Undertale Music

2016, December 12th 3:28 AM

I haven't posted anything on here in literally years but I'm feeling super inspired right now, so, whatevs. Have a post. Maybe I'll post more later! Maybe I won't.


I just finished Undertale. Undertale is fuckin' awesome and you should play it. But I'm not going to spoil anything here, so if you haven't played Undertale, don't worry about it too much.

Undertale is a plot-heavy story game with really good music. Like, stunningly good music. It's fantastic. I hummed along with a bunch of it, it synergized beautifully with the game plot and the events that were occurring. It's a masterful soundtrack. And once I finished the game, I went and found a copy of the soundtrack online, and listened to it, and . . .

. . . it's weirdly barren.

See, when I think "fantastic soundtrack", I usually think "music that you remember outside the game and that stands on its own". And Undertale certainly has a few tracks along those lines. Perhaps . . . two? Perhaps three. Maybe four! Maybe not. Maybe only three. And to put this in context, recognize that the Undertale soundtrack is over one hundred tracks long (specifically it's 101 tracks long.)

A lot of these are small interstitials or teasers; a brief count tells me that 55 of these tracks are under one minute each, with a good number that are barely over a minute. There's only three tracks that hit four minutes; two of them are used in the cinematic ending, and the last is a major, heavily scripted boss fight, and I suspect it's really made up of seven or eight smaller tracks mixed together. In comparison, the Final Fantasy 6 OST (one of the best soundtracks I've heard) is 61 tracks, of which two are under one minute and five meet or exceed 4 minutes.

So what's up with this, Zorba? Why do I care? You haven't told me why I care yet! ZORBA, WHY THE FUCK DO I CARE ABOUT THIS

The thing that makes Undertale's soundtrack glorious is that it all fits perfectly. The game jumps from track to track, but it never feels disjointed and it never feels like it's interrupting. Instead of a single symphonic background that ignores the player's actions, the soundtrack dances with the player, emphasizing what needs to be emphasized and getting out of the way when the player is otherwise occupied.

And the end result is this weird-ass 101-track soundtrack, full of twenty-second snippets that just aren't relevant outside the game.

Undertale's soundtrack may not make a very good album, but I think it may be one of the best game soundtracks I've ever heard, and I definitely need to keep this in mind when working on music.

Nieuwe Aarde 0.1.1

2011, March 7th 1:22 PM

Windows (.zip version available)
Linux (32-bit only)

"Wait, Nieuwe Aarde? What's going on? Didn't we already see this game?"

Well, yeah. You did. And you'll be seeing more of it, too!

I've decided to turn Nieuwe Aarde, along with one other game yet to be announced, into a longer-term project. I've got ideas on how to improve it considerably. This isn't really an improved version – this is just a re-release of the version you've played before – but it does have a few improvements.

First off, and most noticably, it has music! I've been collaborating with Robert Seaton with music for a few of my games (and I'll be posting them with music as well, though they won't be getting a long-term treatment.) We did a really neat thing with the music in this game. I'm not going to spoil it, but you should go play it to find out. Seriously it's pretty dang cool.

Second, a common complaint was that increasing your metal and magic in the lategame took far too long. I've added +1000/-1000 buttons as a small hack fix for that.

Third, the rendering engine is far more efficient – the original renderer was quite shockingly bad. Sometimes that's just what happens when you have 48 hours to write a game in. I regret nothing.

Overall, this is the same game . . . but keep an eye on this journal, because I'm going to be making some major changes to it.


2010, September 28th 2:23 PM

Windows (.zip version available)
Linux (32-bit only)

A few months ago I did the first Reddit Game Jam. The theme was Opposites, and I managed to finish this shortly before falling asleep on the second day. That same month I'd done some other game (I'm thinking it might have been K0R) and so I never got around to posting this.

Luckily, the terms of the Monthly Game Project don't require that I post a project anywhere near the time of me finishing it! So I've been holding it in reserve for a month when I don't manage to complete a game otherwise. This month is that month, so here's Ramsgate!

Commentary, as always, welcome.

Speaking of the terms of the Monthly Game Project: I've got a few major things possibly coming up that are totally exciting. For example, I may be getting a job working on a commercial game that I think looks damn cool. And I'm putting a lot more time into making Robert Recurring into a commercial indie game.

Guess what I don't have time for anymore?

That's right: the Monthly Game Project.

I'm going to keep posting games when I can, but that might not be once per month. Things may slack off a bit. I'll try to compensate with more journal posts. We'll see how that goes. It is an adventure!

