Reason Season!

So I finally got around to sampling that music box I got a while back. Eventually I plan to dissect it and torture some more unique sounds out of it, but for now I did the basics and now I have a virtual musicbox to play with. I arranged all the samples in an NN-XT in Reason, and posted it up on ReasonStation... so if you use Reason and want a musicbox, go there and download it for free! I didn't wrap it up into its own refill because I'm lazy (maybe one of you can do that for me ^_^)

I used that Reason instrument in this next song, although it's impossible to tell because it's so subtle. At any rate, this was a song I've been singing in the shower a lot, and let me tell you it's hard to sing chordal progressions with yourself. Hence I figured I'd compose it out in Reason. The song is sorta cheesy, but that's part of its charm, haha.

Respite  by  esbie

Philip Glass meets Lord of the Rings! That's what I think it sounds like anyways.


Click Tracks, Awesome Mashup, and More

Learned my lesson the other day that any on-the-fly recording I do should either be done with a click track or edited in Abelton Live (Live has a fantastic warp tool) afterwards. Otherwise the tempo just goes everywhere. Still posting this just for posterity:

A while ago, Phil and I made a papercraft keyboard cat. Pic below and the instructions are online here

Btw, the keyboard cat you see here is chillin' in Phil's new Paul Mccobb dresser thing.

I'm going to be entering yet ANOTHER remix contest, this time for Little Boots' "Earthquake". So, while I was downloading all the stems (unrelated: why on earth did they split up the stems by stereo left/right but not by individual instruments? how annoying ~_~) I was listening the the electric guitars and realized that it the chord progression was eerily similar to a very famous song... can you guess? Here's the elecguitar stem:
Elecguitars RIGHT by LittleBoots
Any theories? Well, fastforward 5 hours and I went from the elecguitars stem to this!
Earthquake vs. Otherside Remix by esbie
Red Hot Chili Peppers FTW. Turns out the two songs are only 2 semitones away from eachother, so I warped, transposed, and edited it all in Ableton. Matching tempos was actually not an easy feat... it's now obvious to me that RHCPs don't use click tracks either ^_^;;

This mashup was also difficult because I only had stems for one of the songs (Earthquake, naturally) and so that forced me to use all of Otherside's voicings. Since both tracks have a lot of bass, I had to make sure only one bassist was playing at a time.

Unfortunately I won't be submitting this remix to the contest because of inherent copyright issues (sry, you can't dl this remix from the soundcloud player either), but it sure was fun to make!


APE + Roomba

Last weekend I went to the Alternative Press Expo 2009, where I got to see lots of indie comic book artists showing off their stuff. Way cool.

Also, I shot a video of my roomba, since my mom was curious about it


Tricky Tricky Remix Completion!

I like Royksopp's music, so their remix contest was a total 'yes please, sign me up'. The original track is called Tricky Tricky and you can listen/download it on Soundcloud. My remix turned out pretty eclectic and unfocused, but eh, music is music.

Tricky Tricky (Remix de Esbie) by esbie

Also: since I've only had this mac for a few months, this is the first time I've had to compose on it.  Let me just say that Logic Pro and I don't always see eye to eye, so this remix took longer than usual. Anyone have a DAW on mac that they know, love, and would recommend? I'm open to suggestions.

Some stuff I thought about while making it:

  • The original has 2 different chord progressions, one major, one minor. If you take a hard look at the track stems they gave out for remixing, you'll find they never gave us the stuff in the major progression. That blows. The major progression was my favorite part. So you'll find I tried to do a lot of recreation of that section (ie, a lot of my remix is also major)
  • I absolutely loved the synth lead that came with the track. I harmonized it, used it in different instruments, and transposed it into a major key.
  • at 143bpm, Tricky Tricky was definitely a track that could be taken at half tempo. 
  • Karin Deijer-Andersson's voice is awesome. In some parts I vocoded it and pitch shifted it. Although in retrospect I liked her original voice more :) The lyrics are not bad as far as lyrics go. And "over and over" is easy to exploit with musical word-painting
  • I had to EQ the bass frequencies like crazy... too many of my samples had a lot of low end rumbling
If I could do it over again... I'd do an entirely acoustic version. Mostly because I added the violins towards the end and realized that was my favorite part. Ah well, maybe next time.


