Music, Tutorials, and Splash Screens and Welcome Alex!

This week we’re excited to welcome Alex, who will be working on our composition and sound design to our team. Alex is an amazing musician and he’s already produced a few amazing tracks for Conjure Strike! You can listen a sample of a work in progress below:

In his own words, Alex described his creative process when doing the tracks for Conjure Strike:

When approaching any creative project, with multiple people involved, there is always a balancing act that requires each creator to use their own ideas and cleverly mix the tastes and nuances of their partners to achieve a cohesive blend that everyone can feel satisfied with. Creating music for games is no different. When I started to compose for Conjure Strike, I first needed to set the tone. I began with a simplified chord progression on the piano. From there, I began to add elements that I thought would appear in this new world the team had created. I added orchestral strings, a haunting fantasy flute, and building drums. Since my background has mostly been in rock bands it was only natural for me to set the piece into traditional song form with an intro, build, and outro. What I am beginning to find out, it that the music required for games requires and more nonlinear and flexible structure so that the songs can subtly switch from “exploration” to “battle mode” while keeping the player fully immersed. The whole process has been technically new, yet still familiar as the main objective is the same: evoke emotion and help tell a story.

We’re really excited to have Alex working with us, as sound was definitely one of the missing pieces to our team.

This week was a big week for our team, we finally have a full prototype of what the final product would be. We have a fully textured environment as well as a fully working 2v2 experience. In addition to the core gameplay, we also added a full voiced and guided tutorial as well as a basic menu screen for our game.

Since our game has complex game mechanics to master, it was important for us to build out an onboarding flow that explained the mechanics to the user. We noticed that we would have to spend the first 5 – 10 minutes of the game explaining the mechanics to our playtesters, a luxury we won’t have for Oculus Playtesters. Luckily I have spent much of my career as a product manager and game developer optimizing “FTUEs” (First time user experiences)

Our game has a simply splash screen menu where you can press any button to start, and then it goes into a guided tutorial where a sentient temple guardian walks you through the basic process of movement, spellcasting, UX, and shooting your weapons. In our playtest it was instantly clear that even the rough sketch of the tutorial was doing a better job teaching players how to play than we were, but we received some good feedback, namely:

  • Because we are using positional audio for our guardian, the user sometimes could not hear what the guardian was saying missing out on crucial parts of the tutorial
  • Users often skipped past listening to the entire audio cue, looking instead at the waypoints and visual tooltips. This meant that the tutorial was easy enough to follow, but that users would not know how to do critical things in the game.

One thing I was not prepared for was how time intensive script writing for the tutorial and getting all the sound clips hooked up was. By the way, if you are lacking voice talent and need placeholder sounds for your game or experience, Amazon Polly offers a free tier of service that will do text to speech readily. In addition, you can control things like speed, volume, and voice all through an easy to use graphical user interface.

Okay, about to get on a plane now. See you all next week. Hope you guys are making good progress 🙂