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As with the rest, I heard it’s cool to write postmortem. Technically it’s not postmortem since I’m not dead, but hey, you get the idea. I wanted to talk a little about audio, and my experience of this jam, which coincidentally is not only my first game jam in general but also my first LD-jam.

When we had our stuff setup (and trust me, just getting it there was not easy, travelling by train with 3 bags that weighs about the same as your general refrigerator), me and the lead designer was talking about potential themes and things that would be fun to do and things that would be less fun to do. During this time I also made a logotype for our team, because, you know, bored waiting and stuff.

We took some time to go through all the themes and pair up the ones that are essentially the same, and rated the themes based on theme on mechanics. Basically asked ourselfes “is the theme “horro-zombie-apocalypse-dragon-laser-shootouts” thematic of mechanic?” Naturally, thematic. Similarly, the theme “face-palm-keyboard-battle” or “whatever-you-do-don’t-press-x” would be considered mechanic as they cater to the mechanics of the game. Or you know.. They could be both.

OHNOES, the theme has been set, and goshdarnit it’s a tie! (Not the type that you wear)

So there it was.
The tie.
Not the one you wear, but when two parties have the same score. Awwww, we thought, and then instantly figured “yay!” because more options is always cool. We spent some time talking about things (mostly theme-based), and eventually ended up with what on paper looked to be a fun experience. The Game Designer (see? looks damned important with Big Letters On Each Start Of The Word) prototyped a fun little world containing two circles and.. yeah. they grew when you hit a button. Not very fun. We knew where we were headed but two circles that was growing was about as fun as eating ice-cubes.

We talked some more, and now the circles shrunk as well.

Still not very fun, although it has some promising mechanics to it. If you can shrink, you can grow and if you can grow you are larger than the shrunken version, and thus you have more a different parameter than your shrunken partner or enemy. Now we’re getting somewhere..

Then something happened and we ended up with four circles and a line between them given certain conditions. This we could work with. Hitting the laser, growing a circle was simply too boring, so we shrunk it instead and as such, we cheated one of themes (sorry, honestly!).
Eventually the game ended up a 4-player brawler chaos and the two-button controller theme was used in a way that you have one stick each and one button each, but since you are only using one controller, you are technically using two buttons. Here’s how the first prototype looked:

First prototype in action

When our programmers arrived some 8 A.M-ish in the morning (we are Swedish so the theme was released at 3 A.M for us) we had a somewhat working prototype and they simply made it work in Unity while we finetuned the prototype and I started working on the audio.

It begins. Or ends, depends how you look at it

I knew that we had a lazer (note the awesome spelling for good measure) to work with. As with any game, the main mechanics has to be awesome, so the lazer had to sound awesome.  So I made it sound awesome, and quickly realized that we have two lazers which have to sound equally awesome, so I dialed back the awesome and made a second one that, when combined, provided your ears with maximum holyshit sensations. There, the bulk of the sounddesign was done.

Tools used during this process was Ableton Live, Operator, and Live’s built-in effects, mostly dynamic tube, EQ8 and compression.

Asset-generation, wait what?

Simple enough. Since the main mechanic was designed, the rest of the sounddesign just had to follow the same aesthetic, so the rest was easily created.

I used an asset-generator that I had created for a previous game I had worked on with sound-sources that I had previously (confused yet?) made that matched the spectral content of the awesome lazers, and ran this generator a couple of times and recorded the result. From there-on, I took the things I liked the most and processed them, re-edited them etc until I had something that fit the style and the feel I was going for in the audio.
For anyone interested in how that asset-generator works, it looks and works like this:

The vocals was just recorded as flavour and with some processing I made them sound.., well. Somewhat like they would fit in the game anyways.
The thing about sounddesign for me is that the effects and dynamic sounds in the game needs to not only sound good but sound subtle or non-subtle enough that it doesn’t affect the player in a way that’s negative. The hit-sounds in the game for example are very subtle, and it times inaudible. This is intentional, and I will explain why.

Thank the gods for FMOD

Luckily for me as a sounddesigner, the programmers in my team asked me pretty early on if I knew how to use FMOD.
Yes, I do, was my reply, followed by a big smile and the inside of my body going “yaaaaaaaay!”

This made my job about a hundred times easier because now I could simply focus on getting the audio down and worry about dynamic effects later. OR in the case of the hit-sounds I could design them to be very subtle and use FMOD-parameters to dynamically process the other content to react to these sounds.

