A special shout-out to Redespair, MilkManiac, DUSTINISGOOD and BeejAbides for setting such high bars on speed-runs and look forward to meeting you all on the Sticky Ball courts. ^_^

Big thanks goes out to Tarts for being a part of the series and sharing his thoughts on his work. A huge congrats also goes out to the SoundShapes crew for winning “Best handheld and Song in a Game” at this year’s VGA’s. Two really dope DLC launches this month wrap up a pretty amazing year for us as Shapers and there is more to come.  I can’t wait to see what new levels come about from all these goodies. As for us at the Spawnpoint, we are wrapping up our #SoundShapers series next week and we hope to see you there.

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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.

PREPARE TO LAUNCH

“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.

HURRICANE REFUGEE

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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BEBOP

The Sound Shapers – DUSTINISGOOD

The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.

 I was introduced to this week’s Shaper from a screenshot of one of the best re-creations of a character I’d seen in SoundShapes. Sure there were a couple of Mario doppelgangers around but a faithful re-creation of a character from a staple of the Anime genre was new and kind of mind boggling. It was this level that brought me into the world of community member DUSTINISGOOD.

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Playing through some of his levels gave the feeling that he not only understood the unwritten language of what makes a good platformer but also that he likes to torment his players with rhythmic death symphonies. I decided that I was up to the challenge and failed miserably ( insert sad face ).

Some of the levels I played were:

“Breakdown” – I loved the color palettes he used in this level, I’ve seen them used before but for some reason they stood out to me in this one. The section in which the bouncy cubes were implemented added both a level of depth to the level’s music but also to the complexity of the platforming. Breakdown is hard and can be unforgiving in spots if you aren’t paying attention and learning what it is trying to show you but if you can dodge enough lava bullets and swinging wrecking balls you will find yourself on the leader board. Good luck, though, because at the time of this article there are fewer than fifteen folks there already.

DUSTINBREAKDOWN

“Termite” – Is a very cool symmetrical 1SL level that is deceptively hard. The laser robots play guardian as you try to get to the goal and do not make it easy. The level plays like a virtual game of “hide and seek” and can be quick if you want to get a low time but much more daunting if you looking to capture all the notes on this level.

TERMITE

“Cowboy BeBop” – Is a masterpiece, end of story. I am still dumbfounded and amazed that DUSTIN made this level in this type of a game. I’m amazed at the artistry and imagination it takes to re-create almost down to the pixel a picture of such an iconic character. BeBop is less a platformer right now than a proof of concept, as it is still in beta, but nonetheless extremely impressive and beautiful. I believe this level opens up the scope and boundaries of what people believed was possible in the Sound Shapes engine.

BEBOP

Dustin took some time to talk to The Spawn Point and tell us about his process.

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
DUSTINISGOOD: My background as a gamer started when I was very young. Atari was an excellent way to pass the cold winters of New Hampshire where I grew up. I liked Pong enough, and Asteroids was fun, but Pitfall was the game that introduced me to platforming and what really blew my mind. When Nintendo came out and I played Super Mario Brothers for the first time, I became a platformer for life. Mega Man, Zelda II, Super Monkey Ball, Bit. Trip. Runner. – these games define me as a person. Obviously, Sound Shapes is just the next step for me. Sound Shapes also appeals to me as a musician. I learned to play the drums in High School and also sang in the choir. (I grew my hair out too… I thought I would be the next Eddy Vedder). In college, I played drums in a few bands and got into raving, had a sweet set of turntables and beat-making equipment. I could spend all day just mixing beats. That is what makes Sound Shapes so great, it really goes beyond gaming and into the world of making art. How lucky are we all to have a single thing that provides us with an excellent artistic outlet with a readymade gallery and audience. Coupled with some seriously awesome platforming? I couldn’t be happier! Today I live in Denver, Colorado and work as the head horticulturalist, facility manager, and master cultivator for a medium-sized medical apothecary, and I also consult for the hi-tech indoor farming industry. I used to work as a sports photographer and that satiated my creative streak nicely, but since I switched careers in 2009, I have been missing art. I love my work, but it doesn’t provide me with that creative outlet that I crave, and Sound Shapes fills that void perfectly.
 TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
DUSTIN: To plan out my levels, I break it down into a few steps. First, I make a gameplay style choice. Will the level be a speedy platformer, a super hard death-a-thon, an artistic display, or epic story. The next step is to lay down the music. For “Cowboy Bebop” for example, I tried to replicate the baseline to the theme music for the anime series that it is based on. Like jool2306’s level “Seasons”, you couldn’t recreate the music of “Seasons of Vivaldi” after placing a bunch of gameplay elements, the music must come first. After the basic elements of the music are in place, it is time to consider your color palette. For each frame you basically have 4 colors to work with and one will always be background and one will always be on top. That limiting fact makes for an interesting creative challenge that I love to see how each Sound Shaper overcomes in their own way. The next step depends on that original gameplay style choice. If I am going for platforming speed or challenge, I work on those elements next. If it’s more about story telling or art I will come up with thematic elements next. Finally, it is all about polish. I replay the level over and over and fix any bugs, fine tune the gameplay, and box in the frames so that gamers don’t end up lost in what I call “the netherworld”. I am ashamed to admit that I will add in music “coins” after the fact, for the purpose of coin collection gameplay, but I will try to make them add to the music or at least be unobtrusive, but it does make the sound potentially more garbled.
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
DUSTIN: I play and make levels on my PS3. I am very tempted to buy a Vita though, because my girlfriend does not tolerate me playing video games while she is around, so I end up doing most of my Sound Shaping after she falls asleep. I may be able to get away with playing Vita while she is up but that is iffy! PS: (I don’t mean to make my girlfriend out to be a tyrant, she is actually quite lovely!)
TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
DUSTIN: My favorite published level that I have made is “BREAKDOWN.” (Not to be confused with the level “Breakdown” by Anoy337 which is also one of my favorites). This level has only 6 completed play-throughs and most of those took over 10 minutes. My score of 4:50.61 is first, but I know it could be beaten by at least a minute. I am just waiting for someone to step up and crush it. (I have posted much faster times in the level creator mode!) Get to it before Milkmaniac does, because his scores are mostly unbeatable!
“BREAKDOWN” is my favorite published level because of the pure gameplay of it. Every frame has a way to blast through super fast but it is not readily apparent the first time you play. Little tricks like waiting for the monster to come to you then running underneath or placing yourself in just the right spot to be shot right past the obstacles is the only way to fully appreciate the platforming of this level. It was originally named “Timing is Everything,” but I renamed it after watching most of my friends breakdown completely while playing it. As far as I know, it hasn’t made anyone cry yet though!
TSP: What is the favorite level you’ve played and why?
DUSTIN: Choosing one favorite level is nearly impossible for me! There are so many reasons to love this game and everyone puts their own thumbprint on it when creating levels. So here is a list of some of the levels that I really love:
As far as I can tell, Daftbomb is the most prolific Sound Shaper. His levels are always super polished, have great music and flawless gameplay. “+” and “3” are my two favorite of his, though, because of the challenge. Both of those levels took me several hours to beat with a score that satisfied me, and I still go back to them again and again just for fun.
“Diamond Elephunk” by TheBeejAbides was the first user-created level that I played, (mostly because of the “Big Lebowski” reference in his username) and it is still one of the best! Beej’s platforming is so much fun throughout his levels and his storytelling is very fluid and entertaining, and no one can beat “Seizure square dance” or “Totemly awesome” without becoming a master platformer.
yodalex is another superb Sound Shaper. I tend to like his/her levels all equally as they are all very similar. Pure platforming, no story line, nothing un-essential, super clean.  Just you and the speed run… Go!
Now it is time to talk about jool2306. I can’t heap enough praise on this creator. His levels are amazing! He has a great, cartoony art style, difficult and fluid gameplay, a true knack for picking the best elements of his favorite levels and adapting them to his own uses, and the ability to make me feel sad or make me laugh out loud completely unexpectedly and without warning, all with just the simple set of tools that Sound Shapes provides. It is most impressive! His epic, episodic, egg themed levels are hilarious and everyone should play them. “Without you” and “Seasons” can drown you in melancholy and sadness in a very satisfying way. However, his best levels in my opinion are his 1SLs (one stage levels). “Pizzzza” is so hard that I have played it probably 100 times and have yet to make that final jump onto the finishing “slice”, and “Devil symphony” was a wholly zen experience for me. This simple level with the awesome title screen art is ridiculously hard. I stood, inches from the TV for over an hour trying again and again to inch closer to the finish. I screamed, I jumped up and down, I almost chucked the controller through the TV, and I finally got it after I got myself into a trance-like calm where it was just instinct, nothing else. I don’t think I have ever had a gaming experience that intense before.
Some of my other favorites include: “Lets go” by gassst, “Gezawesome vol. 1″ and “The wheel of music – 1SL” by gezouten, “Pear tree & fish” by AntiHumor and “Beat it” by Milkmaniac.
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
DUSTIN: The biggest advice that I can give to anyone is to backup your levels; make copies, save to the cloud, upload your unfinished levels and just mark them as unfinished, or something. “Cowboy Bebop” is an unfinished level. I am still working on it as we speak. Soon I will reload it with a bunch more “scenes” and a remixed soundtrack. The reason that I uploaded it unfinished is because I really didn’t want to lose it like I did with the “Breaking Bad”-themed level that I made a few months ago. I spent at least 50+ hours making it and it was my best! Of course, you have to take my word for that because my PS3 froze up while the save icon was lit up, and I was forced to restart, and I lost the whole thing. After speaking to Jon Mak of Queasy games, I sent him the corrupted data, but unfortunately it wasn’t able to be retrieved. I greatly appreciate Jon Mak’s patient help and correspondence, but it was still a huge bummer. The whole thing could have been avoided if I had only made copies.
TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?
DUSTIN: I have a ton of ideas about DLC that I would be psyched to see. Here are a few:
Have an option to put any object in the foreground (interactive) or background (passive). That would be a great way to easily create depth.
Have an option to choose from a color wheel and change the color of an object without changing its interactive properties.
Have an enemy that eats other objects in the frame.
Have the option to give the player a “ground pound” sort of action and blocks that can be smashed.
Have an adjustable curved line tool, where you place a line and then grab it from somewhere in the middle and pull it into a curve. Making curved lines is so hard in Sound Shapes, and I believe that a curved line tool would really help bridge the gap between creating rudimentary digital art and more traditional techniques such as painting or calligraphy.
I want to say thank you to all of the amazing Sound Shapers out there who have provided me with countless hours of entertainment. To Kahlief Adams for giving me this opportunity to share my views of this amazing community that we are so lucky to be a part of. To all of the people who have reached out to me through PSN and continue to share their thoughts, opinions and stories with me, and to everyone at Queasy Games for making the best indie game of all time!

