Ok, so you are making this damn fine game of yours. It has solid gameplay, fun mechanics, an awesome art style and killer looks. You made your way along the design and planning stages, as well as the tedious coding and debugging. You are almost done and ready for release, but there is yet one aspect missing from your game.
You probably managed to code everything up by yourself and maybe you also made all the graphics for it. A feat which makes you feel proud. But the sound department is a total mystery for you. Neither had you ever designed any sound for anything else and you never played the violin at school. What a disaster.
You feel lost. A game with no sound is just not the same thing and unless you make your game have a competent sound design it will never feel complete.
Lucky you, today we have a few suggestions for those game developers who are a bit lost in this situation of “needing some sweet sounds for my game but I don’t know $%#! about how to pull it off!”.
First of all, I want no make clear that Im no musician. I always loved music and I have always wanted to learn how to play and compose beautiful music. Well ,that hasn’t happened -yet-. But I still want my games to sound great, and I’m completely up for taking the path of learning how to achieve this, so I’m trying to help people out by pointing newbie developers in the right direction by giving some advice on a set of tools that have been useful to me in the past and still are today.
BOOM!, PEW-PEW-PEW, ARGGH!, CRACK!
Yep, you are right, let’s start with the very basic sound any game has to be able to offer: sound effects.
For this task you can take different routes. You can take the direct route and you can record your own sound effects by going out in to the wild with your recorder and your mic and then process the source material using an audio editing tool like Audacity. Or if you are a lazier person you can always try the awesome SFXR.
This gem was born in the midst of Ludum Dare 10. Where lots of coders needed to get sound for their submissions ASAP. SFXR provided them exactly that. By fooling around a bit with some basic parameters like sound wave form, frequency, attack, delay, HP/LP filters and so on you can get a huge array of different sounds (with a retro flavor to them) in no time at all. You can also use the random generator to create these sounds without having to bother with all that know twisting. Just press that “coin” button until you get the sound you want. After that, you can export the sound effect into .wav format. It’s brilliant.
Oh, and if you don’t want to bother downloading the desktop version you just can do almost the same thing on the web through this port.
Ok, this is the hard part of the sound department. Most game developers don’t have the knowledge -nor the talent- to compose music by themselves. So in most cases the wisest choice is going to be to go out and ask a musician to help you out (they may even expect you to pay for it, those capitalist swines!).
If that’s it then you are done, just ask the musician you chose for the music you want, pay for it and BAM, you got it.
But this would be no fun at all, would it?
Since there are tons of programs out there that allow us to try and compose our little bits of “music” I’m just going to give you a few suggestions that I’ve tried and liked so far.
It’s just a very simple tracker, that allows you to compose, edit and play tunes using the same hardware layout the original Famicom/NES had. That means that if you are looking for a program you can start making chiptune with this is your tool. It’s not easy to come up with something great, but the interface is simple enough to get you punching notes and making some sweet sounds in no time at all. Its only drawback is that it is a Windows-only program. But hey, we can all run that thing on VirtualBox anyway.
Another approach to a simple and clean way of composing music for your game materializes in the shape of Bosca Ceoil. A small tracker coded by the now famous Terry Cavanagh, maker of games like VVVVVV or Super Hexagon.
It features a clean pattern creation system, where you just choose MIDI instruments and place the notes you want to play into small patterns that can then be looped and copied as many times as you want. The interface is super simple and you’ll be banging some tunes in just a few minutes. It’s a great program for people with no music composition skills at all, since it is all about tweaking and testing things on the go and seeing how they fit together.
This is the most “professional” program we are going to stumble upon today.
Sunvox is a tracker that use a module system to add components to your track. This means that you can import new instruments, wave or noise generators by just linking their modules together, as well as filters, special effects and so on. You can even make your own samples with it.
The interface is super sleek and easy to understand, but its learning curve is definitely steeper than our previous suggestions.
Out of the box
Last but not least, let’s not forget that music creation is not strictly bounded to desktop systems. You can get music composition software in almost any platform these days, from mobile phones to tablets, or even game consoles!
In my case, I’ve been learning a bit about crunching music with the help of the great Korg DS-10. An almost perfect emulation of the great analog synthesizer from the 60’s.
In fact, I’ve even made sound effects with it while traveling on the train or just lying in bed. It may seem a limited toy but you’ll be amazed with the power this baby holds inside.
With this final thought I just wanted to point out the fact that no matter what software you use, the important thing of all this is that you end up learning and trying things out. Don’t spend a lifetime trying to learn how to operate a thousand-dollar virtual workstation when you could spend that time on simpler and more user-friendly programs that will probably give you results. These results may not be the best you ever listened, but with each step you take they will surely begin to get better and better. And one day you may surprise yourself with an awesome thought: the fact that you made your own game from scratch and by yourself, and you even did the frickin’ music for it.
Cheers!, and stay tuned!