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The Sounds of Baseborn

The Sounds of Baseborn

The Baseborn music is the first soundtrack I’ve ever created. It’s always been a dream of mine to write music for games, so I am incredibly happy to be realizing this dream.

You can download the soundtrack here: Baseborn Original Soundtrack

Click on “Buy Now” to download it. You can name your price, or type in a “0” to get it for free. Donations are appreciated, though. ūüôā

 

The Concept

In the beginning levels, I wanted the music to flow together as seamlessly as possible. Each time you change “zone” (go from beach to forest, or forest to tower), a new layer of instrumentation is added. Each layer is meant to alter the feeling to fit the zone, while still maintaining a theme and underlying tone. The Hellther and boss battle music are intentionally independent. I’ll explain this in a bit. Ideally, I would have created my own audio mixer in code, and faded each track in one at time when it was necessary. I was not able to do this due to limits on time and programming experience. I ended up having separate audio files for each layer, but it included all the previous layers as well. I would stop one track and start the other whenever I needed to change song. Fortunately, this was still enough to convey the feelings I wanted.

The Songs

As a warning, these descriptions might become quite “artsy”, “romantic”, even “chimerical“.

1. The Beach

When I wrote this beginning piano piece, I literally sat there with my eyes closed until I brought my mind into a state of empathy for what this shipwrecked character would be feeling. Amnesia, smallness,¬†loneliness, desperation. Then, I just started playing. What you hear is the result. It’s very sparse. This is to contribute to the aforementioned mood, and so that the audio wouldn’t sound cluttered when other layers were added. It’s pretty straightforward, with only a brief key change towards the end of the movement. This key change is important though. It lets you know that everything is not safe, and something is definitely wrong here.

2. The Forest

When you enter the forest, a small violin and triangle enter the scene. It was inspired by “Gustaberg”¬†and “Ronfaure” from the Final Fantasy XI Soundtrack. A high, suspended violin note persists, and later a second violin harmonizes to give some motion. This and the sparse triangle give a feeling of “lostness” and “barrenness”.

3. The Tower

The tower layer has a noticeable change in mood. It gives a royal sound with a rolling snare drum, and a brass melody line. This one is inspired by “The Kingdom Of San D’Oria” from the¬†Final Fantasy XI Soundtrack. The melody starts off with a mid-range french horn and trombone harmonization. Then, it’s joined by a high trumpet harmony, which actually feels more like a melody. Towards the end, a weighty tuba part comes in to give the key change some emphasis. The intensity grows with this track.

4. The Dungeon

This is where the bass kicks in. There is a sudden drop when the contrabass part comes in. The deepness is meant to set off worry and convey “fear”. The notes I chose for it are intentionally dissonant. I found and amplified the tensions that existed within each chord. A steady and cold bass drum beats to bring out the darkness. The audio is rather full at this point, and the tension of the music is growing.

5. The Hellther

The instant this track starts, everything is suddenly silenced. No more instruments, no more music. All you hear is some awful ringing and a relentless drone in the distance. This one was inspired by Ravenholm from Half-Life 2. The purpose was to give a sudden and extreme change so that this strange area stood out from the rest. The goal was to make something awful and twisted. The place is riddled with serpents and demons and horrifying shadows of yourself that are all trying to kill you.

6. The Boss

The Boss music has much, much more going on. It is heavily inspired by the various battle tunes from Final Fantasy, particularly “Battle Theme”, again from the Final Fantasy XI Soundtrack.

After the quietness of the Hellther ambiance, I wanted to give a jolt when the player encountered the boss. This comes with a string ensemble playing very dissonant, stabbing, staccato chords. A descending hammer dulcimer line comes in to add some variety in timbre. Then, when the rolling snare comes in, the cello begins to branch off from the main rhythm, playing some beats in between to add to the sense of urgency. At this point, for variety, the dulcimer first plays an ascending line, and then the normal descending line with harmonizing 5ths.

