It’s arguable that the current Humble Indie Bundle is the best one yet. I’d argue it. I’m arguing it right now>. But incredibly, it just got better. Added to Bastion, Superbrothers, Limbo, Psychonauts and Amnesia are Super Meat Boy, Braid, and bundle first-timer, Lone Survivor. Oh my goodness.
When speaking to Humble’s Richard Esguerra earlier today, I took the chance to ask him about what difference these extras can make. You can see that below.
I’ve got a mighty fine idea. Why not point a camera at a bunch of creative sorts and let them speak their minds? That’s how Indie Game: The Movie was made, although I suspect editing the hundreds of hours of footage into something watchable, fascinating and entertaining was the hard part. Perhaps that’s why Swirsky and Pajot’s film won World Cinema Documentary Editing Award at Sundance 2012. Everyone will be able to watch it soon, or at least anyone near an internet connection, as it will be available as a downloadable purchase on June 12th. What’s most intriguing about this is that one of the download services carrying the film will be Steam. This leads to the obvious questions: will every film in the world soon be available on Steam and will Episode Three be a cinemovie?
A new version of blood-soaked platformer Super Meat Boy will be released for iOS devices, developer Team Meat has revealed.
Now-renamed Super Meat Boy: The Game, the fresh incarnation will be remade "from the ground up" to rework the Xbox 360 and PC's precision controls for a touch screen interface.
Explaining the need to remake the game, Super Meat Boy designer Edmund McMillen wrote on Team Meat's blog that "there was no way in hell [the original] would work on a touch screen with buttons all over it, Super Meat Boy isn't a game we want to make a sub-par version of just to cash in".
Hence the new version for iOS.
McMillen went on: "what the game isn't: a shitty port of an existing game with non tactile buttons spread all over the screen blocking the players view and making for frustrating controls."
And neither is Super Meat Boy: The Game "the Super Meat Boy you're used to, there are aspects of Super Meat Boy in there, obviously, but this is a brand new game with new art, new sound, everything".
The first image of Super Meat Boy: The Game lies below, showing more rounded, cartoon graphics akin to the original game's cut-scenes. No release date was mentioned.
Ever the merry pranksters, Team Meat used April Fool's Day to officially announce the mobile Super Meat Boy game it's been prototyping. The snappily-named Super Meat Boy: The Game isn't a port but a "brand new" platformer designed specifically for touchscreens, headed to iOS and Android.
"Super Meat Boy isn't a game we want to make a sub-par version of just to cash in," Team Meat's Edmund McMillen explained in a blog post, saying they couldn't make a straight port "without the game becoming a pile of garbage."
"Super Meat Boy is a twitch platformer with precision controls, there was no way in hell this would work on a touch screen with buttons all over it," he added.
Describing Super Meat Boy: The Game as a remake "from the ground up," McMillen shared one solitary screenshot of Super Meat Boy: The Game. "There are aspects of Super Meat Boy in there, obviously, but this is a brand new game with new art, new sound, everything," he said.
McMillen stressed that SMB: The Game won't be "a shitty port of an existing game with non tactile buttons spread all over the screen blocking the players view and making for frustrating controls." Which is always nice to hear.
Though McMillen's post only mentions the iPhone, the other half of Team meat, Tommy Refenes, confirmed on Twitter that it's coming to both iOS and Android. And yes, SMB composer Danny Baranowsky is onboard too.
When Team Meat set out to create a Super Meat Boy version for touchscreen mobile devices, creators Tommy Refenes and Edmund McMillen vowed they wouldn't just slap a virtual gamepad on the thing and do some half-assed port of their downloadable hit for PC and Xbox 360.
They've fleshed out their vision more, and offered this first screenshot to show that the game is not the Super Meat Boy you've played on a big screen. "Super Meat Boy is a twitch platformer with precision controls, there was no way in hell this would work on a touch screen with buttons all over it," they write."We just started working on it so I'm are sure a lot will change as development unfolds but we do have a few major talking points of what the game is and what the game isn't."
More details at the link.
Super Meat Boy for iOS (and more!) [Super Meat Boy]
UPDATE: Microsoft has confirmed that as of next month, all Xbox Live Arcade titles will have the option to increase from 200 to 400 Gamerscore points, with the addition of up to 30 Achievements.
The new 400 Point ceiling will be mandatory in all new XBLA games releasing from June this year.
ORIGINAL STORY: The Achievement limit for Xbox Live Arcade games is about to be doubled, a new report claims.
A fresh set of rules from Microsoft will double the current 200 Gamerscore base limit for downloadable titles to 400G.
XBLA games will also be able to include a maximum of 30 Achievements, up from the current 20 limit.
