AN INTERVIEW WITH JEFF W. MURRAY (PART TWO)
November 16, 2021
Hey Developers! This week we’ve got the awesome developer and author Jeff W. Murray on the pad with us! We’re going to go over some top tips for your development.
How did you get into the industry?
I’d been making games as a hobby since the 1980s off and on, but it wasn’t until around around the year 2000 I got paid to do it. I was working tech support and I heard about Macromedia Director and how it could make games that would run in the browser. I made a sliding puzzle demo game for a local web studio, who hired me off the back of that and got me to make browser-based games and promotional cd-roms for local businesses. From there, I was eventually noticed by a game studio in Canada (Fuel) who moved my family and I out here to work for them, first making browser-based games and then later on PC and console titles.
After Fuel, most of my work has been freelancing for mobile games, VR projects and the occasional advergame – which has allowed me to make my own indie games in- between gigs.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
I'm super proud of the textbooks I’ve written – as a self-taught programmer born in a working class area in the North West of England during the 1970s, and as a kid who skipped way too much school to ever be considered smart, I think it feels like a bigger deal to me. And my family love telling people I’ve written books (which does make me secretly very proud if I let my ego speak for a second) - it’s something I never imagined I’d get the opportunity to do. Me? Write books about programming? Nah, the universe is crazy!
A lot of developers we speak to struggle with the networking side and encouraging people to check out their Games. Do you have any top tips?!
Not really. No matter what anyone says, there are no formulas. Best I can tell you is to make a marketing plan, with the goal being to tell as many people as possible about your game. Constant spamming in any way you can – social media, dev blog posts, dev vlogs, live streaming, Q&A, everything you can. There are so many games coming out these days that it’s hard for any of us to be heard.
For the launch of RC Rush, I organised a mini-tournament using the games online multiplayer – I should also say that this wasn’t my idea and I have Chris Hanney to thank for it. Anyway, I put out videos the week of launch, with the tournament final video streaming on the games Steam page on launch day. I know it brought extra people to the game, so it was a good quirky thing to do. If you can do something like this, do it.
Sadly, marketing takes time and these days if you don’t market, you’re not going to sell much. Games marketing is brutal. Even if your game is the best game ever made, you still need to work way too much to get the word out. If you can afford to pay someone to do marketing full-time, do it. It’ll probably be worth it in the long run.
Lastly (we’ve got to ask!) What do you consider the best sound design for a Game?
Dirt Rally. The engine sounds blow my mind – they’re the best in the business if you ask me. The co- driver audio is clear and not too harsh, but it still sounds like it’s coming through a radio. Acoustics inside the car sound amazing – I remember the first time I drove the Mini and I switched into in-car camera mode with my surround headphones on and it reminded me of a Mini I used to drive and how it sounded inside. The way the little pops and bangs from the car exhaust echo through the environment on outside cameras is perfect – it sounds exactly how it would in real life.
It’s not just that the audio is realistic, it’s just the level of detail and care that’s gone into them. They do what they need to do – to reinforce the themes of the game and support the visuals – and they do it in an incredible way.
Wow, just wow! Some awesome information and great advice on the pad today. We just want to thank Jeff for coming on the pad and sharing his wisdom with us and all you developers!
If you want to check out more from Jeff, head over to Tea Monster Games
AN INTERVIEW WITH JEFF W. MURRAY (PART ONE)
November 5, 2021
Hey Developers! This week we’ve got the awesome developer and author Jeff W. Murray on the pad with us! We’re going to go over some top tips for your development and talk about what you can do if you find yourself at a roadblock.
Thanks for coming onto the pad Jeff! What have you been up to recently?
I’ve been building a new game! It’s an arcade racing game called RC Rush. It’s a VR or non-VR game where you race radio-controlled monster trucks around all kinds of crazy tracks like in caves, Egyptian tombs or at a wrecking yard.
So the first thing we want to cover is developing a story and game concept. How do you usually come up with an idea?
I start with a central game mechanic – the very core. Maybe that’s ‘throwing stuff is fun’ or ‘racing things feels great’. My games are very visceral and always have been. It’s about game feel for me more than anything else, so I start there. The core of the game needs to work really well – it’s the whole reason we’re there in the first place, right? BUT even if a game doesn’t have a story, I like to have one wherever I can. Once I know what type of game I’m making, I start to imagine why this weird universe might exist. The game universe is super important to me. A game's entire feel and flow are shaped by the universe it exists in. For this reason, to me it makes sense to have a background story even if it never gets revealed to the player.
