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Game Audio Overview - Battle Chef Brigade Prototype
A game audio overview of my work, thus far, on Trinket Studios' game, Battle Chef Brigade.
October 27, 2014
11 Min Read
COPY OF TRANSCIPT
Greetings, and welcome to the audio overview for the prototype of Trinket Studios’ game, Battle Chef Brigade. My name is George Hufnagl and I’m serving as the sound designer, both creating and implementing sound effects for the game.
Working with Trinket has been a rewarding, collaborative process, especially in seeing this game grow from just a description to a fully fledged prototype! When it was described to me as “Fantasy Iron Chef,” I knew it was going to be a great project as well as a fun, creative challenge for audio. By mixing two worlds of gameplay, hunting and foraging with competitive cooking, it was quite beneficial for me to start working on the early builds to get a sense of the gameplay’s pacing and where it was most vital to use sound as a support for the aesthetic and provide the player feedback.
Setting Up For Success
While Battle Chef Brigade isn’t the first cooking game I’ve worked on, it’s certainly the most complex. In order to facilitate a productive and flexible workflow, therefore, we are using Tazman Audio’s Fabric to bridge the work that I do with Trinket’s game development environment in Unity. Fabric is a middleware that allows us to create a pliable, sonic environment and provides me with a sense of authorship without much technical intervention from the developers. By freeing up that time, we can focus our discussions on what matters most - creating a rich and believable soundscape.
Dynamic Audio & Examples
On the whole, my goal with sound design is to align the different functions of a game with its global theme. In Battle Chef Brigade’s case, that theme is, as mentioned before, “Fantasy Iron Chef.” Working closely with Eric, the game’s creative director, we discussed mixing literal sounds, such as cooking, with exaggerations of other sounds, as in the case of creatures and combat. This means using restraint in areas like the kitchen, which is firmly grounded in the world of Iron Chef. This in turn helps to amplify the other elements which are heightened with sound effects layers and processing.
For the prototype, we kept the audio needs simple enough to initiate an effective production process, but open enough to build more complex systems as the game develops. As it currently exists, the sound design focuses on three areas - User Interface, Cooking Sounds, and Arena Sounds.
Outside of the title music, the user interface is the first opportunity for players to interact with the game’s audio. It’s at this point that I want to convince the player that they’re playing a game focused around the aforementioned themes. So, for example, I’ve shaped the sounds on the main menu to be similar to those of chopping and slashing, both of which occur within the game in some form or another.
Arguably, the kitchen will end up as one of the richest aspects of the game in terms of audio. Currently, we have a strong base of sounds that help parse out differences in food types, food preparation and cooking style. Creatively, this has also been the most challenging aspect, as we discussed how literal we wanted to present these sounds while still producing engaging audio. The solution, thus far, has been to use the characters as extensions of the fantasy portion while keeping the actual cooking sounds as more literal.
With more characters anticipated for the game’s future release, the sound design for their actions in the kitchen will help identity not only their signature aesthetic, but the types of special moves they perform while concocting a meal. The food and its various properties, therefore, serves as the player’s sensory connection. My end goal is to treat each aspect of food on a granular level, giving them more variety and weight as catalysts for cooking.
Since Battle Chef Brigade operates in a 2D environment, we decided to create two-dimensional zones for how and when the ambient sounds shift and change. For our intents and purposes, the shape of the zones reflect those of the arena environment. As the player passes through the zones’ thresholds, the audio changes along with it. The challenge, of course, is making this seem fluid and consonant with the player’s movements.
For the arena in the demo, the layout differs in both presence and thickness of the forest’s foliage as well as surface type. As the player ascends from the forest floor, this flora thins out, and is reflected in the ambient layers by differences of leafy sounds, wind, etc. The layers consist of randomized wind sounds, branches, leaves, etc, which loop seamlessly through crossfades and volume changes. This kind of difference is further evident when the player enters and exits the cave on the west side of the arena.
You may have noticed, too, that the footsteps are characterized by location. Included are Mina’s variations for the stone, grassy and wet surfaces. The surface categories aren’t limited to just footsteps, however, but include both landing sounds from jumps as well as her combative sidekick. Moreover, as Mina moves about the arena, there is a chance she may trigger additional foliage sounds, which are affixed to the visuals within the stage. All of these factors help bring life to the environment, so we’ll continue working to build out each arena this way.
Let’s talk more about Mina. For the prototype, Mina gives the player agency to fight monsters, collect ingredients, and prepare meals. She moves quickly, is light on her feet, and attacks with sharp, precise slashes. The sound design for her, of course, has to follow suit. Her combat actions are varied depending on the type, but they are built from the same core sound structure in order to maintain a sonic integrity. The same goes for her neutral actions, including jumping and picking up/dropping off ingredients. By keeping the audio aligned in this way, we are able to create a specific identity for Mina and use a similar approach once new characters are introduced.
The core function of all creatures in Battle Chef Brigade is to provide the player with ingredients for cooking. Each of the creatures provides some sort of obstacle to that goal, so it’s imperative that the audio help convey that information. For the purposes of this video, we are going to highlight two of these creatures:
The Bird - while not a difficult creature to destroy and collect, the bird can be quite a nuisance by stealing the ingredients it finds strewn about the arena. However, the player can track its activities through its sounds. Its core actions are running and flying, both of which the player can hear. Once it finds a tasty treat, though, it will let out a cry of excitement. This lets the player know that it has something in its chompers and can be recovered. However, the bird may lay an egg that has its own unique sound effect, giving the player a new ingredient to collect for their pantry. All that being said, the bird is easily dispatched by the player should they want to dispose of it quickly.
The Dragon is an entirely different beast. Sitting atop of the stone of the arena, it lies dormant until woken by the player, after which it lets out an initial, grumpy roar. Once aware of the player’s surroundings, it will furiously attack the player with punches and fire breaths until it’s defeated. The fire breath is one of my favorite sounds that consists of several layers, which, like the arena ambience, are triggered randomly, giving us lots of variety in attacks. Once destroyed, the dragon leaves behind tasty treats the player can collect to use to create some rather beastly dishes in the kitchen.
If given the opportunity, I would love to enrich the world of Battle Chef Brigade in a number of ways. Beyond creating audio for new characters, creatures and arenas, it would be excellent to broaden the interaction of music and sound design with more dynamic audio. Whether that includes music stingers during gameplay, layering music for subtle shifts in player actions, I’d like to further blur the line between music and sound design.
Additionally, I want to spend more time recording foley, especially for cooking sounds. This will take extra time, of course, but the authenticity of customized recording would really enhance the cooking portion of the game by having sounds just for BCB.
Lastly, casting voice actors to breathe life to the characters, judges, and even provide commentary during gameplay would, in my opinion, take the audio to the next level. I had a chance to direct and design a DotA 2 Announcer as part of Valve’s Community Workshop, and I would love bring that experience to this game.
I am having a ton of fun working on Battle Chef Brigade and can’t wait to see where Trinket Studios takes this game. With the experience, excitement and push from Trinket to make an awesome proud, I am proud to be a part of the team.
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