Toronto Game Jam 2022 Experience

I spent the weekend of the June 13th participating in the Toronto Game Jam! These are some notes on the experience I had.

I joined the Game Jam as a part of a team with some friends (as opposed to a “floater” without a team). At first I wasn’t going to attend because I don’t like coding on my days off, but I ended up deciding to join in as the sound person because the team didn’t have anyone on sound and also I do enjoy working on sound effects and music production. I just don’t have very many opportunities to do so.

Ultimately, I ended up working on the basic concept/brainstorming, all sound effects, music, dialogue, and then a couple lines of coding to put some (not all) of the sound into the game.

The game we made is called AniMart. We describe it as a “stealth game introvert-sim in which you have to buy groceries without talking to people”.

Link to game on itch.io.

It’s still pretty jank, but I think jank-ness is something that you need to embrace if you’re going to do a game jam (or hackathon, which is pretty similar). I also personally find the game pretty difficult, but I’ve heard that that’s also something that happens with a lot of game jam games.

I think one big challenge of a game jam is that you always want to do more than you actually can in the time frame you’re given. The original idea we had was a lot larger than what we ended up with and involved several areas instead of just the one grocery store. I think having the skill to properly scope out the project to be appropriate for the given time frame is really important.

Also I think at some point I realized that it’s not necessarily about making a well thought out game or something that will become a well thought out game. Rather, I think it’s really just about the experience and also being forced to start a project and then finish it. I know I for one am terrible at finishing projects.

The game was created with Phaser, an HTML5 framework, and all the code is written in Typescript. But like I mentioned, I only really wrote a couple lines of code and just worked on writing and sound, so let’s talk writing and sound.

To be honest, I think that Friday was the first time I’d busted out the MIDI keyboard + Ableton for the first time since 2019. It was also the first time I used either on my current desktop PC, so I had to sit down and actually set everything up to how I wanted it to be.

My original plan to try to minimize scope and get everything done in time was to just use two instruments. All of the music would be done in piano and all of the sound effects would all be some bass instrument. By choosing just two instruments, I figured it would make everything sound cohesive and also I spend way too much time trying to find instruments when making complex songs. I would also keep everything in C major just for pure simplicity and also such that the sound effects would not clash with the music.

I did end up sticking with C major, which was honestly a solid choice for this project, but I ended up shifting the instruments a bit. I did start off with all the sound effects with a bass. I used an NES soundfont to use a retro 8-bit bass sound. This matched the pixel graphics pretty well, but then when I started working on the music, the NES sound clashed pretty poorly with the piano, and for some reason, I was really adamant about having a piano for the BGM (perhaps because I was trying to channel some Untitled Goose Game vibes?)

Thus, I ended up picking this mallet sound from The Whistle Pack made by pATCHES and AfroDJMac. I think it sounds pretty cute.

Then for some reason I decided to add a harpsichord to the BGM. I don’t remember why exactly but it ended up fitting the mood really well so I kept it.

Link to BGM upload on Soundcloud.

For the voices, I took inspiration from Animal Crossing, including the fun fact I learned from this video in which they describe how Tom Nook’s voice lines are different depending on language such that the sounds he makes actually match real sound in that language (e.g. how the Japanese ‘r’ sound doesn’t exist in English and vice versa).

I used this text to speech generator and picked some high pitched generic American accented-voices. Then, I used a Lorem Ipsum generator to get gibberish for it to pronounce. I didn’t just direct copy/paste the generated paragraphs though because Lorem Ipsum has a lot of ‘qu’ sounds which aren’t super common in English. I kept some words but deleted others. I also added some words from other random word generators and also put in some random made up gibberish in myself.

Then I took the voice clips, threw them in Ableton, and sped them up. I upped the pitch for some of them too.

As for the writing, I ended up just picking up the task of writing the dialogue pool at the last minute since we needed dialogue for the store people to badger you with when caught. The task was just to make something “annoying in an endearing way”. I tried to play into different scenarios like being badgered about opening a store credit card or when store people ask you if you’re looking for something and then hover over you.

Anyway, all in all, it was a fun experience!

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