Posts Tagged ‘ Soul Brother

Soul Brother OST / Lone Survivor IGF

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to finally present to you:

SOUL BROTHER – ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Available for purchase on Bandcamp on 11/9/11, with iTunes to follow in around a month.

So, without further ado, let me tell you a little about the project.  When I originally made the game, I figured it would be fairly small, and not have many players.  That of course all changed when it was picked up by [Adult Swim] Games!  The problem was I’d used loads of really famous samples, and if lots of people were going to play it, there was no way I could get away with it.  (It’s true, musicians do ‘get away with it’ all the time, because more often than not when sampling, the record the sample appears on doesn’t go on to make enough sales to warrant the sample owner chasing it up.  I’ll admit I’ve done it myself on my drum’n’bass work, although only on smaller releases.)

So this means I had to either clear or remove the samples.  Removing them would have been simple, and saved me a lot of money, but I felt that, even if the sales of the OST were less than the cost of the samples, (which is quite likely to be the case) people would appreciate it as a labour of love, which it definitely is!

The Ins and Outs of Sample Clearance

I was asked by a friend to recount my experiences with sample clearance, and it’s been a long and difficult process.

In the end, I removed a great deal of samples from the intro track, which had load of classic early-90′s hip-hop vocals and cuts… It would have cost tens of thousands to license them all, if I could even track down who owned the rights.  So I ended up re-working the track with my own vocal stylings and a bit of vocoder.

The problem was that left Mr.Soul, the ‘theme tune’ of Soul Brother, and the track Mirko, both of which used samples from classic house track ‘We Can Rise’ by Copyright (strangely ironic name), on Defected Records.


Defected are known for licensing their samples regularly – in fact it could be said they actively court it as a source of revenue.  They release all of their tracks as acapellas in compilation albums, and for many dance music producers it’s quite a tempting prospect to listen through them when looking for a vocal hook.  I’ve used plenty myself, in some cases as placeholders I then get a vocalist to re-record, but in the case of these tunes, the vocals are integral to the hook and feel of the tunes… I just wasn’t prepared to compromise, even if it meant making the project at a loss!

The Process Itself

The first step was to negotiate the retaining of the rights to the Soul Brother OST from Adult Swim.  Normally you sell the rights alongside the game, but I was very keen to keep the rights as the music had already taken as long as the game at that point.  Amending the contracts in this way took a lot of back and forth, but we got there eventually!  Once that was done I needed to work out how much it was going to cost…

First you get in contact with the label who owns the vocal.  The standard agreement is a percentage of profit along with a flat fee for each track.  Once you’ve settled on these numbers, contracts are drawn up.  Once I knew the cost I could get back to [Adult Swim], and once they were happy that there weren’t any gotchas (for example, restrictions on the reuse of the music on any ports, sequels, movies, TV spinoffs… etc) they were happy.

The tracks then need to be ‘published’ – a term used to descrive who takes responsibilty for collecting royalties.  Fortunately I still have a publishing company from my drum’n’bass record label, Space Music, so that stage was fairly simple.

The final stage is then to register the tracks with PRS (the Performing Right Society.)  This is where the majority of royalties come from, they track public performance of music using a number of different heuristics (it’s all a bit black magic.)  But of course they can’t track tunes they don’t know about!

I hope this explains a little about the process to those considering sampling…

Defected Records

The Album Itself

Now I’d like to say a little about the album and where it’s come from.  There are 11 tracks, of which 6 are from the game itself.  Each of these 6 tracks has been majorly re-worked, improving the production, adding new elements, additional vocals and so on, and extending them, etc.  I originally spent about two months on the in-game music, trying lots of things that didn’t work (and trying desperately to avoid falling back on chiptunes!)

Since then I’ve probably put another few weeks into those tunes, and I hope you’ll agree that the OST versions are a lot nicer!

The other 5 tracks are all unique to the OST.  Three of which feature me singing…  Which is, err, quite a new thing for me.  I often put little backing vocals on my d’n’b work, and used to sing in indie bands when I was younger, but this is the first stuff I’ve actually released with verses and choruses and so on.