Huge thanks to DUSTINISGOOD for participating in this week’s article. The end of the year is quickly approaching and so is the end of our #SoundShapers series.  It has been a wild and amazing ride, I thank all of the Shapers who have been a part of it and Queasy Games for being so awesome. Stay tuned and check back here next week for our next Shaper.

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BREAKDOWN-ANOY

The Sound Shapers – Anoy337

The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.

The outstanding thing about the Sound Shapes community is that levels will bubble up through various means. Between chatter amongst the heavy hitters on PSN or the different filters on the Sound Shapes community website there are dozens of ways for players to find great content. While digging through my “following” list I saw that many of folk’s favorite levels were from this week’s shaper Anoy337.

Some of his stand-out levels that I have played include:

“Fatal Progress” – Levels like this are special because they take the usual platforming conventions and flip them on their heads. Usually you try to avoid things that can kill you, but in FP you embrace death by jumping into the red hearts on every screen. It also makes the save points (usually a good thing) into a total annoyance to run into. Hitting some of them will have you re-spawn in a part of the level that takes you away from your goal. It makes this level really challenging and almost Vita-chucking. The payoff is well worth it if you can keep pushing.

“Breakdown” – Breakdown sets you up to believe that it won’t be a pain in the arse, but you soon see that it’s devious, treacherous and beautiful. You can see that going into making this level Anoy had a plan, and it was to push players to think before you leap. Besides the actual plaforming, there are a couple of screens that are really gorgeous to look at.

“Bonus Round_01” – So far this is my favorite Anoy level. It plays like a side-scrolling version of the classic game “Mousetrap”. I really appreciate craftsmanship and this one-screen level is chock full of it. What makes it cool is that you have to open gates all around the screen through quick movement, precision jumping, and sequencing. It’s extremely well thought out and is challenging and fun to play.

After playing his levels I had to ask him some questions about his method.

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
Anoy337: Hi all, my name is Lee and I’m a tattoo artist by profession. I’m mostly drawing on people but pretty much whatever spare time I have usually gets donated to video games. Among the many I enjoy is the gem that is Sound Shapes. The ability to use such an amazing platform to freely create your own “songs” is what won my heart.
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
Anoy: To be honest I try not to have a standard approach to making the song but rather choosing my underlying concept first and then approaching it in whichever way is more practical for concept of song. Sometimes however I take a more loose approach and sort of try to let the song just make itself, if that makes any sense.
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
Anoy: I use my lovely little lady, the PS Vita. Sometimes I play on my PS3 but I have made all my levels on my PS Vita thus far. I prefer the touch screen over cursor.
TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
Anoy: Well this is a tricky one because I have lost many a level before doing online backups and some of them are amongst my favourites. My top published level would have to be “FATAL PROGRESS”. I could maybe have done more with the music but I love how it can make you fear save points if you play it too long, which is usually evident when you play a normal level afterwards. Also I felt making the only thing that could kill you in the level a heart seems to help you embrace death easier.
TSP: What is the favorite level you’ve played and why?
Anoy: There are so many amazing songs and creators out there it would be unfair to choose only one. A stage I enjoyed very much recently though was the “Shape Invaders Song” by Gasssst. It had some innovative game play ideas and a really nice style also. But with guys like Daftbomb, Beejabides, TT, Jool, Gezouten, Earlee and all the many other amazing Sound Shapers working hard, it’s guaranteed another winner song will be uploaded probably while you are reading this interview. Thanks again for making this possible Queasy Games and Sony.
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
Anoy: Mmmmmmmmm…don’t use elevators the other way around, no matter how tempted. I recently learned that shapes isn’t enough for a good level; sound is also very important. Think about the player objectively when making your song and know who you’re trying to make the song for, even if it’s just for yourself. Most importantly don’t over complicate panels and try to spread out the songs; I struggle a lot with this one.
TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?
Anoy: I heard something about a curve pack :) which was my only wish at first, but recently when getting into the sound side I find that a volume adjustment on individual game objects seems like something that could be very useful. I’m not too sure however on how the programming behind it would work so it might not even be possible. Other than that, maybe some weapons to fight back against the reds in Sound Shapes 2.

Anoy also gave us some shout outs:
I would like to thank Kahlief ‘kahjah’ and The Spawn Point Blog for this opportunity. You guys are doing an awesome job. Thanks also to all Sound Shapers for working hard at making dope levels and a very special thanks to all the queasies @Queasygames for making this amazing medium its truly the canvas of our time. You guys rule.

Thanks again to Anoy337 for sharing his great work with the community and taking time to chat with us at The Spawn Point Blog. We hope that you all are enjoying the #SoundShapers series and Sound Shapes. Check back here next week to see our interview with DUSTINISGOOD.

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GASSST-NAME

The Sound Shapers – Gasssst

The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.

I’ve asked all the Shapers the question, “How do you plan out your levels? (Music or art first?).” In my other life, I dabble in the art of beat-making and always try to make a good soundtrack for each of my levels. This week I introduce you to a member of the community that I believe to be not only one of the coolest level designers but one of the most musically-talented  Shapers we have.

This week’s shaper is Gasssst.

I picked three of his levels to talk about this week that I feel really stood out from his collection and the first one I’ll discuss today is “Alien.”

