May 2013

Projekt “W” finally get’s it’s own theme song

After all the years that Projekt “W” has been in development the game finally has it’s very own theme song! While adding in new sounds (and replacing old ones) I found the music of the current build to be kinda unfitting and decided to dig through the depths of the internet to find some (free) tracks that would be a better fit for the game’s mood (especially with the new space backdrops).

And while searching through different sources for free music tracks I stumbled upon YD‘s collection over at and quickly found several public domain songs that would fit the game very well. So I decided to put them into the game (replacing most of the existing songs), and send him a notice about the usage of his tracks in “Phase 2” of Projekt “W”.

Not only did he give me permission to do so (I know, the tracks are public domain, but I still wanted to let the artist know about me using them) but he also decided to create a theme song for the game. And not only does it sound great, it also perfectly fits the game’s mood.  You can listen to it over here.

So starting with the next release (which is planned for either this or the next weekend) the game will not only come with new (far less annoying) sounds, but also with several new music tracks including this new theme from YD!

The challenges of a game’s sound design

Usually I’d add some nice screenshots to show off progress on “Phase 2“, but this time it’s an area of game development that’s pretty hard to show off in screenshots :  Sound design.

I find this is one of the hardest parts as far as game design goes, at least for me. I do all the parts of game development on my own (design, code, content, etc.) but when it comes down to sound design, the result is usually so bad or bland that (I guess) most people just turn it off. I remember searching for and creating sounds for a shmup some years ago that took weeks, and when I heard the combined result of that effort running in-game I knew that I just had wasted a lot of time. It was just horrible. Though I don’t have any problems imagining how certain aspects of the game should look and feel, I usually don’t have a clue about “how” a game is actually supposed to sound.

As for the sound design for Projekt “W” – it’s pretty much non-existant. All the sounds in the current build are the same as on the first release of “Phase 1”, and these few sounds don’t add anything to the atmosphere and some of them (like the menu swoosh) are downright annoying. So during the last few weeks I played through some smaller indie games (mostly from IndieDB) and payed close attention to the sound design of these titles. I then quickly noticed that even a few simple GUI sounds can add a lot to the atmosphere of a game, and if you combine them with a fitting soundtrack (I’m still searching for new background tracks, more in the ambient vein) they quickly become a real bonus to the game’s atmosphere.

And since people think that the graphics are pretty good for a one-man hobby project I’d like to get the sound design to a similar level. So for the last few days I’ve been collecting and creating new samples for the user interface (with samples for actions, units, projects, etc. to follow) and even though I only changed and added half a dozen basic UI sounds (button clicks, menu transitions, confirmations, etc.) the sound design has already become a much closer fit for the game’s visuals.

So hopefully the  new sound design (that’ll at least partially come with the next release) will add even more atmosphere to the game!

And since I’m sure that a few (hobby) game deves read this : How do you handle sound design? Do you have the same troubles, or is there any easy way to get this part of game design right?

Introducing the AI builder

The next public release of “Phase 2” will include a new feature, the AI builder.

Managing your regions (constructing and upgrading buildings) becomes more and more tedious the longer a game has been going on, and once you own dozens of regions later on in the game that you’ll have to manage, this task gets very repetitive and takes up a lot of your time. And since monotony can do a lot of damage to the gameplay I decided to add the option to let the AI do the construction and or upgrades for your regions. And since most of that code was already in place (for the AI controlled nations), getting this feature into the game didn’t take to long.

So starting with the next public release (sorry, no ETA yet) you’ll be able to set up an AI builder for each of your regions with the following options :

  1. Disabled
    The default state. The AI builder won’t interact with that region and it’s up to the player to construct and upgrade buildings.
  2. Constructing buildings
    The AI builder will construct new buildings on free building spots. Once all buildings spots are occupied he’ll switch to passive mode and keep an eye on pollution and happiness in the region. If one of thess crucial factors reaches a dangerous low the AI builder will try to change the building layout of the region to e.g. counter high pollution levels.
  3. Upgrade buildings
    Upon ending a turn the AI builder will check if any of the buildings in it’s region can be upgraded to a better (newer) version. If that’s the case he’ll start constructing upgrades.
  4. Construct and upgrade
    The AI builder will first fill up all available buildings spots with suitable buildings (with priority towards economic power) and then start to uprade existing buildings.

This new feature will hopefully take out a lot of the repetitiveness in the later parts of the game, making it more fun to play. But note that the AI isn’t perfect and that it’s using predefined upgrade paths for the different building types, so if you need the best region layouts possible you’ll still have to do it on your own.

And one thing I’m still not sure about is wether I should implement some kind of penalty when the AI builder is active in a region. Maybe there’ll be a penalty on economic power, having the region output less funds per turn if the AI builder is enabled or something similar. And I’m also not sure yet on wether the AI builder will be available from the getgo or wether it’ll be implemented as a technology that you’ll have to research first before you can active it. What do you think?