Basically Famous

Hey so if you haven't seen my facebook wall recently, my friend Jason Turer put up a trailer from a student film he produced a couple years back... and I'm in it! I'm playing a character named Mary who thinks her roommate is crazy for hearing weird noises at night. The best part of this is that Jason put the trailer on IMDB! Yes folks that's right, I'm now considered an actress on IMDB ^__^ do you think I should fill out my profile? (Although in all seriousness there are hundreds of Sarah Browns there). Go ahead and clickthrough to see the trailer on IMDB (oh and warning, it's a little cheesy :P)


Back from summer vacation

Hey! After an unusually long hiatus, I'm back and ready to blog. I'm coming to you from my new apartment in Sunnyvale, CA where I now work fulltime for Palm, making webOS media apps.

I was shopping in SF on Valencia the other day and I found this adorable music box where you can compose your own music (provided it's entirely in the key of C major). I promptly bought it and of course the first song I made with it is a zelda cover. enjoy ^_^

Goron Music Box by esbie


Something not technical

I was playing my mom's keyboard last week when I realized that I don't know any songs for piano. **Mary Had A Little Lamb does not count.** I took piano lessons for years and years when I was younger, yet here I am struggling to remember even a single song. I finally did remember a song, but was one I had written my freshman/sophomore year of college. Surprised that I remembered all the words, I thought I'd keep a record of it on soundcloud.

I don't consider this a finished 'piece' because it lacks polish, but it's interesting if only because the song is so different from what I normally work on.


Ichigo Flock Simulation

These guys above are way fun to play with! (those of you in an RSS reader will probably have to click through.) Click on the stage for more boids.

I started this project with Phil a while back and have decided to stop working on it, at least for now. Ichigo was my introduction to programming in Actionscript 3.0 but also turned out to be my introduction to boid theory. Every boid above has several forces that influence its interactions, including:

  • alignment: heading towards the mouse cursor
  • cohesion: heading towards the center of the flock
  • separation: maintaining ample distance from flockmates
  • steerResistance: momentum that provides resistance to turning or stopping
  • randomness: some slight randomization of their movements
Our codebase allows flocks to collect Collectables, avoid Obstacles, and even merge with other flocks (although the above demo doesn't show this functionality). Eventually I hope to add more support for dynamic sound generation via flock behavior as well. This was meant to be a game prototype, but as you can see, not a lot was implemented except for the core functionality :P

One of the trickier bits during the process was telling the boids which direction to face. Simply pointing them in the direction of their velocity vector resulted in boids that could instantaneously flip their faces from back to front or left to right. Not only did we end up interpolating the sprite's rotation, but we also programmed each boid so it begins to turn only if its new velocity vector is at least theta degrees away from its old velocity vector. This last adjustment resulted in more flock-like and fish-like behavior.

The public build is here, and the source code is of course up on github if you're curious.


I Made Minesweeper

The javascript version using jQuery. The playable alpha version is on github right now (fyi flags are draggable :P ). I'm waiting for the webOS sdk before I make anymore changes, because for the moment I've decided I want to code mobile games. Thank Chelsea for the sprites.

(Oh and please note I will take a two week hiatus from this blog while I'm out of the country :)


Welcome to the rest of my life

I'm done graduating. Except for the thank you notes, but let's be honest, those won't be going out for another 4 months. I'll be here, in Las Cruces, for another week before visiting China and then I'm off to a family reunion in North Dakota. After that it's Silicon Valley or bust.

I figured since I'll be traveling a lot I should jump on board the portable music bandwagon once again. I'll be outfitted with my gameboy, DS, and H2 Zoom, so I'm expecting some good things to come.

Recently I've been doing nothing but cleaning, so I took a break to compose something cute on LSDJ. Purpose of the exercise was to make use of some extended techniques including:

Groove (Swing)
Drumkits (ok this isn't "extended" but I haven't used LSDJ's yet)


Zora, AIAC

I had nothing but final projects my last semester at Cornell, and my composition class was no exception. I had a tough time deciding what exactly to write, but I finally settled on using a song from Majora's Mask as part of my theme and worked from there. Specifically, I took the first 10 or so notes from the melody of this song and stretched them out over a longer timespan

We had our pieces performed by (mostly) faculty of the department in a quasi-concert. Below is the part of my piece that they were best able to play (which is also the main melody taken from MM):

There were a number of issues with the piece that prevented the players from performing better, chief among them the fact that the piece is in G# minor. Other problems included hard-to-read enharmonic spellings and rest rhythms. Also towards the end, the piano part becomes virtually impossible to play. You can check out the score to see what I mean (pdf).