“Alien” is a short but visually striking level that is an homage to the classic movie. You start out by falling to the ground and dodging shapes that eventually spell out the level’s title. It’s subtle but really works well to bring about the feeling of emptiness and the void of space.  The soundtrack adds to this really well and Gasssst used some interesting tricks to add notes in some fun ways. There are also some cool movie callbacks that I won’t spoil, but it must have taken a long time to create those surprises.

“Deja-Vu” is a fun little level that plays on its title by placing you in a continuous travel through the same scene over and over, cutting off sections each time to funnel you toward your goal. It’s a quick play and smartly done level.

Although the above levels are excellent I will say by far my favorite level is “Let’s Go”. If you were to strip away all of the geometry and gameplay, it would easily be one of the best-sounding levels in the community. The really cool thing about it is that although it’s very short, it’s pretty challenging, and trying to manage very intricate jumps through a cavern is made better by its lively soundtrack. Again, I can’t stress the music enough in this level and it’s a must-play.

I want to give a quick note: Gasssst is probably best known for his “Jam” levels.  I played them but couldn’t get to the end of them. It’s a testament to his level-building skills and my ineptitude in finding the hidden tunnels, but from what I played I loved the music and visual style.

Gasssst was awesome enough to sit down and answer some of our questions:

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
Gasssst: 34 Years Old, Swiss made, I love music, movies, art and games. I used to play bass guitar and drums in a few local bands when I was younger. Now I am mostly doing Hip-Hop beats and experimental sounds on Reason. When I first saw Sound Shapes in the PSN Store it jumped right at me because of the word Sound. So I watched the trailer and really loved the style of the game. I actually buy a lot of PSN games but this one was one of the best experiences I’ve had. Playing the story mode and Death Mode were very hard. But it’s one of the platinum trophies I’m most proud of. I wasn’t really excited about the editor at first, but then I played a few community levels and when I saw what is possible it kind of got me addicted. So thanks, Queasy, for saving me some money because there’s no need for other PSN games anymore. 😉
 TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
 Gasssst: In most of my levels I started with the music first. Usually with a simple bassline in the beginning. But for some of my levels, like “Deja-Vu” for example, I had to make the design first. My levels are all kind of short and I rarely get over three minutes of playtime. I just like short little levels. Most of my levels are very easy to play. This might be a little selfish, but I just want to have a good time playing my own stuff. When I play community levels I often quit if I have to try more than ten times on one spot.
 TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
 Gasssst: I created all of my levels on PS3. I have a Vita and I created two levels on it, but I didn’t like the design so I didn’t upload them. To me it seems very hard to design a level with the touchpad and screen. I guess I am just too used to the PS3 controller. But one good thing about the Vita is you get a second Platinum. 😉
 TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
 Gasssst: My favorite levels I made are the Jam levels because of the Optical Illusions, which took some time to create. I played the levels “Another Problem” from gezouten and “Triptych” from Daftbomb. I love geometric forms and so I said if they can do something like that, I have to give it a try and see if I can do it, too. I already had some beats prepared in the editor so I just had to make them playable. It was great fun to design them and I took my time when making some nice thumbnails for the level. “Kir 1SL” is one of my favorites. I said I love short levels and it was the only level in which I created the thumbnail first. I just found out how to stretch objects and I tried to do something graffiti-like. When I was finished I loved it so much that I just needed to upload it, but you can’t just upload a thumbnail right? So I quickly created a 1SL for it, and it was not bad for a level I created in around 15 to 20 minutes. “Heat 1SL” was the first level that I put some details in and tried to make it look less chaotic than my earlier levels. At the time, it was the only 1SL where you could not die. And since I’m a huge fan of the movie it’s become one of my favorites too.
 TSP: What is your favorite level you’ve played and why?
 Gasssst: This is a really hard choice, because there are so many cool levels out there, so I will just name the ones that changed my way of creating levels. “Problem?” by Daftbomb – First it was just a trollface and then he added more and more notes to it, which I thought was a really cool way to make fun of those creators that add notes to get their “pole position” back in the leaderboards. It also was the level that showed me the possibility of hiding tubes, which was essential for my Jam Levels. “Another Problem” by gezouten – A really nice level with a lot of details and amazing Optical Illusions with a really hard way to find the exit. Thanks to getouzen for that great inspiration. “Cowboy Bebop” by DUSTINISGOOD – I’m a fan of the Anime. In fact I believe it’s the best Anime series ever, especially because of Yoko Kanno’s Soundtrack. She’s a genius and this level is a great tribute to it. The way Dustin drew those characters is unlike anything else in Sound Shapes. I really hope he finishes it one day and adds Jet Black and Einstein to it. “RED” by Tony Tough, “I had that Bus Dream” by BeejAbides, and “Life is Too Short” by jool2306 are also three of my most favorite levels because these three great creators tell stories in their levels. I haven’t seen anything like it in the SS Community Levels. There are a lot more levels that come to mind right but these are just some of the gems you find in the SS Community.
 TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
 Gasssst: The best trick is to play a lot of community levels because it shows you what is possible and gives you some input, which makes your own creations better. In my own levels I always try not to mix up too many different objects and to not end up with a totally chaotic looking level. It helps to make a thumbnail if you want your level to be played, or at least a name because no one likes to play the unnamed levels right?
 TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better.
 Gasssst: I think the best thing for me would be if you could choose to place notes over two screens, which would give you the possibility of making longer melodies. Ones that run on 32 steps instead of just 16, and maybe a few more Instruments to play with, like for example a Violin or a funky slap bass guitar or more snare and bass drums. In fact just more of everything that sounds cool. 😉

Huge shout out to Gasssst for all of his help with the #SoundShapers project, you should check out his other levels here

Next week: come back to check out our interview with SoundShaper Annoy337

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UNHAPPY TREES

The Sound Shapers – Gezouten

After Sound Shapes was released there were many creators who put their creative stamp on the community. Some did this by utilizing the objects and sounds given in new and interesting ways. Some of them attached themselves to particular themes and ran wild. In the first initial months the “ESC” (escape) level theme devised from community favorite Daftbomb bubbled up to the surface. The ESC theme is one where the user has to find a way out of the level via some hidden exit. This week’s shaper was one of the first to really make his name by using the ESC theme to create awesome levels.

This week’s shaper is Gezouten or as I like to call him GEZOOOOTEN!

One of my favorite Gez levels has to be his Halloween themed “Unhappy Trees”. I’m always amazed at how quickly the shapers come up with levels and really good ones at that. I believe the HLWN theme was announced on a Wednesday and this level was up before the weekend. The brown and orange color palette mixed in with the spooky soundtrack really plays into the theme and carries you along the story of all the abused trees you find in the forest. It was great to see Gez get in touch with his storyteller side and pull off such a memorable level in such a short amount of time.

“Revenge of the Mad Faces” is a cool level to look at but even better to listen to. Once the drum loop hits it really gets excited to get to the next screen. I have a real affection for tight drum loops and funky kicks and “Mad Faces” totally has them. The reconstructed faces look really cool and the level can be surprisingly difficult in spots. It’s a great mix of art, music and platforming.

Lastly “Gezawesome” Vol1 takes you to this trancy kind of techno place. Its music feels like a Deus Ex level with its pulsating synth notes. Imagery of being miniaturized and placed within a music lovers dream is what makes this level so cool. The attention to detail with things so symmetrically placed must have taken him a long time to create and the payoff at the end is totally worth it.

We spoke with Gez about some of his favorite levels and how he makes them.