From here, a nylon-string guitar plays some sustaining arpeggios to add to the layer. Now, we add some bass drum hits and cymbal crashes to really amp up the panic. The dulcimer becomes more active by playing bits of a steadily ascending scale. The end of each bit ends on a tense note. By now, the player has begun combat and is realizing the intensity of the battle. This section ends with all instruments hitting and cutting out, and the dulcimer ringing out with the now-familiar descending line.

The next section quiets down a bit for drama. We’ve got the cello laying a foundation and the dulcimer plays a more active line to keep things going. It plays three-note sequences that rise up the scale each measure. The rhythm of the dulcimer and the cello complement each other in such a way that adds to the “unsettling” feeling.

At the end of the bar, we hear the familiar descending dulcimer line, and the string ensemble plays descending chromatic stabs, alternating in octave as it goes down. Then the snare drum returns to pick things back up again. The dulcimer keeps the same rhythm, but continues to climb in the scale, getting more tense as it goes. At the end of this bar, it all climaxes and then releases into the next section.

Here, everything falls and the tension eases. Insert some lush, flowing strings, and some peaceful harp arpeggios. The peace doesn’t last long, as the final chord of this bar re-introduces the tension. Now the dulcimer takes the lead with a somber melody. We have the strings and percussion hitting every other beat, with some offset rhythms at the end of each measure. It all quickly grows in intensity, then we have a big cymbal wash and . . . a small triangle trills out for a measure or two. Then the piece repeats from the very beginning.

7. The Finale

This was a piece I wrote last-minute to go over the credits. I wanted it to be peaceful, and leave the player with a calm feeling. It was inspired by the faint blue-glowing crescent moon in the background as the credits roll. I was listening to a lot of George Winston at this time, so he was consequently an inspiration for this as well. This one was not played by hand. I created the notes in my MIDI editor.

 

The Sounds

Most of the sound effects in Baseborn were not created by me. Nearly all of them came from a great resource: freesound.org. There were some sounds that I created, though.

Frost Attack

First, I found a synth sound that sounded “airy”. Then, I essentially ran a finger over several piano keys. This created the sound! It took a few tries to get it just right, ¬†but it was pretty straightforward.

Pickup

The creation process for this one was very similar to the frost attack sound. It just took some extra equalization to get the tone right.

Wisp

This one was just a matter of finding a synth sound, and playing a sustained note. I took a small chunk of the sustained note, and copy/pasted that chunk one after the other. Then I did a crossfade between each one so it all sounded like one piece.


 

Again, you can download the soundtrack here: Baseborn Original Soundtrack

 

 

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The Sights of Baseborn

The Sights of Baseborn

Baseborn was the result of many “firsts” for us. For Jake, this was the first game he ever completely finished, and the first project of this kind he had ever worked on with another person. There were many more firsts for me; too many to count. Since I put together most of what you see and hear in the game, we thought it’d be appropriate for me to write about the experience, the process, the tools, and the thoughts and inspiration behind it all.

 

Graphics

I had fiddled around making graphics before, but nothing like what Baseborn would require of me. While I certainly did my fair share of coding, a vast majority of the man hours I put into this project came from the artwork. This was partly due to my inexperience and perfectionism, but mostly because of the seemingly endless amount of art we needed. Paint.NET was my weapon of choice. We became good friends, and shall remain so. I enjoy its balance between simplicity and capability, and its built-in effects were invaluable to much of the art.

Lessons

My approach to drawing the graphics started out as sloppy trial and error. Chuck some pixels onto the canvas and try to connect the dots until it looks like a thing. It didn’t take too long to develop a real workflow, though, and it went something like this:

    1. Put on some music that “invokes the essence” of what I want to draw.
    2. Google Images for reference.
    3. Using existing images for scale, draw an outline of the basic parts of the vision.
    4. Choose color palette and fill with basic color.
    5. Create details and shade with slight deviations from original palette.
There were a few things I came to recognize as crucial to the process of drawing. They’re kind of no-brainers, but I often overlooked them in the beginning:
    1. USE LAYERS. That is, of course, unless you love to spend hours redrawing the exact same thing except for one or two pixels.
    2. Use and don’t use a grid. It is very useful to be able to line things up and make sure you’re even and all, but sometimes it can make your drawing feel stale and too mathematical. Be sure to turn off the grid and just free-hand it now and then. I found that it usually resulted in a more natural and emotional drawing.
    3. Often look at your progress from different distances. When you’re up close and a pixel takes up a third of the screen, you can easily lose perspective. You should zoom out now and again to make sure things are looking the way you think they are.

