ENERGETIC A GAME WITH A HIDDEN MESSAGE

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ENERGETIC A GAME WITH A HIDDEN MESSAGE Författare: Jens Nilsson Examensrapport i Spelutveckling Högskolan på Gotland Vårterminen 2005 Handledare: Peter Falthin

Abstract Institution/Ämne: Högskolan på Gotland/ Spel och interaktiva medier Adress: Cramérgatan 3, 621 57 Visby Tfn: 0498 29 99 00 Handledare: Peter Falthin Titel och undertitel: Författare: Energtic a game with a hidden message? Jens Nilsson Examinations form (sätt kryss): 40 poäng 60 poäng Examensuppsats Kandidatuppsats X Magisteruppsats Projektarbete Projektrapport Annan Ventileringstermin: Hösttermin (år) Vårtermin 2005. Sommartermin (år) The following pages will layout and describe the process of creating the computer game Energetic. You will get an overview of the process from the intial idea to a completed technology demonstration of a game type called stealth education. You will get a short description of the term stealth education, but the focus in this paper is on the creation process, with a deeper look at the audio creation. Key words: Computer game, internet, audio 2

Table of Content Abstract 2 Table of Content 3 Introduction 4 Background 4 Intentions and delimitations 5 The working process 6 The idea takes form 6 Writing the concept document 7 Planning the production of the content 8 The engine 9 Finalizing the content 12 Testing the game 14 The final game 15 Closer look at the audio creation 15 The sound list & sound design document 15 Placeholders 18 Final sound creation 18 Creating a new sound 19 Testing & tweaking the final sound 21 The music 21 Creating the final mix 23 Concluding notes 24 References 26 Published 26 Internet 26 3

Introduction During the spring of 2005 a game called Energetic was created. Energetic is a stealth education game. The term stealth education may confuse; stealth, a word associated with Ninjas sneaking around in the shadows or perhaps a modern US Air Force stealth fighter. Education, as in sitting in a quiet library or having an intellectual and stimulating conversation with an enlightened individual. Stealth education, getting an education by sneaking in the shadows? Or perhaps while bombing Baghdad? No, it's actually a term for learning without knowing it and is an idea spun from the educational software area. In games this means a piece of software that will educate as well as entertain, often aimed at younger children. The American Psychologist Sandra L. Calvert and Communication, Culture and Technology researcher David E. Huffaker says, in an article published in Journal of Educational Computing Research (Vol. 29(3), pages 325-334, 2003): while the new science of learning emphasizes deliberate and effortful selfregulation and planning when engaging in metacognitive activities (Bransford et al., 1999), strategies are constructed and used to solve problems even when posed in video games (Greenfield, 1993), just as they are utilized to tackle school work. The difference is that game play is structured in a seamless and entertaining way, making metacognitive activities more engaging and enjoyable to children, a process that we argue is central to our goal of achieving stealth education in informal out-of-school educational activities. (page 3) Today educational play & learn titles are commonly found in families software libraries and few would argue that kids do not learn from these titles. Stealth education game titles wants to take this one step further and lure even the most stubborn person into learning a thing or two. I find the strategy interesting and when in December 2004 a fellow student contacted me about an opportunity to create a game for a project called Young Energy I became curious. Shortly thereafter we started to work on what became the stealth education game Energetic. Background My friend Thomas Grip and I had talked about creating a simple platform game together, something that would look and play like the classic titles of the 80s-90s, such as Super Mario Bros 1 and 1 Super Mario Bros is one of the most successful franchises in the game industry. The first game 4

Metroid 2. Growing up that were the type of games we enjoyed a lot and it is a genre slowly fading away. Today s games in that genre are few, often in 3D 3 and do not stay true to the side-scrolling 2D 4 nature of the original games. When Thomas was searching for opportunities to do a final exam project he got in contact with the Interactive Institute POWER, who were in the process of starting up a project named Young Energy. Young Energy is a project aimed at researching and educating teenagers about energy, energy production and energy consumption within our society. The people behind POWER gave him the opportunity to create a game for this project on an independent basis and use POWER as a resource for discussion and feedback on his ideas. Thomas immediately called me up, giving me the good news about this opportunity to do a game aimed at teenagers. An opportunity that we could use to make that classic platform game we had talked about. Intentions and delimitations My intention with this final exam report is to describe and discuss the working process of creating the game Energetic. Energetic aims to be a stealth education game, we have established that. This thesis will not further discuss stealth educational ideas, but rather fully concentrate on the strategies by which the team worked while creating the game. Under the caption Closer look at the audio creation I want to give the reader an opportunity to take a closer look at the audio creation process in detail since this was my main responsibility. You will not receive extensive information about the actual game, how it looks, sounds, plays and so on. For this information you can look at appendix A that contains the design document for Energetic. In addition you can also play the game by downloading it from the Energetic Website. was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the 80s and every console generation created by Nintendo since then has had at least one title based upon Super Mario Bros. 2 Metroid is also a game created by Nintendo, this title has been released in numerous versions for all consoles produced by Nintendo. 3 3D, short for three dimensions. Three-dimensional objects have volume and may be measured and described using three orthogonal directions, it also enables the movement of a character in all three directions. 4 2D, short for two dimensions. It means that a game is flat in the sense that you can only move 5

