People – Audio Postmortem

Posted by
May 28th, 2013 1:36 pm

I love to read ludumdare postmortems but I feel like they cover a lot of the same ground so I thought I would focus on a single aspect of my most recent ludumdare entry People. I’m a big fan of dynamic audio in games since I feel like it’s one of the better uses of the medium and the ability to tailor what the player is hearing to whats happening in game can really heighten the experience. So without further ado here’s how I created the three major components of my games soundscape.

The music:

The music in my game is divided into three different layers. Rather than worry about looping issues I ended just playing three very long tracks in sync and when it was time to introduce a new instrument all I had to do was increase it’s volume. This came at the cost of a greatly increased file size but for a jam game I think it’s a reasonable compromise. The most complex part of the music was making sure that the melody didn’t start or end mid phrase. To do this my melody was created with roughly two bars of silence between phrases. Since the melody loop is playing in sync with the other files I keep track of when the silence occurs and only adjust the volume of the melody at that time.

Ambient background noises:

One of the things that I really wanted to do with the ambient noise was to let it provide the sense of space rather than the graphics. I wanted to convey the sound of a large transportation building like a grand central station with extremely high ceilings and lots of reverb. I ended up recording several conversations from various positions in my office. Those were then layered together with slightly different reverbs applied to them. I ended up making three sets of ambient noise that I transitioned between as the crowd thinned out, the first having a large number of voices and the last being a single conversation. Since it’s hard to distinguish any sort of actual dialog I ended up just cross fading between the different conversation sound effects and let the music mask any transitions. By the time the player reaches the end of the game the ambient noise has died down to a single conversation that really reinforces the feeling of emptiness. On more than one occasion while watching live streams I’ve seen players pause after matching everyone else up and then, upon listening, go to seek out the last person. It’s a subtle way to deliver the information that there is one final person to seek out.

Sound effects:

For all the sound effects I used modified version of my own voice. When couples in the game meet up there is a “Yay!” sound effect that consists of several layered recordings of me saying the word “yay”. This sound was then pitch shifted, put through a phaser, and a slight reverb was applied. The “hmms” and other noises that the people make when joining your group were just normal recordings of my voice with a touch of reverb. The footstep noises were created by hitting different pairs of shoes against each other until I found a good match. There were also several squeaks and ambient sound effects that we foleyed that did not make it into the final game.

Together all of these elements help to provide a sense of space and set the tone for the game far more than anything I did graphically. Thanks for reading and if you haven’t played it yet you can find my game here

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