Mandagon: Sound Design - Movement

This week sees the Steam Greenlight entrance of a game I've had the pleasure of working on the sound for. "Mandagon" by Blind Sky Studios is a 'a small game very loosely inspired by Tibetan philosophy. Namely life and death. . . musing on what it means to make a sacrifice.'.

In support of the first steps towards its release, I wanted to write about the making the audio for this game - this involves the movement, the background music and the sound effects. Today I’ll be talking about the movement.



Audio Software Used

o Logic Pro X

o Komplete Ultimate

o A few freeware synths



The hero of our game (affectionately known as "Lil Cube Fella") is a sound designer's dream - a block of stone which (double) jumps around the place. As this was my first experience of real character movement creation this felt like a real blessing, since there are such clear directions as to what a mobile rock should sound like.

In terms of breaking it down into required elements we have:

  1. Horizontal movement
  2. Jumping
  3. Double Jumping
  4. Landing

For all of them my main starting point was using Massive. As is highlighted in this excellent video by Richard Vreeland (Fez, It Follows, The Floor Is Jelly) on sound design, getting to know one synth in-and-out opens up far more doors than just buying the latest ‘in’ equipment, and Massive itself, with it’s noise oscillator, is a great place to start.

Mandagon - Massive preset for horizontal movement

In general each of the sounds used a similar patch, and was then EQ’ed into shape fit for purpose (following advice from Amon Tobin). The majority are build around the ‘Metallic’ Noise setting, with some added pitch shifting, bit crushing, and (in)appropriate levels of reverb and delay. Typically the samples were then layered up with another, slightly ‘brighter’ version of themselves to bring a slightly different texture, and then finally run through an exciter to further bring out the high end. This gave it both a gravelly depth of an actual stone, while referencing the pixel-art influences of the game’s visual aesthetic.


The final part to mention is the actual implementation of this audio. Since the game is very much in a ‘dev’ state, I was actually given the trailer video (sans audio) so that I could just ‘score’ it as if it were a film. While I’ll go into more details about this and its effect on the sound design as a whole in later posts, what was so interesting about the movement was that I had to go through the entire film, frame by frame, to get the audio in sync to the movement. Since the sounds were all exclusively made through a softsynth, this meant that for the horizontal movement I had to click and drag the note ‘C’ to the exact beginning and end of each motion - definitely something in the small print of the work! At a further state of development we’ll of course be mapping the audio to the event trigger itself, at this early state it’s worth bearing in mind what can/can’t be done, and what’s better to just do by hand!

Mandagon - a composer's view of movement...

In the next installment I’ll be talking more about the music; the sounds, the layering, and the balancing between intensity and suitability!

Copyright © 2020 Richard Jackson. All rights reserved.