Higher Eclectic Ground proudly welcomes Alfredo Sirica to its roster of professional, freelance video game music talent; based within the Italian town of Orvieto, Sirica will now be seen offering his now three-year expertise in the composition & orchestration of high-quality, classical soundtracks towards the development of independent games via the Network.
Having broken into the freelance scene circa 2013, his work record so far is one that constitutes the soundtracks of short-films Wither, Paint Your Life Away and The Bookkeeper, full-feature film Porches & Private Eyes, as well as the student game project of Project Hourglass and Cowcat Games’ point n’ click tale Demetrios: The Big Cynical Adventure.
This expertise comes rooted in the use of a blend of traditional instruments and high-end synthesizers, with the former often recorded live against a professional setting in the midst of hired talent.
Indeed, depending on a project’s scope and budget, Sirica goes so far as to include, hire and conduct an entire orchestra of professional performers for purposes of crafting an assigned soundtrack.
‘While my requested rates depend on the project, its genre, how much promotion a game is going to get, its potential and the available budget, I am very open to negotiation,’ he states.
‘The client is free to choose when to pay me for my services, as long as the agreement is set through a written contract. I am also open to sharing the final revenue, as long I see potential in the project.’
Naturally, his modus operandi thereafter provides ample room for creative discussion and period of brainstorming; once the base flavour of his client’s required musical style is established and agreed upon after an extended study of their game’s various media, work on the rest of the assigned roster of music continues on a per-track basis with the musician developing relevant handwritten/printed notations, recording them live or via high-end synthesizers, before shipping them to his employers in an orderly fashion.
This work ethic of Sirica’s stands influenced by a childhood immersed in music; having begun taking piano lessons at the tender age of nine, the Italian was quick to recognise his thirst for expanded creativity.
‘I felt restricted by having to play tracks that weren’t mine at the time, which I considered a process that was slowly destroying my creativity’, he recalls. ‘I felt the urge to play something new, something that sounded fresh and that would make my performances sound unique.’
Nevertheless a large part of this yearning would express itself in his stint as an actor — studying theatre for seven years, performing in plays with several diverse companies and even appearing on local television during the time — while subsequently functioning as an Italian/English translator on numerous online comics and Hammerfall Publishing’s strategy game, Warhammer 40K: Regicide.
Before long, his intense, two-year study of professional orchestration & composition under the wing of an experienced Russian professor had commenced in 2009, taking him all the way to Oberammergau, Germany.
‘The studies were always freelance,’ he adds. ‘I followed the same routine in Italy as well — I continued studying after returning and still am — caring more about preparation than certification. I believe there is always something new you can learn, so I constantly try and reach out to people who are more experienced than me.’
Thereafter Sirica would find himself competing with various other freelancers over online job openings, leading several of the aforementioned film & game soundtracks to fruition. ‘Since then, I’ve been constantly contacted by artists who ask me to bring my music to their projects. I couldn’t be happier to have finally reached my dream job.’ This is of course besides performing at various concerts in Italy, introducing podcasts featuring popular Italian writers à la Corrado Augias and composing musical themes for the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano, usually referred to in English as the Italian National Trust, created to nurture and protect Italy’s cultural heritage.)
‘I’m currently intensely working on Cartoonable, which has now changed its name to “Lampadino e Caramella”.’ he announces.
‘It’s an Italian TV cartoon that is the first of its kind, directed at autistic, deaf and blind kids, and which has been made possible through crowdfunding. It’s hence supposed to be carefully crafted both in terms of audio and visuals, and will release by Q1 2017′
This is be followed by Running Wild Film’s Bride of Violence, a horror flick that begins production in January, 2017 with Sirica working on its soundtrack soon after, along with the demo release of upcoming point n’ click adventure Happiless that has him tied to the project as its official soundtrack composer.
As is the custom here at Higher Eclectic Ground, much of his forthcoming, current and prior professional work will now be documented on Alfredo Sirica’s newly created Higher Eclectic Space —
which besides serving as his online portfolio and the go-to resource for all professional information pertinent to his services henceforth — has already begun showcasing his work on what recently became his first feature film project, Porches & Private Eyes.
