New essay I posted on Medium containing some thoughts about how composers can figure out what sort of song to write for a game, how I used these ideas to compose Even the Ocean’s soundtrack, how I organized the soundtrack, and how I also used the idea of motif to help guide the composition process. And some thoughts about music genre. Read it here!
Hi all, I recently wrote a short essay about Joni and I’s thinking about difficulty settings in our 2016 game Even the Ocean. Read it here: https://medium.com/@sean_htch/difficulty-and-gameplay-options-in-even-the-ocean-aa67b5ae776b
some of my goals with even the ocean are
1. make a pleasant experience.
at least for me, from a level design standpoint i want to make areas that are fun to go through but not impossibly difficult with a little bit of practice . this can be condemned as not that interesting design – but – i am not too interested at the moment in creating well thought out puzzles of my own that progress in say a the witness way (though i like those games a lot). actually it may be that i am too unskilled or lazy to attempt a thing in context of all the other work the game has…i don’t know. i really want every person with basic game literacy to be able to see the game as a whole. i think the level design will be better than anodyne, but if i want to do a super good job with it i would stick to a much smaller proejct.
play the levels, understand the atmosphere, passively understand how it comes together, make it through everything and think about it. the base mechanic/gimmick is still very simple and we keep it simple so that you are repeating this the entire game, in different contexts……and yeah. i suppose the balance mechanic of it is very important in this thematic sense, otherwise we would basically just be making a nature explor-y game. which is totally fine! just not want i want to do totally at the moment
2. give a contemplative experience. this is sort of done by having these themes or ideas in the back of your head as you make music or art or design a level and decide how it fits in to the game (which you give just as much thought to in terms of those themes and strucutre….) . you can sort of flavor an area with themes or ideas about being human and when you do this in magical ways, people get this sort of…’feeling’ about an area, or a place, or an experience.
i don’t want to give a didactic, personal story, or make a political or social statement, or cause empathy with some party of people, though i think games like that are really important in the progress of games as a whole. i want to make something to reflect on or that you passively take with you but that doesn’t shove the player down one path of thought too specifically. i think we sort of accomplished this with anodyne, players had some feeling about things being ‘different’ about an area. and that’s good, at least for me. cause people to introspect a bit.
and that’s why i think the aesthetics are so important. they’re not just to make a pretty area, they are needed to go along with the ideas we have in mind for the game world and that specific area, and i think if we put enough though into that,t hen people can subconsciously (or consciously) make these connections and interpretations for themselves, especially if they kind of relate to the mechanics they are going through with jumping around and the energy balancing. i think there will be enough info that the interpretations will lie within some rough themed space of interpretations. at least that is my intention, i don’t want it to be far too vague…basically whatever walk of life you are in, something specific or personal to you i want to have created and taken away from playing the game.
because if you don’t give a shit about your music or your art and you don’t think about it with every pixel you draw or note you make…then you run the chance of just confusing someone or having a bunch of meaningless noise. yes a game is about the interaction but there are things you can also do in conjunction with that when you are careful with the music and art design.
there is a ‘universe theme’ or themes the universe of the game is based in. often steeped in the base mechanics and interactions (jumping, energy bar)….and sort of thought about intensely at first then forgotten – makes its way in sort of passively to everything else…Then the sort of game-world themes which is how the big macro parts of the game fit together as you progress through it, and the symbols/entities we put in each and how you play through it on that high level. then the level themes which are the most granular, ideas put into levels that sort of have this connection between sets of levels. well that was vague…hmm.
obviously we will fail at accomplishing this, but i think we can do a pretty good job if we try hard enough.
well yes okay.
development has been as usual – a combination of
– figuring out what later areas should be in specific (we have an outline of each place, or at least I do – but as you implement some areas on the level design level you somehow get some better vision of what a later level should be – this is also in part to finding coincidentally useful inspiration from outside of my room-office).
– actually making levels (level design)
– programming new entities (traps, ‘enemies’ ,etc), implementing features, fixing bugs, tweaking previous entities
– writing a variety of music for the game
and it will likely be like this for quite a while since there’s still a fair number of areas to finish. and that’s only for The Ocean part of EtO, but they are basically two games so we’ll finish the ocean first, then move on to Even (then release, I guess! so far away…)
i’ll post music later …maybe, or screenshots, but http://seancom.nfshost.com/songaday.html has some stuff though most of it is like WIPs or scrapepd things
happy halloween (well, belated…), if you celebrate it. i ended up streaming anodyne while using the bitmap cache scrambling thing.
room insulation is an annoying thing. i was hoping to save a little on heating by insulating the windows with film, but I did that and I’m not sure if it helped, but then I had to put stuff on the bottom of my door because there was a draft there. maybe insulating the other apartment doors and windows will help?
