Sound and Music
Over these past two weeks I've been working on a few different things, most notably audio design.
For some reason, sound is one of the last things I add to my games. I'm not sure why, as it would probably have saved a lot of time if I had integrated it sooner.
Despite that, I'm pretty much finished with it now, and I'm actually quite happy with how it turned out.
Sound is a key element in any kind of games that involves horror, and if the sound is wrong, the game can lose it's atmosphere. Here are a few things I've done to get the audio just right:
I'm surprised to see that most horror games don't use this at all. Black Dreams is a game with a lot of long, empty hallways, and having sounds echo through them really helped build up the game's atmosphere.
There's one point in the game where you wander through the dark with only a flashlight to guide you. The only sound you can hear is that of your own footsteps. This is the point in the game where audio reverb had the largest effect.
Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen and when, I was kept on my toes the entire time when I played it with sound on for the first time.
Should also note that there are now three places in the game where I jump a little every time I play. And no, they're not jumpscares. Well, they're not supposed to be at least, but I jump anyway. Adding sound to the game really had a huge impact.
As much as I'd like to hire a composer for this, I just can't afford it. I still managed to find some decent music tracks online.
Music is a strange thing in horror games. Some people say that it really helps set the mood for the game. Some other people say that silence sets the mood even better.
I personally think that a fine-tuned combination of ambient music and silence is the most effective. For example, a game could start with some nice, calm music that makes the player feel safe.
If the music suddenly stops playing, it will make the player feel out of place and nervous. Getting the perfect balance between music and silence isn't easy, but really has a huge effect on the player's experience.
Then there's music that makes you absolutely terrified, which is also very effective. :D
This is a tricky one. The player can have any sound volume they like while playing the game, which can actually cause problems.
In Black Dreams, there are certain sounds that should be barley audible. If the player sets the volume too low, they won't hear these sounds. If they set it too high, the sounds will be too loud, and could actually become annoying to listen to.
So how do I get everyone to have the right volume level? It's actually not that hard. If you've played any recent horror game, you'll know that a lot of them will ask you to calibrate your brightness settings the first time you play.
I decided to do something similar with the sound volume. While the player is at the main menu, there's some nice and calm music playing in the background. A little note at the bottom of the screen reminds the player to set the in-game sound volume to a comfortable level.
The sound level in the rest of the game is set relative to the volume of the main menu music, making it pretty close to perfect.
Other than doing the audio design, I've been fixing a few bugs, including one that made a creepy sound play every twenty seconds. :D
I'm also probably going to set up some beta testing soon. Still not sure how to go about this.
Well, I should get back to work. See you next time!