Saturday, January 31, 2015

Global Game Jam 2015

The Global Game Jam is an international event designed to encourage aspiring artists, coders and game designers to assemble and create a game within 48 hours. Having a playable build by the end of this event requires dedication, teamwork, communication, a little luck and a lot of caffeine.

This year I had two team mates: The experienced Unity coder, Dylan Bennett. And the inspired 2D artist, Stirling Hepburn. I went in to this jam brimming with the confidence of victory from last year, but I was quickly humbled by Dylan's proposed game mechanic and the challenge of the prompt. The prompt (or theme) exists both as a source of artistic inspiration and to provide continuity to the challenge.

The theme this year: "What do we do now?"

The event was organized by the Portland Indie Game Squad and hosted by The Art Institute of Portland

PIG Squad Founder Will Lewis

Dylan had informed me prior to the jam that he was interested in creating a game with events triggered by the soundtrack. As the sound-guy, this was an exciting and terrifying prospect. But it indeed became the core mechanic of the game.

The three of us discussed different ideas for the setting, style and story. We settled with an 'endless runner' genre game with a twist.

An unnamed robot protagonist seeks revenge against a mysterious and powerful unnamed antagonist. The game-play consists of 4 levels which are generated by 4 audio tracks. The levels end when the track is over, at which point our mysterious and powerful unnamed antagonist selects, at random, the next laborious obstacle course of doom to pit against our unnamed robot protagonist.

Each quadrant of our mysterious antagonist's screen was to represent a level

Once this framework was agreed upon, I departed the Art Institute of Portland en route to my home studio while the guys remained, hard at work.

Over 100 people participated in Portland's Global Game Jam this year

Communication was maintained via google hangout and we continued collaborating with assistance from Dropbox.
Shared Dropbox Folders

I began my contribution by creating 4 short tracks within a single project file. This technique helped maintain the timbre of each track. I wanted each track to sound similar, yet different.

I utilized FL Studio and several VST's, including Toxic Biohazard and Massive

Once I was satisfied with the tracks, I expanded upon them individually, saving each into their own distinct project file.

Using the first track as my template, each of the remaining became 1:38 in duration

While I was slaving away at audio stuff, I decided to have a little fun with Meg Turney on Twitter.

Eventually I made my way back to the Art Institute and basked in the glory of what my team had created.

Left to Right: Robot, Me, Dylan & Stirling
People checking out our game!

I'm very pleased with how our project turned out. There are a few missing sound effects and the sensitivity of the audio event triggering could be increased. But with some tweaks I believe it could become very addictive!

Give it a whirl: download and play the game! 

(Gamepad highly recommended)

More images from the Portland GGJ15 gathering.

Listen to the soundtrack:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Vector Space

Vector Space is cool little game created by OSU student, Jonathan Allard. The premise is to destroy enemy ships, salvage parts and use them to make your ship stronger. Sound fun? It is!

I was happy to provide two audio tracks for the game, having worked previously with Jonathan at the 2014 Global Game Jam.

The game is available to play now on gamejolt.

The soundtrack is available for listening or download below.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Notable Portland-Based Indie Games

I've been spending quite a bit of time with the Portland Indie Game Squad as of late (I'm also a proud supporter). This has given me the opportunity to collaborate with some very creative and inspired devs. In addition, I've learned of some note-worthy projects that I'd like to share with you!



Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake

Crash Cart


Mikey Boots

I can't wait to see even more indie game projects coming out of PDX!

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Kamma is a computer game that was created in 48 hours for the Global Game Jam. If you're unfamiliar with the event, click here!

This was my first Game Jam experience, and I must say; it was both fun and rewarding. Our team was formed at the event within minutes. A whole lot could have gone wrong, but luck was on our side!