To collaborate with Alfredo Sirica on your own projects, simply leave him a comment here, at the aforementioned Space, or by leaving the team an e-mail using our contact form.
From Ummagumma Games comes Abadon: Guardians Rise; a 2D platformed, roguelite ode to classic split-screen, couch co-op based entertainment scheduled for a 2018 release. With features such as that of uniquely customizable characters and dynamically structured levels, vicious enemy design, co-operative game play and a demanding narrative comprised of multiple play-through’s, Guardians Rise will not only be the two-man development team’s fourth title release, but also its first major venture into the PC gaming industry.
When an unprecedented, targeted assault on Planet Abadon leaves its seemingly Utopian feature in shambles, Abadon: Guardians Rise will have players take control of the Vanguardians — the Planet’s legendary, now almost decimated task force — in a retro-themed, action-packed rush to recover it from the clutches of alien originated violence.
As these Guardians rush to neutralise the enemy and salvage the missing remnants of their task force, a larger conspiracy unravels; one inclusive of branching timelines, parallel universes, suspense and an overarching theme of vengeance that will have players coursing through Abadon: Guardian’s Rise several times.
A large part of this rush will include the mobilisation and dispatch of playable Vanguardians from Aegis, the task force’s space HUB inclusive of a partly functional AI and an unstable mechanic, to various regions of the World Map.
Therein civilians must be rescued, enemies pulverised and an assortment of other objectives completed in order to minimize a region’s Threat Level and urge the narrative forward. Playable characters from the Vanguardian squad meanwhile arrive with their own set of attacks, insanely stackable upgrades and a steep learning curve, that players will be able to make use of across single-player or 4-player local/online co-operative modes.
Successfully taking down the variety — often mobs — of enemies the extra-terrestrial invasion has to offer, further facilitates the repair and modification of Aegis, as well as the purchase of character-specific upgrades.
Although these upgrades might persist through multiple play-through’s, level settings, navigation and correspondent enemy behaviour will be dynamically altered with each iteration of the narrative, calling for multiple play-styles and experiences throughout.
Following its inception in October, 2015, Abadon: Guardians of the Rise is currently having its various characters, levels and populating assets developed.
The team is currently aiming for a release of the game’s Vertical Slice — demonstrative of its base mechanics, a fraction of its character and level roster — by Q1 2017, with the intent of garnering crucial player feedback therefrom towards future development.
‘Abadon: Guardians Rise represents Ummagumma Games’ most ambitious effort yet,’ states Ummagumma co-founder and Lead Designer/Programmer Scott Bowser. ‘We had previously focused on smaller mobile games, just to get a portfolio started. We really wanted to wait until we had a few releases before jumping into a larger, more full game on PC or Console.’
Through the course of this journey, Bowser will primarily be flanked and aided by Lead Artist/Illustrator Andrew Restrepo Ganzales.
Ganzales’ relationship with the former dates back to You Can’t Escape, a 2D platformed runner originally created by Bowser and then programming partner Nuno Nunes under the banner of Out Of The Box Entertainment in the early months of 2014, that had Ganzales play the role of freelance artist.
The duo would then go on to form the Ummagumma Games banner, relaunch You Can’t Escape, develop and release Godsmash Armageddon over winter, the same year, before commencing development on their third mobile arcade title Soul Samurai.
With the same due for a release soon, Abadon: Guardian’s Rise will mark Ummagumma’s fourth collaborative venture and first PC-directed release, with a potential Xbox One launch being considered as well.
‘Soul Samurai is only a few hours of development from being our 3rd finished mobile release,’ Bowser continues. ‘We just don’t enjoy the casual mobile industry as much however. It feels too saturated with the same money grabbing techniques, and anything that falls of that formula isn’t going to be noticed. ‘
Inspirations for the 2D Roguelite spin of Abadon: Guardian’s Rise emerge from Bowser’s own fascination for local co-operative games.
