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Bakery Square, audio edition (23 Jan 2011 at 12:20)
This weekend I finally recorded this song that I wrote for our inaugural open mic at our new office, called Bakery Square. It's a rare Tom 7 song that I don't record under time constraints. I couldn't decide if it would be techno mix or acousic version or electric rock, so it is all three. Cover art:

coffee-software 2:1 port, settled
Tom 7 – Bakery Square
The lyrics here may be unpenetrable. Hints: We used to be in a building called CIC, and the office was officially known as PIT-CMU. The new one is called PIT-BAK but there was a short-lived passive-aggressive sign campaign (ineffective like all such signs) to rename it to PIT-BSQ I guess because it is a much more valuable word in Scrabble. The cubicles in this place are actually hexagonal, as illustrated above. The rest I guess will remain like some amusing memo to myself, which is how I like it.

Also, go Steelers!, who have their championship game tonight. Speaking of can't decide between techno and folk, here again is my old official folk version of unofficial Steelers song, and also the techno version, now quite amusingly out of date with respect to personnel and number of fingers in need of rings. Very sadly (to me), I will be on a redeye to Zurich for the entirety of the game, a champyinz-strength scheduling blunder.
Categories:  drawings  tom 7 music  mp3   [ comment ]
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New T7ES song: I Have A DRAM (17 Jan 2011 at 17:27)
Apologies to those who are bored by obsession with primitive waveforms and their unusual composition. But the thing about obsession is that you gotta keep doing it, so on Martin Luther King Day we have a new T7ES song:

Cover illustration for T7ES - I Have A DRAM. DIP chip rendered in large pixels.
Tom 7 Entertainment System – I Have A DRAM


Nerds alone will get the joke, but did they know that Dynamic Random Access Memory was patented in the same year that MLK died? No, because nobody knows that stuff, not even Jeopardy-playing proto-Skynet futurebots. Anyway I Have A DRAM is pretty long at 3m50s, but it contains a lot of different ideas, mostly around its weird morse-code rhythm and conspicuous dissonance that seems to be pervasive in my click-tunes recently (the other thing about obsessions is that you get new ones). Dare I claim that I've mastered the minor second? Guess it's on to some microtonal shit.

Ludum Dare followup: My game "Disco? Very!" came in 18th place in the contest, which is pretty good. (There were 242 entries!) No medals, though. Next time. I ended up rating a lot of games over break—it's one of my favorite parts to see all the different ideas and also provide nurturing feedback—and there was some memorable stuff. My recommendations: Mother Robot had an inventive play mechanic and nice atmosphere. Grand Mystic Quest of Discovery was an impressively complete NES-like (NESque?) platformer. Time Pygmy is an "Achievement-Unlocked" style exploration game with outstanding graphics, which felt a lot to me like Maniac Mansion. Dry Voices is a mysterious platformer whose conceit is frankly too clever for the LD format (spoilers and my handmade map in the massive review I posted to the game). Dinosaur Dance-Off is absurd but compelling.
Categories:  drawings  mp3  t7es (3 comments — almost 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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New T7ES EP: little o (30 Dec 2010 at 16:44)
The year's almost up, and in my "2010" folder there was only one Tom 7 Entertainment System song (Around The World). What gives? To rectify the situation, I took all the good 2010 drafts starting with the letter 'o' (loosely defined to include the digit '0'), polished them up and wrote a new one this morning, thus creating the four song little o EP:


little-o.zip


Or get them as individual tracks: olimex, opera pro, omision, 0-day weekend. Or don't. It's a free country.

Since it's a free country, I also have the following free bonuses, actually kind of by request:

Bonus #1! Soundtrack for Disco? Very!, my Ludum Dare game I just posted about. Available as disco-very.zip or three tracks: Theme from, Underground Bathroom Complex, Dance C.

Bonus #2! Soundtrack for is lands?, my Ludum Dare game from the summer. It's guitar music, all in zip: is lands? sdtk.
Categories:  tom 7 music  t7es  mp3  drawings (4 comments — almost 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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My 48-hour videogame 'Disco? Very!' for Ludum Dare #19 (20 Dec 2010 at 01:58)
This weekend I made another game all by myself, for the 48 hour game programming contest Ludum Dare:

Disco noob fails to impress disco veteran
Disco? Very!
The way this works is they pick a theme on Friday night at 9pm, and then everybody makes a game for the weekend based on that theme. That theme this time, chosen by lowest common denominator vote, was discovery. Since I can't resist the 'misheard it' gag (deployed last time with islandsis lands?), my game this time is called Disco? Very!. You can play it right now in almost any web browser, because it's made in Flash. This is a dance platformer (I also like to invent a new genre) with moderately charming VGA-style graphics, lots of dance animations, a boss battle, and three new T7ES songs as its soundtrack. Plus this time there's actually something to do, and you can win the game, and it almost seems like it's on purpose! So best is to just play. I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out, and I was efficient throughout the weekend, though it is also sad all the stuff that got left on the cutting-room floor. For example the original intention was that when you die it plays the sound of a vinyl record scratching and the screen says: Disc over? Y! and when you win, it shows you pictured on a dancing magazine, and it's like Dis cover? Y!, etc.