If it were going to be performed again, these issues would be pretty easily remedied by rewriting the piece in a different key. Luckily midi doesn't have some of the problems human performers do, so I put a midi representation of the score if you're interested in hearing the piece in its entirety.


Adventures in Processing

Finally, Chelsea's and my game is done! It's called Universe, and you can read more about it and download it from the Universe website. Once the source code is cleaner, I'll tell you more about the game itself. I did however, want to mention a few surprising things about Processing 1.0 that I learned.

I'd say the most annoying part of this project was the camera. It made much more sense from a game implementation perspective to rotate the camera instead of rotating each individual celestial body. But in order to rotate and translate the camera, Processing has to be in 3D opengl mode... which means the resulting shapes/images can't be antialiased (at least this is what Chelsea tells me). Huh.

Also to my surprise (though in retrospective it makes perfect sense), Processing is NOT meant for audio. Here I thought Processing was very geared towards audio/visual combinations and it is, as long as the combination is mostly visual. While I adore the audio library minim, and it's come a long way, I still couldn't find simple things...like a pitch shifter.

Some of my complaints stem from the fact that processing is still Java, and Java is far from ideal for game making. Lesson learned. Another things I don't like about processing is its IDE, which is fairly limited when compared with my Java IDE of choice, Eclipse. The good folks at Create Digital Music pointed out that there is an eclipse plugin, but I haven't checked it out yet, so maybe that's easier to use.

Now that I better understand what processing is capable of, I'd probably use again for either a) very simple/visual java applets (just for fun) or b) for the visual end of an audio project built in another program. Specifically I'm thinking a Max/MSP or PD patch with communication to processing via Open Sound Control could work wonders.



Uncorking this bottle sounded too good to not record. The sample's not as clean as I would have liked, but the sound itself is still really cool. And works well pitch shifted along Reason's NNXT Sampler. Results below.

And now I'm back to writing real music (for my composition final project)


Could be Interesting

Hi folks,

As you may know, I'm not the only one who received an IGDA scholarship to GDC 09, and the 25 of us have banded together to start a blog of our own. Game Developers Blog is basically just a sounding board for a variety of video game topics. As it stands, we scholars still have a lot to learn about games and the games industry... but I'm hoping in a few years it'll mature into something worthwhile. After all, these scholars are pretty talented in their respective areas of expertise.

My contributions to the blog will largely be related to audio, since I was the only music/audio scholar this year. Check it out if you're interested.



Imogen Heap Remix

I just barely finished my remix in time to submit it to Twestival. You can see other user submissions on the website, and a lot of people simply put piano chords under Imogen's voice (which is legit; the vocals lend themselves well to that kind of treatment). Instead, I went for using only Imogen's voice, similar to Dialect. Toward the end I got a little lazy and didn't have time to turn her consonants into drum beats. I also added a sawtooth wave to the low drone for some extra heft, although the drone is in fact still Heap's voice.

While making the remix I realized that the vocal material was very rhythmic, and it was hard to edit that persistent 95bpm out of the samples. As a result, the piece is less ambient/cloud-like than I originally envisioned.

In other news, our 3rd major work was due in my composition class today. Unfortunately I didn't really like mine this time around, so I'm forgoing the usual SoundCloud post. Better luck next time.


Composing for video in 90 minutes

That's exactly what I did today in the studio. I found out that Ableton Live version 6 and higher has video capabilities. Since I only have Live 5 I had to do the assignment (which has been overdue for a while) in the studios at school. Sorry for the crappy video quality, I blame Live :)

As Steven Stucky has said in class, a composer is really only ever faced with 2 problems: coming up with musical material, and then finding a way to use that material for longer than 30 seconds. If you want to make a piece quickly, you're going to need to optimize both of these steps.

One way of generating material is algorithmically and that's exactly what I did for the opening. I chose one of Live's midi arpeggiator and a marimba because let's face it, when anyone thinks of mars there's marimba. Unless you're Gustav Holst, then you think of lots and lots of brass. Which is what I put in next. I also threw crazy space reverb on top since that (for once) seemed appropriate. This piece might be the most cliche thing I've ever written :)

There's no actual melody to this piece, so it might sound a little empty. But it's the background music to the action anyway, so I think it does just fine. Also I didn't plan this but the intensity of the piece comes once the rover has already deployed its chute. Gives the video sort of a different interpretation (since normally I'd associate entering the atmosphere as the height of intensity).