‘My favorite games have always been the local co-op ones, where I could sit on the couch with a few friends and get lost in a campaign,’ he writes. ‘I’d been playing a lot of those before work on Abadon began in 2015 and was quickly running out of options.’
Much brainstorming and the piling together of various mechanics later, Abadon finally commenced developed in the month of October, the same year, under the temporary moniker of Terra-Force.
It was also around the same time that a relationship was developed between the team and Higher Eclectic Ground, with the latter aiding in social media/PR coverage therefrom.
Drawing inspiration from various Roguelike/Roguelike classics in the vein of Rogue Legacy, Risk of Rain and Nuclear Throne, the months thereafter witnessed the development of several of the game’s core game-play mechanics pertinent to Aegis, character upgrades, the World Map, base enemy classes and other underlying fundamentals. Much of this progress still stands documented on the game’s Higher Eclectic Space.
The team then proceeded into a short hiatus from the public eye over the summer of 2016, wherein several aspects of Terra-Force’s existing design, concept and future progress were evaluated, before now resurfacing with the newly finalised name of Abadon: Guardians Rise, its first teaser, an upcoming development blog and more.
A collaboration has further been established between the Bowser-Ganzaels duo and Van Reeves; a Philippines based freelance musician affiliated to Higher Eclectic’s own network of independent game talent, Reeves is currently providing his cinematic, ambient and heavy-metal infused Synthwave sensibilities towards furnishing the preliminary soundtrack and audio base of Abadon: Guardian’s Rise’s upcoming vertical slice.
While his working title track for the game can be heard within its above teaser, attached herein is a preview of the theme backing the platformer’s City level in its daytime version. ‘Abadon’s title theme is all energy with hints of arcade-like sounds,’ explains Van.
‘The Day time track heard here however is more of a dance track by design; faster tempo, pronounced synth work and prominent drum elements.’ More of Reeves’ work on the game will continue to be showcased as development progresses.
Video game background musician, sound designer and member to Higher Eclectic Ground’s network of independent game talent, Caleb Cuzner, is now one of five global musicians that have contributed to the Rhythmic Bullet Hell of Bubble Head Games’ upcoming Action Music game Beats of Fury.
Cuzner adds to a 13-track OST spanning the Electronic, Trap, House, EDM, Dubstep, Post-Rock, and Metal by means of Rock The Rooftops — a three-minute composition of the Heavy Metal genre that will constitute a singular level of the Rhythm Game – Bullet Hell blend.
Due for an early 2017 release, Beats of Fury is the tale of two brothers — Rock & Electronic — confronting the forces of evil musical beats over 13 levels of melodic chaos.
Each of these combine the Rhythmic genre of games with that of the Top Down shooter, tasking players to synchronise their Mouse, Keyboard or Xbox Controller assigned triggers to the barrage of enemy notes that continually fall within predetermined target areas.
Doing so successfully keeps a level’s designated electronic/rock tune going, hence challenging players to make full use of their musical sensitivities and trigger-happy tendencies in creation of what developers Bubble Head are calling the rave of the independent game scene.
This will come supplemented with local, co-operative plus online multiplayer, alongside an Endless Mode that has players compete with the rest of the world in establishing their highest in-level scores across a global leader-board.
At the core of this experience of course is an original soundtrack comprising 13 diverse musical tracks, each of which corresponds to a set level of the game. Higher Eclectic Ground’s introduction of Caleb Cuzner’s prolific portfolio of musical work to the development team as they sought a Rock-based composition earlier this year, was quick to materialise into Rock the Rooftops.
Beats of Fury was Greenlit by the Steam Community on the 20th of October, 2016, barely ten days since its posting on Valve’s popular platform.
It has also previously garnered awards in the form of Casual Connect Europe ’16’s Best Audio Game and the Audience Choice Award at Egypt’s Run Double Jump ’16.
‘We wanted to add another dimension to how you experience music, and that’s why we are making Beats Of Fury. Thank you to everyone that has supported us so far! This is only the beginning!’ state the three-man, internationally based development team spearheaded by Egyptian Aly Ameen.