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
GEZ: Playing Sound Shapes was a coincidence, I finished some games on the PS Vita and was searching In the PS store for something different. I remembered that I saw some games with music Involved. When I saw the description of Sound Shapes In the PSN-store I knew this could be THE game for me. Why? Because I create music and logos for fun since I was a kid.
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
GEZ: Most of the time when I start creating a level, I have a basic idea of what I would like to create, but mostly the finished level is something totally different. For example: “UFO – ESC,” I wanted to make a level where you entered a UFO and saved the world from the aliens. I got stuck in designing it and had some other idea’s for some levels so first I worked on the “Another Problem”- level. When I returned to “UFO – ESC”, the “ESC (escape)” idea was launched and suddenly I saw it in a totally different way. Other times I just create the sound and then the ideas for the graphics come “Revenge of the Mad Faces” was one of those levels.
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
GEZ: I played the PS3 version a few times, but never created anything on it. And the feeling on the PSVita is really great. The only problem is that I get so addicted, when I get some spare time the Vita is in my hands.
TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
GEZ: “Another Problem” and all the other ESC-levels. Daftbomb came up with his brilliant “Problem” level theme and it inspired me so much! When I played his level I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. I needed a lot of time to finish his level and after all it wasn’t that hard. So I contacted Daftbomb to ask what he would think of making a series of ESC-levels, it would be a successor to the 1SL series. I used to play a lot of escape games some years ago and loved to make some of my own. I must say, most of my ESC levels, I start designing it as a normal level, but in the process I always get ESC ideas and in the end I created another ESC.
“Another Problem” was designed with the intention to make a level including optical illusions. The original level was bigger, but I deleted a part to keep the level small, to make sure the ESC part wasn’t too hard. After publishing the level, I added some hints in the level because in the first publication it was too hard to find the exit. Now when I make an ESC level I always try to give away the solution in hints or in the thumbnail. The thumbnail of “Another Problem” almost tells exactly what to do and in the level there are a few other hints. When you put those together, the answer is easy to find!
“AMIGA PP Hammer Tribute” was a level I made because I was wondering for years why no one republishes those fantastic AMIGA classics. Even after 20 years they are still great. (PP hammer, Push Over, Gods: perfect games for a handheld:  c’mon SONY!) It’s a pretty hard level to get trough, but hey, it’s a game!!
“Revenge of the Mad Faces”. I made a soundtrack, the “Mad Faces” and “Revenge” came later. As the creators of Sound Shapes said, “You’d be angry, too, if someone was jumping all over your face.” It’s not an easy level, but not impossible. It starts off as an easy level, but when you are half way through the level, the mad faces are getting really mad!
“Unhappy Trees-HLWN” was my first story-based level. The Halloween theme-a-week was launched and I totally had no Idea what to do with it. I first made a Halloween soundtrack and wanted a forest as setting. While I was making the forest I got an Idea of what the story could be. So I made a sentence that told the basic story and worked on one screen without knowing what the next would be. It has a lot of humor in it, when you look at the details.
TSP: What are your favorite levels you’ve played and why?
GEZ: There are so many fantastic levels. I love all the levels from Daftbomb, TT, TheBeejAbides, Anoy337, jool2306, gassst and Earl-leegraves.
“Escape Suburbia” – ESC (TheBeejAbIdes) – When you first play this level, you get confused more than once. This is what an ESC level should be. It has great challenges and nice graphics. Beej knows how to make great graphical, musical, story-based levels.
“Fatal progress” (Anoy337) – Damn that was hard. My top time was 49 minutes, but it was worth my time. There was one screen almost at the end of the level that I had to replay so many times, but it was too good to stop.  It’s sad that people give up so easy on harder levels, because there are many great levels not finished because of that.
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
-Look what others do, you learn a lot from them and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
-Make a nice thumbnail for your level. If you are looking for a random level, you will always pick the ones with a nice thumbnail.
-Make sure that your level is “boxed in.” It’s never nice to play someone’s level and fall into empty unedited places.
-Play Daftbomb’s tutorial levels; they are the way to success!

TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?

-Layers: put objects In front or background.
-Suicide button: When you get stuck, return to previous checkpoint. It’s frustrating when you are almost at the end of a level you get stuck and have to restart the level.
-Probably very expensive: Why not make an app for android/iPhone, where you can play (some) community levels? It could be good advertising.
-Multiplayer levels, it would be nice to play together, and could create a new wave of levels. And why not be able to pass levels to another user, so you can work together on one level, or make your own version of somebody’s creation.

I again want to thank Gez and EVERYONE who had decided to be a part of this project. People have been really excited to hear the stories and inspirations that have birthed all this great content.

If you have any thoughts, questions or comments, leave them below and if you have the game get out there and start creating.

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jool-port

The Sound Shapers – Jool2306

The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.

Thought-provoking, cheeky humor is a beautiful thing, and subtle humor isn’t an easy thing to convey in real life, let alone in a videogame. Jool2306, a French member of the SoundShapers community, has found both a way to be aesthetically beautiful and to inject his own comedic timing into his levels. Here are a couple of thoughts about my favorite Jool levels, and Jool gives us his perspective thereafter.

This week’s SoundShaper is Jool2306:

“8th Wonder” – What I really appreciate about this level is the attention to detail put into each wonder. My favorite was the Great Pyramid and the Coliseum. Jool’s genius idea of traveling to the all these majestic sights through a really cool central hub not only made sense as a platformer but made the player feel like they didn’t know what was coming next. His addition of an 8th wonder was nicely done and was a fun surprise.

“Egg Story” – Is a cute trilogy that chronicles the life of an egg and his travels. Jumping on flecks of salt and pepper to navigate your way around a kitchen stove is just one of the clever ideas implemented by Jool in his level. It’s both playful and makes you think that Jool would be a great storybook writer. As you go from story to story, you are treated to a “previously on” screen which gives a small recap of what happened in prior levels. It’s a really nice touch and shows how well-thought his levels are.

“Life is Too Short” – This is by far my favorite Jool level. It is, in essence, a level that you watch instead of play. It was really interesting to see how he came about making the level, but the story is one that we can all identify with. It is a commentary of sorts on the bits and pieces that make up much of the human experience on the planet. Birth, love, relationships, family and death are all represented by quirky single image tableaus. The way the level plays out it actually pretty beautiful, the timing and music were crafted in such a way to evoke all the right emotions. I really like this level and highly recommend it.

Jool took some time to tell us his thoughts on his levels as well.

8th wonder” – as in 95 percent of levels shared by players, you begin on a point A, and you have to go to your right to reach point B and finish the level. I wanted to give an original beginning and multiple ways that the player can take in order to get around the level, but still have a central hub. So when I thought about the rectangular screen, there were 8 possible ways: up, down, left, right and the 4 diagonals. So I had to find a good concept with 8 screens around the starting screen. So what could be better than the 7 world wonders plus an 8th (that must be original!). After that, I thought about putting on the center of the main screen a globe with the map of the world, and put a red cross on the exact location of the 7 wonders that I designed. I thought this was a good concept and I wanted players to explore each wonder. I wanted them not to have to rush to the finish item and possibly miss some wonders so I put the 7 doors and 7 switches in each wonder. After that I googled a lot of wonders, chose the best ones, and reproduced them with the aid of photos.  But I had a very bad surprise doing this level. At the beginning of my work, there was a corridor between the main screen and each wonder, with the name of the wonder, so it was really better than the current level published. When I reached my 6th wonder, I had the message “too many elements on the screen, your action is deleted.” I saturated the level memory, and I wasn’t able to finish my level !!! It was a nightmare! So I had to make choices, and reduce my hopes for this level

I deleted each corridor, and reworked them a little bit to get back some of the memory and be able to finish it. That’s why some of the wonders aren’t beautiful; for example, the one with rocks is the “Grand Canyon” but I’m still not satisfied with it. I think with more space it could be much better!!!

The last screen with Sound Shapes was essential for me, I was thinking of what they would feel, after visiting the 7th wonder, to discover that the 8th is this game.

