Audio Input – ‘Super Amazing Wagon Adventure’ Developer Talks About Rookie Sound Design
Originally released on Xbox Live Indie Games and now ported to PC through Desura, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is more than just an Oregon Trail parody. The game takes you through different environments on your journey across the country, forcing you to face randomly generated enemies and challenges with only a few friends and a pistol. The developer, Sparsevector, is a one-man team, with Wagon Adventure as his first project.
One of the most addicting parts of the game was the soundtrack. It’s not too long, but it really blends with each area nicely and keeps the game energetic and fun. I had a chance to talk to Sparsevector about the soundtrack and delving into the world of sound design as a rookie game developer.
IGM: Can you talk a bit about the development of Super Amazing Wagon Adventure?
Sparsevector: Super Amazing Wagon Adventure was my first game and an attempt to make something small and simple to test the waters of indie game development. It took about 7 months to create the initial Xbox Indie Games release with another couple of months for the PC version, and for most of that time I was a full time graduate student during the day. The response to the game has completely blown me away and given me the confidence to attempt full time indie game development as a career.
IGM: How did you go about composing the soundtrack?
Sparsevector: The soundtrack for the game was made by me entirely in Reason. I’m not very proficient with any real instruments and the apartment I was living in at the time also didn’t have space for my MIDI controllers, so the soundtrack was made just clicking in notes and turning virtual knobs, a style of music making I’ve gotten used to over the years.
IGM: This is your first game, did you have any experience in sound development previous to this?
Sparsevector: I don’t have any professional training or experience with music or audio, but playing with music software has been an off and on hobby for a very long time. I’ve had a lot of different music side projects over the years, but by far more people have heard my music through this game than through anything else.
IGM: What were some of the difficulties you faced designing the audio for the game?
Sparsevector: In the beginning I wanted the game to be almost like a music video with the music changing with each scene change and all of the sound effects mixing seamlessly with the music. I very quickly discovered that making dozens of little music snippets and syncing them to the gameplay was way too much work for a project this size. A couple of little things carried over from that false start, however: the sound effects are tuned to match the key (A Minor / C Major) that all the music is in and for certain sections of the game the pistol shoots at a musically relevant time interval. I also struggled a lot trying to find a style for the music. Luckily everything came together quickly just as I was starting to run out of time.
IGM: Are there any chiptune artists you took inspiration from?
Sparsevector: I don’t actually listen to much chiptune music specifically, but I do like a lot of electronic music in general. Some of those influences for this soundtrack were Zomby and Sepalcure. I was also trying to evoke a sort of 80s theme music sound. The main theme song for the game was made after rewatching Back to the Future and trying to male something that evokes the same sort of feeling as that movie’s score.
IGM: What are you working on next?
Sparsevector: I’m now working on a new game called Go Plague Monkey! Go! You control a monkey with a highly fatal disease let loose in a city. The game shares the humor, pacing, and randomization of Super Amazing Wagon Adventure but is much less scripted in terms of gameplay. I’m also making the music for this game but it has a more tense, less cheerful feel to it. I’m hoping people that enjoyed Wagon Adventure will like this game too.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is available on Xbox Live Indie Games and Desura. Keep up with the development of Go Plague Monkey! Go! by following Sparsevector on Twitter.