Inspired by Mario Maker and Ableton Live, Squarewave Maker is cranking up the rhythm game genre. Rhythm ninja or synth master, there is a place for you. Squarewave Maker is the missing link between gamers and musicians.
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2019

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Available: 2019

 

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November 19

SWM Devlog #2 : VST in sight

Hi everyone,

So what happened during the last couple of weeks in the development of Squarewave Maker.

We finished the automatic level testing system we talked about in the previous post and we went back on the creation of playtest levels.

The underlying goal we have for these playtests is to investigate the gameplay choices we made for sure but we also want to demonstrate as much as we can of the musical potential of Squarewave Maker. This means that we must demonstrate the musical expressivity and quality you can achieve within it.
This is strongly related to the virtual instruments and FXs available and this is a problem for us right now.

Having one subtractive virtual analog synth and several FXs (chorus, delay, reverb, compressor...) is pretty cool but it’s not enough because it’s limiting us regarding the musical styles we can use in our levels.
We need to create levels with segment of music in different styles to properly demonstrate the sonic capabilities of Squarewave Maker.
For example to demonstrate dubstep kind of groove and related rhythmical gameplay with only a subtractive synth is quite difficult. But if you have a sample based synth instead the problem is solved.

We plan to build lots of different synths with enough different synthesis algorithms like FM or wavetables (think Serum or Massive) but creating synths take lots of time and we don’t want to delay further our playtest build.
That’s why we decided to add VST support in Squarewave Maker.
We are almost half way throught the integration and we soon be able to use VST instruments and FXs in the game.



For the moment we see VST as a development only solution because we won’t be able to port the game on other platforms like consoles if everything is relying on them.
We’re not sure yet if the game will be PC only, but if it’s not the case and that we want to keep VST we can think of allowing platform specific content. It means that if someday we do a Switch version of the game you won’t be able to play PC levels that use VST.
By allowing level sharing with VST it also means that levels need to use freeware otherwise each player who want to play your creation will have to buy the VST you used which can be pretty costly. But even in that case we can add warnings about the VST you’ll need to have in order to play a specific level.

That being said VST is solving so much problems right now that we chose to go for production efficiency and delay all these content related decisions further.

VST will help us in our plugin validation process, e.g we will able to test for example Serum and try to build levels with it. If it’s cool enough then we will be able to validate synth architectures that are really fun to play with in the game.
It will simplify our synth and FX development process because for example we will be able to use very cool on the shelf signal analysis tools directly in the game to easily debug them in situ.
We will also be able to perform easy comparisons of plugins or FXs techniques we want to draw on. For example if we go for wavetable morphing oscillators will be able to test our own algorithms against the ones in Serum and see if we did our job well quality wise.

That's all for now folks and don't forget to let us know what you think on our Discord.
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November 7

SWM Devlog #1

Hi everyone,

In this blog post I will tell you what happened in the development of Squarewave Maker over the last couple of weeks.

The new plan

After the kickstarter failure, that we will write about in a future Kickstarter post mortem, we had to changed a bit our plan and its timing. We had to figure out how to stay afloat and out how to pivot regarding the funding of Squarewave Maker, you know filling the fridge, paying the bills all that stuff.

It took us about a couple of weeks to find a new contract, but in early october we started to work as a part time contractor for our friend at Guard Crush Games. We‘re working with them doing ui, metagame and network related tasks. Great project and great people in there, follow them and go play their game now!

Regarding the development of Squarewave Maker our next goal is the playtest build. What we want to do is to get some fellow devs and other people we can physically meet here in Montreal to play the game.
After these playtest sessions will occurred and the related issues encountered will be fixed, we will be heading toward the closed alpha.

The playtest sessions will take place around january/february 2019 and the closed alpha will be available around june/july 2019. With a successful Kickstarter the closed alpha would have been available by the end of January 2019, meaning that in our new plan the closed alpha date is moved of 6 months. Not that bad after all.
This seems like a long time to wait but in the meantime we will write about our progress so you will be able to follow what’s going on with the game.
So now that the plan is exposed let’s go and see what we've been working on.

