Space Invaders Music UNIT 73

The music and sound of my Space Invader style game
Classic Space Invaders

My space invaders game
I am going for a retro vibe for my game. What I want to do is improve upon the original, the music of the original game has quite an eerie sound to it; I want to make a similar feeling, but with more instruments and music playing. The original is a very simple bass line, which slowly speeds up the closer the aliens-or spaceships- get to the ground. The constant change in tempo tells the player that the pressure is building. I plan to do the same, as I think it's a brilliant and early example of dynamic music in computer games. Although I have more than 30 years on the original, so I have a lot more software to use. I plan to use Soundation- a free online digital audio workstation, where you can create music- on this software, I can add many different effects, I think a "phaser" effect will create a stronger Sci-fi vibe, and might also recreate the sound of aircraft getting closer to the ground, as well as bombs dropping- which is another important feature of Space Invaders. There is also a tremelo effect which allows me to make to sound travel from left to right, what I mean by this is, from left headphone to right headphone as if it was travelling through my head; I think this will show some very good iconography, as the aliens in my space invader game will travel left to right as they travel down the screen. Also, I do plan to create a boss battle in my game, and boss battles tend to have a different theme than the rest of the game.

Soundation studio 
On soundation there is a MIDI keyboard option, this allows me to use the notes off a keyboard on screen to make some music, I have played around with it, and it has been quite fun; but I own a physical MIDI keyboard, this could make it easier to make some music, I only have a basic knowledge of the keyboard, I know how to make chords with notes, but I do not have the muscle memory for creating fast or complex songs. And I might have to download a plug in to get the physical MIDI to work on soundation. However in terms in editing I will have to use audacity, which is a free sound editing software program. It would be more professional to use Adobe Audition, but it costs money- it is on the college computers but keeps crashing for some reason. I might remix some songs I think would fit well in the game, this could cause copyright issues if the game were to be sold, but I don't think releasing a Space Invaders clone would be a good idea in the first place. I am considering editing a song to make it sound "8-bit". The purpose of this is to make it sound more retro, and more like an old video game. There are some program which can covert them to 8-bit, by lowering the bit depth to 8-bit, but this will only work well with simple melodies.

In terms of Sound effects, I might create my own, but I have found a website where I can download them, but this could cause copyright problems if the game is ever released- but I probably will not release it. The sound effects only need to be simple, the original Space Invaders didn't have much sound effects, it had a beep for the shooting, and the sound the mysterious red UFO would make when it came on screen. I hope to make more than a simple beep, and with the software I have access to, it is possible to make a believable laser sound. I will also need the sound of an explosion, to show that the player has been hit, and has failed the game- so it's needs to be loud and dramatic to show that you have failed to save earth from the space invaders.

Techniques and editing 

I used both Soundation and Audacity to create and edit sound effects and music. I also used a Dictaphone to record to real world sounds, for example the sound of a metal gate clanging, after it had been kicked; I hope to make this into a eerie effect, which will probably be used in my space invaders game to represent the echoing effect of the player blowing up. I have already created an explosion effect using soundation- I used a "Gunshot" sound effect and then amplified it in audacity, to sound louder and like an explosion; I used a gun shot because I know they are pretty much the sound of small explosions. 

I decided to use make a replica of the original space invaders background music. I used Soundaction and a MIDI keyboard to make the simple tune, then I used audacity's "Sliding Timescale/pitch shift" function, to gradually speed up the music- just like in the original game. I think this is important because it adds tension to the game, and as the enemies speed up, the music does to; I think this is helps give an eerie feel to the gameplay. I might add some changes to the music, as it is pretty much the same as the original, but I think the original music to Space Invaders is Iconic, because it's so dynamic in the way that it matches the gameplay, that when you thinks of Space Invaders you think of the aliens moving from left to right, in sync with the simple but tense music. 