Some of these additional songs have actually been in the works since 2008, when I was first experimenting with electro-house.  Nothing came of it at the time and I shelved the music until now.  I spent another few weeks completely re-working these tracks to bring them up-to-date, and make them fit with the existing tracks.

Launch

So that’s Soul Brother OST.  It will be available for purchase from this Sunday 11/9/11 (in UK date format.)  For now you can head over to the Bandcamp page and listen, and make up your mind whether you’d like to indulge come Sunday!

In the end, it’s something I’m really proud of, if nothing else because it’s the first project I’ve done which I feel somehow bridges my life as a musician and as a game designer…  hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did making it!

*   *   *

One More Thing…


I know this is going to come as a surprise to those who read my last post… but!

LONE SURVIVOR IS BACK ON.

Wait, what?

LONE SURVIVOR IS BACK ON.

Yes, that’s right.

After a series of long discussions, emails, and tweets from friends and supporters of the project, I figured it really would be stupid to give up at this point.  I admit, I panicked.  I really felt it was too full of problems to be fixable.  But what I’ve done is to break it down in baby steps, try and get to the root of what the problems actually are, and whether there are ways to fix them.

Well I think I finally have a good idea of how proceed.  So my plan is to go all out for IGF now (it was always the plan – I just bottled it at the last minute.)  I do have a tendency to do this: it’s the third hiatus on Lone Survivor, and even Soul Brother fell off the map for over a year at one point.  In the end I realised that this is my last real chance to secure a future as an indie developer…  and it would be foolish to blow it.

I’ll be totally honest and say that development funds are running short (I have about three months living money left, until I hit the emergency cash reserved for finding another job.)  So, if you’d like to help in some way, I won’t be using the donation model (I much prefer to sell something rather than just ask for money) – the best way you can help me is by heading over to the Soul Brother OST page, and purchasing it!  There’s a low minimum price, but you can pay whatever you like…  So if you really feel like giving me hundreds of thousands of dollars for your copy of the OST, you’re more than welcome!

Seriously though, every purchase will really help Lone Survivor along the way.  So even if the music’s not for you, you can consider it a donate button if you like!

Thanks so much to everyone who’s supported me through this difficult time.  I hope to have it finished by New Year, but if it runs over I’ll consider taking preorders to help with the final push.  Either way, I promise to not stop until the game is done, and put every bit of remaining blood, sweat and tears into it.

Yes, you can quote me on that!

Rainbow Star Prize, And Mirrors

First of all I’d just like to finally give Brian Keong, the Rainbow Star Challenge winner, his prize.  Nearly half a million players have entered Soularis now, and it makes me so happy.  I’m planning to do a bit more of a post-mortem of the game at some point, and I’d also like to share some more press and interview links about it, as it seems to have had a good buzz.

Anyway, he requested a bird character, and here he is, in-game:

Brian, I almost broke the game doing this, so I hope you like him!

Lone Survivor Update

I managed to get a solid build of Lone Survivor into Indiecade this year, one of the main indie game competitions along with IGF.  I worked incredibly hard on it for the two months leading up to the deadline, almost going as insane as the protagonist.  It probably helped the atmosphere in some ways!

Here’s a little teaser trailer I made (it shows almost nothing of the actual gameplay, that will follow in the real trailer, which should be much better than this one!):

Lone Survivor (Indiecade Teaser Trailer)

The music is by myself and Silver (Sonic & Silver), the VIP mix of Rocket Launcher on Virus Records.  It’s not used in-game, for those that hate it (it’s a polarising one.)  There’s already 22 original tracks in Lone Survivor, and it’s going to give me a lot of pleasure to finally share them with you guys.

Since submitting to Indiecade I had a little time off playing Yakuza and so on, but I’ve now started back on full-time work on it.  It’s getting quicker to make as what I want to do with it is getting clearer in my head.

I’ll leave you with a new screenshot, from the dusty cellar, of the new mirror savegame system:

The Great Unknown

So I felt it was time to give you guys an update on what I’ve been up to…

The plan (as I mentioned in the quote-unquote interview) was to work on Legend of the Starmen with an aim to heading for an IGF entry.

Well, just like the last time I went indie, I changed my mind once I actually had the space and time to think about it. I still want to make LotS, and it’s high up on the list… But it’s a big game, as big as Lone Survivor, perhaps.

