Creating the Sound of Wonton 51

Phil Drums Wonton 51

Phil talks us through how he created the aural feast that is Wonton 51's bleeps and bloops.

Creating the sounds for Wonton 51 was much, much harder and more time consuming than I ever expected it to be. I always appreciated game soundtracks and sound effects but its not until you actually try to make them yourself (with no budget and no previous experience) that you realise just how hard it is to get right.

I'm going to take you on a tour of how we made the sound effects and music for Wonton 51.

Music

There are two main songs in Wonton 51. Each needed to represent a different atmosphere and feeling. The first, "Jonny Alone", needed to represent the fact that Jonny has lost his one true love, Cookie McToots, to the evil Baron Wonton by way of kidnapping. It needed to be sad but have some energy. I tried a few things, but in the end keeping it really simple with just a synth bass line and drums just felt right.

The other track, "Let Bullets Fly", needed to feel much more frantic and create a sense of mild panic. This is a slightly more complex song but again, keeping it really simple with just a lead synth, a bass line and drums felt like the right fit for the game as we wanted to pay homage to chiptunes and the tracks we all heard over start menus in the 80's and 90's.

So, how was the music made?

I started off by picking up my guitar / drumsticks / fingers (piano) and trying to come up with a basic melody or riff that was catchy enough to stick in your head but not incredibly annoying. I'm pretty sure that's what everyone tries to do when they write a song so it's no surprise that my first, second, third, fourth and pretty much every other attempt I made failed.

However, one day whilst playing the piano I thought, "I don't use the black keys enough" (confirming that I'm actually pretty terrible on the piano) so I just started playing something based around those notes. Within a couple of minutes the basic tune for "Jonny Alone" was written and all I needed to do was change from a piano to a synth and add some basic drums. I fired up Garageband on the iPad and within a few minutes everything was done (bar some minor tweaks later on to the drums).

What about "Let Bullets Fly"? In short, it was all made on the iPad using Garageband. I wish I could reel off a long list of software and effects I used to make the tracks but the power of Garageband quite simply blew me away. In fact, once the tracks had been created on the iPad and exported to the Mac, they only needed minor effect tweaks and balancing to get them right. If you're an indie developer looking for ways to create your soundtrack, I can't recommend the Garageband app enough.

Voice

In order to recreate the Cookies voice in Wonton 51, what you need is:

  1. Some software that can alter the pitch of a voice.
  2. My wife. See below.

Simply record my wife when she's saying something in Japanese. Alter the pitch. Done!

Sound Effects

To start with most of the sounds used were grabbed from places like freesound.org, a great resource providing just about any sound you could hope for.

However, as time went on we slowly replaced all of these sounds for ones which felt better in the context of the game. For example, we originally had more realistic gun shot sounds which became more and more synthesised until you get the ones you hear in the game today.

In the last couple of months of development I discovered cfxr (http://thirdcog.eu/apps/cfxr) - a little mac utility that makes producing 8-bit sounds super simple. This was used to make the various explosions / pickup sounds etc. Some of these needed editing or tweaking but on the whole, most were ready straight out of cfxr.

Phil just ended it there. Like that. BAM. No more for you! Job's done, so he's done. I was going to pretend to be him and write a conclusion but decided to leave it 'pure' so that you can see the way a programmer's brain works. Scary, isn't it? - Rachel

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