I recorded a video of my screen throughout the weekend (only stopping it when I was leaving the house or sleeping), so you can see my nausea-inducing window-switching habits. It's kind of funny to see the graphics being drawn, at least. Its soundtrack is truncated versions of the game music.
Categories:  drawings  contests  t7es  video games  ludum dare (27 comments — almost 2 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Ludum Dare 18: You Keep Sliming (28 Aug 2010 at 11:11)
Last weekend was Ludum Dare, a weekend-long video game programming competition. Since I had such a good time last time I knew I wanted to do it again. This competition had a new simultaneous "jam" which was open format (no real rules; does not have to be teams of one) in order to tempt away rulebreakers from the mainline competition. I had done a team game jam before with Head Cat so I was interested in trying again, and so were like 9 other people (mainly computer scientists from CMU) and so Bouncecrab 2 was born:

You can download the OS X version or Windows version. Both should just work if you download and unzip and click to confirm your selection.

I regret to inform you that the intro sequence is not representative of gameplay. Let me tell you about it. One of the ways Ludum Dare protects against head-start rulebreakers is to announce the theme of the contest just as the clock starts. The theme is determined by voting, so you can see some of the options, and we were talking through them all at dinner and excited about ideas for some of them, but not for the one it ended up being, which was "Enemies as Weapons". So we applied the deliberately misheard it strategy also deployed for the theme islands in my previous ludum dare Is Lands? and made our game with the theme Anemonies as Weapons.

OK but still: We started with some code (BTW this game is written in Standard ML) that I had developed to prototype a long-time secret project, which in its current state is just a boring jump around a nearly empty room video game. The first night we had lots of ideas, like how you'd be doing space-inversion rock pushing puzzle solving, where each time you'd find an anemone it would unlock some power, until the dramatic boss fight, etc. The story is something like you're a hyper snail, and you have to rescue all of the anemones from the Evil Dr. Bouncecrab (an inescapable in-joke from William's Ludum Dare 17 entry). One of the minor details was that we needed to adapt the physics of my test game to snail physics, which was mainly that we needed the snail to be able to slime up walls. Long story short: Getting the snail to slime up walls actually took the entire weekend, and even on Monday night it wasn't working yet, and David just decided to replace the very delicate and carefully thought out but non-working physics with new hilariously unexpected physics but that allowed you to slime up the walls and get stuck flying upside-down sometimes, but actually get around our universe, which had been half-heartedly built without the benefit of being able to move around in it, because of the sliming, and with only like 25 total graphical tiles since I had been distracted from making graphics like I promised I would. So you have here an oddly unbalanced game, with like 15 minutes of lovely newly composed music by the music team, a pretty nice intro sequence where it seems like this game is gonna be pretty polished huh?, a pretty fancy level editor, some bits of the universe that are lovingly detailed and others that are literally I just drew a big beer glass and wrote "beer" on it, which you get stuck in and there's no way out except resetting and you don't know why, which probably had to do with the drinking we were doing at some parts of this, plus custom written ray-traced lighting:

custom ray-traced lightmap


And the game itself, which was charmingly put together in the last few hours by those still with us, can best be described as "exploit physics bugs to find the anemones" or "you keep resetting". I added a last minute timer for speedrun mode. At its best gameplay looks something like:

snail in some kind of light beams standing next to an anemone


Despite the wide gap between dreams and reality, consensus is that the game came out magnificent and we can't wait to make Bouncecrab 3: World of Bouncecraft! [Bouncecrab 2 OSXBouncecrab 2 Windows]

In other news, I have a long-outstanding game post I really should get to, since I keep making in-jokes about it on my blog but not actually sharing with you. For shame. But next up is another music post...
Categories:  video games  contests  drawings  ludum dare (5 comments — 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Sick Ridiculous at the Submarine poster (12 Jun 2010 at 18:54)
I've already announced our upcoming show in DC in my previous two posts. I just want to share the concert poster I drew:

Naked Gods, Invisible Hand, and Sick Ridiculous at The Submarine, 612 Lamont St. NW, Washington DC. 7pm potluck, 8pm show, 24 June 2010.