Artificial sound (foley) will be quite difficult to make for a sci- fi game. I probably won't be able to use raw foley sounds, as they might not fit the theme of the game; although once I edit and add effects it should be fine. I am using a Dictaphone to record these sounds. Some of techniques I used to create sounds, include dropping a large book on the floor near the recording device- to make a loud thumping sound. I wanted to record the sound of a coin dropping into a vending machine to create a feel of a retro arcade cabinet, however I couldn't find a vending machine in the college which wasn't surrounded by noise- so I abandoned the idea. When I went home I create some over sounds like rubbing hands together with soup to make a weird squishing sound, however I don't know where this would fit into the game; I thought about how aliens look in most movies, they are all quite "Slimy" looking, but the aliens in space invaders do not look very slimy- they look more "Blocky". Because of this I decided to edit the sound to sound more "slimy", I used audacity and all I did was- shorten the sound clip, and then add the phaser effect; with this I created a short "Slimy" blast, which I decided I would use as the sound effect to the aliens lasers in my game- and when I say lasers, I think it would be more suiting if it was a gooey missile of a toxic substance. 
I also used the sounds of a creaky door, and a sink- the "sludgy" sound it makes as the water goes down the plughole. The creaky door I edited to make some sound of strange death scream- all I have done is increase the tempo of the door creaking, however this does sound quite annoying to me- so I did some editing and made it sound less like a death scream and more like a suitable sfx for the ufo which flies across the screen in my game. The sound of the sink doesn't suit the game, so I think I will get rid of that one.

 I also created a mix of music for the game, it's none of my own work, it's simply some samples from some Radiohead songs- "Idioteque"(2001) "Treefingers"(2001). I also used found a sample Radiohead had used, the sample was created in 1973 by someone called Paul Lanksky; the sample was an example of early computer music, which was made on an old University IBM computer- which used punch cards, and was probably the size of a room. The sample is 4 chords that sound very weird and "spacey", it sounds like music you would here in old sci-fi movies- which I think are very iconic, and adds to the retro feel of my game. I have edited the song down to less than 2 minutes, because I don't want the song to be more than 5 minutes long.
Here is the song I remixed.
Overall I think I have achieved what I set out for in my plan. I wanted to make an eerie soundtrack to my game. And because the setting of space invaders is war, it should have a serious feel to it; earth is being invaded by an alien army- who actually don't run out of reinforcements. So there is no way to win against the invaders, all you can do is fend them off for as long as you can- this is a very sad situation and I felt the games music could be more tragic. So I used sample from two Radiohead songs-Idioteque and Treefingers- both from the same album- Kid A (2001). Both these songs have themes of war, and the Apocalypse, the lyrics in Idioteque include "Who's in a bunker, who's in a bunker?/ Women and children first"" These lyrics are obviously about war, and being invaded. Treefingers is an instrumental piece which consists of some very ambient sounds, I interpret this as the aftermath of an apocalyptic war, where there are no signs of life; I chose these two songs, because they have similar eerie and dramatic themes to Space Invaders. However I did have some pretty big problems whilst remixing these pieces of music. I have a free account of Soundation, this allows you to use some free sounds, save and export projects, and some other things. But there are limitations to what you can do, for example you can't save and export files when you have imported audio- unless you pay for an advanced account. This meant that I had to do all the editing in audacity- I could not use Adobe Audition because I don't have it at home. This made it harder to experiment with other sound effects and music; I could have plugged in my MIDI keyboard and added some extra bits of music. I decided that I would use the remixed song only for the start-screen of my game, I did this because I did not want the song to clash with my sound effects that I have made. 

I think I did well with my sound effects, I created them myself, first with soundation and audacity, I was very pleased with the laser sound effect because it sounded like a professional laser effect; however the one problem with it is that it is a mono sound, I did not intend it to be a mono sound, I might have made a mistake whilst editing, however I know of a method which can turn it from mono to stero, in Audacity you can use the "split stereo track" function to make it stereo. I think I know what made it mono, whenever a file is exported from audacity it puts all the tracks in the project into one mono file, I don't know why it does this, but it must have been the factor responsible for the change- I have solved this problem and the sound now is stereo. 

I also made an explosion effect for when the player gets hit by an enemy laser. I made the effect with soundation and audacity, it was made using a similar method- using a gunshot sound effect from audacity- but instead of adding phaser effects make it sound like a laser, I simply amplified it to sound like a huge bang; however the one downfall to this effect, is it's loudness, it still surprises me whenever I hear it. In the future I will make sure I check the decibels of sound before using it in my game; but on the upside, it acts as a metaphor for failure, because you are defending the world from alien invasion- so messing up is a big deal.


At the start menu you will here most of the remixed song, I start playing the game near the end of the song. At around 1:21 I accidentally muted the recording for a second.