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7MOM (7-ish minutes of music) Week 4

Posted in One Minute Songs by Shawn on February 19, 2016

Huh. Week 4. So I’ve been at this for a month.

Let’s see what I tried to do this month…

Thursday, February 11th

To be honest, I was playtesting a game, and wasn’t really paying attention what I was doing. I’ll leave it at that.

 

Friday, February 12th

For reasons I won’t get into for now, this is something that supposed to have lyrics.

 

Saturday, February 13th

I guess I was really feeling the instrumental pieces that sound like they could have some lyrics layered over the top. I don’t mind the semi-empty feeling, but I do feel like this piece needs something.

Sunday, February 14th

Same thing as the previous day. I’m starting to get the feeling that I’m more mechanical than I would like to be. I’ll probably talk about that in the future.

Monday, February 15th

I really had high hopes when I was experimenting with sounds for this piece. And I got a bit too hectic and never really found a nice groove for it. It’s neat as an exploration, but not as a minute piece. I do think that if I had more than minute, it would give it more time to develop.

Tuesday, February 16th

Ugh, that bass drum. It’s too much. I ran out of time, and never fixed the volume for the opening. It feel better when the snare comes in, but I’m still not a fan of this.

Wednesday, February 17th

I decided to go back to a 5/4 time signature for the last day of this week. I *think* I figured out what I need to do to make these work. I won’t know until I try again, of course.

 

Huh, it’s been a month. Not sure if I’ve gotten any better. Let’s see what happens after month two.

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7MOM (7-ish minutes of music) Week 3

Posted in One Minute Songs by Shawn on February 13, 2016

Gah, I should have posted this earlier, but week three is finished. This week was weird, because I was experimenting with different time signatures. All of these tracks are not good. So listen at your own risk.

Thursday, February 4th

For some reason, I asked someone to give me a time signature. They gave me 15/4. Also 300 bmp. I don’t know what I was doing.

Friday, February 5th

This next track is 7/8. I never got comfortable until the end, and by then, I wanted to switch up everything. It’s all kind of harsh, too.

Saturday, February 6th

5/8 is weird. Also, I’m bad at music. But I also didn’t really stick to it as much as I should have, so it comes across a bit more standard.

Sunday, February 7th

3/4 is alright. I knew I was more comfortable with 3/4, but I didn’t really experiment as much as I should have. This is pretty boring.

Monday, February 8th

This track is 6/4, and listening to it again makes me realize that I’m either ignoring the time signatures, or…well, I don’t know. Also, this is weird music.

Tuesday, February 9th

This is another 5/8 track. I think this sticks to the 5/8 time signature better than the one on the 6th. Doesn’t mean I like it any more.

Wednesday, February 10th

This track is 7/4 . You can definitely count it. Unfortunately, to count it, you’ll need to listen to it.

 

This was a bad week.

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7MOM (7-ish minutes of music) Week 2

Posted in One Minute Songs by Shawn on February 4, 2016

Well, made it to week two!

This week was a bit weird, and I realized that there’s no real theme for each week. I could adopt a style for each week, but I’m not sure if it’s something I should do. During this past week, or at least towards the middle of it, I found myself working on music I heard while growing up.

One thing I should note again is what I normally do when working on music for one of my games, which is, constant deletion and being angry at myself due to my ability to not make anything I like. It normally takes several hours, or even a days to find 10-30 seconds that I’m happy with, which makes this one minute challenge extremely difficult to endure. First off, I don’t listen to anything again until it’s time for to upload it. A re-listen only happens so I can write the description for each track. And so far, it’s been very easy to find things to dislike when listening to something again. My first pass at something is normally deleted, and it’s really taking everything in my power to not delete anything. One other thing that I’m not really spending a lot of time doing is mixing the music, balancing the sounds, etc. I’m sure that if I did this, everything would sound a *lot* better, or at least, not as terrible and muddled. What I’m hoping is that as I work through my one minute pieces, I arrive at the sounds I like faster, leaving me with more time for mixing. At this point, however, the main focus is to refine my ability to put together something coherent.

Anyway, here’s a bunch of junk I tried to make this week.

Thursday, January 28th 2016

I don’t know what I was thinking with this one. I was really just picking random sounds. That horn sounded cool, but I couldn’t find anything I liked to go along with it. So, really, it was just a lot of lost note additions.