The new Achievement policy, unearthed by Xbox360Achievements, will apparently be mandatory for all XBLA releases beginning 1st June, while downloadable games launching from 1st April can opt in to the new system.
Achievement rules for XBLA DLC packs are also changing. The current standard for XBLA games is 50 extra Gamerscore and five more Achievements per quarter, up to a limit of 350 Gamerscore and 35 Achievements total.
This will increase to 100 Gamerscore and 8 Achievements per quarter, up to 800 Gamerscore and 62 Achievements total, meaning XBLA developers can add Achievement-infused DLC for a full year after release.
Eurogamer has contacted Microsoft for comment on the report. We'll update if we hear back.
Writing and orchestrating music for games has evolved and branched into an accessible, entirely viable way for today's composers to make a living with music. Big-budget AAA games have co-opted the studio orchestras and recording spaces of Hollywood films, and smaller indie games provide independent composers a means with which to broadcast their music to a massive and enthusiastic audience. Any way you slice it, video games are the newest, broadest, and most exciting way to make a living writing music today.
"I tried to do music for films for seven years," composer Danny Baranowsky told me. "I did around twenty projects. And over seven years of indie film music I've made probably $2,000. Total. I'm not saying you can't do it. But I did not find a way to do it."
Baranowsky put aside film scoring to move into the world of video games, and today he's a well-known name in the world of video game music—his soundtracks for Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac, as well as his work on several successful iOS games, have earned him critical accolades and financial success. He's a regular speaker at conventions like Minecon, PAX and the Music and Gaming Festival (MAGfest), and he's providing music for Minecraft creator Marcus "Notch" Persson's next game. In other words, Danny Baranowsky is making it happen.
"I was glad when I finally got my break in games," he told me. "I was so sick of feeling like I was spinning my wheels. I was getting better, I was improving, but the idea of making a living at it was something that I couldn't get any traction in at all."
Baranowsky laughingly told me that the first game he got paid for was a puzzle game for the Nokia Sidekick, which he actually had to do in MIDI. He did another game for the same company, this time for the iPhone, composing five minutes of original music for, as he recalls it, $70 a minute (this is very, very low for a composer). The game was never released.
Soon after that, Baranowsky provided the music for Adam Atomic's iPhone games Canabalt and Gravity Hook, both of which were App store hits. His subsequent work on Team Meat's Xbox Live Arcade hit Super Meat Boy locked him in as a composer to watch, and finally started putting some real money in his pocket.
That's in large party because Baranowsky owns the rights to the music from the game, which he sells through his Bandcamp page. Baranowsky told me that independent music sales have accounted for about double what was paid for working on the game.
In fact, had the soundtrack been bundled through Steam as it was with The Binding of Isaac, he would have made much, much more. " Isaac was a fairly successful game, but I made ten times as much money on the Steam bundle option as I did on Bandcamp. It just goes to show that although Steam isn't where you would go to get music, the reach of Steam is… it's fucking amazing."
In other words, Baranowsky made ten times more money selling music through an online video game store than he did through online musical outlets. Many artists think of making a living by selling tunes through iTunes or Bandcamp or CD Baby, but the idea of tying original music to a platform like Steam is smart, focused, and at least in the case of The Binding of Isaac, really works. (Surely it helps that the Isaac soundtrack is very, very good.) Other artists have found similar success by doing work for indie games—both Bastion's Darren Korb and Sword & Sworcery's Jim Guthrie are songwriters whose work has received huge amounts of new attention thanks to their involvement with successful video games.
Not every musician working in video games makes a living by going indie. Jeremy Levy, a friend of mine and fellow University of Miami jazz graduate, has been doing just fine following a more traditional route. He's a session trombonist, orchestrator and arranger in Los Angeles, and has provided orchestration work on video games from Batman: Arkham City to inFAMOUS 2 to God of War III, as well as TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Pushing Daisies and The Event.
Levy told me that shortly after leaving Miami to spend ten months in a touring horn section, he decided to head out to California to give Hollywood film-scoring a shot.
"I had pretty lucky go of it," he said. "I made a good amount of connections either from UMiami or from touring, and Gary Lindsay (Miami's arranging professor) gave me a few composers out here to get in touch with." From there, Levy wound up working with Tim Davies, the Australian Orchestrator who conducted and headed up orchestration for many of the same games that Levy has worked on, as well as a bunch more.
(While looking Davies up, I found that he worked on both Prototype and inFAMOUS. Ha!)
While Levy started out doing grunt work—taping parts, printing out music, and other things like that, he quickly graduated to the kind of jack-of-all trades work that is necessary to make a living as a professional musician. "It's whatever and wherever work comes in," he said of his day-to-day gigs. "Writing, orchestration, arranging, music prep, anything I can get my hands on."