The road to the playtests

The playtest build will focus on the rhythmical performance part of the game and not the creation related activities. What we want to have for the playtest build is something like 15-20 levels where the player will get a glimpse/introduction of the performance gameplay of Squarewave Maker.
What we have in mind regarding the progression of those levels is something like a mix of the first levels of Super Meat Boy and exercises from an instrument method book. We’re really thinking of Squarewave Maker as being half a game and half a music instrument, that’s why we are going this way.
You can see below an extract of the first levels and the intent we have for each one.



We did that doc to get a better view of the pace we want to have for the playtest build. Everything in that spreadsheet is self explanatory except maybe for the last column. The estimate average replay count is a way for us to express the difficulty we want to have for each level.

Based on that doc we built a few levels, we played them and we came to the conclusion that we needed to add/improve some visual feedbacks. We worked first on the death fx of the character.
Until now the effect was quite simple and after having played the first level it was clear that the current fx was not informative enough. It was difficult to know exactly where you died, leaving a weird feeling of misunderstanding about what we did wrong during the play.
We ended up creating the following death fx that we are now very pleased with.

http://www.squarewavemaker.com/content/2-blog/20181103-swm-1/new_death_fx.mp4

Having a colored blood splat is letting you know what trap or block you’ve hit and the lighted blood fit perfectly the global art style.

We did also a pass on the scoring feedback to show explicitly the gameplay elements that you're scoring. We still have to sync the animation to the global quantization of the song but we’ll do that in another sprint.

http://www.squarewavemaker.com/content/2-blog/20181103-swm-1/scoring_feedback.mp4

Another aspect of the game we were not sure about before building the playtest levels was about continuous control.
Until now we thought that pressing buttons will be enough to play the song as you play the game. It turns out that we were wrong.
Not being able to have gameplays build around using continuous input controls, such as the gamepad triggers, does not allow us to meaningfully link continuous audio parameters, like filter cutoff for example, to the gameplay.
We did not want to have the gamepad to be mandatory to play the game but without it we can’t fully exploit all the gameplay possibilities offered by the realtime audio synthesis in Squarewave Maker.
As a consequence we added the possibility to link continuous input controls to gameplay elements. These control are not linked to character movements like jumps or dashs because there is no meaningful way to connect them.
What we went for was to allow association of continuous control to level block parameters, like position offset and rotation and hence let the player influence dynamically the content of the level during its play.
Were are still working on this part and will be able to show you exactly what kind of level design we have in mind in a couple a weeks.

An improved QA worflow

By doing all the modifications regarding the continuous control we revealed the need of tools to smooth the production of the levels and the QA of the game.
Squarewave Maker is built around a custom game engine so everytime we add or tweak a new gameplay feature we have to modify underlying systems such the collision system or the character controller.
By doing so it is possible that we introduce regressions in some existing features. To alleviate the QA workload implied by these changes we decided to create an automatic testing system.
We had the following QA workflow in mind :

  • You play a level recording the player inputs and the resulting game trace (score, player position...)
  • You mark it has the reference one.
  • Everytime you add or change a gameplay feature, you run the autotest system on all test levels with their associated recorded reference inputs
  • You do the comparison between the reference trace and the newly optained trace.
  • The traces must be the same otherwise it means your modifications introduce a bug.

We first had to move to a fully deterministic game loop to be able to exactly replay each level run with only the inputs and no matter the frame rate or the sampling rate. To achieve this we had to move all our systems in a fixed update scheme and we used an audio clock to timestamp everything.
The auto test system is not finished yet but what we can now record and replay gameplay sessions.
What we still have to do is to automatically play a level, compare its resulting trace to a reference one and print the result in some report file.

One bonus side effect of the work we've done for our QA process is that the level replay system will be also available for the players in the game.

That's all for now folks and don't forget to let us know what you think on our Discord.
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About This Game

Squarewave Maker is a new take on the rhythm game genre, bringing the maker vibe to music games.

Rhythm ninja or synth master, there is a place for you. Squarewave Maker is the missing link between gamers and musicians.

Join the community and be part of this unique mix of game, music, and fun!



Squarewave Maker’s motto is “Perform, Create, and Share.”

