Developing Dynamic Music In Gaming - David Kanaga Talks About DYAD, Proteus, And Interactive Music

It isn't hard to get David Kanaga going. The mastermind behind the music in DYAD and Proteus, indie darlings famous for their procedurally generated audio and unique content, Kanaga makes no secret about his love for music. He talks about his work the same way another would wax poetic about a significant other, with a kind of barely-contained excitement that is outright contagious.

"I've been doing music since I was twelve. That was around the time I discovered FruityLoops which is, like, this music software of sorts - it was around then that I could really start writing stuff and developing areas. Before that, I was always messing around on the piano. And I think what drew me to music is probably similar to what drew me to video games - just having this system with input was really intriguing and compelling to me." Kanaga begins.

"Cases where the music doesn't really affect the game have never seemed very interesting to me. As such, with the games I've been involved with, I've pushed to make them as interactive as possible."

While his working conditions have been all but perfect, Kanaga says 'he is still trying to figure out how to do this.'

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Torchlight 2 Hands-On Preview

Runic Games' sequel to their highly beloved action-RPG makes no pretenses about what it wants. It wants to be your obsession. It wants you to furiously, feverishly trudge through every square inch of the sprawling landscape in a vain attempt to feed that desire for 'more'. More loot, more skill points, more levels, more quests, more everything.

Ultimately, Torchlight II is a game built around greed and incremental satisfaction. Though ostensibly a quest to save the world from evil, it's all really just a big excuse to build the biggest, baddest character ever.

Characters And Classes – Kill The Way You Want

Let's talk classes. In Torchlight II, you'll be able to choose between the Outlander, the Berserker, the Ember Mage and, my personal favorite, the deliciously steampunk-flavored Engineer, all of whom come with their own specialized set of strengths and abilities.

The Outlander is a long-range weaponry specialist armed with magical Glaives and a few eldritch tricks. His command of wizardry is certainly limited, but who needs grandiose displays when you can slow, cripple, poison, and summon Shadowlings from the broken corpses of the opposition?

The Berserker, as you might have guessed already, is a berserker. His skills are all centered around fists, fangs, interrupts, crits and sudden burst damage - anything that gives him a double-handed edge when up close and personal. Depending on which skills you invest in, you also find yourself wielding ice and lightning or playing pack leader to half-tangible wolves.

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"We initially had the idea to build the website after developers at PAX 2011 stopped asking us WHY accessibility mattered, but how to accomplish it." Steve Spohn, Editor-in-Chief of the AbleGamers website and Director of Community Outreach of The AbleGamers Foundation, explained in a recent interview.

Founded in 2004, AbleGamers Foundation has been actively evangelizing the importance of accessibility in games for almost a decade now. Widely recognized as the largest community for disabled gamers on the Internet, the volunteer-driven, non-profit society is aiming to make every game as accessible as possible to as wide a variety of disabled gamers as they humanly can.

As such, Includification feels very much like the next natural step in their efforts. A 46-page, fully-illustrated how-to guide for developers and publishers roadmapping the exact solutions needed to design an accessible game, Includification is the result of hundreds of hours of work and is a collaborative effort between Spohn, CEO and co-founder Mark Barlet, several professional editors and more.

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StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm Multiplayer Units -- An eSports Update From Blizzard

All across the world, people are assembling. Propelled by the gospel of their coaches, athletes stretch and strain in spandex-wrapped preparation. At home, people are making bets, making snacks, making patriotic comments -- it's that time of the decade again where indifference is overshadowed by a sudden, unexpected love for your country. It's time for the Olympics Games and all I can think is this:

Something is missing.

Actually, a lot of things are missing. In spite of its considerable popularity and a decade-long attempt at earning acceptance from the International Olympic Committee (IOE), chess is still not a part of the event. Bridge, lifesaving - yes, folks, Miss Anderson was apparently parroting an athlete --, bowling, and baseball aren't activities that will earn anyone medals either. And with things like rugby still absent from the global tournament, will eSports champions ever have the chance to make Olympian gods of themselves?

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Do video game developers do enough to facilitate the enjoyment of their games by those who are disabled? I asked this question on Twitter earlier this week and the response was an unanimous 'No'.