“Egg Story”  – I played a lot of levels and the start item was always placed in a  common way. I wanted to propose something new, something unusual that nobody did. I was watching a cartoon with my son and I saw a hen laying an egg, then something clicked in my mind! I thought immediately that it would be an amazing beginning for my level! So I began to draw the hen, after that I thought about eggs, all the ways to eat an egg, so I created a restaurant, and added the man with the spoon. I then looked at the available colors, white and black immediately gave me idea of salt and pepper, but I wanted some difficulty so I added red spices in the screen with the egg on fire. Then I watched the checkpoint elements and it started really looking like an omelet. I also tried to put a touch of humor in my level. And again, I oversaturated the memory!!!! So as I still had  a lot of ideas in mind, I decided to do more than one episode on this subject, and it’s how the saga began. If you’ve played episode 2 and episode 3 you’ll notice that I try to incorporate more elements to the story. In ep2, when the dad speaks, he asks to save the egg species and find a priest on the top of a mountain. It’s like a quest, when you climb the mountain, you will have some references to videogames (Mario that took the wrong pipe, Pacman that wants to be saved too, the Boulderdash boy with a big rock over his head, Gravity rush girl and her cat). When you reach the top, the old priest will ask you to destroy the earth, and you finish the level. I always try to finish the level with something exciting that will give player something to look forward to next episode. In ep3, you have to find a secret base, and for this you have a little challenge with a clue on a painting. But before, you will visit an egg town with some jokes (a cinema with some parodies, Spider Egg for example, and some nods to other creators like TonyTough of “Ninja”, and on the last room of cinema, the film played is the last scene of the “Buttercup” level from TheBeejAbides). I love when possible to put some nods to the SS productions that I loved! And in between Egg episodes, I always do a very quick teaser level called “Egg Episode is coming…” with little jokes inside (the first was on a cinema, the second on a road and the third on a magazine) with the invitation for player to play previous episodes in the meantime. If you haven’t tried them, they are very quick; they have only 1 screen and are finished in no more than five seconds.

“For Life is Too Short” – My idea for this level was born with the will to do a level with a totally different style from the existing ones. A level that tells a story, but a story that the player can only follow, and not act on it. That’s why the level is done vertically, and which story could be better than the story of life? I had this idea to propose something very quick (38s) but that could have a big emotional impact. I wanted that when the popup with the number of notes on the screen of the player appears at the end, he says “Wow, that was great and unusual.” At the beginning I wanted to only do a descent that you can’t stop, to stress the idea of the shortness of the life. But as I put two drawings for each life period, it was really too quick and there wasn’t time to watch these pictures so I added these little dots to slow the player’s fall and it was also a way for the player to stop and see all the details in the drawings. I tried to select the 2 best images of each life period with sometimes a humorous (the “censured” bed), a nod to TonyTough (in teenage period, the level played on the Vita is “A Nightmare On Church St” by TT), and a solid story: the man and the girl that meet in the disco, then the wedding, their house, the work, the conception of their baby. The future father that touches the belly of the future mother, the family. Strangely enough on this level, I hadn’t been blocked by the memory issue, even though the drawings took a lot of elements! To finish off the design, I wanted to create a beautiful presentation page, to attract players so I did this baby near this old man, and it was ready to be played! In fact “Life is Too Short” is my best creation I think, or at least, the one I’m most proud of!

———–

After hearing Jool explain how he made his awesome levels, we had to talk with him. Below is our interview.

TSP:  Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
JOOL:  I’m a 31-year-old French guy, totally fond of videogames. I’ve been playing more than 20 years on all platforms. I’m always looking for games that propose original concepts. I have a love of music so when I saw the review of Sound Shapes, I thought that this game was perfect for me. I was an absolute fan of a wonderful game called “Rez” on Dreamcast (a conceptual shoot’em-up that asked you to create the music by shooting enemies). Before Sound Shapes, I never tried a game that proposed for you to create your own level, and I was pretty sure to be bad at that, but I tried the experience!
 TSP:  How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
JOOL: Usually I plan music first and then I adapt the level design to my music, in order to avoid just adding notes to fill blanks and give the level a messy sound. But sometimes, according the concept of my level, I’m compelled to create the art first and then add the music (example: “Life is Too Short”). In “Seasons”, for example, the starting point was the idea of using the classical song “Four Seasons” by Vivaldi, so I reproduced first the melody, and then I created each season.
 TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
 JOOL:  I play and create usually on Vita, I think that this platform is perfect for this kind of game. In this way I can stay with my family, my son can watch TV  and I can stay near them. With my Vita to play/create some levels (or as my wife says “doing my bips-bips”). But recently I discovered something very useful on PS3 (that I will talk about later) so I use both, finally.
 TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
 JOOL: “Without you”- I did the darkest level of the community according to me. The theme is extremely upsetting: I thought about the most horrible thing that could happen in my life, and this level is the result. I never played a level that gave me a sad feeling, so I wanted a deeper level of feeling with very explicit scenes. This level isn’t about happiness or fun, it’s just drama that can happen in the real life. And I adapted the melody to this dark atmosphere.
 “The Way to Tribute” – When I began to create levels, I was happy about them, and I played some Beej, Daftbomb or TonyTough creations and I just cried seeing the difference of quality between mine and theirs! The idea of this level is born with the will to thank them for doing their great job and the passion that they put inside their levels. I mixed up some of their levels to create a funny story about searching for a way to tribute. I will give only one example, at the end of TT’s “A Nightmare on Church St.”, it’s a Freddy Kruger hand that shows the way to exit. In TT’s “Red”, this is the story of little red riding hood revisited, in Beej’s “I Had That Bus Dream Again”, we can see buses in clouds. My first screen begins like this: Red, who is in front of a guy sleeping on an hammock dreaming of buses, says “Wake up Fred, you must show me the way.”
“Life is Too Short” – In this level, I propose something different than my usual levels. In only 38 seconds you will “live” a life from the birth to the death. Maybe my best production, but for sure, the one I’m most proud of!
“Pizzzza – 1SL” – after playing a lot of Daftbomb’s 1SL (1 Screen Level), I wanted to create an original one. Being half Italian, I love this country. This level is a nod to Italy, and especially to its wonderful food! It all takes place on a pizza, mushrooms and olives will be your friends but be careful about deadly tomato sauce!
“The 8th World Wonder” – In this level, I ask you to discover what is the 8th World Wonder by exploring the 7 first. You will travel from Mexico to Nepal, passing by Italy or Egypt, and you will have a nice surprise at the end…
“An Egg Story” – Episode 1, 2 and 3 for the moment, and a special Halloween episode, in this saga, you will follow the amazing journey of an egg. Just laid, he will discover himself in a restaurant. What is the fate of egg?…and will you have the will to destroy the earth? How will this story finish? Will he find a path to solve the conflict with eggeaters? Will he really destroy the earth? Keep tuned, episode 4 is coming! (And at least one more episode after 4.)
TSP: What is the favorite level you’ve played and why?
JOOL: “Cheer Up Buttercup !” – by TheBeejAbides, it has been the first level that I played that proposed something different. A great level with lovely music, a touching story and a high level design. I loved it so much that I recreated the last scene of this level in 2 different levels that I made, to make tribute to his great creator work.
“A Nightmare on Church St.” – by TonyTough, for me, this level has been a revelation, and since I played it, the way I create levels has totally changed. This level provides all the things that a player can dream of: a wonderful melody, an amazing level design, and an enigma to find the exit. When I played it, I wasn’t anymore in Sound Shapes, but really in the TT nightmare! AMAZING!
“1980” – by Daftbomb, all his levels breathe of a job well done, a lot of details, a level design with a very special and mastered feel. He has this strength to propose something aesthetically very strong and lovely to play, and this one is just great!
“Another Problem – ESC” – by Gezouten, he created a new kind of level, with some reflection and good sense of observation. And both the design and melody of his levels are always very good, he is very good with his use of geometry!
 I love a lot of other productions but I would need 10 more pages to speak about them…so here are just some of the must-be-played levels: “CowBoy Bebop” by DUSTINISGOOD, “One Way” by Yodalex, “JAM (ESC)” by Gasssst, “Lively Days” by Reinokid, “Fatal Progress” by ANOY337
TSP:   Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
JOOL:  Doing my levels I found some interesting things, at the beginning, I was trying to align elements manually and I wasted hours to do it. I noticed that the metallic grid is really useful to do it, a balance mix between this option ON and OFF can save a lot of time! In the same menu, you can change the range, and doing this, you can have some flats and sharps. For musicians, it’s great to produce melodies.
Recently, after that I played “Ninja” with the amazing new TT’s technique to create animation, I tried, too. Doing this you must reproduce the same screen for more that 10 screens if you want to have something correct. And on Vita when you want to copy/paste a groups of elements, it’s just a nightmare! You point on an element with your finger, doing this you select another one, you unselect etc…I wasted hours on it. And I thought that on PS3 there isn’t touchscreen so I was curious to try it. And it’s 100 time easier because you can select with a box a group of elements and all elements inside this box will be copied in the same time. Marvelous!
After publishing levels, I always ask the feedback of very skilled creators, and it helps to see if something is not good in my level.  TT and Beej give me golden advice, for example, and some of their advice has led me to modify my levels to make them better (thanks guys!).
Also I think that it’s very important to play a lot the community levels to see how other players create their levels, it can give you great new ideas. When I play a level, my expectation is to have a feeling, so when I create a level, I try to put inside an original concept and try to give a different feeling to the player. A smile when they reach the cellar in egg town and they see, attached on the wall a calendar with an egg playmate, on a beach, on her knees. Anger when for the 87th time they are killed by tomato sauce, etc… and community levels are wonderful for this, I advise players to test a lot of different creator’s levels to see their way to work.
TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?
JOOL:  Definitely an upgrade about the limit of the number of elements that you can put on a screen, and on an entire level!  There’s nothing worse than reaching the full memory on a level that you create when it’s not finished.
Also more than 3 colors for lines/triangles/circles, a panel of colors would be better when you want to create more beautiful things.
The possibility to modify the BPM by screen and not for the entire level (when you want to stress a point on a specific screen, or hurry the player for example), and add some new sounds, new loops would be great for melodies!

