Global Game Jam 2018 Post Mortem - Being an Audio Engineer for 48 Hours

Jan. 29, 2018, 8:51 a.m. Behind the Scenes Gamedev Product Release

This year, I have done another Global Game Jam. I did it in Hong Kong again. Mainly because I was being too lazy to try out other jam site for this year. :P This year I had done something different. I did music instead of programming.

Link to the game - Carpe diem

Pre-jam

I had spent quite a while for practicing using Musical Palette - Melody Composing Tool, LMMS, LabChrip, sfxr and Audacity. I've figured out an efficient method to produce music. That is to come up with melody and chord harmonization by using Musical Palette, then import them into LMMS to further process it. I managed to produce a few pieces of good quality 1 minute music, each of them was produced within 24 hours.

For the LabChrip and sfxr, it's nothing more than about using the randomizer and manual fine adjustment of the parameters. And Audacity is even easier. It's just useful for noise cancellation and applying effects.

First Day (26th Jan 2018)

Just like the previous years, I came to the site without a team. As I planned to do music this year, it isn't possible for me to do it alone. So I sought for a team right after I entered the jam site. I tried requesting joining a random team by asking them and got politely rejected. Then another team with three existing members waved at me and asked if I was alone. I answered yes, told them that I made music and got accepted into the team. Then I had a dinner provided by the organizers. Here's a pic with more than 300 jammers begging for free food:

A photo showing a lot of people queuing for food

In the midway of our game design discussion, two of the team members had left their seat temporarily. Since I had no idea about the roles of other team members, I asked the remaining member about their role. He told me that he did art, one of the other team member did programming, and when he tried to explain the role of the last team member, his was like "uhm... uh... he's... uh... good at coming up with, uh... uh... ideas and presenting, uh... the ideas". :P Then I ended my question with "Ah. He does marketing. That's good." What I thought was that "He gotta be an idea guy!" :P

When all of the members were back to the seat, we ended up with a consensus on the game design timely.

Then we started connecting to the internet with WiFi. It was very unstable. Then I tried using mobile data by USB tethering with my smartphone. Surprise! Even mobile data is stabler than the WiFi connection provided by the organizers. Since I had a data cap, I had to use my data wisely. So no youtube for me.

I had started to draft a piece of music in the first day. Musical Palette were used for drafting the music.

A screenshot of Musical Palette - Melody Composing Tool showing a few musical notes with chords

Second Day (27th Jan 2018)

In the second morning, I managed to caught the shuttle bus provided by organizers and arrived at the jam site early. I had breakfast. There's some open area in my jam site. It's rather interesting to see those people standing and eating outside. Some of the jammers had a bit distance in between possibly because they don't know each others.

A photo showing people standing and eating

After the breakfast, we got back on working. I gave the on-site WiFi another shot with no luck. And I used my mobile data again.

Then I was sitting along with the marketing guy. I sporadically took a peek on what he's doing. That was funny. Most of the time he had his Mac laptop playing youtube video, surfing facebook or chatting with instant messengers. At the same time he was holding a smartphone playing games on it. That was impressive. He was taking multitasking to the next level. To be fair, offering critical opinion requires playing others games. Anyway, he did spend a bit of time to look for info about how to make an awesome trailer for games, and studied about the good indie games.

Then the real fun begin. I continued making the music and completed composing with Musical Palette. Then I started working with the same piece of music with LMMS. However, it didn't went as smooth as I thought. In the midway of making the music, I asked my teammates to review it. Then the marketing guy complained that. He demanded a piece of music with abstract wordings that I couldn't understand. :P As you know, musical stuffs is difficult to be described by words.

After a while, he provided me an example of music that he's interested in. That was the BGM of Plants versus Zombies. It was a piece of music with drums without melody.

Then I toss away the old piece of music, made a new one and came up with this in Musical Palette:

A screenshot of Musical Palette - Melody Composing Tool showing no musical notes with chords

I had never made this sort of music before. Using the same chord over and over again for 16 segments (or phrase in that program). Chord variation techniques were used. It isn't the sort of music that I like. The music sounds extremely stressful like playing airport traffic control games. But it does fit into the theme of the game. Then I mastered the piece using LMMS:

A screenshot of LMMS showing notes of chords

That's crazy. The same chord is played for a long time as shown above. I had added some sidechaining to it. Then I showed my teammates this piece of music. And they're ok with that. It seems to me that it isn't perfect to the marketing guy. But apparently he compromised and told me that this music is ok. That's possibly because of worry of time constraint.

