Flash Game Polish Tips: Audio

Tutorials

HeadphonesI spend a lot of time thinking about things that will improve my Flash games. If you use sponsorship or licensing models in the Flash game business you are really marketing to two audiences–your players and your potential sponsors.

I want to provide the best experience I can to my players within a reasonable amount of effort while at the same time I also want to make sure my game is going to provide as little friction as possible to potential sponsorship or licensing.

To that end I have 5 tips I wanted to share for dealing with audio in your Flash games that I’ve found helpful:

Tip #1 – Normalize your music and sound effects

This is a very simple tip but it is too often overlooked. Normalizing is basically just making sure that the loudest volume levels of all your sound effects and music are at a consistent and good target peak.

Normalizing your audio assets before you import them into your Flash library is a good way to improve your workflow. You know that all your audio is within a consistent peak range and you can balance further with your software volume settings.

You can use a free program like Audacity to provide normalization. I’ve found the default setting of normalizing to -3dB works well.  If you are using Windows 7 you’ll want to get the beta for Audacity.

Tip #2 – Individual controls for sound effects and music

Why provide two controls? A nice thing about having independent controls for sound effects and music is that it can give the player more freedom over the experience of your game. It can allow them to keep your sound effects playing but still jam out to their own music. Another reason is sometimes the player doesn’t mind the sound effects but maybe the music is starting to get repetitive the 100th time they’ve played your chain reaction game. I look for any little tips to keep players happy and in the game and I’ve had many positive player comments from implementing this feature.

Tip #3 – Provide common key bindings for audio control toggles

Setup a keyboard listener in Flash to respond to some common keys. I like to bind the ‘S’ key to toggle the sound effects and the ‘M’ key to toggle the music.  This is a real simple touch that allows your players to quickly mute your game when they can’t find the onscreen audio controls. Remember to provide text somewhere to let your players know these settings controls!

Tip #4 – Use volume sliders for sound effects and music

The good thing about providing volume sliders over a simple mute/un-mute toggle is that your players can mix the volume to suit their individual speakers or headphones. It can be incredibly hard to master and mix your game volumes correctly so that it will sound decent and in balance across the many audio systems it will be played through. Volume sliders give the power to the players to tweak one up or down to get that balance that is pleasing to their ears.

Tip #5 – Save sound and music settings in a shared object

This last tip I have implemented most recently based on some player feedback I got. I really like this tip because it never occurred to me until I received a story from a player. The player got busted by their boss for playing one of my games in the office because they were surprised when they loaded it up again and the audio of both the preloader intro movies and the main menu music was still enabled.  They had just assumed that since they had muted the game audio the last time they had played that it would have remembered!

Well I had never really thought of this feature before but it was quite easy to implement and has been really awesome. You can use a Shared Object in Flash to track any changes to the audio controls.  You might be using one already to record local highscore data and you can just record your audio settings to this object.  Then when your game loads you can check the Shared Object to see what the audio settings were (if any) the last time they played. If there isn’t any data then you can just enable it as as default. This allows you to mute the preloader intro movies and menu music when they return if they had disabled it in a previous gameplay session!

Got any other good audio related tips? Share them below in the comments!

Three Months of BlackBerry PlayBook Game Download Stats

Game Business Games

I’ve had six free PlayBook games available on the BlackBerry AppWorld store for three months now. I thought it might be useful to share my download and play statistics for other developers who are considering the platform.

These games have been available as free downloads since the store launched with the release of the new PlayBook tablet.

I ran a report on the total number of downloads from all six games over the past three months of time. I also gathered my analytics data from the Playtomic service which I used on each game to track views, plays (number of plays per view), and average playtime length per view. I also used Playtomic to provide the global leaderboards.

Using this data I built the following graphic (click to enlarge):

Hybrid Mind Studios BlackBerry PlayBook Game Download Stats

I should also mention that five of these six games have been fairly popular and all within the top 25 lists of their respective free categories. They’ve all been well reviewed (when reviewed at all) and I’ve done next to no promotion of them. These downloads basically represent players discovering the games through the PlayBook AppWorld interface.

You’ll note that I tracked the review percentage. This represents the amount of reviews I received per game based on the number of downloads.

It was pretty easy to convert my existing Flash games over to work on the PlayBook. Besides receiving a free PlayBook for the first game as part of BlackBerry’s launch promotion I was also fortunate enough to be compensated as part of a contract for my conversion on the other five games too. This allowed me to release them for free to study the market in the most favorable of download circumstances.