Darius Kazemi commented, "When I was working in QA on D&D Online back in 2005, I filled a bug about a puzzle that red/green colorblind people couldn't solve. Red/green colorblindness affects 10% of men, which I'm guessing given the typical audience of a D&D game is probably close to 10% of all the players."

Kazemi added somberly. "The real reason is that when you're trying to ship a game, you care about changes that make what you perceive to be the biggest impact. So in the mind of certain (I would say most) devs, it's 'Oh, that's a bug that only happens 10% of the time, so it's low priority.' This is a terrible way of thinking about it. What you need to think is, 'Oh, that's a bug that affects 10% of our players 100% of the time, and it affects them because they have a disability we didn't bother to consider -- rather than a compatibility issue we overlooked.' I want more devs to think the second way.”

"These kinds of problems are what I would call "irreducible": you can't reduce a percentage of your audience to a bug frequency percentage, even though they're both percentages. You have to think about the entire context around what's happening."

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Urgent. Please respond.

I glance up as an e-mail from AbleGamers' Editor-In-Chief, Steve Spohn, quietly slips atop a growing pile of newsletters, press releases, and social media notifications. Curious, I click on it.

The message is brief but authoritative. Hi, G4 will be running our stories soon. This is Cassandra. She writes for them. She needs your answers today. Please respond ASAP. Thank you.

Whoa. No room for misinterpretation there. Within fifteen minutes of the first e-mail, a cordial apology (Had I even given them a due date? Are they going to think I'm some horrible slave driver now?) for a perceived lack of timeliness makes its way into my inbox. By the end of the day, I have all the answers I need. Were people supposed to be this efficient?

Asides from being a tightly run ship, AbleGamers is the largest community for disabled gamers on the Internet. Founded by Stephanie Walker and Mark Barlet, this nonprofit organization has been responsible for designing peripherals, curating the biggest repository of accessibility-driven video game views on the World Wide Web, and a variety of other nifty things, all in line with their goal of bringing greater accessibility to the digital entertainment space. Most of all, they've been making a difference.

AbleGamers Article: A History of Accomplishing the Impossible

When I asked the crew about their best memories of working with AbleGamers, their co-founder and president Mark Barlet sent me a photograph of a little girl in an orange shirt along with his answer. She looks almost impossibly happy. You could probably use that smile of hers to fuel a small solar power plant. In the picture, her hands are lightly rested on what resembles the controls for a gaming console from the 70s.

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Able Gamers' Editor-In-Chief, Steve Spohn, has fond memories of the creation of the Adroit Switchblade, a device that, while seemingly better suited for the company of the Atari 2600 than one of today’s slick machines, is widely regarded as one of the most accessible and cost-effective gaming controllers for the disabled in the market today.

"On the very first outing I ever did for the AbleGamers Foundation, there was an event where the participants had to come together to design a controller. I was teamed up with Ben Heck and Adam Coe. And, since I was the disabled gamer, we made a 'controller' that I could use. We only had a few hours to complete the process so it ended up being this bag of rice with some buttons Velcro’d to it.”

“Gaming magazines picked up on the MacGyver-like device and interviewed both Adam and I multiple times. Over the course of those interviews, Adam from Evil Controllers and the AbleGamers staff formed a solid friendship. We then embarked on a new endeavor together: The creation of a controller that people with muscular dystrophy could use to build their own rig for gaming."

"It's very interesting how life works. That event was silly and pretty much meaningless. It was never meant to be anything great, but it snowballed from something that was almost done as a teaching experiment into the catalyst for something that is now used to help people who have not gamed in years.”

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On the Internet, it's easy to forget that not everyone is of the same gender, ethnicity, opinion, or state of physical health. More often than not, we take it for granted that things like the ability to navigate a controller or to distinguish between shapes on the screen are universal. They aren't. For some, the simple task of holding a mouse can be a heartbreaking impossibility.

President and co-founder Mark Barlet started the AbleGamers Foundation after facing one of these impossibilities. It all started with his best friend Stephanie Walker, her husband, and the love of gaming that they all shared. In 2004, things changed for them with the onset of Stephanie's multiple sclerosis.

