Audiosurf: Now With More Science

By Alec Meer on February 26th, 2008 at 4:39 pm.

There are plenty of plausible reasons to criticise Audiosurf. Unfortunately I’m almost entirely oblivious to them, as it’s doing such a wonderful job of fulfilling a very important purpose in my life – giving me a reason to do nothing other than listen to music while still feeling like I’m achieving something. I suspect I’d still be spending too long staring vacantly at iTunes visualisations if I didn’t own Audiosurf. It’s made me a better man.

Part of its charm is the never-know-what-you’re-gonna-get-next element. You’ll pick a song with a fair idea of whether it’s suitable, but often enough it’ll surprise- presenting a track that’s more elegantly undulated than expected, or instead a jerky, sick-making mess (I’d strongly advise against trying The Specials). Evan Merz, though, has gone beyond the guesstimation the rest of us use, paintstakingly creating midi music designed to specifically provoke certain track shapes and effects in the game.

“Each mp3 generates a specific, unique experience,” he tells us.”One is a lazy uphill ride, another is entirely downhill, and some are even more specifically designed.”

The special tracks, forming a suite eminently enjoyable in its own right, can be downloaded from here, where you’ll also find graphs detailing the kind of experience you’re in for. I’ve tried out Midnight, a rush of unblinking downhill adrenaline, and as well as being an absolute brute of a track, there’s definitely a sense of the road shape being in far closer accord with the music than most of the shit I throw at Audiosurf.

I’m oddly reticent to experiment further with Evan’s tracks, for fear it’ll be a bit like when I found out there was a bloke inside R2D2 – I like not knowing what it is that makes Wuthering Heights twist to the right so beautifully at the second chorus. If I know why, the magic will fade. I do believe in fairies, I do , I do!

The Audiosurf team clearly don’t, however, as Evan reveals they’re considering bundling his tracks with the game. Congratulations, sir.

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30 Comments »

  1. terry says:

    Jesus, the Specials was exactly what I was thinking of – never has “Ghost Town” been more unbearable. Oddly fast paced trance or techno more often than not provide an easier ride.

    Unless you have high mouse sensitivity I would discourage any use of breakbeat.

  2. James T says:

    Cute… but when it comes to a downhill slalom run, you can’t beat Miss Freelove ’69!

  3. stonedben says:

    The Outer Banks by The Album Leaf is pretty much a perfect curve with the peak at the song’s half way point. It’s almost like it was made for the game.

  4. Stew says:

    Beware Audiosurf if you’ve ever tried psychedelics.

    I had a bad trip three years ago, for which the soundtrack was The Holy Bible (yeah, I’m a Manics fan). While I’m normally fine listening to the album, running down the track of Archives of Pain sent me right fuckin’ back there.

    It’s a fantastic game (and I’m the only one to have raced Where’s Me Jumper?), but it’s… powerful.

  5. ReturnToNull says:

    These are… wow. Just wow.

    Going from my experience with Midnight. I expected it to be this horrible artificially created murder beast of a track, but what I got was a meticulously well crafted track instead. It’s difficult, but at no point is it just blatently unfair to the player. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s encountered the solid wall of gray making stealth impossible without mono pro’s jump)

    I am very impressed, and hope to see more.

  6. yxxxx says:

    Looks like im going to lose even more hours of my life to this game :’(

    Oh well

  7. James T says:

    (I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s encountered the solid wall of gray making stealth impossible without mono pro’s jump)

    If you don’t have jump, you must be on Mono regular, in which case, shouldn’t you just veer over onto the shoulder?

    (Of course, your jump could just be charging, buuuut whatever, I only play on Mono…)

  8. Turin Turambar says:

    Or Elite, Ninja Mono, the only true way to play Mono. You don’t have jump there.

  9. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    I want to play this to some bioengineering lectures…

    Suddenly, studying became so much more fun.

  10. As I Lay Me Down says:

    The idea is nice but I don’t really like the music. Still a great start, I am looking forward to seeing more tracks specifically composed for Audiosurf.
    (Oh, and I don’t think this is “taking away the magic” since I don’t feel like I can actually determine why anything happens with these songs.)

  11. Ryan says:

    I was wondering how long it would take for someone to make music specially for Audiosurf- nice to hear it’s done well.

