Pop_Tarts_logo_old

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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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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BEEJPROFILEPIC

The Sound Shapers-TheBeejAbides

The “SoundShapers” are a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out our entries here.

 This week in our SoundShapers series we spotlight community member, TheBeejAbides.

 Beej was generous enough to share some of his time and grant us an interview. Here is how it all went down:

The Spawn Point (TSP): Give us a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.

TheBeejAbides: I guess you could say that I’ve been platforming ever since they made platforms, so SoundShapes was a natural path to take.  From Pitfall (ColecoVision) to WonderBoy (Sega Master System) and Mario Bros. (Nintendo) to Sonic (Sega Genesis), and beyond, I have been trying to avoid the inevitable video game platforming death for over two decades.  I’m old school, son!  When I found out I was able to create my own platforming levels, I jumped at the chance.  I downloaded SS on day 1 and have basically been profoundly hooked ever since.  The fact that the game combines three of my loves (Gaming, Art and Music) has made it so I really haven’t had to play anything else since I bought it.  Damn you Queasy!   It’s so good!

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

Beej: I always create the musical composition first (unless it’s a 1SL, and then music is secondary).  I have found that a good song really adds a lot to your level.  The emotion or panic that it can evoke works with the color scheme and art to set a tone, and those tones dictate the experience that someone will have while playing the game.  You obviously want them to have a memorable experience when playing, so after the music, I start placing platforms in places that require the player to collect the notes in an order that makes sense for the music.  Sometimes I like to require the player to stay on a screen for a moment after all the notes are collected so they might hear the music for a couple of loops. After the rough platform ideas are in place, then come the dangerous red obstacles and moving parts (lasers, creatures, etc).  I basically play the level from start to finish after every screen I create, to see what the experience is like and how well it flows. This sometimes inspires vast overhauls or idea changes while I am creating, so I’ve learned to not rush a level to completion. I guess that’s where the artist in me takes over and I can obsess about the angle of a box or the placement of a vertical wall or sometimes even the tone of the music.  It’s rare my levels end up looking like what I had originally envisioned. I love the fact that you can go back and update your levels, too, because ideas never stop coming and sometimes you notice a third elbow on a screen that needs to be amputated. The surgery is relatively painless.

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

Beej: I am one of the few that create and play on the PS3.  Most of the other shapers that I communicate with via the PSN are rocking the Vita. Shaper “Daftbomb” has tried persuading me to get a Vita, and he’s lobbied quite well, but I have yet to pull the trigger.  I’m guessing that creating on the Vita is a bit easier, but I’ve come to feel quite comfortable with the PS3 controller as my ‘paint brush’.  Oh, and I can’t receive picture attachments that are sent from a Vita.  Yo Sony, what’s up with that?

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

Beej: This is a difficult choice, but I’d say “Plug Me In” is my favorite so far. The concept is sort-of-kind-of like you are rolling around inside a microphone or an amp (or something musically electronic) and all the while you are experiencing a very tame Def-Poetry type of arrangement. I worked with the idea of revisiting sounds by having the player enter parallel screens to the ones that they had already collected notes from. Each screen has a word or words that are intended to be part of a long statement or ‘groove manifesto’ that is really, in essence, the way I feel about the game of SoundShapes.  It’s long and difficult in certain spots, but it is definitely emotive for being kind of simple in appearance.  In short, it’s saying: “Plug Me In to this game so I can get funky!”

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

Beej: This is also a difficult choice because I just logged my 1,000 level played, so there are a lot to choose from.  I’m not super discriminate with the “like” button when assessing someone else’s level because if there is even one single aspect that I like about it, be it the music, the art, the play-ability… heck sometimes I just like the title… I will give it a “like”.  But when it comes to levels that are just plain awesome or memorable, these stand out:

     1. “Triptych” by Daftbomb – This level is super tough; it looks great, and has no checkpoints. It’s pretty typical of what you can expect from a Daftbomb level:  It’s a sharp as a knife but you want to take a bite out of it because it looks like a birthday cake. It combines all the skills of movement, and the sounds create an environment that puts the pressure on you to make no mistakes. Daft has been a driving force behind a lot of stuff going on in the SoundShapes online community.  He put together a discussion group of some of the most active creators and we’ve all been communicating and bouncing ideas off of each other such as the  1SLs (Daftbomb), the ESCs (Escape Levels) (gezouten), and maybe a new project yet to come (TheBeejAbides)? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…  but with over 500 fans following him, it’s no surprise that Daftbomb continuously cranks out awesomely challenging and aesthetically beautiful levels. He’s even created playable levels to explain some of these niche ideas, which are also pretty great. He’s a true master of Shaping. {I also suggest “Deathcom” by Daftbomb…. it’s long and difficult and oh so rewarding to finish!}