I think this is one of my best posters (at least on-screen), but you can make up your own mind. I made it in Flash in about five hours. What takes the longest is the thousands of partially-transparent brush strokes that give that hand-worked look. I really like this style (also used in e.g. head cat) because it allows me to be kind of sketchy-sloppy, yet gets better with age. But it takes a long time. When I make an illustration in Flash I usually use the animation timeline as a way of saving my history, in case I want to go back (I never do, but it comforts me right before making a big change). That means you can see an animation of the steps I went through to draw it, if you like.

Here is a Facebook Event, now properly adorned, which you can use to organize your busy social calendar, or to invite your DC-area friends to the show. (By the way, the other two bands sound really good to me.) I always RSVP "maybe" but rest assured I will be there to do the guitar and technos.
Categories:  drawings  sick ridiculous   [ comment ]
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Ludum Dare 17: You Keep Flying (25 Apr 2010 at 23:06)
Ludum Dare is a 48-hour solo game programming competition on the internet. This is my first time doing it; I participated with a bunch of friends all hanging out at my house and stayin' up late. The theme for this competition, announced at the start of the contest, was islands:



Here is my game that I made, called "Is Lands?" (submission) which is about landing a plane. You can play by just visiting that page, because it's Flash. (The game is very short.) I didn't plan well for this one, in that I spent too much time struggling with physics, its interaction with scrolling, and refusing to use existing libraries for it. (Despite all the work you can still see a bunch of silly stuff happening when you put your plane in a solid object.) I should not have spent so much time investing in a quick way of generating content without actually then investing significant time in content creation. There are only two levels and neither one even uses physics significantly. But, highlights: I think the atmosphere is pretty good, from the title screen to the parallax to the soundtrack to death chords which are tuned to the soundtrack. The off-screen arrow was a deft (though not new) solution to an annoyance where Flash wouldn't let me create movieclips large enough to actually surround the enormous playing field. Most of the things that I like about the game came about without any real work, which is usually the way it goes. Of course I've got no chance in the contest, but it was worth the weekend and I'd do it again for sure. (Unfortunately put myself a little out of shape for next week's Pittsburgh Marathon!)

Other people in my party: William made bouncecrab (submission), Lea made Pirate-Go-Round (submission), and David made Geology (submission). Those are all downloads and I can't guarantee anything. William and David were using my SDLML library and were having release problems as they tried to submit (though I tried to warn them hours in advance to start doing hourly submits). But I think they had fun and I think they'd be in for next time, too.

I'm kind of on a Flash game kick recently, since I made another game for SIGBOVIK. I haven't posted it here yet—it's much better than this one and I have been polishing up some corners before I post the final version on Tom 7 Radar. (But if you do some light digging it's not hard to find.)
Categories:  video games  drawings  contests  ludum dare (15 comments — almost 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Club Café show, new year's eve-eve (22 Dec 2009 at 14:04)


We will be playing the new year's eve-eve (that's Dec. 30th) late show at club cafe with our real-life friends Slingshot Genius (acoustic version) at Club Café in the South Side. I've always wanted to play at Club Café; I think it's my favorite venue in Pittsburgh. (In particular I always love the sound there.) So I'm pretty psyched! Also psyched to play with Erika's band. Come down South if you're in town! (Facebook event for the web-lifestyle enabled.)
Categories:  drawings  sick ridiculous (9 comments — almost 11 years ago)   [ comment ]
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The Lab Coat (31 May 2009 at 14:37)
How to use a lab coat


This year the graduating CS Ph.D. students got lab coats among their gifts, replacing laser-engraved knick-knacks and other garbage with irony, as we should do whenever possible. Since I am an alumnus, illustrator at large, and known to wear a lab coat when pretending science, I found myself in charge of making this instruction sheet to go in the program, so that the students know what to do with their new clothes. It seems a lot of people didn't end up seeing this, oh well, but now you can take a look whether you got Ph.D. or not. It says:

Shortly after your friends get over addressing you as "Doctor <lastname>" (this is mostly ironic and will probably only last a day or two) you will find out that you do not actually get any additional respect for having a PhD. Most of the people you know already have one. When say you're a doctor, real people think this means medical doctor, which can result in uncomfortable questions. You'll even start to feel guilty when you select the prefix "Dr." from the drop-down menu when filling out your address online, beginning to suspect that this indulgence is not intended for doctors of philosophy, whatever that even means. People can sense this self-doubt like dogs can smell fear, which reduces their esteem for you further. However, in a pinch, there is a universal symbol of scholarship and stature available: the Lab Coat. It is easy to use. Simply by wearing it, you will be perceived as having the dignity of a medical doctor, scientist (the kind with test tubes), or dentist. This means instant respect. So: Go forth! Stand tall! You're a doctor!
— Dr. Tom Murphy VII, Ph.D.   (CSD 2008)
Category:  drawings (5 comments — almost 12 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero (show and demo reel) (16 Apr 2009 at 20:14)
Hey, okay. Finally I have the videos ready to reveal secret project 7H, which is called Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero.

