The Sound Shapers – Earl_LeeGrave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
Earl_LeeGrave: Earl_LeeGrave’s real name is Mike… 34 years old,  I live and have lived in Maine my whole life.  Outdoor enthusiast (mountain biking,  snowboarding,  etc),   have DJed house,  tech house,  drum & bass,  and trip hop for many years now.  I have a Bachelors in Graphic Design & Media Arts from Maine College of Art aka MECA.  I currently own a bicycle/backcountry ski shop in Portland, Maine which has continually grown in the 3 years I have co-owned it with my friend.  So far so good!  If you want to check the website and logo I designed it’s:  www.allspeed.com, also on Facebook under Allspeed Cyclery & Snow.
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art)
Earl: Sometimes I dictate the style of music to the visual flow I’ve created. Sometimes it’s vice versa and sometimes I’ll make adjustments as I go. “2_POINT…OH?!” was all about the music when I started. I then based the design and story around sticky ball escaping a futuristic fortress of sorts into nature and then fighting a war between aliens and humans. “BRAINSPLOSION!” was more of a collaborative effort between the music and the design for me. After the new DLC came out, I made a point to utilize all the new elements. I intentionally left enough dead space within the level to be able to place the notes where I wanted to, so I could build the music as well as the design of the level. I had the most fun making “BRAINSPLOSION!”; however, being my first curve-dedicated level, “BRAINSPLOSION!” was an appropriate title; the new curves are not the easiest elements to work with, but are fun!
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita? What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
Earl: PS3… I’m so used to the controls of PS3 and the zoomed in bigger screen for MAD detail YO, plus I’m plugged into a few decent speakers that I can crank!   To be completely honest, I don’t have one of those little fancy gizmos… I think the rest of my life would be gone and dedicated to SS if I had a Vita!  Queasy… should I sell my business and head to Canada? haha
“BEEJOOLED! #GRAV” was one of my favorite levels to make. It started out as a shout out to some of the friends I’ve been making in the SS community (TheBeejAbides & jool2306) and also to incorporate the “Gravity” theme of the week. It allowed me to be extra creative rather than stick to my usual style. The engagement box was falling through the world, while egg man chased it to the altar. Another level that I’d say is a favorite of mine is the HCL inspired by Daftbomb, called “COFFIN_HOPPER – HCL”. It seemed like he wanted other HCL’s to come out and nobody was doing it. I almost considered it as a sort of theme of the week. It’s super hard to play and it was super hard to make, there are no resets, but I had a blast making it.
TSP: What is the favorite level you’ve played and why?
Earl: I’m assuming this question is loaded. There are too many, so I’ll try and pick levels that I’ve played most recently. “Center of the Earth” by TetraGenesis. It seems similar to my style (underground, tunnels) but done very well, with textures, shadows and composition. Really great. Music was clean and sharp and it was super fun to play. I also really liked “Face it and listen” by Gezouten. Great beats, awesome graphic design, precise detail, very modern/minimal delightfulness! “Space Monster” by sukakika: nuts! reminds me of the insanity of me, and so well designed, real organic but not flawless. It was a lot of fun to play. Beautiful title page that wasn’t involved in the game, weird good stuff.
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
Earl: Many times when I’m designing something very detailed after I’ve already laid out a lot of the level, I’ll step out into the white to work on it (such as text, or an egg man! 🙂 then I’ll just copy and paste and drag it in. That way, while I’m designing it, I can see the image/text without all of the chaos of the level and since I’ve made a copy, I mess it up from alterations after I moved it into the level, I can always go back and make another copy and I won’t have to start from scratch with all that detail.
Also, when you’re designing a level and you make a screen or two, you have to play it over and over before you continue. It will help you figure out where you’re going, be it design, music, whatever. The flow of those two screens usually tells me if I want to keep designing to the left or to the right, up into the sky, or underground, how hard it is to play, etc.
TSP:  What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better.
Earl: More unique, low-memory shapes and red evil goons, more bass line packages and wacky sounds!
BOOM… if you could, Spawn Point, a “few” other quick shouts out for those creators with sick design and sound that stick out in my brainsplosion at the moment!  old_poptarts, redespair, tonytough, gasssst, sleeester, guycohen2, outtooman, mercuryant, gemuvan, threepwoodsin, sephiroth_brazil, bluebebleu, indoor_squid, dustinisgood, iwillforget, reinokid, oh-yeah ps, retrosteveuk, cloudtheknight, pikathon, flashquickster… and many more believe it or not!

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

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

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