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Blood Not Allowed

A topic by Itooh created 15 days ago Views: 66 Replies: 1
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Hello!

This is the weekly devlog for a narrative game I've been working on for some months now. Blood Not Allowed, or Don't Play This Game If You're Afraid Of Skeletons is a Twine game (text-only adventure game) with a dynamic soundtrack. It is both a comedy with a pinch of horror, and a jazzy musical exploration.

State of the Project

Right now the writing and the programming are done! It has even be proof-read, woohoo! Although I wouldn't say no to another proof-reader, if you are interested.

Before I dive into the story, let's talk about what's been programmed exactly: I'm using Twine 1.4 to render the story. However, I implemented some javascript macro to add a dynamic soundtrack. I already experimented with synchronized samples in my last project, Moog Memories. The basic idea is to have a musical loop, and when the user click on a button on the page, instruments are added or removed. All theses instruments and loops must stay within the tempo, so there is constantly a metronome and a conductor to keep them sync. The code I've used is basically the same, except that I moved it to ES5. I plan to release later these tools as a reusable open-source library.

In Twine, I use it to fade-in and fade-out instruments and various sound-loop as the user progress in the story. Except that it isn't a linear story: it's a manor that the player can freely explore. Like an old adventure game, the player goes from rooms to rooms, and interact with object they find there. Each room has its own musical atmosphere, and every objects or events are associated to a sound. This way the player explore the game space as well as the music. The project was actually imagined as a 3D walking-simulator, but I eventually realized that I was mostly interested in the musical and narrative aspects, and a textual game would give me more freedom.

So there you go: as of today the engine is functional, all the text has been written so that the manor is fully explorable, and even the ending is here… What is the last bit missing?

Music

Time for composition! I will mostly talk about music in this devlog. But there will sure be some interesting game-design aspect I will be able to discuss, given that this soundtrack must be explorable in a non-linear way. And music is cool anyway.

What is there to do? Well, the manor have 12 rooms, each one containing between 3 and 5 interactions, to which we have to add the game's introduction and ending. So far I have done the intro and one room. Yup, there's still plenty of work to do! I'm using LMMS for composing, and Audacity for eventual sounds I have to create.

Let's talk about the song in a global way: it's jazz, with some electro-swing parts or other styles depending on the room. The idea is that this is a fake horror game, with a settings that pretends to be spooky, but is actually pretty uplift. Kind of like the Day of the Dead? So the music will be pretty upbeat and energetic to create this contrast.

One particular aspect is that it has a constant motif: E G Fโ™ญ B (the song is in minor E). This motif is first played as a creepy tune in the intro, but quickly change into something more pleasant inside the manor. It will be played in every room by different instruments. It is more or less the manor theme.

As I continue to compose, we will explore (and hear) the manor's different rooms. Let's start with the most recent addition:

The Lobby

The lobby is the first room the player discovers after the introduction. While the introduction has a dark and unsettling atmosphere, this room is bright and welcoming. The contrast must hit the player as soon as they enter the manor, in order to give them the idea โ€œthis is actually not an horror game at allโ€ (although the game already play with that joke earlier and still after). This is how the room sounds when the player enters it:

https://vocaroo.com/i/s1ExejQe9VVn

I initially intended to have a โ€œmoderated swingโ€, but… This is quite energetic! As I said, I had to create a strong contrast with the introduction. I hope it won't impact the reading. I will try to be softer for the other rooms. Except for those who were planned to be loud, they'll have to top that one!

As the player look at the room and its content, new instruments will be added for each descriptions. They will then remain until the player leave the room, so that when everything has been inspected, the harmony is complete. For example, one element of the room is the skeletons. Yes, there are skeletons absolutely everywhere in this game, and this is the room that introduce them. Here is how they sound:

https://vocaroo.com/i/s1FQckAhjz2L

And this is the lobby with all of its instruments:

https://vocaroo.com/i/s1CwE9iY2Ih7

One on the difficulty I have encountered for now is that cheap sound fonts do not work well with jazz… Until now I was doing mostly electro, and was happy with oscillators, samples, and a bunch of filters and effects! Here I need some real instruments, and… Well, I have to find pretty good sound fonts, and know their limits! For example, I can't use a lot of guitars, because guitar sound fonts easily sound fake. In the end, I know that my music will not sound acoustic at all, and that its MIDI aspect will be pretty obvious. But I want to get closer to a N64 Grant Kirkhope style than a SNES low-budget RPG one!

That's all for this week! Next time I will finish a little sub-part of the lobby, and hopefully another room. I might not be super active though with the AGDQ going on… Also, did I mention I acquired a Switch and started Mario Odyssey and it is a great game and I also have Breath of the Wild waiting in line? Boy, those new year resolutions about productivity will sure be hard to keep!

So, AGDQ was fantastic this year! Did it still let me some time to work? Actually, yes! I have one more room, and a little section from the lobby. Let's start with this one!

Bar

There's a bar in the corner of the lobby. There's not much there, it's just a little place with some weird drinks and a bartender. I still wanted it to be musically separated from the lobby, while still being close to it. I thus decided to use mostly percussions, and a discrete piano. Each drink is represented by another percussion, and the bartender has a short organ solo.

https://vocaroo.com/i/s1kd5DJNdfaw

Ball room

After the lobby, the player has access to several rooms, including this one. I wanted to do this one because it has very different style from the lobby. While the music should globally be jazz swing, each room should have its own personality. The ball room, a large and spectacular place, has this sort of slow rock kind of like a spy movie theme. I'm pretty happy with the result:

https://vocaroo.com/i/s0d1gDlUh3u6

However, for the additional instruments, I changed my initial plan. I previously stated that I wanted each instrument to remain so that they all play together in the end. The idea is that the more you observe a room, the more you appreciate its whole. I composed this room this way, but I ended up with the same issues I had with the lobby: it quickly become too loud and confusing. See, there is 5 observable element in the room. Technically, adding 5 instruments is doable, but the problem comes from the fact that the player must clearly hear each one! If they click somewhere and are not able to detect the instrument because the others one are too loud, it would break their experience. So, each instrument must be clearly distinct from the others… But they can't all take the lead, otherwise they will just fight each other and create nothing but a musical mess!

So after several attempts, I decided that additional instruments should be heard separately, only when their section is read. This way they can all create different melodies, and don't have to worry about their volume! I think I will still keep the idea of keeping an instrument active after it has been looked: it works great in the lobby. I hope it won't be too confusing.


Anyway, now that I have two room, I can experiment the transition between them. Simply fading from one to another might not sound very pleasant. This is why I added plenty of corridors and vestibules in the manor! I will work on that next week.