Chapter 19: A DirectMusic Case Study for Worms Blast

Chapter 19: A DirectMusic Case Study for Worms Blast

Bjorn Lynne

Game Overview

Worms Blast was developed by Team17 Software Ltd. and published by Ubi Soft Entertainment. I (Bjorn Lynne) composed and arranged all of the music. That being said, let's take a look at how the music was created for this unique interactive game title.

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Figure 19-1: Worms Blast.

Worms Blast looks simple at first but reveals its depths and surprising longevity as you play it, much in the same way as Tetris or the predecessor of Worms Blast, Worms. The game features two players, each placed in a boat floating on water. The water has waves and is difficult to move around in. The water level rises if objects fall in the water. Overhead is a slowly descending landscape of colored blocks, and between the two players is a wall. Occasionally, a window opens in the wall between the two players, allowing the players to fire directly at each other with a selection of wacky comedic weapons. The landscape overhead moves slowly down toward the player. By using a selection of weapons, the player can shoot color combinations of the blocks that make up the overhead landscape, causing them to disappear.

The game has several different modes, each with various goals, such as outlasting your opponent, collecting certain combinations of crates and colors, hitting certain targets, and so on. Worms Blast has a large number of hidden weapons and comedy elements. The game features characters already established in the long-running and highly successful series of Worms games, and it has a fun, bright, and colorful appearance. All in all, it is a game that looks very simple at first, but the longer you play it, the more you discover its depth and lasting playability.

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Figure 19-2: Worms Blast.

Music Preparation

In the early stages of trying out music content for this game, I used a custom-made music system featuring a fairly straightforward background music track along with short sampled phrases of various instruments, each belonging to one of the different characters in the game. So if the Calvin character scored points or picked up a weapon, his instrument would play a motif at the next possible entry point, marked in the background music file with markers. The system worked well enough, but because all phrases had to fit anywhere in the background music, the music had to be very uniform, and it just didn't sound very inspiring or heartfelt. The music turned out rather bland in comparison to what I had hoped for. I scratched my head for a while and decided to give DirectMusic a go.

I had witnessed demonstrations of DirectMusic at a couple of game development seminars. I was impressed with the technology but less so with the resulting music. The concept of having a piece of music written to a set of chords and then overlaying a new set of chords to that music scared me. This was probably because the examples I was hearing, while interesting from a technical point of view, just didn't sound very good. Based on this impression, I decided early on that I would not use any of DirectMusic's chord features in this game. I was adamant that if I wrote a melody, I wanted that melody played back exactly how I wrote it.

I had never used DirectMusic Producer before, and as I loaded up the application for the first time, I admit I was a little intimidated by the sheer number of screens, options, and features. Much of the terminology was new to me: Segments, Bands, Styles, Groove Levels, and ChordMaps. I've written music for games for the last ten years and used just about every type of music and audio program available, but this was the first time I encountered these terms. Much of the first week was spent studying the supplied demo files and reading the online help documentation. Things began falling into place, and pretty soon I had my first sets of patterns and motifs up and playing.