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Eric Caoili

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pugs IGF.jpg[In the latest in our "Road to the IGF" series of interviews with 2012 IGF finalists, Gamasutra speaks with Lucky Frame's Yann Seznec about his team's 2012 IGF Excellence in Audio nominee Pugs Luv Beats.]

In the tradition of music composition games like SimTunes, Lucky Frame's Pugs Luv Beats is an addictive iOS title that has you creating songs as you guide creatures around a map, making increasingly complex melodies as you progress and are introduced to new mechanics.

The creatures in this game naturally are pugs, or colorful capsule-shaped versions of the puppies at least, and you need to help them recover Beats scattered around the universe. Each world you visit offers new opportunities for different kinds of musical patterns you can compose.

As you collect beats, you trade them in for outfits to help your pugs better traverse the varying environments on each world. Each movement from the pugs, depending on the terrain, makes a different sound that adds to the unique symphony you've created for the world.

Gamasutra spoke with the Scottish developer's founder and director Yann Seznec to learn more about Pugs Luv Beats, Lucky Frame's design decisions creating its musical mechanics, and what he believes are the most interesting audio developments for indies lately.

What background do you have making games?

Yann Seznec: Pugs Luv Beats is actually Lucky Frame's first game, in the strictest sense of the word. We'd been wanting to get into making games for a while -- Jon Brodsky (Lucky Frame's programmer) had been doing Ludum Dare and other game jams for a year or two, but most of our previous work had more to do with music, which is part of the core of our identity.

For one thing, I was able to found the company in 2008 based on the success of the Wii Loop Machine, a hack that turned Wii remotes into musical instruments. After that, our main mobile release was Mujik for iPhone, a surrealist music toy. It got a lot of wonderful attention, mostly because it was a music app that did not fall into the cliches of nearly every other music app in the store!

That showed us that there was really some space in the creative world for new approaches to music. It was a logical step from there to start making games, particularly since the "music game" genre was really starting to feel tired. So that's how we started getting into making games!

What development tools did you use?

At the moment, we are pretty much entirely developing for iOS, so we have to use the standard Apple stuff of course. In addition to that, we are using openFrameworks, Lua, and our own game engine on top of that called Blud, which is inspired by Love2d and Flixel.

The audio is all done using Pure Data through libpd and ofxPd. This let us do really rapid high quality audio and music, and it let me handle all of the audio development, which is great since I'm not a coder! For a music game like Pugs Luv Beats it was super important to design a really flexible and strong generative music system, and Pure Data was perfect for the job.

How long had your team been working on the game?

We starting our early thinking in March 2011, and began prototyping in May. We released in December 2011, so nearly seven months!

How did you come up with the concept for Pugs Luv Beats?

Our original concept was we wanted to blur the lines between music composition and gameplay. I'm really interested in the relationships between those two things -- in many ways composition and game design share a lot of concepts and theory.

We wanted to make a game where the gameplay generated music, rather than followed an established musical direction. That was our main philosophy, and we spent a long time just deciding what kind of game to make. We eventually made a prototype that had characters moving around a grid generating sound, which satisfied our desire to make something that was both fun and generated cool music.

From there we needed strong characters to make the game more wonderful, and pugs in costumes seemed like something that hadn't been properly addressed in the game world. Once you have pugs in costumes, it's a pretty small jump to give them their own universe and civilization, whilst keeping them really cute and dumb.

I presume you've seen similar games with user-created music like SimTunes and Isle of Tune? I wonder what kind of lessons or ideas you took from those titles?

Of course! Well, to start with SimTunes, that was made by Toshio Iwai, who is a massive influence on virtually all of our projects. He is completely amazing.

Both Mujik and to a certain extent Pugs Luv Beats are heavily indebted to his work both in terms of aesthetic (Elektroplankton) as well as music generation mechanics (Tenori-on). Similar to the Tenori-on and also deserving of a respectful nod is the Monome, a brilliant minimalist grid based music generation system.

Isle of Tune is also fantastic. It's particularly impressive how they are able to hide a fully functional music system in such adorable graphics. It ends up appealing to both hard core music producers, who recognize the depth it has, as well as casual players, who just like watching the cars.

That's something we also wanted to achieve, though the layer we wanted to add was that of a game, one that is constantly evolving and a unique experience for every player. In order to do that we needed to insert many more unknowns, so that players need to explore the planets bit by bit to hear what they sound like, for example.