GDC 09 lecture overview

(The Moscone North Ballroom right before Iwata's keynote)

Here's a list of all the GDC lectures I went to, along with a 2 sentence commentary. What a great experience! More of my thoughts in later posts...

Discovering New Development Opportunities, Satoru Iwata
Tried to give 3rd party developers ideas and incentives to develop for Nintendo hardware. I wasn't aware that there are almost as many wii balance boards in homes as there are ps3's. I got a free DS game out of it, "Rhythm Heaven". Haven't played it yet.

From Bungie to Bootstrapping: Starting an Independent Developer Studio, Max Hoberman
Gave some tips on how to bootstrap using the work-for-hire model. Basically enumerated sound business practices... no surprises.

The Art of Braid, David Hellman
Put heavy emphasis on integrating the meaning of Braid into its art assets. Showed several iterations that the art went through to get to the final stage (apparently they worked on art for 2 whole years?!?). Artwork cut into various shapes and sizes was placed on top of collision tiles. They also made extensive use of particle effects.

Procedural Speech Generation, Paul Taylor
Excellent presentation on speech synthesis using voice morphing, text-to-speech, and everything inbetween. I really believe that procedurally generating speech allows for more dynamic and immersive gameplay.

Using Musical Styles to Enhance Storytelling, Lennie Moore and Garry Schyman
Advised that when asked to write music in a particular style, the best thing you can do is listen to as much of that style as possible.

Experiences and Rare Insights into the Video Game Music Industry, Hitoshi Sakimoto
Sakimoto reminises about what it was like to program game music back in the day, and encourages composers to write from the heart. Most people seemed to agree the talk was poorly translated.

10 Great Things Game Designers Exhibit, Gordon Walton

  1. clear communication
  2. positive mental attitude
  3. teamwork
  4. continuous learning
  5. player empathy
  6. KISS
  7. Flexibility
  8. Problem Solving/Analytical Skills
  9. Broad Knowledge
  10. A Passion for games
As one attendee at the talk noted, these are pretty much the basis for a great employee in any industry... and these traits are really just icing for the larger cake of raw skill.

iPhone Development: Exploring The New Frontier, Noel Llopis
Stressed that although the barrier of entry to make games on the iPhone is low, making a profit is difficult because there are just so many applications already on the platform.

What's Real About Virtual Reality Audio, Simon Carlile
A presentation on the basics of Head Related Transfer Functions and how to implement 3D audio in a virtual reality environment.

Using 5 Elements of Failure Design to Enhance Player Experiences, Jesper Juul
  1. failure count - # of times failed
  2. failure awareness - when the player realizes failure is possible, but may not actually fail
  3. failure communication - how designer communicates failure to the player
  4. failure setback - how much time a player wastes by failing
  5. failure repetition - how many times a player fails in exactly the same way
By Balancing these 5 ideas, failure can be used or communicated in nontraditional ways.

Talking to the Player with Barks, Patrick Redding
Talked about the dialogue engine for Far Cry 2, and how to make realistic AI dialogue for NPCs in the game. Thier process included evaluating game state, player state, threat level, and more to determine what an NPC says during the game.

Shaping Ones Musical Identity, Troels Foelmann
Foelmann's approach seems to be searching for unique, nonstandard instruments and morphing them with the appropriate software tools to emerge with a personal identity. He also suggested stacking many different sounds from different sound libraries on top of one another (and often beefing up the bass of an orchestral score with low frequency synths)

Recording and Mixing Music for Games, John Rodd
Surprising to at least me, there were no secret trade tips at this talk, only the mantra of good recording/mixing practices.


Portfolio for GDC

This week I'm attending the Game Developer's Conference. If you're going too, make sure to add me on myGDC. If you're not going, I'll be tweeting/blogging about it most of the week anyhow.

As part of my preparation for the conference, I started a tumblr which has my most recent projects on it. You can check it out at http://anaudioportfolio.tumblr.com


Tonality in Composition

I was expecting to learn how to write fugues and sonatas in my composition class, which is not at all what we're doing. Instead we're learning about the more abstract processes that make up a composition. Also, I don't think I mentioned this last time, but our professor is Steven Stucky, who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

My last project, Oscilloscopes, was a foray into algorithmic composition. Essentially, the repeating statement is made of scale degrees taken from the Fibonacci sequence.