Unlike Baranowsky, Levy works very much in the Hollywood model, which means he has to live in Hollywood. By way of contrast, Baranowsky remarked upon the locational flexibility of the indie games scene. The internet, he said, has leveled the playing field in a lot of ways, from distribution to promotion, but one of the biggest ways is geography.
"I live in Phoenix, dude," Baranowsky said. "The asshole of suburbia. And I work with people in Britain, and Sweden, and New Zealand, and South Africa, and Santa Cruz and North Carolina, and it doesn't matter at all. It's cool to see people, and meet people in real life, but still, anybody can do it, as long as they have an internet connection."
For a long time, Baranowsky composed with a low-key setup, mostly using Propellerhead's Reason, though he's switched up these days and uses more elaborate sample libraries. His process sounds idiosyncratic in that way that only solo composers can be—he described banging out the music for Canabalt in a single session and sending it off to Adam Atomic immediately afterwards.
Baranowsky is no longer living from project to project, something that's in large part attributable to the fact that he can independently sell his own work. "I'm not living check to check," he said, "which is a new thing for me." He says that while he's always interested in talking about bigger projects, the idea of taking on a big-budget AAA game soundtrack doesn't really interest him. "I think it would be less money, and less fun, and I wouldn't have the rights to my music."
Levy, on the other hand, is much more of a hired gun. Much of his work is through the local California musician's union, and it's much less likely for a composer to retain full ownership of his or her compositions; if they're lucky, they'll retain some of the publishing rights.
AAA games are currently very focused on making everything sound big and exciting, just like Hollywood soundtracks. Levy said his ability to find work making video game soundtracks depends somewhat on the whims of the market—will the public always want game soundtracks that sound like movies? Will there always be as much work for arrangers, conductors and orchestrators in the gaming scene? When I asked him how sustainable the kind of work he was doing is, he wasn't sure.
"I don't know if I have an answer for that," he said. "Music will always exist, and if anything there will only be more need for it in the future. What I do is very dependent on live performers, and it's dependent on the type of project that would need that. Now it's popular with games, because they're trying to make everything as epic as possible. Who knows if that will stay. Like how in the 80's [in film], all of that stuff went away."
Levy makes a good point—there really is more cross-media demand for music than there ever has been. And, of course, he doesn't only make a living from games—much of the work he does comes from TV shows, films, and other musical projects.
Between them, Levy and Baranowsky perfectly demonstrate the disparate ways that professional musicians can make a living making music. Both make a living writing a lot (Levy) or exclusively (Baranowsky) for games, but they're almost opposites in terms of their daily work and their approach. No one way is "better" than the other; both have their strengths, and both are fueled by demand for very specific kinds of work.
"I'm much more of a traditional writer," said Levy, "I write scored charts, so I fell into this because it was what I'm good at. But if things need to change, they need to change. You start using a sequencer, you start using a sample library—everything can become about tech. I certainly have plenty of that dabbling in my life, but I prefer to have my music performed by real people. It's really hard to tell right now where it'll go."
Baranowsky says he knows plenty of composers who have headed up the soundtracks on AAA games, and says that the things he hears about the trials and tribulations of AAA game-composition turn him off.
"All I can think is man, I don't want to be AAA. If some AAA studio gave me an offer I'd have to really think about it." (He was quick to say that he has a Star Wars Exception: If anyone ever asked him to do the soundtrack to a Star Wars game, he would be required to say yes.)
Levy told me that he'd certainly like to do more independent scoring, working on smaller, more self-contained projects, but wasn't sure if his current trajectory would end up there. "I definitely think it's something I'd be interested in doing, it's something that I never really had the opportunity to do. When I got [to L.A.], I fell into what I'm doing pretty quickly, so I never really went [the indie] route, you know, scoring films for film students. I sort of missed out on that. That may be something I need to address in the future. But I never really presented myself as doing that; you go down one path, and it leads to other things along that path."
Near the end of our conversation, Baranowsky shared an anecdote: "I'm friends with a band here in Arizona, they're fairly big; they've sold hundreds and hundreds of thousands of albums. Now, they have to split that five ways, which that's something to keep in mind. But: I've made more money by myself than they did with with their album sold in best buy, doing a national tour."
Whether composing music in an Arizona apartment or running parts with an L.A. studio orchestra, there are more ways to make a living making music than ever. It requires hard work and talent, but there are scores of creative outlets for composers that didn't exist even five years ago.
Video games provide a fantastic new venue for talented young composers, and I for one can't wait to find out who we hear from next.