    2. “A Nightmare on Church Street” by TonyTough – It’s another great narrative from an original artistic mind. He creates depth very well and uses background objects to create landscapes unlike anyone else in the SoundShapes community. The slow and low music places you in a setting that is creepy and dangerous, and you aren’t sure what perils will come next. He’s really good at using objects in a non-literal way to create his scenes, like an ice sheet for a fireplace mantle and other such cool twists on platforming.  There’s also a kind of puzzle aspect to the level with clues to finding the ending, which are not immediately evident.  All of TonyTough’s levels are awesome and take a nice chunk of time to play.  They all have a replay value because the art and stories are pretty awesome.  I’m super excited for his new saga called “The Ninja”, because I have an affinity towards ninjas and he is experimenting with a new way to tell the story.  It’s pretty fricken sweet.

    3.  “Life is Too Short” by jool2306 – You don’t really “play” this one as much as you “watch it”, but it delivers in all the right ways.  jool2306 has an aesthetic that I love, which is kind of a child-like “cartoonishness” that goes along great with his storytelling ability.  He goes a little further in “The 8th Wonder of the World”, where he recreates iconic world landmarks that you tour while unlocking the portal to the final world wonder… I wonder what it is?  Hehehe. He is fast becoming my favorite creator and it’s worth paying attention to his “Egg” series, which is very creative and, so far, boundless in its aim.  I like when I am wowed by a level, and jool2306 certainly does that.

     4. “FATAL PROGRESS” by ANOY337 – Death is good? In this level, it is. You have to die in a certain sequence in order to make forward progress in this level, and it is fricken’ awesome! Very fun, frustrating, rewarding, and time consuming, but all the while you are totally engaged and determined. The platforming is creative, varied and challenging; just don’t accidentally trigger an unwanted checkpoint, because you will have to start all over again.   ANOY337’s other levels are great too; he will sometimes use giant-sized forms to create a miniature perspective in a macro world.

     5. “Escape From Guantanamo Bay” by Old_PopTarts –  This level isn’t overly difficult or even super artistic, but it just works very well as an environment and is fun to navigate as a platformer.  It’s arranged well and you certainly feel the coldness of the prison before you make your way out.  Unfortunately, Old_PopTarts has had some internet trouble as of late, but hopefully he gets it sorted out because I’d like to see a new level from him.  He’s one of the fiercest players (along with Milkmaniac) and his times are always some of the best on almost every level.  Tenacious is an apt description of both PopTarts and the Milkster, they can just flat-out get it done.

     Honorable mention:  Check out these users for more totally awesome levels-  Gannon767, gezouten, DUSTINISGOOD, TheFrostE, reinokid, VengefulTorture, pikathon, and yodalex.

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

Beej: The more time that you take with your creation, the better it will be.  The more you play your levels while creating them, the better the platforming movement will be.  And remember people, it’s: “SOUNDshapes”. Make it sound good!  (Also, try to limit the amount of objects on a screen [especially creatures or moving parts] and try not to move around the start and finish markers while creating… this will help you avoid the dreaded “Script Error” for overmaxing… this is the primary problem with the game and I hope they can fix it with a patch or with DLC or with a SoundShapes2… I’m already salivating at the thought of it.)

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

Beej: I’d like to see the kinks and bugs ironed out of the game (as mentioned above) and I’d like to see a more diverse instrument set.  I’m not crazy about using the loops so I’d rather have more tones and single-note noises that I can play with. I’d like the ability to overlay colors or shapes in whatever manner I’d like to, instead of the fact that my sticky substance always has to be on top of the red or on top of the non-sticky platforms.  Also, I’d eliminate the vocal tracks.  I’ve only used it one time on one screen, but some people just abuse the use of them.  I think even Beck would say that.

Before we wrap this article up, I wanted to take a quick stroll through some of my favorite Beej levels and have the artist himself share some of the inspiration behind them.

MY TAKE:

“Diamond Elephunk Factory” – This is the first level I ever played from TheBeejAbides. Its screenshot gave off the notion of airiness and light, an awesome level of asymmetrical detail, and great use of the embedded color themes SS has to offer. I had to play it, and once I did, I soon became a fan of his work. Although one of his earliest levels, Elephunk had a really cool style and a beautiful musical arrangement. There is a really distinct balance in this level that seems to always be at play. The platforming, which–although not super hard–is difficult enough to keep you on your toes, and the lovely Oriental zen garden-esque soundtrack is fun to listen to. Towards the end Beej drops perfectly placed drums to push you towards your goal. I appreciate this level and think it’s a must-play for folks.