For the second part of class, we focused on the juxtposition between tonality and atonality. We looked at a lot of composers, specifically a lot of Stravinski, and found that they often employ bitonality. The second assignment follows suit (I apologize in advance for the poor recording quality of the tracks below):

I also ended up playing a piece by my friend Vivian Li, who scored her piece for tuba and piano. My performance is less than stellar, but the piece itself is pretty cool:

We also had a quick in class discussion about tubas that I thought was cute, if you're interested:


BOOM workshop

(Chelsea teaching, Cooper standing awkwardly behind her :P )

You may remember last year for Cornell's annual Bits On Our Mind (BOOM) I had an ambisonic music environment project on display and also gave a presentation on procedural generation.

This year I helped teach a 4 hour workshop on game design as part of the CIS High School Outreach Program... reminiscent of the 10 week program I helped teach last semester. Of course it's pretty hard to make a full fledged game in 4 hours, so we fell back to paper prototyping.

More and more this year I am learning about the importance of the iterative prototype, and how incredibly cost effective they can be. Just for clarity, I did resolve to make 5 games or game prototypes this year, so I suppose some of those could very well be nontechnical prototypes. (If you're curious, I'm working on 2 games right now that I'm sure will be featured in upcoming posts)

At any rate, the workshop went surprisingly well, and the CS department will be using the workshop to ask for more funds from NYSTAR; so win. While teaching game design was a great part time job, I wouldn't want to make a career out of teaching: it gives me stress headaches.


How to apply for (and win) an IGDA GDC scholarship

I followed a couple basic strategies while I applied to the IGDA scholarship program:

  1. Demonstrate a passion for what you do. My passion is probably one of my most convincing traits, so I tried to show that in my application
  2. Show that you're active in the gaming community. That includes not only knowing names of big people in the industry, but also that you're constantly developing new games and learning. I personally don't have a lot of connections in the gaming industry, so I focused a lot more on all the projects I'm involved in.
  3. Prove that you're grounded. Anything to help you stand out (in a positive way) from the other applicants will help your cause. If I had to guess, most aspiring video game designers have pie in the sky aspirations, which is great, but often not feasible. I'm a modest person, so this strategy works well with my personality. (Also, bragging about my modesty makes me pretty uncomfy :P )
  4. Convey a personality. In this category I always take advantage of the fact that I play the tuba; it's unique and quirky. I also tried to take a relatively relaxed writing style, as if I were talking to the judge in person. Although I think some of my responses come out a little stilted in the end.
Here are my actual responses if you're curious what I wrote:

Q1 - What are your career objectives? How will this scholarship help you achieve your goals?:
Ultimately I’d love to work as a sound designer/composer for a small game company. Small teams that do the best are made up of experts in their field, so my immediate career objective is to become as expert as I possibly can. I plan on graduating and working for a consumer electronics company while making small video games and attending conferences in my spare time. When my school loans are manageable and the time is right, I hope to make independent games for a living.

Q2 - What do you expect to gain from GDC that is not available at your school?:
I want to meet bright and motivated game audio engineers, sound designers, and composers like me. I have lots of friends that design games, and lots of friends that compose music (electronic and otherwise). What I haven’t found at school is a community of people interested specifically in game audio. GDC gives me the opportunity not only to meet industry professionals, but also to interact and share ideas and insights with people that are as passionate about sound as I am.

Q3 - What is your all-time favorite game, and why? What kind of game would you like to make?:
I’m sure a lot of people respond with my favorite game—Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I believe the Legend of Zelda series basically defined the Action-Adventure genre, and bringing Link into three dimensions proved to be a very successful endeavor for Nintendo. My particular love of OoT is its music, composed by Koji Kondo. Each song is brilliantly composed using the same 5 pitches on the player’s ocarina, and each is beautiful and memorable. If I could make a game with music as well crafted as Koji Kondo’s, that would be a great achievement for me.

Q4 - Describe a game-related project (personal or academic) in which you've participated. Why did you get involved, and what did you learn?:
Last semester the game design team I was on made 4 prototype games, developing each game within the span of a week. I need more experience designing and developing games, and this seemed like a great place to do it. I learned tons. I learned that defining what exactly a “prototype” is will save you a lot of trouble. I learned design by committee is hard and sometimes inefficient. And I learned that prototyping doesn't work as well in large groups (we were a group of 8).