I also need to mention Bebot, which is such a brilliant music app, and one that we are obviously referencing with our synth.

The concept might seem very new or different to most players who've never seen anything like this before, I imagine. What steps did you take to try to immediately keep their attention and convince them this is something they want to try?

The first five minutes of gameplay are the hardest, for a game like this. We probably worked on that for a month, once everything else was finished. We tried a number of different approaches, and the best one we found was to guide the player through the first few worlds with a helper: Mr Puggles! He's pretty funny. He wears a sombrero and talks with a synthesizer.

But apart from that, the main things that we needed to make sure people experienced right away were:

  1. The pugs running around. They are adorable.
  2. The creation of sound by the pugs running around. These makes the player aware of their agency, that they made that sound by making the pug run there.
  3. Giving the pugs costumes. They are hilarious.
  4. Showing the effect that the costumes has on the speed and sound generation of the pugs. This is another example of player agency.

So the tutorial makes sure to show all of those things. Once people grasp those concepts they tend to get interested. Then, when they discover the synth, which we don't explicitly tell them about, they are hooked. It's quite funny to watch.

In my experience at least, there can be long stretches when you're waiting for your pugs to collect enough beets before you can progress to the next stage or build the next house. Was that intentional, extending gameplay or forcing players to listen to their creation?

This is a really interesting question. The first thing to say is that our next update is going to allow people to purchase Beats in the game. We actually wanted to include that in the first release but we didn't have time.

However, the more direct answer to your question is that the music is designed to be something that you can do whilst you're collecting beats. You can constantly be working on your tunes, playing around and remixing and trying new things.

Most collection games have some sort of mechanic like this, things that you can do while you wait for stuff to happen, and we want the music generation to take that place. We're going to make this even more fun in some coming updates by making the synth playing and other things more rewarding within the game itself.

What's next for Lucky Frame?

[We just released] a super fun spinoff of Pugs Luv Beats -- a free version of just the synth part of the game, which lets you dress up pugs and make them sing. It's hilarious!

After that, we are going to work on some updates for Pugs Luv Beats, and then it's on to a totally different music composition game, with a targeted release in the spring. Should be awesome!

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

A lot of them aren't out yet, but I'm really excited to play them! Realm of the Mad God is obviously awesome and hilarious. And I haven't played English Country Tune yet, but it looks amazing.

What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?

I think it's super exciting, and it's really awesome to be playing a tiny part in it. For many reasons (platforms, prices, etc), it's probably bigger than it's ever been, which means there are loads of amazing games coming out, and they are easier to find and play than ever.

I think the scene is probably going to have some growing pains -- maybe the (generally silly) complaining about the IGF awards is indicative of that, but to me that illustrates that it is becoming much more mainstream, which is a generally good thing.

Maybe, if we are comparing it to music, the indie game scene now is kind of like alternative music in early 1992, and Minecraft is Nirvana's Nevermind. So my hope is that it will lead to the equivalent of OK Computer in six years (though there will probably be a lot of Creed and Nickelback too).

And the real question is whether there will be a totally different scene emerging kind of like Hip Hop! Who will be the Tribe Called Quest of indie games? Maybe my metaphor is getting a bit stretched.

What are the most interesting developments you're seeing in the audio space, in terms of tech or ideas, for indies?

libPD! I already mentioned it, but man it's awesome. I think it opens up really deep audio programming and generative and algorithmic music techniques to a much wider audience. Also the work that RjDj are doing in terms of reactive audio is super interesting, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Otherwise the most exciting music game on the horizon looks like Beat Sneak Bandit, it seems like it's going to be taking a really different approach to a rhythm game, which is a genre that is desperately in need of a facelift!

[This interview originally appeared on Gamasutra, written by Eric Caoili.]

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[Every week GameSetWatch editor-in-chief Eric Caoili rounds up the latest news/media for obscure and offbeat games from Gamasutra's sister site and alternative video game blog.]

Over at our recently alt video game blog GameSetWatch, we shared a number of fun stories during the past week, including an authorized Commodore 64 conversion for Canabalt, an iOS port of Mac classic Glider, Bloody Wolf bandannas, and more.

GameSetWatch's highlights from the last week:

C64anabalt: Canabalt For Commodore 64 (pictured) - Following up his Commodore 64 conversion of Terry Cavanagh's platformer VVVVVV, Paul 'Paulko64' Koller is working on re-creating another modern indie game for the 8-bit system: Adam Saltsman's popular Flash/iOS one-button game Canabalt.

