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The Sound Design of Lucidity – Blurring the Boundaries of Game Audio

November 10, 2009

It was obvious from the very beginning that Lucidity was no ordinary game. Jesse Harlin and I knew that we had the opportunity to do something unusual with the audio. As the game was set in a dream world we wanted the soundtrack to have an ethereal feel to it. So we hit upon the idea of focusing the audio around the music, with sound in the game complementing to and blending with the music.

We tried to blur the lines of where sound design ends and music begins, with Jesse doing a first pass on the majority of the prominent game sounds, from the musical notes of picking up fireflies to the cymbal crash of the exploding bomb. Meanwhile I created some “instruments” for Jesse to use in the music from our sound design library. This included tuned owl calls and frog chirps turned into rhythm sections.

As I was creating the sound effect ambiences I carefully tuned each element in the mix from bird calls to the drone of crickets to match the root note of each level’s music so that they blended to create a single musical soundscape. We also timed all of the sounds related to Sofi in the game to play on a 16th note Grid so they were not only tuned to the music but also in time with the music.

The enemies in the game, such as the hornets, mushrooms and dust bunnies, needed to create a sense of danger to the character, so the sounds we chose were deliberately non musical and not timed to the music to create a sense of dissonance with the Sofi’s dreamlike musical existence.

As you can imagine with our melding of music and sound design the division of labor wasn’t clear cut, as the overall soundtrack of the game ended up as cross over of ideas and work between the two of us.


From dreams come dreams

November 10, 2009

Lucidity is a game set in a dream world — which makes it fitting that it all started with DreamWeek: late last December, everyone in the company put their pencils down, gathered into small ragtag teams, and made a bunch of games.  All kinds of interesting, wacky, and totally inspiring games made with whatever they could get onscreen in 5 short days.  After it was over, we were lucky enough to get to “borrow” one of the original DreamWeek team members, Chip Sbrogna, to work on the Lucidity design team.

Chip has been a designer in the games industry since 1998.   Before Lucidity, he worked on God of War II, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (among others).  He also recently won third place at the Guitar Hero Arcade World Championship.  Since we’re all pretty busy and the only time I see Chip anymore is at the karaoke bar down the street where it’s too loud to have a real conversation, we exchanged a few emails about Dream Week, and Lucidity.

Shara: Lucidity was born out of DreamWeek, and it was your team’s game.  As a seasoned game developer, what was the Dream Week experience like for you?

Chip: I loved it.  Having a full week to work with a talented group of people on whatever we wanted was an incredible experience.  It felt like the garage days of game design —  no politics, no egos, no red tape — just a small group of people with a passion for making games.  It was one of the most productive weeks I’ve ever seen in the industry, and certainly the most fun I’ve ever had.

(More after the jump)

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Secret of Monkey Island – The Deleted & Extended Scenes

November 9, 2009

Hey there, Monkey fans. I got a chance to pick the brain of one of the designers on Monkey: Special Edition, and he volunteered to author what is (in my opinion) the coolest article we’ve had yet on the Workshop. Without further ado – I introduce you to Adam!

My name is Adam Bormann, and I was one of the designers on the Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.  One of the things I worked on was the new hint system, which meant a lot of digging through the old original SCUMM source code to figure out how Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and company were tracking the state of different puzzles and whether Guybrush had completed something or not.  One thing I quickly noticed was that Ron and Tim had left a lot of notes in the code, explaining why things were the way they were, or putting a date when a certain bug was fixed.  This was fascinating to see and read.  The other thing I noticed is that when they made some changes, they left the original versions of the code in there, but commented out, so that it wouldn’t be used.

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A Musing on Muses

October 30, 2009

Writers’ block happens to all artists at one point or another.  Unfortunately for artists, game development deadlines don’t care one bit about writers’ block and will march towards you unendingly whether you’re writing or not.  I had a very brief spell of writers’ block when I was writing the score for Lucidity.  I’d written about 30 minutes of music at that point and had pulled from a vast majority of inspirations so far – “Byssan Lull,” late Romantic-era classical composers, trip-hop, etc.  One afternoon in May, I sat down to start a new piece and just found myself staring at a blank session file without any ideas of where to begin.

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Best. Out of Office Auto-reply. Ever.

October 29, 2009

Just received this OOO auto-reply rom Eric Johnston, LucasArts long-timer:

Hi there. This is an automated response from the future.

From the 17th to the 2nd, I’ll be time-shifted. I’m still on email, but on Singapore hours. Here’s a handy chart if you’re in San Francisco:

– 8:00am your time is 11:00pm for me. I might still be awake.
– 4:00pm your time is 7:00am for me. I’m awake for sure, but maybe not on email yet.
– 7:00pm your time is 10:00am for me. Just like Ladyhawke, really.

…so if you send me email at noon, it could be six or seven hours before I see it and respond.

If you need to contact me right away, my mobile phone number is posted on my office door. If it’s an urgent matter and the phones don’t work, Erin and Becca  know how to reach me telepathically.

– ej

Unlikely Enemies

October 16, 2009

We knew that Sofi would be confronting anxieties in her dreams — which left the playing field pretty open, since dreams hit the gamut of the completely fantastical to the utterly ordinary.  Here, Andrea used a combination of two “scary” things here to create an enemy type – deep sea fish and the dust bunnies under her bed at Granny’s house.  The frogs came from the idea that Sofi would be traveling through the woods, and that there would be creatures around who were trying to steal her fireflies. Read more…

Lucidity’s Animation

October 15, 2009

These are some movement thumbnails that animator Saul Ruiz would sketch up before animating, to get a sense of the personalities of the enemies you encounter in the world.  In these sketches, he was thinking of the frog as a karate expert, and the mushroom as an angry sumo wrestler. More after the jump. Read more…