"One Friday evening, like almost every Friday evening before, we logged onto Everquest II to have a night of grinding. About ten minutes passed. Stephanie and her husband had yet to log onto the Vent server. I picked up the phone and gave her a call." Barlet recounted, grimly. "Her husband answered and I could hear Stephanie crying in the background. Like any other friend, I started to panic and I asked what was going on. That evening, multiple sclerosis had made using her right hand impossible."

“After that night, we started looking for some other ways for her to game but we couldn't really finding anything useful for her needs. So, we thought that if we were looking for information, others must be as well."

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Fingle is an iPad game that is probably best described as "uncomfortably social," a "social" game in the truest sense of the word. Instead of demanding asynchronous, pseudo-intimacy over the Internet; this game asks its players to engage in something considerably more primal: Actual human contact.

A thumb thrusts against the interspace of your fingers. You close your palm across the back of another's knuckles, your digits wiggling through the gaps to make contact with cool glass of the iPad. There is no mistaking what the motions are alluding to. Nervous giggling entangle with the suggestive, 70's-style soundtrack. A telltale moan, one that leaves nothing to the imagination. You move to the next stage.

Developed by Game Oven, Fingle is kind of like Twister for the hands, except with moving boxes and cheesy 70's music that would make Austin Powers proud. It's a game that's probably inappropriate to play with an errant grandmother. (Unless, of course, you enjoy the idea of geriatric hanky-panky. We're not judging. Honest.)

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Mortal Kombat: Ed Boon Tells Us The Story Behind The Game

To the untrained eye, fighting games like Mortal Kombat and SoulCalibur can often seem like little more than a cacophony of exposed flesh, pyrotechnics, and incomprehensible catch phrases. According to professional Street Fighter player Arturo Sanchez, however, there's a science to all of eSport's redheaded stepchildren.

When we met up backstage at MLG Anaheim 2012, Sanchez, who is also now MLG's Fighting Game Director, was taking a break from the production line. In front of us, sharply dressed shout-casters were narrating every wince-inducing blow traded by the players in a Mortal Kombat match.

"It's ... a little different from Street Fighter, isn't it?" I said, clumsily, feeling every bit the fighting game neonate that I was.

That was what got the ball rolling. Within moments, we were discussing the little things that made up the games on the MLG Pro Circuit, the subtleties that help the experienced differentiate between an irrevocable loss and a possible comeback.

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IndieCade 2010 Finalists Announced

Positioned between the main halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Indiecade display was easily the best part of this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. Here, there were no winding queues, no luxuriously appointed media lounges, no icily smiling PR people to inform the curious that all interactions with the game or the developers were 'by appointment only'.

Here, people just played games.

And what games they were. Physical games that sought to push the usage of peripherals beyond the standards set by Microsoft or Sony stood juxtaposed with games that utilized more familiar mediums to tell unfamiliar stories. In between, there was everything else, from first-person horror to word puzzles to social interaction simulations set in the advent of a certain high school tradition.

Contrasting the rigid formalities of the main exhibit areas, the Indiecade showcase existed in a state of organized chaos. Developers indiscriminately engaged the public in conversation, their enthusiasm seemingly immune to the tedium of repeating themselves time and time again. Camera crews intermingled with non E3-goers. Eloquent volunteers moved one booth to another, readily and competently filling the spaces left by absent creators. Occasionally, there were even developers with games not on the official roster and people, both famous in the industry and not, who were simply there to meet other people.

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Screenside -- eSports: A History

What we see of eSport competitors doesn’t always reflect the reality behind the scenes.

Imagine this: a crowded show floor, lights, and cameras pinioned to your every movement. Tens of thousands of people riveted by each of your keystrokes. Your every kill arouses a cheer, your every death a chorus of disappointment. If you win this match, you and your team will go on to receive the kind of money normally reserved for those blessed with incredible business acumen or an inhuman grasp of general knowledge. Today, however, the prize goes to the men with the highest actions-per-minute.

For many, this is eSports: glamorous, lucrative and paved with afterparties.

