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A classic pixel art platformer and generative music experience where the soundtrack changes with how you play the game. (Mac/Win)

Introduction

Pixelsphere is a classic platformer with a dynamic soundtrack. I wanted to make a music-themed game where music is an essential gameplay element. I also wanted to fuse the art and sound design together in a meaningful way. The result is a game with a lot of classic platformer action, exploration, physics puzzles, and music puzzles that can be played by everyone. It’s a bit whimsical which reflects my development process of experimenting with various gameplay mechanics until I find something I like.

Two years in the making, Pixelsphere is more than half-complete. I need your support to hire artists to complete the level art, and see it through the post-production phase where tuning is needed to improve the mechanics and gameplay as well as add some basic features like gamepad support.

 Continue your support at pixelsphere.org

 

Stretch Goal #1 - 1/3/2014 - Last 48 hours!

Thanks so much for all your support! The current level of funding is fantastic and will help ensure that all of Pixelsphere's features are fully realized. But I have one last goal in mind to make it truly spectacular. Let’s go to $10,000 ! When Pixelsphere is funded to $10,000, I’ll add a mode and mini-game where you can build your own musical contraptions. Drag and drop physics objects onto the screen to guide the music! There will be crates, levers and wheels, as well as rotating deflector platforms that will guide bouncing balls and orbs across musical sequences. Set up your contraption, and then listen to it play beautiful music! I’ll also offer customization of various parameters such as control over sequences, tone selection and emitter frequency so you can control the tempo and cadence of your creation. But best of all, it's something you can create yourself! 

Updates - (12/30/13)

12/30/13 - New backer reward -- Help design your own Pixelsphere level from your photographs for only $192!

12/29/13 - New music contraption!

12/28/13 - Gameplay spotlight #2 on YouTube

Soundtrack

The soundtrack is calm and relaxing in an ambient style. The most exciting aspect of the soundtrack is the dynamic music generation system. Each time you collect an item, you’ll hear procedurally generated sequences, pre-programmed melodies, and arpeggios. These blend beautifully with the soundtrack to create a lush atmosphere and unique experience each time you play. Some levels feature bouncing balls, weightless orbs, and other physical systems to trigger melodies which must be played in a precise order to decrypt hidden messages. I work in a variety of styles like ambient, progressive trance, house, orchestral/movie music, and chiptunes. I’ll expand into new genres of music as they are required to tell the story of Pixelsphere. Please check out my video game fan remixes on http://sonic.tcpmusic.com (autoplay) to hear the variety of EDM styles I’ve been experimenting with in the past few years. My main site http://cynicmusic.com, or if you’re on mobile visit my SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/cynicmusic/

The Art of Pixelsphere

Pixelsphere features hand-crafted pixel art and color palettes derived from nature and from the styles of abstract and expressionist artists such as Kandinsky and Klee. Each level is built and shaded by hand which adds a personal level of depth and detail. There are unique attributes and challenges everywhere because each level is built around different shapes and colors.

I've developed a process for quickly prototyping 32x32 pixel tiles together into large levels where the shapes and colors are derived from my own photography and fractal artwork. It’s nothing fancy but it has led to some cool results so far, and there’s a lot more territory to explore! Each level is a 6144x2048 pixel work of art for you to explore. A variety of lush realms like jungle, desert, snow, and space await you.

Gameplay and Mechanics

Pixelsphere is rooted in exploration. Much of the game is simply exploring and enjoying the visual/aural detail of the world. There are puzzles and classic sidescroller challenges to keep you engaged. Minor music elements are included, but don't worry, you don't need to be a musician to play this game but I will definitely reward you for having a some basic musical knowledge. Heck, you might even learn a thing or two along the way!

I like to use physics simulations to create fun and familiar platformer game situations; like world rotation, rope bridges, ladders/vines, crates, and moving platforms. Not every interaction is created intentionally, and I hope for some emergent gameplay elements to arise from the world of Pixelsphere. I am a pretty big fan of speed-running classic games like Sonic the Hedgehog, so flow is a consideration in my level design -- to reward keen and experienced players with a nice forward momentum.