‘It was a pleasure for us to work with Caleb Cuzner, he could not only deliver all the samples that we needed on time — but also our specific needs for the track. We needed the Rock tune to possess certain features to fill a specific point in the hierarchy of the level design of the game, while also being affordable for us as a team of indie game developers.’
The collaboration with Bubble Head Games is the first Higher Eclectic Ground has helped effect for its member Caleb Cuzner, a United States based freelance audio artist that has to his name well over 900 compositions written for games, film and live performances since 2007.
A vast majority of this has been coordinated via the Game Maker Community forums through the years, wherein he often operates under the moniker of Nijg, all while studying music composition at Brigham Young University, Utah.
Complementing this experience is an eloquence in a wide variety of musical genres, that he renders available to independent developers of games both commercial and non-commercial in scope.
He does so either by crafting individual tunes pertinent to the requests he receive, or by directing them towards his self-maintained library of royalty-free music.
While more on his modus operandi, his musical prowess and services continue to be recorded on his Higher Eclectic Space, a closer look at Beats of Fury and all development progress henceforth may be kept track of via Bubble Head Games’ official website.
In the mere 72 hours since its launch on Steam Early Access, the Imagos Softworks and Pixeljam co-developed roguelike shoot ’em up Starr Mazer: DSP has managed to garner for itself a wholly positive response from nearly over 40 recorded user reviews and counting. While parallels drawn to classic SHMUP’s of old à la Gradius, R-Type and Nemesis continue to be prevalent, a large part of this acclaim stands directed towards DSP’s Art and Musical genius.
‘We are absolutely ecstatic about releasing Starr Mazer: DSP,’ the team writes. ‘We’ve worked really hard to create a polished first act for SHMUP players to sink their teeth into.’
‘Seeing the positive reception on Twitter and on Steam has all of us hyped up and excited to continue working on DSP. We look forward to hearing feedback from fans so we can build the best possible roguelike shoot’em up we can!’
A prequel to Imagos’ Kickstarter funded, 2017 scheduled point n’click-shoot ’em up blend of an adventure titled Starr Mazer, DSP entered Steam’s community-guided development model at midnight, the 25th of August, with a promotional price of $8.99 out of its standard $9.99 tag that currently lasts until the 1st of September.
In very retro side-scrolling action it follows the events of THE GREAT WAR — a near eternal battle between the inhabitants of planet Thearsa CP-IX and the alien forces of the G’ell that ultimately establishes the tone and course of events that are to transpire within Starr Mazer.
En route, players are tasked with commanding a fleet of DSP Mk. I pilots that span humans, aliens and a dog over three Acts of bullet-packed, chiptune ridden levels that culminate in a showdown against the G’ell super-ship The Adamastor.
Given the game’s fascination for roguelike elements through it all though, the traditional lives/continue system of classic shooters is done away with to have players rely on soaring through the adventure in a singular play-through.
This is enabled by hoarding in-game currency called SK:Ore, that one must use to handpick a progressively advanced team of distinctly characterised pilots over multiple attempts.
While this escapade is meant to last an entirety of nine levels however, DSP’s Early Access arrives with only levels 1-3 of Act I fully furnished. Levels 4-6 of Act II do unlock there after, yet these are but rough previews of their final counterparts.
‘We have a very specific plan of what we want to do in the game that we will stick to’, addresses Kazuo Mayeda, Imagos’ community manager in relation to DSP’s Early Access development course.
‘We are taking player feedback into consideration though and will be making changes along the way with them in mind.’ PixelJam Games’ Steam announcement over the weekend further went on to affirm the same, with the developers promising to commence bug-fixing through the course of Monday, the 29th.
The best place to leave any and all game-play related feedback then is the game’s own Steam-based forums.
Moreover console and mobile releases for Starr Mazer: DSP — originally announced during the official declaration of Imagos’ partnership with publisher Playism — are still very much in the developers’ domain of interest;
although Mayeda states that it is a subject for after the roguelike SHMUP is fully past its current Windows, Mac & Linux supported Early Access stage.