Hm, so what’s been happening recently
Well, there are some new things I am working on. As always that’s up at https://soundcloud.com/seagaia/
A new-ish one is https://soundcloud.com/seagaia/northworld-even-the-ocean-ost . I’m working on one of the overworld musics for even the ocean. I think it too me so long to arrive at this because you really need to understand your game and its structure before you can even start to work on something as unifying and thematically important as a world map theme! So it’s good that I think I am making headway on it.
Even the ocean is fine otherwise. It’s just grinding out some work on something each day, and eventually the game will be done. Though I feel like I should be able to do more !
I also had the idea to install Anodyne in some art galleries around Chicago. I want to make an installation that gives the public an eye into the creative process around a game, rather than viewing it as an entertainment commodity. I’ve been discussing with a few friends the best way to do this an dI have what seems like a decent idea (and it is cheap to do). Now to find someone that will let me display it!
It’s getting colder!
oops, look, i have forgotten to write anything recently..
still working on even the ocean most of the time, and then a small SECRET side project, hm, i can’t say much about it, but it is releasing in japan first in a very uh, different way, which should be interesting. that release won’t be for a few months though.
another side project is on the backburner, but that’s okay, since i’ve hardly done anything for it (it’s a small adventure game i want to make).
so, maybe the most recent bit of news is that anodyne android finally released! well, it released through the HUMBLE BUNDLE. This is great exposure wise for anodyne and also financially for jon and I! I had to make a few fixes though and push another build (barf). thus ends the anodyne saga forever, which makes me happy because i’m fucking sick of working on it (I was sick of working on it since like i started fixing the mobile version and bugs). it’ll be out on google play when the bundle sale’s over, anyways.
more to the anodyne postmortem is coming (never) whenever i decide to (never) write it(.)…
ANODYNES DONE FOREVER!!!
even the ocean
development’s fine. it has just been programming features and then staring blankfaced at the level editor (when you stare into the empty level, the empty level…)
didn’t decide to enter the igf, there was really no point because we’d have to spend all this time doing ‘glue’ stuff making the game playable in a coherent way (right now it is just transferring the coherent world design in our heads into levels. so we are building levels now, for the most part, which is time consuming! i stare at an editor quite often, – the level editor or code editor)
we decided to spend most of our time working on THE OCEAN and once we finish that, do EVEN. so that will be a long time i guess, but i’ll keep myself entertained with development on even the ocean , side projects, and musical projects. i have this thing of needing to release stuff every now and then so the long development cycle of ETO might drive me insane otherwise (but when it’s done it’s gonna be so so good!).
with THE OCEAN, we’re in a “early/mid july” anodyne state…i.e., we are building out dungeons and levels and tilesets and sprites and music and have all of the main dungeons/levels planned, with some interstitial stuff that will be thought of as we go. so realistically…there is like 5-6 mos of work left on The Ocean. I will try to work harder though to get it done faster…
this post gets more miscellany/boring/personal after this point, so you could probably skip it.
in a secluded northern place
I wrote this for the indiestatik kickstarter and also even the ocean. it’s in an even-the-ocean melodic style (even the ocean music is tending to fall into a melodic or ambient style, both being sort of supported by use of sound effects as instruments at times).
i’ve been using the free Carbon2 NI synth for some of my sound effect instruments and leads/pads/etc. It’s nice, i guess, but I like to balance it out with snes/genesis instruments to not give the music too much of a ‘modern’ feel, because i feel that would overly clash with the art style.
luckily, my production is quite bad so i would probably have trouble giving a modern feel to the music, whatever that means
Little Neurotic Space Station Vignette #1
This is a non-game music project I’ve been working on. you can listen to the first song here (i need to fix it, it clips in this.) The title is mostly meaningless but seems to describe what it ended up sounding like. I’m trying to work on a series of sort of upbeat, melody-driven/traditional structured electronic stuff that kind of focuses on describing an abstract scene or short series of events. i’d like to add lyrics in some way but i don’t know how to do that / setting up recording is a huge pain / mixing is hard / i should practice more at writing something that is electronically interesting without the difficulty of lyrics anyways
So, yeah. I’d like to nail down a personal style for my non-game music, but it may take some time. Ideally a style I would be able to do a live show with. It may be cool to sing or whatever, but I don’t know what to sing about…I don’t really have any emotional crisis or thing worth singing about – my outlet for that is often talking with friends – what would i sing about? hm. maybe i’ll just not sing. I think I have an okay style for my game stuff – it will get better as i get better production skills, I think – i would like to experiment more with incorporating sound effects into the music)
i’ve also been listening to a lot of perfume’s LEVEL3 and capsule’s CAPS LOCK. the first is nice dance/techno/jpop fare from yasutaka nakata, the latter is also by him but more of an avant-garde/electronic self expression album, which is more interesting i think.
outside of that,
…it is starting to get colder. chicago weather can be like that, fall ends so quickly and then you get this sort of mediocre muggy wet/freezing period that goes on until half-ending in april/may and then summer. i am also trying to get contact lenses. i got some last fall as a test (they charged me like $200-$300 without telling me to ‘get them fitted’, what a load of shit), and i can’t get them in. my eye hurts after trying, but whatever, i will figure it out eventually/
not too much to report, I’ve been running around with family stuff the past two days. i did implement a few new entities for the game though. (even the ocean).
