Audiosurf: musical rollercoaster of the PAX 10

By Jeriaska . August 30, 2008 . 2:06am

The PAX 10 is a selection of independent games recognized by the organizers of the Penny Arcade Expo.  Among them this year is Audiosurf, the first game to use Steamworks, a free development suite based on Valve's game design technology.  The PC title allows players to participate in rhythm-action gameplay to the beat of the songs on their hard drive.  


Dylan Fitterer is the creator of Audiosurf, which he says was based on the idea of recognizing the mood of a song and building gameplay to match its characteristics.  "If you are going to play a calm song," he says, "you don't want intense gameplay, so that's not what it gives you."  Nor is it necessarily the same experience every time around the same song, as there are twelve playable characters total, broken out into different difficulty leagues. 


Each character in the game has a different ability, which helps them to make the color matches that build points.  Some of the characters are more suited to a slower song.  Pointman allows you to grab a block and store it until later, so you can drop it in a different location.  "That ends up being great in a slow song, because your choices are limited," the designer says.  Colored blocks are cleared when three or more are grabbed and lined in a row, while the player navigates around gray barriers on a black backdrop.  The easier courses have a plain white background, because it was found during the testing of the game that novice players responded better to the less intense color scheme.




Fitterer has been approaching smaller music labels to find selections for Audiosurf Radio, a way for the community of players familiar with the game to compare each other's scores on set tracks.  The game designer has found that musians are often willing to provide their work without pay to get the exposure.  He has been reaching out to artists who have not been widely heard and want to have their music better known by being included on a videogame soundtrack. 


Audiosurf Overture by Pedro Camacho was the first of these included songs. It appears at the top of the Audiosurf Radio page and is where many beginners start off.  The designer and musician were able to see eye to eye about what audio worked best with the game mechanics, and the song was custom made to introduce players to the gameplay.  What music has been the most successful at being introduced to the game engine?  "For Audiosurf Radio, I do learn toward more intense songs," the designer says.  "That is because it is a focal point for competition in the Audiosurf community."




"One thing about the community is that they're really good!" Fitterer says.  "I have a heck of a time getting on the top ten anymore, which is a really good feeling."   He will be talking tomorrow at the PAX 10 panel about the creation of the game and its innovative use of personalized content.  Audiosurf is for the PC and is available now at and Steam.




Images courtesy of Steam.

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