For a long time, it wasn’t in my plans for the game to have sound by the time it went to early access. It’s not that I didn’t want sound, but it wasn’t a priority. I can’t recall ever having played a game without sound (or without music), but I also never felt like it was the most important part of any game. For a thousand-hour game, most players will mute the game music at some point and listen to their own music, or a podcast, etc. This week I implemented environmental sounds in the game, and I’m happy to say that I was wrong about it’s importance – sound makes the game a much more complete audio-visual experience.
Music was never a talent of mine and I never learned to play an instrument. I had planned to make connections with a musician and either licence their music or have them compose music for the game. However, when it came time to make a trailer, I hadn’t made any such connection. I strongly believe that a good trailer needs music, so I had to find something. I eventually tried composing music using MuseScore. MuseScore is an application to write songs using a virtual sheet music interface – almost like a front-end to MIDI. After the trailer was released, I was approached by musicians offering to compose music for the game. However, I’m quite proud of the music I’ve made and I plan to make more. I’m also thinking about using Audacity to add samples and effects to the music, in order to make it more full and less “MIDI-like”.
Video game music is usually built around melodic chord progressions which are plesant enough to not be tedious when repeated for a long time. I still haven’t figured out the arcane rules of chord progressions, but fortunately people who do understand them have written chord progression generators that can easily be found through Google. All of the game music is created by starting with one of these progressions, and then just repeating, modifying, and playing with the pattern of notes and beats to make it interesting.
Once I had music implemented in the game, it was easy enough to add user interface sound effects (a click sound when you place a road, for example). But for a while there were no environmental sounds. This week I changed that. I’ve implemented a pretty immersive sound environment. There are ambient sounds of traffic, human activity, and life in the city. There are also sounds for the wind, rain, water, and wildlife. I even added a fun retro floppy disk sound when the game starts and on save/load. These additions really add a lot to the game.
I plan for New Cities to be your next thousand-hour game. To meet that standard, you’ll need to have a positive immersive experience within the first hour. Even if you mute the game after a day or two, your brain will remember that immersiveness. This will keep the game enjoyable for a long time.