Apps, Loop

loop: recording an original, acoustic soundtrack

Developing my new puzzle game, loop, was much more intricate than any of my other apps. The coding, as it turned out, was much easier; there were much fewer algorithms, iCloud document shuffling strategies, or gnarly PDF functions to work with. Rather, I soon realized that the challenge facing me was an artistic one. I had to create an audiovisual experience unique to my game—while working within the bounds of what one person can do over the course of one summer. I guess that would be something like, say, trying to build a piece of furniture by yourself. You could be perfectly good at designing, sawing, and painting, and still come out with a table that screams “I made this myself.”

And one of the attitudes I had to challenge when developing Loop was precisely that: at first I was limiting myself to things I could only do solo. For most game soundtracks, you could probably do it by yourself if you were writing electronic music. Just buy Logic or some comparable DAW and synthesize away. (Not that it doesn’t take talent and effort, but it’s possible.)

On the other hand, from the beginning of Loop’s life in development I knew that I wanted its soundtrack to be acoustic. I wanted to use my years of learning piano to produce something that would touch the ears of hundreds, hopefully thousands of people. I had a Samson Q2U microphone at home, and I thought, Why don’t I get my friend Patrick to play the violin, and record the whole soundtrack at my house?

There are several reasons why that approach doesn’t work, and as soon as I started the real recording I knew why:

  1. The Samson Q2U microphone is not at all geared toward piano recording, and one microphone cannot possibly be enough for both a piano and a violin.
  2. Home acoustics are really bad.
  3. I wouldn’t be able to manage a DAW and record myself and Patrick simultaneously.
  4. The cost of buying Logic would be comparable to hiring an audio engineer.

All of these reasons added up in such a way that the logical way to approach this soundtrack would be to get a professional audio engineer to set up and manage the recording. And wow, what a difference it made. Check out the (improvised) soundtrack for Loop’s main menu

We had seven mics trained on us while we recorded this soundtrack. (To think that I would have gone ahead with one on the cheap…) The piano was the hardest to get right; we ended up putting two cardioid mics under its belly and two pointing into the strings from a few inches outside. The underside mics give the sound warmth, and the upper ones lend it clarity… Of course, the fact that we used a 7-foot Steinway in the recital hall at Capital University doesn’t hurt the sound quality either.

After all the recording was finished, I went back and added strings from the Sonatina Symphony Orchestra sample library, as well as a few soundscape synths to add noise in the background. (You can hear those strings in the app preview video I released last week.) For this, GarageBand was perfectly sufficient. Once you have good recordings, GarageBand is surprisingly effective at the nitty-gritty of putting them together.

So I can’t say it’s a fully acoustic soundtrack, but with the help of Patrick McBride and Chad Loughrige, the awesome recording engineer at Capital, I was able to create a sound to which most iOS games can’t come close. It’s the sound of real people playing real instruments, and that creates a vibe that simply can’t be substituted.

Loop is coming soon to the App Store! I’d love to hear your comments and experiences about video game soundtracks.

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Apps, Loop

A new puzzle game for iOS: “loop”

It’s the summer before I head off to MIT, and of course I couldn’t sit around and do nothing. I dabbled for a while in creating virtual reality animations for Google Cardboard (a teapot that rings like a phone was as far as I got), and I even thought for a while about building my own OS. 

But around a month ago, I came across an idea that I couldn’t put down. It was a concept for a puzzle game, something that had been brewing in the back of my mind ever since I made my first app, My Grapher, back in 2011. 

It took being freed of school, really, to become capable of working on this idea! Because game development requires so many different kinds of art, a daunting challenge for a solo developer. From coding to story development to art design to music composition, I knew I would be on my own for the whole gamut. What I didn’t realize was just how time-intensive the whole process would be.

Well, a month of solid work later, I’m happy to tell you that the product of my efforts will be available soon on the App Store. It’s called “loop : a game of rotation,” and it centers on a one-eyed robot who is captured by a mysterious Institute. You have to rotate Loop into the tesseract (inspired by Madeleine L’Engle, of course) through the clever use of energy pods.

Here’s a video preview, featuring a snippet of the soundtrack I composed and performed alongside my friend Patrick McBride on violin:

I’ll be keeping you posted over the next week or so, as the game gets closer to its release. Reactions, suggestions? Please comment below!

Apps, Geometry, Isosceles

Isosceles for Mac is now available!

I am so excited to announce that Isosceles, the flagship app for Base 12 Innovations, is now available on your Mac!

The time is ripe for your favorite geometry app to come to OS X: 100,000 people around the world have now downloaded Isosceles on their iPhones and iPads. But especially when it comes to the classroom, many people rely on the Mac to create and absorb educational content. That’s why over several months of development, I’ve brought all the features you love from the iOS version into an elegant Mac user interface. Check it out:

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Isosceles integrates seamlessly with iCloud, so you can instantly begin editing all the sketches you’ve created on your iOS devices. You’ll be instantly familiar with the sketch interface, and pan and zoom gestures work on your trackpad just as they do on your iPad.