Characters

The first character I made for Baseborn was a little elf thing, which, after some tweaks and color changes, became the Elf Mage enemy.

That drawing was pretty much free-handed. I decided that I needed a better starting point for the rest of the characters. So, I looked up the original Final Fantasy White Mage, analyzed and traced it, shuffled some pixels around, recolored it, and BAM. Our Mage character was born.

By copying the White Mage, I was able to figure out how to shape different body parts and clothing to make them look the way I wanted. From this point on, I loosely based all my characters on my Mage sprite. For some, I referred to other original Final Fantasy characters.

Backdrops

Most of the backdrops were influenced by the music I was listening to while drawing them. Interestingly, the backdrops would go on to influence the music the I created for them. I made good use of Paint.NET’s built-in effects for the backdrops. I used the noise generator frequently, as well as blurring, cloud and flame renderers, and glowing effects. For our firey level backdrop, we actually wound up combining the ideas of a stereotypical “hell” scene and Minecraft’s “Nether”. Since then, we have referred to it as the “Hellther”.

Animation

Unfortunately, I was not aware of the various animation assistance plugins available for Paint.NET. Consequently, I wound up spacing everything out by hand, which ate up a ton of time and was a real hassle when we had to tweak frame sizes.

Jake created some awesome animation classes inspired by those found in the Flashpunk framework. I’ll keep code out of this blog post, but you can download and read about Jake’s tools here. Nearly all of the animations were done by eye, without much reference. The key was to test often to make sure it flowed naturally.

When creating the animations for the skeletons, I wanted it to look like they were dragging their feet while having a little bit of a zombie-style, outstretched arm pose. What I ended up with was what looked like some sort of nerve spasm dance. It was funny and all, but I really wanted the foot-dragging. I tweaked it further until I thought it looked good. I go and test it out again, and now the skeleton looks like he’s a DJ, laying down beats and scratching vinyls. Obviously it was meant to stay that way. So it did.

And with that, I bid thee farewell. In another post to come, I’ll talk about the music of Baseborn!

Chris

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Post Game Jam Wrap-Up

This was the first time Jake and I had ever done a game jam together. Jake has done a few here and there (check out his¬†Ludum Dare¬†game here: Humphrey’s Tiny Adventure), but this was my first ever jam of any kind.

Taking our individual strengths into consideration, I wound up doing about 75% asset work, and 25% programming work.

Most of the coding I did was game-related, rather than engine-related. I implemented the system for importing Ogmo Editor tilemaps. Much credit goes to Zachary Lewis and his videos for getting me going with this. Not much else for me to say about coding.

Graphics

The artwork was a big, time-sucking black hole. This is primarily because I’m no real artist. Given enough time, I can make it look acceptable. Unfortunately, for this jam, “enough” time was too much time. I would spend so much time on animations that, by the time I was done with one, my brain was fried. I would have to take a break or do some sort of ritual to get my mental state in tact enough to be useful again. However, I am pleased with the general look of the characters.

Audio

I wrote, programmed, and recorded the music myself. This didn’t take too long, and I am quite pleased with the track. At one point, I was struggling to get something going, so I decided, just for the heck of it, to hop into 7/4 time and see what I could make from it. It was enough to spark my creativity again and what you hear is the result. Here’s the track: “Our Life Now”.

Jake and I worked together on the sound effect(s). For our basic cheesy punch sounds, we took a big fuzzy blanket and whipped it in front of a microphone. Then we sprinkled some studio magic on it (excessive compression, noise gate, EQ, pitch shifting). Recording the sound effects gave us a nice break from coding and the monotony of pixel pushing. Plus, it feels good to do it yourself!