Conceived as a passing feature for a scene in creator Don Thacker’s 2013 creative feature film, Motivational Growth, and successfully Kickstarted on 21st February, 2015, Starr Mazer is an upcoming retro-modern fusion of the Point N’ Click and Shoot ‘Em Up genres that was originally due for a summer release this year.
Featuring modern game-play brainwaves such as the unpredictability of narrative unfolding and sophisticated role playing elements, the tale of a DSP Mk. II pilot — that wakes up amid an intense bout of amnesia in the aftermath of the galactic GREAT WAR and sets out to unravel the mysteries of his universe — was postponed when the fleshing out of the team’s self-developed content creation tool Mazer Maker consumed more time than was originally estimated.
In order to fill the void while also preparing players for the lore and SHMUP barrage that was to eventually hit them with Starr Mazer’s release, Starr Mazer: DSP was announced last Winter as a collaborative PC/Mac/Linux/Mobile venture with indie game developers PixelJam games.
Notably, those who helped back the original game on Kickstarter are being provided with a 50% discount on Starr Mazer: DSP via this rather explanatory coupon retrieval form.
‘Next up is PAX West, PAX Six and the Tokyo Game Show. All in September,’ Imagos’ calendar now reads. As always, returning fans and those entirely new to the Starr Mazer universe can catch up and tune in to progress via its Higher Eclectic Space.
Independent specialist of two-dimensional game assets and member of the Higher Eclectic network since February this year, Paul Evans, has joined hands with developers Secret Reality to aid in the production of their upcoming mod of Electronic Arts’ 2007 real-time strategy game Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.
Titled Tiberium Secrets, the mod will see Evans playing the role of a Texture Artist within its team here from as he works towards the creation and manipulation of texture assets for various 3D models that are to populate its universe. The collaboration was initiated by Higher Eclectic Ground back in the month of June, when the network responded to Secret Reality’s job opening by introducing to it Evans’ portfolio of work.
The weeks thereafter involved an evaluation of his quality of style and compatibility by corresponding representatives, following which an agreement was finally signed between both parties last month.
‘I’m hoping to gain significant experience of how mods and games are put together,’ he states. ‘I will be thoroughly pleased when I finally see my textures come to life on a model within Tiberium Secrets.’
The Command & Conquer franchise was first conceived by Westwood Studios’ genre-defining real-time strategy game of the same name in the year of 1995.
Unfolding against a backdrop of resource gathering and base building, the saga centred itself on a global war between two playable international entities — the United Nations’ Global Defense Initiative and the militants of The Brotherhood of Nod — that witnessed them contend for control over a viral extra-terrestrial substance called Tiberium.
Greeted with widespread acclaim, the PC, PlayStation, N64 and Sega Saturn compatible game would quickly proliferate into a decade’s worth of game-based universes, their constituting sequels, prequels, spin-offs — among which has even been a first-person shooter — much after Electronic Arts’ acquisition of the Las Vegas, USA based studio in 1998.
This culminated in Victory Games’ first proposed instalment of what would have been a series of free-to-play games set within the Command & Conquer universe that only ended up being cancelled by Electronic Arts in the fall of 2013, causing the saga to descend into an as of yet unannounced future as a result.
And yet regardless it has continued to thrive by means of the vast array of community initiated modifications to its existing instalments, which Secret Reality now aims to add to by means of Tiberium Secrets.
Based within the Tiberium universe — the series of Command & Conquer games that constitute the plot established by the original — Tiberium Secrets is an ongoing partial conversion of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars that attempts to create a parallel universe of lore, structure and game-play mechanics that will stand in conjunction, if not independent from that of the main game.
While Tiberium Wars dealt with the warring factions of the Global Defense Initiative, The Brotherhood of Nod and the extra-terrestrials of Scrin, Tiberium Secrets brings to the forefront a biological experiment of infectious beings known as The Colony,
artificial intelligence set on global dominance in the form of The Artificial Systematic Intelligence (ASI) and remnants of a shadowy division of the United States military called the Special Strategic Lunar Division (Dream 51).
