Thursday, 14 June 2012

Audiosurf VS Beat Hazard

A question has been lingering in the cranium of mankind ever since video games were invented. Is there a way we can integrate our favorite music into a video game in such a manner that the video game affects the game we play in a significant manner? And for a while we didn't know if there would be an answer because games were still in the testing stages and everything was still rough around the edges. But lo and behold in this new era oversaturated with remakes, sequels, FPSes and whatever else is bitched about, that the answer would be fulfilled. For in February 15, 2008, Dylan Fitterer created Audiosurf, a game that claimed that you could ride your music. It delivered with it's tagline as you were playing as a little ship that could go about collecting colored blocks on its journey to the end of your track. It seemed to control this market as hardly anyone can think of a game that does the same thing that isn't hidden on Newgrounds as Audiosurf sent them into the depths of obscurity. But then in April 15, 2010, Cold Beam Games came waving it's shooter with a self-soundtrack called Beat Hazard, challenging Audiosurf to a duel of who is the best game that you use to jam to your own tunes?



As we all know, gameplay is a crucial aspect in making your game a success. And both games manage to deliver well with it. Beat Hazard has a shooter aspect to it that allows you to control a tiny ship that shoots other ships and asteroids to boost up your score whilst jamming to your tunes. While you do this, you have to collect power ups such as volume (which increases the volume which helps you fire more), power (which makes your guns more powerful, as you'd imagine), super-bombs (which creates an explosion that takes the whole screen up in it's radius) and +1, +5, +10 orbs (which increase your multiplier which helps to make your score all the more larger). You also can collect $10 triangles that can help you obtain perks which can reward you with more power-ups as well as unlock more difficult modes.

You always start out with 4 lives and you got to make the most of them, because you don't get any more. That, and you die in one hit. Once you max your volume and your power, you enter into Beat Hazard mode where everything gets more frantic than usual. You can either play through one track of your choice or go for as many tracks as you can with Survival Mode. There's also the possibility that in your tune, you may encounter boss ships which will use everything they can to eradicate you. So be wary of that.

Audiosurf plays it's game with a different mechanic. Yes, you have a little ship just like in Beat Hazard, but instead of shooting everything in site, you're going on a roller-coaster like track created by your song and trying to collect colored squares into a grid. Get three of the same color touching each other and you gain points. Seems simple, no? You can go with a whole array of ships which have their own special abilities that can change up the way you go about the game. Like there's the Mono ship that allows you to jump from the track and only has two types of blocks (colorful and grey), one you collect (colorful) and one you avoid at all costs (grey). And the Pointman ship that allows you to store blocks of your choice so that you can plop them back into the grid when you see fit.

Winner: Tough call, but I'm going to have to say Audiosurf. While Beat Hazard's gameplay is addicting, Audiosurf's gameplay is addicting and original. It's a unique puzzle mechanic that not only provides you to act fast, but also think fast. Beat Hazard's simply just based on half of that.

Graphics/Extra Bits

Now, you all know what I mean by graphics, but since there's another bit to games that isn't graphics but is closely related to it because it helps with the presentation of the game, I've decided to make this graphics and extra bits. Audiosurf's graphics are very polished and have a good sense of color to them. It's a bit epileptic at times, but you're entranced by the mere visuals of the track changing color from time to time. It's very well done. The menus also have a good variation of color and selecting your ship for the game is pretty neat, especially when you look at the designs for the logos of the ships.

Beat Hazard's menu may not be anything spectacular visual-wise, but whenever you open the game up, you have the opportunity to listen to some of your songs as a menu music theme. In a way, it's nothing much, but in another way, it sometimes seems like the song that is playing should be a menu theme. It gives off a sort of delightful yet bizarre feeling when you realize that. The ships look very shiny looking and the color that radiates from destroying the enemy or firing your projectile is magnificent if your eyes are able to handle such  intensities.

Winner: While Audiosurf's colorful visuals are beautifully appealing, Beat Hazard takes the cake with having that color be splashed on like an artist waving his brush madly into a painting, spewing the paint all over the place. Unless you have problems with quick flashing lights, the vision of seeing so many different colors burst out as you're shooting down ships is captivating and really engages you in a psychological way. Plus, having that extra part of your own music being the menu theme really shows that your music is what affects the game.

Music Integration

Now some could consider a nitpick here, but I believe that this aspect does affect how spectacular a music-revolved game is. If a game can properly integrate the mood, the feel, and the volume of the music of your choice in the level that you're about to play, then it's doing it's job right. Audiosurf's way of doing this is by  waiting for a while to create a track for you to go about. Depending on the tempo, the rhythm and the intensity of the song will determine how many twists, ups and downs, turns the tack will have. Beat Hazard on the other hand lets the music control how powerful your projectiles are, how fast the enemy ships go and how many of the enemies ships you get in a period of time. Both truly allow you to know what song to choose when you want something less chaotic or when you really want to test your metal.

