Arquivo da tag: tactical

Let’s design a sound: Electric hammer!

Hey everyone!

In the next few posts I am going to share with you a few general audio tips, focusing on how I go about designing sound effects. 馃檪

Today we’ll be looking at an electric hammer sound I had to create for the game Star Vikings (TBA), a crazy tactical mobile/web game where you lead a group of vicious space Vikings raiding a planet of giant snails! You can play the demo here:聽

How does it sound?

How does it look?

The first thing you need to know when creating a sound effect, is if the object that is about to be “audified” has already been made, and if it has, if there is an animation or visual effect to help guide the sound. Of course, many times game assets change during production, so usually it’s better to produce their sounds when they are close to being finished.

For the hammer, the character and the animation were already done, so the only thing missing was the vfx. Our designer had already decided that the hammer would deal electrical damage, so I knew that the sound had to indicate that quality and the visual effect would have to follow the sound later on.

The second step for me, when there is an animation, is to record it and import the video into Cubase (I know it’s not so common, but I use Cubase for both music and sfx). After that I set markers at the most crucial points in the video. For the hammer, those were

1. animation start

2. lift arm

3. lower arm


No silence

When making sounds for games you always have to think about file size. The longer a sound, the larger the file, and this is especially a problem when working on mobile games, so you should always try to avoid silence at the starting and/or ending point of the sound effect. In this case, I realized through the video markers that there doesn’t really happen too much in between the start of the animation and the moment the character lifts his arm. When something like this happens, you should record the sound from where it actually punches in, and after you’re done, calculate the difference to the animation starting point. You will have to take that value and use it in the delay option of the respective prefab inside the game project.
Now on to design! 馃檪

Grabbing sounds

When working on the hammer sound, I did everything in the order it happens in the animation, so I started with the lifting of the arm. I kept this totally simple, since the most interesting and important part was obviously the impact. So, that sound is just a natural whoosh I took from a sound library. Usually the whoosh happens at the lowering of the arm, but I decided to use that part to anticipate the electrical flare of the attack, as if the hammer was being charged. Since there wasn’t yet a visual effect, I had to imagine how things could look in the end. Like I said before, I usually find it better when the visuals dictate the design of the sound, but you can’t always rely on that.

Like the first moment of the sound, I also did the arm lowering part in a really simple way, in that case using just a snippet of an actual electrical crackle. Things only got more interesting when I got to the hit.

Creating layers

That part is actually composed of 9 different layers. There are, yet again, 2 real electric sparks/crackle sounds to take up the higher frequencies of the whole, and of course, to give the hammer it’s electrical quality. One of those is also the tail of the whole sound, giving it some movement after the hit. Next, there are 5 impact sounds. The first one is debris, to indicate that the hammer has hit the ground. The second a middle section of the sound of a firing tank. To enhance the bass I took an explosion, lowered the pitch a bit and took out the middle frequencies. Usually I would also beef up the really low end with a subharmonic effect tool like Waves’ Lo-Air to give it that cinematic oomph. But since the game is mainly for mobile, there is no need for that, because you won’t hear it anyway.
The explosion is joined by a fleshy smash sound, probably some kind of vegetable being slammed, and also a snare drum hit. These three sounds punch in after the impact; with that, you get more movement and you avoid clipping (distortion), because the peaks of the different impact groups don’t play at the same time.
These are all natural sounds, but since we are talking about Vikings in space, there has got to be some sort of scifi flavor! So, I made two short synth hits, one kind of electric sounding in NI’s Massive, and the other one a distorted stab in FM8.

Mix and Master

Once you have all your elements in place, you have to create a clean mix and then master it. I won’t go into much detail here, because mixing and mastering could never be explained thoroughly in some small article. You just have to keep in mind, that mixing means cleaning things up by adjusting volumes, positioning the sounds properly in a stereo/surround field (unless it’s mono) and by using plugins like equalizers and compressors. The mastering process comes after that, and it envolves making the sound become “richer”, “fuller” and enhancing it’s volume until you reach the same “perceived loudness” shared by the all the other sounds you made. This will help you later in the mixing stage of the game itself, because everything will be equally loud and you won’t have to compare everything to get a good mix.

That’s it, folks!