For example, my game Axe Throw VR is about throwing axes. This is about as much as we reveal in the actual game, but the story I have is that it’s about an evil necromancer who has trapped you in one of his underground axe training tunnels (yeah, I say they’re a thing, ok?!). In the game, you play as an undead monster who needs to reach a certain skill level before the necromancer will release you and use you to destroy his enemies. As well as pure axe throwing, the game also has a zombie survival mode, which represents the part of the game where the necromancer lets you out and you are expected to serve him but instead you make your escape and take out the hordes of zombies he sends to destroy you.
Again, none of this is actually said in the game but it is reflected in the audio and certain aspects.. like, the acoustics are supposed to be underground cave-like and there is a low volume ambient rumbling as though it’s underground – deep down in the underground sound mix are also little murmurs that suggest there are others down there with you. Your hands, in VR, are green – the colour of traditional monster hands!
When I worked at Fuel Games (also known as Fuel Industries) I co-designed a game for Microsoft called Tinker, which shipped with Windows Vista. The original concept was a simple isometric puzzle game with shifting blocks, conveyors – all the usual sort of puzzle game elements – but it needed a universe. Again, there was no mention of a story in the game itself, but there was a story I would tell everyone who worked on the game, so that all their decisions would have a base in a game universe. The story was that an old war veteran makes puzzle boxes in his garage for his grandchild. His mind is scarred by the war, so some things are slightly skewed from reality (never in a threatening way, just a little surreal sometimes) and the puzzle boxes he makes for his grandchild are made from odd bits he has lying around his garage and house.
We commissioned a beautiful gypsy jazz soundtrack, which was recorded at the in-house recording studio. The direction was that the music should feel a little classical, a little surreal (channeling perhaps Django Reinhardt a bit) and representing the old man’s memories of some of the places he’d traveled in the army. I got to work with some absolutely amazing artists at Fuel, who did an incredible job of composing an art style which combined those elements of the past with the muddled mind of the present. There were paper cut out backgrounds and all sorts of little knick-knacks. There were intricate little gears and cogs (that would turn whenever the level was in play, as if it were a real wind-up puzzle box) and the artists really made it feel as though the entire game was constructed and powered by old bits the old man might have collected along the way.
Having a background story in place makes some of the design decisions easier and helps to channel a direction for the overall flow of the game. And the player doesn’t even have to know about them, but they’ll make a difference because they drive the gameplay, the pacing, the audio, lighting etc. It’s always important to me to try to add depth to a game universe, even if the game never directly mentions it.
Wicked, you’ve got a great idea and you start developing. What happens if halfway through, the ideas stop, how do you overcome this?
For me, when things get stale, I like to focus on fine-tuning the core game. If there are no ideas, maybe the core game doesn’t need any more ideas? I’ll focus on the core and if something comes up, I run with it, otherwise it’s perfectly okay to concentrate on making it play as well as possible without having to innovate all the time.
Do you have any advice for someone first getting into development? What should they first focus on?
Make games! Make lots of games. Some of the games you make will probably be terrible, but that’s OK. Every project is a learning experience and, on every project, you’ll feel like you’re learning new things. but there are parts of development you get better at, and over time it becomes like an instinct to solve certain problems that might have stumped you in the past. There are still problems, still mountains to climb and puzzles to solve, but they tend to change the longer you make games for. Also, remember that lots of people make awesome tech demos but not all that many carry them through to completion. Make games, ship games. That’s the only way to learn.
How cool is that developers! Did you take notes?
Stay tuned for "Part two" next week! We will be asking Jeff how he got into the industry and how to network your Game. If you want to check out his website in the meantime, here is the link:
AN INTERVIEW WITH COLIN MACKIE
September 29, 2021
We’ve got the brilliant developer and founder of Lila Inc Colin MacKie in the pad with us today. He has worked on numerous titles and has received an Emmy nomination. We’re going to be getting deep into how you can get started within game development and how Colin’s journey has led to founding Lila inc.
So the first thing we all want to know is - How did you get into Game development?
The year is 1997. Titanic is still in theaters and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has just been released in the U.K... I am sitting at a café in Walnut Creek CA with a few friends. At the table next to us, I overheard someone say “LucasArts is hiring for testers. I’m going to apply”. Hearing that made my whole body light up. When I got home that night, I sent my resume to LucaArts. They offered me the job on the spot. Why did they offer me the job? Because, at the time, I was gainfully employed as an IT professional and I aced all their software and hardware tests. So, I accepted the job at a starting wage of $9.50/hour leaving an IT job making $50/hour -at the time that was a lot of money. I steadily climbed up the ladder to eventually run my own company.