                                                                                                                                                                                    

Overall, here’s…

What went well:

  • Creation of the music went smoothly, quickly, and gave a good result.
  • Working with Flashpunk was great. It’s a beautiful framework.
  • Discovered Ogmo. Far easier and simpler to work with than Mappy.
  • Learned about XML. Yep, this was new to me.
  • We came up with cool ideas that we feel broke out of the clich√©s¬†and stereotypes of the themes (Post-Apocolyptic and Sci-fi).
What didn’t go well:
  • Unfortunately, we were unable to implement almost all of our story ideas.
  • We struggled with designating individual tasks, and consequently would occasionally work on something unhelpful for some time.
  • We started at an odd time (10pm). This was our decision, though. I don’t think we’ll be starting at the same time again, because it made for difficult sleeping schedules.
  • We didn’t initially plan things out very well, which resulted in an unclear vision of what the final product should be.
  • The art took up way too much time. It kept me from doing more useful things.
What I would like to do differently in the future:
  • Get an artist to join us, or find a way to do simplistic and minimal art.
  • Start around noon, and get some regular sleep (minus a few hours each night).
  • Put time aside in the beginning to get a realistic end product in mind, and a general course of work to follow.
  • Trim our ideas down to size, and go into “idea freeze” early on.

                                                                                                                                                                                    

Thank you to everyone who voted in our polls and gave our game a run. This was a good learning experience, and I am overall pleased with the result. I look forward to participating in more game jams with Jake in the future!

Also, if there is anyone interested in working with us as Thaumaturgist Games, we invite you to participate in our next game jam. Think of it as an interview of sorts. Get in contact with us if you’re interested.

Check out the game here!: Thirty Years After Year Zero

And check out my timelapse videos here:

Main (Part 1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXTeW1BVS4c&feature=plcp

Main (Part 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TfngDL3eWQ&feature=plcp

Audio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuANAKkG6cA&feature=plcp

Software used:

Game

IDE: FlashDevelop

Framework: Flashpunk

GUI: PunkUI

Tile Editor: Ogmo Editor 

Audio

DAW: Cakewalk Sonar X1 Producer

Soft Synths: Native Instruments Massive, Native Instruments Absynth

Drums: Native Instruments Battery

Graphics

Image Editor: Paint.NET

Animation Helper: Sprite Animation Helper (add-on to Paint.NET)

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Codename: Ifrit (A Series of Fortunate Events)

It’s been about 2.25 months since I started my “Intro to Game Design with Programming” course. Before I started, I heard from some friends of mine that a friend of theirs would likely be in the same class. I looked forward to meeting him, seeing as this would be an easy way to have a friend/partner in the class. Well, this friend was Jake, my partner on this project we’re calling Ifrit. From the very beginning of the school work, I went to Jake when I was desperate for help, because he was and is a bit of a programming genius. He would always be happy to help.

To jump to the end of this story… There was one class where I was working on what is now Ifrit, and Jake was helping me out with some bugs in the code. Coincidentally, we were sitting literally inches from our professor. He told us he overheard our working together, and decided that we worked very well together. Despite that this course normally does not allow students to work in groups, he deemed us a team; and we were to work on my current project (Ifrit) together. This would count as our Final Project for both of us, which meant that we got an extra 2-3 weeks to work on it. If this all ends well for us, supposedly the course will have students work in teams starting the following semester. We’re guinea pigs.

All this to explain the history of our duo and our project Ifrit. I hope to write on the development of it on a regular/semi-regular basis, as does Jake. My posts will likely have an artistic/creative and asset-related tilt to them since the game idea originally sprouted in my head.

Without going into too much detail (that will be a separate post), Ifrit is essentially a “Hack-and-Slash” Platformer, with a fantasy theme (swords and magic and such). Think classic Sonic or Mario, but with more dynamic fighting and visuals similar to Final Fantasy I.

 

I am thrilled to be working with Jake, and I am very excited to see how this project turns out.

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