When you draw a figure in Isosceles, it’ll be a breeze to export it into your Keynote presentation or your note-taking app of choice. You may even enjoy creating art with Isosceles on your Mac!

Isosceles is available on the Mac App Store for $9.99 USD. From now until January 19, get it at 50% off as an introductory sale.

Do you like Isosceles? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Apps

Base 12 Innovations is Going to WWDC!

I’m happy to say that I won a student scholarship to the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this June. The conference will be held in San Francisco, and the 5,000 or so tickets that were available for sale (at $1,599 USD) were snapped up in two minutes! 150 students, including myself, earned a scholarship to attend the convention without paying for a ticket.

To win the scholarship, each student had to develop an app showcasing their accomplishments and programming prowess – but given only a week. We all scrambled to create something off the beaten path, so here’s what I came up with:

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Notice the subtle color changes in the background that happen every few seconds or so in the app. I’m not sure if the interface was intuitive enough, if the screens were interactive enough, or if the writing style was good enough; thankfully it worked. But I think above all, the color changing background made everything better!

Thank you all for supporting my apps, Isosceles, The Rock Cycle, and My Grapher. I could not have made it this far without people using my apps and helping me improve them!

Apps, Isosceles

Isosceles Featured for Middle School Math

Isosceles free has been featured for middle school math apps on the App Store! This is an awesome place for teachers to discover Isosceles as a new tool in the classroom. But unfortunately, Isosceles’s rating is sadly low…

If you use Isosceles free and it’s useful for you, please support Base 12 Innovations by leaving a good rating on the App Store page! Every rating helps convince teachers that Isosceles is the best geometry app for their students, and we need all the ratings and reviews we can get.

If you’re having problems using Isosceles, by all means contact me in the app’s help menu! I’ve received lots of feedback from users so far, and their support has directly helped me put together the past few updates.

You can rate Isosceles free here on the App Store.

Thank you so much for using Isosceles, and I hope you’ll leave a positive rating on the app page to support me and my apps!

Apps, Geometry, Isosceles

Isosceles Tip: Isometry

One little-known feature of Isosceles+ is its ability to create 3-dimensional sketches with the Isometric geometry system. If you have paid for the premium features pack, you can use this system by tapping the gear icon, then checking Isometric. You can use this feature to make 3D graphs, like this:

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You can also make cool optical illusions and designs, like this one:

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Some of the other features in Isosceles that facilitate these drawings:

  • To shade the graph, I used the Link tool, then added a fill to the resulting polygon. To link lines together and create a polygon, select the individual lines by tapping and holding on each one separately. Then, if a menu isn’t already showing, tap one of the blue lines to show the menu. If the lines form a closed polygon, the option will be available to link them together.
  • For the 3D cross, I had to use the Polygon tool to draw two 12-gons, which represent the two shaded crosses. Then I used the Points tool to move each vertex to its proper location.
  • To fill the polygons, select all the polygons which should have the same fill color by tapping and holding on their sides. In the menu that appears, tap Info. Choose Fill Color to change the color.
  • For this kind of drawing, it’s important to turn Snaps to Grid, Snaps to Points, etc. This ensures that your sketch will look precise, which is key for a drawing of this type.

As you can guess, an isometric grid feature has applications in engineering, construction, and other practical fields. Let me know how you use the Isometric geometry system in the comments!

Apps, Geometry, Isosceles

Isosceles Tip for v1.3/1.4: Architecture

I’ve just released a new version of Isosceles, version 1.3 for isosceles and 1.4 for isosceles+. The new version adds some more cool stuff:

  • You can now make text annotations bold, italic, underline, and strikethrough (device permitting).
  • Add a name to a line.
  • You can easily move a point to the nearest integer coordinates or key in a custom location in the point’s Info menu.
  • Isosceles premium users can now edit background colors, grid colors, and default pencil colors for individual sketches.
  • Many bug fixes which allow Isosceles users to create and maintain more complex designs than before (see below).

To celebrate the new addition, this tip will illustrate some of the amazing things Isosceles 1.4 can do. Take a look at this floor plan made with Isosceles:

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Some of the features I used to create this drawing:

  • To create the background color, go to Settings (the gear icon), tap Canvas, then choose Background Color and customize the color as desired.
  • To set the default pencil color to white, follow the above instructions but choose Heavy Pencil Color and/or Light Pencil Color. (You can toggle between these in your sketch by tapping the green pencil button.)
  • To create the doors, draw a line to represent the open door. Then choose the compass tool, move the center handle to the place where the hinges would go and drag the outer handle along the blue line to show the door’s path.
  • To draw the piano, simply follow the steps above to draw several consecutive arcs. The largest arc would have a center inside the piano, the next one outside, and the last one on the edge of the piano.

What makes this so easy in Isosceles is that you can zoom in as far as you need to without losing accuracy and snap points easily to gridlines. Version 1.4 allows you to style the sketch however you want very quickly. The compass tool also opens up new and innovative designs that simply can’t be done in most analytic geometry programs. And to top it all off, you can export any sketch into a crisp PDF document for print or web.

Please let me know in the comments how Isosceles 1.4 is working for you!