The Team:

Sam Gentoku McCree - Writer, Project Manager
Jonathan Minnamon - Art
Merlin Benneth - Art
Jonathan Allard - Code
Scott Griffy - Code
Me (Ben Snortum) - Music, SFX

The game was created in Unity and we used Trello and Dropbox for collaboration. I ended up creating over 20 SFX and 3 audio tracks, but due time constraints, not all of them made it into the game. I may add some of them to my soundcloud page, so check it out!

The great teacher hands you a flower, you smile and a 1000 years of suffering falls away. Kamma is the Pali spelling of the word Karma. The purpose of the kamma is to teach you that your choices have a consequence beyond short term gain or loss. The game is just as much of an illusion as your own life. Your actions and progress are as empty as the zeros in binary code and yet the game is not without losses and gains. The only way to win is to let go and instead accept that winning is not possible. Only when you sit in silence and observe does a solution become clear.

Check out our game page!

We did it! :)
People checking out our game at the Art Institute of Portland

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Two Hidden Gems From PAX 2013

This year's PAX Prime was just like every other: Better than all the rest. And I had my share of great experiences like hanging out with Vlambeer, chatting with Tommy Refenes, and spotting some killer cosplay. But the coolest part of this gathering is what you find buried just below the surface.

Lilly: Looking Through

On Friday, while showing my family the tucked-away PC freeplay section, we were fortunate to bump into Daran Chapman of Geeta Games. He took us to the humble Lilly booth, where we were introduced to two other developers, Steve & Jessica Hoogendyk. Now I get a kick out of talking to indie developers, but I can honestly say that these are some of the nicest people I've met. Which made me really want to like their game...

My 6 Year Old Son Playing "Lilly"
Turns out, the game is fantastic. The quality of the visuals were impressive and I learned later (when viewing the trailer) that the soundtrack is equally as good. But what's really neat about "Lilly" is how it's designed form the ground-up to be played with your children.

My son and I already play a lot of point-and-click adventure games together, but a lot of the time I'm in the driver's seat. The puzzles in Lilly are perfectly suited for keeping your kid at the helm and then joining in when they become too challenging. That's not to say you have to be a parent to play, though! Have a look for yourself:


On the final day of PAX the Indie Mega Booth was clearing out when Chris Mansell pulled out the latest build of a game he's been working on for two months. It wasn't clear to me whether he was really even a legitimate exhibitor at the show as evidenced by his highly polished contact card:

But what was astoundingly polished was the most recent build of Omina. And as I conversed with Chris (While admiring his charming British accent) it became clear to me that this game is something incredibly special.

Omina was inspired by side-scrolling games of the 16-bit era like Super Metroid, but due to the awe-inspiring artwork, animation and attention to detail; I found it to be reminiscent of games like Metal Slug, Black Thorne and Another World.

Omina Title Screen

Omina in-Game
Chris is a very humble and like-able guy. This may be, in part, due to the fact that he has yet to be discovered as an indie developer (At the time of writing this, he has 9 followers on twitter). And while my description and screenshots may not seem like much-- You'll see... You'll see.

Monday, June 10, 2013

When It's Ready

As a gamer, I've noticed an unsettling trend as of late... Some developers have adopted [what I consider to be] a derisive approach to avoiding failed deadlines. I'm talking about having the launch date of: "When it's ready."
From EA's Mirror's Edge Trailer at E3 2013
Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer
Guild Wars 2 Developer Interview

Before I go any further; I get it. Fan-Gamers are some of the most difficult people on the planet to please. They're usually brash and demanding. And it doesn't help that their minds are spoken via social media and other impersonal methods. (Such as a blog post ;)

But if your job is selling video games, being snide to your customer base may not be the best approach to addressing launch date challenges. Yes, your fans are ruthless. So what do you do?

I say don't say anything.

That's right. When I ask you when your game is coming out and you answer "I'm sorry but I can't talk about it." it does two things:

1) It adds a layer of mystery to your product, increasing my anticipation.
2) It removes any anticipated deadline from my brain.

And this is exactly why I'm under the impression that Half Life 3 will be the best game of all time.