Like the video game industry itself, eSports is growing. In Korea, professional gamers are idolized in a way the Western world usually reserves for football prodigies. Barcrafts - the practice of watching Starcraft II in tandem with the communal consumption of alcohol - are springing up everywhere in the world. TV channels dedicated to competitive video games are no longer an idle dream. Last year, Gamescom played host to the 'The International', a DotA 2 tournament that rewarded the triumphant team with a million USD.

But is the reality as alluring as we think it to be?

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Tags: eSports, Features

Every so often, we miss some of the great indie games coming out. With new games coming out on every system and often without any fanfair, the occassional hidden gem sneaks through our grasp, never to be seen again. (Or at least, that's my excuse.) Check out the top five indie games that you need to know about right now.

1. Qasir al-Wasat

I know. Stealth games are a dime a dozen these days and Solid Snake has been doing it since before it became fashionable. Nonetheless, there's something insidiously charming about Qasir al-Wasat.

A stealth action-adventure set within 'one ominous night inside a wondrous palace in 12th century Syria', Qasir al-Wasat will have players taking on the role of an invisible fiend, one that had been forcibly summoned by sorcerer to carry out an assassination attempt.

Unlike many other titles, Qasir al-Wasat doesn't put a limit on how long you can go invisible. It's a permanent thing. This, of course, has a lot to do with the fact that the protagonist is about as fragile as centuries-old china; one friendly nudge and you're dead. To further compound your health risks, you're susceptible to stuff like blood stains and environmental debris. People will take notice if you're careless enough to take a bath in someone else's bodily fluids or if you decide to dance the flamenco in a patch of dry leaves.

To be fair, I could be biased. I'm totally smitten with the aesthetics. In an industry saturated with voxels and big, blocky pixels of all sorts, it's kinda awesome to find yourself immersed in what feels like one of the darker chapters of Scheherazade's One Thousand and One Nights.

And really, what's there not to like about a game that will let you play as a nefarious spirit dragged from another dimension, hmm?

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Street Fighter IV

Ask the average gamer how Street Fighter correlates to poker and chances are, you're probably going to get a puzzled stare. Before I attended Seth Killian's lecture on game design in fighting games last year, I was certain that people like Hevad 'Rainkhan' Khan, who placed sixth in the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event, and online legend Randy 'Nanako' Lew were flukes. Now, I'm not so sure.

Earlier this month, I called up professional Street Fighter player Arturo Sanchez to ask him about the similarities between poker players and professional Street Fighter players. He told me that I would have to learn the game first. That's how I got here. It's 7'o clock in the morning and Arturo Sanchez, his voice nasally from a recent flu, is breaking down his after-hours match from Evo 2009 over Skype.

"We were doing it just for fun, but people decided to make bets." Arturo Sanchez is one of the rare few who can comment so flippantly on an encounter with Daigo Umehara, the current Guinness World holder for 'most successful player in major tournaments of Street Fighter'. As 'The Beast' of the competitive Street Fighter landscape appears on the screen, Sanchez grins. "I think $20, 000 USD or so exchanged hands that night."

"Street Fighter is about position and space control." Sanchez explains as he draws a line across two thirds of the screen, the characters frozen in place; Umehara is playing Ryu, Sanchez has Dhalsim."See this? This is Dhalsim's optimal range. This is my sweet spot. Daigo can't cross this line without being punished and he knows this."

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"[Expletive]. There's a chick on our team."

These words were uttered during a DotA 2 match last week, Valve's sequel to the world's favorite Warcraft III custom map. I play a lot, but that was first time I saw my opposition abandoning one of their own to the wolves. Within moments of that first remark, more followed. One dude asked if her sandwich-making skills were up to speed. Another proclaimed the presence of a woman was a portent of defeat.

dota 2

Amusingly enough, he did prove himself a competent prophet. His team was beaten soundly. But then again, they also spent far too much time asking us to commiserate, to join in on the jeering and the heckling. And though none of the malice was directed at me, it was an uncomfortable experience. Even if they were a tentacle-squid on Mars, you don’t sell out a comrade. It's just bad taste.

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