Winner: Again, it's a real tough call here, but I'm going to have to say Audiosurf. With Audiosurf, you're at least certain on what parts dictate the way the track is formed. With Beat Hazard, while there are elements present there that prove how the music is integrated in the game, sometimes they're inconsistent. Primarily with how many ships come out at one in a period of time and what causes a boss ship to be triggered. It's never fully structured, so it just feels like they just throw anything there, no matter if it syncs with the track or not. Audiosurf also takes it's time to properly integrate the music into the level, so that sort of helps but them ahead with the tiny details.


If you're one of those people that wants to get the most out of a video game, you want as much challenge as possible. Both games deliver with difficulty levels ranging from piss easy to incredibly hard as well as tons of achievements that you can do your best to obtain.

Winner: Well, Beat Hazard has 5 different difficulty levels, but when you get to harder modes, they just turn out to make the sort of cheap difficulty that isn't due to you not being better at the game but due to there being no way you can avoid the enemy. The survival mode also falls prey to this at times. It's somewhat balanced by the perks and the super-bombs, but not to the fullest extent. Audiosurf does balance things out so that the challenge feels that it is surmountable, if only you dedicate more time to the game itself. Even the most difficult parts such as trying to get no greys at all with Ninja Mono seem like they can be overcome if you just tried more and more. And for that, Audiosurf wins here.


While I enjoy playing a good amount of Beat Hazard, Audiosurf clearly shows to the be the more balanced and the more creative game out of the two. It properly integrates the music, provides a decent amount of challenge and it makes you think fast as well as react fast. Plus, it was complete once it was released unlike Beat Hazard which got a "DLC"-like version called Beat Hazard Ultra with more features and gadgets to mess with.

Well that's all I've got to share here. G'bye!

Friday, 1 June 2012

How Should We Go About Females In Fiction?

As a growing writer, I try to look at ways to make sure that I can write in a manner that is engaging, interesting and creatively to a reader. And while it's obvious that the best way to go about something like this is to actually write, I can't help but find myself looking at various sites and links lingering about that talk about writing itself a little more than actually trying to continue my practice. This isn't necessarily bad, it's just a little distracting. Then again, a lot of things take up my time from doing writing. Nonetheless, I usually come across three aspects that a writer must be wary about writing. Stereotypes, LGBT and women.

Unlike stereotypes (which can be fixed by detracting from a fixed personality or doing some more research to provide a more in-depth look at a character's culture) and LGBT (which can be fixed by not turning them into stereotypes), women seem to be getting a little more trouble to be written correctly. It's not that authors out there can't write female characters correctly, there are tons of books and tales out there where females are given a greater sense of dignity. It's more when it comes along to video games that women aren't exactly getting the right treatment. Now some could argue that films are guilty of this, but I'm not all too informed to say if they're right about this or they're just exaggerating. To me, it seems like there has been a better development of creating more female-friendly works in Hollywood than there was in the past. The question is who would argue this? That would be feminist-heavy critics.

See, what really prompted me into writing this was that I looked into ideas such as the Bechdel Test, misogyny and fanservice as well as a few blogs written by women that were criticizing how movies do not pass this test. Even if they somehow manage to do this, it doesn't make up for the fact that the work can still be misogynistic. Now, being an amateur in many things (mostly because I'm a young little fella), I am in no position to be pointing fingers to select people and calling them out on their failure to make the proper female character. So I can't make this a wagging of the finger unless I acknowledge that I have to be wagging the finger to myself as well. The idea though is just to give my own spin on how I believe we (including myself) can go about creating proper female characters. 

Females Can Be Good Looking And Interesting Too

The main thing that sets off the flame of this discussion is that women in video games (and to a much lesser extent, movies) have been over-sexualised to incredibly absurd levels. There seems to be a lot of hourglass ladies with very noticeable chest-balloons and curvacious derrieres that seem to draw eyes in the wrong ways. Now that wouldn't be so bad if the characters had more to them than just a boner-machine, but in some cases, that's really all they are. The reason that you can't say some of the ripped, well-groomed men in other mediums aren't just something for the girls to cream over is that they have depth, they have something more to them that makes them intriguing. Some creators makes them so interesting that you can forget about they're looks and more about them as a character. So what has to simply happen is that you have to apply that sort of effect onto the female character. Make emphasis about her past, her present situation, her relationship with other characters, her likes/dislikes as well as take her down the road and see her become affected by what comes towards her, allowing for that magical phenomenon called "character development" to blossom forth.

This is a little hard to attempt on a gal such as this:

Fear not, I'll provide the explanation to it on my next point. 