The working process To begin with I will talk about the process of how we decided to create a stealth education game. This will be followed by a look at the method used for writing the concept document. At that point we will reach the main part of the report, the production of the actual game. In this part I will not talk extensively about the audio creation, as it is so detailed I have decided to place it as a chapter of its own. Following the content creation, I will describe an important part of creating a game, namely the testing process and how we did this for Energetic. An overview of the time plan can be found in appendix B. The idea takes form Initially we talked about creating a game with the structure of a play and learn title. The result, if we went down that path, would be a game about energy and you would play it to learn about energy. It did not take much discussion to realize this would not work. Why would a teenager even bother testing a game that is educational when they instead can play a regular game that is only about having fun? Perhaps we ought to simply make a regular game, we thought, one that would be fun to create and have a realistic future of actually getting played. But that would mean no one would learn anything as well as not exactly being what POWER wanted for their Young Energy project. Not to forget it would hardly be innovative, something that we felt we at least wanted to try to be. That s when we started to form the idea to make a regular game, but hide a lot of information in it. Somehow trick the players into thinking Hey, a free game that looks and plays like those old classic titles from my childhood! I want to try it! Ones we had lured them into the net they would hopefully enjoy the game and by continuing playing they would gain new knowledge about energy and, if we did it right, they wouldn t even notice! Soon we stumbled across the term Stealth education while Googeling looking for resources and information related to games and educational software. It turned out that this idea of ours already up, down, left and right. There is no depth for movement or a depth to display graphics. 6

had a name, and that sites regarding the subject can easily 5 be found by. In the USA they even have an annual competition for people to come up with the best idea for a Stealth education game. From this newly found information we started to discuss the ideas that would eventually lead to the Stealth education game Energetic. The short, initial, one page idea document can be viewed in appendix C. Writing the concept document By the time we had come so far that a concept document could be written, we had also realized that we could use an additional member on the team. To be more precise, we could really use a graphics artist. Someone that was cunning in the writing of a concept document and with a keen interest in classic games. We had the same person in mind and the question was only, would he be interested? We asked Nicklas Mattisson the same day, he did not appear to hostile and wanted to look over what we had planned so far and think about it for a day or two. The day after he gladly joined the team and we got started on writing the concept document. Our work method was based on the usage of IRC 6 for communication. Twice a day we met up and had a discussion, one morning session and one evening session. Thomas usually had the role as chairman, deciding the topics as well as giving the floor to a speaker. This reflects the position Thomas had as he functioned as our project leader. With a team of three you can have a lose structure where everyone has as much to say about decisions as everyone else, but there is always the need to have one center figure that will have the last word regarding decisions in all areas. During the evening session we would ask ourselves what should the topics be for tomorrow? and then decide upon two to four different topics. These topics could, for example, be What type of Gadgets can the player have? or How can you make it easy to use the Inventory? After having decided the topics the meeting was adjourned with everyone having the task to think about these topics until the next morning meeting. During the morning meeting one of us would be handed the task of keeping notes as well as a log of the IRC session. Another person would get the task to start on one of the topics and tell us about one of his ideas. This idea would then be 5 A search for the phrase Stealth Education on http://google.com reveals 661,000 hits. (Fetched 20050529) 6 IRC short for Internet Relay Chat. A network that enables its users to talk to each other in channels that can either be public or private. 7

