One day this week we were waiting around to have a stand up meeting. We were talking about our game and several of the concerns that I have were coming out via the rest of the team. It got to be so heated that we decided that we were going to need a meeting to talk about everything that was happening and the concerns that we were hearing. It’s not the way that I wanted to address the problems that I mentioned last week, but I’m glad that it happened. We went together as producers and team leads to try to figure out a better process for us to do in order to create a product that we can all be proud of. I won’t go into details about exactly what the concerns were, but after about three hours, we came up with a plan that would allow a more focused product to be produced before we submit our game to IGF. After we had the meeting with all the leads, we then had a meeting with the entire team to tell them about the new direction. After some small understandings, we were able to get everyone on board and hopefully we will be able to find a process that works for this group and our needs. I’m glad that we’ve at least opened up the channels of communication between the design team and the rest of the team so that there will be less confusion. We’ll see what happens.
It seems as though we are trying to build a game in a way that I don’t find very efficient. The design for the game is at the very least vague and I think that it is beginning to hurt the progress of the entire team. We have been working very hard on creating a detailed 1930’s era homestead with corn and windmills and farm houses and barns, but we haven’t made much headway on making the mechanic of the game fun, let alone making the game scary or giving the player a purpose in the world. There have been complaints in recent weeks about how there is nothing to do in the world, and the solution ended up being that we give the main character a weapon and the player can beat up crows now. Why? Well, it’s something to do. It doesn’t have anything to do with the concept for the game, it doesn’t add any fear or fun to the game, it’s just something to do. I think we need to talk as a group about what our game is currently, what we want it to be and how we are going to get there. If we keep going down the path that we are going, we will end up with a chaotic mess of mechanics, story, location, and tasks that were slapped together because the player needed something to do. Hopefully we can get that to happen.
Well, due to some unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to have a scary game available to play for this week’s horror game day. We were going to have someone bring Silent Hill, but sadly, he brought an empty case instead. So most of the team lost interest and started going about their daily routines. One of the engineers and I played a different game on his PC and did what we could to glean any important information from the experience.
Even though team horror day didn’t work out, the sound team has learned enough about FMOD to get moving in earnest with the sound implementation. We decided that I will mainly work in FMOD and the engineer will work in Unity creating triggers and making sure the sound worked in the final game. I think this system should work pretty well. We are both understanding FMOD more and more every day and by the end of the semester we should be experts, assuming we both keep working as hard as we are now.
The faculty has offered to help me in my attempt to create the sound assets for the game. They want to buy some software for me to use in order to waste less time. I guess I should explain what my process looks like now so that you can understand where problems may arise. Currently, I am working at home to create the audio assets needed for the game and I am working at school to implement them into the game. The software will make me able to work on asset creation at school as well as home. This will be very handy, because if any quick changes need to happen while I am implementing the sound at school, the changes can be made immediately instead of waiting until the next day when I can work from home and then waiting another day for a time that I can finally put it in the game. Hopefully this will all work out and be an efficient way to work. I think that it will.
All right! Time to learn a new tool. We are going to use FMOD to implement our audio but the problem is, nobody on the team has ever used it before. I’m sure it can do some really cool things, but I’ve just got to figure out how to turn it on.
That’s actually an exaggeration. One of the engineers and I have been working hard to learn FMOD and how to integrate it in our Unity workflow for a little while, and we have started to make some good process. The FMOD manual turned out to be almost useless. While it does talk about what each button and knob does inside of FMOD, it doesn’t really get into how a person might actually use all those tools together in order to create sound for a game. We have been using YouTube instead to find tutorials so that we can get up and running as quickly as possible. So far so good. We’re still experimenting, but we want to have at least the sounds that we have created so far implemented next week.
In order to create the sounds for the game, it is important to understand the game. I had a couple of great conversations with our designer this week and I think I’m finally understanding what the game is and how we are planning to create the fear, seeing as this is supposed to be a horror game. Very useful information. But after I began to understand what the design was, I also began to understand the work that was going to be necessary to complete the sound for this game. The scope is huge and we really need to move as quickly as possible if we want to finish the game in a state that we won’t be embarrassed about for the IGF submission.
In order to be sure that we make the game as scary as possible, we decided to have a team horror game day every Thursday. Essentially we play a horror game together as a team and analyze why the game is or isn’t scary and how we can improve our game with that knowledge. The first one should happen next week. I’m pretty excited about it. I hope the rest of the team is.
Summer is over, it’s time to start working hard to finish the game before the IGF submission deadline on Halloween. As it turns out, I had the opportunity to join a new team over the summer and will be working with them for the rest of their project. I will still be trying to work with some of the other teams on sound in my spare time, but will devote most of my time to my new team. The new game is actually a horror game so a Halloween deadline is quite appropriate. As a sound designer, it’s always exciting to work on horror games because of the importance of sound to the genre. It’s very difficult to induce fear via a game or film without sound playing a big part. Needless to say, I’m very excited.
Over the summer the team was given the task of finding a theme that the faculty would approve of. Previously the team had used a mannequin that moved in a similar fashion to Dr. Who’s weeping angels (When you look at them, they stop. When you look away they come and get you.) for their antagonist but were told that a mannequin was a bit derivative in today’s indie horror genre (e.g. Craven Manor and other games). So several proposals were made and we are excited to announce “Americana” (working title), a horror game played on the Oculus Rift that takes place on a farm in the Midwest during the Dust Bowl era. The main antagonist will be a scarecrow that moves in a similar way to the mannequins mentioned earlier. This should be a very interesting theme and time period to work with. It has some strong visual and sonic signatures that will be fun to exploit for great effect.
This week was mostly about getting the wheels moving, after all, we only have 8 weeks to make a game almost from scratch. But we have a very good team who understand the concept and theme for the game and got started on it almost immediately. If we can keep up this pace, I have no worries about our ability to finish the game on time. I’m going to work with one of the engineers in order to make use of an audio tool called FMOD. It is a type of middleware that allows sound designers who might not know much about programming to implement the audio into the game, leaving more time to the engineers to do what they do. Hopefully it will be a helpful tool. We are working hard this week to figure out what the production pipeline might look like. More on that later.