Hey everyone! We’re the Redstart Interactive team for the Dolby Step Up Your Sound Game Jam. We have Jon Lawitts on programming, Brent Richard on sound design, Eva Lawitts on music composition, Dylan LaPointe on concept and production art, and Aaron Hoffman on UI art.
Watch Redstart's dev diary of the experience HERE.
During the Step Up Your Sound Game Jam, we were inspired to utilize Dolby Atmos to create Fang Tango to highlight the depth of spatialized audio that Dolby Atmos provides by integrating it closely into crisp arcade-style gameplay along with simple and clever enemy behaviors. This inspired us to create Fang Tango’s single-stick rhythm shooting that brings you on dangerous missions to quench your thirst for sheep blood. You shoot, move, and drink to the beat of the music while fighting off hangry monsters, hunting down your prey, and consuming power-ups, so you can… have your sheep and eat them too!
When we began designing how we were going to use spatialized audio, one of our inspirations was the sound design of Call of Duty Warzone, and how they utilized spatial audio to enhance combat and rewards. For example, being able to hear the relative location of a supply box in a building, or the position of an enemy behind or above you, even if you can’t directly see them.
Additionally, we sought to design an experience that would shine on mobile alongside the spatial audio. We drew inspiration from the fast, simple arcade-style gameplay of Vampire Survivors, the dungeon crawling of the Diablo series, and the rhythm-based combat of Bullets Per Minute to give our players a grooving experience that they could instantly connect with.
Dolby Atmos has brought Fang Tango’s audio to life by creating a gameplay experience that extends beyond the playable screen. We used Dolby Atmos to enhance the very cute bat you play as, giving your character the ability to sense non-visible predators and prey based on how far away they are on- and off-screen. We’ll go into detail below on how we utilized Dolby Atmos to enhance the prey (sheep), enemies, and our crystal boss in Fang Tango.
Enemies: Slimy, Wormulon, Ghost Bag, Snail
Since the gameplay in Fang Tango is rhythm-based, we wanted to design the enemies and combat so that if players listen carefully, they could dodge enemy attacks, counter attack or otherwise gain an advantage in combat.
With this in mind, we came up with a variety of enemies and behaviors that start with a warm-up or warning sound to the player, followed by a fast attack. Since all actions in the game are based on the beat of the music, players would have one or two beats to react to the incoming attack, before taking damage.
The audio and positional surround sound was critical for players to be able to dodge attacks accurately and to know where a potential attack was going to come from. It was important to be able to perceive the direction an attack was coming from and how far away it was, and it should include some unique sound elements so that players knew what kind of attack was approaching.
For example, one enemy we created, affectionately named “wormulon” was a large worm creature that blocked the path forward. When attacked, wormulon would descend underground for a few beats, and then emerge, attacking upwards towards the player. There were two critical audio moments that made this enemy work: descending and emerging from underground and a warning sound that played right before emerging.
In order to sell the idea that the worm was descending and emerging from underground, we utilized automation within Wwise to control the sound emitter's position over the course of the worm’s animation. We animated the Z position of the emitter to sync up with the animation so that the positional audio sounded as though it was moving from underground to above ground. We also included some movement on the X and Y axis so that the position of the worm would be easier to perceive through audio alone. Finally, we carefully tuned the attenuation curves and added a low-pass filter, so that the worm sounds would become more muffled as they moved farther away underground.
As a warning to players, before the worm emerged and attacked, we played a rumble audio cue, along with a particle effect at the position where the worm would emerge. This gave players one or two beats to quickly listen for where the worm was going to pop out and dodge the attack.
Another enemy we created was a ghost that would slowly lurk towards the player. Players could attack the ghost to temporarily stun it, but the ghost could never be defeated completely and would always continue to pursue the player. Additionally, ghosts tended to appear in groups, causing players to get surrounded if they didn’t act quickly.
To create this feeling of getting trapped we wanted the ghost’s audio to slowly encompass the player, and as the ghosts got closer and closer, it would completely overtake the sound scape, preventing the player from hearing where other attacks are coming from or where health pickups might be located.
The ghosts have a steep volume attenuation curve so that their wails become significantly louder when they are very close to the player. Conversely, we wanted the ghosts' presence to be felt even before players could see them. For this, we slowly ramped up a cave-like reverb effect as the ghosts moved farther away, and we allowed for a large distance between the ghosts and the player before they could no longer be heard. Players would have to listen carefully to the direction the wails were coming from to avoid getting surrounded.
Because there can be a lot of enemies nearby at once, we needed to limit the number of sounds that would play at the same time, especially for the ghosts since their sound has a longer duration. Additionally, we wanted the ghost’s sound to play repeatedly, with a delay. We were able to achieve this simply by placing the ghost sound in a Wwise random container and setting the play mode to loop with a delay transition randomized between 3.5 seconds and 5.5 seconds.
Then we created another random container inside this with voice limiting enabled, and set to lower the priority of sounds that were very far away from the player.
The sheep in Fang Tango are critical to your health meter. Drinking their blood gave you health and the power to take down enemies so you could drink the blood of more sheep. Similar to the ghosts, we limited the sound based on distance to the player, but we isolated the sheep so that their sounds took priority over enemies. This way, players could more easily seek out where the sheep are located. With a total of 20 sheep all over the cave, we wanted the player to have an advantage to seek out sheep when their health ran low or if they just wanted to seek out all the sheep.
The sheep sound was also placed into a random container so their sounds would repeat at a random interval of approximately 3 seconds.
We wanted the player to be able to hear the sheep from a distance, so that if they were low on health they could always seek out some prey. We applied the same cave reverb to the sheep as the distance increased, giving the effect of a “baah” echoing from deep within the cave.
We wanted Fang Tango to culminate in a challenging boss fight, so we created a crystal boss that ramped up the difficulty in a few ways. First, the pace of the music increased a little, causing all player and enemy actions to happen faster, and requiring players to react faster to attacks. Second, the boss would attack the player with crystals that fell from the “ceiling” and directly targeted the player, forcing them to keep moving to avoid getting hit.
Because of the perspective in Fang Tango, players could not directly see the ceiling. We utilized automation in Dolby Atmos and Wwise to simulate the sound of crystals falling downwards from above the player's head in order to give them an appropriate warning that an attack was incoming and to give them time to react. We also found that including a bit of left and right movement in the sound made it easier to hear the direction the attack was coming from.
During the Step Up Your Sound Game Jam, we further experimented with Dolby Atmos and the potential it has to bring to Fang Tango. With Atmos providing a new layer of gameplay to the experience, we explored additional challenges and rewards that gave players an advantage if they were listening carefully to the audio.
One upgrade we explored for the character was an opportunity for players to select an additional move after eating enough sheep; for example, an attack that would fall from the sky, damaging all enemies in a small area. We also liked the idea of a homing attack that would automatically seek out enemies and do a small amount of damage. Players could follow the sound of the attack to more accurately seek out enemies.
Bats aren’t picky eaters, so we also explored additional prey including a chameleon-like prey that could disguise itself as a piece of the environment whose giveaway would be an audio cue indicating their true identity alongside their location among the other environment pieces.
We also tested out additional enemies and challenges such as a teleporting predator that became invisible for a short period before reappearing in a new location, and a swam or enemies that made a lot of buzzing sounds, drowning out the audio cues of other enemies.
Thanks for taking the time to hear about our journey with Dolby Atmos. We had a lot of fun creating Fang Tango and are excited to see what we can do with this game to bring an action-packed experience to our players. Be sure to check out our website https://redstart.io where you can find links to our other games, or join our Discord and chat with us directly!
See Redstart's dev diary of their experience here.