What is your first officially released game you worked on and how did you find the process?
My first design credit was on Mechwarrior 3: Pirates Moon. The process was pretty old-school. I don’t think they make games like that anymore. Why don’t I tell you the story of the first game I released in the modern era: Ratchet & Clank for the PS2. When I was hired, they only had one level made for this game, but already it was totally inspiring. I worked hard doing small stuff like minor setups and some hoverboard races. The video game legend Mark Cerny did his best to teach me some design (heh, sorry dude!).There was so much to learn. When it was released, due to a coincidence of timing, the previous game I worked on at company called 3DO released the same year, so I had the distinction of working on both the nomination for best game of the year (R&C) and worst game of the year (Shifters).
Did you think you were going to make it as a developer?
Yes, this is what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I knew it.
What was your biggest hurdle in the industry?
The biggest hurdles I faced in the industry was advancing in career from Tester to Designer, from senior Designer to Lead Designer, from Lead to Director. These major rungs on the career ladder require other people to put their trust in you untested. It’s as courageous for them to give you the trust as it is for you to accept the responsibility.
What are you most proud of?
The Emmy nomination for Vader Immortal.
Let’s chat about Lila Inc. What do you do so well?!
I have always felt like video games were missing something… I mean, why do we commonly laugh or cry watching a movie but almost never laugh or cry playing a video game? Is there some fundamental limitation with video games as a medium that precludes real human emotion? Video games are supposed to make you feel a part of the adventure, right? Do you ever feel like you actually saved the world, imparted justice to the wicked, or become a king? No, of course not. But isn’t that the promise on the back of the box? How can I give the player an experience that brings them closer to the back of the box promise of video games? With Lila, you talk the NPCs in our games like you would anyone else. The drama is more real when you are literally yelling over the wind to a pirate captain, whispering to a crewman aboard a space vessel (less you are noticed by the automated patrol drones), etc. It puts you in the action like nothing has ever done before. With Lila, you feel an actual part of the adventure.
What do you have in mind for the future of Lila Inc?
“Live Games” opens a new dimension in entertainment. There is so much to explore, learn, and discover that I think the future has limitless possibilities.
How far do you think VR can go within gaming?
Very good question. VR has to add something new. It can’t be just a console you wear on your head. I don’t believe VR will supplant flat games, I think it has to discover itself. To do what it does well and become a branch on the interactive entertainment tree.
We’ve got to ask, what do you consider the best sound design for a game?
I’m a big fan of Don Veca’s work (Deadspace, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, etc). I also think Kevin Bolan from Skywalker sound has done some really nice interactive work on some the VOID pieces.
Finally, do you have any advice to game developers getting into the industry?
Yes, but advice is individual. Some folks are strong in some categories, but less so in others. Some just need an intro to the right person; others need to learn that they have a lot to learn. If you want to talk shop, DM me on twitter @TryColinMacKie.
USING REVERB ON YOUR GAMES
September 22, 2021
Today I want to chat about reverb and how to add depth and space to your sound effects within Gameplay.
Reverb is one of the great tools within game sound design, used correctly it can bring life to your game and make it more realistic, used wrongly it can ruin your game and make everything feel fake and spacious. Firstly before using reverb you need to understand what it can do. Reverb is a sound reflecting back to the listener at varying times and amplitudes to create a complex echo.
Now can you see how this sound could be useful within Game Audio?
Let’s take a simple sound effect such as your game characters footsteps. What do you think they’ll sound like as the player is walking through a cave or in a derelict village? To emphasise the scene you’d want to crank up the reverb to the point where the player feels as if there is nobody around from how spacious the players footsteps are…
That's sounding kinda spooky isn’t it?
You can use reverb to add power to your players weapons, maybe you want the gun shot to sound more spacious and powerful or you want your players sword slash to feel as if it is going on for ever. The best way to learn how to use the reverb effect is to experiment. Try starting on something simple such as your players footsteps and then move on to ambiences and object assets.
August 29, 2021
Today I wanted to talk about FMOD and WWISE and how to get started with these audio implementation engines (middleware) within your games.
FMOD is set-up like a DAW (digital audio workstation) which can be great if you've used past DAW's or you are coming from a sound production background, WWISE is more focused on game logic for example how sounds are triggered and how they can be played and set up, more like a game engine plug-in. Both are extremely powerful tools for game sound design.
Each middleware has additional plug-in options which is great if you want to use some third party software such as Izotope or Waves. For example the camel crusher distortion plug-in I mentioned last week that can be powerful for juicing up your sound effects. They also contain in-house plug-ins such as pitch editor, filters, time stretch and so forth.