    As for certain genres of music being especially well- or poorly-suited to Audiosurf, dubstep or slower UK garage music is…interesting. One of the things I find interesting about Audiosurf is how changes in tempo affect the speed at which your ship moves down the track, not just the spacing of the track objects or whatever. Try something like the Various Production remix of Thom Yorke to see how this can screw with you- it’s not particularly hard, but the jerky fast-slow-fast pace makes for an interesting experience, and one where it really helps to know the song in advance or be able to predict where the drums are going.

  12. Captain Bland says:

    “I had a bad trip three years ago, for which the soundtrack was The Holy Bible (yeah, I’m a Manics fan). While I’m normally fine listening to the album, running down the track of Archives of Pain sent me right fuckin’ back there.”

    Jesus Christ. That is such a bad idea.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Ryan: The quick/slow stuff is what I loved when I lobbed some Dizzee on.

    KG

  14. Arathain says:

    Seriously, is there an album more likely to cause a bad trip?

  15. Stew says:

    I feel I should clarify. At the time, The Holy Bible was playing in my mind as an effect of the altered state. I’m not dumb enough to mix any chemicals with that level of weaponised musical evil save the ones necessary for life.

    My many vividly-remembered good trips didn’t have a soundtrack as such. I listened to my brother typing, his keyboard singing alien insect love songs. Until someone gives me an MP3 of minimalist tonal clicking, further experiments with Audiosurf and flashbacks may have to be reasonably far apart just for my sanity.

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    I used to talk about talking someone into doing a Playing Shock 2 on various hallucinogen articles.

    But – y’know – no.

    KG

  17. Mario Granger says:

    Also, the Intro Stage music from Mega Man X is an absolutely brutal downhill rush for some reason, besides being an excellent song.

  18. nabeel says:

    That must a very very short rush.
    nabeel

  19. Ogawa says:

    The only problem with Audiosurf is the phantom Audiosurf that plays on my eyelids whenever I’m laying down with my eyes closed listening to music.

    Aphex Twin makes for some good tracks.

  20. Cigol says:

    Phantom Audiosurf, it’s actually a real problem I’m having… Jack Thompson might be onto something you know.

  21. Etho says:

    I tried to play Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls, by Godspeed You Black Emperor. The song is about 20 minutes long. It took a while to load, then when it started, my car-thing just sat there. The song played, but I didn’t move. Which is sad, because I think the song would make for an epic ride.

    Anyone else have weird results with longer-than-average songs?

  22. po says:

    I can feel happy knowing that I will be number one for almost every track I play. I boycot the music industry completely, and get all my music from netlabels.org. Can’t get better than free and legal (and screwing the system too, even if it’s just a little bit).

  23. Satsuz says:

    @ Ogawa & Cigol: I think you’ve been experiencing the Tetris Effect. Nothing much to worry about with things that are more complex visually and less repetitive. Though that distinction wouldn’t stop JT.

    All of my favorite songs to surf so far have been Clapton stuff. Layla, Bell Bottom Blues, and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door are all great. Though I should note that I don’t really have a diverse collection.

  24. Nick says:

    “I used to talk about talking someone into doing a Playing Shock 2 on various hallucinogen articles.

    But – y’know – no.”

    Then load a save file just before “The Many” flyover part?

  25. Morningoil says:

    The longest I’ve tried is Dogs by Pink Floyd (the hardest bit being to maintain concentration on mono during long slow instrumental sections, iirc) but that’s less than 20 minutes, so maybe that’s it?

    Must try some Godspeed, though, now you come to mention it.

    Sigur Ros tracks are often excellent, several minutes of slow burn followed by a crazy ending (and bootyful music, of course).

    Props also to the whole dubstep thing – the stop/start thing is fun! Playing Archangel off of Untrue gave me a whole new appreciation for the track :)

  26. Mark says:

    My fave track so far has been King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man. Lots of great changes of pace, and some lovely stop/start moments. Highly recommended. Will definitely give these tracks a go.

  27. Champagne O'Leary says:

    I was wondering what you were talking about in Wuthering Heights, when I realised I’ve been using the re-recorded version from The Whole Story.

  28. Frosty840 says:

    Am I the only person playing the game to Motörhead, then?

  29. Iain says:

    @James T:

    when it comes to a downhill slalom run, you can’t beat Miss Freelove ‘69!

    Try Moby’s cover of New Dawn Fades (on the I Like To Score album)- the last minute of that makes level 30 of 3D Deathchase look easy. If anyone can get stealth on that with Ninja Mono, I want the video…

  30. Daniel says:

    The easiest song to play on Audiosurf has to be John Cage’s 4’33″