Sound Shapers

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.


The Sound Shapers-D_Mise

Speed runs have been a part of gaming for as long as I can remember. Playing through a speedrun to challenge yourself to get the best time tests both your motor skills and patience. This week’s Sound Shaper has figured a way to make his levels some of the most played and enjoyed ones in the community by applying a deft touch when creating his soundscapes. Many of his levels have the flow and feel of some of our favorite platformers but with, in my opinion, better music.

This week’s shaper is D_Mise.

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“When We Were Stars” – With over 1000+ plays this level is an easy level to complete. I really liked the way the super chill music comes together in the level. Some well-placed catapults, tractor beams, and a diverse art style make up most of this level. I can see why it would be so popular because it lends to speed runs and is pretty straightforward. It’s a great palette cleansing level.

WHEN WE WERE STARS

“Prepare to Launch” – D_Mise created a very cool aesthetic, in this level with all of its intricate ornate details. I don’t know why I love the “Space Invader” catapults so much but they are really awesome in this particular level. I would say though the star in this space-themed level is the music. With each note it opens up into this really dope almost R&B track. I loved the music in this one and appreciate the level of detail D_Mise put into it. I can tell that he really cherishes the experiences he wants his players to have in his levels. I appreciate that greatly.

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“Hurricane Refugee” – Again, attention to detail is the key in this level, not only in the platforming but the care D takes with the music and art – it’s beautiful to behold.  The level sounds like something from the climatic end scenes of a Tron movie. Little flourishes here and there that mash up multiple types of games and a heroic soundtrack make this a delight to play. I like the fact that D_Mise makes pretty short concise levels. The fact that they are so full of character is a testament to him and his creativity.

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After playing through some of his levels I asked D_Mise to hangout and speak with us.

TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
D_Mise: I’m a 25 year old college student from New York City, and I grew up in the 8-bit era, full of bloops and bleeps. I create a lot of abstract art in my spare time, usually while listening to music, so Sound Shapes is a natural fit for me. I’ve never tried my hand at making music (unless you count the 3-ish years of trumpet/drum lessons when I was younger), and music has been my main focus in this game.
I bought Sound Shapes with the intent of playing it on a flight over the summer. I tried it the night before, and by the time I hit the airport, I was up to Beat School and Death Mode challenges. The flight took 3 hours, but it seemed like 15 minutes!
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
D_Mise: Like most have said, music first. When I make a level, I tend to wrap it onto itself, joining two separate music sequences that fit together. I often start a new level and create audio, save it, and forget about it until week later (I have published 6 actual levels, and I have audio for 6 others). When I finally get around to starting, I try to imagine what the music reminds me of, and jump off from there. I sometimes sketch out design possibilities during my classes, since it’s usually on my mind all day.
Because audio is the primary focus of my levels, I tend to make them less challenging, with emphasis on flow of movement. I try to make them speed-run friendly, with lenient checkpoints and ample opportunity to hold the run button!
The art comes last, and I try to make nice looking stuff, especially in the rooms that are more challenging. The way I see it, if you’re gonna die 10 times, you might as well do it to some nice tunes and with some visual encouragement. Sometimes, my stuff turns abstract, and makes sense only to me. I’ll explain one of them later.
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
D_Mise: Vita, for a lot of reasons. When I made my first level (“It’s Not Godzilla”), I made it on the PS3. Then, I uploaded it and later played it on the Vita, only to find that there were inconsistencies with audio and framerate. It’s almost unplayable toward the end! I never went back to try and fix it for the Vita, but it was a lesson nonetheless. Also, I’m rarely home (full time student, full time job), and I commute a lot, so the Vita is far more convenient, and Sound Shapes is my bread and butter.
TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
D_Mise: “When We Were Stars” – This was my first “real” level. I wanted to tell an abstract story of a fallen star finding its way back. It starts out in the wreckage of collapsed stars, and then goes on to five dudes trying to recreate a star, then to a colder environment, and eventually ends on a collapsing frozen throne, before joining the stars. It ended up with a lot of plays in a short time, and I was flattered that the community liked it so much. So then I got cracking on a new level, and I released “Permission to Launch”. Both managed to break 1000 plays each, which I didn’t expect at all!
“Hurricane Refugee” – Was first called Hurricane Refuge (one letter makes a big difference to me). I had a lot of time on my hands during Hurricane Sandy, so I figured what better way to commemorate the occasion than to release a new level. I decided that the best way to make it through the actual storm was sleep (and Sound Shapes), and so, I mirrored that. You start in the clouds, enter a pipe into the night, and then enter another pipe into a dream. I used the deadmau5 orbit creatures to give it a hurricaney/cycloney feel, and there are 3 instances where you get hurled through the air. I like it because it’s a bit personal to me; it marks a natural disaster that kept me indoors for way too long, during a time where I felt I needed a break from the whole work and school grind. Creating became my outlet.
“Buggin’” – Man, this level was my first attempt to participate in the Theme-A-Week, and I chose #CRES, but I was nowhere near done by the next Theme-A-Week’s reveal. I suck! I decided to release it anyway, two weeks later without a fancy hashtag. While creating the track, I felt it reminded me of skittering sounds, so I chose some insects as a theme. Then, I made a spider, and called the level “Insectinoids.” Then, I realized that spiders aren’t insects, so after a grueling renaming process, I called it “Buggin.” The music ramps up toward the end, since the theme was #CRES. There’s no plot, no real continuity between segments; just some bees and earthworms and fire ants. I thought the music buildup was cool, especially the honeycomb room.
“Save The Princess! #ASYM (Symmetrical)” – I wanted to participate in a Theme-A-Week before the end of the world, and so I finally did with this level! My plan was to make a boss battle of some sort, along with a retro homage on the final screen. Once these ideas fell into place, the level and music created itself. I added a layer of urgency and tension through chat bubbles and sphincter moments. I’m strongly considering making a princess saga.
TSP: What is the favorite level you’ve played and why?
D_Mise: The very first level that floored me was the notorious “And I To Fire” by Jordanbuster. There’s a lot of depth to it, and I remember thinking to myself, “How much time did this take to make?” The more levels I create, the more I appreciate it. If there were a Sound Shapes vinyl, this would be track 1.
Also, there’s this way cool Metroidvania stage I remember playing that felt less like Sound Shapes and more like a Super Metroid 2 demo.
There are lots of others that I’ve played (I try to keep up with the Greatest Hits and levels on recent activity board), but I mainly watch my girlfriend play through the community levels. I help here and there, but there’s still a lot of rage quitting!
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
D_Mise: A basic level making tip: make a blueprint. Lay out your sounds, and then put up giant sticky shapes to see how your level could progress. Toy with the BPM and scale, and if something interesting just isn’t working for your level, don’t be too proud to remove it! You can reuse ideas for future work, where it might just fall into place. A piece of advice I was given: if something is good, you can use it more than once. If something isn’t good, don’t use it ever again. Do what you want to do, and have fun!
After you have your blueprint, save and quit. Play your level and figure out if the audio/framerate dips and why. The answer is usually a clashing of two audio tracks that might play smoothly while editing, but for a freshly loaded playthrough causes lag. Another cause is the timing of getting certain notes, and the triggering of memory-heavy creatures and stuff.
Also, play test as often as possible! Force your friends, co-workers or whomever to play through it. Lure them with candy, beer, whatever it takes. I would get feedback like “I liked the other one better” from one person, with another saying the complete opposite. Take criticism well and often!
One trick: If you place a note and then place a duplicate note on top of it, it sounds louder for that slot (note: it can effectively stack ~4 times). You can use this for added emphasis on desired sounds within a loop or sequence. It’s very situational, but can bring something soft to the forefront in a major way.
TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?
D_Mise: I’d love for more artists to lend more audio to play with. Maybe some Flying Lotus, Grimes (go Canada!), Anamanaguchi, or even Ronald Jenkees (awesome YouTube pianist) and Module (the guy who did the Shatter OST). Make it happen!
In addition to what a few others suggested (collaborative options, group rotating, screen by screen BPM editing, etc.), one update I’d like is a sort of chain trigger, which would hold off on playing a note/sequence until the entire chain is complete. I’m a fan of games that have some sort of huge payload, like getting a bajillion points at once, or massive critical hits. Perhaps this can lead to a scoring mechanic?
I’m just nitpicking though. I appreciate the simplicity (complexity?) of the creation engine, and the limitations encourage more original work.
Thank you for this way cool opportunity to talk about all this!

Big thanks to D_Mise and the Sound Shapes community for taking part in the series. The support has been really awesome especially from so many places around the world. Sound Shapes is truly an international phenomena and is bringing people together to create beautiful art. I’m happy to be a part of it and you should be, too.


The Sound Shapers – DUSTINISGOOD

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

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

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

Some of the levels I played were:

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

DUSTINBREAKDOWN

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

TERMITE

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

BEBOP

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

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

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

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The Sound Shapers – Anoy337

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Sound Shapers – Gasssst

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

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

This week’s shaper is Gasssst.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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