With their inspirations lying in the cancelled Tiberium projects of Electronic Arts & Westwood Studios, each of these playable factions will also arrive supplemented with unique play-styles, new story-lines and aesthetics that strive to push the limits of both the game’s engine and its existing canon. It would be natural to assume then that the mod’s development team is composed of enthusiasts inherently reverent towards the franchise.
As Secret Reality divulge though this is not entirely the case — ‘Two-thirds of our team have consistently been made up of those who are new to, or who are returning to the franchise after some time’, they state.
‘Yet although the motivations of our individual members naturally vary, with most doing this for their respective portfolios, the core leadership strives to pose a possible future for the Tiberium universe, and potentially the franchise as a whole, which has had limited official support from Electronic Arts for some time.’
‘We strive for quality across the board, to honor this franchise that revolutionised and started the genre of Real time Strategy (RTS). We do this to show just how far passion projects can go, and how innovation can come from unexpected places.’
The team further differentiates itself from other Command & Conquer mods by emphasising its focus on designs and perspectives that are futuristic to the canon as opposed to being nostalgia driven.
Tiberium Secrets commenced development circa September 2010 at the hands of Seth Brown (ModDB persona Umbrella Secrets) who independently helmed the project’s coding and art departments up until the Summer of 2011. Joined by community veterans Eric Chou (GeneralJist) and Matt Ross (Fandore) that took the lead on administration and Art respectively thereafter, Brown would go onto develop plans and core structures for each of the new playable factions before departing from the project due to personal concerns by 2012.
Progress would stay at a tentative low for an astounding two years, before Chou would go on to recruit John Netzel (CommieDog) as the project’s Lead Coder in the month of November, 2014;
Given his experience working on successful Command & Conquer mods The Forgotten and All Stars previously, Netzel proved fundamental in restoring Tiberium Wars to full pace alongside Tim Cerny (CCH Audio) taking over Audio controls.
With Chou playing project coordinator/ producer, PR Lead and Lead Writer all at once while Ross functioned as Creative Director, work on the Artificial Systematic Intelligence faction’s SFX, animations, soundtrack and infantry has taken priority ever since, with help drawn from various independent professionals both within and outside the Command & Conquer community periodically.
Also noteworthy is the fact that feedback from said community continues to stay rampant; having garnered over 360,000 views, a standing of 121 among over 27,000 projects within 2015’s Mod of the Year awards and a regular ranking among the top with every progress update.
‘We are currently at the threshold for Closed Alpha’, the team now evaluates. ‘Our plans were to run through the phases of Closed Alpha in these coming months, and to be ready for open Alpha in time for mod of the year 2016, which typically begins in the end of November.’
‘Delays however are anticipated due to historic flooding in the state of Louisiana, where Mr. Ross resides. Threat assessment is in progress.’ Tiberium Secrets’ first release will consist of all functioning Artificial Systematic Intelligence structures, defences, SFX, soundtrack, along with the corresponding first portion of its written and audio canon for the parallel timeline.
The collaboration with Secret Reality is the first Higher Eclectic Ground has helped effect for its member Paul Evans, a Tipton, United Kingdom based artist with over four years of experience in varietal material and 2D texture creations.
Independently operating under the moniker of CraftyTextures and currently employed as a 2D artist at MACH 2 Simulations, Evans’ work process has concurrently been in the midst of a metamorphosis over the past couple of months —
— as he gradually transitions from a once predominantly Adobe Photoshop based approach to using Allegorithmic’s Substance Designer in his pursuit of realistic textures.
While the results of this along with all portfolio-relevant details continue to be documented on his Higher Eclectic Space, Evans’ forthcoming contributions to Tiberium Secrets and the mod’s overall progress per se can be kept track of by means of its ModDB page.
Details pertaining to various other openings currently available on the Secret Reality team are also present within the same.