I really want to thank Jool2306 for taking the time to be a part of the project and shed some light on how he operates. You can tell how much he loves this game and community. His levels are top notch and some of the best that the Sound Shapes community has to offer. I can’t wait to see what is next from him and everyone should take time to play all of this levels and see his growth as a storyteller and an artist.

Thank you all for voting for us in the BlackWebBlog Awards and although we didn’t win it, we got damn close. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without you all. Again thank you for the support.

Check us out on Twitter @spawnpointblog and check out our stories under the hashtag #SoundShapers every week.

Lastly, we are looking to help our friends in NY, especially my borough of Brooklyn after the devastating Hurricane Sandy.

Our Chip-In donation page to the Red Hook Initiative is here if you would like to help: http://spawnpoint.chipin.com/sandy-relief

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Tony Tough

The SoundShapers – Tony Tough

The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.

In this day and age there aren’t many emotionally evocative and poignant stories told in gaming; very few spark the imagination or tug at your heartstrings. Without sounding too hyperbolic, I believe the levels that TonyTough has crafted are some of the most beautiful art I’ve had the pleasure to experience in a long time. He has figured out ways to tell new and interesting stories, and re-imagined classics as well.

“Red” – I first became aware of Tony via his level “Red”. I was struck initially by its screenshot, a worried depiction of Red Riding Hood. I did a double take because I hadn’t really seen anyone make lifelike portraits or images in Sound Shapes before seeing Red. So I jumped in and was treated to an awesome show of craftsmanship, ingenuity, and cleverness. While playing the age-old tale I observed objects being used in ways I hadn’t thought of before and narrative pushed out in a storybook format. It really gave me a new understanding of how the game could be used to tell stories and provided a little insight into how Tony’s mind worked. With its number of plays (###) and likes (###) you can see why it is a community favorite.

“The Ninja (part 1)” – I had expectations of awesomeness going in. Tony again stepped his game up and did some really smart things with perspective that I hadn’t seen before. By making things smaller on the 2D plane it gave them the appearance of being a background element. It gave a faux foreground and background to this level, fleshing it out even more and adding depth to each panel. The story of a ninja warrior getting revenge against a rival family because of a death isn’t new but Tony’s telling was fresh because he figured out how to implement ANIMATION within the Sound Shapes engine, by making a flipbook in his levels. My jaw totally hit the ground. A stick-figured ninja flipping through the air and stabbing his adversary sounds simple but I don’t even want to know how he brainstormed that out. It shows both how innovative he is and how flexible the engine was. It opened up a whole new way players could think about building their levels.

“Nightmare on Church Street” – I bypassed this level at first, but after reading our interview and how glowingly Tony talked of it, I had to take a run through. Funny enough after playing it, it became my favorite. Being a huge horror movie fan, this level spoke to me. Moving from a dark cemetery to a haunted house sets up most of the platforming, but use of certain elements that form beds, pianos, and chandeliers is what impressed me so much. Even with the well done callbacks to horror greats like Freddy Kruger, Psycho, and The Ring, the real standout of this level is the music. It’s thematically on point but also has just enough pulsating beats to keep it funky.

At the time of this writing, a couple of absolute plays have come from Tony: “Walk in the Park”, and his Halloween Themed level “Trick or Treat”. I might discuss these more in-depth at a later date but I will say that “Walk in the Park” was a visual and auditory delight. It evoked the same feelings I had when I played Journey for the first time. “Trick or Treat” has a special animation in it that still boggles my mind — I won’t spoil it for you but you must play it.

Sr. Tough also gave us some insight into how he goes about making his levels and other thoughts on the game.