 

Friday, January 29th 2016

I’m pretty disappointed in this one. I never found the piano sound I was happy with. I spent too long looking for something and never figured out where I was going. The reason why it’s so boring and repetitive is because I only really got to 20-30 seconds and realized that I had 3 minutes left to get my 60 seconds of music.

So….I just repeated things. This one, along with everything else so far, can be considered a failure.

 

Saturday, January 30th 2016

So, I decided to try and composes something that I grew up listening to. This was weird, and I’m not really happy with anything. It’s way to empty, but I struggled with balancing everything. There were a lot more sounds running simultaneously, but I deleted them. (I should have deleted this entire thing)

 

Sunday, January 31st 2016

 

Monday, February 1st 2016

…I should have stopped.

 

Tuesday, February 2nd 2016

Okay, this one isn’t as bad as the other ones. But it’s because after 4 days, I finally figured out how to play that piano part. It’s what was missing from the previous tracks, and I’m a bit angry at myself taking so long to figure this out.

 

Wednesday, January 3rd 2016

This is the only thing I don’t hate completely. I arrived at the theme of the song rather quickly, to my surprised, and was able to spend more time building on that, as opposed to the previous 13 days. Still, I feel like it’s incomplete. Maybe because it’s really short? I’m not sure, but I may want to try and work on this one in the future.

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(About) Seven Minutes of Music

Posted in Music by Shawn on January 28, 2016

During one evening last week, Wednesday or Thursday, I’m not sure, I starting thinking about a lot of the things that I enjoy trying to do, but never feel great about for various reasons. Thoughts then drifted to all the things that I’m mediocre at, then to what probably felt like 4 hours, but was really 5 minutes, of  ‘How am I ever going to get better at any of these things?’

Luckily, I stopped myself from going any farther by reminding myself of a plan that I told myself that this year to finally commit to. It’s basically:

Whenever I question myself and ask “Why am I even doing this?” in a self-doubting way, I double down and push even harder with whatever it is I’m doing.

Of course, this can’t be applicable in every situation (Hrm, why am I robbing this bank? Well, I’m doubting myself, I guess I’ll just fully commit do this!), but so far, it’s seemed to help me deal with a few of the new things that I’ve started recently.

I also remembered a recent Gamasutra article which talked about spending one hour and composing a minute of music. Now, I enjoy making music, but don’t think I’m very good at it, and when trying to compose something, it takes me hours, or even a few days, to find 10 seconds of music that I’m happy with, or that I feel is worth pursuing. When first reading the article, I figured ‘This is something I’d never be able to do’. But last week, I finally thought, hey I should give this a shot.

So, what I’m not committing to, for as many days in a row, is to spend an hour a day, no more, maybe less if life is pulling me in too many directions, and use that time to work on a minute of music. Sometimes, it might be over a minute, just barely, because I don’t want the song to end oddly halfway through a measure. It’s a simple premise, and because of that, the rules aren’t going to be that strict. But, it is interesting to see where this could go, and to see if I can actually get better at this whole music thing. Anyway, here are 7 one minute-ish tracks composed between January 21st and January 27th. A lot of these are weird, unpolished, and I’m pretty sure I hate it all, and would rather just delete them. But instead…..here they are:

Thursday, January 21st

Well, this is going to be rough. I wasn’t sure how much would get done in an hour, and with the way I work, it turns out that it wasn’t a lot. There was too much time trying to combine pre-made tracks/loops, and not throw too much on top of that, fearing that there wouldn’t be enough time to actually make anything significant. The end result is something I’m really *not* happy with. In fact, I really want to delete it.

 

Friday, January 22nd

Not sure what the direction was for this minute. Again, I spent too long trying to figure out what sounds I liked. What was settled on wasn’t something I was comfortable with. Because of that, I feel like this minute is a bit erratic?

 

Saturday, January 23rd

I forgot what song I listened to earlier this day, but there was something funny about it that I wanted to try and pull from. Whether that was accomplished, that depends on if I can remember the song. Definitely not happy with this song either, but I do feel like it’s much less static and monotonous than January 21st.

 

Sunday, January 24th

Again, I heard a song that I wanted to pull from, and again, it was in passing (I should really start taking notes). The ending is kind of abrupt, but I wanted to keep it as close to the minute as possible, even if the music didn’t fade out properly. That’s my fault, and it should have ended earlier in order to keep everything contained to a minute.