discussed by all of us and if someone else had a similar idea he would bring that up as well and after reviewing pros and cons we would eventually make a decision. This would go on until we had worked through all the topics and ideas. We would then make a list of things discussed that could use some more reflection and everyone would think about that during the day. The person taking notes and logging the session would then proceed to write them down into our concept document during the next hour or so. The other two would proceed to work on code, placeholder 7 content or other tasks related to making iterations of the actual game. When the concept writer deemed himself finished with his task he would inform the team and we would review the document to make modifications if required. At the evening meeting we reviewed the day s work, discussed some issues that had popped up during the day and had some final talks about topics from the morning meeting. The meeting would end in the same way it had the evening before, by deciding new topics for next day and then we would call it a day. This process went on for three weeks, with one or two milestones each week where we had decided what part of the document needed to be done for a certain date. The last week we concentrated on rewriting and changing the document to make it easy to read and free from repetition. We asked people to read the document through and provide feedback on overall appearance, structure, comprehensiveness and grammar. The entire concept is to be found in appendix A. Planning the production of the content During our content production period we did not have a working plan written in stone. By this I mean that we had not planed exactly what to make, how to make it and when to make it. However, within the group we had a very clear idea of what needed to be done, and in what timeframe. By having that unified group idea we could create milestones 8 on a weekly basis as long as we kept an open dialog on the subjects: Where are we now? How much work is required to reach the next milestone? How many milestones do we need? How far away is the deadline 9? 7 Content that is created to get a game s functions and features working as soon as possible. This content is later replaced with the real and finalized content. 8 Milestones means that you decide on important steps in your project that needs to be completed for certain dates. 9 A deadline is the final date set when a project needs to be completed. 8

By having a continuing dialog about these matters we could adjust and plan each week. An example of a time plan for such a week can be found in appendix D. The engine When the concept document was finished we had mostly produced placeholders to make sure we would be able to create the game we wanted with the engine that Thomas was creating. I will not spend time here documenting the engine and its creation in any detailed extent, but some short information will follow next. Thomas started to create the engine in late December 2004 and continued working on it through out the project to the very end, 18 th of April 2005. The engine was written from scratch and utilized the following technologies: TinyXml http://www.grinninglizard.com/tinyxml/ Cg http://developer.nvidia.com/page/cg_main.html Glee http://elf-stone.com/glee.php FMOD http://fmod.org/ AngleScript http://www.angelcode.com/angelscript/ OpenGL http://opengl.org SDL http://www.libsdl.org/index.php The requirements to run the engine are rather high. This is not because the game is a demanding one in terms of raw processing power. It has rather to do with the usage of modern techniques to create certain visual effects. These effects require a programmable graphical processing unit (GPU for short hereafter) on the graphics card, a technique that has only been around for the last three years or so. The effects are mostly dealing with being able to have realistic shadows and lightning. For example: Normal Mapping allows for objects to be affected by lightning in such a way that the shadows on their surfaces change depending on the location of the light source. Specular Lightning allows for the reflection of light on surfaces to give a sense of the material. You can see if the material is metal or wood in a realistic way using this technique. Stencil Shadows is another technique to make shadows, this one is used to enable objects to cast shadows on the surrounding environment. These shadows will also move depending on the location of the light source. 9

A certain amount of instructions needs to be sent to the GPU to produce these effects, for each new generation of graphic cards the amount of instructions the GPU can handle increases. For Energetic to work fully a graphics card produced in the last 2 years is required, this does not mean the game cannot run on older cards. By skipping one of the visual effects you lower the amount of instructions that is sent to the GPU and therefore cards created during the last 3-4 years can run Energetic. In the computer world, 3-4 years is a long time even for the casual computer user. Which convinced us the requirements would not be a problem in terms of limiting the number of potential users. 10

In addition to writing the engine Thomas also created an Editor that was used to create the levels. By the usage of the editor in conjunction with AngleScript 10, all of us could create levels entirely on our own. Early on it was decided that I was the one that would probably have the least to do in the content production period. As a result of this I was appointed the task of creating most of the levels. 10 AngleScript is a script language that can be implemented into games. Scripting is the most basic form of programming and is used to enable non-programmers to script basic events and functions. 11