Some of the mechanics in the current prototype include: swimming and buoyancy simulation, flying, skiing, a car, ladders, gems, baddies, levers, pulleys, crates, missiles, see-saws, balls and other physics objects. There’s also secrets, keys and locked doors, music puzzles, physics puzzles, and English-language word puzzles to unlock secrets. The world rotation features allows you to manipulate gravity and rotate your world to solve puzzles and reach new areas! Not every mechanic will make the final cut, but it’s exciting to try new things and see how they work.

Story

The realm of Hexatonia was thought of as merely legend and folklore by the vast majority of modern civilizations on Pixelsphere. Legends speak of a curious insect-like Hexatonian race that communicated using beautiful music on a six-tone scale, the echos of which linger throughout the land to create a serene, ever-present melody that seems to hang in the air. Legend warned that these sounds were sweet enough to lure some non-Hexatonians away, completely entranced, never to return.

...

After dedicating his life to Hexatonian anthropology and the search for Hexatonia, Axl's father Maestro finally found the location of this fabled land. With proof of Hexatonia’s existence, he then began work on a device called the Hexatonian Universal Translator (HUT) that would allow him to walk among his beloved specimens safely. The HUT serves to decode the knowledge and wisdom accumulated by the Hexatonians. In theory, the full, entrancing effects of the Hexatonian landscape would be filtered through the HUT before reaching the ears, allowing the non-Hexatonian wearer a safe yet still enjoyable stroll through the land.

One day, Axl noticed his father was taking an unusually long stroll and decided to search for him. When he found the HUT lying on the ground just outside the Hexatonian border, he knew something was wrong. Maestro would never cast aside his prized invention so carelessly. Armed with his father’s device, Axl sets off to find and retrieve his father from the fascinating land that threatens to consume him.

The story unravels as you discover the narrative of the Hexatonians. Their language consists of musical tones, and is expressed by the tension and resolution of phrases, intervals and chords. Musical markers placed throughout their world are equivalent to our “letters”, but only amount to gibberish until played in a precise order.

 The Cast

Axl
 

Our gentle hero Axl is an explorer who must collect items and solve puzzles to bring order to the world of Pixelsphere so that he may find his father. 

Tremolo
 

Tremolo is the brains of the operation! She’s a total music geek, Axl’s best friend, and The Maestro’s most devoted apprentice. She’s diligently studied the Hexatonian language and anthropology under Maestro since she was very young. Tremolo yearns for nothing more than to one day become The Maestro’s full partner and to carry out his life’s work alongside him. When he goes missing, she puts her skills into high gear, knowing she’s going to need every ounce of knowledge he’s passed on thus far to ensure his safe return. While Axl possesses the muscle to endure the physical journey, Tremolo knows she must stay behind and use her intelligence, wit, and familiarity with The Maestro’s mountain of literature to guide him along the way....

Maestro
 

Maestro: Axl's distinguished father, the leading authority on Hexatonian anthropology, is missing. Axl decides he must find him, as Maestro's affinity for the Hexatonians is likely to overcome his desire for self-preservation.

About Me

Hello. I'm Alex, a Minneapolis, MN based musician (The Cynic Project). I have a wife and two cats. I’m fascinated by the hidden beauty encoded in procedural processes like fractals, cellular automata, and generative music. I’m a bit of a generalist, dabbling in music, design, visual art, photography, and software development. By combining these disciplines, I can create a consistent and focused vision for a game that is fantastic, dynamic and beautiful.

Generative Music

The Pixelsphere audio engine uses hundreds of tones, arpeggios and other musical cues as sound effects when you collect power-ups and items. These are chosen according to patterns (ascending and descending scales, intervals and other pre-programmed patterns that I find pleasing). I need to bring this music engine to the next level by hiring contract developers to help me create a system that truly “understands” music and can express & create sound effects in a dynamic way. For example, by synchronizing the sound effects to harmonize with the chords in the background music.

Rewards

To help clarify the reward structure, I've shaded the three reward tiers -- DIGITAL, PHYSICAL and DESIGNER -- (they are magenta, cyan, and yellow respectively) The highlights - All rewards $32 and above include a physical gift from me in your mailbox. All rewards $64 and under include every previous reward.

All rewards $50 and above will be credited with your name, in game. No advertisements are allowed as the “name” for any rewards. Exceptions may be granted on a per-case basis with consideration only given to artistic, educational, musical, non-profit, or other similarly redeeming ventures.