 

Monday, January 25th

Boy, this is awful. I have a guitar, but I don’t have my microphone, or any other way to plug it into my computer at the moment. With time, I could have found the sound I wanted, but because I didn’t have the time (too much time trying to find something I was happy with), I just settled.

Actually, there’s a lot I don’t like about this, so I’m just going to stop here before I start ranting on how awful this is.

There’s nothing redeeming about it.

 

Tuesday, January 26th

This minute makes me laugh. It’s probably the only good thing I can say about it right now.

 

Wednesday, January 27th

It took me about 40 minutes to find any sort of sound that I was happy with. Which is why this minute sounds so empty. I’m actually really disappointed, because I feel like there’s a hint of something neat, but I couldn’t find it.

Also, it’s 55 seconds because of a last minute temp change, and a lack of readjusting on my end.

 

This week was fairly rough. I spent too much time trying to find things I was really happy with, and didn’t feel confident moving forward. The goal for next week is to find sounds that I’m happier with earlier, which should hopefully allow more time for developing those sounds into something more meaningful.

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An exploration of Respect

Posted in Other by Shawn on September 12, 2015

There’s a 6 episode Netflix documentary I’m almost finished with called Chef’s Table. It’s been quite intimidating to watch, but not because I have a dream of opening my own restaurant, or because I want to learn how to create certain types of dishes. As a matter of fact, the show isn’t good for that at all. Rather, it profiles a series of chefs, detailing their lives (for the most part), and diving deep into their philosophies on the possibilities and experiences they can create. It’s no mistake that these chef’s are a part of this series. Without a doubt, they excel at what they do. Whether the cuts are ‘rustic’, the portions small, the plates messy, or the shapes pristine, the level at which they create their dishes is at a level that many culinary hopefuls wish to achieve. It’s likely that there are many chefs out there that are just as good, or possibly better. Yet, during this run of Chef’s Table, they weren’t chosen. Why they weren’t chosen, I can’t say, only the creator of the show can. While it’s clear why the first season’s chef’s where chosen, I believe that they were not chosen because of their skills, or because their lives are interesting, or because they cooked with only a few apprentices on an isolated island.  I believe they a part of this documentary because of level of respect they held for the culinary arts.

The respect each person held for their craft was incredible, inspiring, and as I mentioned, intimidating. So intimidating that I began to question myself and the level of respect that I have for game development. Each chef is great at what they do. Although I haven’t, and likely never will be able to dine at one of their establishments, it seems clear that their food taste well above par, even if dining at the restaurant was more about the experience, rather than the perfectly cooked deer or salmon. But what was even more impressive was how much they respected cooking and crafting their food. And again, it was intimidating, forcing me to ask myself a few questions:

“Do I have that level of respect for game development?”
“Is my lack of respect the reason why I’m not where I would like to be?”
“If I lack respect for game development, is it because somewhere inside, I don’t like game development?”

These questions may be reaching for something where there is nothing. But, they were questions that I could not stop exploring in one way or another during Chef’s Table.  Was I being fair to the art that I was trying to create?

There are many that would say they’re just games, and you know what, there are times where I feel those people are right. There are also those who say that games are more than that, but that’s a debate for another time. The line of thought that I have in regards to respect presumes that games are not just games. This premise needs to be in place because without it, I would feel silly believing that working on games deserves respect. So, let’s say that games are something complex enough to deserve a certain level of respect during development. The next question that comes to mind when I think “Do I respect this enough?” is “What does it actually mean to respect the game in development?”. Here is where things get a bit more clustered.

Let’s go back to Chef’s Table, and how these chefs respected their craft. What did they do that set them apart? From the stories they told, they all seemed to not only passionately care about how food was cooked and displayed, something most professional chefs care about, but it was clear that they wanted to know more about each dish and it’s components. They wanted to know the past stories that each plate could tell. They wanted each dish to sing about their future, and in the present, they wanted each element of a meal to completely trap you in their world. The waitstaff wouldn’t need to tell anyone about the dish, it spoke for itself, something it can’t do on it’s own, but through the interpretation of the chef. The chef was the translator between the stories that each piece of food had and the person that was about to experience that story. Each chef wanted to bring to the table elements that people would either not think about or experience, whether that meant going to the source of food and getting involved at the beginning of it’s life cycle, or using the same ingredient at different stages of it’s life, telling a multi-part play as you moved through the dish.

