Monthly Archives: August 2016

JetBoard Joust Devlog #39 – Pushing The Envelopes

Yeah I know, it’s been a while!

I’ve been working on the in-game audio fx for Jetboard Joust and it’s taken some time. That and I’ve had some time off over the Summer – it’s not often we get much sunny weather here in the UK so when we do you need to make the most of it.

As making music is pretty much an obsession of mine (see here) I am in the fortunate position of owning a reasonable amount of noise-generating hardware and software. For a project like this though one needs to set restrictions so I decided to create all the FX using the DSI Tempest.

The Tempest is billed as an ‘analog drum machine’ but really it’s much more than that. It’s a very flexible, polytimbral, six voice analog synth with a bunch of samples in there for added spice. I wanted a definite ‘retro’ feel to the FX without going down the road of actually emulating a SID chip or equivalent and felt that limiting myself to the six voices and two analog oscillators of the Tempest would give me that.

In addition I used a few outboard fx, mainly the Waldorf 2-Pole analog filter. This is a fantastic little unit and pairs great with the Tempest. The ‘rectify’ function brings a kind of analog bitcrushing type effect and the addition of a resonant high-pass filter means I could get even more gritty than the Tempest can go on its own (which is pretty gritty anyway). The 2-Pole can beef things up really nicely without totally destroying the bottom end (an unfortunate side-effect of the Tempest’s otherwise great-sounding onboard distortion). I also used the Sherman Filterbank 2 but, whilst I love the Sherman, it was really a little OTT for the job in hand and the Waldorf did just fine on its own on the whole.

As an experimental indulgence and for a bit of authentic ‘retro’ feel I purchased a couple of vintage digital fx units on ebay for around £30 each – a Boss RV-1000 reverb and a JHS DX-777 delay. I was really pleased with the way both of these worked out, they both sound really cool in their own way and restricting myself to these two units for ‘aux send’ type fx meant I could mix and record everything ‘live’ through my hardware mixer (a Soundcraft Spirit M12) – no software mixing and plug-ins required!

I think the Tempest worked out great for this task. It’s a machine that tends to get a bit of a slagging off for its (admittedly piss poor) MIDI implementation and arguably underpowered sequencer but there’s plenty to love about it and I don’t think I could have done this on any other single piece of gear. The real beauty of it from a sound-design perspective is its extremely flexible modulation capabilities – five envelopes, three of which are assignable to pretty much any parameter, and an eight-slot modulation matrix offer an awful lot of flexibility. Add to that the ability to sequence and layer different voices and you have an extremely flexible sound design tool.

So I wasn’t designing the FX totally ‘blind’ I’d grab some gameplay footage for the appropriate effect and import this into Logic Pro. I’d then set the tempo and cycle length in Logic to match the tempo and beat duration on the Tempest. This way I could get the Tempest in sync with gameplay footage and tweak away whilst watching.

I’m pleased with the audio so far – it seems to have the full-on, in-your-face, vintage Defender/Robotron vibe I was going for. I still need to work on balancing some of the sounds and there are issues with some sounds cutting off and not playing properly in the MonoGame Windows GL port but think I can finally get back to coding for a bit and stop driving my family insane. You can hear all of the sounds (over sixty of them) here or click the video link on the right to get an idea of how the audio feels in-game.

Dev Time: 6.5 days (at least)
Total Dev Time: approx 52 days

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All The Gear And No Idea

Vintage Digital – Boss RV-1000 and JHS DX-777

Quick And Dirty Gameplay Footage Grabbed At 30fps With Audio