Bryson’s been pressuring me to post about Children at Play for a long time, and I kept telling him “I’m too busy working on the game!” But enough a’ that crap. I uploaded the video preview to YouTube and I’ll have a playable demo up here very soon.

I started work on Children at Play at the start of last winter and its eaten a lot of my time since then. I consider it a small step, but an important one, in the right direction. I’ll save any in depth discussion for when I’ve got the demo up. For now I’ll post some text I’ve put together for various submissions and whatnot.
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Just finished my first game since going solo and it went pretty well. It’s a pretty simple top-down shooter. I wanted to test myself with a 1 week schedule, but ended up taking 2 weeks.

Rush Hour

I’ve put it on Flash Game License. This is the first time I try out their service, but I’ve only heard good things. I’ll put a link up after the game’s live.

The soundtrack was done by my brother, Jonathan Rock. After the game’s out, I’ll put the music here for download.

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Grassfields and Highways

Ever since I read his interview on Rock, Paper, Shotgun; I’ve had my eye out for anything on Eskil Steenberg‘s MMO, Love. It’s a fascinating project demanding ambition enough that I have instant respect for the guy taking it on alone. He says on his blog that he’s gotten offers for help but turned them down:

Lately I have gotten a bunch of Emails from people who want to help me and as grateful as I am, I don’t really know what to do with them since I know i can do the job myself.


Taking on the world, now that’s a lifestyle. And doing it as an auteur too. He says the game is called Love because that’s why he’s making it. It’s not about money, just the love of the game. Seems to be a major theme he has going. Not a bad one. Continue Reading…

Series: Robot Music I, Robot Music II: Modes, Robot Music III: The Circle of Fifths, Robot Music IV: Scales of the World

Robot Music Logo - Circle of Fifths

So far everything has been derived from the Major Scale, but now I have some new scales to introduce. These are foreign and exotic scales with fascinating new sounds!

After RM1 as a proof of concept, RM2 introduced the Major modes and RM3 explained how they work. Now RM4 will introduce new scales and–guess what?–RM5 will explain how they work. This episode also includes a bit more information on chords.


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Series: Robot Music I, Robot Music II: Modes, Robot Music III: The Circle of Fifths, Robot Music IV: Scales of the World

Robot Music Logo - Circle of Fifths

New logo baby.

Robot Music I proved that a pleasing song can be randomly generated under the right guidelines. Those guidelines stuck to a 4/4 rhythm and the C Major Pentatonic Scale.

Robot Music II proved that the C key could be replaced with any other (changing the root). It also showed that the Major Pentatonic Scale (5 notes) could be expanded to the Major Scale (7 notes) without harming our method. And most importantly, this section covered modes and demonstrated that shifting a song’s mode can significantly change its tone. Knowing that the tone can be changed, how can we control it?

Robot Music III introduces the Circle of Fifths. It is a basic musical tool that will help us predict the impact of a mode of the Major Scale. With it, our Robot can place notes along 2 dimensions (Consonance vs. Dissonance, Dominance vs. Sub-Dominance) and estimate the emotional impact of a note according to an arbitrary algorithm based on personal tastes.

This installment is the first to go into the perception of music. To begin, we must discuss aural perception and some musical fundamentals. That technical information will be related to our previous musical concepts by the use of the Circle of Fifths. And finally, a demonstration of mode relationships and some discussion of their popular uses.

You probably already know some of this, so I’ll try to move fast.

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Close Up Die

Series: Robot Music I, Robot Music II: Modes, Robot Music III: The Circle of Fifths, Robot Music IV: Scales of the World

It’s been a long while, but response to the last music post was enough to get me revved up again. Now it’s time to continue with the Robot Music series on procedurally written music.

I wanted this tutorial to be simple, but educational enough that if you wanted to study more, you would know where to look. For that reason, there is a lot of music vocabulary in here. I’ve done my best to explain each term as it comes up, but if any remain confusing, don’t hesitate to look them up elsewhere or even skip them. You can probably forget all of the fancy words and still understand the important concepts being discussed.

In the last session we rolled a die to generate riffs in a Major Pentatonic Scale. Sticking to that one scale limits the sound of your music a lot, so now we’ll mix up our technique by exploring modes. We’ll be replacing the Major Pentatonic Scale with the full Major Scale. The pentatonic only has 5 notes, while the entire Major Scale has 7. Those last two notes can be seen as bothersome* which is why they were left out last time.

Most people’s first musical revelation is the amazing power of switching between a Major scale and a Minor scale. It’s often generalized that when a song is in the Major scale it sounds happy and when it’s in a Minor scale it sounds sad. That is the effect we will be looking into to change the emotional impact of robot songs.

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Series: Robot Music I, Robot Music II: Modes, Robot Music III: The Circle of Fifths, Robot Music IV: Scales of the World

(This post features the hip guitar stylings of none other than ME! I’ll play some real life, randomly generated, Robot Music! The link is at the end.)

Close Up DieI’ve wanted to see more procedural music in games for a long time, but the most we see are pretty sorry attempts. I’m not just talking about “shifting volume on pre-recorded riffs” procedural, I mean “the game is writing its own live soundtrack” procedural.

“But Chris, that doesn’t even happen on consoles! We can’t do it in flash, no way!” Sounds difficult or even impossible, but it isn’t. The only problem is it takes an understanding of tricky programming concepts and tricky musical concepts. Without programmers that also study music theory, we just don’t see procedurally written music.

Well, I’d like to help change that. I know a thing or two about music and a thing or two about programming so in this article I’m going to do my best to tip off any programmers interested in putting together a simple music generator. Today’s generator won’t be truly procedural, but it’ll start things off in that direction.

And if you play a little music, but don’t know how to write a song, maybe this article can help you out too.

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