That is the type of respect that I would like to have for game development and for games as they progress from nothing into something. But what does this mean? Does this mean that each element of the game needs to have it’s own story that I fully understand/research from conception to it’s eventual release into the world? How much attention does everything get, and how can each element receive it’s fair share of study? It sounds much simpler when tackling each aspect on it’s own. The art can tell it’s own story, the music another, and the game mechanics can tell a tale separated from the rest. But what makes most experiences something special is if each of these were all brought together, played off each other, and created something new, like the ingredients of a chef’s meal. Now, does that mean that if I wanted to respect the craft, I should focus on the sum of the parts, and not the individual things that make each element great? Unfortunately, that’s not something I can get behind, although it would make everything a lot easier. To go a bit further, subjects of Chef’s Table also dove into the world of their food before it made it into the final dish. Every ingredient could tell at least two stories, one from it’s time during growth, and one from it’s time with the other ingredients.

I do think making this connection, and understanding how respect for game development is possible, but I feel as if I need to turn to something else to help bridge the gap of how I should respect game development.

One other thing I’m constantly finding myself comparing games to is dance, with game development being choreography. There are several  parallels that I can make, some which have helped me though my design work. The one that I’ll touch upon is: most of the time you’re creating something from nothing, something that you want people to experience. Choreography and development can have strong elements of structure and strong elements of improvisation, in both the development stage, and in the finished product. In theory, what it takes to design a good dance is the same as what it takes to choreograph a good game. You can start off with a seed, something that you expand upon each time you go back to it. You design moments around the seed, moments you want to hit, moments you want people to experience, in either interpretive ways or explicit ways.

With dance, it’s a bit clearer for me to draw a comparison of respect, the same respect that I see in the subjects of Chef’s Table. Each move can be broken down to match the music and express a particular emotion that you’re having or want the audience to feel. You can sit and play back every moment that you created, see how it relates to the moments before, and how it will lay out a plan for the moments that come afterwards. It really is an extension of yourself, both physically and mentally.

Through choreography, I feel like there’s a lot that people can learn about game development, but again, that’s a separate topic that we can spend hours on. To bring dance back to respecting game development, maybe I’m thinking too big, too early. A 5 minute dance isn’t created in anything less than that amount of time, even if the entire thing is improv. An engrossing dinner with a story to match isn’t created in the 10 – 60 minute window after the kitchen receives the order from the waitstaff. A game of a similar level isn’t created during a small window of time. A game of that level needs to start off as a seed, and needs to have extra seeds placed around it, seeds that would help it grown. Each of those seeds need to be able to survive on it’s own, but thrive with it’s fellow seeds. Each seed needs a fair amount of attention. If you don’t nurture the artistic seeds, the story seeds may not grow into whatever their final form is meant to be. Thoughtfully nurturing each seed of development, keeping them together, but allowing them to survive on their own, can be considered an initial step at reaching a high level of respect for game development.

But does this nurture lead to a good game, a game that one can respect after they decide to stop watering the seeds? Does the end of tending to one part of a game mean that you no longer respect it, or you’ve given it as much respect as it deserves? Frankly, I don’t know, I still haven’t created anything that I think that can reach this level of discussion. Rather, at the moment, I’m still exploring whether it’s possible to respect game development as the chefs on Chef’s Table respect their food.

Because there are so many components that go into game development, it’s difficult to determine how to manage your garden before it becomes something others will consume. Furthermore, what counts as a seed? Is it too much to say that a seed starts as the smallest part of the element? This has the danger of becoming a intimidating rabbit hole. But the chefs on Chef’s Table seemed to follow this path. One episode had a chef go to the farm and create a system where the farm helps itself grow. This meant micromanaging each element of the farm before it left and found it’s way to the restaurant. Would it be fair to do the same with games? Before you even get to what can normally be considered preparation for the meal, should you manage the environment from which it came? It seems idea, being able to control everything, but the process may not transfer over from the culinary world to the world of game development. At times, it may not seem practical, especially for the solo dev with obligations pulling them in every direction.