What Pet Vet Could Learn From Xenoblade, And Other IGeNerator Revelations - Inspired by the ever-wonderful Video Game Name Generator, Jocchan's IGeNerator applies the formula to feature articles for gaming websites. The results may hit a little too close to home for some, but you'll probably end up getting a few good laughs out of it anyway.

I Can't Believe That These Bloody Wolf Bandannas Exist - No matter how much you like video games, no matter how long you've been collecting, and no matter how big of a TurboGrafx-16 fan you are, I can practically guarantee that this eBay item is not in your possession.

FileKiller: 'Malware With A Win Condition' - The game selects 20 files from your computer at random. To win, you must delete them all. You don't know what each file is until AFTER you've deleted it. Files 10 and 20 are folders, deleting them deletes everything in them. There is no undo.

Twin Peaks For The Atari 2600 Is Exactly As One Might Imagine It To Be - Based upon Agent Cooper's journey through the Black Lodge in the final episode, Atari 2600-style take on Twin Peaks features appearances by the pint-sized Man from Another Place, a screaming Laura Palmer, doppelganger Leland Palmer, doppelganger Dale Cooper, plus more.

Classic Mac Game Glider Coming To iOS - If you had a Mac in the early 90s, or at least if you putzed around with your school's Apple computer when you were supposed to be doing something productive, you likely played John Calhoun's Glider or one of its several sequels.

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[Every week GameSetWatch editor-in-chief Eric Caoili rounds up the latest news/media for obscure and offbeat games from IndieGames.com's sister site and alternative video game blog.]

Over at our alt video game blog GameSetWatch, we shared a number of fun stories during the past week, including the release of Zanda: Linked Swords on iOS, a humorous message to gamers from Jeff Goldblum in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and overreactions to the Nintendo 3DS Expandion Slide Pad reveal.

GameSetWatch's highlights from the last week:

Who Needs iOS Zelda When There's Zanda: Linked Swords By Top Best Adult Entertainment? - Since the chances of Nintendo porting any of its beloved franchises to a rival platform like iOS are next to nil, the closest thing you can get to playing Nintendo-style games is downloading homages and knock-offs from other developers, like Zanda: Linked Swords.

Jeff Goldblum With A Message For Gamers - This is what you seen when you complete The Lost World: Jurassic Park for the PS1 and Sega Saturn, based upon the movie of the same name obviously. The thing is, he plays no actual role in the game. The producers specifically got one of the film's stars to make a surprise appearance, and what does he do? Insults the player.

Twisted Pixel Gives In To Urges, Finally Makes An All-FMV Game - Well, it's about time. After screwing around with IGF finalists and critically lauded platformers for the last few years, Twisted Pixel has finally created something that plays to its true strength: full-motion video. The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles, a DLC extra for The Gunstringer, is a Western-themed, live-action, Kinect-powered homage to the arcade light gun shooter Mad Dog McCree. Yes, for real.

At Least Someone Still Cares About The Dreamcast - Last week was the Dreamcast's 12th birthday here in North America. All day long I scoured the major gaming blogs for some kind of retrospective or remembrance, even just a passing mention, but found nothing. It would seem that no one really cares about Sega's last hurrah anymore, but at least one person still does.

Simraceway Opens Real World Racing Facility, Program - GameSetWatch contributor Tony Perez-Giese talks with racecar driver Dan Wheldon about Simraceway, and the online sim's real world racing facility recently opened with the Jim Russell Driving School. Simraceway releases this fall and is currently recruiting beta users.

Overreactions To 3DS Expansion Slide Pad Reveal - While there have been some who haven't freaked out about Nintendo's upcoming Expansion Slide Pad/Cradle peripheral for the 3DS, the rest of the internet appears to be losing its mind over the accessory -- and of course, on the already unstable gaming message board NeoGAF, that hysteria has been amplified times a million.

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[Every week GameSetWatch editor-in-chief Eric Caoili rounds up the latest news/media for obscure and offbeat games from Gamasutra's sister site and alternative video game blog.]

Over at our recently resdesigned alt video game blog GameSetWatch, we shared a number of curious stories during the past week, including highlights and incredible matches from last weekend's Evo2K11 tournaments, basketball players turned into King of Fighter characters, and more.

