I’ve now worked on a Top 5 App.

I recently created the sound and music for Jewels With Buddies, a fun and addictive game for iOS. Think of it as “Bejeweled” meets “Words With Friends”.

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My First Spotify – “Name the Artist” trivia game

Like many, I was paying close attention last week during the run up to Spotify’s “big announcement”.  When they revealed their plan to integrate apps within their ecosystem, I was intrigued. I decided to jump right in and try and build something within Spotify for a couple of reasons: 1) They are a major player in the new music industry and its interesting to see how they are approaching apps.  2) I’ve been learning HTML5/JS and I saw an opportunity to put my skills to the test.  3) I’ve been meaning to revisit the amazing Echo Nest Platform, and after seeing this blog post by Paul Lamere I was inspired to give it a shot.  Now that I’ve gone through the process, I wanted to share the outcome as well as some tips and tricks I picked up along the way.

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Corporate Creativity

Several months back Activision CEO Bobby Kotick caused quite a stir when, during a long interview with Forbes magazine, he implied that DJ Hero was a mistake and that it sucked focus away from the Guitar Hero games and led to the demise of the franchise as a whole.  This set off quite an uproar among the gaming community (as is typical when Mr. Kotick says, well… just about anything).

Now, some disclosures and disclaimers before I carry on:

  1. I became an Activision employee in 2009 when my company (7 Studios) was acquired, and spent 2 years working within the “Hero” brand on new music game concepts.  I was there up to and including the shuttering of the franchise and the mass layoffs that followed.
  2. Prior to that, I created and led the development of Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, a game that was set to compete head-to-head against DJ Hero.

But this isn’t an excuse to bad-mouth my former employer, or talk trash about the Hero games and the decisions made during their lifecycle.  What’s done is done; I’ve moved on, and so has most of the gaming community. Continue reading

Thoughts on DimSong – Going beyond the “playlisting” problem

DimSong, the first product from my new company VenLabs, was released a few weeks ago.  It’s been such a busy time – both finishing up the app, and then following through with launch and post-launch plans – that I have been neglecting many other aspects of life, including this blog.  I’ve spent ample time promoting the app on Facebook, Twitter, etc… so rather than using this post as another excuse to hawk my wares, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a bit about the thought process behind the development of the app, and some of the long-term goals I have for it. Continue reading

The King is Dead; Long Live the King

For some time now, we have been living with the indisputable “truth” that the music game genre is dead.  A lot of the ill will started last year, as people began to notice that the current crop of music games (i.e. Guitar Hero & Rock Band) were taking in substantially less revenue than they had been in previous years.  Fast forward a bit, and Activision’s recent decision to abandon the genre completely was seen by many as the final nail in the coffin.  Now, there are a number of ways to explain this decline: oversaturation of titles, unsustainable revenue from high-margin plastic instruments, the general public moving on to “the next big thing”, etc…. but that’s not what this post is about.  And yes, the more recent success of games like Just Dance and Dance Central is encouraging on a certain level, but I’m not so concerned with that either.  Rather, I’d like to question the notion that Guitar Hero  & Rock Band embody the end-all-be-all of music gaming, and therefore that their decline indicates the certain death of the genre outright. Continue reading

Games vs. Instruments

I’ve spent the better part of the past 5 years focused on answering a deceptively complex question: What are the best ways to adapt the art of music-making into compelling gameplay?  I’ve explored systems focused on performance, composition, mixing & production, so I use the term “music-making” broadly to refer to any activity associated with creating music

On the surface, it can appear to be straightforward.  If you’ve played Guitar Hero once or twice, it seems like such an obvious idea that it’s easy to overlook how much thought and attention went into arriving at that particular design.  Creating a game is about making choices.  A designer decides what he wants a player to do, how he wants it done, and how a player should feel while it happens.  There needs to be a clear definition of success and failure.  Playing a guitar satisfies none of these conditions; playing Guitar Hero satisfies all of them.  The difference between them is the difference between an Instrument and a Game. Continue reading

Drum Looper/Chopper w/ Real-Time Beat Tracking

I wanted to share a quick prototype I threw together.  I’ve been messing around with various ways to sync to external audio in Max/MSP, and last night I came across the btrack~ external by Adam Stark.  It works incredibly well… highly recommended!  I’m using that external to drive the clock on a 4-channel drum looper/chopper patch that I made.  Everything stays locked in tempo, and its a lot of fun to mess around with.

The iPhone control is accomplished through TouchOSC.  The music in the video is “You Belong To Me” by Johnny Polygon & Amanda Diva.

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