Finalizing the content I will now track back to the point where we left the concept period and started on the content production period: At this point the engine and its editor had reached a level of completion that enabled us to start creating the actual game. We used a similar approach to creating the content as we had done during the writing of the concept: we decided upon a couple of areas we wanted to have completed within one week. For example: One level done with placeholder graphics and a basic layout. The main character completed as well as being able to run, jump and interact in the game world. Nicklas would start creating the main character, Thomas would prepare the game and make sure everything was working properly and I would start on a level and sound creation. First, I would decide how the character should sound, check with Thomas to make sure the actions I wanted sounds for were possible and then proceed to create placeholders for each. This would often take less time than the work required by Thomas and Nicklas, therefore I would continue by creating a level and keeping track of the progress done by the others. Once they started to get the character in game, I would be more active again, in regards to the character creation, and start to produce the final audio for it. During a day we would not work independently, rather a constant use of IRC and ICQ 11 to keep in touch, ask questions and discuss. In this way our contact progressed continuously through out the day. That enabled us to keep good track of what everyone was working on and sometimes change our plans to fit together as well as possible. As a result a feature could very quickly be put fully working into the game, often within one day. Yet there was the freedom to work quite freely with separate tasks; this helps if you want to try iterate the process and getting all the features and functions of the game up and running in a swift manner. An example of an IRC discussion can be found in appendix E. The discussion can be confusing to read; being fragmented by several topics, between three people that talk about a subject among themselves and by having a knowledge of the topics dating several weeks back. Therefore I will write a short description here on what we discuss. 11 ICQ is to be read I SeekYou and is an application mainly used to have a written conversation with a single friend. 12

Thomas has just sent a new version of Energetic to the rest of us and it contains a couple of new elements that he wants feedback on. It s a new weapon, the Vaporizer, that most of the discussion is about. This weapon is the most powerful weapon the player can get, it needs to be charged for 5 seconds before it can be fired at its most powerful setting. It is decided that the weapon does not feel as powerful as it should, a couple of solutions is discussed and a new version with a tweaked behavior is sent. This new version is a bit over the top and perhaps something in between the first and second version would be best. The result is that the weapon has a longer and thicker laser shot, with a cloudy appearance that on impact explodes in a big vaporization cloud. It is also discussed that once the sounds for the weapon are completed it will probably give it that final tweak needed to feel right. 13

Testing the game The final step in our process was to have as many people as possible testing the game and have them answer a questionnaire. For Energetic this testing stage was at the very end, usually this process starts earlier and continues as the development proceeds. Being a technology demonstration and with a short development period Energetic did not exist in a state that could actually be played, and understandable enough to provide feedback on, until during the last month. The testers played the game as much as they wanted and provided feedback freely based upon the questionnaire. Mostly the testers were friends and acquaintances from around the world, people that either play games a lot or hardly play games at all. This so that we could get as much feedback as possible on if the game was suiting for both novice and advanced users. Our main goal was to have a game that could be enjoyed by a broad range of teenagers and appealing enough for everyone to at least try and play the game. Some of the basic questions where: Say one thing that was easy to comprehend. Say one thing that was difficult to comprehend. Did you find certain areas to be too difficult, if so where? What did you like the most about the game, what did you like the least? How did you feel about the graphical style? The tester also had the option to freely write down his/her thoughts as well as report errors that had appeared while testing. As answers came in we would review them and make notes of problems/concerns that many pointed out. Followed by our work on changing the game according to the feedback, we sent a new version to the testers to try again, asked them to answer the same questions as well as reflect over the changes made based upon their previous feedback. This continued through several iterations until the game felt stable, streamlined and well thought through. The feedback was very valuable in several areas, it helped making the game easier to comprehend and less of a challenge to play. When trying to reach a broad market it felt as though those two areas were the most important, being used to play games made it hard for us to imagine how it would be to play the game without the basic understanding of a game world. 14

The final game April 18 th 2005, that s the date Energetic was finalized. After comparing the original design document with the final game it was clear that 99% of the document had been converted into a working game. The few areas that had not been completed were those that, as we worked on the game, seemed questionable. Often with a positive reason we found that certain ideas we had only complicated the game or added unnecessary steps for the player to make basic functions work. An example of this would be that we originally planned to have two sources of food for the player, eating trees and fish. In the final game we only had trees as a source of food, it simply was clearer to point at one object instead of two. Two objects would increase the number of objects that the player had to remember the functions of. As we wanted a game that could be played by novice players, minimizing such features seemed like a good idea. Closer look at the audio creation Audio has been my main responsibility for this project and it is the area I have the most experience in. Sound creation will get the most attention out of the two areas that make up the audio creation, namely music and sound. I have spent more time working on the sound than I have on the music for Energetic. In addition to detailing the process of creating the sound I will take an extra look at the preparation in terms of writing a sound list and sound design document for a computer game. This because I feel it is an area that lacks attention and documentation as well as often viewed as an area that can learn a lot simply by studying how audio for film is written and produced. As much as that might be true, there are also several important areas that differ in such a way it requires methods based upon how games work. The sound list & sound design document Starting a project, it often seems like a good idea to create a long list of all the audio that needs to be created, and categorize them to enable a quick overview. Currently there is no well established and documented way to write a sound list for games, it is often suggested that you look towards the film industry to find good methods to write sound lists and sound design documents. However, in my opinion a film and a game have widely different requirements in what makes a good sound list and sound design document: a film is static and a game is dynamic. As Director of Audio at 15