GameSetWatch's highlights from the last week:

Latif Wins SSFIV At Evo For America Without Actually Winning - Summing up the Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition results from last weekend's Evo2K11 tournament, GameSetWatch covers the intense competition from the finals, Daigo "The Beast" Umehara's downfall, and how the U.S. got its groove back.

Evo's MvC3 Highlight Matches: Crazy Upsets, 8-Year-Old Hulks Dudes' Faces Off - GameSetWatch collects videos for the biggest comebacks and craziest matches from Evo2K11's Mavel vs Capcom 3 tournament, including a couple matches from the 8-year-old gamer that managed to fight his way into the top 48 out of more than a thousand players.

The King Of Fighters: Basketballs On Fire - I'm not entirely sure what the story is here, but this project features a who's who of current NBA superstars, past legends, and assorted guests -- all mocked up as characters from King of Fighters and other fighting games. Larry Bird as Geese Howard! Shaq as Chang Koehan! "Beeonce" as Morrigan!

Atomic Bomberman Secretly Cusses Up a Storm - The 1997 PC game Atomic Bomberman, aside from being one of the very worst Bombermen in existence, happens to host a number of hidden and not-safe-for-work voice samples that would easily turn the KA-rated game into an M-for-Mature sort of affair, had the ESRB been notified.

Fan-Made Ouendan Sim Osu! Released for iOS - While precious few games were released in Nintendo's Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan series (including the localized sequel Elite Beat Agents), fans have taken it upon themselves to recreate the franchise's energetic rhythm gameplay in osu!, a free-to-play simulator for PCs. An iOS version, osu!stream, was released as a free download in the App Store this week.

The Kinect Driven Hyper(Reality) System - Graphic and interactive designer Maxence Paranche has created a device that explores theories pertaining to hyperrealism with the help of the Kinect. Called the Hyper(Reality) System, a person wears a helmet that has zero visibility. Instead, the outside world is seen though high definition video glasses. And all of its information comes from sensors attached to a glove, which is powered by the Kinect.

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[Every week GameSetWatch editor-in-chief Eric Caoili rounds up the latest news/media for obscure and offbeat games from Gamasutra's sister site and alternative video game blog.]

In this latest collection of links to mostly ignored games and gaming news, we cover a full-scale replica of Counterstrike's memorable de_dust map, an unearthed NES ROM for Dizzy spinoff Dreamworld Pogie, new videos for Rhythm Tengoku Wii, and Japanese shmup magazine Shooting Gameside.

GameSetWatch's highlights from the last week:

Someone Wants To Build A Full-Scale Replica Of de_dust - "One of the most played multiplayer stages in video game history, Counterstrike's de_dust is an iconic first-person shooter map, re-created dozens of times by fans in other FPSes since. And now artist Aram Bartholl wants to build a 1:1 scale replica of the level, memorializing it with a concrete "art piece and museum."

Japanese Shmup Magazine Shooting Gameside Returns With New Volume - "Fans of shoot'em ups and import gaming magazines, the second volume of Shooting Gameside has released! This issue offers 160 pages, 26 (!) of those devoted to a feature on Gradius. The rest of the mag is full of previews, strategies, interviews (including one with Taito's in-house band Zuntata), and more for games like Crimzon Clover, Eschatos, Trouble Witches, and Hayabusa."

Unreleased Dizzy Spinoff Dreamworld Pogie Discovered for NES - "Long considered lost to the ages (or to bit rot) Codemasters' unreleased Nintendo Entertainment System game Dreamworld Pogie has at last surfaced as a downloadable prototype ROM image, reconstructed using source code found on a floppy disk by the YolkFolk.com community."

Give Swery Money for His Next Game, Dammit - "Deadly Premonition director Hidetaka Suehiro, aka "Swery65," wants very badly to make a new game but lacks the funding to do so. This is a crime. Publishers, it's time to sack up and throw some money at this man."

Details Behind Discarded Colossi Finally Revealed - "Many have already seen assorted behind-the-scenes sketches for beasts that didn't make the cut in Shadow of the Colossus, but few of us know what the story behind them is. Thus comes GlitterBerri to the rescue yet again! Last seen retranslating the script to Zelda 1, her current project involves putting the Japanese words found in SotC's official guidebook into English."

Rhythm Heaven Promises Multiplayer Karate, Biplane Badminton - "Nintendo of Japan opened up a site for Rhythm Heaven Wii, with the highlight thus far (it's a bit sparse at the moment; expect goodies in the not too distant future, including wallpaper and the such) being footage of some of its minigames in action."

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