Luke - Blog Post #5 - Sounds and the Start of the Toxic Sewers


  • SFX Research
  • SFX Creation
  • First 1/4 of the Toxic Sewers in Engine
  • Various Revisions

Background SFX Research

I started the sprint by researching background music/ambient sound effects that appear in other metroidvanias and games similar in theme. I looked at Undertale, Hollow Knight, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Castle Crashers. In my observations, I found that in all of these games had very different approaches to how background sounds could be handled. For instance, Undertale used very little ambient sounds and focuses heavily on background music tracks to sell the area while Hollow Knight does the exact opposite. Symphony of the Night is very interesting because, similar to Undertale, it uses very little ambient sound. All of this game's music tracks are in hugely different genres, which at first may sound jarring but, that works very well as the player associates the genre and the feelings that the genre brings with the areas of the game that they can be heard in. Castle Crashers has a very similar tone of game to what we are striving for, so I was very interested in seeing what they did to accomplish their tone. To my surprise, most of the music choices in the game were "epic" and serious to the moment to moment gameplay that was happening. I think this is a very cool choice that makes the player forget that the world is comical. So when the player is in a serious situation and is hit with a joke, it is funnier because they are not expecting it.

Upon reflection, I think that having ambient sounds in our game would be very important in selling our world. However, I believe that focusing in on that as the main way to sell the world audibly is too risky a move. I think an approach similar to how Castle Crashers handles it is the direction we should move in. Serious music in areas that calls for action or real focus, and light-hearted music in towns or when a punch line is delivered. I think this will make the jokes hit harder and be easier sells for the audience.

Dialogue SFX Research

Something I hate about a lot about games that are dialogue heavy and not voice acted is when there is no sound coming from the characters speaking. In Pokemon, for instance, no sound is played when an NPC speaks to you, making me not want to listen to whatever they have to say. However, many games solve the problem to having the whole game voice acted while still having the NPCs feel like they are really talking to you.

Undertale does this very well. Each character in the game speaks in their own typeface as well as having a unique sound effect played for every character that is displayed on the screen. It creates a nice effect where the character feels like they have their own voice tone and you would recognize who was talking in the game even if you were not looking at the screen.

Banjo-Kazooie also does this very well. In that game, each character has a very amount of voice acted clips that will be played in succession of one another at random as the text appears on screen to create a sort of gibberish language. While this requires some voice work, it is not overwhelming by any means for the team.

Animal Crossing, I think, does this the best of the three. Animal Crossing's dialogue sounds make it seem as though every character is speaking in a different, but real sounding, language that the player can't understand from sound. What is really happening is that each letter of from the characters is being said quickly and in succession to create gibberish based on the real words that are being displayed. I think this is a big reason as to why characters feel very believable and likable in that game.

SFX Creation

I worked this week to prototype some possible sound directions for the game. The first thing that I worked on was effects for the combat system. The first batch of sounds I made were trying to stylistically imitate what each attack would actually sound like while hitting. I created several iterations in this style. I followed this up by creating a set of effects that are notes on a guitar. I thought this could be neat because of our combo system. Canceling moves into others could result in a cool guitar riff to be created by the player just by attacking enemies! I need to still work on this concept with the theme of the game, but I think this has some promise in our space.

I then worked on different ways we could attach sound to dialogue. Having my research on this topic, I had a basic idea of what I wanted to try out. The first thing I did was make sets of effects in the Undertale style, where each character would have their own unique sound for speaking. The next thing I did was record myself saying the alphabet to see how the Animal Crossing approach to the problem would sound in the game. I think that this approach would require very little work from the dev team and also be very fitting in our game. Myself saying the alphabet can be pitch shift and manipulated in-engine with sliders for each character so they all sound unique without having to rerecord anything for each character!

Toxic sewers in-engine

As a level designer, I was very excited to get to work on putting my level plan into the game this week. We do not have any tools developed yet, so this task took longer than I expected it to. However, I did end up creating everything I planned to make this sprint, which was up until the sewer town and excluding all extraneous areas. I will have to go back and clean up a few things here and there. Probably remake it all when we have a tool, so the game is uniformly created, but for testing, I am very satisfied with how it has turned out.


Various Revisions

I worked to revise some of the chef dialogue that I might have felt was a little off. This didn't take much time and will likely be revisited based on QA feedback. I also went back and looked into our market research again. Most research that had been done still applied, but I found that our game would likely appeal to more than just existing metroidvania fans. Our game could become a stepping stone for gamers who have never played a game in this genre to dive in and play. From this, I revised our rationale statement slightly to reflect this change in attention, as well as reword some points of the statement that may have been confusing and unclear.