Global Game Jam 2018

In December I decided I would like to learn how to create music electronically. I downloaded Reaper and started noodling around. I saw signup information for Global Game Jam 2018 and thought that it sounded fun and maybe I’d be ready for the 2019 edition. After a few days I realized I was being silly and it would be a great way to have a specific goal on a short timeline. I signed up for the jam at Another Castle, a coworking space in Greenfield, MA that focuses on game developers.

I arrived right after the theme had been announced, which was “transmission.” We broke up into groups to brainstorm, then pitched ideas.¬†After all the games were pitched and teams formed, I went around to a few different groups to get an idea of what they were working on. Since my equipment is all at home and immobile, I needed to see what they were working on and then go home to write. I would up making music for three different groups.

Sonar: When I spoke with the programmers behind this, they talked about a game using echolocation. The two programmers weren’t sure what the art would end up looking like but wanted an ambient track that sounded like you might be underwater. I found a synth pad and made a track with some slowly changing chords. The final game looks like an old arcade game, and you navigate a dark maze using your sonar.

Color Friends: This one I was less sure of what form the gameplay might take when I started writing. All I knew when I started was that circles of different colors would interact, with between two and eight different colors represented. For this one I recorded a simple melodic loop, and made clips of eight different notes that would fit in with the loop. The game ended up being pretty different, you are a circle that interacts with just one other shape in each level. For the version of the track on this page I included the tones for the different colors to show how I was imagining the game.

Last Contact: For the last game, the game pitch was that you play as the janitor at a SETI lab that is about to be decommissioned. One computer is still plugged in, and you start getting strange messages which turn out to be from an alien. They wanted something that sounded eerie and sci-fi like; as if you are alone. I downloaded a drum machine plugin and made a simple, spare beat. The harmonic content comes from alternating eighth notes in a ghostly sound that fades in and out. I wrote a few different sections of changes and then put some long synth tones above them. Because I wanted it to be a little unsettling I had included some odd chord progressions and went heavy on the diminished chords.

The most frustrating part ended up being the color friends track. The loop sounded fine in my DAW but didn’t match up exactly once exported to the game. I spent a good amount of time messing around with different settings and ways of rendering the file to try to keep there from being space or a pop when the loop came back around to the beginning. I made it better but didn’t fix it completely, and I learned what I need to do next time from the other person at the jam for audio.

The best part of the jam was how welcoming everyone was and how fun it was to make music for these games. I got a lot of practice in Reaper and it was a fantastic learning experience. I am so glad I decided to sign up and I can’t wait for the next one!