Despite its simple design and casual accessibility, Audiosurf has a deep and complex scoring system. Song runs made by Puzzle characters (characters other than Mono) can produce a nigh-infinite number of block and timing combinations. Combined with random factors such as white blocks and powerups, the observation of this scoring system cannot define perfection for a given song. Because of this, the Puzzle characters introduce a sort of "free form" scoring competition. Players must harness not only reaction time and muscle memory, but they must also consider a wide variety of character techniques and song properties.
All of the information here, except where stated, does not apply to the Mono characters, as Mono is a different kind of gameplay altogether.
Basic Matches Edit
The game features up to five different basic block colors. Points are scored by matching three or more of the same block color such that at least one side of every block is touching another block of the same color. Each color has a different basic block value, and the number of blocks in a given match increases the value of every block contained in it. Thus, players are inclined to make large matches of the same color, as one match of 6 blocks is worth more than two matches of 3 blocks.
The colors may be changed within the game client to user preference, but the default block value per color is as follows:
- Purple = 10 points
- Blue = 20 points
- Green = 30 points
- Yellow = 50 points
- Red = 80 points
It is advantageous to simply value each color as a multiple of Purple blocks. That is, the notion that any combination of Yellow blocks will be worth exactly 5 times as much as the same combination of Purple blocks.
The game modes present different levels of difficulty/complexity in the number of colors that exist within the songs. Casual mode uses 3 primary block colors, (blue, yellow, red) Pro mode uses 4, (purple, blue, yellow, red) and Elite mode uses them all. Every block in Elite mode is scored with a higher base value. This bonus starts at 20%, such that a match of three blues is worth 72 points in Elite and 60 in Pro/Casual. The bonus increases with larger matches.
A single color match does not need to be entirely connected to be scored as a bigger match. For example, two matches of 3 purple blocks matched simultaneously will be scored as a match of 6 purple blocks, even if the two matching segments are not together.
There are two kinds of special blocks with their own rule-sets. Wild Card blocks will match with any color, and only exist in Casual and Pro difficulties. White/Black blocks do not match with any color, and are scored by reaching the bottom of the block grid, worth 2000 points. White blocks are present in all game modes except Mono. While a song, once processed, will have the same placements of colors and blocks, the existence of white blocks is randomly generated every run. They replace the usual colored block that occupies the same spot. The actual chance of a block being white/black on a given run is unclear, but it seems to be around 1-3%. Wild Card blocks are much less frequent.
There are also several Powerups that can take the form of regular colored blocks during a song run, or even be produced on the shoulder in some cases. They are randomly assigned, much like White blocks and Wild Card blocks. The prevalence of each Powerup varies by the game mode.
- Lightning Bolts exist in all game modes, and create six blocks of the color of the bolt. Two blocks are deposited in each column. Using a Lightning Bolt cannot cause an Overfill.
- The Paint Powerup exists only in Casual and Pro modes, and will change every existing block in the grid to the color of the paint.
- The Multiply Powerup will increase the value of the next match that is made, based on the number shown on the powerup itself. This can either be 2, 3, or 4x. Like Paint, the Multiply Powerup does not exist in Elite mode.
- The Sort Powerup will reposition existing blocks in the grid such that all colors are touching each other, which will facilitate new matches in most cases. It is also Casual/Pro only.
Character Differences Edit
The choice of character has profound effects on score potential. The capabilities of each character toward the score of song are not balanced, and some characters will have a much easier time scoring highly. The Mono character, being the most widely played, is not often compared to other characters, as the playstyle and scoring are so much different. The information here focuses on the other characters.
Vegas is available only in the Pro mode. Its point capacity is largely decided by its ability to create reasonable chain combos with repeated shuffling. In addition, it is able to utilize self-generated Multiply Powerups in conjunction with some other powerup to create a small number of very highly scoring matches. While other characters can also do this, Vegas' advantage lies in having its Multiply Powerup ranging from 2-7x bonus rather than the usual 2-4x.
Eraser and Eraser Elite have an easier time scoring White blocks, as they can remove colors from beneath them without an actual match; a trait which also aids in generating long cascades in intense songs. Eraser also enjoys the same 100% match bonus that Pusher does for matches which clear the grid. This is considered an intermediate character, as it encounters the complexity of puzzle scoring but is much more forgiving in regard to matching errors. Eraser Elite has a slightly longer match time than the other Elite Characters (Except Ninja Mono) which allows a little more ease in maintaining a chain of matches, also Eraser Elite may "undo" its last erase, placing the erased blocks back on the grid in the first available spaces, much like the Storm powerup, this has the addition benefit of resetting the match timer.. In most songs, Eraser is the only character that can realistically achieve Seeing Red and Butter Ninja, but will be hard pressed to score Match 21.