So I figured, if I’m going to do a big project anyway, it may as well be the one which is most personal and important to me. The one I’ve been trying to make for several years, since making Soundless Mountain II – Lone Survivor. After all, the game is already further along than LotS, so it makes more sense from that perspective. And there’s the thing that it may help get recognised because SMII is still probably the game I’m most known for doing…

It’s coming on really well! I’m planning on entering it into Indiecade, either at the end of this week, or two weeks after that if I miss the deadline. I’m focussing on making the first world really fleshed out and finished, the intro and outro, polish and bugfixes and a total overhaul of the audio. Save games, title screens, some more puzzles and survival elements, a new monster, it’s all happening so fast!

And there’s more…

I’ve started a new (relatively) small game – perhaps the size of Soul Brother when finished. It’s called XOR, and it’s a homage to the games I grew up on, perhaps more so than the other games I’ve made. It’s a randomly generated Atic Atac / Zelda mashup wizard-shooter. It is presented in a warped ZX Spectrum view, complete with filthy screen, ‘off’ colours and flickering glows. It all looks much better in motion, but have a (slightly out-of-date) screenshot all the same:


The names are procedurally generated and this one just happened to come up.

There’s also a background story to it which I won’t reveal yet, suffice to say it’s gonna have more than a nod to a certain other glowing movie, but hopefully turn things on their head a bit. According to Anthony Carboni at least, I like to ‘flip the script’ like that.

Finally…

A massive thanks out to the 270,000 players of Soul Brother, and the many new reviewers and podcasts which have covered it. I really am humbled that so many have enjoyed something so silly of mine. Thanks to Terry for helping me along the way so much, and thanks to all the indies who reside in a certain forum I frequent for all their incredible work helping me test and improve the game. You all know who you are, and I can’t thank you guys enough!

Also to Brian Keong, I’m sorry I haven’t forgotten your sprite, I’m just really swamped getting ready for Indiecade, so expect it next blog post, sorry!

Rainbow Stars

So here is a long overdue postmortem of Soul Brother’s release.  It’s been a great couple of weeks watching it spread slowly around the net, and I think overall the reaction’s been fairly positive on the whole.

First of all, I’d like to announce the winner of the Rainbow Star Challenge, Brian Keong.  He completed it on the second day I believe.  The nice thing is I designed the online scoring system to show the Rainbow Star achievers quite easily – if you get over 2 million, you didn’t die and got all the gems in decent time.

So far, 170,000 people have played it on [adult swim] and 13 of those people have got themselves some of this:

Brian has requested a bird character, who I’ll post at a later date (I want to do a special card for it like the game ones.)  Congratulations to him and all the others who flew so high!

I only really have time to share some of the reactions for this week’s blog – I want to do a proper postmortem at some stage, and show the tools I used to make it.  I did talk about them a little on this interview I did with quote-unquote.  I really like that blog and wish more people would read it, so thanks to Steve Cook for that. They also have the maps for Soul Brother and other little trinkets on there.

Here are direct links to the maps: Soularis West, Soularis East.  See if you can spot where it’s changed!

Here are collected bits of press about it…

I won FREE INDIE RAPID FIRE over at bytejacker, which I was super happy about. I love those guys, and my wife digs Anthony’s t-shirt selections. Their review of the game in the previous episode.

indiegamemag.com’s very generous review.

Joystiq review.

Jayisgames review.

indiegameschannel review.

ithamore’s lovely review on the TIGsource front page.

Good old indiegames.com, who’ve supported my work a lot over the years, so thanks Tim & Mike!

Rock Paper M*********n’ Shotgun.

Dangercade’s new (to me) and cool.

Terry says ‘go play Soul Brother’.

And so does the wonderful Rob F.

You Big Nonce’s hilarious video review:

Ortoslon’s 0-death, 0-gem playthrough (done on day one…)

Terry’s 33-gem, 7-death run…

Until next time folks, thanks for playing!

The Rainbow Star Challenge

Attention, indie gamers!

Today is the special moment superflat games becomes a full-time, independent entity.