Anyways, yeah, more work will continue tomorrow, hopefully some level design.
I am in the process of writing yet another…Anodyne postmortem that I won’t finish writing, eventhough I’m trying to cut this one up into pieces, sigh.
Additionally, I’m going to be working on a secret project! It’s small and maybe I will talk about it soon a little bit.
did you know chocolate wafers are really great? they are the greatest thing. you can buy packages of them for $2.50 from the super market and they are like almost 1500 kcal, and make a great snack. i forgot what brand they are.
While working today, I decided on something sort of interesting with one of the entities in the game. It arose accidentally.
In Even the Ocean, there are entities which launch water very quickly. It’s magic water though (…or something!), and when you touch it, your velocity becomes the same as the water – so the bullets launch upwards, thus, you kind of get boosted upwards into the air when touching a bullet.
I can choose how many “bullets” each entity launches – I set the default to five. The bullets all launch at the same time, but have staggered velocities (i/n * max_vel, where i = bullet index, n = nr of bullets). The way I set the velocity of the player is: if on a frame of the game, the bullet touches the player, then increment a “push velocity” counter which will be added to the players velocity in player’s physics routine, before the position of the player was updated (whew , that was a mouthful).
Anyways, what this basically amounts to is that if you are touching multiple bullets at once, the velocities end up being incremental. So if the bullets launch at velocities 90, 60, 30, and I touch all of them, I get a boost of 180 (whereas my desired behavior was only getting a boost of 90)
for each bullet:
if bullet overlaps player:
player’s velocity += bullet’s velocity.
What usually happened was, only the fastest bullet touched the player anyways (since this usually hits you on the ground or the air), so things behaved normally.
But sometimes, multiple bullets overlap the player in one frame, so instead, we get the effect of shooting the player up REALLLY fast.
I couldn’t reproduce it consistently, likely because there is some random factors I added into the initial bullet velocity. I instead now choose to use the fastest velocity of any number of bullets touching you.
But that interaction with boosting you too far was interesting, so additionally, I decided to be able to make it consistent, and sort of a “skill” thing. So now, when you press jump within a certain time frame, the bullet velocity that affects you, it is doubled (and then some). To sort of visualize this, just look at the GIF up there. If you jump *right* before the bullets launch, then the effect is doubled.
This isn’t physically realistic or anything, but it’s interesting and allows for various scenarios (needing to time it correctly to get some secret, needing tot ime it while avoiding other stuff, etc.)
Bugs can be great!
Was moving around a bit today, so not much done, but story is definitely-finally ironed out as well as some other details. I’m going to try to work on some level stuff later today.
I think a good place to get ideas for levels is train stations. They are often varied, and usually funnily juxtaposed with streets or whatever. There was one train station today (Rosemont Blue Line) that I think would work well for a place in Even the Ocean, so I’m stealing it. Maybe everything in Even the Ocean was just stolen from train stations and some pretty landscapes, maybe not.
I also unpacked this tiny space heater I bought. It was only $20 and I think it is a good investment. Mornings are often very cold for me and the heater heats up really fast. The power rating is 1.5kW , so I think that’s only like $5-8 a month if I run it in the morning for an hour. Worth it, compared to before where we left the entire apartment A/C on all the time and our bill was like $300-400 for electricity. Never do that.
I swear I’ll finish that Anodyne Postmortem…later. I’ve decided to do shorter blogs to kind of talk about development and life in general, a public facing journal, I guess. A mish-mash of development and other stuff. We’ll see how long this lasts…
Development on my end this week has been sort of slow. I spent the first half of the week sorting out my flooded apartment (I live in a basement) and getting our carpet cleaned and dried out. That was stressful, but now the apartment is dry, so…things are okay, for now.
However, Jon and I did some e-mailing and have come to a pretty good set of plans with respect to the world and story design in “The Ocean”, as well as a system for rewarding “better” players. Before, I had a lot of areas planned out and a rough world to put them in. Now, things are falling into place better, so we can continue to design the levels with a sense of where they will be fitting into the game, and write music and create artwork accordingly.
So, the hard part starts now…
I recently listened to COLTEMONIKHA, a project from 2007 or so by Yasutaka Nakata and Kate Sakai. I think they only released a few mini-albums, I’ve been listening to the 2nd one. It reminds me of sort of a laid-back fashion runway show, with a lot of white colors. Anyways, it’s good. I’d like to make such music, but it’s considerably difficult. I’ve been working on various pieces that aren’t for Even the Ocean, but they are all pretty terrible. I have to write something for the IndieStatik Kickstarter album, too – I have a song for Even the Ocean I’m considering submitting, but maybe I should write something unique. Hm.