Stormfront Studios Andrew Boyd says in an article published on Gamasutra 12 in 2003: There is a constant tension in game audio that simply does not exist in film audio, that being the desire to minimize repetitive sounds versus the limitations of the delivery mechanism. If a sound designer working on a film wants every footstep, door slam, gunshot and telephone ring to be completely unique, it's simply a matter of creating the right number of instances of each sound and laying them into the soundtrack. ( ) In a game, of course, it would be unfeasible to attempt to make every instance of a sound unique, if for no other reason than it would require too much RAM to store all the possible variations. But even assuming infinite system resources, there remains the runtime problem inherent in the interactive world of a game. It isn't possible to make every gunshot sound unique if you don't know how many gunshot sounds are needed! I usually approach the audio as part of looping scenes; a scene can be a level or an item. By a loop I think in terms of a loop like those you see in code, typical an if-statement followed by some criteria s that says as long as this is true keep looping in the if statement. By taking the same approach when writing an audio list, you can easily categorize the audio and create a list that is easy to read and contains the correct file names. This will enable the programmer to use it as a source for knowing what to name the sounds in the code. The relation between the different sounds in one category is also easily overviewed. Everything on screen in a game is usually a collection of loops: the level with its set of sounds playing as long as you are in the level, the machines looping their sounds, the characters (including the player controlled character) making a variety of sounds for the actions triggered by the player etc. The following is an example of a list with categories and sounds for a small level in a game. Level 1 BackgroundMusic1 AmbientSounds -WaterRiverLoop -EerieWindLoop Machine1 -ElectricHumLoop Machine2 -PowerUpSound -EngineRunningLoop 12 Gamasutra is the number one source for game development related information on the Internet. 16

ExitLevel -PowerDownSound A closer look at the example: It says that BackgroundMusic1 starts to play first, followed by two ambient sounds. If these ambient sounds are playing directly, all the time and together or if one is playing in the area by the river and the other one in the area up by the mountains you will not know. This is however not important, the important part is that you have them in a category and that you have them in a list. For the specific details you use a regular sound design document that can go deeper in exactly how, where and when these sounds play as well as describing the overall style and feel you want a looping scene to have. The list continues on telling the viewer that there will be two machines in the level. One that will always be active playing an electric humming sound, and one that the player can interact with to start or stop it. While it is running it will play an engine sound, looping until the player turns off the machine again. All sounds stop when the player exits the level, or you could write a sound in the ExitLevel category if you want to specify a sound playing when a player leaves the level, a level complete sound is not uncommon in many form of games. This way of writing a sound list is modular and gives a freedom of choice on how to write and categorize it. You can write all the sounds into a level like in the example above, or you can have more specialized categories and make cross-references between them. If you make a separate machine category you can have the details on the sounds required for each machine there, using the same loop structure when you write them as you did in the level. In the level you can then rewrite it to simply state Machine2. In addition to the sound list you have the sound design document. In this document you will find all the information that describes, in greater detail, each sound as well as the big picture of what the sound for the whole game is supposed to accomplish. For each category of sounds you can write overall thoughts and ideas on what should unify them, if they should have unification that is. Each sound can have descriptions in detail on what they are, what they sound like and what role they play. Each sound is also cross-referenced to the sound list so that the reader can easily get an idea of where the sounds are supposed to be, what relation they will have to each other etc. In this document you can also include chapters about the music and what the music should accomplish for the game and game events. Important parts are also reflections over how the music 17