Using FMOD also made it simple to create subtle variations for various sounds, as well as have different “scenes” of the sounds, if you wish. When the two teams crosses the lazers, the lazer sounds, which are made up of two different sounds, are switched to another type of lazer sound, for both of them. These other sounds and simply processed sounds of the same source lazer sound to keep the sounddesign coherent, and as such the switch feels natural and not out of place.

Implementation and stuff

Since our programmers were sitting right next to me and they wanted me to use FMOD I asked them what parameters they used for every event that.. well. mattered. For example, if a team fired their lazers, what was the name of the parameter setting the lazer trigger? In this case, the trigger was named IsActive.

In order to make the lazer sound to loop properly I had to setup the sound like this:

LEAD-IN (start) -> LOOP (until lazer is cancelled) -> LEAD-OUT (lazer shuts off)

The parameter that I got from the programmers was used to trigger the loop-region for the lazer sound on or off. Since I knew that IsActive was either true or false I set up the loop region to be true if the lazer is active and false if it’s not. This way, the lead in always fires, and if the lazer is active, the lazer loops and if the lazer breaks for some reason, the lead-out plays.

The same was made for other things such as the hit-sound which was very subtle in it’s design but was still triggered. Since I knew we had a camera-shake and I wanted the hit sound and the other sounds to react to this camera shake, all other sounds except the hitsound had a lowpass-filter on them that was logaritmically scaled from 22khz to 0hz with a parameter from 0 to 1. This parameter was driven from the same floatvalue that drove the camerashake , resulting is a very subtle filtering-effect each time a player gets hit.

In turn, this made the hitsound a bit more audible but still subtle enough for the player to notice the hits but not really react too much about the nature of the hits in terms of frequency-spectra. Basically, you didn’t really care too much about the actual sound other than “yep, I got hit. Both the camerashake and whatever that sound is kinda confirms that for me!”
It just hits and you can hear a hit and if you listen closely enough you can hear the music and the other sounds are dampened for a very brief period of time. This makes the illusion of being hit a bit more real and adds to the immersion of the game-play.

The rest of the project followed the same implementation technique, and scene switches etc are driven with a simple bool that the programmers already had in place.
Here’s a brief look at the project:

Here’s a look at the first iteration of what I decided that I needed and what parameters was being used, as well as how to use them:
FMODtextNote

What I learned:
Preparation is key.
Always bring more gear than you think you will need. I brought 5 microphones, and all of them were used (although the things they recorded never made it in the game for other reasons). I brought a pen tablet, which was used (not for audio though but I ended up doing the logotype and some graphics for the game), and I brought several hard-drives, USB sticks and an USB-hub; all of them were used. I brought 2 different set of headphones and both of them were used.

Don’t start a project before announcement.
Starting a project before the theme is announced has a chance of locking you in with your mechanics from the get-go.

Conclusion

The beauty of this setup is that I can easily add several assets to each event and still have it work right of the box with the game. For example, if I want to add several team win vocals, I could just exchange the single sound for a multi-sound and re-build the bank and it would now have several team win sounds to choose from without neither me nor the programmers needs to touch a single line of code or modify anything. Although the game itself might not have a huge set of sounds or having an overly complicated sound-setup, I figured it was worth writing this down because somewhere someone out there will find it interesting, and because I like to write long and complicated things that no-one reads 😉

With that said, go play our game. It’s a team death-match game and if you play 4 people you have to share controllers so it’s equals amounts of chaos and intimate co-operation. Oh, and it has LAZERS.

LazerLock

Playing them games.

Posted by
Tuesday, December 15th, 2015 1:25 pm

Well then. Playing them games, and goshdarnit and other expletives, some of them are good. Really good. a few comes to mind, but I will not mention any names, because.. well. Nope.

There was one game about farmers and a dragon that was damned awesome, and then there was something about pew pew and grapples.
Gonna play some more.

Hope you all had fun and remember kids; you don’t NEED to go outside to play. Tell that to your mom.
I told mine many many years ago and she just frowned upon me and thought I was an idiot; this is expected. You shouldn’t be ashamed of that sensation when she does that.

Just remember this. A word from the wise, if you wish.

Sweden Game Jam is over.

Posted by
Sunday, December 13th, 2015 6:58 pm

Sweden Game Jam is over and our prototype is done (oh, and it’s playable too). It will be submitted in due time but hey, we also a video of an old prototype.

You should watch it, probably (do it).

Oh hey, we can actually play it!

Oh, and also, here’s a camel with three humps:

Because one hump is for Losers.

Because one hump is for Losers.

Prepare yourself.

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