Here is how everything looks in Cubase:

screen hammer

Next time around we’ll take a look at a much more complex sound. Hope to see you then!

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Bruma: an unusual game needs unsual timbres

First of all, sorry for the delay, guys! These last weeks I had a lot of sounds and music to do. I’ll write about these projects once they come out!

As I mentioned in my previous post, this one will be about the last game that Critical Studio was working on, before we shut our doors. We all look forward, however, to getting back together and finishing it sometime in the future!

HelpingChar_02About the game
Bruma is a turn-based tactical and strategy game that is set in a dark low-fantasy world. Try to picture a combat system as in X-Com paired with a Civilization-ish socio-economic system and all of it taking place in a medieval and sinister, unforgiving world, like the one of Dark Souls, though with only a few, albeit decisive fantasy elements. I hope I’ve drawn your interest. 馃檪

I won’t give away too much about Bruma’s mystery-filled storyline, so in short, you will lead a small group of nomadic people, struggling to survive in an unfertile land that is constantly covered in a thick supernatural fog (in Latin and many Romanic languages “Bruma”, hence the name). Your desperate search for food and shelter will have you face a group of strange beings in a fight to the death over the scarce resources.

First steps for the music
So what would be a fitting musical approach to such a premise? Knowing what the gameplay and especially the plot and the overall lore had in store for the player, I decided in the first place, that all instruments had to be natural, even if I should in some way alter them digitally afterwards.

As you may have guessed, the fog, the Bruma, is an essential part of the game, almost as if it was a character by itself. With that, the inspiration for my first musical ideas came up quickly, thanks to its haunting nature. I decided to gather dozens of glasses, cooking lids and bottles, and recorded a few hours of glass harping and bottle blowing. After throwing them all together and using a bit of reverb and delay, Bruma had come to life:

The rusticity of what I had already recorded made it clear, that it was the perfect opportunity to do something I had already planned to a few times, but had never really had the time for: building a new instrument. 馃檪

The vioj贸n
To make things short, the instrument, that had in some way to embody the player’s characters constant feelings of fear, anxiety, and forsakenness, became a mixture of a 12-string mandolin and a caj贸n. I call it, the vioj贸n:

At this point, I’d like to thank the great luthier Wagner Brito from S茫o Paulo, for carving the neck that was used for the vioj贸n.

To be honest, since this was the first time I was creating an instrument, I wasn’t really sure if it would even make a decent sound when finished. But that was okay, I wasn’t looking for a replacement for my guitar, I was actually looking forward to something crude and different. In the end, the vioj贸n was a positive surprise, because I really enjoyed the sound, and the fact that the large caj贸n body keeps the notes ringing inside for almost an eternity.

After recording a miriad of sounds with the vioj贸n and playing around with them a lot on Cubase, these are a few examples of what came out:

The berimbow
To increase the palette of unusual timbres, I also added what I called the berimbow. It is simply the Brazilian instrument berimbau聽being played with a bow. Although this simply means playing a string with a bow, the wah-effect when the opening of the calabash聽is closed by your belly makes some interesting sounds. Here some examples (not processed):

The main theme
So, I had found a few textures that would represent different elements of Bruma, but what now? Where was the music? I knew that apart from my rustic sounds, I wanted to make use of medieval and orchestral instruments, but most definitely wouldn’t be looking into composing some epic run-of-the-mill fantasy soundtrack. The instrumentation had to be related, in our modern sense, to the historical setting in the game, but the compositions had to be about feelings, the usual fantasy/historic composition and orchestration tecniques kept aside.

With that in mind, I composed, what ultimately became the main theme of Bruma (this is NO final mix or master, only a mockup, best listened to on headphones):

Unfortunately, apart from the vioj贸n chords, everything in this piece is played by virtual instruments. But should things work out and Critical Studio get back together to finish this project, we will do everything to have the soundtrack recorded live. 馃檪


Concept art

That’s it, folks! I’ll be glad f you’d like to ask or comment anything! And to finish this post, here’s another track for Bruma. This one is a quick sequence of three important gameplay stages in the tactical phase; first, the heroes delving deeper into the fog, second, the moment they are seen by the enemy, and third, the enemy combat turn (this is also NO final mix or master, only a mockup, best listened to on headphones):聽

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