Perform



Perform first of all because one of the Squarewave Maker's game design goals is to make the player feel like they are a musical performer. The music you hear is performed live by you when you play the game. The better you play, the higher the score but also the better the music will be.

Squarewave Maker transmutes your actions into music!

Create



Creation is the heart of Squarewave Maker. We're providing you with music and level design tools to unleash your creativity in this sandbox of a new genre. But don't be afraid, no prior musical or level design knowledge needed. Thanks to our creative missions, you will learn to build awesome levels and music.

Share



The sharing capabilities will be the backbone of the Squarewave Maker's community. Through the Steam Workshop, you'll get access to levels, songs, and even synthesizer presets created by the other Squarewavers.

Rhythmic Challenges



The challenges you encounter in Squarewave Maker are based on rhythmic precision and velocity. Every block, trap or trigger is bound to the quantized musical grid, so each action you take when playing is precisely scored regarding your rhythmic performance.

Choose your level, master it, and climb the leaderboard to become the next rhythm virtuoso!

Playable Music



Squarewave Maker is blurring the frontier between game and music by interconnecting them. Squarewave Maker works as a modular system where audio elements (synthesizers, audio FXs, mixer...) and game elements can be linked together.

Squarewave Maker allows you to play and build levels that are deeply synchronized with the music and that can evolve with it, giving birth to the concept of "playable music".

In Squarewave Maker, your actions generate the music you hear, this means that through your play of the game you can start note sequences or individual notes, change the sound of the synthesizer, modify filters when jumping, etc...

Play the music as you play the game!

The Right Feel



In order to minimize the latency between input actions and the game sonic response, we built an entirely new kind of engine where all the game systems live within the audio engine.

This was an important milestone in the development of Squarewave Maker because latency had to be taken care of to get a rhythm game that feels right.

Playing the game with your gamepad or keyboard will feel as good and satisfying as playing music with a real-life instrument!

Ready to take on other players? A lower latency also means a higher skill ceiling, which is important if you want to play competitively.

Creative Missions



In Squarewave Maker's creative missions, you will be asked to solve creative problems mixing level design and music composition.

Creative missions will act as a tutorial for presenting you all the Squarewave Maker's creative tools.

With the creative missions, we will also introduce you to musical knowledge (chords, arpeggios, rhythm patterns...) and synthesizer programming to make it possible for you to create crazy tones.

Creative missions will teach you all the basics you need to know to experiment and implement your own rhythmic challenge ideas!

Audio Toolbox


Squarewave Maker comes with a complete audio toolbox for creating playable music.

  • Note sequencer: It's the standard piano roll you get in music software like Ableton Live or FL Studio. Use it to create your music tracks or import midi files if you don't want to start from scratch.
  • Audio Mixer: Choose the instruments and the effects your tune will use and mix them. The audio mixer has 8 instrument tracks, 6 groups, and a master. Each of these channels has 4 effect inserts.
  • Synthesizers: The base game will have one virtual analog (VA) synthesizer (4 oscillators, 1 filter, DCA, 1 LFO, 1 EG). More will be added if we reach the specific stretch goals (8-bit synth, FM).
  • Effects: The base game will include the following standard audio FXs: chorus, delay, reverb, parametric EQ, compressor (with sidechain).

Game Editors



The Squarewave Maker's game editors are used to creating rhythmic playgrounds and putting life and music into them.

  • The level editor is used to place and configure gameplay blocks, decorative elements, music triggers, camera knot points, lights, etc.
  • The patcher is used to define the dynamic behavior of the game elements and how you link them with synthesizer or mixing parameters.

Add Squarewave Maker to your wishlist to be notified when it launches!

System Requirements

    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows 7 SP1 (64 bit only), Windows 8 (64 bit only), Windows 10 (64 bit only)
    • Processor: Intel i5-2300/AMD FX-4300
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: nVidia GTX 560 (2GB)/AMD Radeon 7850 (2GB)
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Sound Card: DirectX compatible
    Recommended:
    • OS: Windows 10 (64 bit only)
    • Processor: Intel i7-4770/AMD FX-8350
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: nVidia GTX 980 (4GB)/AMD R9 380 (4GB)
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Sound Card: DirectX compatible
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