Custom rewards - Is there something you want that’s not on the list? PLEASE CONTACT ME. I am open to suggestion for a personalized experience that you would like involving my game. It could be a custom song, dedication, insight into my music, software development or artistic process.

Inspiration

Things that influence the sights and sounds of Pixelsphere...trance music, abstract art, fractals, DOS Games: Jill of the Jungle, Commander Keen, SNES/GENESIS - Sonic the Hedgehog (1-4 for on Genesis), Yoshi’s Island, Super Mario World, Super Mario 3 for NES, Miyazaki, Starcraft, Myst, nature photography.

More About the Music...

My ultimate goal is to have the musical experience be driven by user preference, so that the player can choose instruments, tones and sonic moods. In this way, emergent music is created that is personalized to the player. I haven't decided exactly how this works - it could be as simple as allowing the player direct access into the engine’s algorithms, or more complex where preferences are learned by the player’s behavior. This is really up in the air over the next few months as I determine how my resources are allocated toward this goal. I'm thrilled to be using Spectrasonics Omnisphere® to score the game, and I’m excited about the incredible sonic palette it brings to the soundtrack.

Why I Need Your Support

Pixelsphere is already playable and within months of an alpha-stage milestone. I need expert help to tune and improve the gameplay mechanics, and to finish the artwork & story. Your support will:

  • Provide feedback on what makes this a good game that YOU want to play.
  • Hire artists to create pixel art assets and character design.
  • Hire contract developers to polish the gameplay, mechanics, physics and music engine.
  • Pay for professional software I need to finish Pixelsphere. (Updated Adobe products, etc…)
  • Pay for music software from East West and Spectrasonics so I can complete the music. I need a copy of EWQL Goliath so I can make the soundtrack even more epic!

Pixelsphere is first and foremost an artistic endeavor and I am 100% committed to it, which is why I've invested my own money to develop the initial artwork. The next ten months will be spent polishing a fantastic generative music system that creates beautiful music every time you play the game.

 

Delivery Timeline

I chose the date September 2014 as a conservative estimate for when I will complete and deliver the game. That’s less than a year away and every minute of that time is precious to me. I could release the game demo now and it’s pretty rad, but I have so much more in mind for what Pixelsphere can be.

  • February 2014 - All designer rewards submissions must be in (design a level, design an enemy)
  • March 2014 - Launch Kickstarter exclusive beta. Teaser soundtrack available.
  • May 2014 - Ship physical rewards. (art books, prints, posters)
  • June 2014 - Deliver major rewards. (posters and canvas prints)
  • July 2014 - Deliver full soundtrack.
  • September 2014 - Release Pixelsphere version 1.0.

Stretch Goals

The base funding goal will allow me to finish Pixelsphere on a tighter schedule and with improved art & music. Additional funding beyond this goal will be put to good use so that I may hire more contract development to assist in the areas where progress is slow for me. I would love to commission even more art work, a fancy UI, a world map, and an improved character & dialog system with scripting for NPC’s. I also need a new PC workstation. Ports to Android/iOS/Ouya are possible and I will be exploring other platforms, but only when the PC/Mac version is complete.

 Credits

A shout-out to some people who helped so far...

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

I have been producing and releasing content as The Cynic Project since 1998, and I have a history of delivering content at consistent intervals for 15 years. And while this project is my most ambitious yet, I feel confident that my experience will help me see it to completion.

A major challenge that I've observed in software development is last-minute surprises. Nobody wants to finish a game and then find out that it’s slow and full of bugs, or worse yet, that it’s not fun to play. To mitigate this challenge, I maintain Pixelsphere to be playable from end-to-end with over a hundred playable builds archived so far. I hope that the beta process will give me feedback about which aspects of the game are working, to ensure that the gameplay is fun and engaging.

Being a one-man team is a challenge, because I need to stay focused and motivated to see the project to completion. Deadlines are a solid motivator for me. Having a firm deadline in 2014 will ensure that I don’t get sidetracked by adding unnecessary features. External funding alleviates some of this risk because I can offload specific tasks to contract developers, therefore reducing my workload.

Thanks so much for your support! With your help, we’ll make Pixelsphere a success and make some beautiful music together.

FAQ

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    (DIGITAL) Thank you! Access to a behind the scenes site with development details, and an exclusive Pixelsphere wallpaper.

