1. A Crash Course in Game Design and Production Week 5 part 2

A Crash Course in Game Design and Production
                Week 5 - Sound and Music Specification
Welcome back!  This is the fifth installment in "A Crash Course in Game
Design and Production.  Like last time, this lesson is in multiple parts.
In PART ONE, we'll talk about the basics of sound reproduction on the
computer. In Part TWO, we'll discuss computer music and sound effects, and
what we need to write the Sound and Music Specification.  In PART THREE we
will write the fifth section of the Design Spec for our Course Project, the
Sound and Music Specification.  This is part 2 of 3
          Part 2a - Sound and Program-Related Terms We Need.
Ok, now that we know all about sound, we'll move on to the kinds of things
we need to specify in our Sound and Music Specification.  For this
discussion we need to clarify some terms:

Event - An event in this context is anything that causes us to want to play
one of our digital samples.  Things such as the beginning of the game,
eating a dot, energizer or ghost, losing a life, getting a high score, or
beginning an intermission sequence are all events.  We will categorize the
sounds we play based on the events that trigger them.  In the discussion
that follows, I will sometimes give sample event names.  In these I will
use the nomenclature EventName, like GameOver, HighScore, ClearLevel.  From
the names I give, I will assume you can figure out what I mean.

Milestone Events - We talked about this earlier.  These are game goal
related. When the player has done something appropriately productive or
inappropriately counterproductive in his quest for the game goal, you want
to play some sound sample.  Beginning the game is productive, so it is a
Milestone Event. Other Milestone Events are GameOver, Intermission,
HighScore, ClearLevel, KillBoss, Death, etc.. Milestone Events are either
Major (KillBoss) or Minor(BonusObject).

Game-Related Events - These are anything else that would make you want to
play one of your sound samples.  For Snack Attack, this would be eating a
dot, energizer, bonus object or ghost.

Priority - Since we have a limitation that only one sample can be played at
a time, we need to plan our sounds by priority. While we can always stop a
sound during playback and start another one playing, you don't always want
to do it! Some events are more important than other events, soundwise.  For
example, Packy getting "eaten" is more important than the bonus score
sound, so that sound should have priority.  You don't want to cut off
important sounds by trivial ones.

"Getting Stepped On" - This is when a lower priority sound sample is
playing, and another sample of same or higher priority is required to start
NOW.  The previous sample is "stepped on," it stops playing, the sound card
is reset, and another sample is played in its place.

"The Good Part" - The whole point to the sample.  Something about the
sample made you choose it as "the sound" for a particular event.  That
something is the good part.  For OidZone, one sample I'm fond of is
"You SUCK!!! Try Again..." with a nice echo.  The "you SUCK!!" with the
echo is the "good part" for me. I laugh EVERY time I hear it. The good part
should NEVER "get stepped on" if you can avoid it.

Length - The duration of the sample in seconds.  If my intermission
animation event lasts ten seconds and I want some background music for it,
the sound sample I need to play must be "ten seconds long,"  It's over ten
seconds after it starts.

Music vs SFX
I've used the term "sound sample" until now, because I wanted to make an
important distinction between different "types of sounds" we use for our
games. These distinctions also apply to FM and Wavetable synthesized sounds
too, so if and when we have those capabilities in Euphoria, this material
will also apply to them as well.  From here on out I will use the terms
"Music" and "SFX."

Generally only plays at milestone events, and is not affected by any other
game-related events. "Music" is kind of a misnomer, as not everything that
falls into this category needs to be "musical" in any way.  This
distinction goes back to the 1980's arcades, before we had digital samples.
Most of these things were signaled with music, because music synthesis is
easy, and voice synthesis is hard.  Music falls into Three categories,
based on the type of milestone event that triggers them.  They are:

Theme Music - These are sounds that set the tone of the game.  They are
generally five to ten or more seconds in length, and they play at and
during major milestone events. Theme Music events are TitleSequence,
StartNewGame,NewLevel, YouDie, YouSuckTryAgain, etc. Note that these don't
have to be musical at all.  You can sample yourself saying "The
Force will be with you...always" and call it Theme Music. It sets the tone
as to how the player feels about the game and his play. Theme music
generally has the highest priority.  You don't want to cut off "you are
really a great player" with a farting sound. It sends the wrong message.
Any player alert message, like "Green Elf is about to die..." is Theme
Music.  It sounds weird, and it is, really, but that's how it is.