Pointman and his various counterparts offer the most control over the blocks in a song. He can 'pick up' any block or powerup and deposit it when and where the player chooses, through use of left and right clicking. The pickup mechanic is a 'last in, first out' queue. For example, if a player picks blocks in the order of blue->purple->yellow, without dropping any of them between the pickups, he or she must drop them in the order yellow->purple->blue. Two blocks may be stored in Casual mode, three in Pro, and four in Elite. Because of Pointman's ability to move and hold blocks/powerups anywhere, the base score potential is much higher. Pointman is considered the strongest scoring character for most 'uphill' songs. However, the control that is gained is also much more difficult to use correctly. A player must not only control and process the blocks that Pointman is hitting, but also those that he is carrying. The physical act of picking up blocks and dropping them also slows down the matching, which can create problems in songs with dense traffic.
Pusher and Pusher Elite share a similar control over blocks that Pointman has, albeit slightly more restricted. The player may 'bump' an incoming block to the left or right on impact, moving it one column over. This allows Pusher to score large and complex matches that a Vegas or Eraser player could not make, and offers an easier learning curve than the Pointman character. Pusher Elite has two significant and unique characteristics that Pusher (pro) does not. Firstly, it has 8 rows in the grid instead of 7. This means that a Pusher Elite player can match 24 blocks simultaneously, rather than 21. As a result, Match 21 is usually possible in most songs that are 'downhill,' and there is a possibility of matches greater than 21 blocks in size. Also, there is a 100% bonus to the score of matches that leave the grid empty. Because of this substantial bonus, Pusher Elite is considered to be the strongest character in most 'downhill' songs.
Double Vision is considered the most difficult character to play (by oneself) as it requires the control of two separate vehicles and it has no special abilities. Double Vision has a larger grid than other characters, having four columns instead of three. There are 6 rows in Casual/Pro and 7 in Elite, providing 24 and 28 block locations respectively. It also gets a score bonus to any match that crosses between columns 2 and 3. This bonus is 10% in Casual, 50% in Pro, and 100% in Elite. The score potential of this character relies heavily on the placement of blocks in the song, but is generally thought of as weaker than Pusher or Pointman outside a few song exceptions.
Match Extension Window Edit
Since blocks are hit sequentially, and there cannot be more than one block hit at any single point in the song, there needs to be a period where a match is recognized but not removed from the board. During this brief window, more blocks can be added to make the match larger. This is represented graphically by the relevant blocks 'flashing' on the grid. If another block is struck during this period, the match will continue to flash. New blocks do not need to be part of the match to extend the flashing period. If no blocks are hit during the extension window, the match will end, be scored, and removed from the grid. The timing window itself is unclear in duration, but seems to be about 1 second in Casual/Pro and 1.5-2 seconds in Elite mode. This window also seems to be longer if there are more blocks flashing, but this has not been proven. A match can be ended before the time window would normally time out if a column is full and a new block is directed into that column.
Match Extension using PointmanEdit
The Pointman character has a unique advantage in this mechanic, as the window can be extended in more than one way. While most characters would need to strike a new block and place it on the grid, Pointman can either strike a block, pick it up, or drop a previously queued block. All of these actions will extend the match.
Match Extension using EraserEdit
The Eraser character can also extend the current match using his ability. If click is held and a block is struck so that all similarly colored blocks are removed from the board, then the match will extend similarly to if a block was picked up. This occurs even though no extra blocks were added to the grid. Importantly, this will only work if existing blocks are actually removed from the grid- attempting to remove blocks of a color which is not on the grid will NOT extend the match. Additionally, using Eraser Elite's "undo" function places blocks onto the grid, also resetting the match timer.
Dynamic Match Bonuses Edit
There are a few ways to increase the value of a given match beyond what it would be if scored by itself. These mechanics and their manipulation is what gives the Audiosurf puzzle game its complexity. While a new Audiosurf player may focus simply on making large matches, an experienced player will be introducing and juggling these bonuses to produce much higher scores.
