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Designing the soundscape of Toem

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This interview is a part of our Street to the IGF sequence.

Toem takes gamers to whimsical place of cheerful, quirky neighbors and wonderful picture shoots. Utilizing your digital camera abilities, you can seize the foolish occasions and completely satisfied lives of the individuals right here, all whereas providing a little bit of assist once they’re in want. A process made undeniably extra interesting by the sport’s pleasant soundtrack and audio design.

Truscinski had a chat with One thing We Made, creators of the IGF Excellence in Audio-nominated expertise, to speak about discovering the rights steadiness between whimsy and sweetness for the music, the significance of capturing the sensation of a seaside city in Sweden by means of the sound, and the way music can converse to us in ways in which you actually cannot put into phrases.

Truscinski: Who’re you, and what was your position in creating Toem

To start with, we’ve included everybody’s personal reply so so that you can perceive and be acquainted with the names, let’s introduce the crew behind Toem!

Lucas Gullbo: My identify is Lucas Gullbo, co-founder at One thing We Made! I did the artwork for Toem, gameplay parts, and degree constructing! 

Niklas Mikkelsen: Whats up hiya, I’m Niklas Mikkelsen, the opposite co-founder of One thing We Made. I largely programmed and did the enterprise facet of sport improvement! 

Viktor Eidhagen: Hey I’m Viktor, the Audio Designer of Toem! I’ve been answerable for making sound results for Toem in addition to implementing them in FMOD. 

Joost Kraaijenbrink: My identify is Joost! I write, produce, and carry out beneath the identify Launchable Socks, and I made roughly half of the music for Toem—the opposite half having been made by the good Jamal Inexperienced (with some extra music from the boys from the audio crew Rumsklang in addition to Anes
Sabanovic, who made the Ratskullz theme). 

Jamal Inexperienced: I’m Jamal Inexperienced and I used to be one of many composers on Toem

What’s your background in making video games? 

Gullbo: I grew up enjoying on my dad’s SNES, which lead me right into a Recreation Boy (and like something Nintendo associated). and ultimately a PC. At one level I Googled “hOw To MaKe GaMe??” once I was like 12-13 (2008) and located Recreation Maker 7. Used that for an intensive time frame, tinkering with sport concepts and simply posting issues on Twitter. As soon as I began College, I received into Unity, and right here we’re! 

Mikkelsen: I’ve all the time performed video games, like most individuals these days have. My gamedev journey didn’t begin till highschool the place I studied 3D graphics. My most important venture was to recreated your entire highschool inside L4D2 (Spoiler: I used to be profitable!). After highschool, I labored “common” jobs, and after 2 years I made a decision to present gamedev a attempt once more and utilized for a college and received in. Discovered programming there and stuff. 

Eidhagen: I met the One thing We Made devs whereas learning sound design in Karlshamn. I met Niklas fairly early on and we hit it off. I cherished their sport dev fashion they usually appeared to love my sounds! I made some sounds for a “submarine-simulator” in VR that Niklas and his buddies developed, which was my first enterprise into making sounds for video games. 

Kraaijenbrink: My most important “declare to fame” in video games (resembling it’s) is that I did music and sound results for the scholar sport Qbeh and its prequel Qbeh-1: The Atlas Dice, which I moved to Finland for in 2013 to work carefully with the dev crew. 

This not solely meant that I may work along with the crew’s coder to implement the audio the way in which I needed (I had mainly no expertise in video games on the time), but additionally that I may take my subject recorder into Finland’s huge unspoiled nature and seize the unimaginable absence of human exercise that you just’d be very exhausting pressed to search out within the crowded Netherlands the place I’m from. All of the audio within the sport, together with the music, ended up consisting of issues I recorded, be it my guitar, issues out in nature, in cities, across the workplace, or in shops the place they offered toy devices or different little issues that made noise. 

Between Qbeh-1 and Toem, I’ve labored on what looks like numerous tasks that by no means noticed the sunshine of day, for which I’ve created soundtracks that vary from synthwave/’80s rock, to neo noir jazz electronica, to darkish ambient—all of that are nonetheless burning a gap in my exhausting drive. 

Inexperienced: I’ve been writing music for video games for round 10 years. I began with cell video games while I used to be at upperschool/highschool and located my solution to greater video games, assembly so many wonderful and gifted individuals alongside the way in which. I noticed Toem on Twitter in a really early state and was blown away by it’s aesthetic. I began the monitor that grew to become “Life By a Lens” quickly after. 