I’m writing on my lunchbreak at my desk in Frontier Developments Ltd, bedroom-legend David Braben’s studio where I’ve spent most of the last three years, working on Kinectimals and a new undisclosed project.  Thanks to the people who’ve helped make it a worthwhile and fascinating experience.  Although I hope not to have to return, it’s been great making the Kinectikids happy on their birthdays!

And another thing…

Today is the launch day for Soul Brother!  Yes, I almost can’t believe it either.  I particularly like this post which says ‘coming soon’, dated 2009.

Here is the titlescreen with all the achievements unlocked in the game.  What are they?  How do you get them?

You’ll have to figure that out!

Go play Soul Brother on [Adult Swim] games.

And finally: The Rainbow Star Challenge…

As per the title of the post, take a look at the final achievement above.  Want a closer look?  Ok!

- Be the first to prove to me you can earn the Rainbow Star in Soul Brother.

- Do so by sending a screen capture, or better still a video recording.

- Win a custom Soul Brother character sprite / avatar (based on you, or your pet if you like.)

- Enjoy.

1278 Comments (Part 1)

The title of this post is an homage to the 1278 ‘comments’ I have recieved from my last post.  In other words, 1287 spam replies, indicating just how badly I’ve let my blog slip lately!

As well as addressing the broken comment system, I’m planning to do a great deal more with superflatgames.com over the next few months.

This is the first in what will hopefully be more frequent updates to my progress, and I plan on blogging about more non-game-creation topics a little more too.

Anyway, where to begin?

It’s been a tumultuous few months.  Since November when I wrote the last one, all kinds of cool, crazy and sometimes crap things have happened.  Though the good has outweighed the crap by a fair margin!

Soul Brother

So the first thing you might be wondering about is what happened to Soul Brother?  Well there’s very good news on that front… I’ve signed the game to [Adult Swim] games, one of the premier Flash portals out there.  It’s a massive deal for me, as I wasn’t even sure if I could make enough money to get by from it.  As it happens, the deal has meant that I have a degree of financial freedom for the first time since joining the ‘AAA’ industry, and bodes really well for future indie work.

I’ve put a lot more work into the game, more than I originally planned, but I want the game to be the best thing I’ve ever made.  So although the game was 99% done in November, four months have passed and it’s slowly gained an extra sheen of polish which I think has really made the whole process worthwhile.

I also put a lot more time into the soundtrack (and clearing some of the samples, which took frustratingly long – when you dig into house-megalabel Defected’s acapella records, it’s only to be expected I guess!)

There are now six tracks in all, and I really put the same amount of work in that I would have for my drum’n’bass records that were released as things in their own right (normally I consciously spend less time on game music, reasoning that the production quality doesn’t need to be as high to pass.)

Although [adult swim] own the IP to Soul Brother, I retain the rights to the music, which I’m planning on releasing as an OST later this year.  That won’t be a simple port either, I’ll spend a few weeks polishing, extending and even adding to the tracks.  I may even include a couple of bonus tunes, just ‘cos I love you all!

TIGJam, Game 1: American Dream

While attending our local indie-con, TIGJam UK, a four day jamfest at Cambridge’s CB2 (100m from my house), I finally got to collaborate with two of my close friends who I’ve wanted to work with since getting into this indie thing.

These fine fellows are Terry Cavanagh and Stephen ‘increpare‘ Lavelle (and there was also some art contribution from the talented Tom Morgan-Jones who I hadn’t met before, but had heard of.)

Terry had previously made a furnishing-simulator, which was going to be attached to an assasination simulator.  When the theme ’80′s’ came up at the Jam, I wanted to do something to do with the stockmarket, thinking Wall Street / American Psycho, so I suggested this to Terry.  Somehow we came upon trading 80′s film / music idols as commodities.

He got building a trading sim, I reworked the graphics, Stephen strung the whole thing together and wrote the wonderful music, Tom added cutscene art, and the rest is history.

The game was remarkably well received, getting covered on the likes of indiegames.com and Rock Paper Shotgun (one of my favourite blogs.)

Here is the link to play the game (online), hosted exclusively over on Stephen’s site: link.

End of Part 1

Anyway, I’m coming to the end of my allotted blogging time, so I think I’ll save the rest of the news for Part 2.  I have two other projects in the works I’d like to share with you guys, and I’ll probably talk a little about my indie plans for the future.  Hope to see you then!

