The other day I decided it was the right time to end my blog post hiatus by writing about one of the projects that I recently wrapped up. The game in question is Country Life and can be played on Facebook: http://apps.facebook.com/countrylife
Country Life is a flash based app not that dissimilar to Story of Seasons, Farmville or Hay Day. Gameplay consists of managing the various activities on an idyllic agricultural farm, working the land, feeding livestock and producing various farm produce. It currently boasts more than 100,000 monthly users and it broke the 10 million registered player threshold in 2010.
I had previously worked on several similar projects but none had an already established audience this large. Another peculiar aspect is that the game had had no audio for 6 years so it will be interesting to see the players’ reactions to the addition of audio.
After a lengthy discussion with the developer I started working on the main music theme. It took several iterations before we nailed a good and balanced track, catchy enough so that it stayed in the listeners’ minds but at the same time relaxed and easygoing:
The sound effects took more time to design and implement than writing the music. First of all the machinery was a bit fiddly to design audio for as expected. My initial approach was to record videos of each machinery animation and then proceed to creating detailed sounds for all of these. The problem with intricate and complex sounds in casual or farming games is that they’re difficult to implement and they become lost in the mix fairly quickly. In the end I redesigned all machinery sounds by creating one loop for each, which proved much simpler to implement and easy to identify when listening to the game.
Surprisingly, some of the animal sounds proved quite difficult to nail as well. All the chicken and hen sounds that I could find online or in commercial libraries were recordings of animals in some level of distress. Luckily I had recorded a chicken coop in one of my trips to Romania a few years back so I looked it up in my archive and it was exactly what I needed: calm clucking and cooing as can be heard in the following snippet:
Lastly the various UI sounds had to work well with the music and the other sound effects. We tried several approaches until we settled for short musical bits comprising of guitar, banjo, chromatic percussion and occasional brass. As usual I also incorporated soft electronic sounds that enhanced the organic sounds without sounding out of place.
While the musical bits worked great for leveling up, achievements or other similar events, most of the clicks and other non-melodic UI elements were designed from recordings of vegetables and dry stalks of vegetation that I gathered in my rural trips. This is a trick I learned a while back while mastering recordings of “vegetable violence”. The overall recordings were great for gore and slimy sound effects, but I also noticed I could cut tiny ( about 1/10 of a second) clicks and pops from these and then reuse them as standalone click and tap sounds in a variety of games without anyone being able to identify their source.
All in all, designing sounds for a casual farming game proved to be a bit more complex than I had initially imagined but in the end it was a highly rewarding experience. On top of that I now have a huge list of sounds that I need to record as soon as I get close to a farm.