How did you provide you with the idea for Toem

Gullbo: Toem has been a protracted and iterative course of. We’ve really scrapped the sport 4 instances earlier than developing with the picture mechanic that’s current right this moment.

The preliminary idea was born when Niklas and I completed some actually exhausting and in addition silly programs at college, and we did not know if sport improvement was for us. Throughout that lengthy speak, a sketch of quirky characters and islands was born. This sketch would serve to be the catalyst, as there was one thing in it that we merely could not get out of our heads. It had a vibe to it!

Lengthy story quick, it took numerous path and error, frustrations, and naturally time to determine what Toem was imagined to be.

A extra detailed rundown might be discovered right here.

What improvement instruments have been used to construct your sport?

Gullbo: Unity was used as the sport engine, sketches have been created on an iPad, and all visible belongings inside Paint.NET. 

Eidhagen: DAW’s for producing sound results and mixing/enhancing of sounds; Professional Instruments, Ableton. {Hardware} Synthesizers: Elektron Digitone <3. An entire lot of junk discovered at dwelling to hit and file. A bunch of sounds from Soundly. FMOD for implementing sfx to Unity. A few mics and a subject recorder. 

Inexperienced: I write and file music on Logic Professional X, however one of the best improvement instruments are the actually outdated ones like guitars, pianos, and kazoos.

Kraaijenbrink: I primarily used Ableton Dwell, together with slightly little bit of Audacity, and like Jamal stated, some good ol’ normal instruments like my acoustic guitar, electrical guitar, ukulele and guitalele. I additionally discovered a few toy keyboards in a thrift shops and sampled and used these! 

A lot of the expertise of taking photos all through Toem is backed up by “chill beats.” What ideas went into deciding on the musical fashion for the sport? Into discovering a musical temper that match the work? 

Kraaijenbrink: From my perspective, the musical fashion was influenced primarily by two issues: the sport itself and the interaction between myself and Jamal.
Firstly, an necessary a part of the thought behind the sport was to seize the peace and tranquility yow will discover in small cities and nature in Sweden. One thing We Made are based mostly in Karlshamn, a small seaside city in southern Sweden, and when you’re ever fortunate sufficient to go to, you may clearly see how this has knowledgeable the environment of the sport. 

Jamal and I had not been capable of go to earlier than the discharge of the sport, however having lived in a small city near the ocean in Finland, I used to be at the least capable of faucet into that have of Nordic tranquility to get into the fitting way of thinking. To me, this meant issues like spacious, but heat tones—just like the reverb-drenched acoustic guitar in Pine Needles. 

On the identical time, it was clear from the beginning that these guys had an unimaginable humorousness. The sport is stuffed with cute characters, humorous interactions, and little critters to hang around with/{photograph}. Loads of stuff made me snigger out loud whereas I used to be enjoying, regardless of (or maybe because of?) the understated humor. We undoubtedly needed to have these qualities mirrored within the music, however on the identical time we didn’t need the soundtrack to be too “whimsical” or “humorous” in order to not undermine the sense of magnificence and leisure within the sport. 

This was undoubtedly a difficult steadiness to strike, and Jamal and I had numerous conversations attempting to work out how we have been going to go about that. I bear in mind in some unspecified time in the future we stated one thing like “90 % fairly, 10 % cute”. For me, that meant letting slightly little bit of my typical Launchable Socks cutesy electronica sound in, which I feel created some attention-grabbing contrasts. In “Squirrel Images”, for instance, I mixed that very same type of spacious acoustic sound with a small, clicky beat and a type of comfortable, conversational sine wave, like a small hen singing a comfortable track that carries by means of the forest. 10 % cute hen, 90 % lovely forest. 

And, in fact, working along with one other composer meant attempting to ensure our respective tracks wouldn’t conflict. In case you ask me, this really turned out to not be a lot of an issue. We each make fairly chill music, however I feel the mixture of Jamal’s extra orchestral/natural fashion, with my extra digital, cutesy fashion solely served to bolster that juxtaposition we have been going for, and the distinctive environment of the sport. 

