Dan Froelich and his Yamaha FM chip

If I were smart, years ago I would have tracked down Dan Froelich and asked him what he used to write his funky CMF soundtracks for Jill of the Jungle, Solar Winds, Xargon, and other early Epic MegaGames stuff. Turns out I no longer need to, as he has written about his experience on his website. It seems he tracked his early game music in Adlib Visual Composer, a program that spoke to Adlib’s Yamaha FM chip (not dissimilar from the Sega Genesis chip) using a combination of piano rolls and FM instrument banks. Those elements were later crunched together into .CMF files for use with early Sound Blaster cards. To give a rare peek at the raw Adlib sound, Froelich has included clips of his Jill of the Jungle score, exported into ProTools. Cool beans!

So for anyone who wants to write early 1990s shareware music, that’s how the experts do it. Or rather, how an expert did it. I’m sure there are other methods.

Builder: The Game

If you are not yet aware of it, a couple of months ago I released a little puzzle platformer called Builder. I had a couple of goals with this game. The first is that I had been researching RSD Game-Maker, a 20-year-old DOS-based development environment (see my earlier post about cly5m), and I wondered if the old tools would support a relevant, contemporary game. As it turns out — maybe!

My other goal ties into the weirdness of the old engine. I have long been fascinated with glitches, and the odd mechanical and expressive qualities that they bring to a game. I figured this was a chance for me to explore the deliberate aspects of both of those qualities. You can play the surface game, and it’s fine — but until you start to pick away at the scenery, you’re only getting a part of the picture.

I won’t say that Builder is the most profound or involving game on the planet, but I’m pleased with it. You can download it for PC or Mac (which I have not tested; I have been told is a little slow), and you can make it work in Linux. There are more screenshots here.

Also, here‘s a play-through by Ken Taylor of the webcomic (tsuduku…). I suggest, if you plan on finishing the game, that you not watch past the first video.

From Shooter to Shooter: The Rise of cly5m

Seiklus was a turning point for the indie scene. Even if you’ve never played it, you’ve played something influenced by cly5m’s game. Seiklus was one of the first “exploration platformers,” a nonviolent genre that could be compared to a side-scrolling Myst, and now a distinct piece of the indie style guide. A small man, nearly a stick figure, travels a flat-colored world, collecting pointless trinkets and the occasional control upgrade, to find his way back home again. There is no death, and no aggression; Seiklus is all about the journey, and the player’s relationship with the game world.

Seiklus comes off as a very personal game. Although the controls amount to little more than walking and jumping, and the presentation is nearly as minimalist, the experience feels emotionally rich. Its level geometry and sequencing trade epiphanies for careful observation and experimentation, and the sound design creates a distinct and whimsical atmosphere.

The stripped-down expression of Seiklus has helped to legitimize canned game creation systems, leading Mark Overmars’ Game Maker to become the respected behemoth it is now, and lending the indie scene an entry-level spine. There have been tributes and parodies. It’s just an important game.

For all its influence, Seiklus is kind of a one-off. For a while cly5m and Robert Lupinek teased the Internet with Velella, a sort of spiritual successor involving dream flight. Otherwise, the last eight years have passed pretty quietly. The previous eight, though – that’s a different story.
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Braid has a website!

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Just yesterday or so I discovered that Braid, Jonathan Blow’s long-percolating, award- winning, Slamdance-protesting time-tinkering platformer now has an Internet presence. Including, hey, screenshots! If you recognize the visual style of the game world, you might be reading the correct webcomics. Looks like the game is being primed for an early-this-year release. There’s to be some beta testing toward the end of the month, for those of you who like to nitpick.

Link: More on this Dragon Quest business

Way back in mid-December, before Tim’s rambling post, I wrote an article for NextGen about Dragon Quest IX and the DS. In my typical fashion, I blew it up to suggest grand universal patterns that may or may not exist, yet I nonetheless see so I might as well mention. And now the article is up! It’s one of my not-baddest in a while, I think!

Link: Defining the Next Generation

Back in September, while on the plane back from the Tokyo Game Show, I began stirring around a longish article for my sponsor on that trip. It took rather longer than I expected to finish, then took a while longer to go up on the site. Then when it did, it was altered to fit what my editor felt the site needed at that moment. Fair enough; I just asked permission to reprint it elsewhere, in its original form. And here it is! I think it’s got some interesting stuff in it, amongst the things you’ve heard before! Maybe not. At any rate, I thought some people out there might enjoy the opportunity to read it as intended.

SPAM: Pongism in the Press

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If you were keeping up with that silly Monday column I used to have on NextGen, you might have noticed that I’m not doing it anymore! The reasons are varied, and mostly amount to not enough people reading it for all the weird pseudo-philosophical rants I wound around the week’s hottest Yi-Gi-Oh card battle game.

Result: I now have a new and different column on Thursdays, that involves… long pseudo-philosophical rants, on whatever topic strikes me as important after I’ve written half a paragraph. And I get paid for this stuff! One of them I spent more money than I care to divulge rescuing from a prolapsed hard drive — so I guess things even out in the end.

I keep getting mail from people who tell me how wonderful I am, so I guess maybe I’m not completely wasting my time. See what you think.

News?: Chae Lim Exposed!!

According to Thursday’s weekly update to the official KOF: Max Impact 2 website, everyone’s favorite bisexual tae kwon do disciple has been revealed to be more than just a butchy yet delectably realistic female skin for Kim Kaphwan; she is also, much like May Lee and Jhun before her, a stance user! Going by the web-viewable movies thus-far viewable, she has at least three working stances including a normal one, a “backwards” one, and a “raise the knee” one. Ah, her complexity only deepens as we come to know her!

In other news it appears that Seth is in reality Mr. Big’s younger brother, and Terry Bogard has been revealed as a crossdresser. You heard it here first, folks.

Vanity: Monday Again

You might recall my column at Next Generation. I’m bringing it up again because, well, today’s edition is kind of Insert Crederiffic. What with the fall release schedule, of late I’ve actually been forced to split the column up over the first three days of the week. There’s more coming, therefore, on Tuesday and Wednesday. I don’t know how those will go until I finish them. Today’s turned out kind of interesting, though.

A warning to Chris Kohler: you won’t like everything you read!