Do Not Draw Attention To Her Sexyness/Dumb Down The Hot Stuff

I have this theory that the more sexually appealing the female character is, the harder it is for an audience to notice that possibility of her having a sense of depth. Why? Well, it's because you're distracting them with the sultry figure and the titillating costume. Most men will drool in delight looking at this character, while most women will be either ignoring it or rolling their eyes at it. Do I think that you shouldn't use attractive female characters at all? No. Just don't make it a neon sign that your femme fatale is more femme than fatale. Give your female character a less revealing look. That means little to no cleavage, longer skirts/shorts/pants, little to no showing of the navel, etc.

Better yet, maybe start a little slower. Instead of making the character something that everyone's going to be jerking off to, make her reasonably attractive. That means a woman that doesn't have large breasts, a prominent behind and race-track curvy hips and the like. Or to put it in more clarifying terms, something that people can debate whether or not they're attractive. You'll be less inclined to use more revealing clothing because you know it's a more subjective choice. That way, when you go about creating her personality, it'll be less inclined to sexualisation. Once you can work well with that, then you can build up if you think that you're ready for it.

Remove Fanservice....Or At Least Be Reasonable About It

Fanservice is perhaps one of the greatest problems facing this issue. Writers will sometimes resist the urge to restrict themselves and go about coughing out a panty shot or two. It's gets even harder when the female character is practically eye-candy to them. What do we do? Well, we can try to eliminate fanservice in general, since it's usually unneeded in the times it happens. Now this has happened in works, but sometimes it's just because there's no women to make smut out of. I won't say that people remove women out of some of their works (or let them play a smaller role) because they're looking for an easy way out of avoiding fanservice, but it could be possible with something. Is it likely though? Probably not.

No one usually wants to take the easy way out, and some people just don't bother making fanservice in their works. That's fine. What would be harder than that is to make subtle fanservice or fanservice that doesn't fully distract from people. Let's face it, fanservice is distracting to people no matter what. It breaks the mood, kills the suspension of disbelief and just feels like a small, quick slap to the face. If you're going to have fanservice, time it right like you would a joke. Or sprinkle it gently on a work so that even if you fuck up the timing, you at least can say it didn't happen a lot.

Not All Villainesses Are Succubi

That was the cleanest I could find searching succubus up...

For those who don't know, succubi are women that use sex to do evil with. Mostly this involves giving a man the night of his life and then sucking the life-source of them. While not all the villainesses are the textbook definition of a succubus, select number of villainesses have been known to use their attractiveness to lure men into a trap (see: The Second Oldest Decoy In The Book). You can pretty much tell that what I'm going to say is that instead of using that as a decoy, use more nefarious, manipulative and sneaky forms to trick characters and make her seem evil. That's quite true, but as well as fanservice, you can either avoid the idea in general or be reasonable about it. Mainly because it would be fitting for villains to do anything they can, no matter what, to get to where they are now. Since such an idea has been overused with villainesses though, it's more interesting to try a different tactic to show the despicable nature that makes her put the evil in villainess. 

Don't Let The Man Be What Makes The Woman/The Smurfette Principle

Now this is where you see things leaning to a more radical level of feminism. Believe me, I thought that too. But then I thought about it. While it doesn't happen at incredibly absurd rates as the rest of the things I've mentioned on here do, some female characters usually become important simply because of the relationship they have with a man. They could be their sister, daughter, friend, girlfriend, fiancee or wife and that's really what makes them stick out. Just because they're one of those, that's what defines them. Usually there's no problem in making them more noticeable by making them into a more self-made character.

What happens if they are self-made though, but it's only because they are they only female character out there. Well, you've run into the Smurfette Priniciple problem. Fear not, the best way to fix that is add more female characters that are engaging to an audience. Do you always have to add more females though? Not necessarily. While it's better if you want to show that you're aware of the other 50% of the world's population, it's completely up to you. Do you feel that you want another female character? Do you think you can make it work? Will you be able to make the character more interesting by not just being a carbon copy of another character? This sort of thing is more up to a writer and is less of a glaring problem to being respectable to a female character, at least in my eyes. That being said, adding more females to an ensemble in a respectable fashion couldn't hurt.


It's hard to take what I've said and keep it in mind. As I explained, I can't really be calling out the shots and declare myself as the righteous one when I know that I have done some works that basically do not follow any of these rules at all. And I understand if people are making something that doesn't really adhere to being more mature and structured that they break these rules. That's fine by me. But the subject has come to light for me at various moments in time and I've wondered how this can be bettered. While for some of you, this is restating the obvious, others may find this to be new to them, the same way that I felt when I found about this. Perhaps in the future I will follow these guidelines as a writer, perhaps I may disregard them. I'm not sure. All I know is this might be a good way to make more respectable female characters.