Like a type of acrobatic composer, Jamal appears to have the ability to effortlessly transfer from whimsical, cozy sections, by means of sweeping orchestral grandeur, to intimate, ambient soundscapes all within the span of 1 monitor that also by some means makes full sense. We had numerous enjoyable working collectively, and I’m nonetheless particularly pleased with the 2 tracks we wrote collaboratively, “The Smiling Huntsman” and “The Massive Metropolis”. 

Inexperienced: Joost (Launchable Socks) and I had numerous chats about discovering the steadiness between playfulness and sincerity within the music. Toem doesn’t take itself too critically, nevertheless it’s additionally a heartwarming journey that’s about serving to individuals and being inclusive of all people, so the music wanted to replicate that, too. As a result of the sport additionally permits gamers to pick out music they’d like to listen to at any given second utilizing the Hikelady, we additionally made positive to not make music that’s too tied to sure occasions or areas, so the music tries to keep away from sure tropes that solely make sense when performed at a sure place or time. 

What goes right into a musical piece to present it that “chill” temper? How does striving for this sort of feeling have an effect on the work of composing a monitor? 

Kraaijenbrink: I suppose making “chill” music comes sort of naturally to me; I’ve all the time been drawn to dreamy, relaxed, playful, and cute sounds, and a lot of the solo materials I put out as Launchable Socks is fairly laid again. That stated, I’ve additionally made loads of not-so-laid again music in my day, however to me, the method shouldn’t be all that totally different. 

After I write music, I often attempt to convey slightly story, or create a tiny world. I feel music has a uniquely direct pathway to our consciousness, which permits you, as a musician, to say issues which you can’t essentially say with phrases. This might be some frame of mind, like a selected juxtaposition of pleasure and peace you skilled enjoying outdoors as a child, or it might be a direct affiliation, like how screaming vocals, distorted guitars, and minor third intervals can instantly invoke “aggression” or “anger”. It’s the composer’s job to quiet the thoughts and attempt to channel these emotions and associations into the music. I feel that course of is comparable, if not the identical, for all types of music, be it chill or not. 

Inexperienced: Minimalism is the important thing to creating that “chill” temper in music, I feel. It’s nice engaged on this sort of music, and generally its an train in restraint—ensuring you don’t add an excessive amount of when the monitor already says the whole lot it must say. Usually taking one thing out of a monitor can add a lot. 

Are you able to inform us concerning the creation of one of many sport’s tracks? The method of discovering the fitting tones and sounds to carry a track collectively? 

Kraaijenbrink: Typically you spend numerous time and a spotlight looking for the fitting tones and sounds to carry a track collectively, and different instances songs simply appear to fall proper into your lap. For instance, for the monitor “Tall & Shy”, which performs throughout a snowstorm the place you meet Tally, a extremely tall and actually shy monster, I spent a superb little bit of time attempting to create one thing that sounded chilly, however not too dramatic or damaging. I ended up with an ambient monitor filled with ethereal pads, punctuated with some guitar harmonics to evoke a way of twinkling ice or snowflakes, however that I felt lacked one thing playful to symbolize one of many cutest characters within the sport. 

It took me some time to provide you with the thought to create a type of ‘dialog’ between the participant character and Tally by recording myself saying “bop” in a low voice and “beep” in a excessive voice, which I feel added simply that little little bit of playful heat to chop by means of the iciness of the monitor. 

Then there are tracks like “Fisherman’s Tune”. We have been speaking concerning the concept of a quest for the harbor area the place you’re taking the melody of a fisherman buzzing a tune to a different character enjoying an instrument to assemble a track, and at some point, once I was hanging up some lights in the home with my girlfriend, this easy whistled melody simply *appeared* in my thoughts. I left that poor girl standing there clutching these lights, grabbed my guitar, and about an hour later this virtually completely absolutely shaped monitor had materialized. 

Inexperienced: The method of discovering the fitting tones and sounds to carry a track collectively?
My sister purchased me a Kalimba for Christmas in 2020 and I knew as quickly as I unwrapped it that I’d prefer to make a monitor for Toem with it. I arrange my mic and began plucking away at it. I drenched the recording in reverb and I used to be pleased with, it nevertheless it was lacking one thing. 

I didn’t know what it was lacking till Viktor, one among our sound designers and mastering engineer on the soundtrack album, realized that the Kalimba half I recorded was coincidentally in the identical key as an ambient music/sound design concept he had for a similar space within the sport. My Kalimba half performs over his ambient backdrop within the sport, and the 2 meld completely to type a monitor I really like. Viktor put the 2 components collectively formally for the soundtrack album and the result’s a monitor referred to as “The Petting of a Sacred Deer.” 