ELEPHUNK

“LazerDogAccident-1SL” – This level is a part of Beej’s “LazerDog” series in which LD is put in harrowing circumstances and has to make a way through. The first thing that has to be said is that this level is HARD, and as you will see from our interview, Beej made it that way for a reason. The pulsating lasers and bounce targets are one thing but the screw missiles and breakaway floor are another. Your dexterity and patience will be tested, but as a survivor of the level I can say there is a method to the madness. If you don’t go mad first, that is. I really think Beej should start giving out “I survived the LazerDog level” t-shirts upon completion. It’s only right.

LAZERDOG

“Clusterfunk Spelunking” – The Clusterfunk level pays homage to classic horror movie tropes as signage foreshadowing your doom. Along with suspenseful imagery, ominous musical tones provide a great background for a really well-thought-out level. Lots of jumps that seem just out of your reach, smart uses of the geometry and nice flourishes of style all around make the level great to play. I loved his “Beej Presents” text towards the beginning of his level, it brings that feeling like something cool is about to happen.

SPELUNKING

  BEEJ’S TAKE:

“Clusterfunk Spelunking” – I kept the song very simple with one loop (until the end where I bring a new loop in) and add one guitar tone at a very low tempo.  It felt dark and dank and a perfect way to emote the underground feeling. The part above ground part was added at the end of the creation to really help create that feeling of going somewhere nasty and scary. The colors darken as you move from screen to screen, then it gets dark and scary and lots of stuff tries to kill you. I got more into the manipulating of the rhythms of lasers and stuff on this one which was super fun and makes for a really tough level.  You really have to pay attention to the rhythm to advance without harm.  There’s a killer ice sheet platform screen that will test anyone’s skill and patience, and of course, rabbit flowers grow down in that dank hole.  Heh.

 “Diamond Elephunk Factory” – This was the first level I created, but not the first one I published.  After I published a couple “test” type levels I went back and reworked the whole factory, but the song is awesome so it stayed exactly the same. The platforms were essentially in place, but I didn’t really know how to work the editor that well at first, so the rework was key. I added all the red and cleaned up the platforms so that a gifted player could move fast through the whole level. No enemies or lasers on this one, just plenty of red design waiting for you to slip, fall, or jump a little too far.  I think it’s the level that got most of the attention for me early on, so it is very close to my heart.  I was shocked when people were finishing with better times than mine… I was like, “But I created it!  How could they beat me?”…. heh.  Needless to say it inspired me to make harder and harder levels. If you go to the soundshapesgame.com you will see that most of my levels are up at the top of the “Deadliest Levels” list.  I couldn’t be more proud of that.  :)

 “LazerDogAccident – 1SL” – This is the fourth 1SL out of five in the LazerDog Series, and we can thank Daftbomb for this monster.  He had been poking me to make a single screen level for a while, but at the time I was working on “Ninja Seizure Fun Times Commotion”, so I finally finished that level and made my first 1SL.  I basically wanted to break people’s spirit with my 1SLs, or basically make them so hard that people might throw their controller or turn off their Vita, but do it in a way that was kind of endearing.  Enter: the LazerDog.  She (that’s right ya’ll, LazerDog is a ‘she’) is a feisty pup that won’t take no for an answer.  In “Accident”, the idea is that LazerDog is playing in traffic and the ensuing madness causes a bus accident, which you then must weave through to get back home.  Close calls occur and quick reactions are required, as in all of the LazerDogs. It’s no surprise that these levels are seldom finished, people just give up I suppose.  And that’s fricken hilarious to me.  I give respect to anyone who can finish all five, but so far no one has.  I’m looking in your direction, Milkmaniac, CrunchKupo, redespair, Old_PopTarts, and DUSTINISGOOD.  I know you guys can do it!  Tame the LazerDog!

 -TheBeejAbides says: “SOUND SHAPES LIFE”.  So start making music! Thanks to everyone who plays and likes my levels…. and hey, Queasy, “HIRE ME!”

I want to thank TheBeejAbides so much for all of his help with this article. The response to this series has been AMAZING, not only from our readers but also from the Sound Shapes community. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and also follow us at @spawnpointblog on Twitter or TheSpawnPointBlog on Facebook or Google+.

We also have great news! After seeing our initial article, the fine folks over at Queasy Games asked if we could do some collaborative work on this front. We will be working together to showcase even more community members until the end of the year. If you aren’t doing so already, follow @soundshapes and the hashtag #SoundShapers. Look out for these stories to drop on our site and the Sound Shapes blog every Wednesday.

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