works together with the sound and situations that might occur when the sound and music collide and how to solve those situations. For Energetic the information about the music was spare, with little or no detail on each music piece. Basically it said that the music should sound as it sounded in those older classic games, with a modern touch in terms of overall quality as a result from the better technologies available today. The main reason for this was that, as I said before, Energetic is a technology demonstration and it is the game mechanics that has been our main goal when creating the game. As a result, at the time when writing the design document music and sound were mainly important in areas that affected the game mechanics. As the music never impacted on the game mechanics it did not receive more attention beyond the point other than to relate to the graphics. Placeholders After writing the sound list I proceeded to start creating placeholder sounds and early concept versions of the music. I ll continue on the subject of sounds for now and talk more about the music later. Creating placeholder sounds was a speedy process where I prioritized what to do first based on what Nicklas and Thomas was working on. The purposes of placeholder sounds are mainly two things: The first point is that the programmer has a sound to put into the game, at the time he puts the object the sound is for into the game. The second point is that it can work as an inspiration for the graphics artist when he creates the character, sounds can create very strong pictures in ones mind. To me the important factors for a placeholder is a sound that is made quickly, is about the same length as the final sound will be, work in the same way (should it loop or not, for example), have the same properties (sampling frequency, resolution) and simply sound similar to the final sound. This should mean lesser risk for bugs later and a more clear idea of what I want to do with the sound, which helps the rest of the team to, in an early stage, comment on how they feel about my choices. Final sound creation As the progress continued we eventually reach the point where sounds and objects started to appear 18

fully functional in the game. At this point I started to play the game and review how the different objects and sound worked together, my approach was simple: the objects that were in the game first got my attention first. If a placeholder sound seemed to work well I would go back to the original sound files and continue to work on them. If the placeholder sound did not work at all I would think about what could be the cause, come up with a new idea and write a short description of what would be needed to create the final sound. Creating a new sound Let us say that the firing of a laser weapon could use a completely new type of sound. To create this sound I would decide that I wanted three things to create it: an analog synthesizer sound, a regular pistol firing sound and the sound from squeezing a wet bath sponge. I would then proceed to collect the sounds I needed. For the first sound I usually relied on using a music application called Reason 13. In this application you have two sub-applications that are digital version of classic analog synthesizers. These synthesizers work by having an oscillator generate a waveform. That waveform can then be manipulated by running it through a series of filters, envelopes and effects to create a wide variety of synthesizer sounds. The original purpose is to create different musical instruments but it is also a great way to create science fiction sound effects, or other high tech type of sounds! I will not go into details on how to create a sound with this application or any of the following applications, it would require a whole paper on its own. But, in short, the final sound created in Reason, after turning the knobs, moving the sliders and tweaking the parameters should have a synthetic sounding quality. If you have watched a Star Wars 14 film you have seen the R2D2 robot and have heard his noises when he talks, that is a classic example of the type of sounds you can create with this method. For the pistol firing sound I would turn to my personal sound archive, it s an archive that contains thousands of basic sound recordings. Sometimes sounds can be hard to record on your own, such as pistols fire. Luckily one can purchase those sounds from companies that specialize in sound recording. It could also be that recording a new sound can at times be like re-inventing the wheel. If you want some clanking sounds from metal against metal why record it every single time? There are lots of sounds that you simply need in their basic forms to make new mixes, and using a library saves a lot of time and makes the production more effective. 13 Reason is a complete music creation application developed by Propellerhead Software. 14 Star Wars is a smash hit series of films taking place in a distant galaxy far, far away 19

I browse my archive using an application called itunes, which is meant for storing, organizing and listening to your digital music archive. The storage and search functions in this program are so powerful though, that it works extremely well for maintaining a large sound effect library. They enable you to quickly preview the sounds and find what you need. I selected a pistol firing sound that had quite a lot of noise from the mechanics working in the pistol followed by a compact small explosion and the whining of a bullet flying away. The original sound file contained several different versions of the sound, but since I only wanted one version I needed to do some editing with the file. To do this I used an application called SparkXL. SparkXL is a simple 2-track editor that works really well for recording, editing and mixing single sounds. Opening the sound file will display the waveform of the sound and you can easily listen to the file, make a selection and cut it out and put into a new file. At the moment I did not need to do anything more, a simple Save As was all that was required to finish the work on the pistol fire sound. Finally I proceeded and recorded myself squeezing a wet bath sponge, this because I did not have a sound like that in my archive. To record it I used a microphone connected to a digital sound interface in the computer and recorded through SparkXL. Like before I ended up with a file that contained several different version of the same sound, it also contained noises and longer areas of silence that I did not need. I selected the version of the recording that I liked the most, and made that into a new file. I then made sure that the overall volume level was about the same as the rest of my sounds that I had previously created/selected. After saving the new file I considered myself done with the recording session and proceeded with the last step. Having collected the three sounds I wanted for creating my laser fire sound, I launched the last and final application. Cubase is a multi-track, full featured recording, mixing and production application. Its main purpose is to serve as the core in a studio, recording music. I imported my three sounds into this application and put each on a track of its own, this way each sound has separate controls to add effects, change equalization, audio levels and much more. Perhaps I want the squeezing sound to be sharper and louder while the pistol firing sound should have an echo effect. The reason I had not done this type of mixing on the sounds earlier is, that by doing it in the final step, you have a lot more control and the process of later tweaking your sounds is quick and simple. If I, for example, want to change the squeezing sound I can launch Cubase, tweak the squeezing sound and directly hear how it changes in relation to the rest of the sounds. If I had done 20