Did among the tracks developed not make it into the ultimate work? If that’s the case, are you able to inform us why you chop them? What made them really feel like they match much less, or did not match fairly as nicely, as the opposite tracks you included? 

Kraaijenbrink: There’s all the time materials that falls by the wayside, nevertheless it’s not a lot a aware determination to chop this or that monitor from the ultimate product. It’s extra the results of attempting out various things, after which pursuing those with essentially the most promise over those who don’t appear to return collectively fairly proper, or that simply don’t really feel like they’re nearly as good a match. 

Inexperienced: What made them really feel like they match much less, or did not match fairly as nicely, as the opposite tracks you included?

I’ve a really early concept for a monitor mendacity round which I feel is perhaps the one monitor I wrote that I made a decision to not end and due to this fact didn’t get included. We, as a crew, determined early on that we needed house between tracks to let the ambient sound results take focus and permit the participant to “breathe”. I used to be aware of this as we approached the tip of improvement, and while I nonetheless had a lot of concepts, I didn’t need to shoehorn in tracks for the sake of filling in house. I feel we struck a superb steadiness!
The audio results are equally necessary in placing the participant in a sure temper for the sport. 

What ideas went into the varied sound results within the sport? In making them really feel like they suited the temper of the sport? 

Eidhagen: Because the sport is a couple of journey, exploring new websites and creatures and having fun with the little issues alongside the way in which, I needed to have a extremely sturdy concentrate on ambiences, recording cozy and enjoyable nature sounds discovered round the place I reside round in Sweden. A number of time went into ensuring the sport sounded as cute and quirky because it seems to be, however nonetheless calm and soothing to not take up an excessive amount of consideration. I needed to have small, refined modifications in ambiences and provides even the smallest critters a sound to make the soundscape energetic, vibrant, and “colourful” to present the participant the sensation of exploration and immersion on this monochromatic world. 

One other large focus was to present the characters of the world distinctive personalities to really feel such as you met quite a lot of new buddies in your journey. We needed to have it really feel like they talked Swedish with out having recognizable phrases. I voice acted numerous the characters, however we even have voices from buddies, household, and even among the devs’ voices. 

To make so many various voices and animal sounds to belong in the identical world, I made a granular patch in Arturia Pigments to cut up the samples, randomizing pitch, playback pace, path, and place, and fed them by means of the identical results chain. I then selected one of the best and funniest components, retaining the Swedish speaking melody with out having recognizable phrases. Results are additionally important to creating actions satisfying and interactions memorable. 

What ideas go into making an impact for an interplay – one thing like urgent the buttons on the digital camera – add much more attraction to that straightforward motion? 

EidhagenThe UI sounds have been really the primary we labored on getting proper, and it took numerous effort and iteration to make them really feel satisfying and non-intrusive. It took fairly some time till we discovered the fitting digital camera sounds. It’s a mixture of recorded samples from my digital digital camera to samples from an outdated Polaroid. We needed to have that analog, nostalgic really feel to it. It’s actually a mixture of discovering good mechanical sounds and making them sit tight with the animation. Then, some mild randomizing on amplitude and pitch to make it sound extra pure and natural. 

Basically, we needed the UI and participant sounds to really feel snappy, enjoyable, and natural. The navigation sound is a bunch of recorded samples from a small African hand drum I discovered at a thrift store, virtually such as you’re enjoying small rhythms whereas navigating menus. Most of the sounds got here from me banging on random objects with a picket spoon, attempting to make old-school cartoon sound results. Just like the emote-sound, which is a mixture of a squeaky, moist, rubber glove and a few stretching of tape. 

General I feel the method of creating sounds for Toem was to have enjoyable with it and add some surprising (and anticipated) comedic parts, like having a bunch of various horns, animals, and shouts randomized once you honk; it provides a component of shock each time you work together with it. The devs actually gave me freedom to attempt something, and if the crew began laughing as soon as I applied a sound, I knew it was a house run.

This sport, an IGF 2022 finalist, is featured as a part of the IGF Awards ceremony, happening on the Recreation Builders Convention on Wednesday, March 23 (with a simultaneous broadcast on GDC Twitch).