Soul Brother Promo Video

Click to be taken to YouTube, where a funky introduction to Mr.Soul takes place.

My two projects which are actually small enough to be finishable

So my plans changed slightly after I began my indie career.  I did continue to work on Psychic Prison Break for a month fairly solidly.  It’s all wrapped up and ready to release but I’m still not happy with how some of the dialogue is working. For that reason I decided to put some distance between myself and the project, so that when I finish off the last few edits, I’l have a fresh view of it.  I feel much closer to knowing how to do it, I’m just letting it simmer until the other project is done.

The other project is the Flash remake of Soul Brother is getting close to being finished.  It’s very different to the original game, but I think it fixes a lot of the problems that one had.

I’m hoping to have it finished in a couple of weeks, all the content is done, and just the final polish needs to be added, and the odd nasty bug to iron out.

Will keep you all posted!

Superflat Games is now my fulltime job!

As per the post title, I’m no longer working for Frontier Developments, where I spent the last 2.5 years working on the Kinectimals project which launches in November I belive. I have decided to pursue my indie career, rather than look for new work within the industry, and I will be juggling that with my music career (as Sonic).

So, my plans are to:

1) Make a redux version of Psychic Prison Break with re-written dialogue (I wasn’t happy with it before), a few extra puzzles, and perhaps one or two more locations. I’ll be putting this up for sponsorship on Flash Game License.

2) Make another short adventure, which I’ve been wanting to do for a while. It’s a period piece set in a single bed and breakfast type building, and should be something a bit lighter for me. It’s also based on a period in my late father’s life. Again, put this up for license.

3) Meanwhile I’ll be working on Lone Survivor, which I’ve decided to make into a commercial release with a free demo online. I’m going to take my time over it, and make it the absolute best thing I am capable of making.

4) I’m also toying with Flash versions of Soul Brother and This Is How Bees Work. Both will be greatly enhanced and altered to fit the medium.

I’ll be putting up a donation button at some point in the near future to help kickstart my indie career (I had planned to take more time to save, but circumstances forced the move early). If anyone feels the urge to donate at that point, it would really help me support my wife and baby while bringing lovely games to you.

I’m going to make exactly the games I want to play, and never compromise in their content for commercial interests. I’m going to try to make games that touch on new subject matter. Adult games, for adults. I want to explore areas of interactivity that can be the only way to present certain stories. I want to tell stories most of all.

And so many stories have yet to be told, because of the youthfulness of this art form. Which excites me enourmously!

Ladies and gentlemen,

WELCOME TO SUPERFLAT WORLD

Unfinished Alphas

Here are links to a couple of games I never finished…

Trip:One

Trip One, version 0.41

Controls:

L/R: Turn
U/D: Thrust / Reverse

X: Ok / Primary Item
C: Cancel / Back / Secondary Item

ENTER: Bring up upgrade screen (can only upgrade when parked on top of the dropship).

HP is your ship’s shield. You can get it back by sliding on striped surfaces.
SP is your ship’s energy, and you won’t be able to use items (such as guns / shield) unless you have some. It replenishes over time.

Notes:

You can hold the X button to get rid of all the text. I’d recommend doing it first. I meant to improve the textbox system so they were more like auto-popups as in Starfox.

I had planned to make the inventory screen so you could actually swap between items when away from the dropship. Won’t probably get round to it now.

There’s quite a few items to be found. You can upgrade them or your ship by collecting starmen, which are used as currency.

If you die, you drop your starmen, and if you don’t then make it back to where you snuffed it, you’ll lose them forever. In general it’s best to upgrade as soon as you can (such as at the start, because you begin with 200 or so starmen).

* * *

Soul Brother

Soul Brother, version 0.5

There is actually a version 0.6 around which has quite a lot more in it as well as bugfixes. I will definitely post this at some stage soon. Just needs packaging up!

Controls:

L/R: Move

X: Ok / Use / Unique Move (such as Fly / Jump etc)
C: Cancel / Back

In other news, I can finally announce the game I’ve been designing in my day-job:

As it’s finally been announced at E3, I guess it’s ok for me to say.  It doesn’t get much more mainstream than this, folks!