Make The Number Bigger Postmortem

2009, November 5th 2:51 PM

Okay, let's polish off the Number+ postmortem real fast.

Number+ spawned out of my recent thoughts about different kind of games. Number+ is a pure skill game. The challenge is whether you can react fast enough and accurately enough to all the shit that comes flying in. If you do, you win. If you don't, the game ends after a bit, theoretically to keep you from being annoyed at being stuck in a holding pattern. You can absolutely get better at the game with practice, and that's rewarded by higher scores and new notes about what your number is as big as. There's some high variance later on, but the game's really built heavily around slow-and-steady-wins-the-race, and playing conservatively is how you beat the game (in fact, it's nearly mandatory near the end to play super-conservatively when adding a new digit.)

Two things that worked well: sound and graphics. I pulled (almost) all my sound off Freesound and, for the first time, ended up with a game that doesn't sound tinny and painful. That was pretty awesome. I will be doing more of it in the future. The graphical style was a total accident, I was just using white silhouettes on black for debug art for a while. Then I decided they looked good and I stuck with it. I'm not entirely satisfied with how I did them – I have three separate styles of silhouette going on – but they're easily good enough and I think they result in a rather neat feel to the game.

Two things that didn't work well: rhythm and balance.

One of the ideas I had for this game originally was that there would be a lot of stuff going on, all rhythmic and on-beat, and you might end up with kind of evolutionary music coming out of it. That just did not work. There's a lot going on, and most of it does in fact happen on beats, it's just that it's impossible for anyone to notice. Better programmatic control over sound would probably have helped – if you'll believe it, this is the first game I've written where I have the capability to *stop* sounds, and I certainly don't have anything fancy like pitch control – but overall, I think if I want a melodic game, I'm going to have to focus very closely on that aspect.

Game balance turned out to be a major problem, and I'm not sure it's solvable within the constraints I originally wanted.

The problem comes down to a diminishing click budget. Let's say we trigger a challenge for the player every four seconds. This is not hard at all. Nobody will find this difficult. Let's say we add another challenge, again every four seconds. It's slightly difficult, but any serious gamer isn't going to have an issue. One more thing every four seconds, suddenly it's hard. One more, suddenly it's near-impossible.

If you want to introduce about eight different Things over the course of this game the user will have a shocking amount of trouble just clicking on them all. Worse, if you want them all to "trigger" at roughly the same frequency, the first five will be boring and the eighth will be impossible.

I tried to solve this by reducing the frequency of the later items, but that introduces an all-new set of problems – namely, that it's hard to figure out how to interact with the gizmo in time. There's always a limited amount of time to react, and by the time you're near the end, any slipup is essentially fatal.

So the first half of the game is boring, and the next third is challenging, and the last sixth is near-impossible, despite the fact that the hazards actually get [i]easier[/i] as the game goes on. And in order to beat it, you have to sacrifice six playthroughs to the God Of Learning Game Mechanics.

This is bad.

If I were re-implementing it, I'd change it from a single large number into a series of smaller numbers, each one of which teaches you about some new gizmo, then challenges you with a set of things you've seen before in a new combination.

A few things got lost in design. I was originally going to have some kind of "store" where you spent your number in order to get gizmos that let you pass challenges. I couldn't come up with a way to balance it that I liked, however – the game is kind of intrinsically exponential, so I'd have maybe thirty seconds of gameplay in which the gizmo was an interesting decision, and after that it'd just be another-thing-to-click.

This is the first game I've been tempted to release commercially, since it would be dang easy to rip out a few dozen levels and gizmos and put it on the iTunes store or something. (Multitouch would let me do some fancy stuff as well.) There's little enough art and sound that I could probably hire someone for relatively cheap to do things better than I did. I don't think I have time, but I kind of like the idea.

Learning continues.

Next month's official theme is Art Game, which I have absolutely no interest in. I've been thinking about games that fit the theme and the fact is that all my ideas come down to "I am shoehorning this into the theme just so I can say it fits the theme." So I'm going to be ignoring the official theme and doing something else.

Make The Number Bigger

2009, October 21st 12:10 AM

It's that time again! For those who were hoping I wouldn't go back to sidescrollers, you shall be happy. For those who were hoping I'd stay away from RTSes, you shall also be happy!

Download installer here
(optional zipped version)

This game was fated to be. I came up with the idea, almost identical to what you see here, a few days before the new official Experimental Game Project theme was announced. What was the theme?


Numbers it is.

Let me know what you think. Postmortem will be incoming, once I have some idea whether it was successful or not :D