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
TT: I am a manager of a healthcare consulting company focusing on online application/website design. I have an engineering degree and have always had a passion for music and graphics, which is the reason that I have always loved computer games even now over the age of 40. :)
I have always loved sequencers and own a Korg and play mostly by ear. Sound Shapes was a perfect fit for me, for my love of music and 2D platforming. I actually was in the early stages of developing a similar game when I heard Sound Shapes was going to come out and they went above and beyond the game I wanted to develop.
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
TT: I always start off with a song. I want to make great music first. Once that is done, I think of a theme that goes with the song and start to develop the graphics and artwork around the song.
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
TT: Vita only. Having a family, it is hard to get in front of the TV, so most of the stuff I do is late night or lunch hour at work.
TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
TT: My favorite levels I have made are my story levels. I like to engross the player with a story so they are excited to see what is next. I typically like to throw some curve ball in my story so that there is some sort of surprise either in the story itself (“RED”, and my latest level “NINJA”), or in the way you exit the level (“The Egg and the Beanstalk” and “Nightmare on Church Street”). Each of them has a reason why I love them. I have a very specific style I used when designed these levels in that I like to make them look 3D even though we are in 2D platforming world. This way the level itself is like a puzzle, thus making it uncertain in what can you step on and sometimes tricking the visual sense due to the 3D look. I haven’t seen many have a similar style. A good example of that is in my “Egg and the Beanstalk” level. When going down Church Street, sometimes you are not sure what you can jump on and what you will fall through. It was the first one I created and has a special meaning to me. Not to mention the surprise ending I made which was hiding the exit, which wasn’t seen too much when the game first came out.
My other favorite is “Nightmare on Church Street” (which I tried to make as if the beanstalk level continued to the right of the beanstalk). I love this level for its graphics, its eerie theme, its adventure to solve its way out of the level, and the music I chose for it. The “NINJA” level I just created is a very cool concept I thought of when I made my “Descent” level. I used this approach to make Animation appear on the screen. Very cool concept and I haven’t seen it done before in Sound Shapes. It reminded me of being a kid when I used to use those stapled flip books and draw animation one page at a time.
TSP: What is your favorite level you’ve played and why?
TT: My favorite level initially was probably “And I to fire” by jordanbuster. Reason being, it was that level that gave me a lot of inspiration to do my levels in such a way as to trick the end user with some sort of surprise. It also had an amazing sound track. But to be honest, I really don’t have favorite levels; I have favorite artists that I constantly look out for. The community for Sound Shapes is unlike any other I have experienced, such a great group of people all wanting and willing to help each other. I have to give credit to Daftbomb as he is a true inspiration amongst all Sound Shapers, not only in the levels he creates, but the willingness to help others. He really made this experience great for me personally because he pulled together a group of great artists and AMAZINGLY SKILLED PLAYERS such as TheBeejAbides, Gezouten, Gannon767, DigitalJ88, Jool2306, Sunset Panther, Old_Poptarts, MidguardDragon, Vengeful Torture ,gasssst, Milkmaniac and many others which I’m going based on memory and sorry if I left any out. I list them here so other users out there can find some great levels via their username
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
TT: Yes many tricks I’ve learned. But here is my humble advice.
1) As I mentioned, I always build a great song first, many screens long keeping a theme in mind sometimes.
2) I love using very very low bass. I do this by hitting the Start button, using MINOR scale and bring down the Octave to -6 usually. I also use VERY SLOW tempo. This is a very good tip because I seem to be able to fit ”more song” into a loop. Especially since I can use the Sound Shapes drum objects which can record more beats per frame then the standard sequencer loop which only can hold 16 notes.
3) I like to use the sound shapes flowers (a lot) to add notes to a screen before the user even collects coins. The nice thing about the flowers is that you can make very long sequences. Like 32 notes’ worth before they repeat. Maybe even more. And they give the environment a nice sound even if the user doesn’t select coins.
Flowers and other Sound Shape objects can be hidden by Black and White Sound Shapes, use that to your advantage. A nice technique for what I call 2-for-1 (or even 4-for-1) use is placing an object such as a flower near the edge of your screen. Any adjacent screens that the flower flows into (even by extending its stem) will also play that object’s sound. So you in essence can have the same note (or group of notes) play on multiple screens as long as they spill over into that screen. It can save you some entities if you max out the number of entities on your screen (more on that later).
4) I like to add a lot of checkpoints and not frustrate my end player. Yeah, I’ll make it tough to find the exit using clues; but the playing itself, I don’t want to piss people off. It’s about having fun and solving a mystery or enjoying the story with my levels.
5) Lots of detail with the background images. Using a background color so that the background images pop, such as the purple background.
6) Never use any sound shapes tools that yell words or sayings or are very loud. It usually just annoys everyone.
7) Close all gaps and areas around all screens so a player can’t slip out of the game and lose the moment.
8) After I build my level, I go back to my song and cut and paste my screen of notes about one screen above my graphics I want it in. Then I can simply hit L1 and select all the notes and drag and drop them down to the correct spot without having to figure out how to create the song again.
9) Use the Multiple select option (L1) button on Vita and hold it down while selecting stuff to be able to copy and paste multiple items at a time.
ADVANCED TIPS
1) You can download a previously published file off of the sound shapes server by hitting TRIANGLE just prior to playing it online. You can only download levels you create. Note: if you download your level from the server, you will NOT see it in your editor. To see it, simply “pretend” to create a new level in your editor, then exit out and you will see the original level you downloaded in your list of levels.
2) ONE OF THE BIGGEST TIPS I CAN GIVE AND ONE I HAVE SHARED WITH AS MANY PEOPLE AS I CAN IS SAVE FILE MANAGEMENT.
I realize it’s not regarding level design but important nonetheless… Early on I lost a ton of work because I got a corrupt save file. Doesn’t matter how many times you back it up, if your file becomes corrupt. YOU LOSE EVERYTHING. (Every level you have stored on your Vita that you created gets wiped out. FYI: I never use the PS3 for Sound Shapes so I’m not sure if it happens there). So basically you have to play the tutorial from scratch. That kind of everything. SO to prevent disaster. (I had to redo my entire Area 51 level over, ugg.) You will find that this happens usually as you tend to MAXIMIZE the number of entities in your level. (Not the screen, but the whole level).
So to help minimize your risk, I do the following:
a) when you are done with the campaign and getting the editing tools, make sure you SYNC UP with the Sound Shapes server. This way you can sync up again if your save file becomes corrupt and get your edit tools back without having to play all the campaign over again.
b) If you are working on a level. PUBLISH IT OFTEN. This way, if you crash your save file, you can go to the server and re-download it back to your editor as stated in #11 above. But realize if you publish a corrupt level (which you can), if you download it and shut down Sound Shapes, when it boots back up, your save file will be corrupt again. SOOOO, my advice to you is, if your file is corrupt and you need to modify it, you can download it, modify it, publish it, and THEN DELETE IT off your local system!! This way your other levels don’t get lost.
So what I do, to prevent people from playing my Published (but not yet finished) levels which you probably have seen me do if you follow me on Sound Shapes, is simply create a side room with nothing more than an un-escapable start above the finish. This way, you can publish your level for preventative backup and at the same time, keep others from playing it prematurely. I typically will call the unfinished level “new level coming soon” so people don’t bother wasting their time playing it.
As you work on your level in the editor. you can frequently hit the PLAY/TEST PLAY Button while you are developing. It will go to your side room and play it, then you hit the GREEN UPLOAD Arrow to up load it to the server without having to quit out and upload it. IT’S A GREAT TIME SAVER. When you are ready to really publish it, Move your start and finish where they are supposed to go, COPY IT, PUBLISH IT and then delete the one on the server.
13) Just recently with my “Ninja” level, I learned a trick to keep your “ball” going down really fast using a thin lane and the alien object that pulls you very fast. Play my ninja level to see what I mean and focus on how I make the animation go faster using this approach. I also use Bubbles in the beginning of this technique to force the user “up” to hit the alien object to get them started.
TSPWhat would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better.
TT: These ideas were actually a list I had sent to a Sound Shapes programmer recently and he said many of these ideas would not work due to their engine restriction, but here is the list regardless.
EDITOR
1) Just like the L1 button on vita allows you to multi-select, why not an R1 Button squeeze to allow you to Box select. Select 2 points on the screen and everything inside it and touching the box is selected.
2) Once many items are selected, allow a group rotate and a group mirror option. So this way if you wanted a symmetric level, you can draw half, BOX SELECT IT, then GROUP MIRROR IT. Shouldn’t be that hard to implement.
3) Option to turn off back touch on Vita. Many times this causes issues and I’d rather just use the controls to move/rotate, scale etc.
Add comments to a user level INSIDE the vita, without having to do it on the website.
4) Adding a text object for those that want to provide instructions / story / hints to their levels as a user plays it.
I know Daftbomb likes to see how creative people are with text, but in my case where I like to tell a story, these line segments to type text takes up a lot of memory and entities I’d rather use elsewhere in the level.
5) LBP related: a level link object in your level to continue to another level of yours so you can do bigger levels/adventures.
6) I know you have a standard with red in the back, the black objects, then white objects, but it would be helpful to have an option such as move to front or move to back etc for these objects.
8) If not #7, maybe an option to CUT using another object. Just to display a donut, as an example, is not easy because instead of just drawing one big circle and cutting out the inside with another, you have to instead build a torus with a bunch of triangles. UGH.
SONG RELATED
1) This is hard to explain, but allow a user to create a song that spans more than 16 blocks. Say 64 blocks. Maybe call it a pattern or a sample. This is similar to the sound patterns you already allow them to put down, you know, those notes that are really “sound samples”, e.g., the ones that look like a white circle with two arrows inside them.
You will then have the ability to create your own song patterns and save it down to be used on any of your songs. Many times I want to create a longer sequence of notes. Since I can’t, I end up using the flower objects which ignore the sequencer (well sort of) and allow longer sequences.
2) A way to save these so-called patterns so they can be imported into your other songs, this way you can build a library of beats, samples, etc.
3) A way to export a group of shapes (maybe those you just box selected) and export them as a group of objects to be used on other levels, again building a library of shapes as well.
4) Maybe having a way to send users these saved group of objects/sounds so they can use them.
NON-EDITOR RELATED
1) Maybe add a password/lock to non-finished published levels (maybe put in a new area called collaborate. Then another user/friend can join in and help build upon your level or simply play it/test it/review it before you make it public.
2) The ability to have another person join you in playing a level.
3) Have an area for greatest hits on your website for levels that use to be great but are not seen anymore.
4) Have an area for “Most Loved” based on likes.
5) Have an option to “Like” a level but not make it a favorite so you can distinguish between the two.