Then I started working on the sound effects. That was rather easy to me. Depending on the sort of sfx, I used LabChrip, sfxr or remixing recorded voice with Audacity.

Working with LabChrip and sfxr was easy. Just click on those randomization button until I get a sound that's close to the one that I want. Then I adapt it a little bit and that's it. Using Audacity is still easy, but it has a bit different workflow. For the sound effects that's simple, I just performed noise cancellation and reverbed it. For sound effects that has like having many people saying the same something, like wow, or laughing sound, what I did was to record the sound for multiple times myself. Then performed noise cancellation, overlapped those recorded sounds, and reverbed it a bit and here we have it.

Speaking of noise cancellation, I'm rather surprised at the noise cancellation capability of Audacity. Behold a screenshot showing the power of the noise canceling effect:

A screenshot of Audacity with two sound tracks showing the noise cancellation function

We were in a noisy room with a lot of discussion from parallel teams sitting right next to us as shown below:

A photo showing with a few teams working on their tables

The result was brilliant. I seriously thought that I had to get out of the room for recording the voice. I'm not sure if it's solely Audacity, or it's that I was using a headset (Kingston HyperX Cloud Core) that allows me to put the microphone closely to my mouth for clear recording. But still, considered the environment noise, the result of the noise cancellation was very impressive.

At the end of the second day, I went back to home. All of the teammates claimed to stay overnight.

Third Day (28th Jan 2018)

In the third day, I woke up a little bit late. So I couldn't get on the shuttle bus. I arrived the jam site by myself. After arriving at the site, I've found that our programmer had got back to home last night. And he would be doing remote working for our team for the day.

The third day was relaxing. There wasn't much for me to do. After goofing off for a while, our team had started producing the promotion video for our game. The rule of our jam site is to make a one minute trailer for the game. So I had make a piece of music dedicated for the trailer. The art guy did the video and synchronized the text with the music. The resultant video was quite good. The programmer had uploaded the game and our team members were happy about the game and the trailer. I haven't had time to try out the game that our team made, tho. That's because I was on linux, which is unsupported by the game.

After that, the marketing guy had come up with a story written in the description of the game. Then I extended the story with better wordings. Right after the game submission deadline, the artist and the marketing guy left because they were exhausted of staying overnight. At the end the marketing guy didn't do much other than giving critical opinion and discussing the game design. It seems to me that that guy is more like a quality control guy.

I had got a bit of time to chat with a few interesting jammers on the site. Before I had the time on socializing with them. presentation session had started. It mainly comprised of playing those 1 minute trailers. When it was my turn, I was rather surprised that the volume of our trailer were so low. I don't know if it's the audio of the vid itself, or the staff had set the volume level to too low. After that, the sponsors gave awards to some well-performing teams. And that's the end of the Global Game Jam of 2018 to me.

GGJ Venue with a big screen showing a Powerpoint slide with the words "WE DID IT, AGAIN!"

We took shuttle bus to a major metro station and got back to home.

Post-jam

After getting back to home, I tried playing the game that our team made. I was rather disappointed with the game. It was severely bugged and it isn't even remotely playable. Despite that the trailer looks good, the game itself sucks. Then I tried out other games produced in our jam site. They had similar problem. Super buggy. Not playable. Good or mediocre trailer, but no fun to play with at all. Wow. Seriously?

I guess now I've finally figured out the truth of Global Game Jam in Hong Kong. Almost all games here sucks with funny or semi-interesting trailer. Many jammers are just interested in getting an award. That's something that I truly hate because it isn't what a game jam about. If you like 48 hours game development competition, you could have just joined Ludum Dare!

I don't know. If I have enough spare time, I should seriously consider joining Global Game Jam elsewhere next year. The Macau one seems to be feasible because the guys there speak Cantonese, so there wouldn't be any language barrier to me. And the bridge connecting Hong Kong and Macau should be completed by next year. That'd make it easy for me to travel to there. :)

What Went Well

What Went Wrong

Notes to Future Self (May not be true for everyone)

Despite that this jam isn't perfect, it's good enough. I'm happy about it. :)

Beyond the Game Jam

Now I've a few pieces of music laying around. Some of them were produced for practicing making music before the jam. One of them is incomplete and was produced during the jam. Perhaps I can write a few songs with those music in the future.

And I also have some sound effects produced. Maybe I can create an asset pack with them.


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