Depending on the game you are working on, your background within sound production and the team you are working with, you will most likely be using one of these middleware's. They can both be downloaded freely and will contain startup guides on their websites.
So the question is... What Middleware should you choose?
We preferably love FMOD due to the fact that it's set up like a DAW! But there really isn't a right answer. You will have to take a look at them both and decide for yourself, I would suggest thinking about the sounds you have and how you would like to implement them!
GAME MAPS 1 LANDING 6TH AUGUST
July 24, 2021
GAME MAPS 1 is due to arrive in our asset store the 6th August and we are already exited to see how the ambiences will fill the space within your Game Levels!
Does your game character get caught within a storm while they're on a quest? We've got the sounds to make that happen.
Is your character bartering with pirates by the docks? We've got ambiences for you to bring that scene to life.
Our team has put together 30 beautifully crafted ambiences, they have researched into your games and found the right backdrops to feature within our first Game Maps pack.
Developers...You don't want to miss this.
NEED CHARACTER VOICES FOR YOUR VIDEO GAME?
July 1, 2021
Our first Character asset pack is hitting our store tomorrow and we couldn't be more exited!
One of the most stressful things as a sound designer is to see beautifully developed games being ruined by terrible audio. So us at AUDIOPAD thought we'd help you on your game development journey by providing you with 210 Royalty Free character assets.
If you're developing a zombie shooter we got you. If you're crafting an RPG through middle earth we have you covered.
Designing a Sims style SCI-FI game? Don't even sweat it.
Some fantastic characters are included within this one (zombies, pirates, bandits, monsters and aliens to name a few!) and we can not wait to see them featured within your games.
RPG 1 IS HERE.
June 04, 2021
RPG Developers, we've got the goods and they’re so GOOD.
Containing 300 royalty free audio assets, influences from Zelda, Skyrim and Genshin Impact (to name a few) this asset pack will be the one to get your RPG game in the charts.
Are you struggling to fill your RPG Game with the right music? We’ve composed 10 Royalty Free RPG genre tracks. Are you trying to find ambiences suitable to your games location? We’ve recorded 10 ambiences, including beaches, town docks, cities and villages.
Our “Action” folder includes footsteps, jumps, kicks, punches, weapon thrusts, body hits and more. The “Objects and Inventory” folder contains Keys, Money, Books, Doors, Chests, potions, matches and don’t even get us started on the weapons (Swords, Bows, Wooden Swords, Sheaths and Whips).
The atmospheric sounds will fill any gap in your game, from Items “being found” and potions “being taken” to New Maps and Levels.
Does your game have pirates or bandits? Do they plan a mutiny? Does your character find a local tavern on his journey and get chatting to the landlord? We’ve got you covered. Our wide list of character dialogue will help set the journey and bring life to your game!
We’ve all been so stoked at AUDIOPAD to release this one, it’s been great fun designing and we can not wait to see it used within your games.
Good luck with all the development!
Ben from AUDIOPAD
RPG 1 IS ALMOST HERE!
May 23, 2021
Our next asset pack "RPG 1" is hitting our store Friday 4th June and we are so stoked! It's our most exiting one to date and the first to feature game music. A lot of hard work in the studio went into this one. We had some great voice over artists come in (Matt Pangratiou, Niamh Buckley) to nail the voices of pirates, bandits,black-smiths, tavern girls and more.
Our location recording team travelled round the U.K going from beaches to cities, camping out and getting up at the crack of dawn to get the best ambiences (capturing a woodpecker waking up was worth it!).
We've got some fantastic weapon sound effects included. Hiring out swords and crafting our own bow & arrows, we spent the day reenacting sword fights and feeling like we were in Lord of the Rings!
If you are developing an RPG game and looking for those classic sound effects you can hear in Genshin Impact, The Elder Scrolls and The Witcher then this is the pack for you.
P.S: Check out some examples in our asset store and in our free tester pack!
WHO DOESN'T LIKE DISTORTION?!
APRIL 20, 2021
"Distortion in sound design
plays a huge part in the final output
of a sound. Distortion can be a
highly effective tool adding drive and
character to an output"
Are you struggling to give emphasis to your sound effects? Does your gun-shot sound weak in comparison to what you're hearing in the games you're playing?
You need some of this! We love using distortion plug-ins on our sounds to give it the power it needs, a great plug-in (IT'S FREE!) is the camel crusher from Camel Audio. They have loads of presets included and you can add it on any sound effect you want.
Check out some of our gun-shots featured within our SCI-FI 1 asset pack, we've used distortion on the heavier shots.