FINAL COMMENTS

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One last thing I want to say is a huge thank you for Jon Mak and Queasy Games. They go above and beyond what many game companies do and I respect them for that. A great example of this is seeing your level played on Friday Night game night (via twitter) by the creators of the game, which is nothing short of awesomeness. A huge high five to them for doing so. They not only provided a great game, but they share their enthusiasm to their players and it makes it so much more personal. The fact that I haven’t even bought Little Big Planet for the VIta is a huge testament for how great Sound Shapes is. The other great thing about the game is the different people I have “met” from all over the world. Where else can I share an idea or hear about how someone enjoyed my level all the way from Belgium, Italy, London, Canada, across the USA, etc. Simply amazing. Not to mention that a name like TonyTough from NJ/USA is actually mentioned by others in the community. That’s pretty cool. A final thanks to Kahlief Adams for taking the time to write up this article and to showcase some of the work I created. He really is putting a lot of effort into this.

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When I started this series I figured I would just write a couple of articles and show off some really cool levels from people I admire. To get a thanks in return is the topping on the cake. Thanks so much to TonyTough for being a part of our #SoundShapers series and, more importantly, pushing the community and our imaginations forward with his awesome work.

Check out our series here and on the Sound Shapes blog. Today is Halloween so check out the spookspired levels folks have made. The guys over at Queasy will be showcasing some of their favorites over at twitch.tv/soundshapes. Pop on by and you might see your own being played.

We will see you all next week when we profile community member: Jool2306

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Gamer wife's inspiration

Gamer’s Wife Sees the Light

by Jill Adams

I am from the elitist camp of bookworms that might have avidly played Super Mario 3 from start to finish in 1988, but then happily went a decade without owning a television, right up to my late 20s. Post-Mario, my understanding of video games evolved via media stereotypes: Guns!! Rape!! Sedentary, mind-poisoned, racist tv zombie bros!!

Then I was swept off my feet by a gamer. This charming, adorable, hilarious man with a devotion to making me happy pranced in, and we now live happily ever after. With a very big television. And two gaming consoles. A PlayStation Vita (handheld gaming system, for the uninitiated), Trittons (advanced headphones with a built-in mic, meant for gaming in groups), at least 7 controllers of various shapes and sizes… you get the picture. Never in my life would I have imagined emotions other than disdain for this sort of thing, but much to my gamer’s credit, I enjoy a nuanced appreciation for what I now understand is an emerging art form. Or, an emerged art form, little did I know.

So this post is to explain my conversion experience: how I went from hearing “gaming” as “slobbering nerds or douchey guys shooting stuff,” to being genuinely impressed.

Amazing Technology
L.A. Noire came out in 2011, and was very highly anticipated in my house. Set in 1940s L.A., you play as a detective working his way up through the ranks by solving cases around the city — stolen trinkets, jewelry heists, missing starlets. The art style is solidly film noir, and does a lovely job of putting you in full Sam Spade mode. The art style alone was enough to impress me, but L.A. Noire’s biggest accomplishment was that it brought humanity into the game in a way that completely surprised me.

The developers employed a new technology called MotionScan, which turned the game’s characters from plastic Ken dolls into people — people who could lie to you. Convince you. Evoke a sympathetic response. The game is all about solving cases by reading the clues, including reading the witnesses and suspects. You are asked to assess people’s truthfulness, in order to make progress. Seeing someone squinch their eyebrows at the wrong moment, or shift weight in an untrustworthy manner — these added a real twist of intrigue that I didn’t expect to ever get from a video game.

Not to mention that the MotionScan technology is completely amazing.

Snark Factor
It always seemed to me that there was no place for irony or cleverness in gaming. I only ever heard about machismo and a kind of sardonic cruelty, or alternately, puffy silly games for kids. It didn’t seem like there was any place for my inner snark — a world that would correlate to “The Royal Tenenbaums” or “Napoleon Dynamite.”

When my gamer got his Vita a few months ago, Escape Plan was the first game he had me play to understand why this $300 toy was worthwhile. In a black-and-white factory universe, this game features Lil and Laarg, two herpaderp characters that bumble along, doop-a-doo.

Your job is to help them through the gauntlet of factory dangers to escape from level to level without being sliced, squashed, imploded, or brained by any number of blades, traps, or other dangers. (Remember Happy Tree Friends?) I am convinced Escape Plan was developed by a dry, evil wit of British origin, down to watching Lil’s drunken, bubble-induced hiccups float the character over a lethal threat.

Another mention in the strange humor category goes to Frobisher Says. Frobisher is akin to a Monty Python skit gone even more mad.

Frobisher says: Scratch my back!

Frobisher barks absurd commands in a British accent, faster and faster, demanding that you “Deliver my pudding!” “Fight this bear!” “Poke the otter with a stick!” The Vita has both front and back touch screens, joysticks, arrow controls, trigger controls, and each task uses different means of accomplishing the command. Meaning that you begin to look like a crazy person, waving, whacking, and wielding the Vita in whatever way necessary to keep Frobisher from mocking you when you’re too slow, in order to receive the coveted, “Splendid!”

Community Investment and the Artistic Process
There are lots of anti-gaming arguments to be made in favor of moving your ass off the couch and having a real conversation with other humanoids, in an effort to be a viable member of society. That said, it’s very easy to discount the real bonds that are formed in the gaming community.

For me, the most impressive example of this to date is Sound Shapes. TheSpawnPoint has done some extensive coverage on this game recently, for good reason. The basic principles are about levels and music. A player moves through a screens of a level, collecting little coin-like symbols. The faster you complete a level, and the higher the percentage of coin-things you collect, the higher you’re ranked. The muscial element comes in from the creators — each coin-thing represents a musical element, perhaps a percussion sound, a synth riff, or a melodic hook. So, as you go along playing the level and collecting coins, you build a song.

But Sound Shapes has a dual purpose: both to play levels, and to make levels. Players are provided with some pre-programmed sound bits and graphic elements, which with my creative juices would stay pretty basic. But the community has gone wild, using these elements to create elaborate soundscapes and story lines, and even stop-motion animations that the Sound Shapes developers didn’t realize were possible.


A little sample of what’s possible starting with geometric shapes and small sound elements, from maker Daftbomb.

Watching my gamer interact with the developers and level makers has brought on a wholeheartedly positive vibe. All these guys genuinely appreciate the labor and focus that go into the creative process, and spend a lot of time commending each other and talking about method and process. It’s akin to watching friends in design discuss typography or collage, and deeply centered in the art of the experience.

The Art of Place
This one was a real conversion point for me. It’s one thing to have a generic battlefield, or an outerspace outpost with an alien war underway. It’s another thing to show beautiful crumbling mosaic tile murals in Istanbul (Uncharted 2), or climb some historically-accurate buildings in 15th century Florence (Assassin’s Creed II).

Nighttime parkour in 15th century Medici-controlled Florence

The attention to detail is astonishing, both as a consumer, and from the perspective of art direction. Not to mention historical accuracy, as the makers of Assassin’s 3 are about to demonstrate.

Existentialism
And then there’s the idea that gaming can be an existential contemplation. Journey is hard to describe — imagine being a faceless, robed, monk-like being, traveling the desert alone. Your destination: a mountain in the distance. Your means of travel: floating along on a mystical drift, or the occasional flying carpet or draft of magic sparkledust. Along the way, you pass through ancient stone cities… Perils appear, mirages and oases shimmer in and out of reality, and occasionally you bump into another lonely traveler. With only a speech of singing bells to help you, you can help each other gather more energy, in the form of a rune-covered magical scarf that grows. And in the end, you arrive at the mountaintop nirvana (*spoiler alert*), to be transfigured by a ray of cosmic shooting light into a sparkling comet.

It was so beautiful, so uplifting and magical, that both my gamer and I nearly wept at points.

A classic Journey-scape

Which is all to say: given the choice between watching reality tv and playing a game like Journey or Sound Shapes, my husband chooses gaming. And I’m glad.

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