Q5 - Is there anything else you'd like the judges to know about you?:
If you’re wondering why I’m a Computer Science major but interested in the audio/music of games, I’m also double minoring in Music and Computing in the Arts.
Some other quick facts to get to know me!
I play the tuba. This would be my first time going to GDC. I’m a total geek when it comes to procedural generation, especially procedural music. Last semester I helped teach a highschool game design program. I’ve taken three school game design courses to date. I love blogs, I love San Francisco, and I love games :)

So yep, that's what got me in. Not very jaw-dropping, but good enough to get a free ride to the expo. See you there!


Goldberg Cosmetica - Redux

I'm taking a film scoring class this semester, and our midsemester project is to compose audio for a video of our choosing. I basically trolled vimeo to find an excellent video by Lukas Vojir, who is graciously allowing me to repost his video with new audio. The original video can be found on vimeo, along with interesting information about the concept and its execution.

The idea behind the audio is an emulation of a Goldberg machine through sound. "Mechanisms" of the machine are assigned musical loops that are carried out through the remainder of the piece.

Most all of the sound effects were recorded by me personally; quite a few are buses and vans that pass by my apartment. Some effects are extended tuba technique. All the bells are glockenspiel notes that I recorded last semester. Most of the instruments are recorded in Reason and then imported into Cubase (not using Rewire, I've pretty much decided Rewire is the devil because I often inadvertently change the tempo in Cubase by opening both programs simultaneously). I feel like there's probably a little too much reverb through the whole thing.

The voice in the composition is mine: I recorded the loop twice as slow as song's tempo, then increased the sample's tempo so it was at the right tempo and the voice was twice as high. Then I pitch shifted it down an octave. The result is something that sounds a little more like a trumpet and a little less like an inexperienced vocalist :)

I'm not purposefully trying to include my voice in all my compositions, it's more that I want to work with complex waveforms, and don't have a vocalist handy when I need to record something. And of course midi voice is out of the question.

The audio was exported from Cubase and synced with the video via VirtualDub... this probably wasn't the best way to do it, since you lose quality in the conversion process. All in all, it didn't turn out that bad seeing as it was my first actual foray into film scoring.

I ended up finishing the project 2 weeks before it's due, mostly because it's the most interesting of all my homework projects. If only I were as ahead in my other classes too.


Good idea of the day

Had to share this with you because it's awesome. For our film scoring class's final project, Chelsea and I are teaming up to make an interactive music application (which may or may not turn into an actual game). We're planning on using Processing, which Chelsea is a pro at and I have never used.

The premise is linking music to physics in a nontrivial way. Our current idea involves an avatar traversing a 2D universe filled with planets of various sizes and gravitational pull. My clever moment today was deciding that the character should always remain on top of the planet with the camera angle pivoting around the planet.

AND, a circlular planet is a perfect way to introduce modulation in the music via the circle of fifths. i.e. as the avatar traverses to the left or right on a planet the key of the music modulates, depending on which 2PI/12 radians the avatar is currently standing in. (The picture conveys a couple other thoughts I had today as well. Click the picture to make it bigger.)


GDC prep

So I won the IGDA scholarship to go to the Game Developer's Conference in March, and I'm excited. Like, too excited.

Like, when I found out that people at the expo much prefer business cards to resumes, I had a mini freakout. I don't have any current business cards... so I made some. Yep, I made name cards just for GDC :-x

Like I said, too excited.


Classical Composition

I'm taking a classical music composition course this semester and this my response for our first assignment. It's for piano and I have two recordings, one made by Reason and one played by a classmate earlier this week.


Wii with the World

Last semester I made this crazy web app for my final electroacoustic techniques course. The core idea is audience participation through interactive web design. Audience members that navigate to the webpage (hosted on my laptop) are greeted with an avatar that they can name, move around, and click on. All of their actions are recorded and sent back to the php server. Those actions are then sent to the other clients as updates.