There is a bonus applied to matching two or more different colors at the same time. This bonus is a flat 30% to each of the single color matches that are scored. This bonus is not affected by the color of the blocks, the number of blocks, nor the number of colors matched. If you match 3 purple, 8 blue, 5 yellow, and 3 red at the same time, you will get 30% more points for every one of those matches, over what they would have been if matched separately. Thus, a match of 18 red blocks and 3 purple blocks (11,128 + 46.8) is actually of higher point value than a match of 21 red blocks (10,000).
The 'Cascade' or 'Chain' BonusEdit
The Match Extension window is not only applied to single matches. Once a match is completed, there is a brief period where the blocks are removed, and a smaller outline of the blocks travels up to your score, then adds their value. When this happens, a new bonus is available, albeit a little esoteric. If you continue to pickup/drop/hit blocks at this point, in the same way you would extend a flashing match, you will acquire a significant bonus to the score of the next cluster you complete. This bonus grows higher for every successive match beyond the first. This is called 'Cascading' or 'Chaining,' and is a staple of high scoring strategies.
This bonus is cumulative, logarithmic, and may go on indefinitely. The first bonus, being the second match in the Cascade, will receive a bonus of 50%, or 1.5x. It is believed to have a soft cap of roughly 290-300%, or 3.9-4x. Like the Sync bonus, this percentage is not affected by the number of blocks in the match, nor the color of the matches. It is additive to the Sync bonus, such that a synchronized pair of colors matched in the second part of a Cascade will receive an 80% score bonus. (50%+30%) Below is a chart of how the Cascade bonus progresses, up to 30 matches. the first entry being the original match. (no bonus) Strange results (such as there being 250% twice) are due to the base value of the matches themselves. The second 250% entry was a match of 3 purples in the testing run, which had to be rounded to either 126 or 127. 126 points is 250%, 127 is 252.78%. The real value is somewhere in the middle. The chart may have errors as well, but the estimates show the relationship well enough to understand the mechanic.
There is another way in which a Cascade can continue without hitting new blocks. It is done by placing unmatched blocks on top of flashing ones, such that they will fall in their column when the match ends. If these come to rest such that they form a new cluster, they will begin to flash and a Gravity Match has been made. This can be used to continue a Cascade bonus, even when the act of falling takes longer than the usual window. It has been suggested that the timing window is simply expanded for as long as it takes for any existing blocks to come to rest, but has not been proven.
Interaction With White BlocksEdit
The special White blocks that can exist randomly within a song can either enhance or inhibit the operation of a Cascade bonus. In the same way as a flashing match, striking a white block will extend the chain window. However, since they do not actually match with any other colors, they can prevent color clusters from properly touching each other. White blocks do not receive or produce bonuses intrinsic in either Cascades or Syncing. The Pusher Elite clear bonus is prevented by the presence of a white block on the grid. As a result, many Pusher Elite players miss a large portion of available White blocks intentionally.
Interaction with Character Specific BonusesEdit
While the Cascade and Sync bonuses are additive with each other, they are multiplicative with the Pusher Elite clearing bonus and the Double Vision crossover bonuses. To rephrase, the character specific bonus is applied at the end of the match calculations, such that if a series of bonuses would usually produce a cluster score of 5,000 for Pointman, this would be worth 10,000 to a Pusher Elite that cleared the board, or a Double Vision Elite player that crossed columns two and three.
Summary and Strategy Edit
When the information above is fully analyzed and understood, it becomes clear how players should go about maximizing their score. Matches are best made in pairs and in succession. The initial Cascade development should use small, fast matches to open the door for better scores on bigger matches. Pointman will fare better in songs that have low traffic and frequent pauses, and Pusher Elite will come out with the best potential on faster songs with heavy traffic. Pusher Elite should be trying to clear the board as much as possible, outside of the very early stages of Cascade generation and strings of several White blocks in a short period. With all these bonuses, White blocks and Powerups in the mix, the possibilities are endless.
Susceptibility to Cheating Edit
Due to the convolution of the scoring, and the way songs are recognized by the online Scoreboards, Audiosurf is currently vulnerable to several methods of cheating and forgery. The song files themselves can be manipulated in outside programs to be longer or more heavily trafficked, but still accepted as a usable version of the song by the scoreboard. There may be other means of creating fake scores. Suspicious scores may be reported by the players, but a more well-defined solution is sought. Source style in-game recording has been suggested, as well as other methods of data review for top scores.
Currently, one can see the track shapes of the high-scorers in the scoreboard in order to curb cheating.