That said, if I wasn’t being compensated for my efforts I would not find these numbers to be very encouraging at all! Each game was only downloaded an average of 1300 times.  That number would be far, far smaller if I was charging for these games. That is not a good indication that I’ll be attempting to pursue this market further unless new changes or information comes to light–I simply can’t afford to make that kind of super risky business decision with my time.

I’ve enjoyed the free PlayBook I received from BlackBerry. It is the first tablet I’ve owned and it seems to be a fine enough device. I am not a heavy tablet user though and have little to compare it to besides having used an iPad for a bit. I’d be curious to see other developer’s download numbers (and even sales data) on the PlayBook device. Anyone making any money?

Turd de France – New Flash Game Released

Games

Play le Turd de France

Game Description:

Angry birds? Try angry pigeon! You play a French pigeon that has had it with all the crowds and traffic generated by le Tour de France. You set out to disrupt the last two minutes of the bicycle race the only way you know how–by pooping all over the place! Cause massive pileups with the power of pigeon poop!

Play le Turd de France!

Additional Screenshots:

Mega Poop powerup acquired!

Here you have just acquired the Mega Poop powerup!

Mega Poop unleashed!

Unleashing the fury of the Mega Poop!

Scoring triple direct hits!

Scoring a sweet triple direct hit! Direct hits increase your multiplier and let you score big.

le Turd de France race is ending!

The race is wrapping up! I’m pretty sure you made your point with the bicyclists…

Game over screen with many race stats

The race has finished! Here you can review all those critical race stats.

Background:

This game was a very silly collaboration I did together with fellow game designer Joshua A.C. Newman of the glyphpress. It was inspired by his friend Judith Shaw who got pooped on by a pigeon while riding her bicycle. Joshua is an avid bicyclist and he contacted me to see if I wanted to help bring that incident to life as a video game.

We thought basing it around le Tour de France would be a funny way to provide a setting with plenty of opportunity for humor.

Of technical interest would be the fact that the peloton of bicycle racers is controlled by a heavily customized version of Boid’s flocking algorithm. Each biker dodges the poop splats on the ground as well as the road edges and the other bikers–all the while trying to reach a target point toward the right of the screen. I also added a 5-state internal bicyclist model that controls their stamina and energy and allows them to try to reach the front of the peleton before tiring out and drifting to the back of the pack.  It took a few days of heavy playtesting to tune the flock algorithm just right to make it fun but it is so great to watch that the intense effort was well worth it!

Give it a play over at AddictingGames!

New Game Progress

Games

I’ve been cranking along on one of my biggest games and I recently finished a complete graphics overhaul!  The game had lasted a long time in the prototype art stage and it is really fun to have it finally in a highly polished state.

This game is my most ambitious so far containing 40 levels arranged into 4 different difficulty groups.  This is also the first level design I’ve done for a game as most of my previous games have been more on the procedural or arcade side of things where game variables just sort of change over time to introduce new enemies or difficulties but there aren’t distinct levels. The gameplay combines aspects of puzzles, agility, and time trials.

I wanted to post some composite before/after screenshots I made of the new graphics overhaul:

Level 2-5

Level 2-8

Level 3-6

Level 4-3

I’m now getting into the “last 10%” stage of this game. There are still many miscellaneous tasks for me to complete like sound effects, music soundtrack, social features, menu features, further testing and polish.  It is getting close though to the point where I’ll be able to present it to sponsors. Always an exciting stage for a game to be at. I can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel on this game and I can’t wait for the day when I can let the players in!

 

Royal Wedding Run – New Flash Game Released

Game Business Games

Play Royal Wedding Run

Game Description:

Good Prince William is to wed the darling Kate this very day. But he is on the other side of town! This simply will not do. Run to meet your bride, ducking old girlfriends and paparazzi on the way. Be sure to grab your princely powerups. Release the Hounds!

Additional Screenshots:

Royal Wedding Run gameplay

Here William leaps over an ex-girlfriend. He’ll have to dodge that paparazzi too!

Royal Wedding Run gameplay ending

William has reached Kate with 22 seconds to spare. The crowds at Westminster Abbey go wild!

Background:

Royal Wedding Run is a viral news game I was contracted by MTV to make for their AddictingGames arcade portal. The news event was the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29th, 2011.  The game is extremely silly and had a lot of humorous voice acting performed by various folks at MTV. I was responsible for the programming of the game and the artist was the talented Eric Falk.