Background Music or Ambience Tracks - These generally begin at Milestone
Events, like StartGame, or Intermission, and continue to play throughout
the event. In our course project we will be experimenting with playing
background sounds "around" the game-related event sounds.  While we can
only play one sound at a time, we can create some alternate versions of the
sound effects to sound "like" we're mixing them with the background.  It's
tricky to do right, but we'll give it a go.  These ARE usually musical
samples, but you can have your background music be obscenities shouted at
the player all through the game if you want to. That would be an "ambience
track"  Background music has the absolutely lowest priority, as it's played
constantly.  All other sounds must be able to play over it.

Musical Tag - These are VERY short samples, usually 2 seconds or less.
They occur at Minor Milestone events, like EatingBonusObject, HitHighScore,
etc. These could be a short fanfare or Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding, or "WOW!" It
doesn't matter.

This is an acronym (sorta) for Sound Effects, and describes pretty much any
other sound you want to play.  SFX are game-event related - something
happens in the course of your game that isn't really milestone related, but
is important enough that you want to play a sound effect for it.  Things
like shooting, htperspacing to another location, eating a dot, an oid
breaking, ghosts bumping heads, etc. are all things you may want to play a
sampled sound for.  Aural feedback is as important as visual feedback in
games.  Things that make noise are more interesting than things that are

BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERDO SFX!!!  Like Creeping Featurism, SFXitis should be
avoided at all costs.  Just because you CAN make each key pressed sound
like a different dog barking, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Try and keep your
SFX to less than 20 unless absolutely necessary. Only things that affect
how you are doing should have sound effects, like thrusting your ship or
shooting.  Some don't need SFX, specifically, things you do a LOT, like
maneuvering packy around the maze, or rotating your ship.  These things get
annoying VERY QUICKLY.

KEEP YOUR SFX AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE!!  When sampling sounds, often you have
some quiet time at the beginning and end of your sample.  You should edit
this out, and trim your sound effect so it's as short as you can make it,
especially if it is something that will be heard frequently, or will be
"stepped on" by another (or the same) sound effect.  Too long effects sound
bad if they are cut off before "the good part."  If you trim your SFX to
bare minimum, you hear more of the good part before it's stepped on.

----------------------------------------------------------------------  -----
Part 2b - The Sound and Music Specification
Finally, we're to the point where we can talk about what we need to specify
for the Sound and Music Specification. This part of the Design Spec is very
similar to the Art Spec we talked about last week, in that for each Sample
we describe what it is, what we're calling it, how big it is, and where it

Anatomy of the Sound and Music Specification
Here we go, into another anatomy. The Sound and Music Specification
consists of:

Sound Requirements List
This is the system requirements for our game, and the sound parameters we
need to adhere to. According to Jacques' sbcard.e, his drivers have the
following requirements and limitations:

*    This first version doesn't use interrupt service routine, so can't
     play in background, except for file small enough to be loaded
     completely in DMA buffer all at once (max size 64KB)

*    It only play 8 bits files, mono or stereo.

*    It has been written for sound blaster pro with dsp version 3.
     But it can be used to play mono file on prior dsp version card.

All sound samples we intend to use MUST meet these requirements. The
maximum memory size of any sample is 64k, which is about 5.96 seconds long
assuming a sampling rate of 11khz, 8 bit amplitude resolution, mono. If we
need a longer sample, we need to decrease the sample rate for that sample.
We aren't locked to any sampling rate, each sample we have can have a
different one if we want.  In general use the highest sampling rate you can
while still being under the 64k limit.

Music Specification
Here we describe each Music sample for each of the three categories:

Theme Music
Background Music
Tag Music

You need to comb through the General Description and Screen Design Spec to
find EVERY "Music" piece you need for your game.  For each of these you

Name: What you call the effect
Filename: What you want the Sound file to be called
Length: How long should the sample be in seconds
Sample Rate: What rate should you sample it in?
Event That Triggers it: What will cause this sound to be played?
Priority: What priority is this sample? What should\should NOT step on it?

SFX Specification
This is pretty much EXACTLY like the Music Spec.  Go VERY CAREFULLY through
your other SPECS and make a list of EVERY SOUND EFFECT you NEED to have for
your game, then go through and specify them one by one as you did for the
Music samples.

We're on a roll now.  Next week we'll look at the AI specification.
End of Week 5 - Sound and Music Specification
              Part 2 - The Sound and Music Specification

If you have any questions for group discussion post them to the list
server. E-mail any other questions, comments or suggestions to lgp at exo.com

                 Mail monetary donations large or small to
        Lord Generic Productions 1218 Karen Ave Santa Ana, Ca 92704

      A Crash Course in Game Design and Production - Euphoria Edition
     (C) Copyright 1996,7 Lord Generic Productions - All Rights Reserved

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