changes to the squeezing sound in the recording session I would have had to go back to that first step and take it from there. After having mixed the sounds together and tested various ways of making them work together I would in the end have a completely new sound that, if things turned out OK, should sound like a futuristic laser pistol with a comical touch. Testing & tweaking the final sound Having created a sound the next step was a logical one: testing the sound in the game! This is a simple process starting by putting the sound in its appropriate place for the game to find it. To continue on my laser example: I would then start the game, go to the first level and fire a couple of shots with the laser gun. Did it sound OK with how it looked? Did it feel right? Hopefully the answer echoing in my mind would be yeah, that s nice. But the case would more often be an echo along the lines yeah, but The but would usually be something minor but even so, important to fix to make it sound right. It could be that the frequencies, compared to the rest of the sounds, were duller in the laser sound. Depending on the situation I would either proceed to continue working on the sound and tweaking the equalization or I would write a To do- list and start on a new sound instead. The most effective way is to write a note and continue working on the next sound. Usually you do not test a single sound, rather do 5-10 sounds and then test them all in one round, make notes and rework them accordingly. But since this was an example of a single sound I described the whole process based upon that! The music Working on the music That was an interesting journey for me. For the last three years I had not really created a single piece of music and this made me feel uncertain how this would work out. Before this music break of mine I had written music for three years on a daily basis, but could I still make it good enough within the short timeframe available? I put my faith into the fact that it can often be rewarding taking a break from a task. By taking a break you get a fresh start and perhaps a new approach. I was hoping this would turn out to be one of those times when the break had been a dormant learning process. 21

We had decided that the music should be in a 80s-90s game console style. It is interesting that all three of us understood how this kind of music sounds, even though there is no general genre description available. This vague description therefore meant quite a lot of freedom for me on how the music should sound. I wanted to use a lot of synthesizers sounds, but also go a little crazy and make use of both orchestral instruments and rock instruments in addition to the synthesized sounds. I wanted a music style based upon synthesizers because that creates a bit of that console style, but also because I feel that with synthesizers you can create a lot of attitude and humor fitting with overall design we had for Energetic. Working on the music I used only one application and that was Reason, the same application I used to create synthetic sound effects. Relying on Reason as my sole music application, I felt I could be in control and easily make changes to the different songs without having to go through a lot of steps before I could listen to a new version. In my past I had worked on fewer songs, mainly one song at a time and very early tested it in the game. This to see how well the song would fit the area in the game I had made it for, enabling me to quickly see if I were on the right track. If it did seem to fit I would continue the creation of the song. The work was as a result a repetitive process with re-working a song, testing it, re-working, testing until it felt right. This resulted in a harder time making all the music work together, to create a unified feel for the whole game. Most of all it could be frustrating when working with such a concentration on a single piece of music, at times you could spend a whole day working only to notice the next day that your ears had gone numb and not noticed all the false notes! For Energetic I tackled the music task in new ways. Not that it was something that I planned, rather something that happened by itself. A new way of working was that I worked on many songs at the same time without testing them in the game until they felt almost done. I did lots of quick short attempts at trying to create the ideas that I had in my head, and the decision to keep working on a song was based upon if I managed to nail that original basic idea. Soon I had short, basic songs mostly made up of only a melody or a drum rhythm that I knew could turn into a fitting song. For each song I had an initial idea for where in the game the song should go, but not a rule that it had to be used for exactly that idea. If a song started to feel as though it had more connections to another area in the game I would not hesitate to let it take that place instead. Having many songs in progress at the same time enabled me to jump between them as soon as I grew tired of working on a song. As a result the songs got more unified and I did not have the same 22