This is part video game and part performance art piece. The video game is essentially an implementation of Guitar Hero, where the songs are Tom 7 Entertainment System tunes. Some of these are ridiculously intricate and most have weird time signatures, which makes for advanced play. It supports keyboard on Mac, Windows, and linux or real USB guitar controllers (like the XBox 360 ones) on Mac and Windows. That includes accelerometers and whammy bar. The best introduction is to watch the demo reel:



As usual, for best results click through to the HD version, or download the 1080p AVI from that page.

This video has a bunch of clips in it, mostly from the Show at Belvedere's. You'll see a bunch of things. One is that I actually mess up a lot when playing. I'm better than this but two things contributed to my mistakes: (1) I was kinda drunk since the show started like 3.5 hours late and I got free beer for being a "musician" and (2) in the last week before the show I was sprinting to get all the software and hardware working, so I actually didn't practice hardly any of these songs more than the one time it took me to decide to put them in the setlist. Once it's available publicly I will challenge you to high-score battle to prove it. Hardware you ask? I didn't build the guitar or drums of course, but I did build the Laser Suspension Womb, which to be more pithy I sometimes call my "USB laser hat." It's a hardhat with a bunch of very bright LEDs and actual laser diodes embedded in it, powered by 1.5A, worn on the head, and connected to the computer via USB implemented on a custom circuit board with a PIC microcontroller. The in-game music and events ("drums were kidnapped!") trigger the lights and lasers to play along. I have a clever hack so that it doesn't need special drivers on any platform, though that's not helping penetration much because there's only one of them. This was my first real hardware project in my adult life, but now that I know how to do it I hope to do more (especially input devices, i.e., "instruments"). It's much better in 2009 than I recall from sticking paperclips and resistors in the parallel port in 1993.

Rock Band drums are supported too. Unlike the guitar, which has a goal pattern for you to match, these are totally freeform. Commodore 64 samples are played in response to drumhits. I wish the controller supported some kind of velocity sensitivity, because that is kind of important for drum expressiveness, but too bad so sad.

Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero Enterprise Schematic


Techno details: The implementation is almost all in Standard ML using SDL, except for the low-level sound synthesis thread and the interface to the USB laser hat. That stuff's in C. It's easy to mix them. The code has some shortcuts in it for sure and deserves to be cleaned up (lots of them introduced in that last week sprint) but it also has some really nice parts, like the algorithm that matches your input to the score. The matching is ambiguous, so there's an on-line dynamic programming algorithm to be maximally generous to your playing. (I don't think Guitar Hero II had this maximally generous algorithm, which was one of the reasons I started working it out like a year and a half ago, but I do think that GH III and on do it right.) The finger patterns you're supposed to match with the guitar, which I call the "score", is generated automatically from MIDI files. To turn a T7ES MIDI file into a T7ES Hero game file, I have to assign instruments to each of the tracks, and then pick which tracks or track parts are supposed to be played on the guitar. The rest is automatic, save some tuning parameters. "genscore" has a model for how closely a candidate score matches the original MIDI (for example, if consecutive MIDI notes are rising in pitch, then it's better for the fingers to also be rising on the fretboard) and then it solves for the optimal assignment, measure-by-measure. I thought that I would need to modify the score after this to get good quality, but it actually works amazingly well. Some of the stuff it comes up with is super fun, like I would assume was created by a human with a good sense of fun. No. Only cyber-brain.

Here's the last two songs of the regular set in full. In this you see that you can actually play drums and guitar at the same time if you're good enough (I am not). 2 player mode? Maybe soon:



I don't know if I'll ever get the opportunity to perform this again (befriend T7ES Band Page on Facebook for guaranteed notification), but maybe. Either way, I'm looking forward to sharing the software with you guys, which I will do as soon as I finish the auto-update and high score table, so that we can compete with each other and I can release song packs.
Categories:  favorites  drawings  hacks  video  t7es  video games (31 comments — almost 12 years ago)   [ comment ]
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