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    60 backers

    (DIGITAL) DRM-free copy of Pixelsphere, Mac and Windows.

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    (DIGITAL) Pixelsphere Mac/Win + Soundtrack (Digital MP3 download). Trust me, you are going to want the soundtrack :)

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    28 backers

    (DIGITAL) Pixelsphere Mac/Win + Deluxe Soundtrack (MP3 + FLAC + WAV) + GENERATIVE MUSIC COLLECTION - Several hours of my favorite procedurally generated compositions taken directly from the game + COMPLETE MUSIC COLLECTION. All of the music created during Pixelsphere will be made available to you. There are outtakes, extended versions, half-tempo versions, sparse versions and other variations that didn't make the final cut but are interesting in their own right. This gives you an exciting insight into my musical development process and plenty of listening material! + DIGITAL ARTWORK COLLECTION. My personal favorite hi-res level art screencaps taken in more detail than can be seen in game (PDF/PNG).

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    (DIGITAL) All previous rewards + Early beta access starting MARCH 2014. Help test and provide feedback on the game. You will be able to play through the entire game before the story and art are complete.

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    (PHYSICAL) All previous rewards + one signed 4x6 print of level art from the game.

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    25 backers Limited (75 left of 100)

    (PHYSICAL) All previous rewards + Five albums from The Cynic Project (digital mp3 download) + Early access to beta versions of the game starting JANUARY 2014. Your name will be mentioned in the credits inside the game.

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    (PHYSICAL) Postcard! A collection of six 6x4 prints of art from Pixelsphere, as well as all previous rewards.

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    (PHYSICAL) 8x8 Pixelsphere Art Book + All previous rewards.

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    (PHYSICAL) 8x8 SIGNED Pixelsphere Art Book + All previous DIGITAL rewards (i.e. only includes ONE art book). + MID-TIER backer credits. Book is autographed and hand-numbered.

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    (DESIGNER) NEW REWARD!!! Submit your ideas, photographs, drawings and I will turn them into a layout and colors for a Pixelsphere level. It could be anything like a childhood art project, your favorite picture(s) of a sunset or a collection of nature photographs that you captured. Yes, it can have your name embedded in the level. I may also incorporate your ideas for level challenges, obstacles and goals if you have a good idea for a level! Also includes all previous DIGITAL rewards. (does not include any physical rewards)

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    (PHYSICAL) 8x8 signed Pixelsphere Art Book + a Pixelsphere POSTER featuring the cover art and selected level art in stunning HD detail. (11x14 print). Also includes all previous DIGITAL rewards.

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    (PHYSICAL) Premium hard cover 12x12 art book featuring concept art & screencaps from the game + all other previous DIGITAL rewards (i.e. does not include the 8x8 art book and poster)

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    (PHYSICAL) 12x12 art book from the previous tier + TOP TIER backer credits. Your name will appear at the top of the backer credits. + ALL previous DIGITAL rewards (i.e. does NOT include poster or 8x8 art book)

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    (DESIGNER + PHYSICAL) Design a baddy. We'll work together to design a creature that will appear as pixel art in the game. Preferably it is an insect or small creature that fits the style of Pixelsphere. Also includes the 8x8 art book.

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    (DESIGNER + PHYSICAL) Design a level + ALL previous DIGITAL rewards . Submit your ideas, photographs, drawings and I will turn them into a layout and colors for a level. It could be anything like a childhood art project, your favorite picture(s) of a sunset or a collection of nature photographs that you captured. Yes, it can have your name embedded in the level. Also includes the 8x8 art book.

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    (DESIGNER + PHYSICAL) CANVAS ART PRINT. A 16x16 canvas wall-art print of selected Pixelsphere level art. Provide your favorite colors or images as inspiration for the product (optional) All previous DIGITAL rewards (i.e. does not include any other physical rewards)

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    (DESIGNER) Design a secret for the game. This could be a secret level, musical theme, puzzle or all three. It can be something that only you know about, well... until you tell your friends :) Includes all previous digital rewards and the 12x12 art book.

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    (EXECUTIVE PRODUCER) We'll work together to make something really cool for the game. It could be a gameplay mechanic, special level, or whatever within the obvious bounds and scope of this game. You will be credited as executive producer for the game as a result of our collaboration. Includes all previous digital rewards and the 12x12 art book.

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