Clicking on your avatar not only plays a sound on your laptop, but also plays a sound on the laptops of whomever is nearby you in the virtual space. Additionally, the click registers with the SuperCollider server running on my laptop, which responds by playing audio through the house speakers. The project includes:

  • A SuperCollider Program that procedurally generates melodies based on audience input and on wii audio samples transposed along the pentatonic scale.
  • A PHP Server that both hosts the website and keeps track each audience member's actions in virtual space
  • A simple HTML/CSS webpage
  • A Javascript interface that allows avatar 'mii's to be clicked, dragged, and updated inside a virtual playing field. Musical note graphics give user feedback when each of their respect laptops are playing sound. Implemented using JQuery.
  • JSON packets sent to each client notifying them of other virtual audience members' actions
  • A Flash player that plays the audio, triggered by Javascript events.
This incredible amount of work was done not only by me, but also by Phil Harnish. Special thanks goes out to all the beta testers that had to deal with some really buggy code. If you're interested you can download the source code here.


This Year's Goals

Like everyone else, I too made New Year's resolutions. Here they are in no particular order:

  • More exercise, specifically yoga, every week. My goal is 3x a week, 1 hr a piece
  • Blog once a week. I'm usually pretty good about this, but I started slacking towards the end of last year.
  • maintain 0 inbox, 0 desktop. Alright, so not zero desktop, but manageable.
  • make 5 video games or video game prototypes this year. That works out to a game every 2 1/2 months, which means a game is due in about 7 weeks.
  • make 5 compositions this year.
Whenever you set goals, there are some things you can do to help you achieve them. One is make the goals feasible, another is make them specific (you'll see each of my goals has a number in it). Also, by telling your goals to other people, you become accountable... which is why I'm telling them to you right now.

Well, here's the first installment of my fifth goal. I've been trying to write a piece that incorporates samples of clapping scallops for a while now, and this piece actually does it. The longest part of making this track was cutting up the scallop samples so that they are rhythmically exact at 165bmp. The shortest part of making this track was the vocals. I recorded them from bed in a single 2 minute take.


Cornell Afterschool GameDesign Projects

In case you were wondering how the middle and high school game design course went, we had a showcase at the end of the semester of the kids' work. Predictably, some of their games were a little impractical:But some of them did a remarkable job, including an 8th grader that made a platformer called "Bob's Adventure" pictured below. I recommend you download the exe, since the game is short, fun, and awesome for a middle schooler.All of the kids' projects can be downloaded from our class wiki, and a lot of our course materials are also up there too.


Prototyping End Results

Early last semester I told you about the prototype team I was on for designing games. The end result of that is four games that were each built in a single week. To me they all have some very big flaws, but it's not bad for only a week of development. All of them were implemented with Gamemaker, so they can only be run on PC.

PS, one of our programmers, Richard Hough, is the one hosting these downloadable files. Thanks Richard!

PPS, you can learn a little more about our team here.

NecroMaster (download)

This is a pretty basic defend your tower game. But it sure is hard, I don't think we had enough time to balance gameplay.

Airship Fedora (download)

A platformer, this is probably my favorite of the four gameplay-wise. Jessie has a fascination with fedora hats, and we debated on whether the main character looks like a snowman or a peanut, so it's a quirky game to say the least.

Out of Phase (download)

Also a platformer, this game is probably my least favorite. I love the idea of phase changing, but this game is frustration for me more than anything. It has a tendency to lag. On the upside it has an awesome cut scene.

Web O Flies (download)

A pretty good arcade-style game, I think we did a lot more balancing for this game, which really helped.


BrakeDrum Samples

I bet my friend Tom I could compose a piece for brake drum and electronics that doesn't sound like total crap. Brake drums, usually found on cars, can also be a percussive instrument used in orchestras.

As I'm telling this story to Mark he immediately chimes in that we could find plenty of brake drums at the truck yard just outside town. One day later, I have 7 brake drums, costing me $5 total, each weighing about 20 pounds.

What am I going to do with 7 break drums? Record them of course! I just got a spiffy new Zoom H2 handheld recorder for Christmas and am testing it out. Results below hitting the break drums with a hammer. I want to try a rubber mallet next.


Pixel Art for Middle Schoolers

Don't know if I mentioned this to you, but this past semester my part time job was teaching middle and high school students about game design. This is the same curriculum that my team came up with last spring, now being taught to actual students.
At the end of the semester, parents were invited to come and see the games made by their children. This presented a slight problem, since some of the students weren't motivated enough to produce any assets, let alone a fully functioning game.
Hence, on the Sunday before the showcase, Chelsea and I spent 6 hours creating the most primitive game in existence based on concepts that the students had only barely fleshed out. It was my task to fill in the missing artwork (as well as help with programming), and so this is some of what I came up with.