And at what point does this control and desire for having the optimal growth become an unhealthy obsession? A seed can grow into a plant without 24 hour a day maintenance. Does respect for one’s craft also mean letting it breath on it’s own every once in a while? Should you allow the elements to grow on their own, improvising what you do based on what happens after you step away? It seems difficult to do in an area where developers have a high level of control.

During this search for respect, I keep on wondering…is this even necessary?

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That’s Not A Pixel – March 25th Update

Posted in Thats Not A Pixel by Shawn on March 25, 2015

So, I’m working on a game called That’s Not A Pixel. It’s up for $1 on itch.io for reasons I explained in a previous post. But I do plan to give the game as much as support as I can. In between work and other projects, I managed to upload a new version. Here are some of the more important things updated:

WebScreen4

Added:
Pause Button/Screen – Because some times you just need to walk way from the game, for whatever reason.
Elapsed game timer – I originally added this so I can see how long it takes before I lose, simply for balancing purposes, but I actually enjoy having it there. Plus, it gives me a reason to do some noticeable things at specific time intervals.
Particles on collisions – It looks better than just enemies disappearing.

Modified:
Overall game balance – I made it a bit easier…despite the fact that I *really* didn’t want to. As the game goes on, the speed of the player increases. I’m using an animation curve to handle that. I’m also using an animation curve to manage the time between pixels spawning. I’ve lowered the rate at which the enemy speeds up, and made adjustments for the enemy spawn curve so they spawn at a slower rate. The cap for the minimum spawn interval has also be raised.

Fixed:
Scoring post loss – If your player ‘died’, and you jumped over a specific enemy post death, you gained points. I’m not into giving out freebies. Well, I don’t mind, really, but it didn’t seem right in this situation.

TODO:
Multiple levels of difficulty- The framework is there. I just need to actually apply the settings to the game world.
Sound Effects – There are a few sounds missing, the most important being when enemies are destroyed and when the player jumps.
Spawning patterns – This was suggested to me, and I really like it. Right now, enemies spawn one at a time. More variety would be interesting.
Screen shake – Not a lot. Just a little. Probably on collisions. I actually had this. Just looks like it just wasn’t set up to run correctly.
Options button – There’s no options button for mobile, so there’s no way to options screen. Maybe I should just ignore mobile users! (…that was a bad joke…)
Twitter button – So everyone can tweet things about how well they do, or how much they hate the game.

That’s all I have for now, or at least, some of the more interesting things. If you want to support the game’s development, head over to the game’s page!

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That’s Not A Pixel

Posted in Thats Not A Pixel by Shawn on March 21, 2015

I’m putting a game on itch.to. It’s called That’s Not A Pixel, and it’s a game jam game that’s $1.

NotAPixelShot1

In Philly, we meet up every Thursday for Philly Dev Night. It’s been going on for a while now, and we’ve been having game jams pretty much monthly. This month’s game jam theme is ‘Profit’. Now, the actual game is required to have the theme of profiting, rather, you have two weeks to bring the game to a playable state, then try and make the game profitable over the following four weeks.

Now, this game jam theme appealed to me, but not because of the idea of making money. What I really liked about the theme is that it requires participants to run through a smaller, and possibly simpler, version of the indie game dev gauntlet: make a game, put it on the market, make money, support it for some time afterwards. I don’t know what percentage of game jam games go from just a jam game to something more afterwards, but it doesn’t seem like many. Personally, I really like the idea of supporting game jam games well after the game is completed. I’m getting involved in this game jam because it requires jammers to keep up on their game after the submission deadline, something most jams don’t explicitly ask for.

So, for me, this jam is all about continued support and feedback. I’m also going to use this game jam to work out a system of potential player feedback and support for another project I’m working on, Foresight Fight. For that game, I’d really like to create a robust system that provides early feedback, allowing me to make necessary and quality adjustments early on. I could do something like Steam’s Early Access, but it’s not necessary if all I want is a way to get feedback.

This is going to be an experiment for me, and I’m going to continue working on the game for as long as people want to provide feedback and support for it. Or until it’s clear that the game reached a point where any more progression seems to take away from the game.

If you’re interested in some more, it’s pretty much a quick reaction game. You see pixels, and you either collect them, hit them, or avoid them. And it’s intentionally difficult, so we’ll see how much traction it gets, if any.

And it’s on itch.io, so check it out!

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