problems as I have had in the past fitting it all together. In a way the songs grew up together and that gave them a natural siblings relation. Unable to dampen my happiness over being a parent for these songs, I cannot help but feel that they were a perfect example of when having a break is a learning process. To be able to start writing songs with different approaches was something I had struggled with before, most of the time I always started with a bass line and then built the song from that. But this time it evolved around what I wanted to create, what I felt was the important part for the area the song was supposed to be for. If it were for an area with action, I would often start with trying to come up with an intense and rhythmic beat. If it were for a reoccurring song that was played in many levels I felt that the melody, by far, was the most important part to get right, and started with that. Reoccurring songs will often be experienced as theme songs that set the overall feel for the whole game, therefore trying to get memorable sing a long songs was something I tried to accomplish. I will not dig deeper into the music creation than this. I feel that the important part for me to talk about was the differences in my thinking around the subject of creating music for this particular game. For details on the functions of Reason there is always the product website, and for details on music creation for games there are several interesting articles on Gamasutra to mention one of the thousands of sources that are freely available on the Internet. Creating the final mix At the very end of the project I did the final mix on the sound and the music. By doing a final mix I mean that I reviewed all the audio, made sure that everything was unified and sounded the way I wanted them to sound. During the creation of the whole game, I had the opportunity to play the game on a daily basis and by doing so I slowly noticed those small errors that take a while to notice. I had written down short notes regarding various errors, for the purpose to go thru them and make a final check as a last step in the production. In addition I ran all the sound effects through a chain of effects to give them all a final touch. This I did to even the sound volumes, frequencies and overall quality on all the sounds. The music got the same treatment, done for the same reason and with the same end result as with the sound. I also checked to make sure that the sound and music worked well together and that they did not collide in terms of heavily relying on the same frequency ranges. By doing these changes and checks I felt that I cleared up the audio picture, easing the strain on the listener s ears by giving the music and sound their appropriate places and not having them fight over the spotlight. 23

Concluding notes Looking back at the project there are both positive and negative aspects to discuss. As the last words are those that sustain with the reader I will start by looking at the issues that could have been more positive. It is hard to know for sure, but we could have spent more time to design the actual world in terms of visual, audio and level design. In the end the game world would have been more comprehensive and the levels and the story could have had a more thought through appearance. We had problems getting testers with motivation to help out more than 10 minutes. When asked most people would reply Sure, I can help out and test your game. But ones they actually got a version of Energetic to test it required some work getting them to send any feedback at all. I think that if we had started to look for people earlier on we might have had a longer list of people to send to and by doing so maximizing the chances of getting dedicated people. As you might have noticed I have not talked much about our relation with POWER. This because shortly after we started to work on our project we lost the communication with POWER. Why, I cannot really say because I do not know. We sent versions of the design document, films showing the progress of the Energetic as well as test version of Energetic. But we did not receive any extensive feedback apart from that they were going to take a look at it or a short looks good. Therefore I have no idea if Energetic can be used as a learning tool and be part of the Young Energy project. Moving on to the positive aspects The method we used for writing the design document worked out well. My mind gets very active in the evenings and especially when I try to sleep, having a note pad by the bed enabled me to write down some late night ideas. Getting the opportunity to discuss those ideas directly in the morning was effective and having the rest of the day to reflect over the discussion, gave good opportunities to finalize the decisions in the evening. The open dialog during the days, that enabled us to quickly create features and put them in the game, was enjoyable. It improves the team spirit, and when you can see progress being made on a daily basis, the motivation increases. 24

How about the stealth education part then? Well, I think that the game contains valuable information on energy and energy consumption. The information is so tied together with the actual game though, that the user might not notice it. If this is good or bad I do not know, I am guessing that it is good since hiding the information is the purpose of stealth education. If Energetic is a stealth education game time will tell, if teenagers of today grow up being experts on energy, then we all know whom to thank for that! 25

References Published Calvert, Sandra L. & Huffaker, David A, 2003: The new ScienceT of learning: Active learning, Metacognition and Transfer of knowledge in E-Learning Applications I: Journal of Educational Computing Research 29(3), pages 325-334. Baywood Publishing Company. Internet Boyd, Andrew 2003: When Worlds Collide: Sound and Music in Film and Games. Gamasutra.com. Last viewed 050527. Interactive Institute POWER - http://www.tii.se/power/ Last viewed 050602. Energetic Website - http://fadeoutstudio.com/energetic/ Last viewed 050602. Hidden agenda, stealth education competion - http://www.hiddenagenda.com/ Last viewed 050602. Gamasutra - http://gamasutra.com/ Last viewed 050602. Reason - http://www.propellerhead.se/ Last viewed 050602. itunes - http://apple.com/ Last viewed 050602. SparkXL - http://www.tcelectronic.com/ Last viewed 050602. Cubase http://www.steinberg.net/ Last viewed 050602. 26