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Cappin' Stones (11/2/2016) Part 2

With a rhythm based game, sound is fairly important. We had this pitch early on to have a sound system that dynamically brings sound in and out as you walk around a level. Something akin to the game Proteus

In Proteus, the beautiful sound and music "design" by experimental musician David Kanaga, isn't actually designed to provide a specific experience to the player. Some sounds play only in certain seasons or with certain conditions, sure, but Proteus was designed to dynamically create music with over 500 short sound samples, ranging from 1 second long, to as long as 2 minutes. Certain key moments of the game will make pre-determined "songs" that act as themes to experiences, but for the rest of the game, the procedural generated islands with randomly placed music playing objects provides the player with a completely unique musical experience. 

 A small section of Proteus's sound folder, intrepid game designers and modders and built their own games in the Proteus engine by replacing sound files and model assets (also exposed) creating a new game with the same gameplay

A small section of Proteus's sound folder, intrepid game designers and modders and built their own games in the Proteus engine by replacing sound files and model assets (also exposed) creating a new game with the same gameplay

Playing around with replacing and switching around various sound files, and playing with various Proteus mods had given me the idea to try taking this dynamic route to sound design, with no game ideas to follow up on. As we started work on a rhythm game, I thought back to my experiments with Proteus and wanted to create a sound library like that. We obviously would have a beat for the level, but each security system and element would have it's own sounds that would dynamically merge in and out of the audio mix and you progress through the level, essentially creating "music" with the game. Our professor told me early on that I needed to prove this system, and so while the programmers got to work creating a sound radius that the player character can hear:

 Visualization of sound.

Visualization of sound.

I got to work on creating specific sounds. Keeping to the Proteus mentality of sound design, I tried to keep everything musical. I wanted the guards to have a cartoony Bassoon melody, and after finding staccato notes on freesounds.org I pulled together a 4 note loop. Lasers were cold and mechanical and after finding what sold itself as an "online theremin", I created a punchy, bassy electronic drone. When it came time to find a sound for a security camera, I blanked. I had already used a synthesizer sound for the laser, and wanted to come up with an audio "walkthrough" for the level, so I decided on a temporary sound of a film projector. I threw all these sounds in Audacity, added a simple click track, and out came this:

It's rough around the edges, but it got the point across. The sketch posits the player walking from left to right, with sounds entering from the right and leaving on the left. If you use headphones, you can hear the sounds enter from the distance, linger, and then leave as the character walks through. I could have sold this element more with reverb, but trying to get a quick sample out the door to prove the concept worked. I later found an 808 kick, and an 808 clap on Freesounds, and sent each sound file to the programmers, each organized in their own folders in the repo with files explaining how to use them.

And the results... are mixed. The beat definitely works, though some people though the clap was another element. I wanted to have a two tone beat sound, but after feedback, a one tone beat may work better. Also the bassoon sounds sound cheesy with the rest of the sounds, and all pile on top of each other. What works as a 4 note solo above, sounds like a mushy mess. And the laser could use more work to make it more apparent. But beyond all of that, it was a great start. Once people heard the audio they were more sold on the rhythm aspect of the game than ever before. Despite some implementation issues, the first pass of audio was solid. Specific sounds need a bit more time to get the right feel, and not feel discordant, but overall I'm happy with where the sound is right now. I could have helped work on some of the implementation issues, except the weekend that they were being put in, I was doing SCRUM training...

Luca Hibbard-Curto