Friday, January 29, 2010

Arcade Tower Defense Dev Log: New Age Music Might Be Bullshit

Hello, everyone!

This is my game. It's a work in progress, and I'm hoping to have it up on XNA Indie Games sometime before July.

The audio that you hear today is not the audio that the game started with. As part of my effort to avoid spending too much time on The Small Things, I initially generated sound effects using SFXR. SFXR is a sound generation tool that produces effects that are very reminiscent of 8-bit games of old.

A Flash version of SFXR can be found at

So, the first revision of sounds used by ATD were generated by SFXR. And it was great! My ship made little sounds, and the game started to feel somewhat legitimate!

Throughout development, I added more features that made use of these sounds. The most profound of these features was turrets, which would fire relentlessly at nearby enemies. Enemies would blow up, and life was grand!

But then, something happened.

I'm not sure exactly when, but somewhere along the 100th time I launched my game to check something out, my generated sounds turned against me. No longer were they pleasing to the ear! No, they were the opposite of that. They were little stabby things that produced pain to all who heard them!

Something had to be done. But what? I'm too cheap to buy sounds, and don't really have the know-how to produce my own.

Dejected, and sick of listening to my generated audio, I sauntered off to the back room to practice guitar.

Several days prior, I had played with Brian Eno's Trope and Bloom. Generated audio would certainly play nicely with the skills I have. That's hard, though, and I'm not terribly bright.

So, as I'm practicing guitar, I'm mulling over this generated music stuff. I started playing with note combinations that worked well together. I played natural harmonics along the 7th and 12th fret of the guitar, and no matter what combination of things I had, it appeared to sound good. So, what if my turrets, which are a good random seed, had those same sounds?

I set forth into the recording studio with a new-found purpose! I was going to record audio for my game. I ran my guitar through my Spider III 120 with some echo, ran the amplifier output through an Mbox Mini and started recording each individual natural harmonic along the 7th and 12th frets of the guitar in ProTools LE.

I armed a track, recorded a note, armed the next track, recorded the next note, and so on. Each track was recorded independently and sounded pretty good on its own.

When I was done and had 12 tracks staring at me, I thought, hey! What the hell. What does 12 channels of unplanned audio sound like?

Pretty good, actually.

Doesn't that sound awfully familiar? I'm pretty sure I've heard this track before!

tl;dr I hated my audio, was inspired by procedurally generated audio and recorded some sounds, and they sounded good when played together.